Study Guide (US Involvement)

Study Guide

US involvement in the Vietnam War

  1. Background of conflict
  2. Involvement under John F. Kennedy
  3. Involvement under Lyndon B. Johnson
  4. Involvement under Richard Nixon
  5. Consequences of the war on American society
  6. Historians to remember
  7. Sample essay plan
  8. Past paper questions

Background of Conflict

 

French/Vietnamese Conflict

 

  • The French colony, Indochina (Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia) was occupied by Japan in WW2.
  • Nationalists movements had grown and urged for independence e.g. Vietminh, which were joined communists led by Ho Chi Minh
  • 1945: Ho Chi Minh declared Democratic Republic of Vietnam (communist rule)
  • France opposed, and war broke out in 1946
  • Due to Cold War, Truman started military aid to France. US in total sent $2.6 billion. By 1954, US funded 80% of the conflict.
  • Eisenhower continued aid and saw Vietnam as “key domino” but “could not imagine a greater tragedy” than being directly involved. Therefore no US intervention.
  • 1954: France was defeated at Battle of Dien Bien Phu
  • Geneva conference held to find peace in April-July 1954

 

 

Consequences of French/Vietnamese Conflict

 

  • Geneva accords made from conference, but never signed by the US
  • France withdrew and removed all military bases in Vietnam.
  • Vietnam was divided by 17th parallel, elections of unification to be held in 1956
  • Cambodia and Laos recognised as independent states
  • US made mutual-security organisation SEATO with South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia to prevent Communism from spreading.
  • October 1955: Ngo Dinh Diem proclaimed Republic of South Vietnam (South Vietnam)
  • Diem was Catholic and educated in the West. Was supported by US financially
  • 1956; Diem had developed into brutal dictator, refused to hold elections. A poll showed that 80% would vote for unification with Ho Chi Minh as leader.
  • Vietcong (communist fighters) started guerrilla warfare against Diem.
  • Vietcong’s army fraction referred to as National Liberation Front (NFL) and let by Ho Chi Minh.

 

Involvement of John F. Kennedy

 

  • Elected in 1960, ready to use conventional weapons through policy of “flexible response”
  • France warned him from becoming involved in the “bottomless military and political swap” of Vietnam.   
  • However, he saw Vietnam as “cornerstone of the free world in Asia” and involved by:
    • Financed increase in South Vietnamese army from 150,000-170,000
    • Installed 17,000 US military advisors in South Vietnam
    • Arranged counter-insurgency operations against Vietcong e.g. “search and destroy mission” using Agent Orange.
    • Encouraged Ngo Dihn Diem to make social reforms and increase popularity.
  • 1962: Made Strategic Hamlets Program, 3000 moved to fortified sites for protection
    • These sites were also destroyed by Vietcong eventually
    • Loose of culture, alienated the US and membership of NLF grew by 300%  
  • 1963: Diem banned the celebration of Buddha’s birthday
    • Resulted in self-immolations by Buddhist monks, international shock.
    • Diem’s wife stated: “Let them burn and we shall clap our hands”  
  • Kennedy cut of all support for Diem
  • 1 November 1963: Generals of Army of the Republic of South Vietnam killed Diem and his brother Coup. US was informed, but did not prevent it.
    • General William Westmoreland: “This coup locked us into Vietnam”
  • Kennedy never sent direct troops, but as shown, he was deeply involved in Vietnam.

 

Historical debate

  • Derrick Murphy believed that JFK was buying time through his involvement and made plans to install a steady government in Vietnam.
  • James N. Giglio argues that JFK would eventually have invaded Vietnam
  • John Stanley argues that JFK had no long-term plan for Vietnam
  • Paul Levine argues that JFK would have become deeper involved due to US ideals of being the protector of democracy.  

Involvement of Lyndon B. Johnson

 

 

  • November 1963: Lyndon B. Johnson becomes president after JFK’s assassination.
  • By this time, 35% of South Vietnam controlled by Vietcong, fear of Domino in the US
  • 2 August 1964: Gulf of Tonkin incident provided excuse for deeper US involvement
  • 2 August: US destroyer, “Maddox”, was fired on by North Vietnamese patrols
  • 4 August: US destroyer, “Turner Joy”, fired on during intelligence gathering
  • Johnson called it “open aggression of high seas” and ordered bombings
  • Congress passed “Gulf of Tonkin Resolution”, which authorised president to “take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States”
  • 1965: Johnson launched “Operation Rolling Thunder” – bombing of North Vietnam
  • 1965-68: More bombs on Vietnam than on all of Axis powers during WW2.
  • 1956: 100,000 US ground forces to Da Hang “Search and destroy missions”   
  • Historian William Chafe argues that this invasions was based on assumptions  
  • 1968: 520,000 American troops in Vietnam, large use of Napalm = destructions  
  • In total, 3 million acres of Vietnam vegetation destroyed
  • Ho Chi Minh trail giving Vietcong supplies from USSR/North Vietnam not intercepted
  • The climate, jungle, booby-traps and ambushes made it difficult for US soldiers
  • 26 April 1965, Johnson stated: “We have made a national pledge. I attend to keep it”  
  • Johnson’s “Great Society” suffered under the large presence of Vietnam War.  

