My script/ what I am to say at the presentation:
(The Start and reasons)
The Vietnam War broke out right after the Second World War. Vietnam had been a French colony until 1940, but shortly after the war broke out, Japan took over the control of Vietnam, and they ruled until 1945. After the war, which France had been on the winning side of, France wanted Vietnam back as a colony, but Vietnam had grown more independent under Japan. Especially in the Northern part of Vietnam the political ideology communism had become very popular, and many now dreamed of Vietnam as an independent communist republic. Japan pulled out right after the Second World War, but Vietnam, and in particular the Northern part of Vietnam were now no longer interested in being under France, and when neither the communist party nor France gave in. The war broke out.
In 1946 Vietnam was declared “a free state under France”. But this did not please the communist leader Ho Chi Minh, who was determined to make Vietnam a free communist republic. Later the same year the negotiations collapsed and a war begun. This was not France’s intention. Their intention had been to make sure that a man named Boa Dia was made emperor, and after that slowly pull out all French troops. In this they did not succeed, instead they pulled out eight years later after realising that they were loosing the battles. Before this a peace agreement between France and Vietnam were signed. It decided among other things, that Vietnam was now to be divided into two parts. North and South, in the north the communist party was in charge, while in the south diverse other parties shared the power. After France retreated the battles between the communist North and anti-communist South continued.
(The US participation)
The US had watched the war from outside with concern. They had for a long time feared another strong communist republic that could be a threat to them, maybe as a USSR ally. Therefore the US government and president John F. Kennedy decided to from 1961 start helping South Vietnam in the war. In 1961 “military advisors” were sent to the government in South Vietnam, and the US also started to help the anti-communist side out economically.
With a supposed attack by a tiny warship from North Vietnam as an excuse US sent in their navy and air forces to participate in the war from 1964. Thailand, New Zeeland and Australia were other countries that also participated on the non-communist side. The USSR and China had for a while given economical contributions, and also helped North Vietnam with weapons and equipment. During the next year the US continued sending in troops and the battles carried on. In 1965 the US started planned bombings on targets in North Vietnam. A lot of civilians were harmed in these bombings, but it did not harm the government as much it intended to do.
One of the remedies used for the bombing was Agent Orange, a chemical that attaches to the skin and cauterizes, even under water. Agent orange is a pesticide, and was originally used to clear the vegetation so that the US air force could find the enemies soldiers, but in some attacks it was also used to harm people.
(The end of the war)
In 1972 The American government decided to start withdrawing the forces, partly because they could no longer see an end to the war, but also as a result of the strong reactions the war had had back home in the US and the rest of the western world. In 1975 a peace agreement was signed between the two parties in the war. In that agreement the US promised to help the south part if the communists broke the peace. The negotiators in this agreement were given the Nobel Peace price, but they refused to receive the price because they did not believe that the peace in Vietnam would last.
A few years after the US had pulled out North Vietnam threatened to attack the south, who without help from the US had to surrender. The war ended in 1975.
(Consequences of the war)
The Vietnam War lasted over twenty years, from it’s start in 1946 until the peace agreement was signed in 1973, and during that period of time over five million people were either hurt or killed in the war, and three millions of these were civilians. Almost 60 000 Americans lost their lives, and so did about eight hundred thousand soldiers from other countries too.
It wasn’t just soldiers who were harmed in the Vietnam War. Orders were given to American and Australian soldiers of not only burning down every enemy base, but also harming civilians. This is one of many stories about such happenings, told by an American solider:
We burned down every village we passed, it was our orders to do so. Once a solider threw a grenade into a window in a little cottage, after throwing it we could hear a baby’s cry from inside. There was nothing we could do. After the expulsion we found a mother, two children and a newborn baby. Their tiny bodies had been ripped apart.
Many people also lost their homes, workplaces and fields in the war. The US and their allied destroyed several villages and small towns. Small communities that had nothing to do with the war were destroyed forever.
Many people and properties were harmed physically, but the number cannot compete with the psychic damages. There were more American ex-Vietnam soldiers who took their life after the war than there were Americans who died in the war.
Many protests against the war were held, both in the US and in the rest of the world. It is said that there was at least one every day in San Francisco. Many were just small gatherings, while others where bigger, and among them many were organised by students. One of the them were one in 1965 at Berkeley University in California, where students who had been drafted together burned their draft cards, this was the first known public burning of draft cards, something that became rather usual in certain kind of protests. In another demonstration also organized by activist at Berkeley, over five hundred demonstrates attempted stopping a train that was transporting troops and weapons for the army.
But also “non Hippies” reacted to the war. At the start of the US participation in the war 61 percent of the American people agreed with the government on sending troops to Vietnam. But many changed their view of the matter during the war. Especially the My Lai-massacre in 1969 contributed to more opposition against the war, also among common people, and in 1971 only 28 percent of the American people were in favour of the war.
(Protests against the war)
The Vietnam War marked a whole generation. Never before (or after) have so many people got involved in such a case. At least not in the US.
During the years of the Vietnam War a hippie movement evolved in the US. The new generation wanted to rebel against the previous generations. They wanted to be free from rules, norms, and the establishment. They didn’t believe in violence as a solution, or that materialism and money could make people happy. Instead they believed in peace, love and freedom.
The anti war movement or the Hippie movement grew during the sixties, but it decreased in the start of the seventies.