Vietnam War Overview (02:12)
Dynastic struggles led to fragmentation in Vietnam. The conflict beginning in 1955 lasted for 20 years and resonates today. Experts discuss American fears of a communist takeover.
Vietnamese Cultural History (02:23)
The Cham people, who came from Borneo and controlled trade on the South China Sea, settled Central Vietnam. War broke out between the Christian Northern and Islamic Southern kingdoms, supplied by European weapons.
European Colonization (02:55)
French missionaries converted Vietnamese to Catholicism; the emperor ordered their execution. The French conquered all regions and established Indochina in 1887, adding Laos and Cambodia in 1893. Resentment of occupation gave rise to communism.
Indochina Cultural Shifts (02:10)
By 1884, French influence spread through Vietnam. Colonization supporters became a landowning class in the Mekong Delta. Vietnam adopted the French language and alphabet and Western political ideologies became popular.
Viet Minh Independence Movement (03:38)
With a French colonial education, Ho Chi Minh petitioned for Vietnamese independence in Paris. Disillusionment increased his zeal for communism; by 1941 was a national hero. France ceded Saigon to Japan during World War II; Minh resisted both French and Japanese forces.
Domino Theory (02:24)
Ho Chi Minh built an army through a secret alliance with the U.S. to fight the Japanese. France and Japan took rice, causing a famine and contributing to the independence movement. Despite Minh's nationalism, the U.S. believed he would lead a communist takeover of Southeast Asia.
Indochina War (03:03)
In 1946, Ho Chi Minh's army began attacking the French in Hanoi; many Vietnamese joined through a desire for independence. He received Soviet and Chinese aid; the U.S. began supporting the French in 1950.
Partitioning Vietnam (02:19)
After the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954, France withdrew. The Viet Minh controlled the north and the south became a pro-Western state. Under Ho Chi Minh, the National Liberation Front began guerrilla warfare to gain control of the south.
Diem Regime (03:10)
Many Vietnamese villages were under communist rule in 1954. President Diem ousted Emperor Bao Dai and the U.S. backed his dictatorship, fearing Soviet domination. Civil unrest in South Vietnam continued to bolster Ho Chi Minh's popularity.
Civil War in Vietnam (02:56)
Hear a summary of Vietnam's 1954 partition. Ho Chi Minh's National Liberation Front recruited peasants while Diem had a smaller Catholic support base. By the early 1960s, the U.S. began sending military aid to avoid repeating a Korean War scenario.
U.S. Military Aid to Vietnam (02:37)
In 1961, special advisers were sent to train soldiers to fight the Viet Cong. Experts discuss why Kennedy's decision to send combat troops was a mistake. After Mao rose to power, Americans felt obligated to fight communism in Southeast Asia.
Inheriting the Vietnam Issue (04:07)
Despite U.S. military aid, the South Vietnamese Army made no headway. Diem fell in a 1963 coup; three weeks later Kennedy was assassinated. Johnson's policy was to use force as a bargaining tool but Ho Chi Minh refused to negotiate.
Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (02:41)
Johnson inherited the Vietnam conflict in 1963. A false North Vietnam torpedo attack on the U.S.S. Maddox led to Congress approving a military escalation.
Vietnam Military Escalation (02:25)
As U.S. ground troops increased from 12,000 to 200,000, the Viet Cong quadrupled recruitment in the south. Johnson won the presidency and ordered Operation Rolling Thunder.
Operation Rolling Thunder (02:49)
From the mid 1960s, South Vietnamese villagers fled to cities where protest movements developed. The U.S. couldn't invade North Vietnam for political reasons, but they carried out air strikes lasting for three years.
Credits: Vietnam and the War (00:41)
Credits: Vietnam and the War
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