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Vietnam War

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France occupied all of Vietnam by 1884. Independence was declared after World War II, but the French continued to rule until 1954 when communist forces under Ho Chi Minh, who took control over the north, defeated them. Eisenhower's advisers believed that Ho Chi Minh's powerful communist-nationalist appeal might set off a geographical chain reaction. As Ho Chi Minh's government established itself in North Vietnam, Eisenhower supported a noncommunist government in South Vietnam and ordered covert operations and economic programs to prevent Ho Chi Minh from being elected the leader of a unified Vietnam.

The Vietnam War was a military struggle fought in Vietnam from 1959 to 1975. It was started by the Communist guerrillas (the so-called Vietcong) in the South, whom were backed by Communist North Vietnam, in an attempt to overthrow the South Vietnam government.

Ngo Dinh Diem was overthrown and killed in a coup d'etat in 1963 by his own generals causing political confusion in South Vietnam. By 1965 the Vietcong was strong enough to form main force units to fight pitched battles with the South Vietnamese army in the countryside, although not in the urban areas which stayed under Saigon government control. The security in South Vietnam continued to deteriorate putting the Communists in reach of a victory. By 1965, the US president Lyndon Johnson approved regular bombing of North Vietnam to prevent the total collapse of the Saigon regime by the dispatch of troops and marking their overt entry into the war. United States forces landed at Da Nang and began fighting in Vietnam.

On March 2 1965 the first of four phases of the air wars in Vietnam happened, along with the first sustained bombing of the United States bomibg campaign

against North Vietnam accord. This air was war was called Rolling Thunder. Rolling Thunder had three objectives; reduce the infiltration; boost South Vietnamese morale and to inform Hanoi of the ever increasing expense of a continued insurgence in the South.

In Hanoi, Rolling Thunder was seen as another obstacle to overcome in the struggle to unite the North and the South under the Vietnamese rule of Ho Chi Minh followers. They would find a way to withstand the American air assault, making it too expensive for Washington to maintain.

On March 2 1965, the United States Air Force participated in Rolling Thunder for the first time, and inflicted heavy damage by large numbers of aircraft

, available at Thai bases, that accompanied b-57s to an ammunition depot Xom Bong. Two F-100D Super Sabres and three F-105D Thunderchiefs were destroyed.

Rolling Thunder was criticized from the start that it was not too thunderous. The planning of air strikes was complex. Decisions, including low level choices, were taken thousands of miles from fighting in the Situation Room in Washington. There President Johnson could retain firm control over what attacks should be made.

The US intervention caused problems for the Communists, forcing them to continually send North Vietnamese armies to the South, but this did not deter them from the struggle. This situation was challenged in January 1968 when the Vietcong staged the bloody Tet Offensive. On the Tet holiday, the Vietcong forces went into action and launched coordinated fierce attacks on more than a 100 cities and towns over the length and breadth of South Vietnam. Despite this idea of Giap to devastate South Vietnam, and his hope that the campaign would be decisive, it failed. The Vietcong failed to capture any towns or cities and were ultimately driven back from most of the positions they had gained.

In the fighting, North Vietnam lost 85,000 of its best troops and many political officers and secret organizers for the guerillas. Many more had been wounded or captured, and this fighting had created more than half a million civilian refugees. Tet was nothing less than a catastrophe.

The Americans lost 2,500 men in the Tet Offensive. In spite of this US victory, however, by the early spring of 1968 much of the American public had concluded that the war would not be a victory for America. The Johnson administration decided to pursue a negotiated settlement. After Ho Chi Minh died in 1969 and was succeeded by Le Duan, the new US President Nixon continued the policy of ex President Johnson and gradually withdrew US troops.

By April 1, 1975 the North Vietnamese were advancing through South Vietnam and the Americans realized Saigon would fall next. On April 1st an Evacuation control Center was ready to evacuate American personnel and South Vietnam inhabitants.



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