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The Vietnam War - a timeline
Transcript of The Vietnam War - a timeline
France occupies Indochina
during the 1880's
Japan occupies Indochina until 1941 during the 2nd World War
The Viet Minh, the League for the Independence of Vietnam, is formed and starts fighting against French imperialism and Japanese opression under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh
The US support the Viet Minh in their fight against Japan
15th of August - Japan is defeated
France wants its colony back
Ho Chi Minh turns to the US in search of support against the French imperialists
The US was in a dilemma; both France and the Viet Minh demanded their support in the question of Vietnam's independence.
Although the US supported the notion of a free sovereign state and had supported the Viet Minh in their fight against Japan, according to the Domino Theory and the Truman Doctrine, they decided to support the French case against a (potentially) communist government.
2nd of September - Ho Chi Minh proclaims the Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh offers a treaty that allows French soldiers to remain in Vietnam for a specific amount of time
23th of November - France sabotages negotiations by bombing the seaport Hai Phong
The first Indochina War begins
China becomes communist and supports the Viet Minh in their fight against France
7th of May - Despite substantial US assistance, France suffers a grave defeat at Dien Bien Phu
April to July - In the Geneva Conference a seperation of Vietnam into two zones along the 17th degree of latitude is agreed upon - a northern zone governed by the Viet Minh, and a southern zone to be governed by the State of Vietnam
Although presented as a consensus view, this document is not accepted by the delegates of either South Vietnam or the United States
Former Vietnamese emperor Bao Dai is appointed head of the new South Vietnamese state by the French
Harry S. Truman
Dwight D. Eisenhower
John F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
Ho Chi Minh
(Emperor of Vietnam)
Ho Chi Minh - President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam
Nguyen van Thieu
1st of November - Diem dies while fleeing during a US sanctioned coup
5th of November - General Duong van Minh assumes leadership of South Vietnam
The US at least knew of the coup and might have supported it.
They did not intervene because Diem had become more and more unreliable and didn't listen to American advisers
After a 2nd, (unbloody) putsch against van Minh, General Nguyen Kankh assumes leadership of South Vietnam, promising the US to act on their advice
2nd & 4th of August - Tonkin Incidents, US Navy claims to have been shot at by the North Vietnamese navy
7th of August - Tonkin Resolution legitimizes the Vietnam War, gives the US president the authority "to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force, to assist any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty requesting assistance in defense of its freedom"
2nd of March - Operation Rolling Thunder, aerial bombardment campaign conducted against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam starts, US tries to force North Vietnam into negotiations by gradually bombing their country
17th of August - Operation Starlite, first big ground assault of US forces started
16th of March - My Lai Massacre, mass murder of unarmed Vietnamese civilians in South Vietnam, by American soldiers of "Charlie" - Company
they had to fight against the terrain and the weather
30th of January - Tet Offensive, all-out North Vietnamese attack on South Vietnam; disastrous in terms of military success but politically successful
Emergence of significant protest against the war in the US
27th of January - Paris Peace Accords are signed, which include the release of prisoners, a non-intervention pact and an armistice. Additionally all US troops have to leave the country, giving independence to Vietnam - first time in centuries without Western troops in Vietnam
However, the US was still not satisfied with some minor points of the agreement that North Vietnam demanded and conducted heavy bombing on the North (Christmas Bombing), to make them give in - which they eventually did
- but the bombardment took a heavy toll on the U.S.'s image as well
At first, the talks went well, but then South Vietnam was boycotting the agreement because they did not get involved in the process. The US threatened to leave them alone in their fight, which is why they agreed to the conditions
North and South Vietnam continue fighting after the US pulls out
North Vietnam has the upper hand because
it promises peace, unity, normality and reconstruction instead of showing an incompetent government like the South
30th of April - Saigon falls, South Vietnam is defeated
Vietnam becomes communist
Saigon is renamed Ho Chi Minh City
Ngo Dinh Diem
Ton Duc Thang
March - North Vietnam starts a new military campaign because they think the US is pulling out and is not strong enough to defend the South: this demonstrated that South Vietnam is not strong enough without the US, offensive is a success and known as Easter Offensive
May - Escalation: US retaliates with heavy bombings on the North (Operation Linebacker)
