Vietnam War Today we will understand why America became involved in the Vietnam War Lesson starter: Give three problems America faced during the Vietnam War. (3 marks)
BACKGROUND • Between 1945 and 1964 the USA became involved in a struggle to prevent communist rebels taking over Vietnam. • This was the American policy of ‘containment’. • At the end of World War II Vietnam was a French colony known as Indochina. Communist rebels led by Ho Chi Minh were fighting for independence. The French were given over $3 billion to help them resist the communists. • Despite this the French suffered defeat after defeat. • In 1954 their forces were on the verge of collapse. A conference was held in Geneva and the French agreed to pull out of Indochina.
Indochina was split into three separate countries – Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. • Vietnam was then split into North and South Vietnam • The North under Ho Chi Minh became communist • South was ruled by Ngo Dinh Diem a corrupt right wing dictator • 1958 onwards -Diem came under increasing attacks from communist guerrillas in the south who later became known as the Vietcong • 1963 President Kennedy sent 16,000 military ‘advisers’ to help the South Vietnamese army. For the next ten years US involvement increased. • 1968 over half a million American troops were in Vietnam and the war was costing $30 billion every year.
In 1964 in the Gulf of Tonkin, Vietcong gunboats attacked American ships and President Johnson ordered attacks on the Vietcong directly involving US forces in the war. (an excuse?) • The land in Vietnam was unsuitable for tanks or large infantry battles and the US relied mainly on air strikes. Ground based search and destroy missions were not successful. • From 1965 the USA began operation ‘Rolling Thunder’. This involved carpet bombing of enemy towns, factories and supply lines and led to thousands of civilian deaths. • US planes also dropped napalm and Agent Orange to destroy Vietcong hideouts in the forests.
THE VIETNAM WAR • The Vietcong were armed by Russia and China. • They fought a guerrilla war avoiding open battle with US troops • ambush, booby traps, mines and hit and run raids • They knew the land well and could easily disguise themselves as peasants. • The USA were foreign invaders and did not have the support of ordinary people in Vietnam. • Ho Chi Minh was a popular national hero who offered the peasants land and greater rights. • The USA was fighting to save the corrupt South Vietnamese government.
THE VIETNAM WAR • The US army was unable to beat the guerrilla tactics and local knowledge of the Vietcong. • By 1968, the majority of Americans opposed the war and the protest movement was growing • The press and television was very anti-war and showed the horror of the war every day and night. • The war was costing the US billions of dollars and the American economy was suffering. • America was sending more and more men, money and materials and there was still no end in sight. • The war was spreading to other parts of South-East Asia when the US bombed Cambodia and Laos.
THE VIETNAM WAR • Many thousands of American soldiers were being killed or wounded. • Thousands of young Americans became ‘draft dodgers’ by hiding or leaving the country • Parents opposed the war because they did not want their sons to be killed in Vietnam. • After 1968 President Nixon introduced a policy of ‘Vietnamisation’ – replacing US troops with South Vietnamese soldiers but this failed to hold back the Vietcong. • In 1973, the US recognised it could not win and signed a peace agreement with North Vietnam. • In 1975 the Vietcong finally defeated South Vietnam and the whole country became communist.
Causes of Vietnam War Conflicting ideologies USSR assisting North Gulf of Tonkin incident Causes of Vietnam War Communist North trying to take over Capitalist South US policy of containment
Reasons for US defeat in Vietnam Number of US casualties affecting morale US don’t know terrain US troops loss of morale Guerrilla Tactics of Vietcong Reasons for US defeat in Vietnam Never say Die attitude of Vietcong American economic concerns Condemnation of US tactics Vietcong opposition in South Lack of US support for war