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The Vietnam War

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* Total U.S. bomb tonnage dropped during:

World War II = 2 057 244 tons

Vietnam War = 7 078 032 tons (3.44 times as much as WWII)

* Bomb tonnage dropped during the Vietnam War amounted to

1 000 lbs. for every man, woman and child in Vietnam.

* An estimated 70 000 draft evaders and “dodgers” were living

in Canada by 1972.

* A Cornell University study placed the over-all total U.S. cost

of the Vietnam war at $200 Billion

* 30 April 1969 – Peak US troop strength 543 000

* Approximately 12,000 helicopters saw action in Vietnam

* 9,087,000 military personnel served on active duty during the Vietnam era (August 5, 1964 – May 7, 1975).

* 8,744,000 GIs were on active duty during the war (August 5, 1964 – March 28, 1973).

* Married men killed: 17,539.

* 61% of the men killed were 21 or younger.

* Hostile (VC, NVA) deaths: 47,359.

* Non-hostile (US, ARVN) deaths: 10,797.

* POWs: 766 (114 died in captivity).

* Total draftees (1965-73): 1,728,344.

* Draftees accounted for 30.4% (17,725) of combat deaths in Vietnam.

* Twenty-five (25) percent of the total United States forces serving in Vietnam were draftees

* 76% of the men sent to Vietnam were from lower middle/ working class backgrounds

* 82% of veterans who saw heavy combat strongly believe the war was lost because of lack of political will

* (1993) Nearly 75% of the public agrees it was a failure of political will, not of arms.

* The average age of the soldiers serving during the Vietnam War was nineteen (19). The average age of the soldiers serving during World War II was twenty-six (26).

1. Indochina after the French

Consequences of the Vietnamese victory against the French:

* News of DBP (November 1953- May 1954) arrived just as the Geneva Conference was proceeding on Indochina (8th May), the victory at DBP filled Pham Van Dong and the Viet Minh at the conference with an impetus of belief that they now held the upper hand in the discussions. DBP was a catalyst for the outcomes delivered by the Conference and had direct and indirect ramifications. This was significant because it was also the first time that a western nation was defeated by a South-Eastern Communist country. It would not be the last.

* The commencing Geneva Peace Conference 8th of May 1954, both parties sought for political settlements. France even with the backing of the US, now wanted to withdrawal from Vietnam whilst the Viet Minh wanted complete self determination. The Vietminh now had a substantial military victory to buttress their negotiating position to press this key issue of the party. This advantage can be said to have resulted in the Conference promising the withdrawal of the French forces from Indochina, creation of a sovereign North Vietnam and also the prospect of general elections in 2 years time to unify the country, which was a distinctly favourable outcome as the Viet Minh were the dominant political party.

Consequences of the Geneva Peace Agreement for the Vietnamese people to 1964:

* Vietnam was partitioned into northern and southern zones pending unification on the basis of internationally supervised free elections to be held in July 1956. Troops were to be withdrawn from BOTH sides within 300 days.

* Due to the partition, a massive migration took place. Most of the migration consisted of one million moving from North Vietnam to South Vietnam, mostly Catholics, while a smaller number went from South to North.

* The conference (April 1954) stipulated national elections take place in two years, but Diem suppressed the advocates of the agreed-to election, and it never took place. The suppression continued, which led South Vietnamese opponents of President Ngo Dinh Diem to form the Communist National Liberation Front, better known as the Viet Cong, which eventually launched guerrilla attacks against the RVN government and desired the reunification of Vietnam under Communist rule. The Viet Cong were supported by the Vietnam People’s Army (VPA) of the North.

* Backed by the United States, Diem’s government refused to open consultation with the North Vietnamese concerning general elections. The South contended it did not have to honor the agreement as it was not a signatory, and the U.S. feared that the communists would win the election.

* Guerrilla activity in the South escalated, while U.S. military advisors continued to support the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. The result was the Second Indochina War, more commonly known as the Vietnam War.

* However, the Diem government refused to enter into negotiations to hold the stipulated election, encouraged by the United States’ determination to prevent a communist victory in an all-Vietnam election. Questions were also raised about the legitimacy of any poll held in the communist-run North. Diem’s South Vietnamese government had not signed the Geneva Accords, so he felt no obligation to comply with them. On the communist side, even before the Geneva Accords were signed, H Ch Minh had prepared to attack South Vietnam in case unification failed to take place through elections. His preparations included communication with thousands of covert communist agents in the south and the hiding of numerous weapons caches.

Political, social, economic and military developments within North and South Vietnam:

South Vietnam:


* Post Geneva conference Bao Dai instructed by US to appoint Diem as Premier.

* Diem’s reign begins… August 1963 martial law, ARVN involvement etc.

* Following the coups= June 1965 convention= ‘Directory of Officers’= Thieu head of state and Ky as premier= 1967 electoral confirmation.

* Militaristic methods maintained= persecuting political prisoners etc.

* Close relationship with Lansdale (CIA agent), two aims: discredit government of HCM, and create a popular support base for Diem in SV.

* Operation Exodus July 1956= Propaganda program launched by Lansdale, through these aims “the Virgin Mary has fled south, seek refuge with Ngo Dinh Diem” aimed at Catholics in NV.

