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The Vietnam War. French Indochina. France had been ruling the people of Indochina (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia). Ho Chi Minh organized a communist party in Vietnam known as the Vietminh . This group fought for Vietnam’s independence from France.

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french indochina
French Indochina
  • France had been ruling the people of Indochina (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia).
  • Ho Chi Minh organized a communist party in Vietnam known as the Vietminh.
    • This group fought for Vietnam’s independence from France.
  • U.S. first entered the conflict in the 1950s by supporting France with money (billions $$).
  • Vietminh defeated France at Dien Bien Phu.
u s initial involvement
U.S. Initial Involvement
  • After France lost, the U.S. still wanted to prevent Ho Chi Minh’s party from taking control, even though…
    • He was very popular with everyone in North Vietnam and many in South Vietnam.
    • He was seen as a hero for his fighting in WWII and the fight for independence from France.
  • The U.S. supported the nationalist president Ngo Dinh Diem, who was anti-communist.
ngo dinh diem s issues
Ngo Dinh Diem’s Issues
  • He was unpopular with the people, especially Buddhists.
  • He was a corrupt, oppressive, ineffective leader.
  • He cancelled the Vietnam election of 1956 because he thought he was going to lose! (which he probably would have)
  • U.S. supported canceling the election because they thought he was going to lose!
  • Communist group called Vietcong began staging attacks on Diem’s corrupt gov’t.
gulf of tonkin incident
Gulf of Tonkin Incident
  • U.S. ship was in North Vietnamese waters (Gulf of Tonkin).
  • U.S. sailors said the ship was attacked while in the Gulf (we still don’t know for sure).
  • This gave President Johnson (LBJ) an excuse to authorize more military force in Vietnam.
  • By June 1965, over 50,000 U.S. troops were in Vietnam.
escalating the war
Escalating the War
  • President Johnson was advised by Robert McNamara and Dean Rusk to escalate the war. (remember these guys?)
  • By the end of 1965, over 180,000 troops were sent to Vietnam.
  • By 1967, there were 500,000 troops.
war tactics
War Tactics
  • Vietcong used guerilla tactics.
  • They used the jungle to their advantage.
  • They created a system of underground tunnels in which they lived.
  • They used a tactic of wearing down the enemy.
  • They were so intent on obtaining their independence that they would have fought to the end.
u s south vietnam tactics
U.S./South Vietnam Tactics
  • Napalm: a bomb that set fire to the jungles.
  • Agent Orange: a chemical spray released from planes that destroyed the entire landscape.
  • Both were harmful to humans, too.
  • Also conducted search-and-destroy missions in which they burned Vietcong villages and killed livestock.
public support wavers 1965 1967
Public Support Wavers: 1965-1967
  • Public opinion began shifting away from the war.
  • People were finding ways to avoid the draft, such as college, fake medical excuses, moving to Canada…
  • Many people became conscientious objectors.
  • Hawks still supported the war.
  • Doves supported peace.
tet offensive
Tet Offensive
  • Surprise attack by the Vietcong on the U.S./South Vietnamese.
    • Lasted for over a month.
    • Vietcong lost 32,000 lives; U.S. lost 3,000.
  • American public now knew that the gov’t reports saying the Vietcong were “close to defeat” were wrong.
  • Public now distrusted gov’t info on Vietnam.
nixon replaces johnson
Nixon Replaces Johnson
  • Johnson doesn’t run; Nixon is elected.
  • Began gradual withdrawal of troops in 1969 (took until 1973 to bring all of them home).
  • At the same time, Nixon continued bombing.
    • Called his tactic the “madman theory”…..
  • Then, the following four incidents greatly affected public opinion…
four divisive incidents
Four Divisive Incidents
  • My Lai Massacre: U.S. soldiers killed all the women and children in a town with no enemy soldiers. Orders were “kill anything that breathes”.
  • Invasion of Cambodia: 1970, Nixon orders troops to invade Cambodia, just as they were supposed to be winding it down.
  • Kent State Shooting: Students were protesting; ROTC building set afire; National Guard came in shooting; killed 4 students (2 who were just bystanders).
  • Pentagon Papers: Showed that LBJ had planned to go to war when he was still telling the public he wouldn’t; also showed that there were no plans to end the war ever.
the end of the war
The End of the War
  • U.S. withdrawals completely in 1973.
  • War continued in Vietnam.
  • In 1975, North Vietnamese were victorious.
  • Vietnam exists today as a unified communist nation.