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Nixon’s War. Bloodiest year for the U.S., 14,000 soldiers killed. Johnson had curtailed bombing of North Vietnam but increased in the south. Some of fiercest fighting took place in the A Shau Valley adjacent to the Laotian border.

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Bloodiest year for the U.S., 14,000 soldiers killed.

Johnson had curtailed bombing of North Vietnam but increased in the south.

Some of fiercest fighting took place in the A Shau Valley adjacent to the Laotian border.

U.S. captured large amounts of food and supplies; drove communists out.

In August, the U.S. withdrew; North Vietnamese returned.

The next year, the 101st Airborne returned to retake it.

North Vietnam, forced by defeat in Tet, to abandon offensive warfare.

my lai march 16 1968
Members of the 11th Infantry Brigade kill 300-400 civilians.

Killings a consequence of:

War of attrition (body count).

Enemy who relied on village support and mixed with villagers.

Soldiers could not identify enemy from civilians.


My Lai-March 16, 1968
Cover-up exposed, only soldier convicted was Lt. William Calley, commander of 1st platoon.

Massacre became symbol of all that was wrong in Vietnam.

A very large majority of U.S. soldiers did not commit war crimes, but all became associated with My Lai.

fall 1968
Westmoreland became Chief of Staff, replaced by General Creighton Abrams.

Abandoned strategy of attrition.

Shifted to pacification and Vietnamization.

Wanted to bring as many villages under U.S. and GVN control as possible.

U.S. forces “shielded” villages from V.C. forces.

GVN forces modernized and increased.

Fall 1968
election of 1968
Political situation had improved in the south.

Civilians, angry at communist violation of Tet, increased support for Thieu government.

Millions of Tet refugees were an underlying problem.

Still no real movement toward democracy.

Assassination of Kennedy had quieted anti-war factions in the Democratic Party.

Hubert Humphrey, Johnson’s Vice-president and pro-war candidate, won the nomination.

Election of 1968
Republicans quiet, nominated Richard M. Nixon.

He had announced intention of finding “peace with honor”.

Violence at the Democratic Convention played into his favor.

September, Nixon held a 15 point lead in the polls and third party candidate George Wallace held considerable popular support.

October 31, 1968, Johnson announced a bombing halt of North Vietnam and a future peace settlement.

Indications were North Vietnam wanted negotiations and both South Vietnam and the NLF were to be included.

Nixon’s lead disappeared.

South Vietnam refused to go along, peace initiative failed.

Nixon won a very narrow victory.

Throughout his political career he had been a very strong war hawk.

Had criticized the “gradual” use of force.

Believed military “victory” was no longer possible, road to negotiated settlement now through Moscow.

During election he announced he “had a plan”, actually didn’t, had to make one his 1st year in office.

Relied heavily on his National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger.

peace plan
Nixon had immediately ruled out an immediate withdrawal or escalation.

Gradual withdrawal was the only option, had to guarantee the appearance of “victory” and maintain a free and independent South Vietnam.

Proposed a withdrawal of “external forces” (U.S. and NVA) from the south and negotiations between south and NLF to end “civil war”.

Peace Plan
Informed the Soviets that Détente could not proceed until they also pushed north to peace.

Also informed them thatthe U.S. would not conform to “old limits”.

Ordered secret bombing of VC/NVA sanctuaries in Cambodia.

Initial effects ultimately failed, proposal rejected by NLF and NVA, South Vietnam refused to recognize and negotiate with the NLF, and Soviets made no effort to persuade North Vietnam to end the war.

May 14, 1969, Nixon announced an 8 point plan.

Proposed troop withdrawals and buildup of South Vietnamese forces.

Separated military and political, said it was an internal issue that the South Vietnamese had to settle.

After meeting with President Thieu on Midway Island on June 8, 1969, Nixon announced the withdrawal of 25,000 U.S. troops.

Did not bring Hanoi to peace talks, they were willing to “wait out” the Americans.

By summer of 1969, anti-war protests were rising.

Nixon believed domestic protests would undermine talks.

Nixon sent an ultimatum to Hanoi; talk or he would resort to “measures of great consequences and form”.

Developed Operation Duckhook.

Mining Haiphong Harbor, naval blockade, cut railroads, bomb military and population targets, flood rice areas and possible tactical nuclear weapons.

North Vietnam not intimidated.

Nixon reverted back to gradual withdrawal.

pacification program 69 70
Vietnamization outwardly caused some apparent improvement in South Vietnam’s military.

Some fundamental problems still plagued them (incompetent officers, to many local units, etc.).

In reality, would take more time than U.S. political pressure would allow.

One area of U.S. policy that seemed to be yielding real results.

V.C. being forced out of villages.

Local government getting stronger.

Roads, hospitals, buildings, and schools being built.

New farming techniques being introduced.

Real land reform beginning.

Pacification Program (69-70)
combat 1969
For the most part, the scale and intensity had declined.

U.S. forces took a more active role in pacification and the training and advising of South Vietnamese forces.

March, U.S. intelligence noted NVA build up in the A Shau Valley again.

May 10, U.S. marines, the 101st Airborne, and an ARVN regiment ordered to take Hill 937 (Dong [Mount] Ap Bia).

Fierce 10 day battle known as Hamburger Hill.

Combat 1969
Forced troop withdrawals to speed up in order to save the army.

May 20, NVA abandoned position, a few days later the U.S. abandoned the hill (650 NVA dead, 56 U.S.).

Battle the last in the “war of attrition”.

1969 also saw the decline of an American Army.

Lack of home front commitment to total victory caused lack of motivation in soldiers and declining morale (nation was abandoning the war they still had to fight).

System of year tours took toll.

More conscripts and less volunteers (draft deferments).

Shrinking pool of experienced junior officers and NCO’s.

Cambodia-March 18, General Lon Nol overthrew Prince Norodom Sihanouk.

Sihanouk had tolerated U.S. bombings as well as North Vietnamese violations of neutrality.

Lon Nol was pro-American, denied communists use of Cambodia, U.S. feared communist insurgency in Cambodia.

Marxist Khmer Rouge formed to create communist Cambodia.

Forced Nixon to widen war by invading and destroying communist sanctuaries in Cambodia (April 30).

Had withdrawn by June 29th, limited tactical success.

Supplies and bases destroyed but communist had avoided open battle.

Increased demonstrations across college campuses (Kent and Jackson)

Polls showed majority supported invasion and 2/3rds blamed students.

Nixon announced speed up of timetable for troop withdrawals.

Operation Lam Son 719.

NVA had controlled all Laotian territory bordering Vietnam.

South Vietnam had wanted to destroy supplies and installations to stop the flow down the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Success here, plus effects of Cambodian invasion, would buy time to allow Vietnamization to work.

Operation unique.

ARVN forces would have to do all the fighting.

NVA had to win to maintain supply line.

Operation exposed flaws with ARVN.

Incompetence of political leadership, lack of professionalism, deficiencies in training, lack of fighting spirit, etc.

Proved Vietnamization had not succeeded and most likely could not.

reaction question for hamburger hill
Reaction Question for Hamburger Hill
  • Discuss the similarities and differences of the common soldier in the films Hamburger Hill and We Were Soldiers. Be sure to use examples from both films.