A Brief outline history to 1954
- Vietnam had been a French colony since 1862, the French had exploited the Vietnamese and had not been popular rulers.
- Vietnam was invaded by the Japanese when they had an alliance with Hitler and fighting against the French
- The USA and the USSR both gave weapons and training to a guerrilla force that fought against the Japanese and aimed to remove them from Vietnam
- The Guerrilla force was called the Vietminh and was lead by Ho Chi Minh.
- When the Japanese were forced out of the war the Vietnamin proclaimed a democratic Republic of Vietnam.
- The victorious allies (USA, USSR, GB and France) decided that Vietnam should be returned to the French.
- The Vietnamese did not like this and fighting broke out between the Vietnamin and the French.
- By 1953 the people of France opposed the was due to its costs they had lost 90,000 men and was costing them loads in terms of money.
- The French commander decided to risk everything by launching an all-out attack.
- They were Defeated at Dien Bien Phu.
- On the 8th May 1954 the France announced that they were pulling out of Vietnam.
The Geneva Peace Confrence
In April 1954 the foreign ministers if the USA, USSR, GB and France had begun meetings in Geneva to see if they could bring about a peaceful solution to the conflicts in Korea.
After much negotiation they agreed that:
- Vietnam would be divided at the 17th parallel.
- North Vietnam would be governed by the Vietminh and Ho Chi Minh.
- The South would be governed by Diem, a strong opponent of communism.
- The Vietminh would withdraw to the North.
- Anyone could choose to live in either the North or the South.
- An independent general election was to be held in 1956 to decide the fate of the entire country.
Ho Chi accepted these terms, because he was convinced that he would win the elections. However, the division became more permanent and government in the South under Diem declared itself a Republic and had no intention of participating in the elections. Diem was supported by the USA to stop Communism spreading in Asia.
Why did the USA get involved with Vietnam?
- To start with in the fist place the US were very worried about communism spreading in the south east of Asia. This was shown between 1950 and 1953 they had lost 142,000 soldiers in attempting to stop communism from entering South Korea.
- Eisenhower was aware that the public were weary of war but he wanted to make sure that South Vietnam did not fall into communist hands.
- So to combat this he sent a 12 man team of American soldiers and intelligence agents, they were sent to Saigon to mount a propaganda campaign to persuade the South Vietnamese to not vote for the communists.
Ngo Dinh Diem
- Diem was a wealth catholic who had been proposed by the Americans as the future leader of South Vietnam
- The French did not like this and the describes him as "not only incapable but mad".
- The Americans wanted to use him as a puppet leader, they soon discovered that they had made a mistake there Diem rejected their advice and made a number of decisions that quickly alienated many of his people three-quarters of his population were Buddhist peasants who felt that the catholic Diem was discriminating against them, and became frustrated when their calls for land reform like those in the North were ignored,
- Diem gained a reputation for being corrupt and many nationalists did not like him they believed him to be too much under the influence of the Americans.
- When the North reminded Diem that an election was due Diem was not going to be democratic about it he started to get rid of his opponents, in a short period of time he had thrown 100,000 people in prison camps, even children caught putting anti Diem messages on the walls.
- This turned his opponents to violence and to unite into the NLF (National Liberation Front) A Guerrilla war started with monks burning themselves and government buildings being attacked.
President Kennedy and Vietnam
- J. F. Kennedy was elected president in November 1960. In his inaugural speech he made it clear that he intended to continue Eisenhower's policy of supporting Diem's South Vietnamese government.
- He said that if communism were not halted in Vietnam it would gradually spread through out the world this became known as the Domino "Theory".
- When Kennedy became president he was given conflicting pieces of advice, the president of France said that Vietnam would "trap the United States in a bottomless military and political swamp." His advisors said that a small increase in military aid the United States could prevent an NLF victory in the South.
- Kennedy agreed with his advisors and so in 1961 he arranged for the South Vietnamese to receive money necessary to increase the size of their forces and he arranged for another 100 military advisors to help train the army. As this Decision broke the terms of the Geneva Agreement it was kept secret.
- In November 1963 Diem was killed during a military coup the US did know of this plan. Three weeks later Kennedy himself was assassinated
- His successor, Lyndon B Johnson was a strong supporter of the Domino Theory.
- Kennedy had encouraged the development of a safe village policy or strategic hamlets, this proved to be an EPIC FAIL.
- Officials selected villages which they thought could be easily defended against the NLF or the Vietcong as they had now become known.
- Villagers from miles around were sent to live in them. This proved to be very unpopular with the Vietnamese as witnessed by a British politician who visited a strategic hamlet in 1964.
