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The Vietnamese Civil War

The Vietnamese Civil War, or Second Indochina War, began as a war between two countries – North and South Vietnam and erupted into an earth shattering event that took the lives of many individuals. What began as a war between one culture became a worldwide battle between good and evil, or the unofficial battlefield of the Cold War between Democracy and Communism. As the war unfolded many events took place that created major shifts within the war. Decisions were made within Washington D. C.

, Hanoi and the government of Saigon that created massive impacts on events. Many of these events erupted due to the decision makers in Washington D. C. and took place between the years of 1964 and 1968. The actual Americanization of the Vietnamese Civil War began at the very end of 1963, shortly after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22. Lyndon B Johnson assumed the role of the President of the United States and was inaugurated on November 26, 1963 – four days after the assassination.

On November 30, 1963 Johnson initiated the NSAM 273, which was a “plan for covert military attacks on North Vietnam, with ‘estimates of such factors as: a. Resulting damage to NVN; b. the plausibility of denial; c. Possible NVN retaliation’ as well as covert military operations within Laos. ” (Franklin et al. 239) These covert operations were to be kept secret from the people of the United States, however Washington did not hide their presence within the war, nor the fact that these covert operations were “aimed directly at” the Hanoi government.

(Franklin et al. 239) Washington D. C. ’s secret plan was to finance and direct covert attacks against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam through the mercenaries and forces in Saigon, appoint a new US commander to prepare for the influx of a large number of US troops to enter South Vietnam who would first defend the US air bases and eventually take control of the countryside. (Franklin et al.

239-240) Johnson’s NSAM 273, or secret plan, was to escalate and widen the Vietnam War so that Congress would grant military carte blanche, or freedom to act. The United States was not the only country taking war into consideration at the end of 1963; the opposing forces had begun deliberations surrounding the possibility of war. Shortly after the deaths of Diem and John F. Kennedy the Central Committee of the Lao Dong Party convened to consider the current situation in the South.

The solution to obtaining power over the southern part of the country no longer meant focusing solely on the ARVN forces or the “new and more powerful firepower made available to the Saigon government” the committee had to answer the question – “What if the United States chose to land its own troops in the South and make it an American war? ” (Young 116) The party realized that if the United States chose to take part in the war that the government of Saigon would hold up against any amount of military invasion; therefore, the party considered immediate escalation of war tactics in the South prior to US involvement.

However, this was not completed because of the possibility of a widened war, as well as potentially angering the Soviet Union. (Young 116) Duang had no desire to cut the government’s ties with Moscow and the Vietnamese Worker’s Party sent a circular letter to the bloc parties, which promised that the war could be contained within the boundaries of South Vietnam. Duang urged the VWP to delete a “critical reference to the Soviet ‘revisionism’ (a slap at Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev)” however the message was still clear.

(Gilbert 62) North Vietnamese officials suspected that pro-Soviet opinions had been removed from the government and the “articles critical of alleged ‘revisionism’ appeared in the official press. ” (Gilbert 62) This was the first time that the Hanoi government had broken away from its careful “policy of neutrality in the Sino-Soviet dispute. ” (Gilbert 62) Hanoi’s lack of response was a miscalculation of Washington D. C. ’s plan of action. (Gilbert 62)

In 1964, the United States began acting upon its secret plan with the inception of the Operation Plan 34A, which was a series of covert operations that were for the purpose of placing pressure on the Hanoi government. Operation Plan 34A consisted of air and naval surveillance of North Vietnam, commando raids against bridges and railways; disruption of NLF supply lines that ran through Laos and American air bombings of Pathet Lao positions. In early August of 1964 villages located on the Lao border were bombed as well. (Young 114)

Other momentous events took place that led to significant decisions taking place in Washington D. C. in 1964. On August 2, 1964 at 11:30 pm Lyndon B Johnson would charge that the USS Maddox and Turner Joy were attached by North Vietnamese torpedo boats and that the US had retaliated by bombing specific strategic North Vietnamese targets. This alleged attack would provoke the United States to approach Congress to obtain a pre-declaration of war upon North Vietnam and ultimately Americanize the Vietnam War, which led to the suffering of the Vietnamese people. Three days after this alleged attack Washington D. C.

