After the Vietnam War

In 1975, two years after the Americans left, South Vietnam was united with the North - it was now a communist state. What was the lasting effect of war on America and Vietnam?

Results of the Vietnam War

Vietnam united

Map of Vietnam

  • Although the Americans left Vietnam in 1973, they continued to support the South Vietnamese army - the ARVN [ARVN: Army of the Republic of Vietnam, created by the French in 1950. ] - with financial and military aid.
  • In April 1975 the South Vietnamese regime collapsed and Vietnam was united.

The impact on Vietnam

Boat on the water

  • The North Vietnamese army - the NVA - massacred thousands of South Vietnamese after the Americans had left. Many people tried to flee South Vietnam (eg the "boat people").
  • The Vietnamese had to fight wars against Cambodia and China before their independence was secured.
  • Vietnam was ruined - its infrastructure was destroyed, thousands of its people had been killed, and its farmland was polluted by American chemical warfare. It remains one of the poorest countries in the world.

The impact on America

image icon: 58,000 Americans died

  • 58,000 Americans died in Vietnam.
  • The war had cost so much that President Johnson's Great Society programme of social reform had to be cancelled.
  • Loss of confidence: America had failed to "contain" communism. In 1973, Nixon announced that America was abandoning the Truman Doctrine. It was nearly 20 years before America again intervened militarily in world affairs. - The domino theory was proved to be wrong. The fall of South Vietnam to communism was not immediately followed by a similar effect in other countries.
  • News of atrocities such as the killings at My Lai [My Lai: The place where US soldiers massacred hundreds of unarmed Vietnamese civilians, mostly women and children, on 16 March 1968, during the Vietnam War. It has become a symbol of US war crimes in Vietnam. ] lost the US its claim to moral superiority, and its status as the world's defender of freedom and right.
  • 700,000 Vietnam veterans suffered psychological after-effects.

Answer preparation

As part of your revision, think about the arguments and facts you would use to explain:

  1. What the consequences of its failure in Vietnam were for the US.
  2. What the impact of the war was on the peoples of Vietnam and the US during the 1960s and 1970s.
  3. Why peace has been difficult to find for the people of Vietnam.
  4. Whether the Vietnam War was a disaster for the US.
  5. How successfully the US "contained" communism in south-east Asia.

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