First and Second Indochina Wars Treaty, Event Date Provisions, Significance, Outcome independent Vietnam proclaimed

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1 IB Contemporary World History Treaty, Event Date Provisions, Significance, Outcome independent Vietnam proclaimed First Indochina War begins Vietminh Strategy US announces aid to Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam 1945 Japanese overthrow the Vichy French government and declare an independent Viet Nam with Bao Dai as emperor. Ho Chi Minh has built the Viet Minh, initially anti-french and now also anti-japanese. The Viet Minh is the only viable source of resistance to the Japanese, and receives assistance from the US, British, the Nationalist Chinese, and the Communist Chinese (Viet Nam 40) 1946 Ho declared a Democratic Republic of Viet Nam as the Japanese surrendered. French Guallist, Vichy and armed colons attack the Viet Minh and begin the colonial reconquest of Viet Nam. (Viet Nam 41) Maoist three stage strategy: 1) Defensive stage abandon the cities, retreat to the countryside, build up political organization in villages and main forces, avoid major battles. 2) Equilibrium Revolutionary forces growing in strength and colonial forces declining 3) General Offensive, where the colonial power is defeated by conventional forces. This assumed a protracted war. (Moss 38-39) Vo Nguyen Giap intended to follow Maoist principles and maintain the initiative at all times. He would choose when and where to fight: In every battle concentrate absolutely superior forces double, treble, quadruple, and sometimes five or six times those of the enemy. (Viet Nam 42) 1950 cf. note below on 1) domino theory 2) fall of Nationalist China 3) domestic politics

2 Reasons for Truman administration support for the French Fall of Dien Bien Phu Reasons for French defeat May ) Failure to understand revolutionary nationalism; Ho Chi Minh was seen as a Communist, not a nationalist. He was, of course, both. 2) Failure to perceive differences between Communists Ho was not a puppet of Stalin, and he was always suspicious of the Chinese, even when he needed their help.3) Belief in the domino theory if Viet Nam fell to the Communists, the entire region, including Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, and Malaysia would fall (recall that Mao is achieving victory in China and the outbreak of the Korean War 4) the French played hardball with the U.S., holding their support for the European Defense Community hostage for U.S. support in Indochina. Truman s top priority was Europe 5) Domestic politics, with Truman being attacked by Sen. Robert Taft for losing China and Sen. Joe McCarthy for being soft on Communism. Domestic Cold War politics is a very powerful factor throughout the Indochinese Wars. Faced with a loss of much of the Northern countryside (where the Vietminh were instituting land reform) and weakening support at home, Gen. Henri Navarre chose to block a major supply route, hoping to force Vo Nguyen Giap to attack his fortress and be defeated by superior firepower. The base would be supplied by air. Giap chose to take the challenge because a victory at Dien Bien Phu would create leverage at the Geneva talks and destroy support for the war in France. The French grossly underestimated Vietminh artillery and supply. The Vietminh closed the air strips by artillery fire, then reduced the defenses by tunneling and storm. The French lost 7,500 killed and wounded and 10,000 captured. The Vietminh suffered about 25,000 casualties. The Vietminh have won a decisive victory. 1) Non-Communist nationalist factions could not form a stable government 2) The French refused to grant an independent government; therefore their puppet governments lacked legitimacy. 3) Failed support at home for an unpopular and costly war (Moss 39, 59) Page 2 of 19

3 Ngo Dinh Diem premier of South Vietnam Geneva Agreements signed Eisenhower s analysis of French defeat July 1954 July 1954 Diem was a devout Catholic, a nationalist, and an anti- Communist. Diem s weaknesses: 1) He favored the Catholic minority (10% of the South s population, 600,000 from the North, and deeply resented by the Southerners; 2) failure of land reform, which too often coddled or favored the land lords 3) failure to promote economic development and self-sufficiency 4) favoritism towards his family, which provided a ruling elite divorced from the local populations 5) his authoritarian centralization attacked village autonomy (especially via his agroville policy) which alienated villagers 6) his repression of all dissident groups 7) refusal to implement the reforms proposed by the U.S., since he understood that we had no choice but to support him (Moss 98-99) ALL Vietnamese, including Diem and Ho, refuse to accept a divided Vietnam. The agreement provided a ceasefire and a temporary partition of the country along the 17 th Parallel. There would be 300 days to move forces above and below the line; population was encouraged to move if they wished. Free elections were to be held under international supervision, and the winner would then govern a unified Viet Nam. 1) The French had lacked determination and firepower 2) the French were an anachronistic colonial power (Moss 62) Page 3 of 19

