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The U.S. in Vietnam. Part II. William C. Westmoreland Maxwell Taylor. U.S. troops in Vietnam. 1964, year end: 24,000 1965, year end: 184,000 1966, year end: 385,000 1967, year end: 490,000 Total troop strength will exceed 500,000 in 1968. Aspects of the build-up.

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u s troops in vietnam
U.S. troops in Vietnam
  • 1964, year end: 24,000
  • 1965, year end: 184,000
  • 1966, year end: 385,000
  • 1967, year end: 490,000
  • Total troop strength will exceed 500,000 in 1968.
aspects of the build up
Aspects of the build-up
  • LBJ: did not call out the reserves or the National Guard.
  • Army had to rely upon volunteers and draftees to meet personnel needs.
    • Field forces in Vietnam: about half volunteer, half drafted.
  • Manpower issues complicated by one-year tours of duty
  • Issues of class and race?
limiting the war 1965 68
Limiting the War: 1965-68
  • Army: not allowed to attack NVA bases on Cambodia, Laos, or north of DMZ.
  • Air Force/Navy: Target and engagement restrictions placed on Rolling Thunder.
  • LBJ – does not impose any economic constraints.
regions
Regions:
  • Northern provinces
  • Central highlights & coast
  • Northwest of Saigon
  • Mekong River delta
u s strategy 1965 68
U.S. strategy: 1965-68
  • U.S. combat forces given primary responsibility for locating & eliminating large NVA/VC units.
  • GVN + various U.S. civil and military agencies pursue pacification effort.
  • Air Force & Navy maintain bombing of North Vietnam (Rolling Thunder).
westmoreland s plan
Westmoreland’s plan
  • First defend South Vietnam, defeat Communist offensives, secure bases for additional troops.
  • Then launch offensives to destroy enemy units.
  • Ultimately hoped to attack Communist sanctuaries, shift effort of U.S. troops to pacification.
u s combat operations
U.S. combat operations
  • Unpopulated areas: “Search & destroy” operations relied upon helicopter mobility and superior artillery and air support.
  • Populated areas: U.S. troops employed patrols and helped provide security for roads and villages.
air support
Air Support
  • Helicopter gunships
  • Air Force/Marine sorties with high explosives or napalm.
  • Operation ARC LIGHT
ia drang november 1965
Ia Drang, November 1965
  • First large engagement between U.S and NVA troops.
  • 7th Cavalry prevails, but takes high casualties.
  • Demonstrates effectiveness of:
    • U.S. air support
    • NVA/VC close infantry tactics.
pacification
Pacification
  • Marines: pursue “combined action program.”
  • Elsewhere MACV relies upon GVN efforts.
    • U.S. assistance complicated by bureaucratic confusion.
  • 1967: U.S. aid efforts centralized under the Office of Civil Operations and Rural Development Support (CORDS).
    • Launched OPERATION Phoenix to eliminate, capture, or co-opt VC cadres.
problems bombing the drv
Problems bombing the DRV
  • Objectives.
  • Effectiveness?
    • Subsistence–level economy.
    • DRV has manpower to operate air defenses and repair bombing damage.
    • DRV able to maintain flow of supplies and men to support operations in the South.
  • Cost?
    • 900 aircraft and >1,000 crewman lost Rolling Thunder to 1968.
    • $10 of expense to inflict $1 damage?
assessment of u s efforts 1965 67 positives
Assessment of U.S. efforts 1965-67:Positives
  • South Vietnam defended (still exists).
  • More stable GVN:
    • Nguyen Van Thieu and Nguyen Cao Ky come to power in 1965.
  • NVA on defensive.
  • VC insurgency checked.
assessment of u s efforts 1965 67 negatives
Assessment of U.S. efforts 1965-67:Negatives
  • NVA able to raise troop levels, resulting in escalating U.S. forces.
  • Pacification:
    • Ties of rural population to GVN still tenuous.
    • VC organization still functioning.
  • Large displacement of rural population.
communists develop a plan general offensive general uprising
Communists develop a plan:“General Offensive – General Uprising”
  • NVA to first launch attacks in central highlands & near DMZ area to draw off U.S. reserve troops.
  • VC cadres to infiltrate towns and cities & capture GVN/ARVN installations, which would precipitate a general revolt.
    • U.S. posts to be assaulted to sow confusion, & for psychological effect.
  • NVA units to reinforce VC forces & “liberated” citizens in urban areas.
the siege of khe sanh
The Siege of Khe Sanh
  • Isolated U.S. base near DMZ surrounded.
  • NVA attacks began January 21, 1968.
    • Lasted 77 days
the tet offensive
The Tet Offensive
  • Began January 30, 1968.
  • Violence erupts in more than 200 villages, towns & cities.
  • About 80,000 Communist troops participated.
tet communist military defeat
Tet: Communist military defeat
  • No urban uprisings occurred.
  • U.S. and ARVN troops prevailed in urban battles.
  • NVA reinforcements checked by air strikes and counterattacks.
  • Of 80,000 men, Communists lost half (including numerous VC cadres).
tet communist political victory
Tet: Communist political victory
  • Tet destroyed LBJ’s will to continue the conflict.
  • Also shocked in the U.S. public, greatly expanded popular disaffection with the war.
the u s domestic scene
The U.S. domestic scene
  • Growing anti-war movement.
  • Sympathetic coverage by news media.
  • How mainstream?
lbj after tet
LBJ after Tet
  • Sends another 20,000 troops to Vietnam, but rejects Westmoreland’s request for 206,000.
    • Authorized a limited call-up of reserves.
  • Announced on March 31, 1968:
    • Would stop Rolling Thunder
    • Would seek talks to end the war (no preconditions).
    • Would not seek re-election.
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