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CICERO © Vietnam War 1954–1975
CICERO © Table of Contents Cambodian CampaignKent State Massacre Aftermath of My LaiOperation Menu My Lai MassacreMy Lai Continued Battle of Binh GiaOperation Flaming Dart The First BombingTet Offensive Operation Rolling Thunder Rolling Thunder (continued) Gulf of Tonkin ResolutionProject “596” Battle of Ap Bac Gulf of Tonkin Incident Dien Bien Phu Viet Cong GuerillasOperation Chopper Operation Ranch Hand Operation Lam Son 719Easter Offensive Kim PhúcOperation Linebacker II The Paris Peace AccordsFall of Saigon Aftermath of the War End Lead-up to War Gulf of Tonkin (continued)
CICERO © Viet Minh defeat the French Dien Bien Phu March 13–May 7, 1954 France had been fighting to reestablish its former colony in Vietnam since 1946, when Japanese invaders were driven out after the end of World War II. The United States had backed the French with money and weapons. On May 7, 1954, however, Vietnamese forces occupied the French command post at Dien Bien Phu, and the French commander ordered his troops to cease fire. The last battle of the French- Indochina War had lasted fifty-five days. Three thousand French troops were killed, 8,000 wounded. The Viet Minh suffered worse, with 8,000 dead and 12,000 wounded, but the Vietnamese victory shattered France’s resolve to carry on the war. French Union paratroopers dropping from a “Flying Boxcar” End
CICERO © The Lead Up to the Vietnam War Vietnam President Ho Chi Minh established a land reform that led to war between the classes, resulting in the murder of almost 100,000 people. In his hometown of Nghe-An, villagers were deported or executed for insubordination. Those that criticized the North Vietnamese government were exiled, arrested or executed. Village chiefs appointed by South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem were killed by the Viet Cong. President John Kennedy sent over a thousand advisers to assist Diem and South Vietnam. It was decided to have Diem removed as president of South Vietnam. President Kennedy complied with South Vietnamese generals. Diem was assassinated in a military coup, and President Kennedy was assassinated three weeks later. Before his assassination, he reconsidered his Vietnam strategy, and hundreds of American soldiers were already en route to Vietnam. End President of South Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem
CICERO © War Against Viet Cong Guerrillas The National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam, or Viet Cong, was an insurgent organization fighting against the government of the Republic of Vietnam (also known as “South Vietnam”) during the Vietnam War. The organization was funded, supplied and staffed by both South Vietnamese who opposed the South Vietnamese government and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, or North Vietnam. In late 1961, President Kennedy ordered more help for the South Vietnamese government in its war against the Viet Cong guerrillas. U.S. backing included new equipment and more than 3,000 military advisors and support personnel. Viet Cong guerrilla laying a mine End
CICERO © Operation Chopper January 12, 1962 Operation Chopper was America’s first combat mission in the war in Vietnam. United States Army pilots flew helicopters carrying 1,000 South Vietnamese soldiers to search for National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam insurgents, or Viet Cong. End
CICERO © Operation Ranch Hand The goal of Ranch Hand was to clear vegetation alongside highways, making it more difficult for the Viet Cong to conceal themselves for ambushes and to transport troops and supplies. As the war continued the scope of Ranch Hand increased. Vast tracts of forest were sprayed with “Agent Orange,” a herbicide containing the deadly chemical dioxin. Guerrilla trails and base areas were exposed, and crops that might feed Viet Cong units were destroyed. Unfortunately, Agent Orange proved toxic to people too, and many American airmen and Vietnamese civilians who were exposed to it were later stricken with a number of serious and often fatal ailments. The effect on Vietnamese wildlife and ecology was undetermined. Four-plane defoliant run, which was a part of Operation Ranch Hand. End
CICERO © Battle of Ap Bac January 2, 1963 The Battle of Ap Bac was a small- scale battle early in the Vietnam War which resulted in the first major combat victory by the National Front for Liberation of South Vietnam guerrillas against regular South Vietnamese forces. The battle took place on January 2, 1963, near the hamlet of Ap Bac, sixty-five kilometers southwest of Saigon in the Mekong Delta. Forces of the 7 th Division of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, equipped with armored personnel carriers and artillery and supported by American helicopters, faced off against an entrenched battalion of guerrillas. Wrecked helicopter End
