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History

The war in Vietnam

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The Vietnam War did not seem like a fair match. The Americans had a huge army, money and technology at their disposal while the Vietcong were an underground army, using underground tactics. So why couldn't the Americans defeat the Vietcong?

Overview

  • In February 1965, President Johnson ordered Operation Rolling Thunder - a massive bombing campaign against North Vietnam.
  • He sent US troops - 500,000 by 1969 - to fight in Vietnam.
  • In November 1965, General William Westmoreland, the US commander, lured the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) to attack a force of American troops at Ia Drang, then destroyed the attackers with a massive air strike.
  • In 1968, the CIA started Operation Phoenix, arresting, interrogating and killing suspected Vietcong activists.
  • Despite this, the Americans could not succeed in driving the Vietcong out of the rural areas
  • In January 1968, the NVA launched the Tet Offensive, capturing a number of towns in South Vietnam.
  • The North Vietnamese lost 45,000 men, including many officers. Their morale was damaged - the offensive proved that they could not defeat the Americans by direct attack.
  • It took the Americans a month to recover the towns. Their confidence was badly shaken. They won the Tet Offensive, but realised that they would never defeat the Vietcong.

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Back to Vietnam 1954 - 1975 index

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