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The Vietnam War

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The Vietnam War. Vietnam: My Q’s. How did the Domino Theory motivate America to become involved in Vietnam? What was the Great Society and why did it “die in Vietnam?” Why did many Americans protest the war in Vietnam? How did the Vietnam War affect the 1968 presidential race in America?

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vietnam my q s
Vietnam: My Q’s
  • How did the Domino Theory motivate America to become involved in Vietnam?
  • What was the Great Society and why did it “die in Vietnam?”
  • Why did many Americans protest the war in Vietnam?
  • How did the Vietnam War affect the 1968 presidential race in America?
  • How did Vietnam change America’s military future?
splitting vietnam
Splitting Vietnam
  • The Vietnamese overthrew their French colonizers in the mid 1950s and an international agreement in 1954 called the Geneva Accords split the country temporarily at the 17th parallel.
  • An election in 1956 would reunify the government under one government.
  • Based on many polls Ho Chi Minh, the communist leader in Vietnam, was bound to win the election and Vietnam would then become entirely communist.
getting involved
Getting Involved
  • President Eisenhower refused to allow the free elections to occur and the United States implemented its own government in South Vietnam under the unpopular Ngo Dinh Diem.
  • Because of this puppet government and its abuses, widespread protests in South Vietnam occurred and guerilla fighters and armed peasants in South Vietnam formed the National Liberation Front, which was known as the Vietcong to Americans.
  • The president worried that if Vietnam fell to communists, then all of the surrounding countries in Asia would also fall to communism like dominoes.
  • This Containment policy became known as the “Domino Theory.”
jfk vietnam
JFK & Vietnam
  • JFK entered office determined that the communists must not take over Southern Vietnam, believing fully in the domino theory.
  • At first, he sent large shipments of weapons to the pro-American Diem government in South Vietnam.
  • However, the South Vietnamese government was unpopular and ineffective, causing JFK to send many of his top military advisers to Vietnam.
  • By the time of JFK’s assassination, American officials became convinced that weapons and military advisers would not defeat the Vietcong, only more American troops could do the job.
lbj s war
LBJ’s War
  • After JFK dies, his Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson takes over the presidency and, by default, the war in Vietnam.
  • Afraid that Republicans would say that he was soft on communism, LBJ decided to step up involvement in Vietnam.
  • In August, 1964, LBJ claimed that North Vietnamese patrol boats had fired on two U.S. destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin. The first attack resulted in little damage and no American casualties. It was also later found out that the second attack was fabricated; no 2nd attack ever happened.
  • LBJ then persuaded Congress to give him tremendous authority to “take all necessary measures” in Vietnam.
  • This became known as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.
endless war
Endless War
  • From 1965-1968, LBJ ordered three times the tonnage of bombs that was dropped by all combatants in WWII.
  • Still, the Vietcong was fighting back with fervor.
  • Seeing no end in sight with just overhead bombing, LBJ ordered American soldiers to the jungles and mountains of Vietnam to defeat the communist enemies.
  • Hundreds of thousands of young men were drafted to take up arms in a war they knew little about.
protest over vietnam
Protest Over Vietnam
  • The Vietnam polarized the U.S. as no event since the Civil War had.
  • Mounting numbers of college students and faculty, clergy, and liberals resisted the draft, fled the country, burned draft cards, conducted teach-ins, and demonstrated against sending men to Vietnam.
  • These protesters argued that we had no business meddling in Vietnam’s affairs.
  • Media coverage of Vietnam—especially television coverage, exposed the horrors of war to the general public including the use of napalm and agent orange on the Vietnamese.
the great society dies in vietnam
The Great Society Dies In Vietnam
  • In 1964, LBJ declared that through domestic reform, America would become the “Great Society.”
  • LBJ proposed that through programs like Head Start, the Job Corps, and increased federal spending towards domestic welfare, America would be free from poverty and want.
  • However, as many protesters pointed out, these programs would suffer from funding that went directly to fund the war in Vietnam.
the tet offensive
The Tet Offensive
  • On January 31, 1968, the start of the Tet—or the Vietnamese New Year—the Vietcong launched massive offensives deep into South Vietnam.
  • Even though the Americans repulsed the Vietcong, the heavy number of casualties began to convince the general public that Vietnam was a war that they could not win.
  • By March 1968, 42% of Americans supported complete withdrawal from Vietnam.
a shaken president
A Shaken President
  • On March 31, LBJ finally recognized that his efforts in Vietnam as president had been fruitless.
  • LBJ declared on national television that he would halt the bombing of Vietnam and start to withdrawal troops.
  • Doubtful that he would win re-election in 1968 against Nixon and JFK’s younger brother, LBJ somberly also stated that he would not be running for president.
  • The 1968 presidential campaign was also impacted by the Vietnam War when anti-war protests broke out at the Democratic convention in Chicago that was supposed to help the Democrats win election. Instead, the live news broadcast of the violent protests played a significant part in the Democrats’ loss to Republican candidate Richard Nixon.
nixon s war
Nixon’s War
  • Helping him win election in 1968, Nixon declared that from this point forward America would supply and economically support those fighting communism, but America would not do the fighting.
  • Due to the fact that soldiers in Vietnam knew that barely anyone supported the fighting, morale plummeted among the troops during the years of 1968-69.
  • This directly resulted in abuse of alcohol and drugs, and an increase in atrocities committed against Vietnamese civilians.
  • One of the most notorious incidents of the war was the My Lai Massacre in March 1968. Soldiers deliberately killed several hundred innocent Vietnamese villagers, gang-raped girls, and lined up children and grandparents along ditches to be shot and dumped.
peace with honor
“Peace With Honor”
  • Another policy that helped Nixon win election in 1968 was his “peace with honor” slogan.
  • He stated that the Americans would secure peace in Vietnam in a way that was not disgraceful.
  • However, Nixon actually expanded the war into Cambodia and Laos by heavily bombing communist strongholds.
  • Eventually in 1973, peace was settled with the Paris Accords, ending the fighting between the U.S. and North Vietnam.
peace without honor
Peace Without Honor
  • However, the Paris Accords left the South Vietnamese “hanging out to dry,” leaving them to fight the Vietcong by themselves.
  • The South was eventually routed by the North.
  • America’s longest war had killed 58,000 men, wounded over 300,000 and cost $150 billion.
  • Perhaps most importantly, the Vietnam War impacted America’s military future by convincing many Americans that the containment policy was not worth starting wars over and that they should seek allies in future conflicts.