The American (Vietnam) War for Dummies.

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March 7th 2006
Published: March 8th 2006
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Hue CitidalHue CitidalHue Citidal

Hue was the only Southern city taken by NVA while the US was there. They took over the Citidal for about a week before we ran them out.

I grew up in a generation that produced many movies about the Vietnam War…Platoon, Apocalypse Now, The Deerhunter, Born of the 4th of July, The Quiet American…maybe I just wasn’t paying attention, but these movies left questions unanswered. Exactly why we were in Vietnam, what the difference was between the Viet Cong and Viet Minh, why were the Vietnamese fighting each other, why did we extend into Laos and Cambodia, and why was the war so much more unpopular than the wars that came before?
Well, I think I have the answers to a lot of these questions now…and this is my summary of how I understand it. If you already know all this…as I’m sure a lot of you do…you can skip this blog.
Before WWII Vietnam was a part of French Indochina. During this time, most of the country wanted their independence from the French. It was this colonization of Vietnam that caused Ho Chi Minh to form the Viet Minh, a communist group that would fight for Vietnam’s independence.
During WWII the Japanese came into Vietnam, and took over when France fell to Nazi Germany. The Viet Minh fought the Japanese the whole time they were
Khe Sanh Combat BaseKhe Sanh Combat BaseKhe Sanh Combat Base

Where 5000 American troops were stationed, and the biggest battle in the war took place.
there, and by the end of the war, they controlled much of Vietnam. Ho Chi Mihn announced the independence of Vietnam in 1945.
Not too long after this, the British and Chinese came in to get the Japanese out of Vietnam. Somehow this backfired and fighting broke out everywhere. The French came back on the scene and declared that Vietnam was a French colony again.
Over the next 8-9 years the Vietnamese fought the French in the Franco-Viet Mihn war. We supported the French in this war, because we were afraid of communism spreading throughout SE Asia if Ho Chi Mihn took over. But the Vietnamese were too good. They had a history of fighting ruthlessly against the Chinese…and they had no problem doing the same against the French. They finally beat the French at Dien Bien Phu. Thousands of French soldiers surrendered after this battle.
The Geneva Convention came in at this point and split Vietnam in half at the 17th Parallel. There were now 2 countries…North Vietnam, a communist country ran by Ho Chi Mihn, and South Vietnam ran by the anti-communist Ngo Dihn Diem. We supported Ngo Dihn Diem, of course, because he could stop communism from
Khe Sanh Combat BaseKhe Sanh Combat BaseKhe Sanh Combat Base

Where 5000 American troops were stationed, and the biggest battle in the war took place.
spreading south and maybe into other countries in SE Asia. But around 1960…things got bad. Diem became almost like a dictator. The people rose up against him…and monks even came to Saigon and set themselves on fire to protest his policies. We knew this was bad, and we helped the military overthrow him. He was executed.
Ho Chi Mihn’s government in the North was building their communist state. Anybody seen as a threat to the communist cause was arrested or killed. Neither the North nor the South were doing too well at this point. The North wanted to have an election to pick the leader of the whole unified country…but the South would not agree to it. Afraid Ho Chi Mihn would win? That’s the story told here, but I’m not sure.
It was in 1959 that the civil war began between the North and South. The Viet Cong (who were anti-Diem people in the South) were supplied with weapons, etc through The Ho Chi Mihn trail (a trial through the jungles from North to South). NVA (North Vietnamese Army) troops also came into the South using the trail. The South started falling quick. The South’s army, ARVN, did not

Americans built an observatory on the top of this mountain to watch the DMZ
want to fight much…and just surrendered most of the time. It was only a matter of time before Vietnam became one communist country under Ho Chi Mihn.
This is why we came. We were scared of communist expansion. We figured we could do what we did in Korea…get the communists out of the South…get a strong government in the South and train their military to protect themselves. We figured this would be easy and take 2 years.…(sound familiar?)
We setup villages of pro-South people with soldiers to guard them against the VC. Remember the VC are Southern people who are pro-North, the NVA is the North Vietnamese Army, and ARVN are the guys on our side. We were fighting against the VC during most of the war. We would also use things like napalm to destroy vegetation so the VC would have nowhere to hide. However, even though we tried to clear villages before we did it, many civilizations were killed this way. This drove a lot of our supporting away to the VC.
We had more firepower, and we never lost a battle in Vietnam…but the VC knew the country better and used mines and traps to kill many
Ben Hai RiverBen Hai RiverBen Hai River

