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Vietnam Assignment – History Sources Question

Source A tells us many reasons why America would be interested in helping South Vietnam overrun the north, Kennedy had to make out that Vietnam was economically very important and that it would be extremely beneficial to America. He told the civilians that it would be well worth public backing and would be the best thing that America could possibly do with its money. In truth Vietnam was of very little economic importance the only reason that Kennedy was interested in conquering Vietnam was because Kennedy wanted to prevent the “Red tide of communism” overflowing throughout Southeast Asia to all neighbouring countries like Burma and Thailand this was expressed as the domino theory. Similarly Kennedy thought that if he could turn them away from this idea then the other countries would follow suite. Kennedy thought that communism was the first stage in the country being lead in hateful dictatorship. In reality the world wouldn’t suffer greatly if Vietnam turned communist.2. Sources B and C tell us contrasting information about the reasons why the US got involved in Vietnam as they are taken from very different sources source B is from a governmental US state department statement and source C is from a volunteer fighter called Phillip Caputo. Source B tells us that a Vietnam communist has set out to conquer a neighbouring state full of people who are under sovereign rule having a king or queen. To combat this, the American government decided that the situation is no different to Korea in the 1950’s when the north decided to take the south. America decide to use s similar amount of force to which was needed in the 1950’s in Korea to stop the “Red tide of communism” (Kennedy Source A) spreading throughout Asia. Source C tells us a different story, the young man who volunteered to fight was taken in by Kennedy comments “…what can you do for your country” and the fact that the USA had never lost a war. He felt like he was a policeman, and that he was stopping the “criminal spread of communism” throughout the world. The young soldier realised that the idea wasn’t to gain terrain or help citizens but only to kill and the pressure to do so was intense.3. There are many hypothesises brought to light by sources C, D and E about why the US was defeated in Vietnam. Our textbook tells us much more information on the same issue and also raises so valid points. We are told that the “Vietnamese communists (VC) were always far readier to accept huge losses …than the USA this fact alone ensured…” the communists “…would be triumphant”. Another key element involved in the failure of the US was that unlike in previous wars they had no easy way to measure how well they where getting on. “Their was no Vietcong territory to invade and conquer… they (US) could never claim to have advanced so many kilometres” and because of this were unable to brag bout how well they where getting on to their citizens enticing more to join up. America also had the wrong tactics from the offset “…because the battle was in their own country the Vietcong could afford to wait years for victory… America could not. The colossal costs of war meant the US were under pressure to act” and win “very quickly” The Vietcong knew this factor would assist them greatly. In light of this they decided to wait, as they knew that if they didn’t confront the Americans and take the war to them the “Americans would get board and wonder off home”.Also with view towards the tactics the Vietcong decided that the best method would be to run away from the American well armed forces and plant cleaver traps along with sabotaging and ambushing the American vehicles. The Americans didn’t use tactics as well thought out and suffered the consequences as the Vietcong where far less equipped, but tactically far superior. One of their other sneaky plans was to trap the US forces in a village by getting them lead in by young children asking for help. When the US forces were all in the village exits were covered and men murdered, this was a major advantage as in doing this hardly any Vietcong troops were killed where as to kill this number of Americans in open combat would surely see many Vietcong troops dead. The third of the Americans tactics mistakes were that of the search and destroy missions which only the name it’s self-congers up images of death and destruction. The whole mission involved innocent people killed as everything in sight was totally obliteratedThe Americans lost for many reasons but in my opinion the main few are the fact the US soldiers where mostly inexperienced and unused to a life in the jungle which is were the Vietcong were at their best. Airpower the Americans relied very heavily on their air attacks but because of the jungle terrain they where unable to determine exactly where to bomb and what to blow up. Another point, last but no least the fact that they had inadequate leadership because the leaders where trained to fight conventional battles in tanks.The sources agree with the information I knew and what I found in the textbook, Source C tells us about the way that the Americans didn’t have ground to fight for so were unsure what to do. It also tells us about the way that young Americans were enticed to fight by a fighting minded Kennedy. Source E explains why the Vietnamese people may have been so eager to help the forces as it shows that the Vietnamese army were instructed to be kind and sociable to the villagers. Source D gives us another incite into the tactical minds behind the destruction of the Americans it shows that they were encouraged to ambush the US forces as they slept and to set traps. They’re also told that open war in not the answer and should not be entered into unless they were one hundred percent sure of success as they realise the Americans superiority in this department.4. Sources F, G and I are reasonably helpful to judge public reaction to Vietnam in the 1960’s. They are not faultless, they may show the majority opinion but only the people who voiced their opinion would have been counted. Many of the poorer people in America at this time may not have had their say. The News-week article (source F) does unfortunately fail to mention the amount of people who voted on this issue, the magazine article may have been made out of one hundred votes and not the vast majority of American citizens like we are lead to believe. The source also fails to tell us where the information has come from. It may have been the views of only one town or city or even one area of people, some of, which may be poor, and not been able to afford a television set did their view count, where they mentioned.Source G is very much similar to source F in the way that maybe not all people voted and had their say. It also tells us that the American public were thinking very strongly about the situation in Vietnam. It also in not perfect it does have limits to how useful as a source it can be as it does not contain any details. The Source doesn’t have any percentages and or figures or even what was voted in second place and how far behind it was. On face value the source shows that the public only had one thing in their mind. If details where contained i.e. how many votes; we could establish much more information about how strongly they felt and if their