Essay: What influence had the protest songs of the 1960’s and the 1970’s on the termination of the Vietnam War?

The Introduction
For the subject English I’m going to write an essay about the Vietnam War. I want to do research about the influence of protest songs on the termination of the Vietnam War. I will do this by researching the influence that protest songs had on the opinion of the American people. Thereafter I’m going to research what influence the opinion of the American people had on the decisions of the American government about the Vietnam War and its termination. I will analyse the Vietnam War from its origin to its end and I will make a timeline to give you a clear overview of this war.

Research Question
What influence had the protest songs of the 1960’s and the 1970’s on the termination of the Vietnam War?
What is a protest song?
What is the origin of the Vietnam War?
What is the story of the Vietnam War?
What influence did the protest songs have on the opinion of the American people?
What influence did the opinion of the American people have on the termination of the Vietnam War?

I expect protest songs to have had a certain influence on the opinion of the American people. I expect likewise that the opinion of the American people had a big influence on the decisions of the American government concerning the termination of the Vietnam War. Therefore I expect the protest songs to have had an influence on the termination of the Vietnam War. Nevertheless I can’t measure or indicate the impact these protest songs had, that is why I can only research if they had influence at all but not how big this influence was. Therefore I can only conjecture which power the protest songs had.

What is a protest song?
A protest song is a song which is somehow associated with a movement for social change. Protest songs don’t belong to a specific music genre, every song which calls for a social change is a protest song. It could be a rock ‘n’ roll song, a country song, a folk song, a metal song etc. Among social movements that are associated with protest songs are: the abolition movement, the human rights movement, women’s suffrage, the labour movement, the civil rights movement, the anti-racism movement, the anti-war movement and 1960s counterculture, the feminist movement, the sexual revolution, the gay rights movement, animal rights movement, vegetarianism and veganism and environmentalism. [1]
Protest songs are so called because they rebel against a current development or don’t support the status-quo. All protest song lyrics have a cognitive content. They contain a message that demands for a change. Phil Ochs once explained: “A protest song is a song that’s so specific that you cannot mistake it for bullshit”. [2]
Most people associate protest songs with the 1960’s but protest songs have a long history. Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” for example, a song that supports universal brotherhood, is a protest song. The song is a setting of a poem by Schiller to which Beethoven himself added the line: All men are brothers. And there are many other protest songs that date from periods before the 1960’s. The large amount of slavery-songs, such as the song ‘Oh, Freedom’ from 1860, are a good example [2]. So are most songs about feminism, such as ‘The March of the Women’ from 1911 which became the battle cry of the British suffrage movement [3]. Beside the fact that protests songs are old it’s true that the protest song gained more popularity in the 1960’s.
The March of the Women, 1911
In the 1960’s there was a lot going on in de US and there were enough topics for artist to write protest songs about. Such as the continuing segregation and the Civil Rights Movement, feminism, and of course: the Vietnam War. This last topic is the subject we are going to treat in the next chapter.
1. Definition: University of Princeton U.S. :
2. Quote: Phil Ochs:
3. Information: The song book ‘ Susan Hiller, 2012, P. 89 and P. 108.
4. Image: The March of the Women: Museum of London:

A Short History of the Vietnam War
The origin of the war

A Prelude to war: Returning to the start of the Vietnam War

The Vietnam War was the longest war in American history. To be able to understand this war we first have to learn a bit about the Cold War and the start of this war.
The Cold War:
The Cold War is a name given to the conflict that developed after the Second World War between United States and the Soviet Union. It was to dominate international affairs for decades as it lasted from 1946 to 1989. Many major crises occurred during the Cold War, such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War, the Hungary Crisis and the Berlin Wall. But for many people the most worrying issue was the risk of a mass destruction due to a nuclear arms race between the USA and the USSR. What were the causes of the cold war and how did this result in de Vietnam War?
The whole conflict of the Cold War was based on a clash of very different beliefs and ideologies. A battle of capitalism versus communism, held with an almost religious conviction, formed the basis of a great international power issue. With both sides striving for dominance the two countries seized every opportunity for expansion in any place in the world.
So why did this variance in ideology made these two super powers so distrustful of each other?
America Soviet Union
Free elections No elections or fixed
Democratic Autocratic / Dictatorship
Capitalist Communist
‘Survival of the fittest’ Everybody helps everybody
Richest world power Poor economic base
Personal freedom Society controlled by the secret police
Freedom of the media Total censorship
As you can see it all had to do with a lack of mutually understanding. This unwillingness to understand a different culture led to risky situations and an even more dangerous arms race. At one point the two countries had enough (nuclear) weapons to be able destroy the world several times.

In diplomatic terms there are three kinds of war:
A Hot War: this is actual warfare. This type of war occurs when all negotiations have failed and the armies are fighting.
A Warm War: this type of war occurs when negotiations are still going on and when there is a chance of a peaceful outcome but the armies, navies etc. are being fully mobilised and war plans are being put into operation ready for the command to fight. This type of war is usually a preliminary of a Hot War but it can also happen during a Cold War when both countries reach a high level of distrust.
A Cold War: actually, this term is only used to describe the relationship between America and the Soviet Union. It means that neither side ever really fought the other. This was because the consequences would be too tremendous. But they did ‘fight’ for their beliefs using client states that fought for their beliefs on their behalf. The Vietnam War is a great example: South Vietnam was anti-communist and was supported by America during the war while North Vietnam was pro-Communist and fought the capitalistic south of Vietnam (and the Americans) with weapons obtained from communist Russia or communist China. Afghanistan is an example too: the Americans supplied the rebel Afghans after the Soviet Union invaded the country in 1979. The Americans never physically involved themselves in this battle because they wanted to avoid a direct clash with the Soviet Union.

The cold war started directly after the Second World War. Before this war the Americans had already depicted the Soviet Union as an archenemy just as the Soviets had depicted the Americans.
Their ‘friendship’ and alliance during WO II was the simple result of having a common enemy: Nazi Germany. In fact, one of America’s most important generals, Mr Patton, wanted the Allied army to collaborate with what remained of the Wehrmacht in 1945 to fight the Red Army of the Soviets. Other countries distrusted the USSR as well. Churchill (Great Britain), for example, was furious that President Eisenhower (US) had agreed with Stalin that the Red Army was to get to Berlin first, ahead of the Allied army.
So when WO II ended the countries immediately split up in two clear fronts. You had the Soviet Union on one hand, backed by other communist countries such as China, and the Unites States on the other hand, supported by capitalist countries such as Great Britain and France. Both sides had client states and used those states to be able to fight each other while avoiding a direct clash. As I already explained: the Vietnam War is a great example of a client state-fight between the communists and the capitalists.
The cold war ended in 1989 when Gorbachev and Reagan’s successor, George H. W. Bush, declared the Cold War over at the Malta Summit.
Client states = A client state is a state that is economically, politically or militarily subordinate to another more powerful state in international affairs. [1]

1. Definition: Michael Graham Fry, Erik Goldstein, Richard Langhorne. Guide to International Relations and Diplomacy. London, England, UK; New York, New York, USA: Continuum International Publishing, 2002. Pp. 9.

