Vietnam War Ch. 24, Sec 1, 2
Background • US involvement in Vietnam began due to Containment & Domino Theory. • If one Southeast Asian nation fell to Communism, all others would fall. • Communism in Vietnam threatened Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Thailand. • For 2,000 years, Vietnam fought to prevent Chinese takeover. • 1800s-French took over Vietnam, met resistance from Vietnamese.
20th century-Ho Chi Minh, Communist supporter, French-educated, pushed independence against French. • Fought against French before WWII, against Japanese in WWII, against French after WWII. • Created League for the Independence of Vietnam, known as Vietminh. • Indochina War fought between French, Vietminh 1946-1954. • May 1954-French defeated at Dien Bien Phu. • Shortly after, Vietnam, France, others signed peace treaty called Geneva Accords. • Vietnam divided into 2 nations, France withdrew.
North Vietnam became Communist. • Leader-Ho Chi Minh. • Capital-Hanoi. • South Vietnam became “democratic”. • Leader-Ngo Dinh Diem. • Capital-Saigon. • Vietnams divided at 17th Parallel, by strip of land called De-Militarized Zone (DMZ). • Treaty called for elections in 1956 to reunify Vietnams. • Refused by S. Vietnam, said N. Vietnam would not hold fair elections.
America’s Involvement in Vietnam • Truman gave aid to French in Vietnam to gain French support for Containment in Europe. • After French withdrew, US supported S. Vietnam. • Ike began sending military advisors to train S. Vietnam’s military, police. • JFK increased advisors from 675 to 16,000 by 1963. • Problem-Diem was not popular, jailed critics, took bribes, practiced nepotism. • Putting family/friends into positions of power.
Diem began program to battle Communists. • Created “strategic hamlets”-forced people to leave their lands, move to gov’t controlled farming communities. • Tried to isolate population from Communists. • Vietnam majority Buddhist, Diem Catholic. • Tried to force Buddhists to follow Catholic religious laws. • Buddhist monks protested by burning themselves. • JFK realized Diem was no good, told S. Vietnam leaders US would not interfere if Diem overthrown. • Nov. 1963-Diem assassinated, military took over.
JFK’s & LBJ’s Secretary of Defense, Robert S. McNamara, had major role in US’ Vietnam policy. • Originally wanted to pull out, but later pushed to get more involved. • When JFK was killed, LBJ took over, big supporter of Containment. • Military gov’t in S. Vietnam unpopular. • Communist guerrillas in S. Vietnam called Vietcong fought against gov’t, brought more S. Vietnamese to their side. • Aided by Ho Chi Minh, North Vietnam. • LBJ did not want SE Asia to fall to Communism, but did also did not want US to go to war.
August 1964-LBJ announced that N. Vietnam torpedo boats attacked US destroyers in Gulf of Tonkin (international waters). • Attacks did not actually occur, but destroyers thought they were fired on. • Congress passed Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. • Gave LBJ power to “take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against forces of USA”. • Allowed LBJ complete control over US action in Vietnam, without declaration of war. • LBJ began sending combat troops to Vietnam.
The War • US forced to fight guerrilla war. • Small units, hit & run. • US had superior arms, tactics, training. • N. Vietnam knew land, could escape to Cambodia, Laos, US could not follow. • Few/no uniforms, enemy mixed with civilian population. • VC built huge tunnel complexes, could hide, strike, disappear. • Used mines, bobby traps.
1964-LBJ began escalation, or expansion, of the war. • By end of 1965-184,000 troops in SV. • US goal-not to conquer NV, but to force NV to stop fighting. • NV & VC began large infiltration into SV. • Used Ho Chi Minh Trail-Series of roads, trails to move men, supplies from NV thru Laos, into SV. • 1966-US began B-52 bomber attacks. • Used saturation bombing-drop thousands of bombs over large areas. • US planes sprayed Agent Orange-chemical defoliant to deny jungle hiding places to VC.
US attacks, bombing campaign severely hurt NV, but NV would not stop fighting. • As war progressed, US divided into two sides. • Hawks-supported war, focused on Containment. • Doves-opposed war, said Vietnam not vital to US interest. • January 30-Tet holiday (Vietnamese New Year). • Traditionally, cease fire so both sides could celebrate. • 1968-NV &VC launched Tet Offensive. • Huge attack across SV, cities & countryside. • NV &VC killed any suspected of supporting USA. • US stopped Tet Offensive cold, but US media said war was lost; began turning US against war.