The Vietnam War was a long, costly armed conflict that pitted
the communist regime of North Vietnam and its southern allies, known as the Viet Cong, against South Vietnam and its principal
ally, the United States. The war began in 1954 (though conflict in the region stretched back to the mid-1940s), after the
rise to power of Ho Chi Minh and his communist Viet Minh party in North Vietnam, and continued against the backdrop of an
intense Cold War between two global superpowers: the United States and the Soviet Union. More than 3 million people
(including 58,000 Americans) were killed in the Vietnam War; more than half were Vietnamese civilians. By 1969, at the peak
of U.S. involvement in the war, more than 500,000 U.S. military personnel were involved in the Vietnam conflict. Growing opposition
to the war in the United States led to bitter divisions among Americans, both before and after President Richard Nixon ordered
the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 1973. In 1975, communist forces seized control of Saigon, ending the Vietnam War, and the
country was unified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam the following year.
During World War II, Japan invaded
and occupied Vietnam, a nation on the eastern edge of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia that had been under French
administration since the late 19th century. Inspired by Chinese and Soviet communism, Ho Chi Minh formed the Viet Minh, or
the League for the Independence of Vietnam, to fight both Japan and the French colonial administration. Japan withdrew its
forces in 1945, leaving the French-educated Emperor Bao Dai in control of an independent Vietnam. Ho's Viet Minh forces
rose up immediately, seizing the northern city of Hanoi and declaring a Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) with Ho as president.
Seeking to regain control of the region, France backed Bao and set up the state of Vietnam (South Vietnam) in July
1949, with Saigon as its capital. Armed conflict continued until a decisive battle at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954 ended in French
defeat by Viet Minh forces. The subsequent treaty negotiations at Geneva split Vietnam along the latitude known as the 17th
parallel (with Ho in control in the North and Bao in the South) and called for nationwide elections for reunification to be
held in 1956. In 1955, however, the strongly anti-communist Ngo Dinh Diem pushed Bao aside to become president of the Government
of the Republic of Vietnam (GVN).
is brutal and it effects generations long after it is done. Not only are there issues within the souls of our soldiers and
citizens that we carry after war, but is also effects our children. Walls of unforgiveness are often erected. Bitterness contaminates
us within. Then there are inhumane practices performed in the name of war that perpetuate pain throughout generations. Agent
Orange is just one example of the horrifying after effects of war. Agent Orange is dioxin a chemical that makes total war
on just on vegetation but also on the roots and essences of life itself. The orange was clockwork from the start. The historical
atrocities are still being compiled. During the Vietnam War, about 12 million gallons of lethal toxin, in Orange form alone,
were sprayed on Vietnam (on both Vietnamese and American forces fighting in the same jungles). Washington and famous corporations
like Dow and Monsanto engaged in ecocide, poisoning from the skies the greenery and ecological soil and root systems below.
Dioxin working its way down through the roots, the soil, and water entered the entire food chain of Vietnam. Today among a
populace of 84 million people, 1 million Vietnamese are afflicted with the after effects of Agent Orange. Women give birth
to “monsters,” children are born with bright-yellow skin, cleft palates, deafness, muteness, pretzel limbs, all
lolling heads. The terrible expressions on parents faces haunt you.
Americans alike were adversely effected and victimized by Agent Orange. Yet the victims legal proceeding
and court action was not heard until after over 20 years of waiting. Admiral Zumwalt saw the effects first hand in the birth
of his own children. He later said about Vietnam, it was “the wrong war, wrong place, wrong time.” When will we
in America learn to not blindly listen and follow our politicians into wars that cannot be won? It seems history does repeat
itself. Today American soldiers are coming back from Iraq in body bags, maimed, and grossly injured. Awake America!
On April 30, 1975, VPA troops
overcame all resistance, quickly capturing key buildings and installations. A tank crashed through the gates of the Presidential
Palace and at 11:30 a.m. local time with the NLF flag raised above it. Thieu's successor, President Duong Van Minh, attempted
to surrender, but VPA Colonel Bui Quang Than informed him that he had nothing left to surrender. Minh then issued his last
command, ordering all South Vietnamese troops to lay down their arms. The Communists had attained their goal: they had
toppled the Saigon regime. But the cost of victory was high. In the past decade alone, one Vietnamese in every ten had been
a casualty of war. Nearly a million and a half killed, three million wounded. Vietnam had been a tormented land, and its ordeal
was not over.
movement was gaining strength in the United States. Nixon appealed to the "Silent Majority" of Americans to support
the war. But revelations of the My Lai Massacre, in which U.S. forces went on a rampage and killed civilians, including women
and children, provoked national and international outrage.
The war saw the U.S. Air Force and their South Vietnamese
allies fly thousands of massive low-altitude bombing missions over North and South Vietnam as well as over sites of suspected
Communist activity in neighboring Laos and Cambodia. The B-52 heavy bomber, developed by Boeing in the late 1940s, helped
the U.S. And South Vietnamese dominate the skies, along with smaller, more easily maneuverable fighter planes like the F-4
Phantom. Also widely used was the Bell UH-1 helicopter, dubbed the “Huey,” which could fly at low altitudes and
speeds and land easily in small spaces. U.S. Forces used the Huey to transport troops, supplies and equipment, aid ground
troops with additional firepower and evacuated killed or wounded soldiers. Among the more devastating explosives used in U.S.
And South Vietnamese bombing runs was napalm, a chemical compound developed during World War II. When mixed with gasoline
and included in incendiary bombs or flamethrowers, napalm could be propelled greater distances than gasoline and released
large amounts of carbon monoxide when it exploded, poisoning the air and causing even greater damage than traditional bombs.
Though the large-scale U.S. And South Vietnamese aerial bombardment efforts damaged or destroyed much of the land and population
of Vietnam, they proved less destructive to the enemy than expected, as North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops fought an irregular
style of guerrilla warfare that proved much more resilient than the Americans had hoped.
