Events Leading Up To The Vietnam War

Essay, Research Paper History of Foreign Intervention Vietnam, bordered by China to the north, Laos to the west and northwest, and Cambodia (now Kampuchea) to the southwest, is an S-shaped country no bigger than the state of Florida. Vietnam occupies the eastern coast of the Indochinese Peninsula. For thousands of years the people of Vietnam have lived with constant foreign intervention and colonization (by the French).

Essay, Research Paper

History of Foreign Intervention Vietnam, bordered by China to the north, Laos to the west and northwest, and Cambodia (now Kampuchea) to the southwest, is an S-shaped country no bigger than the state of Florida. Vietnam occupies the eastern coast of the Indochinese Peninsula. For thousands of years the people of Vietnam have lived with constant foreign intervention and colonization (by the French). For two thousand years before the French established colonial rule in 1887, the Vietnamese people had defended their border against the Chinese-on many occasions unsuccessfully. Eventually, it was the payment of an annual tribute to the Chinese emperor that put an end to Chinese intervention. (Edwards, 12) In the nineteenth century, the industrialized nations of Europe were competing with each other for control of the resources and markets of the world. In 1843, when a permanent naval fleet was deployed in Asian waters to protect the trading privileges of the French, the intervention of France began. During their period of rule, the French expropriated the land; destroyed an almost universal system of education; supplanted stable, local government with an inept colonial administration; and taxed millions of Vietnamese into starvation-level poverty. (Boettcher, 7) The French moved from south to north, eventually winning control of three Vietnamese states. The first to be acquired by France was Cochinchina. After only five months of the French battling against the armies of the emperor of Vietnam, in 1862, a French admiral forced the Vietnamese emperor, Tu Duc, to cede that part of his territory by treaty. (Williams,13) The treaty was ratified in April 1863, recognizing French control of the Saigon area and the opening of several major posts to French trade. The area of Cochinchina was ruled by the French military until 1879, when civilian control was reestablished and the first governor general was appointed, but those civilians weren t Vietnamese. (Boettcher,10) The second and third states to fall to the French were Annam (central Vietnam) and Tonkin (northern Vietnam). In August 1883, the French attacked Hue, the imperial capital of Annam, and Hanoi, the principal city of Tonkin. French ships bombarded Hue and a strong ground force moved in on Hanoi. Emperor Tu Duc had died only the month before, no successor had been enthroned, and the court mandarins feared to oppose the French. (Bonds,48) So on August 25, 1883, a treaty was signed that recognized both Annam and Tonkin as French protectorates. By 1887, the French had established French Indo-China in southeast Asia, which incorporated Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. The French were to influence the region until they lost control after World War II in the twentieth century. The French colonial administration was often both inconsistent and inept, yet a fixed policy of excluding native Vietnamese from power was always maintained. (Hess,7) Frenchmen beheaded Vietnamese who opposed their rule or were guilty of serious crimes. (Boettcher,15) Some active opposition to the French reappeared in the early twentith century, but the French delayed reforms, severely underestimating Vietnamese contempt for them. The French exploited the Vietnamese in many ways. The new lands developed in the South through irrigation and other public works did not go to the peasants, as had been the traditional practice in Vietnam for centuries, but were sold to the highest bidder or given away to powerful French or Vietnamese landowners. The French established government monopolies on salt, alcohol, and opium, thus increasing the prices for the commodities. (Hess,9) Though the French kept increasing taxes for the Vietnamese, they did nothing to increase their income potential. Due to the French monopoly on salt, fishermen frequently had to throw back catches because they could not afford to preserve them. History of Foreign Intervention Vietnam, bordered by China to the north, Laos to the west and northwest, and Cambodia (now Kampuchea) to the southwest, is an S-shaped country no bigger than the state of Florida. Vietnam occupies the eastern coast of the Indochinese Peninsula. For thousands of years the people of Vietnam have lived with constant foreign intervention and colonization (by the French). For two thousand years before the French established colonial rule in 1887, the Vietnamese people had defended their border against the Chinese-on many occasions unsuccessfully. Eventually, it was the payment of an annual tribute to the Chinese emperor that put an end to Chinese intervention. (Edwards, 12) In the nineteenth century, the industrialized nations of Europe were competing with each other for control of the resources and markets of the world. In 1843, when a permanent naval fleet was deployed in Asian waters to protect the trading privileges of the French, the intervention of France began. During their period of rule, the French expropriated the land; destroyed an almost universal system of education; supplanted stable, local government with an inept colonial administration; and taxed millions of Vietnamese into starvation-level poverty. (Boettcher, 7) The French moved from south to north, eventually winning control of three Vietnamese states. The first to be acquired by France was Cochinchina. After only five months of the French battling against the armies of the emperor of Vietnam, in 1862, a French admiral forced the Vietnamese emperor, Tu Duc, to cede that part of his territory by treaty. (Williams,13) The treaty was ratified in April 1863, recognizing French control of the Saigon area and the opening of several major posts to French trade. The area of Cochinchina was ruled by the French military until 1879, when civilian control was reestablished and the first governor general was appointed, but those civilians weren t Vietnamese. (Boettcher,10)

