The Vietnam War

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Vietnam and Foreigners Before 1953

Ho Chi Minh and Vietnamese Nationalism

Vietnamese nationalism before 1900

  • Vast majority of 19th cenutry Vietnamese people were peasant farmers producing rice on fertile river deltas
  • growing of rice was a communal activity carried out by the people of each village
  • Community spirit and nationalism had been vital in fending off Chinese attempts to conquer Vietnam
  • During centuries of struggle against China, Vietnam had generally been successful as guerrilla warfare techniques had been perfected
  • During late 19th century, French began attacking Vietnam
  • 1887, countries subsequently known as Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos were under the control of the French who referred to them  as Indochina
  • Vietnamese nationalists such as Ho Chi Minh dreamed of independents
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Vietnam and Foreigners Before 1953

The shaping of a Vietnamese leader

  • From 1911-1930, HCM travelled abroad to help himself prepare for the eventual struggle for Vietnamese independence
  • When in France, mixed with political radicals who discussed the Communist revolution which was convulsing Russia
  • Ho discovered that he shared many Communist beliefs although he later said that it was not Communism but patriotism which orginally inspired him
  • 1919, US President Woodrow Wilson was in France masterminding peace settlement at the end of WW1
  • Ho was impressed by Wilson's emphasis on the right to self-determination 
  • Although Wilson ignored Ho's petitition for democratic reforms in Vietnam, Ho never ceased to call on the Western democracies such as America and France to live up to their declared principles
  • 1924: Ho went to Moscow and was disappointed when he found the Soviet leadership uninterested in Vietnam
  • Visisted China and began t oorganise Vietnamese students in China into a revolutionary league
  • Established the Indochinese Communist Party in Hong Kong in 1929
  • Ho's great opportunity to fight for Vietnamese independence came in WW2
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The Vietnamese nationalists' search for leadership

  • One of the main reasons Ho was a popular leader was because of the dearth of appealing alternatives
  • One such unappealing alternative was the Vietnamese Emperor, Bao Dai
  • His association with the French compared unfavourably with Ho's patriotism
  • During WW2, Bao Dai exchanged French domination for Japanese domination
  • Outbreak of war in Europe distracted European colonial powers such as France which enabled the expansionist Japenese to take over southern Indochina in 1941 
  • Many Vietnamese nationalists looked to Ho Chi Minh to provide effective leadership
  • In early 1941, HCM finally returned to his native land
  • Told other nationalists that all Vietnamese should unite to fight both the Japanese and their French collaborators in Indochina
  • Ho and his friends called their movement the Vietnam Independence league
  • This was more commonly known as the Vietminh
  • Vietminh were both nationalists and communists
  • Their programme included an equal distrubution of wealth and power and freedom from the French and Japanese. They appealed to many Vietnamese people
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The United States and Vietnam, 1941-5

American ideas about Vietnam

  • Like the Vietnamese, the US was at war with Japan (1941-5)
  • During the war, Roosevelt was uncerain about what to advocate for French Indochina after Japan was defeated
  • Experts in the State Department offered him conflicting advice
  • Far East division criticised French rule and claimed that unless France allowed self-government in Indochina there would be bloodshed and unrest there for years
  • European specialists were pro-French and saw France as an ally in Europe
  • they urged the president to refrain from any policy towards Indochina that might alienate the French
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The United States and Vietnam, 1941-5

Ho's early relations with the Americans

Ho and the Americans in WW2

  • One of the main reasons that Americans got involved in Vietnam was their dislike of HCM
  • Early relationship was promising
  • Ho hoped that he could gain American support for Vietnamese independence
  • HCM's Vietminh co-operated with the Americans in the fight vs the Japanese and the Americans admired them

Ho and Truman

  • April 1945, Roosevelt died in office and was succeeded by Truman
  • Truman sided with European specialists in State Department
  • Assured the French that America recognised their pre-eminent position in Indochina
  • Expressed his hope they would grant more self-government to the Vietnamese
  • Ho was privately cynical about the Americans
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The United States and Vietnam, 1941-5

Ho's declaration of independence

  • Ho flattered the Americans by enlisting their aid in drafting the speech he made before hundreds of thousands of his fellow countrymen on 2 September 1945 following Japanese surrender in WW2
  • In this speech, Ho declared the independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam

The United States and the return of the French

  • The French chose to ignore Ho's declaration of independence in September 1945
  • Anxious to compensate for their humiliatiin during WW2, they were determiend not to give up their old colony
  • Within days of the declaration, some Vietminh clashed with French soldiers which some consider the outbreak of the first Vietnam War
  • Fighting between the French and Vietminh escalated as increasing numbers of French troops were transported to Indochina by the British
  • Between October 1945 and February 1946, 8 friendly messages from Ho to Washington went unanswered
  • Due to ever increasing American anti-Communism, the US stopped co-operating with Ho even though the USSR recognised French rule over Vietnam
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Reasons for the Early American involvement in Vietnam

The Soviet Threat

  • After WW22, Americans believed that Communism threatened international free trade and democratic ideals which were important to American well being and security
  • By 1947, Truman Administration felt that Ho was probably Stalin's puppet 
  • In 1948, State Department specialists pointed out that Ho had made friendly gestures to America and that the Vietnamese Communists were not subservient to Moscow 
  • In 1949, Secretary of State Dean Acheson said it was irrelevant to ask whether Ho was "as much nationalist as Communist" for "all Stalinists in colonial areas are nationalists"
  • American convinction that was at stake in Vietnam was the expansion of Communism would embroil America in a bloody war there


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The Reasons for Early American Involvement in Vietnam

US hostility to Communist China

  • Under attack from the Republican's for having "lost" China, Truman's anxiety about further Communist expansion in Asia was fuelled by the JCS contention that the world balance of power was at stake in Southeast Asia
  • Truman's anxiety increased when Ho persuaded China and the Soviets to recognise his Democratic Republic of Vietnam in January 1950
  • In the next month, the US finally recognised the supposedly independent "Associated State of Vietnam" which had been set up by the French in 1949

McCarthy hysteria and the Korean War

  • Amidst accusations that Truman had "lost" China, Joseph McCarthy began whipping Americans into an anti-Communist frenzy in February 1950
  • After June 1950, North Korean attack on South Korea and influx of Chinese troops into Korea after October 1950, American fears of Chiense expansionism were confirmed
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Reasons for Early American involvement in Vietnam

US support for its NATO ally

  • Before the Korean War, Truman administration concluded that the French were invaluable allies against Communism in both Indochina and Europe
  • Acheson and Truman were very conscious that France was important to the stability of the Western alliance in Europe and to Nato
  • When France linked Franco-American co-operation in Europe with American aid in Indochina, it confirmed the US belief that they must become more involved in that region
  • May 1950, Truman offered $10 million to support the French military effort
  • By the end of 1950, the US had given France $100 million along with aircraft, patrol boats, napalm bombs and ground combat machinery
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Key Debates on the Truman Years

Orthodox interpretations

  • Orthodox historians of the Cold War see the US resisting Communist aggression and expansion in Vietnam
  • Truman's involvement in Vietnam was considered to be part of his containment strategy
  • Having told the American public in his Truman Doctrine speech of 1947 that the world was divided into 2 very different spheres and that conflict was inevitable, there was great public pressure on Truman to continue to hold the line vs Communist advance
  • Some historians say that as a part of the containment policy, the Truman administration felt it had to support its ally, as a strong France was essential to contain Communism in Europe
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Key Debates on the Truman Years

Revisionist interpretations

  • revionists emphasise US desire to shape the world in its own image
  • Revionists emphasise the economic motivation behind US foreign policy 
  • Markets and raw materials of Southeast Asia that motivated Roosevelt 
  • Vietnam became important because a Communist, nationalist revolution there posed a threat to this global capitalist system
  • if this revolution succeeded, others might follow

Post-revisionist interpretations

  • Post-revionists recognise that both the USA nd USSR were ambitious and aggressive with security concerns and frequent mutual misunderstandings
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Eisenhower and 2 Vietnams

