The Vietnam War was the longest lasting war in the United States history before the Afghanistan War. This example of a critical essay explores the history of that violent and divisive event. The United States’ presence and involvement in the Vietnam War were something that many people felt very strongly about, whether they be American citizens, Vietnamese citizens, or global citizens.
Known as ‘the only war American ever lost’, the Vietnam War ended two years after the United States withdrew their forces in 1973 and the communist party seized Saigon two years later. This sample essay provides an example of the features and benefits that come from working with Ultius.
Causes of the Vietnam War
The Vietnam War refers to the Second Indochina War, lasting from 1954 until 1973, in which the United States (and other members of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization) fought alongside the Republic of South Vietnam. South Vietnam was contesting the communist forces comprised of the Viet Cong, a group of South Vietnamese guerillas, and the North Vietnamese Army (Vietnam War).
The war was a byproduct of the First Indochina War (lasting between 1946 and 1948), in which France tried to claim Vietnam as a colony and was met with strong opposition from Vietnamese communist forces.
But the deep-rooted issues surrounding the cause of the Vietnam War dated back to World War II, during which Japan invaded and occupied Vietnam (Vietnam War History). The country had already been under French rule since the late 1800s, and the Japanese presence caused a man named Ho Chi Minh, inspired by communism of China and the Soviet Union, to form the Viet Minh, or the League for the Independence of Vietnam.
World War II as a catalyst to the Vietnam War
The Viet Minh’s main purpose was to fight both the Japanese and French administration and to make Vietnam a Communist nation. They were successful in forcing Japan to withdraw its forces in 1945. With only the French to worry about, the Viet Minh quickly rose up, gained control of the northern city of Hanoi, and declared Ho as the president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (Vietnam War Facts).
This meant France had to take the lead in Vietnam. France sought to regain control in 1949 when they set up the state of Vietnam, also known as South Vietnam, and declared Saigon to be its capital. The two groups, the French and the Viet Minh, struggled for power until 1954, when a battle at Dien Bien Phu ended in defeat for France. This led to the Geneva Agreements, made a few months later, which granted independence to Cambodia and Laos, who had also been under French rule.
However, Vietnam was still divided into North Vietnam, or the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, and the Republic of South Vietnam (Vietnam War). There was to be an election to determine the country’s fate, but the south resisted, spurring a cascade of guerilla warfare from the north. In July of 1959, North Vietnam called for a socialist revolution in all of Vietnam as a whole.
United States belated involvement in Vietnam
As the battles became more ferocious, President Kennedy watched from the United States and sent a team to report on the conditions of South Vietnam. In 1961, it was suggested that the president sent American troops to produce economic and technical aid in the fight against the Viet Cong. Fearing the effects of the ‘domino theory’, which stated that if one Southeast Asian nation fell under communist rule, so would many others, President Kennedy increased the number of troops in South Vietnam to nine thousand, compared to less than eight hundred during the previous decade (Vietnam War History).
After the assassination of President Kennedy, it was decided by both his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, and the Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, that more soldiers would be used in the war. On August 2, 1964, two North Vietnamese torpedoes attacked United States destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin. In response, the United States Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, making the president’s war-making powers much broader (Vietnam War History).
America’s military policy during the war
By the year’s end, twenty-three thousand American troops occupied South Vietnam and the United States began regular bombing raids the following February. Both the American military and the North Vietnamese forces came to the same conclusion; a steady escalation of the war would ensure victory. The U.S. believed that quickly increasing force and gaining control was the way to end the war; meanwhile, North Vietnam believed that enough American casualties would decrease support for U.S. involvement, forcing the withdrawal of the military (Vietnam War).
By June of 1965, eighty-two thousand United States troops were stationed in Vietnam. One month later, one hundred thousand more were dispatched, followed by another one hundred thousand in 1966 (Vietnam War History). By the end of 1967, there were almost five hundred thousand American military members stationed in Vietnam, and the death toll had surpassed fifteen thousand.
Soon, the physical and psychological deterioration of American soldiers became apparent. Maintaining military discipline was difficult. Drug use, mutiny, and cases of soldiers attacking officers became regular occurrences for United States troops. Popularity and support of the America’s part in the war decreased dramatically all over the world.
Americans’ lack of support for the Vietnam War
On the last day of January in 1968, North Vietnam launched a series of merciless attacks on more than one hundred South Vietnamese cities. Despite the surprise, the United States and South Vietnam forces were able to strike back, making the communist fighters unable to maintain their hold on any of their targets.
Upon hearing reports of the attacks, and that there had been a request for two hundred thousand more troops, the United States’ support for the war plummeted, causing President Johnson to call a stop to the bombing of North Vietnam and vow to dedicate the rest of his term to achieving peace (Vietnam War History).
This promise by Johnson was met with talks of peace between the United States and North Vietnam. When Nixon was elected to take Johnson’s place, he sought to serve the ‘silent majority’, whom he believed supported the war effort.
Attempting to limit American casualties, Nixon launched a program to withdraw troops, increase artillery and aerial attacks, and give control over ground operations to South Vietnam (Vietnam War History). Peace negotiations were not moving smoothly, as North Vietnam continued to demand the United States’ complete withdrawal as a condition of peace.
