View Full Version : War and Protest - the US in Vietnan-1965-1975
08-21-02, 11:46 AM
We are going to have peace even if we have to fight for it. <br />
- President Dwight D Eisenhower <br />
1965 <br />
As United States military involvement in Vietnam increased, so did the inroads made into South...
08-21-02, 11:51 AM
When the parade ended, in front of the United Nations building, the group of Vietnam veterans broke up. Crumb wanted to find this group, Vietnam Veterans Against The War, and join it. His search first led him to Veterans for Peace, the organization of older veterans that had had its own presence in the parade. While talking with people at Veterans For Peace, he learned that there was no actual organization called 'Vietnam Veterans Against The War'. The people with that banner had been a collection of friends with a common viewpoint, and nothing more.
Crumb, determined that an organization of Vietnam veterans who were opposed to that war should exist, set his sites on creating it. On 30 May, 1967, he attended a peace demonstration in Washington DC with about ten like-minded men. Two days later, six Vietnam veterans met in Jan Crumb's New York City apartment. Vietnam Veterans Against the War was born on 1 June, 1967.
On 28 April, 1967, Muhammad Ali, having been denied conscientious objector status and having refused induction into the US Army, was arrested. Within minutes of Ali's official announcement that he would not submit to induction, the New York State Athletic Commission and World Boxing Association suspended his boxing license and stripped him of his heavyweight title. In an interview with a Sports Illustrated contributor, Ali said:
I'm giving up my title, my wealth, maybe my future. Many great men have been tested for their religious beliefs. If I pass this test, I'll come out stronger than ever.
Ultimately, Ali was sentenced to five years in prison, released on appeal, and had his conviction overturned three years later.
Levitate the Pentagon?
On 15 October, 1967, the class clowns of the anti-war movement in the United States, the Yippies, led by Abbie Hoffman, led 50,000 people to an 'Exorcism of the Pentagon'. They had announced their intent to, by means of their combined psychic energy, levitate the Pentagon and exorcise it of the evil spirits that were killing Americans and Vietnamese people thousands of miles away.
The Pentagon was protected by more than 2500 Army troops and US Marshals. As the group surrounded the Pentagon and began chanting 'Ommmmm', the US Marshals moved in and began arresting demonstrators. A photograph taken at that demonstration was to become a symbol of the American anti-war movement. The photograph showed a protester putting a daisy into a police officer's gun.
The addition of flowers to readied weapons was the order of the day. While a total of 681 demonstrators were arrested, others continued to approach the soldiers and put flowers in the barrels of bayoneted M-14 rifles. One girl, dancing as she approached the soldiers, kept asking 'Will you take my flower? Please do take my flower. Are you afraid of flowers?'
The Pentagon didn't move noticeably.
Some Other People
Other people arrested for anti-war activities in 1967 included singer Joan Baez, physician Benjamin Spock and poet Allen Ginsberg.
The CIA started 'Operation Chaos' in 1967. This operation, which exceeded the CIA's statutory authority, was initiated in response to a request from President Johnson that the agency uncover any connection between anti-way groups and foreign interests. Before it was discontinued in 1973, the operation had indexed 300,000 names, kept 13,000 subject files and intercepted large numbers of letters and cables, compiling massive amounts of information on the domestic activities of US citizens. A partial list of organizations and individuals whose mail had been read by the CIA would include Grove Press, Women Strike for Peace, Clergy and Laity Concerned about Vietnam, the American Indian Movement, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, The Ford Foundation, Harvard University, the Rockefeller Foundation, US Representative Bella Abzug, US Senators Humphrey, Kennedy and Church, Linus Pauling, Victor Reuther, Richard Nixon and Coretta Scott King, the wife of Reverend Dr Martin Luther King.
A Study Is Commissioned
In June, 1967, Secretary of Defense Robert S McNamara commissioned a top-secret study of US involvement in Southeast Asia. This study was to be written by a team of analysts who had access to classified documents. The results of that study, which was not completed until January, 1969, took 47 volumes and later gained fame, or infamy, as The Pentagon Papers.
The War Continues
In 1967, the United States launched a bombing campaign against the North Vietnamese capital, Hanoi. Other significant campaigns were fought in Tay Ninh province, Khe Sanh, Cam Lo, Dong Ha, Con Thien and Gio Linh. In May, 1967, in air battles over Hanoi and Haiphong, America air forces shot down 26 North Vietnamese jets, decreasing the North's pilot strength by half. Also in May, 1967, American military forces intercepted North Vietnamese Army units moving in from Cambodia, resulting in nine days of continuous battles.
