The Vietnam War (Vietnamese language: Chiến tranh Việt Nam ), also known as the Second Indochina War, and in Vietnam as the Resistance War Against America (Vietnamese language: Kháng chiến chống Mỹ ) or simply the American War, was a conflict in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955[A 1] to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. It was the second of the Indochina Wars and was officially fought between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. North Vietnam was supported by the Soviet Union, China, and other communist allies; South Vietnam was supported by the United States, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Thailand, and other anti-communist allies. The war, considered a Cold War-era proxy war by some, lasted 19 years, with direct U.S. involvement ending in 1973, and included the Laotian Civil War and the Cambodian Civil War, which ended with all three countries becoming communist in 1975.
The conflict emerged from the First Indochina War against the communist-led Viet Minh.[A 2] Most of the funding for the French war effort was provided by the U.S. After the French quit Indochina in 1954, the US assumed financial and military support for the South Vietnamese state. The Việt Cộng, also known as Front national de libération du Sud-Viêt Nam or NLF (the National Liberation Front), a South Vietnamese common front under the direction of North Vietnam, initiated a guerrilla war in the south. North Vietnam had also invaded Laos in the mid-1950s in support of insurgents, establishing the Ho Chi Minh Trail to supply and reinforce the Việt Cộng.:16 U.S. involvement escalated under President John F. Kennedy through the MAAG program from just under a thousand military advisors in 1959 to 16,000 in 1963.:131 By 1963, the North Vietnamese had sent 40,000 soldiers to fight in South Vietnam.:16 North Vietnam was heavily backed by the USSR and the People's Republic of China. China also sent hundreds of PLA servicemen to North Vietnam to serve in air-defense and support roles.:371–4
By 1964, 23,000 US advisors were stationed in South Vietnam. In the Gulf of Tonkin incident in August, a U.S. destroyer was alleged to have clashed with North Vietnamese fast attack craft. In response, the U.S. Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and gave President Lyndon B. Johnson broad authority to increase American military presence in Vietnam. Johnson ordered the deployment of combat units for the first time and increased troop levels to 184,000. Past this point, the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) (also known as the North Vietnamese Army or NVA) engaged in more conventional warfare with U.S and South Vietnamese forces. Despite little progress, the United States continued a significant build-up of forces. U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, one of the principal architects of the war, began expressing doubts of victory by the end of 1966.:287 U.S. and South Vietnam forces relied on air superiority and overwhelming firepower to conduct search and destroy operations, involving ground forces, artillery, and airstrikes. The U.S. also conducted a large-scale strategic bombing campaign against North Vietnam and Laos.
The Tet Offensive of 1968 showed the lack of progress with these doctrines. With the VC and PAVN mounting large-scale urban offensives throughout 1968, U.S domestic support for the war began fading. The Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) expanded following a period of neglect after Tet and was modeled after U.S doctrine. The VC sustained heavy losses during the Tet Offensive and subsequent U.S.-ARVN operations in the rest of 1968, losing over 50,000 men.:481 The CIA's Phoenix Program further degraded the VC's membership and capabilities. By the end of the year, the VC insurgents held almost no territory in South Vietnam, and their recruitment dropped by over 80% in 1969, signifying a drastic reduction in guerrilla operations, necessitating increased use of PAVN regular soldiers from the north. In 1969, North Vietnam declared a Provisional Revolutionary Government in South Vietnam in an attempt to give the reduced VC a more international stature, but the southern guerrillas from then on were sidelined as PAVN forces began more conventional combined arms warfare. By 1970, over 70% of communist troops in the south were northerners, and southern-dominated VC units no longer existed. Operations crossed national borders: Laos was invaded by North Vietnam early on, while Cambodia was used by North Vietnam as a supply route starting in 1967; the route through Cambodia began to be bombed by the U.S. in 1969, while the Laos route had been heavily bombed since 1964. The deposing of the monarch Norodom Sihanouk by the Cambodian National Assembly resulted in a PAVN invasion of the country at the request of the Khmer Rouge, escalating the Cambodian Civil War and resulting in a U.S.-ARVN counter-invasion.
In 1969, following the election of U.S President Richard Nixon, a policy of "Vietnamization" began, which saw the conflict fought by an expanded ARVN, with U.S. forces sidelined and increasingly demoralized by domestic opposition and reduced recruitment. U.S. ground forces had largely withdrawn by early 1972 and support was limited to air support, artillery support, advisers, and materiel shipments. The ARVN, buttressed by said U.S. support, stopped the first and largest mechanized PAVN offensive during the Easter Offensive of 1972. The offensive resulted in heavy casualties on both sides and the failure of the PAVN to subdue South Vietnam, but the ARVN itself failed to recapture all territory, leaving its military situation difficult. The Paris Peace Accords of January 1973 saw all U.S forces withdrawn; the Case–Church Amendment, passed by the U.S Congress on 15 August 1973, officially ended direct U.S military involvement.:457 The Peace Accords were broken almost immediately, and fighting continued for two more years. Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge on 17 April 1975 while the 1975 Spring Offensive saw the capture of Saigon by the PAVN on 30 April; this marked the end of the war, and North and South Vietnam were reunified the following year.
The scale of fighting was enormous. By 1970, the ARVN was the world's fourth largest army, and the PAVN was not far behind with approximately one million regular soldiers.:770 The war exacted an enormous human cost: estimates of the number of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians killed range from 966,000 to 3.8 million. Some 275,000–310,000 Cambodians, 20,000–62,000 Laotians, and 58,220 U.S. service members also died in the conflict, and a further 1,626 remain missing in action.[A 3]
The Sino-Soviet split re-emerged following the lull during the Vietnam War. Conflict between North Vietnam and its Cambodian allies in the Royal Government of the National Union of Kampuchea, and the newly formed Democratic Kampuchea began almost immediately in a series of border raids by the Khmer Rouge, eventually escalating into the Cambodian–Vietnamese War. Chinese forces directly invaded Vietnam in the Sino-Vietnamese War, with subsequent border conflicts lasting until 1991. Insurgencies were fought by the unified Vietnam in all three countries. The end of the war and resumption of the Third Indochina War would precipitate the Vietnamese boat people and the larger Indochina refugee crisis, which saw millions of refugees leave Indochina (mainly southern Vietnam), with an estimated 250,000 of whom perished at sea. Within the U.S, the war gave rise to what was referred to as Vietnam Syndrome, a public aversion to American overseas military involvements, which together with the Watergate scandal contributed to the crisis of confidence that affected America throughout the 1970s.
Given that there have been several conflicts in Indochina, this particular conflict is known by the names of its primary protagonists to distinguish it from others. In Vietnamese, the war is generally known as Kháng chiến chống Mỹ (Resistance War Against America), but less formally as 'Cuộc chiến tranh Mỹ' (The American War). It is also called Chiến tranh Việt Nam (The Vietnam War).
The primary military organizations involved in the war were the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) and the United States armed forces, fighting against the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) (commonly called the North Vietnamese Army, or NVA, in English-language sources) and the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (NLF, more commonly known as the Viet Cong (VC) in English language sources), a South Vietnamese communist guerrilla force.:xli
Daniel Ellsberg contends that U.S. participation in Vietnam had begun in 1945 when it gave support to a French effort to reconquer its colony in Vietnam, a nation which had just declared independence in August 1945.
Indochina was a French colony during the 19th century. When the Japanese invaded during World War II, the Viet Minh opposed them with support from the US, the Soviet Union and China. They received some Japanese arms when Japan surrendered. The Viet Minh, a Communist-led common front under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh, then initiated an insurgency against French rule. Hostilities escalated into the First Indochina War (beginning in December 1946). By the 1950s, the conflict had become entwined with the Cold War. In January 1950, China and the Soviet Union recognized the Viet Minh's Democratic Republic of Vietnam, based in Hanoi, as the legitimate government of Vietnam. The following month the United States and Great Britain recognized the French-backed State of Vietnam in Saigon, led by former Emperor Bảo Đại, as the legitimate Vietnamese government.:88:377–9 The outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950 convinced many Washington policymakers that the war in Indochina was an example of communist expansionism directed by the Soviet Union.:33–5
Military advisors from the People's Republic of China (PRC) began assisting the Viet Minh in July 1950.:14 PRC weapons, expertise, and laborers transformed the Viet Minh from a guerrilla force into a regular army.:26 In September 1950, the United States created a Military Assistance and Advisory Group (MAAG) to screen French requests for aid, advise on strategy, and train Vietnamese soldiers.:18 By 1954, the United States had spent $1 billion in support of the French military effort, shouldering 80 percent of the cost of the war.:35
During the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (1954), U.S. carriers sailed to the Gulf of Tonkin and the U.S. conducted reconnaissance flights. France and the United States also discussed the use of three tactical nuclear weapons, although reports of how seriously this was considered and by whom are vague and contradictory.:75 According to then-Vice President Richard Nixon, the Joint Chiefs of Staff drew up plans to use small tactical nuclear weapons to support the French. Nixon, a so-called "hawk" on Vietnam, suggested that the United States might have to "put American boys in".:76 President Dwight D. Eisenhower made American participation contingent on British support, but the British were opposed.:76 Eisenhower, wary of involving the United States in a land war in Asia, decided against military intervention.:75–6 Throughout the conflict, U.S. intelligence estimates remained sceptical of France's chance of success.
On 7 May 1954, the French garrison at Dien Bien Phu surrendered. The defeat marked the end of French military involvement in Indochina. At the Geneva Conference, the French negotiated a ceasefire agreement with the Viet Minh, and independence was granted to Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.
At the 1954 Geneva peace conference, Vietnam was temporarily partitioned at the 17th parallel. Ho Chi Minh had wished to continue the war in the south, but was restrained by his Chinese allies who convinced him that he could win control by electoral means.:87–8 Under the terms of the Geneva Accords, civilians were allowed to move freely between the two provisional states for a 300-day period. Elections throughout the country were to be held in 1956 to establish a unified government.:88–90 Around one million northerners, mainly minority Catholics, fled south, fearing persecution by the communists.:96 This followed an American psychological warfare campaign, designed by Edward Lansdale for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which exaggerated anti-Catholic sentiment among the Viet Minh and which falsely claimed the US was about to drop atomic bombs on Hanoi.:96–7 The exodus was coordinated by a U.S.-funded $93 million relocation program, which included the use of the Seventh Fleet to ferry refugees. The northern, mainly Catholic refugees gave the later Ngô Đình Diệm regime a strong anti-communist constituency.:238 Diệm staffed his government's key posts mostly with northern and central Catholics.
In addition to the Catholics flowing south, up to 174,000 "Revolutionary Regroupees" and their 86,000 dependents went to the north for "regroupment", expecting to return to the south within two years.:98 The Viet Minh left roughly 5,000 to 10,000 cadres in the south as a base for future insurgency.:104 The last French soldiers left South Vietnam in April 1956.:116 The PRC completed its withdrawal from North Vietnam at around the same time.:14
Between 1953 and 1956, the North Vietnamese government instituted various agrarian reforms, including "rent reduction" and "land reform", which resulted in significant political oppression. During the land reform, testimony from North Vietnamese witnesses suggested a ratio of one execution for every 160 village residents, which extrapolated resulted in an initial estimation of nearly 100,000 executions nationwide. Because the campaign was concentrated mainly in the Red River Delta area, a lower estimate of 50,000 executions became widely accepted by scholars at the time.:143:569 However, declassified documents from the Vietnamese and Hungarian archives indicate that the number of executions was much lower than reported at the time, although likely greater than 13,500. In 1956, leaders in Hanoi admitted to "excesses" in implementing this program and restored a large amount of the land to the original owners.:99–100
The south, meanwhile, constituted the State of Vietnam, with Bảo Đại as Emperor and Ngô Đình Diệm (appointed in July 1954) as his prime minister. Neither the United States government nor Ngô Đình Diệm's State of Vietnam signed anything at the 1954 Geneva Conference. With respect to the question of reunification, the non-communist Vietnamese delegation objected strenuously to any division of Vietnam, but lost out when the French accepted the proposal of Viet Minh delegate Phạm Văn Đồng,:134 who proposed that Vietnam eventually be united by elections under the supervision of "local commissions".:119 The United States countered with what became known as the "American Plan", with the support of South Vietnam and the United Kingdom.:140 It provided for unification elections under the supervision of the United Nations, but was rejected by the Soviet delegation.:140 The United States said, "With respect to the statement made by the representative of the State of Vietnam, the United States reiterates its traditional position that peoples are entitled to determine their own future and that it will not join in any arrangement which would hinder this".:570–1 U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote in 1954:
"I have never talked or corresponded with a person knowledgeable in Indochinese affairs who did not agree that had elections been held as of the time of the fighting, possibly eighty percent of the population would have voted for the Communist Ho Chi Minh as their leader rather than Chief of State Bảo Đại. Indeed, the lack of leadership and drive on the part of Bảo Đại was a factor in the feeling prevalent among Vietnamese that they had nothing to fight for."
According to the Pentagon Papers, however, from 1954 to 1956 "Ngô Đình Diệm really did accomplish miracles" in South Vietnam: "It is almost certain that by 1956 the proportion which might have voted for Ho—in a free election against Diệm—would have been much smaller than eighty percent." In 1957, independent observers from India, Poland, and Canada representing the International Control Commission (ICC) stated that fair, unbiased elections were not possible, with the ICC reporting that neither South nor North Vietnam had honored the armistice agreement.
