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.


5 Responses to American involvement in Vietnam

  1. R says:

    Thanks, this is very useful.

  2. […] 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. […]

  3. mike says:

    19th century, Vietnam was known as Indo-China; ruled by France. In 1947, Truman developed Truman doctrine which vowed to protect the free people of the world and actively fight to contain communism wherever it was. This was followed by the Domino Theory which stated that if South Vietnam fell to communist North Vietnam, then nearby countries would inevitably become communist as well. As the Truman Doctrine promised to protect people of the free world, America was obliged to ensure communism was contained. They gave 500 million $ a year to the French and helped them establish a non communist government in South Vietnam. By 1954, though, it was clear that the French were losing.

    So, a peace conference was held in Geneva. At this conference, Vietnam was divided into North and South Vietnam along the 17th parallel. It was agreed that free elections would be held to decide the future direction of the county. However, in direct contradiction to their criticism of Stalin for not allowing free elections in Eastern Europe after ww2, the USA prevented the elections from taking place as they feared the communists would win. They were actively forcing containment to prevent the domino theory.

    The Americans helped to establish the Republic of South Vietnam under the leadership of Di-EM in 1955. He was bitterly anti-communist, and despite receiving billions of dollars from the US his government remained deeply unpopular with the Vietnamese people due to his disrespect for the Buddhist religion of most peasants and the corruption of his regime. Although he was overthrown and replaced, the successive governments were no better and only encouraged more South Vietnamese peasants to begin supporting the communist movement which became known as the VietCong.

    As they grew in size, the VietCong began a guerrilla war against the South Vietnamese government. they used the Ho Chi Minh Trail to supply fighters throughout the South with reinforcements and supplies; securing the country side and beginning to attack American bases. In response, the US invested more and more money in the South Vietnam regime and began sending military advisors to train the SV army. By the time of John F Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, there were more than 16000 US military advisors in South Vietnam and more than 100 Americans had been killed. However, rather than pulling out of Vietnam and leaving the country to a communist takeover, Kennedy successor, Lindon B Johnson, committed the United States to the war even more. He stated “I am not going to be the president who saw South East Asia go the way China went”. This comment clearly shows his decision to carry out a policy of containment and stop communism from spreading.

    The biggest factor in increasing US involvement in the war was the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. In August 1964, the US ship USS Maddox claimed to have been attacked by North Vietnamese boats. The American congress was enraged. They passed the Gulf of Tonkin resolution which allowed President Johnson to take all necessary measures to prevent further aggression and achieve peace and security. Johnson did just that. By the end of 1965, the number of American troops in Vietnam had increased from 23 to 165000.

    • Basudha says:

      Dear Mr.Allsop,
      In the book, there are 3 case studies of which you have talked about only 2. The first case study was the Korean War which you haven’t mentioned anywhere. Does it mean that its not necessary to know all the case studies? Thank you once again for these helpful podcasts.

      • Mr Allsop says:

        Korea could come up, so it would make sense to cover all three potential case studies (Cuba, Vietnam and Korea). However, if you have covered the other various units in sufficient depth you could still find at least 2 questions to answer if a case study you haven’t looked at comes up.

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