an overview of the Indochina Wars:
2nd Indochina War/ Vietnam War
1st Indochina War
elected President of Vietnam - internationally not fully acknowledged
Ton Duc Thang
Korea War (1950-1953):
- owing to the Containment policy, the US supported South Korea against North Korea which is occupied by the Soviet Union
- they feared that the SU would gain more land
- conflicts in the North, at the Chinese border, China intervened
- Cold War is held in North Korea
- USA was afraid of getting involved with China and the SU in Vietnam as well
- doctrine: support all of countries which were threatened by the SU
- containment policy
- acknowledgment of South Vietnam
- first financial supports of France to help South Vietnam
- first neutral, then financial support, at the end taking over the part of France and America became "security" of South Vietnam
- doctrine: USA is going to protect by all means (including atomic bombs) every country which suffers due to the SU or that is threatened of the SU across the world
- justification: DOMINO THEORY = if the western world loses one pro-western country in Asia, others will follow and become communist
- did NOT deploy official military troops, about reaction of China or the SU
- against Truman's containment policy, prefers "massive retaliation"
- resolute and military course of action
- deployed CIA in South Vietnam
- at the end, emperor Bao Dai was the only well-known public figure so France appointed him as emperor (March 1949)
- Bao Dai lived in France (Cote d’Azur) and therefore, he had not had a close relationship to the problems in Vietnam
- the USA was well aware that Bao Dai was not a political counterbalance to Ho Chi Minh
- therefore, a difficult decision, but Bao Dai was a representative of western values and societal models
Ho Chi Minh:
- Ho was the most influential and probably the most competent personality in Vietnam, there was no nationalistic alternative
- had an ideology to follow, found many followers and great supporters within the farmer population
- Ho Chi Minh was seen as Vietnam's liberator of the French colonies by the farmer population
- concepts: domino theory, credibility, containment policy
- it was really important for him to keep up America's credibility, Vietnam as a measured stick
- new strategy: flexible response
- begin of military engagement in Vietnam
- trainee of South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) and a massive increase of financial means, BUT: no ground troops
- he wanted to gain the war but decided to take the middle road
- from 1963 on: usage of the chemical bomb "Agent Orange"
- misjudgments and wrong predictions, especially by his adviser in Vietnam Westmoreland and his foreign minister Rusk, kept up believe in a success over North Vietnam
- violated the Genevan conference -> military intervention
- demanded more political and military rights to be consulted of South Vietnamese policy / Diem
- at the end he might have considered how to get out (some sources report so, at least his minister of defense Robert Mc Namara questioned America's engagement in Vietnam)
Duong Van Minh:
- General Duong Van Minh seems to be a strong leader, one of the main persons pulling a string at the putsch against Diem
- there were hints that he aimed for a compromise with the NLF, his willingness to comprise was seen as a national threat, Minh demanded less American advisers, but rejection in Washington
- lost his position because of an bloodless coup, general Nguyen Khanh became the new chairman at the Military Revolutionary Council
- in Washington relief, Khanh assured that he would rely more than his predecessors on the American military council
- Mc Namara: since the end of the regime of Diem the situation was getting worse, Khanh didn't have any political power, doubtful influence on the army
- in December 1964, he set up contacts with the NLF with the aim to achieve peace talks
Nguyen van Thieu
- 1965 new putsch: the young generals Nguyen Cao Ky, Nguyen Chanh Thi and Nguyen Van Thieu received the power
- promised officially not to gain for a compromise with the NLF, assured a close cooperation with the USA, tried to lead the war offensive and energetic
- September 1967: elections to keep up the impression of democracy, Thieu became president and Ky minister-president
- dismissal of the lord of the manor general Nguyen Chanh Thi was a big mistake, protests against his dismissal, public order broke down in some cities, Thieu tried to calm down the people: elections for a constituent assembly
- main characteristic of his government: corruption
- Thieu enriched himself with American taxes, when he escaped from Saigon in 1975, he owned several Mio. Dollars in foreign accounts
- Vision of the "Great Society", Vietnam War obstructed it
- wanted to keep up "American credibility"
- accuracy of American intervention, believed in Domino Theory
- followed Kennedy's plans, even military intervention, e.g. Rolling Thunder
- strategy: search and destroy
- aerial bombardment and ground troops (started in 1966)
- in literature not clear presented: on the one hand he questioned the war and was pushed in, on the other hand he wanted to fight and escalate (-> development during his presidency?)
