history unit two: the vietnam war 1950-73


1      Vietnam War 1950-73

1.1    Causes of Vietnam War


-        Vietnam had been part of French Indochina until 1940 when it was taken over by Japan.

-        After 1945 France tried to regain control but the Viet Minh, a resistance organisation led by Ho Chi Minh fought a guerrilla war against the French.

-        Vietnam became a country of importance in the Cold War. The Truman Doctrine committed the USA to prevent the spread of communism and gave the French $1.4billion to help defeat the Viet Minh.

Division of Vietnam:

-        France was defeated at the battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and withdrew from Vietnam.

-        Vietnam was divided along the 17th parallel.

-        South Vietnam was capitalist and North Vietnam was communist and led by Ho Chi Minh.

-        South Vietnam was dominated by the minority, Catholic landlord class.

-        It met resistance from the beginning from the Viet Cong, a communist guerrilla army which wanted a united communist Vietnam. Its members were mainly from South Vietnam but its leader was Ho Chi Minh.

Reasons for US Involvement:

-        After 1947 the foreign policy of the USA was based on the Truman Doctrine. The USA was committed to preventing the spread of communism.

-        The loss of China to communism in 1949 and China’s Treaty of Friendship with the USSR in 1950 worried the USA. The focus of the Cold War moved to Asia.

-        The Domino Theory was widely believed in the USA. All countries in Asia were in danger of falling to communism. General MacArthur warned that “Asia is where the communists are making their play for world domination.”

-        Between 1954 and 1964 the USA provided indirect support to the government of South Vietnam as the USA saw South East Asia as vulnerable to the spread of communism. Vietnam was seen as “the cornerstone of the free world in South East Asia.”

-        The USA was angry at the presence of North Vietnamese soldiers in South Vietnam and was determined to keep South Vietnam non-communist.

-        By 1964 the USA provided 16,000 advisers and more than $3billion in military equipment and financial aid to South Vietnam.

-        President Diem of South Vietnam was killed in November 1963 and the Viet Cong controlled 60% of the country.

-        Shortly after Kennedy was killed, Johnston increased US involvement and in 1964 an American ship was attacked by North Vietnam in the Gulf of Tonkin.

-        The Tonkin Resolution of 1964 allowed Johnston to take “all necessary measures” against North Vietnam and transformed the USA’s role from indirect to direct involvement.

-        The USA launched an intensive bombing campaign against North Vietnam called Operation Rolling Thunder.

-        In 1965, US soldiers were sent to South Vietnam to help the government against the Viet Cong. By 1968 there were over 540,000 US troops in South…


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