Vietnam – “My War Summary“
By: Sgt. Robert Brower, Boat Capt. 458th PBR, Cat Lo RVN – 69/70
At the end of World War II, the political and military tensions between the United States and its one-time ally – the Soviet Union increased dramatically due to the Berlin Wall and a looming “Cold War”. The U.S. State Department understood that the extreme socialist in the Indochina region would cause the fragile social, economic and political ideology to have setbacks. The Soviet and Chinese communist posed a significant threat to its regional security, the Korean War began. Fearing communism would spread over potentially Southeast Asia, the U.S. opposed the so called communist independence movement.
The U.S. first involvement in Vietnam began in 1949 when they provided military aid to France in the form of military observers and weaponry in the First Indochina War under President Eisenhower. The French defeat in Dien Bien Phu led to a peace conference in Geneva in July 1954 which resulted in splitting the former French colony. Indochina was partitioned into three separate countries, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. The last was also temporarily divided along the 17th Parallel into the communist North Vietnam and the anti-communist South Vietnam until a nationwide election would be held to unify the country. However, US personnel dealing with the Governments of Vietnam had difficulty in understanding the politics. The diplomats were not getting clear information in 1954 and early 1955, but the CIA station "had and has no mandate or mission to perform systematic intelligence and espionage in friendly countries, and so lacks the resources to gather and evaluate the large amounts of information required on political forces, corruption, connections, and so on. In 1956, South Vietnam blocked the unifying elections set by the 1954 Geneva Accords. To support South Vietnamese government, 2,000 military advisors were eventually sent to South Vietnam with the approval of President Kennedy – which rocketed to 16,300 in 1963. About the same time, the National Liberation Front better known as Viet Cong, were solidifying their hold in the Delta of what became the Republic of Vietnam. The VC trained and incited insurgency in the South with the direct support of the North Vietnamese, Russian and Chinese money and ordinance. In short the Communist Industrial Complex.
The 35th President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was assassinated on Friday, November 22, 1963, at 12:30 p.m. in Dallas, Texas, while riding in a presidential motorcade through Dealey Plaza. Kennedy was riding with his wife Jacqueline, Texas Governor John Connally, and Connally's wife Nellie when he was fatally shot by a former U.S. Marine and communist Lee Harvey Oswald
The assassin’s ambush from the Texas Bookstore Depository building. Governor Connally was seriously wounded in the attack. The motorcade was rushed to Parkland Memorial Hospital where President Kennedy was pronounced dead about thirty minutes after the shooting; Connally recovered from his injuries. With these events, the Vice President Johnson now taking over the reins from the Kennedy’s as the new president, Johnson could feel the US Military Industrial Complex warned about by President Eisenhower wanting to escalate the Vietnam Conflict.
Then in 1964, after an attack by North Vietnam on two U.S. Naval vessels (Maddox / Turner Joy) running in the Gulf of Tonkin, the Democrat Congress provided the tool, The Tonkin Gulf Resolution. Hoping for a quick resolution to check the aggressive nature of the communist still on display today.
In foreign policy, Johnson escalated American involvement in the Vietnam War. Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which granted Johnson the power to use military force in Southeast Asia without having to ask for an official declaration of war. The number of American military personnel in Vietnam increased dramatically, from 16,000 advisors in non-combat roles in 1963 to 525,000 in 1967, many in combat roles. American casualties soared and the peace process stagnated. Growing unease with the war stimulated a large, angry anti-war movement based chiefly among draft-age students on university campuses.
Johnson faced further troubles when black summer riots began in major cities in 1965 and crime rates soared, as his opponents raised demands for "law and order" policies. While Johnson began his presidency with widespread approval, support for him, it declined as the public became frustrated with both the war and the growing violence at home. In 1968, the Democratic Party factionalized as anti-war elements denounced Johnson; he ended his bid for re-nomination after a disappointing finish.
The 1968 TET threatened U.S. position in both South Vietnam and the United States one of the causes leading to a widely seen a turning point of the Vietnam War. It was also thought at that time that Johnson’s desire to be a leader of the Democrat Party over shadowed clear thinking about the war. The draft was hurting his chances of winning. For this reason Johnson bailed from political life, choosing not to run again.
In 1970, the war was escalated into Vietnam’s neighbors as Nixon attempted to destroy Viet Cong’s supply lines and bases to South Vietnam in Laos and Cambodia. That, however, provoked tremendous anti-war protests in the U.S., which had been began with a minority since the Tet Offensive and then the My Lai massacre in March 1968. This eventually grew due in part to student and later broadcasting the war into the living rooms during the dinner hour.
In January 1973, the Paris Peace Accords was signed establishing a ceasefire and allowing prisoner of war exchange following U.S. force withdrawal from Vietnam. The accord officially ended the U.S. and its allies’ direct involvement in Vietnam despite its continued support for South Vietnam until the very end of the war. Eventually, the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975 marked the end of the Vietnam War and Vietnam was reunified as a communist country.
It would not be a clear understanding of the end to the war without mentioning the Sacrifices of the American serviceman’s, 58,220 of our young men and women. The NVA and VC lost approximately 444,000, with another 280,000 Allied Forces and lastly 620,000 civilians. The civilians, both north and south lost horribly. The number of wounded is not known
In 1969, President Nixon came into office of the President of the United States. He proposed the so-called “Vietnamization” which gave South Vietnamese Army greater responsibility in fighting the war while still receiving American aid as well as air and naval support if necessary. However, the 1972 Easter Offensive put a big question mark on the policy’s effectiveness, suggesting that the South Vietnamese forces could not wage a full-scale war against the North’s Communists without considerable air power support from the U.S.
Nixon officially ended American involvement in the war in Vietnam in 1973 and brought the American POWs home and ended the military draft. Nixon's visit to China in 1972 eventually led to diplomatic relations between the two nations and he initiated détente and his administration generally transferred power from Washington D.C. to the states leading to a better enforcement of desegregation of Southern schools systems. It also led to the established the Environmental Protection Agency. Nixon also watched over the Apollo 11 moon landing, which signaled the end of the moon race. He was reelected in one of the largest electoral landslides in U.S. history in 1972 when he defeated George McGovern. But not long after was caught in an election year coverup by subordinates in 1974 and resigned the Presidency.
Yes, the war was over but the pain remained for those who participated. Today our nations heals. It is a slow healing, but with every year we understands more about our nations pasts but more so we collectively belief in our better futures to come.
Unknown Author: “ Not just live and let live, but live and help live”