The Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a military struggle fought in Vietnam from 1959 to 1975. It began as a determined attempt by Communist guerrillas in the South, backed by Communist North Vietnam, to overthrow the government of South Vietnam. The struggle between North and South Vietnam ultimately widened into a limited international conflict. The United States, along with other countries, supported South Vietnam by supplying them with troops and munitions. North Vietnam and the Vietcong were furnished munitions by the USSR and the People?s Republic of China. On both sides, however, the burden of the war fell mainly on the civilians.
?The war also engulfed Laos, where the Communist Pathet Lao fought the government from 1965 to 1973 and succeeded in abolishing the monarchy in 1975, and Cambodia, where the government surrendered in 1973 to the Communist Khmer Rouge.?
The position taken by Diem won the backing of the U. S. The government in Hanoi, however, indicated its determination to renunify the nation under Hanoi. The truce arranged at Geneva began to crumble and by January 1957, the International Control Commission set up to implement the Geneva accords was reporting armistice violations by both North and South Vietnam. Throughout the rest of the year, Communist sympathizers who had gone north after the partition began returning south in increasing numbers. The Vietcong?s began launching attacks on U. S. military installations that had been established, and in 1959 began their guerilla attacks on the Diem government.
The attacks were intensified in 1960, the year in which North Vietnam proclaimed its intention to liberate South Vietnam from the ruling of the U. S. imperialists. The statement served to reinforce the belief that the Vietcong were being directed by Hanoi. On November 10, the Saigon government charged that regular North Vietnamese troops were talking a direct part in Vietcong attacks in South Vietnam. To show that the guerrilla movement was independent, however, the Vietcong set up their own political arm, known as the National Liberation Front (NLF), with its headquarters in Hanoi.
In the face of the deteriorating situation, the U. S. restated its support for Saigon. In April 1961, a treaty of mity and economic relations was signed with South Vietnam, and in December, President John F. Kennedy pledged to help South Vietnam maintain its independence significantly. ?In December 1961, the first U. S. troops, consisting of 400 uniformed army personnel, arrived in Saigon in order to operate two helicopter companies; the U. S. proclaimed, however, that the troops were not combat units as such. A year later, U. S. military strength in Vietnam stood at 11,200.?
On November 1, 1963, the Diem regime was overthrown in a military ?coup.? Diem and his brother, and political advisor, Ngo Dinh Nhu, were executed. The circumstances surrounding the ?coup? were not fully clear at the time. The government that replaced the Diem regime was a revolutionary council headed by Brigadier General Duong Van Minh. A series of other ?coups? followed, and in the 18 months after Diem?s overthrow South Vietnam had ten different governments. None of these proved capable of dealing effectively with the country?s miliary situation. A military council under General Nguyen Van Thieu and General Nguyen Cao Ky was finally created in 1965, and it restored basic political order. Later, in September 1967, elections were held and Thieu became president of South Vietnam.
war had no defined front lines. Much of it consisted of hit-and-run attacks, with the guerrillas striking at government outposts and retreating into the jungle. The war, however, began to escalate in the first week of August 1964, when North Vietnamese torpedo boats were reported to have attacked two U. S. destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin. As a result of this attack, former-President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered jets to South Vietnam and the retaliatory bombing of military targets in North Vietnam.
Throughout 1965, U. S. planes began regular bombing raids over North Vietnam,
but a halt was ordered in May in hopes of initiating peace talks. Bombings were resumed after North Vietnam had rejected all negotiations. During this time the United States continued to build up its troops in South Vietnam. By the end of 1965 the American combat strength was nearly 200,000.
Despite the stepping up of U. S. bombing, both sides appeared anxious to salvage
the progress made in previous negotiations. On Decemeber 29, the U. S. announced a halt to the bombing above the 20th parallel, effective the next day.
Sensing progress in the first days, President Nixon ordered a halt to all bombing, mining, and artillery fire in North Vietnam. ?After six days of conferring, Kissinger and Tho met once again on January 23, 1973, and, on that evening, President Nixon announced over nationwide television that agreement on all terms for a formal cease-fire had finally been reached.?
On January 27, in Paris, delegations representing the United States, South Vietnam, North Vietnam, and the Provisional Revolutionary Communist Government of South Vietnam signed an agreement on Ending the war and Restoring Peace in Vietnam. The cease-fire officially went into effect on January 28. Both the U. S. and North Vietnam asserted that there were no secret peace terms.
?The peace accord called for complete ?cessation of hostilities; withdrawal of all U. S. and allied forces from South Vietnam within 60 days of the signing; return of all captured military personnel by both sides at 15-day intervals within 60 days; recognition of the DMZ as only provisional and not a political or territorial boundary; an international control commission (composed of representatives of Canada, Hungary, Indonesia, and Poland) to oversee implementation of the peace; and provision for an international conference to be held within 30 days.? The accord allowed some 145,000 North Vietnamese troops to remain in South Vietnam, but with limitation on their future replacement and supplies.
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Lewis, Lloyd B. The Tainted War. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood
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Small, Melvin. Johnson, Nixon, and the Doves. New Brunswick: Rutgers
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