 

  • 1968: US reporter, Walter Cronkite, came from Vietnam and showed horrific picture and movies. It was first televised war. Anti-war protests rose.  
  • 1967: Johnson: “there is light at the end of the tunnel”. US people tired of war.
  • 31 January 1968; Tet Offensive: 70,000 Vietcong soldiers attacked over 100 cities.
    • Some cities like Hué was very badly destroyed with many casualties
    • US did win all areas back, and Vietcong had most casualties (40,000).
    • US status as superpower challenged anti-war protests rose   
  • October 1968: Johnson ordered stopping bombing of North Vietnam
  • May 1968: Peace talks began in Paris, had no result
  • $30 billion a year used on war, around 300 US soldiers died every week.
  • 31 March 1968: Johnson announced that he would not run for re-election.   

Involvement of Richard Nixon

 

  • Became president in November 1968 and promised “Peace with Honour”
  • Initially suggested Vietcong to withdraw and regain old border at 17th parallel.
  • Vietcong refused and US started bombing North Vietnam again.
  • Launched 14-month bomb campaign on Ho Chi Minh trail – violated Cambodia’s neutrality.
    • Led to protest 4 May 1970 at Kent State University – 4 students killed
    • Killings led to HUGE anti-war protest in Washington DC
  • Due to public opinion, Nixon introduced Vietnamization (gradual withdrawal)
    • Included the Nixon doctrine: “Asian countries must seek their own destiny”
    • 1969-1971: US soldiers in Vietnam fell from 539,000 to 157,000
    • R. Schulzinger argued that this tactic restored the president’s authority
  • 1969-1971: Desertions and use of drugs rose by 400% in US army
  • 1969: US soldiers massacred village of My Lai trial of Lieutenant Calley and more anti-war protests.
  • 15 October 1969: Vietnam War Moratorium Day: Protests all over the US
  • 1969: 1 Million Vietcong troops in South Vietnam, which was ruled poorly
    • US continued to give South Vietnam large financial support
  • 1972: 3 million South Vietnamese were fighting in the war organised as the People’s Self Defence Front

 

John Stanley: The peace with honour policy of Richard Nixon took 4 years and killed 300,000 Vietnamese and 20,000 Americans.

 

Consequences of the War

 

The peace

  • May 1972-Jan. 1973: Paris Peace talks between North Vietnam and Henry Kissinger
    • North Vietnam demanded representation in South’s government, US denied
  • During talks, US bombed sensitive targets to pressure North Vietnam
  • 27 January 1973: Henry Kissinger and Le Du Tho signed peace treaty
    • Vietnam was divided at 17th parallel, all US troops left 2 weeks after
    • Nixon promised a “bloodbath” if the promises of treaty was not kept
  • By April 1973, North Vietnam had taken control Saigon
  • By the end of 1975, Vietcong had taken control over whole of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. All became communist.  

 

Effects of the war on US society

  • 2 million Vietnamese died, mostly civilians. 1 million refugees went to the US
  • 55,000 US soldiers died and 300,000 were wounded
  • US veterans were very mentally affected, and Agent Orange caused many diseases
  • The use of drugs in US army spread to the population
  • Less belief in the ideas of containment
  • US position as over-ruling superpower very challenged
  • 1973: “War Powers Resolution” passed, which required president to acquire Congress approval 60 days before any intervention.
    • Paul Levine argues that the war thereby marks shift from presidential power to main power present in Congress.

 

Historical debate

  • Jo Thomas/Kelly Rogers argue that isolated the Vietnam war was a big failure was it indirectly fostered communist regimes in not only Vietnam but also Cambodia/Laos
  • Jim Rohwer argues that Vietnam was allowed for development in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, which made them able to resist Communism
  • Lee Kuan Yew argues that more countries would have been communists without war

List of Historians

 

  • John Stanley (text book)
  • Kelly Rogers (text book)
  • Jo Thomas (text book)
  • Jim Rohwer
  • Lee Kun Yew
  • Paul Levine
  • R. Schulzinger
  • William Chafe
  • James N. Giglio
  • Derrick Murphy

 

Sample Essay Plan

 

Sample essay question: Evaluate the changing nature of US involvement in Vietnam from 1963 to 1973.  

 

1st paragraph: The involvement of Lyndon B. Johnson

1) Involvement developed from indirect to direct

    • Gulf of Tonkin Incident Gulf of Tonkin Resolution
    • 1965 Operation Rolling Thunder

 

  • 1965-68: More bombs on Vietnam than on all of Axis powers during WW2.

