I. Introduction. Vietnam War, military struggle fought in Vietnam from 1959 to 1975, involving the North Vietnamese and the National Liberation Front (NLF) in conflict with United States forces and the South Vietnamese army. From 1946 until 1954, the Vietnamese had struggled for their independence from France during the First Indochina War.
At the end of this war, the country was temporarily divided into North and South Vietnam. North Vietnam came under the control of the Vietnamese Communists who had opposed France and who aimed for a unified Vietnam under Communist rule. The South was controlled by Vietnamese who had collaborated with the French.
The United States became involved in Vietnam because it believed that if all of the countries fell under a Communist government, Communism would spread throughout Southeast Asia and beyond. This belief was known as the “domino theory.”
The U.S. government, therefore, supported the South Vietnamese government. This government’s repressive policies led to rebellion in the South, and the NLF was formed as an opposition group with close ties to North Vietnam.
In 1965 the United States sent in troops to prevent the South Vietnamese government from collapsing. Ultimately, however, the United States failed to achieve its goal, and in 1975 Vietnam was reunified under Communist control; in 1976 it officially became the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
During the conflict, approximately 3 to 4 million Vietnamese on both sides were killed, in addition to another 1.5 to 2 million Lao and Cambodians who were drawn into the war. More than 58,000 Americans lost their lives.
II. Background. From the 1880s until World War II (1939-1945), France governed Vietnam as part of French Indochina, which also included Cambodia and Laos. The country was under the nominal control of an emperor, Bao Dai. In 1940 Japanese troops invaded and occupied French Indochina.
In December of that year, Vietnamese nationalists established the League for the Independence of Vietnam, or Viet Minh, seeing the turmoil of the war as an opportunity for resistance to French colonial rule.
The United States demanded that Japan leave Indochina, warning of military action. The Viet Minh began guerrilla warfare against Japan and entered an effective alliance with the United States.
Viet Minh troops rescued downed U.S. pilots, located Japanese prison camps, helped U.S. prisoners to escape and provided valuable intelligence to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Ho Chi Minh, the principal leader of the Viet Minh, was even made a special OSS agent.
When the Japanese signed their formal surrender on September 2, 1945, Ho used the occasion to declare the independence of Vietnam, which he called the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV). Emperor Bao Dai had abdicated the throne a week earlier. The French, however, refused to acknowledge Vietnam’s independence, and later that year drove the Viet Minh into the north of the country.
Ho wrote eight letters to U.S. President Harry Truman, imploring him to recognize Vietnam’s independence. Many OSS agents informed the U.S. administration that despite being a Communist, Ho Chi Minh was not a puppet of the Communist Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and that he could potentially become a valued ally in Asia. Tensions between the United States and the USSR had mounted after World War II, resulting in the Cold War.
The foreign policy of the United States during the Cold War was driven by a fear of the spread of Communism. Eastern Europe had fallen under the domination of the Communist USSR, and China was ruled by Communists. United States policymakers felt they could not afford to lose Southeast Asia as well to the Communists. The United States, therefore, condemned Ho Chi Minh as an agent of international Communism and offered to assist the French in recapturing Vietnam.
In 1946 United States warships ferried elite French troops to Vietnam where they quickly regained control of the major cities, including Hanoi, Haiphong, + Nang, Hue, and Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), while the Viet Minh controlled the countryside.
The Viet Minh had only 2000 troops at the time Vietnam’s independence was declared but recruiting increased after the arrival of French troops. By the late 1940s, the Viet Minh had hundreds of thousands of soldiers and were fighting the French to a draw. In 1949 the French set up a government to rival Ho Chi Minh’s, installing Bao Dai as head of state.
In May 1954 the Viet Minh mounted a massive assault on the French fortress at Dien Bien, in northwestern Vietnam. The Battle of Dien Bien Phu resulted in perhaps the most humiliating defeat in French military history. Already tired of the war, the French public forced their government to reach a peace agreement at the Geneva Conference.
France asked the other world powers to help draw up a plan for French withdrawal from the region and for the future of Vietnam. Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, from May 8 to July 21, 1954, diplomats from France, the United Kingdom, the USSR, China, and the United States, as well as representatives from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, drafted a set of agreements called the Geneva Accords.
These agreements provided for the withdrawal of French troops to the south of Vietnam until they could be safely removed from the country. Viet Minh forces moved into the north. Vietnam was temporarily divided at the 17th parallel to allow for a cooling-off period and for warring factions among the Vietnamese to return to their native regions. Ho Chi Minh maintained control of North Vietnam, or the DRV, while Emperor Bao Dai remained head of South Vietnam.
Elections were to be held in 1956 throughout the north and south and to be supervised by an International Control Commission that had been appointed at Geneva and was made up of representatives from Canada, Poland, and India. Following these elections, Vietnam was to be reunited under the government chosen by popular vote.
The United States refused to sign the accords because it did not want to allow the possibility of Communist control over Vietnam. The U.S. government moved to establish the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), a regional alliance that extended protection to South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos in the case of Communist “subversion.” SEATO, which came into force in 1955, became the mechanism by which Washington justified its support for South Vietnam; this support eventually became the direct involvement of U.S. troops.
Also in 1955, the United States picked Ngo Dinh Diem to replace Bao Dai as head of the anti-Communist regime in South Vietnam. With U.S. encouragement, Diem refused to participate in the planned national elections, which Ho Chi Minh and the Lao Dong, or Workers’ Party, were favored to win. Instead, Diem held elections only in South Vietnam, an action that violated the Geneva Accords.
Diem won the elections with 98.2 percent of the vote, but many historians believe these elections were rigged since 200,000 more people voted in Saigon than were registered. Diem then declared South Vietnam to be an independent nation called the Republic of Vietnam (RVN), with Saigon as its capital. Vietnamese Communists and many non-Communist Vietnamese nationalists saw the creation of the RVN as an effort by the United States to interfere with the independence promised at Geneva.
III. The Beginning of the War: 1959-1965. The repressive measures of the Diem government eventually led to increasingly organized opposition within South Vietnam. Diem’s government represented a minority of Vietnamese who were mostly businessmen, Roman Catholics, large landowners, and others who had fought with the French against the Viet Minh.