From April to June 1955, Diệm eliminated any political opposition in the south by launching military operations against two religious groups: the Cao Đài and Hòa Hảo of Ba Cụt. The campaign also focused on the Bình Xuyên organized crime group, which was allied with members of the communist party secret police and had some military elements. As broad-based opposition to his harsh tactics mounted, Diệm increasingly sought to blame the communists.:
In a referendum on the future of the State of Vietnam on 23 October 1955, Diệm rigged the poll supervised by his brother Ngô Đình Nhu and was credited with 98.2 percent of the vote, including 133% in Saigon. His American advisors had recommended a more modest winning margin of "60 to 70 percent." Diệm, however, viewed the election as a test of authority.:224 Three days later, he declared South Vietnam to be an independent state under the name Republic of Vietnam (ROV), with himself as president.: Likewise, Ho Chi Minh and other communist officials always won at least 99% of the vote in North Vietnamese "elections".:193–94, 202–03, 215–17
The domino theory, which argued that if one country fell to communism, then all of the surrounding countries would follow, was first proposed as policy by the Eisenhower administration.:19 John F. Kennedy, then a U.S. senator, said in a speech to the American Friends of Vietnam: "Burma, Thailand, India, Japan, the Philippines and obviously Laos and Cambodia are among those whose security would be threatened if the Red Tide of Communism overflowed into Vietnam."
Diệm era, 1954–1963
A devout Roman Catholic, Diệm was fervently anti-communist, nationalist, and socially conservative. Historian Luu Doan Huynh notes that "Diệm represented narrow and extremist nationalism coupled with autocracy and nepotism.":200–1 Most Vietnamese people were Buddhist, and they were alarmed by Diệm's actions, like his dedication of the country to the Virgin Mary.
Beginning in the summer of 1955, Diệm launched the "Denounce the Communists" campaign, during which suspected communists and other anti-government elements were arrested, imprisoned, tortured, or executed. He instituted the death penalty against any activity deemed communist in August 1956. About 12,000 suspected opponents of Diệm were killed between 1955 and 1957, and by the end of 1958, an estimated 40,000 political prisoners had been jailed.:89
In October 1956, Diệm launched a land reform program limiting the size of rice farms per owner. More than 1.8m acres of farm land became available for purchase by landless people. By 1960, the land reform process had stalled because many of Diem's biggest supporters were large land owners.:14–16
In May 1957, Diệm undertook a ten-day state visit to the United States. President Eisenhower pledged his continued support, and a parade was held in Diệm's honor in New York City. Although Diệm was publicly praised, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles privately conceded that Diệm had been selected because they could find no better alternative.:230
Insurgency in the South, 1954–1960
Between 1954 and 1957, the Diệm government succeeded in preventing large-scale organized unrest in the countryside. In April 1957, insurgents launched an assassination campaign, referred to as "extermination of traitors". Seventeen people were killed in an attack at a bar in Châu Đốc in July, and in September a district chief was killed with his family on a highway. By early 1959, however, Diệm had come to regard the (increasingly frequent) violence as an organized campaign and implemented Law 10/59, which made political violence punishable by death and property confiscation. There had been some division among former Viet Minh whose main goal was to hold the elections promised in the Geneva Accords, leading to "wildcat" activities separate from the other communists and anti-GVN activists. Douglas Pike estimated that insurgents carried out 2,000 abductions, and 1,700 assassinations of government officials, village chiefs, hospital workers and teachers from 1957 to 1960.:106 Violence between the insurgents and government forces increased drastically from 180 clashes in January 1960 to 545 clashes in September.
In September 1960, COSVN, North Vietnam's southern headquarters, gave an order for a full scale coordinated uprising in South Vietnam against the government and 1/3 of the population was soon living in areas of communist control.:106–107 In December 1960, North Vietnam formally created the Viet Cong with the intent of uniting all anti-GVN insurgents, including non-communists. It was formed in Memot, Cambodia, and directed through COSVN.:55–58 According to the Pentagon Papers, the Viet Cong "placed heavy emphasis on the withdrawal of American advisors and influence, on land reform and liberalization of the GVN, on coalition government and the neutralization of Vietnam." The identities of the leaders of the organization often were kept secret. Support for the VC was driven by resentment of Diem's reversal of Viet Minh land reforms in the countryside. The Viet Minh had confiscated large private landholdings, reduced rents and debts, and leased communal lands, mostly to poorer peasants. Diem brought the landlords back to the villages. People who had been farming land for years had to return it to landlords and pay years of back rent. Marilyn B. Young wrote that "The divisions within villages reproduced those that had existed against the French: 75 percent support for the NLF, 20 percent trying to remain neutral and 5 percent firmly pro-government".:73
North Vietnamese involvement
In March 1956, southern communist leader Lê Duẩn presented a plan to revive the insurgency entitled "The Road to the South" to the other members of the Politburo in Hanoi; however, as both China and the Soviets opposed confrontation at this time, Lê Duẩn's plan was rejected.:58 Despite this, the North Vietnamese leadership approved tentative measures to revive the southern insurgency in December 1956. This decision was made at the 11th Plenary Session of the Lao Dong Central Committee. Communist forces were under a single command structure set up in 1958. The North Vietnamese Communist Party approved a "people's war" on the South at a session in January 1959,:119–20 and, in May, Group 559 was established to maintain and upgrade the Ho Chi Minh trail, at this time a six-month mountain trek through Laos. About 500 of the "regroupees" of 1954 were sent south on the trail during its first year of operation. The first arms delivery via the trail was completed in August 1959. About 40,000 communist soldiers infiltrated the south from 1961 to 1963.:76
Kennedy's escalation, 1961–1963
In the 1960 U.S., Senator John F. Kennedy defeated incumbent Vice President Richard M. Nixon. Although Eisenhower warned Kennedy about Laos and Vietnam, Europe and Latin America "loomed larger than Asia on his sights.":264 In April 1961, Kennedy approved the Bay of Pigs Invasion and that invasion failed. In June 1961, he bitterly disagreed with Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev when they met in Vienna to discuss key U.S.–Soviet issues. Only 16 months later, the Cuban Missile Crisis (16–28 October 1962) played out on television worldwide. It was the closest the Cold War came to escalating into a full-scale nuclear war, and the U.S. raised the readiness level of Strategic Air Command (SAC) forces to DEFCON 2.
The Kennedy administration remained essentially committed to the Cold War foreign policy inherited from the Truman and Eisenhower administrations. In 1961, the U.S. had 50,000 troops based in South Korea, and Kennedy faced four crisis situations: the failure of the Bay of Pigs Invasion that he had approved on 4 April, settlement negotiations between the pro-Western government of Laos and the Pathet Lao communist movement in May ("Kennedy sidestepped Laos, whose rugged terrain was no battleground for American soldiers.":265), the construction of the Berlin Wall in August, and the Cuban Missile Crisis in October. Kennedy believed that yet another failure to gain control and stop communist expansion would irreparably damage U.S. credibility. He was determined to "draw a line in the sand" and prevent a communist victory in Vietnam. He told James Reston of The New York Times immediately after his Vienna summit meeting with Khrushchev, "Now we have a problem making our power credible and Vietnam looks like the place."
Kennedy's policy toward South Vietnam assumed that Diệm and his forces had to ultimately defeat the guerrillas on their own. He was against the deployment of American combat troops and observed that "to introduce U.S. forces in large numbers there today, while it might have an initially favorable military impact, would almost certainly lead to adverse political and, in the long run, adverse military consequences." The quality of the South Vietnamese military, however, remained poor. Poor leadership, corruption, and political promotions all played a part in weakening the ARVN. The frequency of guerrilla attacks rose as the insurgency gathered steam. While Hanoi's support for the Viet Cong played a role, South Vietnamese governmental incompetence was at the core of the crisis.:369
One major issue Kennedy raised was whether the Soviet space and missile programs had surpassed those of the United States. Although Kennedy stressed long-range missile parity with the Soviets, he was also interested in using special forces for counterinsurgency warfare in Third World countries threatened by communist insurgencies. Although they were originally intended for use behind front lines after a conventional Soviet invasion of Europe, Kennedy believed that the guerrilla tactics employed by special forces such as the Green Berets would be effective in a "brush fire" war in Vietnam.
Kennedy advisors Maxwell Taylor and Walt Rostow recommended that U.S. troops be sent to South Vietnam disguised as flood relief workers. Kennedy rejected the idea but increased military assistance yet again. In April 1962, John Kenneth Galbraith warned Kennedy of the "danger we shall replace the French as a colonial force in the area and bleed as the French did." By November 1963, 16,000 American military personnel were stationed in South Vietnam.:131
The Strategic Hamlet Program was initiated in late 1961. This joint U.S.–South Vietnamese program attempted to resettle the rural population into fortified camps. It was implemented in early 1962 and involved some forced relocation, village internment, and segregation of rural South Vietnamese into new communities where the peasantry would be isolated from the Viet Cong. It was hoped these new communities would provide security for the peasants and strengthen the tie between them and the central government. However, by November 1963 the program had waned, and it officially ended in 1964.:1070
On 23 July 1962, fourteen nations, including China, South Vietnam, the Soviet Union, North Vietnam and the United States, signed an agreement promising to respect the neutrality of Laos.
Ousting and assassination of Ngô Đình Diệm
The inept performance of the ARVN was exemplified by failed actions such as the Battle of Ap Bac on 2 January 1963, in which a small band of Viet Cong won a battle against a much larger and better-equipped South Vietnamese force, many of whose officers seemed reluctant even to engage in combat.:201–6 During the battle the South Vietnamese had lost 83 soldiers, 5 US war helicopters that had been shot down by Vietcong forces, while the Vietcong forces had lost only 18 soldiers. The ARVN forces were led by Diệm's most trusted general, Huỳnh Văn Cao, commander of the IV Corps. Cao was a Catholic who had been promoted due to religion and fidelity rather than skill, and his main job was to preserve his forces to stave off coup attempts; he had earlier vomited during a communist attack. Some policymakers in Washington began to conclude that Diệm was incapable of defeating the communists and might even make a deal with Ho Chi Minh. He seemed concerned only with fending off coups and had become more paranoid after attempts in 1960 and 1962, which he partly attributed to U.S. encouragement. As Robert F. Kennedy noted, "Diệm wouldn't make even the slightest concessions. He was difficult to reason with ..." Historian James Gibson summed up the situation:
Strategic hamlets had failed ... The South Vietnamese regime was incapable of winning the peasantry because of its class base among landlords. Indeed, there was no longer a 'regime' in the sense of a relatively stable political alliance and functioning bureaucracy. Instead, civil government and military operations had virtually ceased. The National Liberation Front had made great progress and was close to declaring provisional revolutionary governments in large areas.
Discontent with Diệm's policies exploded in May 1963 following the Huế Phật Đản shootings of nine unarmed Buddhists protesting against the ban on displaying the Buddhist flag on Vesak, the Buddha's birthday. This resulted in mass protests against discriminatory policies that gave privileges to the Catholic Church and its adherents over the Buddhist majority. Diệm's elder brother Ngô Đình Thục was the Archbishop of Huế and aggressively blurred the separation between church and state. Thuc's anniversary celebrations shortly before Vesak had been bankrolled by the government, and Vatican flags were displayed prominently. There had also been reports of Catholic paramilitaries demolishing Buddhist pagodas throughout Diệm's rule. Diệm refused to make concessions to the Buddhist majority or take responsibility for the deaths. On 21 August 1963, the ARVN Special Forces of Colonel Lê Quang Tung, loyal to Diệm's younger brother Ngô Đình Nhu, raided pagodas across Vietnam, causing widespread damage and destruction and leaving a death toll estimated to range into the hundreds.
U.S. officials began discussing the possibility of a regime change during the middle of 1963. The United States Department of State wanted to encourage a coup, while the Defense Department favored Diệm. Chief among the proposed changes was the removal of Diệm's younger brother Nhu, who controlled the secret police and special forces, and was seen as the man behind the Buddhist repression and more generally the architect of the Ngô family's rule. This proposal was conveyed to the U.S. embassy in Saigon in Cable 243.
The CIA contacted generals planning to remove Diệm and told them that the United States would not oppose such a move nor punish the generals by cutting off aid. President Diệm was overthrown and executed, along with his brother, on 2 November 1963. When Kennedy was informed, Maxwell Taylor remembered that he "rushed from the room with a look of shock and dismay on his face.":326 Kennedy had not anticipated Diệm's murder. The U.S. ambassador to South Vietnam, Henry Cabot Lodge, invited the coup leaders to the embassy and congratulated them. Ambassador Lodge informed Kennedy that "the prospects now are for a shorter war".:327 Kennedy wrote Lodge a letter congratulating him for "a fine job".
Following the coup, chaos ensued. Hanoi took advantage of the situation and increased its support for the guerrillas. South Vietnam entered a period of extreme political instability, as one military government toppled another in quick succession. Increasingly, each new regime was viewed by the communists as a puppet of the Americans; whatever the failings of Diệm, his credentials as a nationalist (as Robert McNamara later reflected) had been impeccable.:328
U.S. military advisors were embedded at every level of the South Vietnamese armed forces. They were however criticized for ignoring the political nature of the insurgency. The Kennedy administration sought to refocus U.S. efforts on pacification- which in this case was defined as countering the growing threat of insurgency-  and "winning over the hearts and minds" of the population. The military leadership in Washington, however, was hostile to any role for U.S. advisors other than conventional troop training. General Paul Harkins, the commander of U.S. forces in South Vietnam, confidently predicted victory by Christmas 1963.:103 The CIA was less optimistic, however, warning that "the Viet Cong by and large retain de facto control of much of the countryside and have steadily increased the overall intensity of the effort".
