AQA Vietnam
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AQA Vietnam
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Vietnam Lost Films 6/6 - Peace With Honor [1971-1975]

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The final part of the series, this is focused on Peace with Honour.

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Vietnam Lost Films 4/6 - An Endless War [1968-1969]

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Part 4 of the series, this depicts the height of the war.

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Vietnam Lost Films 2/6 - Search And Destroy [1966-1967]

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Part 2 of the series, this is focused on Search and Destroy.

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President Kennedy and Vietnam quiz, 1961-63

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The crisis of the war in Vietnam quiz, 1964-68

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President Nixon and the end of the war quiz, 1969-75

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The American War: The U.S. in Vietnam

summary: Pinky & Bunny discuss the origins of the Vietnam War (also known as the 'American War' in Vietnam). The episode is comprised of four short chapters:...
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Probably the most random investigation in to why the US entered the Vietnam War.

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Vietnam Timeline

Just some of the key dates and facts - please print!

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Vietnam War Revision Timeline




During WW2, the   resistance against the Japanese Imperialist forces in Vietnam was led by the Vietminh, an organisation of   Vietnamese nationalists led by Ho Chi   Minh. These fighters were funded and trained by the US and undertook   guerrilla warfare to try and rid their country of the Japanese.


When Japan   surrendered in 1945 the Vietminh was strong enough to seize Hanoi, the Northern capital, and   declare independence for Vietnam. The French, however, wished to reassert   their control over the region: they were not yet ready to give up their   Indochinese Empire. Consequently, a civil   war erupted between the Vietminh and the colonial forces of the French   which lasted through into the 1950s. During this time, political and economic   support for the French was coming from the USA, once allies of the Vietminh!!



This was a huge political victory for the USSR.   China was a huge country that had a population of more than 800 million! China   would also be a significant stepping stone for further Communist expansion   into Asia (The Domino Theory). This was now a major concern for the USA, as Vietnam   was now under even more Communist pressure.



In the light of   the new nuclear threat of Communism, NSC-68 was produced that outlined the   new direction that the USA’s foreign policy needed to take in order to   contain Communism. This new direction would now focus on rollback, the view that Communism needed to be confronted and   pushed back to safeguard the free world. This was therefore the basis of a much more aggressive US foreign policy.   The feeling in the USA was that they were losing the Cold War and thus firmer   action was needed.



Under the new   President, Dwight Eisenhower, the US supplied massive amounts of economic aid   to South Vietnam:

1953-57 - $1,100 million

1958        - $241 million

1959        - $249 million

The idea was to   fund Asia in a similar way to how the Marshall Plan was keeping Western   Europe under control. However, the issue in South Vietnam was that Dai’s and Diem’s governments were very   corrupt and distributed the wealth unequally depending on social status   and religious beliefs. The largely Buddhist peasantry remained extremely   poor, and thus unsettled.



By 1953 it was   becoming increasingly apparent that the French would not be able to win this   war against the Vietminh. The French General took once last gamble to try and   inflict a heavy defeat on the Vietminh. The Vietminh were coaxed into   attacking the French stronghold at Dien   Bien Phu. When the battle began the French were vastly outnumbered and   outgunned. 16,000 French troops were either killed or captured. This was the   final nail in the French Indochinese coffin.


The   international conference dealt with the issue of Vietnam. A ceasefire was declared, Vietnam was   to be temporarily divided at the 17th   parallel until national elections could take place in two years, France   agreed to withdraw its forces from the region, and Laos ad Cambodia were declared independent states.

The North of   Vietnam was to be under the control of the Vietminh while the South was   placed under the control of Bo Dai, the emperor of Vietnam who had   collaborated with the French. However, Ho Chi Minh resented giving up the   South.


The South East Asian Treaty Organisation   was set up to try and prevent the spread of Communism across the continent of   Asia. In addition to the US, the treaty was signed by Australia, Britain,   France, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines and Thailand.



Because of his   “international playboy” lifestyle, Bo   Dai was replaced with Ngo Dinh Diem at the approval of the US. Though an   anti-Communist, Diem’s regime was hardly a beacon of freedom. His family and   cronies were appointed to important positions both in the government and the   armed forces. Corruption and   persecution was rife, especially against the Buddhists and peasants   (despite the fact that the peasantry made up about 85% of the South’s   population and that Buddhism was the biggest religion by far) due to his   strict Catholic views.


Non-Catholics   were constantly persecuted under Diem’s regime. The Cao Dai and Hoa Hao sects   were violently crushed and their leaders executed.



This was formed   to oppose Diem’s regime through the use of guerrilla tactics. It was a   popular movement in the South, in particular in the very poor rural areas.


