Tag Archives: Vietnam

American involvement in Vietnam

This revision podcast addresses the Vietnam War in the context of the Cold War, and is broadly split into three sections: reasons for the war and America’s involvement, the way the war was fought, and reasons for American withdrawal.

The first section looks at why the war began, and why the USA got involved.  This is done by presenting an overview of 5 key causes: containment, the Domino Theory, the division of Vietnam after the Treaty of Geneva, US support for the South Vietnamese government against the Viet Cong, and the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.  I then provide an example of how to structure an essay essay to explain why the USA got involved.

The second part of the podcast addresses the way the war was fought.  It assesses how the guerrilla tactics of the Viet Cong were developed as a response to the vastly superior American firepower, and ways in which the USA similarly responded to this new style of warfare.  American tactics described in the podcast include the Strategic Hamlets Programme, Operation Rolling Thunder, the use of Agent Orange, and Search and Destroy missions.

The episode concludes with an overview of the various factors that led to the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam, concluding with a short comment on the lasting effect of the Vietnam War on American attitudes to the Cold War.

     

Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

Causes and effects of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

On the 7th August 1964, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was passed by the United States Congress.

The joint resolution granted powers to President Lyndon B. Johnson to use military force to assist countries in Southeast Asia facing so-called “communist aggression”. Many critics of the war condemned Congress for granting Johnson a “blank cheque” to escalate American military involvement in the Vietnamese conflict. At the time, however, it passed unanimously through the House of Representatives and only two Senators opposed the resolution.

The Resolution was a response to the Gulf of Tonkin Incident that had taken place just a few days earlier, in which the North Vietnamese Navy was blamed for attacking US ships on two separate occasions. While it is accepted that the USS Maddox did exchange fire with three enemy torpedo boats on the 2nd August, the claim that it was attacked again on the 4th August is now known to be false.

Even at the time it was acknowledged that the second attack may not have actually happened. Captain John J. Herrick, the commander of the Maddox, had spent four hours firing at enemy ships picked up on radar. However, he sent a message just a few hours later saying that no enemy boats had actually been sighted and so the radar may have malfunctioned. However, the President was not informed of this before going on television to announce that US ships had been attacked. Johnson’s desire to retaliate led to the Resolution, and this in turn led to the USA escalating its involvement in the Vietnam War.

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