The Vietnam War

Domino Theory

North Vietnam

  • Communist
  • Support from communist China

South Vietnam

  • Democrat
  • Support from America

Domino Theory - Eisenhower belived that if South Vietnam became communist, Laos, Cambodia and other Asian countries would follow.

Why was the South of Vietnam becoming Communist an issue for the Americans? 

If the Domino Theory worked, communism may become too powerful and there would be a threat against America from the communist countries.

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Ho Chi Minh and Ngo Dinh Diem

Ho Chi Minh (19th May 1890 - 2nd September 1969)

  • Vietnamese communist revolutionary leader who was prime minister (1945-55) and president (1945-69) of the North Vietnam
  • He led the Viet Minh independence movement from 1941 onward
  • After the war, Saigon, the former capital of the Republic of Vietnam, was renamed Ho Chi Minh City

Ngo Dinh Diem (3rd January 1901 - 2nd November 1963)

  • First president of South Vietnam (1955-63)
  • Amid religious protests, Diem lost backing of his US patrons and was assassinated, along with his brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu by Nguyen Van Nhung, on 2nd November 1963, during a coup d'etat that deposed his government
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Presidents involved in the Vietnam War

Dwight D. Eisenhower 1953-1961

John F. Kennedy 1961-63

Lyndon B. Johnson 1963-1969

Richard Nixon 1969-1974

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Vietminh and Vietcong

Vietminh - communist resistance movement

Vietcong - radical communist movement

4 key principles of Guerrilla warfare

  1. Retreat when the enemy attacks
  2. Raid when they camp
  3. Attack when the enemy tires
  4. Pursue when the enemy retreats
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Vietcong in Vietnam 1

The creation of the Vietminh

  • North Vietnam -> communist
  • Led by Ho Chi Minh
  • After the defeat of Japan in 1945, they continued to fight against the French

The Vietcong

  • Wanted to make South Vietnam communist
  • Guerrilla warfare/tactics -> supported by local people

Guerrilla Warfare Basics

  • Tunnel Systems
  • No face-to-face combat
  • Hid in villages
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Vietcong in Vietnam 2

Vietminh Code of Conduct

  • Be polite
  • Be fair
  • Return anything borrowed
  • Do not damage crops
  • Do not flirt with women

Use of traps

  • Cheap and effective
  • Aimed to kill/injure Americans
  • Spikes covered in excrement

How the VC were supplied

  • Tunnel Systems - Ho Chi Minh Trail
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Military Tactics used

Why were the tactics effective?

  • The Vietcong knew the landscape and had the backing of the ordinary folk

3 Tactics

  • Booby traps; trip wires, dig holes
  • Tunnels; hiding spots, communication, supply routes, hospitals, food, weapon caches, living quarters
  • Ho Chi Minh trail; hidden route, essential for victory
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The North Vietnamese tactics

  • The North Vietnamese army, NFL or Viet Cong, very rarely fought pitched battles. They used guerrilla tactics. Therefore, it was impossible to identify Viet Cong soldiers, because they did not wear uniform. After a fight they would scatter and it would be impossible to find them.
  • The Viet Cong also built thousand of mile of tunnels, with whole camps underground, so that they could hide. When the US forces found the tunnels they were often heavily ****y-trapped.
  • The Viet Cong became experts at building **** traps, using pits, sharpened sticks and mines. This meant that US soldiers could never relax. Even in the centre of Saigon it was possible for the US forces to be attacked.
  • The Viet Cong were supplied from the north by the Ho Chi Minh trail, which ran through Laos and Cambodia. The Soviet Union and China sent up to 6,000 tonnes of supplies a day.
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US Tactics

  • Operation Rolling Thunder led to heavy bombing of North Vietnam that was far worse than anything that had been seen during the Second World War. The aim was to destroy military bases and equipment in North Vietnam and to destroy the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
  • The US forces also attempted to win the 'hearts and minds' of the South Vietnamese by special projects. But these were usually resented as foreign interference
  • Many South Vietnamese peasants supported the Viet Cong, becuase the South Vietnamese government was very unpopular. Viet Cong could hide in villages, towns or even the capital Saigon, and attack without warning. This meant that there was nowhere safe. At any moment US forces could be attacked without warning, sometimes by children.
  • 'Search and Destroy' missions were sent into the jungle. Their success depended on the body count, the number of dead Vietnamese brought back. It was usually impossible to tell which side they were on.
  • Jungle fighting proved very difficult, especially as US forces increasingly were made up of inexperiences draftees, whose average age was nineteen. They were inexperienced and incresingly unwilling to fight. They spent a year in Vietnam and then returned home.
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US Tactics 2

  • Much of Vietnam was forest; this made the Viet Cong very difficult to find. They could move about virtually undetected. Ths US Air Force began to use defoliants like 'Agent Orange' and Napalm. These stripped leaves from trees. Napalm was also used to burn villages to force Viet Cong out into open. Both of these could be dropped from planes. 'Agent Blue' was used to destroy crops and boms also contained petrol and chemicals
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The Tet Offensive

  • This was a massive attack by the Viet Cong upon South Vietnam, which began on 30th January 1968. All the major cities of South Vietnam, more than 100 altogether, were attacked, including Saigon. In Saigon the US embassy was seized by a suicide squad, which was only driven out by paratroops
  • The Viet Cong sent 4,500 troops into Saigon to try to hold out for forty-eight hours until reinforcements arrived. They hoped that the people of South Vietnam would support them. In fact they got little support and they were cut off and killed by the US forces and the ARVN
  • It took 11,000 troops a week to drive the Viet Cong out of Saigon. Eventually the US forces managed to beat off the Viet Cong and killed 100,000 of them.
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