The United States initially backed the South Vietnamese government with military advisers and financial assistance, but more involvement was needed to keep it from collapsing. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution eventually gave President Lyndon B. Johnson permission to escalate the war in Vietnam.
A. Rebellion in South Vietnam
When Vietnam was divided in 1954, many Viet Minh who had been born in the southern part of the country returned to their native villages to await the 1956 elections and the reunification of their nation. When the elections did not take place as planned, these Viet Minh immediately formed the core of opposition to Diem’s government and sought its overthrow. The Viet Minh were greatly aided in their efforts to organize resistance in the countryside by Diem’s own policies, which alienated many peasants.
Beginning in 1955, the United States created the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) in South Vietnam. Using these troops, Diem took land away from peasants and returned it to former landlords, reversing the land redistribution program implemented by the Viet Minh. He also forcibly moved many villagers from their ancestral lands to controlled settlements in an attempt to prevent Communist activity, and he drafted their sons into the ARVN.
Diem sought to discredit the Viet Minh by contemptuously referring to them as “Viet Cong” (the Vietnamese equivalent of calling them “Commies”), yet their influence continued to grow. Most southern Viet Minh were members of the Lao Dong and was still committed to its program of national liberation, the reunification of Vietnam, and reconstruction of society along with socialist principles.
By the late 1950s, they were anxious to begin a full-scale armed struggle against Diem but were held in check by the northern branch of the party, which feared that this would invite the entry of U.S. armed forces. By 1959, however, opposition to Diem was so widespread in rural areas that the southern Communists formed the National Liberation Front (NLF), and in 1960 the North Vietnamese government gave its formal sanction to the organization. The NLF began to train and equip guerrillas, known as the People’s Liberation Armed Forces (PLAF).
Diem’s support was concentrated mainly in the cities. Although he had been a nationalist opposed to French rule, he welcomed into his government those Vietnamese who had collaborated with the French, and many of these became ARVN officers.
Catholics were a minority throughout Vietnam, amounting to no more than 10 percent of the population, but they predominated in government positions because Diem himself was Catholic. Between 1954 and 1955, operatives paid by the CIA spread rumors in northern Vietnam that Communists were going to launch persecution of Catholics, which caused nearly 1 million Catholics to flee to the south.
Their resettlement uprooted Buddhists who already deeply resented Diem’s rule because of his severe discrimination against them.
In May 1963 Buddhists began a series of demonstrations against Diem, and the demonstrators were fired on by police. At least seven Buddhist monks set themselves on fire to protest the repression. Diem dismissed these suicides as publicity stunts and promptly arrested 1400 monks.
He then arrested thousands of high school and grade school students who were involved in protests against the government. After this, Diem was viewed as an embarrassment both by the United States and by many of his own generals.
The Saigon government’s war against the NLF was also going badly. In January 1963 an ARVN force of 2000 encountered a group of 350 NLF soldiers at Ap Bac, a village south of Saigon in the Mekong River Delta. The ARVN troops were equipped with jet fighters, helicopters, and armored personnel carriers, while the NLF forces had only small arms. Nonetheless, 61 ARVN soldiers were killed, as were three U.S. military advisers. By contrast, the NLF forces lost only 12 men.
Some U.S. military advisers began to report that Saigon was losing the war, but the official military and embassy press officers reported Ap Bac as a significant ARVN victory. Despite this official account, a handful of U.S. journalists began to report pessimistically about the future of U.S. involvement in South Vietnam, which led to increasing public concern.
President John F. Kennedy still believed that the ARVN could become effective. Some of his advisers advocated the commitment of U.S. combat forces, but Kennedy decided to try to increase support for the ARVN among the people of Vietnam through counterinsurgency. United States Special Forces (Green Berets) would work with ARVN troops directly in the villages in an effort to match NLF political organizing and to win over the South Vietnamese people.
To support the U.S. effort, the Diem government developed a “strategic hamlet” program that was essentially an extension of Diem’s earlier relocation practices. Aimed at cutting the links between villagers and the NLF, the program removed peasants from their traditional villages, often at gunpoint, and resettled them in new hamlets fortified to keep the NLF out.
The administration was left up to Diem’s brother Nhu, a corrupt official who charged villagers for building materials that had been donated by the United States. In many cases, peasants were forbidden to leave the hamlets, but many of the young men quickly left anyway and joined the NLF. Young men who were drafted into the ARVN often also worked secretly for the NLF. The Kennedy administration concluded that Diem’s policies were alienating the peasantry and contributing significantly to NLF recruitment.
The number of U.S. advisers assigned to the ARVN rose steadily. In January 1961, when Kennedy took office, there were 800 U.S. advisers in Vietnam; by November 1963 there were 16,700. American airpower was assigned to support ARVN operations; this included the aerial spraying of herbicides such as Agent Orange, which was intended to deprive the NLF of food and jungle cover. Despite these measures, the ARVN continued to lose ground.
As the military situation deteriorated in South Vietnam, the United States sought to blame it on Diem’s incompetence and hoped that changes in his administration would improve the situation. Nhu’s corruption became a principal focus, and Diem was urged to remove his brother. Many in Diem’s military were especially dissatisfied and hoped for increased U.S. aid. General Duong Van Minh informed the CIA and U.S. ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge of a plot to conduct a coup d’ tat against Diem.
After much discussion, Kennedy approved support for the coup. He was reportedly dismayed, however, when the coup resulted in the murder of both Diem and Nhu on November 1, 1963. Far from stabilizing South Vietnam, the assassination of Diem ushered in ten successive governments within 18 months. Meanwhile, the CIA was forced to admit that the strength of the NLF was continuing to grow.
B. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution
Succeeding to the presidency after Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963, Lyndon B. Johnson felt he had to take a forceful stance on Vietnam so that other Communist countries would not think that the United States lacked resolve. Kennedy had begun to consider the possibility of withdrawal from Vietnam and had even ordered the removal of 1000 advisers shortly before he was assassinated, but Johnson increased the number of U.S. advisers to 27,000 by mid-1964.
Even though intelligence reports clearly stated that most of the support for the NLF came from the south, Johnson, like his predecessors, continued to insist that North Vietnam was orchestrating the southern rebellion. He was determined that he would not be held responsible for allowing Vietnam to fall to the Communists.