Paramilitary officers from the CIA's Special Activities Division trained and led Hmong tribesmen in Laos and into Vietnam. The indigenous forces numbered in the tens of thousands and they conducted direct action missions, led by paramilitary officers, against the Communist Pathet Lao forces and their North Vietnamese supporters. The CIA also ran the Phoenix Program and participated in Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MAC-V SOG), which was originally named the Special Operations Group, but was changed for cover purposes.
Johnson's escalation, 1963–1969
President Kennedy was assassinated on 22 November 1963. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson had not been heavily involved with policy toward Vietnam;[A 4] however, upon becoming president, Johnson immediately focused on the war. On 24 November 1963, he said, "the battle against communism ... must be joined ... with strength and determination." Johnson knew he had inherited a rapidly deteriorating situation in South Vietnam, but he adhered to the widely accepted domino theory argument for defending the South: Should they retreat or appease, either action would imperil other nations beyond the conflict.
The military revolutionary council, meeting in lieu of a strong South Vietnamese leader, was made up of 12 members. This council was headed by General Dương Văn Minh, whom Stanley Karnow, a journalist on the ground, later recalled as "a model of lethargy".:340 Lodge, frustrated by the end of the year, cabled home about Minh: "Will he be strong enough to get on top of things?" Minh's regime was overthrown in January 1964 by General Nguyễn Khánh.:341 There was also persistent instability in the military, however, as several coups—not all successful—occurred in a short period of time.
In a statement similar to that made to the French almost two decades earlier, Ho Chi Minh warned that if the Americans "want to make war for twenty years then we shall make war for twenty years. If they want to make peace, we shall make peace and invite them to afternoon tea.":172 Some have argued that the policy of North Vietnam was not to topple other non-communist governments in South East Asia.:48
Gulf of Tonkin incident
On 2 August 1964, USS Maddox, on an intelligence mission along North Vietnam's coast, allegedly fired upon and damaged several torpedo boats that had been stalking it in the Gulf of Tonkin.:124 A second attack was reported two days later on USS Turner Joy and Maddox in the same area. The circumstances of the attacks were murky.:218–9 Lyndon Johnson commented to Undersecretary of State George Ball that "those sailors out there may have been shooting at flying fish."
An undated NSA publication declassified in 2005 revealed that there was no attack on 4 August.
The second "attack" led to retaliatory airstrikes, and prompted Congress to approve the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution on 7 August 1964.:78 The resolution granted the president power "to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression" and Johnson would rely on this as giving him authority to expand the war.:221 In the same month, Johnson pledged that he was not "committing American boys to fighting a war that I think ought to be fought by the boys of Asia to help protect their own land".:227
The National Security Council recommended a three-stage escalation of the bombing of North Vietnam. Following an attack on a U.S. Army base in Pleiku on 7 February 1965, a series of airstrikes was initiated, Operation Flaming Dart, while Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin was on a state visit to North Vietnam. Operation Rolling Thunder and Operation Arc Light expanded aerial bombardment and ground support operations. The bombing campaign, which ultimately lasted three years, was intended to force North Vietnam to cease its support for the Viet Cong by threatening to destroy North Vietnamese air defenses and industrial infrastructure. It was additionally aimed at bolstering the morale of the South Vietnamese. Between March 1965 and November 1968, Rolling Thunder deluged the north with a million tons of missiles, rockets and bombs.:468
Bombing of Laos
Bombing was not restricted to North Vietnam. Other aerial campaigns, such as Operation Barrel Roll, targeted different parts of the Viet Cong and PAVN infrastructure. These included the Ho Chi Minh trail supply route, which ran through Laos and Cambodia. The ostensibly neutral Laos had become the scene of a civil war, pitting the Laotian government backed by the US against the Pathet Lao and its North Vietnamese allies.
Massive aerial bombardment against the Pathet Lao and PAVN forces were carried out by the US to prevent the collapse of the Royal central government, and to deny the use of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Between 1964 and 1973, the U.S. dropped two million tons of bombs on Laos, nearly equal to the 2.1 million tons of bombs the U.S. dropped on Europe and Asia during all of World War II, making Laos the most heavily bombed country in history relative to the size of its population.
The objective of stopping North Vietnam and the Viet Cong was never reached. The Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force Curtis LeMay, however, had long advocated saturation bombing in Vietnam and wrote of the communists that "we're going to bomb them back into the Stone Age".:328
The 1964 Offensive
Following the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, Hanoi anticipated the arrival of US troops and began expanding the Viet Cong, as well as sending increasing numbers of North Vietnamese personnel southwards. At this phase they were outfitting the Viet Cong forces and standardising their equipment with AK-47 rifles and other supplies, as well as forming the 9th Division.:223 "From a strength of approximately 5,000 at the start of 1959 the Viet Cong's ranks grew to about 100,000 at the end of 1964 ... Between 1961 and 1964 the Army's strength rose from about 850,000 to nearly a million men." The numbers for U.S. troops deployed to Vietnam during the same period were much lower: 2,000 in 1961, rising rapidly to 16,500 in 1964. During this phase, the use of captured equipment decreased, while greater numbers of ammunition and supplies were required to maintain regular units. Group 559 was tasked with expanding the Ho Chi Minh trail, in light of the near constant bombardment by US warplanes. The war had begun to shift into the final, conventional warfare phase of Hanoi's three-stage protracted warfare model. The Viet Cong was now tasked with destroying the ARVN and capturing and holding areas; however, the Viet Cong was not yet strong enough to assault major towns and cities.
In December 1964, ARVN forces had suffered heavy losses at the Battle of Bình Giã, in a battle that both sides viewed as a watershed. Previously, the VC had utilised hit-and-run guerrilla tactics. At Binh Gia, however, they had defeated a strong ARVN force in a conventional battle and remained in the field for four days.:58 Tellingly, South Vietnamese forces were again defeated in June 1965 at the Battle of Đồng Xoài.:94
American ground war
On 8 March 1965, 3,500 U.S. Marines were landed near Da Nang, South Vietnam.:246–7 This marked the beginning of the American ground war. U.S. public opinion overwhelmingly supported the deployment. The Marines' initial assignment was the defense of Da Nang Air Base. The first deployment of 3,500 in March 1965 was increased to nearly 200,000 by December.:349–51 The U.S. military had long been schooled in offensive warfare. Regardless of political policies, U.S. commanders were institutionally and psychologically unsuited to a defensive mission.:349–51
General William Westmoreland informed Admiral U. S. Grant Sharp Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific forces, that the situation was critical.:349–51 He said, "I am convinced that U.S. troops with their energy, mobility, and firepower can successfully take the fight to the NLF (Viet Cong)". With this recommendation, Westmoreland was advocating an aggressive departure from America's defensive posture and the sidelining of the South Vietnamese. By ignoring ARVN units, the U.S. commitment became open-ended.:353 Westmoreland outlined a three-point plan to win the war:
- Phase 1. Commitment of U.S. (and other free world) forces necessary to halt the losing trend by the end of 1965.
- Phase 2. U.S. and allied forces mount major offensive actions to seize the initiative to destroy guerrilla and organized enemy forces. This phase would end when the enemy had been worn down, thrown on the defensive, and driven back from major populated areas.
- Phase 3. If the enemy persisted, a period of twelve to eighteen months following Phase 2 would be required for the final destruction of enemy forces remaining in remote base areas.
The plan was approved by Johnson and marked a profound departure from the previous administration's insistence that the government of South Vietnam was responsible for defeating the guerrillas. Westmoreland predicted victory by the end of 1967. Johnson did not, however, communicate this change in strategy to the media. Instead he emphasized continuity. The change in U.S. policy depended on matching the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong in a contest of attrition and morale. The opponents were locked in a cycle of escalation.:353–4 The idea that the government of South Vietnam could manage its own affairs was shelved.:353–4 Westmoreland and McNamara furthermore touted the body count system for gauging victory, a metric that would later prove to be flawed.
The American buildup transformed the South Vietnamese economy and had a profound effect on society. South Vietnam was inundated with manufactured goods. Stanley Karnow noted that "the main PX [Post Exchange], located in the Saigon suburb of Cholon, was only slightly smaller than the New York Bloomingdale's ...":453 A huge surge in corruption was witnessed. Meanwhile, the one-year tour of duty of American soldiers deprived units of experienced leadership. As one observer noted "we were not in Vietnam for 10 years, but for one year 10 times."[verification needed] As a result, training programs were shortened.
Washington encouraged its SEATO allies to contribute troops. Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and the Philippines:556 all agreed to send troops. South Korea would later ask to join the Many Flags program in return for economic compensation. Major allies, however, notably NATO nations Canada and the United Kingdom, declined Washington's troop requests.
The U.S. and its allies mounted complex search and destroy operations, designed to find enemy forces, destroy them, and then withdraw, typically using helicopters. In November 1965, the U.S. engaged in its first major battle with the PAVN, the Battle of Ia Drang. The operation was the first large scale helicopter air assault by the U.S., and first to employ Boeing B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers in a tactical support role.:284–5 These tactics continued in 1966–1967 with operations such as Masher, Thayer, Attleboro, Cedar Falls and Junction City. However, the PAVN/VC insurgents remained elusive and demonstrated great tactical flexibility. By 1967, these operations had generated large-scale internal refugees, numbering nearly 2.1 million in South Vietnam, with 125,000 people evacuated and rendered homeless during Operation Masher alone, which was the largest search and destroy operation in the war up to that point. Operation Masher would have negligible impact, however, as the PAVN/VC returned to the province just four months after the operation ended.:153–6 Despite the continual conductance of major operations, which the Viet Cong and PAVN would typically evade, the war was characterised by smaller-unit contacts or engagements. Up to the war's end, the Viet Cong and PAVN would initiate 90% of large firefights, of which 80% were clear and well-planned operations, and thus the PAVN/Viet Cong would retain strategic initiative despite overwhelming US force and fire-power deployment. The PAVN/Viet Cong had furthermore developed strategies capable of countering U.S. military doctrines and tactics (see NLF and PAVN battle tactics).
Meanwhile, the political situation in South Vietnam began to stabilise with the coming to power of prime minister Air Marshal Nguyễn Cao Kỳ and figurehead chief of state, General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, in mid-1965 at the head of a military junta. This ended a series of coups that had happened more than once a year. In 1967, Thieu became president with Ky as his deputy, after rigged elections. Although they were nominally a civilian government, Ky was supposed to maintain real power through a behind-the-scenes military body. However, Thieu outmanoeuvred and sidelined Ky by filling the ranks with generals from his faction. Thieu was also accused of murdering Ky loyalists through contrived military accidents. Thieu, mistrustful and indecisive, remained president until 1975, having won a one-candidate election in 1971.:706
The Johnson administration employed a "policy of minimum candor":18 in its dealings with the media. Military information officers sought to manage media coverage by emphasizing stories that portrayed progress in the war. Over time, this policy damaged the public trust in official pronouncements. As the media's coverage of the war and that of the Pentagon diverged, a so-called credibility gap developed.:18 Despite Johnson and Westmoreland publicly proclaiming victory and Westmoreland stating that the "end is coming into view", internal reports in the Pentagon Papers indicate that Viet Cong forces retained strategic initiative and controlled their losses. Viet Cong attacks against static US positions accounted for 30% of all engagements, VC/PAVN ambushes and encirclements for 23%, American ambushes against Viet Cong/PAVN forces for 9%, and American forces attacking Viet Cong emplacements for only 5% of all engagements.
|TYPE OF ENGAGEMENTS IN COMBAT NARRATIVES||Percentage of
|Hot Landing Zone. VC/PAVN Attacks U.S. Troops As They Deploy||12.5%||Planned VC/PAVN Attacks
Are 66.2% Of All Engagements
|Planned VC/PAVN Attack Against US Defensive Perimeter||30.4%|
|VC/PAVN Ambushes or Encircles A Moving US Unit||23.3%|
|Unplanned US Attacks On A VC/PAVN Defensive Perimeter,
Engagement A Virtual Surprise To US Commanders
|12.5%||Defensive Posts Being Well Concealed
or VC/PAVN Alerted or Anticipated
|Planned US Attack Against Known
VC/PAVN Defensive Perimeter
|5.4%||Planned US Attacks Against
VC/PAVN Represent 14.3%
Of All Engagements
|US Forces Ambushes Moving VC/PAVN Units||8.9%|
|Chance Engagement, Neither Side Planned||7.1%|
In late 1967, the PAVN lured American forces into the hinterlands at Đắk Tô and at the Marine Khe Sanh combat base in Quảng Trị Province, where the U.S. fought a series of battles known as The Hill Fights. These actions were part of a diversionary strategy meant to draw US forces towards the Central Highlands. Preparations were underway for the General Offensive, General Uprising, known as Tet Mau Than, or the Tet Offensive, with the intention of Văn Tiến Dũng for forces to launch "direct attacks on the American and puppet nerve centers—Saigon, Huế, Danang, all the cities, towns and main bases..." Le Duan sought to placate critics of the ongoing stalemate by planning a decisive victory.:90–4 He reasoned that this could be achieved through sparking a general uprising within the towns and cities,:148 along with mass defections among ARVN units, who were on holiday leave during the truce period.