- he decided to take a middle course, no effective and central controlled leadership/ management, was not able to decide, kind of "swing policy", tried to satisfy all other positions -> neither retreat nor fight -> begin of slow escalation
Ho Chi Minh's successor:
- Ho Chi Minh withdrew himself because of his age, premier minister Pham Van Dong, the politburo and Le Duan (first secretary of Minh's party) took over leadership
-extremist anticommunist, noticed the reality of the problems, knew that a military victory would not be possible anymore
- pursued the tactics of carpet bombing, but were without success
- greatest military escalation!! spectacular public announcements
- Vietnamization, honorable peace
- Nixon-doctrine: retreat of the Asiatic area, USA as a power for keeping everything ordered in the background, no military support anymore
- active policy of détente -> peace agreement (was actually a capitulation)
- negotiations with Moscow and Beijing
- 3 aims: a) to prepare publicity for a "defeat" (no military victory), b) to support of South Vietnam, c) to end war as soon and as honorable as possible, opportunities: escalation, vietnamization, retreat of American troops in parts
- madman theory: wanted to convince the world that he is mad and of unsound mind, North Vietnam should believed he could use atomic bombs, hoped that they would be afraid and the USA could win the war
- escalation: resumption of air raids, naval blockade, threats of using atomic bombs, bombardments of Laos and Cambodia
- at the end, the congress had more rights, his veto was useless, no support of his own party, mistrust, Watergate affair
- final retreat
- no interest and no support of the Congress regarding resumptions of fighting
- declared economic embargo against Vietnam
- 1976: Veto against admission of Vietnam in the United Nations
Jimmy Carter's policy:
- at first, there seemed to be a reconciliation, but there were misunderstandings
- feared a resistance of the congress if he decided for a policy of balance of two major enemies
Ngo Dinh Diem:
- USA demands for a new government in South Vietnam: anticommunist and anticolonialist, nationalistic
- Ngo Dinh Diem seemed to be suitable, according to foreign minister Dulles, but he had hardly any other choice, difficult search
- convinced Catholic, 1933 Minister of the Interior under Bao Dai, convinced anticommunist
- criticism: Diem would be the "Messiah without message“, whose whole politics consisted of ordering help of America
- indeed, no chance without the help of the USA and CIA
- France did not support him, worked against him
- attempt to prevent the general election because Diem had hardly any support and less reputation than Ho Chi Minh, had not had any chance against him to win in elections
- problem: Diem himself, e.g. bad decisions regarding to the army, he demoted some officers and tried to prevent the army of obtaining too much power
- development of his regime to a dictatorship, different view on type of government by Diem and the USA, government marked by corruption
- ideology of Diem: ruler was not dependent on a consent of the people, they owed him obedience; he would be the mediator between heaven and earth
- everyone who resisted him, was arrested, hundreds of people were arrested or even killed, therefore the Civil War began in South Vietnam
- reasons for a spreading armed resistance against Diem-Regime 1958: national consciousness, great dissatisfaction (reforms, dispossession, division of the country, ...), worries about their lives
- only Diem was responsible for Civil War, no other governments or communistic parties were involved
- Diem behaved like a tyrant, arrested and killed people
- political resistance in South Vietnam: founding of the NLF
- USA only less influence
- Diem admitted not to be able to control everything anymore, demanded help of the USA/ sending of new fighting units
- the USA reacted, discussed about it but decided against ground troops, instead they decided for other helps: financial support, economic aid, more military advisers, aerial surveillance, etc.