The M-48 tank, with mounted machine guns, could travel up to 30
mph and was used to provide support for U.S. and South Vietnamese troops. Due to Vietnam's soggy jungle terrain, tanks
were not used extensively in combat during the Vietnam War. Armored personnel carriers such as the M-113 transported troops
and performed reconnaissance and support functions. A common artillery weapon, previously used in World War II, was the 105mm
howitzer, which could be towed behind a truck or carried by helicopter and dropped into position. Operated by crews of eight
men each, the howitzers fired high-explosive shrapnel shells or "beehive" cartridges (thousands of small, sharp
darts) at a rate of three to eight rounds per minute over a range of some 12,500 yards. One of the most common infantry weapons
used by U.S. troops in Vietnam was the M-60 machine gun, which could also be used as an artillery weapon when mounted or operated
from a helicopter or tank. The gas-powered M-60 could fire up to 550 bullets in quick succession at a range of almost 2,000
yards, or at short range when fired from the shoulder. One drawback of the M-60 was the heavy weight of its cartridge belts,
which limited the ammunition that soldiers could carry. Standard issue for infantrymen in Vietnam was the M-16, a gas-operated,
magazine-fed rifle that could fire .223-caliber bullets accurately over several hundred yards at 700-900 rounds per minute
on its automatic setting; it could also be used as a semi-automatic. Its ammunition came in "clips" of 20-30 rounds,
making it relatively easy to reload.
Most of the weapons, uniforms and
equipment used by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces were manufactured by the Soviet Union and China. The portable, shoulder-fired
SA-7 Grail missile was one of many anti-aircraft weapons extensively against American aircraft conducting bombing raids in
North Vietnam. On the ground, the DP 7.62mm light machine gun (the equivalent to the U.S.-made M-60) was based on a Soviet
design and manufactured in both the Soviet Union and China. The simple but deadly accurate AK-47, known to many as the "peasant's
rifle," was shorter and heavier than the M-16, with a lower rate of fire (up to about 600 rounds per minute). It was
extraordinarily durable, however, and was able to fire 7.62mm bullets either automatically or semi-automatically from a 30-round
clip at a rate of up to about 600 rounds per minute, at a range of up to 435 yards. Another widely used semi-automatic rifle,
the SKS carbine or "Chicom," was the Chinese version of the AK-47, with a slightly greater range. In addition to
Soviet- or Chinese-supplied arms, Communist forces also carried weapons captured from the French and the Japanese in earlier
Indochina wars or used weapons made by hand in Vietnam. Troops in the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) or the People's Army
of Vietnam (PAVN) had access to more standard-issue clothing and weapons, while Viet Cong often used improvised weapons and
wore peasant clothing to blend in to the South Vietnamese population.
In addition to rifles and machine guns, U.S. infantry
troops were armed with hand grenades (such as the Mark-2), which could be thrown or propelled using rifle-mounted launchers.
Mines were used to guard the perimeter around campsites; they could be triggered by trip wires or exploded manually. In terms
of chemical weapons, U.S. Air Force planes sprayed more than 19 million gallons of herbicides over 4.5 million acres of land
in Vietnam from 1961 to 1972 as part of Operation Ranch Hand, a large-scale defoliation program aimed at eliminating forest
cover for North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops, as well as crops that might be used to feed them. The most commonly used
defoliant, a mixture of herbicides containing the toxic dioxin and known as Agent Orange, was later revealed to cause serious
health issues--including tumors, birth defects, rashes, psychological symptoms and cancer--among returning U.S. servicemen
and their families as well as among large sections of the Vietnamese population. For their part, North Vietnamese and particularly
Viet Cong forces often used explosives captured from U.S. and South Vietnamese forces or cut open unexploded bombs to manufacture
their own crude explosives. They also employed booby traps, including hidden bamboo maces or crossbows that could be triggered
when soldiers stepped on a tripwire. One particularly common menace was the punji stake trap, a bed of sharpened bamboo stakes
that was concealed in a pit for enemy soldiers to stumble across.
The Cu Chi Tunnels near Ho Chi Minh City are an
incredible destination for war and history buffs. During the Vietnam War it was the major battleground
between the U.S and Viet Cong.
In the heart of the jungle,
200km of tunnels were well hidden from American soldiers. Originally built to protect the Vietnamese
from French air strikes in the lat 1940's to 1950's, they were re-used during the 60's
as a staging ground for attacks on American troops.
the U.S. knew that the tunnels were there, they simply could not find them or destroy them.
They put everything they had into taking out the tunnels from dispersing agent orange and napalm to relentlessly dropping
bombs, but the caves remained in tact. The land didn't fare as well and the jungle was completely
destroyed along with everything in it. Today it is thriving once again however, showing that with time,
the earth can repair even the harshest results of destruction.
If you are lucky, you may receive a first hand account from a former Vietnamese soldier.
Guides will tell you stories of their time in the war and can give you information on intimate details
of the war that took place in this jungle. If you listen carefully, you can learn a great deal
The Viet Cong used the jungle
to their advantage. They could run through with ease, knowing their way around their own land and had several
cave entrances at the ready to disappear into. They were hidden well with termite hills placed
atop, or with leaves scattered above. Guide dogs could not follow their scent because they would
sprinkle cayenne pepper around the entrance confusing the dogs and making them turn in the opposite
direction. They could safely disappear into the 200 km system and if followed, the American soldiers
couldn't fit inside anyway. The entrances were tiny and made for a slight frame, for a large U.S.
soldier, fitting in would be almost impossible without blasting it.
They knew their tunnels well, unlike the American soldier. They would enter the tunnel avoiding the booby traps
placed to kill or maim the enemy. Several different types of crude traps were laid in wait for
the poor soldier that had to follow them in or the soldier that was sent to investigate upon a discovery.
There were other tactics besides the tunnels that offered the Vietnamese an
advantage against the United States. Surprisingly, foot rot was a major problem with U.S. soldiers.
The heat and humidity of the rain forest caused sores, rotting flesh and infection. When your major
form of battle is to walk through the jungle this can be a serious problem. Instead of wearing boots,
the Vietcong wore rubber sandals made from tires. They are well constructed and durable and you can see
them for yourself. If you want to try them out, buy a pair for a nominal fee.
It is impossible to imagine how people managed to live in these tunnels for several years. The passageways were
very tight at less than a meter high and they were dark and filled with disease. They had to deal with
insects and venomous snakes and the fear of being found out. However, the Vietnamese managed to carve
out a way of life however building kitchens, living areas and first aid stations.
