The Vietnam War

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  • Created by: emma998
  • Created on: 04-05-14 11:51

Vietnam history

  • Before WW2, Vietnam was (Indochina) was ruled by France
  • During WW2 it was conquered by Japan
  • They ruled the area brutally and treated the Vietnamese people savagely leading to a strong anti-Japanese resistance movement under leadership of Ho Chi Minh
  • WW2 ended, Viet Minh controlled the north of the country
  • In 1945 the Viet Minh entered city of Hanoi and declared Vietnamese independence
  • French wanted to rule Vietnam again 
  • Vietnam supported by China - Mao Zedong
  • France supported by USA - $500million a year into French war effort
  • French pulled out of Vietnam in 1954
  • USA persued policy of containment - Laos, Cambodia could be next
  • Supported Ngo Dinh Diem to set up republic of South Vietnam - bitterly anti-communist
  • Diem was harsh and corrupt leader despised by local Vietnamese people
  • Thrown out by own army leaders in 1963 but governments that followed equally corrupt
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American involvment

  • Actions of anti-communist governments led to increased peasant support for communist-led national Front for liberation of south Vietnam, set up in 1960
  • Referred to as Vietcong
  • Vietcong started guerrilla war against South Vietnamese government
  • Attacked government forces, officials, buildings
  • In 1961 they killed around 4000 of Diem's troops + officials
  • 1962 president Kennedy sending military personnel to fight Vietcong
  • 11,500 troops by end of 1962, 23,000 by end of 1964
  • Next president, Lyden Johnson, prepared for full scale invasion
  • August 1964, North Vietnamese patrol boats opened fire on US ship in Golf of Tonkin
  • US congress passed Tonkin Golf resolution allowing Johnson to take neccessary action
  • After more Vietcong attacks, in 1965 Johnson approved massive bombing campaign called Rolling Thunder against North Vietnam
  • 8 March 1965, 3500 US marine combat troops came ashore at Da Nang
  • The government USA were supporting had already lost the support of the majority of the local people
  • 1962 - Strategic Hamlets programme - moving peasants away from Vietcong areas
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Vietcong tactics

  • In early 1965 the Vietcong and NVA had around 170,000 soldiers
  • Heavily outnumbered by USA + SV
  • November 1965 in La Dreng Valley US killed 2000 Vietcong for loss of 300 troops
  • Ho Chi Minh believed US could be beaten by guerrilla warfare
  • Retreat when enemy attacks
  • Raid while the enemy camps
  • Attack when the enemy tires
  • Persue when the enemy retreats
  • Guerrillas did not wear uniform or have any known base camps or headquaters
  • They worked in small groups with limited weaponry,
  • Hard to tell apart from peasants
  • Aim was to wear down US troops and destroy their morale
  • US forces lived in constant fear of ambushes and booby traps
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Vietcong fighting

Booby traps - 11% of US casualties (51% by small arms fire in ambushes)

  • Explosive: Bouncing betty landmine - Thrown into the air when triggered (release of pressure on the arming mechanism) and explode causing terrible stomach + groin injuries
  • Non explosive: (Punja stakes) Tripwires or pits filled with sharpened bamboo staves - fire hardened and coated with poison or excreement to cause infection
  • Spiked mud balls - suspended by vines in jungle, trip wire release. Acted as pendulum
  • Ho Chi Minh trail - ran along Laos and Cambodia outside of Vietnam. 
  • NVA used this trail to bring in supplies and soldiers for Vietcong
  • 1000km in length, some places 80km wide, 60tonnes a day carried to Vietcong
  • 40,000 Vietnamese worked to kep trail open whatever the cost
  • Vietcong tunnel systems - around 240km
  • To avoid worst of US air power, house troops, transport communications and supplies
  • Disappear into underground safety after launching attack, retreat to tunnels
  • Courteous + respectful towards Vietnamese peasants, ruthless when opposed
  • Between 1966 and 1971 they killed around 27000 civillians 
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US tactics

  • Bombing campaigns:
  • 7 February 1965 US launched Operation Rolling Thunder - military and industrial targets 
  • Air offensive lasted until 1972
  • Expanded to include towns and cities and Ho Chi Minh trail
  • More bombs dropped on NV than dropped in whole of WW2 on Germany+Japan
  • Damaged and disrupted supply routes
  • Enabled them to strike at communist forces even when reducing US ground forces in 1969
  • 1970-1972 - intensive bombing forced NV to start negotiate peace
  • Cost of air war: 14000 aircraft shot down, $400,000 to kill 1 VC - 75 bombs+400 artillery shells

Chemical weapons:

  • Agent orange - highly toxic "weedkiller" - destroy jungle where VC hid
  • 82million litres used, 100million pounds of defoliant in 30,000 missions
  • Wiped out 4million acres of forest + farms and affected 1.3 million people - waterways
  • Napalm - destroyed jungles where guerrillas hid and burned through skin to bone
  • Around 20,000 tonnes used between 1965 and 1973
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Search and destroy missions

  • US commander devloped policy of search and destroy
  • They would descend on a village containing suspected VC or VC sympathisers
  • Destroy any Vietcong forces found and weaponry
  • Soldiers had to send back reports of body counts
  • Did kill vietcong soldiers but many problems:
  • Raids often based on inadequate information
  • Inexperienced US troops often walked into traps
  • Civillian casualties often extremely high - for every VC weapon captured there was a body count of 6 often innocent civillians
  • Made US + SV forces very unpopular with peasants pushed the to support VC
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The Vietnam war and the media

