Baylor College Medical School
139 3. War In Southeast Asia
139 3. In the 1800s, the French ruled the area in Southeast Asia called French Indochina. During World War II, Japan invaded that region, but faced resistance from guerrillas. After the war, the French tried to reestablish authority in Vietnam. However, forces led by communist leader Ho Chi Minh fought the colonialists. The French left Vietnam in 1954, after a Vietnamese victory at Dienbienphu. After that, Ho controlled the northern part of Vietnam while the United States supported the noncommunist government in the south.
Ho wanted to unite Vietnam. He provided aid to the National Liberation Front, or Viet Cong, a communist guerrilla organization in the south. American leaders saw Vietnam as an extension of he Cold War and developed the domino theory. This was the belief that if communists won in South Vietnam, then communism could spread to other governments in Southeast Asia. After a North Vietnamese attack on a U.S. Navy destroyer, Congress authorized the president to take military measures to prevent further communist aggression in Southeast Asia.
Despite massive American support, the South Vietnamese failed to defeat the Viet Cong and their North Vietnamese allies. During the Tet Offensive, the North Vietnamese attacked cities all over the south. Even though the communists were not able to hold any cities, it marked a turning point in U.S. public opinion. Upset by civilian deaths from the U.S. bombing of North Vietnam as well as growing American casualties, many Americans began to oppose the war. PRESIDENT NIXON CAME UNDER INCREASING PRESSURE TO TERMINATE THE CONFLICT. The Paris Peace Accord of 1973 established a ceasefire and American troops began to withdraw. Two years later communist North Vietnam conquered South Vietnam.
Neighboring Cambodia and Laos also ended up with communist governments. In Cambodia, guerrillas called the Khmer Rouge came to power. Led by the brutal dictator Pol Pot, their policies led to a genocide that killed about one third of the population. When Vietnam invaded Cambodia, the genocide ended. Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge were forced to retreat. Communism did not spread any farther in Southeast Asia.
3. What was significant about the Tet Offensive?