Your tour will take you to all of the different types of
living quarters and rooms. It is a comfortable tour and the tunnel walls have even been blasted out
to make it larger and more comfortable for tourists. However, there are still some original entrances
available to be explored and you will have the opportunity to go into an original tunnel yourself and crawl for
150 meters experiencing what it was like during the war.
Your guide will take you to an original entrance which is simply a very small hole in the
ground. He will show you how to enter and then you are on your own to squeeze through and make
your way to the other end. It can be frightening indeed, but be sure to give it a try. It is a
crazy experience to crawl through these tiny tunnels and imagine what it must have been like for its
have thoroughly explored the caves, you will also learn other ways that the Vietnamese managed to defeat America. They
could track soldiers easily in the jungle by using plants. You will see how they cooked only during
the foggy mornings to hide their smoke and you will learn how farmers smuggled food to the Vietcong.
The Cu Chi Tunnels near Ho Chi Minh City
are an incredible destination for war and history buffs. During the Vietnam War it was the major battleground between the
U.S and Viet Cong. In the heart of the jungle, 200km of tunnels were well hidden from American soldiers. Originally
built to protect the Vietnamese from French air strikes in the lat 1940's to 1950's, they were re-used during the
60's as a staging ground for attacks on American troops. Surprisingly, the U.S. knew that the tunnels were there, they
simply could not find them or destroy them. They put everything they had into taking out the tunnels from dispersing
agent orange and napalm to relentlessly dropping bombs, but the caves remained in tact. The land didn't fare as
well and the jungle was completely destroyed along with everything in it. Today it is thriving once again however, showing
that with time, the earth can repair even the harshest results of destruction. If you are lucky, you may receive a first hand
account from a former Vietnamese soldier. Guides will tell you stories of their time in the war and can give you information
on intimate details of the war that took place in this jungle. If you listen carefully, you can learn a great deal about
history. The Viet Cong used the jungle to their advantage. They could run through with ease, knowing their way around
their own land and had several cave entrances at the ready to disappear into. They were hidden well with termite hills
placed atop, or with leaves scattered above. Guide dogs could not follow their scent because they would sprinkle cayenne
pepper around the entrance confusing the dogs and making them turn in the opposite direction. They could safely disappear
into the 200 km system and if followed, the American soldiers couldn't fit inside anyway. The entrances were tiny and
made for a slight frame, for a large U.S. soldier, fitting in would be almost impossible without blasting it. They knew their
tunnels well, unlike the American soldier. They would enter the tunnel avoiding the booby traps placed to kill or maim the
enemy. Several different types of crude traps were laid in wait for the poor soldier that had to follow them in or the
soldier that was sent to investigate upon a discovery.
were other tactics besides the tunnels that offered the Vietnamese an advantage against the United States. Surprisingly, foot
rot was a major problem with U.S. soldiers. The heat and humidity of the rain forest caused sores, rotting flesh and infection.
When your major form of battle is to walk through the jungle this can be a serious problem. Instead of wearing boots, the
Vietcong wore rubber sandals made from tires. They are well constructed and durable and you can see them for yourself. If
you want to try them out, buy a pair for a nominal fee. It is impossible to imagine how people managed to live in these tunnels
for several years. The passageways were very tight at less than a meter high and they were dark and filled with disease. They
had to deal with insects and venomous snakes and the fear of being found out. However, the Vietnamese managed to carve out
a way of life however building kitchens, living areas and first aid stations. Your tour will take you to all of the
different types of living quarters and rooms. It is a comfortable tour and the tunnel walls have even been blasted out to
make it larger and more comfortable for tourists. However, there are still some original entrances available to be explored
and you will have the opportunity to go into an original tunnel yourself and crawl for 150 meters experiencing what it was
like during the war. Your guide will take you to an original entrance which is simply a very small hole in the ground.
He will show you how to enter and then you are on your own to squeeze through and make your way to the other end. It
can be frightening indeed, but be sure to give it a try. It is a crazy experience to crawl through these tiny tunnels and
imagine what it must have been like for its inhabitants. After you have thoroughly explored the caves, you will also
learn other ways that the Vietnamese managed to defeat America. They could track soldiers easily in the jungle by using plants.
You will see how they cooked only during the foggy mornings to hide their smoke and you will learn how farmers smuggled food
to the Vietcong
The Vietnam War, also known as the Second Indochina War, and in Vietnam as the American War, occurred from
1959 to April 30, 1975. The term Vietnam Conflict is often used to refer to events which took place between 1959 and April
30, 1975. The war was fought between the communist Democratic Republic of Vietnam and its communist allies and the US supported
Republic of Vietnam. It concluded with the defeat and dissolution of South Vietnam. For the United States, the war ended with
the withdrawal of American troops and failure of its foreign policy in Vietnam. Over 1.4 million military personnel
were killed in the war only 6% were members of the United States armed forces), while estimates of civilian fatalities range
up to 2 million. On April 30, 1975, the capital of South Vietnam, Saigon fell to the communist forces of North Vietnam, effectively
ending the Vietnam War.
A coup by some of his own generals succeeded in toppling
and killing Diem and his brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, in November 1963, three weeks before Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas,
Texas. The ensuing political instability in South Vietnam persuaded Kennedy's successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Secretary
of Defense Robert McNamara to further increase U.S. military and economic support. The following August, after DRV torpedo
boats attacked two U.S. destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin, Johnson ordered the retaliatory bombing of military targets in
North Vietnam. Congress soon passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave Johnson broad war-making powers, and U.S.
planes began regular bombing raids, codenamed Operation Rolling Thunder, the following February.
In March 1965, Johnson made the decision--with solid support from the American
public--to send U.S. combat forces into battle in Vietnam. By June, 82,000 combat troops were stationed in Vietnam, and General
William Westmoreland was calling for 175,000 more by the end of 1965 to shore up the struggling South Vietnamese army. Despite
the concerns of some of his advisers about this escalation, and about the entire war effort as well as a growing anti-war
movement in the U.S., Johnson authorized the immediate dispatch of 100,000 troops at the end of July 1965 and another 100,000
in 1966. In addition to the United States, South Korea, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand also committed troops to fight
in South Vietnam (albeit on a much smaller scale).
