Vietnam War

The Vietnam War had risen from Indochina wars of the 1940s and ’50s, when nationalist groups like Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh, opposed the colonial rule first of Japan and then of France. The North was entirely under the control of the Vietnamese Communist Party, driven by Ho Chi Minh; its capital was Hanoi. Elections to decide the future of Vietnam, South, and North, were to be held in 1956.


The Diem Regime And The Viet Cong

Surprised and delighted by Diem’s success, American economic and military aid continued to pour into South Vietnam. In contrast, American military and police advisers helped train and equip Diem’s army and security forces. However, Diem was a poor administrator who refused to delegate authority. By 1957 the communists, now called the Viet Cong (VC), started a program of assassination against government functionaries. In 1960, the communists in the South formed the National Liberation Front (NLF), as the political arm of the Viet Cong and organization for anyone who wanted to put an end to the Diem regime. The Front’s regular army, typically referred to as the “main force” by the Americans, was much smaller than Diem’s army. Still, it was only one segment of the Viet Cong’s so-called People’s Liberation Armed Forces (PLAF). As the base of the PLAF served village guerrilla units, that consisted of part-time combatants whose function was to persuade their neighbors into supporting the NLF, to defend its political apparatus, and to harass the security forces and the government with kidnappings, raids, and murders. Above the guerrillas were the regional or local authorities, full-time soldiers who operated within the bounds of a region or province. Experienced members of the guerrilla army could be upgraded to the regional or central forces. Based in remote jungles, or mountainous areas, they could operate throughout a province or even the country. When necessary, the full-time fo

The growth of the US Role

By the middle of 1960, the South Vietnamese army and security forces could not cope with the new threat. Two thousand five hundred government functionaries and other real and imagined enemies of the Viet Cong were assassinated. After four VC companies had attacked an ARVN regimental headquarters northeast of Saigon, Americans in Vietnam started to plan for increased U.S. aid to Diem. When the new administration of the U.S. took office in 1961, Vietnam represented both a challenge and an opportunity. Kennedy believed that Vietnam presented a chance to test the United States’ ability to operate a “counterinsurgency” against communist subversion and guerrilla warfare. Kennedy’s involvement in the Vietnam War A successful effort in Vietnam—in Kennedy’s words, represented the cornerstone of the free world in Southeast Asia. Many of the South’s problems were caused by continuing rigidity, incompetence, and corruption of the Diem regime. Still, the South Vietnamese President had several American critics in Saigon or Washington. Interests of the U.S. in the Vietnam War The U.S. administration made significant efforts to reassure Diem of its support and boosted economic and military aid. Kennedy sent two critical advisers to Vietnam in the fall of 1961 to assess conditions. The two determined that the South Vietnamese government was losing and was not capable of turning the tide on its own. They recommended an expanded program of military assistance and the introduction of a limited number

The Conflict Deepens

Buoyed by American weapons and supported by confident and aggressive American advisers, the South Vietnamese army managed to take the offensive against the Viet Cong. Meanwhile, the Diem government initiated an extensive security campaign called the Strategic Hamlet Program aimed to concentrate rural populations into positions where they could be more easily defended and segregated from the Viet Cong. Because of popular discontent with the compulsory labor and frequent dislocations involved in establishing the villages, a lot of strategic hamlets soon had as many VC recruits inside their walls as outside. At the same time, the Viet Cong learned to cope with the ARVN’s new array of American weapons. In January 1963, a Viet Cong battalion surrounded by outnumbered ARVN forces successfully fought its way out of its encirclement. By the summer of 1963, there were growing doubts about the ability of the Diem government to prosecute the war. Diem’s brother Nhu was suspected by U.S. intelligence of secretly negotiating with the North. Diem’s death was followed by Kennedy’s in less than three weeks later. Killed President left his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, a legacy of indecision, half-measures, and gradually increasing involvement. Kennedy had relished Cold War challenges while Johnson did not. He had an ambitious plan that he was determined to fight through Congress. Johnson and most of his advisers believed that Vietnam was a critical test of U.S. credibility and the ability to keep its commitments


Johnson, as chief executive, decided to make a dramatic gesture for peace. He declared that he was “taking the first step to de-escalate the conflict” by stopping the bombing of North Vietnam (besides the areas that were near the DMZ). The U.S. was also ready to send representatives to any forum to seek a negotiated end to the war. Three days later, Hanoi declared that it was ready to communicate with the Americans. Discussions started in Paris on May 13 but led nowhere. Hanoi required that, before serious negotiations could begin, the United States would have to stop its bombing of the rest of Vietnam. Meantime, fighting continued at a high intensity. Meanwhile, Westmoreland directed his commanders to “keep maximum pressure” on the communist forces. By the time South Vietnam joined the negotiations, Richard M. Nixon had been elected President. Nixon’s involvement Nixon intended to achieve the end of the war only by an “honorable” settlement that would allow South Vietnam a reasonable chance of survival. The plan was to bring pressure to bear from the Soviets and China, who were interested in improving relations with the United States, and through the massive force against the North Vietnam threat. When the communists started another wave of attacks in South Vietnam, Nixon privately commanded the bombing to proceed. Cambodian premier Norodom Sihanouk approved the attacks, and Hanoi was in no position to complain without revealing its violation of Cambodia’s neutrality. Give

More about Vietnam War

Vietnam War

The roots

The Vietnam War had risen from Indochina wars of the 1940s and ’50s, when nationalist groups like Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh, opposed the colonial rule first of Japan and then of France. The North was entirely under the control of the Vietnamese Communist Party, driven by Ho Chi Minh; its capital was Hanoi. Elections to decide the future of Vietnam, South, and North, were to be held in 1956.

Ngo Dinh Diem, the premier of South Vietnam, encountered opposition from the communist regime in the North and the Viet Minh’s stay-behind political agents, armed religious sects in the South, and even subversive elements in his army. Yet Diem had the support of U.S. military advisers, who trained and reequipped his army.

Diem’s consolidation of power

By late 1955 Diem had finally consolidated his power in the South. Publicly opposed to the elections, he called for a referendum only in the South, and in October 1955, declared himself President of the Republic of Vietnam. The North, not prepared to start a new war and unable to induce its Russian or Chinese allies to act, could do little.