TheVietnam War also referred to as the Resistance War Against America orthe Second Indochina War or was a lengthened conflict that affectedthe North Vietnam communist empire and its partners in South Vietnamreferred to as the Viet Cong against the South Vietnamadministreation and its main collaborator, the United States ofAmerica. In Vietnam, the war was referred to as the War AgainstAmericans to save the Nation or simply the American War1.In essence, the Vietnam War was a regional divergence and aexpression of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the UnitedStates and their particular associates.
Atthe center of the war was North Vietnam’s will, which had conqueredthe French colonizers of Vietnam in 1954, to unite the whole nationinto a single communist empire after copied after those of China andthe Soviet Union. On the other hand, the South Vietnam authoritybattled to maintain a Vietnam more strongly allied with the West.Military advisers affiliated to the U.S government were spreadthroughout Vietnam in small numbers in the 1950’s and in 1965active combat units were introduced on large scale. By 1969, overhalf a million U.S soldiers were present in Vietnam. Consequently,China and the Soviet Union poured weaponry, supplies as well asadvisers, which in return offered support, political guidance andmilitary support for the operation in the South of Vietnam.
EventsLeading to Vietnam War
Priorthe onset of the Vietnam War, Vietnam had been struggling for years.The Vietnamese had suffered in the hands of their colonizers, theFrench for almost sixty years before Japan entry into parts ofVietnam in 1940. Vietnam had two foreign administrators in 1941.During this time, the communist revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh cameback to Vietnam after traversing the world for years. Ho establishedthe Viet Minh headquartered in North Vietnam with a purpose ofgetting rid of the French and Japanese authorities. In 1945, a newgovernment of independent Vietnam was established even though theFrench offered much resistance. Ho had tried to court the UnitedStates in order to get support to conquer the French includingproviding intelligence on the Japanese in World War II. However, theU.S remained tough on its Cold War agenda and instead supported theFrench to fight Ho Minh2.
TheFrench were finally defeated and in 1954 pulled out of Vietnam. NgoDinh Diem became the president through the support of the U.S but wasnot able to rule, resulting to a coup by Viet Cong in 1960. As theViet Cong fought the South Vietnamese, the U.S went on sending morepolitical and military consultants to South Vietnam. On the dates 2and 4 of 1964, the North Vietnamese attacked two U.S ships cruisingon international waters, a move that caused the U.S congress tosupport President Lyndon Johnson in participation in Vietnam War. TheU.S involvement in Vietnam War was not aimed at vectoring, but was tosupport South Vietnamese to gain control over North Vietnam. Inaddition, the U.S stayed confined war in South Vietnam.
U.Sforces engaged in a jungle war, mainly against the established VietCong, who would lay ambushes, setting up booby traps and ran via anintricate network of underneath passageways. It was very tricky forU.S troops to find their targets as the Viet Cong took cover in thethick bush. The U.S was forced to use napalm bombs or Agent Orangewhich would clear an area by burning off or causing the leaves todrop. In the villages, the U.S had difficulty in establishing theenemy since women and children were able to make booby traps, hidethe Viet Cong and feed them. This led to frustrations of the U.Ssoldiers. Their morale was affected and some even resolved to drugs3.
OnJanuary 30, 1968, the American forces and South Vietnamese forceswere shocked by North Vietnamese when they orchestrated a harmonizedattack together with the Viet Cong to assault almost 100 SouthVietnamese towns and cities. Even though the U.S and South Vietnameseforces were able to deter the attack in what is called the TetOffensive, the attack confirmed to Americans that the Viet Cong weremore powerful and coordinated than they had perceived. The TetOffensive was a major blow to the U.S and President Johnson as thepublic turned against him and the soldiers in Vietnam continued withbad news. This led Johnson to stop escalating the war.
Withdrawalof U.S in Vietnam War
WhenRichard Nixon was elected into office as the new president of theUnited States in 1969, he promised to end U.S participation in thewar in Vietnam. He began a program labeled Vietnamization which wasbasically a process to clear U.S forces from Vietnam and handing overthe warfare to South Vietnamese. To achieve a quick end tohostilities, Nixon extended the war to neighboring Cambodia and Laos,a decision which faced resistance back in the U.S. When the U.S hadwithdrawn most its forces from Vietnam, a massive assault, known asthe Easter Offensive was orchestrated by the North Vietnamese inMarch 1972. During this assault, forces affiliated to NorthVietnamese crossed over the DMZ (demilitarized area) at the 17thparallel and entered South Vietnam. The South Vietnamese and theremaining U.S military units responded. On the 27thJanuary 1973, the ongoing peace talks started in 1969 in Paris becamesuccessful by achieving a ceasefire agreement. The last bit of U.Sforces left Vietnam on the 29 March, 1973. Their departure was a bigblow to the weak South Vietnam4.