Johnson believed that the key to success in the war in South Vietnam was to frighten North Vietnam’s leaders with the possibility of full-scale U.S. military intervention. In January 1964 he approved top-secret, covert attacks against North Vietnamese territory, including commando raids against bridges, railways, and coastal installations. Johnson also ordered the U.S.
Navy to conduct surveillance missions along the North Vietnamese coast. He increased the secret bombing of territory in Laos along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, a growing network of paths and roads used by the NLF and the North Vietnamese to transport supplies into South Vietnam. Hanoi concluded that the United States was preparing to occupy South Vietnam and indicated that it, too, was preparing for full-scale war.
On August 2, 1964, North Vietnamese coastal gunboats fired on the destroyer USS Maddox, which had penetrated North Vietnam’s territorial boundaries in the Gulf of Tonkin. Johnson ordered more ships to the area, and on August 4 both the Maddox and the USS Turner Joy reported that North Vietnamese patrol boats had fired on them.
Johnson then ordered the first airstrikes against North Vietnamese territory and went on television to seek approval from the U.S. public. (Subsequent congressional investigations would conclude that the August 4 attack almost certainly had never occurred.) The U.S. Congress overwhelmingly passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which effectively handed over war-making powers to Johnson until such time as “peace and security” had returned to Vietnam.
After the Gulf of Tonkin incident, Johnson steadily escalated the U.S. bombing of North Vietnam, which began to dispatch well-trained units of its People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) into the south. The NLF guerrillas coordinated their attacks with PAVN forces. Between February 7 and February 10, 1965, the NLF launched surprise attacks on the U.S. airbase at Pleiku, killing 8 Americans, wounding 126, and destroying 10 aircraft; they struck again at Qui Nhon, killing 23 U.S. servicemen and wounding 21.
Johnson responded by bombing Hanoi at a time when Soviet premier Aleksey Kosygin was visiting, thus pushing the USSR closer to North Vietnam and ensuring future Soviet arms deliveries to Southeast Asia. Johnson’s advisers, chiefly Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, and National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy declared that a full-scale air war against North Vietnam would depress the morale of the NLF. The bombing did just the opposite, however.
The inability of the ARVN to protect U.S. air bases led Johnson’s senior planners to the consensus that U.S. combat forces would be required. On March 8, 1965, 3500 U.S. Marines landed at + Nang. By the end of April, 56,000 other combat troops had joined them; by June the number had risen to 74,000.
IV. Escalated United States Involvement: 1965-1969
When some of the soldiers of the U.S. 9th Marine Regiment landed in + Nang in March 1965, their orders were to protect the U.S. airbase, but the mission was quickly escalated to include search-and-destroy patrols of the area around the base.
This corresponded in miniature to the larger strategy of General William Westmoreland. Westmoreland, who took over the Military Assistance Command in Vietnam (MACV) in 1964, advocated establishing a large American force and then unleashing it in big sweeps. His strategy was that of attrition eliminating or wearing down the enemy by inflicting the highest death toll possible. There were 80,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam by the end of 1965; by 1969 a peak of 543,000 troops would be reached.
Having easily pushed aside the ARVN, both the North Vietnamese and the NLF had anticipated the U.S. escalation. With the full-scale movement of U.S. troops onto South Vietnamese territory, the Communists claimed that the Saigon regime had become a puppet, not unlike the colonial collaborators with the French. Both the North Vietnamese and NLF appealed to the nationalism of the Vietnamese to rise up and drive this new foreign army from their land.
A. DRV and NLF Strategy
The strategy developed against the United States was the result of intense debate both within the Lao Dong in the north, and between the northerners and the NLF. Truong Chinh, the leading southern military figure, argued that the southern Vietnamese must liberate themselves; Le Duan, secretary-general of the Lao Dong, insisted that Vietnam was one nation and therefore dependent on all Vietnamese for its independence and reunification.
Ho Chi Minh, revered widely throughout Vietnam as the father of independence, successfully appealed for unity. The Central Committee Directorate for the South (also known as the Central Office for South Vietnam, or COSVN), which was composed of DRV and NLF representatives, was then able to coordinate a unified strategy.
After the United States initiated large-scale bombing against the DRV in 1964, in the wake of the Gulf of Tonkin incident, Hanoi dispatched the first unit of northern-born regular soldiers to the south. Previously, southern-born Viet Minh, known as regrouped, had returned to their native regions and joined NLF guerrilla units. Now PAVN regulars, commanded by generals who had been born in the south, began to set up bases in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam in order to gain strategic position.
Unable to cross the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) at the 17th parallel separating North from South Vietnam, PAVN regulars moved into South Vietnam along the Ho Chi Minh Trail through Laos and Cambodia. In use since 1957, the trail was originally a series of footpaths; by the late 1960s, it would become a network of paved highways that enabled the motor transport of people and equipment.
The NLF guerrillas and North Vietnamese troops were poorly armed compared to the Americans, so once they were in South Vietnam they avoided open combat. Instead, they developed hit-and-run tactics designed to cause steady casualties among the U.S. troops and to wear down popular support for the war in the United States.
B. United States Strategy
In June 1964 retired general Maxwell Taylor replaced Henry Cabot Lodge as ambassador to South Vietnam. A former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the military advisory group to the president, Taylor at first opposed the introduction of American combat troops, believing that this would make the ARVN quit fighting altogether.
By 1965 he agreed to the request of General Westmoreland for combat forces. Taylor initially advocated an enclave strategy, where U.S. forces would seek to preserve areas already considered to be under Saigon’s control. This quickly proved impossible, since NLF strength was considerable virtually everywhere in South Vietnam.
In October 1965 the newly arrived 1st Cavalry Division of the U.S. Army fought one of the largest battles of the Vietnam War in the Ia Drang Valley, inflicting a serious defeat on North Vietnamese forces. The North Vietnamese and NLF forces changed their tactics as a result of the battle. From then on both would fight at times of their choosing, hitting rapidly, with surprise if possible, and then withdrawing just as quickly to avoid the impact of American firepower.
