History essays relating to the Vietnam War

Free Vietnam War Essays

Why did the US Intervene in the Vietnam War between 1946 and 1956?

After WWII, perfidious French colonialism was in motion once more in Vietnam, a country that had been previously colonized by the degenerate French, followed by Japan after the former fell in 1940. The country's road to nationalism, socialism and eventually communism, was paved over decades of defiance and insurgency, in face of foreign imperialism and domestic corruption within the government. The reasons why the US intervened between 1954 and 1964 can only be understood within the larger context of the Cold War with the Soviet Union and is chiefly a by-product of imperialism and containment policy, alongside the domino theory.
The US, a democracy with full-blown ideals of self-determinism, and seeing itself as an advocate for freedom, was said to face a dilemma between support for nationalism and its disdain for communism. This was demonstrated by the fact that the US was the main provider of firearms and weapons during the Vietminh's uprising against fascist Japan after 1941 (the formation of the Viet Minh, or the League for Vietnamese Independence). Throughout the course of the Japanese rule from 1940 to 1945, the Vietminh successfully expanded its base in Tokin and Annam, helping peasants in the proximity through famine and gaining extreme popularity as a result. However, the US' military support can be seen as an ephemeral commitment, as leader Ho Chi Minh initiated the request and Americans were themselves more against the Japanese than for Vietnamese independence. Again, even earlier on in 1919, the US never gave a shred of support for the struggling advocate Ho, who submitted eight demands to the French at the Versailles Peace Conference, following the end of the WWI. Where were anti-imperialism, freedom, and democracy in play then? And was it of any concern for the US during the Geneva Convention when they opposed the promised elections in 1956, only in fear that the people of Vietnam would choose a communist leadership, without American ties? War devastated and economically depleted colonialist France fought through the First Indochina War from 1949 to 1954, only because the US funded them. To endorse in an action that promotes the trespassing of national sovereignty, and to support another country in the overtaking of nation of a different race is not different from being part of the invasive party itself. To help achieve an imperialist end is nothing else but imperialism and hypocrisy on the part of Americans. More importantly, the reason why the US intervened in the form of war merely years later is also largely political.
The US' then recent set back against the communists in Cuba and failure to control the Berlin crisis, encouraged President John F. Kennedy to show stronger resolve in containing communism in Asia. Again, the Domino Theory, first popularized by President Eisenhower of the previous term was used to justify the intervention that the US undertook. China's 'fall' to communism was seen as a travesty to President Harry S. Truman's shame, and the result of event was the triangulation in relations during the period now in question. The US believed, that as Domino Theory claims, if one country falls to communism, the neighbouring countries will turn communist as well, one after the other. Vietnam, heavily influenced by Chinese culture and politics, was already a country with a peasant base large enough to be threatening as communism, unlike capitalism, promises peace, bread and land. China has fallen; the US cannot remain spectator, as Vietnam was clearly about to become in league with the very enemy the US had fought in the previous two decades.
The Battle of Dien Bien Phu resulted in Vietnamese victory on May 7, 1954 due to General Vo Nguyun Giap's brilliant plan and the Vietminh's resilience to the loss of lives. In total, 40,000 troops launched the offensive, and for every French casualty, there would be ten for the Vietnamese. The Geneva Accords, settled in July 1954 by countries including France, Vietnam, the United States, the USSR, Britain, China, Laos and Cambodia, officially split Vietnam into two, promised to reunify after free elections. The US would argue that the North Vietnamese began radical land reforms, persecuting and imprisoning landowners and forced a wave of close to a million people to South Vietnam by 1955. Yet, again, the US shows sympathy to those who had been the very core of relatively wealthier oppressive landowners who had formally crushed and assisted in the colonial quests of foreign powers. There is no context given in propagandistic American media such as the CNN, and thus creates the illusion that the US, again, intervened as a policing power.
There after, Diem, the leader of South Vietnam, was overthrown and murdered by his very own former supporters, with the help of the CIA on November 1, 1963. The CNN says that after the death of Diem and President Kennedy, a few weeks apart, Vice President Lyndon Johnson "assumed office determined not to lose Vietnam to the communists" (italics added). Kennedy had formerly sent "special advisors" to South Vietnam, who were really military combatants, Johnson in 1963, sends Defense Secretary Robert McNarnara to repledge U.S. support. All of these measures were really actions that showed the preparation the US was making for inevitable militaristic confrontation. In August 1964, the USS Maddox, a destroyer on patrol in the Gulf of Tonkin, received fire from North Vietnamese torpedo boats, and reported of another attack two days later. Conflicting evidence from the ships' records show of no second attack, despite the insistence of the Pentagon, and the up played 'intrusion' was unequivocally without substance in and of itself. The ships were destroyers in nature and were in North Vietnamese territory; the incident was merely a tool so that the Johnson administration could push the "Gulf of Tonkin Resolution" through Congress, permitting LBJ to initiate warfare in Vietnam.
The above background and events as summarized provide indication that the US intervention was purely based on containment policy, the domino theory and massive retaliation. The US-installed puppet leaders of the South were not of the people, whereas the Northern leaders gained power from grass roots movements and were supported by the very peasants they fight for. Should not a nation that believes in democracy and self-determination not respect the national sovereignty of the Vietnamese people, whom the US was afraid would come into power if free elections were to occur. Therefore, by stripping away the rights of one small underdeveloped Asian nation, the US ensured the safety of the 'free world'. Yet unlike Cuba, Vietnam was on a completely different continent, without any nuclear potential, and could bring no harm to the US with its power alone. Had the US allowed free elections to occur, perhaps peaceful co-existence would become reality, since the movements of the Vietcong were nationalist in nature, and communist only as identification as an international political stance. Seeing that the US had no prior intentions of encouraging the growth of a 'free' Vietnam, economically independent and internationally respected, the US has no right to blame the country for its friendship with Moscow. And so, obviously, the US intervened at the beginning of the Vietnam War not in the interest of Vietnam, but that of the United States' safety and superpower status among capitalist and communist countries alike.

Roots of American involvement in Vietnam.


Vietnam is about 9000 miles away from the USA, but what provoked the USA to determine to get involved in the civil war between the Vietnamese back in the 40's-70's far away from them? Why did they intervene in the Vietnam War between 1954 and 1963? Actually, the answer is very simple. They were afraid of the spreading of the communism and wanted to stop it before it was too late.
Militarily, following up by the defeat of French, the French was compelled to leave Vietnam which would leave a power void for Ho Chi Minh, a communist, to take over easily. In the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, 1954, 16,000 French troops were either killed or captured by the Viet Minh. It convinced the French government to leave Indochina as soon as possible. It was like handed the part of Vietnam which was under French's control to Communism, and the US would not allow it because of the Truman Doctrine--Containment. Also, the US was heavily involved in the French military financially, even the Viet Minh Supreme Commander, General Vo Nguyen Giap said during a interview in 1996, "We see the Dien Bien Phu victory as the victory [over] the French army and [over] the intervention of the Americans --because in the Dien Bien Phu campaign, 80 percent of the war expenditures were spent by the Americans...So the Dien Bien Phu defeat was a defeat for both the French and the Americans...When we received news of the Dien Bien Phu victory, everyone practically jumped up in the air, they were so happy about it." For both of the sake of containment and honor, the US intervened in that Civil War in 1954.
Internationally, the USA was very unhappy with the Geneva Agreement of 1954. It declared the ceasefire between the French and the Viet Minh, Laos and Cambodia became independent state and Vietnam was divided into north and south temporarily by the 17th parallel. An election would be held in two years which would unit the north and south again. The North was ruled by a communist and the south was ruled by a dictator. Between these two, the USA chose to support the dictator. However, the population of the North was already outnumbered the South's, and a lot of South Vietnamese supported Ho Chi Minh. The threat of Communism took over Vietnam increased dramatically. Thus, the US set its mind to help the South.
Politically, President Eisenhower issued the 'Domino Theory' in 1954, which showed why the US thought that Vietnam must not become a Communist country. Eisenhower said, "You
have a row of dominoes set up. You knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly." The first domino was S. Vietnam, then Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Burma and India. It was just like the dominos of the Korean War, Korea, Japan, Philippines. That was why the US determined to get involved, because it could not afford the first domino to fall. As the Secretary of Defence at that time, Robert McNamara, said during a interview in June 1996 , "[The domino theory] was the primary factor motivating the actions of both the Kennedy and the Johnson administrations, without any qualification. It was put forward by President Eisenhower in 1954, very succinctly: If the West loses control of Vietnam, the security of the West will be in danger. "The dominoes will fall," in Eisenhower's words...The loss of Vietnam would trigger the loss of Southeast Asia, and conceivably even the loss of India, and would strengthen the Chinese and the Soviet position across the world, weakening the security of Western Europe and weakening the security of North America. This was the way we viewed it." This clearly shows the reason why the US intervened in the War, it was because of the fear to the accretion of the Communism.
From the political, military and international views, they all showed that the reason why the US intervened in the Vietnam War was because it was afraid of the spreading of the Communism and wanted to put a stop to it, contain it.

Memorial to victory over American terror-bombing

At the greatest level, what was the extent of the US combat power in Vietnam?
The Vietnam War is not such an honourable and noble war for the US. It started as a war for independence, and then it turned into a conflict between the North and South Vietnam for the future direction of the country after the withdrawal of the French. However, the North was led by a nationalist, Ho Chi Minh, and the US viewed this conflict as communism versus the free world. It was similar to the Korean War, with a communist, Kim Il Sung, in the North and Syngman Rhee in the South. The US sent its troops to Vietnam to help the corrupted South Vietnam dictator against the Vietminh, and at the end, the US people started to question why they were in Vietnam in the first place. The US lost the war, and Vietnam fell into communism.
The Vietnam War was a big time, money and efforts consuming war to the US. First of all, from the escalation of war (1945) till the withdrawal of the US (1975), it lasted for thirty years. In these years, the government could have focused on building a 'Great Society' as LBJ's slogan had said than fighting in a country on the other side of the world with no great reason. Secondly, the US spent 346.7 billions in the currency of 1990 for the Vietnam War (1964-1972). It was more than the expenditure for WWI or the Korean War, which were 196.5 billions and 263.9 billions respectively in the currency of 1990 . It showed how much the US was willing to pay for this war and how much it cared. However if this money could be spent on aiding the other in-needed countries or helping the people in the US, maybe it would be better. Lastly, the US spent more efforts in the Vietnam War than the Korean War. 8,744,000 US soldiers were in the Vietnam War, 47,410 of them were dead in the combat and the percentage of death is 0.7%, on the other hand, 5,720,000 US soldiers were in the Korean War, 33,741 of them died in the combat and the death percentage was 0.6%, it was slightly lower than the Vietnam War . The above data shows one of the reasons why there were such strong protests against the war in the US. The war was making their lives worse than what it could have been without the war.
On April 30, 1975, following the fall of Saigon, the capital of the South Vietnam, which united the country under Communist rule as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the Vietnam War ended. Around two years earlier, March 1973, the last US personnel left Vietnam . Therefore, the Vietnam War to US ended as its last man left that country, but for the Vietnamese, it was the union of South and North that marked the end to the Vietnam War. There were many reasons why the US troops were leaving Vietnam, but mainly there were three, Nixon's 'Vietnamization', the anti-war movement that took place back in the homeland and the ceasefire agreement. Nixon introduced 'Vietnamization' during his presidency of the United States. This is a policy of "handing over the fighting of the Communists in the Vietnam War to the army of South Vietnam" so that the US troops could withdrawn. This turned South Vietnam into more of an army than a country, and that gave the photographers opportunities to show the American citizens back home what atrocities had been committed here and what a terrible stage those South Vietnamese were living in. This also helped the anti-war movement. Furthermore, the public concern over the usage of chemical weapons, like the napalm, was growing and they were not happy about the increasing in the US casualties. Moreover, "the war was costing the USA $2000 million per month in 1968." The money could be spent in improving the social problems and make all people's lives better in the US. It is like in a corporation, the manager has to make some choices which later on the shareholders are not pleased with, and they may in favour of the opportunity cost of that decision. The shareholders are now pressing the manager to correct the mistake. The people were asking the withdrawal of the US troops and finally the US and the North Vietnam reached an agreement and signed the ceasefire agreement. Thus, the reasons and how the Vietnam War ended for the US and the Vietnamese were different.
Both sides of the war, regardless of which side won, had suffered the consequences of war. For the US, the Vietnam War made it lost its prestige, and it suffered the opportunity cost of a better society for the Americans by using up an enormously amount of money on the war and around 58,000 US citizens had gave their lives for the war. However it learned its lesson. On the other hand, because the North Vietnamese won, they were able to unite the North and South part of Vietnam again and say farewell to the South Vietnam corrupted government. However this war traumatized its people. More than 2 millions of Vietnamese soldiers and around half a million civilians died in the war, and the South's economy collapsed completely after the US troops left, and nowadays Vietnam is still one of the very poor countries in Asia. Therefore, it is not really possible to say if the US or the Vietnamese is better off this way or another.
Vietnam War, compared to the Korean War, is not so forgotten after all.

Outside the Hanoi Hilton

Escalation of the US-Vietnam Conflict.

During Kennedy's presidency from 1962, he sent over 16,000 military advisors to Vietnam including Green Berets to train South Vietnamese army defend themselves. When Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, his successor Lyndon Johnson became the new president. By 1964, 35% of South Vietnam was in Vietcong hands, communists, and 60,000 communist guerrillas operating in the South. Soon after the Gulf of Tonkin Incident on 2 August 1964 the US destroyer Maddox was fired by North Vietnamese and probably another destroyer Turner Joy later. This gave excuse to the US congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution where allowed President Johnson a free hand to send military supplies, including troops, to Vietnam. The resolution led to an escalation of US involvement in the war. The number of troops increased rapidly, reaching 385,000 in 1966 and 535,000 in 1968, totally having 2.59 million Americans served in Vietnam from 1964 to 1975.
As the jungle nature of the country, the guerilla warfare strategies of the Vietcong and the difficulty to discriminate between North and South Vietnamese soldiers made Americans to have a hard time, they relied heavily on air raids and chemical weapons. Vietcong had weaponry supplied mostly from China and the USSR before, it was clearly not as forward as the US so the guerilla strategies were necessary. The US's combat power, therefore, was heavily limited to exfoliate chemical weapons like Napalm and Agent Orange to strip trees bare of leafs for better navigation, to destroy the local rice fields, and stop supporting Vietcong guerrillas in the South, as seen in Operation Rolling Thunder, initiated on February 13, 1965. However, the Tet offensive was a massive attack by the Vietcong upon South Vietnam began on 30th January 1968. All the major cities of South Vietnam were attacked, including Saigon. In Saigon, the US embassy was seized by a suicide squad, which was subsequently driven out by paratroopers. It took 11,000 troops a week to drive the Viet Cong out of Saigon. Eventually the US force managed to repel the Viet Cong, killing 80,000 in the process. What is important about Tet Offensive was that it showed Viet Cong could strike anywhere at anytime and that there is nothing Americans could do about it. It made clear that the war could not be won. In the presidential election campaign in 1968, Richard Nixon promised to withdraw US forces from Vietnam.
Due to the huge efforts put into this war, the US could not afford to quit at anytime during the war. From 1953-1957 the US economic aid was at 823.3 million dollars and 277.8 million dollars in military aid to South Vietnam. US had aided over 4.5 billion dollars on both economic and military aid from 1953-66. This money came from the American tax-payers thus the war had to continue and win. Not only money, casualties was another problem, 50,000 troops had died in the entire war, US couldn't just pull out. Another problem was that it meant another falling domino. Domino effect that was introduced in 1954 by president Eisenhower saying countries falling to communism one by one like dominos. This view that, if one country fell to communism, neighboring states would follow became known as the domino effect. Lao, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia would probably fall if it did.
Comparing with the First and Second World Wars, the US in Vietnam did not have clear enemies. Troops were fighting for freedom but in fact they were killing everyone such as the My Lai massacre. They have bombed over 1,000,000 tones of bombs on North Vietnam. That is much more than any other wars.
Vietnam war was said the most controversial war in the US history. There were huge anti-war movements inside the country. Many students stood up against the war due to three main reasons, the newly available war coverage on television, the heightening American casualties and the war crimes committed against the Vietnamese. The Vietnam Conflict was the first ever war televised in color, nationwide without specific censorship from the government. The people were no longer persuaded by propagandas after seeing the horrible truth on the TV. A large number of the soldiers were conscripts, not volunteers, in Vietnam and not knowing what they've been fighting for. Those disillusioned with the war included students, intellectuals, liberal-minded politicians and returning US troops. Liberals attacked US policy in the war, radicals used the war to make denunciations of the entire US system. Tet offensive indicated that the war was not being won, intellectuals didn't understand why US was involved, people disliked the methods of warfare used by the US, which were all chemicals. The indiscriminate killing that resulted from Search and Destroy missions was critical, for example the My Lai massacre in 1968 where kids, women were killed. Heightening casualties, high expenditure, lack of resources to built a 'Great Society', it was mostly blacks fighting, thus said to be a racist government oppressing other ethnic groups. The growth of the anti-war movement was therefore caused by the combination of a range of factors.
By the end, US had more than 60,000 casualties, 300,000 wounded, 75,000 disabled. Drug addiction, fragging and suicides were very common among the US troops. Statistics show that more committed suicide than killed in combat. Finally, the US pulled out of Saigon before May of 1975. The biggest reason was the nature of the conscripted untrained young soldiers. They couldn't handle the modern weaponries and very unstable emotions. Soldiers were told to kill without losing their sanities. This is the most important reason why the war ended in this way.
For the Vietnamese, it was a big tragedy. Having nearly a million North Vietnamese men lost and Viet Cong troops. Nearly half a million South Vietnamese were killed including the soldiers and civilians. All together nearly 2 million people killed. A country that was one of the biggest rice exporting nation ended up a rice importing country when 90% rice fields were burnt. Even though the war was won, the economy was totally crashed down in Vietnam.
There were not many things gained for both sides in the war. The US had lost lots of money, people and morals. On the other side, Vietnam gained morals, but money and people lost. If we look back from today, Vietnam yet does not have a very stable economy and is hardly maintained by food exports, famous for prostitution and drugs.


Why did US citizens change their opinion on the Vietnam War as it progressed?

