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IB History - The Vietnam War

IB History - The Vietnam War

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Published by Allon Zohan Posen

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Published by: Allon Zohan Posen on Nov 28, 2010
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The Vietnam War (The American War)
 
A History of Resistance
y
 
Vietnam has a very old culture, dating back thousands of years, including their ownlanguage script (writing system), and inventions.
y
 
T
he Vietnamese resisted invasions from China and the Mongols and pridedthemselves on their independence.
y
 
D
espite this, Vietnam was colonized by the French, becoming part of FrenchIndochina along with Cambodia and Laos.
y
 
A
n Independence movement began after World War I and, after the French werepushed out by the Japanese in World War II, resisted the Japanese occupation withthe aid of the United States.
 
y
 
In 1941, Communist activist
Ho Chi Minh
organized a nationalist organization knownas the Viet Minh (Vietnam Independence League).
 
y
 
A
fter WWII, the country was divided in half at the 16
th
parallel in order to disarm theJapanese  Chinese soldiers in the North and British in the South.
 The War Against the French
y
 
France demanded the return of its colony, but
Ho Chi Minh
declared himself thePresident of the
D
emocratic Republic of Vietnam and set up his government in Hanoi 
T
he North.
y
 
France moved 35,000 troops to Saigon (in the south) and, despite negotiations with
Ho Chi Minh
in Paris, attacked Hanoi in 1946, forcing
Minh
and his army to go intohiding and begin a guerrilla war against the French.
y
 
D
uring the struggle against the French, the United States became deeply embroiledin the ideological Cold War against the Communist Soviet union and fought a warin Korea to prevent the spread of Communism there.
y
 
In 1950, the United States began providing financial aid to the French, but 90,000French soldiers died in 1951 alone.
y
 
In 1954, at
D
ien Bien Phu
, 10,000 French soldiers were surrounded, cut off, andcaptured. More than half died marching to (or in) prison camps 500 miles away,causing France to decide to surrender and withdraw completely from Vietnam.
y
 
O
ver 4000,000 people  from both sides  died during this conflict.
y
 
A
t the peace conference in Geneva, a decision was made to divide the country at the17
th
Parallel  awarding the North to
Ho Chi Minh
, and the South to new President
Nho
D
inh
D
iem
.
y
 
T
he United States immediately began sending aid to South Vietnam.
 
The U.S. Enters the Scene
y
 
In 1955, the U.S. began sending weapons to South Vietnam, and
Ho Chi Minh
 travelled to Moscow to accept the aid of the Soviet Union.
 
y
 
Now identified as part of the War on Communism, aiding the South Vietnamesegained great support in the U.S. government.
y
 
In 1959,
Ho Chi Minh
declared a Peoples War to unite the country and invadedSouth Vietnam.
 
y
 
T
he
Ho Chi Minh Trail,
a 15000 mile-long network of jungle and mountain passesextending from North Vietnam through Laos, parts of Cambodia, was built, funnelinga constant stream of soldiers and supplies into the highlands of South Vietnam,cutting the trip length to 6 weeks from 6 months.
 
y
 
President
Nho
D
inh
D
iem
was deeply unpopular in the South, in part because he wasCatholic in a mostly Buddhist country but also because he was corrupt and nepotistic(government is all part of the same family)
 
y
 
Many South Vietnamese sympathized with the North and aided the
Viet Cong
 guerrillas.
 
y
 
In 1961,
J
ohn Fitzgerald Kennedy
(JFK) is inaugurated as the 35
th
U.S. President anddeclares
we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any  friend, oppose any foe, to insure the survival and success of liberty. 
 
y
 
Privately, outgoing President Eisenhower tells him I think youre going to have tosend troops to Southeast
A
sia.
 
y
 
In 1961, 400 U.S. Green Berets special advisors were sent to South Vietnam to helptrain their army, followed by more advisors numbering 16,000.
y
 
President Kennedy holds off on sending in more troops, despite recommendationsfor a commitment of 200,000 and growing discontent with President
D
iem inVietnam.
 
y
 
O
n November 2
nd
, 1933, President
D
iems government is overthrown in a coup andhe is assassinated.
A
power vacuum results which is exploited by the Viet Cong.
 
y
 
O
n November 22
nd
, 1963, President Kennedy is assassinated, raising Vice-PresidentLyndon Johnson to the Presidency.
Escalation
 
y
 
A
s President Johnson prepared for the commitment of (more) troops to Vietnam,the South Vietnamese
A
rmy continued to use U.S. helicopters, vehicles, and boats toattack the North.
y
 
In
A
ugust, 1964, the U.S. destroyer
U.S.S. Maddox 
was fired on in the
G
ulf of Tonkin
,where it was supporting an attack by the South Vietnamese.
 
y
 
O
nly a single machine gun bullet hit the ship, and no casualties were sustained, butthis 
Gulf 
o
 f 
Tonkin Incident 
 was used to justify a bombing of Hanoi, where 2
A
merican pilots were shot down.
y
 
T
he U.S. Congress passed the
G
ulf of Tonkin Resolution
, which allowed thePresident to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force to preventfurther attacks against U.S. forces.
y
 
T
he Resolution, passed unanimously in the House and 98-2 in the Senate, grantedenormous power to President Johnson to wage an undeclared war in Vietnam fromthe White House.
The
J
ungle War
 
y
 
President Johnson was reelected as President in 1964, and following attacks on U.S.bases in South Vietnam, he authorized
Op
eration Rolling Thunder 
bombing of North Vietnam which was scheduled to last 8 weeks, but instead lasted 3 years.
y
 
T
he basic and continuous problem for the U.S. army in Vietnam was the geographyof the country. It is long and skinny (only a few miles wide at its smallest), withmountains in the West, sea in the east, and dense rainforest.
y
 
T
he
Viet Cong
guerrillas could use this to their advantage, while the U.S. troopsstruggled to find an enemy they could fight face to face.
The Tools of War
y
 
T
he U.S. would use many different ways to try to overcome this disadvantage,including
b
om
b
ing
on a huge scale.
y
 
4 times as many bombs dropped during all of World War II.
y
 
Most of these bombs are dropped on suspected Viet Cong positions in SouthVietnam, resulting in 3 million civilian refugees whose villages were destroyed.
y
 
O
ver 500 U.S. bombers were shot down over the
Ho Chi Minh Trail
, and bombing didoccur in Cambodia and Laos later in the war.
y
 
A
type of flammable explosive called
Na
p
alm
was invented and used  to clear away jungle as well as to burn out guerrillas.
y
 
Entire villages were bombed, and civilians killed
y
 
Planes also dropped chemicals, such as
Agent
O
range,
which were supposed to killaway the rainforest so that the Viet Cong would not have places to hide.
y
 
T
he Viet Cong, however, built networks of underground tunnels, where they wouldbe safe from these bombings.
y
 
A
t a place called Chu Chi, there was a vast network of tunnels, holding an entirebattalion of Viet Cong Soldiers.

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