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History Research Guide - Vietnam War: Home

A guide to all of the resources the library has on the Vietnam War.

Soldiers Carry a Wounded Comrade

Soldiers Carry a Wounded Comrade
Soldiers Carry a Wounded Comrade through a Swampy Area, 1969. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

Looking for Lesson Plans?

Here are a few links to lesson plans covering the Korean War.

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Got a Question? Ask Us!

The Vietnam War

Who:
Vietnamese Leaders:
Ho Chi Minh - Leader of the Viet Minh who fought to liberate Vietnam from Japan and the French.
Bao Dai - French educated emperor of Vietnam
Ngo Dinh Diem - Pushed out Bao and took control of the Government of the Republic of Vietnam
General Nguyen Van Thieu - President of South Vietnam from 1965-1975

American Leaders:
Dwight D. Eisenhower - Supported Diem and South Vietnam
John F. Kennedy - Supported Diem and South Vietnam, started sending American troops to Vietnam
Lyndon B. Johnson - Supported South Vietnam. The Vietnam war officially begins under Johnson.
Richard M. Nixon - Nixon withdraws U.S. troops from Vietnam

Terms to Know:
North Liberation Front - Political arm of the Viet Cong.
Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) - Rebel group begun by Ho Chi Minh.
Viet Cong - Name applied the DRV by the Americans.
Gulf of Tonkin Resolution - Resolution passed by Congress which gave the president more freedom in declaring war.
Operation Rolling Thunder - The U.S. Airforce began bombing raids over North Vietnam with this offensive.  
Tet Offensive -
An offensive by the Viet Cong where they surprised U.S. and South Vietnamese troops by attacking at least 100 cities in South Vietnam, this offensive was not successful as U.S. troops quickly regained control of those cities.

What Happened:
During World War II, Japan invaded and occupied Vietnam, a colony held by France. Ho Chi Minh, inspired by socialism in Russia, formed a rebellion against hte Japanese and succeeded in forcing Japan to withdraw in 1945. With Vietnam now in control of the French educated Bao Dai, Ho Chi Minh established the Democrative Republic of Vietnam(DRV) and seized Hanoi. Backed by France, Bao Dai responded by setting up the state of Vietnam (South Vietnam) in 1949, with Saigon as its capital. The Geneva convention split Vietnam into two countries along the 17th parallel which became North and South Vietnam. The convention called for a nationwide election to reunify Vietnam. In 1955 that election was prevented by the strongly anti-communist Ngo Dinh Diem who pushed Bao out of office.

In 1957, Ho Chi Minh rallied his forces to fight against5 Diem's repressive regime. In December of 1960, Diem's opponents joined with Ho Chi Minh's forces to create the National Liberation Front (NLF.) Kennedy, afraid that if Vietnam fell to communism then other South Asian countries would follow, upped U.S. aid. By 1962 there were around 9,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Vietnam. In November 1963, Diem is killed in a coup. Lyndon B. Johnson decides to further increase the U.S. military and economic assistance. In August of 1964, the DRV attacks two U.S. destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin. This leads to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which gives Johnson broader war-making powers. U.S. planes begin bombing raids under Operation Rolling Thunder by February of 1965.

March, 1965, Johnson sends U.S. troops into battle in Vietnam. By June, 82,000 troops are stationed in Vietnam with generals calling for more troops. Along with U.S. troops there are soldiers from South Korea, Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand. The DRV is supported by China and the Soviet Union who help North Vietnam with their air defense.

By November 1967, U.S. troops in Vietnam were almost at 500,000 with 15,058 killed and 109,527 wounded. Back in the U.S. anti-war sentiment was growing and protests began to occur outside the Pentagon and in colleges. In the later months of 1967, the North Vietnamese decided to strike the U.S. troops with a decisive blow that would force the U.S. out of the war. DRV forces laughed the Tet Offensive, a coordinated series of attacks that would hit more than 100 cities and towns in South Vietnam and take the U.S. and South Vietnamese forces by surprise. The offensive failed to have any lasting impact, and U.S. forces quickly took back those cities. However, news of the Tet Offensive in the United States forced Johnson into dedicating the rest of his time in office to searching for peace.

Peace talks started in 1968 but failed to achieve any results. Richard Nixon took office and started to withdraw troops from Vietnam, however he increased aerial bombardment of North Vietnam. Fighting continued until 1973, when the U.S. and North Vietnam finally signed a peace treaty. War in Vietnam continued until 1975 when the DRV finally captured Saigon and gained control of all of Vietnam.

*Information taken from the History Channel Website at http://www.history.com/topics/vietnam-war

Veterans History Project

Do you know a Vietnam Vet? Check out the Veterans History Project to find out how to do an Oral History interview with them. Record their story so that you can pass it down to future generations, or share it with the world. You can find more information on how to perform the interview at http://www.loc.gov/vets/kit.html