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The Vietnam War
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  1. The Vietnam War U.S. History II

  2. Ho Chi Minh (1890 – 1969) • As college student, attended Paris Peace Conference in 1919 & asked for self-determination for his people • Formed Viet Minh (National Liberation Front) in 1941 to fight Japanese occupation in collaboration with the Allies • Declared independence Sept. 2, 1945, with American OSS agents present

  3. Decolonization After World War II • U.S. helped European countries regain control of colonies after WWII for Cold War reasons • Necessary to rebuild economies of Western Europe • Necessary to rebuild Japanese economy • Decolonization took place anyway • Africans & Asians were determined to be independent • European countries could no longer afford to maintain large armies overseas

  4. Map: Decolonization

  5. Advisory Phase (1950 – 1963) • Truman Administration began giving aid to French in Indochina in May 1950 – prior to Korean War • French withdrew after disastrous defeat at Dien Bien Phu (1954) • Geneva Accords (1954) divided Vietnam at 17th parallel & called for unifying elections in 1956 • North: Communist regime under Ho Chi Minh • South: corrupt regime under Ngo Dinh Diem • SEATO formed to contain Communism in Southeast Asia • U.S. gave $1 billion to Diem regime, 1955-61 • Kennedy’s Project Beef-Up (1961-63) sent more than 16,000 “advisors”

  6. Two Assassinations • Diem assassinated Nov. 2, 1963 with U.S. Ambassador Lodge’s & Pres. Kennedy’s approval • New military gov’t no better • Kennedy assassinated Nov. 22, 1963 • No connection to Vietnam • Dallas speech text said, “Our assistance to . . . nations can be painful, risky and costly, as is true in Southeast Asia. But we dare not weary of the task.”

  7. War Phase (1964 – 1973) • USS Maddox fired upon in Aug. 1964 while providing support for S. Vietnamese commando raids • Congress overwhelmingly approved Gulf of Tonkin Resolution • Authorized Pres. Johnson to “take all necessary measures” • Congress never declared war, however • U.S. quickly escalated troop strength – peaked at 543,400 in 1968-69 • Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, Thailand & South Korea contributed several thousand troops

  8. The Horrors of War • Unable to distinguish friend from foe • Viet Cong used terrorist & guerrilla tactics • U.S. committed atrocities like My Lai Massacre (March 1968) • By 1971, drug abuse, AWOL & fragging rampant

  9. The Beginning of the End • Tet Offensive (Jan. 30, 1968) was turning point in the war • Convinced U.S. they could not win • Turned media, & hence public opinion, against the war • Johnson began peace talks & dropped reelection bid • Nixon began “Vietnamization” in 1969 • Withdrew U.S. ground forces, but stepped up aerial bombing • Secretly invaded Laos & Cambodia to shut off “Ho Chi Minh Trail” • Pentagon Papers (June 1971) revealed systematic lying by U.S. officials

  10. The End of the War • Cease-fire signed June 1973 • N. Vietnam promised not to conquer S. Vietnam • U.S. promised to protect S. Vietnam if necessary • Costs: • 58,000 Americans killed • 1.5 million Vietnamese killed • $170 billion • North Vietnam conquered South Vietnam April 1975

  11. Effects & Consequences • Supporters & Opponents: • Supporters tended to be young, white, male & middle-class • Opponents tended to be older, black, female & lower-class • Support among college educated people fell steadily • Americans more interested in foreign affairs, but more skeptical of government • Paved way for Nixon’s policy of détente & recognition of Communist Chinese gov’t

  12. Effects & Consequences (Cont.) • War Powers Act (1973) set 60-day time limit on president sending troops into hostile situation without Congressional approval • Every president has said it’s unconstitutional • Never tested • Lessons learned vary: • Military leaders insisted lesson was to use overwhelming force to achieve quick victory & then withdraw • Conservatives said lesson was not to abandon allies • Liberals said lesson was not to get involved in civil wars in countries where the U.S. has no vital strategic interests