MY VIETNAM HISTORY REPORT
In the 1950’s, the United States had begun to send troops to Vietnam and during the following 25-year period, the ensuing war would create some of the strongest tensions in US history. Almost 3 million US men and women were sent thousands of miles to fight for what was a questionable cause. In total, it is estimated that over 2 million people on both sides were killed.
This site does not try to document the entire history of the Vietnam War but is intended as a picture essay, illustrating some of the incredible conditions under which soldiers from both sides lived, fought, played and ultimately died. Almost all of the images shown were taken by the legendary combat photographer, Tim Page; they are nothing short of stunning. I have tried to minimize the download time, but please be patient, as the images have been optimized for a 1024 X 768 pixel resolution in “True color”. The site has also been optimized for Netscape 3.0 and Explorer 4.0 and upward. Obviously you can still view the pictures regardless of the browser you are using, but you may find that the navigation and sounds do not work as intended.
Please be advised that strict copyright laws protect this site and under no circumstances may any images be copied or used in any form. All of the images on this site are digitally marked and therefore cannot be reused. Please see the acknowledgment section for more details about the pictures and this site. Finally, if you have come here to ONLY look at blood and gore you have come to the wrong place, a soldiers facial expression can be just as terrifying.
—For much of Vietnam’s history it has been under foreign rule, primarily by the Chinese. In 1860, France began its domination of the area and had, by the late 19th century, implemented its colonization in a number of regions around the Gulf of Tonkin. During WWII, the Japanese government took control of much of the area and set up a puppet regime that was eventually forced out by the Vietnamese at the end of that war in 1945.
—After WWII and until 1955, France fought hard to regain their former territories in the region, but with a poorly organized army and little determination among the troops, their efforts soon collapsed. The French were finally defeated at Dien Bien Phu on the 8th of May 1954 by the communist general Vo Nguyen Giap. The French troops withdrew, leaving a buffer zone separating the North and South and set up elections in order to form a government in the South. The communist regime set up its headquarters in Hanoi under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh. Many North Vietnamese left the country and fled south where the self-proclaimed president, Ngo Dinh Diem had formed the Republic of Vietnam.
—Between 1955 and 1960, the North Vietnamese with the assistance of the southern communist Vietcong, tried to take over the government in South Vietnam, and in November 1963 President Diem was overthrown and executed. The following year, the North Vietnamese began a massive drive to conquer the whole country aided by China and Russia.
—Fearing a communist takeover of the entire region, the United States grew more and more wary of the progress of Ho Chi Minh and the Vietcong. Communism had become the evil menace in the United States and with expansion of Soviet rule into Eastern Europe, Korea and Cuba, the Americans were bent on stopping communism from spreading any further.
—With the cold war at its height, the US leaders were worried that an attack on North Vietnam by the US would create tensions with the Chinese and Russians that would, in turn, lead to a larger conflict and possibly WW III. This created a difficult situation for the US and would eventually lead to many internal conflicts, which ultimately prevented the US from forming a firm policy for the region. The US was also faced with a number of cultural differences between the two countries, and what was considered corrupt by the US government was considered legitimate by South Vietnamese standards. It was difficult for the US to portray South Vietnam as a hard working, hard fighting democracy; corruption was widespread among officials and the armed forces. The Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) was disorganized due to the low morale of it’s leaders and their singular interest in personal gain. Therefore the US had a great deal of difficulty in holding the army together in South Vietnam and saw only one solution, that was to start taking care of things for themselves. By 1950 the US began sending their first troops, firstly in an advisory role, which slowly escalated into a full blown commitment.
—The large-scale involvement of the US came under the tenure of President Lyndon B. Johnson and his Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Johnson had replaced John F. Kennedy after he was assassinated in Dallas, Texas 1963. As president, he was torn between the differing strategies the US had for Vietnam. The increasing involvement and the escalation of troop involvement meant there were more casualties and more problems at home. But Johnson, who was always concerned about his image, and as president, held the power to halt the war in Vietnam, could not face the thought of being regarded as the first president in US history to loose a war. The pressure around him grew so intense, that he was only left with one option and that was not to run for a second term. Basically, he handed the hot potato to Richard M. Nixon.
—The escalation of the war continued during the Nixon years. The top US commander in Vietnam was General William Westmoreland; he had to face an army full of young men placed in an environment that was totally alien to them. There was no clear front to the conflict and basically, the enemy could be hiding anywhere and everywhere. Life in the jungle was tortuous and there were no home comforts. Drugs and other stimulants filtered their way into the daily routine of many servicemen and morale quickly started to fall. For the first time, people in the US resisting the draft were given acceptance although still not by the majority of citizens. Riots and demonstrations against the war became the norm in the US, with numerous veterans taking part in the efforts to stop the war, strengthening the issue. Finally, the US government saw that that it was in a no-win situation and began making plans to withdraw.
—After great efforts by the US to withdraw, and the establishment of a cease-fire on January 27th, 1973, American soldiers began leaving Vietnam for good. The North Vietnamese finally conquered South Vietnam in early 1975, totally ignoring the cease-fire and on July 2nd, 1976, North and South Vietnam were officially united as a single communist state. It had cost an estimated 2 million lives and the injury or disablement of many millions of others.