The Tet Offensive began on 30 January 1968, as over 100 cities were attacked by over 85,000 VC/PAVN troops, including assaults on key military installations, headquarters, and government buildings and offices, including the U.S. Embassy in Saigon.:363–5 U.S. and South Vietnamese forces were initially shocked by the scale, intensity and deliberative planning of the urban offensive, as infiltration of personnel and weapons into the cities was accomplished covertly; the offensive constituted an intelligence failure on the scale of Pearl Harbor.:556 Most cities were recaptured within weeks, except the former imperial capital of Huế in which PAVN/Viet Cong troops captured most of the city and citadel except the headquarters of the 1st Division and held on in the fighting for 26 days.:495 During that time, they had executed approximately 2,800 unarmed Huế civilians and foreigners they considered to be enemy's spies.:495 In the following Battle of Huế American forces employed massive firepower that left 80 percent of the city in ruins.:308–9 Further north, at Quảng Trị City, the ARVN Airborne Division, the 1st Division and a regiment of the US 1st Cavalry Division had managed to hold out and overcome an assault intended to capture the city.::104 In Saigon, Viet Cong/PAVN fighters had captured areas in and around the city, attacking key installations and the neighbourhood of Cholon before US and ARVN forces dislodged them after three weeks.:479 During one battle, Peter Arnett reported an infantry commander saying of the Battle of Bến Tre (laid to rubble by U.S. attacks) that "it became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it."
During the first month of the offensive, 1,100 Americans and other allied troops, 2,100 ARVN and 14,000 civilians were killed. By the end of the first offensive, after two months, nearly 5,000 ARVN and over 4,000 U.S. forces had been killed and 45,820 wounded. The U.S. claimed 17,000 of the PAVN and Viet Cong had been killed and 15,000 wounded.:82:104 A month later a second offensive known as the May Offensive was launched; although less widespread, it demonstrated the Viet Cong were still capable of carrying out orchestrated nationwide offensives.:488–9 Two months later a third offensive was launched, the Phase III Offensive. The PAVN's own official records of their losses across all three offensives was 45,267 killed and 111,179 total casualties. By then it had become the bloodiest year of the war up to that point. The failure to spark a general uprising and the lack of defections among the ARVN units meant both war goals of Hanoi had fallen flat at enormous costs.:148–9
Prior to Tet, in November 1967, Westmoreland had spearheaded a public relations drive for the Johnson administration to bolster flagging public support. In a speech before the National Press Club he said a point in the war had been reached "where the end comes into view." Thus, the public was shocked and confused when Westmoreland's predictions were trumped by the Tet Offensive. Public approval of his overall performance dropped from 48 percent to 36 percent, and endorsement for the war effort fell from 40 percent to 26 percent.":546 The American public and media began to turn against Johnson as the three offensives contradicted claims of progress made by the Johnson administration and the military.
At one point in 1968, Westmoreland considered the use of nuclear weapons in Vietnam in a contingency plan codenamed Fracture Jaw, which was abandoned when it became known to the White House. Westmoreland requested 200,000 additional troops, which was leaked to the media, and the subsequent fallout combined with intelligence failures caused him to be removed from command in March 1968, succeeded by his deputy Creighton Abrams.
On 10 May 1968, peace talks began between the United States and North Vietnam in Paris. Negotiations stagnated for five months, until Johnson gave orders to halt the bombing of North Vietnam. At the same time, Hanoi realized it could not achieve a "total victory" and employed a strategy known as "talking while fighting, fighting while talking", in which military offensives would occur concurrently with negotiations.
Johnson declined to run for re-election as his approval rating slumped from 48 to 36 percent.:486 His escalation of the war in Vietnam divided Americans into warring camps, cost 30,000 American lives by that point and was regarded to have destroyed his presidency.:486 Refusal to send more U.S. troops to Vietnam was also seen as Johnson's admission that the war was lost. As Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara noted, "the dangerous illusion of victory by the United States was therefore dead.":367
Vietnam was a major political issue during the United States presidential election in 1968. The election was won by Republican party candidate Richard Nixon who claimed to have a secret plan to end the war.:515
Nuclear threats and diplomacy
U.S. president Richard Nixon began troop withdrawals in 1969. His plan to build up the ARVN so that it could take over the defense of South Vietnam became known as "Vietnamization". As the PAVN/VC recovered from their 1968 losses and generally avoided contact, Creighton Abrams conducted operations aimed at disrupting logistics, with better use of firepower and more cooperation with the ARVN.:517 On 27 October 1969, Nixon had ordered a squadron of 18 B-52s loaded with nuclear weapons to race to the border of Soviet airspace to convince the Soviet Union, in accord with the madman theory, that he was capable of anything to end the Vietnam War. Nixon had also sought détente with the Soviet Union and rapprochement with China, which decreased global tensions and led to nuclear arms reduction by both superpowers; however, there was disappointment when both sides continued to supply the North Vietnamese with aid.
Hanoi's war strategy
In September 1969, Ho Chi Minh died at age seventy-nine. The failure of Tet in sparking a popular uprising caused a shift in Hanoi's war strategy, and the Giáp-Chinh "Northern-First" faction regained control over military affairs from the Lê Duẩn-Hoàng Văn Thái "Southern-First" faction.:272–4 An unconventional victory was sidelined in favor of a strategy built on conventional victory through conquest.:196–205 Large-scale offensives were rolled back in favour of small-unit and sapper attacks as well as targeting the pacification and Vietnamization strategy. In the two-year period following Tet, the PAVN had begun its transformation from a fine light-infantry, limited mobility force into a high-mobile and mechanised combined arms force.:189
U.S. domestic controversies
The anti-war movement was gaining strength in the United States. Nixon appealed to the "silent majority" of Americans who he said supported the war without showing it in public. But revelations of the 1968 My Lai Massacre,:518–21 in which a U.S. Army unit raped and killed civilians, and the 1969 "Green Beret Affair", where eight Special Forces soldiers, including the 5th Special Forces Group Commander, were arrested for the murder of a suspected double agent, provoked national and international outrage.
In 1971, the Pentagon Papers were leaked to The New York Times. The top-secret history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, commissioned by the Department of Defense, detailed a long series of public deceptions on the part of the U.S. government. The Supreme Court ruled that its publication was legal.
Collapsing U.S. morale
Following the Tet Offensive and the decreasing support among the U.S. public for the war, U.S. forces began a period of morale collapse, disillusionment and disobedience.:349–50:166–75 At home, desertion rates quadrupled from 1966 levels. Among the enlisted, only 2.5% chose infantry combat positions in 1969–1970. ROTC enrollment decreased from 191,749 in 1966 to 72,459 by 1971, and reached an all-time low of 33,220 in 1974, depriving U.S. forces of much-needed military leadership.
Open refusal to engage in patrols or carry out orders and disobedience began to emerge during this period, with one notable case of an entire company refusing orders to engage or carry out operations. Unit cohesion began to dissipate and focused on minimising contact with Viet Cong and PAVN.: A practice known as "sand-bagging" started occurring, where units ordered to go on patrol would go into the country-side, find a site out of view from superiors and rest while radioing in false coordinates and unit reports.:407–11 Drug usage increased rapidly among U.S. forces during this period, as 30% of U.S. troops regularly used marijuana,:407 while a House subcommittee found 10-15% of U.S. troops in Vietnam regularly used high-grade heroin.:526 From 1969 on, search-and-destroy operations became referred to as "search and evade" or "search and avoid" operations, falsifying battle reports while avoiding guerrilla fighters. A total of 900 fragging and suspected fragging incidents were investigated, most occurring between 1969 and 1971.:407:331 In 1969, field-performance of the U.S. Forces was characterised by lowered morale, lack of motivation, and poor leadership.:331 The significant decline in U.S. morale was demonstrated by the Battle of FSB Mary Ann in March 1971, in which a sapper attack inflicted serious losses on the U.S. defenders.:357 William Westmoreland, no longer in command but tasked with investigation of the failure, cited a clear dereliction of duty, lax defensive postures and lack of officers in charge as its cause.:357
On the collapse of U.S. morale, historian Shelby Stanton wrote:
In the last years of the Army's retreat, its remaining forces were relegated to static security. The American Army's decline was readily apparent in this final stage. Racial incidents, drug abuse, combat disobedience, and crime reflected growing idleness, resentment, and frustration... the fatal handicaps of faulty campaign strategy, incomplete wartime preparation, and the tardy, superficial attempts at Vietnamization. An entire American army was sacrificed on the battlefield of Vietnam.:366–8
ARVN taking the lead and U.S. ground-force withdrawal
Beginning in 1970, American troops were withdrawn from border areas where most of the fighting took place and instead redeployed along the coast and interior. US casualties in 1970 were less than half of 1969 casualties after being relegated to less active combat. While US forces were redeployed, the ARVN took over combat operations throughout the country, with casualties double US casualties in 1969, and more than triple US ones in 1970. In the post-Tet environment, membership in the South Vietnamese Regional Force and Popular Force militias grew, and they were now more capable of providing village security, which the Americans had not accomplished under Westmoreland.
In 1970, Nixon announced the withdrawal of an additional 150,000 American troops, reducing the number of Americans to 265,500. By 1970, Viet Cong forces were no longer southern-majority, as nearly 70% of units were northerners. Between 1969 and 1971 the Viet Cong and some PAVN units had reverted to small unit tactics typical of 1967 and prior instead of nationwide grand offensives.: In 1971, Australia and New Zealand withdrew their soldiers and U.S. troop count was further reduced to 196,700, with a deadline to remove another 45,000 troops by February 1972. The United States also reduced support troops, and in March 1971 the 5th Special Forces Group, the first American unit deployed to South Vietnam, withdrew to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.:240[A 5]
Prince Norodom Sihanouk had proclaimed Cambodia neutral since 1955, but permitted the PAVN/Viet Cong to use the port of Sihanoukville and the Sihanouk Trail. In March 1969 Nixon launched a massive secret bombing campaign, called Operation Menu, against communist sanctuaries along the Cambodia/Vietnam border. Only five high-ranking congressional officials were informed of Operation Menu.[A 6]
In March 1970, Prince Sihanouk was deposed by his pro-American prime minister Lon Nol, who demanded that North Vietnamese troops leave Cambodia or face military action. Lon Nol began rounding up Vietnamese civilians in Cambodia into internment camps and massacring them, provoking harsh reactions from both the North Vietnamese and South Vietnamese government. North Vietnam invaded Cambodia at the request of the Khmer Rouge following negotiations with deputy leader Nuon Chea. In April–May 1970, many North Vietnamese forces entered Cambodia in response to the call for help addressed to Vietnam by Nuon Chea. Nguyen Co Thach recalls: "Nuon Chea has asked for help and we have liberated five provinces of Cambodia in ten days." U.S. and ARVN forces launched the Cambodian Campaign to attack PAVN and Viet Cong bases. A counter-offensive later that year as part of Operation Chenla II by the PAVN would recapture most of the border areas and decimate most of Lon Nol's forces.
The invasion of Cambodia sparked nationwide U.S. protests as Nixon had promised to deescalate the American involvement. Four students were killed by National Guardsmen in May 1970 during a protest at Kent State University in Ohio, which provoked further public outrage in the United States. The reaction to the incident by the Nixon administration was seen as callous and indifferent, reinvigorating the declining anti-war movement.:128–9 The U.S. Air Force continued to heavily bomb Cambodia in support of the Cambodian government as part of Operation Freedom Deal.
Building up on the success of ARVN units in Cambodia, and further testing the Vietnamization program, the ARVN were tasked to launch Operation Lam Son 719 in February 1971, the first major ground operation aimed directly at attacking the Ho Chi Minh trail by attacking the major crossroad of Tchepone. This offensive would also be the first time the PAVN would field-test its combined arms force.: The first few days were considered a success but the momentum had slowed after fierce resistance. Thiệu had halted the general advance, leaving armoured divisions able to surround them. Thieu had ordered air assault troops to capture Tchepone and withdraw, despite facing four-times larger numbers. During the withdrawal the PAVN counterattack had forced a panicked rout. Half of the ARVN troops involved were either captured or killed, half of the ARVN/US support helicopters were downed by anti-aircraft fire and the operation was considered a fiasco, demonstrating operational deficiencies still present within the ARVN.:644–5 Nixon and Thieu had sought to use this event to show-case victory simply by capturing Tchepone, and it was spun off as an "operational success".:576–82
Easter Offensive and Paris Peace Accords, 1972
Vietnamization was again tested by the Easter Offensive of 1972, a massive conventional PAVN invasion of South Vietnam. The PAVN quickly overran the northern provinces and in coordination with other forces attacked from Cambodia, threatening to cut the country in half. U.S. troop withdrawals continued, but American airpower responded, beginning Operation Linebacker, and the offensive was halted.:606–37
The war was central to the 1972 U.S. presidential election as Nixon's opponent, George McGovern, campaigned on immediate withdrawal. Nixon's National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, had continued secret negotiations with North Vietnam's Lê Đức Thọ and in October 1972 reached an agreement. President Thieu demanded changes to the peace accord upon its discovery, and when North Vietnam went public with the agreement's details, the Nixon administration claimed they were attempting to embarrass the president. The negotiations became deadlocked when Hanoi demanded new changes. To show his support for South Vietnam and force Hanoi back to the negotiating table, Nixon ordered Operation Linebacker II, a massive bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong 18–29 December 1972.:649–63 Nixon pressured Thieu to accept the terms of the agreement, threatening to conclude a bilateral peace deal and cut off American aid while promising an air-response in case of invasion.
