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The War In Vietnam


After World War Two, two totally different types of
governments were striving to be number one. The two
governments that were fighting for this rank were
Democratic, and Communist. The Democratic government was
best represented by the United States, and the Communist
government was best represented by the U.S.S.R.. The period
when these two world powers were trying to achieve top rank
in the world was known as the Cold War. Throughout the Cold
War, Communism and Democracy were rivals, both doing just
about whatever it took to get their political beliefs
across. The Vietnam War is an example of this conflict.
Vietnam was originally part of French owned Indochina,
which also consisted of Cambodia and Laos ("The Vietnam
War" 1). France owned Indochina since 1887, and it was only
used for its raw materials ("The Vietnam War Illustrated
History" 48). Not surprisingly though, few people benefited
from French control over Indochina. By 1939, its illiteracy
rate was eighty percent ("The Vietnam War Illustrated
History" 48). The only people that benefited at all were
French merchants and Vietnamese landowners; this class of
people only totaled seven thousand ("The Vietnam War
Illustrated History" 48). However, things were destined to
change for Indochina. World War Two had brought change for
Indochina. Because France had surrendered to Germany,
Germany controlled France under its puppet Vichy government
("The Vietnam War Illustrated History" 48). Germany also
let Japan occupy Indochina as a base because they were
allies ("The Vietnam War Illustrated History" 48). Not that
much later, a communist leader, Ho Chi Minh, made himself
known. Ho returned back to Vietnam early during World War
Two after thirty years of living around the world (The
Vietnam War - The Overview" 8). While he was living in
Moscow for a few years, he became a communist agent (The
Vietnam War - The Overview" 8). Shortly after his return
home to Vietnam, Ho was imprisoned by Chinese nationalists
("The Vietnam War Illustrated History" 48). This would not
be the case for long. Ho told the Chinese nationalists that
were imprisoning him that he was a nationalist first, and a
communist second, and he also said that his hatred was
directed at the same people that the Chinese nationalists
directed their hatred to; the Japanese ("The Vietnam War
Illustrated History" 48). Because of these statements, Ho
was released ("The Vietnam War Illustrated History" 48).
After being released in 1942, Ho had united numerous
Vietnamese and Nationalist groups to form the League For
The Independence of Vietnam, which was better known as the
Viet Minh ("The Vietnam War Illustrated History" 48).
Fortunately for Ho, his statements during his imprisonment
had reached other countries. Chinese nationalists, Chinese
communists, the United States, and Great Britain were all
against Japan, so they supported Ho's Viet Minh ("The
Vietnam War Illustrated History" 48). From the United
States alone, Ho managed to get agents, arms, and equipment
("The Vietnam War - The Overview" 8). By this time World
War Two was ending. Less than a month after Japan had
surrendered to the allies in August, 1945, Ho declared an
Independent Republic Of Vietnam ("The Vietnam War
Illustrated History" 50). The Viet Minh did not want the
French to regain control over Indochina because of how bad
they had governed it in the past ("The Vietnam War - The
Overview" 9). The Viet Minh would unconditionally trade
their lives fighting then see French control over Vietnam
again (The Vietnam War - The Overview" 9). And that is what
the Viet Minh did ("The Vietnam War - The Overview" 9).
When the first Indochina war took place, the Viet Minh
destroyed French military outposts. The situation regressed
even further. On March 13, 1954 the Viet Minh attacked the
French Garrison in the city of Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam
(Bowman 35). With a Viet Minh victory at Dien Bien Phu,
France was forced to retreat from Indochina (Bowman 35). As
a result of France's loss of Indochina, a conference in
Geneva, Switzerland was set up (Bowman 35). The purpose of
these conferences was to end the war in Vietnam (Bowman
36). Many things changed because of the Geneva conferences.
First off, Vietnam was divided in half at the seventeenth
parallel ("The Vietnam War" 1). North Vietnam would remain
communist and South Vietnam would be returned to France
("The Vietnam War" 1). Secondly, nationwide elections would
be scheduled for July 20, 1956 (Bowman 37). Finally, it was
decided that for the next three hundred days after the
Geneva Agreement people could pass freely from North
Vietnam to South Vietnam and vice versa (Bowman 37). By
that time, the United States was becoming a little
paranoid.. Because the communist forces had gained so much
