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The Vietnam Conflict and Its effects
The Vietnam conflict began in the
late nineteenth century. The French conquered Vietnam and made it a protectorate. For nearly forty years, Vietnam had not experienced settled peace. The League for the Independence of Vietnam ( Viet Minh ) was formed in 1941, seeking independence from the French. On September 2nd,1945, Ho Chi Minh proclaimed it independent of France. The French opposed their independence from 1945 to 1954. The first representatives of de Gualle's government landed by parachute in Saigon and Hanoi on August 23rd, 1945. The French wanted to reestablish their rule in Vietnam but were beaten at the battle of Dien Bien Phu on May 7th, 1954. The French Expeditionary Force tried to prevent the Viet Minh from entering Laos and Dien Bien Phu was the place chosen to do so. The French were not very careful and this allowed the Viet Minh to cut off their airway to Hanoi. After a siege that had lasted for fifty - five days, the French surrendered. Ho Chi Minh led the war against France and won.
After the war there was a conference in Geneva where Vietnam was divided into two parts along the seventeenth parallel. North Vietnam was mainly Communist and supported Ho Chi Minh, while the south was supported by the United States and the French were based there. There was still some Communist rebels within South Vietnam. These were the Viet Cong. The South Vietnam ruler was Ngo Dinh Diem who was anti - Communist. At the conference, Laos and Cambodia became independent states.
North Vietnam wished to unify North and South Vietnam through military force. Since the United States feared the spread of communism in Asia, John F. Kennedy provided economic and military aid to South Vietman to prevent the takeover by North Vietnam. At this time, this was still a civil war. The United States were not yet officially involved.
The North Vietnamese resented the little intervention by the United Sates and so, three Vietnamese torpedo boats fired on the U.S. destroyer, " Maddox " on August 2nd, 1964. The " Maddox " had
been in the Gulf of Tonkin ( international waters ), thirty miles off the coast of Vietnam. On August 3rd, 1964, Johnson gave the right " to attack with the objective of destroying attacking forces " ( Pimlott 1982, 36 ). Retaliation air attacks began on August 3rd. Their aim was to destroy North Vietnam's gunboat capability. As two more United States destroyers were supposedly sunk, more air and sea forces were sent ( Wicker August 5, 1964, 1 ). Up until now, the U.S. had refrained from direct combat. This is when the United States formally entered the Vietman War. The U.S. did this for two reasons. We wished to maintain the independence of South Vietnam and we had to prove to allied nations that we would help them resist Communist overtaking. As
Congress was about to vote whether or not to allow the combat to move
into North Vietnam, the North Vietnamese attacked a major U.S. airbase at Bein Hoa. On February 7th, 1965, Johnson ordered retaliation
bombing on North Vietnam. Rolling Thunder was the name of this
operation. It's purpose was to put pressure on Hanoi and convince them
that Communism could not and would not win.
At the end of 1965, one hundred and eighty thousand Americans were in South Vietnam under General William S. Westmoreland (Encyclopedia Britannica, 12, 361 ). The U.S. mainly depended on superior firepower and helicopters. The Viet Cong and North Vietnamese depended on surprise attack and concealment.
The United States soldiers realized that the war would last for many more years and wondered if the U.S. war effort could succeed. At the end of 1968, The number of American troops in South Vietnam reached it's peak of 542, 000 men ( Pimlott 1982, 53 ). The Viet Cong and North Vietnamese launched a major invasion against the United
States called the Tet offensive from January 30th to February 25th, 1968. At the Khe Sanh U.S. firebase, there was a major ground battle. There was a siege from January 21st to April 14th. It was thought to be the " American Dien Bien Phu ". The United States turned it around however, with their victory at Hue. By 1969, combat decreased rapidly
and American troops began to return home.
The role of Communism was extremely important in this conflict. Communism was one of the main reasons of why the United States entered the war in the first place. The U.S. " had " to enter the war to stop the spread of Communism in Asia since North Vietnam was Communist. If North Vietnam were to succeed in converting Vietnam into a Communist country, it could become very powe
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