Vietnam War: People Involved – South Vietnam

US – South Vietnam

  • Lyndon B Johnson
  • Richard M Nixon
  • Nguyen Van Thieu
  • William Westmoreland


Lyndon B Johnson
1908-1973, Born in Texas
Democratic Vice President under Kennedy 1961-63
President 1963-69

Infamous for his overbearing personality and for his behind the scenes operations which escalated the war in Vietnam without a national debate or consensus. Johnson tried to follow what he believed was Kennedy’s approach to Vietnam, even though Kennedy himself had hinted towards US disengagement in Vietnam on the recommendation of his advisors. Yet Johnson was sure that Kennedy would not have pulled out of Vietnam given the present communist threat in the region. In 1964, Johnson, absorbed in his presidential election campaign against Barry Goldwater and knowing that an escalation in Vietnam could jeopardize his election, promised the American public that he would not send troops to Vietnam. However, he secretly increased the number of US personnel to almost 24,000 men and the economic assistance to 50 million dollars.

He also appointed General William Westmoreland as commander of the US military operation in Southeast Asia. On August 4th, 1964 the so-called Gulf of Tonkin incident took place where US warships were allegedly attacked off the coast of North Vietnam. Without conclusive evidence that the attack had actually taken place, Johnson ordered air strikes on North Vietnam. He then asked Congress for a resolution that would allow him to counter any further attacks with force. Johnson lied about the spying activities that the US warships were engaged in, and that no one in the US Navy could confirm the attack . The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution became the centerpiece of US policy in Vietnam.

In 1965, after a number of incidents and nine US servicemen being killed in Pleiku, Johnson initiated Operation Rolling Thunder; a high-scale bombing campaign of North Vietnam which in turn initiated the start of full scale US combat operations in Vietnam. Between 1965 and 1968, Johnson would deploy some 536,000 US servicemen. As the presidential elections of 1968 approached, Johnson was disillusioned and could find no way out except to step down and not seek re-election. By the time he left office, his involvement in Vietnam had killed 30,610 US servicemen and destroyed his presidency. He is today still considered one of the most unpopular presidents in US history.


Richard M Nixon
Vice President 1958-1961
President 1969-1974

Nixon played a prominent role in Vietnam between 1954 and 1974. Even before his presidency, Nixon was actively engaged in policy making. As president, he directed attention away from the war with his program of gradually withdrawing US ground troops and turning the conflict over to the local Vietnamese governments. At the same time, he stepped up the bombing campaigns over North Vietnam and some of the heaviest fighting of the war occurred under his leadership. Nixon was secretive and insecure and feared the anti-war movement; he was also a renowned anti-Communist. Having seen what the war had done to the Johnson presidency, he tried very hard to play down the importance of the war. In 1969, he promised to begin reducing the US ground forces, but also authorized secret bombings of Cambodia, to stop the flow of supplies along the so-called Ho Chi Minh trail. Nixon also ordered the secret infiltration of the anti-war groups to disrupt their activities. He used the National Guard to stop the public demonstrations and at Kent State University in Ohio, four students were shot to death. The aftermath made Nixon realize that he had to end the war before the upcoming election in 1972. The Paris peace talks had been going on for a while and Henry Kissinger was threatening the North Vietnamese with ferocious bombings and at the same time trying to negotiate a peace settlement.

As Nixon visited China in 1972, the Vietnamese launched one of their largest ever attacks (The Easter Offensive) with 120,000 men pushing within 100 kilometers (55 miles) of Saigon. There were only 100,000 US personnel remaining in Saigon and of these, only 6000 were combat soldiers. Nixon ordered Operation Linebacker, the largest bombing campaign since 1968 with B-52’s bombing Hanoi. Peace talks finally moved forward in August 1972. Kissinger negotiated intensely, and by late October he announced that peace was at hand, this helped Nixon win his re-election. In December of that year, Nixon initiated Operation Linebacker II and once again he began bombing North Vietnam with more bombs in a 12-day period, than the total dropped between 1969 and 1971. The Vietnamese and Kissinger returned to the negotiating table in Paris and finally, on January 27th, 1973 the Paris Peace Accords were signed, against the will of South Vietnam.

Nixon’s years in office saw some of the heaviest fighting during the war with 20,553 US soldiers, along with 107,000 ARVN and an estimated 500,000 North Vietnamese and Vietcong being killed in action. The Cease-fire saw the withdrawal of US forces from Vietnam and lasted for two years until South Vietnam was conquered in April 1975. The Watergate scandal eventually forced Nixon to resign in 1974.


Nguyen Van Thieu
Born 1923
Graduated 1948 from Dalat Military Academy
Trained in the US 1957 and 1960.

During the coup against Diem in 1963, Thieu led one of the attacks on the presidential palace. He was promoted to brigadier but Thieu was not happy, as he had expected a higher position within the government. In January 1965, US Government officials told Prime Minister Tran Van Huong to add Thieu, among others, to his cabinet and he was therefore appointed as second deputy Prime Minister. Thieu strongly favored the expansion of the military actions against the communists in the North.

