People: Ho Chi Minh, Viet Cong, Diem, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon Documents/Policies: Domino Theory, Containment Geneva Accords, Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, War Powers Act, Pentagon Papers Places: Dien Bien Phu, Ho Chi Minh Trail,Cambodia, Saigon, Kent State
Vietnam, Laos, & Cambodia had been part of the French colony of Indochina After WWII, France reasserted itself as Vietnamese struggled for independence
The leader of the Vietnamese independence movement was Ho Chi Minh, founder of the Vietnamese Communist Party.
After WWII, most Americans believed the struggle between the free-market democracies of the West and the USSR was an epic battle between good & evil.
DOMINO THEORY& CONTAINMENT Important ideas in Eisenhower & US foreign policy. If one country falls to communism, the surrounding areas will follow Communism must be “contained” and prevented from spreading
1950 Truman gives France $15 mill for Vietnam 1954 French defeated at Dien Bien Phu 1954 Geneva Accords Divided Vietnam into Communist North & Anti- communist South Vietnam 1956 hold a national election to unite N & S Vietnam
S. Vietnam President Diem corrupt, refused to hold election US supported SV Pres. Diem 1957 Communist guerillas – Viet Cong began attacking Diem’s government 1959 Ho Chi Minh began supplying VC via Ho Chi Minh Trail
Kennedy Feared Democrats seen as “soft” on Communism Sent money and advisors 1963 – 16,000 US military personnel in Vietnam
Diem’s policies create further instability Persecutes Buddhists Requires people to move into “protected hamlets” Nov. 1963 US-backed military coup overthrew Diem’s government. Diem assassinated against JFK’s wishes South Vietnam became even more unstable
Gulf of Tonkin Resolution 1964 Pres. Johnson told Americans the US can’t let SV become communist US began leading secret raids into NV Aug. 1964 – US Maddox allegedly fired on by North Vietnam Johnson asked Congress to pass the Tonkin Gulf Resolution – gave President power to use military w/o getting Congress to declare war Johnson had written the resolution months before the Maddox incident
Picture courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration
June 1965 – US had 50,000 troops fighting the VC At the time 61% of Americans supported US involvement in Vietnam More troops sent throughout 1965 (180,000 by Dec. ) 1967: 500,000 US soldiers in Vietnam
“The integrity of the US commitment is the principal pillar of peace throughout the world. If that commitment becomes unreliable, the communist world would draw conclusions that would lead to our ruin and almost certainly to a catastrophic war. So long as the South Vietnamese are prepared to fight for themselves we cannot abandon them without disaster to peace and to our interests throughout the world.” Secretary of State Dean Rusk, 1965
VC used guerilla tactics – no uniformed soldiers Tunnels, booby traps, land mines Tropical jungle conditions – heat, leeches US strategy – wear down enemy until he gives up
Captured Viet Cong Prisoner Photo: National Archives Viet Cong Tunnels Photo: BBC
Battle for “hearts & minds” Keep SV peasants on US side US tactics defeat this purpose Napalm Agent Orange Search & destroy missions Troop morale sank as soldiers realized they weren’t making any progress
Taxes and prices increased to pay for the war Not enough money for Vietnam and Johnson’s Great Society Programs First “living room war” -- body bags on TV Credibility gap – Many Americans believed government wasn’t being truthful about the war
UNFAIR DRAFT? Working class Americans feel sons of wealthy exempt from fighting College students didn’t have to serve 80% of soldiers working class African-Americans 20% of combat deaths
Student involvement in civil rights movement leads to growing involvement in the call for social & political reform Student groups – SDS & FSM Mostly concerned with campus issues, but feel US is controlled by government & big corporations Called the new left because they want reform, but they don’t have ties to communism & unionism of Old left (1930s) and are concerned with discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, not just class-based discrimination
Reasons for opposition US shouldn’t be involved in a civil war in Vietnam SV government is corrupt & US shouldn’t support it US can’t afford to police the world Minorities making up a disproportionate number of troops Unfair draft
