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Current time:0:00Total duration:17:41
KC‑8.1.I.B.ii (KC)
Unit 8: Learning Objective I
WOR (Theme)

Video transcript

in order to have a respectable understanding of the Vietnam War we have to rewind all the way back to the late 1800s when France was colonizing Southeast Asia and in particular it colonized what it's now Laos Vietnam and Cambodia that were collectively called French Indochina you can see Cambodia here Vietnam along the coast and then Laos right over here and France stayed the colonizing power have a little gap in my timeline here and they stayed a colonizing power all the way through all the way through World War all the way through World War two and so you can imagine during World War 2 France was quickly overrun by the Germans the Vietnamese wanted their independence and so you have a liberation movement that rises up and it was led by the Viet Minh and the Viet Minh were led by Ho Chi Minh this right here is a picture this right here is a picture of Ho Chi Minh and besides being a liberation movement they were also communist they were also communist which you could imagine later on during the Cold War we'll kind of bias the United States against them but you fast-forward through World War two eventually the Japanese take control over Indochina over Vietnam and but by the time 45 rolls about or at least the end of 45 and we know that the United States defeats Japan now all of a sudden the Viet Minh are able to declare a somewhat temporary independence and it's temporary because shortly after that and the region is occupied temporarily by the Chinese in the north and and the British in the south who were part of the Allied forces against the axis but eventually you have the French coming back and they want to reassert their their control over their former colony and you have this war that develops the first Indochina war between the French and the people sympathetic to the French the the Vietnamese were loyal to the French and the north and the French and just to make it clear how it sets up when when at the end of World War two when you had the temporary occupiers the British and the Chinese the Chinese obviously had more influence in the north the British had more influence in the south when the French come back they essentially are able to reinstate control over the south so right when this the the Indochina war is beginning the French already have more control over the south and actually historically the French had more influence in the south as well during French colonial rule is really the southern third of Vietnam where you had a lot of French influence and this is a current map and the current map does not have this orange boundary over here that we'll talk about in a second it's all Vietnam is now unified but before the Vietnam War this was not Ho Chi Minh City this was this was Saigon and Saigon was kind of where most of the French control was centered but here fast-forward to 1954 this ends up in a bit of a stalemate and so you have the Geneva Conference of 1954 that partitions Vietnam along the 17th parallel between North and Vietnam and South Vietnam and the whole point of this partition was really to just allow for a cooling-off period a period where you could have things settling down and then having elections it wasn't meant to be a permanent partition but there was a 300-day period where people could move across the partition and during that partition you actually had 900,000 people mainly Catholics move from the north to south you also had several hundred thousand people moving from the south to the north so it wasn't a one-way movement but net-net most of the movements by Roman Catholic Vietnamese was from the north to the south you fast-forward a little bit you eventually have and and I'm sure I'm butchering the pronunciation here no Dinh Diem take control he starts off as Prime Minister in 54 eventually he takes control becomes president in 55 this is him right here he takes control of South Vietnam and this guy is not a big fan of things like elections or or non corrupt government and and all of the rest and he takes control of South Vietnam but you can imagine that the United States is positively inclined to him one he you know he dresses in Nice western suits and all of that nicely combed hair but he was also anti-communist and at this time period the United States is starting to think in terms of Cold War in terms of how do we stop communism how do we contain it this whole theory of containment that the best way to stop the Soviet Union is to just make sure that communism can not spread that it gets contained that we have the domino theory in the United States that if one country Falls to communism in a region that the rest of the countries will eventually fall and that is not good for containment so we did not want South Vietnam to fall we essentially start supporting these characters over here and even from the early 50s the United States starts supporting the anti-communist and at first this support it's in the I guess we should say the guise of advisors but these advisors one we start sending more and more aid more and more advisors and these advisors start getting more and more involved in the actual conflict and so after this partition you can imagine that you still have an ongoing conflict between the north and the south and on top of that you have actors who are sympathetic to the north sympathetic to the Viet Minh sympathetic to Ho Chi Minh in the south some of them were in the north they come back to the south some of them were just in the south and they did not like the diem government of it besides just being sympathetic the Ho Chi Minh diem was a fairly corrupt AutoTrack rata cruller who wasn't a big fan of democracy and so these these players in the south who started to rise up against against President diem or the Vietcong the Vietcong and so this is really sets up what the Vietnam