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1960s Politics & Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh & Vietnam. Election of 1960. Election of 1960. John F. Kennedy (1961-1963).

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John f kennedy 1961 1963
John F. Kennedy (1961-1963)

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”

“Macho” presidency

New frontier
New Frontier

  • Convinced Congress to continue deficit spending to deal with recession (unemployment was at 6%)

  • Pushed for higher minimum wage, increased Social Security benefits, and modest housing and educational programs

  • Congress defeated plans for federal aid to education, health insurance for the elderly, and programs to help migrant workers, unemployed youths, and urban commuters

  • Peace Corps – addressed poverty in Third World countries

  • Alliance for Progress – economic assistance to Latin America to prevent the spread of communism

  • Space Race

New frontier2
New Frontier

  • Began to address issues of poverty and race relations in 1963 (The Other America by Michael Harrington, 1962 and Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin, 1961)

  • African Americans had supplied Kennedy’s margin of victory in 1960; expected presidential actions

  • At first Kennedy was quiet on civil rights issues to win southern congressional support

  • Attorney General Robert Kennedy helped protesters when federal laws were violated

  • Increasing (televised) violence in South led Kennedy to act in 1963; publicly supported integration of schools and end of Jim Crow in South

Bay of pigs invasion

Bay of Pigs Fiasco

Bay of Pigs Invasion

Kennedy cold war1
Kennedy & Cold War

  • Kennedy was criticized for “brinkmanship” policy and for not ousting Castro; Cubans switched to Republican Party

  • Khrushchev was forced out of power in USSR

  • “hot line” established between U.S. and U.S.S.R.

  • Limited Test Ban Treaty, 1963

War on poverty
“War on Poverty”

  • Economic Opportunity Act, 1964

  • (Job Corps, Neighborhood Youth Corps, VISTA, Head Start)

  • 1964 tax cut to spur economic growth

  • 1964 Civil Rights Act

Election of 19643
Election of 1964

  • Barry Goldwater’s Conscience of a Conservative (1960)

  • Kevin Phillips’ The Emerging Republican Party (1969)

    • 1964 returns showed important shift in power to West and South; rise of Sunbelt and conservatism

Great society1
Great Society

  • Johnson’s domestic agenda resulted in Congress passing more than 206 bills in the areas of education, housing, poverty, health, civil rights, the environment, and consumer advocacy.

  • Child Health Improvement and Protection Act, 1968

  • Fair Housing Act of 1968

  • Executive Order 11246 (1965)

  • Robert Weaver, first black Cabinet member (1966)

  • Constance Baker Motley, first black female federal judge (1966)

  • Thurgood Marshall, first black Supreme Court justice (1967)

Warren court
Warren Court

  • Warren Court rejected loyalty oaths, affirmed free speech, and affirmed church-state separation; Engel v. Vitale (1962)

  • Warren Court forced reapportionment; Baker v. Carr (1962)

  • Warren Court greatly increased the ability of accused criminals to defend themselves; Mapp v. Ohio (1961), Gideon v. Wainwright (1963), Escobedo v. Illinois (1964), Miranda v. Arizona (1968)

Legacy of great society
Legacy of Great Society

  • In 1960, 20% of population (40 million) were classified as poor; in 1969, only 12% (24 million) were classified as poor

  • Great Society extended health insurance to poor and elderly and provided better housing for low-income families; Number of families living in home without indoor plumbing fell from 20% to 11%

  • Infant mortality rate among the poor fell by one-third between 1965 and 1975; By 1970 only 8% of poor had never seen a doctor (20% in 1965)

  • African American median family income rose 53%; employment in professional fields and educational attainments also rose

  • Percentage of African Americans below the poverty line fell from 55% in 1960 to 27% in 1968

White backlash
White Backlash

  • Ghetto rioting, rise of black militancy, and resentment over Great Society social legislation combined to produce a backlash among many whites; acceleration of “white flight”

  • 1968 Republican candidate Richard Nixon appealed to “silent majority” and promised to restore law and order, eliminate “wasteful” federal antipoverty programs, and appoint “strict constructionists” to Supreme Court

  • As president, Nixon did away with Model Cities program and Office of Economic Opportunity; urged Congress not to extend Voting Rights Act of 1965 or to enforce Fair Housing Act

  • Appointed four conservatives to the Supreme Court including Chief Justice Warren Burger and later Chief Justice William Rehnquist; Milliken v. Bradley (1974) and Bakke v. Regents of University of California (1978)

In the beginning
In the beginning…

la mission civilisatrice

Declaration of Independence (1945)

Ho Chi Minh


Franklin Roosevelt

Harry Truman

Mao Zedong & Joseph Stalin

$2.6 billion

Dien Bien Phu (1954)

In the beginning1
In the beginning…

Geneva Agreements (1954)

17th Parallel

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Ngo Dinh Diem

“because we know no one better”

“Diem’s the only boy we got out there”

“free” elections – 98.2 percent

strategic hamlet program

Vietcong & Ho Chi Minh Trail

Kennedy vietnam
Kennedy & Vietnam

“flexible response”

Conventional & counterinsurgency forces as well nuclear response

Special Forces (Green Berets)

American “advisors”

1961 – 3205 “advisors”

1962 – 11,300 “advisors”

1963 – 16,300 “advisors”

“save” South Vietnam

Kennedy vietnam1
Kennedy & Vietnam

Ngo Dinh Diem

Buddhist monk protests

Madame Nhu – “barbecues”

American reporters

isolation and paranoia

November 1, 1963

Kennedy assassination


Mekong Delta

Johnson vietnam
Johnson & Vietnam

Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ)

“domino theory”

“nail coonskin to the wall”

Election of 1964

Gulf of Tonkin incidents

U.S.S. Maddox, 1964

Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

Lyndon s war
Lyndon’s War

“He made appointments, approved promotions, reviewed troop requests, determined deployments, selected bombing targets, and restricted aircraft sorties. Night after night, wearing a dressing gown and carrying a flashlight, he would descend into the White House basement “situation room” to monitor the conduct of the conflict … often, too, he would doze by his bedside telephone, waiting to hear the outcome of a mission to rescue one of “my pilots” shot down over Haiphong or Vinh or Thai Nguyen. It was his war.”