On 15 January 1973, all U.S. combat activities were suspended. Lê Đức Thọ and Henry Kissinger, along with the PRG Foreign Minister Nguyễn Thị Bình and a reluctant President Thiệu, signed the Paris Peace Accords on 27 January 1973.:508–13 This officially ended direct U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, created a ceasefire between North Vietnam/PRG and South Vietnam, guaranteed the territorial integrity of Vietnam under the Geneva Conference of 1954, called for elections or a political settlement between the PRG and South Vietnam, allowed 200,000 communist troops to remain in the south, and agreed to a POW exchange. There was a sixty-day period for the total withdrawal of U.S. forces. "This article", noted Peter Church, "proved… to be the only one of the Paris Agreements which was fully carried out." All US forces personnel were completely withdrawn by March 1973.:260
Opposition to U.S. involvement, 1964–1973
During the course of the Vietnam War a large segment of the American population came to be opposed to U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia. Public opinion steadily turned against the war following 1967 and by 1970 only a third of Americans believed that the U.S. had not made a mistake by sending troops to fight in Vietnam.
Early opposition to U.S. involvement in Vietnam drew its inspiration from the Geneva Conference of 1954. American support of Diệm in refusing elections was seen as thwarting the democracy America claimed to support. John F. Kennedy, while senator, opposed involvement in Vietnam. Nonetheless, it is possible to specify certain groups who led the anti-war movement at its peak in the late 1960s and the reasons why. Many young people protested because they were the ones being drafted, while others were against the war because the anti-war movement grew increasingly popular among the counterculture. Some advocates within the peace movement advocated a unilateral withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam. Opposition to the Vietnam War tended to unite groups opposed to U.S. anti-communism and imperialism, and for those involved with the New Left, such as the Catholic Worker Movement. Others, such as Stephen Spiro, opposed the war based on the theory of Just War. Some wanted to show solidarity with the people of Vietnam, such as Norman Morrison emulating the self-immolation of Thích Quảng Đức.
High-profile opposition to the Vietnam War increasingly turned to mass protests in an effort to shift U.S. public opinion. Riots broke out at the 1968 Democratic National Convention during protests against the war.:514 After news reports of American military abuses, such as the 1968 My Lai Massacre, brought new attention and support to the anti-war movement, some veterans joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War. On 15 October 1969, the Vietnam Moratorium attracted millions of Americans. The fatal shooting of four students at Kent State University in 1970 led to nationwide university protests. Anti-war protests declined after the signing of the Paris Peace Accords and the end of the draft in January 1973, and the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam in the months following.
U.S. exit and final campaigns, 1973–1975
In the lead-up to the ceasefire on 28 January, both sides attempted to maximize the land and population under their control in a campaign known as the War of the flags. Fighting continued after the ceasefire, this time without US participation, and continued throughout the year.:508–13 North Vietnam was allowed to continue supplying troops in the South but only to the extent of replacing expended material. Later that year the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Kissinger and Thọ, but the North Vietnamese negotiator declined it saying that a true peace did not yet exist.
On 15 March 1973, Nixon implied the US would intervene again militarily if the North launched a full offensive and Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger re-affirmed this position during his June 1973 confirmation hearings. Public and congressional reaction to Nixon's statement was unfavorable, prompting the U.S. Senate to pass the Case–Church Amendment to prohibit any intervention.:670–2
PAVN/VC leaders expected the ceasefire terms would favor their side, but Saigon, bolstered by a surge of U.S. aid received just before the ceasefire went into effect, began to roll back the Viet Cong. The PAVN/VC responded with a new strategy hammered out in a series of meetings in Hanoi in March 1973, according to the memoirs of Trần Văn Trà.:672–4 With U.S. bombings suspended, work on the Ho Chi Minh trail and other logistical structures could proceed unimpeded. Logistics would be upgraded until the North was in a position to launch a massive invasion of the South, projected for the 1975–1976 dry season. Tra calculated that this date would be Hanoi's last opportunity to strike before Saigon's army could be fully trained.:672–4 The PAVN/VC resumed offensive operations when the dry season began in 1973, and by January 1974 had recaptured territory it lost during the previous dry season.
Within South Vietnam, the departure of the US military and the global recession that followed the 1973 oil crisis hurt an economy that was partly dependent on U.S. financial support and troop presence. After two clashes that left 55 ARVN soldiers dead, President Thieu announced on 4 January 1974, that the war had restarted and that the Paris Peace Accords were no longer in effect. This was despite there being over 25,000 South Vietnamese casualties during the ceasefire period.:683
The success of the 1973–1974 dry season offensive inspired Trà to return to Hanoi in October 1974 and plead for a larger offensive the next dry season. This time, Trà could travel on a drivable highway with regular fueling stops, a vast change from the days when the Ho Chi Minh trail was a dangerous mountain trek.:676 Giáp, the North Vietnamese defence minister, was reluctant to approve of Trà's plan since a larger offensive might provoke U.S. reaction and interfere with the big push planned for 1976. Trà appealed over Giáp's head to first secretary Lê Duẩn, who approved of the operation. Trà's plan called for a limited offensive from Cambodia into Phước Long Province. The strike was designed to solve local logistical problems, gauge the reaction of South Vietnamese forces, and determine whether the U.S. would return.:685–90
At the start of 1975, the South Vietnamese had three times as much artillery and twice the number of tanks and armoured cars as the PAVN. They also had 1,400 aircraft and a two-to-one numerical superiority in combat troops over the PAVN/VC. However, the rising oil prices meant that much of this could not be used, and the rushed nature of Vietnamization, intended to cover the US retreat, saw a lack of spare parts, ground-crew and maintenance personnel, rendering most of the equipment given inoperable.:362–6 Gerald Ford took over as U.S. president on 9 August 1974 after President Nixon resigned due to the Watergate scandal and Congress cut financial aid to South Vietnam from $1 billion a year to $700 million. Congress also voted in further restrictions on funding to be phased in through 1975 and to culminate in a total cutoff in 1976.:686
On 13 December 1974, North Vietnamese forces attacked Phước Long. Phuoc Binh, the provincial capital, fell on 6 January 1975. Ford desperately asked Congress for funds to assist and re-supply the South before it was overrun. Congress refused. The fall of Phuoc Binh and the lack of an American response left the South Vietnamese elite demoralized.
The speed of this success led the Politburo to reassess its strategy. It was decided that operations in the Central Highlands would be turned over to General Văn Tiến Dũng and that Pleiku should be seized, if possible. Before he left for the South, Dũng was addressed by Lê Duẩn: "Never have we had military and political conditions so perfect or a strategic advantage as great as we have now."
On 10 March 1975, General Dung launched Campaign 275, a limited offensive into the Central Highlands, supported by tanks and heavy artillery. The target was Buôn Ma Thuột, in Đắk Lắk Province. If the town could be taken, the provincial capital of Pleiku and the road to the coast would be exposed for a planned campaign in 1976. The ARVN proved incapable of resisting the onslaught, and its forces collapsed on 11 March. Once again, Hanoi was surprised by the speed of their success. Dung now urged the Politburo to allow him to seize Pleiku immediately and then turn his attention to Kon Tum. He argued that with two months of good weather remaining until the onset of the monsoon, it would be irresponsible to not take advantage of the situation.:
President Thiệu, a former general, was fearful that his forces would be cut off in the north by the attacking communists; Thieu ordered a retreat, which soon turned into a bloody rout. While the bulk of ARVN forces attempted to flee, isolated units fought desperately. ARVN general Phu abandoned Pleiku and Kon Tum and retreated toward the coast, in what became known as the "column of tears".:693–4
On 20 March, Thieu reversed himself and ordered Huế, Vietnam's third-largest city, be held at all costs, and then changed his policy several times. As the PAVN launched their attack, panic set in, and ARVN resistance withered. On 22 March, the PAVN opened the siege of Huế. Civilians flooded the airport and the docks hoping for any mode of escape. As resistance in Huế collapsed, PAVN rockets rained down on Da Nang and its airport. By 28 March 35,000 PAVN troops were poised to attack the suburbs. By 30 March 100,000 leaderless ARVN troops surrendered as the PAVN marched victoriously through Da Nang. With the fall of the city, the defense of the Central Highlands and Northern provinces came to an end.:699–700
Final North Vietnamese offensive
With the northern half of the country under their control, the Politburo ordered General Dung to launch the final offensive against Saigon. The operational plan for the Ho Chi Minh Campaign called for the capture of Saigon before 1 May. Hanoi wished to avoid the coming monsoon and prevent any redeployment of ARVN forces defending the capital. Northern forces, their morale boosted by their recent victories, rolled on, taking Nha Trang, Cam Ranh and Da Lat.:702–4
On 7 April, three PAVN divisions attacked Xuân Lộc, 40 miles (64 km) east of Saigon. For two bloody weeks, severe fighting raged as the ARVN defenders made a last stand to try to block the PAVN advance. On 21 April, however, the exhausted garrison was ordered to withdraw towards Saigon.:704–7 An embittered and tearful president Thieu resigned on the same day, declaring that the United States had betrayed South Vietnam. In a scathing attack, he suggested that Kissinger had tricked him into signing the Paris peace agreement two years earlier, promising military aid that failed to materialize. Having transferred power to Trần Văn Hương on 21 April, he left for Taiwan on 25 April.:714 After having appealed unsuccessfully to Congress for $700 million in emergency aid for South Vietnam, President Ford had given a televised speech on 23 April, declaring an end to the Vietnam War and all U.S. aid.
By the end of April, the ARVN had collapsed on all fronts except in the Mekong Delta. Thousands of refugees streamed southward, ahead of the main communist onslaught. On 27 April 100,000 PAVN troops encircled Saigon. The city was defended by about 30,000 ARVN troops. To hasten a collapse and foment panic, the PAVN shelled Tan Son Nhut Airport and forced its closure. With the air exit closed, large numbers of civilians found that they had no way out.:716
Fall of Saigon
Chaos, unrest, and panic broke out as hysterical South Vietnamese officials and civilians scrambled to leave Saigon. Martial law was declared. American helicopters began evacuating South Vietnamese, U.S. and foreign nationals from various parts of the city and from the U.S. embassy compound. Operation Frequent Wind had been delayed until the last possible moment, because of U.S. Ambassador Graham Martin's belief that Saigon could be held and that a political settlement could be reached. Frequent Wind was the largest helicopter evacuation in history. It began on 29 April, in an atmosphere of desperation, as hysterical crowds of Vietnamese vied for limited space. Frequent Wind continued around the clock, as PAVN tanks breached defenses near Saigon. In the early morning hours of 30 April, the last U.S. Marines evacuated the embassy by helicopter, as civilians swamped the perimeter and poured into the grounds.:718–20
On 30 April 1975, PAVN troops entered the city of Saigon and quickly overcame all resistance, capturing key buildings and installations. Two tanks from the 203rd Tank Brigade of the 2nd Corps crashed through the gates of the Independence Palace and the Viet Cong flag was raised above it at 11:30 am local time. President Dương Văn Minh, who had succeeded Huong two days earlier, surrendered to Lieutenant colonel Bùi Văn Tùng, the political commissar of the 203rd Tank Brigade.:95–96 Minh was then escorted to Radio Saigon to announce the surrender declaration (spontaneously written by Tung).:85 The statement was on air at 2:30 pm.
Other countries' involvement
In 1950, China extended diplomatic recognition to the Viet Minh's Democratic Republic of Vietnam and sent weapons, as well as military advisors led by Luo Guibo to assist the Viet Minh in its war with the French. The first draft of the 1954 Geneva Accords was negotiated by French prime minister Pierre Mendès France and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai who, fearing U.S. intervention, urged the Viet Minh to accept a partition at the 17th parallel.
In the summer of 1962, Mao Zedong agreed to supply Hanoi with 90,000 rifles and guns free of charge. Starting in 1965, China sent anti-aircraft units and engineering battalions to North Vietnam to repair the damage caused by American bombing, rebuild roads and railroads, and to perform other engineering works. This freed North Vietnamese army units for combat in the South. China sent 320,000 troops and annual arms shipments worth $180 million.
Sino-Soviet relations soured after the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia in August 1968. In October, the Chinese demanded North Vietnam cut relations with Moscow, but Hanoi refused. The Chinese began to withdraw in November 1968 in preparation for a clash with the Soviets, which occurred at Zhenbao Island in March 1969. The Chinese also began financing the Khmer Rouge as a counterweight to the Vietnamese communists at this time.
China "armed and trained" the Khmer Rouge during the civil war and continued to aid them for years afterward. The Khmer Rouge launched ferocious raids into Vietnam in 1975–1978. When Vietnam responded with an invasion that toppled the Khmer Rouge, China launched a brief, punitive invasion of Vietnam in 1979.
Soviet ships in the South China Sea gave vital early warnings to Viet Cong forces in South Vietnam. The Soviet intelligence ships would pick up American B-52 bombers flying from Okinawa and Guam. Their airspeed and direction would be noted and then relayed to COSVN headquarters. COSVN using airspeed and direction would calculate the bombing target and tell any assets to move "perpendicularly to the attack trajectory." These advance warning gave them time to move out of the way of the bombers and while the bombing runs caused extensive damage, because of the early warnings from 1968 to 1970 they did not kill a single military or civilian leader in the headquarter complexes.
The Soviet Union supplied North Vietnam with medical supplies, arms, tanks, planes, helicopters, artillery, anti-aircraft missiles and other military equipment. Soviet crews fired Soviet-made surface-to-air missiles at U.S. F-4 Phantoms, which were shot down over Thanh Hoa in 1965. Over a dozen Soviet citizens lost their lives in this conflict. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russian officials acknowledged that the Soviet Union had stationed up to 3,000 troops in Vietnam during the war.
