The vietnam war

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Vietnam War

PART 1: Why did the Vietnam War begin?

A. French Involvement

-France controlled Vietnam up until WWII when Japan took control of it.
-With U.S. aid, France attempted re-colonization in the postwar period.

-The French lost control to Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh forces in 1954

B. Vietnam Divided into two countries: Geneva Accords

-Vietnam was divided at 17th parallel

-Ho Chi Minh’s nationalist forces controlled the North

-Diem, a corrupt president, claimed control of the South

-A date was set for democratic elections to reunify Vietnam

C. South Vietnam backs out of election

-Diem backed out of the elections, leading to military conflict between North and South

-Viet Cong were formed as a resistance movement to South Vietnamese government.

PART 2: Why did the US get involved in Vietnam?

A. US Supports South Vietnam

-US wanted to contain spread of Communism.

-US believed that Ho Chi Minh’s follower’s were communists directed from USSR and China.

-Therefore, US supported Diem’s corrupt, repressive governnment. Beginning with Eisenhower, US sent military advisers to South Vietnam.

-North Vietnam supported Viet Cong.

B. U.S. Military Involvement Begins

-JFK elected 1960. JFK believed communism could not be defeated in Vietnam with Diem in control of South Vietnam.

-1963: JFK supports effort to overthrow Diem government– Diem and his brother are murdered (Nov. 2)

-Kennedy was assassinated just weeks later (Nov. 22)

-Lyndon Johnson (LBJ) took over, and he was determined to stop spread of Communism in Vietnam. Domino theory-if one country fell to Communism, others would follow.
PART 3: How did the US become involved in fighting?

A. Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

-August 1964 (two months before election), Johnson announced that North Vietnamese had attacked US ships. North Vietnamese fired at the USS Maddox. They missed. Details of what happened were sketchy, the incident led LBJ to seek passage of…..

-Gulf of Tonkin Resolution-Congress votes gives the President a blank check to wage war in Vietnam. Allowed Johnson to take military action without approval of Congress.

B. Bombing of North Vietnam

-Viet Cong were gaining support in South Vietnam. They received critical supplies from North Vietnam by the “Ho Chi Minh Trail,” which went through Laos and Cambodia. In an effort to stop this support from North Vietnam, Johnson started intense bombing campaign against North Vietnam. Johnson also was influenced by his fear of being called “soft on Communism” by conservative opponents.

C. Involvement on the ground

-By 1967, there were 500,000 American troops in Vietnam.

-Fighting was difficult, and it often was difficult to separate the enemy from civilians.

-The jungles provided Viet Cong places to hide.

To try to “uncover” the enemy, the US employed napalm and Agent Orange.

Napalm: Ignites organic things (people, plants)

Agent Orange-was sprayed which killed plants. Meant to destroy the “cover” of the jungle used by Communists.

-These items often hurt civilians more than they did the Vietcong.

D. The Tet Offensive, January 1968

-N. Vietnamese Army + Viet Cong attack South simultaneously (67,000 attack 100 cities, bases, and the US embassy in Saigon). Take every major southern city. US troops win after struggle.

BUT…it’s seen as an American defeat by the media. Despite victory, turns Americans against what many see as an “unwinnable” war. Nation was divided between “hawks” and “doves.”

-Johnson announces he will not run for reelection due to increasing opposition to war and a split within the Democratic Party over the war.

PART 4: Why did the US decide to leave Vietnam?

A. Objections to War

1. Daily exposure to war: Body counts on TV every night (first “living room” war). Combat footage on nightly news. Media coverage of Tet Offensive showed that Viet Cong could attack anywhere/anytime, thus leading to a shift in public opinion against war. Even some returning war veterans protested against the war.

2. Disproportionate representation of poor people and minorities. African Americans served in large numbers as ground troops on front line. War seen as “poor man’s fight.”

3. Objection to draft. Draft was seen as unfair because some young men granted medical exemptions or college deferments or enlisted in National Guard to avoid going to Vietnam. Many US soldiers were drafted into a war they didn’t want to fight. Rallies were held where young men burned their draft cards. Some fled to Canada to avoid draft. Protest movement calmed as Nixon ended the draft but returned when US forces invaded Cambodia.

