VIETNAM THE LEAD UP TO THE WAR Establishment of a French Colony The First Indochina War The Second Indochina War -American War in Vietnam War Against the Americans to Save the Nation FRENCH MISSION IN ASIA A French Jesuit, Alexandre de Rhodes, went to Vietnam in 1620 to spread Catholicism. It was his mission. While he helped Vietnam develop their own writing system based on Latin, we was forced to leave in 1630 when Vietnam’s leader decided that the Catholic faith was dangerous. The danger was that it was quickly taking hold, and after returning to Europe in 1650 he organized a push back into Vietnam, and a lot of Asia. French Catholics started sending bishops and missionaries into Asian regions like Vietnam to spread their faith again. MISIONARIES AND TRADERS The vessels of the French East India company started dropping off missionaries every time they brought goods and trade to the region The leaders supported the French being around as they brought trade, gave gifts and helped militarily, but in 1825 an Emperor came into power that decided to try and ban Catholicism and make things tense with the French. “The Westerner's perverse religion confuses the hearts of men. For a long time, many Western ships have come to trade with us and to introduce Catholic missionaries into our country. These missionaries make the people's hearts crooked, thus destroying our beautiful customs. Truly this is a great disaster for our land. Our purpose being to prevent our people from abandoning our orthodox way, we must accordingly completely eliminate these abuses.“ —Minh Mạng 1825 Edict against Christianity. You, with the croissant, did we bring a missionary? Oui A FRENCH COLONY In order to protect the Catholics working there and increase their influence, France started sending more and more troops, traders and missionaries. With a number of French in the regions that we know as Vietnam today, eventually the French decided to take over, saying that it was because they wanted to protect their missionaries. A bishop was being held and about to be killed, so while their military was in the region to help Britain invade China, they decided to start basing themselves in the territories of Vietnam as well. All your base are belong to us, noobs! THE FIRST INDOCHINA WAR A group called the Viet Minh formed in 1941 during the destabilization of the Second World War, seeking Vietnam’s independence from the French Empire who had been defeated by the Germans and their allies the Japanese. Japanese forces had effectively taken over the region, with the French still running things but on their orders. The Viet Minh fought the Japanese, getting support and military supplies from both the US and China. When the Japanese surrendered in 1945, the Viet Minh, led by Ho Chi Minh, turned their strengthened forces towards fighting the French re-occupation and push them out. Ho had travelled the world and decided to push for independence and install communism, his goal from the start. 10 years of war followed that became known as the First Indochina War. NORTH AND SOUTH VIETNAM Half way through the first Indochina war, the US decided to support the French, even though the Viet Minh had tried to get Americas help pushing them out by offering up intelligence about the Japanese during World War Two. After the French decided to leave at the end of the first Indochina War a conference in Geneva sought peace and a way for the French to withdraw, that resulted in the country being split in two. Ho Chi Minh, the leader of the Viet Minh, became leader in the communist North, supported by Russia and China. The democratically elected leader turned out to be so bad in South Vietnam though, that communist sympathizers, known as the Viet Cong (or National Liberation Front), started a guerrilla war with other South Vietnamese to unify the country as a communist one. President Ngo Dinh Diem This President totally sucks Stress less. We’ve got this. We’re going red. AMERICA AND DIEM As fighting took place between the Viet Cong and the South Vietnamese, the US kept sending advisors in to ensure that the country didn’t fall to communism (starting the dreaded Domino Effect). There were US advisors at every level of government. The United States got involved in order to keep a promise made by former president Harry Truman to help countries in threat of becoming communist. The Truman Doctrine was instituted to control the spread of communism. In 1963 the US decided that they also didn’t like President Diem and that they needed to replace him, mostly because his brothers were causing trouble. One was a Catholic bishop who was trying to ensure his church had more standing in South Vietnam than Buddhists, and the other was the chief of the secret police, who sent troops in to burn down Buddhist pagodas. Buddhists had started to set themselves on fire in public in protest, drawing worldwide