John F. Kennedy   narrowly defeats Richard Nixon for the presidency. Kennedy was the youngest man elected President. In his   inaugural address he spoke of the need for all Americans to be active   citizens. He famously remarked, "Ask   not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."



In an attempt to   take a more active role in the problem in South Vietnam, JFK sent in over 16,000 advisors (including the Green Berets) to   train the South Vietnamese in counter-insurgency tactics to prevent guerrilla   groups taking over areas of the country. This move was not however very   successful, as the advisors failed to realise that the local populations were   in favour of the Vietcong, and thus did not really seek to win their favour.


In an attempt to   nullify the guerrilla warfare tactics being used by the Vietcong, the US   developed a policy of creating Strategic   Hamlets. This involved moving peasants into fortified villages guarded by   troops. This however created much resentment amongst the population who were   being forcibly moved from their homes and family’s burial sites. The US force   were not winning the “hearts and   minds” of the South Vietnamese population.



In June Quang Duc, a 73 year old monk, sat in   the middle of a Saigon street, dowsed himself with petrol and set himself   alight. This action in protest at Diem’s religious policy was photographed   and soon spread around the world causing outrage.


Diem’s regime was   overthrown by the South Vietnamese army, after the US inadvertently failed to   stop the coup. The USA now had a serious problem. They would have to become   much more involved in Vietnam to prevent a Communist revolution spreading   across the South.


The   assassination of JFK was believed to have been a direct reaction to the   assassination of Diem. When Johnson took over, he was more committed to   sorting out South Vietnam, and so sent in even more economic aid than had previously   been supplied:

1964 - $400 million

1965 - $543 million

1966 - $900 million

In reality   though, as soon as Johnson came into power, he was looking for a means by   which to get militarily involved in Vietnam. He knew that the only way to   stop the rise of Communism was to send in the troops.



This was the   supply route that the North Vietnamese used to help the Vietcong fight their   guerrilla war in the South. It ran   through Laos and Cambodia in an attempt to avoid US bombing raids, and   the trail was constantly being relocated to prevent the US from gaining   enough knowledge to destroy the supply routes.


Outline of US   objectives:

  Desire to preserve the independence        of a non-communist South Vietnam  It called for a national        mobilisation plan to put South Vietnam on a war footing and increasing        the size of the ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam)  General        Westmoreland was to        become commander of the US military forces in Vietnam  There was an increase in the number of military advisors from 16,000 to        23,300 and an further expansion of economic assistance by $50        million


Incidents in the   Gulf of Tonkin, which involved attacks against the USS Maddox and the USS   Turner Joy from North Vietnamese torpedo boats, gave Johnson the   opportunity to escalate the war in Vietnam. Congress unanimously approved the resolution which authorised the   President “to take all necessary   measures to repel an armed attacks against the forces of the US and to   prevent any further aggression” This effectively was the green light that   Johnson had hoped for, but was in many ways a blank cheque for the President   to escalate the war however he chooses. It would later become apparent that   the Gulf of Tonkin incidents were at best questionable, and that they may   never have been attacked in the first place. The public had been lied to.



These were   bombing raids on North Vietnam. It involved the selection of strategic   targets to try and pressure the North to stop supplying the Vietcong, end the   war and start negotiations. The aim was to bring the war to an end at a low   cost. However, the raids were largely ineffective as the North was a largely   agricultural country, and so there few important military and industrial   targets to be bombed. Also, supplies to the South actually increased during the bombing raids.


The first   American combat troops, the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, arrive in   Vietnam to defend the US airfield at Danang. Scattered Vietcong gunfire is   reported, but no Marines are injured. By   June the number of US troops in Vietnam had reached 220,000 despite the   fact that the US were still not officially at war with North Vietnam.


Search   & Destroy – these   were mission designed to locate Communist bases in the jungle and destroy   them. This tactic was used against villages who were accused of harbouring   Vietcong guerrillas. It was difficult to ensure that civilians were not   amongst the casualties.Zippo   Raids – US troops burned   down villages to teach the population not to help the Vietcong using their   Zippo lighters. This created even more resentment towards the “foreign   invaders”.Air   attacks – large areas of   South Vietnam were designed “free bombing zones” where large numbers of   bombs, rockets and napalm were dropped with little regard for the possible   target.Helicopters – used to transport troops in and out of   the battlefields. Unfortunately, this tactic also helped to further alienate   the troops from the people they were trying to help.Chemical   weapons – defoliants   were used such as Agent Orange to   strip the jungle cover. It destroyed over three million acres of vegetation,   but also had significant poisonous qualities.Cluster   bombs – these were bombs   that exploded into thousands of tiny pieces which spread the damage across a   wider area. Many civilian casualties were created through the use of these   bombs.