Ho, Giap and French failure in Indochina

Bao Dai's unpopularity and Ho's popularity

  • French puppet emperor, Bao Dai was never popular in Vietnam
  • Late 1951, US official said his government "has no appeal whatsoever to the masses"
  • In sharp contrast, Ho was seen by many Vietnamese as a patriot who cared about the ordinary people of Vietnam
  • Fairer redisribution of land and educational and health care programmes helped to win over the Vietnamese peasantry

Vietnamese rebel strengths

  • Although the French had more men and materials, Ho's Vietminh proved elusive and dtermined
  • Vietminh guerrila tactics used the physical geography of the country
  • Vietminh would make surprise attacks then retreat to western Vietnam's jungles and mountains
  • Chinese supplied Ho with weapons and also, most important of all, the Vietminh fought for an inspiring cause: this was a free and more egalitarian Vietnam
  • Vietnamese rebel sterenghts were such that the French found it difficult to win the war
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Ho, Giap and French failure in Indochina

Vo Nguyen Giap

  • The brilliant Vietminh military commander, Vo Nguyen Giap was of great importance in the defeat of the French
  • From the age of 13, Giap was on the French list of revolutionary nationalists
  • Joined the Indochinese Communist Party in 1937 believing that the Communist emphasis on co-operation and sharing fitted in with Vietnamese traditions
  • From 1944, Giap commanded the Vietnamese Liberation Army (Vietminh)
  • This initially numbered around 5000
  • In November 1946, Vietminh officially declared war on the French
  • Giap improved military training and set out plans for revolutionary war
  • Would start with guerrilla warfare to wear down the enemy then move to set piece battles as his army grew stronger
  • Like Ho, Giap paid great attention to winning over the ordinary people
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Ho, Giap and French failure in Indochina

Vo Nyugen Giap (continued)

  • Mao's 1949 triumph transformed the situation
  • Mao gave Giap and Ho diplomatic recognition and more armaments, advice and sanctuary in China if the Vietnamese soldiers were in trouble
  • By 1952, Giap commanded over 250,000 regular soldiers and a militia nearing 2 million
  • Each army division was supported by 40,000 porters carrying rice and ammo along jungle trails and over mountain passes
  • Many porters were women whom the Vietminh found to be more effective than the male porters
  • Giap's soldiers willingly suffered for their country and freedom, marhcing over mountains and through jungles often on insufficient food
  • Units held self-criticism sessions during which errors were admitted and forgiven
  • French inability to win in Vietnam owed much to Giap's determination to defeat them
  • Chinese aid also important 
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Ho, Giap and French failure in Indochina

Dienbienphu (1954)

  • While Ho and Giap went from strength to strength, French had problems
  • Tried enlisting native Vietnamese in their army but did not trust these new recruits and gave them little responsibility
  • In France itself, many were beginning to lose heart and interest in Indochina
  • In 1954, hoping to put pressure on Communists in nearby Laos, French built a fortress at Dienbienphu
  • They hoped that this would draw the Vietminh into a set piece battle
  • Both the French and Americans thought Dienbienphu could be held indefinitely
  • Both failed to anticipate thousands of peasant volunteers would dismantle heavy, long range guns and take them to the surrounding hills
  • they would then successfully camoflage them till they were ready to be fired and bombard the fortress from the surrounding high ground
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Dienbienphu: The Debate over American and Intervention

Eisenhower and the French before Dienbienphu

  • Not long before the showdown at Dienbienphu, Eisenhower gave the French $385 million worth of armaments for an offensive vs the Vietminh
  • questions were being asked within the Eisenhower administration as to the extent of involvement in Vietnam
  • Was SE Asia vital to US security?
  • If SE Asia was vital, should America get involved in Indochina?
  • What involvement should take place in Indochina: financial aid, military advisers assisting the French or sending US ground troops to Indochina?
  • Did the US have enough troops to make an impact in Indochina?
  • Was victory possible in Indochina in relation with the French?
  • Was America willing to risk having a clash with China over the intervention in Indochina?
  • How much was America willing to do without allied support?
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Dienbienphu: The Debate over American and Intervention

Arguments for American intervention at Dienbienphu

  • Eisenhower was concerned about Vietnam and Dienbienphu for several reasons
  • French strength was being drained away from Vietnam
  • Eisenhower wanted France to be a strong NATO member to help defend Western Europe vs the Soviet threat
  • French threatened to be unhelpful about European defence arrangements unless America aided them in Indochina
  • Presidential elections campaign, Eisenhower rejected Truman's containment policy and advocated the liberation of Communist countries
  • Eisenhower knew that Truman's popularity suffered greatly when he "lost" China, he didn't want the Democrats to believe that he "lost" Vietnam
  • Eisenhower felt that the loss of Vietnam to Communism would affect the global balance of power in the world
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Dienbienphu: The Debate over American and Intervention

Arguments against American intervention

  • Some disliked the domino theory, doubting whether the loss of one small country would cause the loss of others
  • Some of the military and the Secretary of Defence felt Indochina was "devoid of decisive military objectives" and that US intervention would be pointless
  • One vice-admiral insisted a "partial" involvement through air and sea forces would be a delusion
  • Eisenhower stated that "no military victory is possible in that kind of jungle theatre"
  • Even if Eisenhower wanted to send troops, there were none readily available
  • His "new look" defence policy emphasised that nuclear weaponry could be used at the expense of manpower
  • Many Americans were uncertain of the wisdom of being too closely entangled with the French
  • Eisenhower and Dulles tried and failed to get British support that Congress required before they would approve American military intervention
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The Geneva Conference on Indochina, 1954

Reasons for the International Conference at Geneva in 1954

  • While the French and Vietminh battled at Dienbienphu, an international conference was held to discuss Indochina
  • An armistice had finally ended 3 bitter years of fighting in Korea so the time seemed ripe to try end the fighting in French Indochina
  • Stalin had died and new Soviet leaders were keen to decrease Cold War tension
  • Communist China favoured negotiations because it wanted to stall American involvement in indochina
  • Not everyone was enthusiastic about the negotiation
  • Ho Chi Minh and the Vietnamese Communists were clearly winning the struggle for Vietnam and saw nothing to be gained from talking
  • Chinese and Russians put great pressure on Ho to negotiate
  • Talks on the future of French Indochina were to begin on 8 May 1954 at Geneva 
  • Meanwhile, the struggle for Dienbienphu continued
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The Geneva Conference on Indochina, 1954

The Geneva Conference, 1954

  • 7 May 1954, victorious Vietmiinh raised their red flag over Dienbienphu
  • Next day, delegations representing France, the Vietminh, Cambodia, Laos, US, USSR, China, Great Britain assmebled in Geneva to discuss ending the war 
  • Each delegation had different aims
  • Ho's Vietminh and Bao Dai wanted Vietnamese independence
  • French hoped to retain some influence in Indochina
  • America wanted to contain Communism in SE Asia and avoid elections in Vietnam as they knew that Ho Chi Minh would win
  • America rejected the idea of Communists in government of Vietnam
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The Geneva Conference on Indochina, 1954

The Geneva Accords 1954

  • The Vietminh agreed with France that
  • there would be Communist rule in N.Vietnam while Bao Dai and his new prime minister, Diem, would govern the South
  • Vietminh would have to give up the territory they occupied south of the 17th parallel
  • French forces would withdraw from the north and Ho's Vietminh forces from the south
  • there would be a truce between them
  • There would be democratic elections for a single Vietnamese government in 1956 when Vietnam would be reunified
  • Neither North nor South Vietnamese were to make military alliances with foreign powers
  • French would remain in south to prepare for the elctions in 1956
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The Geneva Conference on Indochina, 1954

Significance of the Geneva Accords

  • Negotiations showed Ho Chi Minh that Communist China and USSR were not uncompromisingly supportive of his Democratic Republic of Vietnam
  • In order to gain the settlement they wanted, made Ho accept a settlement that forced Vietminh to reterat behind the 17th parallel
  • Ho agreed as he believed the agreement for the 1956 elections would be respected
  • he also knew that he was the most popular Vietnamese national figure and that he would certainly win
  • Ho needed Chinese and Soviet aid, needed time for consolidation in the north that peace would give him
  • US significantly slow to pick up/exploit divisions within the Communist world
  • Ceasefire in Vietnam was between the French and Vietminh, not between Vietminh and South Vietnamese government
  • Eisenhower administration agreed to respect, but would not sign, Geneva agreements saying that US has not itself been a party or bound by the deicisions taken
  • America chose to misinterpret the temporary ceasefire line of the 17th parallel
  • Geneva settlement and Vietnam had become victims of the Cold War
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Two Vietnams and Two Leaders

