Vietnam War

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From the American perspective, the War in Vietnam was fought between 1961 and 1975 on the ground in South Vietnam and bordering areas of Cambodia and Laos (See Secret War) and through aerial bombardment of North Vietnam, Laos and Combodia. See also the timeline of the Vietnam War. Some Americans saw the war as only proxy battlegound in the larger Cold War. Others saw it for what it really was, a war between nationalist insurgents and the miltiary of one of two superpowers.

From the perspective of the Vietnamese it was the last part of the long war that began with French imperialist aggression in the 1840s. Today in Vietnam, this conflict is known as the American War (Vietnamese Chiến Tranh Chống Mỹ Cứu Nước, literally War Against the Americans to Save the Nation).

The combat in this last period of the long war was between a coalition of forces including the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam or the "RVN") and the United States, with small deployments from South Korea, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines. The British and Canadian governments wisely refused to send troops. Fighting on the other side was a coalition of forces including the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) and the National Liberation Front, a South Vietnamese guerrilla movement known in the U.S. as the "Viet Cong". The USSR and People's Republic of China provided intermittent military aid and diplomatic and moral support to the North Vietnamese and to the NLF, but they were not directly involved in the fighting.

The war was part of a larger regional conflict involving the neighboring countries of Cambodia and Laos, known as the Second Indochina War. Annam, Cochin China, Cambodia and Laos were all directly or indirectly ruled as parts of French Indochina.

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Degeneration

The war was unpopular both internationally and domestically. Protests against the war took place in every major university in Europe, Japan, Canada and the United States.

U.S. miltiary morale almost collapsed in the last years of the war. Soldiers sought escape in prostitution, alcohol and other drug use. Heroin was widely consumed. Between 1969 and 1971 there were 730 "fragging" incidents, or deadly attacks on officers and senior NCOs by lower ranked enlisted personnel, which rsulted in the deaths of 83 officers. Serious racial conflict between White and Black troops erupted 20 times in 1969 alone. Soul Alley in Saigon became home to a population of some 500 Black deserters.

Race and class framed much of the anger voiced by soldiers about the war. Middle class white males who might never participate in an anti-war protest rally nontheless devoted immense efforts to escaping conscription. Surprisingly, only 24.9% of enlisted and conscripted U.S. soldiers in the miltiary between 1965 and 1972 actually served in South Vietnam or on support ships off the coast. Three-fourths served in non-combat areas in trhe U.S., Western Europe or Japan.

In 1971 a forum was held in Detroit to hold testimony from soldiers who report about atrocities reported to have been committed by United States soldiers. This testimony has been made into a film titled "Winter Soldier" [1]

Further Reading

  • American Historical Memory
    • Walter H. Capps. 1982. The Unfinished War: Vietnam and the American Conscience. Boston: Beacon Press. ISBN 0807032603.
  • How and Why the War was Americanized
    • Philip E. Catton. 2002. Diem's Final Failure: Prelude to America's War in Vietnam. Lawremce, KS: University Press of Kansas. ISBN 0700612203. (This is a somewhat sympathetic, less cartoonish portrayal of Diem).
    • Frances Fitzgerald. 1972. Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and Americans in Vietnam. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0316159190, ISBN 0679723943, ISBN 0316284238. (Powerful analysis.)
    • For a discussion of the antipathy between Bao Dai and Ngo Dinh Diem see Seth Jacobs. 2004. America's Miracle Man in Vietnam: Ngo Dinh Diem, Religion, Race and U.S. Intervention in Southeast Asia. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. ISBN 0822334402.
    • James Landers. 2004. The Weekly War. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press. ISBn 0826215342.
    • Robert Mann. 2001. A Grand Delusion: America's Descent into Vietnam. New York: Perseus. ISBN 0-46-504370-4, ISBN 0465043690.
    • Richard Reeves. 1994. President Kennedy: Profile of Power. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0671892894.
    • Francis X. Winters. 1997. The Year of the Hare: America in Vietnam, Janurary 25, 1963-February 15, 1968. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. ISBN 0820318744. Chapter 11, Ngo Dinh Diem: Mandarin on an Empty Throne. Pp. 153-165.
    • Eric R. Wolf. 1969. Peasant Wars of the Twentieth Century. Red River Books. ISBN 0806131969. Pp. 194-195. (Discussion of the minority Roman Catholic exodus south.)

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