Songs about the cold war:
Eve Of Destruction ‘ P.F. Sloan(words), Barry McGuire 2
Album: Eve of Destruction, 1965

The eastern world;
It is explodin’.
Violence flarin’;
Bullets loadin’.
You’re old enough to kill,
But not for votin’.
You don’t believe in war,
But what’s that gun you’re totin’?
And even the Jordan River
Has bodies floatin’,
But ya tell me
Over and over and over again, my friend,
Ah, you don’t believe
We’re on the eve of destruction

And don’t you understand
What I’m tryin’ to say
And can’t you feel the fears
That I’m feelin’ today?
There’ll be no one to save
If the button is pushed,
There’s no runnin’ away.
With the world in a grave.
Take a look around you, boy.
It’s bound to scare you, boy
And ya tell me
Over and over and over again, my friend,
Ah, you don’t believe
We’re on the eve of destruction

But think of all the hate
There is in red China.
Then take a look around
To Selma, Alabama.
You may leave here
For four days in space,
But when you return
It’s the same old place.
The poundin’ of the drums,
The pride and disgrace.
You can bury it dead,
But don’t leave a trace.
Hate your next door neighbour,
But don’t forget to say grace
And tell me
Over and over and over and over again, my friend,
You don’t believe
We’re on the eve of destruction.
Ah, no, no, you don’t believe
We’re on the eve of destruction
This protest song is written by P. F. Sloan, but several artists have recorded it. The best-known version was by Barry McGuire. It had a great influence on the American people (Eve of Destruction hit nr. 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and nr. 3 on the UK Singles Chart in September 1965) and it even became the rallying cry for supporters of the 26th amendment to the US Constitution, a law which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. The song became this important due to lyrics as: ‘You’re old enough to kill, But not for votin’.’ This refers to the fact that the minimum age to join the military forces was 18 years in the US, while the minimum voting age was 21 at that time. This song is not only a song for the support of the 26th amendment it??s also an anti-Cold war song and an anti-Vietnam War song. The anti-Vietnam war message is hidden in lyrics as: ‘The eastern world; It is explodin’.Violence flarin’; Bullets loadin’.’ And: ‘You don’t believe in war, but what’s that gun you’re totin’? And even the Jordan River Has bodies floatin’,’

But most of all it is a plain anti-Cold War song. There are a lot of references to the Cold War in this song such as: ‘But think of all the hate There is in red China. Then take a look around To Selma, Alabama.’ These lyrics refer to the communist threat in China, but also to the hypocrisy of the American people by pointing out the three 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches in Alabama were black people and members of the Civil Rights Movement wanted to walk the 54-mile highway from Selma to the Alabama state capital of Montgomery. They did this to fight for voting-rights for black people but the first attempt lead to the accidents called ‘bloody Sunday’ when Alabama State troopers attacked the civil-rights demonstrators. Many were knocked to the ground and brutally beaten with sticks. Another guard of troopers fired tear gas. Televised images of the brutal attack presented the Americans with images of marchers and demonstrators left bloodied and severely injured. The images roused a wide support for the Selma Voting Rights Movement. One demonstrator, Amelia Boynton, was even beaten and gassed nearly to death; her photos were shown on the front page of newspapers and magazines all over the world. You can see these photographs on the left side of the page. [1] Overall, seventeen marchers were hospitalized, and that’s why this day was nicknamed “Bloody Sunday”. This reference points out the hypocrisy of the American people because it shows that the communists are not the only ‘bad guys’ in the world and that the American people need to take a more critical look at themselves. You see this message too in lyrics as: ‘Hate your next door neighbour, but don’t forget to say grace’. There are even more Cold War-references, such as: ‘There’ll be no one to save, If the button is pushed, There’s no runnin’ away. With the world in a grave. Take a look around you, boy. It’s bound to scare you, boy’. To push the button refers to the A-bomb and the fear of a mass destruction when the US and the USSR might come to a direct clash because of the amount of nuclear weapons that both countries possessed. These lyrics and the song title both symbolise the wild spread fear of a nuclear war.

Russians ‘ Sting
Album: The Dream of the Blue Turtles, 1985

In Europe and America
There’s a growing feeling of hysteria
Conditioned to respond to all the threats
In the rhetorical speeches of the Soviets

Mister Kruschev said, “We will bury you”
I don’t subscribe to this point of view
It’d be such an ignorant thing to do
If the Russians love their children too

How can I save my little boy
From Oppenheimer’s deadly toy?
There is no monopoly of common sense
On either side of the political fence

We share the same biology
Regardless of ideology
Believe me when I say to you
I hope the Russians love their children too

There is no historical precedent
To put the words in the mouth of the president?
There’s no such thing as a winnable war,
It’s a lie we don’t believe anymore

Mister Reagan says; “We will protect you”
I don’t subscribe to this point of view
Believe me when I say to you
I hope the Russians love their children too

We share the same biology
Regardless of ideology
What might save us, me and you,
Is if the Russians love their children too

“Russians” is a topical anti-war song by Sting. The song is a commentary that speaks about the dominant Cold War policy and doctrine of mutually assured destruction (MAD) by the US and the USSR. Sting doesn’t pick a side in this song but shows that he regrets the two superpowers don’t have the same ethics, he refers to this with lyrics as: “there’s no monopoly on common sense/On either side of the political fence”. This song describes the thoughts of ordinary citizens of both superpowers and their divergence from the US mentioning of a ‘winnable’ nuclear war with lyrics as: “there’s no such thing as a winnable war/It’s a lie we don’t believe anymore”. Sting makes clear again that he doesn’t pick one side but rather stop this conflict by recounting and rejecting the views of both US President Reagan and Soviet Premier Khrushchev: “Mr. Reagan says ‘We will protect you’/I don’t subscribe to this point of view” and “Mr. Krushchev said we will bury you/I don’t subscribe to this point of view”. He also says that he hopes that the “Russians love their children too,” since the only thing that would save the world from eventual destruction by nuclear weapons (he refers to these weapons with the lyrics: ‘Oppenheimer’s deadly toy’) would be if both sides would love their children enough to not want to destroy their world with atomic bombs. He emphasizes that both sides are related by saying: ‘We share the same biology, Regardless of ideology, What might save us, me and you, Is if the Russians love their children too’.
About this he ones said in a TV-interview:
“I had a friend at university who invented a way to steal the satellite signal from Russian TV. We’d have a few beers and climb this tiny staircase to watch Russian television… At that time of night we’d only get children’s Russian television, like their ‘Sesame Street’. I was impressed with the care and attention they gave to their children’s programmes.’ [2]

1. Images: ‘As Michael Brown killing brings racial tensions back to the fore, 103-year-old civil rights activist from iconic 1965 photo recalls moment she was beaten unconscious by police’ and says she fears skin color will matter for another 100 years’. Written by jennifer Newton, The Daily Mail UK. December 3, 2014.
2. Information: “Sting’s Russians was inspired by illegal satellite viewings”. The Daily Express. July 15, 2010.

