History of Vietnam 1800s: Vietnam, and all of Indochina, were an imperialist possession of the French Throughout most of Vietnam’s history (about 2000 years) the Vietnamese people had resisted a foreign power in their country In 1941 a new independence force known as the Viet Minh were formed to resist the Japanese 1945: The day Japan surrender to the Allies, the Vietnamese declared themselves an independent state: the Democratic Republic of Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh The Viet Minh were led by a man named Ho Chi Minh Ho was a NATIONALIST first, and saw Communism as a way to govern a unified Vietnam Ho’s Independence speech started by saying, “All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among them are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.“ Ho ended by saying all, “Vietnamese people… are determined to mobilize their physical and mental strength, to sacrifice their lives and property in order to safeguard their independence and liberty.”
First Indochina War Ho naming Hanoi the capital of an independent Vietnam didn’t go over well with the French In 1946 the French sought to reclaim Vietnam, and started the war by killing 6000 Vietnamese civilians. The US actively stayed OUT of the war after losses from Korea The war dragged on until the French suffered a devastating blow at the battle of Dien Bien Phu.
Domino Theory Eisenhower considered helping the French, but he wanted more international support than just the US helping the French Eisenhower envisioned Vietnam as the first in a line of dominos, if Vietnam fell the rest of SE Asia could fall, and maybe even Japan Still the US stayed out of the conflict On May 7 th 1954 The Viet Minh broke the French, and a peace conference was held
Two Vietnams The 1954 Geneva Accord Peace Conferences temporarily divided Vietnam into North & South Vietnam at the 17 th parallel – National Elections were set for 1956 As the French left the US moved into Vietnam, and got an anti- communist pro US leader installed as the President of South Vietnam President Eisenhower gave South Vietnam support by sending 350 military advisors
As the 56 elections came closer the S Vietnamese and the US blocked the elections Viet Minh, who supported Ho, but still lived in the South started to terrorize the S Vietnam government This group became known as the Viet Cong, Vietnamese communist, or as the US soldiers called them, the VC By 1961 the Viet Cong over ran the S Vietnamese Army. Kennedy, upon receiving reports from his inspection team, would raise the number of advisors to 9,000 by 1962
Kennedy wanted South Vietnam to “win its own war.” Leaders of the South Vietnamese government started to lose support of the people. In 1963 Buddhist monks opposed to the S Vietnam government protested the treatment of people. Several monks immolated themselves, set themselves on fire. Footage of this made its way to US TV The South Vietnamese government would soon be taken over by one of it’s military generals
LBJ Inherits Vietnam LBJ saw the potential problems of Vietnam, but felt communism needed to be stopped In the 1964 election LBJ said he wouldn’t send US boy to do what Asians should do for themselves, but privately he was all ready making plans to escalate US involvement
Gulf of Tonkin Incident Since the start of Viet Cong resistance they had been getting supplies from North Vietnam via the Ho Chi Minh Trail (nickname) The US navy sent ships to electronically servile that area A war ships was been harassed by machine gun fire, and even a torpedo LBJ warned another “unprovoked” attack would cause a US retaliation On August 4 th 1964 these sailors thought they were attacked again and fired back, though no enemy sighting was ever confirmed
Based on the information provided to DC LBJ ordered air strikes on naval bases in North Vietnam On August 5 th LBJ asked Congress to approve those airstrikes, and future actions Congress approved the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution so that LBJ could “take all necessary measures to repel any armed attacks against the forces of the US and to prevent further aggression.” – The only real problem… the US Navy ship had never been attacked a second time
Increases Involvement Besides the bombings, Johnson heard two sides of how to approach Vietnam – Hawks: Saw Vietnam as a containment issue & a part of Domino Theory. Also saw appeasement as weak (it failed with Hitler) – Doves: Said Vietnam may be unwinnable (like Korea), and said war might involve China, or worse the USSR After hearing both sides Johnson decided to send troops, and sent 3,500 Marines (March 1965) By April there were 60,000 troops By July, there were 125,000 troops – Though his actions indicated a war, LBJ never asked for approval from Congress. He based his authority on the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution – The war had become Americanized
Challenges of Vietnam Vietnam was a hot humid climate where the temp stayed above 90F for most of the year. While US troops were green and untested, the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) knew the land much better, and use that to their advantage by hiding in the forest To combat the forest, the US used Agent Orange to help defoliate the forests. – Agent Orange was also a carcinogen, and cause long term damage to SE Asians and US troops overseas The Viet Cong were illusive and hard to find/fight, and the US generals adopted a strategy of attrition: hoping we could make the VC lose more soldiers than the US did.
In addition to being hard to fight, the Viet Cong used guerilla tactic to fight: traps, trip wires, snipers, booby traps, etc While the US used a program of “Search and Destroy” attempting to eliminate all of the Viet Cong, the VC just looked to wound and slow the US troops Ho Chi Minh said “You can kill ten of our men for every one we kill of yours. But even at those odds, you will lose and we will win.” – Ho painted a picture of a Vietnamese army that was dedicated to independence. Was the US so dedicated?
Vietnam as a New Kind of War Vietnam was the first televised war: immolations, casualties, and battles all made the evening news. The US used Napalm, a jellied gasoline that caught fire, did not go out, and burned everything it touched Meanwhile: By 1968 the US had 500,000 troops in Vietnam, casualties exceeded 1,200 a month, and the US had spend 30 Billion Dollars. TV focus on the fact that the US said the battle in Vietnam was going well, but in reality things were going poorly. US citizens started to doubt the government and their truthfulness. This doubt became known as the credibility gap.
