History of the Vietnam War

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The Vietnam War was one of the outcomes of cold war as America and Russia competed to spread their political ideologies. Vietnam was divided into two as the south supported capitalism and nationalism while the North supported communism. North Vietnam received full support from china which was had instilled its communism ideology in most of Asia. The South received full support from America which was scared of the dominance of communism in Asia.  The French colonized Vietnam prior to the commencement of WW2. The Japanese occupied Vietnam during the war and the Vietnamese formed a movement that was against the Japanese. Ho Chi Minh was the leader of the Vietminh movement and he was very sympathetic towards communism ideas. Vietminh controlled the North of Vietnam by the end of the Second World War and strived for independence in Vietnam. 1945 saw the return of French in Vietnam with an intention to continue with their rule. The Vietminh strongly resisted this move and fought the French fiercely with assistance from China.

American Involvement in the War

This financial aid from China unnerved America as they saw it as a move by the communist to control the entire South East Asia. America aided France and this resulted to setting of a capitalist government in South Vietnam. America introduced many aid programs and through its think tanks and contractors the South Vietnam state was set up. They also set up several institutions and developed the infrastructure[1].  The French were defeated by the communism north and a peace treaty signed. The treaty recognized both the states and American influence stopped elections from being held as they were afraid that communists would emerge triumphant.  Ho Chi Minh was pretty upset with American influence on the national election and started guerilla warfare to fight the South.

The UN veto powers were out of reach for Americans as Russia would definitely veto the action since it fully supported communism in North Vietnam. America had no other option but to increase money, advisers, equipment belonging to the military to assist the government they had helped build in the South of Vietnam. America had completely taken over this state replacing the French who had earlier colonized it[2]. Diem was the leader of South Vietnam and the capital was Saigon. The army in North Vietnam had to fight the guerillas of Viet Cong in additional to the army. These guerillas were trained and agile as they used the red Chinese tactics.   In 1955, the president of America, Dwight Einhower decided to intervene in the war by sending the military from states and advisers who were civilians. The two advisers from the military were later killed and were the first casualties from America in the war.

John F Kennedy continued showing his support for the war by increasing the number of advisers to the military to 11,000 by 1962. However, Diem support from Washington had greatly diminished and America did nothing in stopping the coup by his generals, although they had information from the intelligence. The generals were known as Khanh and Tran Thien Khiem and they got full assistance from America to topple Diem. This is a confession from Lyndon John’s son from to a reporter in 1964[3]. In November 1963, President Diem and his brother were assassinated and Khanh Nyuyen took over as the President of South Vietnam. Khanh, who compared to George Washington, was very pivotal in the war and that was the sole reason America assisted him in the coup. In America, Kennedy was assassinated and Lyndon Johnson who was the vice president took over.

The North Vietnamese boats attacked the US Maddox (by firing torpedoes) which was a destroyer located in the Tonkin gulf located within the international waters. The Americans took this attack seriously and President Lyndon got approval from the congress to suppress any armed attack against America to stop the aggression from escalating. This enabled the president to wage full scale war against the communist state of North Vietnam. Lyndon secured a landslide victory against the Barry Goldwater who was a republican.

The Rolling Thunder Operation was launched in North Vietnam where air bombing raids were carried out. David Ballentine who was a lieutenant in 1967 narrates stories of how he was flying helicopters which were armed from Ky Ha a base in Vietnam and carrying out several air strikes[4]. Lyndon’s intentions were to spend little on the war and thus he used the strategy of counterinsurgency. This strategy was aimed at winning the minds and hearts of the peasants in Vietnam. This strategy was doomed and failed miserably as the American government failed to understand the tribal loyalties of the people of South Vietnam.

The failure of Americans to make an effort in improving the civilians’ lives and training the forces which were locally available led to the failure of counterinsurgency[5]. The under secretary was against he war and in many campuses within America, groups protesting the war were formed. The students belonging to the democratic society made war to be their main target. They were joined by veterans from both world wars and the war in Korea. The minority protested against the financial burden that had been put on them by the governments war funding. The American combat troop which was the first to be deployed to assist in the war was sent to South Vietnam in 1964. In 1965, the valley of Ia Drang was the place where Americans clashed with the military from North Vietnam resulting in a large number of casualties from both sides, although the Americans won.

The government in South Vietnam took over Danang and Hue after a surprise attack on the northern troops in 1966. In the following year, the war on the ground was launched and approximately 30,000 soldiers drawn from both South Vietnam and US went out to ensure the destruction of Vietcong sites of supply and operations which were close to Saigon. They managed to destroy a system of tunnels which were used by the personnel’ from Vietcong.