On 31 December, 1967, there were 485,600 American soldiers in Vietnam.
War and Protest - the US in Vietnam (1968)
I don't know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.
- Albert Einstein
The Battle of Khe Sanh
On 21 January, 1968, the North Vietnamese Army attacked the American air base at Khe Sanh, deploying 20,000 troops. The 5000 US Marines stationed there soon found themselves encircled and under siege. The US media began drawing parallels to the 1954 siege of Dien Bien Phu, in which the French were ultimately defeated.
President Johnson told Joint Chiefs Chairman General Earle Wheeler that he didn't 'want any damn Dinbinfoo'. Johnson personally sent off Marine reinforcements and told the Joint Chiefs of Staff that he wanted a guarantee 'signed in blood' that the American force at Khe Sanh would not be defeated.
The battle at Khe Sanh lasted 77 days. At one point, groups of B-52 bombers were hitting North Vietnamese positions around Khe Sanh every 90 minutes, around the clock. Before the siege ended, the United States had dropped more than 110,000 tons of bombs in the area.
In June 1968, General Westmoreland determined that the base in Khe Sanh was no longer needed. He authorised abandoning and demolishing that base.
The Tet Offensive
On 30 January, 1968, the North Vietnamese Army and NLF/PALF troops launched what is known as the Tet Offensive.
Tet Nguyen Dan, called 'Tet', is the Vietnamese holiday celebrating the lunar New Year. It's the most significant holiday in Vietnam. The Tet holiday is three days long, officially, but the celebration frequently lasts a full seven days. Vietnamese folk tradition holds that the events of these days forecast the events of the coming year. Generally, family feuds are ended, children go out of their way to behave well, and people try to lead their lives in a manner that bodes well for the coming year.
The Tet Offensive was a well-organized surprise attack in Saigon and 26 provincial capitals, among other cities and towns. Battles were raging in more than 100 locations within 48 hours.
American television crews in Saigon filmed an attack on the US embassy, and sent graphic footage showing the bloody battle, along with dead and wounded American soldiers to news networks. This footage was broadcast on television as part of the evening news, giving the American public a dinner-time view of the realities of war.
One of the cities attacked during Tet was Hue. During the Battle for Hue, 12,000 North Vietnamese Army and NLF/PALF troops stormed the city and systematically executed more than 3000 South Vietnamese government officials, South Vietnamese officers, Catholic priests and others that they had identified as 'enemies of the people'.
In what proved to be the heaviest fighting of the Tet Offensive, the South Vietnamese and US military retook Hue, one street, sometimes one house, at a time. US officials stated the casualty figures as 216 Americans killed and 1364 wounded, 384 South Vietnamese killed and 1830 wounded, and an estimated 5000 North Vietnamese and NLF/PALF troops killed, in Hue alone.
The Tet Offensive proved disastrous for the North Vietnamese military, which was defeated at every location. An estimated 37,000 North Vietnamese and NLF/PALF troops were killed over the course of the Offensive, as compared to about 2500 Americans.
The graphic news footage broadcast in the United States, along with the number of Americans killed, also had the effect of turning large portions of the American public against the war in Vietnam.
In Saigon, on 1 February, 1968, the police chief of South Vietnam, General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executed a suspected NLF/PALF guerrilla by shooting him in the head. An NBC news cameraman and an Associated Press still photographer, Eddie Adams, captured the execution on film. The photo taken by Eddie Adams was on the front page of most American newspapers the next morning. NBC news broadcast the execution as part of the nightly news
On 27 February, 1968, Walter Cronkite, the respected news anchor person for CBS, had just returned from Saigon. During his broadcast that night, he told the American public that he was certain that 'the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate'.
Public opinion polls after the Tet Offensive showed that President Johnson's overall approval rating by the American public was at 36 percent and approval of his Vietnam policy was at 26 percent.
08-21-02, 11:57 AM
My Lai <br />
The village of My Lai is in the South Vietnamese district of Son My, an area that was known to have had a heavy NLF/PALF concentration. On 16 March, 1968, members of Charlie Company, 1st...