The opinion of the citizens of the United States began to change as time passed and incidents took place. The government misled the people, the people became dissatisfied with the current situation and families were torn apart. As American got sucked deeper into the war, Americans wanted to get out more badly. The growth of anti-war movements was caused by a mixture of different factors.
The decline of support for the Vietnam War mainly started in 1968. Although antiwar movements in the United States had been occurring before, the Tet Offensive opened the eyes of countless people. General Westmoreland had assured the public that the war was going to come to a swift end soon, that there was "light at the end of the tunnel". But on January 30th 1968, the National Liberation Front and the People's Army of Vietnam attacked various major cities in South Vietnam including Saigon and the US embassy there. The goal of the Tet Offensive was to ignite and encourage the people of South Vietnam to overthrow their government and to put pressure on the US to withdraw their troops. Even though the Tet Offensive was a brutal military defeat for the communists, over half of their troops were killed; there were weighty effects on the reliability of the government. Americans were shocked. They now realized that if even the American Embassy wasn't a safe place to be, nowhere in South Vietnam was. Citizens of American began to question if the government knew what they were doing and if the Vietnam War was a war that could be won.
As the United States sank deeper into the war, the government started using methods of warfare that concerned citizens. The My Lai Massacre was the result of soldiers frustrated at their inability to complete their search and destroy mission. Instead they killed hundreds of unarmed citizens, mainly women, elders and children. Although the government tried to cover it up, the news eventually spread like wildfire. People were shocked and disgusted. Initially, the government reported that they had killed a hundred enemy soldiers. The My Lai Massacre motivated a good number of people to join peace movements. The number of US casualties also had an effect on popular opinion. In 1965, towards the beginning of the war, the causality rate was at 2,000 people but in three short years the numbers grew to 14,000.
Students played a huge role in antiwar movements across America. In he 1960's, the civil rights movement had was in full swing. In 1959, the Students for a Democratic Society was formed. Many students from universities across the country joined and marched against the war. After the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1965, most of these rallies were to protest against conscription. Some students burned their draft cards and thousands of people fled to Canada. The Draft Resistance Movement was formed to assist those who wanted to avoid being drafted. Protesters were often labeled "communist", "campus bum", "cowards" and "traitors". The number of antiwar protests increased and sometimes these marches became violent. In Chicago, August 1968, the Democratic National Convention as interrupted by thousands of police officers attacking protests who were outside with clubs and tear gas. In May of 1970, National Guards shot four students at Kent State University, Ohio. This ignited numerous college campuses protests across the States. Two more students lost their lives at a protest in Mississippi at Jackson State University. A group of construction workers in New York City beat students at another antiwar rally. As a result, 100,000 people gathered to protest against the students, claiming they were rich, spoiled kids that were protesting while the poorer, working class or African Americans were dying in Vietnam.
As the war dragged on, antiwar marches and protests intensified and at times became violent. At the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in August 1968, thousands of city police officers attacked antiwar protesters gathered outside the convention hall with clubs and tear gas. The most infamous and tragic incident occurred in early May 1970 at Kent State University in Ohio, where National Guard troops called in to calm the scene ended up firing on a crowd, killing four students. The killings touched off protests at hundreds of college campuses across the United States; many of these also turned violent, and two more students were killed in mid-May at Jackson State University in Mississippi. The antiwar movements brought tension between classes. Some people tried to get desk work jobs in the military, doing paperwork or typing things to avoid being on the front line. The majority of soldiers fighting in the war were young people with little education from lower-class families. The deaths at protests made political decision making difficult. Congress tried passing laws that limited the Presidents power.
By the mid-1960's, television was how the American public got their source of news. In 1964, 58% of Americans got most of their news from television. And by 1972, that number rose to 64%. Media had a huge effect on the popular opinion of US citizens. Before the Tet Offensive took place, the media supported the effort at Vietnam. Reporting of military victories and progress. At that time, there was no military censorship which meant that journalists could follow soldiers to the front lines and report their observations without going through the government. During the Vietnam War was the first time the horror of war was brought into the living rooms of Americans. The American public could now watch Vietnamese villages being burned to the ground, families and children being killed and body bags of American soldiers being sent back home. The images seen on their television sets looked nothing like a victorious war. Television coverage of Vietnam began to increase with the Tet Offensive. Images of My Lai dominated stations. Although television allowed more people to access news, the television coverage was often misleading. The complexity of war cannot me understood in thirty minutes over dinner. For example the Tet Offensive was a huge defeat for the North but still played out as a huge defeat by television stations. In addition the famous photograph taken by Eddie Adams of "General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Viet Cong prisoner in Saigon". Nguyen Van Lem was the captain of a Viet Cong assassination platoon and had just murdered wives, children and relatives of police offers in the South. But anyone who saw this picture taken out of context would have serious doubts about those in control in South Vietnam. Eddie Adams later said, "The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them, but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths. What the photograph didn't say was, 'What would you do if you were the general at that time and place on that hot day, and you caught the so-called bad guy after he blew away one, two or three American people?" 1
As the war progressed, public opinion in the United States became very polarized. Although support for the Vietnam War was at 85% in 1954, it fell with the increasing number of anti-war protests. Some people remained very supportive of the war and firmly believed that if the South fell to communism, Domino Theory would take effect. Some began to question the motives behind the US government's involvement in Vietnam. The entered claiming to be fighting for freedom, democracy and independence but the regime they were supporting in South Vietnam was anything but a democracy and therefore it was immoral to support them. Some believed that the Vietnam War lacked clear objectives. The Vietnam War had diverted large chunks of America's money elsewhere. At its peak in 1968, the United States of America was sending 2 billion dollars a month to finance the Vietnam War.
The United States invested everything into the war and the people could not see why. The vast majority of the public couldn't see the reasons behind fighting the Vietnam War and therefore could not see why they should sacrifice the lives of American soldiers and invest so much money. With the increase of media coverage on the Vietnam War, the people soon realized how disillusioned they were about the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War cost 58,000 American's their lives and still has effect on domestic politics in the United States.


Mementos from the war against French imperialism
The significance of the Tet Offensive for the Vietnam War.
Tet Offensive : In 1968, the National Liberation Front and Vietcong launched a surprise attack against American and South Vietnamese forces on the eve of the lunar New Year's Day. This surprise attack is known as the Tet Offensive and many people viewed this as a turning point in the Vietnam War.
Militarily, the Tet Offensive showed the significance of Vietcong/Vietminh's military power and nowhere in South Vietnam was safe. On 31st of January 1968, the simultaneous attack the towns and cities in South Vietnam began and this went on for 3 days. Over 35 towns and cities including 13 provincial capitals were seized and shockingly, the US embassy in Saigon was invaded. The National Liberation Front and Vietcong sent more than 80,000 soldiers for the Tet Offensive and after 3days, more than half of its soldiers killed so they had to move back to North Vietnam to retreat itself. Although, Vietminh failed to remove the US troops out of Vietnam but, they showed their military power and it showed that nowhere in Vietnam was safe including the US embassy in Saigon.
Politically, the Tet Offensive made the Vietnam War more significant in US that it became one of the key issues in US politics during the presidential election year. The US politics were basically divided into two sides, the one for withdrawing troops out of Vietnam and the other for giving more support to the Vietnam War. In March 1968, one month after the Tet Offensive, the president Johnson announced that he wouldn't seek re-election, which left Robert Kennedy and Humphrey as a candidate for the Democratic side for the presidential election. Then in June 1968, Robert Kennedy was assassinated and McCarthy replaced his place. However, McCarthy failed to deliver his speech for his candidacy that Humphrey became the candidate for Democrats. On the other hand, Nixon was a candidate for the Republican side for the presidential election. Humphrey had an idea of continuing Johnson's policy of commitment to the war and Nixon had an idea of withdrawing troops out of Vietnam. Nixon won the election in November by a slight difference. The Tet Offensive made the Vietnam War so big issue that it became one of the most important topics in the US politics.
Socially, many people viewed the Tet Offensive as a sign showing that the US was actually losing the war. The US military have always reported that they were winning the war and in December 1967, Walt Rostow stated, "Their casualties are going up at a rate they cannot sustain ... I see light at the end of the tunnel.", but after the Tet Offensive, the public became skeptic about the reports from the US military because suddenly, it seemed like they were losing the war. So, more and more people were involved in the protest against the Vietnam War in the US.
Economically, the US gave more economic support to the Vietnam War after the Tet Offensive. After the Tet Offensive, the president Johnson raised the income tax to give more support to the Vietnam War. It was used to recover its military and to make its military power stronger. The US's involvement in Vietnam was now costing more than 66 million dollars a day which is a lot of money compared to before. (1960 - 180.3 million 1963 - 186.0 million 1966 - 792.2 million) Since the Tet Offensive increased the income tax, the poverty in the US was exacerbated.



Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum
Why did the US fail to save South Vietnam from Communism?

The US failed to save the South from Communism due to many interconnected reasons. America did not have the ordinary Vietnamese on their side, and like the French and Japanese before, they were seen as 'foreign occupiers'. Furthermore, America faced much controversy over the war within its own borders, and therefore was fighting a war unpopular to its own people and the people which they tried to 'save'. Militarily the US failed to stop guerilla warfare and committed many atrocities against the Vietnamese people. Ho Chi Minh (the leader of the North Vietnamese) on the other hand was a person supported by a lot of the Vietnamese (including many in the South), because he gave the people what they wanted, which were to rid the country of foreign occupiers once an for all, and to give the normal person land.
The biggest plausible reason the US's failure to save communism, was because the people were not on their side. Day after day more and more Vietnamese joined the North, and America was gradually left on its own. This was because America supported the Diem regime in South Vietnam, a catholic repressive government system, and a puppet state to America. For example the Diem regime refused to allow other religious practice other than Catholism. It seemed very obvious why America failed to gain the support of the people when they were allies with the government of Diem. Nowadays in Iraq (though not as big of a war as in Vietnam), a similar situation has occurred where the majority of the Iraqi people are against American occupation, mainly because of cultural reasons such as, religion, race, lifestyle etc. America could and probably would have had a much better chance of winning the Vietnam War if they had the support of the populous.
Since 1887 Vietnam was occupied by the French, the Japanese and finally the Americans. The Vietnamese people were tired of being ruled by people that did not share the same qualities as they did. For example their religion was significantly different from the US, America being predominately Christian and Vietnam being predominately Buddha. America was seen as an imperialist country, fighting only because they were much 'stronger'. A Vietnamese reporter named Lai Chou ling said that no matter how big America is, they will never be able to control the majority, for it is the majority that will eventually rid this country of its foreign occupiers. America couldn't have possibly saved the Vietnamese from communism simply because they didn't want to be saved, and much preferred living under the communist regime of the North. Furthermore another reason why they were seen as imperialists was because a lot of Vietnamese were forced to move away from their original home (home to where there parents, and grand parents were buried and so on). This further angered the Vietnamese because they did not have many options, only to abide by the rules of the country's new "leaders". The Vietnamese people simply couldn't care less if a communist regime from their own cultural ideas was in power, as long as it was not another rich foreign country fighting for what was clearly not theirs.
As the war progressed America faced similar hostility from the public at home. People were tired of seeing the war progress, a war that was unpopular with the Vietnamese people, a war that had no clear sign of ending, a war which imposed a drafting system (In which most were minority groups, and people who were not in college) where a lot of the more economically active families were able to escape the system, and finally a war where thousands of Americans died for what ended out to be no reason at all. Protesters outside the White House held signs up such as LBJ! LBJ! How many kids have you killed today? Moreover America's biggest anti-war protest took place in Washington DC where hundreds of thousands of people protested about many issues to do with the war (e.g. The drafting system, the pentagon papers, which in turn created a lot of the public cynicism towards the government, etc ) for days on end. With this sort of hostility faced at home and abroad it was only a matter of time before the US had no other option than to withdraw.
Militarily America simply was never trained for such an extensive guerilla war. Though the North was terribly out numbered and suffered many more casualties than America (Vietnamese casualties were (both North and South) over 2 million, and American casualties numbered 56,000). However even though the casualties were different by a big amount, most of the war was fought on ground by infantry units. America could only call in air strikes occasionally, and the jungle's rugged terrain made it impossible to use tanks to fight their battles. Furthermore America guerrilla tactics seemed unmatched to that of the Vietcong. Even America's elite soldiers, the Green Berets (today's equivalent of the Delta Force or the British SAS) were sent to help the South against the North, however their training in America proved non valuable against the guerrillas and eventually, were forced to pull out. Though the military of the US seemed impregnable against guerrilla attack forces, the sheer geography of rural Vietnam proved much different.
The US military, along with the help of the media, were very badly portrayed. After stories of how American troops reportedly raped all the women of a village and then killed the rest of its inhabitance leaked out, huge outrage all around the world was voiced. The British (who were against the Vietnam War) were appalled by this and questioned the American military infrastructure; wondering how such crimes could be committed especially when it was against the people they were there for in the First place. From a US military POV one could say that this was justifiable under the circumstances. This was because the villagers were "supposedly" supporting the North Vietnamese. However such claims true or false could not support this point of view simply because America is the so called bearer of freedom, and personal rights. Once these bad atrocities were made public, the Vietnam War was not supported within the US or in Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh was the light at the end of the tunnel for the Vietnamese. He was seen by many as a popular, caring leader that gave the ordinary person what they had wanted from the beginning, a Vietnamese leader. Under his communist ideas he insured the ordinary person land (not just the select few). People were willing to fight and die for him, because it was an actual cause. Furthermore it was his popularity and guerilla tactics that saw him to victory.
In conclusion America clearly failed to save the South from Communist occupation. This was due to many reasons, many of which were triggered by the US. America was clearly the unpopular side in the war and could not over come the North because of the lack of support from the South. Even the American public, towards the later years of the war, were very against the American Government's objectives, and were seen as enemies of the State. Ho Chi Minh on the other hand was highly supported within Vietnam and thus these reasons state why Vietnam could not and would not be saved from Communism.

Wreckage of McCain plane, Hanoi, October 1967

Site of demagogue John McCain's crash

Why the US lost in Vietnam

The Vietnam War, America's longest war, had ended up in failure for the US. At that time, and until today, the US was the strongest nation on the planet and Vietnam was one of the poorest and a primary industrial country, where peasantry was in majority. The war, more officially, began from 1964 and ended in 1972 and the main reasons for losing the war was underestimation of VC, Ho Chin Minh Trail, Vietnamese people, protests back in the US, efficiency of US troops, cultural differences, and US casualties.
The US has underestimated Vietcong and the NLF. They had supply from the USSR and China, such as MiG fighters that shoot down more than 700 airplanes and the leader of VC, Ho Chi Minh, saw how Mao used the guerrilla tactics. In early 1968, the Tet offensive has proven that 'No Where', 'Nothing', 'No one' was safe in South Vietnam at 'Anytime'. It came to that Saigon, capital city of South Vietnam where had most of the US bases and the US embassy, had been attacked by Vietcong. Obviously the US had underestimated them. Nonetheless, they were not trained to fight in jungles against guerrillas, even Green Berets were not practical in this environment, thus they, militarily, had not much advantages. Not only the Ho Chi Minh Trail but Vietcong also had Cu Chi tunnel system which US troops never figured out.
North Vietnamese, and the local people supplied needs and ordnance to Vietcong, mainly from North Vietnam, through Ho Chi Minh trail. US airplanes have never stopped try bombing this trail but they've never succeeded and figure out where they are. They were not through high ways or big roads but through farmlands which could hardly been seen on airplanes. Also, it covered Cambodia, which made decisions even hard to make. When Nixon decided to bomb Cambodia, soon he realized it was a mistake by strong Cambodian defense and protests back in the US. Vietnamese, through this, had successfully supplied the Vietcong who are fighting in South Vietnam.
Another thing Ho Chi Man has learned from Mao Tze Tong was that getting people's heart is very important for his strategies. Every Vietcong has memorized Mao's code, which includes Speaking politely to the local people, pay fairly for what you buy, return everything you borrow, pay for what you damage, do not hit or swear at people, do not abuse women, do not ill-treat prisoners. These were all been done by US troops, taking food and drinks, massacres such as My Lai in 1968, beating up Vietnamese, raping women, killing prisoners. US troops became unpopular and people were, of course, willing to help the Vietcong. They gave them food, accommodations, hiding places etc. If Vietcong's truck was struck, people would tear down the wall of the house.
Back in the US, there were protests everywhere. Beginning from Johnson presidency, people doubted if the war was winning. They for the first time saw the TV broadcast from the battlefield and saw how people were killed. "LBJ LBJ how many people did you kill today" was one of their slogan. They've protested over economic issues, casualties, US tactics in Vietnam including Search and Destroy, Operation Ranch Hand, Air attacks etc. By 1970, the Peace Movement had support from all sections of society and no government could ignore it. It got attention from everybody when Security guards killed 4 protesting students in May 1970 at Kent State.
After informing US troops are withdrawing since 1968, those who left in Vietnam had low morale. There were deep questions about the efficiency of them. They started taking drugs, raping, not fighting much, counting the days until the tour was over.
One of the biggest difficulties was to find out the Vietcong amongst Vietnamese. It was hard and they introduced Strategic Helmets where they were kept in a specific area surrounded by the US troops. They had to leave their ancestors' tombs, farmlands, beliefs and houses. Coca Cola, chewing gum, ice creams could not buy off their losses.
By 1968, before the Offensive, US casualties was over 15,000 and keep increasing rapidly. Especially during the Tet Offensive, nearly 1500 US troops were killed every week. This made low morale and huge protests back in the US, which made the war even harder to fight.
With these causes, the US lost the war in Vietnam. There was fully mass back in the US, demonstrations, unstable politics beginning from resign of Johnson, assassination of two Kennedys, Martin Luther King Junior. In the end, US began withdrawing its troops from 1968~1972, began Vietnamisation, however, South Vietnam was taken over by Vietcong, they lost the war and failed to save another "Domino".



 Beside the tank that liberated Saigon from American control

Summarise The United States's Involvement in Vietnam
The Vietnam War greatly changed America forever. It was the longest war fought in America’s history, lasting from 1955 to 1973. The Vietnam War tarnished America’s self image by becoming the first time in history the United States failed to accomplish its stated war aims, to preserve a separate, independent, noncommunist government. The war also had great effects on the American people. It was the first war ever broadcast on television. The public was able to see what happened on the battlefield. One of the chief effects of the war was the division it caused among the people. Not since the Civil War had America been so divided. This war would have lasting affects on the United States.

The Vietnam conflict began long before the U.S. became directly involved. Indochina, which includes Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, was under French colonial rule. The Vietnam communist-nationalist, also known as the Vietminh, fought for their freedom from the French. The French were being slaughtered, and were doing little to keep the communist North Vietnamese out of South Vietnam. The U.S. sent financial aid to France to help them eliminate the communist threat. At the Geneva Conference in 1954, the major powers tried to come to an agreement on Indochina. There would be a temporary division on the 17th parallel in Vietnam. The Vietminh would control North Vietnam, and South Vietnam would be ruled under the emperor Bao Dai. There was to be an election held in two years to set up the permanent government. The U.S. did not agree to these terms. After the conference, the U.S. moved to create the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization to protect Indochina from communist aggression. The U.S. supported the new leader Ngo Dinh Diem when he took power in South Vietnam. The National Liberation Front, also known as Vietcong, was a guerilla group who supported the communist North Vietnamese and opposed to the Diem rule. At first the United States attention was diverted from Vietnam to other foreign affairs, but with the threat of communist taking over all of Indochina, the U.S. gradually was pulled into the conflict.

President Eisenhower had been sending aid to South Vietnam and helped them to create the Army Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). This would hopefully help stop the communist North Vietnamese from taking over. Despite American financial aid, South Vietnam was still being defeated and needed serious intervention from the U.S. With the Cold War, the United States had vowed to keep communism from spreading. President Truman stated that any nation challenged by Communism would receive aid from the United States. The Truman Doctrine, initially for Europe and the Middle East, was adopted by the future presidents and applied to the Vietnam conflict. They feared that if one of the Southeast Asian nations fell to communism, that all the others would eventually follow. This was known as the domino theory. To the U.S. communism anywhere was a threat.

When John F. Kennedy took office in 1961, Vietnam was not a major issue. There were more pressing situations to be taken care of, such as the Cold War. The Vietnam conflict became more of an issue when civil war broke out in Laos. Vice President Johnson was sent to Vietnam, and when he returned he greatly urged President Kennedy to become more involved in the conflict. John F. Kennedy decided to send military advisors and special forces (Green Berets) to work with and train the ARVN troops instead of sending combat troops. Aerial spraying of herbicides like Agent Orange were used to try and deprive the Vietcong of their food and their jungle cover. Kennedy’s advisors secretly reported to him that the ARVN was weak and the situation was becoming more serious. The president wasn’t ready to send troops, but increased economic aid and sent more advisors, increasing the number from 900-15,000.

The leader of Vietnam at the time was Ngo Dinh Diem. He was a Catholic, which caused much dispute because the majority of Vietnam was Buddhist. He was blamed for the worsening situation in Vietnam. Many South Vietnamese united against Diem, and in October 1963, a military coup aided by CIA and the United States ambassador overthrew and murdered Diem. On November 22,1963 President John F. Kennedy was riding through the streets of Dallas, Texas, when he was killed by an assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald.
After the death of the president, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was appointed president of the United States. Johnson felt that the U.S. should stay involved in Vietnam to prove the U.S. kept its commitments and could stop communism aggression. August 2, 1964 the USS Maddox was off the coast of North Vietnam in the Gulf of Tonkin, when in was fired upon by North Vietnam coastal gunboats. On August 4 the USS Maddox and USS Turner Joy both reported attacks from North Vietnam forces. Johnson decided to escalate the war. He ordered bombing of different North Vietnam targets. Congress soon authorized the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave the president authority “to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.” Johnson came up with a strategy to take control of Vietnam called Operation Rolling Thunder. The operation would consist of bombing of North Vietnam, more air power, and increase the number of ground troops. In June 1965, U.S. advisors were sent into combat. This would shift the U.S. “from helping the Vietnam people help themselves, to fighting a full-scale war on and over the land mass of Asia.”

In September 1967, Nguyen Van Thieu was elected president of South Vietnam. The U.S. now had a total of about 650,000 ground troops in Vietnam. Johnson tried for peace talks, but nothing was agreed upon. In January of 1968, the Vietcong and North Vietnam prepared for a major attack. Tet is the lunar New Year, and is Vietnam’s biggest holiday. They planned a surprise attack, hoping the ARVN and U.S. would have let their guard down. Every important city in South Vietnam was attacked, including the capital Saigon. The fighting lasted for about a month. America was able to witness much of this footage on the news. The outcome was a major military victory for South Vietnam, but it was a great political victory for North Vietnam. It proved that the war was nowhere close to being over, and proved how determined the Vietcong was. It also demonstrated how costly the war would be. This was a major turning point in America’s public opinion on the war. It made people begin to loose hope in winning the war, and to question the president’s tactics for the war. When the Pentagon announced the number of U.S. casualties since the beginning of war, the number reached 15,058 killed, 109,572 wounded, and about $25 billions dollars spent each year. President Johnson knew his popularity was lost and decided not to run for re-election.

On January 20, 1969 Richard Nixon was inaugurated. A few months later he announced the removal of 25,000 United States troops by August of 1969 and another 65,000 to be sent home by the end of the year. His planned was called “Vietnamization” which would bring “peace with honour.” It was designed to turn over the responsibility of war to South Vietnam. The U.S. would strengthen the South Vietnam army so they could fight without direct help from the U.S. This would allow American troops to gradually come home. Vietnamization would also set up a self sufficient South Vietnam government.