* But Diem was catholic, no loyalty with no police force and no loyalty from national army, bankrupt republic.

* People’s Army of North Vietnam (NVA/PVA) would only return to NV if free elections were held- both conditions of the Geneva conventions they had signed and US/SV had not.

* Fractionalism, corruption of government, emergence of resistance fighters.

Social Policies

* Catholic minority favoured over Buddhist majority.

* 1963= Open conflict between Buddhists and Government most clearly begins.

* Catholic refugees from the North allowed to buy large tracts of land= alienation of local hill tribes= limited effectiveness of any agricultural reforms, private dependence.

* Increasing centralisation, administrators replacing democratically elected village councils, purging of suspected communist/ Viet Cong activity.

* Strategic Hamlet program= American support= Varyingly effective= greater discontent= 1960 suspension, but then new strategic hamlet program of relocation protected by ARVN= 3000 fortified villages by end of year.

Economic Policies

* International Aid (US)

* Western- Style Bureaucracies- ‘Ministries of Agriculture and Commerce’.

* Military Policies

* Diem attempts to minimise ARVN forces so as to not threaten his government= large paramilitary force that owes him personal loyalty instead= used against VM (esp. in 1957).

* 1950s= SV receives US non- combat support through US Military Advisory Group and later MACV.

* Conflict of ideology, nepotism etc.

North Vietnam:


* In 1955, Ho Chi Minh secured an additional $200 million and $100 million in economic aid, from peking and Moscow respectively.

* Deal between the Soviet Union, Burma and North Vietnam

* Aid in the form of economic aid, a long-term loan in 1960 from the Soviet Union of 43 new industrial plants, medical services and trained professionals.

* Socialism-based class reform.

* Agrarian reforms of 1954-56.

* 10-15,000 persons killed, another 50-100,000 deported or imprisoned.

* Ho: ‘One can not waken the dead.’

* The Rectification of Errors Campaign was applied in 1956.


* 810000 hectares of farmland redistributed to 2.1 million peasant households; also providing 1.5 million landless and poor peasants families slightly more than an acre each.

* 1955-59, the total value of agricultural output rose by an average 11.2 percent per year, whilst average per capita food production rose from 278 kilograms to 367.2 kilograms.

* 1959-60, 85.4 percent of all peasant households and 68 percent of total farmland were placed into low-grade cooperatives.

* 1961-65; reflected a period of construction and industrialization.

* Building of chemical plants, an iron and steel centre, mines, refineries, a textile industry and numerous irrigation works.

* “Some of North Vietnam’s modern factories compare favourably with modern production sites anywhere in the world.”- Joseph Buttinger.

* 1954-68 annual GDP growth only at 6% during the period, whilst GDP per capita at -3%.

2. USA and Indochina

Political and social issues in Indochina by 1960:

Diem’s attempt to consolidate the South:

* The Diem government refused to enter into negotiations to hold the stipulated election, encouraged by the United States’ determination to prevent a communist victory in an all-Vietnam election. Questions were also raised about the legitimacy of any poll held in the communist-run North. Diem’s South Vietnamese government had not signed the Geneva Accords, so he felt no obligation to comply with them. On the communist side, even before the Geneva Accords were signed, H Ch Minh had prepared to attack South Vietnam in case unification failed to take place through elections. His preparations included communication with thousands of covert communist agents in the south and the hiding of numerous weapons caches.

* Beginning in the summer of 1955, Diem launched a ‘Denounce the Communists’ campaign, during which communists and other anti-government elements were arrested, imprisoned or executed. Also at this time, people moved across the partition line in both directions. It is estimated that around 100,000 Vietnamese moved from South Vietnam to North Vietnam, while perhaps 1,000,000 Vietnamese moved from north to south. One of the leading Communists in the South, L Dun, returned to Hanoi to urge that the Vietnam Workers’ Party (VWP) take a firmer stand on national reunification. In January 1959, under pressure from southern cadres who were increasingly being successfully targeted by Diem’s secret police, the Central Committee of the VWP issued a secret resolution authorizing the use of armed struggle in the South.

* In 1959, Diem launched the Agroville Program, its aim to ‘protect’ rural communities from infiltration by Ho’s soldiers who had not returned to the North after the Geneva conference. In reality, it was a Can Lao program to control the countryside. Lands were confiscated by the government and landlords became regional supervisors in charge of a new concept called ‘rural development’. Taxes were also reintroduced, village boundaries were redefined and thousands of farmers were reorganized into ‘secure areas’ often kilometres away from their ancestral homes, which bred resentment.

* The National Assembly Law was created in May 1959, authorizing the government to “arrest immediately and for an indefinite period anyone whose conduct or activities are deemed dangerous to the security of South Vietnam”. This law targeted communists, but predictably, thousands of others with no subversive intentions were swept up by the police and army security networks. By 1961, more than 60,000 South Vietnamese now lived in gaol.

* On May 1958, Diem also ratified the Law for the Protection of Morality, which outlawed gambling, contraception, divorce, polygamy, prostitution, dancing, beauty contests, public affection, fortune telling and music cafes.

