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The Vietnam War (1955-1975) essay

The Vietnam War is considered to be one of the most important events in the history of the United States. This event influenced the lives of millions of Americans because many citizens of the United States were enrolled in the army. According to statistical data, “Hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers were wounded and traumatized, and tens of thousands lost their lives” (Friedrichs 131). The war began in 1955 and ended in 1975. This historical period was the era of the Cold War, which was characterized by a lot of tension between the United States and Soviet Union. The Vietnam War took place in Vietnam, and was extended in Laos and Cambodia.

The Vietnam War is also known as Vietnam Conflict and Second Indochina War. It was a prolonged struggle between nationalists aimed at unifying the territories of South and North Vietnam under a communist government and the United States with the South Vietnamese assistance aimed at preventing the spread of communism (Friedrichs 131). North Vietnam was backed by the People’s Republic of China, while South Vietnam was backed by the United States and defiant communist allies. American involvement in the Vietnam War can be explained as a way to prevent a communist takeover not only of South Vietnam, but also other countries.  In other words, the U.S. strategy was aimed at preventing the further spread of communism across the world (Friedrichs 131). The leaders of North Vietnam and the Viet Cong wanted to reunify Vietnam under communist government. As a result, they considered the military conflict as an example of the colonial war, which was fought initially against France, then against the United States as France was backed by the U.S.A. and, finally, against South Vietnam, which was the U.S. puppet state (Bostdorff  & Goldzwig 520). According to Morena Groll, “it was the longest military conflict, which on top of everything ended in defeat for the Americans”(2). The United States was engaged in a war that many military and political experts analyzed as unnecessary war because of having no way to win. The U.S. political leaders lost the national support for the war because the U.S. citizens were against the war actions in Vietnam. Since the end of the Vietnam War, this event has become a benchmark for the U.S. leaders signifying what they should not do in all future U.S. foreign conflicts. According to researchers, “wartime disagreements about foreign policy persisted in the postwar period as Americans debated the proper ‘lessons’ of the war”(Hagopian 23).

Thesis statement: Although the Vietnam War caused by the U.S. desire to stop the spread of communism had negative consequences on Americans, including social, economic and political consequences, this event helped to shape Modern World History.

  1. The Vietnam War: background information

The Vietnam War has been widely discussed in the media and academic sources. In order to assess the role of the Vietnam War in shaping the Modern World History, it is necessary to refer to the causes, consequences and solutions to the military conflict. Special attention should be paid to the U.S. President’s policy. According to Denise M. Bostdorff and Steven Goldzwig, “Kennedy’s rhetoric on Vietnam serves as an exemplar of how presidents balance idealistic arguments, which apply principles of genus to public problem-solving, and pragmatic arguments, which emphasize the efficacy or practicality of politics” (515). The idealistic appeals of President Kennedy provided legitimate support to his Vietnam policy, representing him as a “principled leader” (Bostdorff & Goldzwig 515). In other words, the U.S. President’s appeals helped him to avoid criticism of his foreign policy and explain the causes of slow progress.

North Vietnam was under the communist government and South Vietnam wasn’t. Ho Chi Minh, the leader of the North Vietnam, wanted to spread communism in the whole Vietnam, uniting North Vietnam and South Vietnam. The leaders of the South Vietnam opposed the spread of communism. The United States took the side of South Vietnam, bringing the war in a different level (Hagopian 73). Thus, the major causes of the Vietnam War include three causes:

  • To stop the spread of communism in Vietnam;
  • As the French soldiers pulled out of war for a number of reasons, the U.S. was ready to take their place in the military conflict;
  • The U.S. foreign policy was based on providing support to friend countries.

There were several players in the Vietnam War: South Vietnam, North Vietnam, the USA, South Korea, People’s Republic of China, Russia.

  • The major consequences of the war

The Vietnam War had an enormous impact on the life of Americans, including various spheres of public and private life. The consequences of the military conflict contributed to considerable changes in the U.S. foreign policy. Although the United States is considered to be the world’s greatest superpower, there are some negative effects of the U.S. President’s decision regarding the solutions to the Vietnam conflict. According to researchers, the United States “had entered Vietnam as a powerful, united nation certain of its cause and of victory” (Wiest 83). The defeat in the Vietnam War made millions of Americans reconsider and reassess the established beliefs and values. Besides the above mentioned facts, the country was left battered and depressed because of the uncertainty in the future policy, especially in the face of the complex challenges caused by the Cold War (Wiest 83).

