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When was the Indochina War?

C.1945 - 1954


When did the Vietnam War begin?

(When the re-election of a Vietnamese leader to form a united Vietnam didn’t happen)


Who were the USSR + China supporting in the Vietnam War?

N.Vietnamese communists
(VietMinh under Ho Chi Minh)


Who were the US supporting in the Vietnam War?

S.Vietnamese capitalists


Give a brief summary of Eisenhower’s policy in Vietnam

- Committed to supporting S
- Tried to prevent Vietnam falling to communism (+ then the rest of Asia through domino theory)
- Focused on supplying aid + massive retaliation


Give a brief summary of Kennedy’s policy in Vietnam

- Committed to supporting S
- Continued providing aid
- A middle course (not extreme commitment)
- More focused on a flexible response (not massive retaliation) e.g. counterinsurgency training


When was Kennedy assassinated?

22nd Nov 1963


Who became President after Kennedy?



How did Johnson become President? How did this influence his policy in Vietnam?

- Raised up from vice after Kennedy’s death (not elected in)
- Felt he needed to continue Kennedy’s policy at least until the next election in 1964 (because this was what the people had chosen)


What was Johnson’s initial policy in Vietnam?

Continue Kennedy’s policy of commitment in Vietnam, but not extreme commitment (middle course + flexible response)


What was Johnson’s personal opinion on how Vietnam should be dealt with after Kennedy’s assassination?

He was patriotic + wanted US success in Vietnam (so was tempted to increase support to the S)


What was the general US gov opinion on how to approach Vietnam after Kennedy’s assassination?

Mixed (some wanted increased support + others to remove all involvement)


Give an example of Johnson’s initial action to continue Kennedy’s policy in Vietnam

Continued providing military ‘advisers’ to train in counterinsurgency etc
(Increased from 16,300 to 23,000)


What did foreign powers think about US involvement in Vietnam?

Many disapproved
E.g. Charles de Gaulle - warned Johnson that he should end involvement Vietnam or was risking a similar defeat to French at Dien Bien Phu


What three events happened in 1964-5 that changed Johnson’s approach to Vietnam?

- Golf of Tonkin Incident + Resolution (authority to change policy)
- Election victory (had support of public as was rightful president)
- Pleiku Incident (US clearly not currently successful in Vietnam)


When was the Golf of Tonkin Incident?

2nd August 1964


Outline what happened in The Gulf of Tonkin Incident

- USS Maddox (US navy vessel) was moving through international waters when 3 N.Viet patrol boats fired torpedoes at it (but missed)
- USS Maddox responded by calling for air support + managing to destroy 1 of the boats and damage the other 2
- 2 days later US mistranslated N.Viet radio traffic + concluded a military operation threat was being planned
- Johnson ordered bombing of N.Viet naval bases


When was the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution passed?

7th Aug 1964


What was the name of the first US pilot shot down over N.Vietnam?

Lieutenant Everett Alvarez


Why did Congress pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution?

Felt threatened by the N.Vietnamese after the Gulf of Tonkin Incident (attack + ‘plans for future military operation’)


What was The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution?

Bill passed by Congress giving the President (Johnson) permission to take any action considered necessary to resist armed attacks on the US without consulting Congress


What did the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution mean for Vietnam?

Johnson had the presidential authority to increase military commitment in Vietnam without consulting Congress


Why was the situation in Vietnam deteriorating for the US up to 1965?

- Viet Cong had strengthened their position in many parts of the South
- PAVN was moving down the Ho Chi Minh Trail
- Viet Cong had gained foreign support (China + USSR)
- Rise in anti-US feeling amongst people of Vietnam
- ARVN were declining: low morale, poor leadership, poor training, low pay


What was the Ho Chi Minh Trail?

Supply route of men + equipment through Laos + Cambodia to N.Vietnam


What was the Pleiku Incident?

- Feb 1965
- Viet Cong attacked US army barracks + helicopter base at Pleiku (Camp Holloway)
- 8 US killed, 126 US injured
- Representative of the worsening situation in Vietnam for the US


What change to policy did Johnson decide to make to Vietnam on 7th April 1965?

