tv Lectures in History The Vietnam War 1965-75 CSPAN September 4, 2020 8:00pm-9:22pm EDT
immediately such a degree. it doesn't mean it's not actually resulting with some victories, right? of it. i've got to let you go. i'll see you guys next time. >> you're watching american history tv. every weekend on c-span three, explore our nations past. c-span 3, created by americas cable television company as a public service, and brought to you today by your television provider. american history tv on c-span three. exploring the people and events that tell the american story every weekend. coming up, this labor day weekend, saturday at 6 pm eastern on the civil war, historians kevin 11 and hillary
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series, san diego state university professor pierre asselin teaches a class on the vietnam war. looking at the conflict from uss escalation in 1965, to follow saigon in a teen 75. he argues that the united states was in vietnam to prove the viability of capitalism in the american system of government. this class is about an hour and 15 minutes. >> so, we talked about the kind of lead up to the american intervention and on tuesday. we are going to look at the war today. before we kind of jumped in to the actual work here, did -- any questions concerning the stuff we covered on tuesday? no? everything -- i am not good, aren't i? (laughs) so, i want you guys to pay
especially good attention today, because as it turns out, this isn't the only thing i'm actually qualified to teach. i don't know there was a war in korea until i read the text because you guys, but the vietnam war, that's kind of my thing, and so, i've tried to present relatively, kind of concise history of the war, and hopefully it makes some sense to you. so, on tuesday, we are talking about how, starting in 1964, as a result of developments in hanoi, north yet numb under its new leader, le duan, starts to escalate the insurgency in southern vietnam, and it escalates to a point where by late 64, we effectively have a state of war in southern vietnam. we have big, or as i mentioned, in, southern vietnam. at that point, the position of the americans is, what do we do
about what's going on? do we just effectively allow the south to fall, or do we do more than merely send advisers to preclude a collapse of this pro-american, anti communist regime in saigon? so, ultimately, in response to the escalation, in response to this existence of a state of war in southern vietnam, lyndon johnson decides to deploy combat troops. it begins with 3000 marines, and it keeps going up from there. he deploys these combat troops to southern vietnam, and at the same time, he initiated a sustained bombing campaign against the north. the idea being that the north needs to be punished for all the troubles in the south.
as far as johnson is advisers are concerned, whatever difficulties the americans are facing in the south are all the result of this collusion by hanoi, of this involvement by hanoi. as we established on tuesday, as it turns, out right, the insurgency in southern vietnam was actually started by southerners. against the wishes of hanoi. so, johnson's approach is to fight the insurgents in the south with american military personnel, and to bomb the north for its support of this state of war in southern vietnam. and that significant, because for the people of northern vietnam, this is all lost on them. as far as they are concerned, the markets are bombing us for no reason that we can understand. that's one of the reasons why the bombing will actually be counterproductive. if anything, it inspires northerners to fight more valiantly once they get
deployed to the south. they really eventually buy into the whole narrative presented to them by le duan the fact that the american war in vietnam is effectively unprovoked american aggression against our pour, innocent people. now, always keep this in mind, right, we talked about this on tuesday. as far as johnson and his team are concerned, it's important to do something about vietnam at a minimum so as to prove that the u.s. is not a paper tiger, as mao has been saying about the u.s.. and ultimately, to demonstrate american resilience in the cold war. and, you know, if you don't think anything else from today's lecture, at least please remember this -- the vietnam war was never about vietnam for the united states. it's about the larger cold war.
it's about the credibility of the presidency, it's about the credibility of the united states. it's about the credibility of the entire american system. right? so, people always kind of try to rationalize how vietnam, which had been so inconsequential before, suddenly becomes so important to the united states, right? so, was it resources? was it location? it's really the cold war context that accounts for a white vietnam becomes so important. it's also that same cold war context that accounts for why johnson, even though he really doesn't want war and get numb, and so intervening and escalating, and effectively matching what le duan and hanoi has done. keep this in mind, vietnam a small, and from the perspective of the big powers, it's technically inconsequential, but in the context of the cold war, just like these other
little places, it assumes an important that is tremendous. we talked about cuba earlier, right? tiny little cuba, the world almost ends because of cuba. that's what the cold war does. right? it gives this importance to places which otherwise would become completely inconsequential. we talked about kennedy in laos earlier. it's in this context we need to see vietnam. this is about much more than vietnam itself. if you fail to recognize that, nothing about the vietnam war will make sense to you, right? so always keep this in mind. so, that's johnson's rationale for intervening, and as far as the conduct of the war itself in vietnam is concerned, that's the preview of an american general by the name of westmoreland. william westmoreland. so, he's the one tasked with defeating the insurgents, the
communist threat in southern vietnam. and his entire approach is predicated on this search and destroy we. tactic. and body counts. so, basically, what westmoreland seeks to do to achieve victory, it is kill as many enemy troops, viet cong and north vietnamese as he can. so, whenever americans go into combat, once combat is over, they have to count how many get me's bodies are left behind, and based on the numbers provided, westmoreland we measured how successful the u.s. was in the war. beyond all of that, in terms of finding the enemies, right, because the enemies recognized early on that there really are
no match for american forces. so, if anything, we live yet kong, and north vietnamese troops will try to avoid as much as they can, actually engaging americans in combat. they will go after troops of the south vietnamese regime, feeling pretty confident about their odds against them, but try to avoid major combat with american troops. so, that's why westmoreland develops this whole search and destroy thing. effectively, americans will be the want to have to go out in the middle of nowhere to search for and we troops. find them, and then destroy them. right? so, for your typical american soldier in vietnam, the war is not easy. essentially, you are walking around, until you make contact. and contact usually means until somebody starts shooting at you.