           Moreover, the Vietnam War shaped the relations between the role of the political opinion of the public and the politics that was influenced by the media functioning during the military conflict in Vietnam. The legacy of the Vietnam War can be assessed by means of the statistical data, which affected the public opinion regarding the war. According to statistical data, “during the war in Vietnam the French lost some 76,000 dead and 65,000 wounded – while their allies lost 19,000 dead and 13,000 wounded, while American forces lost some 58,000 dead and over 300,000 wounded” (Wiest 83). The U.S. foreign policy was criticized during the war.

           In addition, many historians, politicians and journalists indicted the established government policy, providing radically different opinions regarding the major causes of war and its consequences. The most popular journalists and historians were Bernard Fall, Robert Shaplen, John Lewis, George McT. Kahin and others. They provided severe criticism of the war’s efficiency (Marolda 767). The American movement against the Vietnam War promoted anti-war ideas and encouraged Americans to protest against American involvement in this military conflict. This movement influenced the decisions of Johnson’s administration, leading to the policy reversal in 1968. According to researchers, “during the Nixon administration, it hastened the U.S. troops withdrawals, continued to restrain the war, fed the deterioration in the U.S. troop morale and discipline” (Marolda 758).

The major solutions to the war are based on the fact that the Vietnam War was the most significant military conflict of the 20-th century. Although the war in Vietnam was rather small as it involved limited action of the United States, the “9 years of official American involvement in the war over 2 million Vietnamese and 58, 219 Americans lost their lives” (Wiest 5).

In addition, the key military operations during the war were influenced by the relationships between the military and the civilians. Vietnam was the center of Cold War strategy. Different operations conducted during the Vietnam War were related to the tactics of the limited war. This strategy was criticized by the leaders of civilian society. There were limits set on the spread of the military conflict in Vietnam. Although the senior members of the U.S. military forces recommended expanding the scope of the military conflict, the U.S. presidents and their administrations opposed the expansion of freedom of action. Both the U.S. President John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon Johnson used democratic solutions to the war (Hagopian 24).

  1. The importance of the event in Modern World History

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The Vietnam War

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Vietnam is a country in Southeast Asia. It has a population of over 80,000,000 people. The official language of Vietnam is Vietnamese. The capital city is Hanoi. The currency that is used is the new dong. This country is rich in resources. Although this country has many strong points, it also has a bloody history, the Vietnam War.

The Vietnamese were controlled by France from 1859 until the defeat of France in World War II. The French had lost their power and Vietnam gained independence. But, the French would not give up without a fight. They still wanted control over Vietnam. The only way they could do this was to fight for the land.

The Battle of Dien Bien Phu was fought between France and Vietnam. Dien Bien Phu was the name of the city that the battle was fought in; therefore, you get the name of the battle. The Vietnamese attacked the French with a force of 40,000 men. France was defeated and the Vietnamese finally had their land back. To settle the dispute, the Geneva Peace Accords were signed by France and Vietnam in the summer of 1954.

There were many causes to the war. One cause was the separation of Vietnam. The terms of the Geneva Peace Accords were that Vietnam was to be separated at the 17th parallel, into two states, North and South Vietnam. Each state would have no leader until an election was made in 1956 to reunify the nations. But, with no president, the states fell apart. There was no election in1956. This was one of the causes of the Vietnam War.

Another cause of the Vietnam War was a Civil War between the two states of Northern and Southern Vietnam. North Vietnam was a communist state. But, South Vietnam was not. The two states started to have conflicts with each other. The National Liberation Front, or NLF, initiated communist activities in South Vietnam in 1957. The U.S. could not just stand by and do nothing. They decided they had to take sides to prevent communism.

The U.S., which did not approve with the communist North, took sides with South Vietnam. South Vietnam had their own election in which Ngo Dinh Diem arose as president. So, North Vietnam decided to have an election, where Ho Chi Minh became the leader of the North. At once, the new president of the South claimed that North Vietnam was attacking the South to take it by force.

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President John F. Kennedy feared that if he did not take action, there would be another communist country and it would hurt his reputation. So, in 1961, South Vietnam signed a treaty with the U.S. for military and economic help. This led to the American troops arriving in that year. A year later, the U.S. Military Assistance Command was formed.

