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Transcript of Vietnam War
US Involvement and Escalation
After Diem refused to hold national elections, Ho Chi Minh and followers organized Vietcong
Communist guerrillas in the South,backed by Communist North Vietnam, to overthrow the government of South Vietnam.
Between 1961-1963, the # of U.S. military personnel to Vietnam jumped from 2,000 to 15,000
Vietcong continued to grow because Diem was unpopular and corrupt
Strategic hamlets-fortified villages protected by weapons to protect from Vietcong and prevent people from giving aid to Vietcong
American Involvement Deepens
Diem government increasingly unpopular: Corrupt(not spending aid from US to help feed the poor)
Discriminated against Buddhists (majority religion in Vietnam)
Banned tradition of carrying religious flags of Buddha’s B-Day.
Buddhists protest- Diem’s police kill 9
Buddhist monks set themselves on fire to protests Diem’s religious policies-Symbol of opposition
U.S. supports S. Vietnam military coup of Diem. November 1, 1963
S. Vietnam unstable- U.S. becomes more involved to prop up S. Vietnamese gov’t
Overthrow of Diem
“I was to see that sight again, but once was enough. Flames were coming from a human being; his body was slowly withering and shriveling up, his head blackening and charring. In the air was the smell of burning human flesh; human beings burn surprisingly quickly. Behind me I could hear the sobbing of the Vietnamese who were now gathering. I was too shocked to cry, too confused to take notes or ask questions, too bewildered to even think…. As he burned he never moved a muscle, never uttered a sound, his outward composure in sharp contrast to the wailing people around him”
David Halberstam, a reporter for the New York Times covering the war in Vietnam, gave the following account
On Aug. 2, 1964, President Johnson announced that N. Vietnamese torpedoes had fired on American destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin
Johnson asked Congress to authorize the use of force to defend American forces
Aug. 7, 1964-Gulf Of Tonkin Resolution
Congress had handed all war powers over to the President
After Tonkin Resolution, Vietcong began attacking American bases in S. Vietnam
Johnson & Vietnam
By early 1965, the first combat troops were ordered into Vietnam
American soldiers were now fighting alongside the S. Vietnamese troops against the Vietcong
By the end of 1965, more than 180,000 American combat troops were fighting in “Nam”
By 1966, 360,000 troops were in Vietnam
A Bloody Stalemate
From 1948 until 1973, during both peacetime and periods of conflict, men were drafted to fill vacancies in the armed forces which could not be filled through voluntary means.
Male 18-25 living in the U.S.
Hospitalized, incarcerated, disabled, college students
Lacking the firepower of the Americans, the Vietcong used ambushes, booby traps, and guerrilla tactics.
The Vietcong also frustrated U.S. troops by blending in with the general population in cities and countryside
Vietnam- “It’s a war where nothing is ever quite certain and nowhere is every quite safe.”
“Search & Destroy” missions. U.S. troops try to find enemy troops, bomb their positions, destroy supply lines, & force them out into the open for combat.
U.S. forces also sought to take away the Vietcong’s ability to hide in the thick jungles by destroying the landscape.
American planes dropped napalm, a jellied gasoline that explodes on contact
They also used Agent Orange- a chemical that strips leaves from trees and shrubs turning the farmland and forest into wasteland
U.S. military leaders underestimated the Vietcong
No intention of surrendering, willing to accept huge losses in human lives
As Vietcong casualties mounted, N. Vietnam began sending troops to fight in S. Vietnam
Arms and supplies going to S. Vietnam were sent by way of jungle paths known as the Ho Chi Minh trail.
The trail wound through the countries of Cambodia and Laos, bypassing the N/S Vietnamese border
A Determined Enemy
N. Vietnam received military weapons and support from the S.U. and China
Johnson never ordered a full-scale attack on N. Vietnam because he feared it would bring China into the war
By placing limits on war, American forces fought a war of Attrition- defeating the enemy by slowly wearing them down
Bombing from U.S. planes killed as many as 220,000 Vietnamese between 1965-1967.
By end of 1966, more than 6,700 American soldiers had been killed
Operation Rolling Thunder
-it was expansion of American involvement
-it was also the first sustained bombing campaign of the war.
