• Amanda Roraback and Isabella Catania

Vietnam War

1939-45 World War II

  • Viet Minh created in 1941 by Ho Chi Minh

  • Primarily led by Communists.

  • Japanese defeat Indochina

  • Viet Minh launch guerrilla warfare against Japanese

  • Viet Minh take control of Hanoi (in north Vietnam) and proclaim the independent Democratic Republic of Vietnam


  • British landed in Saigon (in South Vietnam) and returned authority to the French.

  • French first promised to recognize the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, then bombarded coast.


  • China offered help to the Viet Minh

  • US pledged to send military advisers to help French

  • Korean War (1950-1953) began


  • (Mar.) Viet Minh defeated French at Dien Bien Phu

  • Led by North Vietnam General Vo Nguyen Giap

  • (Apr.) Eisenhower gave "domino theory" speech.

  • Feared French defeat in Vietnam would lead to communist domination of SEA and block US access to resources.

  • (Jul.) Geneva Conference Agreement

  • Vietnam temporarily divided at 17th parallel

  • Elections supposed to be held in 1956

  • No foreign military allowed in Vietnam

  • Agreement not signed by U.S. or Bao Dai (Vietnam's former Emperor, temporary premier)

  • Eisenhower said it was "a disaster for the free world" (in Pentagon Papers)


  • Ngo Dinh Diem (supported by U.S.) became leader of South Vietnam

  • Defeated Bao Dai in rigged elections

  • Rejected Geneva Accords

  • Rejected call for nationwide elections


  • French left Vietnam

  • U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) trained SV forces

  • Eisenhower administration violated Geneva Agreements

  • Militarized South Vietnam

  • CIA destroyed key Viet Minh installations.

  • SEATO (Southeast Asia Treaty Organization) founded Sep. 8

  • Created to block communist gains in SEA

  • Members: Australia, NZ, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand, Fr., U.S., U.K.


  • Ngo Dinh Diem began cracking down on communists and dissidents


  • Viet Minh became National Liberation Front (NLF)

  • Ngo Dinh Diem called them Viet Cong (Vietnamese Communists)

  • John F. Kennedy elected president (inaugurated 1961)


  • U.S. Military began using herbicide Agent Orange

  • To destroy foliage (leaves) along Ho Chi Minh Trail

  • Four million Vietnamese exposed

  • Caused deformities, cancer etc.

  • Kennedy began to send 15,000 "advisors" to Vietnam

  • To train self-defense troops


  • Ngo Dinh Diem unpopular

  • Replaced protesting Buddhists with Catholics

  • Some Buddhists self-immolated (set themselves on fire)

  • 1963 U.S. back coup against Ngo Dinh Diem

  • Kennedy believed a more popular government could defeat Ho Chi Minh and Viet Cong

  • Ngo Dinh Diem overthrown - he and his brother killed by SV military

  • US secretly approves

  • (Nov. 22) JFK killed by Harvey Lee Oswald


  • (Aug. 2 and 4) U.S.S. Maddox bombed in Gulf of Tonkin

  • Result = Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

  • ​Gave President Johnson a "blank check" to take any measures necessary in Vietnam

  • (Nov) LBJ reelected by a landslide against Goldwater


  • Operation Rolling Thunder

  • Escalation of fighting

  • ​Bombing of north Vietnam, 2 x more bombs than in WWII, little effect on the Vietcong

  • Only hardened their will to fight.

  • First conventional battle at la Drang Valley - heavy casualties

  • US. troops to 200,000


  • B-52s used for first time to bomb North Vietnam

  • By 1966 380,000 troops stationed in Vietnam

  • (1967 - 485,000, 1968 - 536,000)

  • CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) reports that conscription falls most heavily on poor and minorities.

  • Calls for withdrawal of US from Vietnam.


  • Americanization of war by General Westmoreland (Commander of US forces) and Robert McNamara ( Secretary of Defense)

  • Cost of war by 1967, $27 billion

  • Martin Luther King Jr. urged resistance to the daft and merging civil rights and antiwar groups.


  • (Jan.) Tet Offensive (Lunar New Year, turning point)

  • NV attack more than 100 cities in South Vietnam (inc. Saigon)

  • To foment a South Vietnamese rebellion

  • And get US to back down.

  • Viet Minh almost overrun U.S. Embassy

  • But are defeated

  • Attack is televised in the news.

  • Causes shift in American sentiments

  • Questioning if US is winning war.

  • My Lai Offensive

  • US troops execute 500 civilians (mostly women and children) in city of My Lai.