Then, there started to be some problems. In 1963, Ngo Dinh Diem’s military forces grew violent towards the Buddhists in Vietnam. The Buddhists were against government policies, so they protested, which led to government violence. This led to the self-immolation of monks. This means that the monks killed themselves, hoping there would be change. The U.S. decided that Diem’s actions were intolerable and Diem was killed on November 1st, 1963 by his own military generals. Four weeks later, John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and Lyndon B. Johnson took his place. At first, the death of their leader, Ngo Dinh Diem, made the South unstable until June 1965 when Nguyen Cao Ky became president. But, even though they now had a leader, Nguyen Cao Ky was politically inexperienced.

The U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War is known as an escalation, which means more and more activity in the war each year over a long period of time. President Lyndon B. Johnson raised the level of U.S. involvement in the war on July 27th, 1964 when he ordered 5,000 military leaders and advisors to go to South Vietnam. This action rose the of U.S. forces in Vietnam to 21,000. On July 31st, 1964, the U.S. destroyer USS Maddox was on international waters in the Gulf on Tonkin. People have suggested that Johnson did this to make North Vietnam retaliate so he could have a reason to increase warfare in Vietnam. That is exactly how it happened. North Vietnamese torpedo ships attacked the ship. Then with the help of a nearby carrier, a large warship that carries planes, the torpedo ships were destroyed and other two were damaged. The USS Maddox had only minor surface damage.

On August 7th, 1964, the U.S. Senate approved the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which gave President Johnson the choice to escalate U.S. involvement in the war for what happened to the USS Maddox. On November 28th, 1964, the National Security Council recommended that President Johnson make a plan for a two stage escalation of bombing in North Vietnam.

Operation Rolling Thunder took place in North Vietnam starting March 1965. Operation Rolling Thunder was the code name for bombing raids in North Vietnam led by the United States armed forces. The purpose of this military operation was to destroy the hope of North Vietnam so that they would negotiate. This operation slowly increased but the damage was not great enough. The North’s Communist allies were able to fix and supply everything that was lost or damaged. In March 1968, Operation Rolling thunder was suspended when the North agreed to negotiate in the aftermath of another battle that was taking place during Operation Rolling Thunder.

Eventually, the number of U.S. troops had made a massive increase in Vietnam, but many troops were being lost. So, on October 31st, 1968, he announced what is known as the October Surprise. He ordered a complete cessation of all air, naval, and artillery bombardment of North Vietnam effective the day after on November 1st. This was the first war that the U.S. had lost.

The number of casualties from this war is unbelievable. In all, 2,408,226 people were killed. 58,000 American troops were killed and more than 153,000 were wounded. South Vietnam lost more than 1,250,000 troops. North Vietnam lost about 1,100,000 troops and 600,000 were wounded. There were 2-4 million civilian casualties. Though many actions were taken to try and stop communism in Vietnam, the North eventually won. All the lives that were lost are honored in the Vietnam Memorial that is in Washington. This Memorial was built in 1982.

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The US War in Vietnam – Essay

Here is your essay on the US War in Vietnam!

The US started building South Vietnam as an independent state under the dictatorial and corrupt rule of Ngo Dinh Diem.

It was universally believed that Ho Chi Minh’s party was certain to win the elections. Diem’s government, on the US advice and support, refused to comply with the decision to hold elections.

The US started building the South Vietnamese army to resist the North Vietnamese army and crush the South Vietnamese guerrillas.

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In spite of US support, Diem’s government was on the verge of collapse in 1963 due to its growing unpopularity. It was brought down by a US-supported military coup.

The US government increasingly committed itself to the maintenance of an anti-communist regime in South Vietnam. The US policy makers advocated what was called the ‘domino’ theory. According to this theory, if South Vietnam fell to the communists, all other South-East Asian countries would also collapse and come under communist rule and this would lead to the expansion of communism over the entire Asia continent.

The US started sending her own troops, to begin with, as military advisers, but gradually as regular combat troops. By the end of 1967, the number of US troops fighting in Vietnam had gone up to 500,000.

It has been estimated that by 1967 the power of bombs dropped on Vietnamese territory by the US exceeded that of the bombs dropped all over Europe during the entire period of the Second World War.

The US war in Vietnam was the most unpopular US war in history. It was condemned by people all over the world. Even with the United States there was huge opposition to the war. No other single event in the years after 1945 had united people all over the world as the opposition to the war in Vietnam.

The US troops withdrew from Vietnam in 1973. By April 1975, the South Vietnamese army was routed and the last of the US advisers also left. In this war, 58,000 US soldiers were killed and about 300,000 wounded.

The Vietnamese casualties, both military and civilian, were much higher. The entire country had been ravaged. Vietnam soon emerged as a united country. The defeat of the greatest military power in the world by the people of a small country in Asia was an event of great significance in recent history.

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