Various names have been applied
to the conflict, and these have shifted over time, although Vietnam War is the most commonly used title in English. It has
been variously called the Second Indochina War, the Vietnam Conflict, the Vietnam War, and, in Vietnamese, Chin tranh Vit
Nam (The Vietnam War), Kháng chin chng M (Resistance War against America) or The American War.
As dictated by
the Geneva Conference of 1954, the partition of Vietnam was meant to be only temporary, pending national elections on July
20, 1956. Much like Korea, the agreement stipulated that the two military zones were to be separated by a temporary demarcation
line (known as the Demilitarized Zone or DMZ). The United States, alone among the great powers, refused to sign the Geneva
agreement. The President of South Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem, declined to hold elections. This called into question the United
States' commitment to democracy in the region, but also raised questions about the legitimacy of any election held in
the communist-run North. President Dwight D. Eisenhower expressed U.S. fears when he wrote that, in 1954,80 per cent of the
population would have voted for the Communist Ho Chi Minh over Emperor Bao Dai. However, this wide popularity was expressed
before Ho's disastrous land reform program and a peasant revolt in Ho's home province which had to be bloodily suppressed.
In June 1961,
John F. Kennedy bitterly disagreed with Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev when they met in Vienna over key U.S.-Soviet issues.
Cold war strategists concluded Southeast Asia would be one of the testing grounds where Soviet forces would test the USA's
containment policy - begun during the Truman Administration and solidified by the stalemate resulting from the Korean War.
stressed long-range missile parity with the Soviets, he was also interested in using special forces for counter insurgency
warfare in Third World countries threatened by communist insurgencies. Originally intended for use behind front lines after
a conventional invasion of Europe, Kennedy believed that the guerrilla tactics employed by special forces such as the Green
Berets would be effective in a "brush fire" war in Vietnam. He saw British success in using such forces in Malaya
as a strategic template.
On August 2,
1964, the USS Maddox, on an intelligence mission along North Vietnam's coast, started a gunfight with torpedo boats in
the Gulf of Tonkin. However, the Maddox claimed that it was attacked. A second attack was reported two days later on the USS
Turner Joy and Maddox in the same area. The circumstances of the attack were murky. Lyndon Johnson commented to Under-secretary
of State George Ball that "those sailors out there may have been shooting at flying fish." The second attack led
to retaliatory air strikes, prompted Congress to approve the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, and gave the president power to conduct
military operations in South East Asia without declaring war. In the same month, Johnson pledged that he was not "...committing
American boys to fighting a war that I think ought to be fought by the boys of Asia to help protect their own land."
the Vietnam War officially started on the morning of January 31, 1965 when orders were cut and issued to mobilize the 18th
TAC Fighter Squadron from Okinawa to Danang air force base (AFB). A red alert alarm to scramble was sounded at Kadena AFB
at 3:00 a.m. F-105's, pilots and support were deployed from Okinawa and landed in Vietnam that afternoon to join up with
other smaller units who had already arrived weeks earlier. Preparations were under way for the first step of Operation Flaming
Dart. The mission of Operation Flaming Dart, to cross the Seventeenth Parallel into North Vietnam, was already planned and
in place before the attack on Pleiku. The attack on Pleiku occurred on February 6, 1965. On February 7, 1965 forty nine F-105
Thunderchiefs flew out of Danang AFB to targets located in North Vietnam. From this day forward the war was no longer confined
to South Vietnam. It took almost an hour to get all forty nine of the F-105's in the air. On that morning, the continuous
loud roar of the F-105 engines going down the runway, one following another, was described by the ground crew as a "rolling
thunder". At this time the Marines had not landed and Danang AFB was unprotected.
attacks, it was decided that U.S. Air Force bases needed more protection. The South Vietnamese military seemed incapable of
providing security. On March 8, 1965, 3,500 United States Marines were dispatched to South Vietnam. This marked the beginning
of the American ground war. U.S. public opinion overwhelmingly supported the deployment. Public opinion, however, was based
on the premise that Vietnam was part of a global struggle against communism. In a statement similar to that made to the French,
almost two decades earlier, Ho Chi Minh warned that if the Americans "want to make war for twenty years then we shall
make war for twenty years. If they want to make peace, we shall make peace and invite them to afternoon tea." As former
First Deputy Foreign Minister Tran Quang Co noted, the primary goal of the war was to reunify Vietnam and secure its independence.
The policy of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) was not to topple other non-communist governments in South East Asia.
During the 1968 presidential election, Richard M. Nixon promised "peace with honor". His plan was to
build up the ARVN, so that they could take over the defence of South Vietnam (the Nixon Doctrine). The policy became known
as "Vietnamization", a term criticized by Robert K. Brigham for implying that, to that date, only Americans had
been dying in the conflict. Vietnamization had much in common with the policies of the Kennedy administration. One important
difference, however, remained. While Kennedy insisted that the South Vietnamese fight the war themselves, he attempted to
limit the scope of the conflict. In pursuit of a withdrawal strategy, Richard Nixon was prepared to employ a variety of tactics,
including widening the war.
The Paris Peace
Accord, agreed between communist Le Duc Tho, Henry Kissinger and reluctantly signed in January 1973 by President Thieu, produced
a ceasefire and allowed for the exchange of prisoners of war. Later that year the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Henry Kissinger
and Le Duc Tho but the Vietnamese negotiator declined it saying that a true peace did not yet exist in Vietnam. Gerald Ford
took over in 1974 after President Nixon, who resigned the presidency on August 9 due to the Watergate scandal.
The U.S. midterm elections in 1974 brought in a new Congress dominated by Democrats who were much more willing to confront
the President on the war. Congress immediately voted in restrictions on funding and military activities to be phased in through
1975 and to culminate in a total cut off of funding in 1976. On December 13, 1974, North Vietnam violated the Paris peace
treaty by attacking into the South. When North Vietnam violated the 1973 cease-fire agreement and invaded the South again
in 1975, Ford desperately asked Congress for funds to assist and re-supply the South before it was overrun. Congress refused.