The success of the American campaign in the Ia Drang Valley convinced Westmoreland that his strategy of attrition was the key to U.S. victory. He ordered the largest search-and-destroy operations of the war in the “Iron Triangle,” the Communist stronghold northeast of Saigon. This operation was intended to find and destroy North Vietnam and NLF military headquarters, but the campaign failed to wipe out Communist forces from the area.
By 1967 the ground war had reached a stalemate, which led Johnson and McNamara to increase the ferocity of the air war. The Joint Chiefs of Staff had been pressing for this for some time, but there was already some indication that intensified bombing would not produce the desired results.
In 1966 the bombing of North Vietnam’s oil facilities had destroyed 70 percent of their fuel reserves, but the DRV’s ability to wage the war had not been affected.
Planners wished to avoid populated areas, but when 150,000 sorties per year were being flown by U.S. warplanes, civilian casualties were inevitable. These casualties provoked revulsion both in the United States and internationally. In 1967 the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Earle Wheeler, declared that no more “major military targets” were left.
Unable to widen the bombing to population centers for fear of Chinese and Soviet reactions in support of North Vietnam, the U.S. Department of Defense had to admit stalemate in the air war as well. The damage that had already been inflicted on Vietnam’s population was enormous.
C. The Tet Offensive and Beyond
In 1967 North Vietnam and the NLF decided the time had come to mount an all-out offensive aimed at inflicting serious losses on both the ARVN and U.S. forces. They planned the Tet Offensive with the hope that this would significantly affect the public mood in the United States.
In December 1967 North Vietnamese troops attacked and surrounded the U.S. Marine base at Khe Sanh, placing it under siege. Westmoreland ordered the outpost held at all costs. To prevent the Communists from overrunning the base, about 50,000 U.S. Marines and Army troops were called into the area, thus weakening positions further south.
This concentration of American troops in one spot was exactly what the COSVN strategists had hoped would happen. The main thrust of the Tet Offensive then began on January 31, 1968, at the start of Tet, or the Vietnamese lunar new year celebration, when a lull in fighting traditionally took place. Most ARVN troops had gone home on leave, and U.S. troops were on stand-down in many areas.
Over 85,000 NLF soldiers simultaneously struck at almost every major city and provincial capital across South Vietnam, sending their defenders reeling. The U.S. Embassy in Saigon, previously thought to be invulnerable, was taken over by the NLF and held for eight hours before U.S. forces could retake the complex. It took three weeks for U.S. troops to dislodge 1000 NLF fighters from Saigon.
During the Tet Offensive, the imperial capital of Hue witnessed the bloodiest fighting of the entire war. South Vietnamese were assassinated by Communists for collaborating with Americans; then when the ARVN returned, NLF sympathizers were murdered.
United States Marines and paratroopers were ordered to go from house to house to find North Vietnamese and NLF soldiers. Virtually indiscriminate shelling was what killed most civilians, however, and the architectural treasures of Hue were laid to waste. More than 100,000 residents of the city were left homeless.
The Tet Offensive as a whole lasted into the fall of 1968, and when it was over the North Vietnamese and the NLF had suffered acute losses. The U.S. Department of Defense estimated that a total of 45,000 North Vietnamese and NLF soldiers had been killed, most of them NLF fighters.
Although it was covered up for more than a year, one horrifying event during the Tet Offensive would indelibly affect America’s psyche. In March 1968 elements of the U.S. Army’s Americal Division wiped out an entire hamlet called My Lai, killing 500 unarmed civilians, mostly women, and children.
After Tet, Westmoreland said that the enemy was almost conquered and requested 206,000 more troops to finish the job. Told by succeeding administrations since 1955 that there was “light at the end of the tunnel,” that victory in Vietnam was near, the American public had reached a psychological breaking point. The success of the NLF in coordinating the Tet Offensive demonstrated both how deeply rooted the Communist resistance was and how costly it would be for the United States to remain in Vietnam.
After Tet, a majority of Americans wanted some closure to the war, with some favoring an immediate withdrawal while others held out for a negotiated peace. President Johnson rejected Westmoreland’s request for more troops and replaced him as the commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam with Westmoreland’s deputy, General Creighton Abrams. Johnson himself decided not to seek reelection in 1968. Republican Richard Nixon ran for the presidency declaring that he would bring “peace with honor” if elected.
Vietnam was a small Asian country, 9000 miles away from the United States. Yet America felt that its national interest was threatened strongly enough to fight a war there. The explanation for this lies in the fear caused by the spread of communism at that time.
The role of communism was extremely important in this conflict. You see, the US had to enter the war to stop the spread of communism in Asia since North Vietnam was communist. If North Vietnam was to succeed in converting Vietnam into a communist country, it could become very powerful and go on to persuade other countries to become communist.
The US believed that Vietnam could become powerful, and it was willing to go through anything to stop that, including sending millions of US troops to Vietnam and watching them die live on TV, and this greatly effected the American culture and society. The Vietnam war. It changed the lives of many people, and in many unfortunate cases eliminated those of others. “By the end of 1965, 184,314 troops were in Vietnam” (Internet), sacrificing their future, their lives.
“Within a year, the number had grown to 385,000″(Internet). For those back in America, the hardship was felt as their sons died overseas. imagine waking up one morning and turning the local news of and seeing your son’s face on the TV screen as one of the few hundred who died just last night. It was horrifying.
All this effected American society greatly. Moms were losing sons, sisters were losing brothers, and children were losing dads. The Vietnam war had a harsh outcome. “More than 47,000Americans were killed in action,11,000 died of other causes, and 303,000 were wounded”(Internet).
As more and more Americans continued to leave for Southeast Asia, the American people responded with disillusionment and it caused the American society to lose faith in the government, as a series of powerful protests took place across the nation. Opposition to the Vietnam War in the United States developed immediately after the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.
Early protests were organized around questions about the morality of Us Military involvement in Vietnam. As each key event of the war occurred, the antiwar sentiment steadily rose. “Students and professors began to organize “teach-ins” on the war in early 1965 at the University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin, and the University of California at Berkeley”(Encarta). eventually, virtually no college or university was without an organized student movement.
During this time, the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was formed. At its 1964 national convention, the SDS members voted to protest the war by organizing a march on Washington for the following April. No one expected more than a few thousand marchers. “In April 1965, 20,000 people participated in the march”(Encarta).
