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Case Study: Vietnam How was a small country like Vietnam able to win a war against the USA? Essay Question.

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Presentation on theme: "Case Study: Vietnam How was a small country like Vietnam able to win a war against the USA? Essay Question."— Presentation transcript:

1 Case Study: Vietnam How was a small country like Vietnam able to win a war against the USA? Essay Question

2 This section includes: Background 1957 to 1965 – Struggle in Vietnam between the South Vietnamese army and the communist-trained rebels (Viet Cong) 1965 to 1969 – North Vietnamese-USA struggle The war from the Vietnamese and USA perspective The war as a world issue 1969 to 1975 – USA withdrawal from Vietnam Conclusion: How the war is remembered today (Refer to CAPS, p26) 2

3 Where in the World is Vietnam? Vietnam USA

4 Background In the 19 th century France colonised a large part of SE Asia including modern day Vietnam. 1941: Japan invaded and occupied SE Asia. 1941: Two communists / Vietnamese nationalists (Ho Chi Minh and Nguyen Vo Giap) set up Viet Minh (League for the Independence of Vietnam) Viet Minh funded by the US.

5 Post-War Settlement 1945-1954 1945: Japan was defeated in WWII, withdrew from SE Asia September 1945 Ho Chi Minh announced Vietnam was an independent and democratic republic. The French attempted to re- establish their empire and took back control of the south Vietminh continued to fight for full independence and a united Vietnam 1954 French surrendered In May 1954, Britain, France, China, the Soviet Union, the USA and Vietnam met in Geneva to decide the future of Vietnam The Geneva Agreement

6 1954-1965 struggle between South Vietnamese army and communist trained rebels (NFL / Viet Cong) 1955 Diem (supported by USA) officially elected president of South Vietnam in rigged elections Diem was a dictator. He was a Catholic and persecuted the Buddhist majority. Land was taken from peasants and given to Diem’s supporters Diem refused to allow elections to re-unite North and South Vietnam.

7 Opposition to Diem’s Government 1959: Vietminh supporters in South Vietnam formed the National Liberation Front (NFL) Diem and USA called them ‘Viet Cong’ (Vietnamese Communists) 1963: an elderly monk named Thich Quang Duc, set himself ablaze in protest against Diem’s corrupt regime. 1963: a CIA funded coup in South Vietnam which overthrew and killed Diem. Malcolm Brown who took this photograph

8 Why did America become involved in a war in Vietnam? American Presidents during the period of US involvement in Vietnam: Dwight D Eisenhower (Rep): 1953- 1961 John F. Kennedy (Dem): 1961-1963 Lyndon B Johnson (Dem): 1963-1969 Richard Nixon (Rep): 1969- 1974

9 The ‘Domino Effect’ (Strategic importance of Vietnam) In 1949 the Chinese Communist Party, led by Mao Zedong won their civil war and established a communist government. USA feared that other countries in the region would fall to communism unless the USA actively prevented it.

10 Gulf of Tonkin Incident (Trigger) On 2 August 1964 the US destroyer Maddox was fired at by North Vietnamese patrol boats in the Gulf of Tonkin. The Maddox was gathering intelligence information. Two days later there was a second alleged attack. Evidence has since shown that this did not happen. US President Johnson used these attacks to persuade Congress to support greater US involvement in Vietnam. 1965 – by end of year 200,000 US combat soldiers had been sent to Vietnam.

11 1965 - 1969: North Vietnamese-USA struggle USA’s Tactics 7 Feb 1965: USA launched ‘Operation Rolling Thunder’: - Widespread aerial bombing using cluster bombs and Chemical weapons (‘Agent Orange’ and Napalm used) Search and Destroy (used airmobility to move troops) 16 March 1968: My Lai massacre Defence of South Vietnamese government against North Vietnamese expansion. North Vietnamese Tactics Winning South Vietnam hearts and minds Guerrilla tactics Booby traps and mines Suicide squad fought their way into US embassy 31 January 1968 Vietcong launched an attack on over 100 towns and cities in the south during New Year (or Tet) holiday – (Turning point: US public realised that US was NOT winning the war!)

12 1969 to 1975 – USA withdrawal from Vietnam “From 1964-1972, the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the history of the world made a maximum military effort, with everything short of atomic bombs, to defeat a nationalist revolutionary movement in a tiny peasant country – and failed”. (H. Zinn, A People’s History of the USA, (New York, 1980, p460) WHY?

13 A Soviet cartoon mocking the large number of US casualties in Vietnam. c. 1968

14 Deforestation caused by USA spraying Agent Orange (TCDD Dioxin) The Vietnamese Red Cross estimates that up to three million Vietnamese have suffered health effects from dioxin exposure, of whom 150,000 are children with birth defects

15 Ten year old Phan Thi Kim Phuc running naked down a street having torn off her burning clothes after an American Napalm attack.

16 Women and children shot dead by American soldiers lie in the road at the village of My Lai, 1968. We huddled the villagers up. We made them squat down. I poured about four clips into the group. The mothers were hugging their children. While we kept on firing. ( An extract from the evidence of Paul Meadlo who was a US soldier at My Lai.) The Massacre at My Lai - 16 March 1968

17 Conscripted Soldiers: ‘Cherries’ Of the 3 million Americans involved in Vietnam war – about two-thirds were conscripts (‘cherries’) Average age of conscript = 19 years 12 month – ‘tour of duty’ Anti-conscription campaign in USA A student burns his draft card during an anti-war demonstration. Over 200,000 young men dodged the draft.


19 Kent State Massacre (4 May 1970) National Guardsmen opened fire on student protestors in Ohio, killing four. This picture shows one of the dead students, Jeffrey Miller.

20 Casualties of War CategoryYear RangeLow estimates Medium estimates High estimates North Vietnamese civilian deaths from bombing 1965-7265,000 North Vietnamese soldiers killed 1965-72500,000 Viet Cong deaths 1960-75172,000251,000329,000 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers deaths combined 1960-75533,0001,011,0001,489,000 South Vietnamese civilian deaths from gunfire / bombing 1960-75361,000391,000720,000 South Vietnamese soldiers killed 1960-75219,000266,000313,000 US military deaths 1960-7346,00047,00058,000 Source: Rudolph Rummel, Statistics of Vietnamese Democide: Estimates, Calculations and Sources, 1997.


22 Why did the USA lose the Vietnam War? US Army’s military tactics - ineffective and unpopular Growth of the anti-war movement in USA. Media coverage of the war – 1 st TV war Unpopularity of South Vietnamese Government North Vietnamese soldiers’ Guerrilla warfare tactics North Vietnam and NLA were fighting a war of liberation to free their country from foreign intervention. Support for North Vietnamese from China and USSR

23 How has the Vietnam War been remembered? Memorials in USA and Vietnam Film (Hollywood has presented different views of war in different periods) Music Personal accounts / Auto-biographies Academic histories Tourist sites

24 Impact of Vietnam War For Vietnam – Horrific: 5 Million Vietnamese peasants displaced, Large numbers killed, or maimed. Huge areas of forest destroyed by American chemicals – long term implications for agriculture. For America - A major psychological as well as military defeat. Probably sped up the ‘Domino effect’ ie lots of other countries in Asia ‘went red’ (ie became communist) A propaganda disaster (US troops involved in human rights violations, massacres, use of chemical weapons)

25 Audio-Visual Resources BBC – News coverage of Vietnam War Anti- Vietnam war songs A55CDC6F3 A55CDC6F3

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