  • The Vietnam war was the first war media not censored which allowed the public to see, hear and read about what was actually happening
  • At beginning of war good relations between the US military, government and media even when the war escalated
  • The US army created MACV (Military assisstance command, Vietnam) to liaise with journalists
  • Journalists could be accredited by MACV and then they would get trnasport to war areas, interviews and briefings
  • Journalists expected not to reveal anything which would help the enemy
  • Before 1967 US editors rarely wanted to publish bad news stories in Vietnam and did not want to be accused of undermining war effort
  • Seymor Hersh, journalist who broke story of My Lai massacre had to try several newspapers to get story published
  • TV channels did not want to show violence in peak viewing times in fear of viewers changing channel
  • However by 1967-1968 the tone of the media reporting on Vietnam began to change and powerful images of beamed into US living rooms
  • CBS's Walter Cronkite, during Tet offensive, declared he thought war was unwinnable
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Effects of media

  • President Johnson said that if he had lost support of Cronkite he had lost support of middle America
  • Plenty of commentators and US officors and generals believed it was the media which crippled the war effort in Vietnam
  • Opposition includes:
  • US atitudes turning by 1967 anyway, media reflected those views rather than creating them
  • Casualties and war awarness outside of media caused drop in support not the media
  • Shocking scenes very rare on TV screens, less than 25% showed dead or wounded soldiers and usually not in any detail
  • 1965-1970 only 76 out of 2300 TV reports showed heavy fighting
  • Sample of 800 broadcasts at the time, only 16% of criticisms of government policy came from journalists. Majority came from officials or public
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Protest movements in USA

  • With the huge cost of the war, the Vietnam war also became linked to the issue of poverty and welfare since Johnson was elected in 1964 as he promised to create a "Great society" to help the poorest people in USA
  • Few African Americans in college at time meaning fewer could escape draft. 
  • Around 30% of African Americans were drafted compared to 19% of white Americans. 22% of US casualties African Americans though only 11% of total US forces
  • Muhammad Ali - refused to obey draft because of muslim faith. Stripped of world title
  • US student movement against the war in Vietnam
  • Many young people did not ant to be drafted into a war they did not believe in and considered to be morally wrong. - media reports + My Lai
  • Thousands began to "draft dodge"
  • Anti-war protests reached height during 1968-1970
  • First half of 1968 over 100 demonstrations involving 40,000 students
  • Burned US flag - criminal offence in USA and symbol of student's rejection to US values
  • Berkley, Yale and Stanford universities bombs were set off
  • Kent state university in Ohio - demonstration against Nixon's decision to invade Cambodia. Panicked National guard troops opened fire and 4 students killed, 11 injured. 
  • 400 colleges closed as 2million students went on strike in protest
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Tet Offensive, 1968

  • During the Tet New year holiday in Vietnam Viet Cong fighters and NVA launched a surprise attack against US + SV forces.
  • Vietcong fighters attacked over 100 cities and other military bases
  • Hundreds NVA troops attack + burn SV government headquaters in ancient town of Hoi An
  • 19 Viet Cong Commando tried to capture the US embassy in Saigon
  • Over 120 cities,towns+military bases SV under attack by 84000 VC and NVA
  • Around 4500 figthers tied down a much larger US and SV force in Saigon for 2 days
  • Just outside the city of Saigon, at Tan Son Nhut airbase, 905 US ground troops engage in close quater combat with 1200 NVA
  • However US forces quickly retook the towns captured by the offensive
  • Disater for the communists - they thought SV would rise up and support them but they didn't and the VC lost around 10,000 experienced figthers and were badly damaged by it
  • Turning point in war as began raising questions in USA
  • From this point on media coverage of the war  began to change and Walter Cronkite asked " What the hell is going on?"
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Ending war in Vietnam

  • November 1968, Richard Nixon elected President
  • 1969 - 1973 he and his National security advisor Henry Kissinger worked to end US involvment in Vietnam
  • During this time US troops slowly taken out Vietnam reducing ground troops but at the same time they increased air war and bombing
  • Used range of strategies to make it look like a strategic withdrawal not simply surrender
  • 'Vietnamsiation' - Building up SV forces + withdrawing US troops - between April 1969-end 1971 almost 400,000 US troops left Vietnam
  • Bombing - Nixon increased bombing, rumour A-Bomb, attacked VC Cambodia
  • Peace negotiations with NV - Early 1969 Kissinger regular meetings with Chief peace negotiator of NV, Le Duc Tho
  • Pressure on USSR and China - 1969 USSR and China fell out and war between them seemed likely so both tried to improve relations with USA
  • 1972 NV launched massive offensive but unable to conquer Vietnam
  • Parris Peace conference 1971-1973
  • 1973 peace agreement signed NV, SV and USA
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Fall of Saigon, 1973-1975

  • Within 2 years peace settlement proved meaningless and SV fell to communists
  • Nixon promised continuing financial aid + military support to Vietnam but congress refused
  • Without US airpower or military backup or support of locals SV was soon taken over
  • December 1974 NV launched major military offence
  • Capitol Saigon fell to communists in April 1975
  • Vietnamese people try to clamber aboard US helicopters taking off from US embassy
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