Booby   traps - the Vietcong   sets traps for the US troops including man traps which used bamboo spikes to   inflict painful wounds. The troops would then be left to suffer. One   particular trap was designed so that you could not escape without further   impaling yourself on the bamboo spikes.They were supplied with rockets and weapons by   China and Russia. They used the Ho Chi Minh Trail - a jungle route   through Laos and Cambodia - to supply their armies. The Americans couldn't   attack their supply routes without escalating the war.They mingled   in with the peasants, wearing ordinary clothes. The Americans couldn't   identify who the enemy was.Their   tactic was "hanging onto the belts" of the Americans -   staying so close to the Americans so they could not use air or artillery   backup without killing their own men.


Choosing to   fight a conventional war, and not initially learning from the mistakes of the   French, the US troops were being   overrun at the Ia Drang Valley, so much so that over 300 US troops were   killed and eventually B52 bombers were called in to use napalm to salvage the   situation. In a way, the US saw the battle as a victory due to the high   number of NVA (North Vietnamese Army) deaths – 3561 from a total of 6000   troops. However, the major result of the battle was that General Giap (NVA) had   realised that the best way for the NVA to fight against the US was going to   be using guerrilla tactics.



US troop   involvement increases to 385,000


Veterans from   World Wars I and II, along with veterans from the Korean war stage a protest rally   in New York City. Discharge and separation papers are burned in protest of US   involvement in Vietnam.



By 1967, the   Anti-war movement was beginning to take off. In this year, Martin Luther King joined a   demonstration of 200,000 people against the war in New York. For the next few   years, anti-war demonstrations became a common site in major cities and   university campuses. These images were also broadcast across the US and the   world, even to the troops in Vietnam! The problems people had with the war   included:

It had a negative impact on the US   poverty programmeThere was a high number of poor and black   troops fighting, out of proportion with the populationHigher class and richer citizens were   being allowed to get away with “draft-dodging”The war was escalating every year,   including more troops and costing more money than the US public found   acceptableThe manner in which the war was being   fought was leading US citizens to question whether or not they were still the   “good guys”The population of America were starting   to see that they had been deceived regarding the justification for the war –   the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.



At 2.45 am on 30th   January, North Vietnamese and Vietcong forces launched attacks against the US embassy in Saigon.   This was the start of a massive series of coordinated attacks across the   whole of South Vietnam. The Communists launched with a force of 80,000 troops. The attack was timed to coincide with   the Vietnamese New Year holiday, thus taking the US and South Vietnamese   forces completely by surprise. In most places, the insurgents were repelled   quickly, however, in Hué, the battle for control of the city lasted a month.

Symbolically,   the Tet offensive was a political disaster for the US, despite the fact that   it was a very severe military defeat for the Communists, with as much as   80-90% of their forces being wiped out in little over three days. The Tet   offensive had however highlighted major problems with the Vietnam War:

  The general public were becoming        even more disenchanted with the war. The Tet        Offensive is frequently seen as an example of the value of media influence and popular        opinion in the pursuit of military objectives. That the Communists were        able to mount a major, country-wide assault at all was a blow to U.S.        hopes of winning the war rapidly and starkly called into question        General Westmoreland's earlier public reports of progress in the War.        Likewise, the optimistic        assessments of the Johnson administration and The Pentagon came under        heavy criticism and ridicule.  The attack on the US embassy showed        that the forces were not prepared and that nowhere was safe from the        Communists. Though the siege lasted only 6 hours, the mere fact that the        Communists had managed to take control of the building echoed around the        globe as a major political defeat for the Americans.  Questions began to be asked as to        why the US was even in Vietnam, when it was becoming plainly clear that        they were not wanted there.  The Tet Offensive was very damaging        for Johnson in particular, whose popularity        rating dropped to just 26% in March 1968.  Walter Cronkite was        the most popular news reporter in the USA, and consequently had a        significant influence on how the Vietnam War was being perceived by the        public. During the Tet Offensive, Cronkite declared that the war was unwinnable.  President Johnson, realising the power of        such a statement is reported to have said, "If I've lost Walter        Cronkite, I've lost Middle America."


US troop   involvement increases to 535,000. As historian Robert Dallek writes,   "Lyndon Johnson's escalation of   the war in Vietnam divided Americans into warring camps ... cost 30,000   American lives by the time he left office, (and) destroyed Johnson's   presidency ...."[


Troops on a   search and destroy mission shot in a ditch 300 innocent Vietnamese civilians,   mainly women and children. The squadron leader was eventually arrested and   put in prison on a charge of mass murder. One soldier claimed innocence   stating that “The baby was attacking me!”