attention to their cause. Unfortunately, when the US advisors started talking to generals about removing Diem and his brothers, South Vietnamese staged a coup and ended up assassinating Diem and his younger brother, the chief of the secret police. President Kennedy was apparently dismayed when they did this. YOU HAD ONE JOB, SOUTH VIETNAM!! THE GULF OF TONKIN AND THE START OF THE VIETNAM WAR Supposedly, in August of 1964, a US ship fired upon torpedo boats that had been stalking it while it ran recon near Vietnam on more than one occasion, and in response North Vietnam called an air strike on two US ships in international waters, known as the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. The US was not pleased. President Lyndon Johnson, who had replaced Kennedy after his assassination, had initially not considered Vietnam a priority. In response to Tonkin, however, he ordered the first troops into Vietnam in March of 1965, intending to help South Vietnam stabilize itself. It was later revealed that the Gulf of Tonkin Incident had never happened. At this precise location, right here, where I’m pointing, is where a shipload of nothing happened. BOMBING CAMPAIGN The National Security Agency (NSA) in the States, recommended a three stage bombing campaign. Operation Flaming Dart, Operation Rolling Thunder and Operation Arc Light were initiated on the 2nd March, 1965. For three years, the US bombed North Vietnam and parts of Laos and Cambodia where Ho Chi Minh’s influence and troops had spread, intending to destroy their air force and industrial infrastructure. The bombing was also a means of raising the morale of a struggling South Vietnam. The Chief of the United States Air Force at the time wrote that he supported bombing communists “back into the Stone Age”. Operation Rolling Thunder, between 1965 and 1968, dropped a million tons of rockets, missiles and bombs on North Vietnam. YEEEE-HAAAAAAW!! THE GROUND WAR While bombing took place, marines were initially tasked with protecting air force bases, but before long were moving through South Vietnam clearing it of the destabilizing Viet Cong, and the infiltrating communist elements. The US troops fought a jungle war against an enemy that would set up booby traps, attack in ambushes and disappear into a network of tunnels. Even finding the enemy proved extremely difficult. Since the Viet Cong regularly disappeared into the dense jungle, the US forces used Agent Orange and napalm to burn every leaf off the trees so they had nowhere to hide. Sometimes they missed, in this case hitting a civilian village (PLEASE NOTE: DISTRESSING FOOTAGE) DISILLUSIONMENT AND THE TET OFFENSIVE In every village troops had trouble identifying who the enemy was, if anyone, since women and children were also capable of building bombs and helping the Viet Cong. American soldiers and their allies increasingly lost faith in the war they were fighting. Morale was low and many troops became angry or turned to drugs in response to what they’d seen or the conditions they were fighting in. On January 30, 1968, the North Vietnamese organized a coordinated assault with the Viet Cong. Attacking about a hundred towns throughout South Vietnam in a push called the Tet Offensive. They were eventually repelled, but the assault surprised the US. The enemy was stronger and more organized than they had believed. NO SUPPORT AT HOME In the States, Johnson found himself faced with an angry public that no longer believed in the war, as well as news that the situation in Vietnam was going from bad to worse. Plans had been for escalation, but these were shelved. He was replaced in 1969 by Richard Nixon, who proposed Vietnamization. His plan was to slowly withdraw from Vietnam, and hand the fighting over to the South Vietnamese. He did decide, however, to first take the fighting into Laos and Cambodia, to try and end the conflict faster since that’s where North Vietnamese forces could also be found. This move resulted in thousands of protests. At the same time, new peace talks had started in Paris, which were trying to bring an end to the war. THE EASTER OFFENSIVE AND THE PARIS PEACE ACCORDS As US Troops started to withdraw, the North Vietnamese took the opportunity to stage another massive assault, called the Easter Offensive, in 1972. North Vietnamese crossed the demilitarized zone (DMZ) set up years ago in Geneva as the border, and invaded South Vietnam. Remaining forces fought back. In January 1973, the peace talks in Paris finally managed to obtain a ceasefire agreement. The last US troops left in March 1973, knowing they were leaving a weakened South Vietnam, which could not defend itself. Fighting nevertheless continued until 1975, when the South Vietnamese government toppled and surrendered to the North on April 30. On June 2nd, 1976, the country was reunited as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.