TheCost of Vietnam War
Thecosts of the Vietnam War proved burdensome to the U.S leading to thewithdrawal of military units by 1973. By 1975, South Vietnam wasfully invaded by North Vietnamese. The human costs of theconfrontation were severe for every participant. It is estimatedthat, more than 2 million civilians and 1.1 million Viet Cong andNorth Vietnamese militants lost their lives in the conflict. Over250,000 South Vietnam soldiers died while the U.S lost more than58,000 U.S military personnel. Other countries who participated inthe war also suffered loss including South Korea which lost 4,000soldiers, Australia more than 500, Thailand with about 350 and NewZealand less than a hundred5.
Eventhough Vietnam emerged out of the war as a powerful military power inSoutheast Asia, its business, industry and agriculture, were greatlyharmed, with larger portions of its landscape damaged by bombs anddefoliation and covered with landmines and the towns and citiessuffered great damages. A huge exit of people affiliated to SouthVietnam resulted to a massive wave in 1978 of refugees running awayfrom the economic reformation caused by the communism. Back in theU.S, the military was discouraged and its citizens were totallydivided in the course of coming into terms with failure in what hadbeen its most controversial and longest war6.Vietnam and the U.S finally pursued diplomatic relations in 1995.
DuringVietnam War, several war crimes were committed by the participatingsides including rape, bombing of constituent targets, murder ofcivilians, use of torture, killing of prisoners of war, as well asterrorism. One of the notable violations by the US military inVietnam was the use of chemical defoliation7.The technique was to defoliate the thick vegetation and rendering theViet Cong inability to hide. The chemicals used continue to changethe scenery of Vietnam, cause birth defects, diseases and poison thefood chain.
Whatled to defeat of the U.S
Thedefeat of the Americans in Vietnam War had major impact on the U.Smilitary and in the future wars. The fact that the U.S went to warwithout consent from its people contributed to its failure. Moralsupport is very important for the military to perform8.In addition, the U.S did not enter the war with a purpose to defeatthe North Vietnamese but was only interested in asserting its coldwar agenda of fighting communism. The one language spoken by theVietnamese was an advantage to the enemy. Women and children werealso able to render their support to the Viet Cong militants todefeat the U.S.
Afterthe withdrawal of the U.S troops, confrontations continued betweenthe South and North Vietnamese. However, the South Vietnamese werenot able to sustain the force of the North, hence succumbed to theCommunist rule9.In the beginning of 1975 the North Vietnamese overpowered SouthVietnamese government leading to the reunion of South and NorthVietnam as one country, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam on July 2,197610.
TheVietnam War is considered one of the longest Wars and mostcontroversial the U.S has ever engaged in. Despite opposition fromthe public, President Johnson went ahead and sent troops to Vietnamto aid the South Vietnamese. The Viet Cong and Northern Vietnamesesucceeded against the U.S and South Vietnamese. The cost of the warwas extra-ordinarily huge. The number of deaths particularly of thecivilians was high with some estimating it to be more than 2 millionpeople. The United States also lost hugely as it lost more than58,000 soldiers. By the time the war ended, Vietnam had sufferedeconomic loss which continued to haunt it over the years.Essentially, the United States suffered significant loss ofreputation as its people were divided on the involvement. The end ofthe war by President Nixon was a wise move that led to reunificationof Vietnam as a communist country.
Gelpi,Christopher, Feaver, Peter and Reifler, Jason. Payingthe human costs of war: American public opinion and casualties inmilitary conflicts.New York: Princeton University Press, 2009.
Herring,George. America`sLongestWar: The United States And Vietnam, 1950-1975 With Poster Author:George C. Herring, Publ." 2001: 384.
SocialistWorld. Lessonsof the US defeat in Vietnam.Socialist World. (Accessed November 6, 2014).
Westheider,James. TheVietnam War.New York: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007.
Willbanks,James. AbandoningVietnam: how America left and South Vietnam lost its war.Kansas City: University Press of Kansas, 2008.
1 George, Herring. America`s Longest War: The United States And Vietnam, 1950-1975 With Poster Author: (George C. Herring, Publ." 2001) 384.
2 George, Herring. America`s Longest War: The United States And Vietnam, 1950-1975 With Poster Author: (George C. Herring, Publ." 2001) 384.
3 James, Westheider. The Vietnam War. (New York: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007).
4 James Willbanks. Abandoning Vietnam: how America left and South Vietnam lost its war. (Kansas City: University Press of Kansas, 2008).
5 Christopher, Gelpi Peter Feaver, and Jason Reifler. Paying the human costs of war: American public opinion and casualties in military conflicts. (New York: Princeton University Press, 2009).
7 James, Westheider. The Vietnam War. (New York: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007).
8 Socialist world. Lessons of the US defeat in Vietnam. Socialist World. (Accessed November 6, 2014).
9 James Willbanks. Abandoning Vietnam: how America left and South Vietnam lost its war. (Kansas City: University Press of Kansas, 2008).
10 George, Herring. America`s Longest War: The United States And Vietnam, 1950-1975 With Poster Author: (George C. Herring, Publ." 2001) 384.