vietnam is interesting because of that. it's something like 90% of the cases and always the other guys opening fire first. that's ironically enough how westmoreland wants it. american troops have to go out and draw these guys out, make them initiate contact and which what american troops can fire back and call for artillery support, and air support, and destroy communist units that way, right, and we units that way. but if you are the american soldiers involved in that enterprise, or the marines involved in that enterprise, it's not particularly fun. you are walking around effectively waiting to get shot at. so, the last thing you want to be is the first guy, walking through the jungle, right? the so-called point man. those are the guys who inevitably get it. so, typically, right, whenever platoons go out, and we embark on the search and destroy
missions, they rotate who is on point, because you know if it's always, you it's a matter of time before you get shot. so, that's why. it's a really, really kind of dramatic experience for people your age, fred? the average age of the combat soldier in vietnam is 19 years old. they are kids, right? and then you are in vietnam, and this is your job, right, to walk around until somebody shoots at you. so, show you some images in a moment. so, this is a situation we have by mid, late 1965, right? so the hard-line is firmly in charge in hanoi. then we have a general, a guy by the name of -- many things inside gone. his picture is on the side. that's the counterpart in the
south. and as part of the war began, the north get me is our obtaining, significant support from the chinese and the soviets. i mean, there's countless other countries that offer material, political, moral support, but ultimately, what really allows we hanoi to wage that war, is the material support they get from the chinese and the soviets. and then inside, god we've got the americans, obviously, right, who provide significant military and economic assistance, but unbeknownst to many people, there's also other countries that continued assistance including troops to the anti communist struggle. some of the flags you see here, she probably can't recognize, but so we've got beyond the u.s., the white flag with a little circle. south korea, very good. south korea. the one next to it, what is
that one? australia, and then the one above it? we excellent. very, very good. the ties are one of the rare asian countries with the red white and blue flag. they will actually have thrown troops and vietnam. there will also be tie troops and vietnam. filipinos will be in vietnam. there will be some new zealanders in vietnam. there will be south koreans fighting and vietnam. i talked to some veterans from the north getting beside, and they told me that they were terrified of the south korean troops. they were really strict. the south koreans were ferocious troops. and eventually, the communist north creates a special unit to deal to south korean's because they are thought to be so intimidating from the respective of communist forces. also little known fact, 35,000 canadians will volunteer to serve in vietnam. so kennedy himself doesn't fight in vietnam, but 35,000
canadians volunteer because i think that's a good fight. which is probably why you lost to get more. (laughs) we are great fighters, we are great fighters. so, here's slides. 65, right? marines initially 3000 of them landing in southern vietnam. we are expecting action, and what they get is young getaways women with les. you see them in that upper left hand corner. there is the bombing of the north right so spring of 65, the war effectively becomes americanized through the deployment of this first contingent of u.s. troops in the form of marines, and then the beginning of the sustained bombing runs against northern vietnam. kind of cool picture, right? i got this from the vietnamese archives. so, the americans bomb, and, of
course, the north vietnamese population will rally, mobilize to defend the homeland. what you guys notice about the picture? who is featured prominently in this picture? kids, right? kids. and that's, you know, when you try to understand why they win, and the u.s. loses, for the vietnamese specifically, for the north vietnamese, this is a total or situation, right? so for americans, vietnam is their only if you have to fight and get numb. for everyone else, it's pretty much life as it was before. for the people of north vietnam, because of the state of war, because of the bombing, every man, woman, and china note effectively starts contributing to contribute to the war effort and one way or another. so, a lot of the guys end up being drafted, and send south to fight. the women are being employed to fill in bomb craters or else to
go to the south not to fight but to serve as nurses and medics and so on and so forth. and then kids end up being co-opted, right? as part of your school curriculum, right, you study matt, history all the great stuff in the morning and then in the afternoon, you put out fires. well, that's usually more of an impromptu thing, but you fill and bomb creators, you contribute to the rebuilding of bridges and so on and so forth. everyone and the north is effectively mobilized for the purposes of the war effort, which really kind of helps the cause of le duan. also got this from the getting is archives. recognize him? john mccain. john mccain. so, the archives and vietnam have this photo collection, and i'm going through stuff and there is a picture of mccain getting shot down and 67. his plane crashed in l.a. in hanoi. if you go to hanoi, it is a plaque where mccain was
captured. it's a big deal for the vietnamese. we captured john mccain, and we tortured him. that's on the plaque, but this is mccain moments after he was shot down. it's, i guess, one of the first photos that was taken of mccain. i said that his office, and i got a response back, and say, by the way, in case you care, here's a picture of the senator after he was captured. this is what the war was like for american marines and soldiers. you are just basically walking around through jungle, right? again, getting these communist forces, they know how vulnerable they can be if they are exposed. so, they go in the deepest areas of the country, usually mountainous, jungle regions and wait for the americans to come to them. something like 3 million americans served in vietnam. you have to see these guys, vietnam, the other license plates. as it turns out, only 20% of
