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Vietnam - Condensed Unit
Transcript of Vietnam - Condensed Unit
Do you trust the U.S. government? Why or why not? Why do you think many people do not?
The actions of a government can divide its people.
In the late 1800s, France colonized what is today
Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia
naming it French Indochina.
After France surrendered to the Nazis in 1940, a group of Communist rebels rose up in revolution against them in Vietnam. This group was called the
and were headed by a man named
Ho Chi Minh
In 1954, the Vietminh succeeded in getting the French to retreat from Vietnam and give up their claims to French Indochina.
Republic of Vietnam
In 1954, France and the Vietminh signed a peace treaty, the Geneva Accords. In the accords,
Vietnam was split in half
, with national elections set for 1956. The U.S. had supported the Vietminh originally, but now refused to recognize the treaty.
In the South,
the U.S. helped Ngo Dinh Diem become president
there. Diem was a Catholic, Vietnamese man who had gone to college in the U.S. and spoke French and English better than Vietnamese.
Diem made many mistakes. In 1956, he announced that the South would not be holding the agreed-upon elections. Instead, he
held his own elections that were rigged
. His U.S. advisors supposedly told him to shoot for 60-70%, but he "won" with 98%, with as much as 133% in some districts.
Another huge mistake was a
crackdown on the Buddhist religion
, leading to infamous self-immolation (setting yourself on fire) protests by Buddhist monks and nuns.
The U.S. supported the Vietminh during WWII because
they were fighting the Japanese
. After the war, the U.S. suddenly stopped supporting them. The reasoning was the Domino Theory:
the idea that a small country falling to Communism would lead to other nations falling
, like a line of dominoes.
Gulf of Tonkin
In 1964, President Johnson gave a speech to the American people in which he claimed that
the North Vietnamese Navy had fired on two U.S. Navy ships
in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of Vietnam. He then used this attack to get Congress to pass the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which
gave the President permission and money to do "whatever necessary" to support South Vietnam
. In 2005, declassified documents revealed that the attack was a hoax by the Johnson administration.
Ho Chi Minh
The leader of the Vietminh was Ho Chi Minh. He
had lived in the U.S., England, the Soviet Union, and China before returning to Vietnam
to lead the resistance against the French and Japanese during World War II.
He had petitioned the U.S. multiple times to recognize a democratic republic in Vietnam
but was ignored. It was generally agreed that
he would have won the 1956 elections
if they had been held.
From the North, the U.S. fought the
North Vietnamese Army (NVA)
. They were the official army of North Vietnam.
In the South, the U.S. fought the Vietcong, an army recruited from
South Vietnamese villagers
mostly used guerrilla warfare
, which means they did not wear a uniform and attacked in hit-and-run type attacks and sabotage.
Making the Connection
Think back to the Korean War. What similarities can you think of between the Korean War and the Vietnam War? What differences can you think of?
If the majority of a country's citizens oppose a war, should the government immediately end it? Why or why not?
Of the roughly 3.5 million U.S. soldiers, Marines, and sailors that served in Vietnam, 2.2 million were drafted.
Many young people opposed the war in Vietnam and thus were very against the draft. Hundreds of thousands refused to serve - leading to the term "draft dodger."
The Black Panthers argued that
African-Americans should be exempt from the draft
due to their lack of voting rights. Blacks were also disproportionately drafted.
Martin Luther King and Vietnam
In the last few years of his life,
Martin Luther King
began to speak out against the war in Vietnam
. This cost him the friendship and support of many of his white civil rights allies, such as President Lyndon Johnson, who came to feel that King had betrayed him after he had done so much for African-Americans.
"We have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them in the same schools."
-- Martin Luther King, Jr. (1967)
Explain this quote in your own words. Do you agree?
Expanding the Vote
The anti-war movement took a tragic turn on May 4th, 1970, when
National Guardsmen fired on peaceful protestors
at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio
killing 4 students and wounding 9.
led to an increase in student protests and shifted public opinion more strongly against the war
If you have to skip part of this, skip to about the 3/4ths mark.
The main protestors of the Vietnam war were college students, many of whom were too young to vote. They argued that it was unfair that people
18-20 were old enough for the draft but not to vote
. In response, in 1971 Congress passed the 26th Amendment to the Constitution. It officially lowered the voting age to 18 in all elections.
The Tet Offensive
The Tet Offensive was a widespread,
surprise attack by the NVA and the Vietcong across Vietnam
It was called the Tet Offensive because it took place during the Vietnamese holiday of Tet, in which it was generally agreed there would be no fighting.
The Tet Offensive seemed like a big loss for North Vietnam. Of around 100,000 fighters, at least 45,000 were killed; however, in the U.S., the
American people were shocked
by the offensive
and felt like the U.S. must be losing the war
. The Johnson administration tried to convince the American people that the U.S. was still winning, but they weren't believed.
The Credibility Gap
As the war dragged on, Americans came to distrust President Johnson and (later) President Nixon. They didn't believe that the war was going as well as the Presidents said. This
difference between what the Presidents said and what the public believed
was called the "Credibility Gap."
President Nixon vowed to end the Vietnam War "with honor." This involved a tactic known as "Vietnamization." Vietnamization meant
training South Vietnamese troops
(the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, or ARVN)
to take over the war for themselves
. By 1973, all U.S. troops had left Vietnam (except for the Marines guarding the U.S. embassy in Saigon).
Wrap it Up
By the end of the Vietnam War, the U.S. had spent $111 billion on the war (that's about $680 billion in today's dollars). Over 58,000 Americans were killed, with another 21,000 permanently disabled. There were about 5.3 million Vietnamese killed in the war, around 4 million of them civilians. Another 3 million or so Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians fled after the war. In the years following the war, there were revolutions in Laos and Cambodia. The Communist dictatorship that took over Cambodia committed genocide, killing 1/5th of its population (Communist Vietnam eventually invaded and took them out, though).
Was it worth it? Why or why not?
The War Powers Act
Also called the War Powers Resolution, it
requires the President to notify Congress within 48 hours of sending the military into action and requires them to begin leaving within 60 days unless authorized by Congress
. It was passed by Congress in 1973 over President Nixon's veto.
The End of the War
Even with the U.S. Navy and Air Force providing some support, ARVN was no match for North Vietnam. On April 30th,
1975, the captital city of Saigon fell. Soon, Vietnam unified under a single Communist government
and remains under it to this day.
Life In Communist Vietnam
While in the North, people were mostly happy about the outcome of the war, things did not go well for the South. At least 1.5 million former ARVN military officers and government workers were put into "reeducation" camps, where they were brutally tortured and imprisoned for upwards of a decade, all without any trials. About 10% of the prisoners died.
Vietnam also maintained prisoner of war camps for U.S. soldiers captured during the war. After the Paris Peace Accords in 1973, they turned them back over to the U.S.; however, there were around 2,550 U.S. soldiers unaccounted for. There is a widely held belief that the Vietnamese government kept these prisoners and conspired (possibly with the U.S. government) to keep it a secret. This belief was popularized by several 1980s films.