In the years that followed, carnage and bloodshed were abundant. Meanwhile, in America, the anti-war movement was growing stronger as countless of thousands of Americans gathered at hundreds of protests around the country to contest the United States’ continued involvement in the war, marching in person and writing essays to share their opinions. In 1972, Nixon finally decided to end draft calls, as the numbers of soldiers discharged for desertion or ‘draft-dodging’ rapidly increased.
By the end of that year, North Vietnam was finally ready to compromise; however, they rejected the original peace agreement, causing Nixon to authorize bombings of North Vietnamese cities (Vietnam War History). U.S. troops were finally withdrawn in 1973, though war continued to rage between North and South Vietnam forces until the country was unified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in 1975.
By the end of the war, the number of Americans killed reached over fifty-eight thousand, while the number of slaughtered Vietnamese numbered over two and a half million (Vietnam War History). From this point forward, the Vietnam War would be known as America’s bloodiest war since the Civil War more than a hundred years’ earlier.
The Vietnam War’s military tactics
Military leaders once thought Germany’s military policies during WWII were the most deceitful until the Viet Cong started employing their tactics. One of the most prominent types of warfare during the Vietnam War was guerilla warfare. This tactic consists of stealthy, surprise attacks aimed to eliminate opponents (Guerilla Warfare and Attrition Warfare).
Widely used by the Viet Cong, this enabled them to sneak up on unwary enemies, kill them, and escape before causing alarm. In addition, Viet Cong fighters often disguised themselves as farmers or civilians before attacking when least expected.
Viet Cong’s deceitful disguises and innocent lives lost
This led to the accidental killing thousands of innocent Vietnamese citizens. By 1965, the Viet Cong had gained access to machine guns, which they mainly used to shoot American helicopters down from the sky. They would also utilize American land mines, which they sometimes found undetonated and would steal for their own use (Battlefield: Vietnam).
In a single year, enemy forces obtained almost twenty thousand tons of explosives from dud American bombs. Though United States troops originally aimed to use more traditional forms of warfare, meaning the ‘winner’ would be the one who had claimed more land, it was decided that the only way to truly win the war was to eliminate as many enemy troops as possible, called attrition warfare (Guerilla Warfare and Attrition Warfare).
Domestic response to the Vietnam War
The official position of the United States government on their involvement in the Vietnam War was that they were there at the request of South Vietnam to repel communist forces that were growing during the Cold War (Reaction to the War In the United States).
Before long, however, Americans grew dissatisfied with America’s continued presence in Southeast Asia. While some citizens believed that maximum force was necessary to quickly squash the opposition, others believed that the conflict in Vietnam was a civil one, making our involvement inappropriate.
Upon the revelation that American troops had massacred an entire village of civilians, anti-war demonstrations sprang up all around the country (Reactions to the War in the United States). While most demonstrations were peaceful, that was not the case for all. Many protests escalated to violence, as draft boards were raided and destroyed, production facilities were targets for attack and sabotage, and brutal altercations between civilians and police grew in frequency (Barringer).
Americans were analyzing the war through the lens of justice and morality, in addition to growing a strong distrust for the country’s military (War in Vietnam). Civil rights leaders and the American Civil Liberties Union called for the withdrawal of United States forces from Vietnam. By the time Nixon recalled American troops in 1973, the antiwar sentiment had become overwhelming as dissent for the government reigned (Barringer). Never before had the American public showed such disdain and dissatisfaction with the country’s involvement in warfare.
While the Vietnam War had some support among American citizens, the overall feelings towards the war were negative. It was widely believed that veterans were the true victims of the Vietnam War, as thousands of Americans were drafted involuntarily to fight in a war they did not believe in and millions of Vietnamese became nothing more than cast-aside casualties of war.
The United States originally aimed to squash the growth of Communism in Asia but ended up participating in the longest, bloodiest war in American history. Regardless of the justification for their involvement, the United States continues to hold the Vietnam War as a lesson and an example for how we, as a country, should conduct ourselves during times of conflict. The memories and aftereffects of the Vietnam War will continue to serve as a reminder for generations to come. If you have strong feelings about this bit of history, for or against, order your own essay from Ultius.
Barringer, Mark. University of Illinois: The Anti-War Movement in the United States. Oxford UP, 1999. Web. 2, Dec. 2014. http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/vietnam/antiwar.html.
“Battlefield: Vietnam”. PBS.org. PBS. Web. 2, Dec. 2014.
“Guerilla Warfare and Attrition Warfare”. The Vietnam War. Weebly, 2014. Web. 2, Dec. 2014. http://vietnamawbb.weebly.com/guerrilla-warfare-and-war-of-attrition.html.
“Vietnam War”. HistoryNet.com. Weider History Network, 2014. Web. 2, Dec. 2014. http://www.historynet.com/vietnam-war.
“Vietnam War History”. History.com. A&E Television Network, 2009. Web. 2, Dec. 2014. http://www.history.com/topics/vietnam-war/vietnam-war-history.
“The Vietnam War”. U.S. History. Independence Hall Association. Web. 2, Dec. 2014. http://www.ushistory.org/us/55.asp.
“War in Vietnam”. History Learning Site. HistoryLearningSite.co.uk, 2014. Web. 2, Dec. 2014. http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/war_vietnam.htm.