The Communist soon agreed on a peace plan, but it fell through when they claimed the U.S. wasn’t going along as agreed. The same year Nixon ordered secret bombing of Cambodia to try and wipe out the Vietcong and North Vietnam base camps. On April 30, 1970, President Nixon informed the American people that troops would be sent to Cambodia. This outraged people even more. Nixon had promised peace, but was now bringing on more war. Many more young students became worried that they would be drafted. On May 1, 1970 Kent State University became grounds for anti-war rallies. About fifteen thousand dollars worth of damage was inflicted on downtown Kent. On May 2 protesters burned down the campus ROTC building. The Governor decided to call in the National Guard. On May 4 rallies started again on campus, and the National Guard used tear gas as a means to try and disperse the crowd. The crowd had become very rowdy and all of a sudden shots were fired. No one is certain as to why the shooting started, but 4 people were shot dead, and 9 were wounded. Two of those that died were innocent students switching classes. This tragic news caused much uproar across the nation. A great deal of respect for authority was lost by many citizens. The tragedy made many people realize that protest can go too far, and law enforcement can also go too far in trying to maintain the law.

In 1971, Congress repealed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution as to limit the power of the president with the war. In January 1973, a cease-fire was negotiated. On January 25, 1973, The Paris Peace Accords were signed ending the fighting between North Vietnam and the United States. U.S. troops would be withdrawn, American POWs would be returned home, and the South Vietnam regime would remain in power. This didn’t end the war, but got the U.S. and our 27,000 remaining troops and 540 POWs out of Vietnam. Soon after the United States left, fighting resumed between North Vietnam and South Vietnam’s weak army. May of 1975, two years after Nixon pulled out of the war, South Vietnam surrendered. Vietnam was reunified under a communist Vietnam regime. By the end of the war the United States suffered 57,000 casualties and 153,303 soldiers were wounded.
There are many things people blame America’s defeat on. For one thing the North Vietnam and Vietcong armies were much stronger than anyone anticipated. Their guerilla warfare tactics was something the U.S. soldiers were not used to. The fact that there were no clear combat zones also made fighting confusing. The Vietcong also would dress as peasants to trick the soldiers before they would attack. This made it hard for soldiers to distinguish between the enemy and friendly civilians. The Vietcong was also fighting for a cause they were willing to fight to the death for. They had heroic determination and fighting spirit. The American soldiers on the other hand didn’t always have confidence in their goals, and some felt the war was unwinnable. There was no direct threat to their own country and there was no support from the general population. The soldiers were also angered by the government lies they had to witness. Those who returned from war joined the forefront of the antiwar movements. They began wearing peace symbols and other signs of their digression. The African Americans were especially opposed to fighting “a racist war, in a racist army, for a racist government.” Military discipline broke down, and “fragging” began. Fragging was when soldiers would attack their officers, usually by tossing fragments of grenades into the officers sleeping quarters. Some soldiers also openly refused their orders. The military also experienced financial corruption, theft, murder, and suicide. All these factors seriously hurt the U.S. army.

At first many people volunteered to fight. When the draft came into affect many questioned its fairness. Until 1969 local boards had selected those for the draft, and most of those selected were usually minorities and poor working class youths. In 1965, 20,000 men per month were drafted, by 1968, 40,000 were drafted per month, and served 12-13 months. Some people tried to avoid the draft. People moved to Canada, burned draft cards, and went to college. Others served prison sentences, like Muhammad Ali, or avoided the war on moral grounds and instead served a set term of community service. The working-class communities were also another area where resistance was strong because these were the people usually drafted. People began to see the body bags return home and video clippings from the fighting. These factors greatly worried the American people.

The anti-war movement is also blamed as to why the Untied States lost the war. The war was popular in the beginning, and most of the American public supported the war. The success of World War II kept people optimistic about the outcome of U.S. involvement and kept them from objecting. Americans wanted to preserve their way of life and stop the threat of Communism. Some people even benefited from the war at first, such as aircraft manufacturers, but this didn’t last for long. When involvement of the U.S. was escalated in 1965, America supported this decision and was positive that the U.S. would come out victorious. When this escalation failed to produce the results that were expected, people started to become doubtful. America had been told that they were winning the war, but as the number of deaths and injuries increased the people realized that this war did have its costs. Just because it was fought thousands of miles away, didn’t mean that it didn’t affect the people at home.

The Media caused major changes in America. The media brought all the horrors of the war to life. For the first time, people were able to see the action everyday on the news. Death and destruction caused by the bombing were shown, and the nightly news even counted the dead. This greatly affected America’s opinions on the war. The media itself also experienced changes. Before the war the media focused on the positive aspects of wars. It showed U.S. action in a positive way and focused on what people wanted and needed to hear. Money wasn’t a factor for journalist, and they didn’t need to compete. Their job was to help the public stay optimistic and keep them from panicking. Many people from the television, magazines, and newspapers were able to travel to Vietnam to gain information to write more informative stories. Most reporters supported the war initially, but after being in Vietnam for long periods of time they grew skeptical and formed biased opinions. They lost enthusiasm and started to give offensive and biased reports. In 1971 the Pentagon Papers were published by the New York Times. They were a copy of the Defence Department’s history of involvement in Vietnam, and were leaked by Daniel Ellsberg. This revealed that Kennedy and Johnson had misled the public about the intentions in Vietnam. America would no longer fully trust the government. Journalist criticized the army’s methods and revealed the true horrors of war. The media became an endless competition to earn money, fame, and success.

As citizens realized the seriousness of the war many people started to revolt and publicly display their opposition to the war. When Johnson approved the Operation Rolling Thunder and began the massive bombings of Vietnam, the anti-war movement grew to enormous proportions. The citizens of the nation really began questioning America’s presence in Vietnam. They asked how a small country like Vietnam could cause the world to fall to communism. They used national images in a distorted way to get their opinions across. Demonstrations, rallies, sit-ins, and other anti-war movements became regular occurrences on the college campuses. Teach-ins became popular in classrooms. This was where the teacher and students would discuss the war openly in class. The protest really intensified in 1965 to 1970. On November 15,1969, 300,000 people gathered in Washington D.C. for the largest antiwar demonstration ever. Priest and other religious leaders even joined in the rallies. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and the Tet offensive were both events that caused much uproar. Civil rights leaders even became active in the antiwar movements. Martin Luther King became a vocal antiwar activist and expressed his opinions about the racial discrimination occurring in the draft and army. The My Lai Massacre, the killing of 200 civilians by the U.S. soldiers who couldn’t distinguish the civilians from enemy forces fueled more protest. People even started calling the soldiers “baby killers.” In previous wars, soldiers had been seen as heroic, but in the Vietnam War it was just the opposite. Soldiers were embarrassed to wear their uniform when coming home. To be a soldier was no longer something to be proud of.

There were two extremist groups present during the war, the hawks and the doves. The hawks were nationalist who wanted to escalate the war. They saw the conflict as part of the struggle against Communism. They felt the war could be won. The doves in contrast opposed to the war on moral grounds. They wanted peace at all costs. Norman Morrison a strong activist burned himself to death in front of the Pentagon. Even people in congress were willing to speak out against the war, like Senator J. William Fullbright. Many celebrities and musicians became strong activist. Their speeches and music reflected the views the Americans had towards the war, their anger and feelings that the war was a hopeless cause. Woodstock held in August 1969, was a gathering of many folk and rock artist singing anti-war songs and voicing the same opinions on the war raging in Vietnam. Thousands of people attended this anti-war rally.
The war also had effects on the economy. In the beginning the war spending increased the economy, but soon the cost of war caught up to the United States. The budget had to be expanded. The cost of living rose greatly between the years of 1965 to 1975. The spending of the war was about 150 billion dollars in all. Prices of goods had increased 16% by 1970. Inflation occurred wiping out almost all economic gains, and wages were lowered, leading to many strikes. President Johnson finally asked Congress for extra taxes to help pay for the war. Congress agreed as long as he cut domestic spending. By 1961, 25 billion dollars per year were being spent on the war effort. Business leaders thought it best to end the war than to cause more civil rights movements, strikes, and youth movements against the government.

The war also had devastating results in Vietnam. Many civilians were killed and many children were born with birth defects. Their largest crops were destroyed because of the herbicides used. 800,000 children were orphaned in South Vietnam and at least 10 million people were homeless.

The transition for the soldiers back into public life was a hard one. They only received about half the benefits the veterans from other wars received. Some even faced psychological problems, drug addiction, and employment troubles. Their homecoming wasn’t such a celebration as it had been in the years before. They didn’t receive anywhere near the recognition they deserved.

Since the war America’s views have changed greatly. The soldier are no longer looked down upon, but are honoured. Today there is a national memorial in Washington D.C. in their honour. It was built in 1982 and commemorates all the U.S. Military personnel who died or were declared missing in action in Vietnam. The wall is 493 feet long and in 1984 a bronze statue called Three Servicemen was added to the site. In 1993 a bronze sculpture of 3 nurses and a wounded soldier was also added to honour those women who served. Since the war there have been many movies, documentaries, books, and poems that remember the war and honour the veterans.

The Vietnam War had many costs. Not only the billions of dollars spent, but also the thousands of American lives taken, and the effects it had on American society. The war cost Lyndon Johnson his presidency. Many programs promised to the American people were never fulfilled because of the demands from the war. The President’s power in waging war was limited. The war also permanently changed the way the media functions. It changed the public view of the government and its leaders permanently. Serious questions were raised about the U.S. getting involved militarily in many future situations, and the U.S. stayed out of other countries affairs for many years. The war in all, damaged America’s image and taught the U.S. about its limits of power. The war did have its positive affects. Communist pressure was kept out of Indonesia and other areas in the pacific. This enabled them to remain non-communist since most of the communists’ focus was on Southeast Asia. The Vietnam War is one that will never be forgotten, and its affects on America have changed the way Americans will look at all future conflicts.


Mr. Heath's History Mid-Term Exam
The U.S. in Vietnam


Source A: Richard Nixon gives an assessment of Johnson’s Vietnam policy

Johnson had levelled with the American people and told them why we were fighting in Vietnam or how deeply American troops were actually involved… The price of Johnson’s dissembling was high, and I was to inherit that debt: the ‘credibility gap.’ The government lost the confidence of the people, which I believe it could have kept had Johnson taken the risk and fully explained the war and patiently educated the people about it.

                                                                        R. Nixon, Memoirs, pub. 1978

Source B:

US involvement in Vietnam was not primarily a result of errors of judgement or the personality quirks of the policymakers, although these things existed in abundance. It was a logical, if not inevitable, outgrowth of a world-view and a policy- the policy of containment- that Americans in and out of government accepted without serious question for more than two decades. The commitment in Vietnam expanded as the containment policy itself grew. In time, it outlived the conditions that had given rise to that policy.

                                                G. Herring, America’s Longest War, pub.1996

Source C:

There was a terrible irony in the continuing success of the NLF. Demonstrations of popular political support, which should have persuaded the United States to give up its support for an incompetent, dictatorial, minority anti- Communist government in the South, instead intensified Washington’s conviction that it must do more to prop it up… the South was seen in Washington as increased instability and ‘deterioration’ to be halted by the application of yet new increments of force.

                                                M. Young, The Vietnam Wars 1945-90, pub.1991


Answer the following:


1. Study Source B and use your own knowledge.
            How valid is the interpretation offered by Herring of the reasons for US involvement in Vietnam?
                                                                                                (20 marks)
           

2. Study Source A and use your own knowledge.
            How reliable is source A as evidence for the view that Johnson’s Vietnam policy was a failure?
                                                                                                (5 marks)


3. Study Sources A, B and C and use your own knowledge.
            ‘Both the reasons for, and methods of, participation in the Vietnam War were misguided.’
Assess the validity of this statement.
                                                                                                (20 marks)

4. Pat Oliphant won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 1966 with this cartoon below showing Ho Chi Minh carrying a dead Viet Cong soldier.
Study it and explain what message it is trying to express.


