Vietnam War Smore

by Rachna Desai and Geoffrey Parsinen

War Terms

Cold War: the state of hostility, without direct military conflict, that developed between the United States and the Soviet Union after World War II

Containment: the blocking of anther nation's attempts to spread its influence-especially the efforts of the United States to block the spread of Soviet influence during the late 1940s and early 1950s

DMZ: a zone from which military forces or operations or installations are prohibited

Domino Theory: the idea that if a nation falls under communist control, nearby nations will also fall under communist control

Draft: required enrollment in the armed services

General William Westmoreland: United States Army General who commanded U.S. military operations throughout the Vietnam War

Ho Chi Minh: Vietnamese communist revolutionary leader who enacted as both prime minister and president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam

My Lai Massacre: a village in northern South Vietnam where more than 200 unarmed civilians, including women and children, were massacred by U.S. troops in May 1968

National Liberation Front: political organization in South Vietnam and Cambodia that fought both U.S. and Vietnamese governments during the Vietnam War

Ngo Dinh Diem: first president of South Vietnam that the United States supported before his instillation as dictator and evident corruption

Pentagon Papers: a 7,000-page document-leaked to the press in 1971 by the former Defense Department Worker Daniel Elisberg-revealing that the U.S. government had not been honest about its ignitions in the Vietnam War

Tet Offensive: a massive surprise attack by the Vietcong on South Vietnamese towns and cities early in 1968

Viet Cong: the South Vietnamese Communists who, with North Vietnamese support, fought against the government of South Vietnam in the Vietnam War

Vietnamization: President Nixon's strategy for ending United States involvement in the Vietnam Was, involving the gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops and their replacement with South Vietnamese forces

Pathways to War: The Gulf of Tonkin Incident

Short synopsis: Gave President Lyndon Johnson authority to increase U.S. involvement in the war between North and South Vietnam.


Meaning: President Johnson dispatched U.S. planes against the attackers and asked Congress to pass a resolution to support his actions. The joint resolution “to promote the maintenance of international peace and security in southeast Asia” passed on and became the subject of great political controversy in the course of the undeclared war that followed.


Impact on U.S.: President Johnson, and later President Nixon, relied on the resolution as the legal basis for their military policies in Vietnam.

Creating Context

1954: The Battle of Dien Bien Phu – a ceasefire was agreed at Geneva that split Vietnam at the 17th Parallel; France withdrew their military from Vietnam; US promises aid worth $100 million to the anti-communist Diem

1955: The pro-American Ngo Dinh Diem became President of South Vietnam in October. America agreed to train Diem’s army.

1961: US President Kennedy pledged extra aid to South Vietnam

1964: The Gulf of Tonkin incident; Congress passed the ‘Gulf of Tonkin Resolution’; America bombs targets in North Vietnam; NLF attacked US air bases

1965: "Operation Rolling Thunder" started; first US combat troops were sent to Vietnam in March; by the end of the year there were 200,000 US troops there; first major conventional clash between USA and NVA at La Drang

1968: Tet Offensive; demonstrations against the war started in America; My Lai Massacre; peace talks began in Paris; 540,000 US troops in Vietnam; anti-Vietnam War riots in Chicago (August)

1969: Nixon ordered the secret bombing of Cambodia; ‘Vietnamization’ started; Nixon announced the start of US troop withdrawals; Ho Chi Minh died; 480,000 US troops in Vietnam; My Lai Massacre made public in November

1973: Ceasefire signed in Paris; last US troops left Vietnam; US POW’s released

1975: Khmer Rouge took control of Cambodia; NLF captured Saigon

1982: Vietnam Veterans Memorial unveiled in Washington DC

Top 3: Gulf of Tonkin, Operation Rolling Thunder, and Tet Offensive

In Their Own Words: Veterans on Vietnam

Douglas Charles Abbes was a veteran in the war. He was enlisted in the air force and eventually became captain. He served from 1966 to 1974. His unit of service was the 362nd Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron and he fought in many places including Pleiku, Republic of Vietnam, Georgia, and California.


Robert Raymond Will was also a veteran of the war. His highest ranking was staff sergaent. He was enlisted as well and served from 1961 to 1975. His unit of service was C Company, 3rd Battalion, 503rd Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade, and II Corps and his location of service was just in Vietnam.

Protest Music

1. Yesterday- Paul McCartney

2. Revolution- The Beatles

3. Ill Be There- Jackson 5

4. Help- The Beatles

5. How Can You Mend a Broken Heart- The BeeGees

6. All You Need Is Love- The Beatles

7. Sweet Caroline: Neil Diamond

8. Ain't No Mountain High Enough- Diana Ross

9. Top of the World- The Carpenters

10. Wouldn't It Be Nice- The Beach Boys

Heros or Villians at My Lai?

Hugh Thompson Article:

Hugh Thompson is a HERO due to the altruistic acts he exhibited not only throughout the Vietnam War but during the My Lai Massacre in which he landed his helicopter and assisted innocent civilians who were being massacred by United States Troops.

William Calley Article:

William Calley is a VILLIAN due to his violent acts towards the Viatnamese people living in My Lai in which "he did not see people, [but] only targets."

The Story Behind the Picture

Larry Burrows is now historically known for his love for photography; it is that same love that carried Burrows half way across the world to the middle of the Vietnam War. With his hobby and camera in tow in Vietnam, Burrows' picture "Reaching Out" has given several people around the world insight to what life throughout a war is like.