Unit 3: Post War America
The Vietnam War
• What were the origins of the conflict in Vietnam?
• What were American interests in the conflict?
• How did these interests change over time? Why?
• How did American involvement in the conflict change over
• Was this war justified?
1940s: What were the origins of the crisis in Vietnam?
• gains Indochina as a colony in the 1880s
• exploits Vietnamese natural resources: rice, rubber, tin
• imposes French laws and taxes on the Vietnamese people
• loses control over Vietnam to Japan in World War II: seeks to reassert control over Vietnam after WWII
Vietnamese Independence: Ho Chi Minh
• born in Vietnam
• travels to France in 1911‐‐‐is at the Paris Peace talks seeking independence for Vietnam
• is rejected at Paris‐‐becomes involved with the French Communist Party
• organizes the Indochina Communist Party in 1930
• wants Vietnamese independence after World War II
• has strongest support in northern Vietnam
• challenges French control in the early 1950s
Cold War Politics: The United States
• supports decolonization on the one hand
• needs French support in the Cold War on the other hand
• sides with the French and aids their effort to regain control over Vietnam
• has economic interests too: rubber, tin, and oil
The Vietnam Conflict, 1950 ‐ 1956
1950: US provides financial assistance to France‐‐$15 million; Chinese and Soviets provide financial assistance to
1954: U.S. is paying 80% of the cost of the war; the French surrender to the Vietminh at Dien Bien Phu;
Eisenhower outlines the quot;Domino Theoryquot;
quot;You have a row of dominos set up, you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly.
So you could have a beginning of a disintegration that would have the most profound influences.quot;
The Geneva Accords are signed: Vietnam is separated at the 17th parallel; elections are scheduled for
1955: Diem becomes president of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) with U.S. support.
1956: French leave Vietnam; no elections are held; Vietnam remains divided
The Vietnam Conflict, 1957 ‐ 1960
1957: Communist insurgency grows in South Vietnam under the
1959: North Vietnam sends weapons to the Viet Cong along the
Ho Chi Minh Trail; Diem loses support among
the South Vietnamese due to his policies
What are American interests in Vietnam during the 1950s?
1964: The Gulf of Tonkin incident‐‐‐U.S.S. Maddox is fired upon by the North
Johnson's Message to Congress, August 5, 1964
1. America keeps her word. Here as elsewhere, we must and shall honor our commitments.
2. The issue is the future of southeast Asia as a whole. A threat to any nation in that region is a threat to all, and a
threat to us.
3. Our purpose is peace. We have no military, political, or territorial ambitions in the area.
4. This is not just a jungle war, but a struggle for freedom on every front of human activity. Our military and
economic assistance to South Vietnam and Laos in particular has the purpose of helping these countries to repel
aggression and strengthen their independence.
The President has the authority quot;to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of
United States and to prevent further aggression.quot;
The Vietnam Conflict, 1960 ‐ 1963
1961: Kennedy sends Special Forces troops to South Vietnam as
1962: The U.S. begins to use Agent Orange in Vietnam.
1963: There are 11,300 U.S. advisers in South Vietnam; Diem is
assassinated in November; JFK is assassinated three weeks later.
The Vietnam Conflict, 1965 ‐ 1967
1965: Johnson orders the start of Operation Rolling Thunder‐‐‐first sustained bombing campaign against North
Vietnam; U.S. drops 3 x the number of bombs on Vietnam between '65 and '73 then dropped in all of World
U.S. Marines arrive to defend the air base at Da Nang. By the end of year: 200,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam.
636 Americans have died.
Premise of both actions: increased U.S. presence would force the North Vietnamese to surrender.
1966: Veterans stage anti‐war rally; number of U.S. troops in Vietnam rises to over half a million. Most troops are
draftees‐‐more than 1.5 million are drafted; opposition to the war grows at home
1967: MLK speaks out against the war.
quot;It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight. . and to die in extraordinary high proportions relative to the rest of the population . .
[We] have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been
unable to seat them together in the same schools.quot;
The Vietnam Conflict, 1968‐‐‐The Tet Offensive