War is all about you have the Communist Ho Chi Minh controlled North that was fighting a conventional war against the south you have this you have this partition on the 17th parallel and on top of that you have an unconventional fighting force I guess you'd call guerrillas in the in the south of Vietnam called the Vietcong so it was kind of a double there are two things that the South had to fight against the North officially and also this this insurrection that was occurring within the south and so the whole time the United States did not want this insurrection to succeed they did not want all of Vietnam to become communist we keep sending more and more advisors it actually started even before Kennedy but in Kennedy he starts sending the escalates the number of advisors that get sent it's still not at this point it's still not a formal war we haven't officially declared where we don't have officially soldiers in battle-ax fast-forward to 1963 besides all of the great characteristics of diem that I already mentioned he also was into persecuting Buddhists so to make matters worse so you know not only was he corrupt not only did he not like elections but he liked persecuting his own people and by 69 by 1963 this kind of got out of hand he his level of persecution of the Buddhists he started toward storming temples and all the rest and so he was assassinated and not only was he he's assassinated it kind of leaves this power vacuum we have all of these people jockeying for control none of these really especially savory characters inside the South these two guys eventually come to power when cow Chi and win van to wait a few years when van too is able to get this guy out of the picture and then by 1967 I don't have it over here 1967 you have to is has now taken control but during that period or actually before Chi and to take power in 1964 you have one of the shadiest incidents in American history as you can imagine we as in our function as it advisors we had sent ships into the Gulf of Tonkin right after off of the coast of North Vietnam and so the original story goes and this is a very suspect original story in 1964 the u.s. Maddox and this is the original story claimed that it was attacked or it was claimed that the u.s. Maddox was attacked by North North Vietnamese patrol boats and that there were some you know there was a little bit of the skirmish there was an exchange of fire and it was also claimed that a few days later another boat in the Gulf of Tonkin another US vessel was attacked by a North Vietnamese boat that was the original story this angered Congress this angered the American people you know how dare they attack ships that are sitting off of the coast warships that are sitting off the coast and so this kind of gave this kind of gave the the emotional the emotional fuel to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution so these incidents or these purported incidents this kind of attack on the USS Maddox and this other thing that might have happened were called the gulf of tonkin incidents this angered Congress angered the American people so we passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and what's relevant about it is it gave LBJ here it gave him the authority to officially engage in a war in Vietnam to officially escalate it to an actual war that the u.s. was involved in and this whole time I've been saying it's shady because it's now been shown that won the Gulf of Tonkin well it's not clear that really anything happened there might have been some firing from the USS Maddox it they might did they might have actually engaged the north the North Vietnamese patrol boats the other possibility that might have happened is that they that nothing happened so but either way you any way you look at it it's now been fairly established that it was not a real incident it was not really North Vietnam attacking attacking the United States but it was Val it was it was relevant because it really escalated the war so now you have Johnson did I say North Korea originally I apologize for that we're talking about North Vietnam I don't remember what my brain actually said of course North Vietnam but it gave it gave Johnson the the the power to escalate the war and so his administration is really the heart of the Vietnam War when the war was really escalated we eventually get to 500,000 US troops but the whole time this is happening you can imagine that Johnson and the military leaders in Viet and the American military leaders in Vietnam are telling the American people oh we're fighting communism we're about to win this is a noble war and you fast forward and you know especially the part about to win you fast forward to 1968 and all of a sudden you have the Vietcong who the American leaders have told the American people in the Congress that are they're about to be defeated and then in 1968 the Vietcong orchestrate the Tet Offensive which is this this massive coordinated attack on a bunch of targets throughout throughout throughout South Vietnam and so even though it was wasn't completely successful militarily the intent of the Tet Offensive was to kind of completely turn the tides in the war it made the American people and Congress rightfully suspicious you you know mr. Johnson you had told us you had told us that we were about to win the war and we were about to you know the Vietcong we're almost defeated and all of a sudden they orchestrate this this sophisticated attack on us it rightfully made the American public suspicious on top of that and you know this this probably made matters a lot worse the My Lai massacre comes out and in every war there are massacres but the United States at least believes that it's it's it's soldiers can kind of take the high road that it's it's they don't engage in in these type of things but the My Lai massacre show that really no soldiers are immune to massacres and this is really a disgusting massacre and it was documented and if you