The U.S. had promised Thieu that it would use airpower to support his government. But, having been forbidden by law to assist
South Vietnam, Ford was unable to act. The balance of power thus shifted decisively in North Vietnam's direction.
On April 30,
1975, VPA troops overcame all resistance, quickly capturing key buildings and installations. A tank crashed through the gates
of the Presidential Palace and at 11:30 a.m. local time with the NLF flag raised above it. Thieu's successor, President
Duong Van Minh, attempted to surrender, but VPA Colonel Bui Quang Than informed him that he had nothing left to surrender.
Minh then issued his last command, ordering all South Vietnamese troops to lay down their arms.
had attained their goal: they had toppled the Saigon regime. But the cost of victory was high. In the past decade alone, one
Vietnamese in every ten had been a casualty of war. Nearly a million and a half killed, three million wounded. Vietnam had
been a tormented land, and its ordeal was not over.
In the 1950's the United States began to send troops
to Vietnam. During the following 25-years the ensuing war would create some of the strongest tensions in US history. Almost
3 million US men and women were sent thousands of miles to fight for what was a questionable cause. In total, it is estimated
that over 2,5 million people on both sides were killed.
This site does not try to document the entire history of
the Vietnam War, but is intended as a picture essay illustrating some of the incredible conditions under which soldiers from
both sides lived, fought, played and ultimately died. The legendary combat photographer, Tim Page, took almost all of the images shown on this site and they are nothing short of stunning.
1950, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and China recognized each other diplomatically. The Soviet Union quickly followed
suit. U.S. President Harry S. Truman countered by recognizing the French puppet government of Vietnam. Washington feared that
Hanoi was a pawn of Communist China and, by extension, Moscow. This flew in the face of the long historical antipathy between
the two nations, of which the U.S. seems to have been completely ignorant. As Doan Huynh commented,Vietnam a part of the Chinese
expansionist game in Asia? For anyone who knows the history of Indochina, this is incomprehensible.Nevertheless, Chinese support
was very important to the Viet Minh's success, and China largely supported the Vietnamese Communists through the end of
The outbreak of the Korean War
in 1950 marked a decisive turning point. From the perspective of many in Washington, D.C., what had been a colonial war in
Indochina was transformed into another example of communist expansionism directed by the Kremlin.
In 1956 one of
the leading communists in the south, Le Duan, returned to Hanoi to urge the Vietnam Workers' Party to take a firmer stand
on the reunification of Vietnam under Communist leadership. But Hanoi (then in a severe economic crisis) hesitated in launching
a full-scale military struggle. The northern Communists feared U.S. intervention and believed that conditions in South Vietnam
were not yet ripe for a people's revolution. However, in December 1956, Ho Chi Minh authorized the Viet Minh cadres still
in South Vietnam to begin a low level insurgency. In North Vietnamese political theory, the action was a subset of "political
struggle" called "armed propaganda," and consisted mostly in kidnappings and terrorist attacks.
government officials were assassinated in 1957 alone, and the violence gradually increased. While the terror was originally
aimed at local government officials, it soon broadened to include other symbols of the status quo, such as school teachers,
health workers, agricultural officials, etc. One estimate purports that by 1958, 20% of South Vietnam's village chiefs
had been murdered by the insurgents. What was sought was a method of completely destroying government control in South Vietnam's
rural villages in order to be replaced by an NLF shadow government. Finally, in January 1959, under pressure from southern
cadres who were being targeted by Diem's secret police, the north's Central Committee issued a secret resolution authorizing
an "armed struggle." This authorized the southern Viet Minh to begin large scale operations against the South Vietnamese
military. In response, Diem enacted tough new anti-communist laws. However, North Vietnam supplied troops and supplies in
earnest, and the infiltration of men and weapons from the north began along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
The Kennedy administration
remained essentially committed to the Cold War foreign policy inherited from the Truman and Eisenhower administrations. In
1961, Kennedy faced a three-part crisis - the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion, the construction of the Berlin Wall, and
a negotiated settlement between the pro-Western government of Laos and the Pathet Lao communist movement made Kennedy believe
another failure on the part of the United States to gain control and stop communist expansion would fatally damage U.S. credibility
with its allies and his own reputation. Kennedy determined to 'draw a line in the sand' and prevent a communist victory
in Vietnam saying, "Now we have a problem making our power credible and Vietnam looks like the place" to James Reston
of the New York Times (immediately after meeting Khrushchev in Vienna).
Security Council recommended a three-stage escalation of the bombing of North Vietnam. On March 2, 1965, following an attack
on a U.S. Marine barracks at Pleiku, Operation Flaming Dart and Operation Rolling Thunder commenced. The bombing campaign,
which ultimately lasted three years, was intended to force North Vietnam to cease its support for the National Front for the
Liberation of South Vietnam (NLF) by threatening to destroy North Vietnam's air defenses and industrial infrastructure.
As well, it was aimed at bolstering the morale of the South Vietnamese. Between March 1965 and November 1968, "Rolling
Thunder" deluged the north with a million tons of missiles, rockets and bombs. Bombing was not restricted to North Vietnam.
Other aerial campaigns, such as Operation Commando Hunt, targeted different parts of the NLF and People's Army of Vietnam
(PAVN) infrastructure. These included the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which ran through Laos and Cambodia. The objective of forcing
North Vietnam to stop its support for the NLF, however, was never reached. As one officer noted "this is a political
war and it calls for discriminate killing. The best weapon would be a knife The worst is an airplane." The Chief of Staff
of the United States Air Force Curtis LeMay, however, had long advocated saturation bombing in Vietnam and wrote of the Communists
that "we're going to bomb them back into the Stone Age"
Though a "misunderstood event" in US history,
the Vietnam War was a time when the US had the most powerful air force. Air force advisors were even sent to South Vietnam
with a variety of planes on which to train the South Vietnamese Air Force in aerial tactics and techniques.
In 1965, jet aircraft arrived in South Vietnam with the Republic
F-105 Thunderchiefs, large fighter-bombers with limited maneuverability as the first. They were soon replaced by McDonnell
F-4 Phantom IIs which descended from the McDonnell FH-1 Phantom.
