The War in VietnamThe War in Vietnam
Cold War turns very Hot
What we need to know...
1. Who were the Vietcong?
2. How did it all begin?
3. Why did USA got involved?
4. Why USA lost?
Viet Minh starts as independence
movement in 1941, adopts
communism in 1950’s.
Geneva Conference split Vietnam
Country-wide elections to be held in
1956 to decide on single government
for entire country.
South refused to participate.
North invaded South.
The red lines
Backed by USSR and
Govt led by Ho Chi Minh
Fought both the French
and the Japanese!
Backed by USA
Govt led by Diem
Corruption and nepotism
Favoritism for Catholics →
angered Buddhist majority.
Overthrown by group of
generals in Nov 1963.
"If we withdrew from Vietnam, the Communists
would control Vietnam. Pretty soon, Thailand,
Cambodia, Laos, Malaya, would go...“
The “domino theory”!
- 1961: Jan -- 900 advisors
- 1963: Nov – 16,000 advisors
NVA regulars invade RVN
- 1964: Summer – 27,000 advisors
US begins covert raids against targets in NV and
- 1965: 200,000 troops!!!
*Military build-up in Vietnam
intensified to 500,000 by 1967
What is the objective
gov’t not popular
Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ)
Gulf of Tonkin
August 1964, two US
fired on by NV
1964 - Gulf of Tonkin
patrol boats fired on
the USS Mattox in
the Gulf of Tonkin on
On August 7, the U.S.
Congress approves the
Gulf of Tonkin
authority to send U.S.
troops to South
Gulf of Tonkin Resolution
Johnson passed Gulf of
– Approved nearly
– Gave him authority to “to
take all necessary
measures to repel any
armed attack against the
forces of the US and to
- The National Liberation Front, who fought against USA.
- included opponents of the South Vietnamese government
and North Vietnamese communists under Ho Chi Minh.
- fought against both the South Vietnam government
and the American armed forces between 1959-75.
- Initially a group of communist guerrilla fighters, it
increased in numbers over the course of the conflict.
- had the support of the peasants as they treated them well.
Farmers by day; guerillas at night.Farmers by day; guerillas at night.
Very patient people willing to endureVery patient people willing to endure
sufferings and accept manysufferings and accept many
The US grossly underestimated theirThe US grossly underestimated their
determination, popularity anddetermination, popularity and
Why did the USA get involved in the war in Vietnam?
- In 1954 the French were driven from their colony and the Viet Minh
movement became popular.
- The USA feared the expansion of communism across Europe
and Asia. They believed the future of US prosperity and democracy
was at risk if communism spread.
- The USA had to practise 'Containment policy'. Communism was
spreading in China, eastern Europe and North Korea. Americans
felt increasingly threatened by the spread of communism. This fear
was the “domino theory” - if one country became communist
others would follow. If South Vietnam fell it would be followed by
Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma...
- In the Tonkin incident in August 1964, North Vietnamese opened fire
on the US navy and the US Congress passed the Tonkin Resolution.
It gave Johnson opportunity to let American troops be involved.
The difficulty of the terrain
meant young American
soldiers could not get used
to fighting in a foreign
The guerrillas merged with
the people and the jungle.
American soldiers were
inexperienced and unable
to cope with a warfare so
different to what they were
Who Is the Enemy?
The conventional army loses if it does not win. The guerillaThe conventional army loses if it does not win. The guerilla
wins if he does not lose.wins if he does not lose. -- Mao ZedongMao Zedong
In the jungle, the Vietcong built extensive networks
of underground tunnels with storehouses,
workshops, and hospitals. These were very difficult
to find and destroy! (Bombing won't work)
Why Americans were
no match for a bunch of
Asian rice farmers?
The principles of guerrilla tactics :
Retreat when enemy attacks, raid when enemy camps, attack when
enemy tires and pursue when enemy retreats.
- a nightmare for the invaders!
Guerrillas had no uniform and no base camps.
It was hard to tell them from the village peasants. They attacked,
disappeared into the jungle, and carried out sudden ambushes or
Aim: to wear down the enemy in both strength and morale. US
soldiers lived in constant fear.
1965: US begins
Johnson places extensive restrictions on targets due
to concerns over public opinion and Soviet and
7 million tons of bombs and defoliants were dropped
in total and 2.6 million Vietnamese were killed. :(
Planned for 8 weeks, lasted 3 years.
500 US aircraft shot down
NV use captured US aviators as propaganda weapons.
USA wanted to end the war quickly by
“search and destroy” tactics.
Ambush following battle inflicts heavy
American troops had increasingly low morale. They
were young and inexperienced. They became
frustrated at the defeats, and were losing both military
- fighting in their own country. They knew their own
- continued to receive supplies from North Vietnam and
China down the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
- had support of many Vietnamese people
- easily absorbed back into village life.
- bases were well hidden in extensive underground
bunkers making it very difficult to destroy.
The Ho Chi Minh Trail!
- An effective link route between
North and South Vietnam.
- A network of jungle tracks for
bicycles, trucks, tanks passing
through Laos and Cambodia.
It was used to move troops
from North Vietnam after
- Major supply route from North
to Vietcong in the south!
Turning Point: Tet Offensive-
January 30, 1968 Vietcong launched series of surprise
attacks in South Vietnam during new year festivities (TET)
U.S. took back cities, kill 32,000 Vietcong….but Tet proves that
enemy is not prepared to surrender.
