27 March 2011
Vietnam War Research Paper
Why is the Vietnam War so significant in American history? How did it really affect America? The Vietnam War was the prolonged struggle between nationalist forces trying to unify Vietnam under a communist government, and the United States attempting to prevent the spread of communism. There are many lessons learned throughout this war that America, hopefully, will never undergo again.
There are a series of events that led up to this full-scale war. First, the U.S. tried to prevent Vietnam from becoming a communist nation, so they sent the French military aid to help rule against this. Soon enough, France wanted to withdraw their troops out of Vietnam; the Geneva Conference was a meeting between many nations deciding how France could peacefully pull out troops. A bit later, there was supposed to be a General democratic election held, but America refused to agree to the election, afraid that the communists would win. In 1965, the U.S. sent ground troops to help South Vietnam, sparking tensions between the U.S. and North Vietnam.
From 1965 to 1969, America was involved in a limited war in Vietnam, meaning weak efforts to attack North Vietnam. U.S. forces became easily frustrated because war in the jungle was found difficult. Vietnam would attack in ambushes, set up booby traps, and escape through underground tunnels. To prove even more difficult, Northern Vietnam troops and the Viet Cong surprised South Vietnam and U.S. troops. On January 30, 1968 they attacked hundreds of South Vietnamese cities and towns, known as the Tet Offensive. Without a doubt, it showed that the enemy was stronger and better prepared. While the public’s support for the war was way gone, there was new hope with Richard Nixon, the new president of America. Soon after taking office, Richard Nixon planned the policy Vietnamization, which was a process to remove U.S. troops from Vietnam while handing back the fighting to the South Vietnamese. While America had almost completed the withdrawal of their troops from Vietnam, the North Vietnam attacked South Vietnam and the remaining troops on March 30, 1972. This attack is known as the Easter Offensive. This rough battle resulted in about 40,000 deaths and 60,000 people wounded or missing in the People’s Army of North Vietnam (PAVN). The Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) estimated at 10,000 deaths and 33,000 troops wounded. The offensive was defeated, but the PAVN continued to occupy about 10 percent of South Vietnam after this battle. Nixon was in the process of his Vietnamization policy, when discussions had arisen about restoring peace in Vietnam. Soon began peace talks in Paris that finally succeeded in producing a cease-fire agreement. Nixon declares the news of the decisions made during the Paris peace talks. “Good evening. I have asked for this radio and television time tonight for the purpose of announcing that we today have concluded an agreement to end the war and bring peace with honor in Vietnam and in Southeast Asia. The following statement is being issued at this moment in Washington and Hanoi: At 12:30 Paris time today [Tuesday], January 23, 1973, the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam was initialed by Dr. Henry Kissinger on behalf of the United States, and Special Adviser Le Duc Tho on behalf of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. The agreement will be formally signed by the parties participating in the Paris Conference on Vietnam on January 27, 1973, at the International Conference Center in Paris. The cease-fire will take effect at 2400 Greenwich Mean Time, January 27, 1973. The United States and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam express the hope that this agreement will insure stable peace in Vietnam and contribute to the preservation of lasting peace in Indochina and Southeast Asia…The important thing was not to talk about peace, but to get peace and to get the right kind of peace. This we have done” (“Peace with Honor” 1).
After signing the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam, on March 29, 1973 the last group of U.S. troops left Vietnam. The North Vietnam toppled the Southern Vietnamese government, and South Vietnam officially surrendered in 1975 to communist North Vietnam. Tolerating all the hard work and fighting was proved pointless for American and ARVN troops when Vietnam was reunited as a communist country in 1976.
Often in history, major events such as wars or disasters are the key elements that seem to influence and shape our society. The major event that shaped American society during the ‘70s was the Vietnam War, having a massive social impact. The Vietnam War acted as a catalyst to the counterculture movement, and changed the art, music, and education.