Houjun Liu

cold war in vietnam

A fact sheet on the progress of the cold war in Vietnam.

progression of US escalation in the war, an overview

Reading: encyclopedia Britannica

  • 1959-1960: VCs initiated a group of ambushes which the exiled government led by Ngô Đình Diệm can no longer fend off
  • 1961: Kennedy takes office, institutes a plan to put American advisors at all levels of Vietnam leadership
  • 1963: Buddest monks rebelled, Ngô family rule became bizarre and leveraged their Roman Catholic views to persecute Buddhists in the region
  • 1963: Ngô Đình Diệm is assassinated after the support of the US (Kennedy) via Cable 243 seeking a regime change
  • 1963: Kennedy assisinated
  • 1964: Vietnam situation worsens
  • 1965: American government fully went in, and Ky was eased out of power when Neuyen Van Thieu ad full control
  • 1965: US fighting was effective though unpresistent; viet cong just went in after US leaves
  • 1967: Protests in the US lead to a growing anti-war sentiment, which the VietCong picked up on
  • 1968: the Tet Offensive, a VietCong operation, tried to pillage South Vietnam. Though it failed, strong anti-war sentiments were stirred.
  • 1969: Anti-War protests pick up force
  • 1970: Ohio National Guard opens fire on unarmed protesters
  • 1973: Peace Pact Signed after the US giving up, essentially
  • 1975: Saigon falls, US evacuates

anti-war protest motivation in Vietnam

Reading: Protest against the War in Vietnam

The first protests rose in the 1950 and picked up force by the late 1960s when LBJ decided not to seek re-election.

Foreign policy is usually hard to change, but the strength of domestic dissent in Vietnam represents an usual shift which drove foreign policy changes.

  • Right-wing sentiment: seeing the war as a means of future-proofing the American government from Communistic influences.
  • Left-wing protest
    • More organized than the spontaneous of the right-wing protest
    • Split between moralistic + legalistic interests vs. national interest

domestic political influence of the Vietnam War

Reading: The War that Killed Trust, Karl Marlantes, 2017

  • “Of course presidents lie”—that the Vietnam War represented the shift away from genuine truthfulness as a part of American politics
  • Killed 58,000 service-members, and made Americans cynical and distrustful of governmental institutions

Systemic Cynicism

Johnson’s “credibility gap”: that the president maybe lying. Nowadays this is commonplace, but back then it was quite unusual.

CLAIM: engendered Cynicism threatened inaction.

Racial Integration

The cold war promised higher degrees of racial integration because of collective service.

Repeated Touring

That, post-draft, the American working class became much more likely to serve “voluntarily” by being recruited. Unlike the draft, which is some ways is universal service, the volunteer system is much more reliant upon th emiddle class.

social impacts of the Vietnam War

Reading: The Social Impact of War, Modell and Haggerty, 1991

  • Wars’ effects can be treated with a lens of social manifestation
  • The Vietnam war had an impact on the last 20 years of primary war literature


The draft is the principle mechanism by which people into the war. The system facilitating the draft in the United States, the Selective Service System, is a good case study for such a system in the Vietnam War.

By its design, the draft is supposed to be an equitable process (baring gender and age.) However, the Vietnam War reveals that the military services was not straightforwardly distributed: often drafting children of lower socioeconomic status.

experience of servicemen in Vietnam

Soldiers in the Vietnam War have shown some negative psychological side effects. Solders are shown to be “working through” the ideas to process, creating a larger effects.

effects on the economy

War veterans generally had higher incomes than non-vets, mostly because they have more income per level of educational attanment.

historiographical school of Vietnam War

Reading: James McLeroy, Small Wars Journal, (Army Special Forces Officer in I Corps, Vietnam, in 1968)

Orthodox treatment

Vietnam War as an extension/afterthought of late-20th century cold war history

  • Vietnam War escalated only because of United States involvement
  • “anti-war” is not opposition against communistic conquest but opposition against war in itself

Revisionist treatment

Vietnam War as a calculable implementation of escalator revolutionary strategy modeled after Mao.

  • Vietnam War is not an insurgency or a civil war, but instead a part of the three-step guerrilla warfare
  • Provocation of the United States is a part of the strategy—to force them to move out of Vietnam and to encourage the communist bloc to provide more support