4 Reasons for Vietminh victory Diem defeats rivals in South Viet Nam Diem cancels elections in the South Pathet Lao begin war in Laos 1) Inflation, high taxes and high interest rates oppressed the rural poor 2) The government was corrupt, incompetent, and indifferent 3) The Vietminh were superbly orgnaized and led 4) the Vietminh represented nationalist aspirations regardless of politics. 5) Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap understood that patience and a psycho-political-military strategy would win. A protracted war that would undermine rural support for the government, retain nationalist aspirations, inflict casualties on the French, and which would undermine the will of the colonial power to continue the war would ultimately result in victory. (Moss 63) Note: the unity of political, psychological and military strategies. This is typical of Marxist theory. It is also consistent with Clausewitz The three groups are: 1) the Cao Dai, a religious group 2) the Hoa Hao, a Buddhist group and the 3) Binh Xuyen, a criminal organization Diem s support lies with 1) many from the North 2) wealthy planters 3) government bureaucrats, police, armed forces 4) the new urban middle class whose income depended on the flow of US aid (Moss 77) Diem s most important lieutenant is his brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, and his wife, Madame Nhu 1955 Ho Chi Minh would have won about 80% of the vote in a free and democratic election. Since Ho will not accept a divided Vietnam, this puts him on a path to revolutionary war Prince Norodom Sihounouk attempted to maintain neutrality in Cambodia. In Laos, Prince Souphanouvong led the Communist Pathet Lao Prince Boun Oum led an American supported faction. Prince Souvana Phouma attempted to lead a neutral government. Page 4 of 19

5 Viet Cong guerrillas begin Second Indochina War attack on American advisers at Bien Hoa JFK increases US aid Strategic Hamlet program ,000-15,000 Viet Minh cadres had been left behind after Geneva. Diem begins pursuing these, provoking an insurgency against him. Initially this was in violation of Ho s policy, but by 1960, Ho will reverse himself and fully support the insurgency. (Moss 92) Under the circumstances, the outbreak of a new war was inevitable The vulnerability of US military personnel in Viet Nam is highlighted The insurgents created the National Liberation Front, or NLF, which included Buddhists, Montagnards and other groups. Nationalism was emphasized rather than Communism. The NLF was however, controlled by the Communists. Diem s agroville policy, which took peasants off their ancestral lands without compensation and forced them to work on government projects without pay was deeply resented. Diem s ARVN refused to fight offensively against the NLF. JFK had accused Eisenhower of weakness against the Communists when he ran for office. Now, with the Bay of Pigs behind him, a war in Laos, and concern over domestic criticism should he fail to act, JFK chooses to increase US aid (he creates the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, or MACV). He refuses to send in combat forces, and tries to force Diem to institute meaningful reforms. Diem, however, recognizes that we have to support him no matter what, and refuses our advice while accepting our aid The US resurrects the agroville policy under the name Strategic Hamlet.. While providing physical protection, the hamlets were supposed to be vehicles for social improvements and self government. Diem and Nhu, however, saw them as means of extending their own control via political indoctrination, which dooms the plan to faiure. (Moss 118) The NLF by contrast practiced the Three Withs of Maoist war: they lived with the villagers, they ate with the villagers, and they worked with the villagers in the fields. (Moss 119) Page 5 of 19

