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The Vietnam War
Vietnam on the map...
French War in VietnamJapanese eject French during World War IIFrench try to re-establish Vietnamese colony after warFrench lose at Dien Bien Phu (in jungles near Laotian border) to Communist Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap (1954)1954 Geneva Accords require French demilitarization of Vietnam, partitioning at 17th parallel, and elections under emperor Bao Dai in the South (Diem/Eisenhower prevents them) .
KennedyAdvisors sent to Vietnam (a few already there under Eisenhower) to stop communist Viet Minh forcesVietnamese government under Chinese-aligned communist Ho Chi Minh in the North, dictator Ngo Dinh Diem in the SouthSecretary of State Dean Rusk and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara recommend build-up of U.S. Forces in South Vietnam.
Domino TheoryThe Domino Theory is the idea that if Vietnam falls to communism, so will the rest of former French Indochina (Laos and Cambodia), as well as other Southeast Asian nations (Thailand, Burma, etc.)When Vietnam fell, Laos and Cambodia did fall to communism, but not Thailand or Burma.
DiemRepressive South Vietnamese leader who becomes dictator in SouthHelps to prevent 1955 elections, works with U.S.Represses political opposition, jailing opponents indefinitely without charges, random executions without trial.Suppresses Buddhists (Diem is Catholic), who rebel (and occasionally self-immolate).U.S. Supports military coup against Diem in 1963, Diem and his brother killed.
JohnsonJohnson continues buildup of U.S. Troops with advisorsGulf of Tonkin incident: A fictitious battle between the U.S. destroyer USS Maddox and North Vietnamese forces in Gulf (never happened)Johnson took the issue to Congress, urging a reaction to the attack, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin resolution which authorized virtually unlimited use of force (only two congressmen voted against it).
Tet OffensiveTerm for a combined North Vietnamese/Viet Cong (guerrilla fighters) offensive against South Vietnam in January-February 1968Tet is the Vietnamese new yearVietCong are the guerillas who strike against S. Vietnamese civilian and military targets inside of S. Vietnam.North Vietnamese army invades south from the DMZ, but is stopped at Khe Sahn.VietCong massacres civilians at Hue, just over the S. Vietnam border
Khe SahnMajor 1968 battle near 17th Parallel between invading North Vietnamese forces and U.S. Base.Result: Officially a defensive U.S. Victory, but more than 700 U.S. KIA and more S. Vietnamese casualtiesBattle results after outright invasion of South Vietnam by North Vietnamese forces in January 1968.By summer, U.S. pulls out of Khe Sahn base, but N. Vietnamese don't attempt another outright invasion of the South until U.S. Forces leave.
Media Loses the War?The VietCong uprising during Tet is demoralizing the American public, as news media (and Johnson Administration) had reported the Vietnam War as already basically won.Conservatives blame news media reports, especially television news anchors like Walter Cronkite, for souring the American public on the war (the three TV networks broadcasted daily lists of casualties).
Ho Chi Minh TrailSupply route for N. Vietnamese guerillas, the VietCong, through Laos and Cambodia.Took advantage of areas U.S. Soldiers were not allowed to fight (like Korean bridges over the Yalu River).In 1970, Richard Nixon authorizes U.S. Secret intervention in Laos and Cambodia (Kampuchea today) by CIA Special Activities division and U.S. special forces, as well as air force bombings.Nixon's campaign is exposed as a secret war, unauthorized by Congress, and the campaign slows, but doesn't stop VietCong resupply.
Rules of EngagementVietnam War replays controversies from Korean conflict where enemy forces are given sanctuary from U.S. Attacks90 percent of Vietnamese resupply is through Communist China, which is off-limits to U.S. ForcesHo Chi Minh trail in Laos and Cambodia also officially off limits (despite Nixon 1970 secret intervention). U.S. soldiers in S. Vietnam were not allowed to shoot unless shot at first, which gave the enemy the choice of initiative, battle locationSen. Barry Goldwater publishes official Rules of Engagement in Congressional Record in 1984, blames them for why war was lost.
JohnsonU.S. Soldiers deployed reach 500,000 by 1968U.S. deaths peak in 1969Antiwar movement acceleratesJohnson announces he will not seek reelection in 1968, in part because of Vietnam controversy
NixonNixon re-elected to bring an end to the war in 1968 (Democratic nominee Hubert Humphrey pledges to continue the war).Nixon eventually calls for a negotiated withdrawal through the Paris peace process, negotiated by his Secretary of State Henry KissingerAmericans pull troops out of South Vietnam in 1973, leaving a few advisers.Last Americans leave April 1975
Results of the WarAfter U.S. Forces are withdrawn, N. Vietnamese army forces, together with VietCong, invade S. Vietnam in early 1975Saigon, the southern capital, falls in April 1975Laos and Cambodia fall to communist leadersHmong tribesman in Laos (ethnic minorities to the Pathet Lao) flee persecution after CIA support ends (many end up in U.S.)Khmer Rouge takes over Cambodia and kills as many as 2 million of the nation's 13 million people in a genocidal wave.