 

  • 1965: 100,000 ground forces at Da Hang
    • Search and destroy missions”    

2) Involvement intensified

    • 1968: 520,000 American troops in Vietnam
      • In total, 3 million acres of Vietnam vegetation destroyed

 

  • 26 April 1965, Johnson stated: “We have made a national pledge. I attend to keep it”  

 

  • 31 January 1968; Tet Offensive: 70,000 Vietcong soldiers attacked over 100 cities.
    • US status as superpower challenged anti-war protests rose   

3) Involvement decreased

  • First televised war Walter Cronkite. Therefore many anti-war protests
  • October 1968: Johnson ordered stopping bombing of North Vietnam
  • May 1968: Peace talks began in Paris, had no result

 

2nd paragraph: The involvement of Richard Nixon

1) Involvement again intensified

  • Vietcong rejected Nixon’s initial proposal, bombings resumed
  • Launched 14-month bomb campaign on Ho Chi Minh trail – violated Cambodia’s neutrality.

2) Public opinion forced involvement to decrease

  • Huge campaign after the demonstration at Kent State University
  • Nixon introduced Vietnamization (gradual withdrawal)
    • Included the Nixon doctrine: “Asian countries must seek their own destiny”
    • 1969-1971: US soldiers in Vietnam fell from 539,000 to 157,000
    • R. Schulzinger argued that this tactic restored the president’s authority
  • 1969: Massacre of My Lai increased demonstrations once more

 

3rd paragraph: US involvement in the Peace Treaty

1) Deep US involvement

  • May 1972-Jan. 1973: Paris Peace talks between North Vietnam and Henry Kissinger
  • During talks, US bombed sensitive targets to pressure North Vietnam
  • 27 January 1973: Henry Kissinger and Le Du Tho signed peace treaty

2) No US involvement when Vietcong started breaking the treaty

  • Nixon’s “peace with honour had not been a success
  • Public opinion had large anti-war sediments
  • US role as superpower was not definite
  • Less support for containment

 

Conclusion

  • Both Johnson and Nixon first intensified and then decreased their level of involvement due to public opinion
  • The US involvement in Vietnam was deep and violent
  • The US ultimately failed to turn all their different kinds of involvement into a peaceful solution

 

List of past paper questions

 

  • “Vietnam destroyed the reputations of various United States presidents in the 1960s and 1970s.” To what extent do you agree with this judgment?

 

  • “The outcome of the Vietnam War was determined not on the battlefield, but on the television screen.” How far do you agree with this judgment?

 

  • Why had President Nixon ended American involvement in the Vietnam War by 1973?

 

  • For what reasons, and with what results, did the United States become involved in Vietnam?

 

  • Analyse the effects of the Vietnam War on the United States

 

  • The Vietnam War had a disastrous effect on the presidencies of both Lyndon B Johnson and Richard Nixon.. To what extent do you agree with this statement?

 

  • Examine the reasons for, and methods of, the US intervention in Vietnam

 

  • Evaluate the changing methods for the US involvement in the Vietnam war (1963-1973)

 

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Vietnam War in Latin America

LATIN AMERICA:

General overview:

  • Latin America was experiencing numeral problems in the 1960s-1970s, hence their involvement in the Vietnam and Korean wars was quite limited.
  • Saw the Vietnam War as an example of “American imperialism” => condemned this approach to foreign policy.
  • Cuba and Chile had the strongest protests because of their relations with the US at the time.

 

Chile:

  • Anti-war protests and peace marches in 1967-1968.
  • Multiple sporadic and poorly organized protests (University of Chile => students protested at a ceremony where their university was receiving gifts from University of California).
  • “Peace March” of 1967 was widely televised => national platform for criticizing the US.
  • The reason the general public was so bitter about the US in Vietnam was because of the economic dependency Chile had on the US and the anti-American rhetoric.
  • President Frei: initially supported the US.
  • As the Vietnam War reduced the amount of financial aid Chile was receiving, diplomatic relations between Chile and the US cooled down.

 

Cuba:

  • Castro: vocally critical of the Vietnam War.
  • Very anti-American after the Bay of Pigs invasion, outspoken against interventionism and imperialism.
  • 1965: Castro stated that it was a duty of all socialist states to support Northern Vietnam.
  • 1966: Tricontinental Conference (Asia, Latin America, and Africa) => resolution condemning imperialism in Vietnam and Cambodia.
  • Castro and Che Guevara encouraged other states to support North Vietnam that was “terribly alone”.
  • Cuba lacked resources to actually support North Vietnam => encouraged China and the USSR to help instead.
  • Castro’s position: Latin American countries needed to endorse North Vietnamese communists but lacked resources to actually support them, so it was the duty of wealthier socialist states to provide assistance.

 

Mexican Americans:

  • Mexican Americans: ⅕ of casualties in the Vietnam War.
  • Congress for Mexican American Union (1970): officially condemned the invasion of Cambodia.
  • Mexican Americans claimed that the Vietnam War was mostly harming non-white people on both sides of the conflict.
  • 1970s: regionalized protests in the south of the USA.