Ngo Dinh Diem - background

  • Diem came from a Catholic, mandarin family and successfully continued the family tradition of government servicee till he clashed with his French masters in 1933
  • He was a nationalist and resented French unwillingness to give the Vietnamese any real power
  • 1950 - Diem went to US where he met and impressed American Catholics e.g John Kennedy and Mike Mansfield
  • Mansfield played a vitally important part in the continued support of Diem after 1955, his congressional colleagues considered him to be their Indochina specialist
  • 1954 - Bao Dai thought that Amerian contacts might make Diem useful 
  • In 1954, made Diem his prime minister
  • By that time, vast majority of Vietnamese nationalists with leadership qualities were Vietminh 
  • Any non-Communist nationalists with potential had been killed by the French or Vietminh
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Two Vietnams and Two Leaders

Diem and American "nation building"

  • Eisenhower felt that Ho had triumphed at Geneva and that the US had to do something to "restore it's prestige in the Far East"
  • Dulles therefore quickly masterminded the Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO)
  • SEATO members agreed to protect South Vietnam, Cambodia and laos under a separate protocol 
  • Geneva agreements were similarly ignored in that the French were supposed to stay in South Vietnam to enforce the ceasefire till nationwide elections were held in July 1956
  • Diem, who was described as incapable and mad by the French prime minister rejected the idea of nationwide elections as he knew that Ho would win
  • Soon after Geneva, Diem turned his back on the French and decided to rely on the Americans who quickly pledged their support
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Two Vietnams and Two Leaders

Diem and American "nation building" continued

  • Diem and his American patrons agreed Communist menace must be halted
  • One way to do this would be to build a stable, non-Communist South Vietnamese state
  • November 1954, Eisenhower sent WW2 associate General "Lightning Joe" Collins to implement a "crash programme" to maintain Diem's regime
  • Collins urged land reform as Saigon's main priority

American doubts about Diem

  • The Americans weren't entirely happy with their new South Vietnamese allies
  • According to Nixon, the south Vietnamese lacked the ability to conduct a war by themselves or govern themselves
  • Eisenhower administration nearly withdrew their support, but in sprint 1955, Diem's effective actions vs Bao Dai and other non-Communist opponents halted them
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Two Vietnams and Two Leaders

Diem's defeat of Bao Dai

  • October 1955, Diem held an election in South Vietnam
  • it was now a separate state
  • Those voting for Bao Dai were punished
  • Diem claimed 98.2% of the vote
  • Out of 450,000 registered voters in Saigon, Diem claimed that 605,025 had voted for him
  • through a combination of force, fraud and friendship with America, Diem appeared to have made himself the undisputed leader of the new state of South Vietnam

The Nature of Diem's regime

  • Diem visited America in 1957 when Eisenhower praised him as the "miracle man" of Asia
  • When Americans advised him that his repressive and unpopular adminstration needed reform to survive, he did nothing
  • His government had become a family operation and they squabbled amongst themselves in the struggle to get rich
  • Diem never appealed to the ordinary people as Ho did
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Two Vietnams and Two Leaders

Support for Ho and Communism

Ho's ruthlessness

  • In many ways Ho's regime in the North was as unpleasant as that of Diem in the South
  • Ho's Communists liquidated thousands of landlords and opponents and even loyal Vietminh by mistake
  • In 1956, Ho's soldiers had to put down a revolt: 6000 peasants were killed or deported
  • Ho and Giap, admitted wrongfully resorting to terror
  • Ho's egalitarian regime, free from apparent foreign domination won the hearts of the people in a way that Diem's never did


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Two Vietnams and Two Leaders

Support for Ho and Communism

Communist activism in South Vietnam

  • Before 1959, Ho discouraged supporters in the South from attacking Diem's regime
  • Hanoi wanted to be seen as abiding by Geneva agreements and was bitterly divided about whether consolidation in the North should take priority over liberation in the South
  • This gave Diem the opportunity to arrest and execute many southern Communist activist whose numbers dropped from around 10,000 in 1955 to nearer 20000 by 1959
  • This forced South's Communists into open revolt
  • By 1960, Hanoi decided to give liberation equal priority to consolidation
  • Ho's supporters called themselves the National Liberation Front from 1960
  • Diem called them the Vietcong
  • Like the Vietminh, VC emphasised national independence rather than social revolution
  • Peasants hated forced, expensive removals from their homes, lands and sacred ancestral tombs
  • Dissatisfaction with the regime of "American Diem" was ever increasing
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Two Vietnams and Two Leaders

Diem's situation in 1961

  • By 1961, Diem had received around $7 billion from the Eisenhower administration
  • While many knowledgable Americans warned from the first that the struggle could not be won with Diem in power, others disagreed
  • Diem's American supporters were often those who saw the conflict in Vietnam in simple military terms
  • Problem was that the Communists had fair amount of popular support in South Vietnam
  • Diem had to deal with so much non-Communist opposition
  • Even his army contained opponents
  • By 1961, America was supporting a very unpopular regime in South Vietnam
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Why did the US get involved and remain in Vietnam?

  • One several presidents were involved in trying and failing to defend Communism in Vietnam, clear that the US was stuck in a difficult situation
  • As successive presidents got more and more involved, the "quagmire theory" of US involvement developed
  • According to this theory, because of their ignorance of Vietnamese people and ovreconfidence in American power and ideals, US leaders let the United States get gradually trapped in an expensive commitment in an unimportant area
  • An alternative theory the "stalemate theory" emerged in the 1970s
  • This claimed that the US held to the commitment and even escalated in order not to win but to avoid being seen to lose by American voters
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The Kennedy Crusade (1961-3)

Introduction: Kennedy's War?

  • While Vietnam was a minor side-show in Cold War, it became much more important during the Kennedy presidency
  • Under Johnson it became a national obsession
  • Since Kennedy's death there has been considerable debate over the increased commitment to South Vietnam
  • Kennedy's supporters believe that just before his death he was  planning to get America out
  • Johnson administration was criticised for its lack of understanding of Vietnam and reliance on military solutions to solve problems there
  • Study of Kennedy administration's policies have revealed similar filaures of perception
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Kennedy's Early Ideas about Vietnam

  • By the time Kennedy became president in January 1931, his ideas on Vietnam had already been shaped and demonstrated
  • As a young Democratic Congressman, he agreed with President Truman that the expansion of Communism must be "contained" by America 
  • Kennedy believed in Eisenhower's domino theory
  • Kennedy rejected the idea of nationwide Vietnamese elections because Ho would win
  • Kennedy criticised Eisenhower for losing the initiative in foreign policy
  • 1960 presidential election campaign: Kennedy said the country needed a president to "get America moving again"
  • Campaign was militantly anti-Communist
  • described Communist ideology as "uneasing in its drive for world domination"
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The 

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The President and his Advisers

a) Kennedy: the impatient crusader in the Third World

Campaign rhetoric

  • Kennedy was a prisoner of his own Cold War campaign rhetoric
  • served to limit his foreign policy options once in the White House
  • Kennedy was duty-bound to increase defence expenditure and foreign involvement

Youth, inexperience and a "time for greatness"

  • Kennedy was sensitive to references to his youth and inexperience 
  • He was well aware the nation would likely rally around a narrowly elected president during a time of national crisis
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The Kennedy Crusade (1961-3)

The President and his Advisers

a) Kennedy- the impatient crusader in the Third World

Advisers

  • Kennedy's eagerness to get things moving made him impatient with the State Department
  • When he sought on advice on foreign affairs, looked to close friends such as the Secretary of Defence, Robert McNamara
  • Kennedy was influenced by Defence Department and naturally inclined to see problems in terms of military solutions