The second and third states to fall to the French were Annam (central Vietnam) and Tonkin (northern Vietnam). In August 1883, the French attacked Hue, the imperial capital of Annam, and Hanoi, the principal city of Tonkin. French ships bombarded Hue and a strong ground force moved in on Hanoi. Emperor Tu Duc had died only the month before, no successor had been enthroned, and the court mandarins feared to oppose the French. (Bonds,48) So on August 25, 1883, a treaty was signed that recognized both Annam and Tonkin as French protectorates. By 1887, the French had established French Indo-China in southeast Asia, which incorporated Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. The French were to influence the region until they lost control after World War II in the twentieth century. The French colonial administration was often both inconsistent and inept, yet a fixed policy of excluding native Vietnamese from power was always maintained. (Hess,7) Frenchmen beheaded Vietnamese who opposed their rule or were guilty of serious crimes. (Boettcher,15) Some active opposition to the French reappeared in the early twentith century, but the French delayed reforms, severely underestimating Vietnamese contempt for them. The French exploited the Vietnamese in many ways. The new lands developed in the South through irrigah to the original landlords, using the army to put down opposition. (Boettcher,22) Ho Chi Minh believed that the major powers would force Diem to honor the Geneva Accord, but the Western powers would not oppose American policy because they were financially dependent on the United States for their postwar recovery.Civil War Former Vietminh who had stayed South to prepare for the upcoming elections began to rekindle guerrilla activities. In October 1957, the group started a coordinated camaign of assassination of government officials, provoking the civil war. But the North Vietnamese were having their own troubles: the partition had cut the North off from the main food-producing area of the Mekong River s delta. Widespread famine, starvation, and revolts prevented the government from sending aid to the Vietcong in the South until 1959, when the problems were resolved. Supplies were sent by way of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which was initially a series of paths through the tropical forests, then grew to a major roadway, despite American bombing later. Diem declined in popularity due to his forceful governing and the fact that he was not winning the civil war. Diem s regime was a corrupt one. Thousands of political opponents died in jail, both Communist and non-Communist. Large amounts of American aid simply disappeared. The money intended to improve the standard of living of the peasants and ordinary soldiers never found its way to them. Military commanders and government officials manipulated the aid programs for their own benefit. Diem s troops, seeing their officers enrich themselves, lacked the morale to fight the Vietcong effectively. They took to looting villages, killing and raping their inhabitants. Inevitably, rural support for the Saigon government declined. (Edwards,27) There had been several unsuccessful attempts to overthrow Diem, but the Vietnamese were uncertain of American reaction. When, in October, the Americans signaled that they wouldn t interfere in any coup, a coalition of officers opposed to Diem was finally organized. On November 1, 1963, the Diem regime was overthrown and replaced by a government headed by General Duong Van Minh. Diem was shot the following day. (Bonds,64) The American government had hoped that the new government would improve the effectiveness in fighting the Vietcong, but the real corruption had just begun. Americans decided that in order to effectively fight the war, they would have to send in their own troops.American Involvement As a result of the Cold War, the United States had adopted a policy of containment , whereby Communist countries in existence at the end of World War II would not be directly threatened, but the U.S. would use its economic and military might to ensure that Communism did not spread. (Williams,21) The Americans thought that if Vietnam was allowed to fall to the Vietminh, the rest of Southeast Asia would become Communist, country by country. This idea was called the Domino Theory. The Domino Theory tended to ignore two facts. First, that Vietnam was the only country in Southeast Asia where the Communists were well-organized and popular. Second, the independence Ho Chi Minh tried to maintain from both Soviet and Chinese influence. (Edwards,19) American justification for entrance into the war was necessary. The containment policy, the Maddox incident (an American destroyer was pursued by a fleet of Vietcong patrol boats when present to monitor the effectiveness of South Vietnamese raids), and a series of Vietcong raids against American installations in South Vietnam. On February 24, 1965, American President Johnson authorized the sustained bombing of North Vietnam, followed by the commitment of troops in March. On March 4, 1965, the first American marines landed at Da Nang in South Vietnam. By the end of the year, 200,000 American troops had reached Vietnam. At the height of the war, in 1967, there were 540,000 Americans fighting the war. During the Vietnam War, the Americans dropped a greater tonnage of bombs on Vietnam than the Allies had dropped during the whole of World War II. (Edwards,10) The Americans fought in Vietnam for ten years, until President Ford officially called the Vietnam War finished on April 23, 1975. American intervention in the war proved to be unnecessary, in the opinion of some, yet the government will never admit it.