power, the United States was deciding if it should become
involved to help the French in Vietnam. President
Eisenhower suggested that the United States would intervene
militarily if four distinct conditions were met: the
associated states would have to request assistance, the
United Nations would approve, other nations would have to
participate, and Congress would have to sanction it
(Spector 199). Also, the United States saw China turn
communist, and they did not want to see the same thing
happen to Vietnam (Spector 97). Joint Staff Planners said
"If southeast Asia is also swept by communism, we shall
have suffered a route in repercussions of which will be
felt throughout the rest of the world" (qtd. in Spector
99). President Kennedy also wanted America's image changed
after the failure of the Bay Of Pigs invasion ("The Vietnam
War Illustrated History" 64). In his inaugural address, he
pledged to the nation "To bear any burden, meet any
hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the
survival and success of liberty" (qtd. in "The Vietnam War
Illustrated History" 8). This quote has proven true in the
Vietnam war by providing the French with millions of
dollars since 1948 (The Vietnam War - The Overview" 10).
Also, Secretary of Defense McNamara was convinced that
should South Vietnam be defeated, all of southeast Asia
would become communist (The Vietnam War - The Overview"
72). President Johnson also felt this way about Vietnam and
suggested more help be given to South Vietnam (The Vietnam
War - The Overview" 72). Ultimately, the United States
chose to assist South Vietnam against communism. First, the
United States promised to help protect South Vietnam from
communist North Vietnam after the Geneva Conferences (The
Vietnam War - The Overview" 11). The Marshall plan was also
put to use for monetary aid for South Vietnam (Spector 97).
Until then, it was all monetary assistance, until
S.E.A.T.O. (South East Asia Treaty Organization) was
developed (Bowman 38). S.E.A.T.O.'s main purpose was for
justification for sending troops to South Vietnam, instead
of people questioning if troops were sent somewhere for no
reason (Bowman 38). The first troops that landed in South
Vietnam just helped refugees come across the seventeenth
parallel, but United States aid would soon be increasing
(Bowman 38). By 1957, the first special forces landed in
South Vietnam (The Vietnam War - The Overview" 11).
Fighting along with the Viet Minh were the Viet Cong
(communist Vietnamese guerrillas) (The Vietnam War - The
Overview" 13). The Viet Cong were so threatening to the
United States effort that the United States had to keep
sending in more and more special forces (The Vietnam War -
The Overview" 13). In 1962 more that twelve thousand
military advisors, technicians, and pilots were sent to
South Vietnam (The Vietnam War - The Overview" 14). Viet
Minh communist leader Ho Chi Minh said, "Kill ten of our
men and we will kill one of yours. In the end, it is you
who will tire." (qtd. in Church 40). Ho was right when he
said this, because by 1964 Secretary of defense McNamara
said that the situation in Vietnam was deteriorating
(Spector 99). The situation grew continually worse
throughout the years. Finally the decision was made in
January, 1973 and the United States withdrew its troops
from South Vietnam (The Software Toolworks 1). The United
States came into Vietnam out of fear of a communist Asia.
No one said that it would happen. No one told the United
States to come into Vietnam. It was all out of a fear that
developed from a disagreement of political ideas which lead
to a cold war. Even though a cold war without troops might
not really sound so bad, it can lead into something much
bigger. The Vietnam war is an example of this idea. Both
sides wanted to come out on top, not caring how much money
or how many lives it took to achieve this goal. 
Works Consulted
Bowman, John S., ed. The World Almanac Of The Vietnam War.
New York: Bisbon 

 Books, 1985.
Church, George J. "Lessons From A lost War." Time
[microfilm] 15 April 1985: 40-5.
Fincher, E. B. The Vietnam War. New York: Impact Books,
Smith, R. B. An International History Of The Vietnam War:
Volume I: Revolution
 Containment, 1955-1961. Hong Kong: Macmillan Press
Limited, 1983.
Spector, Ronald H. The Early Years - The U.S. Army In
Vietnam. Washington D.C.:
 Center Of Military History, 1983.
Uhlig, Frank, Jr., ed. Vietnam: The Naval Story. Annapolis:
United States Naval
 Institute, 1986.
"The Vietnam War." America Online / Reference Desk. America
Online, 3 March, 1996.
The Vietnam War: The Illustrated History Of The Conflict In
Southeast Asia. New York:
 Crown, 1979.
The Vietnam War - The Overview. New York: Marshall
Caverdish, 1988.
"The Vietnam War." The Software Toolworks Multimedia
Encyclopedia Version 5.01
 [CD-ROM] Novato, CA: The Software Toolworks, 1992. 


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