The U.S. & the U.S.S.R. Emerged as the Two Superpowers of the later 20 c
The Iron Curtain In 1946, Winston Churchill proclaimed that an “Iron Curtain” had fallen over Eastern Europe. In response to the spread of communism in Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was signed by the U.S., Canada, and eight western European nations.
Containment Europe was devastated by World War II, with millions dead and billions of dollars in damage. In the hopes of rebuilding Europe, Congress passed the Marshall Plan and promised more than 20 billion dollars in relief. Marshall also offered money to the Soviet Union. Stalin however, refused any assistance from the United States. Shortly after Stalin’s rejection of American aid, United States ambassador to the USSR, George Kennan, wrote that the foreign policy of the United States must be one that will prevent the spread of communism to any part of the world. Kennan’s “containment” theory became the focus of American foreign policy for the next 45 years.
AmericaSoviet Union Free electionsNo elections or fixed DemocraticAutocratic/Dictatorship CapitalistCommunist ‘Survival of the fittest’Everybody helps everybody Richest world powerPoor economic base PersonalfreedomSociety controlled by the NKVD (secret police) Freedom of the media Total censorship
The Korean War (1950- 1953) World War II divided Korea into a Communist, northern half and an American- occupied southern half, divided at the 38th parallel. The Korean War (1950-1953) began when the North Korean Communist army crossed the 38th Parallel and invaded non- Communist South Korea. As Kim Il-sung's North Korean army, armed with Soviet tanks, quickly overran South Korea, the United States came to South Korea's aid.
Korea 1950-195 Following three brutal years of fighting and strategic bombing to intimidate the Communists into negotiating a peace treaty, peace talks began. Neither side wanted to appear weak, and so the talks went on, occasionally breaking down for months. Only after Eisenhower, who was a war hero and was unafraid of Republican criticism (since he himself was a Republican), became President, could the US make substantial concessions to the Communists. In 1953 a peace treaty was signed at Panmunjom that ended the Korean War, returning Korea to a divided status essentially the same as before the war. Neither the war nor its outcome did much to lessen the era's Cold War tension.
Vietnam – A Proxy War The Vietnam War occurred in present-day Vietnam, Southeast Asia. It represented a successful attempt on the part of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam, DRV) and the National Front for the Liberation of Vietnam (Viet Cong) to unite and impose a communist system over the entire nation. Opposing the DRV was the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam, RVN), backed by the United States. The war in Vietnam occurred during the Cold War, and is generally viewed as an indirect conflict between the United States and Soviet Union, with each nation and its allies supporting one side.
When was the Vietnam War? The most commonly used dates for the conflict are 1959- 1975. This period begins with North Vietnam's first guerilla attacks against the South and ends with the fall of Saigon. American ground forces were directly involved in the war between 1965 and 1973.
Causes The Vietnam War first began in 1959, five years after the division of the country by the Geneva Accords. Vietnam had been split into two, with a communist government in the north under Ho Chi Minh and a democratic government in the south under Ngo Dinh Diem. Ho launched a guerilla campaign in South Vietnam, led by Viet Cong units, with the goal of uniting the country under communist rule. The United States, seeking to stop the spread of communism, trained the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) and provided military advisors to help combat the guerillas.
Americanization of the War: Gulf of Tonkin Incident In August 1964, a US warship was attacked by North Vietnamese torpedo boats in the Gulf of Tonkin. Following this attack, Congress passed the Southeast Asia Resolution which allowed President Lyndon Johnson to conduct military operations in the region without a declaration of war. On March 2, 1965, US aircraft began bombing targets in Vietnam and the first troops arrived. Commanded by General William Westmoreland, US troops won victories over Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces around Chu Lai and in the Ia Drang Valley that summer.
The Tet Offensive Following these defeats, the North Vietnamese avoided fighting conventional battles and focused on engaging US troops in small unit actions in the sweltering jungles of South Vietnam. In January 1968, the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong launched the massive Tet Offensive. Beginning with an assault on US Marines at Khe Sanh, the offensive included attacks by the Viet Cong on cities throughout South Vietnam. Though the North Vietnamese were beaten back with heavy casualties, Tet shook the confidence of the American people and media who had thought the war was going well.
Vietnamization As a result of Tet, President Lyndon Johnson opted not to run for reelection and was succeeded by Richard Nixon. Nixon's plan for ending US involvement was to build up the ARVN so that they could fight the war themselves. As this process of “Vietnamization” began, US troops started to return home. The mistrust of the government that had begun after Tet worsened with the release of news about US soldiers murdering civilians at My Lai (1969), the invasion of Cambodia (1970), and the leaking of the Pentagon Papers (1971).
End of the War and the Fall of Saigon The withdrawal of US troops continued and more responsibility was passed to the ARVN, which continued to prove ineffective in combat, often relying on American support to stave off defeat. On January 27, 1974, a peace accord was signed in Paris ending the conflict. By March of that year, American combat troops had left the country.
Fall of Saigon After a brief period of peace, North Vietnam recommenced hostilities in late 1974. Pushing through ARVN forces with ease, they captured Saigon on April 30, 1975, forcing South Vietnam’s surrender and reuniting the country.
Casualties United States: 58,119 killed, 153,303 wounded, 1,948 missing in action South Vietnam 230,000 killed and 1,169,763 wounded (estimated) North Vietnam 1,100,000 killed in action (estimated) and an unknown number of wounded
Questions What made Vietnam a Proxy War? Who won, the Capitalists or the Communists? What was supposed to be the American role in Vietnam? Who (what countries) provided support for the Viet Cong? How did Vietnam fit into the US’s “Domino Theory”? The Viet Cong called themselves “Freedom Fighters”. Why did the US not support these people as they sought the same liberty that was so precious to the founders of the US? Why, in your opinion, did the US and its allies fail to defeat the Vietnamese Communists and Viet Cong? How do you think the defeat in Vietnam affected the US’s continuing effort to contain communism?