- summer 1963: the government of Kennedy allowed a putsch against Diem
Bill Clinton's policy:
- first reconciliation
- 1993: stopped American blockade on credits of international organizations
- 1994: stopped American economic embargo
- 1995: opened offices for staying in contact
- established an American embassy in Hanoi, a Vietnamese one in Washington
George Bush's policy:
- blocked French attempts to help Vietnam economically with the help of the International Monetary Fund
It was the first time a war could be covered 'live' by the media, which led to extensive coverage, especially in the evening news
as demonstrated in the quotations of the clip above, the media was sympathetic to the cause of the war in the beginning (as was the American public)
Due to the extensive war coverage, the American public could witness this deterioration of the situation in Vietnam and the horrors of the war first hand
Doubt and resistance towards the cause of the war among Americans, especially students, blacks, women, and hippies grew and led to the Anti-War Movement
Warning, strong content!
they did not know what they were fighting for, as many of the soldiers could not grasp the abstract concept behind the war
they suffered constant casualties due to the Vietcong guerilla tactic
they never knew where the next attack was going to come from, as there were no clear frontlines
But during the American ground operations the fighting morale sank constantly due to various reasons:
"tradition remains [...] magnificent."
"bastions of freedom"
"Their weapons, not ours, have been silenced."
"the brigade protects the rice farmers"
"once again the Vietcong suffers heavy losses"
"the valiant effort to keep that young nation free continoues"
"the gallant men of the U.S. Army stand steadfast [...] in freedoms cause"
15th of April - Massive Anti War March in Manhattan from Central Park to the United Nations; at this demonstration, Stokely Carmichael describes the draft as "white people sending black people to make war on yellow people in order to defend land they stole from red people"
of course the mentioned quotation was not inlcuded in this newsreel
4th of May - Kent State Shootings
The following presentation was created to be an e-learning environment for the Vietnam War. It was produced in a seminar on the Vietnam War at University Kassel in winter 2011/12 and depicts a western point of view.
Although we included a lot of information, there are aspects of the war on which we put more focus on than others. Therefore, the presentation can only give an overview of the war and does not intend to substitute for a thorough analysis of the events.
You will be guided through this presentation by a chronological path that we prepared. However, you can also freely navigate in the presentation by leaving the presentation mode (press escape and then use your mouse).
A short set-card for each US-President's handling of Vietnam politics for example, is not part of the path. It is rather background information that you can assess if you want to. You can find the set-cards above the years in which the corresponding president entered office.
This presentation has solely educational intentions, copyright-infringements are not intended.
A "general election" is supposed to be held until 1956 to create a unified Vietnamese state
2nd of September, Ho Chi Minh dies
Invasion of Cambodia - resulted in nationwide US protests
8th of March - first US combat troops arrive
US starts using Agent Orange
May-August - Buddhists monks protest against Diem, set themselves on fire in public places
18th of March 1969 - 26th of May 1970, secret US-bombing of Cambodia attempts to destroy Viet Cong base camps and supply routes, "Operation Menu" without knowledge of American public or Congress
June - Pentagon Papers are published; documents of secret history of US involvement in Vietnam, e.g. expansion of the war and bombing of Cambodia
Solution of the war according to the policy of Nixon (Nixon Doctrine)
South Vietnam should be enabled to take more responsibility for the war and get all the power back. Although they were not trained and not able to govern and protect themselves,
America could plan a withdrawal without losing its face and catch peace with honor
October - For American foreign minister Dull, Ngo Dinh Diem seems to be suitable as a president in South Vietnam; consequently, he is put into office by rigged general elections and thus becomes South Vietnam's new President
Most dangerous escalation of the conflict since 1965, Port of Haiphong was mined, naval blockade of North Vietnam was set up,
air offensive was resumed: Very effective - substantial losses on North Vietnam's side
July - Kissinger secretly promotes Chinese-American friendship in Bejing and lays ground for a presidential visit to China
February - Nixon visits China and the US and China pledge to work towards the full normalization of diplomatic policy between the two countries;
North Vietnam loses substantial foreign support
October - Peace talks between the US and North Vietnam start (North Vietnam was forced to the negotiation table because they lost the Chinese support)
US Personnel in Vietnam
Jaeggi, Urs/ Steiner, Rudolf/ Wyniger, Willy, Der Vietnamkrieg und die Presse, Zürich 1966.
Tanham, George K., War without guns. American civilians in rural Vietnam, New York 1966.
Domino Theory did not happen
Helicopter landing on the US embassy; last way out for many South Vietnamese officials and supporters of the old regime
13th of November - Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington is completed
the reflections mirror the connection between the past and the present
Herring, George C., America’s longest war. The United States and Vietnam, 1950-1975, New York 1996, Wiley.
