Vietnam War Study Note

Andrew Burke
Slide Set by Andrew Burke, updated more than 1 year ago
Andrew Burke
Created by Andrew Burke over 3 years ago


As part of our exploration of the Cold War, this slide set provides a great overview of the Vietnam War. It explores the background, why US got drawn in, the main events, the peace movement and impacts at the end of the war.

Resource summary

Slide 1

    Confrontation: Vietnam War 1954-75
    Background:  Before the Second World War, Vietnam was ruled by France Japan took over during the war and ruled harshly Japanese resistance movement emerged under leadership of Ho Chi Minh (communist and nationalist) He inspired the Vietnamese to liberate themselves from the Japanese; Vietnam was declared independent after the war The French wanted to retain and rule Vietnam again 9 years of war followed; Viet Minh controlled the north and the French the south
    Caption: : US troops in Vietnam

Slide 2

    Why did the US get involved?  From 1949, Ho received support from communist China in terms of money, weapons and equipment Eisenhower acted for the US, funding the French war effort with $500 million a year Eisenhower was trying to stop the spread of communism, but the French pulled out in 1954 A peace conference was held and Vietnam was divided North and South until elections could be held The US, fearing a take over of Vietnam by Ho's Party, set up the Republic of South Vietnam under Ngo Dinh Diem Diem was an anti-communist and deeply unpopular He led a corrupt government that gave jobs to family members and refused elections at local level  Diem was overthrown in 1963, and more unpopular governments followed Some historians argue that the US wanted war in the first place due to the military-industrial complex  The government gave budgets to military commanders This money was spent on weapons made by big US manufacturers 
    The US gets drawn in:  By the early 1960s, the South Vietnamese government was losing control of the countryside to the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (Viet Cong) Viet Cong - a communist led rebel movement attempting to overthrow the Southern Vietnam regime The Viet Cong was supported by North Vietnam, China and the USSR  USA supported the efforts of the Southern government but it remained corrupt The US was drawn in and Kennedy sent military 'advisers' to help the Southern regime Lyndon Johnson, who succeeded Kennedy, launched the Operation Rolling Thunder in February 1965 This involved the bombing of North Vietnamese cities, factories and the Ho Chi Minh trail  March 1965 - Johnson ordered ground troops into Vietnam
    The US and the Vietnamese War

Slide 3

    US Tactics
    Johnson committed troops to Vietnam on the basis that the South Vietnamese government could not handle the Viet Cong. Further, he wanted to prevent a communist takeover.  Bombing: Bombed Viet Cong strongholds and supply routes (Ho Chi Minh Trail) Bombing killed thousands of people and turned Vietnamese people against the US Search and destroy:  US soldiers would surround villages and seek out Viet Cong forces Raids were based on poor information and often led to the killing of Vietnamese civilians  Chemical weapons:  There were two main types: agent orange (poisonous weed killer to defoliate the jungle) and Napalm (would burn the jungle where the Viet Cong were located) 
    Caption: : Napalm burning the Vietnamese landscape

Slide 4

    US Attitudes to the War
    Changing attitudes: Tet Offensive January 1968  In the Tet New Year (January 1968), the Viet Cong attacked over 100 cities and military targets  US and SVA forces took back the captured towns; around 10,000 Viet Cong died and huge amounts of artillery were used The city of Hue was destroyed and 116,000 civilians made homeless US citizens began to question the war; 500,000 troops were in Vietnam at the cost of $20 billion a year The Media:  After the Tet Offensive many claimed that the war would require greater effort and more troops to win  Negative attitudes began to develop within US media outlets 
    The My Lai Massacre:  Reporting grew more critical after the Tet Offensive   Life magazine in December 1969, reported the atrocity committed by American troops in the village of My Lai in March 1968   US forces killed between 300-400 civilians   Some civilians were gunned down and others shot in a ditch   Initially, the troops and commanding officers were praised for their actions which made the situation worse in the eyes of the US public   The My Lai massacre challenged the view that the US was fighting for a just cause in Vietnam 

Slide 5

    US Peace Movement
    With the death of so many young Americans and events of the Tet offensive, public opinion turned against the war: Cost: Martin Luther King pointed out that the US government was spending $500,000 to kill one enemy soldier while spending $53 a year to help poor US citizens   Social inequality: military drafting exposed social and racial inequality in the US. 30% of African-Americans were drafted compared to 19% of White Americans. Casualty rates were higher among African-Americans. This led civil rights activists to criticise the war.  Media outlets exposed the horrors of Vietnam demonstrating the casual violence that occurred daily. Vietnam was no longer seen as a justified fight against communism, it had become a symbol of defeat and moral corruption. Anti-war protests, led by civil rights leaders and students, peaked during 1968-1970. The largest occurred in November 1969, when 700,000 anti-war protesters demonstrated at Washington, DC. 
    Caption: : Protesting against the War in Vietnam

Slide 6

    War Ends and Impacts
    End of the Vietnam War: After the Tet Offensive, Johnson realised the war would not be won by force and explored possible peace talks However, Richard Nixon came to presidency towards the end of the war in November 1968 1969-73: Nixon's security adviser, Henry Kissinger, worked to end US involvement in Vietnam The process of 'Vietnamisation' began - handing war responsibilities to the South Vietnamese and withdrawing US troops April 1969-December 1971, around 400,000 US troops left Vietnam In January 1973, all parties signed a peace agreement End of March 1973, all US troops had left Vietnam South Vietnam soon fell to the communists 
    Impacts of the War: US failed militarily and failed to stop the spread of communism US failed politically as Vietnamese neighbours Laos and Cambodia established communist governments in 1975 US failed ideologically and its troops actions damaged its reputation Congress introduces the War Powers Act 1973 to limit the president's ability to go to war Relationship with Soviet Union enters period of détente In 1972, the US and USSR agree the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) to reduce the amount of nuclear weapons being produced US foreign policy developed a new attitude; troops would only be involved in conflicts if it could be win quickly and convincingly 
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