• Starting in 1858, the
French colonized and
controlled most of
Southeast Asia and
began to utilize their
• The region became
known as French
• Located in Southeast
Asia, Vietnam is rich
in resources such as
coal, iron ore,
• During WWII, Vietnam is taken
over by the Japanese.
• Following the war, the French
return to take back control of their
• However, many Vietnamese, such
as Ho Chi Minh, who was a
communist, did not want to return
the country to French control.
• He defies French occupation.
• China sends support of Ho Chi
Minh and the communists while
the U.S. backs the French.
Dien Bien Phu
• In 1954, Ho Chi Minh sends
his forces to attack the French
at the fort Dien Bien Phu.
• The French mistakenly
underestimate their enemy and
• This marks start of the conflict
and the end of French
occupation of Vietnam.
• The country is then divided
into two states: North and
• The country is
divided along the
• North Vietnam is
• South Vietnam is
Rising communist sentiment in Vietnam
leads U.S. President Eisenhower to describe
the situation as the “domino theory.” (The
fall of one country to communism will lead
to the fall of its neighbors)
Following WWII, President Truman’s created
a policy of containment – American policy of
resisting further expansion of communism
around the world.
The Domino Theory
• American policymakers developed the “Domino Theory”
as a justification for involvement in Vietnam. This theory
stated, “If South Vietnam falls to the Communist, Laos,
Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, India and Pakistan would
also fall like dominos. The Pacific Islands and even
Australia could be at risk”.
The split in leadership
Ngo Dihn Diem – “placed” into office by the United
States and supported by France.
•Corrupt government that suppressed
opposition of any kind.
•Offered little or no land distribution to peasants.
•He is also Catholic, most Vietnamese are Buddhists
Ho Chi Minh – leader of the North, supported by
China and USSR – but also many in South Vietnam
look to him for leadership
•Hero because he broke up large estates
and redistributed land to the peasants.
•He had beaten the French
Diem is a corrupt leader and is not
popular amongst the people of
He creates many policies that are
aimed at the persecution of
communists and Buddhists.
As a Result: Massive protests on
the streets of Saigon took place
including the self-immolation of
many Buddhist monks.
Why would these Buddhist monks perform such an act?
The pictures of the monks engulfed in flames made world
headlines, bringing attention to the corrupt government of
Ngo Dinh Diem.
The National Liberation
Front: Founded in 1960, this
South Vietnamese group
supported the unification of
Vietnam and opposed Ngo
Dinh Diem and the U.S.
presence in Vietnam. The
group came to be known as the
Viet Cong (VC) which is
slang for Vietnamese
A Change in Leadership
• Diem is assassinated
• New leaders are not
anymore popular than
• The U.S. fears a
communist takeover is
not far off and
increases it’s military
advisors in Vietnam.
Soon, the number of planes, tanks and other military
equipment sent to South Vietnam increases.
In August of 1964, North Vietnamese patrol boats had
attacked two American destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin.
The Spark of the Vietnam War!
President Johnson's Message to
Congress August 5, 1964
Needing more justification for military involvement in
Vietnam, President Lyndon B. Johnson addressed
“The North Vietnamese regime has conducted further
deliberate attacks against U.S. naval vessels operating
in international waters… These latest actions of the
North Vietnamese regime has given a new and grave
turn to the already serious situation in southeast Asia.”
“I want to ask the Congress for a resolution expressing the unity and
determination of the United States in supporting freedom and in protecting
peace in southeast Asia.
This resolution obligates the United States and other members to act
against Communist aggression in any nation.”
Did you know?
• One of the attacks was
proven to never have
On August 5, 1964 Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin
Resolution that authorized the President to use “war
powers” and send American troops into Vietnam.
Gulf of Tonkin Resolution
Compare the amount of troops sent to Vietnam in 1964 to 1968.
Did you know?
• The United States never ACTUALLY declared
war on North Vietnam!
At the same time, popular support for the Viet Cong grew.
Ho Chi Minh strongly supported the Viet Cong with
troops and munitions, as did the Soviet Union and China.
Strategies for the War
• Will use its superior firepower
to force the enemy to surrender
• Will use air strikes to bomb the
enemy into submission
• Will use search and destroy
missions to pinpoint enemy bases
• Will set up blockades to prevent
supplies from reaching the
• Will avoid major head to head
battles by relying on the guerilla
tactics of surprise and mobility.
They will fighting during the
night and use underground
tunnels to confuse enemy.
•Will use knowledge of terrain to
their advantage. (Home field
•Will not fight to win, but to
prolong the war and never lose.
War in the Jungle
• Vietnam’s vast jungle posed many
problems for U.S. troops.
• There were many foreign plants
that would cut or cause rashes.
• The thickness helped the enemy
• Mines, tripwires, traps and holes
with punji stakes were all over the
• Insects were a constant nuisance.
• Many times, rain would fall for
weeks on end making it very
• Of all aircraft, the
helicopter was the
• They were useful
platoons in the
and out again.
• In addition to the war
in the jungle, the
Vietnamese built large
tunnel complexes such
as the ones at Cu Chi
near Saigon. This
protected them from
bombing raids by the
Americans and gave
them cover for
attacking the invaders.
• Unable to win a decisive
victory on the ground,
the U.S. turned to air
power and bombed
millions of acres of
forest in an attempt to
destroy enemy hideouts.
• The bombing missions
were known as
• “Operation Rolling Thunder”
was backed up by napalm
bombs – an incendiary,
which is extremely
flammable and designed to
• The bombings of “Rolling
Thunder” not only burned the
forest, it destroyed millions
of acres of farmland.
• The napalm also causes
dreadful burns to thousands
of innocent civilians.