CICERO © Gulf of Tonkin Incident — 1964 The Gulf of Tonkin Incident prompted a large-scale escalation of United States armed forces in Vietnam. It was supposedly a pair of attacks carried out by naval forces of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam against two American naval ships, the USS Maddox and the USS Turner Joy, operating in international waters off the North Vietnamese coast. Government documents released in 1971 and other classified documents released in 2005 and 2006 reveal much conflicting information about what really happened, where it happened and which side initiated the shooting. A chart of the United States Navy’s understanding of the first part of the Gulf of Tonkin incident. End
CICERO © Gulf of Tonkin Incident (continued) President Johnson said at the time that the North Vietnamese had been the first to fire on the U.S. ships. Subsequent information seems to show that the United States provoked and then exaggerated the attacks. The importance of the Gulf of Tonkin Incident was twofold. Despite why it occurred, it was the pretext used to justify a major expansion of the war by U.S. forces. Secondly, the conflicting information about it eventually undermined public confidence in the U.S. about how the war was being conducted and whether the government was telling the truth. A chart of the United States Navy’s understanding of the first part of the Gulf of Tonkin incident. End
CICERO © Gulf of Tonkin Resolution The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress passed on August 7, 1964 in direct response to the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. It is of historical significance because it gave President Johnson blanket authorization, without a formal declaration of war by Congress, for the use of military force in Southeast Asia. The Johnson administration subsequently cited the resolution as legal authority for its rapid escalation of U.S. military involvement in the Vietnam War. By 1968, American troops in Vietnam numbered about 580,000. President Johnson signs the Tonkin Resolution. End
CICERO © “596” Chinese Nuclear Weapons Test October 19, 1964 The first Chinese atomic bomb, code named 596, was detonated on October 16, 1964 at the Lop Nor nuclear test site. The test had a yield of 22 kilotons. China would manage to develop a fission bomb capable of being put onto a nuclear missile only two years later, and would detonate its first hydrogen bomb only three years later in This meant that the two major communist powers, the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, were both nuclear powers. The use of full- scale war against either one was no longer an acceptable option. U.S. leaders saw fighting the communists in smaller- scale surrogate wars like Vietnam as perhaps their only military option in defeating communism. Fireball from the Chinese atomic bomb. End
CICERO © Battle of Binh Gia Toward the end of 1964, South Vietnam was facing political instability following the coup against President Ngo Dinh Diem. Taking advantage of the government’s political and military situation, along with orders from Hanoi to initiate military offensives, the Viet Cong sought to commemorate the fourth anniversary of its establishment with a major victory on the battlefield. The first operational Viet Cong unit, the 9 th Division, was given the honor of carrying out the mission. In many ways the Viet Cong had more than achieved their objective; the subsequent fighting in and around Binh Gia demonstrated that the NLF’s military wing had come of age and was able to tackle the best the South Vietnamese government could send against them. Viet Cong propaganda photo of the Battle of Binh Gia End
CICERO © Viet Cong Guerrilla Attacks Operation Flaming Dart February 6–8, 1965 Viet Cong guerrillas attacked a United States military compound in Pleiku, central Vietnam. Eight Americans were killed and ten United States military aircraft were destroyed. As a result, President Johnson approved Operation Flaming Dart, which was the bombing of a North Vietnamese army camp near Dong Hoi. Preparations soon began for the first step of Operation Flaming Dart. Forty- nine sorties were flown for Flaming Dart 1, followed by ninety-nine more for Flaming Dart II, which was the direct result of the Viet Cong attacking U.S. citizens at a hotel. Viet Cong soldiers End
CICERO © Operation Rolling Thunder March 2, 1965–November 1, 1968 The four objectives of the operation were: to bolster the sagging morale of the Saigon regime in the Republic of Vietnam; to convince North Vietnam to cease its support for the communist insurgency in South Vietnam; to destroy North Vietnam’s transportation system, industrial base, and air defenses, and to restrict the flow of men and material into South Vietnam. Attaining these objectives was made difficult by both the restraints imposed upon the United States and its allies by Cold War demands, and by the military aid and assistance received by the North Vietnam from its socialist allies, the Soviet Union and People’s Republic of China. F-105 Thunderchiefs End
CICERO © The First Bombing Raids of Rolling Thunder March 2, 1965 After a number of delays, the first bombing raids of Rolling Thunder were launched. The first mission of the new operation was launched on March 2 against an ammunition storage area near Xom Bang. On the same day, 19 VNAF A-1 Skyraiders struck the Quang Khe Naval Base. The Americans were shocked when six of their aircraft were shot down during the mission. Five of the downed crewmen were rescued, but it was a portent of things to come. VNAF A-1 Skyraiders End