Secretary of defence Robert McNamara

  • Was dynamic, tough talking, persuasive, competent and down to earth
  • Only cabinet member to become part of charmed social circle around President
  • Powerful personality meant his power within cabinet was greater
  • Enormous influence and judgemental lapses from him were unfortunate wih regards to Vietnam
  • His solutions were always military which proved to unhelpful
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The Kennedy Crusade (1961-3)

The President and his Advisers

a) Kennedy- the impatient crusader in the Third World

Secretary of State Dean Rusk

  • Was a hard-line Cold Warrior
  • was a keen student of international relations
  • worked in Truman State Department in WW2
  • believed that the appeasement of aggressors had led to that war and was determined to oppose what he considered to be Communist aggression
  • Kennedy wanted to dominate foreign policy personally
  • Like McNamara, Rusk believed in American involvement in Vietnam and felt it was the preserve of the Defence Department rather than the State Department
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The Kennedy Crusade (1961-3)

Cuba, Laos and Vietnam

Cuba and Vietnam

  • in his first week in office, Kennedy privately declared that the major problem areas of the 3rd World were the Congo, Cuba, Laos and Vietnam
  • In Cuba, Kennedy felt bound to support an enterprise to which his predecessor had committed America and which took form of military opposition to a popular nationalist leader who was also Communist
  • Fidel Castro had a radical reform programme which many considered appropriate for a Third World country
  • Kennedy administration sponsored an unsuccessful anti-Communist invasion at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba in 1961
  • There was dissent within the Kennedy administration over Cuba as over Vietnam
  • In both Cuba and Vietnam, the Kennedy administration's policy and actions were neither systematically thought out nor exhaustively discussed by all who might have contributed valuable ideas
  • Bay of PIgs failured naturally had an impact towards other Third World countries such as Laos
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The Kennedy Crusade (1961-3)

Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam

Laos and Vietnam

  • Of the 3 countries (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos) that emerged from French Indochina, Laos occupied Kennedy most in the early days of his presidency
  • feared a Soviet-backed Communist triumph there
  • State Department, CIA, JCS and close advisers favoured military intervention
  • Kennedy was held back by the Bay of Pigs failure
  • Also limited number of soldiers and aircraft available
  • Kennedy nevertheless sent US military advisers to assist the Laotion leader
  • During 1961-2, Laos was apparently neutralised and the USA and USSR agreed it would be governed by a coalition
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Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam

How Cuba and Laos helped to lead to Vietnam

  • Failure of Bay of Pigs and draw on the supposed neutralisation of Laos meant outright victories had to be won elsewhere
  • Vietnam was more suitable for US intervention than Laos in several ways
  • had a long coastline where US naval supremacy could be brought to bear
  • Diem seemed to many Americans to have South Vietnam under control
  • democracy seemed to have a good chance of working there
  • US departure would result in a loss of face
  • Domestic political considerations were pointed out
  • bitter divisions would exist amongst the American public if Kennedy got out of Vietnam
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The Kennedy Crusade (1961-3)

Kennedy and Diem

Military solutions

Increased military involvement

  • At Kennedy's accession, there were 800 American Military advisers in South Vietnam
  • Kennedy stepped up the financial aid to Diem to enable him to increase his army
  • Diem's 250,000 soldiers still couldn't wipe out the Vietcgon
  • JCS and National Security Council recommended putting ground troops in 
  • Kennedy preferred to increase the number of advisers there
  • By October 1961, there were 2000 US military advisers and in 1962, 12,000
  • Increasing quantities of weaponry flooded into South Vietnam
  • US provided helicopters and pilot "advisers"
  • Although Kennedy denied it, therse pilots were actively involved in the war
  • They transported troops, undertook reconnaissance missions and provided fire support for AVRN units
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The Kennedy Crusade (1961-3)

Kennedy and Diem

The reform option

  • Kennedy administration frequently advised Diem that one of the best ways to defeat the Communists was to introduce greater political, social and economic equality to South Vietnam
  • Diem ignored most of the advice
  • one of his "reforms" was introduced in 1962 and was a disaster
  • from early 1962, Diem adopted the policy of "strategic hamlets"
  • these were fortified villages in which the Vietnamese peasants would be isolated from the Vietcong
  • Unfortunately, the Vietcong frequently joined hte other residents 
  • Strategic hamlets run by Diem's highly unpopular brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu who ignored US advice when establishing them
  • Nhu ignored social, economic and political reforms that US suggested he introduce in the hamlets
  • this led to increased opposition to the Diem/US regime
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Debate and division in Diem's Vietnam

1962

  • During 1962 there was slowly increasing criticism of Diem's military and political ineptitude in the American press

1963

  • By the spring of 1963, relations between Diem and the US were very tense

Cathlocs vs Buddhists

  • Possible that mutual Catholicism played a party in Kennedy's support of Diem
  • Catholics were a minority in South Vietnam and in spring 1963 there was trouble
  • Diem regime allowed flying of Catholic flags in honour of Diem's brother
  • Flags were banned for the celebration of Buddha's birthday
  • when 10,000 Buddhists protested, Diem sent in soldiers and 7 Buddhists were killed
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The Kennedy Crusade (1961-3)

Debate and division in Diem's Vietnam

The new ambassador

  • January 1963 State Department report said the US lacked vision and planning in its Vietnam policy
  • recommended the appointment of a "strong" ambassador to Vietnam to co-ordinate the military and "nation building" efforts there
  • Ldge was a patriot, a WW2 military hero and an experienced and ambitious Republican politician with an interest in foreign affairs
  • his relations with the press were always good
  • On the other hand, Lodge not ideal for co-ordinating role envisaged by the State Department
  • Lacked practice in team work and administration
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The Kennedy Crusade (1961-3)

Debate and division in Diem's Vietnam

Washington, Lodge and the overthrow of Diem

Lodge's arrival, August 1963

  • Lodge believed that the US had to help South Vietnam and that effective help required the removal of Diem
  • Anti-Diem group in Kennedy administration got him preoccupied with the forthcoming civil rights March on Washington to agree that Diem must be got rid of unless he instituted dramatic changes
  • had been no real discussion about this
  • in the absence of firm leadership from Washington, Ambassador Lodge required an unusal amount of control of US policy in Vietnam
  • Turned Congress and American public opinion against Diem and Nhu through press "leaks" on their activities
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The Kennedy Crusade (1961-3)

Debate and division in Diem's Vietnam

Washington, Lodge and the overthrow of Diem

Administration disunity

  • Kennedy's disunited administration rejected both the option of using US combat troops and the idea of total withdrawal
  • In September, Kennedy sent more observers, including McNamara and Taylor to Vietnam
  • their reports on American military activity were optimistic but those on Diem's regime were pessimistic
  • By this time, Nhu was negotiating with Hanoi, conforming the American conviction that he and Diem had to go 
  • Kenedy said there needed to be ahcnage in the Saigon government
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The Kennedy Crusade (1961-3)

Debate and division in Diem's Vietnam

Washington, Lodge and the overthrow of Diem

The coup

  • AVRN plotters were assured they would have America's support in their coup which happened on 2 November 1963
  • Lodge gave vital encouragement but publicly denied any US involvement
  • Naive to think there could be a coup but no assassinations
  • When Diem and Nhu were found dead, Lodge ssaid triumphantly "Every Vietnamese has a grin on his face today"
  • Might never know for certain whether Kennedy approved the idea of assassinating his Vietnamese friend Diem
  • Seems possible that he did
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The Kennedy Crusade (1961-3)

Debate and division in Diem's Vietnam

Washington, Lodge and the overthrow of Diem

The situation at Kennedy's death

  • At moment of Kennedy's death there were nearly 17,000 American "advisers" in Vietnam
  • Increase in the number of American advisers in Vietnam during Kennedy's presidency is the most convincing argument that Kennedy would not have "got the US out of Vietnam"
  • Rusk, Johnson and Bobby Kennedy were among those who said he had no plans to get out
  • Bobby, who knew him best, said he had no plans at all
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Johnson's War?

