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Vietnam. Before the War. Oppressive French control 1800’s-1941 -Indochinese Communist Party formed Formed Vietminh to fight for independence Ho Chi Minh was leader Japanese occupation 1941-1945 French tried to regain control -US supported France (Domino Theory)

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Before the war
Before the War

  • Oppressive French control 1800’s-1941

    -Indochinese Communist Party formed

    • Formed Vietminh to fight for independence

    • Ho Chi Minh was leader

  • Japanese occupation 1941-1945

  • French tried to regain control

    -US supported France (Domino Theory)

    -French lost all control by 1954


  • Before the war1
    Before the War

    • GENEVA ACCORDS divided Vietnam at 17th Parallel – communists in North, anti-communists in South

      North South

      -Led by Ho Chi Minh -Led by Ngo Dinh Diem

      -Capital: Hanoi -Capital: Saigon

      • Elections scheduled for 1956 to unify the country under one leader

    • 1956 elections cancelled

      • Ho Chi Minh’s popularity in the North was likely to lead to a communist victory

      • Ngo Dinh Diem refused to hold elections – decision supported by U.S. who feared communist victory

      • US would provide support in return for Diem setting up a stable reform government


    Diem s administration
    Diem’s Administration

    • Diem doesn’t keep up his side of the deal

      -Corrupt government – suppression of opposition and no land redistribution (which made Ho Chi Minh popular in North)

      -Devout Catholic, intolerant of the many Buddhists in Vietnam, angering them

      -Distrusted anyone outside his family

      -Had little understanding of communism or democracy



    Before the war2
    Before the War regime

    • Start of the Vietcong

      -Communist group in South Vietnam opposed to Diem and the US

      -Supported by North Vietnam with weapons traveling along Ho Chi Minh Trail (network of trails along border of Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam)

      -Used surprise (guerilla) attacks to assassinate many of Diem’s government officials


    Before the war3
    Before the War regime

    • Kennedy supported Diem (at first)

      -Tried to prove he was not “soft” on communism

      -Sent thousands of military advisors into Vietnam

    • Diem toppled

      -November 1, 1963 military coup overthrew Diem

      -It soon became clear Diem would have to go

      -Coup supported by U.S.

      -Diem assassinated against Kennedy’s wishes

      • Kennedy would also be dead within weeks

    • LBJ takes over

      -North growing stronger

      -sensitive of being “soft on communism”


    Gulf of tonkin
    Gulf of Tonkin regime

    • Gulf of Tonkin – Johnson escalated the war

      -August 1964 – North Vietnamese boat fired at U.S. ship Maddox

      -U.S. ship not harmed, but incident became excuse for Johnson to escalate conflict with North Vietnam

      -LBJ asked Congress for military go-ahead in Vietnam; received the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which gave significant power to Johnson to fight war as he saw fit

      -Only 2 “no” votes in Congress


    Johnson takes office and control of war
    Johnson regimeTakes Office and Control of War

    • Operation Rolling Thunder began

      -February 1965

      -Sustained bombing of North Vietnam

      -American troops began heading to Vietnam

      -50,000 by June 1965


    American military strategy
    American Military Strategy regime

    • General in charge – William Westmoreland

    • Westmoreland’s strategy was war of attrition (gradually wear down the enemy, weaken morale)

    • Continually asked for more troops

      -U.S. leadership was unimpressed with ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam)


    Difficulties for u s troops
    Difficulties for U.S. troops regime

    • Not used to jungle terrain

    • Guerilla tactics of enemy unconventional

    • Enemy had detailed knowledge of land

    • Enemy hid among civilian population in South Vietnam

    • “Sneaky” war – hit and run attacks, booby traps, and land minds

    • Vietcong tunnels


    Difficulties for u s troops cont
    Difficulties for U.S. troops (cont.) regime

    • War of attrition did not work

    • South Vietnamese government still unable to find a credible leader

    • U.S. troop morale sinking, though most still believed in containing communism

    • Americans tried to win the “hearts and minds” of civilians, but tactics used to expose the enemy made it difficult to win support




    Trouble with the war at home
    Trouble with the War at Home substance

    • Living Room War – 1st war played out on TV

    • Credibility gap between LBJ’s version of war and what was really happening – 16,000 dead by 1967

      • Government continued to tell Americans war would be won, fighting going well-

        -but TV and news media showed another side

  • Protest by the youth begin to grow by 1967

  • Increased cost of prolonged war


  • The draft selective service
    The Draft (Selective Service) substance

    • Many way to avoid serving if drafted

      -Medical deferments

      -Finding other services (ex. Coast Guard)

      -Moving to Canada

      -College deferments

    • Because most college students were white and upper-middle class, soldiers were increasingly lower class and minorities

      -Lower middle class accounted for 80%

      -Minorities accounted for 20% of deaths but only 10% of population


    Protest and opposition
    Protest and Opposition substance

    • Many “New Left” groups created to protest various college campus issues – soon took up cause of protesting the war

      -believed the war was a civil war, and morally unjust

    • Tactics of protest included marches, gatherings, music, burning draft cards, etc.

    • Country divided into two camps

      • HAWKS – for war, often shocked at little support shown for country and troops

      • DOVES – against war

    • Johnson’s policies criticized by both sides, but he continued slow escalation


    1968 presidential race
    1968 Presidential Race substance

    -Johnson decided not to run again

    • Planned to slowly turn war over to South Vietnamese

    • Wanted to end the draft

      -Chaos within Democratic Party allowed Republican Richard Nixon to win election

      (only 43% of popular vote)

    • Promised to bring back law and order

    • Promised to end war in Vietnam


    Nixon s plan
    Nixon’s Plan substance

    • “Peace with Honor” – wanted to pull U.S. out of war without conceding defeat or allowing South Vietnam to fall

    • Began process of Vietnamization (turning over the fighting to the South Vietnamese army)

    • Fewer soldiers, but increased attacks

    • Led to more protests, more problems

      • My Lai Massacre

      • Invasion of Cambodia

      • Kent State shootings

      • Pentagon Papers


    Legacy of vietnam
    Legacy of Vietnam substance

    • Nixon and Kissinger finally settled on a withdraw plan.

    • Overall:

    • 58,000 Americans were killed

    • 365,000 wounded

    • N and S Vietnam deaths topped 1.5 million

    • Veterans not welcomed – suffered PTSD, substance abuse, suicide tendencies, etc

    • Communists imprisoned 400,000 and 1.5 million refugees left the country

    • Boat people – 50,000 perished trying to leave Vietnam through the South China Sea


    Major policy changes
    Major Policy Changes substance

    • U.S. ended the draft

    • November 1973 Congress passed the War Powers Act

    • Americans more cautious toward foreign affairs and more cynical toward government

      • makes us pause and consider risks before deciding to intervene



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