Vietnam’s History, part 2: The American War, 1955-1975
Historian and VBC Director Todd DePastino presents the second in his series on Vietnam’s history and culture, focusing this week on the origins and fighting of the American War, from 1955 to 1975.
You’ll learn about the division of Vietnam at the 17th Parallel in 1954, about Ho Chi Minh and Ngo Dinh Diem, and about the staggering diversity of South Vietnam, qualities that made the new country difficult to govern and mobilize for war.
You’ll also learn about the decision-making process in President Lyndon Johnson’s administration that resulted in a dramatic escalation if the war in 1965. On March 8, 1965, the first troops authorized for offensive operations in Vietnam, the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, landed at Danang. Five months later, the President announced the sending of 50,000 more US troops immediately. He also warned that draft calls will reach as high as 35,000 a month. That was an underestimate.
Once those troops arrived, the war proceeded in ever-changing and unanticipated ways, first against the Viet Cong (VC) and then against the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) along the DMZ in I Corps. Much of the fighting focused on the key “Truong Son Strategic Supply Route,” what Americans called the Ho Chi Minh Trail. We’ll talk about how the trail was maintained and what the Americans did to stem the flow of men and materiel down its spidery network of paths and roads.
We’ll also discuss the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels that rested beneath the US Army’s Cu Chi Base Camp, located northwest of Saigon off Highway 1. These tunnels stretched 25 miles and became a critical storehouse for the weapons and supplies funneled down the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
We’ll end with the Puzzle of Khe Sanh, why the NVA laid siege to the remote Khe Sanh Combat Base near the DMZ and why, after 77 days, they disappeared.
Listen to this conversation about the Vietnam War and its history with the people who lived it.