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  • Created on: 08-06-13 15:32

Why did the Vietnam war start?

  • Vietnam was divided by the 17th parallel
  • North Vietnam was communist and led by Minh
  • South Vietnam was democratic and led by Diem
  • US was Capitalist, and wanted to stop communism spreading from North Vietnam throughout South East Asia. This was the Domino theory.
  • USA felt they had to support South Vietnam to prevent it falling to Communism from North Vietnam and the Vietcong.
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Vietcong tactics

Guerilla Warfare

  • Vietcong could never hope to defeat the USA in battle, so instead, they used their land to their advantage, attacking in small groups before disappearing into the countryside
  • In doing this, they hoped to lower US morale: they were fighting a 'hidden enemy'.


  • Booby traps. Blew someone's leg off at the calf.
  • Punji traps. Sharpened bamboo sticks covered in faeces, which would kill a soldier or infect them.

Local Support

  • Followed a code of conduct to get support of the locals, who in turn, protected them.

Tunnels and supplies.

  • Got supplies through tunnels and the Ho Chi Minh trail. Changed every time, which confused Americans
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US response to Vietcong tactics


  • To improve the locals' living conditions, to win their 'hearts and minds'
  • Schools, bridges and roads were built
  • However, this was less effective in the rural areas, which were Vietcong-dominated.

Strategic Hamlets

  • Created fortified villages, which were guarded by the US, in order to prevent the Vietcong entering South Vietnamese villages.
  • However, as they were forcing the locals to leave their homes, support for the Americans decreased.



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US military tactics

  • LBJ used minor incidents such as the Gulf of Tonkin (1964) and the Attack at Pleiku (1965 -  where 9 people were killed) as a justification to use military action.

Operation Rolling Thunder (1965-9)

  • Aimed to bomb key positions in North Vietnam, to show the might of the US military
  • However, they didn't bomb major cities, in order to prevent USSR intervention
  • Even though the bombings bought devestation, North Vietnam didn't surrender. Cost US $900 million.

Chemical Warfare (1965-70)

  • In order to force North Vietnam to back down, chemicals (such as Agent Orange and Napalm) which could lead to deaths, poisoning, cancer and birth defects were dropped.
  • This led to protests in the USA, and condemnation of these actions

Search and Destroy

  • Aimed at removing any Communist forces in South Vietnam, village was destroyed and VC suspects were brutally interrogated. Often based on faulty information.







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My Lai Massacre, 1968

  • My Lai was a search and destroy mission based on faulty information.
  • US soliders shot at the villagers, and rounded up the survivors, forcing them into a ditch and then shooting them
  • 500 unarmed villagers were killed, none of them had any Vietcong connection.
  • This resulted in Lieutenant William Calley being sentenced to life in prison.
  • in 1969, a US soldier gave and interview, and photos were revealed, showing the true horror of the event.
  • The US public were shocked, and support for the war fell.
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Vietnam and the Media

  • Vietnam was the 'first media war'
  • The coverage wasn't censored, so the graphic reality of war soon led to a lack of support for US troops.
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The Protest Movement

Why protest?

  • The media showed Americans the true horror of the war
  • Events such as My Lai emphasised this
  • Vietnam veterans came home and spoke out about their awful experiences
  • Draft of young men who didn't want to fight

Who and How?

  • Hippies - led anti-war movements with 'love not war' as their slogan
  • Young people, such as university students held strikes and sit-ins.
  • Vietnam veterans, who were disillusioned by war held marches
  • Celebrities such as John Lennon and Mohammad Ali
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Kent State shooting ,1970

  • The students were of the age group most affected by the draft
  • The National Guard shot at unarmed protestors.
  • 9 were wounded and 4 were killed (despite not taking place in the demonstration)
  • The broadcast of this event shocked Americans.
  • It went against the key right of a democracy- the right to protest. This resulted in further protests and condemnation of the war
  • Nixon realised the war couldn't continue with this much opposition from within the USA.
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The Fulbright Hearings, 1971

