The Vietnam War The era and the legacy The Vietnam War
A BRIEF HISTORY • Vietnam is a small and fiercely independent country in the heart of Indochina. • For 12 Centuries, they had fought China. France had appointed themselves Vietnam’s colonial ruler until the Japanese invaded in WWII. After WWII France tried to reclaim the country, but the Vietnamese fought back, defeating them in 1954.
Ho Chi Minh Under the 1954 Geneva Convention, Vietnam was to be temporarily split in half; the North under the control of the communist Ho Chi Minh (Uncle Ho), and the South under the “control” of Ngo Dinh Diem, who was backed by the Americans. It was Ho Chi Minh’s dream that his Vietnam be united as one country, independent of any colonial force.
Diem was so unpopular in South Vietnam that Buddhist monks set themselves on fire in protest.
American Involvement Elections were supposed to take place, uniting North and South Vietnam. But they never happened, as Diem and the U.S. knew that most Vietnamese would have voted for Ho Chi Minh.
Domino theory The Americans were afraid that if S. Vietnam fell into the hands of Communists, then the rest of Indochina would also fall like dominos. And if Indochina fell, then so might the Pacific. If that happened, U.S.interests in the area might be jeopardized, as well as its access to natural resources like tin, rubber and tungsten,coal and iron ore.
The war begins… The U.S. started sending in troops to advise South Vietnam’s army in the escalating war against the Communist guerrillas known as the Vietcong.
They launched a massive bombing campaign over North Vietnam and suspected Viet Cong strong holds in the South.
It destroyed people, villages and jungle…burning everything in sight.
But the Vietnamese had an advantage. It was their independence that they were fighting for, and their land that they were fighting on.
An non-traditional war The Vietcong didn’t have all the bombs and planes that the Americans used…instead they relied on booby traps, land mines and underground tunnels. VC soldiers hid in the jungles, ambushing American G.I.’s at night.
Tunnels The Viet cong had an elaborate tunnel system, with field hospitals, artillery storage, beds and kitchens. Some very brave G.I.’s, called the tunnel rats, were sent in to infiltrate the tunnels.
Agent orange Agent Orange Since the Vietcong hid in the thick jungle foliage, the US sprayed a defoliant called Agent Orange so the VC guerrillas would have no brush to hide themselves.
Both the Vietnamese and the American GI’s who were exposed to Agent Orange experienced serious health problems, leading to death or deformities.
The war dragged on for years…The country of Vietnam was devastated, but determined to fight for its independence.
Tet In 1968, during a truce for the Vietnamese holiday, Tet, the Vietcong went on an offensive in all the cities throughout South Vietnam in what is known as the Tet offensive.
After The Tet offensive, American society grew even more divided. More people grew disenchanted with the war and all the casualties. The protests grew louder and more violent.
The Draft More and more young men were drafted, making the war ever more unpopular, particularly with students. Many of the draftees were those who couldn’t afford college to get a student deferment.
My Lai After it was discovered that soldiers had killed everyone in the village of My Lai, people in the United States began to call the veteran GI’s as “baby killers.”
Slowly, Nixon started pulling out troops. In 1969, 554,000 GI’s were stationed in Vietnam. In 1972, 156,800 men were left. Nixon had a plan, called Vietnamization, where the ARVN would fight the Communists themselves as the Americans pulled out of the war torn country.
Approximately 55,000 American service men died in the war. The Vietnamese casualty rates was far higher. Some survived the war, but didn’t survive the effects of Agent Orange. Others were never the same…physically and mentally.
The United States has gone on to new wars… Vietnam has tried to live in peace…