- it dropped more bombs than the United States did in all of WWII
Gulf of Tonkin Resolution
It allowed President Johnson to "take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression"
A Nation Divided
In the spring of 1965, a poll showed that 66% of Americans approved of involvement in Vietnam
Support dropped as people became suspicious about the gov’t truthfulness about the war.
General William Westmoreland in 1967
The enemy (Vietcong) was on the brink of defeat. The “enemy’s hopes are bankrupt…we have reached an important point where the end begins to come into view.”
Vietnam was the first “T.V. war” with footage of combat on nightly news
Millions of people saw images of wounded and dead soldiers
Americans began to doubt gov’t reports
As casualties mounted, many people began to protest publicly against the war and demanded the U.S. to withdraw.
Many still supported the war, but opponents of the conflict received the most attention
Instructors and students would abandon their classes and discuss issues surrounding the war
They would reaffirm their reasons for opposing the war.
Some saw the conflict as a civil war where the U.S. had no business
Others viewed S. Vietnam as a corrupt dictatorship and insisted that defending that country was immoral and unjust.
Young protesters saw the draft system was unfair
Low income individuals were more likely to be sent to Vietnam because they couldn’t afford college
Minorities made a disproportionately large number of soldiers in Vietnam
Anger at the Draft
As the war escalated, American officials increased the draft call.
As many as 500,000 draftees refused to go
Many publicly burned their draft cards
Many didn’t report to induction
Other fled the country
Some went to prison for refusing to go to Vietnam
Between 1965-1968, more than 3,300 Americans were prosecuted for refusing to serve.
Protests went beyond college campuses
Washington D.C. rally in 1967
Anger over draft fueled discussions of voting age
Old enough to fight, old enough to vote
1971- 26th Amendment
All citizens 18+ have the right to vote in all state/federal elections.
In mid-1967, about 68% of Americans favored continuing the war, compared to the 32% who wanted it to end.
Those who wanted the U.S. to withdraw from Vietnam were known as doves.
Those who wanted the U.S. to stay and fight were known as hawks.
Doves & Hawks
Section 4- 1968: A Tumultuous Year
Jan. 30, 1968-TET, the Vietnamese New Year
Vietcong/N. Vietnamese launch a massive surprise attack on all American airbases in S. Vietnam and most of the South’s major cities.
Huē- Bloodiest battle, Vietnam’s 3rd largest city.
Communist forces seized much of the city.
Took Americans four weeks to drive them out
American troops found mass graves filled with political, religious leaders, foreigners, and other associated with S. Vietnam- 3,000 bodies
Tet was a disaster for the Communist forces
After a month of fighting, U.S. and S. Vietnamese troops had inflicted major casualties on enemy troops
American people were shocked that an enemy on the verge of “defeat” could launch an attack
American media now openly criticized the war.
President Johnson’s approval rating fell to 26%.
It ended up being a major political victory for the Communist Party.
March 31st, 1968
“ I have concluded that I should not permit the presidency to become involved in the partisan divisions that are developing in this political year. Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President.”
Johnson Leaves 1968 Race
1968- (Rep) Richard Nixon,(Ind.) George Wallace, (Dem.) Hubert Humphrey
Nixon’s promised to end the war and restore order at home were enough to sway the American public, giving him the Presidency.
Beyond the conflict in Vietnam, 1968 was a year that plagued the U.S. with violence
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered by James Earl Ray in April 1968
Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan, an Arab nationalist who was angry over RFK’s pro-Israeli remarks in nights past.
1968 Dem. National Convention (Chicago)
Protesters demanded anti-war stance
Protesters/police fought, causing a full scale riot in Chicago
A Season of Violence
The End of the War and its Legacy
After taking office, President Nixon had taken steps to end the U.S. involvement in Vietnam
1)Vietnamization- cut back the number of troops in Vietnam
June 8, 1969, Nixon announced the withdrawal of 25,000 soldiers.
2) Increase air strikes against the N. Vietnamese and areas of Cambodia where Vietcong sanctuaries existed.
Nixon Moves to End the War
US Soldiers in Vietnam
Nov. 1969- Americans learn of an American platoon under Lieutenant William Calley that massacred 200 unarmed S. Vietnamese civilians.
