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Vietnam. Before the War. Oppressive French control 1800’s-1941 -Indochinese Communist Party formed Formed Vietminh to fight for independence Ho Chi Minh was leader Japanese occupation 1941-1945 French tried to regain control -US supported France (Domino Theory)

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Before the war

Before the War

  • Oppressive French control 1800’s-1941

    -Indochinese Communist Party formed

    • Formed Vietminh to fight for independence

    • Ho Chi Minh was leader

  • Japanese occupation 1941-1945

  • French tried to regain control

    -US supported France (Domino Theory)

    -French lost all control by 1954

  • Before the war1

    Before the War

    • GENEVA ACCORDS divided Vietnam at 17th Parallel – communists in North, anti-communists in South

      North South

      -Led by Ho Chi Minh -Led by Ngo Dinh Diem

      -Capital: Hanoi-Capital: Saigon

      • Elections scheduled for 1956 to unify the country under one leader

    • 1956 elections cancelled

      • Ho Chi Minh’s popularity in the North was likely to lead to a communist victory

      • Ngo Dinh Diem refused to hold elections – decision supported by U.S. who feared communist victory

      • US would provide support in return for Diem setting up a stable reform government

    Diem s administration

    Diem’s Administration

    • Diem doesn’t keep up his side of the deal

      -Corrupt government – suppression of opposition and no land redistribution (which made Ho Chi Minh popular in North)

      -Devout Catholic, intolerant of the many Buddhists in Vietnam, angering them

      -Distrusted anyone outside his family

      -Had little understanding of communism or democracy


    Buddhist monk sets himself on fire to protest the Diem regime

    Before the war2

    Before the War

    • Start of the Vietcong

      -Communist group in South Vietnam opposed to Diem and the US

      -Supported by North Vietnam with weapons traveling along Ho Chi Minh Trail (network of trails along border of Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam)

      -Used surprise (guerilla) attacks to assassinate many of Diem’s government officials

    Before the war3

    Before the War

    • Kennedy supported Diem (at first)

      -Tried to prove he was not “soft” on communism

      -Sent thousands of military advisors into Vietnam

    • Diem toppled

      -November 1, 1963 military coup overthrew Diem

      -It soon became clear Diem would have to go

      -Coup supported by U.S.

      -Diem assassinated against Kennedy’s wishes

      • Kennedy would also be dead within weeks

    • LBJ takes over

      -North growing stronger

      -sensitive of being “soft on communism”

    Gulf of tonkin

    Gulf of Tonkin

    • Gulf of Tonkin – Johnson escalated the war

      -August 1964 – North Vietnamese boat fired at U.S. ship Maddox

      -U.S. ship not harmed, but incident became excuse for Johnson to escalate conflict with North Vietnam

      -LBJ asked Congress for military go-ahead in Vietnam; received the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which gave significant power to Johnson to fight war as he saw fit

      -Only 2 “no” votes in Congress

    Johnson takes office and control of war

    Johnson Takes Office and Control of War

    • Operation Rolling Thunder began

      -February 1965

      -Sustained bombing of North Vietnam

      -American troops began heading to Vietnam

      -50,000 by June 1965

    American military strategy

    American Military Strategy

    • General in charge – William Westmoreland

    • Westmoreland’s strategy was war of attrition (gradually wear down the enemy, weaken morale)

    • Continually asked for more troops

      -U.S. leadership was unimpressed with ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam)

    Difficulties for u s troops

    Difficulties for U.S. troops

    • Not used to jungle terrain

    • Guerilla tactics of enemy unconventional

    • Enemy had detailed knowledge of land

    • Enemy hid among civilian population in South Vietnam

    • “Sneaky” war – hit and run attacks, booby traps, and land minds

    • Vietcong tunnels

    Difficulties for u s troops cont

    Difficulties for U.S. troops (cont.)

    • War of attrition did not work

    • South Vietnamese government still unable to find a credible leader

    • U.S. troop morale sinking, though most still believed in containing communism

    • Americans tried to win the “hearts and minds” of civilians, but tactics used to expose the enemy made it difficult to win support


    • Agent Orange: herbicide/defoiliant

      -used to kill trees

      -found to cause death, cancer, birth defects

      -discovery didn’t effect US use


    • Napalm- thickener added to gasoline to create a jelly substance

      -gasoline splashed and drained too easily

      - used in bombs and flame throwers

    Trouble with the war at home

    Trouble with the War at Home

    • Living Room War – 1st war played out on TV

    • Credibility gap between LBJ’s version of war and what was really happening – 16,000 dead by 1967

      • Government continued to tell Americans war would be won, fighting going well-

        -but TV and news media showed another side

  • Protest by the youth begin to grow by 1967

  • Increased cost of prolonged war

  • The draft selective service

    The Draft (Selective Service)

    • Many way to avoid serving if drafted

      -Medical deferments

      -Finding other services (ex. Coast Guard)

      -Moving to Canada

      -College deferments

    • Because most college students were white and upper-middle class, soldiers were increasingly lower class and minorities

      -Lower middle class accounted for 80%

      -Minorities accounted for 20% of deaths but only 10% of population

    Protest and opposition

    Protest and Opposition

    • Many “New Left” groups created to protest various college campus issues – soon took up cause of protesting the war

      -believed the war was a civil war, and morally unjust

    • Tactics of protest included marches, gatherings, music, burning draft cards, etc.

    • Country divided into two camps

      • HAWKS – for war, often shocked at little support shown for country and troops

      • DOVES – against war

    • Johnson’s policies criticized by both sides, but he continued slow escalation

    1968 presidential race

    1968 Presidential Race

    -Johnson decided not to run again

    • Planned to slowly turn war over to South Vietnamese

    • Wanted to end the draft

      -Chaos within Democratic Party allowed Republican Richard Nixon to win election

      (only 43% of popular vote)

    • Promised to bring back law and order

    • Promised to end war in Vietnam

    Nixon s plan

    Nixon’s Plan

    • “Peace with Honor” – wanted to pull U.S. out of war without conceding defeat or allowing South Vietnam to fall

    • Began process of Vietnamization (turning over the fighting to the South Vietnamese army)

    • Fewer soldiers, but increased attacks

    • Led to more protests, more problems

      • My Lai Massacre

      • Invasion of Cambodia

      • Kent State shootings

      • Pentagon Papers

    Legacy of vietnam

    Legacy of Vietnam

    • Nixon and Kissinger finally settled on a withdraw plan.

    • Overall:

    • 58,000 Americans were killed

    • 365,000 wounded

    • N and S Vietnam deaths topped 1.5 million

    • Veterans not welcomed – suffered PTSD, substance abuse, suicide tendencies, etc

    • Communists imprisoned 400,000 and 1.5 million refugees left the country

    • Boat people – 50,000 perished trying to leave Vietnam through the South China Sea

    Major policy changes

    Major Policy Changes

    • U.S. ended the draft

    • November 1973 Congress passed the War Powers Act

    • Americans more cautious toward foreign affairs and more cynical toward government

      • makes us pause and consider risks before deciding to intervene


    • Vietnam memorial unveiled in 1982

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