CICERO © Operation Rolling Thunder (continued) March 2, 1965–November 1, 1968 The operation became the most intense air/ground battle waged during the Cold War period since the Korean War. It was the most difficult air campaign fought by the U.S. Air Force since the aerial bombardment of Germany during World War II. Thanks to the efforts of its allies, North Vietnam fielded a potent mixture of sophisticated air-to-air and ground-to-air weapons that created one of the most effective air defense environments ever faced by American military aviators. After one of the longest aerial campaigns conducted by any nation, Operation Rolling Thunder was terminated as a strategic failure in late 1968 having achieved none of its objectives U.S. troops in search of Viet Cong guerrillas End
CICERO © Tet Offensive January 30–September 23, 1968 One of the more significant events of the Vietnam War, was the joining of forces by the Viet Cong Guerrillas and People’s Army of Vietnam. Together they began attacking hundreds of South Vietnamese cities and towns, during the Tet New Year’s holiday. The Tet Offensive hoped to weaken civilian support of the Saigon government, thus causing an insurrection in South Vietnam. With this plan in place the Viet Cong and People’s Army of Vietnam hoped to end the war in a single blow. Ironically, the offensive was a military defeat for the communists. They were beaten back everywhere they attacked, with heavy losses. But American leaders had been optimistically boasting that the war was almost over in late The scope of the Tet Offensive and the difficulty in defeating it proved that was not the case. It proved to be a military defeat for the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces but a political victory. It helped turn popular opinion in the United States further against the war in Vietnam. U.S. Marines marching through Dai Do End
CICERO © My Lai Massacre March 16, 1968 The My Lai Massacre was an event that resulted in the murders of 350 to 500 unarmed Vietnamese civilians by American troops. The 20 th Infantry Regiment suffered a number of deaths in March 1968, by enemy mines or booby-traps. During this time, they received word that the 48 th Battalion of the Viet Cong had retreated and was hiding out in a small Vietnamese village known as Sơn Mỹ. The U.S. troops planned to go in aggressively, on Colonel Oran K. Henderson’s orders. Lt. Colonel Frank Barker ordered them to burn the village to the ground. They planned to attack during a time when they did not expect civilians to be present. They only expected Viet Cong and their sympathizers. The question was asked if they were to kill women and children. The answer was “all suspected Viet Cong.” The Viet Cong were known to sometimes have women as soldiers and use children occasionally as well. An American soldier setting fire to the homes of Vietnamese civilians End
CICERO © My Lai Massacre Cont’d Upon moving into the My Lai area, none of the suspected Viet Cong soldiers were seen. They suspected they were hiding out in the homes of their elders and women. On the orders of Lt. William Calley, the soldiers went in shooting anything that moved, Viet Cong, women, children, and animals. One group of seventy to eighty civilians was rounded up and shot by Calley and other soldiers. They performed sweeps and killed those who were hiding, finishing off the wounded. Hugh Thompson Jr., a young helicopter pilot supporting the American troops, was flying over the village and witnessed the dead and dying civilians. All he saw were babies, children, women and old men; he did not see any armed Viet Cong. He witnessed Captain Ernest Medina kill a woman at point-blank range. Thompson was confused. He then took off in his helicopter. From the sky, he saw a group of unarmed civilians being approached by U.S. soldiers. He landed between the soldiers and the civilians. He warned the soldiers that if they try to shoot those people, he would open fire on the soldiers, his own men. He loaded some of the civilians onto the helicopter, and brought some of the wounded onto the chopper as well. In 1998, thirty years later, Thompson and two other soldiers that tried to stop the massacre, Glenn Adreotta and Lawrence Colburn, were awarded the Soldier’s Medal by President Clinton for their actions at My Lai. The burning of a Vietnamese home End
CICERO © Aftermath of My Lai There is not an official death toll of the My Lai Massacre, but it has been estimated between three-hundred forty-seven and five hundred four men, women, children, and babies. The original reports claimed that during a firefight between Viet Cong and U.S. troops one hundred twenty-eight Viet Cong guerrilla soldiers were killed, and twenty-two civilians were caught in the crossfire. The troops were originally commended for their work. A young soldier named Tom Glen wrote a letter to General Creighton Abrams accusing U.S. troops of brutality against Vietnamese civilians. The letter was extremely detailed and showed some merit. Future Secretary of State, Colin Powell, a 31-year-old major in the Army at the time, was put in charge of investigating the allegations. Glen’s letter did not name the My Lai Massacre. In his report Powell wrote, “In direct refutation of this portrayal is the fact that relations between American soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent.” He would later be criticized for “whitewashing” the incident. It was not until a letter written by another soldier, Ron Ridenhour, that the events of My Lai came to light. He wrote letters to President Nixon, the Pentagon, the State Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and members of Congress. The letters were sent out a year after the massacre. Almost all recipients of the letter ignored it, with exception of Arizona Governor Morris Udall. Calley was then charged with murder in September 1969, along with other soldiers. An investigation was launched into the massacre and its coverup. Colonel Henderson was acquitted. Calley was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. President Nixon released him pending an appeal. Calley would later only serve four and a half months in prison. Captain Medina was acquitted, but later admitted to covering up evidence about the number of civilian deaths. All the other men charged were exempt from prosecution, having already left the service. Suspicions remained about whether My Lai was an isolated incident or an example of standard procedure by the military during the Vietnam War. The story contributed to the growing critical opinion in the United States about the war. End
CICERO © Operation Menu March 18, 1969–May 28, 1970 Operation Menu was the code name for the secret bombing of eastern Cambodia by the United States Strategic Air Command. It targeted eastern Cambodia because it had reason to believe there were bases for the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese. Newly elected president Richard Nixon was sending a message to the North Vietnamese government that he was in support of the Saigon government. The campaign was set up and operated in complete secrecy, due to the growing displeasure over the Vietnam War with the American public. Nixon had won the election partly due to his claim of having a “secret plan” to end the war. War critics were surprised to find the “secret plan” included “secretly” bombing other countries, expanding the war even more. A map of the communist bases End
CICERO © Cambodian Campaign April 29–July 22, 1970 The Invasion of Cambodia was a series of military operations that were executed in eastern Cambodia by United States and the South Vietnamese military. There were 13 operations conducted in all. The invasion was not received well in the United States. There were a number of angry protests conducted around the country. The invasion was designed to defeat the 40,000 troops from the People’s Army of Vietnam and the Viet Cong that stationed themselves around the border of eastern Cambodia. The campaign resulted in the seizure of large amounts of communist supplies, and also, led to the expansion of the Cambodian Civil War. President Nixon announces the invasion of Cambodia End
CICERO © Kent State Massacre May 4, 1970 On May 4, 1970, on the campus of Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, a series of antiwar protests, some of which caused fires and property damage, resulted in the deaths of four college students. The students of Kent State were protesting the American invasion of Cambodia. On the last day of the protests, Ohio National Guard troops opened fire on a group of unarmed students and protesters. The four students killed were Jeffrey Miller, Allison Krause, Sandra Scheuer, and William Knox Schroeder. Some of the students shot were not involved in the protests, but were changing classes at the time. Nine people were wounded, including one who was left paralyzed from the waist down. The circumstances of the controversial shootings only served to divide Americans more over the war and about the way the government was handling it, both in Vietnam and at home. Fourteen-year-old runaway Mary Ann Vecchio kneels over the body of Jeffrey Miller End
CICERO © Operation Lam Son 719 February 8 – March 25, 1971 Operation Lam Son 719 was an offensive campaign by South Vietnam with the help of the United States against North Vietnamese forces. The operation sent South Vietnamese troops into another neighboring country, Laos, against Viet Cong supply lines. United States forces were prohibited by law from using U.S. ground forces in the Kingdom of Laos. So, it helped South Vietnam by providing aerial views, logistical information, and artillery support. The campaign was designed to thwart any future attacks or operations conducted by the People’s Army of Vietnam. This campaign was not successful for South Vietnam and United States. The North Vietnamese suffered heavy losses, but the campaign did not result in forcing the North Vietnamese from the area. U.S. military helicopters over Laos End
CICERO © Easter Offensive March 30 – October 22, 1972 The Easter Offensive was a military campaign carried out by North Vietnam and Viet Cong soldiers against South Vietnam and the United States. This was the largest military invasion since the Korean War. The purpose of the invasion by North Vietnam was not to finally win the war outright, but to gain as much territory and gain the possession of a variety of South Vietnamese military bases. This campaign reflected another aspect of Nixon’s strategy, “Vietnamization.” He sought to slowly reduce the American forces in Vietnam by getting the South Vietnamese Army to take over most of the fighting. This had not worked earlier in the war, but Nixon thought it would work now. It proved to be only partially successful. South Vietnamese civilians flee after North Vietnamese invasion End