Push back to Vietnam Hawks and Doves divided the nation Supporters of the Civil Rights Movement changed to the anti- war movement Students started to protest, some symbolically wearing black arm bands – Muhammad Ali stated “I ain’t got no quarrel with no Viet Cong…” He would eventually be jailed and stripped of his title for refusing to serve in the military The 26 th Amendment lowered the voting age from 21 to 18
As the Vietnam War progressed Americans turned against LBJ. Protests chanted “Hey Hey LBJ, How many kids did you kill today?” 1968 the Vietnamese launched a surprised attack known as the Tet Offensive. 85,000 Viet Cong attacked cities, villages, military bases, and airfields (all of which should have been “secure”) The Johnson administration had repeatedly been saying how the Veit Cong were close to being defeated. The Tet Offensive, with it’s surprise and size, horrified many people.
Public confidence in LBJ and the government dropped. LBJ’s approval rating was a 26%.Dismayed at his failures in Vietnam, and the mounting body count, LBJ chose not to run for President in the 1968 election. The 1968 election became chaotic when JFK’s bother Robert Kenney was assassinated & LBJ endorsed his Vice President. – Meanwhile Martin Luther King was killed the same year. Meanwhile, the Republican’s nominated Nixon, who promised to maintain “law and order,” and to “secure peace with honor.”
Vietnamization- Peace with Honor Nixon’s “Peace with honor” plan used tactics of “reward” (Bribes) and punishment Nixon’s advisor Henry Kissinger suggested an end to bombing of North Vietnam that had been going on since 1963. Nixon also attempted Vietnamization- letting the Vietnamese army slowly take over control of fighting the war.
On the other side of the argument: Nixon used what was called his “madman theory” He figured if he couldn’t get the North Vietnamese to be reasonable, he would make them, USSR, and China think we was crazy and would do anything to win (he bluffed Nuclear Weapons at one point) Nixon bombing into Laos and Cambodia as well since that was where the Ho Chi Minh Trail was However, as all of this went on Nixon continued to slowly lower the number of US troops overseas. February 1971, there were fewer than 175,000 soldiers in Vietnam
Increase Protests My Lai Massacre – 1968 US soldiers, on a search and destroy mission, rounded up 500 civilians in the Vietnamese town of My Lai and killed them all. No Viet Cong were ever found Kent State Shooting – As the war continued student protests of the actions continued to grow – In 1970 at Kent State University a peace rally (protest) was going on. – The National guard was called out to deal with the students, and when the students threw some rocks at the National Guard they shot back. 4 died and 9 were wounded – Americans were stunned and protests erupted all over the US
Pentagon Papers 1971: A former Defense Department official, Daniel Ellsberg, leaked top secret papers from the Pentagon The papers revealed a study about how the LBJ administration had deceived Congress and the American public about our “status” in Vietnam On June 30 th 1971 in New York Times v United States the Supreme Court ruled that the New York Times had the freedom of speech/press to print the Pentagon Papers.
Congress limits powers In 1972 Congress learned that Nixon bombed Cambodia without their approval Congress passed the War Powers Resolution, which limits the president’s power to use armed forces in hostilities without congressional approval Meanwhile, in Vietnam, the North Vietnamese’s Army launched an invasion of South Vietnam, but they failed This made the North Vietnamese more willing to negotiate at peace talks By January 27, 1973 a peace agreement had been reached to end the Vietnam War (A Ceasefire was called, allowing for a separate North & South Vietnam)
Soldiers Return Home By March 1973 all US combat troops had been withdrawn from Vietnam Nearly half who served, 2.6 million, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder – Anxiety, irritability, nightmares, depression About 760 Americans had been taken Prisoners of War (POW) where they faced interrogation and harsh living conditions (Senator John McCain) 2,000 Americans were Missing in Action (MIA), and 1,800 are still unaccounted for today
A United Vietnam The Ceasefire did not last long Fighting between North and South Vietnam continued into 1973 & 74 President Ford, who followed Nixon, encouraged Congress to raise support for Vietnam in 1975. Congress refused. On April 30 th, tanks rolled through the gates of the Presidential Palace in Saigon, and the South Vietnam government official fell The Vietnam War was over, and the communist had won
Counter Culture In Addition to the Anti-Vietnam Protests America would develop its’ counter-culture: a group of ideas and behaviors different from mainstream culture – New Left: Students who rejected Communism, but embraced the ideas of the Civil Rights Movement and taking an active role in Democracy – Free Speech Movement: Student response to Universities trying to hold down free speech and demonstrations on campus
Hippies Hippies were young people who dropped out of school, and rejected the standard “working” lifestyle Tie-dye, long hair, sandals, shell necklaces, “love beads”, generally not bathing… They rallied against the “Establishment” and “The Man” as being the powers that controlled society and kept people down The result of these movements was a generation gap, a major difference between the values of parents and children
Products of the Counter-Culture Drugs became extremely common, and “bad trips” Ideas of love and marriage changed, and people living outside of marriage, or divorce became common Woodstock: a 1969 Rock n Roll concert that hosted about 400,000 people. Despite bad weather and running out of food the concert was largely peaceful and a demonstration for and against the 1960s.