6 Battle of Ap Bac Buddhist riots, 7 monks immolate selves Diem overthrown, and he and Ngo Dinh Nhu murdered gov t of Duong Van Big Minh Jan May- Aug Nov Nov About 350 VC successfully defended themselves against 10:1 odds and heavy equipment. Under the angry and incredulous eyes of Col. John Paul Vann, ARVN forces proved unwilling to fight, miserably led, and commanded by generals skilled at political maneuver but who were not interested in coming to grips with the enemy. The VC proved, by contrast, to be well led, superbly disciplined, fiercely determined, and prepared to die for their cause. The contrast could not have been greater. (Moss ) Riots broke out in Hue when Nhu refused to allow Buddhists to fly flags to honor the birth of Buddha. Military suppression led to the rioting to spread to Saigon. The first monk immolated himself in protest (US newsmen were warned by Buddhists, and so it was filmed) Madame Nhu refers to a Buddhist barbeque and offers to supply gasoline and matches for more. Nhu attacks Buddhist pagodas, arresting or killing monks. (Moss 123) The crisis leads to a weakening of US support for Diem, which encourages conspiracies against him. Gen. Tan Van Don and Gen. Duong Van Big Minh enter discussions with Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge and CIA agent Lucien Conein When the cup began, Diem called Lodge, who offered asylum. Diem refused and tried to defend his government. He and his brother were captured and then murdered. This left JFK shaken, since he had not anticipated that. However, without US assurances that a successor government would receive US aid, it would not have happened. Three weeks later, JFK is assassinated in Dallas. The new president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, is a virtuoso at domestic policy, but not knowledgeable on foreign policy. He will rely on Kennedy s team of advisers. This was an inept government. Chaos reigns in the country Page 6 of 19

7 gov t of Nguyen Khanh Gulf of Tonkin Resolution VC attack on Pleiku VC attack on Qui Nhon Jan Aug Feb Feb This is another inept government. The country is swiftly heading for a Communist victory. LBJ is reluctant to increase aid or send in US combat troops to save the situation, since he is running for election in his own right against hard-liner Barry Goldwater ( in your heart, you know he s nuts ) The USS Maddox was attacked by North Vietnamese gunboats. Several days later, the Maddox and USS C. Turner Joy may have been attacked again. The vessels were not in Vietnamese territorial waters, but had been involved in intelligence gathering, and there had been clandestine naval activities in their territory. LBJ then asks for the Gulf of Tonkin resolution to authorize expanded US effort. Moss calls the report Sec. of War Robert MacNamara gave duplicitous. The resolution passes the Senate 88-2 and the House (148-9) FLAMING DART I: Retaliatory raids from US carriers lalunched agaisnt the North. Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin was visiting Hanoi at the time; the raids led to swift promises of more Soviet aid. One suspects that the timing was not coincidental. FLAMING DART II: Another series of retaliatory raids on the North from navy forces Page 7 of 19

8 ROLLING THUNDER begins gov t of Nguyen Cao Ky Mar to 1968 First pause, Dec to Feb June 1965 The brainchild of Robert MacNamara, ROLLING THUNDER reflected the escalation ladder theories of limited war (which were developed for nuclear war, however). George Ball, who had studied the air war vs. Germany, opposed thi strategy. Bombing offensive against the North, intended to force the North into a negotiated peace. The actual effect is the opposite: Ho decides that there is no longer any reason to hold back People s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) regulars from the South or from escalating his own involvement More and more troops and supplies flow down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. (Moss 160) Strikes were planned in Washington: date, target, and mission; pre-strike reconnaissance was not permitted; alternate targets not permitted; alternate routes into the target not permitted Pauses were made in the campaign at various times to allow the North to re-evaluate their strategy and decide to negotiate. The North Vietnamese respond by building the most powerful AA defenses in the world, with AAA for low level, Surface to Air Missiles (SAMs) for high altitude, and Mig interceptors. The US will counter with Wild Weasel sorties using anti-radar missiles (HARM). Initial targets included oil storage and other petorleum facilities. In anticipation of attack, the North had already decentralized their facilities. In spring of 1967, ROLLING THUNDER expanded to include industrial targets, the mining of harbors and estuaries, and the bombing of targets near the Chinese harbor. By the end of this campaign, virtually every target ever singled out by the military for destruction had been destroyed. North Vietnamese determination to continue the war never wavered. $600,000,000 in damage was done to the North. 950 aircraft worth 6$ billion were lost. Pilots shot down were housed in the Hanoi Hilton prison camp. The bombing fueled domestic oppositon to the war. (Moss ) Moss calls this government simply a group of generals who did not represent anybody in South Vietnam. (162) Page 8 of 19

