America in Vietnam: A Documentary History

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It is hard for any American to easily forget the memories of the battle which led to massive deaths of American people, both men and women. The war left permanent scars in the hearts and bodies of those who fought for the US. Although the United States troops were on the side of the North Vietnamese during the war, I acknowledge that somehow the US lost the war and the idea of sending American troops to Vietnam was a bad one. In my opinion, I believe time has somehow erased some of these memories. Considering that the war happened centuries and centuries ago, I can say that this lesson was a success and all the class goals were achieved. The involvement of the government of US in the war is seen as a way of preventing a takeover of South Vietnam by the communists as Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese fought in order to bring unity in Vietnam under communist rule.

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By watching the documentary on American war, I learnt how the war was conducted and the points at which America was involved and when they felt defeated up to the time they reached a peace agreement. First, Vietnam divided into two parts, the North and the South. After the division, the North part was viewed as a communist threat by the US. After the prime minister of South Vietnam, Ngo Dim Diem, was given a two-year deadline for a national reunification vote, the United States started fearing that Diem could be defeated (Brinkley, Freidel & Williams, et al. 1991). The prime minister's advisors also believed that communist victory was a must. After the division of the country into North and South, many Catholics from Vietnam migrated to the South an action that made Diem and his brother to order the demolition of their rivals in the South by their intelligence service (Williams, 1989). This work created an air of mistrusts among the people a fear that continued for a long time. At this point, Diem was only relying on his family help in running the country as he faced serious threats from the communist pressures in the south. Continuous protests and self-sacrifices of a monk caused a coup by the army (Brinkley, Freidel & Williams, et al. 1991). The coup was another serious problem for the US.

The documentary continues to explain how on August 4, 1964, there was an attack on the USS Maddox in the Gulf of Tokin. The Gulf of Tokin resolution, which gave the president the authority to start a war resolution, was then passed by the United States Congress. Through the Rolling Thunder operation, Johnson authorized the bombing of the North. Due to more attacks e.g. the Brink Hotel explosions, the South Vietnamese army troop attack and Pleiku attack necessitated a request for more Troops from the US to give adequate protection to the US airfields the three jets capable. 19653500 US Marines landed arrived at Da Nang on March 8th and before the year ended, more than 200, 00 American armies were in Vietnam (Brinkley, Freidel & Williams, et al. 1991). The efforts of American armies at this point are seen to be less successful.

Later in the narration we see most significant parts of South Vietnam being taken over by the North Vietnamese Army and this made the Army of the Republican troops doubt their ability to win the battle. War Guerillas were travelling light as they carried their superior equipment, the 50lbs of the gear gut that seemed to have very minimal effect (Lewy, 1980). Various bombing in the North was taking place but had not yet achieved the intended aim. Although the US had won several battles after three years, they had not won the war. Within two years, reunification elections were held following the Geneva peace agreements but Diem, the prime minister, took excessive measures to repress those who opposed him. With the support of the Viet Cong guerrillas, the Army of North Vietnam carried an attack on American installations in Saigon. As a reaction to the Gulf of Tonkin occurrence, bombings started in The North in 1965.People did not view the arrival of the Marines as a liberating move. A major attack was then commenced in 1965 by the North at Da Nang and from this it was realized that the American bombing movements. Operation rolling thunder was not a success (Lewy, 1980).

The documentary highlights a point where the US faced the most serious attacks and the failure of its attempts in Vietnam. A major attack was carried out in Khe San, which was the most tremendous of the war where the Viet Cong and Army of the North Vietnam regulars attacked almost every province and big cities in Vietnam (Brinkley, Freidel & Williams, et al. 1991). Both the Army of North Vietnam and Viet Cong had taken over the major radio station air in the Vietnamese language in Saigon. The fight went on for 24 days destroying the city and leaving 75% of the residents without homes. The United States realized that they were found in a war which was deadlocked after three years in power and continuous battles in Vietnam. Public rallies started all over the streets in America when there was a leakage of the news that the military was requesting for more 206,000 troops. These demonstrations made the peace candidate, Senator Eugene McCarthy more famous. President Johnson later made a public speech on television and said that it was necessary to have peace in Vietnam and promised not to ask for reelection (Lewy, 1980).

Finally there was some light when President Nixon ordered the withdrawal of American troops and their transfer to South Vietnamese army since the majority of the Vietnamese soldiers had been killed. At that time, American troops were over 500,000 but later dropped to 300, 000 after two years. More than 9000 Americans were killed in Vietnam in 1969 while I 1970, about 4500 Americans was killed. The US troops had lost morale due to the anti war utterances as cases of racial discrimination among them increased (Lewy, 1980). The South Vietnamese were having a difficult time without the US troops in 1972 when the North had attacked. This made President Nixon react through mining Haiphong harbor. The US managed to reach a peaceful agreement in October 1972.

Through the 13 sections American documentary television half series called A Television History that was produced in 1983; I learnt the history of the war in Vietnam and Americans involvement in the war activities. Watching this series explains more about Vietnam and how the US was involved in the Vietnam War, steps they took and explained every bit of the fight all through till its end. The mini- series talks about the war in Vietnam from the United Sates perspective (Williams, 1989). The mini-series was initially aired live between October 4th and December 20th on PBS in 1983. It comprises of thirteen episodes, but only eleven of the thirteen were re-aired as a component of the series named American Experience starting May 26 up to June 28 in 1997. By watching the documentary, I have learnt a lot about the war in Vietnam and how America was involved. It is quite educative experience since through the pictures and illustrations in the series, and its systematic arrangement of episodes, my remembrance and further understanding of war arena is enhanced. I can say that the class goal of learning more about America involvement in Vietnam has been achieved since now I can successfully narrate to the class how the Us was involved and how the war activities took place many years ago. In conclusion, the efforts of the American government in Vietnam are clearly outlined in the literature. Although these endeavors were futile at some point, they cannot be overlooked. The way America was involved in sending their marines, troops, organizing various bombing attacks and the loss of lives in the battle is clearly outlined in the documentary. Since the fight dates way back to the time when most of us were not born, I can conclude that the documentary is an effective way of enhancing learning and understanding of the History of America and its involvement in Vietnam War.


Brinkley, A., Current, R. N., Freidel, F., & Williams, T. H. (1991).

American History: A survey. McGraw-Hill.Lewy, G. (1980).

America in Vietnam. Oxford University Press.Williams, W. A. (1989).

America in Vietnam: a documentary history. WW Norton & Company.

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