08-21-02, 11:59 AM
The War Continues <br />
On 11 April, 1968, US Secretary of Defense Clifford announced that General Westmoreland's request for 206,000 additional soldiers would not be granted. <br />
On 30 April, 1968, the...
08-21-02, 12:04 PM
In the November 1968 Presidential Election, Richard M Nixon, the Republican candidate whose campaign included a promise that he had 'a secret plan' to end the war in Vietnam, defeated the liberal Democratic candidate, Hubert Humphrey and the conservative independent candidate, George Wallace. Nixon received 43.4 percent of the popular vote, compared to Humphrey's 42.7 percent and Wallace's 13.5 percent.
On 27 November, 1968, President-elect Nixon asked Henry Kissinger, a professor at Harvard University, to be his National Security Advisor. Kissinger accepted.
War and Protest - the US in Vietnam (1969-1970)
I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded... I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed... I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war.
- Dwight D Eisenhower
In 'Operation Dewey Canyon', elements of the Third Marine Division based in the Da Krong valley invaded Laos. This was to be the last major operation by US Marines in Vietnam.
On 23 February, 1969, a coordinated offensive by the NLF/PALF started. A total of 110 targets in South Vietnam, including the City of Saigon, were attacked. Two days later, 36 US Marines, camped near the border with North Vietnam, were killed in a raid conducted by the North Vietnamese Army.
US troops began offensive strikes in the area of the North Vietnamese border on 15 March, 1969.
On 17 March, 1969, President Nixon authorised 'Operation Menu'. This operation involved secretly bombing locations within the borders of Cambodia, targeting North Vietnamese supply bases near the border of Vietnam.
On 23 March, 1969, the Laotian Army launched a large attack against the Communists, supported by its own air units and the United States Air Force. In June, the enemy launched an attack of its own and gained ground. In August, Laotian forces attacked again and regained what had been lost. The United States Air Force flew hundreds of missions in each of these actions.
On 30 April, 1969, US troop levels were at 543,400. This was the highest level reached at any time during the war. A total of 33,641 Americans had been killed this date, more than had been killed during the entire Korean War.
The battle at 'Hamburger Hill', in the A Shau Valley near Hue, raged from 10 May through 20 May. The 101st Airborne had 46 members killed in the course of that battle. Another 400 were wounded. After US forces had taken the hill, the troops were ordered to abandon it by their commander. The North Vietnamese army moved in and recaptured the hill, unopposed
As a result of the fiasco at 'Hamburger Hill', which one US Senator labelled 'senseless and irresponsible', Commander General Creighton Abrams was ordered to avoid any further large-scale battles. Small unit actions were to be used instead.
On 8 June, 1969, President Nixon met with Nguyen Van Thieu, President of South Vietnam, and informed him that US troop levels were going to be sharply reduced. During a joint press conference with Thieu, Nixon announced a policy of 'Vietnamization' of the war and a reduction of US troops in Vietnam. The first phase of 'Vietnamization' was to include the withdrawal of 25,000 American military personnel.
The first US troops actually left Vietnam on 8 July, 1969. The 9th infantry Division sent 800 men home.
On 12 August, 1969, another NLF/PALF offensive started. The NLF/PALF staged attacks on 150 targets throughout South Vietnam.
North Vietnamese President Ho Chi Minh died of a heart attack on 2 September, 1969. He was succeeded by Le Duan, who publicly read Ho Chi Minh's will, which urged the North Vietnamese to fight 'until the last Yankee has gone'.
President Nixon ordered additional US troop withdrawals on 16 September, 1969 (35,000) and 15 December, 1969 (50,000). The 16 September order included an order to reduce the number of draft call-ups.
There were 474,400 American soldiers in Vietnam on December 31, 1969.
The Pentagon Papers, the top-secret study of US involvement in Vietnam from World War II to May, 1968, were completed in January 1969. The study determined that US policy makers had engaged in miscalculation, bureaucratic arrogance, and deception regarding the role of the United States in Vietnam. It found that the US government had continually resisted full disclosure of increasing military involvement in Southeast Asia - air strikes over Laos, raids along the coast of North Vietnam, and offensive actions by US Marines that had taken place long before the American public was informed.
On 9 April, 1969, 300 students at Harvard University seized the administration building in protest of the war. They threw out eight deans and locked themselves in. They were later forcibly removed from the building.