Nature and development of US policy towards Indochina generally and Vietnam in particular:

Advisory 1946-1960:

* The US poured in economic aid and modern weapons.

* By January 1961, the number of advisors had grown to 685. They trained the ARVN in the use of conventional weapons.

Partnership 1961-1963:

* 1961- JFK sought “limited partnership” with Diem, flexible response, counterinsurgency, nation-building, reform without revolution

* 1962- MAAG (Truman’s Military Advisory and Assistance Group) replaced by MACV (Military Assistnce Command, Vietnam) Feb. 12, 1962, under Gen. Paul Harkins and Project Beef-Up – 11300 advisors sent during 1962, with 300 aircraft, automatic rifles, napalm, penicillim – 16000 advisors by Nov. 1963

* 1962- Operation Sunrise – strategic hamlet program – 6800 built by Nov. 1963.

* JFK feared that the U.S. would “lose” Vietnam like Truman lost China in ’49- “while we do not wish to stimulate a coup,” the U.S. would support a more popular government – Diem assassinated Nov. 2

Escalation 1963-1968:

* From 1965 to early 1968, the nature of US policy towards Vietnam was characterised by: Americanisation and escalation of involvement in a ground war; and fighting a limited war. As a whole, these policies and strategies would contribute to the greater US foreign policy of actively containing communism in Indochina through maintaining South Vietnam’s independence.

* 1964- Gulf of Tonkin incident. Congress passed Bundy resolution Aug. 5 giving the President the authority to take “all necessary measures” to repel attack and prevent further aggression. LBJ did not seek declaration of war or total mobilization for victory – instead, waged a limited war “in cold blood”.

* 1965- LBJ approved Feb. 26 to send 1st troops – two marine battalions (3500 marines) arrive on Mar. 8 at Danang.

* December 1964- 16,000 US troops; By January 1968- well over 500,000

* Operation Rolling Thunder (1965-1968): restricted, sustained bombing campaign.

* Policy of pacification to ‘win the hearts and minds’ of the people of South Vietnam.

* Military policy of attrition, as endorsed by General Westmoreland.

De-escalation 1968-1973: Nixon doctrine; Vietnamisation

* On the 19th of March, 130 members of the House of Reps passed a resolution calling for an immediate review by Congress of US war policy. Thus, it was the unrest generated through an escalation of anti-war protests and division of congress and senators that would lead LBJ to ‘back down’ and pave the way for the election of Nixon.

* The Tet offensive eroded LBJ’s political and moral will to continue fighting in Vietnam. Despite being advised to call up reserves and expand the war, he initiated what was to be the de-escalation of American involvement. The Tet inquiry revealed: ‘There can be no assurance that… additional deployment would leave us… in any more favourable military position.’. Hence, in an attempt to reach an alternative solution, LBJ organized secret negotiations on May 13 1968 to end the war and halted B-52 bombing of North Vietnam in November 1, 1968. Of further importance was his decision to not accept the nomination to run for reelection, concluding in his speech: “let men everywhere know… America stands ready tonight to seek an honourable peace.” It was a culmination of external pressure from the public and members of the government and internal conflict within LBJ himself as a result of Tet, that would lead to this crucial decision.

* The public seeing the inadequacies of previous US policy, turned their support towards a leader who could bring them out of Vietnam though not through defeat. President Nixon upon his inauguration in 1969, built upon LBJ’s policy of de-escalation and seeking peace, through his Nixon doctrine. The Nixon doctrine presented a major shift in US foreign policy where America sought to ease world tension and unburden itself of its foreign commitments, Vietnamisation being applied in the context of the war. Troop numbers dropped from 415,000 in 1969 to 47,000 by 1971 and billions of dollars in American equipment were supplied to the ARVN, as the South Vietnamese forces were trained to fight on their own. The Paris Peace Talks would eventually lead to ceasefire in Vietnam, though this would come much later.

* In respect to US policy towards Indochina in general, Nixon sought to ‘expand the war to end the war’ rather than limit it as LBJ had done. This led to a predominantly air war where it was hoped that bombing parts of Cambodia and Laos would hinder the NVA and VC. In 1969, 160,000 tones of bombs were dropped on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, a 60% increase on 1968. In total, over 2 million tonnes were dropped of which 10-30% remained unexploded, contaminating a vast majority of Laos. Soon after his inauguration, Nixon ordered the secret bombing of communist bases in Cambodia, resulting in an estimated 100,000-200,000 civilian casualties. With the overthrow of Sihanouk in March 1970, the US supported Lon Nol, immediately sending $500 million in military aid. However this would prove an ill-fated decision as Lon Nol’s government fell to the Khmer Rouge, resulting in one of the worst atrocities of recent history. In respect to North Vietnam, the US also stepped up bombing, hoping to ‘bomb Hanoi back to the negotiating table’, further causing incalculable casualties and damage to the North’s infrastructure.

* Simultaneous to the development of Nixon’s policy from 1968-73, were various Congress resolutions that further served to limit the war ‘curb’ Nixon’s policies towards Indochina. The June 1971 Mansfield Amendment set a national policy to withdraw all troops from Indochina within 9 months. In 1973 the final blow to US involvement in Indochina, came with the Case-Church Amendment cutting funds to Indochina as of August 15.