Max. psychological impact by attacking political
centers, (Saigon and US Embassy)
Sought to incite a uprising among the people
tactical surprise by attacking on Lunar New Year
Tet Offensive-turning point in war
Though USA militarily won the battle, the American
public realized their government had lied to them.
From then on, the war ($30 billion/year) was
considered as un-winnable by the Americans. It was
only a matter of time before US was humiliatingly
forced to withdraw.
TV shows that victory was NOT near!!
Who do you believe??
Westmoreland ask for 200,000 more troops – People
LBJ did not seek re-election
1968 - Tet Offensive
In March, Johnson
ordered a halt to the
U.S. bombing of
North Vietnam and
offered peace talks.
Defoliant-kills all vegetation-eliminates
the jungle-easier to fight
During the war in Vietnam
more than 18 million
gallons of Agent Orange
were sprayed over 10% of
millions of hectares of
forest and croplands.
– 60% support war
– 100 people-antiwar demonstrators in
– 380 draft evaders prosecuted
-60% opposed the war
-100,000 anti-war demonstrators in Boston
-33,960 draft evaders prosecuted
The war was losing support
rapidly esp. due to media
images sent from journalists at
a few chants became the common cry of
"Hell no; we won't go!"
"Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids
did you kill today?"
My Lai Massacre 1968
300+ civilians intentionally slaughtered by USA
platoon. Not “discovered” until 1969.
Horrific images were shown on American media
On Oct 15 1969, people
called for the total cessation
of all military activity in
Vietnam. 100,000 people
gathered in the Boston
Commons and 250,000 in
On Nov 15, 500,000
protestors marched on
Washington (the largest
demonstration in U.S.
Public opinion was changing.
US atrocities in the use of horrific
weapons against civilians and the use of
chemical defoliants horrified people.’
The Americans lost support at home when
it became clear after the Tet Offensive
that the USA could not win the war.
‘It led to open criticism of Johnson – “Hey,
Hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill
‘The USA had no support of the
Vietnamese peasants. They generally
viewed the Americans as invaders and
chose to support the Vietcong who
offered to improve their lives.’
Only 3 network TV stations
U.S. public saw dirty war
This eroded support for the war
Reporters highly educated,
skeptical, resistant to appeals of
loyalty to govt.
U.S. public started to see war as
un-winnable & immoral
By 1968 the war cost $30,000 million a year.
This meant cutbacks on spending on social
By the Tet Offensive, the 500,000 troops was
spending $20-30 billion a year.
In 1967 ‘Life Magazine’ calculated it cost
$400,000 for each Vietcong guerrilla
Mary Ann Vecchio screaming as she discovered her friend
Jeffrey Miller and three other schoolmates were killed by
Kent State University, 1970
The Media had a
significant impact. As
the War was the first
became aware of
what was happening.
the stark reality of
war and were
horrified at the
barbaric nature of
Over 50,000 troops lost their lives.
By 1968, 300 were dying each week.
Most Americans knew a relative or friend
who had died.
1968, 60% of Americans disapproved of
LBJ’s handling of Vietnam
LBJ announced he
will not seek another
term as president.
1969 - Vietnamization
1968, Richard Nixon elected President
June 8, 1969 U.S. Nixon announced his
"Vietnamization" plan to withdraw U.S
ground forces from Vietnam and turn
control over to South Vietnamese
Cold War 11/24
The plan was to encourage
the South Vietnamese to
take more role in fighting
the war. It was hoped to
eventually enable the
United States to withdraw
gradually all their soldiers
Peace treaty signed on 27 Jan 1973.
US would withdraw all forces.
NV would repatriate all POWs.
April-May 1975 Operation FREQUENT WIND
evacuated remaining US and many South
Vietnamese from Saigon as it fell to NVA.
Last helicopter lifted remaining Marines from the
embassy roof on 30 April.
Longest war in American history (11 years)
Total U.S. bomb dropped:
World War II = 2,057,244 tons
Vietnam War = 7,078,032 tons
The power of mass media in wars
Compared with World War II.….
• The average infantryman in WWII had 40 days of combat in
•The average infantryman in Vietnam had 240 days of combat
in 1 year due to the helicopter.
• 1 out of 10 Americans who served in Vietnam was a
• Amputations or crippling wounds were 300 % higher than in
WWII. 75,000 were severely disabled.
• 4 million civilians were killed in the war
In 1975, North VietnamIn 1975, North Vietnam
captured Saigon, thecaptured Saigon, the
capital of South Vietnam.capital of South Vietnam.
Vietnam became aVietnam became a
unified communist state.unified communist state.
Forgiveness made me free from hatred. I still have
many scars on my body and severe pain most days but
my heart is cleansed. Napalm is very powerful, but
faith, forgiveness, and love are much more powerful.
We would not have war at all if everyone could learn
how to live with true love, hope, and forgiveness. If
that little girl in the picture can do it, ask yourself:
Can you? ”
— Kim Phúc, NPR in 2008
(1) ‘The USA was unsuccessful in Vietnam because of the
opposition’s use of guerrilla tactics.’ How far do you agree?
(2) How far can the American withdrawal from Vietnam be
blamed on military failure?
(3) How far was the US public opinion the most important
reason for America's withdrawal from Vietnam?
Art of War part 1