In May 1969 The New York Times broke the news of the secret bombing of Cambodia. President Nixon ordered the FBI to wiretap the telephones of four journalists and 13 government officials to determine the source of news leak.
Students for a Democratic Society held its national convention in Chicago from 18 June through 22 June. The organisation split into at least two factions; the Progressive Labor Party and the Revolutionary Youth Movement (RYM). The Weathermen, later known as The Weather Underground1, a group that would shortly split from RYM, held an action it called The Days of Rage in Chicago from 6 October through 11 October.
On 27 June, 1969, Life magazine displayed portrait photos of all 242 Americans killed in Vietnam during the previous week, including the 46 killed at 'Hamburger Hill'. The impact of these photos, and some of the faces behind the numbers, stunned Americans and increased anti-war sentiment in the country.
Days of Rage
You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
- Bob Dylan
On Monday, 6 October, just before midnight, members of the Weathermen blew up the United State's only monument to policemen. The statue in Chicago's Haymarket Square, a tribute to a police officer who was killed by a bomb thrown during the course of a union rally in 18862, was blown from its pedestal. Pieces of the statue's leg landed on a nearby expressway. The force of the explosion shattered about 100 windows in the area. Thus began the 'Days of Rage'.
Over the next two days, the members of the Weathermen practised their street-fighting techniques, in anticipation of a pitched battle with the Chicago Police Department during the 'official' Days of Rage protest, scheduled to start on Wednesday, 8 October. Weathermen organisers expected thousands, or tens of thousands, of protesters to show up in answer to their call to 'shut down the City of Chicago'.
That Wednesday evening, about 300 people had gathered in Lincoln Park. They were defensively armed with goggles, helmets, gas masks, heavy clothing and first aid kits. Their intent to be on the giving, as well as the receiving, end of the violence was obvious. In addition to their defensive supplies, they had clubs, lead pipes, chains and brass knuckles. Hundreds of bemused Chicago police officers were watching the activities of this tiny gathering.
After a few incendiary speeches, the demonstrators ran into the streets of Chicago as a mob. One person threw a rock through a bank window. That started the mass destruction. One pedestrian, observing the chaos, yelled to the mob 'I don't know what your cause is, but you've just set it back a hundred years.' Dave Dellinger, who had provided a safe house for members of the Weathermen, hadn't known what was coming. He described himself as 'a disgusted observer'.
The battle lasted about an hour. By the time it was over, six members of the Weathermen had been shot, nearly 70 had been arrested and an unknown number were injured. The next morning, the Weatherman's 'women's militia' staged a repeat performance of the previous night. They were quickly subdued.
After a day of quiet, the 200 Weathermen not in jail or too badly injured to continue, again started rioting in the streets. It didn't take much more than 30 minutes until more than half of them had been arrested, most of those having been bloodied or bruised in the process. The most serious injury of the day was sustained by a City Council official who had wanted 'in on the action'. Diving to tackle one of the protesters, he ended up crashing into a brick wall and was paralyzed from the neck down.
Some of the people who had shown up for the demonstrations began having second thoughts about engaging in hand-to-hand combat with armed police officers who outnumbered them. One teenager, who had been arrested early on, said from his jail cell, 'The guys in here are war-monguls [sic]. They all want a revolution and they are all with SDS. They are all f**king crazy'.
Some other protesters admitted to admiring the actions that took place during the Days of Rage, but most were disgusted. One member of SDS in Wisconsin expressed his opinion with the words 'You don't need a rectal thermometer to know who the a**eholes are'.
On 15 October, 1969, the 'Moratorium' peace demonstration was held in Washington and other US cities. Millions of Americans, throughout the country, participated.
One month after the 'Moratorium', on 15 November, 1969, the 'Mobilization' peace demonstration in Washington DC had a crowd estimated at from 250,000 to 500,000. This event remains the largest single anti-war protest in US history.
That day's demonstration came immediately after the completion of a 40-hour 'March Against Death', in which 40,000 individuals filed past the White House, each bearing the name of a United States soldier who had died in Vietnam.
08-21-02, 12:07 PM
A solid row of municipal buses was parked along the curb between the marchers and the White House. Hundreds of armed troops guarded national landmarks in the city. Neither they nor the members of the...
08-21-02, 12:13 PM
When the order to cease fire was given, 21-year-old Phillip Lafayette Gibbs, the father of an 18-month-old son, and 17-year-old James Earl Green, a local high school student who had been walking home and stopped to watch the action, were dead.