Increase US military commitment to the Vietnam War


Give 3 examples of Johnson’s 1965 change to policy in Vietnam (increasing US commitment)

- Operation Rolling Thunder
- First official combat troops sent to Vietnam
- Rapid increase in number of US troops in Vietnam


What counteroffer to Johnson’s increase in US commitment did the N.Vietnamese propose the day after?

- US withdraw
- No Vietnamese side allowed to enter alliance with foreign power
- Peaceful reunification to be settled by people of Vietnam


How did Johnson react to the N.Vietnamese counteroffer to Americanisation? Why?

Rejected it
Thought South would fall to communism without US help


What was Operation Rolling Thunder?

- Bombing campaign (mainly B-52 bombers)
- Expanded gradually, lasted until 1968
- Aimed to destroy N.Vietnamese economy + supplies
- Limited success: few industrial targets, N.Vietnam adapted using underground tunnel systems, N.Vietnamese supplies replenished by PRC+USSR


Give a statistic to support the Americanisation of the Vietnam War by Johnson after 1965

US ground troops:
1965 = 185,000
1968 = 535,000


When and what was Ia Drang?

Nov 1965
- 34 day battle between US and N.Viets
- One of the first significant direct conflicts post-Americanisation
- US saw as win: they inflicted 10x more casualties
- Vietnamese saw as win: they prevented the US seizing area permanently


What was the result of the 1965 Americanisation?

- US prevented the imminent S.Vietnamese defeat
- Stalemate began, as N.Vietnamese were able to match the escalation


List some US tactics in the Vietnam War

- Bombing: Operation Rolling Thunder, Operation Ranch Hand, Napalm
- Search and Destroy
- The Secret War


What was Operation Ranch Hand?

Tactic used by US.
Aircraft dropped toxic chemical defoliants (e.g. Agent Orange)
- Aimed to deprive N.Viet guerrillas of forest cover + crops
- Destroyed 1/2 S.Vietnam’s woodlands
- Agent Orange associated with causing deformities in children
- Stopped in 1970


What was napalm?

Tactic used by US.
Dropped bombs containing highly flammable sticky jelly, then set on fire
- Aimed to act as a physical weapon (adding to defoliation and destruction of supplies + troops) and psychological weapon (hell on Earth)


What was War of Attrition?

Aim to win the war by gradually wearing down the enemy so they were the last ones standing
- US thought they could win: had superior resources + money
- N.Viet thought they could win: more determined


What was Search and Destroy?

Tactic used by US.
US fly in + raid villages suspected of harbouring Viet Cong
- Often destroyed villages, livestock, crops + innocent villagers in the process


What was the Secret War?

Tactic used by US.
War in Laos + Cambodia at same time as Vietnam (less publicised)
- US tried to support appropriate forces in order to cut off communism in these countries + end any support (e.g. via Ho Chi Minh Trail) from them


What was the US’ most bombed country?



What were some strengths of the US in Vietnam?

Better economy
- Could give constant provision of supplies to S.Vietnam (1 million supplies sent per month)
- High quality technology + military equipment (e.g. helicopter)
- Money to replenish + keep going in War of Attrition


What were some weaknesses of the US in the Vietnam War?

Lack of support
- ARVN were poorly trained + badly led so had low morale
- Vietnamese peasants didn’t want to support (consequence of search + destroy and strategic hamlet programme)
- US public objection beginning in 60s + increased after Tet

Inexperience in fighting in that environment against guerrilla tactics + with few actual bombing targets


List some tactics used by the N.Vietnamese in the Vietnam War

- Guerrilla tactics
- Ho Chi Minh Trail
- Peasant support


What were guerrilla tactics?

Tactic used by N.Vietnamese.
Using irregular warfare that involved techniques based on intelligence, deception and ambush, by a small group of mobile combatants, to fight a less mobile traditional military
- Complex tunnel systems
- Booby traps
- Small ambush troops


What was the Ho Chi Minh Trail?

Tactic used by N.Vietnamese
Supply route through Laos and Cambodia into Vietnam to provide forces with men + equipment
- Regular target of US attacks but never fully destroyed


What was Peasant Support?

Tactic used by N.Vietnamese.
Modelled Mao’s methods to gain support/help from the peasants + prevent them supporting the US
- Don’t destroy land/crops
- Always: keep word, respect peasants, support peasants


What were strengths of the N.Vietnamese in the Vietnam War?