Impact of direct US military involvement in Vietnam and the consequences for Vietnam and Cambodia:

Direct impacts and consequences:

The impact of the bombing campaign:

‘Surgical’ bombing of North Vietnam failed to break morale or destroy war potential.

Bombing of infrastructure in North ineffective, as insignificant industrial targets were bombed

When bombing raids started the North Viet people and enterprises were evacuated from cities and went underground.

The bombing of transport routes like the Ho Chi Minh Trail were also ineffective as they were immediately repaired by many available workers. River transport could also be used alternatively.

International support from China (equipment and repair crews) and Soviet Union (MIG fighters, anti- aircraft guns and surface- to- air missiles) countered US efforts.

North Vietnamese fought back with surface- to- air missiles and anti- aircraft artillery provided by China and Soviet Union, leading to the destruction of 3800 US aircraft and 1800 crew members.

Impact of growing US involvement in Vietnam:

South Vietnamese forces became totally dependent on international aid, even after Diem (US threats to reduce aid-dissatisfaction with Diem government- 1963 coup).

Disruption of South Vietnamese economic processes.

Peasant choice between communists and corrupt South Vietnamese government- Viet Cong either force them into being guerrillas, while Americans/ South Viet government force them into fortified hamlets (or shot them for being VC sympathisers).

Crops, agricultural land destroyed, agent orange and other poisons kill not only trees but people, villages burnt to the ground, Da Nang dumps- floods, refugees, hyper- urbanisation into Saigon. Many joined the VC, and favoured the North.

Influx of American troops and money, lead to bars and brothels. Inflation from American consumption of domestic goods, destruction of traditional family and economic relationships, US imports damaged South Viet industry on many levels and further increase South Viet foreign dependence (employment especially), and formation of corrupt black market.

South Vietnamese resented US tactics of bombing, defoliation, and destruction of villages.

Poor communication especially lead to the bombing of protected villages.

ARVN lost motivation in the realisation that the war was an American war, and they were tools of US military.

In turn, the US military mistrusted and mistreated the ARVN, after realisation of NLF infiltration.

Long-term impacts and consequences:

Impact of war on Vietnam (as a result of US involvement):

* The war created a massive refugee program as hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese fled from the advancing North in 1975.

* Nearly 4 million Vietnamese killed or wounded.

* It is estimated that six million unexploded bombs dropped by U.S. aircraft are left in Vietnam, causing a major problem in agriculture. Although the cost needed to remove the unexploded bombs is enormous, people and organizations nevertheless are attempting to remove them. The U.S. also left bombs in eastern Cambodia and Laos.

* Hundreds of thousands of land mines and other explosive devices were placed in areas of Vietnam by the NLF and Vietnam People’s Army. This has been a major problem in agriculture. The Vietnamese army also left mines all over Cambodia and Laos. The Vietnamese government refuses to accept any responsibility for these explosives, and by official policy considers any explosive device to be U.S. in origin.

* U.S. herbicides — most importantly the dioxin-contaminated Agent Orange, which was used to remove plant cover from large areas — continue to change the landscape, cause diseases, and poison the food-chain in the areas where they were used.

* In 1961-62, the Kennedy administration authorized the use of chemical weapons to destroy rice crops in South Vietnam in Operation Ranch Hand. Between 1961 and 1967, the U.S. Air Force sprayed 20 million gallons of concentrated herbicides (mainly Agent Orange) over 6 million acres of crops and trees, affecting an estimated 13% of South Vietnam’s land. In 1997, an article published by the Wall Street Journal reported that up to half a million children were born with dioxin-related deformities, and that the birth defects in South Vietnam were fourfold those in the North. The use of Agent Orange may have been contrary to international rules of war at the time. It is also noteworthy that the most likely victims of such an assault would be small children. A 1967 study by the Agronomy Section of the Japanese Science Council concluded that 3.8 million acres of land had been destroyed, killing 1,000 peasants and 13,000 livestock.

3. The Second Indochina War

Nature and effectiveness of the stratedgy and tactics employed by the North Vietnamese Army and the National Liberation Front (NLF), and by the South Vietnamese and the USA:

USA Tactics

* US Air Force analyst in regards to American tactics: unparalleled, lavish use of firepower as a substitute for manpower. The pentagon believed air mobility and extensive, superior firepower, technology and industrial might will prevail over the ill equipped North Vietnamese army.

* The USA ended up fighting neither a conventional war against the NVA, nor a counterinsurgency war against the Vietcong, but a confusion of both.

* General William Westmoreland commanded the US forces from 1965 to 1968 his strategy was of attrition. His strategy was to bomb north Vietnam to cut off supplies to the South and to ‘bleed’ the population and economy until its leaders made peace on US terms.

* From 1965, much of the bombing, artillery fire, napalm and rocket firing was directed into areas within South Vietnam in an effort to flush out the Vietcong.

* Saigon Command said that the Vietcong could only be beaten by : obliterating their strategic base, the rural population. 6 times as many bombs were dropped in South Vietnam than North Vietnam.

