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The Vietnam War

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The War in Vietnam:

The conflict in Vietnam took place between the years of 1955 until 1975, however the U.S. did not place soldiers on the ground until March 1965. Vietnam became restless from decades of war. By the time the Japanese invaded the country during World War II, it had already been under French colonial rule for over six decades. A man named Ho Chi Minh had spent thirty years traveling the world. When he returned to Vietnam, he created the Viet Minh, and called for an independent Vietnam on September 2, 1945. The French refused to surrender their colony, and fighting ensued.

Ho Chi Minh made attempts to involve the United States in Vietnam's struggle for freedom, going as far as to reveal military intelligence about the Japanese during the second World War. The United States however, kept strong to its policy of containment and would not intervene. In fact, it did the opposite by sending the aid to the French military in the 1950s.

After a crushing military defeat for the French in Dien Bien Phu, a conference known as the Geneva Accords was held. It caused a cease fire, and the French withdrew their forces peacefully. It also created an imaginary dividing line between North and South Vietnam at the 17th Parallel.

The United States was concerned that South Vietnam may fall under control of the communist North Vietnam. It refused to agree to an election, fearing the communists may win. However, it did push forward an election that would take place only in South Vietnam. This eliminated much of the fear of a communist becoming the victor. Eventually, Ngo Dinh Diem was elected. Diem however, turned out to be an oppressive leader, and a coup was staged. The United States made no effort to stop the coup, and Diem was assassinated.

To make matters worse, South Vietnamese communists formed the National Liberation Front (NLF), also known as the Viet Cong. The Viet Cong staged guerilla hit and run attacks against South. The United States became even more involved, now sending additional advisors to the South. However, after the controversial Gulf of Tonkin Incident, the Gulf of Tonkin resolution was passed. Two U.S. ships had been attacked, and Congress granted President Lyndon B. Johnson authority to escalate the war in Vietnam, which he proceeded to do in March of 1965, when the U.S. deployed its first ground troops - 3,500 United States Marines. The U.S. population showed much support for this deployment.

President Johnson did not enter the war with the intent to win it. He instead planned on providing military aid to the South until they could take over. He called for a limited war. The United States would fight defensively only, within the boundaries of South Vietnam. This eventually led to a frustrating stalemate. No offense could be launched against the North in their own territory (aerial bombings excluded) and the Ho Chi Minh Trail remained unhampered as it allowed the passage of North Vietnamese soldiers and supplies through Laos and Cambodia. By December of 1965, the number of U.S. troops in Vietnam had escalated to over 200,000.

On the Vietnamese New Year (called the "Tet" holiday) January 30th, 1968, the Viet Cong attacked over 100 cities and towns in a well-organized assault. The U.S. forces were able to repel the attacks, but the effect was devastating nonetheless. Support for the war from the U.S. populace was dwindling at a rapid pace.

The Tet Offensive resulted in many communist casualties. President Nixon used this moment of opportunity to his advantage, and begin to withdraw soldiers from Vietnam. To the despair of the American public, he also expanded the war into neighboring Laos and Cambodia in an attempt to speed up the withdrawal.

On March 30th, 1972, the North launched the "Easter Offensive" which stormed across the DMZ (demilitarized zone) at the 17th Parallel. The last U.S. troops withdrew after the Paris Peace Accords on March 29th, 1973. They left with the knowledge that the crippled South now had no chance of repelling another invasion by itself. The North continued its push, and Saigon fell, along with the South Vietnamese government. The South called for further military aid, but the United States people no longer wanted any more involvement in the conflict. Both Vietnams were reunited under communist control on July 2nd, 1976.

United States Military Presence in Vietnam:

The bulk of the United States military in Vietnam were members of the United States Army, however U.S. Marines also made up a significant number. The fighting took place almost exclusively in the jungles, against a seemingly invisible enemy. The Vietnamese guerilla fighters would set up ambushes and booby traps as opposed to



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