  • Fulbright was head of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and in 1971, he started to consider whether the war should continue
  • 22 people, veterans and politicians gave evidence.
  • John Kerry gave evidence against the war,
  • Used Winter Soldier Investigation, which suggested that My Lai wasn't an isolated incident.
  • As politicians and veterans had now shown their opposition to the war, it was obvious the US would have to find a peaceful settlement.
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The Tet Offensive, 1968

  • Tet was a Vietnamese new year festival
  • The North Vietnamese and Vietcong fought open warfare, not guerilla tactics, attacking over 100 places, including a US embassy in Saigon.
  • The attack took the Americans by surprise, but they fought back
  • The event was a military distaster for the communists. They lost over 35,000 soldier, compared to the Americans' 2,500 and accepted the event as a defeat.
  • The Vietcong never recovered from this defeat
  • The North Vietnamese agreed to participate in peace talks
  • Media footage of the destruction of Saigon suggested to the American public that the war was unwinnable
  • The Vietcong continued to fight for months after the event, which also suggested the war was unwinnable
  • LBJ decided not to stand for re-election that year, Nixon took over, promsing he would end the war.
  • LBJ quit because the peace talks failed, there was growing opposition to the war from within America, and the war was costing lives.
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Nixon and Peace Talks, 1968-73

  • Lyndon Johnson's peace talk, which began in 1968 failed, so Nixon began using other policies to persuade the North to participate in the talks


Mad man theory

  • Through spreading the idea that Nixon would use nuclear weapons if the North didn't surrender, US hoped North Vietnam would be scared into signing a peace agreement.

 Bombing Campaigns

  •  'Limited Objective', which included destroying the Ho Chi Minh trail, and limiting North Vietnamese supplies to the Vietcong
  • Continued bombing North Vietnamese cities to keep the pressure on them while he could withdraw troops
  • Bombed Hanoi in 1972



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Vietnamisation, 1969

  • Nixon aimed to bring home US troops while leaving South Vietnam able to 'stand on its own two feet'
  • US troops were replaced by ARVN, the South Vietnamese army
  • The number of US troops in Vietnam changed from 500,000 in 1968 to 150,000 in 1972
  • This reduced US troops, saving lives and money
  • Improved public relations, showed USA could use other tactics other than military ones
  • The policy was unpopular. US commanders still saw the war as winnable, so saw the tactics as cowardice. Nixon was criticised by the Republicans for not trying to win the war
  • The ARVN conscripted 17-43 year olds. This was unpopular with the locals, once again the Americans had failed to win the people's 'hearts and minds'
  • Even though there was little communist activity in the years following this, it was probably a result of the Vietcong recovering from the Tet offensive, rather than Vietnamisation.
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Paris Peace Conference, 1973

  • USA wanted South Vietnam to be independent, free from communist influence and a democracy
  • North Vietnam wanted South Vietnam to be free from US influence and a dictatorship
  • In the end, it was decided that USA would withdraw from Vietnam, and US prisoners would be released.
  • It was also decided that North Vietnam would recognise South Vietnam as independent, and elections would be held to decide whether the country would become united in the future.
  • However, the USA provided no financial support to South Vietnam, and fighting resumed in 1974
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The fall of Saigon, 1975

  • North Vietnam attacked South Vietnam from 3 directions, North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia
  • This split the AVRN
  • South Vietnam was powerless without the US, as North Vietnam attacked the capital Saigon
  • North Vietnam captured Saigon and many South Vietnamese desperately tried to escape
  • The few remaining US officials were airlifted off the roof of the US embassy, in what looked like a humiliating retreat
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Exam: Vietnam, Section B, 35 minutes

8 Mark question (15 mins)

  • Use a source and your own knowledge to describe a topic/event
  • descriptions of what the source shows you as well as your own knowledge to back this up

15 Mark question (20 mins)

  • Do you agree with a statement? (e.g. Media coverage was the main reason that US withdrew from the war)
  • Describe (Media coverage during the Vietnam war)
  • Explain (How this led to USA withdrawing from the war)
  • Arguments against (Why other reasons were more important in leading to US withdrawal)
  • Judgment (Overall, whether you agree with the statement or not)
  • Remember to use own knowledge
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