americans who served in vietnam or actually in combat. the overwhelming majority of americans who served in vietnam were not in combat. and if a 20% and combat, 10% only ever actually experienced combat. so, only a minority of americans have served in vietnam, actually did the stuff that you see in these pictures, and you see in movies. and those are the guys who sometimes suffer various, from various ailments. again, because the nature of the work was such that it was really, really hard for a 19 year old to cope with. for a lot of americans, the war was actually the best time other lives, right? if you were 19 years old, stuck in an air conditioned office inside gone, things could be pretty darn good, and that was the reality for, as a turns, out most americans who were in vietnam. so, you know, people are, ask well, at one point, there's almost 600,000 americans in
vietnam. how could the u.s. have lost? again, most of these guys are effectively support personnel. they are not actual ground forces. they are not soldiers, they are not marines who are out there, searching for communist forces. so, that partially explains why the outcome was not what american policy makers intended. so, i told you about this search and destroy tactic developed by westmoreland. american troops go deep in the jungle, search for the enemy, and destroy the enemy. but then these guys and pick to start coming out, and people start thinking of search and destroy as what? you search people's homes, and then you destroy the homes. exactly. so, you know, among the things that end up playing against the american effort, and that account for its unpopularity, is ironically enough the very name of the tactics out west more land used. for most americans, for many
americans, not most, but for money, search and destroy came to mean american troops going into getting these people's homes searching those homes and then setting them on fire. so, of course, that kind of explains why, very quickly, many people turned against the war, right? we don't want our country to be involved in searching people's homes and than just destroying them. as a turns out, search and destroy meant searching for the enemy in the jungle and destroying the enemy. not going after innocent people's homes. that's westmoreland. these are really interesting character. some people consider him a hero, who, given the chance, could have won the vietnam war, fred? some people think that it is the way civilian policy makers brand the whole thing that accounted for the tragic outcome. others will tell you that the u.s. effectively lost the vietnam war, because of
westmoreland. because of the way he chose to deal with the communist presence in southern vietnam. so, he's a great guy to some, he's revered by others. just like so many others when it comes to vietnam, there's no consensus on westmoreland. but again, like so many issues having to do with vietnam, he was either great, or he was either really, really bad. remember, it right, people are never particularly objective when it comes to vietnam. it's it all good, or is all that. when it comes to policies, to policy makers, or in this particular case, to the american commander, responsible for military affairs. cover of life magazine. so, again, it's that, you know, the war will be extensively covered by the world media,
including the american media. and so, lower effectively becomes inescapable, if you are an american citizen. it is not in the magazine to our reading, is on the tv news, for you are watching, or the radio programs that you're listening to, right? people still listen to the radio during that period. and initially is fine. like, ok, these are brave americans and of course you will suffer casualties, but as casualties amounts, and as these images start coming into people's living rooms, night after night, month after month, year after year, people become disillusioned, right? relatively speaking, american casualties in vietnam or low. at least if you compare to the casualties suffered by their enemies, but for americans to see, american kids, dead american kids, wounded, really had an impact, and so the
american people generally will accept the cost of the work through 65, 60, six 67. starting in 68, you start witnessing a much more vocal movement opposing the war in vietnam. these kinds of images, which were relatively well received initially, which in time, start really kind of affecting, the american position vis-à-vis the war in vietnam. these are the kind of three on the american side. you're nice johnson in the middle. flint on his left, met by maduro. a lot is right, secretary of state. these are kind of the architects of the war in vietnam and those are the individuals who will effectively be blamed, we should say, for getting the u.s. involved in the vietnam
war. but as we talked about it on tuesday, it's on fair to pin all of this on johnson. his predecessors, kennedy, eisenhower, before him, really made consequential decisions, which i would argue made it almost impossible for johnson to just avoid an increased american commitment and vietnam. technically, american combat troops enter vietnam under johnson's watch, but in a way, that's kind of a logical culmination to a process set in motion, starting in 48, 49, 50. right? when the u.s. starts helping the french fighting their own war against chi minh and his armies, during the so-called first indochina china war. speaking of the motivations, right? this whole domino theory, the sole issue of credibility, the
idea that if we don't hold the fort in vietnam, then laos we'll far. will fall, tonight will, fallen off this domino effect. all these great quotes about what will happen if we don't do anything about via numb. i've -- if you don't stop the move vietnam, we will be fighting them on the beaches of waikiki right that's how the thinking was and from the evidence, it really seems to be legitimate, that they truly, jim believe that at least for a period, unless they acted in vietnam, unless they did something about vietnam, long term, the u.s. would face a much bigger threat by -- from the communist bloc. so, again, right, it's not vietnam itself informing american decision-making.