Russians (Sting) and Eve of Destruction (Barry McGuire)

The start of the Vietnam War
World War II

The first American soldiers to operate in Vietnam actually arrived during World War II. This represented what many people consider the start of the US involvement in Vietnam. The Americans, operatives from the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), planted several observation stations in Indochina (Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia) which enabled them to monitor all Japanese military movements and to provide intelligence, such as troop and ship locations, to the Allied Army and the Vietnamese Viet Minh that fought Japan.
The OSS, founded in 1941, was what later became the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1947. The OSS operatives worked with the Vietnamese, supporting Vietnamese resistance against the Japanese army which had occupied most of Indochina. The American operatives left after WO II promising that the United States would support Vietnamese Independence because the Americans hoped to bring an end to colonialism. It was a promise they didn’t keep because of the emergence of the Cold War and the position of France during the Cold War. President Roosevelt wanted France to make Indochina a trusteeship which was supposed to become an independent country later on. But Charles De Gaulle, the leader of France, argued that this plan would lead to the collapse of France and the real possibility that France would fall under Soviet influence in Europe. When Roosevelt died his successor, President Harry Truman, believed France was too important in this new battle of defending freedom and democracy all over the world to take the risk of France falling under Soviet and communist influence.
Therefore France was to retain her colonial empire in Indochina after World War II. Indochina was divided along the 16th parallel after WWII with Great Britain occupying the southern half and the Peoples Republic of China, PCR, occupying the northern half of Indochina until the Japanese troops would leave. After the Japanese left France got back her colonial empire. During this occupation Great Britain had used its presence to encourage the return of France while the PCR had used its presence to support the Viet Minh, the Vietnamese Independence League, in its battle to gain independence from France. This led to the First Indochina War.
The First Indochina War
Before the Americans fought
The First Indochina War is also called the French War and it lasted from 1945 through 1954 with France fighting the Viet Minh for control of Indochina. The Viet Minh, in full Viet Nam Doc Lap Dong Minh Hoi, in English: League for the Independence of Vietnam, formed the base of an armed independence movement in Vietnam led by Ho Chi Minh. The Viet Minh was formed in China in 1941. Although the Viet Minh was led primarily by Communists, they were open to persons with various political backgrounds. During WWII the allied army assisted the Viet Minh, who fought Japan. However, in the First Indochina War the Americans didn’t choose the side of the Viet Minh. In this war the Americans increasingly supported the French military and politically. France gained this U.S. assistance by arguing that if the French lost Indochina, their government would fall to the Communist Party which, according to De Gaulle, would result in greater Soviet influence in Europe. Therefore the United States had to support French claims in Indochina.
Fighting communism: The U.S. Military Assistance Group
In September 1950 President Truman signed National Security Council Memorandum 64, which meant that the United States declared Indochina as strategic area in the struggle against communism. Because of this, the U.S. established the Military Assistance Advisory Group, Indochina (MAAG-I).
MAAG-I officers were supposed to help the French. They determined what kind of training, artillery and equipment was needed to ensure a victory for the French. The MAAG-I represented the first organized U.S. military force in Vietnam, which represented for many people the start of the American war in Vietnam.
The faltering of the French empire: The Battle of Dien Bien Phu
Even though the French had U.S. assistance they had a hard time containing the Viet Minh and its independent movement. The French Union Forces had better weapons and air power so they were expected to win this war soon. However the Viet Minh chose when and where the battles took place. This allowed them to maximize their own strengths and to take advantage of the French weaknesses, which allowed the Viet Minh to sustain fewer casualties while inflicting higher casualties to the French. This was the same problem the Americans faced years later, during the Vietnam War.
In 1953 the First Indochina War reached a point where the United States provided 70% of the war budget but the French were never able to fight in a European-style battle in which they could fully use their artillery and air forces to defeat the Viet Minh. This was the reason why the French formulated a new strategy in 1953 to lure the Viet Minh into a decisive battle in Dien Bien Phu. The city of Dien Bien Phu was situated on the only major road in the north of Vietnam, the road between Vietnam and Laos in the northwest part of Vietnam. If the French gained control over the village they could cut of the Viet Minh from Laos and the Pathet Lao, an independence movement from Laos that supported the Viet Minh and wanted to remove the French from Indochina.
However, the French underestimated the power of the Viet Minh around Dien Bien Phu and they misjudged their own ability and possibilities to resupply their army and to defend such an isolated area. These causes and poor weather led to the ‘fall of Dien Bien Phu’, which marked the end of the French rule in Indochina and the end of the First Indochina war.

The end of the war: The 1954 Geneva Conference
One day after the fall of Dien Bien Phu, the 1954 Geneva Conference took place in Switzerland. Because of the losses at Dien Bien Phu, the French had to negotiate from a weak position. On July 20, 1954 a final declaration was signed by the Viet Minh and France that declared the end of the fighting in Indochina. Although the U.S. wasn’t happy with the final declaration, called the Geneva Accords, they had little choice but to accept that France had lost the war in Indochina. According to the final declaration signed at the Geneva Conference in July, Vietnam would temporarily be split into two, approximately equal, halves. The two parts of the county would be separated by a Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) along the 17th parallel. The northern would become the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, which had been proclaimed by Ho Chi Minh, the leader of the Viet Minh. The southern half would be the non-communist State of Vietnam until 1956, at which time the two zones would be reunified and there would be internationally supervised elections. [1]
Image of the division of Vietnam, with the DMZ.
The American President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ngo Dinh Diem, Premier of the State of Vietnam at the Geneva Conference[1]
1. Information + Images: ‘Geneva Accords’, Vietnam War website :
Songs about the First Indochina War
Le d??serteur- Boris Vian
Album: Single, 1959
Monsieur le Pr??sident je vous fais une lettre
Que vous lirez peut-??tre
Si vous avez le temps
Je viens de recevoir
Mes papiers militaires
Pour partir ?? la guerre
Avant mercredi soir
Monsieur le Pr??sident
je ne veux pas la faire
je ne suis pas sur terre
Pour tuer des pauvres gens
C’est pas pour vous f??cher
Il faut que je vous dise
Ma d??cision est prise
Je m’en vais d??serter

Depuis que je suis n??
J’ai vu mourir mon p??re
J’ai vu partir mes fr??res
Et pleurer mes enfants
Ma m??re a tant souffert
Qu’elle est dedans sa tombe
Et se moque des bombes
Et se moque des vers
Quand j’??tais prisonnier
On m’a vol?? ma femme
On m’a vol?? mon ??me
Et tout mon cher pass??
Demain de bon matin
Je fermerai ma porte
Au nez des ann??es mortes
J’irai sur les chemins

Je mendierai ma vie
Sur les routes de France
De Bretagne en Provence
Et je dirai aux gens
Refusez d’ob??ir
Refusez de la faire
N’allez pas ?? la guerre
Refusez de partir
S’il faut donner son sang
Allez donner le v??tre
Vous ??tes bon ap??tre
Monsieur le Pr??sident
Si vous me poursuivez
Pr??venez vos gendarmes
Que je n’aurai pas d’armes
Et qu’ils pourront tirer.