Some Russian sources give more specific numbers: the hardware donated by the Soviet Union included 2,000 tanks, 7,000 artillery guns, over 5,000 anti-aircraft guns, 158 surface-to-air missile launchers. During the war, the Soviets sent North Vietnam annual arms shipments worth $450 million. From July 1965 to the end of 1974, fighting in Vietnam was observed by some 6,500 officers and generals, as well as more than 4,500 soldiers and sergeants of the Soviet Armed Forces. In addition, Soviet military schools and academies began training Vietnamese soldiers – in all more than 10,000 military personnel.
As a result of a decision of the Korean Workers' Party in October 1966, in early 1967 North Korea sent a fighter squadron to North Vietnam to back up the North Vietnamese 921st and 923rd fighter squadrons defending Hanoi. They stayed through 1968, and 200 pilots were reported to have served.
In addition, at least two anti-aircraft artillery regiments were sent as well. North Korea also sent weapons, ammunition and two million sets of uniforms to their comrades in North Vietnam. Kim Il-sung is reported to have told his pilots to "fight in the war as if the Vietnamese sky were their own".
The contributions to North Vietnam by the communist Republic of Cuba, under Fidel Castro, is still a matter of debate. There are numerous allegations by former U.S. prisoners of war that Cuban military personnel were present at North Vietnamese prison facilities during the war, and that they participated in torture activities, in what is known as the "Cuba Program". Witnesses to this include Senator John McCain, 2008 U.S. Presidential candidate and former Vietnam prisoner of war, according to his 1999 book Faith of My Fathers. That there was at least a small contingent of Cuban military advisors present in North Vietnam during the war is without question. Some, notably Vietnam War POW/MIA issue advocates, claim evidence that Cuba's military and non-military involvement may have run into the "thousands" of personnel. Then and since, the communist Vietnamese and Cuban governments have not divulged any information on this matter. The most well-known involvement, however, is Fidel Castro's visit to Quang Tri province, held by North Vietnam after the Easter Offensive.
On the anti-communist side, South Korea (a.k.a. the Republic of Korea, ROK) had the second-largest contingent of foreign troops in South Vietnam after the United States. In November 1961, Park Chung Hee proposed South Korean participation in the war to John F. Kennedy, but Kennedy disagreed. On 1 May 1964 Lyndon Johnson requested South Korean participation. The first South Korean troops began arriving in 1964 and large combat formations began arriving a year later. The Republic of Korea Marine Corps dispatched their 2nd Marine Brigade while the ROK Army sent the Capital Division and later the 9th Infantry Division. In August 1966 after the arrival of the 9th Division the Koreans established a corps command, the Republic of Korea Forces Vietnam Field Command, near I Field Force, Vietnam at Nha Trang. The South Koreans soon developed a reputation for effectiveness, reportedly conducting counterinsurgency operations so well that American commanders felt that the South Korean area of responsibility was the safest.
Approximately 320,000 South Korean soldiers were sent to Vietnam, each serving a one-year tour of duty. Maximum troop levels peaked at 50,000 in 1968, however all were withdrawn by 1973. About 5,099 South Koreans were killed and 10,962 wounded during the war. South Korea claimed to have killed 41,000 Viet Cong fighters. The United States paid South Korean soldiers 236 million dollars for their efforts in Vietnam, and South Korean GNP increased five-fold during the war.
Australia and New Zealand
Australia and New Zealand, close allies of the United States and members of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and the ANZUS military co-operation treaty, sent ground troops to Vietnam. Both nations had gained experience in counterinsurgency and jungle warfare during the Malayan Emergency and World War II. Their governments subscribed to the Domino theory. Australia began by sending advisors to Vietnam in 1962, and combat troops were committed in 1965. New Zealand began by sending a detachment of engineers and an artillery battery, and then started sending special forces and regular infantry which were attached to Australian formations. Australia's peak commitment was 7,672 combat troops and New Zealand's 552. More than 60,000 Australian personnel were involved during the course of the war, of which 521 were killed and more than 3,000 wounded. Approximately 3,000 New Zealanders served in Vietnam, losing 37 killed and 187 wounded. Most Australians and New Zealanders served in the 1st Australian Task Force in Phước Tuy Province.
Some 10,450 Filipino troops were dispatched to South Vietnam. They were primarily engaged in medical and other civilian pacification projects. These forces operated under the designation PHLCAG-V or Philippine Civic Action Group-Vietnam.
Thai Army formations, including the "Queen's Cobra" battalion, saw action in South Vietnam between 1965 and 1971. Thai forces saw much more action in the covert war in Laos between 1964 and 1972, though Thai regular formations there were heavily outnumbered by the irregular "volunteers" of the CIA-sponsored Police Aerial Reconnaissance Units or PARU, who carried out reconnaissance activities on the western side of the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
Republic of China (Taiwan)
Since November 1967, the Taiwanese government secretly operated a cargo transport detachment to assist the United States and South Vietnam. Taiwan also provided military training units for the South Vietnamese diving units, later known as the Lien Doi Nguoi Nhai (LDMN) or "Frogman unit" in English. In addition to the diving trainers there were several hundred military personnel. Military commandos from Taiwan were captured by communist forces three times trying to infiltrate North Vietnam.
Canada and the ICC
Canada, India and Poland constituted the International Control Commission, which was supposed to monitor the 1954 ceasefire agreement. Officially, Canada did not have partisan involvement in the Vietnam War and diplomatically it was "non-belligerent". Victor Levant suggested otherwise in his book Quiet Complicity: Canadian Involvement in the Vietnam War (1986). The Vietnam War entry in The Canadian Encyclopedia asserts plainly that Canada's record on the truce commissions was a pro-Saigon partisan one.
A large number of war crimes took place during the Vietnam War. War crimes were committed by both sides during the conflict and included rape, massacres of civilians, bombings of civilian targets, terrorism, the widespread use of torture and the murder of prisoners of war. Additional common crimes included theft, arson, and the destruction of property.
American war crimes
In 1968, The Vietnam War Crimes Working Group (VWCWG) was established by the Pentagon task force set up in the wake of the My Lai Massacre, to attempt to ascertain the veracity of emerging claims of war crimes by U.S. armed forces in Vietnam, during the Vietnam War period.
The investigation compiled over 9,000 pages of investigative files, sworn statements by witnesses and status reports for top military officers, indicating that 320 incidents had factual basis. The substantiated cases included 7 massacres between 1967 and 1971 in which at least 137 civilians were killed; seventy eight further attacks targeting non-combatants resulting in at least 57 deaths, 56 wounded and 15 sexually assaulted; one hundred and forty-one cases of US soldiers torturing civilian detainees or prisoners of war with fists, sticks, bats, water or electric shock. Over 800 alleged atrocities were investigated but only 23 soldiers were ever convicted on charges and most served sentences of less than a year.[unreliable source?] A Los Angeles Times report on the archived files concluded that the war crimes were not confined to a few rogue units, having been uncovered in every army division that was active in Vietnam.
In 2003 a series of investigative reports by the Toledo Blade uncovered a large number of unreported American war crimes particularly from the Tiger Force unit. Some of the most violent war criminals included men such as Sam Ybarra and Sergeant Roy E. "the Bummer" Bumgarner, a soldier who served with the 1st Cavalry Division and later the 173d Airborne Brigade.
In 1971 the later U.S. presidential candidate, John Kerry, testified before the U.S. Senate and stated that over 150 U.S. veterans testified during the Winter Soldier Investigation and described war crimes committed in Southeast Asia.
"They told the stories of times that they had personally raped, cut off the ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country."
According to political scientist R.J. Rummel, U.S. troops murdered about 6,000 Vietnamese civilians during the war. Nick Turse, in his 2013 book, Kill Anything that Moves, argues that a relentless drive toward higher body counts, a widespread use of free-fire zones, rules of engagement where civilians who ran from soldiers or helicopters could be viewed as Viet Cong, and a widespread disdain for Vietnamese civilians led to massive civilian casualties and endemic war crimes inflicted by U.S. troops. One example cited by Turse is Operation Speedy Express, an operation by the 9th Infantry Division, which was described by John Paul Vann as, in effect, "many My Lais". In more detail,
Air force captain, Brian Wilson, who carried out bomb-damage assessments in free-fire zones throughout the delta, saw the results firsthand. "It was the epitome of immorality…One of the times I counted bodies after an air strike—which always ended with two napalm bombs which would just fry everything that was left—I counted sixty-two bodies. In my report I described them as so many women between fifteen and twenty-five and so many children—usually in their mothers' arms or very close to them—and so many old people." When he later read the official tally of dead, he found that it listed them as 130 VC killed.
North Vietnamese, Viet Cong, and Khmer Rouge war crimes
Viet Cong insurgents reportedly sliced off the genitals of village chiefs and sewed them inside their bloody mouths, cut off the tongues of helpless victims, rammed bamboo lances through one ear and out the other, slashed open the wombs of pregnant women, machine gunned children, hacked men and women to pieces with machetes, and cut off the fingers of small children who dared to get an education.[unreliable source?][unreliable source?] According to a U.S. Senate report, squads were assigned monthly assassination quotas. Peer De Silva, former head of the Saigon department of the CIA, wrote that from as early as 1963, Viet Cong units were using disembowelment and other methods of mutilation for psychological warfare.
According to Guenter Lewy, Viet Cong insurgents assassinated at least 37,000 civilians in South Vietnam and routinely employed terror on a daily basis. Ami Pedahzur has written that "the overall volume and lethality of Vietcong terrorism rivals or exceeds all but a handful of terrorist campaigns waged over the last third of the twentieth century". Notable Viet Cong atrocities include the massacre of over 3,000 unarmed civilians at Huế during the Tet Offensive and the incineration of hundreds of civilians at the Dak Son Massacre with flamethrowers. Up to 155,000 refugees fleeing the final North Vietnamese Spring Offensive were killed or abducted on the road to Tuy Hòa in 1975. According to Rummel, North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops murdered between 106,000 and 227,000 civilians in South Vietnam. North Vietnam was also known for its inhumane and abusive treatment of American POWs, most notably in Hoa Lo Prison (aka the Hanoi Hilton), where severe torture was employed to extract "confessions".
Khmer Rouge insurgents also reportedly committed atrocities during the war. These include the murder of civilians and POWs by slowly sawing off their heads a little more each day, the destruction of Buddhist wats and the killing of monks,[unreliable source?] attacks on refugee camps involving the deliberate murder of babies and bomb threats against foreign aid workers,[unreliable source?] the abduction and assassination of journalists, and the shelling of Phnom Penh for more than a year.[unreliable source?] Journalist accounts stated that the Khmer Rouge shelling "tortured the capital almost continuously," inflicting "random death and mutilation" on 2 million trapped civilians.
The Khmer Rouge forcibly evacuated the entire city after taking it, in what has been described as a death march: Francois Ponchaud wrote that "I shall never forget one cripple who had neither hands nor feet, writhing along the ground like a severed worm, or a weeping father carrying his ten-year old daughter wrapped in a sheet tied around his neck like a sling, or the man with his foot dangling at the end of a leg to which it was attached by nothing but skin"; John Swain recalled that the Khmer Rouge were "tipping out patients from the hospitals like garbage into the streets....In five years of war, this is the greatest caravan of human misery I have seen."
Women in Vietnam
During the Vietnam War, American women served on active duty doing a variety of jobs. Early in 1963, the Army Nurse Corps (ANC) launched Operation Nightingale, an intensive effort to recruit nurses to serve in Vietnam. Most nurses who volunteered to serve in Vietnam came from predominantly working or middle-class families with histories of military service. The majority of these women were white Catholics and Protestants. Because the need for medical aid was great, many nurses underwent a concentrated four-month training program before being deployed to Vietnam in the ANC Due to the shortage of staff, nurses usually worked twelve-hour shifts, six days per week and often suffered from exhaustion. First Lieutenant Sharon Lane was the only female military nurse to be killed by enemy gunfire during the war, on 8 June 1969.
At the start of the Vietnam War, it was commonly thought that American women had no place in the military. Their traditional place had been in the domestic sphere, but with the war came opportunity for the expansion of gender roles. In Vietnam, women held a variety of jobs which included operating complex data processing equipment and serving as stenographers. Although a small number of women were assigned to combat zones, they were never allowed directly in the field of battle. The women who served in the military were solely volunteers. They faced a plethora of challenges, one of which was the relatively small number of female soldiers. Living in a male-dominated environment created tensions between the sexes. While this high male to female ratio was often uncomfortable for women, many men reported that having women in the field with them boosted their morale. Although this was not the women's purpose, it was one positive result of the their service. By 1973, approximately 7,500 women had served in Vietnam in the Southeast Asian theater. In that same year, the military lifted the prohibition on women entering the armed forces.
American women serving in Vietnam were subject to societal stereotypes. Many Americans either considered females serving in Vietnam masculine for living under the army discipline, or judged them to be women of questionable moral character who enlisted for the sole purpose of seducing men. To address this problem, the ANC released advertisements portraying women in the ANC as "proper, professional and well protected." (26) This effort to highlight the positive aspects of a nursing career reflected the ideas of second-wave feminism that occurred during the 1960s–1970s in the United States. Although female military nurses lived in a heavily male environment, very few cases of sexual harassment were ever reported. In 2008, by contrast, approximately one-third of women in the military felt that they had been sexually harassed compared with one-third of men.