would pass the Tonkin Resolution that allowed the President of the United States to “take all necessary measure to repel any armed attacks against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression. ” (SarDesai 82) In the end, Washington would actually find that the United States provoked this attack in the China Sea “seeking a pretext for bombing North Vietnam. ” (Lembcke 30) At this stage of the war, the Hanoi government party leaders concluded that Washington had no intention of exiting South Vietnam and a few weeks later the VWP Politburo approved plans to dispatch the first North Vietnamese troops into South Vietnam.

This reaction to the United States’ involvement further damaged Hanoi’s relationship with the Soviet Union and the relationship began to falter. However, Beijing supported the strategic reaction and promised that they would increase military assistance as long as the Hanoi government would continue to act offensively to the efforts of South Vietnam. The tables suddenly turned for the North Vietnamese when in October 1964, Khrushchev was overthrown and Alexi Kosygin took power in the Kremlin.

This change of power within the Soviet Union had a significant impact on Hanoi, as the new leaders were receptive to their military action and for the remainder of the Vietnam War provided military equipment. Beijing was not completely supportive of the Soviet Union’s new involvement and the Hanoi government found that they could benefit by working both sides to the argument. (Gilbert 62) The winter of 1964-1965 brought about political chaos in Saigon, as “one regime followed another with bewildering rapidity.

” The Viet Cong took advantage of the situation and gained advantage over the South Vietnamese forces in this area. (Gilbert 63) At this stage the Hanoi government decided not to send additional troops down the Ho Chi Min Trail in hopes that the Viet Cong would gain control of Saigon and collapse the current regime by midsummer. (Gilbert 63) February 7, 1965 the NLF attacked the United States Air Base at Pleiku in the Central Highlands. This attack killed 8, wounded 126 and destroyed 8 United States Military planes. This attack initiated by North Vietnam served as the foundation for Washington D.

C. ’s response. On February 13, President Lyndon B. Johnson authorized Rolling Thunder, “the sustained bombing of the North. ” The President of the United States left “the timing of its implementation open. ” (Young 136) This type of warfare was described as “limited war” and the process was called “gradualism. ” (Giangreco, Gilmore, and Grau 27) McGeorge Bundy stated in a memo that should the plan fail, “At a minimum it will damp down the charge that we did not do all that we could have done, and this charge will be important in many countries, including our own. ” (Young 136)

Many believe this strategy ultimately led to the victory of North Vietnam, as the plan “had very little effect on the progress of the war and soon became almost an end in itself. ” (SarDesai 82) The objective of Operation Rolling Thunder was to damage the DRV’s economy, reduce the number of troops and supplies being sent south and to ultimately “force the North Vietnamese to agree to a negotiated settlement. ” (SarDesai 82) Unfortunately, the United States prediction was incorrect, as the North had very few targets of strategic value and most of their ammunition came from capturing South Vietnamese and United States soldiers.

(SarDesai 82) The processes of Operation Rolling Thunder enabled the enemy to predict the location of future attacks and prepare for the battle. This preparation of the opposing forces resulted in a number of lost lives. (Giangreco, Gilmore, and Grau 27) At the operation’s approval it was believed that the government in Saigon was not stable and that if the United States acted upon the operation, the instability would result in catastrophic results. In the city of Saigon, a coup was launched, “finely tuned by Taylor and the commander of the American forces in Vietnam, General William Westmoreland.

” (Young 138) The overthrow was successful and as a result, the power of Saigon was then placed in the hands of Generals Ky, Thi and Theiu. The three leaders were each in a considerable amount of debt with the United States; therefore, Washington felt safe with these political people in power. On March 1, 1965 the Saigon government pledged to the United States that they would not negotiate with the enemy, or North Vietnam. The following day Operation Rolling Thunder commenced and 100 planes took off in search of specific North Vietnamese targets. (Young 138)

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