really want to be disturbed do a Google search for images of the My Lai massacre it will ruin your weekend it'll depress you you know it's it's US soldiers killing a village of innocent women and children there's pictures of dead babies it's horrible and on top of to make matters worse or even you know add insult to injury the soldiers who committed it there was actually a few who tried to defend the the villagers and they were when they came back they were they were created almost like traitors but the soldiers who actually did the attack only one of them got jail time it was only a couple of years of jail time and this is for massacring a village of women and children so already you had the Tet Offensive makes the American public suspicious of whether we can even win this war and then you have the My Lai massacre which just discussed the public and and and and makes people realize that we're involved in a war that not even clear who are the good guys anymore not even clear what the real goals are make matters worse you fast forward to 1971 the Pentagon Papers get leaked to the New York Times and these pretty much articulate it's a classified document that articulates that the leadership the military and non-military leadership of the Vietnam War was to some degree lying to Congress and the American people was lying about how the war was going it was lying about what activities it was doing it did not tell the American people of Congress that it was actually engaged in war in Laos and Cambodia and a lot of the reason why we were in gay Laos and Cambodia is because that's where the supply routes were between the north and the south they ran through Laos and Cambodia and the most famous of them and you might have heard of it is the Ho Chi Minh Trail and it wasn't just one trail it was actually a network of trail and so a lot of the activity that was going on in Laos and Cambodia was kind of carpet bombing of what the the US thought were some of these supply routes and we never really got a good you know we never well that's a whole other debate but the it wasn't just one trail that was easily bombed it was all of these little footpaths and all of these other things where arms were able to be transported from the north to the south but the Pentagon Papers rightfully made the American people even more suspicious and then now we're entering into Nixon's administration and he was still doing the carpet bombing you know still atrocities going on but he his whole goal was to kind of wind down the war bring the troops out on a timetable without kind of a an official defeat so you fast-forward to 1973 you have the Paris Peace Accords we're officially there is peace between the the north the South the north and the Americans you can imagine it from the North's point of view they're like sure we'll sign some piece of chords it'll just make the Americans go away once the Americans go away they won't be able to come back since this was such a hugely unpopular war it was it was such a such a waste of for America on so many dimensions especially America's prestige is a global actor we'll just wait for them to leave and then we can overrun the south after that and that's essentially what happens in 1975 the North just overruns the south and then in and then later that year you have set you have Saigon falling to the north and then it becomes Ho Chi Minh City and just this whole period you have President to is in power and just to show where his priorities are right near the end right when the north is falling to South Vietnam and you can kind of see the writing on the wall he gives a speech to the Vietnamese people saying that he'll never desert them but then when he when he really makes it when it becomes pretty clear that that Saigon is going to fall to the North Vietnamese he gets on a big on a big US transport plane with literally 15 tons of luggage fifteen tons of luggage I'll let you think about how much luggage that is and 15 million dollars 15 million dollars worth of gold and this is 15 million dollars worth of gold in 1975 so you can imagine how much he really cared about about the Vietnamese people and he eventually ends up settling in Massachusetts and he died there in about about ten years ago so you can imagine this was a ugly incident for the world an ugly super ugly incident for the Vietnamese people a super ugly chapter in American history it was the first war that won America lost but more it hurts prestige it hurts America's ability to influence what was going on in other parts of the world you know you had the containment theory that you know we had to stop communism from spreading and in the domino theory that if if one country would fail to come fall to communism then the other one word that didn't happen the south did fall but we didn't have the rest of Southeast Asia falling to communism so it kind of disproved the the domino theory especially because after the Vietnam War that the United States would not be able to enter another war like it for some time because the American people wouldn't let it happen so to some degree would've been easier for communism to spread because people would have known that the u.s. couldn't engage it but despite that the domino theory didn't happen but it was just all-around ugly I mean just the the besides the massacres and the raping and the pillaging of innocents that happened on really on all sides of this you have one to three million Vietnamese Vietnamese and no one will really know the actual count but that's a huge number 1 to 3 million Vietnamese were killed you have 58,000 58,000 American troops being killed American troops and you have hundreds of thousands of Cambodians and lotions who are never really formally involved in the war they were they were killed especially due to a lot of this carpet bombing campaign so these are these are these are I mean just atrocious numbers and and really one of the worst and ugliest chapters in US history