it's the whole cold war context. this interesting chart, so u.s. troops track in vietnam, right? you see under johnson, it's a gradual process of escalation and it peaks in 68 and we have close to 600,000 soldiers and marines in vietnam, and the nixon becomes president, promises peace with honor, and then the number starts to decline. so, it's a gradual escalation, which, by the, way also some people have used to explain why the u.s. lost by being so gradual, johnson, effectively, gave the other chants, the other side a chance to adapt, right? the idea being that if johnson had gone all out from the beginning, the u.s. could have won, but by effecting a gradual escalation, johnson basically allowed his enemies to adjust
circumstances and eventually to prevail. everybody gets blamed for the outcome of the war in vietnam, and as i argued, no one really looks at what the other side it did right, which is really unfortunate, and which to me, is how you can understand the outcome of the vietnam war. we will touch upon that a bit next, actually. and questions at this point? no? ? not >> so, in 65, they are already enacting this seek and destroy strategy to try and win the war, but no war that springs to my mind had been fought this way. there were no objectives, there were no changing lines between americans and the enemy. so, what did a picture as victory? how is this going to end with this as the strategy? >> so, the idea was that you
would get to a point where you would be killing so many enemy troops, that they wouldn't have enough new people to fill the ranks of these depleted unions, right? you'd reach this threshold of pain, or something like that, right, so if i killed two people, they just bring into more. if i kill ten, at one, point they will only be able to bring it more. and after a, while they will have to surrender. that's the rationale. that's the approach, so we call this kind of a war of attrition. westmoreland and other people around thought that was a sensible strategy. as it turned out, hanoi and the viet cong kind of managed to constantly bring more than enough people to fill the ranks of depleted unions. and if, in some instances, the units were hurting, that they would just change the way they would deal with the american presence in vietnam. they might flightless, and do
more diplomatically on the international level. cody? >> is there a connection between westmoreland's affinity for the kill counts, and robert mcnamara's, as he's always assessed with numbers? is there a connection with that? >> yes, and that's one of the ways that westmoreland kind of gets the job, right? he's a numbers guy, mcnamara is a numbers guy, so the whole body count thing, red? so we feed the body count, and then mcnamara nbc can look at all of this, and look at the numbers from that side, and that side, and the american numbers, and you can reach like a magic formula at one point where you will be able to declare victory. that's also, by the way, the problem with body counts. if you are an american combat unit, you get stick one night if you have a good body count. right? so, maybe you will be tempted
to inflates the body count. right? or else, if you happen to have killed, accidentally, someone who was a civilian to avoid the repercussions, you might say, well, that was actually an enemy combatant. so, that's the problem with all of this, right? when you rely on numbers that can be easily manipulated for whatever reasons, and give you a completely distorted picture of what's actually going on. basically, these tactic was analogous. >> kind of yes, except as cole was mentioning, there is no front. you just kill. and then you kill. it's not about territory, you just kill people and you go wherever you stand to kill more people. that is basically you know it's a war of attrition. in the way that if you just look at the numbers, there is that parallel to world war i.
now listen to what hanoi is doing, so can effectively, the war in southern vietnam the comes at least partially americanized. starting in 1965. and upon seeing this, they decide to respond in kind. as the americans bringing more troops, and more supplies into the south, they will increase the number of people from the north, being deployed to fight in the south. so it is this response in kind, it's a matching of resources both human and material. the north vietnamese strategy, were u.s. diplomatic history, but it's important to understand what the other guys are thinking to make sense of
the outcome. it's the thinking is very clear very clever under the circumstances. they are aware of their own limitations. they are aware of how powerful the u.s. and its allies are. so their whole strategy is to come with respect to the u.s. isolate the united states, militarily in the south and try to draw them in the most remote areas. try to isolate their units. and try to minimize, their ability and reduce their ability to bring the full bear of the american military might on the forces. so you have isolate american forces that way. then diplomatically, and internationally same thing. so try to make the americans look like criminals in vietnam. try to get the world to turn on the u.s. so that u.s. ends up
with no friends in the world at least no one willing to support its military enterprise in vietnam. so with respect to the u.s. it's all about isolating the americans military militarily and diplomatically the with respect to the regime in saigon and its armed forces, the strategy is to crush that army. that is the army that communist forces really want to defeat. they know they are no match for the americans, but they do stand a chance against the army of the rival regime in saigon. that is their main target. the bulk of their military operations will be directed at other vietnamese units fighting for the regime in saigon. as they tried to crush those units, they similarly, internationally, diplomatically
do what they can to discredit the regime in saigon. they keep calling to a puppet of the americans, a lackey of the americans with no legitimacy whatsoever. and it partially works. this is key to everything. they do their best to take advantage of the sign of the sino-soviet dispute. if you want to make sense of the cold war, if you want to make sense of your own lives, i would argue, understand the
sino - soviet and it is so darn important. what hanoi decides to do is play the chinese against the soviets. hanoi puts itself in the middle of this metaphorical love triangle and plays games with both. we will go to the chinese and ask for this much in terms of military equipment, get it, then go to the soviets and fake that chinese gave us this much, you should be matching or surpassing. sure enough, through this manipulation, hanoi gets maximal support from its allies. that support is absolutely invaluable to allow hanoi to stay in the fight and ultimately prevail. there is no question that the vietnamese who fought the americans and their allies were very courageous people. but none of the victories they secure would have been possible without the guns, the hardware provided by the soviet union and china. that is really key to all of this. le duan knows this. that is why, throughout the war he is constantly engaging the
soviets and the chinese to get assistance from them. here is an image of north vietnamese forces in combat. a lot of the vietcong soldiers were peasants with guns. as far as the north vietnamese soldiers were concerned, those guys were as well equipped, as disciplined, as professional as any other soldier in any other regular army, including the u.s. armed forces. i would argue that, you get to a point where north vietnamese troops are even more disciplined than american troops, which says a lot. americans have always been good at maintaining discipline within their armed forces. we are talking about a north vietnamese army who is as professional as any in the world. there is always this idea that the u.s. lost against a bunch of peasants. there were peasants that thought the u.s.. a lot of the north vietnamese
soldiers were from peasant families. by the time those guys entered the south, they had been really well-trained, they had been given good guns, and they knew what they were doing as much as the americans knew what they were doing. you might have heard of the ho chi minh trail. this is a network of roads running from neighboring laos and cambodia that was used by north vietnam to bring troops and supplies into the south. talk about duplicity, right? le duan and hanoi are using them -- and the u.s. is not supposed to be doing anything in those countries. the u.s. will start bombing the coaching intro, -- ho chi minh trail. both cambodia and laos allowed
vietnam to use their territory for the sake of infiltrating troops and supplies. there are images like trucks carrying supplies, then troops walking down the ho chi minh trail. it takes two months ago from the north to the south. depending on how intense the bombing is, it takes longer. we had guys who were here last semester. one of the individuals had traveled down the ho chi minh trail at a very high point in the war. it took him six months to go from hanoi to the north -- from the north to the south.