- High determination + morale
- Knew the area well
- Well equipped by the PRC + USSR
(Had 300,000 Chinese troops + supplied with weapons)


What were the weaknesses of the N.Vietnamese in the Vietnam War?

- Weaker economy that was heavily reliant on PRC + USSR in order to keep going for a sustained time
- Weaponry still didn’t match the advanced US
- No guaranteed support among S.Vietnamese peasants


What was Tet?

The Vietnamese celebration of Lunar New Year
(Most important festival)


What was expected to happen at Tet in Jan-Feb 1968? What actually happened?

- Expectation: cease fighting for celebrations
- Reality: Tet Offensive


What was the Tet Offensive?

Plan by the Viet Cong to start an offensive against the US during Tet, aiming to gain popular support + trigger a mass uprising against the US


Why did the N.Vietnamese choose the time of Tet to launch the offensive?

- Tet would provide a cover for unusual planning activity
- US determination appeared to be failing (stalemate + public becoming anti-war)


How long did the Tet Offensive last?

26 days


Briefly outline the N.Vietnamese plan for the Tet Offensive

- Bolster S.Vietnamese public support through propaganda
- Improve weaponry, sneaking it into cities in agricultural vehicles + coffins
- Khe Sanh (act as diversion battle to exhaust US at start)
- Main offensive (67,000 VC divided between 6 major targets in Saigon)
- Extra target of Hue (culturally significant + part of ally supply chain)


What actually happened during the Tet Offensive?

- US fell for the Khe Sanh diversion battle
(Became the biggest, bloodiest battle so far: 10,000 comm dead + 500 US dead)
- Main offensive failed as targets weren’t successfully captured (VC were ordered to attack + hold but reinforcements never came)
- Hue conflict lasted 26 days + resulted in destruction of the city and highest deaths were of citizens and VC (over 5,000 each)


Did the US suspect the Tet Offensive?

Yes (but didn’t tell US public)
- Saw N.Viets changing tactics
- E.g. VC 273rd regiment tried to hold position in Oct 1967 (training for Tet - traditionally attacked then retreated)
- US shortened the agreed holiday ceasefire to just 36hrs


What were the consequences of the Tet Offensive for the N.Vietnamese?

Military loss
- 25,000 VC killed
- 5,000 VC captured (many of whom were important figures)


What were the consequences of the Tet Offensive for the US + S.Vietnamese?

Military win BUT ARVN suffered greatly
- ARVN desertion rates increased from 10.5/1000 to 16.5/1000

Psychological loss
- Demonstrated the strength + determination of the N.Viets
- Demonstrated the ineffective escalation strategy in winning the war
- Walter Cronkite gave TV report that the US had reached a stalemate + should withdraw
- Caused strong anti-war reaction from the public
- Johnson announced in March 1968 he wouldn’t run for reelection


Outline the role of each of the superpowers in the Vietnam War

US: Directly involved. Allied with S, battling against N in attempt to contain spread of communism.

USSR + PRC: Indirectly involved. Provided assistance to N through sending aid (USSR) and aid+ 300,000 troops (PRC) in attempt to expand communism in SE Asia.


Define Quagmire Theory

Theory that the US are trapped in the Vietnam War quagmire + can’t leave due to their investment in it


What was the Battle of Ap Bac?

Major 1963 battle in Vietnam War. Significant defeat of US + ARVN


What was the difference between the approaches to Vietnam of Eisenhower -> Kennedy -> Johnson -> Nixon?

Eisenhower - Chose to support S.Vietnamese through aid

Kennedy - Middle course + limited war (limited conflict through aid provision as was necessary at time without completely destroying enemy or exhausting own resources)

Johnson - Escalated involvement through Americanisation

Nixon - Continued involvement but through supporting Vietnamisation to achieve ‘peace with honour’ for America


Define Americanisation

Increased involvement of Americans fighting in Vietnam
(Done under Johnson)


Who was Robert McNamara?

Johnson’s Secretary of Defence

Helped escalate US commitment to Vietnam through programs such as Operation Rolling Thunder


Who was Vo Ngyuen Giap?

N.Vietnamese general + politician who worked with Ho Chi Minh