This really showed how the war had effected American society, causing protests, marches, and much more to come. When Johnston sent in the first combat troops and ordered the bombing of North Vietnam in 1965, the antiwar movement in the US erupted. “Many Americans felt cheated and betrayed by Johnson because they had considered him as a peace candidate in 1964″(American Odyssey). SDS now led a long mission. A mission into ending the war in Vietnam.
The Washington,20,000 person march, was the first of greater, more militant protests. that took place. That spring, the SDS also organized “teach-ins” in major universities, where thousands of students and teachers got together and sang, talked, and debated on the war.
Opposition to the war also caused students to resist the draft. They refused to be selected for military services because they thought the war was wrong. Too many 19 year old boys were dying. Too many. College students received deferments, or postponement of military services, because of their occupation. “So this drafting fell unfairly on the poor and working-class, and minorities. In fact, poor and working-class men were twice as likely to be drafted, and if drafted, twice as likely to fight as men from the middle class.”(American Odyssey).
As the number of men being drafted rose from 5,000 per month in 1965 to 50,000 per month in 1967, more and more draft resistance groups formed, and by fall of 1966, more than 3 dozen groups had begun in college campuses across the nation. People had started to stand up for something that was wrong, and they weren’t about to lose their own lives for a war which they thought didn’t have real meaning to it.
As the US troops in Vietnam increased, the antiwar movement also grew, and the American society continued to fight, pray, and suffer as it got more and more involved and effected by this awful war. “In February 1967, over 2,500 members of the Women Strike For Peace, most of the middle-class housewives, stormed the pentagon, demanding to see “The generals who sent our sons to Vietnam.”
When refused entrance, the women began pounding on the doors with their shoes.”(American Odyssey) I think the middle-class people in American society were effected the most because it was usually them that had to mourn over the loss of their dad, or if the soldier was, fortunately, alive, they were the one’s who prayed to god to see their husband’s face once again.
In the spring of 1967, huge antiwar protests occurred in major cities such as New York City and San Francisco. Every kind of person participated in this march, priests, business people, and mothers. The protest showed the willingness and determination of the American Society as they risked getting arrested and even beat from the police, to try and stop the war. Hundreds of young men burned their draft cards in these protests, as supporters shouted “Burn cards, not people.”
As the US got deeper and deeper in the war, American Society was once again greatly affected, because it was divided over the war. Hawks were people who supported the war in America and wanted to win a military victory. Doves were people who opposed the war and questioned the morality of the war. The rest of the American people were neither doves or hawks. They didn’t support the war, but also were disturbed by the protests. So you see, American Society was divided into three groups of people, who had different beliefs, different morals, and different ideas.
“In early January 1968, hawks outnumbered doves by 62 to 22 percent. By march, the number of hawks had fallen to 41 percent, while the number of doves had climbed to 42 percent.” (American Odyssey). So as more protests were organized and carried out, people changed their beliefs and views. It was really a chaotic period in US History.
It even got more chaotic when at a peaceful protest at Kent State campus on May 4, 1970, 11 students were wounded, and four students were dead. None of them were radical activists. This was truly a horrible action by the National Guardsmen, who were responsible for the wounded and the four dead students. Many more violent protests followed the Kent State incident.
The student’s movement was not going to give up. Although it failed to change US society, it did succeed in effecting change. The Vietnam war was one of the longest and most costly wars in the history of the United States. It changed the lives of many people, and it eliminated others.
Every night, American civilians were faced with the harsh reality of a war we could not win on their television sets. The course of the American history was dramatically changed by the Vietnam war. The American policies on foreign affairs, domestic politics, and cultural and social history were greatly changed by this event. Some say it was a “good war, and some say it was a “bad war. I say that “war is heck” and that “any war is a bad war”.
It was a classic story of good guy versus bad, communism versus freedom, and a constant struggle for stability. The war effected everyone and everything around it. Was it worth all the lives and people that were lost? I don’t think there is a correct answer to that. But I do know that war brings suffering, fear, and violence, and the Vietnam war is a prime example of that.
The Vietnam War officially began for the United States with the President’s order to send troops into Vietnam, although there was no official declaration of war (As was his right as stated in the Constitution of the United States). According to politicians, the reason the U.S. had to become involved was that this war to be a war on Communism.
In afterthought, what was the possibility that North Vietnam or any other Communist country would actually invade America? The logic at the time was that if the Communists were not stopped in Vietnam, they would then invade the shores of the U.S.! In reality, the Vietnam War was a war that was fought for no real purpose.
The Vietnam War was unique in that it was the first war in which the media played a significant role. During the war, television and radio news programs both aired scenes from the? front?. Americans were able to see, firsthand, the death and destruction being carried on in Vietnam. The media’s depiction of the war was not glorified in any way. On the contrary, many Americans were given the opportunity to witness the true horrors of war.
More importantly, Americans at home were able to see who their? boys on the front? were truly fighting. Sadly, these? Ruthless? enemies were often young children and innocent bystanders, not? Yellow monsters? bent on world domination. The media’s role in the Vietnam War helped to play a large part in the development of various groups who vehemently opposed the war.
The ? Resistance? groups were bands of individuals who truly felt that there was no purpose to the Vietnam War and that Americans should not be there. These groups consisted mainly of young men who showed their opposition to the war by holding rallies and protests, and by refusing to be drafted. These groups were made up of individuals from a myriad assortment of races and ethnicity. In a sense, the war helped quell the strife, which existed between the races, at least for a short while.
People of all colors and creed joined together in a common goal, that being the opposition of the war. Just as the media helped the American people at home by fueling their impassioned resistance, it proved to be detrimental to those fighting the war for the United States, and forever changed the image of the American soldier. Gone for many was the proud young man waving Old Glory as he marched valiantly into battle against any threat to the American way; to be replaced by a vicious murderer of innocent women and children.
Many soldiers, upon returning from Vietnam, were forced to face abuse and assault from the American people. Instead of being welcomed home with open arms and ticker-tape parades, they were greeted with a hail of profanity and a shower of spit. These were those veterans that came home and simply signed up for another duty, just to escape from the land they once called home.