When electronic warfare became extremely important in Vietnam, the United States used numbers of laser and television-guided
bombs to hit difficult targets. So when the North Vietnamese began to build a massive surface-to-air missile (SAM) arsenal
in 1965, America's response was the Wild Weasels. Originally modified F-100 Super Sabres but later F-4Gs, the Wild Weasels
carried equipment to detect electromagnetic energy in order to identify and destroy SAM sites.
Wiith airborne warning and controls system (AWACS) planes becoming
an essential component of the air war, the Lockheed EC-121s were used. While in Vietnam, EC-121's mission changed to finding
enemy fighters, through radar and interrogating radio transponders, to determine location and nationality of each plane. EC-21s
also directed U.S. aircraft to aerial refueling tankers and guided rescue planes to downed pilots.
These air crafts that served varied purposes like search and
rescue mission, infantry support, and bombing campaigns are relived through model replicas by many companies like Master craft
Collection. Bringing these air crafts to life honours the many brave men who piloted them and saved lives.
cost of the war was again questioned, when the U.S concluded operation Speedy Express with a claimed body count of 10,889
NLF (vietcong) guerillas with only 40 U.S losses, Kevin Buckley writing in news week estimated that perhaps 5,000 were civilians.
The invasion of Cambodia sparked nationwide U.S. protests. Four students were killed by National
Guardsmen at Kent State University during a protest in Ohio, which provoked public outrage in the United States. The reaction
to the incident by the Nixon administration was seen as callous and indifferent, providing additional impetus for the anti-war
In 1971 the Pentagon Papers were leaked to the New York Times. The top-secret history of U.S. involvement
in Vietnam, commissioned by the Department of Defense, detailed a long series of public deceptions. The Supreme Court ruled
that its publication was legal.
The ARVN launched Operation Lam Son
719, aimed at cutting the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos. The offensive was a clear violation of Laotian neutrality,which neither
side respected in any event. Laos had long been the scene of a Secret War. After meeting resistance, ARVN forces retreated
in a confused rout. They fled along roads littered with their own dead. When they ran out of fuel, soldiers abandoned their
vehicles and attempted to barge their way on to American helicopters sent to evacuate the wounded. Many ARVN soldiers clung
to helicopter skids in a desperate attempt to save themselves. U.S. aircraft had to destroy abandoned equipment, including
tanks, to prevent them from falling into enemy hand.
unrest, and panic ensued as hysterical South Vietnamese officials and civilians scrambled to leave Saigon. Martial law was
declared. American helicopters began evacuating South Vietnamese, U.S. and foreign nationals from various parts of the city
and from the U.S. embassy compound. Operation Frequent Wind had been delayed until the last possible moment, because of U.S.
Ambassador Graham Martin's belief that Saigon could be held and that a political settlement could be reached. "Frequent
Wind" was arguably the largest helicopter evacuation in history. It began on April 29, in an atmosphere of desperation,
as hysterical crowds of Vietnamese vied for limited seats. Martin pleaded with Washington to dispatch $700 million in emergency
aid to bolster the regime and help it mobilize fresh military reserves. But American public opinion had long soured on this
conflict halfway around the world.
In the U.S., South Vietnam was perceived as doomed.
President Gerald Ford gave a televised speech on April 23, declaring an end to the Vietnam War and all U.S. aid. "Frequent
Wind" continued around the clock, as North Vietnamese tanks breached defenses on the outskirts of Saigon. The song "White
Christmas" was broadcast, as the final signal for withdrawal. In the early morning hours of April 30, the last U.S. Marines
evacuated the embassy by helicopter, as civilians swamped the perimeter and poured into the grounds. Many of them had been
employed by the Americans and were left to their fate.
The Vietnam War, which lasted from 1945-1975, was
the longest conflict that the United States participated in. The war cost the lives of almost 60,000 Americans and almost
2 million Vietnamese. The participation of the US in the said war resulted to the enactment of the War Power Acts of 1973,
which required Congressional approval before the President can deploy US forces overseas. Here we will try to find the answer
to the question: Why Did the US Enter the Vietnam War? The primary reason for the participation of the United States in the Vietnam War was to prevent the spread of communism
in South Vietnam as part of their widescale strategy of containment. Following the defeat of the French Armada, peace talks
were held in Geneva resulting to the granting of independence to Laos and Cambodia and the division of Vietnam into North
and South. The spread of Communism was becoming
evident in both local and international front. In the United States, majority of the 1950s saw Americans experiencing the
so-called Red Scare, spearheaded by Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who was very much opposed to communism. Meanwhile, on the international scene, every country in Eastern Europe had started
to embrace communism after the end of World War II. It began with China followed by countries in Latin America, Africa, and
Asia. From there, the US began to implement the philosophy of containment as they felt that they were losing the Cold War.
With that in mind, the United States began sending
its first batch of military advisers to assist France in its war against Communism in North Vietnam. Simultaneously, the United
Nations and the US had launched operations against North Korean and Chinese forces in the Korean War.
For France, their battle against North Korea was not to stop the spread
of communism, like what the Americans did, but for the maintenance of colonial power and to re-establish their national pride
after being humiliated during the Second World War. When it became obvious to the French that any attempts to keep Indochina
as a colony in the expense of blood was futile, France pulled out its troops in 1954. On the other hand, the United States saw the need for it to consolidate its forces in its desire to rid Vietnam of
Communism. It intensified its efforts of sending increased amounts of war ammunitions and also bolstered its sending of military
advisers in support of South Vietnam. Slowly but surely, the Americans were dragged into an all-out shooting war. They even
allowed military advisers to fire back on anyone who fired at them. In 1965, deployment of US troops commence and by April 1969, a total of 543,000 soldiers were dispatched in Vietnam.
The United States became involved in the conflict until 1975, when the southern city of Saigon fell into the hands of the
Communist North Vietnam. To this very day, the answers to the question why did the US enter the Vietnam War is still a puzzle
and if the deployment of the US forces was justifiable.
The Soviet Union was responsible for supplying North
Vietnam with military apparatus – in the form of tanks, helicopters, planes, arms and artillery. They also provided
medical supplies. The Soviet union suffered minimally, in terms of human life, when compared with other countries that played
a role in the conflict. It's estimated that the number of deaths of Soviet Union citizens would have been in the single
digits. After the Soviet Union collapsed, Russian government officials made a statement acknowledging that 3,000 troops were
stationed in Vietnam during the conflict.