English translation:
The Deserter:
Mr President, I am writing you a letter
That you will read, perhaps
If you have the time
I came to receive
My military papers
To go to the war
Last Wednesday evening
Mr President
I don’t want to do that
I am not on this earth
To kill these poor people
It’s not to make you angry
I must say to you
My decision is made
I am going to desert

Since I was born
I saw my father die
I saw my brothers leave
And my children cry
My mother has suffered so much
That she is inside her tomb
And she mocks bombs
And she mocks their targets
When I was a prisoner
You stole my wife from me
You stole my soul from me
And all dear to me passed
Tomorrow in the early morning
I will close my door
In the nose of the dead years
I will go down these paths

I will beg for my life
On the roads of France
Of Brittany and Provence
And I will say to people
Refuse to obey
Refuse to do it
Don’t go to war
Refuse to leave
If you must give your blood
Go to give yours
You are a good apostle
Mr President
If you chase me
Tell your policemen
That I am not armed
And that they can shoot
Le D??serteur is a famous anti-war song written by the Frenchman Boris Vian. It was released and written in the aftermath of the Battle of Dien Bien Phu on May 1954. The Battle of Dien Bien Phu marked, as you have read, the defeat of the French in Indochina. In the beginning it was forbidden by the French censor to broadcast or sell this song, this prohibition lasted until 1962. Le D??serteur was translated in English, Italian, Danish, Spanish, Catalan and many other languages. This represents how famous this song was, it even became one of the major anti-Vietnam War songs and in the late 1970’s this song was used by nuclear protesters in Brittany. The author, Boris Vian, was a singer, songwriter, playwright, jazz trumpeter and author. He died at the age of 39 and left a huge mark on the French intellectual and artistic movement. [1] Because of the fact that this song was so popular as an anti-Vietnam War song, most people think that the song is about the Vietnam War. However, this song was, as you can read in this part: ‘I will beg for my life, On the roads of France, Of Brittany and Provence’ written about France and the French War in Indochina. Nevertheless it had a clear anti-war message. This anti-war message you can see in sentences as: ‘I am not on this earth To kill these poor people’ , ‘Refuse to obey, Refuse to do it, Don’t go to war’ and ‘If you chase me, Tell your policemen That I am not armed And that they can shoot’. With this last line he wants to refer to the fact that policemen sometimes used their weapons to fight unarmed, peaceful protesters. According to Vian this is unfair. The line also refers to the fact that the person which this song is about, this could be Vian himself, would rather get killed by the police than go to war and kill other people.

The front page of Le Parisien, a famous French newspaper, the day after the Battle of Dien Bien Phu.
1. Information: The songbook ‘ Susan Hiller, 2012, p. 78 and p.80
2. Image: ‘Sixty Years On, Dien Bien Phu’s Battle Against Oblivion’. Written by Bruno Philip, Worldcrunch. October 5, 2014.