An additional 12 Jackson State students were wounded, including one who had been sitting in the lobby of the dormitory lobby. The dormitory building was riddled with bullet holes. FBI investigators estimated that more than 460 rounds struck the building, shattering every window facing the street on each floor. Investigators counted at least 160 bullet holes in the outer walls of the stairwell.
Protest Around the Country
After the events at Kent State and Jackson State, there was a wave of demonstrations on hundreds of college campuses. There were an average of 100 demonstrations or student strikes per day in the United States. More than 500 colleges had to temporarily close their doors.
On 13, June, 1970, President Nixon established 'The President's Commission on Campus Unrest'. The Commission held 13 days of public hearings in Jackson, Mississippi; Kent State, Ohio; Washington DC and Los Angeles, California. No convictions or arrests of any military or law enforcement officer resulted from these hearings.
The anti-war movement was not without its own advocates of violence. According to the FBI, in 1970 alone, an estimated 3000 bombings and 50,000 bomb threats occurred in the United States. A large percentage of these were carried out by self-styled revolutionaries within the anti-war movement.
The War Continues
On 1 May, 1970, United States military forces joined the South Vietnamese troops who had entered Cambodia. The 30,000 members of the US military, along with their South Vietnamese counterparts, discovered large North Vietnamese supply depots. They captured 28,500 weapons, more than 16 million rounds of small arms ammunition and 14 million pounds of rice. There were more than 10,000 North Vietnamese casualties over the course of this 60-day action.
In June, President Nixon announced that the action in Cambodia had been successful, and that the withdrawal of American soldiers from South Vietnam would resume. US intelligence operatives were of the opinion that entering Cambodia had helped to unite communists in Indochina and had resulted in closer ties to China.
Towards the end of June, 1970, the United States Senate adopted a bill to limit Presidential action in Cambodia without Congressional approval.
In August, American journalists reported that the United States was operating secret bombing missions in Cambodia. Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird denied these reports.
United States Special Forces made a surprise raid on the Son Tay prison camp, just 23 miles outside of Hanoi, in September of 1970. This raid was an attempt to rescue prisoners of war. Upon their arrival at the camp, they found that it had been deserted.
There were 335,800 American soldiers in Vietnam on December 31, 1970.
War and Protest - the US in Vietnam (1971)
On 1 January, 1971, the United States Congress outlawed the presence of US troops in Laos or Cambodia. On 19 January, United States forces began a series of air strikes against North Vietnamese Army supply camps in Laos and Cambodia.
On 30 January, the South Vietnamese Army initiated a ground offensive - Operation Lam Son 719. The first seven days of this action was dubbed 'Operation Dewey Canyon II'. 17,000 South Vietnamese soldiers assaulted a force of 22,000 North Vietnamese soldiers inside Laos. The United States military provided heavy artillery, air strikes and helicopter lifts in support of this operation. The North Vietnamese Army had time to bring in reinforcements as the invading force stalled after reaching its first objective. The battle ended on 6 April, when 40,000 North Vietnamese troops drove the surviving 8000 South Vietnamese back across the border. The North Vietnamese Army suffered an estimated 20,000 casualties, while the South Vietnamese Army reported 7682 casualties; about half of the original invasion force. The United States had 215 killed, more than 100 helicopters lost and more than 600 helicopters damaged. Life magazine photographer Larry Burrows, who had been working in Vietnam for ten years, was among the American dead.
By this time, American participation in the war in Vietnam had lost any remnant of popular support. A Gallup poll in January 1971 showed that 60% of Americans with a college education favoured withdrawal of US troops from Vietnam, 75% of those with a high-school education favoured withdrawal, and 80% of those with only a grade-school education favoured withdrawal.
As support for the war effort continued to decrease within the United States, so did the morale among the American troops in Vietnam. A Defense Department task force report released in January 1971 stated the drug abuse by American military personnel in Vietnam and elsewhere in the Far East was becoming a 'military problem'.
Protest - the 'Winter Soldier Investigation'
From 31 January through 2 February, 1971, Vietnam Veterans Against the War sponsored the 'Winter Soldier Investigation'. The name of this action came from a criticism of people that Thomas Paine, in 1776, called 'sunshine patriots', who left service in the Revolutionary War at the end of summer. Paine had praised those he called 'winter soldiers', who fought year-round.