* Between 1961 1969 USA used herbicides to defoliate the environment and wipe out crop supplies.

* American Firepower from the air. B52 Bombers strategic bombing and tactical support. Flying at 10,000 metres, they could drop 27 tonnes of bombs each sortie phosphorus, napalm and anti personnel cluster bombs, hurling metal fragments or ball bearings. Seven thousand kilogram monster Daisy Cutter bombs clearings of 100 metre diameter. C123s used to spray herbicides (20% of South Vietnam’s Jungle, 20 % of mangroves and 42% of food crops in nine years).

The South Vietnamese Army

* Desertion rate of 30% per annum, Americans described them as 80% ineffective in their operations. Search and Avoid Tactics

* ARVN forces worked largely on pacification programmes before Vietnamisation not considered reliable or efficient enough for joint operations.

* Trained by Americans to rely on firepower, the ARVN became dependent on costly and sophisticated equipment.

* Trained neither for conventional nor guerrilla warfare ARVN remained a predominantly defensive force that was reliant on helicopters, air and artillery cover as well as American finance.

* Guerillas The warfare of the NLF and the NVA

* Guerilla forces carried out insurgency in the South from 1959, but from 1964 the DRV also began to infiltrate regular NVA units to the South to assist the NLF regular forces.

* The NVA and NLF regular forces engaged US troops in major conventional battles once or twice a year to maximise US casualties.

* Giap’s overall strategy was to prolong the war, to destabilise the Saigon Government and to reduce public support in the USA for the war. The DRV was prepared to prolong the war for fifteen to twenty years and to lose ten men for every one American.

The Vietcong (communist Guerillas)

* Devised strategies and strategies to neutralise American firepower

* Adaptability enabled them to use whatever resources were available.

* Under the NLF, as the people’s liberation Armed forces, they were organised into regional companies and regular battalions.

* Carried little more than a rifle, spare black pyjama suit, a mosquito net and a cotton tube of rice

* Worked to use the rural villages to encircle and infiltrate the towns and to prevent ARVN forces from retaining controlSchool teachers and medical workers were murdered by VC terror campaigns.

* It was the VC who created the greatest ordeal for the American soldiers merged into the civilian population so that the GIs felt constantly surroundedFeared booby traps.

* Were equipped with AK47s rifles and B40 rockets from captured French and US supplies bettered equipped than the ARVN.

* Employed extensive tunnelling systems to counter the effects of America’s defoliate campaign from the air. 300 KM Cu Chi tunnel system north of Saigon provided control offices, hospitals, cover for an entire regiment, storage, safety from air attack, and regrouping facilities.

* Vietcong worked under cadres in close-knit cell groups of three, dedicated to the ideals of unification and nationalism.

The North Vietnamese Army (NVA)

* By 1975 the NVA’s technology was superior to that suppled by the USA to the ARVN

* Soviet and Chinese sent field funs, anti-aircraft guns, rockets, tanks, mortars, radar and soviet SAM7 surface to air missiles, advisers and financial aid.

Impact of the 1968 Tet Offensive:

* The request for additional reinforcements by General Westmoreland, sent the Johnson administration into a re-evaluation of its policies. Clark Clifford was asked by the president to investigate the situation in Vietnam, and provide a recommendation as to the matter of reinforcements. In the recommendation, Clark Clifford said: ‘there is no reason to believe’ that the communists could be beaten by ‘an additional two hundred thousand troops, or double or even triple that’, and advised Johnson not to try to completely rout or destroy the enemy forces.

* Broke the US policy of escalation, and furthermore their hopes of an outright militaristic victory in Vietnam.

* Deepening pessimism in of the US public in regards to the Vietnam War.The American media provided the American public with an image that was predominantly focused on the success of the Communist offensive, which neglected their heavy casualties and turned it into a ‘psychological victory’ for the Vietcong. This, in conjunction with the news of General Westmoreland’s request for additional troops caused a nationwide enquiry into the correctness of the Johnson administration’s optimism who said, ‘the end is coming into view. The enemy’s hopes are bankrupt.’

* This reflected through Johnson’s approval rating, which plummeted from 40% to 26% in the six weeks after the Tet offensive. A survey conducted during the Tet offensive, indicated that 53% still desired stronger military operations showing, that the American public still wanted war however, under the management of a new president. Stanley Karnow ‘His credibility – the key to a president’s capacity to govern – was gone’.

* The tet offensive created a swing of the public’s approval of johnson’s handling of the war.

* Beginning of de-escalation Johnson : ‘We shall accelerate the re-equipment of South Vietnam’s armed forces… this will enable them progressively to take a larger share of combat operations against the communist invaders’ in his resignation speech.

Impact of the war on civilians in Indochina:

Vietnam in General

* 1.5 million killed

* 3million wounded

* 5.8 internal refugees, half the RVN peasantry

* 1 million widows, 500,000 orphans

* 200,000 RVN prostitutes

* 2.2 million hectares of forest destroyed

* 500,000 hectares of farmland lost

* 50 % population of RVN lost homes

* 12 provincial capitals and 51 district capitals destroyed

* Economy 40 years behind other south-east Asian countries

* 30,000 children from Hanoi and Haiphong deaf from noise of bombs

* 65,000 vietnamese assisted by Americans to escape in 1975

* 130,000 more fled that year, and by 1979 a further 100,000

Effects of War on North Vietnam (DRV)

* Women were mobilised in the rural workforce made up 70% of rural workforce.

