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Why did the USA become involved in Vietnam in the 1950s and the 1960s? Describe the military tactics used by both the USA and the Vietcong forces in Vietnam

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Introduction

History Coursework Vietnam By Oliver Tavabie 11SB Q1. Why did the USA become involved in Vietnam in the 1950s and the 1960s? The French had held Vietnam in French Indo-China since the 1880s. However, during WW2 the French were forced out of France and as they had most of their soldiers defending the homeland, Vietnam was vulnerable to be made independent by any resistance group. Ho Chi Minh, a notorious resistance campaigner, set up the Vietminh who fought the French as well as the Japanese who also attacked Vietnam during WW2. When the war ended, the French returned to Vietnam, backed by the Americans who were virtually paying for all of their expenses, and they fought for eight years. After the battle of Dien Bien Phu, the French were so badly defeated that they needed any way out of Vietnam. This led to the Geneva Agreement in 1954 where Vietnam was split into two halves along the 17th parallel, similar to Korea, with the Communist Vietminh in the North and the more Western South. They were supposed to be joined in 1956 but this never happened. In the South his Prime Minister Diem overthrew the puppet leader Bao Dai. Events after his coup made the Americans more and more involved in Vietnam during the 50s and then the 60s. in this essay, I am going to try and identify some of the main reasons why the Americans did become more and more involved in the war during the 50s and the 60s. The first reason is the contrasting ideologies of Communism of the Vietminh and of Capitalism of the USA. Capitalism attempts to make the individual richer whereas Communism tries to make the state richer. They are at opposite ends of the spectrum which has always made the two wary of each other, particularly the Russians and Americans. These conflicting ideologies caused a great deal of historical suspicion which made the Americans extremely distrusting of Communists in general, eg the Russians pulling out of WW1, which led to the beginning of the 'Cold War'. ...read more.

Middle

They also were given weapons from the aforementioned but there was not enough of them and there were few people skilled to use them fighting for the North Vietnamese. However, they had a knowledge of the land and its topography which they used to great affect in attacking the Americans through guerrilla warfare tactics. This allowed them to lay booby traps for the American soldiers to fall for. The difference in aims between the two sides also affected their tactics as the Americans wished to get the Vietcong out of South Vietnam and nothing more than that whereas the Vietcong and NVA wished to fully take over Vietnam. This worked in the Vietcong's and NVA' s favour eventually as this caused low moral in the American's fighting as they were sent to get the North Vietnamese out of South Vietnam and they were just going through South Vietnam, burning all of the South Vietnamese villages and killing the South Vietnamese men and women. I am now going to compare and contrast and explain the differences between each sides military tactics in the 1960s and early 1970s. I am going to start first with the Vietcong's and the NVA' s tactics as they contributed to the American's tactics which were caused partially by reacting to Vietcong and NVA tactics. The Vietcong tried to always fight using guerrilla tactics. This is when small groups of men fight a war where they are rarely seen but kill the opposition by picking off a few men at a time. They used this form of tactics because if they fought the Americans in a conventional open air war, they would most definitely lose due to the fact they have less economic strength to buy weapons or produce them and they did not have the scientific expertise to create new weapons. Also, they knew that they had a superior knowledge of the land than the Americans so they could lay booby traps, eg holes covered with leaves, and catch the unsuspecting American army out. ...read more.

Conclusion

The latter included the infamous Agent Orange which stripped forests bare of leaves. It also contaminated any people who were exposed to it, including Americans handling it at the base. The American General, Westmoreland, began to talk publicly of a war of attrition. This is where the Americans would try and kill more men than they would lose. However, this policy was a total failure as the Tet offensive proved. Even though the North Vietnamese were badly damaged, so were the Americans and the US citizens could not accept this. The US civilians also were not pleased by the fact that they had been lied to for the last few years as the Americans had obviously not been winning the war but more like drawing it. This caused public opinion in the United States to plummet about Vietnam. This caused radical changes in the policies of America. Under Nixon, they began a policy of Vietnamization in 1969. This was the policy of handing the war back to the South Vietnamese to fight for themselves. However, this did not stop the Americans from having one last effort to influence the war when they attacked Cambodia in order to root out any NVA camps and to disrupt the Ho Chi Minh trail thus causing problems to the Vietcong in the forests. They then entered a period where they were trying to encourage a peace agreement imbetween the South Vietnamese and the North Vietnamese as they wanted this war to finish as quickly as possible as it was greatly affecting them economically. Every time it stalled, they launched a huge bombing campaign. They eventually reached a ceasefire in 1972. In the period 1972-1975, the Americans completed Vietnamization so there were no more American troops in Vietnam which was a great mistake as it allowed the North Vietnamese to mount a huge offensive that destroyed the South Vietnamese resistance and let the Communists have the entire of Vietnam. ...read more.

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