Vietnam War Vietnam today is a country on the eastern edge of the large Asian landmass known as Indochina. Before the Vietnam War many Americans did not know where it was located. When American troops finally came home, they sometimes found themselves still embattled. One of the most painful events in all of Americans history was the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War was an unsuccessful effort by the United States and the South Vietnam to prevent the communists of North Vietnam from uniting with the South Vietnam with North Vietnam under their leadership.
In 1945 it started out the Vietnam vs. France. Ho chi Minh declared Independence from France. Ho chi Minh was the leader of the Vietnam Independence League. The French would only recognize them as a free state of the French Union.
This led to fighting between the Vietnamese and the French. An International conference at Geneva in 1954 negotiated a cease-fire between the French and the Viet Minh. The conferees decided to separate them by sending the Viet Minh north of the 17th parallel and the Vietnamese fighting under French command would move south of the 17th parallel. Many people left their homes to either move south or north. In 1956 there was to be a supervised by an International Control Committee with the aim of reunifying Vietnam under a single popularly elected government. When 1956 came along South Vietnams Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem refused to go along with the planned election.
The U.S. supported his position. In response, North Vietnamese decided they would reunite Vietnam by military force. ( Britannica vol. 12 pg.
361) U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, fearing the spread of communism in Asia, persuaded the U.S. government to provide military and economic assistance to Diems government. Guerrilla warfare spread as Viet Minh soldiers who were trained and armed in the North-the Viet Cong- returned to their homes in the South to assassinate, ambush, and sabotage. Diem asked for and received more American military advisers and material to build up the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) and the police force, but it could not halt the growing presence of the South Vietnamese communist forces or Viet Cong. U.S. President John F.
Kennedy sent more non-combat military personnel after the North Vietnamese unified the South Vietnamese communist rebels insurgents in an organization the National Front for the Liberation of Vietnam (NLF) in December 1960. By the end of 1962 the number of U.S. military advisers in the South Vietnam had increased from 900 to 11,000, and President Kennedy ordered them to fight if they were fired upon. On November 2, 1963, a military rebellion assassinated Diem. The U.S.
government had despaired of him and knew about the rebellion beforehand. A series of unstable administrations followed in quick succession after Diems death, and the Viet Cong increased their activities while the South Vietnamese were thus politically preoccupied. (Britannica vol. 12 pg. 362) Ever since Diem returned to Vietnam in 1954 his position had been regularly challenged.
His own military leaders challenged him. As early as the fall of 1954, ARVN commanders were lying out plans for an overthrow of the government by force. Thereafter, Diem took great care to appoint ARVN commanders who were completely loyal to him. Still, other plots followed. In November 1960, another try by the military failed. In February 1962, two pilots in the South Vietnamese air force bombed the presidential palace. Diem and his family miraculously emerged safe and sound-and still in power.
(Mabie pg.52) After 1965 U.S. involvement in the war escalated rapidly in response both to the growing strength of the Viet Cong ( who had 35,000 troops in the South Vietnam by 1964) and to the inability of the ARVN to suppress the Viet Cong on its own, even with a total force of 400,000 men. The U.S. became more involved in the war not only to maintain the independence of South Vietnam but also to retain the United States credibility with other allied nations who depended or might depend on its help to resist communist aggression or subversion. (Lawson pgs.38-40) The government was now headed by Air Vice-Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky , but he was unable to check the rapidly deteriorating military situation, NLF forces were gaining control of more and more of the countryside, and a communist victory seemed imminent. President Johnsons response was to pledge the U.S. to defend South Vietnam and to send more troops.
By the end of 1965, 180,000 Americans were serving in South Vietnam under the command of General William C. Westmoreland. (Mortimer pg. 66) On January 30, 1968, the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong launched a attack during the Tet (lunar new year) Vietnamese festival. They attack 36 South Vietnamese provincial capitals and five major cities. The fighting at this time was especially fierce in Saigon and in the city of Hue, which the NLF held for several weeks.
The NLF suffered heavy losses (33,000 troops killed) in the Tet Offensive, and the ranks of the Viet Cong were so decimated by the fighting that, from 1968 on, the majority of the rebellion in South Vietnam were actually North Vietnamese soldiers who had infiltrated into the South. Although the general uprising that the NLF had expected in support had not materialized, the attack had an important strategic effect, because it convinced a number of Americans that, contrary to their governments claims, the insurgency in South Vietnam could not be crushed and the war would continue for years to come. (Doyle pg. 60-61) General Westmoreland requested more troop to widen the war after the Tet Offensive, but the shifting balance of Americans public opinion now favored de-escalation of the conflict . On March 31, 1968, President Johnson announced in a television address that bombing north of the 20th parallel would be stopped and that he would not seek reelection to the presidency in the fall.
The North response to the decreased bombing by de-escalating its insurgency efforts, and in October Johnson ordered a total bombing halt. During the interim the U.S. and the North had agreed to begin preliminary peace talks in Paris, and General Creighton Abrams became the new commander of U.S. forces in South Vietnam. (Britannica vol. 12 pg.
362) Works Cited Doyle, Dave. The War in Vietnam. San Diego: Greenhaven P, 1991 Lawson, John. Vietnam: Was it Worth it? Ithaca: Cornell U P, 1984 Mabie, Michael. The Vietnam War.
New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1990 Mortimer, Phillip. The Fight in Vietnam. Wilmington: Scholarly Resources inc., 1982 Vietnam War Encyclopedia Britannica: Micropaedia. 1991 ed. History Reports.