9 Air War in South Vietnam June 1965 ARC LIGHT raids from B-52 bombers using carpet bombing techniques. These attacks were invisible and inaudible, so surprise was always achieved. They were devastating, certainly the weapon the VC or PAVN feared the most. Close Air Support was the most common mission, with Forward Air Controllers (FACs) in light aircraft marking targets and liaising with the ground troops. Fighter bombers, helicopters from the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines were used, armemnt included rockets, bombs, napalm, cannon, and machine guns. This could be devastating; the VC and PAVN typically tried to fight as close to US troops as possible to discourage air attack for fear of hitting our own troops. RANCH HAND involved widespread defoliation using Agent Orange ( Only you can prevent forests. ). The purpose was to expose the Ho Chi Minh under a triple canopy of vegetation. 100 million pounds of defoliant were used and half Vietnam s forest lands destroyed. Both Vietnam and veterans claim Agent Orange caused disease and / or birth defects. (Moss )This remains controversial, but I for one find those claims extremely credible. The Ho Chi Minh Trail was never cut. Page 9 of 19

10 Battle of Ia Drang Oct Gen. William Westmoreland intended to fight a war of attrition, where he would use American mobility and firepower to seek out and destroy enemy concentrations and bases. This would be achieved via Search and Destroy missions. He believed he could inflict unacceptable casualties on the VC (hence the emphasis on body counts. ) ARVN would then be free for security and to conduct pacification programs. Westmoreland intended to use helicopters extensively to drop troops by surprise and then to support and supply the troops by air. This use of helicopters for transport, as gunships, and for medical evacuation is one of the chief innovations of the war. The Battle of Ia Drang pitted an inexperienced US unit, the 1 st Cavalry, designed for such an attack, against two crack PAVN regiments. We landed in the middle of a staging area, triggering a ferocious, close quarter battle. The PAVN broke off, having suffered very heavy casualties (they did not return to combat for 6 months). The US estimated 3,000 dead and 1,000 wounded out of 6,000 engaged. This could be a WEG (Wild Eyed Guess) Actually, once the Americans were on the ground, they gave up the initiative to the PAVN, who were much more mobile. Even if surprised, the PAVN and VC could still choose whether or not to fight. Furthermore, the PAVN and VC demonstrated a willingness and an ability to absorb casualties that would have crippled a European army and continue to fight. (Moss , 201) The German Wehrmacht collapsed in World War II with a lower percentage of casualties than PAVN apparently suffered. Page 10 of 19

11 anti-war demonstrations in US Nov Hawks believed that we should expand our role, fearing the loss of all of Southeast Asia by way of the domino theory. They tend to think that LBJ is not doing enough. The Doves oppose the war, but they are sot a united group. They consist of traditional US pacifists; of student groups, such as the New Left group, the SDS [that is to dignify them, actually; my experience were that they were radicals who despised the US, rejected capitalism and wished a thorough reorganization of our society; one of them told me that the two most ideal societies in the world were Castro s Cuba and Mao s China this was in 1969 or 1970, about the time Castro admitted his disastrous economic policies and while bodies were floating down the Yangtze from the Cultural Revolution.]; and antiwar liberals. The draft, which acted to send America s poor into battle while the well-to-do found draft deferments in college or cushy jobs in the National Guard, fueled resentment at the war. LBJ refused to call up the Reserves or the National Guard in order to avoid damaging his Great Society program. He tried to limit the impact of the war at home. This was a serious mistake, both militarily and politically. Had he called up the Reserves, he would have had to convince the American people that the war was necessary and that the sacrifice was worth the cost. Instead, he tried to fight a war without such a national consensus. You will note that, when George Bush fought the Gulf War, he did not make this mistake. It is today impossible to fight a war without calling up the Reserves and the National Guard the military restructured its forces to prevent this from ever again happening. More useful is to divide the Doves into Idealists and Pragmatists The Idealists thought the war unjust; the Pragmatists thought the war futile, and unwinnable (they included men who were Cold Warriors, such as Clark Clifford and William Fulbright eventually). Tactics became very militant, with sit-ins and demonstrations. [I recall a lot of them; university classes were disrupted, and freedom of speech on campus denied by the protesters] 100,000 demonstrated at the Lincoln Memorial in Protesters chanted Hey, hey, LBJ, how many boys did you kill today? Without a doubt, the anti-war movement encouraged Hanoi since it provided evidence that their strategy was working. On the Page 11 of 19