they had to exactly go through laos and cambodia. at times they had to go through vietnam because it was safer there than it was in neutral cambodia. when you fight the americans and their allies you have to be resourceful. sure enough, america's enemies proved incredibly resourceful. another reason why they prevail in the end. they start taking these really complex tunnel systems. sometimes right under american and allied bases. if you ever go to vietnam, one of the more popular tourist attractions outside saigon is this tunnel. that photo on the bottom right is from there. there is a guy popping out of a hole in the ground. they built these really narrow tunnels to pop up whenever they needed to shoot, then hide whenever the americans would start shooting back. that is one of the reasons why the war was so frustrating for american troops. you would get shot at, then when you shoot back there is nothing or no one to shoot at. i have a couple of the slides here.
there are underground cities. you have places to eat, places to sleep, places to do whatever human beings do on a regular basis. places where you can look after the wounded. places were you can store the dead and so on and so forth. eventually the americans realize they needed to do something. they developed special units and individuals to go into those tunnels. they called them, rats -- tunnel rats. if you were short, that would possibly become your assignment. a lot of shorter guys would try as much as they could to avoid serving in the army or the
marines because if you are short, you are perfect for that job. it is an absolutely terrifying thing to go into those tunnels. the way they were built was so that is vietnamese person could go through but the average american could not. a lot of the vietnamese are relatively small compared to americans. only smaller americans could go in. if you go there, you could experience a white tunnel for you could try the real thing. i got stuck and i freaked out. you can actually try it. if you are masterful but, you will die before you make it to the other end of the tunnel. it is the real thing. whatever was in there except for landmines. i took students there once and some did that tunnel. next thing i know i hear it
yelling and screaming. if one person panics, everybody panics. that was the highlight of my trip. [laughter] >> that was fun. there is le duan. this is, ho chi minh. after 1964 and 1963, le duan is in charge. he is not as charismatic as ho chi minh. ho chi minh is the kind face of the effort. there is le duan toasting with mao and other high-ranking people from china.
the chinese would provide the bowl of the small arms used by communist forces to go after american troops in southern vietnam. the bottom 24 -- bottom two photos come from the vietnamese archives. the rectangular one with all of the guys, le duan and mao are holding hands. >> aww. >> whenever people get friendly and parts of asia, you're never boys holding hands with girls. if you're a guy and a guy and you're good friends, you hold hands. it shows the solidarity between the vietnamese and the chinese. they were as close as lips to teeth. that is the big thing they would always say. by most accounts -- and i kind of agree with that -- the turning point of the vietnam war is a 1968 tet offensive. for reasons we touched upon earlier, hanoi matching the americans man for man and gun for gun, by late 1967 and early 1968, the war is at an impasse. there is no progress. no one can claim that they are
close to victory. le duan is not the most patient guy and he is losing patience. he decides to order this huge coordinate offensive against towns and cities in north vietnam. right? up to this point, communist forces have operated primarily in remote jungle rural areas. cities have been spared the horrors of war. le duan figures that by now the americans probably don't expect attacks on cities, so he orders and attack on pretty much every major town and city in southern vietnam. and he decides to enhance the element of surprise. he decides to order the launching of the attack for
attempt which is the lunar, the coming of the lunar new year for the vietnamese or for east asians. traditionally, at that time, and get numb, there had been no fighting, and it wasn't official, but it was informally a truce observed. there is no fighting around tet. it's christmas, new year, easter. all the american holidays together, that doesn't come close to what tet represents to the vietnamese. it's, and people take off for weeks and they go to see their families. it's huge so le duan vigorously immigrants will never expected. the south vietnamese rivals never expected, and when we strike, south galleries army units in particular will be completely depleted because at tet, people go back to the relative in the countryside. and the calculation was
reasonable. le duan thinks that once the attack was launched, and with the inevitable success that the communist forces will enjoy, the people will recognize that the americans will be defeated, so gone will collapse, and they would rise. there would be a kind of this massive upheaval in the south. it would eventually come and see americas others no point staying here because nobody wants us and vietnam. and all these counts, le duan miscalculated. there was no mass of people, and despite some very quick and initial successes, eventually the americans in the south academy's counterattack, and the whole campaign ends up a disaster. militarily, the tet offensive is an abject disaster for le duan. something like 40,000 troops, north getting east and get connor killed. the whole or, the u.s. loses
50,000 soldiers and marines. and one campaign, hanoi loses 40,000 northcutt news and viet cong soldiers. that's killed, right? tens of thousands more are wounded. so, total military disaster, but then two le duan great surprise, psychologically, it's a huge victory over the united states, because of the way the american people will respond to the tet offensive. this dramatic military defeat becomes a critical victory for hanoi. what's interesting, is that le duan never thought that would happen. it simply is an accident that the americans responded the way they did, and they responded the way they did mostly because of certain images i will share with you in a moment. so, america gets hit really hard, psychologically, that's