As the US escalated their bombing campaigns in the North, Thieu slowly climbed the ranks as he strongly supported any US actions. Thieu was appointed to be leader of the military and began using its power to further promote his standing within the South Vietnamese government. The military would harass people who opposed Thieu and during the elections in 1965, which Thieu won, they used many unconventional methods in order to obtain votes. The Thieu regime was a puppet state of the US and internal conflicts and competition over leadership quickly led to a split in the government, with corruption and a lack of discipline being widespread amongst all ranks. Thieu held office until April 12th, 1975; the Vietnam War ended the following day.


Gen. William Westmoreland
Born 1914.
Graduated West Point 1936
Served with distinction in WWII
Superintendent West Point in 1960
Commander US Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (COMUSMACV) 1964-1968.

General Westmoreland took command in Vietnam in June 1964 replacing Gen. Paul Harkins. He was instrumental in raising the level of US forces deployed in Vietnam and in developing the strategies implemented in the region. Westmoreland continuously requested for an increase in manpower in Vietnam and President Johnson, who had his own troubles at home, refused to send more troops and finally recalled Westmoreland after he successfully stopped the North Vietnamese Tet Offensive in 1968. He was replaced by General Creighton W. Abrams

Upon his return to the US, Westmoreland was appointed as Chief of Staff of the US Army. His biggest challenge was to withdraw the troops from Vietnam and ready them for duty in other regions of the world. He was successful in restructuring the Army at a difficult time, but his tactics in Vietnam had become unpopular with some groups in the US. He maintained for many years that the policy in Vietnam had been the right one. General Westmoreland retired in 1972.

Vietnam War: People Involved: North Vietnam

North Vietnam

  • Ho Chi Minh
  • Vo Nguyen Giap


Ho Chi Minh
1890-1969 (born Nguyen Sinh Cung) Founder of the Vietnamese Communist Party, 1930

He left his family at an early age and at 21, set out on almost 30 years of traveling around France, England, Russia, China, Thailand and the United States, learning to speak French, English, Russian and Chinese fluently. He settled in Paris where he joined the French Communist Party in 1920 and was later commissioned by Moscow to form a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary organization in French Indochina. He embraced communism, as this seemed to be the best way to establish an independent Vietnam.

Early in 1941, he crossed from China into Vietnam where he met with several colleagues with whom he formed the Vietnamese Independence League. He then adopted his last pseudonym, Ho Chi Minh, which translates into “Light-Bringer”. During 1946, Ho Chi Minh desperately sought to avoid hostilities but the conflict with the French could not be solved and he began to prepare for war together with General Vo Nguyen Giap, the leader of the North Vietnamese army. The French were eventually overrun and defeated at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954. Ho Chi Minh’s position as president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was confirmed in the constitution of 1959, but his health was failing and by mid 1960, his role in decision making was mainly ceremonial. Ho Chi Minh was considered to be both a patriot and a Marxist-Leninist who saw no contradiction between the two positions and controversy often stirred in regard to his stance as a patriot or a communist. He was capable of great charm, but also of being ruthless in his tactics to achieve his goals. He was considered a gifted leader with a talent for administration, strategy, and being a motivator in the fight for Vietnamese independence. He did not live to see the fulfillment of his mission; he died on September 2nd 1969, the 24th anniversary of his declaration of independence for Vietnam.

Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap
Born 1911General and Commander PAVNPolitburo Communist Party 1951-1976Minister of Defence 1946-1980

General Giap was considered to be one of the most interesting characters of the Vietnam War. He had received no formal instruction in military science, but was by no means ignorant of the art of war. He admired Napoleon and T.E. Lawrence and described himself as a self-taught general. Born in the region close to the DMZ (An Xa) and attending Quoc Hoc Academy in Hué, he was expelled following a student strike and later earned a degree in law at the University of Hanoi, which was a French institution. Giap’s first command was a group of 34 guerillas, which he led to some small victories; at the end of his career he commanded the world’s third largest army and was hailed as the architect of Vietnam’s victory. After the French banned the Communist Party, Giap fled to China where he became a key deputy of Ho Chi Minh and was given command over the Viet Minh guerrilla forces fighting the Japanese from 1940 to 1945. The Communists seized control in 1945 and Giap became one of the top figures in the newly formed government. During the war against the French, Giap shaped the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) into a potent fighting force. His historical reputation results from his victory at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954. Using siege tactics, Giap defeated the French with an extraordinary logistical buildup and effective use of a well-protected artillery. He achieved French surrender just days before the Geneva Conference, which would negotiate the French withdrawal from Vietnam, but would leave the country divided. In the late 1950’s through to the late 1960’s, Giap remained a key military figure but became embroiled in a fierce debate over the strategy for reunification. Eventually this power struggle would lead to the Communist Party demoting and ridiculing him. In 1967, Giap was the designer of the Tet offensive; this proved to be his last great military involvement, retiring in 1973 after the failed Ester Offensive. Reportedly suffering from illness, Giap resigned his position as minister of defense in 1980 and lost his seat in the politburo in 1982, after which he became chief of the Science and Technology Commission. In July 1992, he was awarded the Gold Star Order, Vietnam’s highest decorative honor.


