• What do you know about the Vietnam War?
• What were the goals of the United States in this
• What was the goal of the communist North
The French Connection
• France had gained control of Indochina in a series of
colonial wars beginning in the 1840s and lasting until
• During World War II, Vichy France had collaborated
with the occupying Imperial Japanese forces.
• Vietnam was under Japanese control during WWII,
although the Vichy French continued to serve as the
• After the Japanese surrender, the French fought to
retain control of their former colony against the Viet
Minh independence movement, led by Communist
Party leader Ho Chi Minh.
• After the Viet Minh defeated the French colonial army
at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954, the French
withdrew, and the colony was granted independence.
• Vietnam was partitioned temporarily into a
Northern and a Southern zone of Viet-
Nam at the 17th parallel.
• The North was to be ruled by Ho Chi Minh,
while the South would be under the control
of Emperor Bao Dai.
• In 1955, Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem
became President of a new South
• The Geneva Conference (1954) set up
elections to unify the country by July, 1956.
• Such elections were never held because
neither side wanted to lose.
• The United States Armed Forces
• The Army of the Republic of Viet Nam (ARVN—
the South Vietnamese Army)
• The NLF, a group of South Vietnamese guerilla
• The People's Army of Viet Nam (PAVN—the
North Vietnamese Army, pronounced Pahvin)
• Under escalation, U.S. involvement increased
over a period of years. Started with the
deployment of non-combatant military advisors
to the South Vietnamese army.
• Then started using special forces(Green
Berets) for commando-style operations.
• Use of regular troops whose purpose was to be
• Use of regular troops in offensive combat.
• Once U.S. troops were in active combat,
escalation shifted to the adding of more US
Kennedy and Vietnam
• Kennedy strongly believed that if South Vietnam was a
stable and democratic country, it would keep communism
• Aid to the South was often made on the condition that the
government would undertake certain political reforms.
• Soon, US Government advisors were playing a prominent
role in every level of South Vietnam's government.
• South Vietnamese President Diem did not work well with
• He would often go through the motions of these US-
prescribed reforms, but ended up embarrassing the US.
• Diem did not believe that US ideas of democracy were
suited for his government.
• With possible CIA backing, Diem was overthrown by the SV
military and killed due to his actions and beliefs.
Johnson and Vietnam
• President Johnson had some doubts about whether the US should be
in Vietnam, as shown in the following excerpts from a taped telephone
conversation he had with his National Security Advisor, McGeorge
Bundy on May 27, 1964.
• Johnson: I'll tell you the more that I stayed awake last night thinking of
this thing, the more I think of it, I don't know what in the hell - it looks
like to me we're getting into another Korea. It just worries the hell out
of me. I don't see what we can ever hope to get out of there with, once
we're committed. I believe that the Chinese Communists are coming
into it. I don't think we can fight them ten thousand miles from home....
I don't think it's worth fighting for and I don't think we can get out. It's
just the biggest damned mess that I ever saw.
• Bundy: It is. It's an awful mess.
• Johnson: And we just got to think about - I was looking at this sergeant of
mine this morning... and I just thought about ordering his kids in there and
what in the hell am I ordering him out there for? What the hell is Vietnam worth
to me? What is Laos worth to me? What is it worth to this country? Now we've
got a treaty but, hell, everybody else's got a treaty out there and they're not
doing anything about it. Of course if you start running from the Communists,
they may just chase you right into your own kitchen.
• Bundy: Yeah, that's the trouble. And that is what the rest of that half of the
world is going to think if this thing comes apart on us. That's the dilemma.
• On 17 July, 1964, the Republican Party
selected ultra-conservative Barry Goldwater as
their nominee for president.
• Johnson now found that he had to act in a way
that would not allow Goldwater to charge him
with being “soft on Communism”.
Gulf of Tonkin Resolution
• Several US ships were supposedly
attacked by North Vietnamese torpedoes
in the Gulf of Tonkin.
• Most experts today do not think the ships were
• This was Johnson’s ploy to get more involved in
• On August 7, 1964, Congress passed the Gulf of
Tonkin Resolution giving President Johnson the power
…'to take all necessary measures to repel any armed
attack against the forces of the United States and to
prevent further aggression' and ...'to take all
necessary steps, including the use of armed force, to
assist any member or protocol state of the Southeast
Asia Collective Treaty requesting assistance in
defense of its freedom'.