Most American soldiers acted responsible and honorable throughout the war. The actions of these soldiers increased the feeling among citizens that Vietnam was a brutal and senseless conflict.
Turmoil Continues- My Lai
April 1970- Nixon announces an Invasion of Cambodia to destroy Vietcong military bases there.
Actions set off protests
Kent State University
May 4, 1970, Ohio National Guard soldiers armed with tear gas and rifles fired on protesters without orders to do so.
Four students were killed and nine others were wounded
Police killed two African American students during a demonstration rally
Invasion of Cambodia
1970: Kent State Shooting
December 1970- An angry congress repealed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which had given the president near complete power in directing the war in Vietnam
Pentagon Papers- documents leaked to the New York Times that revealed that Presidents and their advisors were lying to Congress, the press and public about the Vietnam situation. (Gulf of Tonkin, increasing troop levels, escalating situations, deaths)
1971- 2/3 of Americans wanted to end the Vietnam War as quickly as possible.
1972- Nixon re-elected in landslide over Senator George McGovern
U.S. representative Henry Kissenger discusses with N. Vietnamese re. Le Duc Tho about possible peace treaty options
U.S. Withdraws from Vietnam
January 27, 1973, a peace agreement is signed “ending the war and restoring ‘peace’ in Vietnam
U.S. removes its troops
Both sides agree to an exchange of prisoners of war
N. Vietnamese troops allowed to stay in S. Vietnam
S. Vietnam’s future not determined. Free or Communist??? Who Knows???
Two Sides Reach Peace
Congresses action in 1973 to reestablish limits on Presidential power
Act required president to inform Congress of any commitment of U.S troops to other countries within 2 days of doing so
Also required president to withdraw troops in 60-90 days unless a length of stay is approved by Congress
War Powers Act
By early 1975, the U.S had removed the last of the troops in Vietnam
In March 1975, the peace agreement with N. Vietnam falls as they launch an full-scale invasion of S. Vietnam
S. Vietnam asks for help but new President Gerald Ford is denied by Congress to give aid to S. Vietnamese
April 30, 1975- N. Vietnamese capture Saigon, S. Vietnam’s capital and unites Vietnam under Communist rule.
Saigon renamed Ho Chi Minh City
S. Vietnam Falls
Cost- $170 billion
U.S. Deaths- 58,000+
U.S. Injuries- 300,000
N/S Vietnamese Deaths- 1,500,000 (without civilians)
Legacy of Vietnam
1.Wars must be of short duration.
2.Wars must yield few American casualties.
3.Restrict media access to battlefields.
4.Develop and maintain Congressional and public support.
5.Set clear, winnable goals.
6.Set deadline for troop withdrawals.
Lessons for Future American Presidents
-26th Amendment: 18-year-olds vote
-Nixon abolished the draft -> all-volunteer army
-War Powers Act, 1973 ٭
-President must notify Congress within 48 -hours of deploying military force
-President must withdraw forces unless he gains Congressional approval within 90 days
-Disregard for Veterans -> seen as “baby killers”
-POW/MIA issue lingered
Some American POWs Returned from the “Hanoi Hilton”
Senator John McCain (R-AZ)
2,583 American POWs / MIAs still unaccounted for today.
Even More Impact
Psychological impact-Bombarded by the visual and auditory sensations of bloodshed and violence, veterans serving during the Vietnam War became susceptible to the psychological threat of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
15.2% of male Vietnam veterans and 8.5% of female Vietnam veterans develop PTSD, causing the men and women served in the war to be haunted by graphic and unsettling memories
The War lingered for American families whose relatives/friends were classified as M.I.A./P.O.W.
The U.S. finally began to come to terms with the war in 1982.
In this year, the nation dedicated the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C.
A large black stone wall has names of all soldiers/personnel killed and missing in action from the war.
-"Old" left from the '30s preached socialism and even communism
-"New" left did not focus on socialism, but emphasized changes in society
-Consisted of educators
-Opposed authority figures, aka "the establishment"
-Assisted in starting the counterculture/hippie movement
-A student activist group that focused on "new" left ideals
-Charged that corporations and large governments had taken over America
-Called for a restoration of "participatory democracy"
-Called for greater individual freedom
Students for Democratic Society