4. Money. War became too expensive and interfered with Johnson’s desired domestic reforms.

B. America Was Divided

As protests became more provocative, including burning of draft cards, protesters lost public support.

TV coverage of war and protests, divided the nation into hawks (pro-war) and doves (anti-war).
PART 5: How did the US get out of Vietnam?

A. Nixon Elected

-Nixon won 1968 election. He appealed to bringing back “law and order.”

Promised to end Vietnam.

-Vietnamization: Wanted a gradual withdrawal of US troops in order for South Vietnamese to take over.

“Peace with honor”: Wanted to maintain US dignity when withdrawing from Vietnam. Used bombing campaigns on North Vietnamese supply routes. Wanted to show US power.

B. Nixon and Vietnam

-US troops invaded Cambodia to clear out Viet Cong supply centers. College students protested this movement. Students closed down campuses across US. Kent State University: Student protest led to burning of the ROTC building. National Guard fired shots into the student crowd, killing 4.

Riots showed division of the country. Nixon’s Cambodia policy cost Nixon political support. Made Congress angry because he invaded and bombed Cambodia without notifying Congress. So, in 1970 Congress repealed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution.
C. The Ceasefire 1973

-Nixon reached agreement to end war. Paris Peace Accords: US would withdraw troops from Vietnam. North and South Vietnam would continue to be divided.

-Last American troops left South Vietnam on March 29, 1973

-1975: North Vietnam defeats South Vietnam and Saigon renamed Ho Chi Minh City

PART 6: What were the effects of the war?

1. Questioning of American Values: Use of Agent Orange and Napalm/other war tactics called American values into question. The My Lai massacre (murder of 200 civilians by US troops) had the same effect.

Many veterans were mistreated when they returned home b/c America was still bitterly divided about war.

2. War Powers Act was passed. President must inform Congress within 48 hours of sending forces into a hostile area without a declaration of war. Also, troops may remain no longer than 90 days without Congressional approval.

3. “Vietnam Syndrome” –fear of becoming mire in a prolonged unpopular war, affected US foreign policy for the next couple of decades.
4. Containment failed

5. “Credibility gap” and loss of trust in government.

a. Pentagon Papers: 7,000 page document showing that government had drawn up plans for war as LBJ promised not to send troops. Pentagon Papers confirmed many Americans’ belief that the government had not been honest in its war intentions. But, even more damaging was….
b. Watergate

-Because of social unrest/war protests, Nixon was concerned about conspiracies against his government.

Prior to the 1972 election (when Nixon was re-elected), Nixon officials wiretapped phones at the Democratic National Committee headquarters. The headquarters were at the Watergate office complex.

The attempted recording failed and five men were arrested for breaking into Watergate. Nixon-did not know about plan but helped cover it up. Evidence surfacted that Nixon had secret taping system in his office. Nixon resigned rather than facing impeachment.

-Watergate damaged citizens’ trust in the US government.
6. 26th Amendment: Gave 18-year olds the right to vote. Influenced by Vietnam because many felt it was unfair to ask 18-year-olds to fight and die in Vietnam without being allowed to vote.


Study all notes & handouts. Also know the answers to these questions:

1. What was the purpose of creating the United Nations?

2. What efforts did the US make to stop the spread of communism during the Cold War?

3. Why did the US fight in the Korean War? What was the outcome?

4. What was NATO? What is mutual defense?

5. What was the Warsaw Pact?

6. What was McCarthyism?

7. Why was there increased suburbanization after World War II?

8. What was the Baby Boom?

9. Why did Congress pass the GI Bill?

10. What was the result of the explosion of the first hydrogen bomb?

11. How did many Americans seek to protect themselves from nuclear destruction?

12. What was the space race? What did the US do to help its space program?

13. What Cold War events took place in Cuba and why?

14. What humanitarian program did JFK create to try to win the hearts and minds of people in 3rd world countries?

15. What was domino theory?

16. What effect did the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution have on the Vietnam War?

17. What was the importance of the Tet Offensive?

18. How did Nixon try to end the war in Vietnam?

19. How did the Vietnam War help lead to passage of the 26th Amendment?

20. What was the War Powers Act?

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