  • (Apr.) MLK assassinated.

  • (Jun.) Robert Kennedy assassinated.

  • (Nov.) Nixon defeated Hubert Humphrey


  • Nixon secretly began bombing neutral Cambodia

  • To destroy Vietcong supply routes and base camps

  • Called "Operation Breakfast"

  • Nixon publicly declared intention for an "honorable peace"

  • U.S. military role to be scaled down

  • Policy of "Vietnamization"

  • Withdrawing troops and transferring responsibility for war to South Vietnam

  • Lottery system for Selective Service draft enacted

  • (Sep. 2) Ho Chi Minh died

  • (Nov. 3) Nixon Doctrine

  • No U.S. troops fight, nations fight own war (but Nixon contradicted himself)

  • News of My Lai comes out in Life Magazine article by Seymour Hersh


  • (Apr. 30) Nixon announced bombing in Cambodia

  • Kent State University (May 4)

  • Students demonstrated against bombing of Cambodia

  • Ohio National Guard opened fire

  • Four students killed, nine wounded


  • Pentagon Papers released by Daniel Ellsberg to NY Times

  • Secret Pentagon study of US involvement in Vietnam War

  • Revealed legacy of deception by presidents and U.S. military

  • First excerpt published in NY Times Jun. 13, 1971

  • Nixon tried to stop publication but Supreme Court allowed it.

  • Embarrassing for Kennedy and Johnson (nothing in papers about Nixon)

  • Veterans against the War throw medals on steps of capitol in disgust.

  • (Sep.) Daniel Ellsburg's psychiatrist's office burglarized by Nixon-supported "Plumbers"

  • ​"Plumbers" = G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt

  • In order to discredit Ellsburg as mentally unstable.

  • White House created "enemies list" of Americans who opposed Nixon or the Vietnam War


  • Secret negotiations between US and North Vietnam revealed

  • (Feb.) Nixon to Beijing, China (PRC)

  • Organized by Sec. of State Henry Kissinger

  • Met with Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai

  • (May) Nixon traveled to Moscow, Russia (USSR)

  • Met with Leonid Brezhnev

  • Signed (Anti-Ballistic Missile) ABM Treaty

  • And SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty)

  • = Detente between Cold War enemies

  • (Jun) Watergate break-in at DNC headquarters by CREEP

  • Kissinger met with North Vietnam's foreign minister, Le Duc Tho

  • North agreed to interim arrangement keeping government in Saigon

  • Kissinger says "peace is at hand"

  • (Aug.) Nixon swore publicly that White House was not involved in break-in

  • (Oct.) Story of Watergate published in Washington Post (Woodward/Bernstein)

  • (Nov) Nixon reelected

  • (Dec.) Christmas bombing

  • Peace talks with North Vietnamese collapse

  • B-52 bombing raids on North Vietnam


  • Jan. 27, 1973 Paris Peace Accords signed.

  • Promised cease-fire and free elections

  • But armistice didn't end war.

  • Congress refused to give money for bombing Cambodia after Aug. 1973

  • Kissinger and Le Duc Tho win Nobel Peace Prize

  • Tho declines because no peace

  • Nixon's VP, Spiro Agnew, resigned because he took bribes as governor of MD.

  • Replaced by Gerald Ford

  • Revealed that Nixon taped all conversations in White House

  • Nixon claims "executive privilege" and refuses to hand them over.

  • Court forces him to give them up -- gap of 18.5 minutes discovered.

  • (Nov) War Powers Act

  • Passed over Nixon's veto

  • Required Nixon and any future president to report to Congress within 48 hours after taking military action.

  • And Congress had to approve any military action that lasted more than 60 days.


  • President Thieu announces renewal of war against NLF.

  • (Aug.) Nixon resigned, Ford became president

  • NLF reorganizes for major offensive in South.


  • March. 1975

  • North Vietnamese launch final offensive against South Vietnam

  • Americans evacuate

  • Saigon is captured and renamed Ho Chi Minh City

  • Ford announced that Vietnam War is "finished"

  • 1.7 million Vietnamese had died in war.

  • 58,000 Americans died

  • 1975-1979 Communist Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot take over in Cambodia



  • (LEQ) Analyze the effects of the Vietnam War on TWO of the following in the United States in the period from 1961 to 1975. (2010)

  • The presidency

  • The population between 18 and 35 years old

  • Cold War Diplomacy

  • (DBQ) Analyze the ways in which the Vietnam War heightened social, political and economic tensions in the United States. Focus your answer on the period 1964 to 1975. (2008)

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