12 US resumes bombing of the North B-52 strikes in the North CEDAR FALLS JUNCTION CITY gov t of Nguyen Van Thieu siege of Khe Sanh Jan April 1966 Jan 1967 Feb Sept Jan. - April 1968 End of the first bombing pause in ROLLING THUNDER ROLLING THUNDER expands Search and Destroy mission aimed at the Iron Triangle. The VC return soon after US forces leave the area. Another Search and Destroy mission. This time, the rules of engagement by which US forces could not pursue enemy forces across the border into Cambodia are highlighted. LBJ feared a widening of the war, with possible Chinese intervention if the US openly invaded Laos and Cambodia. The practical military effect was to allow the VC a sanctuary to regroup, replenish, and resupply whenever they chose. Thieu is elected president with Nguyen Cao Ky as vice president. The election is not, however truly free, since there was a possibility that the people would prefer a government that would make peace with the VC. The Buddhists are finally broken by Ky with US help; they might have formed the nucleus for such a neutralist party. This battle received extensive media coverage, in part because it bore a superficial resemblance to Dien Bien Phu. Giap besieges the Marine fire base. There is some savage hand to hand fighting. The Marines are supplied by the air. The difference between the two battles is that the VC never could cut the air supply and American firepower was much more massive. For example, Operation NIAGARA, used B-52's in a tactical role. The siege finally ends with Giap having suffered very heavy casualties. Later, we realize that the battle is part of a strategy to divert US attention away from the population centers while Giap prepared the Tet Offensive. Page 12 of 19

13 Tet Offensive begins Jan. 30, 1968 Tet is the turning point of America s Viet Nam War. Militarily, Tet was a devastating defeat for the Communists; strategically and politically, it is a decisive victory. Tet is the lunar new year, and a holiday of extraordinary importance to the Vietnamese. Launching an assault on Tet is at least as shocking as launching an assault on Yom Kippur or Ramadan. 84,000 VC and PAVN attacked Saigon, 36 of 44 provincial capitals, 64 of 242 district capitals. Contrary to Giap s expectations, no popular uprising occurred. The Communists brutally executed 2800 people, in order to make the point that no one was safe from them. Sappers attacked the US embassy in Saigon. The fiercest fighting was in Hue, leaving 75% of the homes destroyed before ARVN and Marines wiped out the last pockets. VC and PAVN losses are estimated at 58,000. The VC was largely destroyed, and the bulk of the fighting fell to PAVN henceforth. Page 13 of 19

14 LBJ announces he will not run for re-election preliminary peace talks in Paris Mar May 1968 The effect of the surprise attack was magnified by reassurances that the US was winning the war. JCS chairman Gen. Earl Wheeler asked LBJ for 206,000 additional troops for Vietnam (we alrady had 500,000 there). This force level would have forced LBJ to call up the Reserves and raise taxes (threatening his domestic programs) which was Wheeler s intention. LBJ asks Cold Warrior Clark Clifford to examine the war situation. Clifford learned that I could not find out when the war was going to end. I could not find out whether the new requests... were going to be enough..... All I had was the statement... that if we persisted for an indeterminate length of time, the enemy would choose not to go on.... But no one could see any evidence that the enemy was weakening. The Communists had a coherent revolutionary strategy that coordinated military, political, and psychological strategies. The US had no coherent strategy at all. Clifford found powerful, conservztive Senators like Richard Russell no longer supporting the war. Democratic Senators Eugene McCarthy and Robert F. Kennedy entered the presidential race against LBJ. LBJ s wise men abruptly changed their advice. LBJ addresses the nation, announcing 1) a bombing halt and an offer for negotiations 2) no further ground troops would be sent 3) Vietnamization would begin the brunt of the fighting would be shifted to ARVN 4) I shall not seek, and will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president. (Moss 267-8) The first thorny issue was the shape of the negotiating table. Page 14 of 19