Yet there were also many that stayed to oppose the war alongside those in the resistance. At the same time, they also pleaded for forgiveness with the American people. ?Don’t condemn us. Remember those that died?.
The Vietnam War was the longest war in which the United States took part. This heartbreaking war began in 1957. Vietnam is a small country in Southeast Asia that was divided into the Communist-Democratic Republic of Vietnam, known as North Vietnam, and the non-Communist Republic of Vietnam called South Vietnam.
North Vietnamese and Communist-trained South Vietnamese rebel’s goals were to overthrow the government of South Vietnam and to eventually reunite the country as one. The United States and the South Vietnamese armies tried to stop this but soon realize that this was a challenge. At the time, Vietnam was part of the French colonial empire in Indochina.
The United States sent France military help but the French were easily defeated in 1954.This conflict then split Vietnam into two. The United States aided France and later on non-communist South Vietnam. The Vietnam War was a conflict between the forces of the South Vietnamese and the United States military against the North Vietnamese government, army, and the Vietcong. This Cold War led to many casualties to both sides of the factions.
President Harry S. Truman declared that the United States must help any nation in any sort of need or being challenged by Communism, that was the United States government’s responsibilities. This responsibility was also adopted by the next three presidents, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson. They feared that if one Southeast Asian nation joined the Communists, the other states would also fall into their power. As the fighting between the Viet Cong and the South Vietnamese continued, the U.S. continued to send many advisers to South Vietnam, so they can teach and provided military support for the soldiers of South Vietnam.
North Vietnam fired directly upon two U.S. ships in international waters on August 2nd and the 4th, of 1964, this was known as the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, Congress responded with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. This resolution gave the President the authority to escalate U.S. involvement in Vietnam. President Johnson’s goal for U.S. involvement in Vietnam was not for the U.S. to win the war, but for U.S. troops to bolster South Vietnam’s defenses until South Vietnam could then take over.
President Lyndon Johnson used that authority to order the first U.S. ground troops to Vietnam in March 1965. The Vietnam War had several stages. From 1957 to 1963, North Vietnam aided rebels opposed to the government of South Vietnam, later known as Viet Cong. From 1964 to 1969, North Vietnam and the United States did most of the fighting, protecting civilians, and teaching the South Vietnamese military proper training and tactics. Some countries came to the aid of South Vietnam.
These countries are Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Korea, and Thailand. By April 1969, the number of U.S. forces in South Vietnam had reached its peak of more than 543,000 troops. North Vietnam wanted to end U.S. support of South Vietnam and to reunite the north and south into a single nation. China and the Soviet Union, at that time, are the two largest Communist nations, they gave the Vietnamese Communists war materials but not troops.
The North Vietnamese armies were manly the Viet Cong. The Vietcong were North Vietnamese guerrillas who sought to overthrow the southern Vietnamese government. This term was originally applied by Diem’s regime to Communist troops left in hideouts in South Vietnam after the Geneva Conference of 1954. In 1957, South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem began to crack down on Communists and other political groups. Whoever resisted his rule is to be described as a Viet Cong.
Whether they were Communists or not, nothing really mattered at that time. The term Cong is a slang that stands for the word Communists. President Ngo Dinh Diem’s actions soon increased opposition to his rule and drove many non-Communists into an alliance with the Communists.
The troops were later supported and directed by North Vietnam, the Viet Cong first tried many tactics to overthrow the South Vietnamese regime, and then finally resorted to open warfare. With North Vietnamese backing, the Viet Cong waged a successful guerrilla war against Diem’s army. T
he United States wanted to stop the spread of Communism, so they responded by sending thousands of troops to South Vietnam in 1965. North Vietnam, in turn, sent thousands of its troops. U.S. troops fought a jungle war, mostly against the well-supplied Viet Cong.
The Viet Cong would attack in ambushes, set up booby traps, and escape through a complex network of underground tunnels. For U.S. forces, even just finding their enemy proved to be a very difficult task. Since the Viet Cong hid in the dense brush, U.S. forces would drop napalm bombs which cleared an area by causing the leaves to drop off or to burn away. This was a tactical strategically to show the location of hidden Vietcong’s. In every village, U.S. troops had difficulty determining which villagers were the enemies.
This was because the women and children could build booby traps or help house and feed the Viet Cong. U.S. soldiers commonly became frustrated with the fighting conditions in Vietnam. Many U.S. soldiers who suffered from low morale became angry, and some became frantic. The Vietnam War soon caused widespread disruptions and suffering to both sides, having many causalities. The United States’ causalities in Vietnam were more than 50,000 deaths.
The South Vietnamese causalities gone up to over 400,000 people, but the Vietcong and North Vietnamese people causalities escalated over 900,000 people. As the war stretched on, some soldiers came to mistrust their government’s reasons for keeping them there. As the war dragged on, it divided many Americans into hawks and doves. The hawks supported the fight against Communism, but they disliked Johnson’s policy of slow, gradual troop increases and urged a decisive defeat of North Vietnam.
The doves are the ones who opposed the U.S. involvement and held mass protests. Many doves believed that U.S. security was not at risk. While others see that their nation was supporting a corrupted and undemocratic government in South Vietnam.
The growing costs of the war, however, probably did more to arouse public uneasiness in the United States than the antiwar movement did. In a television speech on May 14, in a speech before the United Nations, President Nixon set forth the government’s peace proposals in great detail. “We have offered the complete withdrawal of all outside forces within 1 year.” “We have proposed a cease-fire under international supervision.” “We have offered free elections under international supervision with the Communists participating in the organization and conduct of the elections as an organized political force.
And the Saigon Government has pledged to accept the result of the elections.” –President Nixon. The U.S. has indicated that we are willing to discuss the proposals that have been put forth by the other side. They have declared that anything is negotiable except the right of the people of South Vietnam to determine their own future.
In the end, Hanoi has refused even to discuss their proposals. The North Vietnamese arrogantly refuse to negotiate anything but an imposition. They demand the government’s unconditional acceptance of their terms, which are that they must withdraw all American forces immediately and unconditionally and that they must overthrow the Government of South Vietnam as the troops leave Vietnam.