Ben Hai was the dividing point of North and South Vietnam
of our soldiers. They were also guilty of killing many civilizations with these tools. (5,000 civilians have been killed since the war ended by unexploded bombs and mines)
In 1968, the NVA attacked Khe Sanh, an American military base with 5,000 American soldiers. President Johnson thought this was going to be another Dien Bien Phu (where they beat the French)…so he threw everything we had at it. 500 Americans and 10,000 NVA were killed at this battle, but unfortunately it was only a diversion from what was called the Tet Offensive.
The Tet Offensive happened 2 weeks after Khe Sanh, on January 31st, 1968. The VC attacked cities all over the South. We didn’t see it coming. The fighting had come out of the jungle and into the streets of the cities. 1000 Americans, 2000 AVRNs, and 32,000 VCs were killed in the fighting.
It was right after the Tet Offensive that public opinion about the war started to turn back home. The Americans watched the Tet Offensive on television…and we knew we had been lied to about what was really going on in Vietnam. The civilians being killed…especially the My Lai Massacre. In My Lai American soldiers massacred hundreds of villagers. Things like this were being performed on both sides. Somehow these people, these boys and men, American and Vietnamese…these sons and fathers and brothers…these people who left their homes 4 ears earlier…were now something different. The war had turned some of them into monsters. I don’t think any of these soldiers would have been capable of doing what they were doing if they weren’t driven to it by the hell they were living in. That’s not to say it’s right…it’s just something I need to believe.
The NVA now had the Ho Chi Mihn trial going through Laos to get into the South because there were too many American troops at the DMZ at the 17th Parallel. Under Nixon we started bombing Laos and Cambodia because the NVA were there. We had never declared war on North Vietnam, and now we were bombing other countries that weren’t at war with anyone. This was about the time of the Kent University protests where those students we killed. It was time for us to get out of Vietnam.
The NVA started coming across the DMZ to fight….and we kept on bombing North Vietnam…this went on until 1973 when the North
Vinh Moc TunnelsVinh Moc TunnelsVinh Moc Tunnels

These tunnels were built to live in while we bombed the North. 17 babies were born in these tunnels.
Vietnamese, South Vietnamese, VC, and US signed the Paris Peace Accords…which allowed us to get our POWs back and exit Vietnam.
By the time we left, 3.14 million Americans served in Vietnam, 58,183 Americans were killed or MIA, and we had spent $165 billion USD. We had been there for 8 years, not 2.
223, 748 ARVN were dead, over 1 million NVA and VC, and over 4 million civilians were injured or killed (10% of Vietnam’s population).
The war went on after we left, but not for long. Saigon fell to the North in 1975 and was renamed Ho Chi Mihn City. Ho Chi Mihn did not live to see this happen, he died in 1969.
In 1994, relations between the US and Vietnam greatly improved…and we lifted sanctions that had been in place. Clinton was the first US President to visit northern Vietnam in 2000.

Additional photos below
Photos: 8, Displayed: 8


Vinh Moc TunnelsVinh Moc Tunnels
Vinh Moc Tunnels

Facing my claustrophobia.

9th March 2006

It's strange to see the rockpile. That is the place where my Uncle Mike was killed while serving in the Marine Corps. Semper Fi.
12th March 2006

good entry!
Very good explanation
15th March 2006

I still think you are the best writter. Thank you for sharing that with me. It was very informative. I love that you are having this adventure and am curious to know if Alissa ever made it out that way this fall. Be well. You rock!
18th March 2008

Thanks for this, I really appreciated you going to the time and effort of breaking this down and sharing it with your fellow layman.
25th August 2009

Great... but just one thought.
As a diabled combat Vietnam I was impressed with the information you have gathered and was so kind to present online, Thank you. I was with the 101st Airborne Div that operated often around the A Shau Vally, Laos and near the DMZ. I quote you.. "...we never lost a battle in Vietnam"... That is a nice thought but I'm sorry, its wrong. There were a number of battles lost.... I will name but one... Please research "Firebase Ripcord". Again I do thank you for your great insight, pictures and all the information you have provided. You are a real patriot. Peace to you and yours... Jack
15th November 2009

thanks for doing this!
just want to say this is the best explanation of the vietnam war i've ever read .. it's clear and complete .. u just made it easier to understand ;) good!
21st January 2010

Awsome explanation :) im from Denmark and doing a report about the Vietnam War and this helped alot, thanks :) greetings from Denmark
3rd August 2011

This was one of my query in my mind for years.....and i never got a clear answer till i read this .....thanks a lot....
22nd January 2012

Thank you !!
I am sooo damn glad that I found this side!! I have to hold a speech which is about the Vietnam War and the American involvement, in my English class. And until now I wasn’t able to understand just one thing!! So thank you very much!!

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