History Gcse Vietnam Coursework

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How useful are these sources for explaining why the USA became involved in the war in Vietnam?

Source A is by US President Johnson, speaking in April 1965, one month after the start of Operation Rolling Thunder. It is a primary source. Johnson had a difficult job; he had to live up to be popular. The former president JFK was very popular. Johnson was a new president. He launched the direct involvement; former president only sent weapons and advisers. In the source, Johnson says USA got involved in Vietnam because “we have a promise to keep”. By saying promise he is referring to the Truman Doctrine. It is the promise made by Truman president of USA after World War Two, they promised to send money, weapons and advisers to the countries outside the Iron Curtain if they are over the threat of communism. Johnson feels that he has to carry on the promise. Americans expect Johnson to help out South Vietnamese. Americans think communism is evil, and they are the defender of democracy and capitalism. They think it6 is their job to contain communism. They have showed to the world that they will stand up over communism in Korea, Cuba and Greece; it is vital that they carry on containing communism to make America appear strong.

The source is said to public in America. It is useful because it is from the president himself who lead the war which makes it is primary source because it was said at the time the war was going on. In addition, it gives us the reasons that Johnson told the public. It also tells us the official reason of why America was involved in the war. Because Johnson took them to war, many public believed him. Direct involvement has just begun and the incidents at gulf of Tongking and Pleiku were the excuses for America to bomb North Vietnam. The source is less useful because he doesn’t give a specific reason on why America was involved; he does not talk about the direct involvement, he is trying to justify his reasons on bombing Vietnam. He believes it is the right thing to do; he hides his private feelings. He also says the quote from the bible to back him up. “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further…” he says that the god will say he is doing the right thing. He is trying to make people feel it is the moral thing. He also means that he don’t want communism to be over the Iron Curtain. Because the views from the Vietnamese people are missing it make the source less useful. It is biased because we only get Johnson’s point of view.

The date is significant and it is said to persuade the public and it makes the source more likely to be propaganda. Johnson is desperate to put the public on government’s side. Because if the government does not get the support from the public there will be a massive protest. The source only shows Johnson’s point of view so we don’t know if the Vietnamese wanted America there. Johnson has just started to bomb Vietnam which makes it less reliable because he is trying to put the public on government’s side. This is not uncommon because it is what the other leaders have done in the past to put the public on their side. Because it is common that makes it les reliable; the politicians can exaggerate the reasons why they have gone to the war. Propaganda has been used in World War 2 and more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan and the public have to be cautious when listening to propaganda speeches. The media is trying to make the public believe that communism is bad.

The source on its own is not very useful. Perhaps if it was cross-examined with other sources we will be able to understand more about the reasons of why America got involved in the Vietnam War.

Source B is a private conversation said by us President Johnson in May 1964. The source tells us that Johnson’s fear of communism “of course if you start running from the communists they may chase you into your own kitchen” which is similar to source A in the fact that he talks about communism spreading to the West and America. He...
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