The story of the Vietnam War
After the French had lost the war in Indochina the northern half of Vietnam quickly became communist under the direction of Ho Chi Minh. While the southern half of Vietnam was occupied by Ngo Dinh Diem. To understand these two countries I will first explain a bit about these two leaders.
Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh was born in 1890 in Central Vietnam. This was not his real name. He was born with the name Nguy’n Sinh Cung. He changed his name to Nguy’n T’t Th??nh at age ten, according to the Confucian tradition. Later he changed his name to ‘H’ Ch?? Minh’, which means ‘H’ (a common Vietnamese last name) with the will of light’. Ho Chi Minh was best known for being the main force behind the movement against the French occupation during the French Indochina War. He wanted to establish Vietnamese independence. His communist life began at the young age of nine when he worked as a messenger for an anticolonial organization. In this organisation he came in touch with communist ideas and he discovered what he wanted to do with his life. But this wasn’t the only place where he developed his hate against the French. His (Minh) father was a teacher who worked for the French and even though he was a smart man he refused to learn the French language. His father was a nationalist raised his children to resist the rule of the French. From their father’s teachings both children chose a path. Minh’s sister went to join the French Army, but it wasn’t to go against her father. She joined the French Army with the intention of stealing guns and ammunition from the French. She was later caught and was sentenced to prison for the rest of her life. Minh was sent to a French school, even though his father was against the French, to be able to better prepare him for the future of Vietnam. After his education he became a teacher himself, but not for a long time because he decided to be a cook on a ship. Since this boat travelled along many other French countries, he discovered that Vietnam was not the only country that suffered under the French rule. Minh became one of the founders of the French communist party in Vietnam. The French communist party became involved in the Russian revolution. The Russian Revolution also inspired Ho Chi Minh: he wanted to establish a same revolution against the French in Vietnam.
Minh feared that the French would arrest him so he moved to a place in China near the Vietnam border. However, when Germany invaded France and the French lowered their troops in Vietnam, he saw a chance to start his long wanted revolution. To be able to do this, he created the Vietminh. The Vietminh received ammunition from the Soviet Union and later from the Peoples Republic of china, the PRC.
In September 1945, Minh announced that Vietnam would now be the Democratic republic of Vietnam, the DRV. Little did he know that Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin agreed at Potsdam to divide the country into a northern half and a southern half and that France was not going to acknowledge the DRV so easily. This led to the First Indochina War. After the First Indochina war Minh played an important role in the Viet Cong movement against the South Vietnamese and the Americans. The Ho Chi Minh trail, a network made by the Viet Cong to provide them with weapons and supplies, was named after him. Ho Chi Minh died in 1969.
Ngo Dinh Diem
Ngo Dinh Diem was born in 1901 and he was the first President of South Vietnam. Diem was a staunchly anti-communist. His family was Catholic; his ancestors had been converted to Christianity by the Catholic missionaries in the 17th Century. Diem was, just as the rest of his family, educated in a French Catholic school in Vietnam. After Diem graduated he was educated as an administrator for the French authorities in Vietnam. When he reached the age of twenty-five he became a provincial governor.
During the French-Indochina War, Diem left Vietnam and went to live in the United States. While he lived there he met influential Catholics like John F. Kennedy and many others. He told them that he loathed both communism and French colonialism and he smoothly suggested that he would make a good leader of Vietnam if the French would finally decide to withdraw.
When the Geneva conference took place in 1954 (see previous chapter), the U.S. delegation proposed that Diem would make a suitable new ruler of South Vietnam. The French argued against this proposal, claiming that Diem was ‘not only incapable but mad.’ [1] However, eventually it was decided that with Diem they would have the best opportunity to keep South Vietnam from falling under the control of communism. So Diem became the first President of South Vietnam. At first Diem gained a lot of support from the United States, but in 1963 the Americans lost their faith in Diem. This was because of Diems attitude towards Buddhists, in Vietnam 90% of the population were followers of Buddha but because of the French colonialism the Catholics had more power, and Diem was a committed Catholic. This is what happened in 1963:
On May 8 1963, a large crowd of Buddhists assembled in Hue to celebrate the 2527th birthday of the Buddha. The Catholic leaders of the country disliked this happening, and the police made attempts to disperse the crowd by opening fire on them. One woman and eight children were killed when they wanted to flee from the police.
The Buddhists in Vietnam were furious and they began a series of demonstrations against the Diem government. In an attempt to let the world know how they felt about the South Vietnamese government and to show the world how bad the Buddhist were treated in Vietnam, they asked for volunteers to commit suicide. So on June 11 1963, Thich Quang Due, who was a sixty-six year old monk, sat down in the middle of a busy road in Saigon. He was surrounded by a group of Buddhist monks and nuns, they poured petrol over his head and then set fire to the monk. One eyewitness commented later on: “As he burned he never moved a muscle, never uttered a sound, his outward composure in sharp contrast to the wailing people around him.” [2] While the monk was burning to death, the other monks and nuns gave out leaflets and they called for Diem’s government to show “charity and compassion” to all religions in the country.
The government responded to this suicide by arresting thousands of Buddhist monks. Many were killed or disappeared: they were never seen again. By August another five monks had committed suicide by setting fire to themselves in public places. One member of the South Vietnamese government, Madame Nhu, referred to these suicides as Barbecues and she responded to these suicides by telling a newspaper reporter: “Let them burn, and we shall clap our hands.” [3] Another member offered to supply the Buddhists with the necessary petrol to commit suicide.
The assassination of Diem: These cruel events convinced President Kennedy that Diem would not be able to unite the South Vietnamese against communism. Several attempts had already been made to overthrow the government of Diem but President Kennedy had always instructed the CIA in Vietnam to protect him. In order to obtain a more popular leader of South Vietnam, Kennedy agreed that the role of the CIA should change and that the American forces would no longer protect Diem. Lucien Conein, an important CIA operative, provided a group of South Vietnamese generals with $40,000 to carry out a coup. The American Government promised that US forces would make no attempt to protect Diem and at the beginning of November 1963, President Diem and his government were overthrown by a military coup. After the coup the generals promised Diem that he would be allowed to leave the country safely. However, they changed their mind and eventually killed him and two of his brothers. He was replaced by Nguyen Van Thieu, who was the chief of staff of the Armed Forces in the south of Vietnam.

After the First Indochina War: The start of a new war
Diem disliked the Geneva Accords and he planned to consolidate his power in the south. He announced victory after fraudulent elections in 1955, in which he won 600,000 votes from an electorate of 450,000, and he began building a right-wing dictatorship in South Vietnam. And in July 1955 he declared his refusal to permit the elections in 1956 that were called for at the Geneva Conference. This announcement and the fact that Diem was further expanding his power in the South of Vietnam led to a reaction of the North Vietnamese. The North Vietnamese feared that Diem would want to further expand his power into the North. When this discussion led to a point where North Vietnamese units were present in the South, the South Vietnamese Government called the U.S. for help. The U.S. feared that the entire country of Vietnam would become communist if they didn’t help the South Vietnamese, and they feared a domino reaction. This meant that they feared that, when one country would fall in the hands of the communist, other countries would follow. So the Americans responded to South Vietnam by sending troops. This led to the Vietnam War.
The Vietnam War lasted 16 years and it resulted in 60,000 American deaths and in an estimated 2 million Vietnamese deaths, from the Viet Cong / North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and the South Vietnamese forces. Even today, many Americans still ask whether those deaths were a sin or a blunder or if they were necessary and it was a noble cause, an effort to protect the South Vietnamese from a totalitarian communist government.

Vietnam War: a timeline
Because the Vietnam War was a long war and you already know how this war arose I made you a Timeline. I will highlight a few events, but to make it clearer I won’t treat all the subjects very detailed. The highlighted events are: the assassination of Diem, the assassination of Kennedy, The Gulf of Tonkin accident, Operation Rolling Thunder, Tet Offensive, The Battle for Hue, The My Lai Massacre, Operation MENU, the U.S. Invasion of Cambodia, the Kent State Shootings and the Fall of Saigon.

Diem rejects the conditions of the Geneva Accords and he refuses to participate in new nationwide elections.

China and Soviet Union engage an additional financial support to North Vietnam.

Britain, France and the United States urge Diem to respect the Geneva accords and to conduct new discussions with the North of Vietnam.

Diem becomes the President of the Republic of Vietnam: He defeated Bao Dai in the elections and proclaimed himself as President of the Republic of Vietnam.

The U.S. MAAG takes over the South Vietnamese army


U.S. starts training the South Vietnamese: The U.S. Military Assistance Advisor Group (MAAG) was training South Vietnamese forces to help them to stand on their own after the French left.


The Communist insurgent activities in South Vietnam begin:
‘ Guerrillas killed more than 400 South Vietnamese officials.
‘ Thirty-seven armed companies were organized along the Mekong Delta.
‘ Terrorist bombings in Saigon: Thirteen Americans working for MAAG and U.S. Information Service were wounded.


First use of the Ho Chi Minh Trail: weapons were transported along Ho Chi Minh Trail for the first time as North Vietnam formed Group 559 and started infiltrating cadres and weapons into South Vietnam via the Ho Chi Minh Trail. This Trail became a strategic target for future military attacks. Group 559 was a transportation and logistical unit of the People’s Army of Vietnam (the North Vietnamese army) in order to move troops, weapons and material from the North Vietnam to South Vietnam and to build and maintain support facilities along the Ho Chi Ming Trail.

U.S. Servicemen are killed in a guerrilla attack: They became the first Americans to die in the Vietnam War.

Diem orders for a crackdown on Communists and dissidents


The government of North Vietnam enforces a universal military conscription

John F. Kennedy is elected as the President of the U.S.: He narrowly defeated Richard Nixon for the presidency.

A Failed coup attempt on Diem: he survived.