Johnson withdrew from the Presidential   election, and then   sought to establish peace talks with North Vietnam in the lead up to his   leaving. Johnson’s withdrawal speech heralded a change in tactics in the   Vietnam War. Though the negotiations with Hanoi went well, Johnson refused to   compromise on the important issue of a communist-free and democratic South   Vietnam. However, any chance of peace being established was being undermined   by Nixon’s representatives, who had   secretly struck a deal with the South Vietnamese, promising them a better   deal under the new administration. The South Vietnamese then began   stalling the talks, even going as far as refusing to sit at a round table during the talks, but   instead insisting upon a rectangular one!


In November   1968, Nixon was elected as the new President and immediately began his   commitment of ending the war through “Vietnamisation”   and “peace with honour”.



Vietnamisation   – the policy through   which the war in Vietnam would slowly but surely be handed back to the South   Vietnamese to fight. This would allow US troops to withdraw.Peace   with honour – This was a   target for the US administration. They wanted to be able to leave Vietnam   with their heads held high. This would however prove to be very difficult.



Nixon took the   decision to extend the war to Cambodia in order to make a point to both North   Vietnam and the Soviet Union; that he was prepared to take measures that   Johnson had avoided to make North Vietnam negotiate a peace treaty. Over 3500   bombing raids were conducted dropping more than 100,000 tonnes of bombs on   Cambodia. The results of this were however not what the US had wanted. They   provoked  the North Vietnamese into   moving further into Cambodia, culminating in a bloody civil war. Such actions   also reignited the anti-war campaigns back in the US.



In February,   Nixon again approved a further extension of the war into Laos. Though in many   respects a success, with 15,000 enemy troops being killed, the operation   proved only that Nixon’s attempts to   force the North Vietnamese to negotiate were not working, and that in   many ways, the Vietcong were arguably becoming more assured that they could   repel any US attacks sufficiently.


This was a study   of US decision-making about Vietnam since the end of WW2. Intended to be   secret, the papers were published by the New York Times. The study revealed that Kennedy and Johnson had repeatedly misled the   public regarding the Vietnam War. This again fuelled the growing anti-war   feeling in the US. The purpose of the war was increasingly less clear as the   years went on, and this was now having a dramatic   effect on the troops’ morale in the battlefields as well as on the public   at home.



Responding to   charges by Democratic presidential candidates that he is not moving fast   enough to end US involvement in Vietnam, President Nixon orders troop   strength reduced by seventy thousand.


This was the first attempt by North Vietnam to invade South   Vietnam since the third phase of the Tet Offensive had been stalled in May   1968. Estimated troop casualties during the offensive were more then 100,000   for the North and 60,000 for the South. Following the failure of the   offensive, General Giap was replaced.


Linebacker was the first continuous bombing   effort conducted against North Vietnam since the bombing halt instituted by   President Lyndon B. Johnson in November 1968. Its purpose was to halt or slow   the transportation of supplies and materiel for the Easter Offensive Linebacker   played a crucial role in blunting the northern offensive by drying up its   vital sources of supply.



This was a   scandal that implicated Nixon directly in the secret bugging of the Democratic   Party offices during 1972. The information gained was then used to discredit   Nixon’s opponent in the Presidential elections, George McGovern. Nixon ended up resigning due to the   controversy in 1974, the only US President to have ever done so.


A cease-fire   agreement that, in the words of Richard Nixon, "brings peace with honor in Vietnam and Southeast Asia," is   signed in Paris by Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho. The agreement is to go   into effect on January 28.



In December   1974, Congress passed the Foreign   Assistance Act of 1974, which cut off all military funding to the South   Vietnamese government. The act fixed the numbers of U.S. military personnel   allowed in Vietnam: 4000 within six months of enactment and 3000 within one   year


With   North Vietnamese forces in the South believed to be at their highest levels   ever, South Vietnamese leaders prepare themselves for an expected Communist   offensive of significant proportions.



South Vietnamese President   Duong Van Minh delivers an unconditional surrender to the Communists in the   early hours of April 30. North Vietnamese Colonel Bui Tin accepts the surrender and   assures Minh that, "...Only the Americans have been beaten. If you are   patriots, consider this a moment of joy." As the few remaining Americans   evacuate Saigon, the last two US servicemen to die in Vietnam are killed when   their helicopter crashes.


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Vietnam Lost Films 5/6 - A Changing War [1968-1970]

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Part 5 of the series, the changing face of the war.

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Vietnam Lost Films 3/6 - The TET Offensive [1968]

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Part 3 of the series. This focuss on the Tet Offensive.

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Vietnam Lost Films 1/6 - The Beginning [1964-1965]

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Part of a series, this focuses on the early days 1964-1965

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President Johnson's escalation in Vietnam quiz, 1964-68

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The crisis of the war in America quiz, 1964-68

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President Nixon and the end of the war quiz, 1969-75

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