                                                                                                                        (5 marks)
Total: 50 marks
The Vietnam War (Vietnamese: Chiến tranh Việt Nam), also known as the Second Indochina War,[39] and also known in Vietnam as Resistance War Against America (Vietnamese: Kháng chiến chống Mỹ) or simply the American War, was a Cold War-era proxy war[40] that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955[A 1] to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War (1946–54) and was fought between North Vietnam—supported by the Soviet Union, China and other communist allies—and the government of South Vietnam—supported by the United States, Philippines and other anti-communist allies.[45] The Viet Cong (also known as the National Liberation Front, or NLF), a South Vietnamese communist common front aided by the North, fought a guerrilla war against anti-communist forces in the region. The People's Army of Vietnam, also known as the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), engaged in a more conventional war, at times committing large units to battle.  As the war continued, the part of the Viet Cong in the fighting decreased as the role of the NVA grew. U.S. and South Vietnamese forces relied on air superiority and overwhelming firepower to conduct search and destroy operations, involving ground forces, artillery, and airstrikes. In the course of the war, the U.S. conducted a large-scale strategic bombing campaign against North Vietnam.  The U.S. government viewed its involvement in the war as a way to prevent a Communist takeover of South Vietnam. This was part of a wider containment policy, with the stated aim of stopping the spread of communism. The North Vietnamese government and the Viet Cong were fighting to reunify Vietnam under communist rule. They viewed the conflict as a colonial war, fought initially against forces from France and then America, and later against South Vietnam.[46]  Beginning in 1950, American military advisors arrived in what was then French Indochina.[47][A 3] U.S. involvement escalated in the early 1960s, with troop levels tripling in 1961 and again in 1962.[48] U.S. involvement escalated further following the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, in which a U.S. destroyer clashed with North Vietnamese fast attack craft, which was followed by the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave the U.S. president authorization to increase U.S. military presence. Regular U.S. combat units were deployed beginning in 1965. Operations crossed international borders: bordering areas of Laos and Cambodia were heavily bombed by U.S. forces as American involvement in the war peaked in 1968, the same year that the communist side launched the Tet Offensive. The Tet Offensive failed in its goal of overthrowing the South Vietnamese government, but became the turning point in the war, as it persuaded a large segment of the United States population that its government's claims of progress toward winning the war were illusory despite many years of massive U.S. military aid to South Vietnam.  Gradual withdrawal of U.S. ground forces began as part of "Vietnamization", which aimed to end American involvement in the war while transferring the task of fighting the Communists to the South Vietnamese themselves. Despite the Paris Peace Accord, which was signed by all parties in January 1973, the fighting continued. In the U.S. and the Western world, a large anti-Vietnam War movement developed as part of a larger counterculture. The war changed the dynamics between the Eastern and Western Blocs, and altered North-South relations.[49]  Direct U.S. military involvement ended on 15 August 1973.[50] The capture of Saigon by the North Vietnamese Army in April 1975 marked the end of the war, and North and South Vietnam were reunified the following year. The war exacted a huge human cost in terms of fatalities (see Vietnam War casualties). Estimates of the number of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians killed vary from 800,000[18] to 3.1 million.[30][51][52] Some 200,000–300,000 Cambodians,[36][37][38] 20,000–200,000 Laotians,and 58,220 U.S. service members also died in the conflict, with a further 1,626 missing in action.[A 2] Various names have been applied to the conflict. Vietnam War is the most commonly used name in English. It has also been called the Second Indochina War and the Vietnam Conflict.  As there have been several conflicts in Indochina, this particular conflict is known by the names of its primary protagonists to distinguish it from others.[63] In Vietnamese, the war is generally known as Kháng chiến chống Mỹ (Resistance War Against America). It is also called Chiến tranh Việt Nam (The Vietnam War).[64]  The primary military organizations involved in the war were, on one side, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) and the U.S. military, and, on the other side, the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) (more commonly called the North Vietnamese Army, or NVA, in English language sources), and the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (NLF, more commonly known as the Viet Cong in English language sources), a South Vietnamese communist guerrilla force.[65] Background to 1949 See also: History of Vietnam, 1940-1946 in the Vietnam War, Cochinchina Campaign, Cần Vương, Việt Nam Quốc Dân Đảng, Yên Bái mutiny, Vietnam during World War II and War in Vietnam (1945–46)  France began its conquest of Indochina in the late 1850s, and completed pacification by 1893.[66][67][68] The 1884 Treaty of Huế formed the basis for French colonial rule in Vietnam for the next seven decades. In spite of military resistance, most notably by the Cần Vương of Phan Đình Phùng, by 1888 the area of the current-day nations of Cambodia and Vietnam was made into the colony of French Indochina (Laos was later added to the colony).[69] Various Vietnamese opposition movements to French rule existed during this period, such as the Việt Nam Quốc Dân Đảng who staged the failed Yên Bái mutiny in 1930, but none were ultimately as successful as the Viet Minh common front, which was founded in 1941, controlled by the Indochinese Communist Party, and funded by the U.S. and the Chinese Nationalist Party in its fight against Japanese occupation.[70][A 4]  In 1940, during World War II, the French were defeated by the Germans. The French State (commonly known as Vichy France) was established as a client state of Nazi Germany. The French colonial authorities, in French Indochina, sided with the Vichy regime. In September 1940, Japan invaded Indochina. Following the cessation of fighting and the beginning of the Japanese occupation, the French colonial authorities collaborated with the Japanese. The French continued to run affairs in Indochina, but ultimate power resided in the hands of the Japanese.[70]  The Viet Minh was founded as a league for independence from France, but also opposed Japanese occupation in 1945 for the same reason. The U.S. and Chinese Nationalist Party supported them in the fight against the Japanese.[72] However, they did not have enough power to fight actual battles at first. Viet Minh leader Ho Chi Minh was suspected of being a communist and jailed for a year by the Chinese Nationalist Party.[73]  Double occupation by France and Japan continued until the German forces were expelled from France and the French Indochina colonial authorities started holding secret talks with the Free French. Fearing that they could no longer trust the French authorities, the Japanese army interned the French authorities and troops on 9 March 1945[74] and created the puppet Empire of Vietnam state, under Bảo Đại instead.  During 1944–1945, a deep famine struck northern Vietnam due to a combination of bad weather and French/Japanese exploitation (French Indochina had to supply grains to Japan).[75] Between 400,000 and 2 million[18] people died of starvation (out of a population of 10 million in the affected area).[76] Exploiting the administrative gap[77] that the internment of the French had created, the Viet Minh in March 1945 urged the population to ransack rice warehouses and refuse to pay their taxes.[78] Between 75 and 100 warehouses were consequently raided.[79] This rebellion against the effects of the famine and the authorities that were partially responsible for it bolstered the Viet Minh's popularity and they recruited many members during this period.[77]  On 22 August 1945, following the Japanese surrender, OSS agents Archimedes Patti and Carleton B. Swift Jr. arrived in Hanoi on a mercy mission to liberate allied POWs and were accompanied by Jean Sainteny, a French government official.[80] The Japanese forces informally surrendered (the official surrender took place on 2 September 1945 in Tokyo Bay) but being the only force capable of maintaining law and order the Japanese Imperial Army remained in power while keeping French colonial troops and Sainteny detained.[81]  During August the Japanese forces remained inactive as the Viet Minh and other nationalist groups took over public buildings and weapons, which began the August Revolution. OSS officers met repeatedly with Ho Chi Minh and other Viet Minh officers during this period[82] and on 2 September 1945 Ho Chi Minh declared the independent Democratic Republic of Vietnam before a crowd of 500,000 in Hanoi.[79] In an overture to the Americans, he began his speech by paraphrasing the United States Declaration of Independence: "All men are created equal. The Creator has given us certain inviolable Rights: the right to Life, the right to be Free, and the right to achieve Happiness."[79]  The Viet Minh took power in Vietnam in the August Revolution.[79] According to Gabriel Kolko, the Viet Minh enjoyed large popular support,[83] although Arthur J. Dommen cautions against a "romanticized view" of their success: "The Viet Minh use of terror was systematic….the party had drawn up a list of those to be liquidated without delay."[84] A Japanese naval officer surrenders his sword to a British lieutenant in Saigon on 13 September 1945.  However, the major allied victors of World War II, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Soviet Union, all agreed the area belonged to the French.[79] As the French did not have the means to immediately retake Vietnam, the major powers came to an agreement that British troops would occupy the south while Nationalist Chinese forces would move in from the north.[79] Nationalist Chinese troops entered the country to disarm Japanese troops north of the 16th parallel on 14 September 1945.[85] When the British landed in the south, they rearmed the interned French forces as well as parts of the surrendered Japanese forces to aid them in retaking southern Vietnam, as they did not have enough troops to do this themselves.[79]  On the urging of the Soviet Union, Ho Chi Minh initially attempted to negotiate with the French, who were slowly re-establishing their control across the area.[86] In January 1946, the Viet Minh won elections across central and northern Vietnam.[87] On 6 March 1946, Ho signed an agreement allowing French forces to replace Nationalist Chinese forces, in exchange for French recognition of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam as a "free" republic within the French Union, with the specifics of such recognition to be determined by future negotiation.[88][89][90] The French landed in Hanoi by March 1946 and in November of that year they ousted the Viet Minh from the city.[86] British forces departed on 26 March 1946, leaving Vietnam in the hands of the French.[91] Soon thereafter, the Viet Minh began a guerrilla war against the French Union forces, beginning the First Indochina War.  The war spread to Laos and Cambodia, where communists organized the Pathet Lao and the Khmer Serei, both of which were modeled on the Viet Minh.[92] Globally, the Cold War began in earnest, which meant that the rapprochement that existed between the Western powers and the Soviet Union during World War II disintegrated. The Viet Minh fight was hampered by a lack of weapons; this situation changed by 1949 when the Chinese Communists had largely won the Chinese Civil War and were free to provide arms to their Vietnamese allies.[92] Exit of the French, 1950–54 Main articles: First Indochina War, Operation Vulture and Operation Passage to Freedom  In January 1950, the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union recognized the Viet Minh's Democratic Republic of Vietnam, based in Hanoi, as the legitimate government of Vietnam. The following month the United States and Great Britain recognized the French-backed State of Vietnam in Saigon, led by former Emperor Bảo Đại, as the legitimate Vietnamese government.[93][94] The outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950 convinced many Washington policymakers that the war in Indochina was an example of communist expansionism directed by the Soviet Union.[95] French soldiers fight off a Viet Minh ambush in 1952.  Military advisors from the People's Republic of China (PRC) began assisting the Viet Minh in July 1950.[96] PRC weapons, expertise, and laborers transformed the Viet Minh from a guerrilla force into a regular army.[97] In September 1950, the United States created a Military Assistance and Advisory Group (MAAG) to screen French requests for aid, advise on strategy, and train Vietnamese soldiers.[98] By 1954, the United States had supplied 300,000 small arms and spent US$1 billion in support of the French military effort, shouldering 80 percent of the cost of the war.[99]  There were also talks between the French and Americans in which the possible use of three tactical nuclear weapons was considered, though reports of how seriously this was considered and by whom are even now vague and contradictory.[100][101] One version of the plan for the proposed Operation Vulture envisioned sending 60 B-29s from U.S. bases in the region, supported by as many as 150 fighters launched from U.S. Seventh Fleet carriers, to bomb Viet Minh commander Võ Nguyên Giáp's positions. The plan included an option to use up to three atomic weapons on the Viet Minh positions. Admiral Arthur W. Radford, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave this nuclear option his backing. U.S. B-29s, B-36s, and B-47s could have executed a nuclear strike, as could carrier aircraft from the Seventh Fleet.[102]  U.S. carriers sailed to the Gulf of Tonkin, and reconnaissance flights over Dien Bien Phu were conducted during the negotiations. According to U.S. Vice-President Richard Nixon, the plan involved the Joint Chiefs of Staff drawing up plans to use three small tactical nuclear weapons in support of the French.[100] Nixon, a so-called "hawk" on Vietnam, suggested that the United States might have to "put American boys in".[103] U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower made American participation contingent on British support, but they were opposed to such a venture.[103] In the end, convinced that the political risks outweighed the possible benefits, Eisenhower decided against the intervention. Eisenhower was a five-star general. He was wary of getting the United States involved in a land war in Asia.[104]  The Viet Minh received crucial support from the Soviet Union and PRC. PRC support in the Border Campaign of 1950 allowed supplies to come from the PRC into Vietnam. Throughout the conflict, U.S. intelligence estimates remained skeptical of French chances of success.[105]  The Battle of Dien Bien Phu marked the end of French involvement in Indochina. Giap's Viet Minh forces handed the French a stunning military defeat, and on 7 May 1954, the French Union garrison surrendered. At the Geneva Conference, the French negotiated a ceasefire agreement with the Viet Minh, and independence was granted to Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Transition period Main articles: Geneva Conference (1954), Operation Passage to Freedom, Battle of Saigon (1955), Ba Cụt, State of Vietnam referendum, 1955 and Land reform in North Vietnam The Geneva Conference, 1954  Vietnam was temporarily partitioned at the 17th parallel, and under the terms of the Geneva Accords, civilians were to be given the opportunity to move freely between the two provisional states for a 300-day period. Elections throughout the country were to be held in 1956 to establish a unified government.[106] Around one million northerners, mainly minority Catholics, fled south, fearing persecution by the communists[107] following an American propaganda campaign using slogans such as "The Virgin Mary is heading south",[108] and aided by a U.S.-funded $93 million relocation program, which included the use of the Seventh Fleet to ferry refugees.[109] As many as two million more would have left had they not been stopped by the Viet Minh.[110] The northern, mainly Catholic refugees were meant to give the later Ngô Đình Diệm regime a strong anti-communist constituency.[111] Diệm later went on to staff his administration's key posts mostly with northern and central Catholics.  In addition to the Catholics flowing south, up to 130,000 "Revolutionary Regroupees" went to the north for "regroupment", expecting to return to the south within two years.[112] The Viet Minh left roughly 5,000 to 10,000 cadres in the south as a "politico-military substructure within the object of its irredentism."[113] The last French soldiers were to leave Vietnam in April 1956.[97] The PRC completed its withdrawal from North Vietnam at around the same time.[96] Around 52,000 Vietnamese civilians moved from south to north.[114]  Between 1953 and 1956, the North Vietnamese government instituted various agrarian reforms, including "rent reduction" and "land reform", which resulted in significant political oppression. Declassified Politburo documents confirm that 1 in 1,000 North Vietnamese (i.e., about 14,000 people) were the quota targeted for execution during the "rent reduction" campaign.[115] During the land reform, testimony from North Vietnamese witnesses suggested a ratio of one execution for every 160 village residents, which extrapolated nationwide would indicate nearly 100,000 executions. Because the campaign was concentrated mainly in the Red River Delta area, a lower estimate of 50,000 executions became widely accepted by scholars at the time.[116][117][118] In 1956, leaders in Hanoi admitted to "excesses" in implementing this program and restored a large amount of the land to the original owners.[119]  The south, meanwhile, constituted the State of Vietnam, with Bảo Đại as Emperor and Ngô Đình Diệm (appointed in July 1954) as his prime minister. Neither the United States government nor Ngô Đình Diệm's State of Vietnam signed anything at the 1954 Geneva Conference. With respect to the question of reunification, the non-communist Vietnamese delegation objected strenuously to any division of Vietnam, but lost out when the French accepted the proposal of Viet Minh delegate Phạm Văn Đồng,[120] who proposed that Vietnam eventually be united by elections under the supervision of "local commissions".[121] The United States countered with what became known as the "American Plan", with the support of South Vietnam and the United Kingdom.[122] It provided for unification elections under the supervision of the United Nations, but was rejected by the Soviet delegation.[122] The United States said, "With respect to the statement made by the representative of the State of Vietnam, the United States reiterates its traditional position that peoples are entitled to determine their own future and that it will not join in any arrangement which would hinder this".[123]  U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote in 1954, "I have never talked or corresponded with a person knowledgeable in Indochinese affairs who did not agree that had elections been held as of the time of the fighting, possibly eighty percent of the population would have voted for the Communist Ho Chi Minh as their leader rather than Chief of State Bảo Đại. Indeed, the lack of leadership and drive on the part of Bảo Đại was a factor in the feeling prevalent among Vietnamese that they had nothing to fight for."[124] According to the Pentagon Papers, however, from 1954 to 1956 "Ngô Đình Diệm really did accomplish miracles" in South Vietnam:[125] "It is almost certain that by 1956 the proportion which might have voted for Ho—in a free election against Diệm—would have been much smaller than eighty percent."[126] In 1957, independent observers from India, Poland, and Canada representing the International Control Commission (ICC) stated that fair, unbiased elections were not possible, with the ICC reporting that neither South nor North Vietnam had honored the armistice agreement[127]  From April to June 1955, Diệm eliminated any political opposition in the south by launching military operations against two religious groups: the Cao Đài and Hòa Hảo of Ba Cụt. The campaign also focused on the Bình Xuyên organized crime group which was allied with members of the communist party secret police and had some military elements. As broad-based opposition to his harsh tactics mounted, Diệm increasingly sought to blame the communists.[23]  In a referendum on the future of the State of Vietnam on 23 October 1955, Diệm rigged the poll supervised by his brother Ngô Đình Nhu and was credited with 98.2 percent of the vote, including 133% in Saigon. His American advisors had recommended a more modest winning margin of "60 to 70 percent." Diệm, however, viewed the election as a test of authority.[128] Three days later, he declared South Vietnam to be an independent state under the name Republic of Vietnam (ROV), with himself as president.[129] Likewise, Ho Chi Minh and other communist officials always won at least 99% of the vote in North Vietnamese "elections".[130]  The domino theory, which argued that if one country fell to communism, then all of the surrounding countries would follow, was first proposed as policy by the Eisenhower administration.[131] John F. Kennedy, then a U.S. Senator, said in a speech to the American Friends of Vietnam: "Burma, Thailand, India, Japan, the Philippines and obviously Laos and Cambodia are among those whose security would be threatened if the Red Tide of Communism overflowed into Vietnam."[132] Diệm era, 1955–63 Main articles: Ngô Đình Diệm and War in Vietnam (1954–59) U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles greet President Ngô Đình Diệm of South Vietnam in Washington, 8 May 1957. Rule See also: Ngô Đình Diệm presidential visit to Australia  A devout Roman Catholic, Diệm was fervently anti-communist, nationalist, and socially conservative. Historian Luu Doan Huynh notes that "Diệm represented narrow and extremist nationalism coupled with autocracy and nepotism."[133] The majority of Vietnamese people were Buddhist, and were alarmed by actions such as Diệm's dedication of the country to the Virgin Mary.  Beginning in the summer of 1955, Diệm launched the "Denounce the Communists" campaign, during which communists and other anti-government elements were arrested, imprisoned, tortured, or executed. He instituted the death penalty against any activity deemed communist in August 1956.[134] According to Gabriel Kolko about 12,000 suspected opponents of Diệm were killed between 1955 and 1957 and by the end of 1958 an estimated 40,000 political prisoners had been jailed.[135] However, Guenter Lewy argues that such figures were exaggerated and that there were never more than 35,000 prisoners of all kinds in the whole country.[136]  In May 1957, Diệm undertook a ten-day state visit to the United States. President Eisenhower pledged his continued support, and a parade was held in Diệm's honor in New York City. Although Diệm was publicly praised, in private Secretary of State John Foster Dulles conceded that Diệm had been selected because there were no better alternatives.[137]  Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara wrote in Argument Without End (1999) that the new American patrons of the Republic of Vietnam (ROV) were almost completely ignorant of Vietnamese culture. They knew little of the language or long history of the country.[93] There was a tendency to assign American motives to Vietnamese actions, though Diệm warned that it was an illusion to believe that blindly copying Western methods would solve Vietnamese problems.[93] Insurgency in the South, 1954–60 Main articles: Viet Cong and War in Vietnam (1959–63) The Ho Chi Minh trail was used to supply the Viet Cong.  Between 1954 and 1957 there was large-scale but disorganized dissidence in the countryside which the Diệm government succeeded in quelling. In early 1957 South Vietnam had its first peace in over a decade. However, by mid-1957 through 1959 incidents of violence increased but the government "did not construe it as a campaign, considering the disorders too diffuse to warrant committing major GVN [Government of Vietnam] resources." By early 1959 however, Diệm considered it an organized campaign and implemented Law 10/59, which made political violence punishable by death and property confiscation.[138] There had been some division among former Viet Minh whose main goal was to hold the elections promised in the Geneva Accords, leading to "wildcat" activities separate from the other communists and anti-GVN activists.[44]  In December 1960, the National Liberation Front (NLF, a.k.a. the Viet Cong) was formally created with the intent of uniting all anti-GVN activists, including non-communists. According to the Pentagon Papers, the Viet Cong "placed heavy emphasis on the withdrawal of American advisors and influence, on land reform and liberalization of the GVN, on coalition government and the neutralization of Vietnam." Often the leaders of the organization were kept secret.[44]  The reason for the continued survival of the NLF was the class relations in the countryside. The vast majority of the population lived in villages in the countryside where the key issue was land reform. The Viet Minh had reduced rents and debts; and had leased communal lands, mostly to the poorer peasants. Diem brought the landlords back to the villages. People who were farming land they held for years now had to return it to landlords and pay years of back rent. This rent collection was enforced by the South Vietnamese army. The divisions within villages reproduced those that had existed against the French: "75 percent support for the NLF, 20 percent trying to remain neutral and 5 percent firmly pro-government,"[139] North Vietnamese involvement  Sources disagree on whether North Vietnam played a direct role in aiding and organizing South Vietnamese rebels prior to 1960. Kahin and Lewis assert:      Contrary to United States policy assumptions, all available evidence shows that the revival of the civil war in the South in 1958 was undertaken by Southerners at their own—not Hanoi's—initiative…Insurgency activity against the Saigon government began in the South under Southern leadership not as a consequence of any dictate from Hanoi, but contrary to Hanoi's injunctions.[44]  Similarly, historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. states that "it was not until September, 1960 that the Communist Party of North Vietnam bestowed its formal blessing and called for the liberation of the south from American imperialism".[44]  By contrast, the author of War Comes to Long An Jeffrey Race interviewed communist defectors in 1967 and 1968 who found such denials "very amusing", and who "commented humorously that the Party had apparently been more successful than was expected in concealing its role."