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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, 1980. 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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