* 400 000 tonnes per annum of food supplies were obtained from China and the USA. Food rationing became necessary.

* Decline of Urban population to 11%.

* Decentralisation and regionalisation were the policies for industry. Five Year Plans were suspended and annual economic plans were made for the war effort 1965-75. Although state industry declined, provincial industry increased by two-thirds.

* 1 million NVA and VC killed

* Children and old people were evacuated from targeted areas into underground havens.

Effects of War on South Vietnam (RVN)

* Poverty was a major problem as half the South Vietnam peasant population (5.8 million) was forced off their land. USA’s policy of depriving the BC of a recruiting base by Strategic hamlet construction, defoliation and the use of free-fire zones for massive firepower sent internal refugees crowding around bases and cities.

* The slum shanties they built no water, sewerage or electricity. When USA withdrew from Vietnam, and along with it their financial aid 33 % unemployment and inflation added to the economic problem.

* Base and Transport workers, bar girls and prostitutes all lived from American money now unemployed. 200,000 prostitutes.

* Urbanisation of society rose from 20% in 1960 to 43 % in 1971 however industrial productivity decreased 23 %. Agricultural production fell, as did yields per hectare.

* Peasants returning to traditional methods in 1975 were indebted, had a lower living standard than before the war and faced the ever-present threat of famine.

Effects on society

* Traditional role of the village and the family and the Confucian ideal of the ruler as a superior man of morals had been shattered by urbanisation and consumerism

* Identity, associated traditionally with land and ancestors, was lost to many

* Youth was alienated from the older generations

* To eliminate US cultural influences Revolutionary government closed schools, retrained teachers, substituted Marxist textbooks, recordings, tapes, art and newspapers.

* Spirit and morals of young Vietnamese women were greatly altered Underwent cosmetic surgery to eyelids and breasts to ‘westernise’ their appearance adopted cosmetics, blue jeans, T-shirts, mini-skirts, white wedding apparel and cut and permed hair.

* 2 million suffered from veneral disease

* Drug addiction reached a higher rate than anywhere else in the world. In 1976, 100,000 addicts in Saigon alone.

* There was a shortage of males and 13 percent of the population was disabled. Chemical warfare with Agent Orange had hit 10% of the population directly, and women suffered increased rates of miscarriage, stillbirth, and deformed foetuses.

Impact of the spread of the Vietnam War to Cambodia:

* When Richard Nixon came into power, he accepted the air strike proposal by General Creighton Abrams known as ‘Operation Menu: Breakfast’, targeting North Vietnamese military sanctuaries in Cambodia. According to Stanley Karnow, the cause of the approval was ‘in retaliation’ to the Tet offensive. The ‘short duration’ air raids which began on the 18th of March 1969, in fact lasted fourteen months. During that period, 3,692 B 52 sorties dropped 103,091 tons of bombs on six separate camps, killing an estimated 200,000 civilians in an area that was deemed at first ‘uninhabited by civilians’.

* Nixon ordered a military “incursion” into Cambodia in order to destroy NLF sanctuaries bordering on South Vietnam, close down the transfer of supplies and men along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, take pressure off a fragile Cambodian government threatened by its own communist insurgency11th of November 1968, Operation Commando Hunt was issued by the US, with the goal of disrupting supplies through the Ho Chi Minh Trail30 million tonnes dropped on Cambodia’s border.

* Unintentionally pushed communist forces deeper into Cambodia, which effectively destabilised the central government and gave way to the Khmer Rouge consolidation of power.

Nature and significance of anti-war movements in the USA

* In 1965 demonstrations in New York City attracted 25,000 marchers; within two years similar demonstrations drew several hundred thousand participants in Washington, D.C., London, and other European capitals.

* Most of the demonstrations were peaceful, though acts of civil disobedience-intended to provoke arrest-were common.

* Example of violence: An eruption of violence last night–in which about 2,000 militants marched on the South Vietnamese Embassy and were turned back by the police with tear gas as they broke windows and damaged police cruisers–did not discourage the outpouring of peaceful demonstrators this morning.

* Much of the impetus for the antiwar protests came from college students. Objections to the military draft led some protesters to burn their draft cards and to refuse to obey induction notices.

* The anti-war movement was followed by many Americans, not only students, but also radical lefts, and black citizens. These mass demonstrations were significant as they brought a sense of urgency and awareness to the American population regarding the heavy casualty situation in Vietnam and pressured the US government to withdraw US troops to satisfy angry American Citizens.

* “The crowds brought to Washington a sense of urgency about a Vietnam peace and impatience with President Nixon’s policy of gradual withdrawal.”

The defeat of the South Vietnamese forces:

* By April, the weakened South Vietnamese Army had collapsed on all fronts.

* The North Vietnamese invasion forced South Vietnamese troops into a bloody retreat that ended in a siege at Xuan-loc, a city 40 miles from Saigon, and the last South Vietnamese defense line before Saigon.

