*Despite US escalation following the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, the War in
*All this changed in 1968. The
*On the night of 30/31 January, almost every major town in RVN was attacked by V-C forces. In most places the V-C were beaten immediately. Only in Khe Sanh,
*During Tet, the V-C killed anyone they considered an enemy, especially the educated classes. Doctors, teachers, minor government officials, military personnel, and many others were rounded up and executed—thousands in total.
*Tet destroyed the V-C. Over 100,000 were killed, wounded, or captured, compared to 1,100 dead US and 2,800 dead ARVN soldiers. However, when images of Tet got home, people were horrified. On the news it looked like the
*The Tet Offensive was a turning point in the war psychologically. Although a tactical victory for the US and ARVN, it convinced Americans watching at home that the V-C could attack anywhere at any time they wanted in massive numbers, and do well even against the US Army (even though after Tet that was largely untrue). More and more people began to ask just what the Unites States were doing in Viet-Nam, and believed there was a credibility gap between what the government was saying about
demonstrations became more popular
*Of course, the draft was not a problem for everyone. There were ways out of the draft. Some doctors would fake medical exams to say that their patients were not fit to serve. Students in college could get a deferment, meaning they did not have to go then (and usually never did go). Because this did not apply to dropouts and failures and, after 1966, students with bad grades, many professors, many of whom opposed the war, or at least did not want to see people they knew killed, made it easier and easier to get good grades, thus dumbing down the educational system. Many people, especially minorities, complained that the deferment was unfair because most college students were middle-class whites. In 1971, the college deferment system ended, so now the wealthy white kids would have to go to Viet-Nam. Opposition to the war really increased then.
*Many young men
opposed the draft. Some refused to fight
and were locked away in
jail. Thousands ran away to
*The Tet Offensive hurt Johnson’s credibility so much that he gave a televised national address stating that he would not seek re-election in 1968. Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy (an anti-war candidate) then sought the nomination.
*Robert F. Kennedy
was assassinated on
*The Republicans chose Richard Nixon, who successfully appealed to a ‘silent majority’ who supported the war and traditional values (because he associated the Hippies and war protesters with the Democrats). He also used a Southern Strategy in the election of 1968. He won support from conservative southerners troubled by a rapidly-changing society, particularly Kennedy and Johnson’s Civil Rights legislation.
*Nixon was also helped by George Wallace’s run for president with the American Independent Party, an openly anti-Civil Rights group, who took many votes from Democrats in the South. Ever since 1968, the South (which once voted solidly Democratic) has tended to vote Republican.
*Although Nixon appealed to people who supported the War, he also promised to win ‘peace with honor,’ partly through Vietnamization—turning the war over the ARVN (who turned out to be unable to fight well enough, partly because they had become dependent on American help, especially air support).
*Even though Nixon
promised peace, he
actually expanded the war in 1970 by bombing
*This led to more war
protests. One such protest, in 1970, was
*Protests grew even worse in 1971 when Lieutenant William Calley was put on trial for the My Lai Massacre of 1968, when Calley ordered his men to shoot unarmed civilians (none of them fighting-age men) and killed between 400 and 500 people. Some were also tortured and mutilated. Calley claimed he was just following orders to search and destroy as he understood them. Furthermore, his platoon had lost several men to Viet Cong attacks over the preceding months. Still he (although not his men) was found guilty of murder and given life in prison, although this sentence was later vastly reduced.
*Also in 1971, Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers, which revealed secret military plans that made it clear that the military and the government had not informed the public of all its involvement in Vietnam, and had sometimes even deliberately misled the public ever since 1945.
*In October, 1972,
*Over 58,000 Americans were killed, over 300,000 were wounded, and around two million Vietnamese died during the War.
*Many Americans also
came to distrust the
government, and some also treated returning soldiers badly, calling
baby-killers and often ignoring their problems (including
disorder, health problems caused by Agent Orange, and sometimes drug
addiction). This was a shocking contrast
to the treatment
of the heroes of World War I, especially World War II, and even the
*In 1973, the War Powers Act reversed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution severely limited the President’s power to make war.
*What about the
Domino Theory? After
Viet-Nam, two more dominoes fell:
*Today Laos and Vietnam are still communist countries, but Cambodia, after five years of rule by Pol Pot and a decade under rule by Vietnam (after the Khmer Rouge crossed the border too often), held free elections in 1993 and created a constitutional monarchy.