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The Path to War Vietnam 1954-1972. Understanding America’s Longest War MR. Brown. The Domino Theory 1954-1965 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution 1965 The Tet Offensive 1968 The War at Home 1968-1972 Vietnam by the Numbers Verbatim Web Resources References. Perhaps the most remarkable

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the path to war vietnam 1954 1972

The Path to WarVietnam 1954-1972

Understanding America’s Longest War

MR. Brown

main menu
The Domino Theory 1954-1965

Gulf of Tonkin Resolution 1965

The Tet Offensive 1968

The War at Home 1968-1972

Vietnam by the Numbers


Web Resources


Perhaps the most remarkable

fact about the Vietnam War is

that it was not even about

Vietnam. It was instead, a

prolonged battle of the Cold

War, fought to block the

expansion of communist

power in Asia. The war

brought a turning point for

Americans: It brought not

only the first defeat for the

U.S. military, but also a

profound loss in faith in

government and authority.

Main Menu
the domino theory 1954 1965
The Domino Theory 1954-1965

The U.S. commitment to defending democracy in South Vietnam was sealed in 1954, when Secretary of State John foster Dulles went to Geneva for a nine-delegation conference on Indochina. This conference set the terms for ending the war between France and the Viet Minh, the North Vietnamese communist forces that had declared independence from France in 1945. Vietnam was split into two countries, with a demilitarized zone dividing North from South. The U.S. supported the new government of South Vietnam, pumping more than $1 billion in military and economic aid to South Vietnam between 1955-1961.Dulles, Eisenhower and Johnson all used the “domino theory” as rationale for the U.S. presence, and later military intervention. Under this theory, if South Vietnam fell to the communists, then other countries in Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines would topple to communism.

the gulf of tonkin resolution 1965
The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution 1965

By early 1964, the U.S. had 16,300 military advisors in Vietnam: their task was to train and support the South Vietnamese army. On August 2, 1964, the U.S. destroyer Maddox, patrolling international waters in the gulf of Tonkin, reportedly an attack by North Vietnamese forces. In response L.B.J asked Congress to pass a resolution allowing him “to take necessary measures to repel an armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.” This resolution, approved overwhelmingly by both the House and Senate, was seen as the start of full-scale U.S. involvement in the war.

the tet offensive 1968 a turning point
The Tet Offensive 1968A Turning Point

In January 1968, following nearly three years of bombing by the U.S, the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong launched a major surprise attack on more than 30 South Vietnamese cities during Tet, the lunar New Year. Watching at home, Americans saw the televised attack on the U.S. embassy in Saigon, the massacre by Viet Cong soldiers of civilians in the city of Hue and other atrocities. This attacked helped turn the tide of popular sentiment against the war as Americans realized that the prospects for victory were far more remote than L.B.J. had acknowledged.

the war at home 1968
The War at Home 1968

Few issues in recent history have polarized the American people as deeply as the Vietnam War. While student protesters were the perceived leaders of the anti-war movement, opposition eventually spread to almost all segments of the population. Opponents of the war charged that in the crusade against communism, the U.S. was attempting to impose an American solution on a foreign people; that Vietnam was of little strategic importance, and that the conflict had turned into “an endless war”; and that the drat system was set up so that poor men did the fighting while the privileged got deferments. By 1968, Democratic presidential candidates Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy had both come out against the war.

MR. Brown 1968

Student protestor or Warrior?

vietnam by the numbers
Vietnam by the Numbers
  • 19 Average age of U.S. combat soldier in Vietnam, 1968
  • 26,800,000 Total number of U.S. men eligible for the draft
  • 15,410,00 Number deferred, exempted or disqualified
  • 8,720,000 Enlisted voluntarily
  • 2,215,000 Drafted during Vietnam era
  • 171,000 Conscientious Objectors who refused to serve based on moral grounds
  • 58,193 American military personal killed
  • 1,100,000 North Vietnamese military personnel killed
  • $24 billion American aid to South Vietnam between 1954-1975
  • $165 billion Direct American expenditures for the Vietnam War

“Kill ten of our men and we will kill

one of yours. In the end, it is who will


Ho Chi Minh 1946

“I could conceive of no greater tragedy

than for the U.S. to fight in an all

out war in Indochina”

President Eisenhower 1954

“We do commit the U.S to prevent the

fall of South Vietnam to


Secretary of Defense McNamara 1961

“We are not about to send American

boys 10,000 miles away to do what

Asian boys ought to be doing for


President Lyndon B. Johnson 1964

“Hell no, we won’t go!”

Antiwar Chant

web resources
Web Resources

The Vietnam War

The Domino Theory Principle, Dwight D. Eisenhower Interview 1954

Media and the Vietnam War: Interview with Brian Williams

Documents Relating to American Foreign Policy: Vietnam

The Wars for Vietnam 1945-1975

Famous American Trials: The My Lai Courts Martial


Special Thanks to

Time Inc. and HBOFILMS

The Vietnam War-Tim Page, UPI, Bettman Archives and Corbis.

National History Standards

Era 9 Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s)

Standard 2C Demonstrate understanding of the foreign and domestic consequences of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

California State Content Standards

11.9 United States foreign policy since World War II

11.9.3 Trace the origins and geopolitical consequences(foreign and domestic )of the Cold War and containment policy with regards to the Vietnam War.