30 Years of Failure

The Vietnam War

Written by Isobel S.

27th January 2020

Whilst tension and conflict were growing at home with McCarthyism and the never ending Red Scare of communism – a Civil War was breaking out in Vietnam, Southeast Asia. The Domino Theory was taking its effect and spreading like a wildfire from Russia to China and now its latest victim; North Vietnam. The control of South Vietnam was now America’s biggest concern to stop the spread of communism across the globe and more importantly; to America itself.

Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy had taken a backseat approach, they intervened only when necessary. Sending small amounts of soldiers and only giving the bare minimum of financial support to the south. American troops were disguised as ‘advisers’ and went to the south of Vietnam to train their army so they could defend themselves from the northern troops – the Vietcong. By November 1963, there were 16,000 American troops in South Vietnam helping protect the country and train their army.

President Johnson replaced Kennedy after his assassination in 1963 and up-scaled America’s involvement in the war heavily. Tactics such as mass bombings and ground warfare were used. A more controversial method used was the defoliant ‘agent orange’. It poisoned the waters and destroyed the forests, a problem that still effects Vietnam to this day. Johnson was able to declare war on North Vietnam in 1964 after being reportedly attacked in the gulf of Tonkin. In the coming years the amount of American troops in the south increased to over 600,000 since Johnson stepped in and over 5 million tons of bombs had been dropped. This was the beginning of the end of support for the war. The Tet offensive in 1967 was a detrimental failure for America. Over 100 major cities, including the US embassy, were attacked in one night by the Vietcong. Shock and horror consumed the people of America and many more countries causing international humiliation for America. Johnson was almost laughed out of his presidency and he swore to never run again. 

President Nixon faced backlash from Johnson’s failures. He had to rebuild America’s reputation, de-escalate the war and appeal to his people. He called upon the silent majority and found that many were actually in favour of the never ending war. However, he chose to stick with his plan to leave the war. The new war policy was ‘Vietnamization’, the removal of US troops and training of the South Vietnamese army. At first Nixon was seen as the president to finally stop the unwanted war in Vietnam. However, he was deceitful and lied to the American public, and further escalated the war. This resulted in an increase in bombing, more ground troops, and extra funding was made available for the war. Now, over 7 million tonnes of bombs had been dropped on Vietnam. Many university students who followed the popular counter-culture movement in America, campaigned against the war and participated in marches and protests across the country. The majority of the public were tired of the war and wanted it to cease.

Finally, after 30 long years, in 1975 all troops were pulled out of Vietnam and came home. The war was over.

1964: President Johnson reacts to news of problems occurring in Vietnam with Defence Secretary Robert McNamara.

Shortly after the war, South Vietnam fell under communist control. The Vietcong had achieved their end goal and won the final war.

America spent over 168 million dollars on the war and killed over 50,000 American troops. The only question is, was the war worth the costs?

YouTube Clip:

Tet offensive


The New Yorker – What Went Wrong in Vietnam

BBC Special Reports Link

Opinion piece NY Times – What was the Vietnam War About?

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