The 'Winter Soldier Investigation' was the first national action sponsored by Vietnam Veterans Against the War. The investigation took the form of a war crimes hearing. Veterans testified about war crimes they had committed or witnessed, against enemy troops and against Vietnamese civilians. This was an attempt to show that the My Lai Massacre was not a case of a single, out-of-control unit, but was standard operating procedure.
Testimony covered the mistreatment of prisoners, stories of a convoy running down old women for no reason, bounties being placed on American soldiers who were considered inadequate in the field, levelling villages for no valid reason, throwing suspected NLF/PALF members from aircraft after binding them with copper wire and gagging them, torture of prisoners, tear gassing people for fun, running civilian vehicles off the road, rapes, the slaughter of animals, the mutilation of bodies, the crucifixion of suspected NLF/PALF members and the falsification of body counts.
Over the three days, about 100 veterans and 16 civilians gave graphic, disturbing testimony detailing their war experiences. The Republican Senator from Oregon, Mark Hatfield, entered the testimony into the Congressional Record and requested official hearings into the conduct of US forces in the war.
During March 1971, public opinion polls showed that President Nixon's approval rating among Americans had dropped to 50%. Approval of his Vietnam strategy has fallen to 34%. Half of all Americans polled believed the war in Vietnam to be 'morally wrong'.
On 1 March, 1971, the revolutionary faction within the anti-war movement again made its voice heard. A bomb damaged Capitol in Washington DC. This bomb had apparently been planted as a way of protesting the invasion of Laos.
In April 1971, the North Vietnamese Army attacked several military bases in South Vietnam. In view of the fact that the American and South Vietnamese armies had been claiming that their incursions into Laos had been successful, these attacks resulted in a lowering of morale among American and South Vietnamese soldiers.
Later that month, President Nixon announced that another 100,000 US troops would be withdrawn from South Vietnam by 1 December. President Nixon promised to end US involvement in the war in Vietnam. Shortly thereafter, President Nixon stated that 'some' US troops would remain in Vietnam indefinitely if the North Vietnamese government refused to release American Prisoners of War.
Protest - Operation Dewey Canyon III
18 April, 1971
Vietnam veterans began arriving in Washington DC, marking the beginning of what many Americans considered to be the most powerful, moving protest held against this war, or any war in recent history. They named this protest 'Operation Dewey Canyon III', on the grounds that just as Operation Dewey Canyon and Operation Dewey Canyon II were incursions into a foreign country (Laos), this was a 'limited incursion into the foreign country of Congress'.
This event is believed to be the first time in United States history that returning servicemen had so strongly voiced opposition to a war that was still raging.
19 April, 1971
A group of mothers whose sons had died in Vietnam lead about 1100 veterans, some of whom were in wheelchairs or on crutches, across the Lincoln Memorial Bridge to Arlington National Cemetery. Reverend Jackson Day, who had resigned his military chaplaincy a few days earlier, held a short ceremony for the war dead. The ceremony was held just outside the cemetery, near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the grave of John F Kennedy.
A delegation of mothers and veterans found that they were barred from entering the Cemetery after the ceremony. They laid two memorial wreaths at the entrance and joined the other mothers and veterans marching towards the Capitol.
While the marchers were making their way to the Capitol Building, they were joined by Congressman Paul McClosky. McClosky, Representative Bella Abzug and others addressed the veterans when they had assembled at the steps of the Capitol. Some of the veterans went into the building to directly lobby members of Congress against the war.
08-21-02, 12:17 PM
After the rally, the veterans marched to the National Mall, where they were to camp for the duration of the planned week-long protest. An injunction against veterans camping on the Mall had been...
08-21-02, 12:19 PM
War <br />
On 2 August, 1971, the United States government admitted that there were, at that time, 30,000 CIA-sponsored irregulars operating in Laos. <br />
From 26 December through 30 December, The United...
08-21-02, 12:23 PM
Peace? <br />
The Paris Peace Talks resumed on 13 July, 1972. The following day, The Democratic Party chose Senator George McGovern, an outspoken critic of the war, as their candidate for president in...
08-21-02, 12:31 PM
Between 19 March and 30 March, the North Vietnamese Army captured Quang Tri City, Tam Ky, Hue, Chu Lai and Da Nang. In Da Nang, 100,000 South Vietnamese soldiers surrendered after their commanding officers abandoned them. The North Vietnamese Army started its final push to Saigon on 31 March.
