US Involvement in the Vietnam War

  • Created by: tobyf
  • Created on: 25-05-17 18:42

Background - Before and during WWII

  • The French ruled Vietnam as well as its neighbours Laos and Cambodia in what they called from the 1860s to 1939
  • Vietnames suffered many hardships such as brutal treatment and poverty
  • Vietnam was then occupied by Japan from 1940 to 1945 where the Vietnamese had to endure even more hardships including severe pubishments when they stepped out of line
  • During this time a strong, anti-Japanese movement was founded by Communist Ho Chi Minh called the Viet Minh
  • By the end of WWII, the Viet Minh controlled North Vietnam but wanted to take back control of the whole country to become an independant Vietnam
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French Involvement and Dien Bien Phu

  • French wanted to create a fortified base to cut off the Viet Minh's supply line from Laos and to act as bait to lure the Viet Minh into the open as the French had superior artillery
  • The fortified base became completely surrounded by Viet Minh soldiers. It became suicide to venture too far out from the base
  • French aircraft became frounded due to bad weather and anti-aircraft weaponry
  • The Viet Minh had 50,000, all masters of disguise, and 200 artillery guns
  • The USSR and China began supplying Viet Minh with weaponry.
  • The French became powerless.
  • On 13 March 1954 an all-out attack was launched by the viet Minh. Beginning with artillery bombardment, it took the 3 days to gain the northern strongholds.
  • The French were forced to beg the US for help, but they refused.
  • France lost the war on 7 May
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Geneva Conference

The Geneva Accords were:

  • Vietnam would be 'temporarily' divided into two countries - North Vietnam and South Vietnam
  • North Vietnam would be ruled by Ho Chi Minh
  • South Vietnam would be ruled by Ngo Dinh Diem
  • French troops would fully withdraw from South Vietnam
  • Vietnamese could choose to live in North or South
  • General election would be held for the whole of Vietnam before July 1956
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Supporting and Overthrowing Diem

In the end, the election was never held. Ho Chi Minh would've won - he was a popular leader.

The US believed in Domino theory,which meant that they would need to prevent Vietnam from becoming communsit otherwise other surrounding contries might fall to communism.

  • 1961 - NLF formed with support from Viet Minh; task of reunifying the country
  • Demanded the removal of Ngo Dinh Diem and began guerilla warfare campaign. By 1961 there were 20,000 Viet Cong guerillas in south.
  • The NLF trained in conducting ambushes - had support from the North and much of the South.
  • The Ho Chi Minh trail was created in 1959. Supplies were carried from North Vietnam to South Vietnam via Laos and Cambodia to avoid US air strikes.
  • The NLF gained support in the South by treating local populations well, winning their respect
  • In the 1960s, woth over 100,000 troops, the NLF controlled substantial parts of the South
  • 1963 - Diem overthrown and killed by own troops. The country will have 10 different governments over the next few years.
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Military Advisers and Strategic Hamlets

Military Advisors

  • President Kennedy sent 1000 military 'advisers' to vietnam in order to fight Viet Cong as well as agreeing to finance increasing South Vietnam's army from 150,000 to 170,000
  • This broke the Geneva Agreement that both sides had agreed to

Strategic Hamlets

  • In order to prevent Viet Cong from infiltrating villages, the US turned peasents out of villages and turned them into 'strategic hamlets'
  • These were surrounded by barbed wire and controlled by the US
  • This meant people were taken from their ancestral homes and their farms they had tended for generations.
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Gulf of Tonkin and Military Involvement


  • 2 August 1964
  • USS Maddox exchanged fire with the North Vietnamese in the Gulf of Tonkin
  • The President said 'if we get fired at again, we'll fire back with the intention to destroy'
  • Reports suggest they had been fired at again, but a second telegram suggests  they might not have. President Johnson ignores second telegram.
  • He used the telegram to wage war against the North and to get support from the US public.


  • 7 August 1964
  • Gave approval for expansion of the Vietnam War.
  • Scrapped 6 years later by President Richard Nixon on 31 December 1970
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