PHASE 1 - A WAR OF COLONIAL INDEPENDENCE AGAINST THE FRENCH • Vietnam had been a French colony under the name of French Indochina (along with Cambodia and Laos) • Vietnam began to fight for its independence from France during WW II • the Vietnamese revolutionary leader was Ho Chi Minh he wanted to be the leader of an independent, communist Vietnam; Ho received support from both the USSR and “Red” China
this colonial war raged from 1946-54, culminating in the French defeat at Dienbienphu • Fr. decided it wanted out and called a peace conference ( Geneva Peace Conference ) • the decision of the conference was to partition Vietnam into a communist North led by Ho and a “democratic” South Vietnam led by Ngo Dinh Diem
the settlement was an outgrowth of basic Cold War tensions between the Americans and Soviets and clearly reflected the US policy of containment with respect to Soviet communist expansionism • the US had come to see South Vietnam as a “domino” that they couldn’t afford to lose
Guerilla Warfare • Home made weapons. • Depend upon locals for support • Usually damages supply depots • Using hit and run tactics against an enemy. (Ambushes) Uniforms are not worn, but camouflage is. • Used by weaker forces against a more powerful opponent. • Tunneling is used. • Make use of surroundings. • Booby Traps
PHASE 2 – AMERICAN ESCALATION AND MILITARY INVOLVEMENT • this phase originated with Eisenhower and JFK but was intensified under Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ), who assumed the presidency after JFK’s assassination • The U.S. never formally issued a declaration of war, but after the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, where 2 American destroyers were apparently fired upon by the North Vietnamese, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolutions (August 1964) - hereCongress gave LBJ their support in sending American personnel and material
in spite of ongoing escalation throughout the 1960s, the US experienced a lack of success against the Vietnamese guerrilla forces in S. Vietnam (the Vietcong) as the US Army was unprepared for their tactics and mentality • The US was also never entirely successful in shutting down the Ho Chi Minh Trail, a supply line that ran between North and South Vietnam via difficult jungle terrain, often underground and through neighbouring nations like Cambodia
the war definitely turned against the US in 1968, when the NVA’s General Giap began the Tet Offensive, a surprise offensive on a major Vietnamese holiday that saw attacks all over the country, including in Saigon itself • ongoing US casualties and losses saw an increase in antiwar sentiment on the American Home Front, in large part because Vietnam was a TV War where American audiences saw the brutality of war firsthand
this included American atrocities at My Lai • they also witnessed the usage of weapons like napalm and Agent Orange, which devastated the environment
as the Counterculture gathered momentum (Hippies, Flower Children, etc.), protests became widespread and began to polarize the nation • this was intensified after the Kent State Massacre • National Guardsmen opened fire on student protestors in Ohio, killing four, and by Senator William Fulbright’s (Chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee) admission that the war was a “mess”
increasingly the American people came to perceive the “Credibility Gap”, i.e. they no longer believed that LBJ was telling them the truth about events in the war • in 1968, LBJ chose not to run for president, and Republican Richard M. Nixon was elected on a platform of “Peace with Honour”
Nixon wanted the South Vietnamese to play a greater role in the war, a policy he labeled Vietnamization • in spite of that, he continues carpet bombing Hanoi and orders a secret invasion of Cambodia • He relied on the diplomacy of Henry Kissinger to achieve peace and/or an American withdrawal • the US does manage to extricate itself by Jan. 27, 1973
PHASE 3 – VIETNAMESE CIVIL WAR, 1973-75 • the NVA easily defeated the South by 1975; the South had appealed to Nixon for aid, which had been promised, but by 1975 Nixon was embroiled in the domestic Watergate Crisis, and he was in essence a “lame duck” • 1975 – the US abandoned its embassy in Saigon, which was renamed Ho Chi Minh City in the newly unified and communist Vietnam
CANADA • A popular strategy for dodging the draft was to immigrate to Canada. Records show 30 000 “draft dodgers” settled in Canada legally, but some experts believe that another 50 000 lived on the run in Canada. • Canada was not a neutral country they were clearly on the side of the Americans and the S. Vietnamese.