Why Johnson continued US involvement in the War

A man of his time

  • Johnson aroused much hostile criticism for "his" war
  • he was a typical American of his time in his patriotism, anti-Communism and misunderstanding of foreigners
  • Johnson was intensely patriotic and proud of US military powess
  • Always voted to build up the armed forces as a senator
  • Like many Americans, Johnson believed his country fought for world freedom as well as American security in 2 World Wars, in Korea and Vietnam
  • As vice-President, Johnson firmly believed that America should fight Communist "aggressors" in Southeast Asia at whatever cost
  • Like Kennedy and Eisenhower, Johnson believed in the domino theory
  • Johnson found it difficult to understand foreign affairs and foreigners
  • He felt that Ho Chi Minh was another Hitler and should be treated accordingly
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Johnson's War?

Why Johnson continued US involvement in the War

The impact of Kennedy's assassination

  • Johnson knew that a long war would probably lose the support of Congress and the public
  • Knew the weaknesses in the Saigon government
  • Knew that only China and the USSR would benefit if America got "bogged down chasing guerrillas"
  • However, he continued the American inolvement and the main reason for this was the Kennedy legacy
  • Admist the sorrow Johnson felt at Kennedy's assassination, there was also joy at attaining the presidency
  • guilt feelings contributed to his determination to stand by all Kennedy had done and those who helped him do it
  • there is a case for calling Vietnman "Kennedy's War"
  • He had increased American involvement in Vietnam 
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Johnson's War?

Why Johnson continued US involvement in the War

Johnson and his advisers

  • In order to decide whether Vietnam was "Johnson's War", his relationship with his advisers must be investigated

Kennedy's men

  • Johnson's freedom of action and thought were inevitably circumscribed because he was tied down to Kennedy's men at the time of accession
  • Johnson's retention of men such as McNamara and Rusk meant no fresh ideas emerged on the Vietnam problem
  • Rusk obsessive about continuing the struggle
  • Believed that withdrawl would cause loss of faith in America's commitment to oppose Communist aggression adn would lead to WW3
  • Although the CIA was gloomy about the situation in Vietnam, many in the administration believed that America would somehow triumph 


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Johnson's War?

Why Johnson continued US involvement in the war

Johnson and his advisers

Advice fom the military

  • in wartime, beliefs and advice from the military were inevitably influential 
  • like Kennedy, Johnson found some military men scary
  • However, Johnson inherited involvement in a war and as commander-in-chief he felt duty bound to listen to the generals

the first president to lose a war

  • Johnson's personal political ambition reinforced what the generals were advising
  • he repeatedly said he didn't want to be the first president to lose a war, especially to the Communists



51 of 95

Johnson's War?

Why Johnson continued US involvement in the war

Early debates, doubts and decisions

  • From Deccember 1963, Hanoi sent increasing number of PAVN regulars south which greatly strengthened VC Diem's successor, General Minh
  • Minh's successors were less impressive
  • th strategic hamlets programme was clearly a failure and the VC impressively countered US air power with ever increasing supplies of Soviet and Chinese weaponry
  • Was estimated that the Communists controlled around half of south Vietnam
  • McNamara visited Saigon and in March 1964 he described the situation as "very disturbing"
  • South Vietnamese were generally apathetic and unwilling to fight
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Johnson's War?

How Johnson was Able to Escalate the War

August 1964: the Gulf of Tonkin resolution

Sabotage and spying in the North

  • For a decade, the CIA had been secretly ssending South Vietnamese teams on sabotage missions to the North
  • In first half of 1964, South Vietnamese gunboats raided North Vietnam's coast
  • Johnson approved covert American operations
  • American ships such as the Maddox went on espionage missions in the North's coastal waters

Gulf of Tonkin incident

  • Johnson claimed that North Vietnamese made 2 unprovoked attacks on the Maddox and the Turner Joy in the Gulf of Tonkin
  • 4 August 1964, asked for congressional support for avenging the attacks
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Johnson's War?

How Johnson was Able to Escalate the War

Who was to blame for the escalation

  • In Johnson's defence, difficult to know what exactly had happened in the Gulf of Tonkin
  • if there had been an attack, Americans would have epxected him to respond
  • would have been irresponsible not to have had a resolution ready for an emergency
  • many believe that political calculations played a big part in Johnson's actions

Results and significance of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution

  • Results and significance of the passage of the resolution were vitally important
  • with the resolution, Johnson seemed to have the nation behind him
  • Now, war would be taken to the North
  • American aircraft bombed North Vietnam for the first time
  • Escalation made Johnson look tough
  • His public approval rating rose from 42 to 72% which helped him win the presidential election 
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Johnson's War?

How Johnson was Able to Escalate the War

The 1964 presidential election

  • During the election campaign the administration became aware that voters were asking many questions about Vietnam such as why were they still there
  • Other questions included the problems of trying to win and why it wasn't a UN effort like Korea
  • Foreign policy issues were rarely decisive in American presidential elections
  • Johnson knew that if left-wingers accused him of being a war-monger and the right-wingers accused him of being "soft on Communism" he might not get re-elected
  • re-assured the left saying he did not intend to do anything rash or have a major war
  • Like Kennedy, Johnson hoped that Saigon would be able to win its own war
  • During the election campaign neither he nor his advisers knew for sure what exactly to do about Vietnam
  • Concentrated first on winning the election
  • Having won, he believed he had a popular mandate to do as he saw fit
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Johnson's War?

Why did Johnson escalate the American involvement in Vietnam?

Saigon incompetence

  • Some people believe that Johnson's personality made escalation inevitable
  • he could be combative, arrogant and overconfident
  • sometimes there was fear and uncertainty behind his confident bluster
  • privately and frequently he admitted he didn't know what to do about Vietnam
  • more often than not he responded to advice and the pressure of events
  • one major cause of escalation was that the Saigon regime was obviously not winning the war
  • Ambassador Lodge had had enough by late 1964 
  • The consensus among Johnson's advisers was that something must be done
  • In November 1964: 100 Vietcong had attacked and greatly damaged a US airbase near Saigon
  • these VC attacks, which the Saigon regime seemed powerless to halt, nudged the Johnson administration towards escalation 
  • it seemed necessary for the safety of Americans in Vietnam
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Johnson's War?

Why did Johnson escalate the American involvement in Vietnam?

The Working Group recommendations

  • Johnson ordered a Working Group form the Defence Department, the State Department, the CIA and the JCS to study Vietnam and suggest poilcy options
  • the Working Group:
  • said an independent and anti-Communist South Vietnam was vital to America
  • reiterated the domino theory
  • said American national prestige, credibility and honour were at stake
  • emphasised that escalation was necessary due to the weak Saigon government
  • suggested heavier bombing to be halted only if North Vietnam would negotiate

Defending American bomber bases with "Rolling Thunder"

  • Early 1965, Johnson took first great escalatory step when he began large scale and continuous bombing in Vietnam
  • Trigger for escalation was concern over the security of US bomber bases and personnel 
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Johnson's War?

Why did Johnson escalate the American involvement in Vietnam?

Defending American bomber bases with American troops

Reasons for sending in ground troops

  • Spring 1965, Johnson made his second great escalatory step when he sent large numbers of American ground troops to Vietnam 
  • Spring 1965, requested US marined be brought in to prtect the vital US bomber base in Danang

Ground troops arrive in Vietnam

  • first 3500 marines landed at Danang beach on 8 March 1965
  • April 6 1965, Johnson approved an increase of over 18,000 American support forces to keep his soldiers supplied
  • also sent in more marines
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Johnson's War?

Why did Johnson escalate the American involvement in Vietnam?

Defending American bomber bases with American troops

Support for sending in ground troops

  • many accuse Johnson of waving a war without a declaration of war
  • Congress supportively granted $700 million for military operations in Vietnam in May 1965
  • Johnson told them that this was no routine grant: it was a vote to continue opposing Communism in Vietnam
  • House of Representatives voted 408 to 7 and the Senate 88 to 3 in favour
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Johnson's War?

Johnson's explanation of the escalation

  • Johnson summed up reasons why US had escalated its commitment to Vietnam
  • US needed to fight if it wanted to live securely in a free world
  •  North Vietnam had attacked South Vietnam and needed to be opposed
  •  North Vietnam was a puppet of the expansionist Communist power
  • the USSR and China USSR and China wanted to conquer all of Asia 
  • Appeasement could lead to WW3 
  • Abandonment of South Vietnam would cause all America's allies to doubt America's word and credibility
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Johnson's War?