Martin Luther King was very outspoken against the war as he insisted that a peaceful solution could be found instead of the wide spread violence that America had chosen to adopt. It was clear that the several air raids were having no effect on Northern Vietnam and US was frustrated for not achieving its goals[6]. This was echoed by the defense secretary Robert McNamara, who testified in an appearance before a subcommittee in the senate.

The military were given a go ahead by Sihanouk to pursue the Vietcong into the territory of Cambodia in 1968. In the same year, the North Vietnamese felt so superior about their military strength thus they captured Saigon and other key cities within South Vietnam. The Americans took the offensive so seriously and carried out an onslaught winning back all the lost cities. The communists had however killed most of the residents of Hue and buried them in massive graves.  Adam who was a photographer recalls that this infuriated the American troops who carried out an attack in My Lai massacring most of its residents[7]. The news of this attack infuriated the American people and the establishments of military and politics experienced shock waves. Lyndon took the only available option and made an announcement that he would not stand for re-election due to his plummeting popularity. Martin Luther King was killed in 1968 in Memphis, the same year Lyndon exited from the presidential race in America.

Peace talks were slotted to commence in Paris in 1968 with negotiators from both America and North Vietnam agreeing to attend. Robert Kennedy was assassinated and Richard Nixon took over as the president of America in November 1968. The secret bombing of Cambodia which was used as a transit route by communists to supply material to the Vietcong was initiated by Nixon without the public or congress knowledge. This operation lasted for fourteen months.  A new policy which was dubbed as Vietnamization was invented to assist in shifting the defeat of communism to the army of South Vietnam and minimizing the participation of American troops.

Minh, who was the leader of communists died in 1969 at the age of 72 after a heart attack. The news of the atrocities committed by the America troop in My Lai reached America in 1969 triggering anti- war demonstrations which were massive in most cities. The two timing Sihanouk from Cambodia was easily ousted in 1970 as his government was weak from forming alliances with both America and China. The morale of the soldiers quickly sapped during the Vietnam War as many of them were barely nineteen and very naïve.

The uneducated and blacks were massively enlisted as they had no better prospects for the future. One of the major factors that contributed to the failure of Americans in this war was expecting the blacks to liberate Vietnam while they lacked this in their own backyard.

Bombing failed as most of the communist troops used guerilla war fare, thus chemicals were utilized in the destruction of the jungle where the guerillas launched their scathing attacks. The death tolls on both sides rose but this did not deter the North Vietnamese troops who resulted to relocating the industries to remote places and successfully concealing them. The women and children from North Vietnam fully assisted in the war by opening up the transport routes and concealing bombs which detonated killing the American soldiers.

The American army lost the war because they were not well versed with the guerilla warfare which was well executed by the communist army[8]. The Vietcong guerillas were experts in guerilla attacks as they had interacted with the Chinese and they easily copied this tactic from them[9].

Local peasants fully supported the guerillas as they believed their cause was justified in fighting for the land that was owned by the Vietnamese people. These guerillas moved with ease through out the country under the protection of villagers. It was hard for America to win against this welfare since the local people suffered from many casualties associated with excessive use of force by the American army.

Most Vietnamese desired for a united country and did not care about the ideologies that America was fighting so hard to spread. There was a lot of mixture culture from different services in the military resulting into heated arguments over the right strategies to use in the war. The recruits were also very young and compromised the system of controlling the air commands resulting into the failure of the air raids[10]. The objectives of different general that were very competent brought some ideas and strategies which were outdated resulting to a lot of disjointedness and dysfunction of the air strikes.

The mixture of views with different services coming up with different approaches in the war resulted into contradiction of strategies as there was total loss of coordination between the navy, ground and the air troops. Americans only bombed those few areas that they felt were not very important to the North Korean people. They kept the targets that were more valuable as bait hoping that this would pressurize the North Koreans to surrender. This slow pace made the Vietnamese from the North to improve their defense and become used to the monotonous air strikes.

This strategy miserably failed as the communists became more agile and refused to submit to the American troops. Some of the planes ended up being shot down and the pilots tortured by the Vietcong. Most of these pilots were jailed and asked to assist the captors with military information failure to which they were tortured and killed. John Dranesi gives a chilling encounter which happened to him in 1967[11].

It was very clear that America was losing the war and the number of casualties rose to millions of people. The public outcry increased in America with demonstrations being carried out by movements that were against the war. President Nixon was under a lot of pressure by the end of 1971 to withdraw the troops from Vietnam by a large proportion of the population in America. Henry Kissinger was sent in the negotiations for a cease fire in the North of Vietnam. A cease fire which was temporal was achieved by 1972 securing the reelection of Nixon as the president. The Paris peace accord was duly signed in January 1973 and the war ended. The accord ensured that all American prisoners were released and the troops were withdrawn in a span of 60days from Vietnam. The accord also stressed that the hostilities in Vietnam were to come to an end and people should coexist peacefully. This part of the accord was not fulfilled as fighting started as soon as the Americans troops left. The North Korea triumphed over South Vietnam and a communist state was formed.