Vietnam War: Cease Fire – End of War

The Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) was disorganized due to the low morale of it’s leaders and their singular interest in personal gain. Therefore the US had a great deal of difficulty in holding the army together in South Vietnam and saw only one solution, that was to start taking care of things for themselves. By 1950 the US began sending their first troops, firstly in an advisory role, which slowly escalated into a full blown commitment.

The large-scale involvement of the US came under the tenure of President Lyndon B. Johnson and his Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Johnson had replaced John F. Kennedy after he was assassinated in Dallas, Texas 1963. As president, he was torn between the differing strategies the US had for Vietnam. The increasing involvement and the escalation of troop involvement meant there were more casualties and more problems at home. But Johnson, who was always concerned about his image, and as president, held the power to halt the war in Vietnam, could not face the thought of being regarded as the first president in US history to loose a war.

The pressure around him grew so intense, that he was only left with one option and that was not to run for a second term. Basically, he handed the hot potato to Richard M. Nixon.

The top US commander in Vietnam was General William Westmoreland; he had to face an army full of young men placed in an environment that was totally alien to them. There was no clear front to the conflict and basically, the enemy could be hiding anywhere and everywhere. Life in the jungle was tortuous and there were no home comforts. Drugs and other stimulants filtered their way into the daily routine of many servicemen and morale quickly started to fall. For the first time, people in the US resisting the draft were given acceptance although still not by the majority of citizens. Riots and demonstrations against the war became the norm in the US, with numerous veterans taking part in the efforts to stop the war, strengthening the issue. Finally, the US government saw that it was in a no-win situation and began making plans to withdraw.

After great efforts by the US to withdraw, and the establishment of a cease-fire on January 27th, 1973, American soldiers began leaving Vietnam for good. The North Vietnamese finally conquered South Vietnam in early 1975, totally ignoring the cease-fire and on July 2nd, 1976, North and South Vietnam were officially united as a single communist state. It had cost an estimated 2 million lives and the injury or disablement of many millions of others.

Vietnam War : Continued.

With the cold war at its height, the US leaders were worried that an attack on North Vietnam by the US would create tensions with the Chinese and Russians that would, in turn, lead to a larger conflict and possibly WW III. This created a difficult situation for the US and would eventually lead to many internal conflicts, which ultimately prevented the US from forming a firm policy for the region. The US was also faced with a number of cultural differences between the two countries, and what was considered corrupt by the US government was considered legitimate by South Vietnamese standards. It was difficult for the US to portray South Vietnam as a hard working, hard fighting democracy; corruption was widespread among officials and the armed forces.

Vietnam War: Introduction

Please note the below contents are not my own words. I have gathered the data from many sites and placed it here for your information. At the end of every war story I would be placing links to the respective sites related to that particular war.

In the 1950’s, the United States began to send troops to Vietnam,
during the following 25-year period, the ensuing war would create some
of the strongest tensions in US history. Almost 3 million US men and
women were sent thousands of miles to fight for what was a questionable
cause. In total, it is estimated that over 2,5 million people on both
sides were killed.

For much of Vietnam’s history it has been under foreign rule, primarily
by the Chinese. In 1860, France began its domination of the area and
had, by the late 19th century, implemented its colonization in a number
of regions around the Gulf of Tonkin. During WWII, the Japanese
government took control of much of the area and set up a puppet regime
that was eventually forced out by the Vietnamese at the end of that war
in 1945.

After WWII and until 1955, France fought hard to regain their former
territories in the region, but with a poorly organized army and little
determination among the troops, their efforts soon collapsed. The
French were finally defeated at Dien Bien Phu on the 8th of May 1954 by
the communist general Vo Nguyen Giap. The French troops withdrew,
leaving a buffer zone separating the North and South and set up
elections in order to form a government in the South. The communist
regime set up its headquarters in Hanoi under the leadership of Ho Chi
Minh. Many North Vietnamese left the country and fled south where the
self-proclaimed president, Ngo Dinh Diem had formed the Republic of

Between 1955 and 1960, the North Vietnamese with the assistance of the
southern communist Vietcong, tried to take over the government in South
Vietnam, and in November 1963 President Diem was overthrown and
executed. The following year, the North Vietnamese began a massive
drive to conquer the whole country aided by China and Russia.
Fearing a communist takeover of the entire region, the United States
grew more and more wary of the progress of Ho Chi Minh and the
Vietcong. Communism had become the evil menace in the United States and
with expansion of Soviet rule into Eastern Europe, Korea and Cuba, the
Americans were bent on stopping communism from spreading any further.

Vietnam War : Introduction

Hello Friends,
I have started this blog to write about wars. But due to other work and personal problems I could not add any content to this blog. I’m not writing about war because I like war blood or other things that one can imagine if the word war comes in their mind. But I’m writing this war to give people more information about some of the greatest war, and the reason behind them.

I would start with the “Vietnam War”. Which is the greatest mistake of America. Just to make this blog I would name each of my post with the War name at first and then the name of a particular topic related to that war. Ex.: Vietnam War : Introduction

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