"Where are we going?"

Deterioration in Saigon

  • Johnson had hoped that the arrival of American troops would help protect the bomber bases and improve the position of the Saigon regime
  • Situation in Vietnam continued to deteriorate
  • Air Vice-Marshal Ky became prime minister
  • Ky drank, gambled and womanised
  • Said Vietnam needed men like Hitler
  • He was a flamboyant figure, fond of purple jumpsuits, pearl handled revolvers and dark sunglasses
  • not surprisingly, under the incompetent, corrupt and unpopular Ky and Thieu, Saigon government controlled less of South Vietnam and controlled it less effectively
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Johnson's War?

"Where are we going?"

More American troops

  • 1965: Ky's government was losing control of territory to the Vietcong, who had 75% of the countryside according to Theiu
  • As more American troops poured in, the less the AVRN wanted to fight
  • As usual, Westmoreland demanded more American troops to prevent South Vietnam's collapse and protect American troops already there
  • In cabinet meetings throughout July, Johnson expressed doubts about the usefulness of sending more American troops
  • 28 July 1965, at noon when TV audiences were minimal, he announced that Westmoreland had asked for more men to meet mounting Communist aggression and that his needs would be met
  • 75,000 troops in Vietnam would be increased to 125,000
  • During 1965, polls and White House mail showed that:
  • 70% of the nation was behind Johnson
  • 80% believed in the domino theory
  • 80% favoured sending American soldiers to stop South Vietnam falling
  • 47% wanted Johnson to send even more troops
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Johnson's War?

"Where are we going?"

Doubts

  • Not everyone was sure that this further escalation was the right answer to the problems in Vietnam
  • protests began at universities in March 1965
  • December 1965 bombing halt failed to persuade Hanoi to negotiate and a cabinet meeting showed a lack of consensus within the administration
  • McNamara felt that military victory was unlikely
  • Johnson knew all the dangers and was uncertain whether America could win
  • he was certain it could they could not get out without irreparable damage to his own and his country's position
  • administration and military could not agree on what they should be doing there
  • most agreed that they should be there 
  • this was not just "Johnson's War"
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Johnson's War?

"Where are we going?"

Escalation, 1965-8

  • Despite their doubts about the competence of the Ky/Thieu regime, Westmoreland, JCS and McNamara agreed number of American troops in South Vietnam should be increased in the second half of 1965
  • McNamara didn't claim this would bring victory
  • By the end of 1965, 200,000 American soldiers bore the burden of the fighting in South Vietnam
  • By the end of 1966 there were 385,000
  • By early 1968 there were 535,000
  • Westmoreland had initially believed he could end the Communist insurgency within 6 months but his strategy of a war of attrition which was using technology and firepower failed to wear down the enemy
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Why the USA Failed 1: The People in Vietnam

The Vietnamese

Winning the hearts and minds of the South Vietnamese people

The decisive factor

  • One of the main reasons Americans couldn't defeat the Communists was because they were unable to win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people
  • General Giap said Hanoi won because it waged a people's war
  • it was a total war in which every man, woman and even child was mobilised whether militarily or emotionally
  • Maintained that human beings were the decisive factor
  • thousands of American civilian "experts" in Vietnam
  • they felt that too little was done to win the hearts and minds of the people
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Why the USA Failed 1: The People in Vietnam

The Vietnamese

Winning the hearts and minds of the South Vietnamese people

Understanding the Vietnamese

  • Most Vietnamese were rice-growing peasants who lived in small villages, small mud and bamboo house with dirt or wooden floors
  • there was neither running water nor electricity
  • America soldiers could not conceive of "real" people living like this
  • explains a bit why Americans sometimes treated the Vietnamese peasants as sub-human
  • Communists had worked hard to win over the peasantry by offering them a fairer distribution of land and urging Communist soldiers to avoid the **** and pillage characteristic of the AVRN
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Why the USA Failed 1: The People in Vietnam

The Vietnamese

Winning the hearts and minds of the South Vietnamese people

"They are all VC"

  • Circumstances of the war made American soldiers dislike the people they were supposed to be helping
  • this made it very difficult for them to win the war
  • Most famous example of American hatred of Vietnamese was the massacre at the apparently pro-Communist My Lai in March 1968
  • 340 unarmed civilians were beaten and killed by American soldiers and officers

The American high-tech war

  • American technology created formidable new fighting weapons
  • Ironically, American firepower was concentrated more on South than North Vietnam
  • Dependent Saigon regime was unlikely to complain
  • In search for VC Americans killed and wounded tens of thousands of civilians
  • Neither American army nor AVRN would take responsibility for wounded civilians
  • Bombing obliterated 5 towns with populations over 10,000
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Why the USA Failed 1: The People in Vietnam

The Vietnamese

Winning the hearts and minds of the South Vietnamese people

Life in Saigon

  • Incessant fighting and bombing drove roughly one third of South Vietnam's peasant population out of the countryside into the towns and cities
  • many were put up in camps where primitive sanitation bred disease
  • many lived off Americans, particularly in Saigon
  • Saigon became an unsavoury city in the American war years
  • Drugs were sold in its bars and many hotels were brothels
  • beggars targeted "rich" Americans by tugging at them and making crying sounds
  • war had destroyed the social fabric of South Vietnam 
  • salary of the lowest ranking American was gigantic by Vietnamese standards
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Why the USA Failed 1: The People in Vietnam

The Vietnamese

Winning the hearts and minds of the South Vietnamese people

The Saigon government: corruption and "democracy"

  • Vietnamese peasants were often politically apathetic
  • their concern was their day to day struggle for existence
  • Washington talked of bringing democacy to Vietnam but the concept was meaningless to the Vietnamese who had no tradition of American style politcal democracy
  • strongest Vietnamese political tradition was the hatred of foreigners
  • Ky's government was corrupt and adverse to reform
  • At Johnson's insistence, Ky held democratic elections
  • Ky ran the election, and his candidate for president, Thieu, only got 37% of the vote
  • When he fled in April 1975, Thieu carried away millions of dollaes in gold
  • Poorly paid officials and even the highly paid president wanted to provide well for their relations
  • Unpopularity of the Saigon regime was perhaps main reason for failure in Vietnam
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Why the USA Failed 1: The People in Vietnam

Communist determination, heroism and ingenuity

Communist determination

  • inspired by Communism and nationalism, VC won admiration from their American foes
  • Vietnamese had always struggled for their existence 
  • Continuous struggle ensured unusual patience in the face of adversity which explained Hanoi's refusal to be beaten

The Ho Chi Minh Trail

  • Most Giap's men and women spent time on the Ho Chi Minh trail which came southward via Cambodia and laos
  • Both sides knew keeping the trail open was vital to the Communist war effort
  • Men and materials came south and the wounded wre sent north on the trail
  • Giap's porters carried most of the war material down the trail between 1959 and 1964
  • trail was never a single route, there were several branches
  • around 50,000 women were employed at any one time to repair the road
  • vehicles and part of the trail were camouflaged with foliage
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Why the USA Failed 1: The People in Vietnam

Communist determination, heroism and ingenuity

Communist ingenuity

  • Communist ingenuity and preparedness was vitally important
  • in many areas supposedly controlled by the Saigon government, the Communist Party had a web of informants and a multitude of social organisations which helped comfort, control and motivate the people
  • Communists had a network of tunnels the VC could hide under, shelter and regroup
  • In Hanoi itself, the government made excellent preparations against air raids
  • ground was riddled with concrete bold holes each with a thick concrete cover which could be pulled over the top
  • when sirens sounded, most of the Hanoi population could vanish
  • Communist ingenuity was vital in the American failure to win
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Why the USA Failed 1: The People in Vietnam

The Americans in Vietnam

American disunity

  • American and allied forces were frequently disunited
  • marines were traditionally linked with the navy and were not keen to obey orders from Westmoreland's army
  • Unconventional green berets caused antagonism
  • Americans distrusted the AVRN
  • Ordinary soldiers served 365 days, marines 13 months
  • many stencilled the reurn dates on their helmets
  • short term of service meant units never attained the feeling of unity vital to morale and performance
  • disagreement with the war tactics led to indiscipline
  • Americans of different ranks had different experiences
  • army officer did 5 months on the front line
  • would probably be less experienced than some of the soldiers he commanded
  • 5 months was too little to get to know his men properly
  • would then be moved on to a training, organisation or desk job
  • many American soldiers didn't like their country's manner of waging war and became confused about why they were fighting
  • Late 1960s, anti-war feeling grew in America
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Why the USA Failed 1: The People in Vietnam