[140] James Olson and Randy Roberts assert that North Vietnam authorized a low-level insurgency in December 1956.[43] To counter the accusation that North Vietnam was violating the Geneva Accord, the independence of the Viet Cong was stressed in communist propaganda.[141]  In March 1956, southern communist leader Lê Duẩn presented a plan to revive the insurgency entitled "The Road to the South" to the other members of the Politburo in Hanoi, but as both China and the Soviets opposed confrontation at this time, Lê Duẩn's plan was rejected.[141] However the North Vietnamese leadership approved tentative measures to revive the southern insurgency in December 1956.[142] Communist forces were under a single command structure set up in 1958.[143] The North Vietnamese Communist Party approved a "people's war" on the South at a session in January 1959[144] and in May, Group 559 was established to maintain and upgrade the Ho Chi Minh trail, at this time a six-month mountain trek through Laos. About 500 of the "regroupees" of 1954 were sent south on the trail during its first year of operation.[145] The first arms delivery via the trail was completed in August 1959.[146]  North Vietnam invaded Laos in 1959, and used 30,000 men to build invasion routes through Laos and Cambodia by 1961.[147] About 40,000 communist soldiers infiltrated into the south from 1961–63.[141] North Vietnam sent 10,000 troops of the North Vietnamese Army to attack the south in 1964, and this figure increased to 100,000 in 1965.[148] Kennedy's escalation, 1961–63 Main articles: Strategic Hamlet Program and Phạm Ngọc Thảo  In the 1960 U.S. presidential election, Senator John F. Kennedy defeated incumbent Vice President Richard Nixon. Although Eisenhower warned Kennedy about Laos and Vietnam, Europe and Latin America "loomed larger than Asia on his sights."[149] In his inaugural address, Kennedy made the ambitious pledge to "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and success of liberty."[150] In June 1961, he bitterly disagreed with Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev when they met in Vienna to discuss key U.S.–Soviet issues. Only 16 months later, the U.S.–Soviet issues included the Cuban Missile Crisis (October 16–28, 1962) played out on television worldwide and was the closest the Cold War came to escalating into a full-scale nuclear war, and the U.S. raised the readiness level of Strategic Air Command (SAC) forces to DEFCON 2.  The Kennedy administration remained essentially committed to the Cold War foreign policy inherited from the Truman and Eisenhower administrations. In 1961, the U.S. had 50,000 troops based in Korea, and Kennedy faced a three-part crisis – the failure of the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the construction of the Berlin Wall, and a negotiated settlement between the pro-Western government of Laos and the Pathet Lao communist movement.[151] These crises made Kennedy believe that another failure on the part of the United States to gain control and stop communist expansion would fatally damage U.S. credibility with its allies and his own reputation. Kennedy was thus determined to "draw a line in the sand" and prevent a communist victory in Vietnam. He told James Reston of The New York Times immediately after his Vienna meeting with Khrushchev, "Now we have a problem making our power credible and Vietnam looks like the place."[152][153]  In May 1961, U.S. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson visited Saigon and enthusiastically declared Diệm the "Winston Churchill of Asia."[154] Asked why he had made the comment, Johnson replied, "Diệm's the only boy we got out there."[137] Johnson assured Diệm of more aid in molding a fighting force that could resist the communists.  Kennedy's policy toward South Vietnam rested on the assumption that Diệm and his forces had to ultimately defeat the guerrillas on their own. He was against the deployment of American combat troops and observed that "to introduce U.S. forces in large numbers there today, while it might have an initially favorable military impact, would almost certainly lead to adverse political and, in the long run, adverse military consequences."[155] The quality of the South Vietnamese military, however, remained poor. Poor leadership, corruption, and political promotions all played a part in weakening the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN). The frequency of guerrilla attacks rose as the insurgency gathered steam. While Hanoi's support for the Viet Cong played a role, South Vietnamese governmental incompetence was at the core of the crisis.[156] South Vietnam, Military Regions, 1967  One major issue Kennedy raised was whether the Soviet space and missile programs had surpassed those of the United States. Although Kennedy stressed long-range missile parity with the Soviets, he was also interested in using special forces for counterinsurgency warfare in Third World countries threatened by communist insurgencies. Although they were originally intended for use behind front lines after a conventional Soviet invasion of Europe, Kennedy believed that the guerrilla tactics employed by special forces such as the Green Berets would be effective in a "brush fire" war in Vietnam.  Kennedy advisors Maxwell Taylor and Walt Rostow recommended that U.S. troops be sent to South Vietnam disguised as flood relief workers. Kennedy rejected the idea but increased military assistance yet again. In April 1962, John Kenneth Galbraith warned Kennedy of the "danger we shall replace the French as a colonial force in the area and bleed as the French did."[157] By November 1963, there were 16,000 American military personnel in South Vietnam, up from Eisenhower's 900 advisors.[158]  The Strategic Hamlet Program was initiated in late 1961. This joint U.S.-South Vietnamese program attempted to resettle the rural population into fortified camps. It was implemented in early 1962 and involved some forced relocation, village internment, and segregation of rural South Vietnamese into new communities where the peasantry would be isolated from Communist insurgents. It was hoped these new communities would provide security for the peasants and strengthen the tie between them and the central government. However, by November 1963 the program had waned, and it officially ended in 1964.[159]  On 23 July 1962, fourteen nations, including China, South Vietnam, the Soviet Union, North Vietnam and the United States, signed an agreement promising to respect the neutrality of Laos.[160] Ousting and assassination of Ngô Đình Diệm See also: Role of the United States in the Vietnam War § John F. Kennedy (1961–1963), 1960 South Vietnamese coup attempt, 1962 South Vietnamese Independence Palace bombing, Huế Phật Đản shootings and Xá Lợi Pagoda raids Main articles: Cable 243, Arrest and assassination of Ngô Đình Diệm, Buddhist crisis, Krulak Mendenhall mission, McNamara Taylor mission, 1963 South Vietnamese coup and Reaction to the 1963 South Vietnamese coup  The inept performance of the South Vietnamese army was exemplified by failed actions such as the Battle of Ap Bac on 2 January 1963, in which a small band of Viet Cong won a battle against a much larger and better-equipped South Vietnamese force, many of whose officers seemed reluctant even to engage in combat.[161] A US tank convoy during the Vietnam War.  The Army of the Republic of Vietnam forces were led in that battle by Diệm's most trusted general, Huỳnh Văn Cao, commander of the IV Corps. Cao was a Catholic who had been promoted due to religion and fidelity rather than skill, and his main job was to preserve his forces to stave off coups; he had earlier vomited during a communist attack. Some policymakers in Washington began to conclude that Diệm was incapable of defeating the communists and might even make a deal with Ho Chi Minh. He seemed concerned only with fending off coups, and had become more paranoid after attempts in 1960 and 1962, which he partly attributed to U.S. encouragement. As Robert F. Kennedy noted, "Diệm wouldn't make even the slightest concessions. He was difficult to reason with…"[162]  As historian James Gibson summed up the situation:      Strategic hamlets had failed…. The South Vietnamese regime was incapable of winning the peasantry because of its class base among landlords. Indeed, there was no longer a 'regime' in the sense of a relatively stable political alliance and functioning bureaucracy. Instead, civil government and military operations had virtually ceased. The National Liberation Front had made great progress and was close to declaring provisional revolutionary governments in large areas.[163]  Discontent with Diệm's policies exploded following the Huế Phật Đản shootings of nine majority Buddhists who were protesting against the ban on the Buddhist flag on Vesak, the Buddha's birthday. This resulted in mass protests against discriminatory policies that gave privileges to the Catholic Church and its adherents. Diệm's elder brother Ngô Đình Thục was the Archbishop of Huế and aggressively blurred the separation between church and state. Thuc's anniversary celebrations shortly before Vesak had been bankrolled by the government, and Vatican flags were displayed prominently. There had also been reports of Buddhist pagodas being demolished by Catholic paramilitaries throughout Diệm's rule. Diệm refused to make concessions to the Buddhist majority or take responsibility for the deaths. On 21 August 1963, the ARVN Special Forces of Colonel Lê Quang Tung, loyal to Diệm's younger brother Ngô Đình Nhu, raided pagodas across Vietnam, causing widespread damage and destruction and leaving a death toll estimated to range into the hundreds. Kennedy and McNamara Ngô Đình Diệm after being shot and killed in the 1963 coup.  U.S. officials began discussing the possibility of a regime change during the middle of 1963. The United States Department of State was generally in favor of encouraging a coup, while the Defense Department favored Diệm. Chief among the proposed changes was the removal of Diệm's younger brother Nhu, who controlled the secret police and special forces and was seen as the man behind the Buddhist repression and more generally the architect of the Ngô family's rule. This proposal was conveyed to the U.S. embassy in Saigon in Cable 243.  The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was in contact with generals planning to remove Diệm. They were told that the United States would not oppose such a move nor punish the generals by cutting off aid. President Diệm was overthrown and executed, along with his brother, on 2 November 1963. When he was informed, Maxwell Taylor remembered that Kennedy "rushed from the room with a look of shock and dismay on his face."[164] He had not anticipated Diệm's murder. The U.S. ambassador to South Vietnam, Henry Cabot Lodge, invited the coup leaders to the embassy and congratulated them. Ambassador Lodge informed Kennedy that "the prospects now are for a shorter war".[165] Kennedy wrote Lodge a letter congratulating him for "a fine job."[166]  Following the coup, chaos ensued. Hanoi took advantage of the situation and increased its support for the guerrillas. South Vietnam entered a period of extreme political instability, as one military government toppled another in quick succession. Increasingly, each new regime was viewed by the communists as a puppet of the Americans; whatever the failings of Diệm, his credentials as a nationalist (as Robert McNamara later reflected) had been impeccable.[167]  U.S military advisors were embedded at every level of the South Vietnamese armed forces. They were however criticized for ignoring the political nature of the insurgency.[168] The Kennedy administration sought to refocus U.S. efforts on pacification and "winning over the hearts and minds" of the population. The military leadership in Washington, however, was hostile to any role for U.S. advisors other than conventional troop training.[169] General Paul Harkins, the commander of U.S. forces in South Vietnam, confidently predicted victory by Christmas 1963.[170] The CIA was less optimistic, however, warning that "the Viet Cong by and large retain de facto control of much of the countryside and have steadily increased the overall intensity of the effort".[171]  Paramilitary officers from the CIA's Special Activities Division trained and led Hmong tribesmen in Laos and into Vietnam. The indigenous forces numbered in the tens of thousands and they conducted direct action missions, led by paramilitary officers, against the Communist Pathet Lao forces and their North Vietnamese supporters.[172] The CIA also ran the Phoenix Program and participated in Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MAC-V SOG), which was originally named the Special Operations Group, but was changed for cover purposes.[173] Johnson's escalation, 1963–69 Main article: Joint warfare in South Vietnam, 1963–69 Further information: Role of United States in the Vietnam War: Americanization See also: Opposition to the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, Gulf of Tonkin incident, 1964 South Vietnamese coup, September 1964 South Vietnamese coup attempt, December 1964 South Vietnamese coup and 1965 South Vietnamese coup A U.S. B-66 Destroyer and four F-105 Thunderchiefs dropping bombs on North Vietnam during Operation Rolling Thunder  At the time Lyndon B. Johnson took over the presidency after the death of Kennedy, he had not been heavily involved with policy toward Vietnam, Presidential aide Jack Valenti recalls, "Vietnam at the time was no bigger than a man's fist on the horizon. We hardly discussed it because it was not worth discussing."[174][175]  Upon becoming president, however, Johnson immediately had to focus on Vietnam: on 24 November 1963, he said, "the battle against communism [...] must be joined [...] with strength and determination."[176] The pledge came at a time when the situation in South Vietnam was deteriorating, especially in places like the Mekong Delta, because of the recent coup against Diệm.[177]  The military revolutionary council, meeting in lieu of a strong South Vietnamese leader, was made up of 12 members headed by General Dương Văn Minh—whom Stanley Karnow, a journalist on the ground, later recalled as "a model of lethargy."[178] Lodge, frustrated by the end of the year, cabled home about Minh: "Will he be strong enough to get on top of things?" His regime was overthrown in January 1964 by General Nguyễn Khánh.[179] However, there was persistent instability in the military as several coups—not all successful—occurred in a short period of time. An alleged Viet Cong activist, captured during an attack on an American outpost near the Cambodian border, is interrogated.  On 2 August 1964, the USS Maddox, on an intelligence mission along North Vietnam's coast, allegedly fired upon and damaged several torpedo boats that had been stalking it in the Gulf of Tonkin.[180] A second attack was reported two days later on the USS Turner Joy and Maddox in the same area. The circumstances of the attack were murky. Lyndon Johnson commented to Undersecretary of State George Ball that "those sailors out there may have been shooting at flying fish."[181]  The second attack led to retaliatory air strikes, prompted Congress to approve the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution on 7 August 1964,[182] signed by Johnson, and gave the president power to conduct military operations in Southeast Asia without declaring war.[183] Although Congressmen at the time denied that this was a full-scale war declaration, the Tonkin Resolution allowed the president unilateral power to launch a full-scale war if the president deemed it necessary.[183] In the same month, Johnson pledged that he was not "… committing American boys to fighting a war that I think ought to be fought by the boys of Asia to help protect their own land."[184]  An undated NSA publication declassified in 2005, however, revealed that there was no attack on 4 August.[185] It had already been called into question long before this. "Gulf of Tonkin incident", writes Louise Gerdes, "is an oft-cited example of the way in which Johnson misled the American people to gain support for his foreign policy in Vietnam."[186] George C. Herring argues, however, that McNamara and the Pentagon "did not knowingly lie about the alleged attacks, but they were obviously in a mood to retaliate and they seem to have selected from the evidence available to them those parts that confirmed what they wanted to believe."[187]  "From a strength of approximately 5,000 at the start of 1959 the Viet Cong's ranks grew to about 100,000 at the end of 1964…Between 1961 and 1964 the Army's strength rose from about 850,000 to nearly a million men."[168] The numbers for U.S. troops deployed to Vietnam during the same period were quite different; 2,000 in 1961, rising rapidly to 16,500 in 1964.[188] By early 1965, 7,559 South Vietnamese hamlets had been destroyed by the Viet Cong.[189] A marine from 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, moves an alleged Viet Cong activist to the rear during a search and clear operation held by the battalion 15 miles (24 km) west of Da Nang Air Base.  The National Security Council recommended a three-stage escalation of the bombing of North Vietnam. On 2 March 1965, following an attack on a U.S. Marine barracks at Pleiku,[190] Operation Flaming Dart (initiated when Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin was on a state visit to North Vietnam), Operation Rolling Thunder and Operation Arc Light commenced.[191] The bombing campaign, which ultimately lasted three years, was intended to force North Vietnam to cease its support for the Viet Cong by threatening to destroy North Vietnam's air defenses and industrial infrastructure. As well, it was aimed at bolstering the morale of the South Vietnamese.[192] Between March 1965 and November 1968, "Rolling Thunder" deluged the north with a million tons of missiles, rockets and bombs.[193]  Bombing was not restricted to North Vietnam. Other aerial campaigns, such as Operation Commando Hunt, targeted different parts of the Viet Cong and NVA infrastructure. These included the Ho Chi Minh trail supply route, which ran through Laos and Cambodia. The objective of stopping North Vietnam and the Viet Cong was never reached. As one officer noted, "This is a political war and it calls for discriminate killing. The best weapon… would be a knife… The worst is an airplane."[194] The Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force Curtis LeMay, however, had long advocated saturation bombing in Vietnam and wrote of the communists that "we're going to bomb them back into the Stone Age".[195] Escalation and ground war File:1965-02-08 Showdown in Vietnam.ogvPlay media Universal Newsreel film about an attack on U.S. air bases and the U.S. response. 1965 Peasants suspected of being Viet Cong under detention of U.S. army, 1966 Start of Tet Offensive as seen looking north from LZ Betty's water tower, just south of Quang Tri City Heavily bandaged woman with a tag attached to her arm which reads 'VNC Female' meaning Vietnamese civilian  After several attacks upon them, it was decided that U.S. Air Force bases needed more protection as the South Vietnamese military seemed incapable of providing security. On 8 March 1965, 3,500 U.S. Marines were dispatched to South Vietnam. This marked the beginning of the American ground war. U.S. public opinion overwhelmingly supported the deployment.[196]  In a statement similar to that made to the French almost two decades earlier, Ho Chi Minh warned that if the Americans "want to make war for twenty years then we shall make war for twenty years. If they want to make peace, we shall make peace and invite them to afternoon tea."[197] As former First Deputy Foreign Minister Tran Quang Co has noted, the primary goal of the war was to reunify Vietnam and secure its independence.[citation needed] Some have argued that the policy of North Vietnam was not to topple other non-communist governments in South East Asia.[198] However, the Pentagon Papers warned of "a dangerous period of Vietnamese expansionism….Laos and Cambodia would have been easy pickings for such a Vietnam….Thailand, Malaya, Singapore, and even Indonesia, could have been next."[199]  The Marines' initial assignment was defensive. The first deployment of 3,500 in March 1965 was increased to nearly 200,000 by December.[200] The U.S. military had long been schooled in offensive warfare. Regardless of political policies, U.S. commanders were institutionally and psychologically unsuited to a defensive mission.[200] In December 1964, ARVN forces had suffered heavy losses at the Battle of Bình Giã,[201] in a battle that both sides viewed as a watershed. Previously, communist forces had utilized hit-and-run guerrilla tactics. However, at Binh Gia, they had defeated a strong ARVN force in a conventional battle.[202] Tellingly, South Vietnamese forces were again defeated in June 1965 at the Battle of Đồng Xoài.[203] U.S. soldiers searching a village for Viet Cong  Desertion rates were increasing, and morale plummeted. General William Westmoreland informed Admiral U. S. Grant Sharp Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific forces, that the situation was critical.[200] He said, "I am convinced that U.S. troops with their energy, mobility, and firepower can successfully take the fight to the NLF [National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam a.k.a. the Viet Cong]."[204] With this recommendation, Westmoreland was advocating an aggressive departure from America's defensive posture and the sidelining of the South Vietnamese. By ignoring ARVN units, the U.S. commitment became open-ended.[205] Westmoreland outlined a three-point plan to win the war:      Phase 1. Commitment of U.S. (and other free world) forces necessary to halt the losing trend by the end of 1965.     Phase 2. U.S. and allied forces mount major offensive actions to seize the initiative to destroy guerrilla and organized enemy forces. This phase would end when the enemy had been worn down, thrown on the defensive, and driven back from major populated areas.     Phase 3. If the enemy persisted, a period of twelve to eighteen months following Phase 2 would be required for the final destruction of enemy forces remaining in remote base areas.[206]  The plan was approved by Johnson and marked a profound departure from the previous administration's insistence that the government of South Vietnam was responsible for defeating the guerrillas. Westmoreland predicted victory by the end of 1967.[207] Johnson did not, however, communicate this change in strategy to the media. Instead he emphasized continuity.[208] The change in U.S. policy depended on matching the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong in a contest of attrition and morale. The opponents were locked in a cycle of escalation.[209] The idea that the government of South Vietnam could manage its own affairs was shelved.[209] Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin with U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson at the Glassboro Summit Conference where the two representatives discussed the possibilities of a peace settlement.  The one-year tour of duty of American soldiers deprived units of experienced leadership. As one observer noted "we were not in Vietnam for 10 years, but for one year 10 times."[194] As a result, training programs were shortened.  South Vietnam was inundated with manufactured goods. As Stanley Karnow writes, "the main PX [Post Exchange], located in the Saigon suburb of Cholon, was only slightly smaller than the New York Bloomingdale's…"[210] The American buildup transformed the economy and had a profound effect on South Vietnamese society. A huge surge in corruption was witnessed. The Ho Chi Minh Trail running through Laos, 1967  Washington encouraged its SEATO allies to contribute troops. Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines[211] all agreed to send troops. Major allies, however, notably NATO nations Canada and the United Kingdom, declined Washington's troop requests.[212] The U.S. and its allies mounted complex operations, such as operations Masher, Attleboro, Cedar Falls, and Junction City. However, the communist insurgents remained elusive and demonstrated great tactical flexibility.  Meanwhile, the political situation in South Vietnam began to stabilize with the coming to power of prime minister Air Marshal Nguyễn Cao Kỳ and figurehead Chief of State, General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, in mid-1965 at the head of a military junta. This ended a series of coups that had happened more than once a year. In 1967, Thieu became president with Ky as his deputy, after rigged elections. Although they were nominally a civilian government, Ky was supposed to maintain real power through a behind-the-scenes military body. However, Thieu outmaneuvered and sidelined Ky by filling the ranks with generals from his faction. Thieu was also accused of murdering Ky loyalists through contrived military accidents. Thieu, mistrustful and indecisive, remained president until 1975, having won a one-candidate election in 1971.[213] [214]  The Johnson administration employed a "policy of minimum candor"[215] in its dealings with the media. Military information officers sought to manage media coverage by emphasizing stories that portrayed progress in the war. Over time, this policy damaged the public trust in official pronouncements. As the media's coverage of the war and that of the Pentagon diverged, a so-called credibility gap developed.[215] Tet Offensive Main article: Tet Offensive A US "tunnel rat" soldier prepares to enter a Viet Cong tunnel.  In late 1967 the Communists lured American forces into the hinterlands at Đắk Tô and at the Marine Khe Sanh combat base in Quảng Trị Province where the United States was more than willing to fight because it could unleash its massive firepower unimpeded by civilians. However, on 31 January 1968, the NVA and the Viet Cong broke the truce that traditionally accompanied the Tết (Lunar New Year) holiday by launching the largest battle of the war, the Tet Offensive, in the hope of sparking a national uprising. Over 100 cities were attacked by over 85,000 enemy troops including assaults on General Westmoreland's headquarters and the U.S. Embassy in Saigon.[216]  Although the U.S. and South Vietnamese forces were initially shocked by the scale of the urban offensive, they responded quickly and effectively, decimating the ranks of the Viet Cong. In the former capital city of Huế, the combined NVA and Viet Cong troops captured the Imperial Citadel and much of the city and massacred over 3,000 unarmed Huế civilians.[217] In the following Battle of Huế American forces employed massive firepower that left 80 percent of the city in ruins.[218] Further north, at Quảng Trị City, members of the 1st Cavalry Division and 1st ARVN Infantry Division killed more than 900 NVA and Vietcong troops in and around the city.[219][220] In Saigon, 1,000 NLF (Viet Cong) fighters fought off 11,000 U.S. and ARVN troops for three weeks. U.S. Marines in Operation Allen Brook in 1968  Across South Vietnam, 1,100 Americans and other allied troops, 2,100 ARVN, 14,000 civilians, and 32,000 NVA and Viet Cong lay dead.[220][221]  But the Tet Offensive had another, unintended consequence. General Westmoreland had become the public face of the war. He had been named Time magazine's 1965's Man of the Year and eventually was featured on the magazine's cover three times.