not lost on johnson, and within a few weeks after the tet offensive, johnson goes on tv, and tells the american people that, from now, on the u.s. will commit itself to resolving the war diplomatically, and also johnson announces that he won't be running for a second term as president. that rarely, if ever, happens. so, from what we understand now, johnson wasn't going to run anyway, even before tet had made up his mind. whatever the reality is, for most americans, johnson's decision to not run for a second term was interpreted as an admission of defeat in vietnam. and that kind of amplifies the effects of the tet offensive. this idea that the president has been defeated by tet, which can be the country will be defeated by tet. and by the enemies communist opposition. sure enough, because of tet and
it's different ramifications, the anti war movement in the u.s. and internationally is dramatically energized. is dramatically emboldened. and just as le duan wanted the united states government finds itself increasingly isolated. isolated, not just from the international community, but even from its own people. more and more americans will turn against the war in the aftermath of tet. it's not a majority of americans, but it's still a number significant enough to create major headaches for the policymaking elite in washington. within a year or so after tet, major revolution of a massacre, conducted by american troops against yet we civilians, which kind of further undercuts the
american position and vietnam and internationally. i will show you pictures in a moment, but, yet there was this american unit massacred a bunch of innocent civilians and 68. and 69, photos are released and winners of mask or, i guess, publicized, and that just contributes to growing the anti war movement, and turning more people against the war, essentially things go from bad to worse. for the americans, for american policy makers in the 68 69 period. so, here's a map showing some of the cities that were hid in that communist offensive. so, pretty much, every major town and city in the south, and here's a photo of viet cong.
you remember the flag, right? viet cong, going into action and tet. would you guys know about the person holding the rpg? it's a woman. this is interesting, americans always think that all these women are fighting for the viet cong, and that's staged. again, women rarely, if ever, actually fought in the war. they served, and some of them were soldiers. some of them were snipers, and some of them did die in combat. we but it was rare for women to be involved in regular combat activities. usually, when women are involved, is asked nurses, as medics, as intelligence personnel, but hanoi always tried to put women in its photos because it looked good. beyond that, it reflected innocence, right? women invariably are innocent. so, it kind of added to the
whole kind of nobility of what the vietnamese work trying to do. let's, and we are just trying to liberate ourselves, our women just want freedom, but these bad, evil americas are preclude-ing all of this. so, you always see females in images. when americans get shot down over north vietnam, there's always somehow a female that captures them. that's all staged photos, but again, it makes you look favourably upon the vietnamese, and they are always young females, and so it's all calculated. it's all part of this effort to enhance, to kind of improve the image of the effort while, at the same time, discrediting the americans and bring about their isolation. these are some of the more iconic images of the tet offensive. that's the american embassy in the upper right hand corner. the viet cong will try to take over the embassy, they get through one wall, and they all get killed. but still, the idea that the embassy was attacked, right?
what's an embassy? we its sovereign territory. an embassy is sovereign territory, and it comes under attack during the tet offensive, and yeah, so 19 get congo in, they get killed very quickly. right, so, this is really kind of symbolic of the whole thing. they technically, right, mike it into the embassy, but then they all die. that's how the whole tet offensive played out, but psychologically, we've been or get numb for three years, even our embassy isn't safe. how can we even hope to pass the rest of the country, and we can't even keep our embassy, which is sovereign american territory, save? that is one of the elements that really kind of undermines american morale. and then, yeah, this house to house fighting, street fighting, bodies of civilians drenched in blood, and this very, very famous photo of marines coming back from action in northern
vietnam. in northern south vietnam. we've all seen this, right? this happened in the context of the tet offensive. this is one of the most iconic images of the war, right? so, god looks like a civilian, hands tied behind his back, executed by, it turns out, saigon sheaf of police. right? americans are looking at this, like, what kind of animals are we working with? what kind of monsters are these guys, right? the guy has got to show, you he looks like a civilian who is shot point blank in the head. so, there's a whole story. the guy was actually viet cong, and had a really bad things, and it was kind of a spur of the moment thing, and you know, it's a very chaotic time, so the chief of police just shoots the guy. but interpreted in the united states as, well, our own allies are cold blooded murderous, right? as it turns out, the photographer took the picture was writing to the chief of
police to apologize for taking the picture, which was, from the top of his own perspective, eventually taken out of context by many americans. not to excuse again the kind of random use of violence, but you, know the image really went along with helping the communist cause in vietnam, and really hurting the american venture in that same country. you know who that is? johnson. johnson, right? presumably, so, i think it was his son-in-law, was in vietnam during the tet offensive, and apparently he's listening to recording of his son-in-law, and he rolled doubt, and that picture was taken. of course, it started circulating, and i mean, it doesn't look good, right? it's like a president that's been kind of broken by vietnam. again, johnson never wanted vietnam. johnson one of the great society, he was going to be a domestic savior, and instead, he to deal with what he called that war.