The government allowed the U.S. military to test “Agent Orange” at CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick and to practice carpet-bombing runs over Suffield, Alberta, and North Battleford, Saskatchewan. • They sold billions of dollars worth of supplies to the Americans: $2.5 billion worth of war materials such as ammunition, napalm, aircraft shells, and explosives; and $10 billion worth of food, beverages, clothing, and other supplies. • Canadians joined the U.S. Army (approx. 30 000) They faced little public support when they returned. The Canadian Legion did not admit Canadian Vietnam Vets until 1994.
Why did the USA lose? • Didn’t have the support of the South Vietnamese peasants. Keyissue—land reform. VC gave land to peasants. S. Vietnamese would not consider it. • U.S. soldiers could not tell VC supporters apart from ordinary villagers • U.S. tactics did not work against Guerrilla Warfare. • Communist forces much more committed to their cause.
STATISTICS • Around 2.8 million Americans served in Vietnam. 2 million of them were drafted or conscripted. • Only 10% of the 2 million saw combat. • In a typical 12 month Tour of Duty, the average GI stood a 2% chance of being killed and a 10% chance of getting seriously wounded. The casualty rate is much higher, though, if you consider only those who took part in actual combat. • Of those killed in combat, 43% died in the first three months of their tour of duty.
Only 6% of deaths took place among soldiers in their last three months. • In total 58,000 were killed. • The average age was 19. • If you were white, wealthy, and well educated you stood a much better chance of not being drafted. • Those who had places at University could have their call-up delayed until after their degree. For this reason, blacks, Hispanics, and poor whites made up the majority of the infantry in Vietnam.
Training • The Americans were trained to see their enemy as less than human. Slang terms were an important part of this. (‘Gook’, ‘Dink’, ‘Zipperhead’, and ‘Slope’) • ‘Cherries’: or replacements were poorly trained. • 11% of deaths were caused by booby traps. • ‘Fragging’ was the term used to describe the killing of an officer by his own men. 11% of officers killed in Vietnam were killed by their own troops.
Drugs • Drug taking reduced the effectiveness of the U.S. forces. • Marijuana was the most popular drug. • GI’s would smoke it in base camp and during R & R. • Cocaine, Heroin, and Amphetamines were also used. • In 1971, 5,000 men were treated in hospital for combat wounds and 20, 000 for drug abuse.
Morale • Drug use and fragging are indicative of the poor morale on the side of the Americans. Between 1966 and 1973 there were 503, 000 incidents of desertion in the American army in Vietnam. (It doesn’t mean that 503, 000 different soldiers deserted.) • Racial tension between black and white troops occurred,
Opposition • Draft Card burning and failing to report to training were early forms of protest, both were criminal offenses. • By the end of 1969 there were 34 000 ‘Draft Dodgers’ wanted by the police. • Raiding Draft Board Offices and burning records were other forms of protest.
Martin Luther King’s movement against the war. • ‘Operation Phoenix’--a CIA operation to gather VC suspects. Basically assassination and torture squads. • ‘Pentagon Papers’—revealed lies the American government told the people.
The Vietnam Syndrome • Vets treated as criminals. • Medical treatment for wounded and disabled poor • Found it difficult to get jobs or to get their own jobs back • More Vets committed suicide than were killed in the war itself • Post-traumatic stress disorder—depression, panic and rage attacks were features of the disorder. Followed by divorce, drug addiction, alcoholism, and suicide.
Rallying For Change • Peace activists carried sign “End Canadian Complicity” • John Lennon and Yoko Ono staged a ‘bed-in’ for peace in Montreal. • African-Canadians became more willing to speak out against racial discrimination. In 1969 there was a protest at Concordia University. It destroyed the University computer system. The Canadian government gave $ to less militant black organizations • In 1971, to foster multiculturalism, the Trudeau government looked into ways to resolve cultural differences.