War in Southeast AsiaA.The French War in Indochina At the end of WWII Ho Chi Minh and the Vietminh (the Vietnamese nationalist force) took over the capital of Hanoi and declared Vietnam independent .
The French War in Indochina French were unwilling to give up their claims in Indochina because of the valuable resources like tin, rubber, and rice. Faced a formidable foe in Ho and the Vietminh who did not want foreign rule. War broke out in November 1946 when a French ship shelled Haiphong. French controlled most of the cities and the Vietminh retreated into the countryside. Vietminh practiced guerilla warfare.
U.S. Support for the French 1950 – Truman agreed to send $20 million to the French Practices the policy of containment – opposing communism wherever it appeared in an effort to “contain” its spread. Over the next 4 years, the U.S. gave more than $2.6 billion to the French.
The End of French Rule In May 1954 the Vietminh overran Dien Bien Phu and it ended French control of Vietnam. In 1956, representatives from the U.S., France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, China, Laos, Cambodia, and the Vietminh agreed that Vietnam would be divided at the 17th parallel and then reunified in 1956 after national elections.
B. The U.S. Enters the War The U.S. did not sign the agreement for fear that if South Vietnam became communist, other nations of SE Asia would do likewise (the Domino Theory)
The Diem Regime U.S. hoped Ngo Dinh Diem would be the savior of South Vietnam. He was a: Nationalist Anti-communist Aloof man Autocratic rule who refused to weaken the ruling class, thereby infuriating the peasants. $4 of every $5 the U.S. sent was spent on the military
Civil War 1957 - Diem cancels elections with U.S. support. Held a referendum in South Vietnam - claimed 98% approval. In Saigon he claimed 605,000 votes - even thoug there were only 405,000 registered voters.; Discontent among the peasants with Diem made it easy for Vietminh to gain support in South Vietnam. Vietminh and other groups in South Vietnam who oppose Diem form the National Liberation Front (the Vietcong). He had close ties with Ho Chi Minh, China, and the Soviet Union.
The Kennedy Years Kennedy expands the U.S. role in Vietnam Sends advisers and money Instead of using the money for schools, hospitals, and land, reform Diem pads the pockets of corrupt Saigon officials. No significant military victories over the Vietcong
4. The Overthrow of Diem May 8, 1963 - Buddhists gathered to protest a government ruling forbidding the display of Buddhist flags and government troops fired on them A month later a Buddhist monk immolated himself in protest of the Diem regime Nov. 1, 1963 - South Vietnamese army officers seized control of the governments and in the process Diem was killed
Johnson’s War Johnson did not want Vietnam to fall to communism like China Surrounded himself with JFK’s foreign policy team (Sec. of State Dean Rusk, Sec. of Defense Robert McNamara, and NSA McGeorge Bundy
The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution August, 1965 – LBJ announced N. Vietnamese torpedo boats had attacked two U.S. destroyers patrolling in the Gulf of Tonkin Congress passes the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution- Gave LBJ the authority to “take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.” LBJ failed to tell the public that American warships had been helping South Vietnamese commandos raid 2 North Vietnam islands the night of the attacks.
Operation Rolling Thunder Feb. 1965, VC forces attacked a U.S. military base at Pleiku, South Vietnam killing eight Americans. LBJ orders bombing of major bases, roadways, and railways including the “Ho Chi Minh Trail” (a supply line of dirt roads and trails which supplies flowed from North Vietnam through Laos and Cambodia into South Vietnam.
U.S. Troops in Vietnam By the end of 1965, more than 180,000 Americans were in South Vietnam. By the end of 1967, nearly 500,000 soldiers had been sent to Vietnam.
Fighting the War At first, Americans were very optimistic of ending the war quickly. High VC body counts led many to believe the U.S. was winning the war. Underestimated the VC and North Vietnamese allies. “You can kill 10 of my mentors for every one I kill of yours, but even at those odds, you will lose and I will win.” - Ho Chi Minh.
The Air War Bombing resulted fewer lives than ground combat so the U.S. relied heavy on air power. There were 108,000 bombing raids in 1967. Bomb targets were roads, railways, factories, and homes in South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. By 1967 the U.S. had dropped more bombs on Vietnam than the Allies dropped during WWII. To evade the bombs, the VC developed an extensive network of underground tunnels.
The Underground and GroundWar Lower Tunnel Trenches , Upper Trenches , Underwater entrances, and concealed entrances under cooking pots were the hiding places of the Vietnamese villagers. Miserable conditions, suffocating heat, mosquitoes, leeches, etc. Muddy trails “Bouncing Betties” Farmers by day, VC by night - did not know who the enemy was.
Guerilla Tactics Vietnamese avoided open battles. Ambushes, hit-and-run raids, sabotage. VietCong had 2 advantages over the soldiers, they knew the terrain support of the peasants who supplied them with food, shelter, and intelligence. Pacification program – uprooting entire villages and forcing the people to move to cities or refugee camps surrounded by barbed wire and then the troops burned the fields and empty villages. Upsetting the peasants Troops also tried development projects where they offered medical care and farming advice. But it was too little, too late.
Endless War The Vietnam War was the longest war in U.S, history More that 58,000 people were killed 300,000 wounded 14,000 disabled 800,000 Vietnam Veterans having “severe” problems of readjustment.
Public Opinion and Cultural Facts In Vietnam over 2,000,000 people died 4,000,000 were wounded 10,000,000 displaced from their homes 76% of men sent to Vietnam were lower and middle class. Most men were drafted/Few enlisted. The average age of soldiers was19.