The Vietnam War

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The Vietnam War: Why USA got involved?

1) Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnston all supported containment.  Kennedy saw the infulence of communist China and USSR behind N.Vietnams attacks upon the South and wanted to teach that their so called 'wars of liberation' would not succeed.  America said Vietnam was the 'conerstone' of the free world in SE Asia.  Such views led US to support S Vietnam gov. whom they had lil respect for.

2) South Vietnam was a useful satellite because it was rich in tungsten, tin and rubber.

3) The Americans underestimated the National Liberation Front (NFL).  The NFL planned to overthrow Diems gov. and ***asinate him in 1963.  The Americans refused to believe that they could be defeated by a 'foruth-rate, raggedy *** little country' (Johnston).  Johnson was convinced that the US wealth and power would ensure victory.

4) Increasingly US pride and honour were at stake in Vietnam.  As more troops were sent from 1965 onwards, there was a greater need for victory.  When it became clear that there would be no victory, the priority was to end the war without appearing to be defeated- reason for heavy bombing of N Vietnamese cities.

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The Gulf of Tonkin- August 1964

  • North Vietnam funboats fired on an American destroyer called the Maddox.
  • America siad this was a hostile act, but in reality the boat was supporting secret opperation in N.Vietnam.

The Tokin resolution:

  • This gave the president the right to use all necessary measures in the war.  It was called 'Grandma's night Shirt'as it covered everything.  
  • The president could now conduct war as he pleased without consulting congress
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Americas Longest War: 1965-1973

Johnson insisted on fighting a limited war: -He did not want to lose public support nor did he want to risk a war with China and USSR.

Vietcong Guerrilla Tactics:

  • They used: booby traps, trip wires, grenades, secret passageways, underground tunnels and landmines.
  • American soldiers were terrified, didnt know when the next attack would be or where it would come fro.  They also couldnt work out who where Vietcong and who were innocent Vietnamese.
  • Guerrilla war lead to revision of US tactics.

By 1968 there were over 500,000 US troops in Vietnam but their military strength was weakened:

  • They were mostly inexperienced soldiers whose tour of duty lasted for one year.  If they survived. they gradually acquired the necessary military skills only to be sent home again.
  • The Vietcong were experienced guerrilla force who knew the terrain and was supported by civilians and has a high moral.
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Americas Longest War: 1965-1973

  • They lacked the support of the Vietnamese, who were strongly nationalist and had no reason to support the Diem gov. and his successors.  The USA made no effort to win the VIetnamese over, and instead destroyed relations through the use of search and destroy missions.
  • American reliance on bombing raides was missguided.  N.Vietnamese did not have the kind of industrialised economy which could be destroyed by bombing

What weapons did Americans use?

  • Conventional weapons i.e non-nuclear.  America used bombing raides, using aircraft targeting N Vietnamese cities like Hanoi. 
  • Chemical weapons e.g. Napalm and Agent Orange 

My Lai- March 1968:

  • It was a US search and destroy mission, American soldiers killed 300 people while searching for Vietcong.  Only 3 guns were recovered and no Vietcong were found.  
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The Tet Offensive- January 1968

-The biggest attack lauched by the Vietcong.  Using the advantage of suprise, over 70,000 troops attacked 100 town in Vietnam, including Saigon, the Capitol.  Targets included the US embassy, the Presidential Palace and the Saigon radio station.  The Vietcong were driven back and suffered heavy losses.

How the Tet offensive proved to be a turning point:

  • Though military defeat, it was political success for Vietcong 
  • The Unexpected scale of the attack was a blow to US prestige
  • As a result the US lost the will to fight
  • Johnson lost alot of public confience and support and announced his decision not to stand for re-election.
  • Peace negotiations began though they made no progress until 1972.
  • The US adopted the policy of Vietnamisation in 1969, in which US troops were gradually withdrawn. 
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The role of China and the USSR

Soviet Union = The major supplier of military aid such as arms and missilles as well as petroleum

China = The supply route through which they were delivered to N Vietnam

At first the Soviets tended to urge peace, while China encouraged N Vietnam to fight on it 'war of liberation'.

Nixon decided to exploit the Sino-Soviet split and patch up Americas long standing quarrel with China.  This is turn contributed to detente with Soviets.  As US relations with China and USSR began to improve, both communist powers were willing to put pressure on N Vietnam to negotiations. 

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The End of the War

  • American oppostion to the war had been growing since 1967 and was at its worst in 1970 when 4 students were shot during a antiwar demonstration at Kent State University, Ohio. 

Nixons approach to ending the War:

  • Policy of Vietnamisation ment passing more responsabilty to S Vietnam gov.  Unfortunately the South had be dependant for too long and couldnt stand alone
  • 1970- Nixon expanded the war into Cambodia.  The bombing for neautral laos and Cambodia was a disaster as it icreased support for communism in both countries
  • Bombing raides over N Vietnam cities were intensified- to compensate for the gradual loss of American troops and to pressurise N Vietnam to negotiate. 
  • By improving diplomatic relations with China and USSR, Nixon gained their supposrt in bringing the N Vietnamese to the peace talks.

Cease fire: January 1973.

  • Ended with fall of Saigon and reunification was finally achieved by force.
  • In the same year communist goverments were also established in Laos and Cambodia
  • America was defeated, Vietman fell to Communism
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Consequences of War for America

  • Longest and Costliest War ever- ended in defeat.  Brought an uprising in communism which is what Americans wanted to avoid 
  • Taught America that it should steer clear of conflict unless certain of victory.
  • Propoganda defeat
  • Truman doctorine promised more that America could deliver 
  • Americas image tarnished internationally.
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The Consequences of the War for Vietnam

  • Vietnam made communist
  • 2,000,000 Vietnamese were killed 
  • The use of Napalm caused horrific burns and chemicals such as agent orange were used to defoliate Vietnams Jungle.
  • Vietnams economy ruined by the war
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The Consequences of the War from Asia

  • Brought an upsurge in communism in SE Asia
  • Demonstrated that nationalism rather than communism was the driving force in SE Asia
  • Doubts raised about why America was involved in first place.
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The Consequences of the War from Containment/ Domi

  • Upsurge in Communism
  • Truman promised more than America could deliver 
  • Containment was undermined since Vietnam showed that America could not defeat communism when it threatened 
  • Other countries as well as Vietnam made communist.
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The Consequences of War on East/West relations

  • Paved the way for detente and better relations between the Superpowers 
  • Forced Americans to reasses and improve their relations with China
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The Vietnam War

  • Vietnam was once French Colony
  • Now occupied by Japanese 
  • Faced resistance from group of veitnamese nationalists called Viet Minh, led by communist Ho Chi Minh.
  • When war ended Viet Minh controlled North and were ready to take control of South
  • French tried to take control again
  • War took new dimention when China began helping Ho Chi Minh 
  • Americans feared communist plan to dominate SE Asia and so poured $500 million a year into French war effort
  • After 8 years of war the french suffered a major defeat at Dien Bien Phu
  • Geneva confernce: Country would be split in 2; Communist North and nationalist South.
  • Americans chose to support nationalist Ngo Dinh Dien as leader of south
  • US involement gradually increased in sounth, so by 1960 there were 16,000 american advisors in the south

Why was diem unpopular?:

  • He was a Catholic while many of his fellow country men were buddhists 
  • USA supported him by provideing more than $1 billion of aid
  • He used tough measures against his opponents 
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