America lost the essence of war against communism after losing a war it had participated in for 15 years. The number of Americans who died in Vietnam reached a whooping 58,000 and over 150,000 were wounded. Some soldiers like Robert Stoffley solely blames the American media for the loss of the war as he claims they were interested in showing the atrocities committed by the American troops while the northern side was also a culprit. He claims the several anti-war movements were hypocritical as they supported communism at the expense of the American troops[12]. His sentiments are echoed by many soldiers who came home to a very hostile reception yet they had also greatly suffered from the war.


The Vietnam War was one of the failures that the American troops experienced in the battle field. It is viewed as one of the most disastrous war that America engaged in resulting to massive losses of life and dozens of wounded soldiers. A lot of taxpayers money was spent on the meaningless war as eventually the communists won the state of South Vietnam and established a government. The veterans from Vietnam received a lot of hostility from the American societies yet they fought fiercely in the battle. Americans refrained from engaging in wars to fight communism and improved their foreign policy enormously.

Work cited:

Biggs, D. (2009). Inventing Vietnam: The United States and state building, 1954-1968. Lexington Publishers, Vol. 13(5) pp 22

Brush, P. (2009). Fighting to leave: the final years of America’s war in Vietnam, 1972-1973. Harrisburg Publisher, Vol. 21(5) pp 39

Brush, P. (2009). Gunbird driver: A marine Huey pilots war in Vietnam, Harrisburg Publishers, Vol.  22(1) pp.62

Green, R. (2008). Operation Thunderhead: The true story of Vietnam’s final POW rescue mission and the last navy seal killed in the country. Chicago Publishers, Vol. 105 (5) pp 13

Lovette, C. (2009). The tragedy of the Vietnam war: A south Vietnamese officers analysis. Middletown Publisher Vol. 46(8) pp 12

Mckelvey, T. (2008). The cult of counterinsurgency. Princeton Publishers, Vol.19 (11) pp 78

Meilinger, P. (2009). Turbulence over Vietnam Harrisburg publishers, Vol. 22 (1) pp 88

Moise, E. (2003). Why the north won the Vietnam War. Washington publishers Vol. 108 (3) pp 96

Rasen, E. (2009). In the eye of the storm. Harrisburg publishers, Vol. 16(7) pp 92

Rotter, A. (2008). Replacing France: The origins of American intervention in Vietnam. Washington Publishers, Vol. 13(5) pp 55

Wolgast, S. (2009). Eddie Adams: Vietnam. Durham publisher, Vol. 64 (3) pp 132

[1] Biggs, D. (2009), Inventing Vietnam: The United States and state building, 1954-1968, Lexington publishers,  Vol. 13(5) pp 22
[2] Rotter, A. (2008), Replacing France: The origins of American intervention in Vietnam, Washington Publishers, Vol. 13(5) pp 55
[3] Rasen E. (2009), In the eye of the storm, Harrisburg publishers, Vol. 16(7) pp 92
[4] Brush, P. (2009), Gunbird driver: A marine Huey pilots war in Vietnam, Harrisburg Publishers, Vol. 22(1)pp.62
[5] Mckelvey, T. (2008), The cult of counterinsurgency, Princeton Publishers, Vol.19 (11) pp 78
[6] Moise, E. (2003), Why the North won the Vietnam war, Washington publishers Vol. 108 (3) pp 96

[7] Wolgast, S. (2009), Eddie Adams: Vietnam, Durham Publisher, Vol. 64 (3) pp 132

[8] Moise, E. (2003), Why the North won the Vietnam war, , Washington publishers Vol. 108 (3) pp 98
[9] Lovette, C. (2009), The tragedy of the Vietnam war: A south Vietnamese officers analysis, Middletown Publisher, Vol. 46(8) pp 12
[10] Meilinger, P. (2009), Turbulence over Vietnam Harrisburg publishers, Vol. 22 (1) pp 88
[11] Green, R. (2008), Operation Thunderhead: The true story of Vietnams final POW rescue mission –and the last navy seal killed in the country, Chicago publishers, Vol. 105 (5) pp 13
[12] Brush, P. (2009), Fighting to leave: The final years of America’s war in Vietnam, 1972-1973, Harrisburg Publisher, Vol. 21(5) pp 39


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History of the Vietnam War. (2017, Feb 28). Retrieved from


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