[222] Time described him as "the sinewy personification of the American fighting man… (who) directed the historic buildup, drew up the battle plans, and infused the… men under him with his own idealistic view of U.S. aims and responsibilities."[222] Six weeks after the Tet Offensive began, "public approval of his overall performance dropped from 48 percent to 36 percent–and, more dramatically, endorsement for his handling of the war fell from 40 percent to 26 percent."[223] U.S. Marines fighting in Huế  A few months earlier, in November 1967, Westmoreland had spearheaded a public relations drive for the Johnson administration to bolster flagging public support.[224] In a speech before the National Press Club he had said a point in the war had been reached "where the end comes into view."[225] Thus, the public was shocked and confused when Westmoreland's predictions were trumped by Tet.[224] The American media, which had until then been largely supportive of U.S. efforts, turned on the Johnson administration for what had become an increasing credibility gap.  Although the Tet Offensive was a significant victory for allied forces, in terms of casualties and control of territory, it was a sound defeat when evaluated from the point of view of strategic consequences: it became a turning point in America's involvement in the Vietnam War because it had a profound impact on domestic support for the conflict. Despite the military failure for the Communist forces, the Tet Offensive became a political victory for them and ended the career of president Lyndon B. Johnson, who declined to run for re-election as his approval rating slumped from 48 to 36 percent.[224] As James Witz noted, Tet "contradicted the claims of progress… made by the Johnson administration and the military."[224] The offensive constituted an intelligence failure on the scale of Pearl Harbor.[211][226] Journalist Peter Arnett, in a disputed article, quoted an officer he refused to identify,[227] saying of Bến Tre (laid to rubble by U.S. attacks)[228] that "it became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it".[229] Viet Cong/NVA killed by U.S. Air Force personnel during a perimeter attack of Tan Son Nhut Air Base during the Tet Offensive  Walter Cronkite said in an editorial, "To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion."[230][231] Following Cronkite's editorial report, President Lyndon Johnson is reported to have said, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America."[232][233]  Westmoreland became Chief of Staff of the Army in March 1968, just as all resistance was finally subdued. The move was technically a promotion. However, his position had become untenable because of the offensive and because his request for 200,000 additional troops had been leaked to the media. Westmoreland was succeeded by his deputy Creighton Abrams, a commander less inclined to public media pronouncements.[234]  On 10 May 1968, despite low expectations, peace talks began between the United States and North Vietnam in Paris. Negotiations stagnated for five months, until Johnson gave orders to halt the bombing of North Vietnam.  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…"[235] His refusal to send more U.S. troops to Vietnam was seen as Johnson's admission that the war was lost.[236] It can be seen that the refusal was a tacit admission that the war could not be won by escalation, at least not at a cost acceptable to the American people.[236] As Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara noted, "the dangerous illusion of victory by the United States was therefore dead."[237]  Vietnam was a major political issue during the United States presidential election in 1968. The election was won by Republican party candidate Richard Nixon. Vietnamization, 1969–72 Nixon Doctrine / Vietnamization Propaganda leaflet urging the defection of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese to the side of the Republic of Vietnam  U.S. President Richard Nixon began troop withdrawals in 1969. His plan, called the Nixon Doctrine, was to build up the ARVN, so that they could take over the defense of South Vietnam. The policy became known as "Vietnamization".  Nixon said in 1970 in an announcement, "I am tonight announcing plans for the withdrawal of an additional 150,000 American troops to be completed during the spring of next year. This will bring a total reduction of 265,500 men in our armed forces in Vietnam below the level that existed when we took office 15 months ago."[238]  On 10 October 1969, Nixon ordered a squadron of 18 B-52s loaded with nuclear weapons to race to the border of Soviet airspace to convince the Soviet Union, in accord with the madman theory, that he was capable of anything to end the Vietnam War.  Nixon also pursued negotiations. Theater commander Creighton Abrams shifted to smaller operations, aimed at communist logistics, with better use of firepower and more cooperation with the ARVN. Nixon also began to pursue détente with the Soviet Union and rapprochement with China. This policy helped to decrease global tensions. Détente led to nuclear arms reduction on the part of both superpowers. But Nixon was disappointed that China and the Soviet Union continued to supply the North Vietnamese with aid. In September 1969, Ho Chi Minh died at age seventy-nine.[239]  The anti-war movement was gaining strength in the United States. Nixon appealed to the "silent majority" of Americans who he said supported the war without showing it in public. But revelations of the My Lai Massacre, in which a U.S. Army platoon raped and killed civilians, and the 1969 "Green Beret Affair" where eight Special Forces soldiers, including the 5th Special Forces Group Commander, were arrested for the murder[240] of a suspected double agent[241] provoked national and international outrage.  Beginning in 1970, American troops were withdrawn from border areas where most of the fighting took place, and instead redeployed along the coast and interior, which is one reason why casualties in 1970 were less than half of 1969's totals.[238] Cambodia and Laos Main articles: Operation Menu, Operation Freedom Deal, Operation Commando Hunt, Laotian Civil War, Cambodian Civil War and Operation Lam Son 719  Prince Norodom Sihanouk had proclaimed Cambodia neutral since 1955,[242] but the communists used Cambodian soil as a base and Sihanouk tolerated their presence, because he wished to avoid being drawn into a wider regional conflict. Under pressure from Washington, however, he changed this policy in 1969. The Vietnamese communists were no longer welcome. President Nixon took the opportunity to launch a massive bombing campaign, called Operation Menu, against communist sanctuaries along the Cambodia/Vietnam border. Only five high-ranking Congressional officials were informed of Operation Menu.[243]  In 1970, Prince Sihanouk was deposed by his pro-American prime minister Lon Nol. North Vietnam invaded Cambodia in 1970 at the request of Khmer Rouge deputy leader Nuon Chea.[244] U.S. and ARVN forces launched an invasion into Cambodia to attack NVA and Viet Cong bases.  This invasion sparked nationwide U.S. protests as Nixon had promised to deescalate the American involvement. Four students were killed by National Guardsmen at Kent State University during a protest in Ohio, which provoked further public outrage in the United States. The reaction to the incident by the Nixon administration was seen as callous and indifferent, providing additional impetus for the anti-war movement.[245] The U.S. Air Force continued to heavily bomb Cambodia in support of the Cambodian government as part of Operation Freedom Deal.  In 1971 the Pentagon Papers were leaked to The New York Times. The top-secret history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, commissioned by the Department of Defense, detailed a long series of public deceptions on the part of the U.S. government. The Supreme Court ruled that its publication was legal.[246] M41 Walker Bulldog, the main battle tank of the ARVN  The ARVN launched Operation Lam Son 719 in February 1971, aimed at cutting the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos.[160] The ostensibly neutral Laos had long been the scene of a civil war, pitting the Laotian government backed by the US against the Pathet Lao and its North Vietnamese allies. After meeting resistance, ARVN forces retreated in a confused rout. They fled along roads littered with their own dead. When they exhausted fuel supplies, soldiers abandoned their vehicles and attempted to barge their way on to American helicopters sent to evacuate the wounded. Many ARVN soldiers clung to helicopter skids in a desperate attempt to save themselves. U.S. aircraft had to destroy abandoned equipment, including tanks, to prevent them from falling into enemy hands. Half of the ARVN troops involved in the operation were either captured or killed. The operation was a fiasco and represented a clear failure of Vietnamization. As Karnow noted "the blunders were monumental… The (South Vietnamese) government's top officers had been tutored by the Americans for ten or fifteen years, many at training schools in the United States, yet they had learned little."[247]  In 1971 Australia and New Zealand withdrew their soldiers. The U.S. troop count was further reduced to 196,700, with a deadline to remove another 45,000 troops by February 1972. As peace protests spread across the United States, disillusionment and ill-discipline grew in the ranks[248] including increased drug use, "fragging" (the act of murdering the commander of a fighting unit) and desertions.[249]  Vietnamization was again tested by the Easter Offensive of 1972, a massive conventional NVA invasion of South Vietnam. The NVA and Viet Cong quickly overran the northern provinces and in coordination with other forces attacked from Cambodia, threatening to cut the country in half. U.S. troop withdrawals continued. But American airpower came to the rescue with Operation Linebacker, and the offensive was halted. However, it became clear that without American airpower South Vietnam could not survive. The last remaining American ground troops were withdrawn by the end of March 1973; U.S. naval and air forces remained in the Gulf of Tonkin, as well as Thailand and Guam.[250] 1972 election and Paris Peace Accords  The war was the central issue of the 1972 U.S. presidential election. Nixon's opponent, George McGovern, campaigned on a platform of withdrawal from Vietnam. Nixon's National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, continued secret negotiations with North Vietnam's Lê Đức Thọ. In October 1972, they reached an agreement. Operation Linebacker II, December 1972  However, South Vietnamese president Thieu demanded massive changes to the peace accord. When North Vietnam went public with the agreement's details, the Nixon administration claimed that the North was attempting to embarrass the president. The negotiations became deadlocked. Hanoi demanded new changes.  To show his support for South Vietnam and force Hanoi back to the negotiating table, Nixon ordered Operation Linebacker II, a massive bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong 18–29 December 1972. The offensive destroyed much of the remaining economic and industrial capacity of North Vietnam. Simultaneously Nixon pressured Thieu to accept the terms of the agreement, threatening to conclude a bilateral peace deal and cut off American aid.  On 15 January 1973, Nixon announced the suspension of offensive action against North Vietnam. The Paris Peace Accords on "Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam" were signed on 27 January 1973, officially ending direct U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. A cease-fire was declared across North and South Vietnam. U.S. prisoners of war were released. The agreement guaranteed the territorial integrity of Vietnam and, like the Geneva Conference of 1954, called for national elections in the North and South. The Paris Peace Accords stipulated a sixty-day period for the total withdrawal of U.S. forces. "This article", noted Peter Church, "proved… to be the only one of the Paris Agreements which was fully carried out."[251] Opposition to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War: 1962–1973 Main article: Opposition to the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War Protests against the war in Washington, D.C. on 24 April 1971 Anti-Vietnam War demonstration, 1967.  During the course of the Vietnam War a large segment of the American population came to be opposed to U.S. involvement in South Vietnam. Public opinion steadily turned against the war following 1967 and by 1970 only a third of Americans believed that the U.S. had not made a mistake by sending troops to fight in Vietnam.[252]  Nearly a third of the American population were strongly against the war. It is possible to specify certain groups who led the anti-war movement and the reasons why. Many young people protested because they were the ones being drafted while others were against the war because the anti-war movement grew increasingly popular among the counterculture and drug culture in American society and its music.  Some advocates within the peace movement advocated a unilateral withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam. One reason given for the withdrawal is that it would contribute to a lessening of tensions in the region and thus less human bloodshed. Early opposition to U.S. involvement in Vietnam drew its inspiration from the Geneva Conference of 1954. American support of Diệm in refusing elections was seen as thwarting the very democracy that America claimed to be supporting. John F. Kennedy, while Senator, opposed involvement in Vietnam.[188]  Opposition to the Vietnam War tended to unite groups opposed to U.S. anti-communism and imperialism[253] and, for those involved with the New Left such as the Catholic Worker Movement. Others, such as Stephen Spiro opposed the war based on the theory of Just War. Some wanted to show solidarity with the people of Vietnam, such as Norman Morrison emulating the actions of Thích Quảng Đức. In a key televised debate from 15 May 1965, Eric Severeid reporting for CBS conducted a debate between McGeorge Bundy and Hans Morgenthau dealing with an acute summary of the main war concerns of the U.S. as seen at that time stating them as: "(1) What are the justifications for the American presence in Vietnam – why are we there? (2) What is the fundamental nature of this war? Is it aggression from North Vietnam or is it basically, a civil war between the peoples of South Vietnam? (3) What are the implications of this Vietnam struggle in terms of Communist China's power and aims and future actions? And (4) What are the alternatives to our present policy in Vietnam?"[254][255]  High-profile opposition to the Vietnam War turned to street protests in an effort to turn U.S. political opinion. On 15 October 1969, the Vietnam Moratorium attracted millions of Americans.[256] Riots broke out at the 1968 Democratic National Convention during protests against the war.[257] After news reports of American military abuses such as the 1968 My Lai Massacre, brought new attention and support to the anti-war movement, some veterans joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War. The fatal shooting of four students at Kent State University in 1970 led to nationwide university protests.[258] Anti-war protests ended with the final withdrawal of troops after the Paris Peace Accords were signed in 1973. South Vietnam was left to defend itself alone when the fighting resumed. Many South Vietnamese subsequently fled to the United States.[259] Exit of the Americans: 1973–75 Anti-war protests  The United States began drastically reducing their troop support in South Vietnam during the final years of Vietnamization. Many U.S. troops were removed from the region, and on 5 March 1971, the United States returned the 5th Special Forces Group, which was the first American unit deployed to South Vietnam, to its former base in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.[260] [A 5]  Under the Paris Peace Accords, between North Vietnamese Foreign Minister Lê Đức Thọ and U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and reluctantly signed by South Vietnamese president Thiệu, U.S. military forces withdrew from South Vietnam and prisoners were exchanged. North Vietnam was allowed to continue supplying communist troops in the South, but only to the extent of replacing expended materiel. Later that year the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Kissinger and Thọ, but the Vietnamese negotiator declined it saying that a true peace did not yet exist.  The communist leaders had expected that the ceasefire terms would favor their side. But Saigon, bolstered by a surge of U.S. aid received just before the ceasefire went into effect, began to roll back the Viet Cong. The communists responded with a new strategy hammered out in a series of meetings in Hanoi in March 1973, according to the memoirs of Trần Văn Trà.[263]  As the Viet Cong's top commander, Tra participated in several of these meetings. With U.S. bombings suspended, work on the Ho Chi Minh trail and other logistical structures could proceed unimpeded. Logistics would be upgraded until the North was in a position to launch a massive invasion of the South, projected for the 1975–76 dry season. Tra calculated that this date would be Hanoi's last opportunity to strike before Saigon's army could be fully trained.[263] Map of the United States, showing Nixon's victories in 49 states (red) over McGovern. Calling for immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam, George McGovern's 1972 Presidential Campaign lost 49 of 50 states to Richard Nixon.  In the November 1972 Election, Democratic nominee George McGovern lost 49 of 50 states to the incumbent President Richard Nixon. On 15 March 1973, President Nixon implied that the United States would intervene militarily if the communist side violated the ceasefire. Public and congressional reaction to Nixon's trial balloon was unfavorable and in April Nixon appointed Graham Martin as U.S. ambassador to Vietnam. Martin was a second stringer compared to previous U.S. ambassadors and his appointment was an early signal that Washington had given up on Vietnam.[citation needed] During his confirmation hearings in June 1973, Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger stated that he would recommend resumption of U.S. bombing in North Vietnam if North Vietnam launched a major offensive against South Vietnam. On 4 June 1973, the U.S. Senate passed the Case–Church Amendment to prohibit such intervention.[264]  The oil price shock of October 1973 following the Yom Kippur War in Egypt caused significant damage to the South Vietnamese economy. The Viet Cong resumed offensive operations when the dry season began and by January 1974 it had recaptured the territory it lost during the previous dry season. After two clashes that left 55 South Vietnamese soldiers dead, President Thieu announced on 4 January that the war had restarted and that the Paris Peace Accord was no longer in effect. There had been over 25,000 South Vietnamese casualties during the ceasefire period.[265]  Gerald Ford took over as U.S. president on 9 August 1974 after president Nixon resigned due to the Watergate scandal. At this time, Congress cut financial aid to South Vietnam from $1 billion a year to $700 million. The U.S. midterm elections in 1974 brought in a new Congress dominated by Democrats who were even more determined to confront the president on the war. Congress immediately voted in restrictions on funding and military activities to be phased in through 1975 and to culminate in a total cutoff of funding in 1976.  The success of the 1973–74 dry season offensive inspired Trà to return to Hanoi in October 1974 and plead for a larger offensive in the next dry season. This time, Trà could travel on a drivable highway with regular fueling stops, a vast change from the days when the Ho Chi Minh trail was a dangerous mountain trek.[266] Giáp, the North Vietnamese defense minister, was reluctant to approve Trà's plan. A larger offensive might provoke a U.S. reaction and interfere with the big push planned for 1976. Trà appealed over Giáp's head to first secretary Lê Duẩn, who approved of the operation.  Trà's plan called for a limited offensive from Cambodia into Phước Long Province. The strike was designed to solve local logistical problems, gauge the reaction of South Vietnamese forces, and determine whether U.S. would return to the fray. Recently released American POWs from North Vietnamese prison camps, 1973  On 13 December 1974, North Vietnamese forces attacked Route 14 in Phước Long Province. Phuoc Binh, the provincial capital, fell on 6 January 1975. Ford desperately asked Congress for funds to assist and re-supply the South before it was overrun. Congress refused. The fall of Phuoc Binh and the lack of an American response left the South Vietnamese elite demoralized.  The speed of this success led the Politburo to reassess its strategy. It was decided that operations in the Central Highlands would be turned over to General Văn Tiến Dũng and that Pleiku should be seized, if possible. Before he left for the South, Dũng was addressed by Lê Duẩn: "Never have we had military and political conditions so perfect or a strategic advantage as great as we have now."[267]  At the start of 1975, the South Vietnamese had three times as much artillery and twice the number of tanks and armored cars as the opposition. They also had 1,400 aircraft and a two-to-one numerical superiority in combat troops over their Communist enemies.[268] However, the rising oil prices meant that much of this could not be used. They faced a well-organized, highly determined and well-funded North Vietnam. Much of the North's material and financial support came from the communist bloc. Within South Vietnam, there was increasing chaos. Their abandonment by the American military had compromised an economy dependent on U.S. financial support and the presence of a large number of U.S. troops. South Vietnam suffered from the global recession that followed the Arab oil embargo. Campaign 275 See also: 1975 Spring Offensive, Battle of Ban Me Thuot and Hue–Da Nang Campaign Captured U.S. armored vehicles  On 10 March 1975, General Dung launched Campaign 275, a limited offensive into the Central Highlands, supported by tanks and heavy artillery. The target was Buôn Ma Thuột, in Đắk Lắk Province. If the town could be taken, the provincial capital of Pleiku and the road to the coast would be exposed for a planned campaign in 1976. The ARVN proved incapable of resisting the onslaught, and its forces collapsed on 11 March. Once again, Hanoi was surprised by the speed of their success. Dung now urged the Politburo to allow him to seize Pleiku immediately and then turn his attention to Kon Tum. He argued that with two months of good weather remaining until the onset of the monsoon, it would be irresponsible to not take advantage of the situation.[23]  President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, a former general, was fearful that his forces would be cut off in the north by the attacking communists; Thieu ordered a retreat. The president declared this to be a "lighten the top and keep the bottom" strategy. But in what appeared to be a repeat of Operation Lam Son 719, the withdrawal soon turned into a bloody rout. While the bulk of ARVN forces attempted to flee, isolated units fought desperately. ARVN General Phu abandoned Pleiku and Kon Tum and retreated toward the coast, in what became known as the "column of tears".[23]  As the ARVN tried to disengage from the enemy, refugees mixed in with the line of retreat. The poor condition of roads and bridges, damaged by years of conflict and neglect, slowed Phu's column. As the North Vietnamese forces approached, panic set in. Often abandoned by the officers, the soldiers and civilians were shelled incessantly. The retreat degenerated into a desperate scramble for the coast. By 1 April the "column of tears" was all but annihilated.[23]  On 20 March, Thieu reversed himself and ordered Huế, Vietnam's third-largest city, be held at all costs, and then changed his policy several times. Thieu's contradictory orders confused and demoralized his officer corps. As the North Vietnamese launched their attack, panic set in, and ARVN resistance withered. On 22 March, the NVA opened the siege of Huế. Civilians flooded the airport and the docks hoping for any mode of escape. Some even swam out to sea to reach boats and barges anchored offshore. In the confusion, routed ARVN soldiers fired on civilians to make way for their retreat.[23]  On 25 March, after a three-day battle, Huế fell. As resistance in Huế collapsed, North Vietnamese rockets rained down on Da Nang and its airport. By 28 March 35,000 VPA troops were poised to attack the suburbs. By 30 March 100,000 leaderless ARVN troops surrendered as the NVA marched victoriously through Da Nang. With the fall of the city, the defense of the Central Highlands and Northern provinces came to an end.[23] Final North Vietnamese offensive Captured USAF warplanes in North Vietnam Museum For more details on the final North Vietnamese offensive, see Ho Chi Minh Campaign.  With the northern half of the country under their control, the Politburo ordered General Dung to launch the final offensive against Saigon. The operational plan for the Ho Chi Minh Campaign called for the capture of Saigon before 1 May. Hanoi wished to avoid the coming monsoon and prevent any redeployment of ARVN forces defending the capital. Northern forces, their morale boosted by their recent victories, rolled on, taking Nha Trang, Cam Ranh, and Da Lat.  On 7 April, three North Vietnamese divisions attacked Xuân Lộc, 40 miles (64 km) east of Saigon. The North Vietnamese met fierce resistance at Xuân Lộc from the ARVN 18th Division, who were outnumbered six to one. For two bloody weeks, severe fighting raged as the ARVN defenders made a last stand to try to block the North Vietnamese advance. By 21 April, however, the exhausted garrison were ordered to withdraw towards Saigon.  An embittered and tearful president Thieu resigned on the same day, declaring that the United States had betrayed South Vietnam. In a scathing attack, he suggested U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had tricked him into signing the Paris peace agreement two years ago, promising military aid that failed to materialize. Having transferred power to Trần Văn Hương, he left for Taiwan on 25 April. At the same time, North Vietnamese tanks had reached Biên Hòa and turned toward Saigon, brushing aside isolated ARVN units along the way.  By the end of April, the ARVN had collapsed on all fronts except in the Mekong Delta. Thousands of refugees streamed southward, ahead of the main communist onslaught. On 27 April 100,000 North Vietnamese troops encircled Saigon. The city was defended by about 30,000 ARVN troops. To hasten a collapse and foment panic, the NVA shelled the airport and forced its closure. With the air exit closed, large numbers of civilians found that they had no way out. Fall of Saigon Victorious NVA troops at the Presidential Palace, Saigon. Main articles: Fall of Saigon and Operation Frequent Wind  Chaos, unrest, and panic broke out as hysterical South Vietnamese officials and civilians scrambled to leave Saigon. Martial law was declared. American helicopters began evacuating South Vietnamese, U.S., and foreign nationals from various parts of the city and from the U.S. embassy compound. Operation Frequent Wind had been delayed until the last possible moment, because of U.S. Ambassador Graham Martin's belief that Saigon could be held and that a political settlement could be reached.  