CICERO © Kim Phúc June 8, 1972 On June 8, 1972, the village of Trang Bang in South Vietnam was under attack from North Vietnamese forces. During the attack, United States forces dropped a napalm bomb on the village to cripple the North Vietnam forces. Nine-year-old Kim Phúc joined a group of South Vietnam soldiers and civilians as they fled the scene. A U.S. helicopter mistook them for the enemy, and dropped a napalm bomb on the group. When the bomb hit, the napalm stuck to Kim Phúc’s clothes and burned them from her back. She was badly burned. Kim Phúc almost died, but due to the quick thinking of Vietnamese photographer Nick Út, Kim Phúc was able to survive. After the war, she emigrated from Vietnam and eventually moved to Canada. Nine-year-old Kim Phúc (center) had her clothes burned off her body as the result of a U.S. napalm attack. End
CICERO © Operation Linebacker II December 18–29, 1972 Operation Linebacker II was an aerial bombardment of North Vietnam by American and South Vietnamese forces. This was a last ditch-effort by the United States government. It was the largest bombing campaign by the United States since the Second World War. These missions were a continuation of the bombing orchestrated by the United States from May to October during that same year. The difference was the switch from fighter planes to the large Stratofortress bombers. The result of this operation is still highly debated. In Vietnam the United States dropped more than three times the amount of bombs used in World War II. Because Vietnam was not heavily urbanized, it did not have as much of an effect on the Viet Cong or North Vietnamese as was expected. U.S. B-52 Stratofortress on a bomb run End
CICERO © The Paris Peace Accords January 27, 1973 While the war ground on, the Nixon administration stepped up efforts to reach a diplomatic solution to end the war. Those efforts were led by U.S. National Security adviser and close confidant to the President Nixon, Henry Kissinger. After long and difficult negotiations, the Paris Peace Accords were signed on January 27, 1973 by the governments of North Vietnam, South Vietnam, and the United States. The peace treaty was designed to set up peace in Vietnam and officially end the war. The peace accords ended the United States’ direct involvement in Vietnam. It also temporarily ended the fighting between the North and South. Kissinger and North Vietnamese negotiator Le Duc Tho negotiated the peace. They were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in End
CICERO © Fall of Saigon April 30, 1975 The Peace Agreement proved fragile. The North Vietnamese Army invaded and captured South Vietnam’s capital city of Saigon on April 30, Most American troops had been removed from Vietnam by that time. American troops evacuated the American embassy in Vietnam. The remainder of American civilians and military personnel evacuated the city, along with tens of thousands of South Vietnamese civilians. This culminated in the largest helicopter evacuation in history, otherwise known as, Operation Frequent Wind. This event marked the end of the Second Indochinese War, otherwise known as the Vietnam War. The communist government combined North and South Vietnam, and established its new communist regime at its capital, Hanoi. The city of Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City, in honor of the leader of the Vietnamese resistance in the war against France, the leader of North Vietnam until his death in 1968, Ho Chi Minh. South Vietnamese try to flee on the CIA Air America after North Vietnam seized Saigon End
CICERO © Aftermath of the War Vietnam On July 2, 1976, Socialist Republic of Vietnam was established. Encouraged by the Vietnam War, a communist movement called the Khmer Rouge succeeded in gaining control of Cambodia and attempting to radically restructure Cambodian society. The results were disastrous. More than 2 million people were killed in Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge fell from power. Vietnam and China fought in a border war, otherwise known as the Third-Indochina War. The war lasted only a month with a disputed result By the turn of the 21 st century, Vietnam, like China, had moved away from its socialist economy to welcome aspects of free market capitalism. Vietnam became an active trading partner with the United States, though it remains a communist country politically. United States Many veterans suffered from the after- effects of the war. (i.e., depression and post-traumatic stress.) Many felt that the United States’ withdrawal was due to the political defeat not a military defeat. Almost 3 million Americans fought in the war between 1965 and The war cost the United States $120 billion, which put the United States in a large federal deficit. The United States’ defeat showed that a political superpower does not have unlimited strength and resources, and does have the capability of being defeated. End
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