Saturday, April 18, 2009

Vietnam History - Operation Rolling Thunder

Vietnam History - part II

In 1955 the White House began to bankroll Diem's (Prime Minister in South Vietnam\ democratic) government and the training of his army, the ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam).

Behind these policies lay the fear of the chain reaction that could follow in Southeast Asia were South Vietnam to be overrun by Communism - the so- called Domino Effect.

Diem's brutally repressive government was losing ground to the VC (Viet Cong) in the battle for the hearts and minds of the population. Buddhists celebrating Buddha's birthday were fired upon by ARVN soldiers in Hue, sparking of riots against religious repression, and provoking Thich Quang Duc's infamous self-immolation in Saigon. (I actually visited his monistaryoday - you can still see his light blue Austin he drove to Saigon before his act of rebellion).

America tacitly sanctioned a coup in 1963 that ousted Diem, who was shot.

In August 1964, when tow American ships were subjected to allegedly unprovoked attacks from North Vietnamese craft, reprisals followed in the form of 64 bombing sorties again northern coastal bases. US senators empowered Johnson to deploy regular American troops in Vietnam, "to prevent further aggression".

Early 1965 saw the start of Operation Rolling Thunder, a sustained carpet bombing campaign, which lasted three and a half years and saw twice the tonnage of bombs dropped as had fallen on the World War II's theatres of war!!! (about 800 tons daily)

Despite this, Rolling Thunder Failed either to break the North's sources or their lines of supply. North Vietnamese Army (NVA) troops continued to infiltrate the South in increasing numbers, so that by 1967 over 100,000 a year were making the trek south along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

By the end of 1965, there were 200,00 GIs in Vietnam -a figure that was to approach half a million by the winter of 1967. Their mission was largely confined to keeping the NVA at aby in the central highlands and neutralizing the guerrilla threat in the Viet Cong power-bases of the South.

On January 21, 1968, around 40,000 NVA troops laid siege to a remote American military base at Khe Sanh, near the Lao border. They were ;met with a carpet-bombing campaign that claimed over 10,000 victims. However, Khe Sanh was primarily a decoy to steer US troops and attention away from the Tet Offensive that exploded a week later. In the early hours of January 31, a combined force of 70,000 communists violated a New Year truce to launch offensives on over a hundred urban centres across the South. But the campaign failed to spark a hoped-for revolt against the Saigon regime and the VA was left permanently lamed.

However, success did register across the Pacific, where the assault on the US Embassy in Saigon, during which five Americans died, caused a sea change in popular US perceptions of the war. On March 31, President Johnson announced a virtual cessation of bombing and peace talks began a month later.

In 1969, Richard Nixon's presidency introduced the strategy of "Vietnamization", a gradual US withdrawal coupled with a stiffening of ARVN forces and hardware and dramatic increase in the scale of bombing! By the end of 1970, only 280,000 US troops remained, while ARVN numbers topped a million.

Under the terms of the Paris Accords, signed on Jan 27, 1973 by the US, the North, the South an the Viet Cong, a ceasefire was established , and all remaining American troops were repatriated.

... By July 1976 Vietnam was once again a unified nation and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam was officially born.

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