A lot of people have individual opinions about the Vietnam war. Ones views on the war can come from different sides. Like a huge tree, there are many vessel-like branches and they more or less can represent the various sides from where overviews and opinions on the war have been made. Many accounts and conclusions about the war in Vietnam are told through the eyes of the North Vietnamese, the South Vietnamese, the United States(U. S) military soldiers, power figureheads of the involved countries, as well as views from around the world.
The list of groups can go on. For this obvious reason, one cannot make a concrete judgement based on this widely debated historical event. Historians however, if I could take you back to the metaphor of the tree are like its bark. Historians are the bark that holds up and represents the overviews based on the compilation of facts, research of accounts from the various sources and their conclusions derived from those sources are neutral and not one-sided.
Therefore, as a history student, I will be writing the next few paragraphs with the guide of the facts I have studied and an open mind, ending with a personal logical conclusion about the war which lasted mainly ten years(1965-1975) in a divided country that to begin with was struggling for unification since the end of World War II(1945). The possibility of war was precedent probably as early as 1945. It was the end of World War II and U. S was promoting democracy and trying to abolish colonialism around the world. Colonised by the French for a century, Vietnam was fighting for independence.
It took them until 1954 to rid a century of colonial rule when communist forces defeated French troops. Communism was strong in the North and South Vietnam had a majority of anti-communism habitants. The Communists from the North along with the help of small pro-communist groups in the South, believed that they were better organized to take on southern Vietnam and succeed in unification. The Geneva Peace Accords was the hopeful settlement for Vietnam with France but foreign communist superpowers like the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China were interfering.
Obviously, North Vietnam’s strong communistic views and possible allies ion with the two giants of communism alarmed the U. S with fear of a ‘domino effect’ on Southeast Asia. Another cause for U. S intervention would probably be because of the 1947 ” Truman Doctrine” where President Truman states that ‘it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures’. North Vietnam was aware of this and also of the fact that France had U. S as a powerful ally.
By 1959, military struggle against South Vietnam by the Vietcong(North Vietnamese) was escalating and a full-blown war was inevitable in the near future. 1965, the month of March, American military troops landed in Danang and this was the start of U. S intervention in a reunification struggle for Vietnam. The Vietnam war for the U. S and South Vietnamese was harsh and resulted in defeat. Many problems were encountered on their side and some causing factors were military tactics, government lack of complacency environmental, climate, social and economical.
The Vietcong was used to their terrains and indulged in guerilla tactics which meant they fought in ‘hit and run’ attacks. They took irregular actions and this was obviously new encounters for the U. S compared to the other conventional wars they were used to fighting. The U. S troops suffered many deaths by the Vietcong’s use of unconventional booby traps. An example of such a trap would be a simply dug hole which contain metal spikes covered with poison or human faeces. According to a death statistic account, this caused 11 percent of deaths and 17 percent of wounds.
Even by 1967, U. S sent in more men but despite their sophisticated weaponry, the skillful, rebellious natured and will-powered Vietcong was still undefeatable. Being small built in body frame compared to Americans, the Vietcong used tunnels to hide and stay from their enemies. Their military attired was also simple. The attire was basically straw hats, black pyjama like pants and shirts. Thus, it was difficult for the Americans to differentiate Vietnamese civilians and soldiers!
Although South Vietnam was on the same side as the U. S, trust began a problem when the American military took a ” Search and Destroy” war approach. Whereby their mission involved hunting down the Vietcong. This however backfired as it was an alienation to the Vietnamese civilians who were many at times mistaken for being part of the Vietcong. To compensate their errors and misjudgments and to gain back the South Vietnamese trust, the U. S decided to send them free household equipments like washing machines, fridges and dishwashers which was pretty much useless to them for they did not even have electricity to begin with.
It was called the ‘Pacification’ policy which basically I would see it as a bribe with no substance. A geographical problem to bare in mind was that North Vietnam had been experiencing their worst drought ever since 1954 and this natural disaster surely did not help the U. S or South troops during the war. Especially the U. S forces who were unfamiliar with the terrain and conditions. Terrain consisted mainly of thick forrest and jungle where their sophisticated tanks would not be able to pass through.
Therefore they had to rely on helicopters as couriers and fighting. Due to the dense jungle, having the control in the air did not really help as they were not able to see who they were killing . Economically, U. S was suffering because of the number of men that were sent to fight the war and the cost for weaponry and the helicopters especially were tremendous. About one fifth of the nation budget was being used at a rate of two billion a month by the end of the war. Financially, this was driving an end to the war and for U. S to retaliate.
As for South Vietnam, the government did very little to participate in the war. Their government was corrupted and very little manpower or military troops were sent. Leaving the Americans to fight alone. The Americans were fighting the war against Communism and the Vietcong and North Vietnamese troops were fighting for Nationalism and reunification. As said earlier in the essay, North Vietnam had the help of the World’s largest Communist countries, Russia and China.
These two countries aided the communist troops by supplying them weaponry, food, money and essential supplies to sustain the war. That gave them a great advantage whereas the U. S and the South Vietnamese were in great financial and life loss. By the end of the war, their morale was weaken and at a very low point. All of these disadvantaging factors lead to their defeat. In conclusion, should this war which actually caused unnecessary deaths of so many people totaling more than World War II itself have taken place to begin with?
I personally think it could and should have been avoided if not for the lack of complacency of the political government bodies involved when making their decisions and its regime. Probably more action should have been taken on the United Nations part in trying to intervene through talks and negotiations before the war became a full-blown one. It would have been a more humane decision and I believe they had sufficient time to do so but their weak efforts brought about a war which till today has many people still suffering from it and questioning it.