The Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a struggle between years 1959 – 1975. The nationalists attempted to establish a communism government under the leadership of Ho Chi, which was opposed by the United States government. Drawing from the experiences of US citizens during and after the war, there was no need for the Americans to engage in the long struggle.
For decades, Vietnam had been fighting colonialists, the French, who had ruled the country for more than six decades. In 1940, Japan invaded some portions of Vietnam. By 1941, the country was under the ruler ship of the two colonial masters. Around this period, the revolutionary leader Ho Chi returned to the country.
With the support of the northern Vietnam citizens, Ho Chi decided to lead in the bid to get rid of the colonialists. He therefore announced the independence of Vietnam, whose government would go by the name Democratic Republic of Vietnam. The French, however, were not ready to give up the colony.
Ho chi tried to seek for US support against the French colonizers in Vietnam. However, the US government was not willing to offer support because of their focus on the cold war policy of containment. Additionally, for US and allies feared the spread of communism. This informed the decision of the US to support French against Ho Chi.
In 1954, the French withdrew from Vietnam after a defeat at Dien Bien Phu. Though it was agreed that the Vietnam would hold elections and form one government, the US feared that the new government would be formed under the communism regime. They therefore supported South Vietnam in holding an election. The winner, Ngo Dihn Diem, alienated most of the Vietnamese people. As a result, Viet Cong was established by communist sympathizers. The group later engaged in a guerilla war against South Vietnam.
The US supported the South Vietnamese defenses, provoking the response of North Vietnamese, who fired two US ships in 1964. The congress responded by coming up with a resolution to allow the US president, Lyndon Johnson, to exercise authority over Vietnam. He sent troops to the country with the aim of ensuring that the southern Vietnam would take over. However, the public were disappointed when US found themselves in a stalemate with the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese.
In 1968, the war reached a turning point when North Vietnam attacked the south. The U.S, realized their enemy was stronger and hence, under the leadership of Richard Nixon, decided to withdraw from the war. Though the war continued for a while, Vietnam was re-united as a communist country in 1975. Indeed, the US did not have to get involved in the war because they did not plan to win in the first place, and their other goals were never achieved.
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The Vietnam War spanned from 1954 to 1973 and had the name, the Second Indochina War, prior to the United States involvement. The initial cause for the war was a battle between communist North Vietnam and its southern allies, the Viet Cong, against South Vietnam and its allies, the key ally being the United States. Ho Chi Minh, the leader of North Vietnam, was one goal, to unseat the French hold on South Vietnam to reunite the entire country. The resulting war would end up spanning across nearly two decades and would be costly both financially and in the number of lives lost.
United States Intervenes
The War that raged between North and South Vietnam was one with minimal participation from the United States. In 1961, a report sent to President John F. Kennedy regarding the conditions of the war urged the President to increase the U.S. military presence to help with the war. The rationale behind U.S. involvement was a simple one, if the communist North Vietnam suffered a defeat the “domino theory” would go into effect. The belief was if one communist country in Asia fell, others would follow. With that in mind, the number of U.S. troops in South Vietnam went from less than 800 to roughly 9,000 by 1962. That number would continue to climb.
The War Escalates
The War in Vietnam continued to escalate with no end in sight. In 1963, following the assassination of President Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson became President of the United States. President Johnson played a key role in sending thousands of combat troops to Vietnam following the torpedo bombing of two U.S. destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin. With congressional approval, President Johnson ordered the start of Operation Rolling Thunder, regular bombing raids on Vietnamese targets.
As the Vietnam War continued into 1965, opponents to the war started making their disagreement with the war known to anyone who would listen. Boxer Muhammad Ali refused to join the draft because of his disagreement with the war and spent three years in prison. Across college campuses, the anti-war movement began. As the war raged on protests continued and only increased in size. By 1967, the number of people against the war effort increased as the number of U.S. troops in Vietnam hit roughly 500,000. The U.S. alone had lost an estimated 15,000 lives with over 109,000 wounded by 1967. The annual cost of the war had reached an astounding $25 billion.
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The War Rages On
Despite the protests against the war, the war raged on. Along with the United States, troops from New Zealand, Australia, and Thailand joined South Korea in its battle against throughout the course of the war. The war leads to invasions in Cambodia in 1970 and Laos in 1971. President Johnson’s successor, President Richard Nixon ordered the invasions. The invasions cause further riots and anti-war protests in the U.S.
In 1973, after nearly two decades of battle, North Vietnam and the United States agreed to a cease-fire following peace talks. Troops returned to their homes back in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Thailand. Despite the agreement for a cease-fire, it would not take long for North and South Vietnam to resume fighting. That battle would end with South Vietnam surrendering to North Vietnam.
The Vietnam War was one that spanned nearly 20 years and cost a great deal financially and in loss of life. According to records, 1.3 million military deaths occurred during the Vietnam War. That number covers all countries involved, the U.S. alone lost an estimated 58,200 lives with roughly 1,700 military personal still considered as either a POW or MIA. The civilian deaths during the war totaled 1 million.
The lingering effects of the Vietnam War continue to this day. Many soldiers that returned home from the war suffered from PTSD, had medical conditions from battle that led to one or more amputations, thousands were semi or permanently disabled. Exposure to Agent Orange also caused countless illnesses and deaths in some cases. The Vietnam War was one that many people continue to disagree with while many others will never understand the purpose of the war.