Vietnam and the 1960s


  1. Vietnam before American Involvement

    1. A very ancient country - founded 208 B.C.

    2. Ruled by China for around 1000 years; heavily influenced by Chinese culture

    3. Nguyen Dynasty established 1802

    4. Conquered by France between 1858 and 1883

      1. France heavily exploits Vietnam - most Vietnamese employed as low wage agricultural workers

      2. Some modest industrialization

      3. Vietnamese nationalist made futile efforts to restore the Nguyen Dynasty

      4. Independence parties were heavily repressed by the French - leaders jailed or executed

      5. Only secret, underground parties survived

        1. Most important underground leader was Ho Chi Minh, founder of the Indochinese Communist Party

        2. Under Japanese occupation in WWII, Ho Chi Minh formed the Viet Minh (League for Independence of Vietnam)

        3. Declared independence for Vietnam when Japan was defeated

    5. After WWII, France tried to reestablish control

      1. France reoccupied the country in 1946

      2. War broke out with the Viet Minh, led by Ho Chi Min

      3. First U.S. soldiers (128) arrive in Vietnam in 1950 as advisors to the French

      4. France defeated at battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954

      5. A peace conference (Geneva Accords) divided the country at the 17th Parallel between a Communist North led by Ho Chi Minh, and a non-Communist South led by Ngo Dienh Diem (who had French backing)

      6. Diem's increasingly autocratic rule, favoritism towards his fellow Catholics, leads to unrest, increasing unpopularity

      7. Over the next two years, U.S. began to replace French as Diem's main foreign supporters

      8. A nationwide election was supposed to be held in 1956 to unify the country

      9. But U.S. (and Diem) feared an overwhelming victory for Ho Chi Minh, and election was never held

      10. By 1957, North Vietnam has begun to support a guerrilla insurgency in South Vietnam

      11. First Americans die in Vietnam, July, 1959 - total American presence still only 850

  2. The Kennedy Years

    1. Cold War and struggle against Communism defined much of John F. Kennedy's presidency

      1. Bay of Pigs - April 17, 1961

        1. JFK entered the White House shortly after Castro came to power in Cuba

        2. inherited from Eisenhower a plan to invade Cuba using anti-Castro Cuban exiles

        3. The invasion, known as the Bay of Pigs, was an embarrassing disaster

      2. Berlin Wall

        1. The divided city of Berlin had served as an escape route for East Germans seeking to escape Communism

        2. Kennedy, after meeting in June, 1961 with Soviet leader Khrushchev about the Berlin question, promoted an aggressive campaign of industrialization and defense for West Berlin

        3. Khrushchev responded by constructing a wall around West Berlin, cutting off East Germans trying to escape

      3. Cuban Missile Crisis, October, 962

        1. When U.S. intelligence discovered Soviet missiles in Cuba, JFK decided to prevent any more Soviet ships from bringing in more missiles

        2. Several tense days followed as threat of nuclear war loomed

        3. War was averted, as U.S. and Soviets reached an agreement

          1. Soviets withdrew their missiles

          2. U.S. agreed not to invade Cuba

          3. although not officially agreed to in October, U.S. also eventually removed missiles from Turkey near the Soviet border

    2. Guerilla war intensifies in South Vietnam

      1. Vietcong rebels aided and directed by Ho Chi Minh and the North intensify their attacks

      2. In 1961, Kennedy begins an escalation in military and economic support for Diem - 16,000 U.S. troops by 1963

    3. Diem's hold on power increasingly weak

      1. Diem's autocratic rule increasingly unpopular

      2. Kennedy concerned that if his government collapsed it would open the way for Vietcong victory

      3. Thus Kennedy gave tacit approval for a military coup against Diem

  3. Escalation of American Involvement in Vietnam under Johnson

    1. Lyndon Johnson was determined not see Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, become Communist

      1. Increased military and economic aid to South Vietnam

      2. Insisted that South Vietnam must win the war itself

      3. But extreme instability of South Vietnamese government after overthrow of Diem forced LBJ to become more involved, including increased covert activity

    2. Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

      1. In August, 1964, North Vietnam fired on the Maddox, a U.S. destroyer gathering intelligence

      2. A few days later the Maddox and a second destroyer, the C. Turner Joy, believing they were under attack, fired on Vietnamese gunboats.