* On April 21, the defense of Xuan-loc collapsed and PAVN troops and tanks rapidly advanced to Saigon. On April 27, 100,000 PAVN troops encircled Saigon, which was to be defended by 30,000 ARVN troops. In order to increase panic and disorder in the city, the PAVN troops began shelling the airport. With the closure of the airport, large numbers of people who might otherwise have fled the city found that they had no way out.

* Tank skirmishes now began as ARVN M-41 tanks attacked the PAVN’s heavily armored Soviet T-54 tanks. PAVN troops overcame this resistance, quickly capturing the U.S. embassy, the South Vietnamese government army garrison, the police headquarters, radio station, presidential palace, and other vital facilities. The PAVN encountered greater than expected resistance from small and scattered ARVN formations.

* Columns of South Vietnamese troops came out of their defensive positions and surrendered. Saigon fell on April 30, 1975. As for the people of South Vietnam, many stayed in South Vietnam, but by May 1, 1975, most U.S. citizens had fled the country.

* Total American war expenditure $112 billion.

South Vietnamese:

* Cuts in aid imposed by congress in 1973-74 created shortages in RVN military equipment and ammunition, leading to a feeling of abandonment.

* During the years of Vietnamisation the US had provided the RVN with large quantities of sophisticated equipment which the South Vietnamese proved as yet unable to maintain properly. There were not enough skilled managers and technicians. Much expensive equipment was left to rust or were missing pieces. Planes were similarly grounded from lack of fuel and poor maintenance.

* The performance of the ARVN was impaired by insufficient attention to the value of training and continues drilling in combat techniques.

* Leadership in the ARVN was woefully inadequate.

* Thieu regime unable to generate popular commitment, partly due to widespread corruption throughout the system.


* Americans never really learned to fight a counterinsurgency war and used force in largely traditional ways.

* Lansdale: “One fought battles to influence opinions in Vietnam and in the world, the other fought battles to finish the enemy keeping tabs on body counts.”

* Americans used: “unparalleled, lavish use of firepower as a substitute for manpower,”.

* Practice of VC/NVA to “clutch the people to their breast”.

North Vietnamese:

* By Spring 1966, China had dispatched 50,000 military personnel.

* The bombing caused manpower dislocations but did not limit North Vietnam’s ability to maintain essential services in the North.

* It was estimated that Rolling Thunder (1965) caused Vietnam $600 million worth of damage.

* However between 1965 and 1968, the North reci3eved over $2 billion in foreign aid.

* The bombing campaign cost the US $6 billion in destroyed aircraft alone.

* Linebacker 1- The Shipment of goods through Haiphong and other ports was virtually eliminated. Acoording to estimates, the flow of imports into th north and movement of supplies to the South by September 1972 had been reduced to between 35-50% of what they had been the previous year.

* Linebacker 2- When bombing halted, North Vietnam’s electrical power supply was crippled, and extensive damage had been caused to all other targets as well. North Vietnamese air defences were shattered.

* The bombing of North Vietnam caused extensive damage to the country’s war-making capacity but at no point did it seriously hamper Hanoi’s drive against the South.

Anti-War Movement:

* Attracting members from college campuses, middle-class suburbs, labor unions, and government institutions, the movement gained national prominence in 1965, peaked in 1968, and remained powerful throughout the duration of the conflict.

* Perhaps the most significant development of the period between 1965 and 1968 was the emergence of Civil Rights leaders as active proponents of peace in Vietnam. In a January 1967 article written for the Chicago Defender, Martin Luther King, Jr. openly expressed support for the antiwar movement on moral grounds.

* King’s statements rallied African American activists to the antiwar cause and established a new dimension to the moral objections of the movement. The peaceful phase of the antiwar movement had reached maturity as the entire nation was now aware that the foundations of administration foreign policy were being widely questioned.

* As the movement’s ideals spread beyond college campuses, doubts about the wisdom of escalation also began to appear within the administration itself.

* The antiwar movement became both more powerful and, at the same time, less cohesive between 1969 and 1973. Most Americans pragmatically opposed escalating the U.S. role in Vietnam, believing the economic cost too high; in November of 1969 a second march on Washington drew an estimated 500,000 participants.

* With U.S. troops coming home, the antiwar movement gradually declined between 1971 and 1975. The many remaining activists protested continued U.S. bombing, the plight of South Vietnamese political prisoners, and U.S. funding of the war.

* The American movement against the Vietnam War was the most successful antiwar movement in U.S. history. During the Johnson administration, it played a significant role in constraining the war and was a major factor in the administration’s policy reversal in 1968. During the Nixon years, it hastened U.S. troop withdrawals, continued to restrain the war, fed the deterioration in U.S. troop morale and discipline (which provided additional impetus to U.S. troop withdrawals), and promoted congressional legislation that severed U.S. funds for the war.

