The Vietnam War

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					  Early American Involvement
• American gov’t saw Vietnam as important
  in stopping the spread of communism
• Late 1800s till WWII France ruled
  Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia – French
• 1900s – nationalism (movement for
  independence). Leader of movement
  named Ho Chi Minh
              Ho Chi Minh
• Founded Indochinese Communist Party and
  worked towards overthrowing French
• Spent several years in exile
• 1941 – When Japan took over – organized
  Nationalist group called Vietminh
• Group united communist and non-communist in
  struggle for independence. US begins to send
  aid to the Vietminh
          US Switches Sides
• After WWII Japan no longer controls – Ho Chi
  Minh declares Vietnam independent
• France had no intention of seeing Vietnam
• French troops began to drive Vietminh into
• As fighting escalated US sends support to
             Domino Theory
• If one country falls to Communism – so will the
• Two events convinced Truman to help France
  – Fall of China to Communism
  – Korean War
• Truman orders massive aid program to help
  French resist Vietminh
• Ike continues policies and pays ¾ of French
  military costs
             Domino Theory
• If one country falls to Communism – so will the
• Two events convinced Truman to help France
  – Fall of China to Communism
  – Korean War
• Truman orders massive aid program to help
  French resist Vietminh
• Ike continues policies and pays ¾ of French
  military costs
                Geneva Accords
• Peace meetings in Geneva Switzerland
• Temporarily divides Vietnam along 17th parallel
   – Ho Chi Minh and Vietminh in control of the North
   – Democratic supporters in the South
• 1956 – elections were supposed to be held to re-unite
• US immediately steps in and becomes protector of
  government in the South and supports new leader Ngo
  Dinh Diem
• 1956 – Diem refuses elections b/c he knows Ho Chi
  Minh will win.
• Eisenhower supports Diem – Nation headed towards
  Civil War
     Defeat at Dien Bien Phu
• 1954 – French order forces to take over
  town of Dien Bien Phu
• Huge Vietminh forces surround and
  bombard the town
• May 7, 1954 French forces surrender.
  Defeat convinces French to make peace
  and leave Indochina
• After Diem refuses elections – followers of
  Ho Chi Minh decide to use force
• Reorganize and call new group “Vietcong”
• Ike sends more and more aid and military
  advisers to Vietnam
  II. The United States Steps In
• South Vietnamese
  president Ngo Dign Diem
  cancels unifying elections
  because Ho Chi Minh is
  sure to win.
• Corruption and repressive
  policies pervade Diem’s
• In 1963, President
  Kennedy backs plans to
  overthrow Diem.
          Overthrow of Diem
• Diem, a Catholic, discriminates against
  Buddhists – prompting protests
• Widely Unpopular
• US Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge and US
  supported military coup by Vietnamese Generals
• After his death Gov’t Grew increasingly weak
  and unstable  Led to US becoming more
  responsible for holding S. Vietnamese gov’t
III. President Johnson Expands the
• Diem’s successors fail to curb the
  Vietcong’s influence in South Vietnam.
• The Tonkin Gulf Resolution of 1964 grants
  President Johnson broad military powers
  in Vietnam
  – Congress basically hands over all powers
    during time of war to President
• In February 1965, President Johnson
  escalates U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
  IV. The Decision to Escalate
• President Johnson dispatches the first
  American ground troops to Vietnam in
  March 1965.
• Between 1965 and 1967, the number of
  U.S. troops in Vietnam more than doubles.
       V. A War in the Jungle
• Vietcong military tactics baffle U.S. forces.
• U.S. chemical warfare harms the rural
  population and landscape.
• The frustrations of guerilla combat, brutal
  jungle conditions, and the war’s stalemate
  cause a decline in the morale of U.S.
   VI. The Early War at Home
• War costs begin to drain the U.S.
  economy and undercut domestic reform
• TV broadcasts of live combat cause public
  support for the war to wane.
     VII. A Working-Class War
• Draft policies favor young men from privileged
  backgrounds (medical excuses, college
  deferments etc.)
• Most American soldiers in Vietnam are
  minorities and lower-class whites.
• African Americans make up a disproportionately
  high percentage of U.S. troops.
• Most American women in Vietnam serve as
  military nurses or volunteers.
  VIII. The Roots of Opposition
• The New Left movement, including such
  activists as Students for a Democratic
  Society and the Free Speech Movement
  pushes for social and political change.
• SDS and FSM tactics spread to college
  campuses nationwide.
• College students begin joining together to
  protest the Vietnam War.
     IX. The Protest Movement
• Campus protests mount as more college
  students become eligible for the draft.
• More young Americans resist the draft.
• The American public becomes deeply
  divided into opponents and supporters of
  the war.
X. The Tet Offensive Turns the War
• Early in 1968- on Tet, Veitnam’s new year
  holiday- North Vietnam and the Vietcong
  launch a surprise attack.
• The Tet offensive sours the media’s and
  the public’s view of the war.
• By the end of February, President
  Johnson’s popularity has plummeted.
    XI. Days of Loss and Rage
• The impressive showing of an antiwar
  candidate, Eugene McCarthy, in the New
  Hampshire Democratic primary prompts Robert
  Kennedy to join the presidential race.
• In March, President Johnson announces a
  dramatic change in Vietnam policy and bows out
  of the presidential race.
• Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy are
  assassination, and campus protests surge.
XII. A Turbulent Race for President
• Protests spark rioting in Chicago during
  the Democratic National Convention.
• Delegates at the Democratic convention
  bitterly debate the party’s antiwar plank.
• Vice-President Hubert Humphrey wins the
  Democratic Party’s presidential
• The Republican presidential candidate,
  Richard Nixon, wins the 1968 election.
      XIII. President Nixon and
• Negotiations to end the war reach a
• Nixon initiates a policy of Vietnamization-
  a gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops and
  replacement with South Vietnamese
• A key goal of Vietnamization is to achieve
  “peace with honor.”
   XIV. Trouble Continues on the
            Home Front
• News accounts of the My Lai massacre
  horrify the American public.
• Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia spurs
  nationwide campus protests.
• The slaying of student protesters and
  bystanders at Kent State and Jackson
  State rocks the nation.
• Publication of the top-secret Pentagon
  Papers further erodes support for the war.
 XV. America’s Longest War Ends
• After Nixon’s reelection, peace talks break
  off and U.S. bombings resume.
• In 1973, the United States and North
  Vietnam sign a cease-fire agreement, and
  the last U.S. combat troops withdraw from
• The cease-fire collapses, and in 1975
  South Vietnam falls to North Vietnam.
 XVI. The War’s Painful Legacy
• Vietnam veterans receive a cold
  homecoming, and some face difficulties in
  readjusting to civilian life.
• The war’s end ushers in a violent, chaotic
  period in Southeast Asia.
• The war still stirs up controversy and leads
  to major U.S. policy changes.

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