views were changing as time went on.The article published in Time magazine in January 1970 was about an incident in 1968 involving a couple of US soldiers killing a group of Vietnamese unarmed innocent women and children. The report was delayed from 1968 until 1970, there are many different reasons why the magazine would want to delay the release of such a gruesome story. One of those reasons could be that the magazine producers didn’t want to make a couple of members of there own force (US) look like cold-hearted fiends. Another more probable reason is that when the story broke in 1968 the magazine delayed the production of the article because in 1968 most American citizens were very interested in the war. In the year 1970 the hype had died down somewhat and the story wouldn’t have the same frenzy amongst the subdued Americans.The three sources are a reasonable insight into the mind of American people at this time. But they don’t tell the full story, they fail to mention sufficient detail and rarely tell more detail than that which is needed to trick people into thinking the only thing happening in the 1960’s was the Vietnam War. Nothing could be further from the truth.5. Between 1967 and 1970 we know that the public’s view towards Vietnam changed somewhat. In days leading up to this period the American public felt cheated by the press. They were given the impression that victory was almost in sight. When news of the Tet Offensive sank in, Americans jumped to the conclusion that they had been mislead by the press and that the whole army were tricking them. Walter Cronkite was quoted as saying “Vietnam; What the hell is going on?” he then went on to say “I thought we were winning the war” Unfortunately for the government he wasn’t the only one who took this view as thousands of people felt that they were cheated. The sad fact is that the American army still thought that their troops were winning and therefore were a bit slow. The trouble didn’t ease form there on either as General Westmoreland was refused another 200,000 troops to assist the half million fighting in Vietnam, the politicians weren’t happy about the request and so thought the same as the public.In 1967 despite growing concern public still back Johnson and Vietnam (Source G shows it as being the major problem in the country of 1967) as they are told of huge armies slaughtering the opposition. The now vivid colour television told the same story source F shows that everyone was watching Vietnam at this time as “it seems to have encouraged a majority of viewers to support the war” we are told. The public believed that the attacks planed by Johnson (who by this time had a nasty song written about him (Source K)) like the search and destroy and the bombing of Ho Chi minh trail was a complete success. The non-believers were kept down to a minimal level and were mainly students and black people. The blacks thought that it was a white war and shouldn’t be a part of it. The continual claims by the government that victory was assured were starting to be taken in.In 1968 the impact of the Tet Offensive was dramatic and uncut television shocked many viewers into disliking the war immensely. The gruelling Tet Offensive at first up to 100,000 people were believed to be dead. Afterwards it was to be seen as a spectacular victory for the North but the leaders of the North claimed it was a failure. Were they being serious or just playing a physiological game with the south and the Americans. The VC were seriously injured and they lost somewhere in the region of 30,000 men, from now on their tactics had to be changed and a guerrilla style combat would no longer suit them. The news of the losses filtered back to the citizens and they started to see it a lost cause and a sure defeat. Johnson though the same and began peace talks.1969-70 Nixon started withdrawing the US troops and admitted defeat he wanted to make it look what he describe as “peace with honour” he thought that the US had taken a lot from the war and were very honourable. The public didn’t like this at all as they wanted a result. The harsh American public who had thought that a win was a sure thing didn’t want to admit defeat. The government who had “never lost a war” were about to eat their words as “Peace with honour” was in other words a defeat.Many people did come to terms with the withdrawal of the troops. The main group that didn’t was the troops themselves. The whole process had a disastrous effect on the morale of the army. When news that they were to be withdrawn got through they lost the will to fight and the infamous “search and destroy” became more of a “search and avoid”. The troops weren’t willing to put there lives at risk for no reason, as they knew that it was only a matter of time before they were off again back to America, fair enough I think.In 1970 there were many protests from student against the war. Non more famous that the protest at Kent State University. The students from the university grouped up and formed a mass protest against the war, Within a few hours the University was burned to the ground. There was a break for a day (Sunday) but on Monday morning they were back. The police had to use force to control the swelling crowd and tear gas was used. To students were shot dead.6. Source M was written in 1972 and was published in a British magazine called The Spectator. It totally disagrees with everything that we are earlier told by Source F. Source M was written after the turning point of the war (Tet offensive) and it tells us that television was the main cause of the failure to win the war by the Americans. It reveals that the gruesome “too bloody” footage was directly responsible for the way that the public revolted against the government. The source written earlier in 1967 (F) tells us that the “vivid colour” pictures were of great benefit to the American army and it helped the public back the heroes.I feel that had the US won the war the author of source M wouldn’t have been so inclined to jump on the television as a cause of heavy losses. I think that he or she would probably agree with the author of source M.The good citizens of America had never seen footage of this sort. They had never had such good coverage of a war, it was vastly different from that seen in World War II. This great coverage wasn’t only on television, the pictures also made there way back to the people like the My Lai picture in source J. This sort of picture would also turn the American people against the war as it showed the ruthless American Soldiers at their worst.About this time there were stories that leaked from the government to the press this went someway to distress the public further. These people were now in a position were they could doubt the government and accuse them of lies with visible proof and not just rumours. In this war the added television was one step to far for the people they now knew more than they could handle and it drove them to rebel. Many US people protested against the war. The television companies were quick to jump on these as major stories and covered these events in detail. In many cases people saw the protests and decided that they felt the same way, many people joined in such protests. This spelled disaster for the government as the more protesters the quicker that they must act.

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