All the North Vietnamese want is the ultimatum that the United States imposes a communist regime on 17 million people in South Vietnam. The United States found out this is a waste of time for trying to negotiate with them. The peace talks failed to produce an agreement, and more and more Americans became impatient for the war to end. The length of the war, high causalities, and the war crimes has led the United States people against the Vietnam War under the leadership of President Richard M. Nixon.
President Nixon soon felt he had to reduce U.S. involvement in the conflict. On June 8, 1969, he announced a new policy known as Vietnamization. This called for stepped-up training programs for South Vietnamese forces and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Vietnam. The U.S. troop withdrawal began in July 1969. In March 1972, North Vietnam began a major invasion of South Vietnam. Communist armies of North Vietnam launched a massive invasion of South Vietnam; their army consists of tanks, artillery, and other advanced offensive weapons supplied by the Soviet Union.
Nixon ordered the placing of explosives in the harbor of Haiphong, North Vietnam’s major port for importing military supplies. Even so, North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops won an easy victory when they attacked Phuoc Long, northeast of Saigon. In March 1975, the North Vietnamese forced South Vietnamese troops into a retreat from a region known as the Central Highlands.
Thousands of civilians fled and died in the gunfire or from starvation on that horrid day. This retreat became known as the Convoy of Tears. Although some South Vietnamese army units fought on, few soldiers or civilians rallied in support of the failing South Vietnamese government.
The war soon ended on April 30, 1975, when the North Vietnamese troops entered Saigon, the South Vietnamese government formally surrendered to them. Saigon was then renamed Ho Chi Minh City, but to this day many of us South Vietnamese people still call our home, Saigon. To this day we are trying to fight for our freedom, our rights to live, treated, and free speech like a human being.
Warfare has often been used by different countries in order to enable them to advance and defend their national interests. Wars that have been waged in the past have often elicited mixed reactions. For instance, some have been considered unjust, whereas others are justified based on a number of principles. A country can declare war on another because of varied reasons. However, a war is considered a just course based on the following principles.
First, a war is just if it is waged for the purpose of self-defense (Buell, 2014). A country can resort to warfare in order to defend itself from aggression. Additionally, a country can declare war in order to protect a weaker state from aggression in accordance with existing treaty obligations. However, this does not necessarily permit a country to wage a preventive war.
Second, a war should be waged as a last resort. Thus, “countries ought to explore various peaceful means of resolving disputes before resorting to warfare” (Buell, 2014).
Third, war is considered just if a legitimate authority undertakes it. For example, a legitimate authority includes a sovereign state, an international agency like the United Nations, and an alliance formed by various nations for purposes of self-defense.
Fourth, a just war should employ the principle of discrimination (Buell, 2014). According to the principle of discrimination, “the weapons used in war must discriminate between civilians and the combatants” (BBC, 2014). Finally, the most crucial goal of just war should be to restore peace and security.
From the preceding discussion, one can assess whether America’s involvement in Vietnam was a just course. The United States of America mainly undertook military action against Vietnam in order to curb the spread of communism (Roskin & Berry, 2010).
However, America’s action was unjust because it had not suffered any form of direct aggression from the Vietnamese. It had only faced an ideological threat. Moreover, the United States of America would have explored other peaceful means of curtailing communism before engaging in military action.
For instance, it would have formulated anti-communist policies in order to contain its spread in third world countries (Roskin & Berry, 2010). Furthermore, the war worsened the living conditions of the civilians. For instance, the war led to massive loss of lives and destruction of properties.
The United States of America would have saved the lives of many American soldiers and Vietnamese civilians by not getting involved in the Vietnam War. Additionally, America would be highly regarded for morality, which has been its major principle in international relations. However, the involvement of America in the war has made other countries around the world to question its principle of morality.
According to the post, the author has clearly shown that America’s military action against Vietnam was unjust. For instance, he has argued that America lacked an immediate threat to self-preservation. Additionally, the author has stated that America had not explored all measures of diplomacy. This is true because America had only faced an ideological threat from the advocates of communism in Vietnam. Moreover, America would have exhausted other diplomatic actions.
For example, it would have formulated anti-communist policies to control its spread to other developing countries. The author has also stated that the cold war was inventible despite America’s military action against Vietnam. This has been attributed to the rise of two major ideologies after the Second World War.
The Vietnam War occurred in 1955 in the regions of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The war brought around rival countries that supported different ideologies. This is to means that there was the involvement of the Soviet Union and the United States with all propagating the spread of their ideologies. This paper hence tries to illuminate the issues surrounding the war with the cause being its agenda.
The aftermath of the Second World War had South Vietnam controlled by the French and North Vietnam controlled by Viet Minh. Viet Minh was considered an ally of the communist and received backing from communist China, Russia, and Eastern Europe. The French intending to reclaim the North in 1946 endorsed Bao Dai as ruler to the dislike of Russia and China who recognized Viet Minh.
This led to the bombardment of Haiphong in 1946 that killed 6,000 people. They however did not win their endeavour. In 1953 the French still tried to overturn Viet Minh to no success leading to their withdrawal from Vietnam. This background plays a critical role in the understanding of the involvement of various countries.
The Geneva accord stands out as one that epitomized the interest played by various countries. According to Brigham (1), it divided Vietnam into half and the participants of the conference were the United States, France, and the people republic of China. The Non-communist according to (Simon 1) in the likes of the United States and its allies such as France were against the division of Vietnam into half as this would make it fall into the hands of the communist.
The alliance that was formed by the U.S and its allies was then meant to resist the spread of communism. The U.S on this front was adopting the policy of containment which meant to contain the communist in their existing boundaries; marking the U.S involvement in the Vietnam War (Simon 1). The elections of 1956 were not to take place leading to the division between the south and the North.
The North led by Viet Minh intended to spread its communist ideology to the south that was led by Ngo Dinh Drem. The U.S felt the need to intervene and as early as 1950 had military advisors sent to the then French Indochina. The North who viewed the war as against the colonial masters and later a U.S puppet state used guerrilla tactics that were to be referred as the Viet Cong.
The involvement of the United States was even intensified by the arrival of more troops in 1960 to 1962. This was to escalate to even international borders and led to the bombing of Cambodia and Laos. The United States hence used its resources in trying to stop the spread of communism to the South leading to the death of thousands of people.