- By 1961 there were 20,000 Vietcong guerrillas in the South, by 1964 they had grown to over 100,000 and operated at will in Vietnam's jungles, Forested hills and swamps
- Neither Diem's police nor the ARVN (army) had been adequately trained to deal with guerrilla warfare.
- To the alarm of the Americans, the Vietcong created turmoil and seemed to be winning the war.
- By 1963, when Lyndon Johnson became President the number of American military "advisors" had grown to 16,000.
The Gulf of Tonkin Incident
- Curtis LeMay, the commander of the US Air Force, argued that by ising the ;atest technology North Vietnam could be blasted "back to the stone age".
- Other people pointed out that the terror raids on the population were not affective and they were still not going to be effective in North Vietnam. They said that it would be better to bomb strategic places like the fuel depos and military bases.
- Johnson preferd the latter of "blasting them back to the stone age". He was aware of having to convince the Amercian population and he was also aware that it was not going to be easy he had to convince the Amercian public and the rest of the world that his actions were justified.
- He therefore gave permission for a plan to be put into operation that he surmised would eventually enable gim to carry out the bombing raids on Vietnam.
- Operation plan 34A involved sending Asian mercinaries into North Vietnam to carry out acts of sabotage and kidnapping or killing communist officals.
The Gulf of Tonkin Incident Part 2
- It was decided to send in US destroyers into the North Vietnamise waters to obtain information on thier naval bases.
- On Augsust 2nd 1964, the US destroyer the USS Maddox was fired upon by three North Vietnamise torpedo boats in the Gulf of Tonkin. In retalliation the USS Maddox fired back hitting all 3 and sinking 1.
- The USS Maddox retreated into international waters and the Next day it was orderd back into the Gulf of Tonkin.
- Soon after entering into these waters Capting Herrick reported that he was under attack. Soon after that the captian sent another message saying that it could have been a fault with the weather or over eagre sonar men the Captian suggested a complete evaluation before furter action.
- Johnson did not want a complete evaluation so he ignored the second message and reacted to the first, he orederd the boming of four North Vietnamese torpedo boat bases and an oil storage deport that had been planned by the military as good targets.
- Congress approved Johnson's decision to bomb Vietnam, Johnson believed that bombing on North Vietnam would persuade Ho Chi Minh to cut off all aid to the Viatcong, he was wrong.
- In the run up to the election in Amercia the US air base near Saigon was mortared four Amercians were killed.
- Barry Goldwater stood for the Republicans and he called for an escilation of the war against the North Vietnamese.
- People frared that Goldwater would send troops into Vietnam whereas Johnson argued that he was not going to send troops.
Escilation of Amercian Involvement
- 3 months after being elected President, Lyndon B. Johnson launched "Operation Rolling Tunder".
- The plan was to destroy the North Vietnam econmy by dropping bombs on North Vietnam for 8 weeks. It actually lasted 3 years and in that time the US dropped 1 million tons of bombs on Vietnam.
- The Vietcong retaliated to these bombings by concentrating thier attacks on US air bases and it soon became clear that they needed soldiers to protect them.
- On March 9 1965, 3,500 US Marines arrived in South Vietnam.
- 80% of the Amercian public supported the bombing raids and sending in combat troops into Vietnam.
- The initial objective of the Vietcong was to gain the support of the pesants living in the rural areas.
- When the Vietcong entered a village they obeyed a strict code of behaviour.
- Most peasants were very poor and believed that their poverty was a punishment for crimes that their ancestors had committed.
- The Vietcong educated the pesants in econimics and explained how the poverty was the land owners selfishness. They pointed out that 50% of the land was owned by 2% of the population.
- The Vietcong's solution was to take property away from large land owners and give it back to the peasants, in return the peasants would help the Vietcong.
- The pesants were also motivated by fear they were told that the US Marines or the ARVN would take the land back if they took control. This meant that the ARVN and the US Marines would soon be seen as enemies.
- All this was reinforced when the Vietcong fled away from the ARVN and the US Marines. Villagers were often torchered for information.
- The vietcong often set traps for thier enemies to fall into, they used things such as sharpend bamboo staves and fragmentation mines.
- These mines came from unexploded bombs dropped by the USA. It has been estimated that 800 tons of bombs dropped on Vietnam every month failed to explode these materials were used to make booby traps.
- A lot of Amercians would become very stressed due to all the booby traps and the strp by step decision making preyed on every Amercians mind so it was tempting for an Amercian patrol to take it out on thier next village that they came to.
- In 1965 General Wesmoreland developed a strategy called Seach and Destroy. When the policy of Hearts and minds was mentioned to him he said "If you grabbed the enemy vigrously enough, the hearts and minds will follow!"