Unlike the American women who went to Vietnam, North Vietnamese women were enlisted and fought in the combat zone as well as provided manual labor to keep the Ho Chi Minh Trail open, cook for the troops, and some served as "comfort women" for male communist fighters. They also worked in the rice fields in North Vietnam and Viet Cong-held farming areas in South Vietnam's Mekong Delta region to provide food for their families and the war effort. Women were enlisted in both the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and the Viet Cong guerrilla insurgent force in South Vietnam. Some women also served for the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong intelligence services.
In South Vietnam, many women voluntarily serve in the ARVN's Women's Armed Force Corps (WAFC) and various other Women's corps in the military. Some, like in the WAFC, fought in combat with other soldiers. Others have served as nurses and doctors in the battlefield and in military hospitals, or served in South Vietnam or America's intelligence agencies. During Diem's presidency, Madame Nhu was the commander of the WAFC.
Communist forces were principally armed with Chinese and Soviet weaponry though some Viet Cong guerrilla units were equipped with Western infantry weapons either captured from French stocks during the first Indochina war or from ARVN units or requisitioned through illicit purchase. The ubiquitous Soviet AK-47 was widely regarded as the best assault rifle of the war, due to its ability to continue to function even in adverse, muddy conditions. It was not uncommon to see U.S. special forces fighting with captured AK-47s. Other weapons used by the Viet Cong included the World War II-era PPSh-41 submachine gun (both Soviet and Chinese versions), the Škorpion vz. 61 submachine gun, the DShK heavy machine gun and the Stechkin APS machine pistol.
The American M16, which replaced the M14, was considered more accurate and was lighter than the AK-47 but was prone to jamming. Oftentimes the gun suffered from a jamming flaw known as "failure to extract," which meant that a spent cartridge case remained lodged in the chamber after a bullet flew out the muzzle. According to a congressional report, the jamming was caused primarily by a change in gunpowder which was done without adequate testing and reflected a decision for which the safety of soldiers was a secondary consideration.
The M60 machine gun GPMG (General Purpose Machine Gun) was the main machine gun of the US army at the time and many of them were put on helicopters, to provide suppressive fire when landing in hostile regions. The MAC-10 machine pistol was supplied to many special forces troops in the midpoint of the war. It also armed many CIA agents in the field.
Two of the aircraft which were prominent in the war are the AC-130 "Spectre" Gunship and the UH-1 "Huey" gunship. The AC-130 is a heavily armed ground-attack aircraft variant of the C-130 Hercules transport plane; it was used to provide close air support, air interdiction and force protection. The AC-130H "Spectre" was armed with two 20 mm M61 Vulcan cannons, one Bofors 40mm autocannon, and one 105 mm M102 howitzer. The Huey is a military helicopter powered by a single, turboshaft engine, with a two-bladed main rotor and tail rotor. Approximately 7,000 UH-1 aircraft saw service in Vietnam.
The Claymore M18A1, an anti-personnel mine, was widely used during the war. Unlike a conventional land mine, the Claymore is command-detonated and directional, meaning it is fired by remote-control and shoots a pattern of metal balls into the kill zone like a shotgun.
The aircraft ordnance used during the war included precision-guided munition, cluster bombs, and napalm, a thickening/gelling agent generally mixed with petroleum or a similar fuel for use in an incendiary device, initially against buildings and later primarily as an anti-personnel weapon that sticks to skin and can burn down to the bone.
Events in Southeast Asia
On 2 July 1976, North and South Vietnam were merged to form the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Following the communist takeover, 1–2.5 million South Vietnamese were sent to reeducation camps, with an estimated 165,000 prisoners dying. Between 100,000 and 200,000 South Vietnamese were executed. R.J. Rummel, an analyst of political killings, estimated that about 50,000 South Vietnamese deported to "New Economic Zones" died performing hard labor, out of the 1 million that were sent. 200,000 to 400,000 Vietnamese boat people died at sea, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, fell to the communist Khmer Rouge on 17 April 1975. Under the leadership of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge would eventually kill 1–3 million Cambodians in the killing fields, out of a population of around 8 million. At least 1,386,734 victims of execution have been counted in mass graves, while demographic analysis suggests that the policies of the regime caused between 1.7 and 2.5 million excess deaths altogether (including disease and starvation). After repeated border clashes in 1978, Vietnam invaded Democratic Kampuchea (Cambodia) and ousted the Khmer Rouge in the Cambodian–Vietnamese War. The Vietnamese installed a new government led by Khmer Rouge defectors, which killed tens of thousands and enslaved hundreds of thousands.
In response, China invaded Vietnam in 1979. The two countries fought a brief border war, known as the Sino-Vietnamese War. From 1978 to 1979, some 450,000 ethnic Chinese left Vietnam by boat as refugees or were expelled across the land border with China.
The communist Pathet Lao overthrew the royalist government of Laos in December 1975, establishing the Lao People's Democratic Republic. The conflict between Hmong rebels and the Pathet Lao continued in isolated pockets. The government of Laos has been accused of committing genocide against the Hmong in collaboration with the People's Army of Vietnam, with up to 100,000 killed out of a population of 400,000. From 1975 to 1996, the United States resettled some 250,000 Lao refugees from Thailand, including 130,000 Hmong.
More than 3 million people fled from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, many as "boat people" in the Indochina refugee crisis. Most Asian countries were unwilling to accept refugees. Since 1975, an estimated 1.4 million refugees from Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries have been resettled to the United States, while Canada, Australia, and France resettled over 500,000. In 1988, Vietnam suffered a famine that afflicted millions. Vietnam played a role in Asia similar to Cuba's in Latin America: it supported local revolutionary groups and was a headquarters for Soviet-style communism.
Effect on the United States
In the post-war era, Americans struggled to absorb the lessons of the military intervention. As General Maxwell Taylor, one of the principal architects of the war, noted, "First, we didn't know ourselves. We thought that we were going into another Korean War, but this was a different country. Secondly, we didn't know our South Vietnamese allies... And we knew less about North Vietnam. Who was Ho Chi Minh? Nobody really knew. So, until we know the enemy and know our allies and know ourselves, we'd better keep out of this kind of dirty business. It's very dangerous." President Ronald Reagan coined the term "Vietnam Syndrome" to describe the reluctance of the American public and politicians to support further international interventions after Vietnam. Some have suggested that "the responsibility for the ultimate failure of this policy [America's withdrawal from Vietnam] lies not with the men who fought, but with those in Congress..." Alternatively, the official history of the United States Army noted that "tactics have often seemed to exist apart from larger issues, strategies, and objectives. Yet in Vietnam the Army experienced tactical success and strategic failure... The...Vietnam War...legacy may be the lesson that unique historical, political, cultural, and social factors always impinge on the military...Success rests not only on military progress but on correctly analyzing the nature of the particular conflict, understanding the enemy's strategy, and assessing the strengths and weaknesses of allies. A new humility and a new sophistication may form the best parts of a complex heritage left to the Army by the long, bitter war in Vietnam."
U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger wrote in a secret memo to president Gerald Ford that "in terms of military tactics, we cannot help draw the conclusion that our armed forces are not suited to this kind of war. Even the Special Forces who had been designed for it could not prevail." Even Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara concluded that "the achievement of a military victory by U.S. forces in Vietnam was indeed a dangerous illusion."
Doubts surfaced as to the effectiveness of large-scale, sustained bombing. As Army Chief of Staff Harold Keith Johnson noted, "if anything came out of Vietnam, it was that air power couldn't do the job." Even General William Westmoreland admitted that the bombing had been ineffective. As he remarked, "I still doubt that the North Vietnamese would have relented."
The inability to bomb Hanoi to the bargaining table also illustrated another U.S. miscalculation. The North's leadership was composed of hardened communists who had been fighting for thirty years. They had defeated the French, and their tenacity as both nationalists and communists was formidable. Ho Chi Minh is quoted as saying, "You can kill ten of my men for every one I kill of yours...But even at these odds you will lose and I will win."
The Vietnam War called into question the U.S. Army doctrine. Marine Corps General Victor H. Krulak heavily criticised Westmoreland's attrition strategy, calling it "wasteful of American lives... with small likelihood of a successful outcome." In addition, doubts surfaced about the ability of the military to train foreign forces.
Between 1965 and 1975, the United States spent $111 billion on the war ($686 billion in FY2008 dollars). This resulted in a large federal budget deficit.
More than 3 million Americans served in the Vietnam War, some 1.5 million of whom actually saw combat in Vietnam. James E. Westheider wrote that "At the height of American involvement in 1968, for example, there were 543,000 American military personnel in Vietnam, but only 80,000 were considered combat troops." Conscription in the United States had been controlled by the president since World War II, but ended in 1973."
By war's end, 58,220 American soldiers had been killed,[A 3] more than 150,000 had been wounded, and at least 21,000 had been permanently disabled. The average age of the U.S. troops killed in Vietnam was 23.11 years. According to Dale Kueter, "Of those killed in combat, 86.3 percent were white, 12.5 percent were black and the remainder from other races." Approximately 830,000 Vietnam veterans suffered symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder. An estimated 125,000 Americans left for Canada to avoid the Vietnam draft, and approximately 50,000 American servicemen deserted. In 1977, United States president Jimmy Carter granted a full and unconditional pardon to all Vietnam-era draft dodgers. The Vietnam War POW/MIA issue, concerning the fate of U.S. service personnel listed as missing in action, persisted for many years after the war's conclusion.
Effects of U.S. chemical defoliation
One of the most controversial aspects of the U.S. military effort in Southeast Asia was the widespread use of chemical defoliants between 1961 and 1971. They were used to defoliate large parts of the countryside to prevent the Viet Cong from being able to hide their weapons and encampments under the foliage. These chemicals continue to change the landscape, cause diseases and birth defects, and poison the food chain.
Early in the American military effort, it was decided that since the enemy were hiding their activities under triple-canopy jungle, a useful first step might be to defoliate certain areas. This was especially true of growth surrounding bases (both large and small) in what became known as Operation Ranch Hand. Corporations like Dow Chemical Company and Monsanto were given the task of developing herbicides for this purpose.
The defoliants, which were distributed in drums marked with color-coded bands, included the "Rainbow Herbicides"—Agent Pink, Agent Green, Agent Purple, Agent Blue, Agent White, and, most famously, Agent Orange, which included dioxin as a by-product of its manufacture. About 12 million gallons (45,000,000 L) of Agent Orange were sprayed over Southeast Asia during the American involvement. A prime area of Ranch Hand operations was in the Mekong Delta, where the U.S. Navy patrol boats were vulnerable to attack from the undergrowth at the water's edge.
In 1961 and 1962, the Kennedy administration authorized the use of chemicals to destroy rice crops. Between 1961 and 1967, the U.S. Air Force sprayed 20 million U.S. gallons (75,700,000 L) of concentrated herbicides over 6 million acres (24,000 km2) of crops and trees, affecting an estimated 13% of South Vietnam's land. In 1965, 42% of all herbicide was sprayed over food crops. Another purpose of herbicide use was to drive civilian populations into RVN-controlled areas.
Vietnamese victims affected by Agent Orange attempted a class action lawsuit against Dow Chemical and other US chemical manufacturers, but District Court Judge Jack B. Weinstein dismissed their case. They appealed, but the dismissal was cemented in February 2008 by the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. As of 2006, the Vietnamese government estimates that there are over 4,000,000 victims of dioxin poisoning in Vietnam, although the United States government denies any conclusive scientific links between Agent Orange and the Vietnamese victims of dioxin poisoning. In some areas of southern Vietnam, dioxin levels remain at over 100 times the accepted international standard.
The U.S. Veterans Administration has listed prostate cancer, multiple myeloma, Diabetes mellitus type 2, B-cell lymphomas, soft-tissue sarcoma, chloracne, porphyria cutanea tarda, peripheral neuropathy, and spina bifida in children of veterans exposed to Agent Orange. Although there has been much discussion over whether the use of these defoliants constituted a violation of the laws of war, the defoliants were not considered weapons, since exposure to them did not lead to immediate death or incapacitation.
195,000–430,000 South Vietnamese civilians died in the war. 50,000–65,000 North Vietnamese civilians died in the war. The Army of the Republic of Vietnam lost between 171,331 and 220,357 men during the war. The official US Department of Defense figure was 950,765 communist forces killed in Vietnam from 1965 to 1974. Defense Departnment officials believed that these body count figures need to be deflated by 30 percent. In addition, Guenter Lewy assumes that one-third of the reported "enemy" killed may have been civilians, concluding that the actual number of deaths of communist military forces was probably closer to 444,000. A detailed demographic study calculated 791,000–1,141,000 war-related deaths for all of Vietnam. Between 200,000 and 300,000 Cambodians died during the war. About 60,000 Laotians also died, and 58,220 U.S. service members were killed.
In popular culture
The Vietnam War has been featured extensively in television, film, video games, music and literature in the participant countries. In Vietnam, one notable film set during Operation Linebacker II was the film Girl from Hanoi (1975) depicting war-time life in Hanoi. Another notable work was the diary of Đặng Thùy Trâm, a Vietnamese doctor who enlisted in the Southern battlefield, and was killed at the age of 27 by US forces near Quảng Ngãi. Her diaries were later published in Vietnam as Đặng Thùy Trâm's Diary (Last Night I Dreamed Of Peace), where it became a best-seller and was later made into a film Don't Burn (Đừng Đốt). In Vietnam the diary has often been compared to The Diary of Anne Frank and both are used in literary education. Another Vietnamese film produced was The Abandoned Field: Free Fire Zone (Cánh đồng hoang) in 1979 which weaves the narrative of living on the ground in a US "free-fire zone" as well as perspectives from US helicopters.