15 My Lai massacre LBJ ends bombing of North Richard M. Nixon elected President death of Ho Chi Minh massive antiwar demonstrations in US ARVN and US invade Cambodian sanctuaries Kent State massacre March 1968 Oct Nov Sept Nov Mar May 1970 Troops under the command of Lt. William Calley murdered 200 civilians. Division authorities tried to cover up the atrocity. They were from a badly led division, but this highlights the pressures on US soldiers in fighting a guerrilla war where civilians were frequently killed by bombing and shelling. The US never had a policy of targeting civilians, and atrocities such as My Lai were always regarded as illegal and punishable. (Moss 279) The bombing halt was unilateral and unconditional, requiring no reciprocal action from Hanoi Nixon s chief National Security adviser became Henry A. Kissinger, a German Jew who taught at Harvard and who rose to Secretary of State. Kissinger is a student of old fashioned power politics. Nixon told Kissinger, you and I will end the war. (Moss 297 They will seek US withdrawal, Vietnamization of the war, and face-saving negotiations. Since Hanoi understood this, we did not have much leverage with them. Eventually, we declared victory and got out. Ho s death did not alter Hanoi s determination to win. Nixon began bombing the Ho Chi Minh Trail and sanctuaries in Cambodia. [personally, I think we should have raided across the border long before] The aim was to destroy base camps and supply dumps. However, since we were not going to stay, the PAVN simply came back and rebuilt. The Communists end up conquering all of Cambodia. The Cambodian incursion set off massive demonstration on US campuses [one of my most vivid memories of college!] Poorly discipined National Guardsmen shoot and kill demonstrators at Kent State. Page 15 of 19

16 Congress repeals Gulf of Tonkin Resolution 500,000 protestors in Washington Pentagon Papers North Vietnamese forces invade South Haiphong harbor mined LINEBACKE R I and II Paris Peace accord signed Fall of Saigon Dec Apr June 1971 May 1972 May 1972 from April / June 1972 Jan Apr This reflects mounting disillusionment with the course and prosecution of the war. Protests are not just one day affiars now, but sustained campaigns. The New York Times and then the Washington Post began publishing stories, backed by official documents, detailing US policy. They were leaked by Daniel Ellsberg, who was sent to prison for revealing classified docuemnts. PAVN attempts a conventional invasion of the South to end the war. They are badly organized and led and ARVN mauls them. Nixon retaliates with the mining of Haiphong harbor, the North s main harbor, which had been previously off limits. B-52's begin raiding the North heavily in support of the South. The North walks out of the Paris Peace talks. Nixon launches LINEBACKER II against Hanoi. Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho negotiated both pubicaly and privately. The US wanted a chance for the Southern gov t to survive. The North wanted to impose a new government. A cease fire was reached the final US withdrawals began. A second invasion from the North was irrestiible without US support. ARVN force were all too aware that their cause was ultimately lost. Page 16 of 19

17 Acronyms to know: ARVN CORDS DMZ DRV GVN KIA LZ MACV NLF MIA PAVN POW VC WEG Army of the Republic of Vietnam, South Vietnamese Army Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support, US pacification agency Demilitarized Zone, between North and South Vietnam Democratic Republic of Vietnam, North Vietnam Government of Vietnam, South Vietnam Killed in action Landing Zone (for helicopters) Military Assistance Command Vietnam, US command in Vietnam National Liberation Front (Communist insurgent forces) Missing in action People Army of Vietnam, North Vietnamese regulars Prisoner of War Viet Cong, NLF guerrillas Wild Eyed Guess, slang term referring to body counts Page 17 of 19

18 Works Cited Moss, George Donelson. Vietnam: An American Ordeal. Engelwood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, The Vietnam War: The History of Ameirca s Conflict in Southeast Asia. Bernadrd C. Nalty, Consulting Editor. London: Salamander Books, Page 18 of 19

19 Works Consulted Davidson, Phillip B. Vietnam at War: The History New York: Oxford University Press Page 19 of 19

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