Vietnam War I. (7x foto)
Vietnam War II. (7x foto)
Vietnam War III. (6x foto)
Vietnam War IV. (7x foto)
Vietnam War V. (7x foto)
Vietnam War VI. (7x foto)

Vietnam War VI.

Thirty-six of 44 provincial capitals and 64 of 242 district towns were attacked. They even struck at the American embassy in the capital, Saigon. Once the shock and confusion wore off, most attacks were crushed in a few days. During those few days, however, the fighting was some of the most violent ever seen in South Vietnam. Fifty-thousand Communist soldiers were killed during the tet offensive. Fourteen-thousand South Vietnamese soldiers were killed. And two-thousand American soldiers were killed. Thousands of Vietnamese civilians were killed, too.

The Tet Offensive was particularly tragic for the South Vietnamese populace. It also reverberated loudly back home in America. In particular, it negatively impacted American public opinion, calling into question Pentagon and Johnson Administration claims that America was winning the war.

Americans at home saw a different picture. Many Americans were surprised, even shocked, that the Communists could launch such a major attack against South Vietnam. For several years, they had been told that Communist forces were small and were losing badly. Claims of progress in the war, already greeted with skepticism, lost more credibility in both public and official circles. As a result, popular support for the Administration fell even more.

Democrats who opposed President Johnson seized this chance. Several ran against him in the primary elections held before the party's presidential nominating convention. These included Senator Robert Kennedy of New York and Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota. Kennedy and McCarthy did well in the early primary elections. Johnson did poorly.

On 31 March 1968 the President spoke to the American people on television. He told of his proposal to end American bombing of north Vietnam. He told of the appointment of a special ambassador to start peace negotiations. And he told of his decision about his own future:

"I do not believe that I should devote an hour or a day of my time to any personal partisan causes or to any duties other than the awesome duties of this office -- the presidency of your country. Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president."
Hanoi had suffered a military defeat in the Tet Offensive, but had won a political and diplomatic victory by shifting American policy toward disengagement.

Richard M. Nixon (1969-1974) was elected on the claim that he had a "secret plan" for honorably disengaging American troops, which succeeded initially only in intensifying the conflict. This last phase of American involvement in South Vietnam was carried out under a broad policy called Vietnamization. Its main goal was to create strong, largely self-reliant South Vietnamese military forces. Vietnamization also meant the withdrawal of a half-million American soldiers.

By 1969 the unsatisfactory results in Vietnam compelled U.S. leaders to reconsider their approach to the Cold War. Consequently, assumptions regarding Cold War adversaries were revised. In their own strategic innovation, Nixon and Kissinger transformed the nature of superpower relations, inaugurating détente with the Soviet Union and rapprochement with the People's Republic of China. Recognizing the United States' altered economic and strategic position, Kissinger introduced the concept of "interdependence" to explain significant changes in American relations with the less-powerful countries of the world. Such developments led many observers to conclude that the Cold War had ended. Others believed that the change was one of form rather than substance. Some Cold War assumptions and appearances had changed, in their view, but superpower confrontation remained the basis of international affairs.

By the spring of 1972 the Vietnam War was at a low ebb. The 1968 Communist Tet Offensive had given way to a gradual winding down by mid-1969, and after the invasion of Cambodia in May 1970, there was little fighting in South Vietnam. Yet, while the United States was in the process of withdrawing it's forces from a war that was becoming increasingly unpopular with its citizens, the North Vietnamese were rebuilding their forces in preparation for another massive offensive in hopes of overrunning the southern half of the divided country. In April 1972, heavily armed North Vietnamese divisions crossed into the South at several points, including from out of Cambodia.

Beginning in late 1972, National Security Advisor Henry A. Kissinger's negotiations with North Vietnam began to move seriously towards a settlement. To build up the military of South Vietnam, Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird initiated Project Enhance Plus on 20 October 1972. The Pentagon ordered rush deliveries of some $2 billion worth of military equipment, including over 600 aircraft. The program gave South Vietnam the fourth largest air force in the world, with over 2,000 aircraft. Only the United States, the Soviet Union, and the Peoples' Republic of China maintained larger air forces. By this time South Vietnam also floated the fifth largest navy in the world (with 1,500 ships) and fielded the fourth largest army in the world (with 1.1 million troops).

Nixon resumed bombing of North Vietnam in response to the North Vietnamese 1972 Easter offensive, and mined North Vietnamese ports and bombed Hanoi and Haiphong in late 1972. Such pressure was intended, at least in part, to force North Vietnam to sign an armistice. In early 1973 the United States, North and South Vietnam, and the Viet Cong signed an armistice. American military activities in Cambodia and Laos, which had continued after the cease-fire in South Vietnam went into effect, ended in 1973 when Congress cut off funds.

During the early months of 1974, the North Vietnamese army advanced from the north and west on the southern capital. They soon surrounded Saigon with an ever-tightening perimeter. Saigon fell to the Communists on 29 April 1975. On the morning of April 30, 1975, the last Marine boarded a CH-46 helicopter atop the American Embassy in Saigon and took off eastward disappearing into the blue horizon. It was 21 years after the first advisors arrived in country and nearly three years after the last combat troops withdrew.

South Vietnam's military defeat tended to obscure the crucial inability of this massive military enterprise to compensate for Saigon's political shortcomings. Over a span of nearly two decades, a series of regimes failed to mobilize fully and effectively their nation's political, social, and economic resources to foster a popular base of support. North Vietnamese main force units ended the war, but local insurgency among the people of the South made that outcome possible and perhaps inevitable.

The setback suffered by the United States in the Vietnam War was rooted in a failure of strategy. Indeed, perhaps no war in American history shows more clearly both the difficulties of making sound strategic judgments and the dire consequences of a lack of clear strategic vision. The Vietnam War thus provides a cautionary tale for American political and military decision-makers about the crucial importance of thinking clearly about strategy. By incorrectly relating military strategy to national policy and by improperly understanding the nature of the conflict, the United States exhausted itself against a secondary enemy in South Vietnam. The American failure in Vietnam also stemmed from trying to fight a traditional conventional war when the conflict's nature demanded a counterinsurgency effort. Top military commanders, unable to fathom the problem, refused to implement such a strategy despite evidence of its effectiveness.

Local and state elections were held in the United States in late 1966. The war in Vietnam had an effect on those elections. The opposition Republican Party generally supported the President's war efforts. Yet it criticized him and other Democrats for economic problems linked to the war. The war cost two-thousand-million dollars every month. The price of many goods in the United States began to rise. The value of the dollar began to drop. The result was inflation. Then economic activity slowed, and the result was recession.

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