The Vietcong is formed: Hanoi formed the National Liberation Front for South Vietnam (the Vietcong).


Battle of the Kienhoa Province: 400 guerrillas attacked a village in a province called Kienhoa, and were defeated by the South Vietnamese Army.

Vice president Lyndon Johnson visits president Diem in Saigon: Johnson assured Diem that he is important to US objectives in Vietnam and calls him “the Churchill of Asia.” [4]


U.S. Military uses Agent Orange for the first time. Agent orange is a defoliant that came in metal orange containers-to remove leaves from the trees and expose roads and trails used by Vietcong forces.

The Diem Palace is bombed in another failed coup attempt

Senate majority leader Mike Mansfield reports back to John F. Kennedy, all the way from Saigon, his opinion that Diem had wasted the two billion dollars America had spent there. The American distrust towards Diem grows.

1963: a disaster year for Diem

The Battle of Ap Bac: Vietcong units defeated the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) in Ap Bac

Vietnamese Buddhists protest against Diem: Tensions between Buddhists and the Diem government were further strained as Diem removed several Buddhists from key government positions and replaced them with Catholics. Buddhist monks protested Diem’s intolerance for other religions and the measures he takes in effort to silence them. In a show of protest, many Buddhist monks started setting themselves on fire in public places as I wrote in the chapter ‘Ngo Dinh Diem’.

The assassination of Diem:
Diem is finally overthrown and murdered with tacit approval of the United States: President Kennedy had always instructed the CIA in Vietnam to protect him but in order to obtain a more popular leader of South Vietnam, Kennedy agreed that the American forces would no longer protect Diem. Lucien Conein, an important CIA operative, provided a group of South Vietnamese generals with money to carry out a coup. The South Vietnamese generals overthrow Diem. Diem and his brother Nhu are killed in the aftermath of the coup. The leader of the coup, Duong Van Minh, alias ‘Big Minh’ becomes the new leader of the South. This coup is further explained in the chapter ‘Ngo Dinh Diem’.
The assassination of Kennedy:
When John F. Kennedy was hardly past his first thousand days in office, he was shot as he rode in a motorcade though Dallas, Texas. He was shot by a sniper, a man called Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald acted alone and was later killed by Jack Ruby. Kennedy was the youngest man elected President in the U.S. and, unfortunately, he was the youngest to die. His death shocked the U.S. deeply, partly because of the young age of this President and partly because Kennedy was most likely to win the next presidential elections. Kennedy’s death meant that the problem of how to proceed in Vietnam fell immediately into the lap of his Vice President, Lyndon Johnson.


General Nguyen Khanh seizes his power in Saigon: In a bloodless coup General Nguyen Khanh overthrew the South Vietnam junta leader, Major General Duong Van Minh. He was placed under house arrest, but Minh was allowed to remain chief-of-state.

The Gulf of Tonkin Incident:
On August 2, allegedly three North Vietnamese gun boats fired torpedoes at an U.S. warship, the USS Maddox, a battleship patrolling the international waters of the Tonkin Gulf, approximately thirty miles off the coast of North Vietnam. The attack came after six months of secret U.S. and South Vietnamese naval operations. A sea battle was the result. In the end of the battle one U.S. aircraft was damaged, one 14.5 mm round hit the battleship, three North Vietnamese torpedo boats were damaged and four North Vietnamese sailors were killed(six were wounded); there were no American casualties. A second, even more highly disputed attack is said to have taken place two days later, on August 4.

The result: the debate on Gulf of Tonkin Resolutions. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolutions were approved by the Congress in August. This resolution authorized President Johnson to “take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.” These resolutions passed unanimously in the House and by a margin of 82-2 in the Senate. The Resolutions allowed Johnson to wage a war against North Vietnam without ever securing a formal Declaration of War from the Congress. [5]

The Vietcong attack an Air Base in Bienhoa.

Lyndon Johnson is elected in over Republican Barry Goldwater of Arizona: During the campaign, Johnson’s position on Vietnam appeared to lean toward de-escalation of US involvement in Vietnam which sharply contrasted the more militant views held by Barry Goldwater.


Operation “Rolling Thunder” deployed:
The Americans made a large-scale plan to seek and destroy/bomb military targets in North Vietnam. It was called Operation Rolling Thunder and is started begin February. The nearly continuous air raids and bombings would go on for three years and destroy factories, train stations, rail yards, power plants and military bases. Johnson once said in an interview that he would not let the USAF (US Air Force) bomb the smallest outhouse unless he approved. To many this seemed an overstatement but there is much evidence that Johnson had a tight control on the mission objectives and on where the air forces could bomb. Johnson and his advisors believed in a strategy that wouldn’t destroy North Vietnam but slowly bleed it until there was no alternative but a negotiated peace. According to Johnson this strategy was more likely to keep the Soviet Union and the Peoples Republic of China out of the war. Due to this reason, during the first phase of the operation the air campaign was limited to targets in the southern half of North Vietnam. In the second phase of Operation Rolling Thunder they expanded they expanded the mission but they prohibited targets within 30 miles of Hanoi and within 10 miles of Haipong so the amount of citizen casualties would be brought to a minimum.

Marines arrive at the airfield Danang: The first U.S. combat troops, the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, arrived in Vietnam to defend the American airfield at Danang. A battle with Vietcong gunfire was reported, but no Marines were injured.

Heavy fighting at La Drang Valley: The first real battle of the Vietnam War took place as American forces clashed with North Vietnamese units in the La Drang Valley. The US 1st Air Cavalry Division employed its new technique of aerial reconnaissance and eventually defeated the NVA, although heavy casualties were reported on both sides.

U.S. troop levels at a top of 200,000 men.

Vietnam “Teach-In” broadcast to Universities: The practice of protesting the U.S. policy in Vietnam by holding “teach-ins” at colleges and universities becomes widespread in America. The first “teach-in”, featuring rallies, seminars, and speeches, takes place at the University of Michigan in March. In May, a nationally broadcast “teach-in” reaches students at over 100 campuses.


B-52s Bombed North Vietnam: In an effort to disrupt movement along the Mugia Pass, the main route used by the NVA to send personnel and supplies through Laos and into South Vietnam, American B-52s bombed North Vietnam for the first time.

South Vietnamese Government Troops take Hue and Danang.

Lyndon Johnson meets with South Vietnamese leaders: U.S. President Johnson meets with South Vietnamese premier Nguyen Cao Ky and his military advisors in Honolulu. Johnson promises to continue to help South Vietnam, but adds that the U.S. will be monitoring South Vietnam’s efforts to expand democracy and improve economic conditions for its citizens.

