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The Vietnam War. Gulf of Tonkin incident. 1964 – U.S.S. Maddox fired on by North Vietnamese torpedo boats LBJ insists that attacks were unprovoked, but U.S. had been spying on the North. Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. August 7, 1964 Congress passes the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

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Gulf of tonkin incident
Gulf of Tonkin incident

  • 1964 – U.S.S. Maddox fired on by North Vietnamese torpedo boats

  • LBJ insists that attacks were unprovoked, but U.S. had been spying on the North


Gulf of tonkin resolution
Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

  • August 7, 1964

  • Congress passes the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

    • Authorized the president to “take all necessary measures to repeal any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.”

  • Congress essentially handed over its war powers to the President.


The u s sends troops
The U.S. sends troops

  • March 1965

  • Operation Rolling Thunder – sustained bombing campaign of North Vietnam

  • LBJ orders first combat troops to Vietnam – fighting alongside South Vietnamese troops against the VC.


The u s sends troops1
The U.S. sends troops

  • General William Westmoreland declares that without more men the VC will take over

  • By the end of 1965 – 180,000 U.S. combat troops in Vietnam

  • By 1968, 500,000 troops and $30 billion annually


Problems
Problems

  • Difficult to recognize Vietcong

    • Enemy and friends are all Vietnamese

    • Civilians = enemy

  • Conventional tactics did not work in jungle warfare


Tactics of vietcong
Tactics of Vietcong

  • Hit and run ambush tactics

  • Tunnels – allowed them to withstand airstrikes, surprise attacks then disappear

  • Booby traps and land mines

  • Grenades, machine guns supplied by Soviets and Chinese

  • Punjitraps – deliberately contaminated pits with sharp spikes

  • Blend in with civilian population

  • Ho Chi Minh Trail – through Cambodia and Laos to transport supplies and weapons







Tactics of u s
Tactics of U.S.

  • Search and Destroy

    • Kill as many as possible

  • Napalm – set fire to the jungle

  • Agent Orange – killed leaves

  • Burned villages, killed livestock

  • Air strikes

  • Tunnel rats

  • Better military equipment








More problems
More Problems

  • Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara kept up a string of optimistic reports

  • “Quagmire” – we weren’t losing, but we weren’t winning

  • As futility became apparent – public support eroded

    • Few protested war before 1965

    • By 1967 – debated by most Americans


Credibility gap
Credibility Gap

  • Vietnam is America’s first real TV War

  • LBJ and military officers claimed the U.S. was making progress in Vietnam.

  • Photos and video footage showed otherwise

  • “credibility gap” – gap between what LBJ was telling the American people and what was actually happening in Vietnam.


Tet offensive
Tet Offensive

  • January 31, 1968

  • Massive campaign – attacking U.S. targets and cities in South Vietnam

  • U.S. – tactical victory, political defeat

  • Media coverage implies defeat

  • U.S. support for war plummets, morale among troops low


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