• Only two people in Congress voted against it.
• What did this resolution really do?
• Why do you think this resolution came about at
this time?Hint: Notice the date.
• On August 26, 1964, President Johnson was
nominated as the Democratic candidate for the
presidency of the United States.
• During his campaign he promised that “We are
not about to send American boys nine or ten
thousand miles away from home to do what
Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves”.
• Johnson easily defeated Barry Goldwater in the
• President Johnson and General William
Westmoreland kept saying that with more troops we
will win the war.
• Most Americans tended to believe this at first.
• The American public's faith was shattered, on January
30, 1968, when the enemy, supposedly on the verge
of collapse, mounted the Tet Offensive in which nearly
every major city in South Vietnam was attacked.
• Named after the lunar new year festival which is the
most important Vietnamese holiday in South Vietnam.
• Although we crushed the enemy militarily, the
surprising huge offensive attack from an enemy that
was supposedly almost defeated convinced many
Americans that victory was impossible.
Losses during Tet Offensive
Country/Force Killed Wounded Missing
US, Korea, Australia 1,536 7,764 11
South Viet Nam 2,788 8,299 587
North Viet Nam and Viet
45,000 not known not
Civilian 14,000 24,000 630,000
• There was an increasing sense among many
people that the government was misleading the
American people about a war without a clear
beginning or end.
• When General Westmoreland called for still more
troops to be sent to Vietnam after the Tet
Offensive, more and more people started
• The support of the government and war effort
suffered even more when the New York Times
published the Pentagon Papers.
• It was a top-secret historical study about the war,
that showed how the government was
misleading the US public in all stages of the war.
Operation Rolling Thunder
• Operation Rolling Thunder
was the code name for the
non-stop bombing raids in
North Vietnam conducted by
the United States armed
• Its purpose was to destroy
the will of the North
Vietnamese to fight, to
destroy industrial bases and
air defenses and to stop the
flow of men and supplies
down the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
• Was not successful in
destroying the will of the
• Why were so many people against the
1. Tet Offensive
2. Pentagon Papers
3. Injuring/killing innocent people(My Lai
4. Supporting a bad government in South
5. The power of the press
My Lai Massacre March 1968
• US soldiers killed 504
• The dead civilians
included fifty age 3
or younger, 69
between 4 and 7,
and 27 in their 70s
• Women were raped
How did people get out of
1. Went to Canada or Sweden
2. Went to college(student deferment)
3. Got married
4. Medically unfit for service
5. Joined the National Guard or Peace
6. Claimed to be homosexual
7. Being rich
Nixon and Vietnam
• Nixon called for the “vietnamization” of the
• “Peace with Honor”
• Gradually pull US troops out and train the
ARVN to take our place in fighting the
• Expanded the war into Laos and
Cambodia leading to college protests(Kent
• On January 15, 1973, President Nixon
announced the suspension of offensive
action in North Vietnam.
• The Paris Peace Accords were later
signed on January 27, 1973 which
officially ended US involvement in the
1. Fighting stopped
2. US would pull out of Vietnam
3. North and South Vietnam would recognize
each other’s independence
• The peace agreement did not last.
• In March, 1975, the North invaded the South.
• The South was not strong enough and fell
• Saigon, the South’s capital fell on April 30, 1975.
• US did not live up to it’s promise to come to their
aid if the North attacked.
• North Vietnam united both North and South
Vietnam on July 2, 1976 to form the Socialist
Republic of Vietnam.
• Saigon was re-named Ho Chi Minh City in honor
of the former president of North Vietnam.
• Vietnam is still communist today.
War Powers Act
• Limits the power of the President of the US to
wage war without the approval of the Congress.
• It requires the President to consult with
Congress prior to the start of any hostilities as
well as regularly until U.S. armed forces are no
longer engaged in hostilities.
• President must remove U.S. armed forces from
hostilities if Congress has not declared war or
passed a resolution authorizing the use of force
within 60 days.
• Vets were not treated
well upon their return
to the US.
• The Vietnam
was built as a
those that died in the