Why did America lose the Vietnam War?
Vietnam War has become a separate course in the history department of many universities. Many famous books, such as George Herring’s America’s Longest War, are now included in the course (Hunt, p253, 1999). However, the difference in the opinion of people regarding whether the war was just or unjust still remains. Even in United States many people still think that their government had no reason to bomb a relatively poor and already destabilized country. The Vietnam War was a struggle between United States and Vietnam. The United States believed that Vietnam was becoming a communist country just like its neighbouring country China.
According to them this was a domino effect created by China, which like a contagious disease will spread all over Asia and will eventually reach America. This fear regarding the spread of communism made the government of United States make hasty decisions. Some of these decisions came forward in the form of foreign policies of the country and others resulted as this war. First the French and later United States tried their best to stop this spread which had started from the North of Vietnam. However, this spread did not stop, and guerrillas from the North started an insurgency in the South (Moyar, p110-250, 2006).
Formerly, Ho Chi Minh had already followed suit of Soviet Union. Vietnamese realized that they were not fighting for communism, but were fighting for their independence. In those days France was controlling the entire Vietnam. The French did not like the idea of an independent Vietnam and hence continued to suppress all revolts (Moyar, p110-250, 2006). The Americans supported and provided aid to the French; however they lost in the end. The United States finally thought that it was time for it to take over in order to stop the spread of communism. 1. 2 About the study
The main aim of the study is to find out the reasons why America lost The Vietnam war. In order to find out the reasons of the defeat, an extensive secondary research has been done. As in this report Primary research could not be conducted, therefore all the data available comes from other studies. The report has been broken down according to different phases of this war, for example the beginning of the war where America commits to the war is one phase, the vietnamization is another phase, therefore all the incidents and important events which decide whether America will lose or win have been included.
The report progresses in a chronological order. The first chapter in the report is ‘history’. In this historical events starting from the French rule in Vietnam are discussed. This chapter slowly progresses towards the causes of the war. The second part of this report discusses the motive behind this war. This chapter explains the domino theory and moreover discusses how America feared that all the nations in South East Asia are becoming communist states. The United States at this point started to aid the French who were fighting in Vietnam.
As France was a non communist state, the US preferred it to stay in Vietnam and rule the Vietnamese nation rather than the communists coming from the North and making whole of Vietnam a communist state. America believed that after China if Vietnam also became a communist state, a time will come when the last domino will hit them and their nation will also become communist. The American government feared communism so much as it was opposite to all of their beliefs and things which they were dependent on.
Moreover, this chapter also discusses the attitudes of various presidents who came and went during this war in the US. Each and every President had his own reason to attack Vietnam. However the most notably foreign policy blunders were made by John F Kennedy, which ahs been discussed in the relevant chapter. The next chapter discusses how America commits to war and starts sending its troops to Vietnam. At first it was just air planes bombing there, later the marines and soldiers also entered their territory and the war smouldered on. The most important weapon the Vietnamese had, were their guerrilla tactics.
They were able to kill many America n soldiers with these tactics, however remained indiscoverable for a long time. The Americans fell for their booby traps and many got killed. The ones who were injured were sent back. The next chapter discusses how the international community responds to this situation. The communist states at that time, which were the Soviet Union and China, were constantly threatening America that they will intervene if the war goes on for too long or if the Americans spend very generously. From time to time these chapters give the reasons of Americas defeat in a chronological order.
For example in the earlier chapters the blunders made by each president, the factors which contributed to this war, are discussed. Later how the guerrilla tactics of the Vietcong were difficult to predict and was yet another factor why America lost is also discussed. After discussing how the International community responded to this, other chapter discuses the problems faced by the Americans during this war. It was more of a psychological warfare. The portrayal of what American was doing in this war, back home triggered anger among the nation of America.
People started protesting, and when the soldiers in the battlefield hear this they were greatly demoralized, that whatever they were doing here in Vietnam is a result of a mistake. The next chapter discusses various war crimes committed by the Americans in this war. Unlike the Germans, in case of America it was more of a freelance event. The government as a whole had made some mistakes, but the soldiers at that time were so frustrated as many of them were getting killed and yet they found no one to shoot at, therefore they started to kill any civilian who came along.
In this context, the biggest even that took place was the My Lai massacre. This has also been discusses along with the fact, how media took footage of every scene during this brutal killing. After discussing the vietnamization, the defeat of the Americans has been discussed. The next chapter gives a detailed view of the reasons which led to the defeat of the Americans. It discusses each and every factor and connects it to the events in this war. 1. 3 Assumptions and limitations It has been assumed that all the information provided in the sources used is correct and up-to-date.