China's interests in the Vietnam War began in the
late 1940's when the communists managed to gain control. The CPC, which stands for the Communist Party of China, assisted
Vietnam communists through providing materials and support because of the similar political beliefs that they felt they had.
In 1962 their somewhat intangible assistance changed shape when they provided ninety thousand guns and rifles to Hanoi –
this was done without charge. China also played a role in rebuilding and defending the infrastructure of North Vietnam, opting
to provide anti-aircraft and engineering resources. They repaired roads, railways and undertook other engineering initiatives.
In doing this, it is said they freed up troops to pursue the conflict in the South. Over the duration of the war around one
third of a million Chinese troops served in Vietnam of which, it's estimated, 1,500 died.
To support the South’s government,
the United States sent in 2,000 military advisors, a number that grew to 16,300 in 1963. The military condition
deteriorated, and by 1963 South Vietnam had lost the fertile Mekong Delta to the Vietcong. In
1965, Johnson escalated the war, commencing air strikes on North Vietnam and committing ground forces, which numbered
536,000 in 1968. The 1968 Tet Offensive by the North Vietnamese turned many Americans against the war.
The next president, Richard Nixon, advocated Vietnamization, withdrawing American troops and giving South Vietnam
greater responsibility for fighting the war. His attempt to slow the flow of North Vietnamese soldiers
and supplies into South Vietnam by sending American forces to destroy Communist supply bases in Cambodia
in 1970 in violation of Cambodian neutrality provoked antiwar protests on the nation’s college campuses.
Nixon sought to deflate the antiwar movement by appealing
to a "silent majority" of Americans who he believed supported the war effort. In an attempt to limit the volume
of American casualties, he announced a program of withdrawing troops, increasing aerial and artillery bombardment and giving
South Vietnamese control over ground operations. In addition to this policy, which he called "Vietnamization,"
Nixon continued public peace talks in Paris, adding higher-level secret talks conducted by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger
beginning in the spring of 1968. The North Vietnamese continued to insist on complete U.S. withdrawal as a condition of
peace, however, and the next few years would bring even more carnage, including the horrifying revelation that U.S. soldiers
had massacred more than 400 unarmed civilians in the village of My Lai in March 1968.
Anti-war protests continued to build as the conflict wore on. In 1968 and 1969, there were hundreds of anti-war
marches and gatherings throughout the country. On November 15, 1969, the largest anti-war protest in American history took
place in Washington, D.C., as over 250,000 Americans gathered peacefully, calling for withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam. The anti-war movement,
which was particularly strong on college campuses, divided Americans bitterly. For some young people, the war symbolized
a form of unchecked authority they had come to resent. For other Americans, opposing the government was considered unpatriotic
As the first U.S. troops were withdrawn, those who remained became increasingly
angry and frustrated, exacerbating problems with morale and leadership. Tens of thousands of soldiers received dishonorable
discharges for desertion, and about 500,000 American men from 1965-73 became "draft dodgers," with many fleeing
to Canada to evade conscription. Nixon ended draft calls in 1972, and instituted an all-volunteer army the following year.
In 1970, a joint U.S-South Vietnamese operation invaded Cambodia, hoping to wipe out DRV
supply bases there. The South Vietnamese then led their own invasion of Laos, which was pushed back by North Vietnam. The
invasion of these countries, in violation of international law, sparked a new wave of protests on college campuses across
America, including two at Kent State in Ohio and Jackson State in Mississippi during which National Guardsmen and police killed a total of six student protesters. By the end of June 1972, however,
after another failed offensive into South Vietnam, Hanoi was finally willing to compromise. Kissinger and North Vietnamese
representatives drafted a peace agreement by early fall, but leaders in Saigon rejected it, and in December Nixon authorized
a number of bombing raids against targets in Hanoi and Haiphong. Known as the Christmas Bombings, the raids drew international
"WALKING IN CHARLIE'S LAND" SONGS BY AMERICANS IN THE VIETNAM WAR 18 March, 1991 Fan blades/helicopter
blades rotating slowly above a troubled dreamer, Jim Morrison's voice singing "The End"...
Young soldiers, on their way to Vietnam in the summer
of Woodstock, marching on board their plane at Ft. Dix singing "Fixing To Die"...
Correspondent Michael Herr catching helicopter rides out to the firebases,
"cassette rock and roll in one ear and door- gun fire in the other," or crouched under fire in a rice
paddy while Jimi Hendrix' music blares from the recorder held by the soldier next to him...
Grunts linking arms in a beery E.M. club and screaming out the lyrics
to the Animals' "We Gotta Get Out of This Place"...
The rock and roll war...