President Thieu resigned from office on 21 April, 1975. During his 90-minute resignation speech, he read a letter sent to him by Nixon in 1972, in which Nixon promised 'severe retaliatory action' if South Vietnam was threatened. Thieu condemned the Peace Treaty that had been forced on him, Henry Kissinger, and the United States. He said that 'The United States has not respected its promises. It is inhumane. It is untrustworthy. It is irresponsible'.
Two days later, as 100,000 North Vietnamese soldiers advanced on Saigon, President Ford, speaking at Tulane University, said that the war in Vietnam was 'a war that is finished as far as America is concerned'.
On 28 April 28, General Duong Van Minh became the new president of South Vietnam. He immediately appealed for a ceasefire. The march on Saigon continued.
On 29 April, 1975, the North Vietnamese Army shelled the Tan Son Nhut air base in Saigon. President Ford ordered the evacuation of all Americans. As the helicopter evacuation got under way, South Vietnamese civilians made their way into the base and started looting. The evacuation was shifted to the American embassy, which was walled in and secured by US Marines in full combat gear.
At 8.35 am, 30 April, the last ten Marines were evacuated from the Embassy. The United States was no longer involved in the Vietnamese War. By 11.00 am, the North Vietnamese Flag was flying over the presidential palace in Saigon. President Minh broadcast a message of unconditional surrender. The North Vietnamese Army had completed the campaign, which had been expected to last two years, in 55 days.
North Vietnamese Colonel Bui Tin accepted the surrender, telling Minh that 'Only the Americans have been beaten. If you are patriots, consider this a moment of joy'.
The last two US soldiers to die in Vietnam were killed when their helicopter crashed during the evacuation, some 30 years after Lt Col A Peter Dewey had become the first casualty.
Three US aircraft carriers were off the coast of Vietnam, handling the incoming Americans and South Vietnamese refugees. South Vietnamese pilots also landed on the carriers, flying American-made helicopters. News camera crews captured the scene of $250,000 helicopters being pushed overboard to make room for more helicopters to land on the carriers. The United States had suffered its first clear military defeat.
The Price of War
An estimated total of 2,122,244 people were killed during the war in Vietnam. Of these, 58,169 were Americans. Of those Americans, 11,465 were teenagers. An estimated 3,650,946 additional people were wounded, of whom 304,000 were Americans. 153,329 Americans were categorized as 'seriously' wounded. That total includes 10,000 amputees.
An estimated 444,000 North Vietnamese and 220,557 South Vietnamese military personnel and 587,000 civilians were killed.
6,727,084 tons of bombs were dropped. This is about two-and-a-half times the total tonnage dropped on Germany during World War II.
3,750 fixed wing aircraft and 4,865 helicopters were lost.
18 million gallons of poisonous chemicals were poured on Vietnam.
The dollar cost of the United States involvement in the war in Vietnam is estimated at $140 billion.
One Analysis of the Anti-War Movement
According to the Oxford Companion to American Military History:
The American movement against the Vietnam War was the most successful antiwar movement in US history. During the Johnson administration, it played a significant role in constraining the war and was a major factor in the administration's policy reversal in 1968. During the Nixon years, it hastened US troop withdrawals, continued to restrain the war, fed the deterioration in US troop morale and discipline (which provided additional impetus to US troop withdrawals), and promoted congressional legislation that severed US funds for the war. The movement also fostered aspects of the Watergate scandal, which ultimately played a significant role in ending the war by undermining Nixon's authority in Congress and thus his ability to continue the war. It gave rise to the infamous 'Huston Plan'; inspired Daniel Ellsberg, whose release of the Pentagon Papers led to the formation of the Plumbers; and fed the Nixon administration's paranoia about its political enemies, which played a major part in concocting the Watergate break-in itself.
Based on that, one of the lessons to be learned as a result of the experience of the United States in Vietnam would seem to be that popular opinion can, in fact, change policy at the highest levels of power. Enough people, saying 'This is wrong', loudly enough and long enough, can make a difference.
1 The girl, Kim Phuc, although heavily scarred, lived through the war and eventually moved to Canada.
2 It now seems that the air strike had been carried out by South Vietnamese, not American, forces. The American who 'admitted' to having ordered the strike has recanted. This does not change the impact of that photograph on the American public.