Communist South – Democratic Why did America become involved in the Korean War – to stop the spread of Communism



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Korea and Vietnam

Korea - divided into North and South Korea.

North – Communist

South – Democratic
Why did America become involved in the Korean War – to stop the spread of Communism
This was part of what American policy (name of the policy)– Containment
What large Asian country (hint this country resides solely in Asia) was supporting Korea –China
Our troops fought troops of this country. At one point General MacArthur advised using Nuclear weapons! What do you think is the major reason President Truman refused to take this advice – fear of global nuclear war, fear of unnecessary death and destruction, danger to American soldiers, fear of what such an attack would do to America’s image, etc.

After three years of fighting a cease-fire was called, bringing an end to the conflict. After the conflict Korea stayed divided as it had been before the war and continues this way today.

Domino Theory – fear that if Korea, then Vietnam fell to Communism that the surrounding countries would also fall to Communism (just like a row of dominoes)



Vietnam - Before WWII Vietnam had been a colony of France. During WWII Japan had taken control of Vietnam. The Vietnamese ppl expected their independence when the war ended. Instead the French re-asserted their control over the area.

Ho Chi Minh - Leader of South Vietnamese nationalists (Vietcong) and Communist North Vietnam.

Difference between Vietcong and Vietminh?

Vietcong – south Vietnamese sympathetic to Northern cause (Communists), fought on side of Communists

Vietminh – North Vietnamese forces (Communists)

Dien Bien Phu – embarrassing, disastrous and completely unexpected French defeat (are we really surprised though – it is the French). France had greatly underestimated the capabilities of the Vietnamese troops – most of this stemmed from ethnocentrism and racism. France decided to pull out after this embarrassment. America, who had been greatly aiding the French (money, supplies) stepped in to fill the void left by the French.

Ethnocentrism – belief that your country is superior to all others

Racism – belief that your race is superior to all others

What was America afraid would happen if they didn’t step in – that South Vietnam would fall to Communism (Domino Theory)



American involvement - Initially US sent in “military advisors” (Green Berets, CIA) to help train the South Vietnamese army and villagers. Eventually it became evident that this by itself would not suffice.

The US began sending large number of troops over in 1965. Within three years the US had over 500,000 of its finest young men and women stationed in Vietnam to resist Communist forces.



1st major engagement – Ia Drang valley. The movie “We Were Soldiers” is based on Col. Hal Moore’s book about his battalion’s experience in “The Valley of Death”.
Gulf of Tonkin incident – used to justify direct military involvement.

Although the American army had the best equipment in the world and was better supplied and led it did not have the element of fear that the North Vietnamese and Vietcong inspired in the villagers of South Vietnam. Additionally, the enemy used guerilla tactics to fight the American forces


Guerilla warfare – small unit, non-traditional attacks by paramilitary personnel and/or civilians

What is the point of the classroom activity concerning Vietnam – that our soldiers often did not know who the enemy was. After all the Vietcong were Guerilla fighters; they were villagers. In fact in some cases they were the people that were in the fields, villages by day (often seeming very friendly) and trying to ambush, kill, etc our soldiers by night.

The US soldiers sometimes literally did not know who was friend and who was foe. Can you think of any examples of this from today – Iraq, Afghanistan.



Try to imagine you are in the shoes of a soldier in Vietnam or a soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan today.

Furthermore, the military was limited by the American govt. in how, what, and where they could wage war. Unfortunately for the American soldiers this meant, in most cases, that America never used all the resources available to it. The nature of the war, sympathy among many South Vietnamese, and lack of support for the war in the US eventually doomed the war effort and the US pulled it troops out leaving South Vietnam to resist the North by itself. The last American troops left in 1973. Within two years all of Vietnam had become Communist



Agent Orange – chemical defoliant used by American military; has been directly linked to many health problems – Cancer, birth defects, etc. Unfortunately for over a decade our govt. denied the link between Agent Orange and health issues.

Over 100,000 American soldiers lost their lives as a result of Korea and Vietnam. Hundreds of thousands more returned changed forever physically and/or mentally. As with all war vets we owe them a debt of thanks for their service – it is the least we can do!



The men and women who served in Korea and ‘nam (as well as all other American combat operations) made selfless sacrifices to their country. Many made the ultimate sacrifice. Many others experienced things that some of us could only imagine in our worst nightmares. They deserve and have earned our respect and should be treated accordingly.

“All gave some, some gave all” “Have you earned what they have given us?”

Cuba – became Communist in 1959 after Fidel Castro led the Cuban Revolution; immediately became a thorn in the side of America and one that the Soviets were very willing to exploit.
Killing Fields - Massacre of the Cambodian ppl by their govt. (Khmer Rouge) during the mid 70s. Communist govt. led by Pol Pot was attempting to force Communism on the ppl of Cambodia and create a society of peasant farmers that were completely loyal to the Communist Khmer Rouge. Upwards of 2,000,000 Cambodians were murdered by their own govt. The total population of Cambodia at the time was 8,000,000-10,000,000.


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