The Americans in Vietnam

American disunity

  • American and allied forces were frequently disunited
  • marines were traditionally linked with the navy and were not keen to obey orders from Westmoreland's army
  • Unconventional green berets caused antagonism
  • Americans distrusted the AVRN
  • Ordinary soldiers served 365 days, marines 13 months
  • many stencilled the reurn dates on their helmets
  • short term of service meant units never attained the feeling of unity vital to morale and performance
  • disagreement with the war tactics led to indiscipline
  • Americans of different ranks had different experiences
  • army officer did 5 months on the front line
  • would probably be less experienced than some of the soldiers he commanded
  • 5 months was too little to get to know his men properly
  • would then be moved on to a training, organisation or desk job
  • many American soldiers didn't like their country's manner of waging war and became confused about why they were fighting
  • Late 1960s, anti-war feeling grew in America
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Why the USA Failed 1: The People in Vietnam

The Americans in Vietnam

Trying to fight a "comfortable" war

  • Ironically, American desire to keep their soldiers as possible in Vietnam helps to explain their defeat there
  • Many soldiers never actually fought
  • they had to organise the American lifestyle for everyone else such as running clubs and cinemas
  • every week, several thousand combat soldiers were sent to R&R (rest and recuperation)
  • When the last American soldier left Vietnam there were 159 basketball courts, 90 service clubs, 85 volleyball fields, 71 swimming pools, 40 ice cream plants and 2 bowling alleys
  • this led to an air of unreality and disorientation
  • Westmoreland said this was the only way you could get Americans to fight
  • Frustration with the war led many American soldiers to seek comfort elsewhere and about 1/4 of soldiers caught STDs
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Why the USA Failed 1: The People in Vietnam

The Americans in Vietnam

American military strategy

Search and destroy

  • Under Johnson, US troops engaged in "search and destroy" missions where they would try to clear an area of VC
  • was very hard to find the guerrillas
  • 1967 CIA report said under 1% of nearly 2 million small unit operations conducted between 1965 and 1967 resulted in contact with the enemy
  • Ratio of destruction was usually 6 South Vietnamese civlians for every VC soldier
  • large scale use of helicopters and blasting of the zones where they were to land was not conductive to searching out guerrillas who went elsewhere when hearing all the nosie
  • notoriously difficult to try to wipe out a guerrilla movement, particularly when the guerrillas are sent in from another "state" (North Vietnam)
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Why the USA Failed 1: The People in Vietnam

The Americans in Vietnam

American military strategy

Reliance on superior technology

  • bombing was a favourite tactic during Johnson's presidency
  • North Vietna, the Ho Chi Minh trail and South Vietnamese villages suspected of harbouring Communist sympathisers were all heavily bombed
  • Bombing failed to damage North Vietnamese morale and stop the flow of men and materials coming down the trail

The wrong strategy

  • Years later, McNamara admitted that US tactics were wrong
  • said it was unwise to use a high tech war of attrition against a primarily guerrilla foce that never considered giving up their war for independence
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Why the USA Failed 2: US Politicians and People

Problems with Johnson's aims and Methods

Johnson's aims

  • Johnson publicly said he aimed to defeat Communist aggression, build a nation in South Vietnam and search for peace there
  • other aims best kept private
  • wanted to save American face 
  • wanted to ensure that his conduct of the war didn't affect the electoral prospects of any Democrat (especially himself)

Johnson's methods

  • methods were to advise, support and try to strengthen the Saigon governments both politically and militarily
  • military methods didn't bring military victory 
  • political methods alienated many South Vietnamese and some Americans
  • between 1965 and 1968 became clear that the escalation of US military inolvement wouldn't stop Hanoi 
  • involvement was also becoming inceasingly unpopular 
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Why the USA Failed 2: US Politicians and People

Why and how Johnson was forced to retreat

Problems in South Vietnam 1966-7

  • 1967, Johnson administration publically optimistic
  • Westmoreland said there were only 285,000 Communists left fighting in the south
  • Privately, administration was pessimistic
  • Things were going badly and it was destroying confidence within the administration

Loss of McNamara

  • Robert McNamara was vital in the formation of Kennedy and Johnson's Vietnam policies
  • McNamara's health and family life suffered because of the war 
  • January 1968, Clark Clifford was selected as McNamara's replacement as Secretary of Defence
  • like his predecessor, he began to doubt the domino theory and the wisdom of US involvement
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Why the USA Failed 2: US Politicians and People

Why and how Johnson was forced to retreat

Public opinion

Conservative right-wing

  • Cold Warriors criticised Johnson for insufficient escalation
  • complained that American boys were being forced to fight the Communists with one hand tied behind their backs
  • angry that America never used more than half ot its combat ready divisions and tactical air power in Vietnam
  • Not all conservatives approved of the war
  • many considered developed areas such as Europe and Japan more important to America

Pacifist feeling

  • Many Americans hated the thought of themselves or their loved ones having to fight in Vietnam
  • College students were in the forefront of protest
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Why the USA Failed 2: US Politicians and People

The Collapse of the Home front

1964

  • protests began in 1964 when 1000 students from Yale University staged a protest march in NY and 5000 professors wrote in support

1965

  • during 1965, many universities held anti-war lectures and debates
  • 20,000 participated in Berkeley
  • thousands of students signed pro-Johnson petitions including 1/4 of Yale undergraduates

1966

  • Public and congressional support for the war dropped dramatically

1967

  • Cricism had not caused Johnson to alter his policies
  • During 1967, opposition to the war grew 
  • tens of thousands of people protested in the great cities of America
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Why the USA Failed 2: US Politicians and People

Financial and economic problems

  • War cost a great deal of money and distorted the economy
  • Johnson didn't want to admit how much he was spending
  • 1963, government deficit had been $1.6 billion
  • By 1968 it was $25.3 billion
  • such deficits caused inflation and endangered America's economic well being

Johnson's loss of confidence

  • November 1967, after optimistic briefings from the JCS and CIA, "wise men" declared their support for continuation of US efforts in Vietnam
  • at a meeting on 25 March 1968, majority of them were in process of changing their minds
  • Congress was pressing hard for retreat, polls were discouraging
  • 78% felt America was not making any progress in the war
  • 74% felt Johnson was not handling it well
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Why the USA Failed 2: US Politicians and People

Johnson's Last Months

Peace talks

  • With Johnson's loss of confidence by spring 1968, prospects for successful peace talks improved
  • Hanoi exhausted after Tet, anxious to divide Americans and keen to negotiate
  • Talks began in Paris in May 1968
  • Johnson demanded North Vietnamese withdrawal from South Vietnam and rejected Communist participation in the Saigon government
  • North VIetnam demanded American withdrawl from South Vietnam and insisted on Communist participation in Saigon government
  • mutually exclusive demands explain why the talks continued for 5 years

Disintegration of Johnson's presidency

  • Events in final few months of presidency confirmed need for dramatic change in Vietnam policy
  • Fighting reached maximum intensity in the first half of 1968
  • polls and elections are notorious for not telling the whole story 
  • Johnson's presidency and the war effort disintegrated because of the Ameerican divisions
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Nixon: Diplomatic Genius or Mad Bomber?

Vice-president and Cold Warrior

  • As Eisenhower's VP, Nixon had an exceptional apprenticeship in foreign affairs
  • Wanted to help the French at Dienbienphu with an American air strike and was even willing to use small atomic bombs

Republican foreign policy expert

  • After his defeat in the 1960 presidential race, Nixon held to political office for 8 years but kept himself in the political news by foreign policy announcements
  • on Vietnam, he said that victory is essential to the survival of fredom
  • as the recognised leader of the Republican opposition to foreign policy, Nixon spurred the Democrat Johnson to greater involvement in Vietnam
  • Whatever Johnson did, Nixon urged him to do more
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Nixon: Diplomatic Genius or Mad Bomber?

