Vietnam War

Vietnam War points

Vietnam War events

Following World War I, a young Vietnamese patriot named Nguyen That Thanh (later known as Ho Chi Minh) arrives at the Paris Peace Conference. Responding to American President Woodrow Wilson's promise of "self-determination" for nations, Thanh hopes to free Vietnam from French colonial rule. But Thanh, like many other advocates of colonial independence who descend upon the Paris peace talks, is ignored.

Cause and Effects of the Vietnam War

Early 10th century: Chinese dynasties were changing and the army was weak


à the Vietnamese of the Red River delta defeated their Chinese rulers & set up a native dynasty, based in the northern city of Hanoi. A later emperor, Le Loi, got rid of the last Chinese warlords in 1462.



Gradually, the Vietnamese moved south, settling in the Mekong River delta. In the 19th and 20th centuries, this area became "the rice bowl of Vietnam".


à The delta became heavily populated and the city of Saigon grew up.





Vietnam occupied an important strategic position since it was close to the South China Sea and countries such as India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and southern China.


à In the 16th century, Portugal, the Netherlands and France all invaded Vietnam. In the mid-19th century, France gained control of the country.


French rule was harsh: only the govt. was allowed to produce/sell alcohol & salt; rice was exported from huge French-owned plantations while many Vietnamese did not have enough to eat; workers in mines and rubber plantations could be jailed if they tried to leave their jobs; and taxes of every kind multiplied. Then during WW2, the French shared control of Vietnam with the Japanese.


à In 1941 a young nationalist, Ho Chi Minh, formed the League for Vietnamese Independence ("Viet Minh") to resist French-Japanese rule. The Viet Minh supplied information to the USA and helped downed American pilots escape to China.



In 1945, Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam a free and independent country. However, the British and Chinese helped the French to return and the USA did nothing to stop them.


à Within a year, the Viet Minh were once more fighting for independence from the French.






The USA was worried about the spread of Communist power in Asia and Ho Chi Minh was a member of the French Communist Party


à The USA supported the French, paying over 75 % of their war costs.


In 1954. After a massive Viet Minh victory over the French at Dien Bien Phu, peace talks were held in Geneva and Vietnam was divided at the 17th parallel. Elections were planned for 1956 but the South Vietnamese leader, Ngo Dinh Diem, refused to hold these.


à In 1960, S. Vietnamese communists formed the National Liberation Front ("Viet Cong") and fought a guerilla war against Diem. à To reinforce Diem, the new US president, JFK, sent military "advisers", armed helicopters and weapons.



Diem was extremely unpopular because of his harsh rule.


à By spring of 1963, Buddhist monks were burning themselves to death as a protest against Diem's rule & the Americans lost confidence in him.

à With US encouragement, Diem was killed in an army coup in 1963.






The US government believed in the "Domino theory" - that if Vietnam fell to the Communists, neighboring countries like Laos, Cambodia and Thailand would also fall until all of SE Asia was Communist.


à In August 1964, the US Congress passed a resolution giving the president power to go to war. In February 1965, the U.S. began bombing the north and soon 184,000 American soldiers were fighting in Vietnam.



The Viet Cong guerrillas were lightly armed, very familiar with their territory and hard to distinguish from ordinary Vietnamese villagers.


à US soldiers had great difficulty in defeating them.

à US commanders resorted to harsh tactics such "search and destroy" missions in which entire villages were destroyed just because one sniper shot had been fired from there.






In January 1968, during the local "Tet" festival, guerrillas attacked over 100 major towns and cities in S.Vietnam, catching the American forces by surprise.


à Johnson’s advisers urged him not to send any more troops to Vietnam & on 31 March, he halted most bombing in the north.


Between 1969 and 1971 the number of US troops in Vietnam fell from 543,000 to 157,000.


à The South Vietnamese army became more involved in the war and their casualty rate increased.



The last US combat troops left Vietnam in March 1973, two months after a ceasefire was signed at talks in Paris. As American aid decreased, Chinese & Soviet aid increased and in Jan. 1975 N. Vietnam launched a full-scale attack on the South.


à On 31 April the North captured Saigon and the following year N + S Vietnam were united to form a single nation.