Domino Theory: As one country falls to Communism another will - the domino effect.
North Vietnam had been controlled by Communists since 1954 and was led by Ho Chi Minh. It was supplied and supported by China and the USSR.
South Vietnam was led by President Diem and supported by USA to stop the spread of Communism.
Background to Conflict up to 1954
Until 1939, Vietnam was ruled by France.
The French were defeated during the war. The Japanese then took control of the main recources of Vietnam (coal, rice, rubber, railways and roads).
The Viet Minh were a strong anti-Japanese resistance movement under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh. They were Communist and fought for independence for Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh- the leader of North Vietnam from 1954. Communist leader and led the Viet Minh.
After WW2, the Viet Minh controlled the north of Vietnam and was determined to control the rest of the country. Japan left and France returned.
The USA got involved because the Communists took over China and began to help Ho Chi Minh. They began to fear a Communist plan to dominate South-East Asia.
War was fought using Gurrilla tactics - they tied up 190,000 French troops in hit-and-run raids.
At Dien Bien Phu a large, well-armed force of French paratroopers were defeated.
At Geneva a peace conference occured. Country divided into North and South Vietnam.
Why USA became Increasingly Involved
They were trying to stop the advance of Communism whenever it looked like it was taking ground. The USA supported te French in Vietnam because they thought the Vietnamese were allied to Communist China. They also wanted to keep the support of the French against Communism.
The Americans hold elections every 4 year. In the 1950s & 60s, it was a sure vote winner to talk tough on Communism & a sure vote loser to look weak on Communism. For example, in the 1960 election, John F Kennedy promised to continue the tough policies of President Eisenhower.
President Eisenhower and his secretary of state, JF Dullas were convinced China and the USSR wanted to spread Communism throughout Asia. They thought that if one country fell, the others would follow, creating a domino effect. They thought Vietnam was the first domino in the row.
The Military-Industrial Complex
The American government gave huge budgets to military commanders. These budgets were spent on huge weapon contracts which went to huge corporations. Thus the miliatry and big businesses actually gained from the complex. Eisenhower warned the American people not to let these groups become more influencial in his last speech as president.
How did the USA become involved?
The American government gave $1.6 billion to Diem in the 1950s.
John F Kennedy sent special advisors to Vietnam.
Post Gulf of Tonkin, America sent 3500 marines to Vietnam.
Operation Rolling Thunder
What it was - Bombing raids on Vietnamese towns, intended to destroy morale.
Impact - Many innocent civilians were killed or seriously injured.
Search and Destroy
What it was - They searched Vietnamese villages for Viet Cong fighters and, if they suspected any, they destroyed the village.
Impact - Deaths of innocent civilians which made ordinary people hate the Americans.
What it was - The Americans sprayed a chemical called Agent Orange onto forests from aeroplanes.
Impact - It killed trees, caused birth defects and killed crops.
What it was - When the Americans suspected they had found a Viet Cong base, they would drop Napalm on the site.
Impact - It burnt through almost anything and often hit civilians.
Viet Cong tactics
The Viet Cong were Southern Communist fighters.
What it was - The Viet Cong would place trip wires or dig holes filled with spikes, they would cover the hole and place markers on the path to warn other Viet Cong.
Impact - Many Americans were harmed by the traps and lost limbs then were taken prisoners. This confused and frustrated the Americans.
What it was - They were used by Viet Cong guerillas as hiding spots during combat as well as communication, supply roots, hospitals, food, weapon caches and living quarters.
Impact - This frustrated Americans who could not locate the tunnels.
Ho Chi Minh Trail
What it was - A network of paths that served as a hidden route through the jungle for Viet Cong soldiers and Vietnamese civilians.
Impact - It frustrated the Americans because they couldn't find it, as it was too well hidden and frequently changed.
Why Americans could not win
The Viet Cong used simple, effective tactics aimed at demoralising the Americans.
Many of the Viet Cong survived as they had strength in numbers.
The Americans lost a lot of support when the started killing civilians.
The Tet Offensive 1968
In 1968 the Communists attacked over 100 cities and other military targets.
The US embassy is Saigon was attacked.
US forces fought to regain control room by room.
4500 fighters tied down a much larger US force for two days.
The Viet Cong lost around 10,000 fights.
It was wondered why, as the US was spending $20 billion a year and had nearly 500,000 troops in Vietnam, they had been taken by surprise.
As the US and South Vietnamese forces retook the towns captured, they used a lot of resources and killed many civilians. The ancient City of Hue was also destroyed.
It took place during the Tet new year holiday.
Why the US withdrew from Vietnam
My Lai Massacre
The Americans were annoyed at what had happened so protested against the war.
Many Americans turned against the was as they were not happy with what had happened.
The US realised they could not win the war.
A lot of their tactics were not working so they could not win.
US didn't want to risk a repeat of the attack and the loses of it.