With the election of Eisenhower, the US became gradually more invested in Vietnam - owing to the Domino Theory.
According to this theory, if one country falls to communism, the whole region will fall to communism. China and Korea had already fallen - and now Vietnam was threatened as well. Out of an American point of view, it was time to act.
Ronald Reagon's policy:
- investigation of all missing Americans
Anderson, David L. (ed.), The Columbia history of the Vietnam War, New York 2011.
Katsarova, Sonya Stefanova, Musik als Widerstand. Überzeugungsstrategien gegen den Vietnamkrieg, Marbung 2011.
Hallin, Caniel C., The "uncensored war". The media and Vietnam, Berkeley, Calif. 2010.
Wiest, Andrew/ Doidge, Michael J. (ed.), Triumph Revisited. Historians Battle for the Vietnam War, New York 2010.
Bradley, Mark Philip, Vietnam at War, New York 2009.
Moyar, Mark, Triumph forsaken. The Vietnam War 1954-1965, Cambridge 2009.
Allen, Joe, Vietnam. The (last) war the U.S. lost, Chicago 2008.
Bradley, Mark Philip, Making sense of the Vietnam Wars. Local, national, and transnational perspecitves, Oxford 2008.
Carter, James M., Inventing Vietnam. The United States and state building 1954-1968, Cambridge 2008.
Anderson, David L. (ed.). The war that never ends. New perspectives on the Vietnam War, Lexington 2007.
Greiner, Bernd, Krieg ohne Fronten. Die USA in Vietnam, Hamburg 2007.
Kostka, Jan, Peter Weiss' Vietnam-USA-Variationen über Geschichte und Gedächtnis, Schkeuditz 2006.
Moyar, Mark, Triumph Forsaken. The Vietnam War, 1954-1965, New York 2006.
Young, Marilyn B./ Buzzanco, Robert (ed.), A Companion to the Vietnam War, Malden 2006.
Hawley, Thomas M., The remains of war. Bodies, politics, and the search for Amercian soldiers unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, Durham, NC 2005.
Steininger, Rolf, Der Vietnamkrieg, Franfurt am Main 2004.
Appy, Christian G., Patriots. The Vietnam War remembered from all sides, New York 2003.
Kissinger, Henry, Crisis. The anatomy of two major foreign policy crises, New York 2003.
Woods, Randall Bennett, Vietnam and the American political tradition. The politics of dissent, Cambridge 2003.
Anderson, David L., The Columbia guide to the Vietnam War, New York 2002.
Gilbert, Marc Jason, Why the North won the Vietnam War, New York 2002.
Gilbert, Marc Jason (ed.), The Vietnam War on Campus. Other Voices, More Distant Drums, London 2001.
Gardner, Lloyd C. (ed.), International perspectives on Vietnam, College Station 2000.
Just, Ward, Reporting Vietnam. American journalsm 1959-1975, New York 2000.
Buzzanco, Robert, Vietnam and the transformation of American life, Malden, Mass. 1999.
Isaacs, Arnold R., Without honor. Defeat in Vietnam and Cambodia, Baltmore 1999.
Logevall, Fredrik, Choosing war. The lost chance for peace and the escalation of war in Vietnam. Berkeley 1999.
Frey, Marc, Geschichte des Vietnamkriegs. Die Tragödie in Asien und das Ende des amerikanischen Traums, München 1998.
Neilson, Jim, Warring fictions. American literary culture and the Vietnam War narrative, Jackson 1998.
Ruane, Kevin, War and revolution in Vietnam 1930-75, London 1998.
Sanders, Vivienne, The USA and Vietnam 1945-75, London 1998.
Shay, Jonathan, Achill in Vietnam. Kampftrauma und Persönlichkeitsverlust, Hamburg 1998.
Tomes, Robert R., Apocalypse then. American intellectuals and the Vietnam War 1954-1975, New York 1998.
Gardner, Lloyd C., Vietnam. The early decisions, Austin 1997.
Winters, Francis X, The year of the hare. America in Vietnam, January 25, 1963 - February 15, 1964, Athens 1997.
Herring, George C., LBJ and Vietnam. A Different Kind of War, Austin 1996.
McNamara, Robert S./ Van de Mark, Brian, Vietnam. Das Trauma einer Weltmacht, Hamburg 1996.