Protest movement in America grows:

Veterans stage an anti-war rally: Veterans from World War I and II, along with veterans from the Korean War stage a protest rally in NYC. Discharge and separation papers are burned in protest of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

CORE cites “Burden On Minorities and Poor” in Vietnam: The Congress of Racial Equality, CORE, issued a report claiming that the U.S. military draft placed “a heavy discriminatory burden on minority groups and the poor.” The group called for a withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Vietnam too.


Operation Cedar Falls Begins: In a major ground war effort, called Operation Cedar Falls, about 16,000 US and 14,000 South Vietnamese troops set out to destroy the Vietcong and their supply sites near Saigon. A massive system of tunnels is discovered in an area called the Iron Triangle; it was a headquarter for the Vietcong.

And the protest in the U.S. continues:

Martin Luther King speaks out against war: Calling the U.S. “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world,” Martin Luther King publicly spoke out against the U.S. policy in Vietnam. King later suggests a merger between anti-war and civil rights groups.

Dow recruiters are driven from a Campus in Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin students demand that corporate recruiters for Dow Chemical, the producers of napalm, not be allowed on campus.

McNamara calls bombing ineffective: Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, appearing before a Senate subcommittee, testified that US bombing raids against North Vietnam had not achieved their objectives. McNamara maintained that movement of supplies to South Vietnam had not been reduced and neither the economy nor the morale of the North Vietnamese had been broken.


Sihanouk, the leader of Cambodia, allows the pursuit of the Vietcong into Cambodia

The North Vietnamese launch the Tet Offensive:
During the Tet Holiday, a series of days in which most Vietnamese people visit their family and friends, massive and coordinated NVA/Vietcong assaults took place. In a show of military might that caught the U.S. military off guard, North Vietnamese and Vietcong forces swept down upon several important cities and provinces in South Vietnam, including its capital Saigon. Within days, American forces got back and recaptured most areas. From a military point of view, Tet was a huge defeat for the Communists because they lost almost all newly captured areas within a few days after the assaults. However it turned out to be a political and psychological victory because of two reasons:
‘ The loss of the trust and faith of the American people in their government, also known as the credibility gap. The U.S. military’s assessment of the war was questioned and the “end of tunnel” seemed very far off.
‘ The political and moral will of President Johnson to continue the war reached a minimum. On March 31, he announced a halt to the bombing of North Vietnam.
This was very important because until 1968, the majority of the American people still supported the war, but after the Tet Offensive they lost their faith in the government. The Tet Offensive was one of the most important turning points in the Vietnam War.

Battle for Hue:
The Battle for Hue was a battle of 26 days where U.S. and South Vietnamese forces tried to recapture the city of Hue, which was seized by the Vietcong and the NVA during the Tet Offensive. The Vietcong took the city in a battle that left nearly all of the population homeless. During the Battle Of Hue the Americans recaptured the city. All sides suffered heavy losses. The NVA lost 5,000 soldiers and had nearly 100 captured and the ARVN suffered more than 38- deaths with nearly 2,000 wounded. 210 Americans died and 1,360 were wounded. But these weren’t the most surprising losses: following the U.S. and ARVN victory, mass graves containing the bodies of thousands of people who had been executed during the Communist occupation were discovered in the Jungle outside of Hue. The communists had murdered 3,000 people. Unfortunately, such horrific actions were not limited to Hue. Two weeks after the battle for Hue ended, U.S. forces committed the most publicized, talked about and politicized atrocity of the Vietnam War: the My Lai Massacre.
The My Lai Massacre:
On March 16, the angry and frustrated men of the 11th Brigade, American Division, entered the village of My Lai. “This is what you’ve been waiting for, search and destroy, and you’ve got it,” said their superior officers, such as Lt. William Calley. A short time later the killings began. American soldiers shot women, children and elderly people without any direct provocation. When the news of the atrocities surfaced, it sent shockwaves through the U.S. political establishment, the military’s chain of command and an already divided American public. The My Lai incident became the rallying point for many Americans and anti-war protesters, who thereafter labeled anyone in uniform as ‘baby killer’. The news of the killings was kept secret, but reached the American public in 1969.

The Paris peace talks Begin: Following a lengthy period of discussion, North Vietnamese and American negotiators agreed on a location and start date of peace talks. Their negotiations began in Paris on May 10 with Averell Harriman representing the United States and former Foreign Minister Xuan Thuy heading the North Vietnamese delegation. However, it would take them a long time of negotiating before they reach a peace accord.

Robert Kennedy is assassinated: The brother of John F. Kennedy was killed before the elections. U.S. people are shocked.

Upheaval at Democratic Convention in Chicago: As the Democratic party prepared to hold its nominating convention in Chicago, city officials geared up for a series of demonstrations. Mayor Richard Daley ordered police to crackdown on anti-war protests. As the nation watched on television, the area around the convention erupted in violence and riots. The dissatisfaction amongst the Americans was bigger than the authorities had expected, that was why these protest escalated so much.

Richard Nixon was elected as a President: Richard Nixon barely beats out Hubert Humphrey for the presidency. Nixon took 43.4 percent of the popular vote compared to 42.7 percent for Humphrey which made it a narrow victory.


Operation MENU:
Nixon Begins secret bombing of Cambodia: In an effort to destroy the communist supply routes and base camps in Cambodia, President Nixon gave the go-ahead to Operation MENU. These bombings were secret because both Laos and Cambodia were officially neutral so no American forces were allowed in these countries. However, the Vietcong were secretly allowed to use the rainforest in Cambodia and Laos to make supply routes and safe base camps. To weaken the Vietcong, Nixon saw no choice but to destroy the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the base camps in Cambodia. The covert bombing of Cambodia conducted without the knowledge of the Congress or the American public. Another reason to keep the bombings secret was because Nixon didn’t want to add more fuel to the anti-war sentiment at home. He guessed that Americans would see the bombing raids as an escalation of the war when they were expecting more movement towards peace.
The policy of “Vietnamization” was announced: Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird described a policy of “Vietnamization” when discussing a diminishing role for the U.S. military forces in Vietnam. The objective of the policy was to shift the burden of defeating the Communists onto the South Vietnamese Army and away from the United States by training the South Vietnamese Army and educating them how to destroy the communists. This policy was announced because of the growing influence of the American disagreement and protests on the government and the Congress.

Ho Chi Minh Dies at the age of 79.

Massive anti-war Demonstration in DC: Big Moratorium Day Demonstration in November 1969.

The news of the My Lai Massacre reaches the U.S.: Through the reportings of journalist Seymour Hersh, Americans read for the first time about the atrocities committed by Lt. William Calley and his troops in the village of My Lai, a short time after the Moratorium Day Demonstration. The Army had tried to keep the news secret but at the time the reports were made public, the Army had already charged Calley with the crime of murder.

The news was followed only days later by the news of Nixon’s secret bombings in Cambodia. This series of revelations lead to major protests all over the U.S.


