Vietnam War

The Cold War in Asia

East Asia 1968.0401

Vietnam War

Korean War, Indochina War, Vietnam War, Invasion of Tibet, Mao Zedong (1 April 1968)

Historical Map of East Asia & the Western Pacific

At the end of the First Indochina War, Vietnam had been divided between a Communist North and a pro-Western South. From 1959, North Vietnam began infiltrating the South with the support of the Viet Cong, South Vietnamese guerrillas, as the part of its effort to unify the country under Communist rule. In response, the US, which had established a presence in the region when the French departed, moved in with its forces in an attempt to prop up the South Vietnamese regime.

Main Events

Gulf of Tonkin incident

The US Navy destroyer USS Maddox engaged three North Vietnamese torpedo boats in the Gulf of Tonkin, after they reportedly pursued the destroyer and it fired warning shots in return. US President Lyndon Johnson would use the incident, together with another alleged attack - which may not even have involved North Vietnamese ships - in the Gulf of Tonkin on 4 August, to justify increased US involvement in the Vietnam War.

Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

In response to the Gulf of Tonkin incident, United States President Lyndon Johnson pushed for greater powers to pursue the war in Vietnam. As a result, the US Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution on 7 August 1964, with Johnson signing it into effect on 10 August. The resolution authorized the president to use conventional military force in Southeast Asia, allowing for the rapid escalation of US military involvement in the region.

Project 596

In Project 596 - named after June 1959 when the Soviet Union decided to end its support of the Chinese nuclear program - the People's Republic of China detonated its first nuclear device northwest of Lop Nur, Xinjiang. The test made China the world's fifth nuclear power.

Independence of Singapore

Following Independence of Singapore Agreement, Singapore became independent from Malaysia.

Cultural Revolution

Mao Zedong, Chairman of the People's Republic of China, started the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution - a movement to preserve 'true' Communist ideology by purging remaining capitalist and traditionalist elements from Chinese culture. The revolution utilized China's youth as Red Guards, and led to the purging of political opponents of Mao, the desecration of historical relics, widespread violence, and the persecution of millions of people. Although Mao officially declared the Cultural Revolution ended in 1969, it actively continued to 1971 and was not officially denounced until 1981.

Tet Offensive

After several years of guerrilla warfare, the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong staged a campaign of surprise attacks across South Vietnam, hoping to inspire widespread rebellion in the country and defeat the southern and US forces in a conventional war. The strategy failed, but proved advantageous as a propaganda tool, turning the war decisively in favor of the Communists.

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