Segments descriptions
      American Wars Series
      Vietnam War
, Part 2

       Description: Vietnam 12

Sampler
Vietnam War, Part 2
     
                sampler  3’-33”   (49’ lecture)

What makes the Tet offensive a turning point in the
Vietnam War and how does it have a significant impact on the American electorate for the future?

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Horror of weapons used against the guerillas.  Agent Orange used as a defoliant accidentally harms American servicemen causing serious chronic illness, even with birth damage to some offspring.  Imagine the damage when used deliberately against the Vietnamese.
 

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Other American insidious weapon.   Mercury in streams and rivers to poison fish, a staple of Vietnamese diet.  Specialized anti-personnel weapons.  Napalm, a highly explosive jellied petroleum product which clings to human skin.  Various torture techniques.
 

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Harsh psychological pressures.  Guerilla hit-and-run tactics.  Uncertainty of whether civilians are the enemy biding their time.  Debilitating physical conditions of the jungle.  Witnessing battlefield damage suffered by buddies.  Anxiety and fear anticipating one’s own wounding or death at any moment. 
 

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Impact of war on troops.  The body count as measure of victory.  Promotions and respite from combat depend on it.  Continuous sense of fear.  Role of fragging.  The use of drugs.  Ongoing intoxication. 
 

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My Lai massacre.  Loss of humanity in this war. 

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Tet offensive of 1968.  A devastating psychological defeat for America, although a technical military victory.  A long term effect on the American electorate. Lyndon Johnson declines to run for president in 1968. 
 

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Vietnamization.  Richard Nixon elected president in 1968.  Campaigns claiming a secret way to end the war.  In office, he reduces American troops but intensifies the air attacks, expanding the war.
 

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Cambodia.  Bordering Vietnam and neutral, the U.S. overthrows its prince and installs a semi-military leader.  With the approval of security advisor, Henry Kissinger, the U.S. bombs it mercilessly, setting the stage for the later rise of the Khmer  Rouge which inflicts a killing field horror on Cambodians.
 

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Nixon reelected in 1972 with the promise that peace is at hand.  After election, the war continues and Hanoi is carpet bombed on Christmas. Troop reduction and bombing continue for another 3 years, until Congress withholds funding.  When the bombing ends the South Korean army soon collapses.  The scramble to evacuate completely and a sorry end to this 10 year war.
 

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Why Vietnam?  Seen as the logical extreme consequence of the Cold War atmosphere and the hysteria it created.   Dan Ellsworth and the hidden motivations revealed in the Pentagon Papers.
 

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Destructive effect on returning veterans.  Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.  Broken families.  Drug abuse.  Alcoholism.  Law breaking.  Generational splits in families. 
 

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Lessons learned.  Censor news in future wars.   American public will not accept high U.S. casualties.  To minimize casualties intensify the bombing from the air. The war’s major impact leaves the world greatly changed.