Rise to power of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia + some background of Cambodia

The Geneva Accords of 1954 gave King Sihanouk (after his abdication in 1955, Prince Sihanouk) essentially uncontested control of Cambodia. The Vietnamese communists agreed to pull their forces out of Cambodia without obtaining in return any power-sharing role, or real protection from government repression, for their Cambodian comrades. Sihanouk adopted a neutralist stance toward his neighbours, accepting aid from America and China, exchanging diplomatic missions with Hanoi and refusing to join SEATO when asked in 1956. However an assassination attempt on Sihanouk’s life in 1958 and Diem’s assassination in 1963, caused Sihanouk to become increasingly worried over his neutralist position and America’s attitude to it. In 1965 Sihanouk severed diplomatic relations with the US and improved relations with the DRV and the VC. He permitted Vietnamese Communist forces to establish bases and receive supplies of arms and equipment from the north along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. In return the Vietnamese limited their assistance to the CPK and refused to supply them with arms. In March 1970 while Sihanouk was abroad, a US-backed coup led by General Lon Nol took over government, who used terrible repression that lead to the radicalisation of many Cambodians.

The Communists established a public political party, the Pracheachon, which contested elections in 1955 and 1958, but it was not allowed to campaign freely; indeed it was so persecuted and harassed that its existence seemed pointless and it disappeared in 1962 after mass arrests. Under Sihanouk’s rule the Communists lost ground until 1962 when Pol Pot gained prominence becoming Party Secretary. The party was very small and secretive, they did not even reveal their name changes. They gained some popularity after a wave of Sihanouk repression but failed to take advantage of the peasant uprising in 1966.

In January 1968, the Khmer Rouge decided to launch an armed struggle against the government, however Vietnamese assistance was lacking and the Rouge were kept weak. The coup that overthrew Prince Sihanouk in March 1970 changed the situation dramatically. Sihanouk allied himself with the Khmer Rouge and the DRV against the new pro-US government of Lon Nol. Khmer Communists returned from abroad, fighting alongside both the Rouge and PAVN forces. International aid for the Rouge increased substantially, and the great prestige of the popular Sihanouk aided enormously in the recruitment of Khmer Rouge forces within Cambodia, and also gave them international recognition. By late 1971 the Khmer Rouge grew powerful enough to discard their allies, slowly isolating Sihanouk while purging Hanoi-trained communists. At the end of 1972 Communist forces controlled over two-thirds of Cambodia.

During the last years of the war, Khmer Rouge pushed their effort to take Phnom Penh regardless of the cost to anyone. They sacrificed thousands of their own troops in an offensive in mid-1973, during the last stage of the American bombing of Cambodia. In 1975 they cut off most of the city’s food supplies resulting in starvation, and finally took the city on April 17, ending the war. They then imposed on Cambodia, which they called Kampuchea, a regime of unspeakable horror.

Nature, aims and methods of Pol Pot

Pol Pot, original name Saloth Sar, was one of the founders, in 1960, of the Khmer Worker’s Party and soon became its head after the mass arrests of 1962. From the beginning the Cambodian communists were marginalized, during the Geneva Conference of 1954 they were essentially sacrificed by the other communist nations. During 1967 Pol Pot went to Hanoi to seek approval and aid for a planned uprising, but the Vietnamese had an arrangement with Sihanouk and refused to help. This marginalisation would have caused resentment for other communists, which would explain his purges of Hanoi-influenced members and his continued provocation of Hanoi once he was in power. Pol Pot made his revolution independent from Vietnam, declaring them to be an ‘acute’ enemy of Kampuchea, and after 1972 aid from Vietnam diminished as their cadres were killed off.

During his time in power Pol Pot instigated an aggressive policy of relocating people to the countryside in an attempt to purify the Cambodian people as a step toward a communist future. Shocked by the capitalist nature of the city dwellers and the failure to socialise towns, the frustrated Pol Pot decided to send the entire population of the towns into the countryside. Those leaving were told that the evacuation was due to the threat of severe American bombing and it would last for no more than a few days. He wrote at the time “If the result of so many sacrifices was that the capitalists remain in control, what was the point of the revolution?”

Their attempt to build socialism was based on the interrogation, torture and killings of Buddhist monks, Western-educated intellectuals, educated people in general, people who had contact with Western countries, people who appeared to be intelligent (for example, individuals with glasses), the crippled and lame, and ethnic minorities. Cambodia did not possess a working class, so they adopted the non-Marxist principle of the ‘peasants’ as the ‘true working class’. In 1976 people were reclassified as full-rights (base) people, candidates and depositees – so called because they included most of the new people who had been deposited from the cities into the communes. Depositees were marked for destruction. Their rations were reduced to two bowls of rice soup, or “juk” per day. This led to widespread starvation.

The Khmer Rouge also classified by religion and ethnic group. They abolished all religion and dispersed minority groups, forbidding them to speak their languages or to practise their customs. They refused international aid based on their principle of ‘self-reliance’, this decision proved to be a humanitarian catastrophe, millions died of starvation and brutal forced labour. Pol Pot’s regime was extremely paranoid. People were treated as opponents based on their appearance or background. Torture was widespread. Phnom Penh was turned into a ghost city, while people in the countryside were dying of starvation, illnesses, or execution. By the time the Vietnamese intervened in late 1978 Cambodia had lost around 2 million people, or 30% of the total population. (Alternatively 1.4 million, 20%, source: Amnesty International)

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