The Vietnam War
Of all of the wars fought by the United States, the Vietnam War was by far the most controversial. After the defeat of French forces, Vietnam was divided into two sections: North Vietnam, and South Vietnam. North Vietnam became a Communist government under Ho Chi Minh, and South Vietnam eventually became a Republic under Ngo Dinh Diem. Under Diem's oppressive rule, the Viet Cong (those against Diem) grew in power, and the U.S. reacted to the Communist threat by sending in troops and economic aid, and advised Diem to make more Democratic Reforms. Because it was never actually declared a war by congress, the "Vietnam War" is technically the "Vietnam Conflict". Nevertheless, it is still called "one of the bloodiest wars of the century" (McNamara, 38). 58, 178 Americans died and 304,000 were injured. Many people during the start of the war, were unsure of its reasoning and its history. There were many misunderstandings on both sides, and many tragedies. The Vietnam War was a war started by fear, misunderstood by both sides, and made use of newer and advanced weapons.
The Vietnam war was sparked and later catalyzed by fear; the American fear of communism taking over the eastern hemisphere, and the Vietnamese fear of becoming a colony of the U.S. like they had been a colony of the French. Former Secretary of Defense under President John F. Kennedy, Robert McNamara stated that, "Throughout the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, we operated on the premise that the loss of South Vietnam to North Vietnam would result in all of the Southeast Asia being overrun by communism and that this would threaten the security of both the U.S. and the entire noncommunist world" (McNamara, 40). The U.S. believed that China, the Soviet Union, and Vietnam were allies, working to sway the other countries in Indochina. The Fascists were no longer a threat to American independence like in World War II. The new enemy was the Communists. The U.S. felt that "if South Vietnam fell to communism, all of Indochina would fall" (16), and it would create "domino effect", that would influence all of Indochina to become communist as well. The Vietnamese side was different; they believed that the U.S. was trying to colonize Vietnam as the French had previously done. The people and the Vietminh (Viet Cong) believed that the government was a "puppet" of the United States. The American backed ruler of South Vietnam was Ngo Dinh Diem, who quickly became a dictator. He did not allow any opposition in his policies and demanded complete obedience (Olson, 60). He was from a family that had formerly had a "political dynasty in the tenth century, and then the mandarinate at the imperial court for centuries" (Olson, 54-55). A Roman Catholic ruling a Buddhist majority, Diem was known for being very reclusive and very loyal to his family. The only real shared interest between Diem and the people of South Vietnam was the hope of taking the French out of Vietnam. Ironically, it seemed as thought they had simply traded in "French despots for a Vietnamese one" (Mc Namara, 35). People like Truong Nho Tang, a founder of the National Liberation Front, were , "Organizers... educated, patriotic, embarrassed by Diem- [and] were nationalists. Some were communists; many were not. Many had not been politically active before. But Diem's tactics had forced them to take a stand" (36). The Viet Cong was the military branch of the NLF, the National Liberation Front, a political organization. The Viet Cong leader in South Vietnam was Le Duan. He was an anti-French nationalist who wanted to reunify Vietnam. Under his lead, the Viet Cong spent time, "working in villages to win support form the common peasants. The guerrillas spent their time working with peasants, helping plant and harvest crops, delivering rice to markets, improving community buildings and peasant homes, and providing drugs and basic medical care" (Olson, 66). But the Viet Cong were guerrilla fighters, and...
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