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VietnamIn the Vietnam war the United States and the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) opposed the revolutionary movement known as the Viet Cong. The Viet Cong was sponsored by the Communist Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV). This war was the second of two wars being fought in that area. The first Indochina war was a struggle between Vietnamese nationalists and the French colonial regime aided by the U.S.. In the second war we replaced France in the struggle versus the Communists. Vietnam lasted from the mid 1950s to 1975 when the U.S. finally withdrew from the war. Vietnam begun as a war to keep the French regime intact. The other side wanted to have Ho Chi Minh lead the republic after it was liberated from the Japanese in 1945. After WWII France wanted to have their power restored and Bao Dai to be the Emperor. During this initial conflict the U.S. was providing 80% of the cost of France’s war effort. The war breaks out with the U.S. getting involved with combat troops in late 1964 after the Gulf of Tonkin incident. A Major turning point for this war is considered to be the Tet Offensive (January 31, 1968) this was a surprise attack by the Viet Cong in which they lost (Groliers).The United States began this war with a “bang”. Lyndon B. Johnson was the current President of the U.S.. He authorized the CIA to use special forces to conduct covert raids on northern Vietnamese soil. U.S. Naval forces ran electronic intelligence missions in the Gulf of Tonkin. Plus U.S. aid was increased with the addition of more advisors, and more money. Bombing raids were planned and basically Lyndon B. Johnson was getting prepared for a war. On August 2, 1964 he got his chance. An American destroyer conducting electronic espionage in international waters was attacked by Vietnamese torpedo boats. The destroyer was unharmed, and joined by additional forces (Groliers). Two days later (August 4th) the ships reported that they were attacked by the torpedo boats. This was later found to be a lie, but with this excuse Johnson ordered retaliatory air strikes against North Vietnam. He urged Congress to provide support for full scale military operations. Then on February 1965 the Viet Cong attacked a U.S. Army barrack in Pleiku. This lead to operation Rolling Thunder, which was a restricted but large bombing campaign on North Vietnam. Also 50,000 ground troops were brought over to guard the air bases being used by the U.S. bombers (Internet resource). The number of troops was steadily increased, and the mission changed from defense to search and destroy or just plain old offense. At the time, this information was not released to the U.S. public. Plus the whole purpose of the war was deliberately obscured from the public. The public didn’t fully support the war since the cause was vague. The U.S. continued to bomb military targets while trying to avoid civilian areas. We wanted to fight a war of attrition, and we were concerned about causing a confrontation with the USSR and China. Both countries supported communism and dealing with the communist faction in North Vietnam at first was sensitive. The policy of attrition depended on inflicting losses through massive firepower with very little use of man power. We wanted to inflict major losses and cause the Viet Cong to retreat. The Viet Cong were able to get around this air assault. From unexploded ordnance they made mines and booby traps. The Viet Cong also relied on ambushes and sabotage of the many U.S. bases. The problem our ground troops faced was that in order to maintain a front we would need a very large force. Instead bases were made and placed strategically around the cities and areas of Vietnam. This left opening for Viet Cong to infiltrate behind the lines and attack where ever they wanted. In order to keep these ambushes down and to take away the enemies cover the U.S. began to defoliate the forests. Modern weapons such as napalm and Agent Orange were dropped to clear the forests which also cleared the enemies supply of rice (Comptons).

Back in the U.S. the Antiwar movement was growing. Leftist college students, members of traditional pacifist religious groups, long-time peace activists, and citizens of all ages opposed conflict. These efforts may have effected the war. It may have helped set limits on the conflict, and prevented a even wider war. The Antiwar movement defiantly affected U.S. society and boosted North Vietnamese morale. Late 1967 the war was stalemated. U.S. tactics were not producing victory. Hanoi began planning a series of action for a new offensive. They wanted to attract attention by attacking a base at Khe Sanh which hopefully would draw U.S. and South Vietnamese attention. Then attack other cities including Saigon. Reserves were stationed to boost support if any of the cities were taken (Groliers). The first part was successful, U.S. troops were moved to help Khe Sanh. The attacks on cities began on Tet, the lunar holiday, January 30, 1968. The Viet Cong attacked the cities and district capitals including the attack on Saigon. Ultimately the attacks failed after three weeks of fighting, and 40,000 losses among the VC. The attempt shocked the U.S. public, and the Viet Cong won a big propaganda victory (Groliers). U.S. had obtained documents which showed that the Viet Cong were planning an attack, but the size and scope were unknown. Tet turned out to be a well planned attack by the VC, and it caused major opposition to the war including a realization that the was is not winnable. The VC proved that they had the ability to strike even in secure cities. While the U.S. studied their situation 20,000 more troops were sent to Vietnam (out of a original request for 206,000) (Comptons). We also urged the South Vietnamese to step up their efforts in the war. The media held a negative view on the war and soon negotiations began. The Tet offensive put the U.S. in a predicament. Either try and end the war, or step up our action and win the war. At this point nothing really happens, primarily for two reasons, the U.S. was having elections, and we were undecided about what we should do. Almost 7 years after the Tet offensive the war is resolved. During the 7 years the U.S. continued to bomb North Vietnam, and there were multiple attempts at negotiations to try and settle the war, during these peace talks the fighting continued. The was was costing the U.S. money and lives, something which Congress didn’t want to continue. Congress decided on a bill which by passing the War Powers Act required the president to withdrawal troops within 60 days if congress didn’t endorse the conflict. This meant the end of the U.S. involvement in the war which left it up to the South Vietnamese. The U.S. provided financial aid up until 1975 when the U.S. pulled out. Finally on April 30th, 1976 the new South Vietnam president, Duong Van Minh surrendered (Comptons). From beginning to end this war was handled wrong. It seems that the U.S. got into the war to uphold democracy, and then the war got a little dirty. We were not sure if we should fight or negotiate a resolution. Plus loosing support from the public adversely affected some government decisions. What should have been done to win the war was obvious. Provide an overwhelming U.S. presence which could crush a communist regime. If that goal can not be accomplished then the war is over. The U.S. needed to finish what it started. Plus the extensive use of bombing should have been backed up with a reasonable ground assault which could hold a defined front. That kind of action would have increased the death total which would have lost more of the publics support. The best thing is this country should have learned from their mistake with this war, and to not let it occur again.

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