Schlesinger announced early in the morning of 29 April 1975 the evacuation from Saigon by helicopter of the last U.S. diplomatic, military, and civilian personnel. Frequent Wind was arguably the largest helicopter evacuation in history. It began on 29 April, in an atmosphere of desperation, as hysterical crowds of Vietnamese vied for limited space. Martin pleaded with Washington to dispatch $700 million in emergency aid to bolster the regime and help it mobilize fresh military reserves. But American public opinion had soured on this conflict.  In the United States, South Vietnam was perceived as doomed. President Gerald Ford had given a televised speech on 23 April, declaring an end to the Vietnam War and all U.S. aid. Frequent Wind continued around the clock, as North Vietnamese tanks breached defenses on the outskirts of Saigon. In the early morning hours of 30 April, the last U.S. Marines evacuated the embassy by helicopter, as civilians swamped the perimeter and poured into the grounds. Many of them had been employed by the Americans and were left to their fate.  On 30 April 1975, NVA troops entered the city of Saigon and quickly overcame all resistance, capturing key buildings and installations. A tank from the 324th Division crashed through the gates of the Independence Palace at 11:30 am local time and the Viet Cong flag was raised above it. President Dương Văn Minh, who had succeeded Huong two days earlier, surrendered.[269] Other countries' involvement Pro-Hanoi      2,000 years of Chinese-Vietnamese enmity and hundreds of years of Chinese and Russian mutual suspicions were suspended when they united against us in Vietnam.     — Richard Holbrooke, 1985[270]  People's Republic of China  In 1950, the People's Republic of China extended diplomatic recognition to the Viet Minh's Democratic Republic of Vietnam and sent weapons, as well as military advisers led by Luo Guibo to assist the Viet Minh in its war with the French. The first draft of the 1954 Geneva Accords was negotiated by French prime minister Pierre Mendès France and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai who, fearing U.S. intervention, urged the Viet Minh to accept a partition at the 17th parallel.[271]  China's support for North Vietnam included both financial aid and the deployment of hundreds of thousands of military personnel in support roles. In the summer of 1962, Mao Zedong agreed to supply Hanoi with 90,000 rifles and guns free of charge. Starting in 1965, China sent anti-aircraft units and engineering battalions to North Vietnam to repair the damage caused by American bombing, man anti-aircraft batteries, rebuild roads and railroads, transport supplies, and perform other engineering works. This freed North Vietnamese army units for combat in the South. China sent 320,000 troops and annual arms shipments worth $180 million.[272] The Chinese military claims to have caused 38% of American air losses in the war.[17] China claimed that its military and economic aid to North Vietnam and the Viet Cong totaled $20 billion (approx. $143 billion adjusted for inflation in 2015) during the Vietnam War.[17] Included in that aid were donations of 5 million tons of food to North Vietnam (equivalent to NV food production in a single year), accounting for 10-15% of the North Vietnamese food supply by the 1970s.[17] Military aid given to North Vietnam by the People's Republic of China[273]Sino-Soviet relations soured after the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia in August 1968. In October, the Chinese demanded North Vietnam cut relations with Moscow, but Hanoi refused.[274] The Chinese began to withdraw in November 1968 in preparation for a clash with the Soviets, which occurred at Zhenbao Island in March 1969. The Chinese also began financing the Khmer Rouge as a counterweight to the Vietnamese communists at this time.  China "armed and trained" the Khmer Rouge during the civil war and continued to aid them for years afterward.[275] The Khmer Rouge launched ferocious raids into Vietnam in 1975–1978. When Vietnam responded with an invasion that toppled the Khmer Rouge, China launched a brief, punitive invasion of Vietnam in 1979. Soviet Union Leonid Brezhnev was the leader of the Soviet Union during the second half of the Vietnam War  Soviet ships in the South China Sea gave vital early warnings to Viet Cong forces in South Vietnam. The Soviet intelligence ships would pick up American B-52 bombers flying from Okinawa and Guam. Their airspeed and direction would be noted and then relayed to COSVN, North Vietnam's southern headquarters. Using airspeed and direction, COSVN analysts would calculate the bombing target and tell any assets to move "perpendicularly to the attack trajectory." These advance warning gave them time to move out of the way of the bombers, and, while the bombing runs caused extensive damage, because of the early warnings from 1968 to 1970 they did not kill a single military or civilian leader in the headquarters complexes.[276]  The Soviet Union supplied North Vietnam with medical supplies, arms, tanks, planes, helicopters, artillery, anti-aircraft missiles and other military equipment. Soviet crews fired Soviet-made surface-to-air missiles at U.S. F-4 Phantoms, which were shot down over Thanh Hóa in 1965. Over a dozen Soviet citizens lost their lives in this conflict. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russian officials acknowledged that the Soviet Union had stationed up to 3,000 troops in Vietnam during the war.[277]  Some Russian sources give more specific numbers: Between 1953 and 1991, the hardware donated by the Soviet Union included 2,000 tanks, 1,700 APCs, 7,000 artillery guns, over 5,000 anti-aircraft guns, 158 surface-to-air missile launchers, 120 helicopters. During the war, the Soviets sent North Vietnam annual arms shipments worth $450 million.[278][279] From July 1965 to the end of 1974, fighting in Vietnam was observed by some 6,500 officers and generals, as well as more than 4,500 soldiers and sergeants of the Soviet Armed Forces. In addition, Soviet military schools and academies began training Vietnamese soldiers – in all more than 10,000 military personnel.[280] North Korea  As a result of a decision of the Korean Workers' Party in October 1966, in early 1967 North Korea sent a fighter squadron to North Vietnam to back up the North Vietnamese 921st and 923rd fighter squadrons defending Hanoi. They stayed through 1968, and 200 pilots were reported to have served.[281]  In addition, at least two anti-aircraft artillery regiments were sent as well. North Korea also sent weapons, ammunition and two million sets of uniforms to their comrades in North Vietnam.[282] Kim Il-sung is reported to have told his pilots to "fight in the war as if the Vietnamese sky were their own".[283] Cuba  The contribution to North Vietnam by the Republic of Cuba, under Fidel Castro have been recognized several times by representatives of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.[284] Fidel Castro has mentioned in his discourses the Batallón Girón (Giron Battalion) as comprising the Cuban contingent that served as military advisors during the war.[285] In this battalion, alongside the Cubans, fought Nguyễn Thị Định, founding member of the Viet Cong, who later became the first female Major General in the North Vietnamese Army.[286] There are numerous allegations by former U.S. prisoners of war that Cuban military personnel were present at North Vietnamese prison facilities during the war and that they participated in torture activities, in what is known as the "Cuba Program".[287][288][289][290][291] Witnesses to this include Senator John McCain, 2008 U.S. Presidential candidate and former Vietnam prisoner of war, according to his 1999 book Faith of My Fathers.[292] Benjamin Gilman, a Vietnam War POW/MIA issue advocate, claim evidence that Cuba's military and non-military involvement may have run into the "thousands" of personnel.[293] Fidel Castro visited in person Quảng Trị province, held by North Vietnam after the Easter Offensive to show his support for the Viet Cong.[294] Pro-Saigon South Korea Main article: Military history of South Korea during the Vietnam War Soldiers of the South Korean White Horse Division in Vietnam Vietnamese civilians of Phong Nhi village massacred by South Korean Blue Dragon Brigade in 1968  On the anti-communist side, South Korea (a.k.a. the Republic of Korea, ROK) had the second-largest contingent of foreign troops in South Vietnam after the United States. In November 1961, Park Chung-hee proposed South Korean participation in the war to John F. Kennedy, but Kennedy disagreed.[295] On 1 May 1964 Lyndon Johnson requested South Korean participation.[295] The first South Korean troops began arriving in 1964 and large combat formations began arriving a year later. The Republic of Korea Marine Corps dispatched their 2nd Marine Brigade while the ROK Army sent the Capital Division and later the 9th Infantry Division. In August 1966 after the arrival of the 9th Division the Koreans established a corps command, the Republic of Korea Forces Vietnam Field Command, near I Field Force, Vietnam at Nha Trang.[296] The South Koreans soon developed a reputation for effectiveness, reportedly conducting counterinsurgency operations so well that American commanders felt that the South Korean area of responsibility was the safest.[297]  Approximately 320,000 South Korean soldiers were sent to Vietnam,[298] each serving a one-year tour of duty. Maximum troop levels peaked at 50,000 in 1968, however all were withdrawn by 1973.[299] About 5,099 South Koreans were killed and 10,962 wounded during the war. South Korea claimed to have killed 41,000 Viet Cong fighters.[298] The United States paid South Korean soldiers 236 million dollars for their efforts in Vietnam,[298] and South Korean GNP increased five-fold during the war.[298] Australia and New Zealand An Australian soldier in Vietnam Main articles: Military history of Australia during the Vietnam War and New Zealand in the Vietnam War  Australia and New Zealand, close allies of the United States and members of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and the ANZUS military co-operation treaty, sent ground troops to Vietnam. Both nations had gained experience in counterinsurgency and jungle warfare during the Malayan Emergency and World War II. Their governments subscribed to the Domino theory. Australia began by sending advisors to Vietnam in 1962, and combat troops were committed in 1965.[300] New Zealand began by sending a detachment of engineers and an artillery battery, and then started sending special forces and regular infantry which were attached to Australian formations.[301] Australia's peak commitment was 7,672 combat troops and New Zealand's 552. More than 60,000 Australian personnel were involved during the course of the war, of which 521 were killed and more than 3,000 wounded.[302] Approximately 3,500 New Zealanders served in Vietnam, losing 37 killed and 187 wounded.[303] Most Australians and New Zealanders served in the 1st Australian Task Force in Phước Tuy Province.[300] Philippines  Some 10,450 Filipino troops were dispatched to South Vietnam. They were primarily engaged in medical and other civilian pacification projects. These forces operated under the designation PHLCAG-V or Philippine Civic Action Group-Vietnam. More noteworthy was the fact that the naval base in Subic Bay was used for the U.S. Seventh Fleet from 1964 till the end of the war in 1975.[304][305] The Navy base in Subic bay and the Air force base at Clark achieved maximum functionality during the war and supported an estimated 80,000 locals in allied tertiary businesses from shoe making to prostitution.[306] Thailand The Thai Queen's Cobra battalion in Phuoc Tho  Thai Army formations, including the "Queen's Cobra" battalion, saw action in South Vietnam between 1965 and 1971. Thai forces saw much more action in the covert war in Laos between 1964 and 1972, though Thai regular formations there were heavily outnumbered by the irregular "volunteers" of the CIA-sponsored Police Aerial Reconnaissance Units or PARU, who carried out reconnaissance activities on the western side of the Ho Chi Minh trail.[23] Republic of China (Taiwan) Main article: Republic of China in the Vietnam War  Since November 1967, the Taiwanese government secretly operated a cargo transport detachment to assist the United States and South Vietnam. Taiwan also provided military training units for the South Vietnamese diving units, later known as the Lien Doi Nguoi Nhai (LDMN) or "Frogman unit" in English.[307] In addition to the diving trainers there were several hundred military personnel.[307] Military commandos from Taiwan were captured by communist forces three times trying to infiltrate North Vietnam.[307] Canada and the ICC Main article: Canada and the Vietnam War  Canada, India and Poland constituted the International Control Commission, which was supposed to monitor the 1954 ceasefire agreement.[308] Officially, Canada did not have partisan involvement in the Vietnam War and diplomatically it was "non-belligerent". Victor Levant suggested otherwise in his book Quiet Complicity: Canadian Involvement in the Vietnam War (1986).[309][310] The Vietnam War entry in The Canadian Encyclopedia asserts plainly that Canada's record on the truce commissions was a pro-Saigon partisan one.[311] United Front for the Liberation of Oppressed Races (FULRO) Main article: United Front for the Liberation of Oppressed Races  The ethnic minority peoples of south Vietnam like the Christian Montagnards (Degar), Hindu and Muslim Cham and the Buddhist Khmer Krom banded together in the United Front for the Liberation of Oppressed Races (French: Front Uni de Lutte des Races Opprimées, acronym: FULRO) to fight against the Vietnamese for autonomy or independence. FULRO fought against both the anti-Communist South Vietnamese and the Communist Viet Cong, and then FURLO proceeded to fight against the united Communist Socialist Republic of Vietnam after the fall of South Vietnam. FULRO was supported by China, the United States, Cambodia, and some French citizens.[23]  During the war, the South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem began a program to settle ethnic Vietnamese Kinh on Montagnard lands in the Central Highlands region. This provoked a backlash from the Montagnards. The Cambodians under both the pro-China King Sihanouk and the pro-American Lon Nol supported their fellow co-ethnic Khmer Krom in south Vietnam, following an anti- ethnic Vietnamese policy.  FULRO was formed from the amalgation of the Cham organization "Champa Liberation Front" (Front de Liberation du Champa FLC) led by the Cham Muslim officer Les Kosem who served in the Royal Cambodian Army, the Khmer Krom organization "Liberation Front of Kampuchea Krom" (Front de Liberation du Kampuchea Krom FLKK) led by Chau Dara, a former monk, and the Montagnard organizations "Central Highlands Liberation Front" (Front de Liberation des Hauts Plateaux FLHP) led by Y Bham Enuol and BAJARAKA.  The leaders of FULRO were executed by the Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot when he took power in Cambodia but FULRO insurgents proceeded to fight against the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia and it was not until 1992 that they finally surrendered to the United Nations in Cambodia.[23] War crimes Victims of the My Lai massacre Main articles: List of war crimes § 1954–1975: Vietnam War and Vietnam War casualties See also: List of massacres in Vietnam  A large number of war crimes took place during the Vietnam War. War crimes were committed by both sides during the conflict and included rape, massacres of civilians, bombings of civilian targets, terrorism, the widespread use of torture and the murder of prisoners of war. Additional common crimes included theft, arson, and the destruction of property not warranted by military necessity.[312] Allied war crimes Main articles: Tiger Force and Vietnam War Crimes Working Group War crimes committed by US forces  In 1968, the Vietnam War Crimes Working Group (VWCWG) was established by the Pentagon task force set up in the wake of the My Lai Massacre, to attempt to ascertain the veracity of emerging claims of war crimes by U.S. armed forces in Vietnam, during the Vietnam War period.  "Vietnam was an atrocity from the get-go… There were hundreds of My Lais. You got your card punched by the numbers of bodies you counted." David H. Hackworth[313]  The investigation compiled over 9,000 pages of investigative files, sworn statements by witnesses and status reports for top military officers, indicating that 320 incidents had factual basis.[314] The substantiated cases included 7 massacres between 1967 and 1971 in which at least 137 civilians were killed; seventy eight further attacks targeting non-combatants resulting in at least 57 deaths, 56 wounded and 15 sexually assaulted; one hundred and forty-one cases of US soldiers torturing civilian detainees or prisoners of war with fists, sticks, bats, water or electric shock.[314] Over 800 alleged atrocities were investigated but only 23 soldiers were ever convicted on charges and most served sentences of less than a year.[315][unreliable source?] A Los Angeles Times report on the archived files concluded that the war crimes were not confined to a few rogue units, having been uncovered in every army division that was active in Vietnam.[314]  In 2003 a series of investigative reports by the Toledo Blade uncovered a large number of unreported American war crimes particularly from the Tiger Force unit.[316] Some of the most violent war criminals included men such as Sam Ybarra[317] and Sergeant Roy E. "the Bummer" Bumgarner, a soldier who served with the 1st Cavalry Division and later the 173d Airborne Brigade.[318] A Viet Cong prisoner captured in 1967 by the U.S. Army awaits interrogation. He has been placed in a stress position by tying a board between his arms.  In 1971 the later U.S. presidential candidate, John Kerry, testified before the U.S. Senate and stated that over 150 U.S. veterans testified during the Winter Soldier Investigation and described war crimes committed in Southeast Asia.[23]      They told the stories of times that they had personally raped, cut off the ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.     — John Kerry testifying before the U.S. Senate in 1971[319]  According to political scientist R.J. Rummel, U.S. troops murdered about 6,000 Vietnamese civilians during the war.[320] Nick Turse, in his 2013 book, Kill Anything that Moves, argues for a much higher total. He says that a relentless drive toward higher body counts, a widespread use of free-fire zones, rules of engagement where civilians who ran from soldiers or helicopters could be viewed as Viet Cong, and a widespread disdain for Vietnamese civilians led to massive civilian casualties and endemic war crimes inflicted by U.S. troops.[321] One example cited by Turse is Operation Speedy Express, an operation by the 9th Infantry Division, which was described by John Paul Vann as, in effect, "many My Lais".[321] A report by Newsweek magazine suggested that 5,000 innocent civilians may have been killed by U.S. soldiers in this single operation.[322] In more detail:      Air force captain, Brian Wilson, who carried out bomb-damage assessments in free-fire zones throughout the delta, saw the results firsthand. "It was the epitome of immorality…One of the times I counted bodies after an air strike—which always ended with two napalm bombs which would just fry everything that was left—I counted sixty-two bodies. In my report I described them as so many women between fifteen and twenty-five and so many children—usually in their mothers' arms or very close to them—and so many old people." When he later read the official tally of dead, he found that it listed them as 130 VC killed.[323]  War Crimes committed by South Vietnamese forces  In terms of atrocities by the South Vietnamese, during the Diem era (1954-1963) R.J. Rummell estimated that 16,000 to 167,000 South Vietnamese civilians were killed; for 1964 to 1975, Rummel estimated a total of 42,000 to 128,000 killed. Thus, the total for 1954 to 1975 is from 57,000 to 284,000 deaths caused by South Vietnam, excluding NLF/North Vietnamese forces killed by the South Vietnamese armed forces.[324] War crimes committed by South Korean forces  South Korean forces were also culpable of war crimes as well. One of the massacres was the Tây Vinh Massacre where ROK Capital Division of the South Korean Army killed 1,200 unarmed citizens between 12 February 1966 and 17 March 1966 in Bình An village, today Tây Vinh village, Tây Sơn District of Bình Định Province in South Vietnam.[325] Another example was the Gò Dài massacre where ROK Capital Division of the South Korean Army killed 380 civilians on 26 February 1966 in Gò Dài hamlet, in Bình An commune, Tây Sơn District (today Tây Vinh District) of Bình Định Province in South Vietnam.[325] North Vietnamese, Viet Cong, and Khmer Rouge war crimes Main article: Viet Cong and PAVN strategy, organization and structure § VC/NVA use of terror Victims of the Huế Massacre  According to Guenter Lewy, Viet Cong insurgents assassinated at least 37,000 civilians in South Vietnam and routinely employed terror.[326] Ami Pedahzur has written that "the overall volume and lethality of Viet Cong terrorism rivals or exceeds all but a handful of terrorist campaigns waged over the last third of the twentieth century".[327] Notable Viet Cong atrocities include the massacre of over 3,000 unarmed civilians at Huế during the Tet Offensive and the incineration of hundreds of civilians at the Đắk Sơn massacre with flamethrowers.[328] Up to 155,000 refugees fleeing the final North Vietnamese Spring Offensive were killed or abducted on the road to Tuy Hòa in 1975.[329] According to Rummel, North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops murdered between 106,000 and 227,000 civilians in South Vietnam.[320] North Vietnam was also known for its inhumane and abusive treatment of American POWs, most notably in Hỏa Lò Prison (aka the Hanoi Hilton), where severe torture was employed to extract "confessions".[330]  Viet Cong insurgents reportedly sliced off the genitals of village chiefs and sewed them inside their bloody mouths, cut off the tongues of helpless victims, rammed bamboo lances through one ear and out the other, slashed open the wombs of pregnant women, machine gunned children, hacked men and women to pieces with machetes, and cut off the fingers of small children who dared to get an education.[189][331] According to a U.S. Senate report, squads were assigned monthly assassination quotas.[332] Peer De Silva, former head of the Saigon department of the CIA, wrote that from as early as 1963, Viet Cong units were using disembowelment and other methods of mutilation for psychological warfare.[333]  In the Cambodian Civil War, Khmer Rouge insurgents reportedly committed atrocities during the war. These include the murder of civilians and POWs by slowly sawing off their heads a little more each day,[334] the destruction of Buddhist wats and the killing of monks,[335] attacks on refugee camps involving the deliberate murder of babies and bomb threats against foreign aid workers,[336] the abduction and assassination of journalists,[337] and the shelling of Phnom Penh for more than a year.[338] Journalist accounts stated that the Khmer Rouge shelling "tortured the capital almost continuously", inflicting "random death and mutilation" on 2 million trapped civilians.[339]  The Khmer Rouge forcibly evacuated the entire city after taking it, in what has been described as a death march: François Ponchaud wrote: "I shall never forget one cripple who had neither hands nor feet, writhing along the ground like a severed worm, or a weeping father carrying his ten-year old daughter wrapped in a sheet tied around his neck like a sling, or the man with his foot dangling at the end of a leg to which it was attached by nothing but skin";[340] John Swain recalled that the Khmer Rouge were "tipping out patients from the hospitals like garbage into the streets….In five years of war, this is the greatest caravan of human misery I have seen."[341] Women in the Vietnam War American nurses Da Nang, South Vietnam, 1968  During the Vietnam War, American women served on active duty doing a variety of jobs. Early in 1963, the Army Nurse Corps (ANC) launched Operation Nightingale, an intensive effort to recruit nurses to serve in Vietnam. Most nurses who volunteered to serve in Vietnam came from predominantly working or middle-class families with histories of military service. The majority of these women were white Catholics and Protestants.[342] Because the need for medical aid was great, many nurses underwent a concentrated four-month training program before being deployed to Vietnam in the ANC.[343] Due to the shortage of staff, nurses usually worked twelve-hour shifts, six days per week and often suffered from exhaustion. First Lieutenant Sharon Lane was the only female military nurse to be killed by enemy gunfire during the war, on 8 June 1969.[344] A nurse treats a Vietnamese child, 1967  At the start of the Vietnam War, it was commonly thought that American women had no place in the military. Their traditional place had been in the domestic sphere, but with the war came opportunity for the expansion of gender roles. In Vietnam, women held a variety of jobs which included operating complex data processing equipment and serving as stenographers.[345] Although a small number of women were assigned to combat zones, they were never allowed directly in the field of battle. The women who served in the military were solely volunteers. They faced a plethora of challenges, one of which was the relatively small number of female soldiers. Living in a male-dominated environment created tensions between the sexes. While this high male to female ratio was often uncomfortable for women, many men reported that having women in the field with them boosted their morale.[346] Although this was not the women's purpose, it was one positive result of the their service. By 1973, approximately 7,500 women had served in Vietnam in the Southeast Asian theater.[347] In that same year, the military lifted the prohibition on women entering the armed forces.  American women serving in Vietnam were subject to societal stereotypes. Many Americans either considered females serving in Vietnam masculine for living under the army discipline, or judged them to be women of questionable moral character who enlisted for the sole purpose of seducing men.[348] To address this problem, the ANC released advertisements portraying women in the ANC as "proper, professional and well protected." (26) This effort to highlight the positive aspects of a nursing career reflected the ideas of second-wave feminism that occurred during the 1960s–1970s in the United States. Although female military nurses lived in a heavily male environment, very few cases of sexual harassment were ever reported.