1965 Student groups organized a protest in Washington DC (about 30,000 people) 1966 – failing grades made a person eligible for the draft Groups like SDS advised draftees to go to Canada or Sweden
1967 ½ million protestors burn draft cards in NY’s Central Park 75,000 protest at Lincoln Memorial 1967-1970 about 10,000 men fled to Canada to avoid the draft
Doves – wanted US to withdraw from Vietnam Hawks – believed US should use more military power to win in Vietnam Criticized Johnson for not being aggressive enough in Vietnam Dec. 1967 poll: 70% of Americans believed war protesters were being disloyal “America -- Love it or leave it”
The Tet Offensive Jan. 30 VC attacked over 100 towns Offensive lasted 1 month US & SV won, but impact on American morale was devastating Credibility gap grows – LBJ’s popularity nosedives Americans now about evenly divided about war
Presidential Election Robert Kennedy Jr. announced he wanted to be the Democratic candidate for the Presidency LBJ announced the US will begin negotiations to withdraw from Vietnam LBJ decided not to run for reelection April 4 MLK assassinated by– riots break out June 5 RFK assassinated after winning CA primary Student demonstrations increase – most over Vietnam
“That … war killed the lady I really loved – the Great Society” LBJ
Dem. Pres. Convention was held in Chicago Over 10,000 protesters present. They were angry over the war and the nomination of Hubert Humphrey. Violence erupted between Chicago police & protesters Democrats argued over the war Democratic party looked like it was in chaos People were tired of the war & riots
Candidates Democrat: Hubert Humphrey – seen as a poor second choice to RFK Republican: Richard Nixon – “law & order” Promised to get US out of Vietnam Independent: George Wallace – former AL gov. & Dem., supported segregation
Nixon won by a narrow margin Nixon’s victory marked a resurgence of conservatism in the US Conservatives: Not the governments job to fix social problems like poverty.
People were tired of the war, protests, and riots. Nixon represented “law and order.” Nixon claimed he was supported by the “silent majority”, who supported the war.
My Lai Massacre March 1968 US troops on search & destroy mission kill 200 Vietnamese in the village of My Lai Nov. 1969 Story published in NY Times Americans outraged My Lai Memorial
Invasion of Cambodia April 1970 Nixon announced US invasion of Cambodia to clear out VC troops who were hiding in Cambodia. Congress was angry over Cambodia invasion & repealed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution Student protests over Cambodia shut down 1,200 college campuses.
Kent State Students protesting Cambodia bombings, burnt ROTC building National Guard called in to restore order National Guardsmen fired on protesters who were throwing rocks at them 4 civilians killed, 9 wounded
Pentagon Papers Defense Dept. papers from 1967-68 Revealed LBJ looking at war plans when he was publically saying the US wouldn’t send troops to Vietnam Gulf o Tonkin incident questionable Didn’t hurt Nixon directly, but further eroded trust in government
Negotiations between the Nixon administration & NV stalled Nixon ‘s plan was Vietnamization -- slowly withdraw & let SV troops take more responsibility Secretary of State Kissinger – “peace with honor” Nixon secretly bombing NV & neighboring countries of Cambodia & Laos
1971 60% of Americans ready to withdraw from Vietnam 1972 Nixon won reelection, but his aggressive bombing campaigns were ineffective March 1973 US withdrew from Vietnam w/ NV troops still fighting in S. Vietnam.
In 1975 Saigon, capital of S. Vietnam, fell to N. Vietnamese Army
58,000 Americans/ 2 million Vietnamese killed 303, 000 Americans wounded Some suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder & other medical problems they attributed to exposure to Agent Orange Vietnam War Memorial erected 1982 in Washington DC
The War Powers Act was passed by Congress in 1973 It said the President has to tell Congress 48 hours before he/she sends troops to a hostile area without a declaration of war Troops can only stay 90 days unless Congress approves or war is declared.
Americans were left with a cynical & suspicious attitude towards foreign policy & government The draft was ended. (It was reinstated in the 1980s.) Congress passed the 26 th Amendment – which allowed Americans to vote @18 (The drinking age was lowered to 18 in many states, also) Americans think before becoming involved in military conflict.