Christopher, Renny, The Viet Nam War/ the American war. Images and representations in Euro-American and Vietnamese exile narratives, Amherst 1995.
Ehrhart, William Daniel, Busted. A Vietnam veteran in -Nixon's America, Amherst 1995.
Kennedy, Leslie Carol, Ghosts through the looking glass. The Vietnam War and its narrative representation in the novels of Heinemann, Herr, O'Brien, and Wright, Texas 1995.
McNamara, Robert S., In retrospect. The tragedy and lessons of Vietnam, New York 1995.
Nelson, Keith L., The making of detente. Soviet-American relations in the shadow of Vietnam, Baltimore, Md. 1995.
Solotaroff, Paul, The house of purple hearts. Stories of Vietnam vets who find their way back, New York 1995.
Blackburn, Robert M., Mercenaries and Lyndon Johnson's more flags. The hiring of Korean, Filipino and Thai soldiers in the Vietnam War, Jefferson, NC 1994.
Kolko, Gabriel, Anatomy of a war. Vietnam, the United States, and the modern historical experience, New York 1994.
Ringnalda, Don, Fighting and writing the Vietnam War, Jackson 1994.
Anderson, Daivd L. (ed.), Shadow on the White House. Presidents and the Vietnam War 1945-1975, Lawrence, Kan. 1993.
Barrett, David M., Uncertain warriors. Lyndon Johnson and his Vietnam advisers, Lawrence, Kan. 1993.
Chomsky, Noam, Rethinking Camelot. JFK, the Vietnam War, and U.S. political culture, Boston, Mass. 1993.
Ely, John H., War and responsibility. Constitutional lessons of Vietnam and its aftermath, Princeton, NJ 1993.
Gustainis, Justin J., American rhetoric and the Vietnam War, Westport, Conn. 1993, Praeger.
Heinemann, Kenneth J., Campus wars. The peace movement at American state universities in the Vietnam era, New York 1993.
Scott, Wilbur J., The politics of readjustment. Vietnam veterans since the war, New York 1993.
Wyatt, Clarence R., Paper soldiers. The American press and the Vietnam War, New York 1993.
Jason, Philip K. (ed.), Forteen landing zones. Approaches to Vietnam war literature, Iowa City 1991.
Jeffords, Susan, The remasculinization of America. Gender and the Vietnam War, Bloomington 1991.
Rowe, John Carlos/ Berg, Rick (ed.), The Vietnam War and American culture, New York 1991.
Hess, Gary R., Vietnam and the United States. Origins and legacy of war, New York 1990.
MacGregor, Ross, A terrible irony. American response to the Vietnam War in fiction, Trier 1990.
McMahon, Robert J. (ed.), Major Problems in the History of the Vietnam War. Documents and Essays, Lexington 1990.
Olson, James S., Dictionary of the Vietnam War, New York 1990.
Short, Anthony, The Origins of the Vietnam War, London 1989.
Walsh, Jeffrey (ed.), Vietnam images: war and representation, Basinstoke/ Hampshire 1989.
Cable, Larry E., Conflict of myths. The development of American counterinsurgency doctrine and the Vietnam War, New York 1986.
Gibbon, William C., The U.S. government and the Vietnam war: executive and legislative roles and relationships, Princeton, N.J. 1986.
Gettleman, Marvin E., Vietnam and America. A documented history, New York 1985.
Capps, Walter H., The unfinished war. Vietnam and the American conscience, Boston, Mass. 1982.
Walsh, Jeffrey, American war literature, 1914 to Vietnam, New York 1982.
Westmoreland, William C., A soldier reports, Garden City, NY 1976.
FitzGerald, Frances, Fire in the lake. The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam, New York 1973.
Chomsky, Noam, Indochina und die amerikanische Krise, Frankfurt am Main 1972.
Chomsky, Noam, Kambodscha, Laos, Nordvietnam, Frankfurt am Main 1972.
Haviland, H. Field/ Fabian, Larry L./ Mathiasen, Karl, Vietnam after the war. Peacekeeping and rehabilitation, Washington, D.C. 1968.
Gelb, Leslie H./ Betts, Richard K., The irony of Vietnam. The system worked, Washington, D.C. 1979.