he called it this great lady, the love of his life, the grace excited to check america, to give it all up for what he called that (bleep) the war. and here's a dejected johnson who decides to just call the whole thing quits in march of 68. that's the massacre. somewhere between 200 and 500 civilians are killed. there's an army photographer there, and he's got two cameras on them. he's got a u.s. military issued camera and he's got his own camera, right? u.s. military issued a bunch of pictures with it, but went to the military afterwards which, of course, try to bear the whole thing. he had his own camera with him, and then he took that home, and did a sideshow for his friends, and it goes, this is the stuff i saw in vietnam, and his friends kind of freaked out when they saw this, and eventually was reporting that's the newspaper that's first broke the story in november of 69. it kind of validated the worst assumptions of what americans
were doing in vietnam. most american soldiers and marines and vietnam behaved well. but mai lai we'll suggest to money that every soldier, every marine is a baby killer, and it really, really hurts the american cars in vietnam. any questions to this point? >> the tet offensive, we see how the u.s. and south economies core psychologically affected. how are the north vietnamese affected? because of the tet offensive, where the in shock, or more supportive of it? >> that's a, really really great question. so, the north, right? it's a communist dictatorship. communist dictatorships. how do they treat information? secret. the control everything, right? they control everything. so, as far as the people in the north are concerned, when he
read newspapers, we just scored a huge victory. we lost three soldiers. we killed 40,000 americans. there are always inflating the numbers. they are never reporting their own casualties. whenever the report somebody died, it's usually to say well, he died killing 20 americans and protecting with his body 50 of his comrades. people in the north, because all of the information is controlled by hanoi, never get a clear sense of exactly what's happening in the south. it's only when the war is over that the government will notify people, oh, by the way, your son died in vietnam four years ago. this is -- get this, right? so, you know, if you have a son gets drafted, and to get, not you know, right? in north vietnam, if you are sun gets drafted, he gets trained, if he goes to the south, he can't tell you he's
going to the south. sounds can only tell their parents they are going on a special mission, somewhere, and the idea was to make your parents thank you are going overseas. this way they don't worry about you. if they know you are going down south, chances are, you are not coming back. most people did not. if you are a northern soldier, you could not tell your family you were fighting in the south. americans, what did they do in their spare time? they write letters home. no mail system in the north. you are not about to report on what is happening as it might go against what the propaganda is spewing. as far as le duan and hanoi is spewing, this disaster is on him. because he'd destroys the newspaper and the radio, all people here is that there are a lot of explosions in the south and we are doing awesome, we kill all of these americans and we have only lost a handful of
individuals. that is one of the reasons why they are spinning the fight. northerners specifically never give up because they think as long as the war continues, they are not losing that many people. only when it is all over in 1975, do families get notified, your son died three years ago. that's only when people get to appreciate the real cost of the war. that is another reason i would argue, the manipulation of information, americans could not do right. anytime somebody gets hurt, that gets reported. in this particular case, nothing ever gets reported. the war is going also in the newspapers -- going awesome in the newspapers even when it is not. nixon's whole thing, peace with honor.
nixon becomes president on this platform of peace with honor. whatever his flaws, nixon did have a strategy. it did bear fruit. number one, nixon decides to vietnamize the war. reduce the number of american troops and place more of the burden of fighting on the south vietnamese. under nixon, american troops gradually withdraw from vietnam, and at the same time, the south
vietnamese army is expanding. 1965, the war is americanized. starting in 1969, it is de-americanized. nixon has secret talks, no one knows about them except for henry kissinger. his secretary of defense does not know about these secret talks. the guy in charge of diplomacy, your own president does not tell you we are talking to the north vietnamese. really interesting stuff. jesse? >> why doesn't nixon
cambodia. 1970, the u.s. and south vietnamese army invade cambodia. a year later, the south vietnamese army with american air support invades laos. to nixon, it makes sense. i will go after the supply lines that feed the communist war effort in the south. the thing is, nixon is supposed to be the war, and ending it, and now he is invading two other countries. that did not sit too well with some people in the u.s.. nixon recognizes that moscow
and beijing are giving hanoi the guns. he also goes to the soviets and chinese asking for their help in ending the war. it will bear some dividends. as he is doing this, he bombs on a scale johnson never did. when johnson announced he was not going to run for second term, he also curtailed the bombing of north vietnam. in 1968 just before the election, he suspended all bombing of north vietnam. life in northern vietnam kind of goes back to normal. 1960 time -- 1969-1971, people are happy. nixon talks to the russians and chinese, he starts bombing the heck out of north vietnam. political pressure, military pressure. many of these initiatives are very unpopular. they are extremely unpopular. but, i would argue they worked. in 1973, nixon will get a peace deal from the north vietnamese.