      3. Johnson orders retaliatory air-strikes, asks Congress for resolution authorizing "all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the United States and to prevent further aggression"

      4. The broad phrasing of the resolution ultimately enabled LBJ to greatly expand American involvement in Vietnam

    3. Steady Escalation

      1. In 1965, LBJ authorizes bombing raids on North Vietnam and increasingly aggressive ground war against Vietcong in the South

      2. Wanted to force North Vietnam to accept a a diplomatic solution on United States terms

      3. Kept increasing troop commitment and bombing to increase pressure on North

      4. As war intensified, LBJ feared that U.S. could not pull out of Vietnam without losing credibility

      5. But also feared that an invasion of North would lead to war Soviets and Chinese, so he continued the escalation

      6. 550,000 troops by 1968

    4. Stalemate

      1. Jungle canopy made it difficult to destroy Vietcong supply lines from the North with aerial bombing

      2. On the ground, jungle and guerilla war tactics made Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army difficult to find, difficult to destroy

    5. Political Consequences of U.S. Tactics

      1. Increasingly intense use of aerial bombing and subsequent civilian deaths begin to turn world opinion against U.S.

      2. On the ground Gen. William Westmoreland ordered heavy use of American firepower to seek and destroy the Vietcong

        1. Created enormous destruction, particularly with use of napalm and Agent Orange

        2. Resulted in many civilian deaths, while many survivors increasingly supported the Vietcong

      3. My Lai Massacre

        1. The emphasis on destruction and the difficulty in discerning friend from foe sometimes led to severe brutality, most famously at My Lai

        2. In March, 1968, troops under Lt. William Carey, Jr. killed over 300 civilians in the village of My Lai

        3. Became a major scandal, and controversy, at home

  4. Revolt on the Homefront

    1. Sources of Student Unrest

      1. In early 1960s, widespread student rebellion developed

      2. This generation rebelled against conformity of 1950s and emphasis on affluence of their Depression-born parents

      3. Saw the universities themselves as servants of a corporate culture they increasingly distrusted

      4. Troop escalations in Vietnam and subsequent large scale draft another major source of student discontent

        1. Ironically, college deferments kept many of the children of the affluent out of Vietnam

        2. Student protests against the war spurred in part then by a sense of guilt over this privilege

    2. Development of a counterculture

      1. Increasing student activism became a key component of a rising "counterculture"

      2. Birth control pills and new academic studies of human sexual behavior shattered the norms of the 1950s, producing the sexual revolution

      3. LSD and other drugs ceased to be the domain only of urban street and creative cultures and became widespread

      4. Artists, musicians, and writers all experimented with increasingly chaotic and ironic forms to criticize and protest the prevailing culture

    3. Students for a Democratic Society

      1. Largest student protest group - over 100,000 members

      2. Founded in 1962 to combat racism, poverty, and violence

      3. Emphasized individuality as opposed to bureaucratic organization, which led ultimately to its disintegration by 1970

    4. Protesting the War

      1. The Vietnam War became the central issue of student protest

      2. Protests steadily increased though the 1960s - teach-ins, seizure of campus buildings, draft-card burnings, etc.

      3. Failed to end the war, but did ultimately end much of the rigid control of university administrators over students

      4. Kent State - the ugly side of the war protests

        1. May, 1970, the ROTC building at Kent State University (Ohio) was firebombed in a riot

        2. Governor sent in National Guard troops to gain control of the campus

        3. Nervous from harassment from angry students, the Guard troops opened fire, killing four, wounding eleven

        4. One week later, two students at Jackson State College (Mississippi) killed in a similar incident

    5. As war continues, discontent spreads

      1. Protests movements develop around a number of issues - women's liberation, Hispanic rights, Native Americans, and more

      2. Black Power

        1. One of the more visible signs of this unrest

        2. Frustrated over slow pace of change in civil rights and slower pace in economic gains, many young African Americans begin to take a more aggressive stance

        3. Emphasis on strong affirmation of Black culture

  5. The Downfall of Johnson

    1. The Tet Offensive - January, 1968

      1. The Vietcong launched a major offensive during traditional Vietnamese New Year's celebrations

      2. Even attacked U.S. Embassy in Saigon (capital of South Vietnam)

      3. Quickly pushed back by Americans, but serious political repercussions

        1. Johnson had been telling Americans that war was almost over - Tet proved it was not

        2. Walter Cronkite, the highly respected news anchor of CBS, declared the war a bloody stalemate

        3. Johnson was coming to the same conclusion

    2. The 1968 Election

      1. Doing poorly in the early polls and primaries, Johnson dropped out of the 1968 election, declaring that we would not seek or accept the Democratic nomination

      2. Run for Democratic nomination came down to Hubert Humphrey, Johnson's vice-president, and two anti-war candidates - Robert Kennedy (JFK's brother) and Sen. Eugene McCarthy

      3. Robert Kennedy did well, but was assassinated after winning the California primary, enabling Humphrey to win easily

      4. At Democratic Convention in Chicago, police responded savagely to protestors who demonstrated outside convention doors

      5. Richard Nixon, Eisenhower's vice-president and the Republican nominee defeated a divided and demoralized Democratic party, promising to "end the war and win the peace"