Sihanouk ousted in Cambodia: Prince Sihanouk’s attempt to maintain Cambodia’s neutrality while war raged in neighbouring Vietnam forced him to strike opportunistic alliances with China and then the United States. Such vacillating weakened his government and lead to a coup orchestrated by his minister of defence, Lon Nol, who was supported by the U.S.

The U.S. invades Cambodia:
Cambodia continued to be a problem as the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong continued to conduct operations into South Vietnam from their bases in Cambodia. Nixon decided to send U.S. troops into Cambodia. Nixon told the American people ‘This is not an invasion of Cambodia. We take this action not for the purpose of expanding the war into Cambodia but for the purpose of ending the war in Vietnam and winning the just peace as we all desire.’ [6] The goals of the invasion were: Disrupting the plans of the Vietcong and buying extra time for Vietnamization. During the incursion the U.S. forces captured thousands of weapons and millions of rounds of ammunition. They also completely disrupted the supply network that fed the communist forces in Vietnam. During these battles, 383 American soldiers and 693 South Vietnamese soldiers died. However, compared to the 11.000 NVA/Vietcong soldiers that were killed the Cambodian Incursion was a great success.
The American people initially supported the invasion but that support didn’t last for long. The media and several prominent Americans, such as famous artist and musicians, protested the invasion and this led to major protests. These demonstrations led to the Kent State University killings. Another problem was that the Congressional support for the war also decreased significantly: The Senate repealed the Gulf of Tonkin resolutions and the Congress passed the Cooper-Church amendment which further restricted the use of military forces in Asia.
Pictures of the Kent State Shootings, 1970[7]

Kent State Incident:
National Guardsmen opened fire on a crowd of student anti-war protesters at Kent State University in Ohio, resulting in the death of four students and the wounding of eight others. President Nixon publicly disapproved the actions of the Guardsmen, but cautioned: “When dissent turns to violence it invites tragedy.” Several of the protesters had been throwing rocks and empty tear gas canisters at the Guardsmen. These killings led to even more protests in the U.S. and more disagreement with the government by the American people. As Patti Smith describes in her book Just Kids, the Kent State Shootings remarked the end of the positive and bright 1960’s and the beginning of the more dark and pessimistic 1970’s. [8]

Number of U.S. troops present in Vietnam fell to 280.000 as the process of Vietnamization continued.


Pentagon Papers are published: A legacy of deception, concerning U.S. policy in Vietnam, was revealed as the New York Times published the Pentagon Papers. The Nixon administration, eager to stop leaks of what they consider sensitive information, appealed to the Supreme Court to halt the publication but their efforts failed as the Court allowed continued publication.

Nixon announces plans to visit the Peoples Republic of China: Nixon’s move, the announcement of his intention to visit The Peoples Republic of China, troubled the North Vietnamese. Nixon’s gesture toward China was seen as an effort to create discord between the North Vietnamese and their Chinese allies by the North Vietnamese government.

Thieu was re-elected in South Vietnam as leader of the government.


Nixon cuts troop levels by 70.000: Because of charges, by democratic presidential candidates, that Nixon was not moving fast enough towards the termination of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, President Nixon ordered to reduce the troop strength by 70.000.

The secret peace talks are revealed: The American people finally hoped that the war would end soon.

B-52s Bomb Hanoi and Haiphong: In an attempt to force North Vietnam to make concessions in the ongoing peace talks, the Nixon administration ordered heavy bombing of supply dumps and petroleum storages in and around Hanoi and Haiphong. The administration made it clear to the North Vietnamese that no section of Vietnam is off-limits to bombing raids. This led to more disagreement at the home front.

Kissinger Says “Peace Is At Hand”: Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho reached an agreement in principle on several key measures that would lead to a cease-fire in Vietnam. Kissinger’s view that “peace is at hand,” is dimmed a bit by South Vietnamese President Thieu’s opposition to the agreement.

Nixon wins re-elections in 1972


Peace accord signed in Paris: A cease-fire agreement that, in the words of Richard Nixon, “brings peace with honour in Vietnam and Southeast Asia,” was signed in Paris by Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho. The agreements were to go into effect in January.

End of the draft is announced: The last American troops left Vietnam

Hearings on Secret Bombings Begin: The Senate Armed Services Committee opened a hearing on the U.S. secret bombings in Cambodia. Allegations were made that the Nixon administration allowed bombing raids to be carried out during a time when Cambodia’s neutrality was officially recognized. As a result of the hearings, the congress ordered that all bombings in Cambodia cease effective at midnight, August 14.

Kissinger and Le Duc Tho Win Peace Prize: The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Henry Kissinger of the United States and Le Duc Tho of North Vietnam. Kissinger accepted the award, while Tho declined. He mentioned that a true peace did not yet exist in Vietnam.


Thieu announces a renewal of the war because he does not agree with the new cease-fire accords.

Report cites the damage to the Vietnamese ecology: According to a report issued by The National Academy of Science, use of chemical herbicides during the war caused long-term damage to the ecology of Vietnam. Subsequent inquiries will focus on the connection between certain herbicides, mostly Agent Orange, and widespread reports of cancer, skin disease and other disorders on the part of people who were exposed to the chemicals.

Communists take Mekong delta as a territory

Nixon resigns and Ford becomes the new president of the Unites States.

Communists plan a major offensive: The North Vietnamese forces in the South felt as if they were at their highest levels ever so South Vietnamese leaders girded themselves for an expected Communist offensive of big proportions.


The major offensive begins: Communist forces broke the Paris Peace Accords and invade South Vietnam.
Communist forces capture of the Phuoc Long province: The South Vietnamese Army lost twenty planes in a failed effort to defend Phuoc Long, a key province in the north of Saigon. North Vietnamese leaders interpreted the US’s complete lack of response to the offensive as an indication that they could move more aggressively in the South.

Hue falls to the communists (again)

Communists take aim at Saigon: The North Vietnamese initiated the Ho Chi Minh Campaign, a concerted effort to “liberate”/take Saigon. Under the command of General Dung, the NVA set out to capture Saigon by late April. It was in advance of the rainy season.

Ford calls the Vietnam War finished: Anticipating the fall of Saigon to communist forces, U.S. president Gerald Ford, speaking in New Orleans, announced that as far as the U.S. was concerned, the Vietnam War was “finished.”

Saigon falls to the communists:
Last Americans are evacuated as Saigon falls to the communists: The South Vietnamese president Duong Van Minh delivered an unconditional surrender to the Vietcong/NVA in the early hours of April 30. The North Vietnamese colonel Bui Tin accepts the surrender and assures Minh that, “Only the Americans have been beaten. If you are patriots, consider this a moment of joy.” As the few remaining Americans were evacuated from Saigon, the last two U.S. servicemen to die in Vietnam were killed when their helicopter crashed. This is considered to be the official end of the Vietnam War.

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