Operation Ranch Hand
• When this “Rolling Thunder” failed
to effectively break down the jungle
cover the US started “Operation
Ranch Hand” – the defoliation
program, using Agent Orange.
– This deadly chemical cocktail,
containing dioxin, killed off millions
of acres of jungle to try to weaken the
Viet Cong – but left a horrendous
legacy in Vietnam.
– The dioxin got into the food chain
causing chromosome damage to
– There were thousands of cases of
children born with deformities.
• To Destroy the North Vietnamese economy
• To Hinder the flow of supplies and men
• To Reduce morale and the will to fight
Protracted War Strategy
• After “Operation
moved to a
strategy: the idea
was to get the
bogged down in a
war that it could
not win militarily
Major Turning Points
The Tet Offensive
On January 31, 1968, during the
Vietnamese New Year known as
Tet, the North Vietnamese
communist forces initiated a large
scale attack on major South
Vietnamese cities and bases.
Results of the Tet Offensive
• Up to 40,000 communists
were killed in action
• The U.S. military quickly
responded to the surprise
attacks and defeated the
• Almost all territory was
regained by the U.S. within a
• However, the public saw
bloody street fighting and the
occupation of the U.S.
Embassy in Saigon.
A South Vietnamese officer questions then
executes a man following the Tet Offensive.
Caught on camera and video.
Search & Destroy Tactics
• The United States countered with
“Search and Destroy” tactics. In
areas where the Viet Cong were
thought to be operating, troops
went in and checked for weapons.
If they found them,• they rounded up the villagers and burned the
• This often alienated the peasants from the American/South
– As one marine said – “If they weren’t Viet Cong before we got
there, they sure as hell were by the time we left”.
– The Viet Cong often helped the villager’s re-build their homes and
bury their dead.
The My Lai Massacre
On March 16, 1968 a “search and destroy mission” unfolded in My Lai, a
heavily mined area controlled by the VC. Many soldiers of Charlie Company,
Brigade, had been maimed or killed in the area during the preceding weeks.
The agitated troops, under the command of Lt. William Calley, entered the
village poised for engagement with the elusive Viet Cong.
• Robert Haeberle –
that took pictures of
• His pictures will be
released 2 years later.
• After My Lai – many
Americans view all
Vietnam veterans as
The Tet Offensive and
the My Lai Massacre
were turning points in
the Vietnam War.
The War in America
• The Vietnam War had a major impact
on everyday life in America, and the
Johnson administration was forced to
consider domestic consequences of its
• Since there were not enough volunteers
to continue to fight a protracted war, the
government instituted a draft.
– The U.S. requires all male citizens to register
their name within 30 days of their 18th
– There are exemptions or deferments, such as
attending college or a university.
– Most draftees, therefore, came from poor,
working class families who could not afford
Anti-War Protests on the Homefront
As a result of the ongoing deaths, military draft, civil
rights movement, and television coverage of the war,
many people began to protest the war.
• Protests erupted on college campuses and in major cities
at first, but by 1968 every corner of the country seemed to
have felt the war's impact.
Woodstock Music Festival -
• As public approval of the Vietnam War
dwindled in the latter half of the 1960s, popular
music artists began to record songs that
reflected this disapproval and ultimately
became a new method of protest.
• The 1969 Woodstock Music Festival is
arguably the most influential musical event that
spread the message of peace towards the close
of the decade.
• Hundreds of thousands of concertgoers, came to
see the lineup of several well-known rock
artists such as Creedence Clearwater Revival,
Janis Joplin, The Who, The Grateful Dead and
Nixon Elected President in 1968
• During the late 1960’s,
protests against the war
became more popular in the
U.S. The disgrace and stress
of the war causes Lyndon B.
Johnson not to run for
President for a second term.
• Republican Richard Nixon
wins the presidency and
promises to start withdrawing
troops from Vietnam.
• Nixon's plan involved a
• This strategy would withdraw
American ground troops and
bring them home while
increasing the air war over
• We would also rely more on
the South Vietnamese army.
Paris Peace Accords
After years of stalled talks, a cease-fire was finally signed
on January 27, 1973 by the United States, North Vietnam,
and South Vietnam. Its provisions were:
•Cease-fire in-place and troop withdrawal
• All parties committed to no further acts
of force on ground, in the air, and on the sea.
• Return of all captured military personnel
and foreign civilians within 60 day period
The agreement effectively ended all U.S. involvement in
Vietnam. By March, the U.S. had completely withdrawn.
To date; the Vietnam War is the longest conflict in which the
United States has been involved in.
The War Not Over
• The Paris Peace
did not end the
conflict in Vietnam, as
the South continued to
By March 1973, the last U.S. forces left Vietnam.
The North Vietnamese overran South Vietnam two years
Peace with Honor
The last Americans
leave the American
Embassy in South
The Communist rename Saigon, the capital of the South,
to Ho Chi Minh City.
North Vietnamese troops march into South Vietnam.
The Fall of Saigon
South Vietnamese trying to flee with U.S. personnel during the fall
of Saigon. Many people wanted out for fear that the Communists
would kill them. Sadly, most were left behind and many died.
Results of the Vietnam War
• There is an estimated 3+ million total deaths as a result of the war.
•There were 58,000 Americans, 400,000 South Vietnamese, and over
900,000 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese killed in Action.
• 304,000 Americans wounded
• Over 10,000 American MIA/POW’s
•14,000 are permanently disabled.
•800,000 Vietnam veterans diagnosed as having “significant” to
“severe” problems of readjustment (PTSD).
• U.S. officially recognized Vietnam in 1989
• Vietnam still remains a united nation under a communist
•The conflict is the longest in U.S. history.
The Vietnam War Memorial
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated in 1982,
seven years after the end of the war.