Republican presidential candidate (1967-8)

Vietnamisation

  • 1967, presidential hopeful Nixon seemed last man likely to advocate withdrawal from Vietnam
  • Criticised the anti-war protesters as a traitorous minority
  • Early 68, Nixon shocked by the Tet offensive
  • was a great turning point for him
  • realised there would have to be changes in American policy
  • Started to call for the inceased use of South Vietnamese soldiers
  • policy became known as Vietnamisation
  • Nixon said that American forces should be withdrawn while the AVRN was built up 
  • stopped talking about escalation
  • believed that Thieu could surivive with the help of a change of emphasis in America and a radical change in diplomatic direction
  • Nixton hoped America could replace era of confrontation with the era of negotiation
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Nixon: Diplomatic Genius or Mad Bomber?

Why Nixon decided to get out of Vietnam

Tet

  • Tet proved conclusively to Nixon that the Vietnam War was not going well
  • made him decide that America needed to withdraw ASAP

Sino-Soviet split

  • Cold War world had changed
  • Sino-Soviet split shattered the threat of a monolithic Communist bloc
  • Nixon decided that America could play off the two rival Communist giants by improving American relations with both China and the USSR and then press Hanoi to "peace with honour" in Vietnam

Peacemaker

  • political and dramatic impact of being a world peacemaker appealed to Nixon
  • Knew that the Vietnam War had ruined Johnson's presidency
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President Nixon, Kissinger and the Vietnam Problem

Nixon and Kissinger

  • Nixon thought foreign policy most important and interesting task of any president
  • chose Henry Kissinger to be national security adviser
  • in order to ensure White House control of foreign policy, Nixon chose William Rogers to be Secretary of State

Kissinger and diplomacy

  • Kissinger was a great believer in personal and secret diplomacy
  • distrusted bureaucrats
  • Kissinger felt foreign policy was "too complex" for the "ordinary guy" to understand
  • conviction was a weakness
  • didn't always explain their diplomacy and tehrefore didn't ensure popular support for policies
  • both thought in terms of American national interest with little regard for moral considerations
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Nixon: Diplomatic Genius or Mad Bomber?

President Nixon, Kissinger and the Vietnam Problem

The Nixon-Kissinger relationship

  • Nixon and Kissinger spent a great deal of time together and as Nixon's presidency wore on, Kissinger became ever more influential
  • Unlike Nixon, Kissinger always treated with utmost respect by the media
  • American foreign policy became what many people would consider careless of "larger moral issues" in its emphasis upon the ultimate survival and strength of American power

Vietnam: the problems and solutions

  • Vietnam was Nixon's greatest single problem
  • sought a peace settlement that would allow Thieu to remain in power in an independent South Vietnam
  • hoped to achieve this through Vietnamisation and through pressure on the USSR and China
  • Nixon would tempt Soviets with promises of arms agreements and trade and Chinese with normalisation of diplomatic relations
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Nixon: Diplomatic Genius or Mad Bomber?

Vietnam 1969-71

1969

Military solutions in 1969

  • Nixton attempted 3 solutions to the military problem in 1969
  • these were bombing the trail in Cambodia, the "madman" ploy and Vietnamisation
  • February 1969, Communists launched another offensive on South Vietnam
  • Rolling Thunder and the American ground offensive of 66-68 had clearly not worked
  • Mrach, Nixon decided to try secret bombing offensive vs Ho Chi Minh Trail in Cambodia
  • Nixon hoped to sever enemy supply to encourage Hanoi to agree to an acceptable peace
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Nixon: Diplomatic Genius or Mad Bomber?

Vietnam 1969-71

1969

Diplomacy in 1969

  • On diplomatic font, Nixon's first initiative was the April 1969 suggestions that there should be secret Washington-Hanoi negotiations
  • Hanoi had always favoured that option as it excluded Saigon
  • Secret talks in May, Nixon offered Hanoi new peace terms
  • Although still insistent that Thieu remained in power, dropped Johnson's insistence that American troops would only withdraw 6 months after the PAVN
  • offered simultaneous withdrawal
  • North Vietnamese delegation was unimpressed
  • As he was making little progress with Hanoi, Nixon turned to Moscow 
  • Nixon put pressure on the Soviets in October promising detente for their help in ending the Vietnam War
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Nixon: Diplomatic Genius or Mad Bomber?

Vietnam 1969-71

1969

The home front

  • Nixon used several tactics to keep the home front quiet
  • firstly, made series of American troop withdrawals from Vietnam
  • timed announcements to defuse public opposiition
  • Nixon judged that the heart of anti-war movement was male college students threatened with the draft
  • adjusted it so that older students were less hard hit
  • Nixon tried to keep his actions secret, as with the 1969 bombing of Cambodia
  • Nixon used speeches to try to keep the home front quiet
  • 3 November 1969, delivered one of his best and asked for time to end the war
  • after this, his approval rating shot up to 68%
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Nixon: Diplomatic Genius or Mad Bomber?

Vietnam 1969-71

1970- the Cambodian offensive

Nixon's aims and methods

  • Nixon's goals were clear
  • wanted to be out of Vietnam before presidential election of November 1972
  • Wanted Hanoi to release American prisoners of war

Escalation in Laos and Cambodia

  • having announced withdrawal of 150,000 American troops from SE Asia
  • Nixon seemed to be extending war to Laos and Cambodia
  • believed demonstrations of American power would counter Saigon's pessimism about American troop withdrawals and help protect remaining Americans in Vietnam
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Nixon: Diplomatic Genius or Mad Bomber?

Vietnam 1969-71

1970- the Cambodian offensive

Pitful, helpless giant speech

  • invasion of Cambodia caused unrest within the US
  • Nixon tried to defuse with a spech in April 1970 ,said American respected Cambodian neutrality for 5 years but Vietnamese Communists had vital bases there

Achievements of Cambodian offensive

  • Capture and destruction of vast quantities of Communist war material meant it was nearly 2 years before Hanoi launched another major offensive in South Vietnam
  • Gave AVRN time to grow stronger
  • unexpected result was it forced Communists further inland where they destabilised Cambodian government
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Nixon: Diplomatic Genius or Mad Bomber?

Vietnam 1971

US army morale ,1971

  • by 1971, morale of army in Vietnam plummeted
  • 18 yr olds were still being asked to fight in a war everyone in America agreed was just about to finish

1972: getting re-elected

problems in early 72

  • Nixon's combination of military and diplomatic pressure still seemed unsuccessful
  • bombing offensive on North antagonised many Americans
  • American pilots still shot down during air offensive
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Nixon: Diplomatic Genius or Mad Bomber?

1972: getting re-elected

problems in early 72

Hanoi's spring offensive

  • USSR and CHina were pressuring Hanoi to settle
  • Hanoi didn't want to face superbly equipped AVRN perpetually supplied by America
  • AVRN crumbled, Nixon's policy of Vietnamisation was discredited in presidential election year

Concession plus force

  • one of he ways in which Nixon intended to get America out of Vietnam with honour was disguising concessions with simultaneous shows of force

Hanoi faltering

  • Hanoi finally driven by settlement by a combination of American concession, Soviet and Chinese pressure and their offensive's failure to take big cities
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Nixon: Diplomatic Genius or Mad Bomber?

Autumn 1972: running out of time and money

Both sides agree to compromise

  • both sides now compromised
  • Hanoi would let Thieu remain in poewr while America would let PAVN stay in South Vietnam and not insist upon a ceasefire in Cambodia and Laos
  • Kissinger rejected the idea of a coalition government but offered a Committee of National Reconciliation
  • Kissinger agreed Communists were a legitimate political froce in South Vietnam which Thieu had always denied

Peace is at hand

  • October, Kissinger thought he had an agreement
  • America would withdraw all its armed forces but continue to supply the AVRN
  • would be a National Council of Reconciliation with Communist representation
  • American POWs would be released
  • Thieu would remain in power
  • PAVN would remain in South Vietnam
  • America would help with the economic reconstruction of North Vietnam as humanitarian gesture 
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Comments

James Firth

matt.

James Firth

matt.

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