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Lecture 20

History 1810E The Vietnam War - Lecture 20.docx

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History 1810E
Margaret Mc Glynn

History 1810E The Vietnam War Wednesday March 19 Lecture 20 The American War: Blowin’ in the Wind Outline: I. “Victor Charlie” a. People’s Liberation Armed Forces (PLAF) II. General Offensive – General Uprising III. Live and Death on the Ho Chi Minh Trail a. Peoples Army of Vietnam (PAVN) IV. Gender Relations in the North V. The American War at Home a. Students for a Democratic Society b. The Television War “Victor Charlie” • People’s Liberation Armed Forces (PLAF) o The military wing of the NLF o It was designed to coordinate the military efforts of the routes opposing the Diem regime (and then the American escalation) • The war was asymmetrical because: 1. For the Americans, the war in Vietnam was a limited war, but for the Vietnamese, it was a total war (they were fighting to drive the Americans out of Vietnam and bring down the South Vietnamese government) 2. The Americans had an advanced militaristic army (a massive power imbalance – the Americans had more capabilities to bring a modern, technical war), but the Vietnamese had a home-field advantage (they knew the terrain and used it to their advantage with a guerilla war) • The Vietnamese established a network of tunnels (the Vietminh used the system when fighting against the French) o They helped them escape from American bombing, moving around undetected o They had supply depots where they could make weapons and theatres where they put on patriotic plays • The Vietnamese also set booby traps to maim American soldiers (not necessarily kill them) • These guerilla tactics were used to minimize the massive American firepower (they wanted to fight them in close quarters) o The Americans respected their enemy for this (and “Victor Charlie” turned into “Mr. Charles”) • The Vietnamese needed to mobilize public support – they emphasized social justice for the Vietnamese and patriotic appeals o Initially these campaigns worked (eg. in their land reform campaigns taking land away from large land owners and redistributing it to the people), but as the war dragged on, support for the NLF declined • Reasons for the NLF losing favour: o The fighting was very violent, and the South Vietnamese people blamed the NLF for not being able to protect them o They were waging a class-based struggle which was originally effective (redistributing land), but once it was completed, the Vietnamese were getting tired of the war • The people in the south wanted an end to the fighting – though support for the NLF was waning, it didn’t mean they were giving their support to the South Vietnamese government • The initial leadership of the NLF were either dead or disabled because of the fighting o For the next generation of NLF leaders, they just wanted to end the fighting (social reform wasn’t as important to them) General Offensive – General Uprising • Le Duan wanted to find a way to rally the North Vietnamese people behind him and the war effort in general, so he adopted a General Offensive/General Uprising strategy • He found he could have success with a military offensive in the countryside and political struggle in the cities • He learned from past leaders that he could use the power of the masses to overcome the odds (the technologically superior French and now the Americans) • He called the war “The Vietnamese Struggle for National Salvation” (they were going to save the nation) • The aim was to use North Vietnam as a base area – they would build socialism in the north and make the north a socialist centre with human and material resources to support the southern revolutionaries (getting the Americans out of the south was the rallying cry) • Le Duan needed a way of maintaining northern support, so he turned North Vietnam into a police state (he would round up and arrest all political opposition) Live and Death on the Ho Chi Minh Trail • People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) – they would take on a more combat role in the south, heading down the Ho Chi Minh Trail • By the time the war was over, 60% of North Vietnamese families had a relative directly involved in the war effort o Initially they drafted people (aged 18-25), with 400,000 troops in the PAVN by 1966 o With the American escalation, they expanded the eligibility of the draft (16- 45) • Once you entered the PAVN, you either served in the north to build socialism, or went down to the south o If you stayed in the north, your job was to restore the industrial and transportation infrastructure damaged during the Rolling Thunder bombing campaign, or provide the manpower to keep the economy functioning in the north (from all of the people who left to serve in the army – circular logic) • The first contingence of North Vietnamese troops left the north in September 1964 o They travelled by foot down the Ho Chi Minh Trail (took 2-6 months of travel) o As many as 20% of those who went down the Ho Chi Minh Trail didn’t make it (died from malaria, attacked by an animal, drowning in the river, or getting lost and starving to death) • Once they got down there, they were assigned to a PAVN unit fighting alongside the NLF o These are the people the Americans were fighting against in the south Gender Relations in th
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