[349] Vietnamese women Master-Sergeant and pharmacist Do Thi Trinh, part of the WAFC, supplying medication to ARVN dependents  Unlike the American women who went to Vietnam, North Vietnamese women were enlisted and fought in the combat zone as well as providing manual labor to keep the Ho Chi Minh trail open and cook for the soldiers. They also worked in the rice fields in North Vietnam and Viet Cong-held farming areas in South Vietnam's Mekong Delta region to provide food for their families and the war effort. Women were enlisted in both the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and the Viet Cong guerrilla insurgent force in South Vietnam. Some women also served for the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong intelligence services.  In South Vietnam, many women voluntarily served in the ARVN's Women's Armed Force Corps (WAFC) and various other Women's corps in the military. Some, like in the WAFC, fought in combat with other soldiers. Others served as nurses and doctors in the battlefield and in military hospitals, or served in South Vietnam or America's intelligence agencies. During Diệm's presidency, Madame Nhu was the commander of the WAFC.[350]  The war saw more than one million rural people migrate or flee the fighting in the South Vietnamese countryside to the cities, especially Saigon. Among the internal refugees were many young women who became the ubiquitous "bargirls" of wartime South Vietnam "hawking her wares – be that cigarettes, liquor, or herself" to American and allied soldiers.[351] American bases were ringed by bars and brothels.[352]  8,040 Vietnamese women came to the United States as war brides between 1964 and 1975.[353] Many mixed-blood Amerasian children were left behind when their American fathers returned to the United States after their tour of duty in South Vietnam. 26,000 of them were permitted to immigrate to the United States in the 1980s and 1990s.[354] Black servicemen in Vietnam A wounded African American soldier being carried away, 1968  The experience of African American military personnel during the Vietnam War has received significant attention. For example, the website "African-American Involvement in the Vietnam War" compiles examples of such coverage,[355] as does the print and broadcast work of journalist Wallace Terry.  The epigraph of Terry's book Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans (1984), includes the following quote: "I have an intuitive feeling that the Negro serviceman have a better understanding than whites of what the war is about." – General William C. Westmoreland, U.S. Army, Saigon, 1967. That book's introduction includes observations about the impact of the war on the black community in general and on black servicemen specifically. Points he makes on the latter topic include: the higher proportion of combat casualties in Vietnam among African American servicemen than among American soldiers of other races, the shift toward and different attitudes of black military careerists versus black draftees, the discrimination encountered by black servicemen "on the battlefield in decorations, promotion and duty assignments" as well as their having to endure "the racial insults, cross-burnings and Confederate flags of their white comrades" – and the experiences faced by black soldiers stateside, during the war and after America's withdrawal.[356] Upon the war's completion, black casualties made up 12.5% of US combat deaths, approximately equal to percentage of draft-eligible black men, though still slightly higher than the 10% who served in the military.[357] Weapons Main article: Weapons of the Vietnam War Marines complete construction of M101 howitzer positions at a mountain-top fire support base, 1968  The communist forces were principally armed with Chinese[358] and Soviet weaponry[359] though some guerrilla units were equipped with Western infantry weapons either captured from French stocks during the First Indochina war or from ARVN units or bought on the black market.[360] The ubiquitous Soviet AK-47 assault rifle was often regarded as the best rifle of the war, due to its ability to continue to function even in adverse, muddy conditions. Other weapons used by the Viet Cong included the World War II-era PPSh-41 submachine gun (both Soviet and Chinese versions), the SKS carbine, the DShK heavy machine gun and the RPG-2/B-40 grenade launcher.  While the Viet Cong had both amphibious tanks (such as the PT-76) and light tanks (such as the Type 62), they also used bicycles to transport munitions. The US' heavily armored, 90 mm M48A3 Patton tank saw extensive action during the Vietnam War and over 600 were deployed with US Forces. They played an important role in infantry support.  The US service rifle was initially the M14 (though some units were still using the WWII-era M1 Garand for a lack of M14s). Found to be unsuitable for jungle warfare, the M14 was replaced by M16 which was more accurate and lighter than the AK-47. For a period, the gun suffered from a jamming flaw known as "failure to extract", which means that a spent cartridge case remained lodged in the action after a round is fired.[361] According to a congressional report, the jamming was caused primarily by a change in gunpowder which was done without adequate testing and reflected a decision for which the safety of soldiers was a secondary consideration.[362] That issue was solved in early 1968 with the issuance of the M16A1 that featured a chrome plated chamber among several other features.[363] End-user satisfaction with the M16 was high except during this episode, but the M16 still has a reputation as a gun that jams easily.  The M60 machine gun GPMG (General Purpose Machine Gun) was the main machine gun of the US army at the time and many of them were put on helicopters, to provide suppressive fire when landing in hostile regions. The MAC-10 machine pistol was supplied to many special forces troops in the midpoint of the war. It also armed many CIA agents in the field.  Two aircraft which were prominent in the war were the AC-130 "Spectre" Gunship and the UH-1 "Huey" gunship. The AC-130 was a heavily armed ground-attack aircraft variant of the C-130 Hercules transport plane; it was used to provide close air support, air interdiction and force protection. The AC-130H "Spectre" was armed with two 20 mm M61 Vulcan cannons, one Bofors 40mm autocannon, and one 105 mm M102 howitzer. The Huey is a military helicopter powered by a single, turboshaft engine, with a two-bladed main rotor and tail rotor. Approximately 7,000 UH-1 aircraft saw service in Vietnam.  The Claymore M18A1, an anti-personnel mine, was widely used during the war. Unlike a conventional land mine, the Claymore is command-detonated and directional, meaning it is fired by remote-control and shoots a pattern of 700 one-eighth-inch steel balls into the kill zone like a shotgun.  The aircraft ordnance used during the war included precision-guided munition, cluster bombs, and napalm, a thickening/gelling agent generally mixed with petroleum or a similar fuel for use in an incendiary device, initially against buildings and later primarily as an anti-personnel weapon that sticks to skin and can burn down to the bone.[23] Radio communications  The Vietnam War was the first conflict where U.S. forces had secure voice communication equipment available at the tactical level. The National Security Agency ran a crash program to provide U.S. forces with a family of security equipment code named NESTOR, fielding 17,000 units initially. Eventually 30,000 units were produced. However limitations of the units, including poor voice quality, reduced range, annoying time delays and logistical support issues led to only one unit in ten being used.[364]:Vol II, p.43 While many in the U.S. military believed that the Viet Cong and NVA would not be able to exploit insecure communications, interrogation of captured communication intelligence units showed they were able to understand the jargon and codes used in realtime and were often able to warn their side of impending U.S. actions.[364]:Vol II, pp. 4, 10 Aftermath Events in Southeast Asia Further information: Mayaguez incident and Indochina refugee crisis Vietnamese refugees fleeing Vietnam, 1984  On 2 July 1976, North and South Vietnam were merged to form the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.[365] Over the decade following the end of the war, 1–2.5 million South Vietnamese were sent to reeducation camps, with an estimated 165,000 prisoners dying.[366][367][368] Jacqueline Desbarats, David T. Johnson, and Franklin E. Zimring estimate that between 65,000[366] and 250,000[369] South Vietnamese were executed, although data on post-war executions is sparse and the methodology employed by Desbarats and Karl D. Jackson in their survey of Vietnamese refugees was strongly criticized by Gareth Porter and James Roberts.[370] R. J. Rummel, an analyst of political killings, estimated that about 50,000 South Vietnamese deported to "New Economic Zones" died performing hard labor,[320] out of the 1 million that were sent.[366] 200,000 to 400,000 Vietnamese boat people died at sea, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.[371]  Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, fell to the communist Khmer Rouge on 17 April 1975. Under the leadership of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge would eventually kill 1–3 million Cambodians in the Killing Fields, out of a population of around 8 million.[37][38][372][373] At least 1,386,734 victims of execution have been counted in mass graves, while demographic analysis suggests that the policies of the regime caused between 1.7 and 2.5 million excess deaths altogether (including disease and starvation).[373] After repeated border clashes in 1978, Vietnam invaded Democratic Kampuchea (Cambodia) and ousted the Khmer Rouge, supported by China, in the Cambodian–Vietnamese War. In response, China invaded Vietnam in 1979. The two countries fought a brief border war, known as the Sino-Vietnamese War. From 1978 to 1979, some 450,000 ethnic Chinese left Vietnam by boat as refugees or were expelled. The devastating impact of Khmer Rouge rule contributed to a 1979 famine in Cambodia, during which an additional 300,000 Cambodians perished.[36]  Pathet Lao overthrew the royalist government of Laos in December 1975, establishing the Lao People's Democratic Republic.[374] The conflict between Hmong rebels and the Pathet Lao continued in isolated pockets. The government of Laos has been accused of committing genocide against the Hmong in collaboration with the People's Army of Vietnam,[375][376] with up to 100,000 killed out of a population of 400,000.[377][378] From 1975 to 1996, the United States resettled some 250,000 Lao refugees from Thailand, including 130,000 Hmong.[379]  Over 3 million people left Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in the Indochina refugee crisis. Most Asian countries were unwilling to accept these refugees, many of whom fled by boat and were known as boat people.[380] Between 1975 and 1998, an estimated 1.2 million refugees from Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries resettled in the United States, while Canada, Australia, and France resettled over 500,000. China accepted 250,000 people.[381] In 1988, Vietnam suffered a famine that afflicted millions.[382] Vietnam played a role in Asia similar to Cuba's in Latin America: it supported local revolutionary groups and was a headquarters for Soviet-style communism.[383]  Unexploded ordnance, mostly from U.S. bombing, continue to detonate and kill people today. The Vietnamese government claims that ordnance has killed some 42,000 people since the war officially ended.[384][385] In 2012 alone, unexploded bombs and other ordnance claimed 500 casualties in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, according to activists and government databases.[386]  Agent Orange and similar chemical substances used by the U.S. have also caused a considerable number of deaths and injuries over the years, including the US Air Force crew that handled them. On 9 August 2012, the United States and Vietnam began a cooperative cleaning up of the toxic chemical on part of Danang International Airport, marking the first time Washington has been involved in cleaning up Agent Orange in Vietnam.[387] Effect on the United States United States expenditures in South Vietnam (SVN) (1953-1974) Direct costs only. Some estimates are higher.[388] U.S. military costs     U.S. military aid to SVN     U.S. economic aid to SVN     Total     Total (2015 dollars) $111 billion     $16.138 billion     $7.315 billion     $134.53 billion     $1.020 trillion Vietnam War protests at the Pentagon, October 1967  In the post-war era, Americans struggled to absorb the lessons of the military intervention.[389] As General Maxwell Taylor, one of the principal architects of the war, noted, "First, we didn't know ourselves. We thought that we were going into another Korean War, but this was a different country. Secondly, we didn't know our South Vietnamese allies… And we knew less about North Vietnam. Who was Ho Chi Minh? Nobody really knew. So, until we know the enemy and know our allies and know ourselves, we'd better keep out of this kind of dirty business. It's very dangerous."[390][391] President Ronald Reagan coined the term "Vietnam Syndrome" to describe the reluctance of the American public and politicians to support further international interventions after Vietnam.  Some have suggested that "the responsibility for the ultimate failure of this policy [America's withdrawal from Vietnam] lies not with the men who fought, but with those in Congress…"[392] Alternatively, the official history of the United States Army noted that "tactics have often seemed to exist apart from larger issues, strategies, and objectives. Yet in Vietnam the Army experienced tactical success and strategic failure… The…Vietnam War…legacy may be the lesson that unique historical, political, cultural, and social factors always impinge on the military…Success rests not only on military progress but on correctly analyzing the nature of the particular conflict, understanding the enemy's strategy, and assessing the strengths and weaknesses of allies. A new humility and a new sophistication may form the best parts of a complex heritage left to the Army by the long, bitter war in Vietnam."[168] A young Marine private waits on the beach during the Marine landing, Da Nang, 3 August 1965  U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger wrote in a secret memo to president Gerald Ford that "in terms of military tactics, we cannot help draw the conclusion that our armed forces are not suited to this kind of war. Even the Special Forces who had been designed for it could not prevail."[393] Even Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara concluded that "the achievement of a military victory by U.S. forces in Vietnam was indeed a dangerous illusion."[394]  Doubts surfaced as to the effectiveness of large-scale, sustained bombing. As Army Chief of Staff Harold Keith Johnson noted, "if anything came out of Vietnam, it was that air power couldn't do the job."[395] Even General William Westmoreland admitted that the bombing had been ineffective. As he remarked, "I still doubt that the North Vietnamese would have relented."[395]  The inability to bring Hanoi to the bargaining table by bombing also illustrated another U.S. miscalculation. The North's leadership was composed of hardened communists who had been fighting for thirty years. They had defeated the French, and their tenacity as both nationalists and communists was formidable. Ho Chi Minh is quoted as saying, "You can kill ten of my men for every one I kill of yours…But even at these odds you will lose and I will win."[396] Marine gets his wounds treated during operations in Huế City, 1968  The Vietnam War called into question the U.S. Army doctrine. Marine Corps General Victor H. Krulak heavily criticised Westmoreland's attrition strategy, calling it "wasteful of American lives… with small likelihood of a successful outcome."[395] In addition, doubts surfaced about the ability of the military to train foreign forces.  Between 1965 and 1975, the United States spent $111 billion on the war ($686 billion in FY2008 dollars).[397] This resulted in a large federal budget deficit.  More than 3 million Americans served in the Vietnam War, some 1.5 million of whom actually saw combat in Vietnam.[398] James E. Westheider wrote that "At the height of American involvement in 1968, for example, there were 543,000 American military personnel in Vietnam, but only 80,000 were considered combat troops."[399] Conscription in the United States had been controlled by the president since World War II, but ended in 1973.  By war's end, 58,220 American soldiers had been killed,[A 2] more than 150,000 had been wounded, and at least 21,000 had been permanently disabled.[400] The average age of the U.S. troops killed in Vietnam was 23.11 years.[401] According to Dale Kueter, "Of those killed in combat, 86.3 percent were white, 12.5 percent were black and the remainder from other races."[402] Approximately 830,000 Vietnam veterans suffered some degree of posttraumatic stress disorder.[400] An estimated 125,000 Americans left for Canada to avoid the Vietnam draft,[403] and approximately 50,000 American servicemen deserted.[404] In 1977, United States president Jimmy Carter granted a full and unconditional pardon to all Vietnam-era draft dodgers.[405] The Vietnam War POW/MIA issue, concerning the fate of U.S. service personnel listed as missing in action, persisted for many years after the war's conclusion. The costs of the war loom large in American popular consciousness; a 1990 poll showed that the public incorrectly believed that more Americans lost their lives in Vietnam than in World War II.[406]  As of 2013, the U.S. government is paying Vietnam veterans and their families or survivors more than 22 billion dollars a year in war-related claims.[407][408] Impact on the U.S. military  As the Vietnam War continued inconclusively and became more unpopular with the American public, morale declined and disciplinary problems grew among American enlisted men and junior, non-career officers. Drug use, racial tensions, and the growing incidence of fragging—attempting to kill unpopular officers and non-commissioned officers with grenades or other weapons—created severe problems for the U.S. military and impacted its capability of undertaking combat operations. By 1971, a U.S. Army colonel writing in the Armed Forces Journal declared: "By every conceivable indicator, our army that now remains in Vietnam is in a state approaching collapse, with individual units avoiding or having refused combat, murdering their officers and non commissioned officers, drug-ridden, and dispirited where not near mutinous....The morale, discipline, and battleworthiness of the U.S. Armed Forces are, with a few salient exceptions, lower and worse than at any time in this century and possibly in the history of the United States."[409] Between 1969 and 1971 the US Army recorded more than 700 attacks by troops on their own officers. Eighty-three officers were killed and almost 650 were injured.[410]  Ron Milam has questioned the severity of the "breakdown" of the U.S. armed forces, especially among combat troops, as reflecting the opinions of "angry colonels" who deplored the erosion of traditional military values during the Vietnam War.[411] Although acknowledging serious problems, he questions the alleged "near mutinous" conduct of junior officers and enlisted men in combat. Investigating one combat refusal incident, a journalist declared, "A certain sense of independence, a reluctance to behave according to the military's insistence on obedience, like pawns or puppets...The grunts [infantrymen] were determined to survive...they insisted of having something to say about the making of decisions that determined whether they might live or die."[412]  The morale and discipline problems and resistance to conscription (the draft) were important factors leading to the creation of an all-volunteer military force by the United States and the termination of conscription. The last conscript was inducted into the army in 1973.[413][414] The all-volunteer military moderated some of the coercive methods of discipline previously used to maintain order in military ranks.[415] Effects of U.S. chemical defoliation U.S. helicopter spraying chemical defoliants in the Mekong Delta, South Vietnam  One of the most controversial aspects of the U.S. military effort in Southeast Asia was the widespread use of chemical defoliants between 1961 and 1971. They were used to defoliate large parts of the countryside to prevent the Viet Cong from being able to hide their weapons and encampments under the foliage. These chemicals continue to change the landscape, cause diseases and birth defects, and poison the food chain.[416][417]  Early in the American military effort, it was decided that since the enemy were hiding their activities under triple-canopy jungle, a useful first step might be to defoliate certain areas. This was especially true of growth surrounding bases (both large and small) in what became known as Operation Ranch Hand. Corporations like Dow Chemical Company and Monsanto were given the task of developing herbicides for this purpose. American officials also pointed out that the British had previously used 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D (virtually identical to America's use in Vietnam) on a large scale throughout the Malayan Emergency in the 1950s in order to destroy bushes, crops, and trees in effort to deny communist insurgents the concealment they needed to ambush passing convoys.[418] Indeed, Secretary of State Dean Rusk told President John F. Kennedy on 24 November 1961, that "[t]he use of defoliant does not violate any rule of international law concerning the conduct of chemical warfare and is an accepted tactic of war. Precedent has been established by the British during the emergency in Malaya in their use of aircraft for destroying crops by chemical spraying."[419]  The defoliants, which were distributed in drums marked with color-coded bands, included the "Rainbow Herbicides"—Agent Pink, Agent Green, Agent Purple, Agent Blue, Agent White, and, most famously, Agent Orange, which included dioxin as a by-product of its manufacture. About 12 million gallons (45,000,000 L) of Agent Orange were sprayed over Southeast Asia during the American involvement.[citation needed] A prime area of Ranch Hand operations was in the Mekong Delta, where the U.S. Navy patrol boats were vulnerable to attack from the undergrowth at the water's edge.  In 1961 and 1962, the Kennedy administration authorized the use of chemicals to destroy rice crops. Between 1961 and 1967, the U.S. Air Force sprayed 20 million U.S. gallons (75,700,000 L) of concentrated herbicides over 6 million acres (24,000 km2) of crops and trees, affecting an estimated 13% of South Vietnam's land. In 1965, 42% of all herbicide was sprayed over food crops. Another purpose of herbicide use was to drive civilian populations into RVN-controlled areas.[420]  Vietnamese victims affected by Agent Orange attempted a class action lawsuit against Dow Chemical and other US chemical manufacturers, but District Court Judge Jack B. Weinstein dismissed their case.[421] They appealed, but the dismissal was cemented in February 2008 by the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.[422] As of 2006, the Vietnamese government estimates that there are over 4,000,000 victims of dioxin poisoning in Vietnam, although the United States government denies any conclusive scientific links between Agent Orange and the Vietnamese victims of dioxin poisoning. In some areas of southern Vietnam, dioxin levels remain at over 100 times the accepted international standard.[423]  The U.S. Veterans Administration has listed prostate cancer, respiratory cancers, multiple myeloma, Diabetes mellitus type 2, B-cell lymphomas, soft-tissue sarcoma, chloracne, porphyria cutanea tarda, peripheral neuropathy, and spina bifida in children of veterans exposed to Agent Orange.[424] Casualties See also: Vietnam War casualties Military deaths in Vietnam War (1955–1975) Year     U.S.[425]     South Vietnam 1956–1959     4     n.a. 1960     5     2,223 1961     16     4,004 1962     53     4,457 1963     122     5,665 1964     216     7,457 1965     1,928     11,242 1966     6,350     11,953 1967     11,363     12,716 1968     16,899     27,915 1969     11,780     21,833 1970     6,173     23,346 1971     2,414     22,738 1972     759     39,587 1973     68     27,901 1974     1     31,219 1975     62     n.a. After 1975     7     n.a. Total     58,220     >254,256[426]  Estimates of the number of casualties vary, with one source suggesting up to 3.8 million violent war deaths in Vietnam for the period 1955 to 2002.[427] 195,000–430,000 South Vietnamese civilians died in the war.[19][20] Extrapolating from a 1969 US intelligence report, Guenter Lewy estimated 65,000 North Vietnamese civilians died in the war.[19] The military forces of South Vietnam suffered an estimated 254,256 killed between 1960 and 1974 and additional deaths from 1954–1959 and in 1975.[428] The official US Department of Defense figure was 950,765 communist forces killed in Vietnam from 1965 to 1974. Defense Department officials believed that these body count figures need to be deflated by 30 percent. In addition, Guenter Lewy assumes that one-third of the reported "enemy" killed may have been civilians, concluding that the actual number of deaths of communist military forces was probably closer to 444,000.[19] A detailed demographic study calculated 791,000–1,141,000 war-related deaths for all of Vietnam.[18] Between 240,000[38][429] and 300,000[36] Cambodians died during the war. About 60,000 Laotians also died,[430] and 58,300 U.S. military personnel were killed,[431] of which 1,596 are still listed as missing as of 2015.[432] Popular culture See also: Vietnam War in film, Vietnam War in games and War in popular culture  The Vietnam War has been featured extensively in television, film, video games, and literature in the participant countries. In American popular culture, the "Crazy Vietnam Veteran", who was suffering from Posttraumatic stress disorder, became a common stock character after the war.  One of the first major films based on the Vietnam War was John Wayne's pro-war film, The Green Berets (1968). Further cinematic representations were released during the 1970s and 1980s, including Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter (1978), Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979), Oliver Stone's Platoon (1986) – based on his service in the U.S. Military during the Vietnam War, Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket (1987), Hamburger Hill (1987), and Casualties of War (1989). Later films would include We Were Soldiers (2002) and Rescue Dawn (2007).[23]  The war also influenced a generation of musicians and songwriters in Vietnam and the United States, both anti-war and pro/anti-communist. The band Country Joe and the Fish recorded "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag" / The "Fish" Cheer in 1965, and it became one of the most influential anti-Vietnam protest anthems.[23] Many songwriters and musicians supported the anti-war movement, including Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Peggy Seeger, Ewan MacColl, Barbara Dane, The Critics Group, Phil Ochs, John Lennon, Nina Simone, Neil Young, Tom Paxton, Jimmy Cliff and Arlo Guthrie