Sunday, 29 September 2013

Vietnam War Highlights: A look back at history of U.S foreign relationships


Vietnam War


Vietnam war was the longest and most unpopular war in the American history. The war stretched over 19 years from 1954 to 1973. The primary American motive was to stop spread of communism in the world. 58000 Americans lost lives, 304k wounded and 75k were severely disabled. The total cost of Vietnam War that United States suffered in monetary terms was 200 billion dollars.

Causes of Vietnam War

1. Communism in North supported by USSR and China
2. French defeat in 1954 and Geneva Peace Accords. According to the agreement the country was divided into 2 halves at 17th parallel and an announcement of elections to be held 2 years later in 1956. US opposition of elections after it emerged that the communists would win the elections.
3. Southeast Asian Treaty Organization was set up with the help of U.S. Military  political and economic aid was provided by the U.S to South Vietnam and Republic of Vietnam was born on 1955. Ngo Dinh Diem became the 1st president.
4. Justification for U.S involvement was Domino Theory which stated, “IF South Vietnam falls to Communists, then Laos, Cambodia  Thailand, Burma, India would also fall like Dominos. The Pacific Island and even Australia could be at a risk.

Events in Vietnam-U.S War: 

Diem declared, S.V was under threat from communists residing in North. 1957: Diem counterattacks with US military help. Passed series of acts known as 10/59 which made it legal for holding communists behind bars without bringing formal charges. It was met with hostility in the native land as Monks, students and intellectuals protested unfair laws and oppression
National Liberated Front was created in 1960 in opposition of government. Anyone could join as long as they wanted a United Vietnam and were against Diem’s rule. Americans labeled the movement “Viet Cong” which meant Vietnamese Communists.
December 1961: Kennedy sends team to Vietnam to asses further American aid requirements.
Strategic Helmet Program (US and South Vietnam joint operation): Placed the villagers in safe helmets (places) isolating the communists from the villagers. It proved counter effective and further consolidated NLF as more people joined the movement.
Summer 1963: Evident that the South Vietnam government would fall. Diem’s brother raided Buddhists Pagodas (place where they lived) and accused them of harboring communists and creating instability. Monks protested by self immolation (setting themselves on fire). IT made world headlines. Coup in South Vietnam with US military help; Diem and his brother was arrested and later killed. Kennedy was also assassinated after 3 weeks of Diem’s killing.

Johnson becomes U.S president. 1964: 2 US ships shot down in Gulf of Tokin on 2nd and 4th August. Gulf of Tokin resolution was signed in US which gave president broad war powers. AIR ATTACKS on North Vietnam.
1965: 2 US installations destroyed in North Vietnam. Operation ROLLING THUNDER begins, Phosphorus and Napalm bombings results in thousand of civilians getting severe burns.
Operation RANCH HAND: Chemical bombings containing Dioxin destroyed millions of acres of jungles but also contaminated the crop which caused chromosome damage to humans. Children were born with deformities.

North Vietnamese Tactics to fight back:

1. Maoist Guerrilla tactics which meant the NFL people would be hard to distinguish from the villagers.Lands were distributed to the peasants. By 1973, NFL had control over half of South Vietnam.
2. Use of AK47 outperformed American M16 guns. Rocket launchers destroyed vehicles. Recycled US bombs and used them against them.
3. Built large tunnel complexes to remain safe from bombings. US countered with Search and Destroy tactics. Burnt down villages.
4. War Strategy was to entangle US in a war they could not win militarily.

What was happening around in America:

Vietnam War end
Protests against Vietnam War
Johnson lost support. Antiwar protests and sentiments. Protest by Democratic party’s leader in 1968. Hundreds of thousands of people joined in.
Tet Offensive attacks on southern cities by NFL to bring Americans to the bargaining table. MY Lai Massacre in 1968. Photos caused huge uproar in the world.
Nixon wins elections in 68 “Secret plan to end war”. The secret plan was “Vietnamization”. Increase in air war over NV and use of SV soldiers for ground attacks.
Protests increased. Kent shootings and Jackson state shootings result in death of students

End of War 

1972: Christmias bombings. Seiries of deadly bombings. International community condemns.
1973: Paris Peace agreement is signed. US convinced South Vietnam, they would not leave their support if they signed it. January 23: war ends between US and North Vietnam but not between NV and SV.
April 30, 1975: Communists take over South Vietnam.

Why US lost Vietnam War? 

The main reason for US loss in Vietnam War are as followed:
1. Underestimated NV and NLF.
2. 2. Could not stop the movement of the troops despite heavy bombings.
3. NV fought people’s war
4. American public did not support the war.
5. Deep questions about US troops’ efficiency
6. Never understood Vietnamese culture.
7. Could not lose any more soldiers in a jungle war they were never prepared for..
8. Strengths and resourcefulness of NLF. Tunnels etc


  1. Very good presentation of the timelines. It has made it easy to digest the information and keep the track of events that happened during the course of time.

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  3. Vietnam war was one of the drastic and longest war which took many lives. You have described all the events happend in a simple and easy to understand way.

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