most of us, the Vietnam War has a rock and roll soundtrack. All the songs of the sixties were part of life in the combat
zone; troops listened to music in the bush and in the bunkers. They had their own top forty, of songs about going home, like
"Five Hundred Miles," or "Leaving on a Jet Plane," or of darker or more cynical album cuts which reflected
their experiences: "Run Through the Jungle," "Bad Moon," "Paint it Black," or "The Night
They Drove Old Dixie Down." References to popular music are an integral part of the language of the war: "Puff
the Magic Dragon" or "Spooky" meant a cargo plane outfitted with machine guns, "rock and roll" fire
from an M-16 on full automatic. But there were other songs in Vietnam, too--the songs made by the American men and women,
civilians and military, who served there, for themselves. Some of these were part of the traditional occupational
folklore of the military. Many of the Vietnam War fighter pilots' songs were sung in the two World Wars and the Korean
War; the grunts complained about the brass in the rear in a song made by British troops World War I. Other songs grew directly
out of the Vietnam experience: songs about flying at night along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, defoliating triple-canopy jungle,
engaging in firefights with an unseen enemy, or counting the days left in a 365-day tour. In some cases both the words and
music were original, usually new lyrics were set to folk, country or popular tunes. Barry Sadler's "Ballad of the
Green Berets" alone spawned dozens of parodies. These songs served as a strategy for survival, as a means
of unit bonding and definition, as entertainment, and as a way of expressing emotion. All of the traditional themes of military
folksong can be found in these songs: praise of the great leader, celebration of heroic deeds, laments for the death of comrades,
disparagement of other units, and complaints about incompetent officers and vainglorious rear-echelon personnel. Like soldiers
and sailors from time immemorial they sang of epic drinking bouts and encounters with exotic young women. Songs provided
a means for the expression of protest, fear and frustration, of grief and of longing for home. Some of the songs show empathy
with the enemy; Chip Dockery, who served with the 13th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Udorn, wrote a superb series of songs
from the point of the North Vietnamese truck drivers on the Ho Chi Minh trail. Others display a kind of black humor mixed
with violence: "Strafe the Town and Kill the People," "As We Came Around and Tried To Get Some More,"
and "Napalm Sticks to Kids." Civilians serving with agencies such as AID, CORDS, OCO, JUSPAO, the State
Department and the CIA had their own songs. They griped about the unpunctuality of Air America flights ("Damn Air America,
You're Always Late") and the futility of pacification efforts ("We Have Pacified This Land One Hundred Times")
and made cynical political comments ("I Feel Like a Coup is Coming On"). Jim Bullington, who was working for AID
in Quang Tri in 1968, wrote "Yes, We Are Winning" while he was in hiding in Hue during the Tet Offensive of that
year. In Dong Tam Emily Strange, (Red Cross), with her friend Barbara Hagar (USO), wrote "Incoming," complaining
about having to go the bunkers every night, and sang it for enthusiastic grunts on the firebases. All the streams
of American musical tradition meet in the songs of the Vietnam War. The influence of the folksong revival was strong, especially
in the early or advisor period of the war. Many of the soldiers, especially the young officers who had been exposed to the
revival in college, were already experienced musicians when they arrived in Vietnam. A few brought instruments with them,
others ordered them from the United States or purchased Japanese guitars from the PX or on the local economy. Many of them
sang together in Kingston-Trio-style trios or quartets: the Merrymen, the Blue Stars, the Intruders, the Four Blades. Country
music groups were also formed in Vietnam and many songs are based on country favorites: "I Fly the Line," "Short
Fat Sky," and "Ghost Advisors." One of the great song writers of the war, Dick Jonas, wrote almost entirely
in this tradition. Later in the war, many of the young soldiers had played in rock bands before being drafted and this, too,
is reflected in the music. Some of the songs of the anti-war movement at home were also sung in Vietnam; one night at Khe
Sanh Michael Herr saw a group of grunts sitting in a circle with a guitar singing "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?"
(1977:148). Joseph Treaster, a member of The New York Times Saigon bureau, wrote in 1966:
Almost every club has a resident musician,
usually a guitar player, whom the men crowd around, singing songs about their lives in a strange country and the
war they are fighting. The songs are laced with cynicism and political innuendoes and they echo the frustrations
of the "dirty little war" which has become a dirty big one. Above all, the songs reflect the wartime
Yank's ability to laugh at himself in a difficult situation. The songs grow fast as first one man, then another,
throws in a line while the guitar player searches for chords. The tunes are usually old favorites.
They sang in bars, hooches, and officers' clubs,
in bunkers and on shipboard, in formal concerts and musical competitions and at impromptu parties. The same technology which
made it possible for the troops to listen to rock music "from the Delta to the DMZ" provided ideal conditions for
the transmission of folklore. The widespread availability of inexpensive portable tape recorders meant that concerts, music
nights at the mess, or informal bar performances could be recorded, copied and passed along to friends. Toby Hughes writes,
Just before leaving Southeast
Asia and as a favor to some friends I recorded (three songs) on tape, leaving them with instructions not to let
the tape be copied, as I planned to include the songs in a book. One has to understand fighter pilots and their
love of fighter pilot songs to know that I was neither surprised nor upset to find that copies of the tape were
all over Southeast Asia within thirty days. One copy actually beat me back to the States and I was subjected to
the strange sensation of hearing my own voice, recorded half-way around the world, singing the songs over the
speakers in the casual bar just after arriving at my stateside assignment. Some of this music even had official
sponsorship. Especially talented performers and groups were often picked to represent their units at commanders' conferences
or to entertain visiting dignitaries. In 1965 Hershel Gober formed a band called the Black Patches and was sent on tour to
sing for the troops, including a "command performance" for General Westmoreland. Later in the war Bill Ellis, who
wrote songs about the First Cavalry Division, was taken out of combat and sent around to sing for men on the remote firebases,
where USO performers couldn't go. The songs made
by American men and women who served in Vietnam vary as widely in theme as in circumstances of performance, from anti-war
to intensely patriotic, from laments for dead friends to ribald descriptions of encounters with pretty girls on Tu Do Street.
What they have in common is that they helped those who sang them and those who listened to survive. For this reason they
are an integral part of the history of the Vietnam War.
Less than sixteen years after the last helicopter lifted off the roof of the American Embassy in Saigon, American troops
were again in combat. Again, they took their music with them--they carried Walkman recorders and radios and asked friends
to send tapes. Interestingly enough, it was the recordings of sixties music which they especially prized--somehow Jimi Hendrix
"sounded right for a war." And, again, they made their own music. Television news showed us soldiers singing rap
songs in praise of their units, humorous songs in Spanish about Saddam Hussein, reggae, gospel songs, and blues. One impromptu
desert concert featured a young tenor singing "Danny Boy"--a song that has been sung by soldiers far away from their
homes for a hundred years. Greg Wilson, a superb singer who flew as a forward air controller in the secret war in Laos, took
his Vietnam War songs to Saudi Arabia where he flew a A-10 in Operation Desert Storm. In the midst of high-tech weapons and
satellite communications, an ancient military tradition has been handed on and renewed. The Vietnam Veterans Oral History
and Folklore Project is engaged in an ongoing undertaking to collect, preserve and make more widely known the folksongs of
the Vietnam War. We ask veterans to share with the Project songs from their own experience: songs which they sang or collected
in the form of manuscript, books, records or tapes. If you do not have facilities for copying open reel tapes and are willing
to send us the original tapes, we will have copies made and return your originals safely along with studio-quality cassette
copies. Material deposited in the Project's archives is always available for use by scholars and veterans.
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