Vietnam: the USA in Asia 1950-1973

Brief summary of aspects of the USA's involvement in Asia.

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  • Created by: Tom
  • Created on: 16-05-11 18:48

Reasons for US involvement in Vietnam

  • Failure of the French to re-establish a stable government.
    • Failure at Dien Bien Phu.
    • Struggled to stabilise Vietnam.
    • The decision to withdraw left a vacuum which the US feared would be filled by Communists.
  • The fear of Communism.
    • The Red Scare - Domestic and Political.
      • McCarthy, fuelled fear in politics.
      • Immigration, communist hysteria widespread.
    • Domino Theory (China and Korea).
      • Scared of losing Japan, key partner.
  • Cold War context.
    • Lost advantage in 1949 when USSR tested atomic bomb.
    • Needed to prove itself to USSR, European allies and itself.
  • The Truman Doctrine.
    • Truman pledged support...
    • This was the perfect example.
    • France was a key ally.
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Reasons for increasing involvement in Vietnam

  • Policies of Truman and Eisenhower:
    • Truman initially pledged support to the French.
    • Truman Doctrine.
    • Eisenhower didn't deal with Diem, trap for Kennedy.
  • Policies of Kennedy 1960:
    • Increased aid - 16,000 MAAG advisers by 1963.
    • Deployed helicopters on covert missions.
    • Chemical weapons.
    • Continued to support Diem. Buddhist Crisis 1963.
  • Policies of Johnson 1963:
    • 2,000 more military advisers.
    • Gulf of Tonkin Incident. Appeal to Congress and eventual deployment of US troops.
  • Increasing incompetence of the ARVN:
    • ApBac 1963. Highlighted incompetence of the ARVN.
    • Desertion. Fighting for a cause that they didn't believe in.
    • US had to increase support. 500,000 troops 1969.
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Why did the US fail?

  • Under-estimation of the North Vietnamese:
    • Tet Offensive 1968. Undermined the US.
    • Failure to disrupt the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Bombing attempts.
    • Effective insurgency.
  • Failure to win over the South Vietnamese:
    • US soldiers brutal.
    • Many South Vietnamese did not understand the cause.
    • Desertion high in the ARVN.
  • Under-estimated the importance of popular support:
    • Key politicians, Macnamara, declared war as un-winnable. 
    • Popular figures such as MLK against.
    • Troops questioned the reasons for fighting.
    • Fragging.
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Reasons for withdrawal

  • Public opinion:
    • Psychological impact of the Tet Offensive
    • Credibility Gap.
    • Played a part in LBJ deciding 'honourable peace'.
    • Cronkite questioned policy, "I've lost Walter, I've lost middle America"
  • Military failures:
    • Strategy had not been effective.
    • Continued insurgencies.
    • Ho Chi Minh Trail.
    • More troops unsuccessful 500,000 by 1969.
    • Advised the war was un-winnable.
    • Nixon came to think the same.
  • Economic costs:
    • No longer sustainable.
    • 30% inflation, devaluation of the USD$
    • Congress refused to give more money.
    • Repealed the G o T resulution 1970 - War Powers Act removed powers.
  • Nixon's policies...
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