For this reason only authentic websites, journals and books have been used to collect the information. The statistics given in this report has also been taken from an authentic site and is taken at face value. As I have taken collected the information from other sources and no primary research has been done, therefore I am not responsible for any wrong information provided in these sources. As the study was based on secondary research, therefore the information given in this report is already present in various literatures. However, none of the literatures ahs discussed the causes why America lost the war in detail.
This report gives a detailed account of the reasons which led to the defeat of the Americans. 1. 4 Significance This report has also discuses various mistakes made by the American government during and before this war. Each nation has a right to choose between communism and non-communism. Taking this in to account, the main reason for America attacking Vietnam was wrong. It could have helped the South Vietnamese, provide them with all sorts funding but it was not the duty of a superpower to tell all the nations of the world what they should believe in. 1. 5 Research question
The main research question around which the whole report is based is; “Why did America lose the Vietnam war”? The report progresses in a chronological order and discusses the events and various causes of Americans defeat. In the end all the causes have been discussed in detail. 1. 6 Methodology This paper has made use of a mix methodological approach. Both primary and secondary research methods have been used. However, secondary research method has been emphasized upon, as not much of primary sources were available. Most of the primary sources come from veterans, media people and some politicians back in America.
1. 61 primary sources Charles Henderson’s book ‘Marine Sniper’ has been one of the best primary resources used in this report. Charles had spent 23 years in Marine Corps and was present in the Vietnam War. This book, even though does not clearly give reasons why the American lost the Vietnam War, but many things can be interpreted from his narration. For example, he starts his book by how a teenage child uses bicycle to transport the supplies for the Vietnamese via the Ho Chi Minh route. Moreover, he also had to tell how he killed the boy in order to save himself.
This clearly shows the criticality of the route both for Vietnamese and Americans. Like this quite a few other primary sources have been used. These sources give a clear and first hand information about what was actually going on during the war and in the battle field. Only a person who has been there can explain this. However, as mentioned before there are vey few books, which can be included in the primary research, which present a clear outline of why the Americans lost the Vietnam War. Hence most of the reasons presented have been interpreted from the primary sources.
1. 62 secondary sources Most of the information collected for this report has been from secondary sources. Quite a few writers have given various reasons why America lost the War in Vietnam. Mark Moyar for example, has explained why America did not win this war. As he himself was not present during According to him he used only primary sources to collect the information. Hence the information he provides in his book, ‘Triumph forsaken’ is true can be used as a secondary source. The literature review below gives an overview from both the primary and secondary sources.
1. 7 Literature Review It is not easy to point out one reason responsible for the defeat of the United States in Vietnam. Moreover there is very minimal literature presenting these reasons. Most of the people who have given any reason for the defeat have not been directly involved in the war. Therefore, much of the research in this area comes from the secondary sources. Henderson in his book, ‘Marine sniper’ has described how the guerrillas used teenage children to transport ammunition and other supplies via the Ho Chi Minh route (Henderson, 1-5, 1988).
These guerrillas used just bicycles to transport the supplies from North Vietnam to the South. Ho Chi Minh route in Vietnam was also one of the important reasons why America lost in Vietnam. It was difficult for the American to see anything even from a plane, due to thick green trees which covered most of South Vietnam. Hence finding the exact route of the trail became more difficult. Another important reason was the fact that it is difficult to fight in an unknown land, this becomes more difficult in Vietnam as due to underdevelopment no proper roads and routes were formed and hence no documentation was available.
According to Moyar; “… but I don’t think the war can be won unless the people support the effort, and in my opinion, in the last two months, the government has gotten out of touch with the people. The repressions against the Buddhists, we felt, were very unwise… ” (Moyar, 252, 2006), As, not in the beginning but towards the end, many nations and especially the Americans themselves believed that this war was unnecessary, therefore it was very difficult for, not only the government but also the personnel back in Vietnam to focus on what they were doing.
Anti war movements and rallies clearly presented the point that their own nation was against this war. People lost faith in government and government lost its touch with the people, and this relationship, according to Moyar is very important element in winning a war. Schulzinger, in his book has given one of the best political, social, economic and military aspects of this war (n. p, 1999). His knowledge as a historian is well used here as he starts explaining the presence of America in Vietnam beginning from the very end of World War II. He has also explained why the Americans got frustrated when the war did not end according to their terms.Sample Essay of Custom-Writing