Case Study 2: The Vietnam War Ending The War US Secretary of State William P. Rogers signing the Paris Peace Accord on January 27, 1973.
Tet Changes Everything
LBJ concluded war could not be won
Reduced bombing campaign
Ordered negotiations w/ North Vietnam
March 1968: Paris Peace Talks begin
Johnson refuses to run in 1968 election
Admission of failure
All candidates, Rep. or Dem., ran as anti-war
No pro-war candidate could win
Question no longer, ‘Can the USA win the war?’
Question now was, ‘How can the USA get out of Vietnam w/o it looking like a defeat?’
November ’69: Richard Nixon wins
1969-73: Nixon & National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger worked tirelessly to end US involvement in Vietnam
The difficulty was containing communism
Would not simply hand SV to the Communists
They launched a four-part cunning plan …
Dire Straits’ Brothers In Arms
Nixon/Kissinger strategies to extricate US troops from involvement in Vietnam
Pressure on the USSR & China
In 1969 the USSR & China fell out. War possible between these two Communist countries.Both USSR & China tried to improve relations w/ USA.
1970: Nixon began Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) w/ USSR to limit nuclear weapons. He asked Moscow to encourage NV to end war
Nixon tried to improve relations w/ China. In 1972 Nixon invited to China. He asked China to pressure NV to end war
Peace negotiations w/ NV From early 1969 Kissinger had regular meetings w/ chief NV peace negotiator Le Duc Tho ‘ Vietnamization’ of war Build up SV forces and withdraw US troops. Between April 1969 & Dec ’71 almost 400,000 US troops left Vietnam Bombing Nixon increased bombing campaigns against NV to show he was not weak. He also invaded VC bases in Cambodia, causing outrage across the world, and in the USA
The Uneasy Peace
NV launches a major offensive but cannot conquer SV
Nixon orders massive ‘Christmas bombing’
NV realizes it cannot defeat US/SV forces
Le Duc Tho, Nixon & SV President Thieu sign peace agreement
Nixon jubilantly claimed, ‘ peace with honor .’
29 March 1973: Last US forces leave Vietnam
For the US, the Vietnam War is over
But it is not over between NV & SV
Billy Joel’s Got To Begin Again from his album Cold Spring Harbor , release 01/01/71
The Fall of South Vietnam
Did Nixon believe he had secured peace?
W/in two years SV fell to Communist NV
Nixon promised SV aid
Congress refused, waste of money
SV regime corrupt & lacked peoples’ support
Nixon could not influence Congress because he was in trouble himself: Watergate Scandal
1974: Nixon resigned, Ford can’t support SV
South Vietnamese gov’t days numbered
W/o US air power, troops , & people’s support
Dec ’74: NV launched major offensive
April ’75: Saigon, SV capitol, fell to NV troops
Bleak symbol of USA failure
News stations carried live images of SV families trying to climb on US helicopters evacuating US personnel from US embassy
SV chopper pilots carried SV families to US ships and crashed them after not being allowed to land. US then rescued survivors.
Charlie Daniels, Still In Saigon
NV tank crashes through gate of SV Presidential Palace, Saigon … This war is over!!! Reunification Palace, Ho Chi Minh City (Formerly Presidential Palace, Saigon) Vietnam Vet posing in front of gates
Activity: Why isn’t the USA celebrating?
It is 1973. Peace has been secured in Vietnam and the final US troops have left. You have to write an article for a British newspaper explaining why the USA is not celebrating. You are trying to convey the mood of the American people. Use the evidence from your notes.
You are writing for a British audience. They will know about the Vietnam War. However, they will not be clear on how it has affected Americans.
Focus Task: Why did the USA lose the Vietnam War?
Look back to your handout determining which military had the advantage.
The USA did not lose purely for military reasons. There were other factors as well.
In the center of a sheet of paper put the question: Why did the USA lose the Vietnam War?
Around the question draw six boxes. In five boxes write an explanation or paste a source which shows the importance of the following factors:
US military tactics in Vietnam
Unpopularity of South Vietnamese regimes
In/experience of Viet Cong soldiers & in/experience of US soldiers
Opposition to war in the USA
Chinese & Soviet support for North Vietnam
In the sixth box write: ‘But did they really lose?’ & summarize the arguments from the PSD linked to this page
Add other boxes if you think there are other factors you should consider
Add lines to connect the factors and write an explanation of the connection
PSDs on Ending the War in Vietnam
Main points of Paris peace agreement of January 1973:
Release of all prisoners of war within 60 days
Withdrawal of all US forces and bases
Full accounting of missing in action (MIAs)
Self-determination for South Vietnam
PSDs on Ending the War in Vietnam
FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS
… the nation began at last to extricate itself from a quicksandy war that had plagued four Presidents and driven one from office, that had sundered the country more deeply than any event since the Civil War, that in the end came to be seen by a great majority of Americans as having been a tragic mistake
… but its more grievous toll was paid at home – a wound to the spirit so sore that news of peace stirred only the relief that comes with an end to pain. A war that produced no famous victories, no national heroes and no stirring patriotic songs, produced no memorable armistice day celebrations either. America was too exhausted by the war and to chary of peace to celebrate.
Reaction to the agreement of January 1973 in the magazine Newsweek, 5 February 1973
Describe the attitude of the PSD cartoon and PSD quote toward the agreement of January 1973
PSDs on Ending the War in Vietnam
The American military was not defeated in Vietnam –
The American military did not lose a battle of any consequence. From a military standpoint, it was almost an unprecedented performance. This included Tet ’68, which was a major military defeat for the VC and NVA.
The United States did not lose the war in Vietnam, the South Vietnamese did –
The fall of Saigon happened 30 April 1975, two years AFTER the American military left Vietnam. The last American troops departed in their entirety 29 March 1973. How could we lose a wart we had already stopped fighting? We fought to an agreed stalemate.
The Fall of Saigon –
The 140,000 evacuees in April 1975 during the fall of Saigon consisted almost entirely of civilians and Vietnamese military, NOT American military running for their lives. There were almost twice as many casualties in southeast Asia (primarily Cambodia) the first two years after the fall of Saigon in 1975 that there were during the ten years the US was involved in Vietnam.
An extract from a website, ‘Vietnam War Statistics’, by an American ex-serviceman