Lyndon s war1
Lyndon’s War

  • Succession of unstable military dictators in South Vietnam

  • Johnson’s advisors were divided:

  • SecDefense Robert McNamara and SecState Dean Rusk wanted a more aggressive military presence in Vietnam including more ground troops

  • George Ball believed United States was making same mistake as the French; “Once on the tiger’s back, we cannot be sure of picking the place to dismount.”

  • Johnson chose to escalate the war

Lyndon s war2
Lyndon’s War

  • February 1965 – Vietcong attacked an American base, killing several American soldiers


  • Between 1965 and 1973, American pilots flew more than 526,000 sorties and dropped 6,162,000 tons of bombs on enemy targets (3x the total amount of bombs dropped by all belligerent countries in World War II)

  • Bombings had no harmful effects on North Vietnamese morale and actually increased support for communist regime; undermined U.S. counterinsurgency efforts in South Vietnam

Lyndon s war3
Lyndon’s War

  • Massive use of air power actually Bombing raids killed enemies and civilians; napalm, Agent Orange

  • Larger air war led to escalation of ground troops under command of General William Westmoreland:

  • 1965: 184,300 troops 636 killed

  • 1966: 385,300 troops 6644 killed

  • 1967: 485,600 troops 16,021 killed

    • 1968: 536,000 troops 30,610 killed

Lyndon s war5
Lyndon’s War

  • Search-and-destroy missions displaced South Vietnamese; 3 million refugees by 1967

Tet offensive
Tet Offensive

Loyalty to the “party line’

William Westmoreland

Tet Offensive

Saigon, Hue

Walter Cronkite

“credibility gap”

Eugene McCarthy

Robert Kennedy

Pete Seeger

March 31, 1968

Fall of johnson
Fall of Johnson

Modus operandi


Should have called up reserves and National Guradsmen and pushed for higher taxes

Slow, steady escalation

Dissatisfaction surfaced first with the young who were being asked to fight and die for the cause

Fighting in the jungle
Fighting in the Jungle

Vietcong were everywhere

Vietcong tunnel system

I & I


“hearts and minds”

Fighting in the jungle2
Fighting in the Jungle

Desertion and AWOL rates skyrocketed; lowered morale

1966 – 14.9/57.2 per thousand

1971 – 73.5/176.9 per thousand

“fragging” – 1101 officers

Terrain, weather

Student protests at home
Student Protests at Home

Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)


Eugene McCarthy

Robert Kennedy (RFK)


Election of 19681

George Wallace

American Independent

Hubert Humphrey

Democratic party

Richard M. Nixon

Republican party

Election of 1968


“peace with honor”

“madman” theory

Nixon Doctrine


Nguyen Van Thieu


Secret bombings of Cambodia & Ho Chi Minh Trail

Invasion of Cambodia –

April 30, 1970


By 1972, Vietnamization failed to end the war

U.S. Invasion of Cambodia and S. Vietnamese invasion of Laos

Only 70,000 American troops remained in S. Vietnam in 1973

A decent interval
A “Decent Interval”

Sino-Soviet Rift

ping-pong diplomacy

Nixon’s China visit, 1972

“the vastest ocean in the world, twenty-five years of no communication”

Leonid Brezhnev

Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty of 1972 (SALT I)


Election of 1972
Election of 1972

*End of New Deal Coalition

End of vietnam war
End of Vietnam War


“Christmas bombings”

Paris Peace Conference

January 27, 1973


58,000 Americans, over 2 million Vietnamese killed

End of vietnam war1
End of Vietnam War

“South Vietnam has gained the right to determine its own future … Let us be proud that America did not settle for a peace that would have betrayed our ally … that would have ended the war for us but continued the war for the fifty million people of Indochina.”

End of vietnam war2
End of Vietnam War

“I could not stomach [it], so nauseating was its hypocrisy and self-delusion … there is no reason why they [the Communists] should stop now … I give them a couple of years before they invade the South.”

Nguyen Cao Ky

Legacy of vietnam war
Legacy of Vietnam War

Returning veterans faced hostility; reports of drug use and “fragging”

First Blood (1982)

Taxi Driver (1976)

Apocalypse Now (1979)

“Magnum, P.I.”, “The A-Team”, and “Airwolf”

Legacy of vietnam war1
Legacy of Vietnam War

1.5 million Refugees

Reconstruction in Vietnam


Khmer Rouge, 1978

Vietnam, 1986


diplomatic recognition, 1995

Legacy of vietnam war2
Legacy of Vietnam War

  • Vietnam War left a divided America

  • Effectively neutralized the Great Society

  • End of the “imperial presidency”

  • Abolition of the military draft

  • War Powers Act of 1973

  • Caused U.S. leaders to revaluate nature of communism

  • Increased media, public cynicism of government and leaders