they never wanted any deals with the americans, they wanted to beat the americans militarily, but because of the pressure put on him and his regime by nixon, he has to concede and give the agreement of 1973, providing a cease-fire, withdrawal of u.s. forces and return of pows, including john mccain. jeremy? >> what kind of pressure was being placed on le duan. in north vietnam, they were controlling the information, they didn't have the press like in the u.s. what kind of opposition was he running into? >> almost none domestically. whoever opposes the war, there is a secret police going around
in north vietnam intimidating people and throwing them in jail. as far as the chinese and soviets, nixon wants to tell him to ease off. but moscow feels, if i put too much pressure on le duan, they will turn to the chinese and vice versa. nothing much comes out of it except psychologically. when the north vietnamese see nixon being invited to china, to moscow, they get nervous. they start thinking, what if moscow or beijing decides to cut off assistance? psychologically, it has a big impact. it has a really big impact on how the whole leadership look at this. it is one of the reasons they sign this agreement, they start questioning the integrity of
their own allies. they never actually curtailed their aid. they actually give them more aid, but it still made the hanoi leaders nervous. here is a chart, u.s. troop strength in vietnam under nixon. gradual decline. but nixon wants these with honor. he knows he is not going to win the war, but he has to do something so that it doesn't look like the americans surrendered. he knows he is going to lose vietnam and he can live with that, but what he cannot afford to lose is the cold war. the u.s. wants to exit vietnam in a dignified manner, that's why it takes four years. nixon's strategy to get out of vietnam is the same charles de gaulle used to get out of
them and then a picture of me when i had promised and a life full of hope and dreams. they have been getting crushed. [laughter] >> any idea who the old guy is? the little guy with the glasses and all of these pictures. you see him? that guy with the translator. the interpreter. in the secret talks, each had an interpreter. at one point, kissinger took a liking to the north vietnamese interpreter and said i trust you enough, we only need you. so whenever the two of them would talk, there was only one interpreter, this little guy. i tracked him down in hanoi and we became good friends and shared interesting stories. whenever we talked about the talks, all he would say is, very difficult, so difficult. he talked about the one time that le duan got angry, the americans have bombed. he was yelling and screaming at kissinger and kissinger was sitting there, and kissinger at one point said, are you done? let's try to end the war. he really respected kissinger, despite all the americans had done, he really respected kissinger. a very interesting character.
nixon, as part of the strategy, were going to engage, the soviets were going to engage the chinese. nixon goes to china in february, 1972 and then to moscow. even though he is trying to get the chinese and soviets to help, there's not much they can do. it freaks out the leadership in hanoi to cut the war short and give nixon the agreement he so desperately wanted. these are b-52s, they can carry
up to i think 100 to 500 pound bombs. they can carry a lot of bombs. typically they were only used in the south, but under nixon, they started flying more regularly to the north. everything gets destroyed in a two mile long by half a mile long box. it really screws with your mind, it is also a psychological tool. nixon deploys these b-52s against hanoi and the rest of vietnam in 1972. sure enough, eventually, a cease-fire allowing the u.s. to get out. the war will continue but the u.s. manages to extricate its forces. for nixon, that was enough, let the vietnamese figure it out himself. all of this is well and good, that some of these policies are very unpopular. in 1970, american troops move into cambodia, and that sparks massive protest across the u.s.,
including on university campuses. university students at the time led the movement against the war. there is organizations that were established to oppose the war, students for a democratic society was the most prominent. in the aftermath of the invasion of cambodia, there's a big student protest at kent state university in ohio and the national guard is brought in. the national guard, just like any outfit with guns, you have people who are seasoned and people who are not so seasoned, and the national guardsmen opened fire, and at the end of
the whole thing, four students are killed. to give you an idea of how polarizing it was, "four bums" killed at kent state. so to some people, they almost deserved what happened to them. one of the kids who got shot was rotc, as it turned out. very pro-war, but would be condemned as an antiwar activist. he happened to be standing by and a stray bullet hit him in the head. what is interesting is a few days later, it was two or three more students got killed at
the clothes are burning off her back. for many americans, this typified the savagery of the vietnam war. we know that the plane that dropped the napalm on the village by accident was flown not by americans but south vietnamese. but the whole thing came the responsibility of the u.s. that is her today, bottom right-hand corner. she would survive her wounds and dedicate herself to helping other people who were victims of the vietnam war. i got this in hanoi. you deploy these planes, you have an impact, but plans are shot down. that produces more prisoners of war to use as a bargaining chip. this is the wing of a b-52 aircraft shot down over hanoi. these guys just farming despite the presence of this massive wing. the north adjusted, a new normalcy developed. it is surprising how resilient human beings are and what were can represent two individuals. americans taken captive, once more that was staged. i'll see any reason for staging. nixon's policies are again, i would argue, effective overall, but coming at a significant cost. you get to a point where
basically in 1973, the u.s. needs the war to stop as much as hanoi needs the war to stop. the american phase of the vietnam war ends in 1973, but the vietnam war itself would resume without the americans and you would have two years of civil war until 1975, and ends with a victory of communist armies and an emboldened communist camp. we will stop here and resume after spring break. unfortunately we will not see each other next week, i am heartbroken as much as you are. we will finish that stuff and deal with other aspects of the cold war after spring break. have a great spring break, enjoy yourselves, relax, and i will see you refreshed and many to talk about more conflict and violence and death and