In American popular culture, the "Crazy Vietnam Veteran", who was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, became a common stock character after the war.
One of the first major films based on the Vietnam War was John Wayne's pro-war The Green Berets (1968). Further cinematic representations were released during the 1970s and 1980s, some of the most noteworthy examples being Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter (1978), Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979), Oliver Stone's Platoon (1986) – based on his service in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket (1987). Other Vietnam War films include Hamburger Hill (1987), Casualties of War (1989), Born on the Fourth of July (1989), The Siege of Firebase Gloria (1989), Forrest Gump (1994), We Were Soldiers (2002) and Rescue Dawn (2007).:
The war also influenced a generation of musicians and songwriters in Vietnam, the United States, and throughout the world, both anti-war and pro/anti-communist, with the Vietnam War Song Project having identified 5,000+ songs about or referencing the conflict. The band Country Joe and the Fish recorded The "Fish" Cheer/I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag in 1965, and it became one of the most influential anti-Vietnam protest anthems.: Many songwriters and musicians supported the anti-war movement, including Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Peggy Seeger, Ewan MacColl, Barbara Dane, The Critics Group, Phil Ochs, John Lennon, John Fogerty, Nina Simone, Neil Young, Tom Paxton, Jimmy Cliff and Arlo Guthrie. The modern classical composer George Crumb composed a string quartet, a threnody, regarding the war in 1970 titled Black Angels.
Myths play a central role in the historiography of the Vietnam War, and have become a part of the culture of the United States. Much like the general historiography of the war, discussion of myth has focused on U.S. experiences, but changing myths of war have also played a role in Vietnamese and Australian historiography.
Recent scholarship has focused on "myth-busting",:373 attacking the previous orthodox and revisionist schools of American historiography of the Vietnam War. This scholarship challenges myths about American society and soldiery in the Vietnam War.:373
Kuzmarov in The Myth of the Addicted Army: Vietnam and the Modern War on Drugs challenges the popular and Hollywood narrative that US soldiers were heavy drug users, in particular the notion that the My Lai massacre was caused by drug use.:373 According to Kuzmarov, Richard Nixon is primarily responsible for creating the drug myth.:374
Michael Allen in Until The Last Man Comes Home also accuses Nixon of myth making, by exploiting the plight of the League of Wives of American Prisoners in Vietnam and the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia to allow the government to appear caring as the war was increasingly considered lost.:376 Allen's analysis ties the position of potential missing or prisoner Americans into post-war politics and recent presidential elections, including the Swift boat controversy in US electoral politics.:376–7
On 25 May 2012, President Barack Obama issued a proclamation of the commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War. On 10 November 2017, President Donald Trump issued an additional proclamation commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War.
- History of Cambodia
- History of Laos
- History of Vietnam
- List of conflicts in Asia
- Opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam War
- U.S. news media and the Vietnam War
- Third Indochina War
- Sino-Vietnamese War
- The Vietnam War (TV series)
- Soviet–Afghan War
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- Shortly after the assassination of Kennedy, when McGeorge Bundy called LBJ on the phone, LBJ responded: "Goddammit, Bundy. I've told you that when I want you I'll call you."
- On 8 March 1965 the first American combat troops, the Third Marine Regiment, Third Marine Division, began landing in Vietnam to protect the Da Nang Air Base.
- They were: Senators John C. Stennis (MS) and Richard B. Russell Jr. (GA) and Representatives Lucius Mendel Rivers (SC), Gerald R. Ford (MI) and Leslie C. Arends (IL). Arends and Ford were leaders of the Republican minority and the other three were Democrats on either the Armed Services or Appropriations committees.
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Toledo Blade 320,000 Chinese troops
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- The Pentagon Papers (Gravel Edition), Volume 1. pp. 391–404.
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- Turner, Robert F. (1975). Vietnamese Communism: Its Origins and Development. Hoover Institution Press. ISBN 978-0817964313.
- Gittinger, J. Price (1959). "Communist Land Policy in North Viet Nam". pp. 113–126. Digital object identifier:10.2307/3024603. JSTOR 3024603.
- Courtois, Stephane et al. (1997). The Black Book of Communism. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0674076082.
- Dommen, Arthur J. (2001). The Indochinese Experience of the French and the Americans. Indiana University Press. p. 340. ISBN 978-0253338549.
- Vu, Tuong (May 25, 2007). "Newly released documents on the land reform". Vietnam Studies Group. Archived from the original on 20 April 2011. https://web.archive.org/web/20110420044800/http://www.lib.washington.edu/southeastasia/vsg/elist_2007/Newly%20released%20documents%20on%20the%20land%20reform%20.html. Retrieved 15 July 2016. "There is no reason to expect, and no evidence that I have seen to demonstrate, that the actual executions were less than planned; in fact the executions perhaps exceeded the plan if we consider two following factors. First, this decree was issued in 1953 for the rent and interest reduction campaign that preceded the far more radical land redistribution and party rectification campaigns (or waves) that followed during 1954–1956. Second, the decree was meant to apply to free areas (under the control of the Viet Minh government), not to the areas under French control that would be liberated in 1954–1955 and that would experience a far more violent struggle. Thus the number of 13,500 executed people seems to be a low-end estimate of the real number. This is corroborated by Edwin Moise in his recent paper "Land Reform in North Vietnam, 1953–1956" presented at the 18th Annual Conference on SE Asian Studies, Center for SE Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley (February 2001). In this paper Moise (7–9) modified his earlier estimate in his 1983 book (which was 5,000) and accepted an estimate close to 15,000 executions. Moise made the case based on Hungarian reports provided by Balazs, but the document I cited above offers more direct evidence for his revised estimate. This document also suggests that the total number should be adjusted up some more, taking into consideration the later radical phase of the campaign, the unauthorized killings at the local level, and the suicides following arrest and torture (the central government bore less direct responsibility for these cases, however)."
cf. Szalontai, Balazs (November 2005). "Political and Economic Crisis in North Vietnam, 1955–56". pp. 395–426. Digital object identifier:10.1080/14682740500284630.
cf. Vu, Tuong (2010). Paths to Development in Asia: South Korea, Vietnam, China, and Indonesia. Cambridge University Press. p. 103. ISBN 978-1139489010. https://books.google.com/books?id=uZbr9iD1HZ8C&q=15%2C000. "Clearly Vietnamese socialism followed a moderate path relative to China. ... Yet the Vietnamese 'land reform' campaign ... testified that Vietnamese communists could be as radical and murderous as their comrades elsewhere."
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- Woodruff 2005, p. 6 states: "The elections were not held. South Vietnam, which had not signed the Geneva Accords, did not believe the Communists in North Vietnam would allow a fair election. In January 1957, the International Control Commission (ICC), comprising observers from India, Poland, and Canada, agreed with this perception, reporting that neither South nor North Vietnam had honored the armistice agreement. With the French gone, a return to the traditional power struggle between north and south had begun again."
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Johnson viewed many members that he inherited from Kennedy's cabinet with distrust because he had never penetrated their circle during Kennedy's presidency; to Johnson's mind, those like W. Averell Harriman and Dean Acheson spoke a different language.
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Before a small group, including Henry Cabot Lodge, the new president also said, "We should stop playing cops and robbers [a reference to Diệm's failed leadership] and get back to… winning the war ... tell the generals in Saigon that Lyndon Johnson intends to stand by our word…[to] win the contest against the externally directed and supported Communist conspiracy."
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Banister, Judith 1993
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In his 234-page judgment, Weinstein observed: "Despite the fact that Congress and the President were fully advised of a substantial belief that the herbicide spraying in Vietnam was a violation of international law, they acted on their view that it was not a violation at the time."
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Lewy 1978 450_453
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- Thayer 1985, p. 106.
- Sliwinski himself estimates 240,000 wartime deaths, of which 40,000 were caused by U.S. bombing. (Sliwinski 1995, p. 48). He characterizes other estimates ranging from 600,000-700,000 as "the most extreme evaluations" (p. 42).
- Obermeyer, Murray & Gakidou 2008.
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- Kiernan, Ben (2008). The Pol Pot Regime: Race, Power, and Genocide in Cambodia Under the Khmer Rouge (3rd ed.). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-14434-5.
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- Palmer, Bruce, Jr. The Twenty-Five Year War (1984), narrative military history by a senior U.S. general.
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- Sorley, Lewis, A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam (1999), based upon still classified tape-recorded meetings of top level US commanders in Vietnam, ISBN 0-15-601309-6
- Spector, Ronald. After Tet: The Bloodiest Year in Vietnam (1992), very broad coverage of 1968.
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- Stuart-Fox, Martin (1997). A History of Laos. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-59235-2.
- Summers, Harry G. On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War, Presidio press (1982), ISBN 0-89141-563-7 (225 pages)
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- Tucker, Spencer. ed. Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War (1998) 3 vol. reference set; also one-volume abridgement (2001).
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- Carter, Jimmy. By The President Of The United States Of America, A Proclamation Granting Pardon For Violations Of The Selective Service Act, 4 August 1964 To 28 March 1973 (21 January 1977)
- Central Intelligence Agency. "Laos", CIA World Factbook'
- Cora Weiss Collection (materials related to war resistance and peace activism movements during the Vietnam War), Lloyd Sealy Library Special Collections, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
- Kolko, Gabriel The End of the Vietnam War, 30 Years Later
- Eisenhower, Dwight D. Mandate for Change. (1963) a presidential political memoir
- Ho, Chi Minh. "Vietnam Declaration of Independence", Selected Works. (1960–1962) selected writings
- LeMay, General Curtis E. and Kantor, MacKinlay. Mission with LeMay (1965) autobiography of controversial former Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force
- Kissinger, United States Secretary of State Henry A. "Lessons on Vietnam", (1975) secret memoranda to U.S. President Ford
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- McCain, John. Faith of My Fathers: A Family Memoir (1999) :Marshall, Kathryn. In the Combat Zone: An Oral History of American Women in Vietnam, 1966–1975 (1987)
- Martin, John Bartlow. Was Kennedy Planning to Pull out of Vietnam? (1964) oral history for the John F. Kennedy Library, tape V, reel 1.
- Myers, Thomas. Walking Point: American Narratives of Vietnam (1988)
- Public Papers of the Presidents, 1965 (1966) official documents of U.S. presidents.
- Schlesinger, Arthur M. Jr. Robert Kennedy and His Times. (1978) a first-hand account of the Kennedy administration by one of his principal advisors
- Sinhanouk, Prince Norodom. "Cambodia Neutral: The Dictates of Necessity." Foreign Affairs. (1958) describes the geopolitical situation of Cambodia
- Tang, Truong Nhu. A Vietcong Memoir (1985), revealing account by senior NLF official
- Terry, Wallace, ed. Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans (1984)
- Truong, Như Tảng; David Chanoff, Van Toai Doan (1985). A Vietcong memoir (1985 ed.). Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. ISBN 978-0-15-193636-6. - Total pages: 350
- The landmark series Vietnam: A Television History, first broadcast in 1983, is a special presentation of the award-winning PBS history series, American Experience.
- The Pentagon Papers (Gravel ed. 5 vol 1971); combination of narrative and secret documents compiled by Pentagon. excerpts
- U.S. Department of State. Foreign Relations of the United States (multivolume collection of official secret documents) vol 1: 1964; vol 2: 1965; vol 3: 1965; vol 4: 1966;
- U.S. Department of Defense and the House Committee on Armed Services. U.S.-Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967. Washington, D.C. Department of Defense and the House Committee on Armed Services, 1971, 12 volumes.
- Vann, John Paul Quotes from Answers.com Lt. Colonel, U.S. Army, DFC, DSC, advisor to the ARVN 7th Division, early critic of the conduct of the war.
- Hall, Simon, "Scholarly Battles over the Vietnam War," Historical Journal 52 (Sept. 2009), 813–29.
- American Ethnography – On collecting engraved Zippos from the Vietnam War
- Battlefield Vietnam PBS interactive site
- Complete text of the Gravel Edition of the Pentagon Papers with supporting documents, maps, and photos
- Documents Relating to American Foreign Policy-Vietnam primary sources on U.S. involvement
- Fallout of the War from the Dean Peter Krogh Foreign Affairs Digital Archives
- Glossary of Military Terms & Slang from the Vietnam War
- Impressions of Vietnam and descriptions of the daily life of a soldier from the oral history of Elliott Gardner, U.S. Army
- "No Peace in the Valley," Vietnam magazine, cover story, Oct. 2008, 26--31.
- Oliver Stone's service with Company E, 52nd Infantry (LRP), 1st Air Cavalry Division, in Vietnam and his movie Platoon
- "Perspectives," Vietnam magazine, Aug. 2002, 58--61.
- Photographic history of 1st Air Cavalry Division LRRP / Rangers 1968.
- Sober thoughts on 30 April : The South Vietnam Liberation Front and Hanoi, Myth and Reality Speech by the former Minister of Information of the Republic of Vietnam.
- Stephen H. Warner Southeast Asia Photograph Collection at Gettysburg College
- The Effects of Vietnamization on the Republic of Vietnam's Armed Forces, 1969–1972
- Timeline US – Vietnam (1947–2001) in Open-Content project
- The U.S. Army in Vietnam the official history of the United States Army
- The Vietnam War at The History Channel
- UC Berkeley Library Social Activism Sound Recording Project: Anti-Vietnam War Protests
- Vietnam Casualties database searchable by first name, last name and location
- Vietnam War Bibliography covers online and published resources
- Vietnam war timeline comprehensive timeline of the Vietnam War
- Virtual Vietnam Archive – Texas Tech University
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