When Japanese forces withdrew from Vietnam following World War II, France quickly moved to reassert the imperial power it once held over Vietnam (French Indochina included Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam). The ensuing colonial war would eventually become a military and political quagmire for the United States.
In 1950, President Harry S Truman began sending aid in the form of money, advice, and materiel to the French. Truman's decision to support France was strictly political. The United States actually favored an independent Vietnam, but it needed France's cooperation to establish the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), considered a vital tool in the Cold War struggle against the Soviet Union.
France abandoned Vietnam in 1954, whereupon political discord arose between communist-dominated North Vietnam and anti-communist South Vietnam. The United States, which had stepped in to fill the French void, cautiously supported South Vietnam. Over the next several years, amidst rampant political instability in Vietnam, President Dwight D. Eisenhower gradually increased American commitment to resist the communist takeover of South Vietnam. Almost 200 American casualties would be suffered during that period, even though the official stance of the United States toward Vietnam remained advisory in nature.
President John F. Kennedy significantly increased assistance to South Vietnam. So dramatic was Kennedy's covert combat aid that the New York Times proclaimed the United States involvement amounted to an "undeclared war." In late 1961, army helicopters delivered by aircraft carrier to Saigon marked America's first direct military support for South Vietnam's fight against communism.
In 1964, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. The measure granted President Lyndon B. Johnson expanded power in Southeast Asia to "repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression." In effect, Congress issued the President virtual carte blanche in Vietnam; Johnson interpreted the resolution as a broad congressional mandate to expand the war.
Hence, the United States entered the war in earnest. Johnson began sustained bombing of North Vietnamdubbed "Operation Rolling Thunder"in early 1965. Although the President stated his willingness to negotiate an end to the war, conditional to North Vietnamese forces vacating the South, the air attacks would prove to be the foundation for further escalation of America's war involvement. While Johnson assured the public that its young people would not die fighting an Asian war, he acquiesced to the continued requests of General William Westmoreland for additional ground support. That summer, over 100,000 fresh troops were sent to Vietnam; by the end of the year, there were nearly 200,000 American soldiers in the field.
In January of 1968, North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces launched a massive series of raids known as the Tet Offensive. Attacking numerous towns and American bases, the communist forces caused chaos throughout South Vietnam. Although communist losses were heavy, and American forces soon dislodged the Viet Cong from most of the positions they had captured, the psychological impact on the United States was so devastating that from this point on the war was a political albatross. By the end of 1968, American troop strength well exceeded half a million; casualties suffered in Vietnam were by then grotesquely out of hand, surpassing the 36,000 mark.
When Richard Nixon entered the White House, he made resolution of the Vietnam conflict a top priority. However, his proposal for a phased withdrawal of all non-South Vietnamese troops, to be followed by an internationally supervised election in South Vietnam, was flatly rejected by North Vietnam. Nixon responded with a program referred to as "Vietnamization"an attempt to build up the South Vietnamese armed forces so that American troops could withdraw without the South being overrun by the North. Experiencing no success, Nixon waffled between cutbacks and escalation.
The American public, growing weary of the government's general indecision and lack of progress in Vietnam, began to openly protest America's presence in Southeast Asia. College campuses, especially, became grounds of furious demonstrations. Thousands of young men expressed their opposition to the Vietnam War by evading the draft. The United States was now fighting the war on two frontsmilitarily abroad and emotionally at home. In short time, it would manage to divide America more sharply than any other single event since the Civil War a century earlier.
By 1970, the United States had clearly lost all enthusiasm for the Vietnam War. The data from several polls indicated the majority of Americans favored a complete withdrawal from Southeast Asia. Bowing to stern public pressure, and realizing the war had become a military debacle, Congress halted funds, forcing Nixon and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger to negotiate a "peace with honor" cease-fire arrangement in January of 1973. That March, the United States lifted its last combat troops from Vietnam.
With the loss of American military aid, South Vietnam was simply too feeble to maintain the burden of fighting. In 1975, the South Vietnamese government collapsed and was absorbed into a unified communist Vietnam. Not only did America fail to accomplish its objective for interfering in Vietnam, the results were tragicsome 58,000 servicemen killed, over 350,000 wounded, and nearly 2,300 missing and presumed dead. Thus, the failure of the Vietnam experience was complete.
Platoon stars Charlie Sheen as Chris Taylor, a college drop-out and American soldier sent to join Bravo Company, 25th Infantry "somewhere near the Cambodian border" in 1967. It is through his eyes that the movie's fictional drama shows the true intensity of the nightmarish Vietnam fiasco. His platoon's allegiance is split between two sergeants, played by Tom Berenger (as Barnes) and Willem Dafoe (as Elias). Barnes, a gung-ho fanatic, is bent solely on destroying the Viet Cong. Elias has lost faith in the war, but not in mankind, and prefers to fight the enemy in a different fashion. Friction between Berenger and Dafoe provides most of the film's storyline, supposedly drawn from the personal combat experience of director Oliver Stone.
Platoon was awarded Best Picture in 1986. The powerful production is rated R owing to graphic violence and rough language necessary to realistically portray the horrors of the Vietnam War. The widespread use of marijuana and other drugs among the American troops is clearly shown.
Select the best response for each item according to information learned from viewing Platoon, as well as through lecture and assigned reading.
Choose one of the following. Your response should be 3-5 typed, double-spaced pages and include a list of sources used (minimum of two required).