The fall of Saigon in 1973 saw the end of the Vietnam War and the defeat of the United States to its endeavor and the victory of the communist in the region. It is outright that the U.S and the Soviet Union were using smaller countries to propagate their ideologies with the escalation of war in Vietnam being an example.
To this end, Vietnam was a victim of the cold war as the immense support received from both the United States and the Soviets were all mitigated to spread their ideologies. This then lays the blame for the Vietnam War entirely to the cold war.
Example #7 – interesting ideas
Whose fault is any military mistake? The US military fought a local war against people who were willing to dedicate generations of their community to defeat the foreign invaders.
The question is “Why Did we lose the Vietnam War?” not “why didn’t we win the war”. To say we were within 2 years (or 3 or any number) of winning the war is to ignore what happened, and to ignore the gains made by the North Vietnamese and Vietcong during the years we thought we were winning.
It is foolish to say we could have won the war. Look at what happened over the years..
We lied to to our own people, and faked the incident used as an excuse to go to war against the Vietnamese (the Tonkin Gulf Incident, which never happened). We dropped more bombs on Vietnam than we dropped in all of WWII. We used millions of tons of Napalm to burn the very civilians who were on our side. We committed war crimes and massacred civilians we were claiming to protect. We fought against people who were willing to wait 2 or 3 generations to have a chance to oppose us, and we failed to understand that.
All of the above is part of the public, historical, record. In the Pentagon Papers, US Military strategists analyzed their own lack of tactical capability and their need to NOT fight this kind of “unwinnable” war.
We lost because we had no strategy, we had no tactical ability to control the populace, we allowed corrupt governments to steal us blind and use our military for their own greedy purposes, and we never had a clear plan to win, to stop the warmaking of the North, to interdict the South Vietnamese (the Vietcong were almost all locals), and to provide a peaceful governing solution to the entire country.
Some of us are angry that lives were lost in vain, but we have hoped that the US could learn a valuable lesson about exporting our culture to people who don’t want it. From the other answers here, I guess we haven’t learned that yet.
We have made a lot of the same mistakes in Iraq, and worse, in Iraq we are bringing a Christian oriented democracy to a Muslim dominated culture.
This a really basic, strategic mistake. Oh, yeah. The US never lost any stand-up battle with the North Vietnamese regulars, or with the Vietcong. However, that statistic is beside the point. War is not measured by who wins the battles, war is measured by who wins, period. The US did not win.
Start of the Vietnam War
This is a difficult question because there was no official declaration of war. But here are some helpful dates. When the war “started” often depends on which event ppl are referring to:
POSSIBLE START DATES FOR THE WAR:
- Sept. 27, 1950 — U.S. establishes the Military Assistance Advisory Group, Indochina (MAAG) in Saigon to aid the French military (the French had been fighting communist rebels in Vietnam, their pre-WWII colony, since 1945).
- November 1, 1955 — The U.S. redesignates MAAG, Indochina, as MAAG, Vietnam to specify its new direct combat advisory role with the South Vietnamese Army. The U.S. essentially took over the advisory role from the French, who were leaving Vietnam after their defeat at Diem Bien Phu in 1954. The Department of Defense views this date as the earliest qualifying date for inclusion on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
- March 1959 — Ho Chi Minh declares a People’s War to unite all of Vietnam under his leadership. His Politburo orders a changeover to an all-out military struggle. From the comnmunist perspective, the “Vietnam War” against the U.S. has now officially started.
- December 11, 1961 — U.S. aircraft carrier “Core” arrives in Saigon with 33 helicopters and 400 air and ground crewmen assigned to operate them for the South Vietnamese Army. Also, U.S. pilots start to train & fly support missions with the South Vietnamese Air Force. This reall marks the first larger scale participation of U.S. military “advisors”.
- August 7, 1964 — In response to the incidents involving U.S> naval vessels U.S.S. Maddox and the U.S.S. Turner Joy, the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly passes the “Gulf of Tonkin Resolution,” allowing the President “to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force” to prevent further attacks against U.S. forces. Many people view this as the “official” start of the war, although there was never a declaration of war.
- March 8, 1965 — The first U.S. combat troops arrive in Vietnam, as 3500 Marines land at China Beach to defend the American air base at Da Nang. They join 23,000 American military advisors already in Vietnam. The arrival of combat troops is considered by some the start of the war, although American military advisors have been in Vietnam for over 10 years.
Here is more input and answers from others:
For the US, the start date would have to be around July of 1961. My battalion was on patrol in the South China sea when President Kennedy ordered us to Laos. We were to be issued live ammo and to wait for further instructions. We floated in the South China sea for several months before we were ordered back to our home base of Okinawa. I was with 2nd bat. 9th Marines on the USS Paul Revere when all of this happened.
The US military typically views the beginning of its official military deployment in 1961, when we sent 400 helicopters (as well as the crews to fly & maintain them) to South Vietnam. Others point to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and the subsequent massive build-up of US forces in 1964 as the real beginning of the “war.” Of course, American military “advisors” had been in South Vietnam since the late 1950’s.
That is a difficult question because there was no official declaration of war. The start could be 1950, 1954, or 1955. For the US, the start date is generally considered in 1961. It ended 1975 when the last Marines departed Saigon.
After the French defeat in 1954, the communists agreed to a partitioned country. The U.S. sent advisors to Viet Nam in late 1959 and early 1960 under President Kennedy. It escalated from this point on until the U.S. withdrew in 1973. Viet Nam was at war from 1945 until 1973.
The North Vietnamese economy was a failure from the first day they took it over. It never was self-sustaining, before their war in South Vietnam, during their war in South Vietnam, or after their war when they overran South Vietnam (which always had a booming economy even in the middle of the war). The USSR and the PRC supported the North Vietnamese economy and kept it from collapsing.
After they took over the booming economy of South Vietnam and applied their command-economic theories to it, that economy collapsed too. For the next fifteen years the USSR propped up the Communists economies in Vietnam.
After it collapsed the Vietnamese Communists had to turn to the Chinese model, dump their failed command-economy, and institute a modified free-market economy (essentially turning them from lip-service Communists into old-fashioned totalitarian thugs).