International Relations Since 1945

Viet Cong Captain Bảy Lốp executed by General Loan

Cause and consequence: Captain Bảy Lốp executed by General Loan

On the 1st February 1968, American photojournalist Eddie Adams took a photograph of South Vietnamese National Police Chief General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan executing Viet Cong officer Nguyễn Văn Lém in Saigon. The photograph’s publication in the New York Times rallied US citizens to the anti-war movement and earned Adams a Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography in 1969.

The Tet Offensive had begun on the 30th January, and saw over 80,000 communist troops carry out a series of surprise attacks against South Vietnamese forces and their allies. It’s reported that, two days later, in the early morning of the 1st February Lém led a troop that attacked a South Vietnamese base and killed South Vietnamese National Police officers and their families. He was later captured near a mass grave containing 34 civilian bodies, and soon brought before General Loan in Saigon. While still handcuffed, Loan shot Lém with his Smith & Wesson revolver in front of photographer Eddie Adams and an NBC News television cameraman.

The photograph was printed in the New York Times, and appeared alongside a now-forgotten image of a child killed by the Viet Cong in an attempt to achieve balance. However, the immediacy of the image made an enormous impact in America where it became strongly associated with the anti-war movement. Adams later spoke out many times in defence of General Loan, declaring that the photograph does not present the whole story. He later visited Loan many times, and apologised in person for the effect the photo had on his life. On hearing of Loan’s death in 1998, Adams called him “a hero”.

Story behind the photo of Kim Phuc running from napalm attack

On the 8th June 1972 one of the most iconic photographs of the Vietnam War was taken of Phan Thị Kim Phúc, a nine-year-old girl from the South Vietnamese village of Trang Bang. In the photograph, she is shown running away from a napalm attack, having stripped off her clothes after being severely burned.

The photograph, which went on to win a Pulitzer Prize, was taken by Nick Ut, a Vietnamese photographer for the Associated Press. He was one of number of press photographers who were with the group of fleeing civilians after the village had been bombed South Vietnamese planes. He took Kim Phúc and other injured children to a hospital in Saigon before delivering the film to be developed, and maintained contact with her throughout her recovery despite being told that her burns were so severe she was unlikely to survive.

The photograph was initially rejected by Associated Press due to the full-frontal nudity. However, the image was deemed to capture such a powerful news story that these concerns were put aside. When the picture appeared on the front page of the New York Times four days later, it had such a dramatic impact that President Nixon discussed with his chief of staff whether the shot had been ‘fixed’.

Kim Phúc stayed in hospital for 14-months, and underwent 17 surgical procedures and skin transplants before she was able to return home. However she did survive and – having sought political asylum in Canada during an aircraft refuelling stop on her honeymoon – she now lives in Ontario.

American withdrawal from the Vietnam War

Operation Frequent Wind

Operation Frequent Wind

Lech Walesa

Explanation of the Gdańsk shipyard strike led by Lech Wałęsa

On the 14th August 1980, workers at the Lenin Shipyard in the Polish city of Gdańsk led by electrician Lech Wałęsa began a strike that led to the formation of the Solidarity labour movement.

A decade of economic and political crises preceded the 1980 strike, but the Gdańsk strike spread throughout Poland and galvanised various other strike committees to join together for a common goal.

The trigger for the strike was the firing of a popular worker at the shipyard, a female crane operator and activist called Anna Walentynowicz. Just 5 months before her planned retirement, she was sacked for being a member of an illegal trade union. This move proved highly unpopular with the shipyard workforce, who demanded that she be reinstated.

Just a week after beginning the strike a governmental commission began negotiations with the strikers and, on the 30th August, they and representatives of the Gdańsk workers signed an agreement in which many of the strikers’ demands were met. The fact that political change, including the resignation of the Polish Communist Party’s General Secretary, had come from the workers’ action emboldened the people of Poland and fuelled the formation of the national labour union Solidarity.

Within two years up to 80% of the entire Polish workforce had joined Solidarity or one of its suborganisations, and they continued to use strikes to achieve political change. In March 1981, the crippling effects of 12 million people going on a four-hour warning strike demonstrated that the Communist Party was no longer the most powerful force in the country.

Solidarity in Poland

Solidarity

Solidarity and the fall of communism in Poland

A detailed explanation of why Poland was the first country in which the communist government fell.  Includes an interview with former Polish president Lech Walesa.  Taken from Curriculum Bites.

Gorbachev

Collapse of communism in eastern Europe

This is the final revision episode (for now!) in the series examining the Cold War for GCSE and IGCSE students.  Focusing on the collapse of communism in eastern Europe it assesses the effect of the Solidarity movement in Poland, and the role of Gorbachev, in bringing about the end of Soviet dominance in the region.  The second part of the podcast goes on to explore the specific experiences of major eastern European countries in the lat 1980s and early 1990s.

The podcast begins with Poland, where massive popular opposition to the government led to the establishment of the Solidarity trade union in the Gdansk shipyards.  The rise of Solidarity is described, along with the subsequent government clampdown under the government of Jaruzelski.  The impact of Solidarity is considered.

The second section looks at the USSR under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev.  His two key policies of perestroika and glasnost are explained, and their impact of Soviet foreign policy is assessed.

In the final section of the podcast, I describe the process through which the states of eastern Europe freed themselves from communist rule.  The most popular exam questions on the collapse of communism focus on asking WHY a certain event contributed to the end of the system, or ask to what extent a particular event was responsible.  Remember that to answer any of these questions you need to support your reason with solid evidence, and explain exactly WHY it contributed to the collapse of communism.

     

Eastern Europe 1949-89

Losing Soviet control over eastern Europe

These three videos present the events that led to the end of communism in the Eastern Bloc.

PART 1 – Gorbachev, the attitude of Honecker, Hungary 1989, Poland 1989, Warsaw Pact Summit 1989, the economic and political situation in East Germany, the crossing of East Germans through Hungary

PART 2 – East Germany’s 40th anniversay demonstration, fall of Honecker, fall of the Berlin Wall, the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia

PART 3 – Uprising in Romania leading to the end of Ceausescu

Gorbachev and Reagan

The relationship between the USA and the USSR in the 1980s

Gorbachev’s involvement in nuclear disarmament negotiations between the Soviet Union and the USA.  The USA’s plans to develop ‘Star Wars’ and the collapse of talks at the Reykjavik in 1986.  From Curriculum Bites.