There are two parts to this question. You must write about both: Causes of your chosen event

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Describe the background and outcomes of an event that affected the lives of ordinary people. How did an historical force or movement related to this event have an influence on ordinary people’s lives at this time?”
There are two parts to this question. You must write about both:

1.) Causes of your chosen event.

2.) How that event affected ordinary people (particularly with reference to your chosen historical force).
This model essay will be talking about:

1.) The event of the fall of Ngo Dinh Diem.

2.) How the assassination and the force of Nationalism affected ordinary people.
The first job is to plan your essay. It is vital that you do this in the exam. People who fail are always the ones who didn’t do the plan. It looks like this:

Selected historical force or movement

Selected topic

Selected event


Vietnam & The Conflict In Indo-China

The Fall Of Diem

Background to the event
Diem’s nepotism
Strategic Hamlets
1963 Buddhist Crisis

Outcomes of the event
Social and political chaos in Saigon after the coup
Possibility of victory by the North

Influence of the force/movement on people’s lives
Fear of the spread of Communism and the Domino Theory
Controversy surrounding the second attack

The bits in italics are the bits that you would have filled in during the exam. Your job now is to go back through your notes and textbook to re-familiarise yourself with some of the things I have filled in for you. This plan is not exhaustive, so there might be other things you would like to add.

The next job is to write the actual essay. Below I have written the points which could be included based on the essay plan. However, I have not included any critical analysis. It is therefore your job to write the essay making sure you include the words



as a result of”

These words ensure that your sentence is analysis rather than story telling. When discussing causes (background) and consequences (influence on people) you could also include critical analysis by arguing which ones are more important than others and why e.g.

However, perhaps of more importance is…”

Although … was important, it was vital that …”

You will need to link the points below together, as simply stating simple sentences is story telling and NOT GOOD! You should also add relevant information from your notes and textbook. You should see that at roughly the end of each paragraph I have written [ANSWER THE QUESTION!] That means that you need to refer back to the essay question at that point. You should also add relevant information from your notes and textbook. When you have completed this essay you should hand it in for marking. When it is correct, you should learn it for the exam.
An event that had an impact on the lives of ordinary people was the fall from power and subsequent death of Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963.

The force of Communism, an ideology that promotes the establishment of an egalitarian, classless society characterised by common ownership, had an influence on ordinary people’s lives because it was one of the causes of this event.

The causes of this event were more than a decade of opposition to the Diem regime, as well as issues such as the Strategic Hamlet programme, which forced South Vietnamese peasants into the hands of the Communist Viet Cong.

The Buddhist Crisis, caused by Diem’s favouritism of Catholicism and suppression of Buddhism, led the Americans to turn their backs on Diem, who was captured and shot.

The main consequence of this event was an instability of the Saigon Government and a corresponding rise in the strength of the VC in the South, resulting in the fall of Saigon to Communism; the very thing which, as a result of the “Domino Theory”, the Americans had feared so much and worked so hard to prevent.

This had an impact on ordinary people’s lives as the fear of Communism eventually drove the US to commit combat troops and the entire population of North and South Vietnam ended up living under the tenets of Communism.

Main Body – Background To The Event
One of the long term causes of the fall of Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963 was more than a decade of simmering opposition caused by Diem’s nepotism, which created a virtual family dictatorship, as well as his suppression of the Viet Minh “Winter Cadres” in the South, which involved censorship, imprisonment and capital punishment.

As far as US policy in the 1950s was concerned, Diem was to be an anti-Communist domino.

The U.S. supported Diem when, in 1956, he refused to hold the elections called for under the Geneva Accords, stating he did not trust the Communists to carry out free elections.

Diem was no friend of the US, mistrusting them after the 1960 coup and viewing democracy as a western disease.

Both parties needed each other in order to prevent the spread of Communism.

Due to his sense of Nationalism, Diem’s rule was authoritarian, nepotistic and pervaded by family corruption.

By 1960 it was clear that Diem’s anti-Communist, pro-Catholic regime had created many enemies in South Vietnam and there was significant political instability.

Diem’s response was to become a political recluse, leaving his despotic brother Ngo Dinh Nhu and his wife Madame Nhu to enforce the regime’s brutal and bloody policies.

This had significant consequences for US policy in South Vietnam because by 1961 Kennedy had announced that, rather than let Vietnam fall to Communism and become another domino, he would use military intervention to prop up the South against Communist pressures.

The force of Communism therefore had a significant impact on ordinary people’s lives because belief in the “Domino Theory” led the US to become increasingly entangled in a conflict which they would find, in the fullness of time, they were ill-equipped to win. [ANSWER THE QUESTION!]

Another cause of the fall of Diem was his misguided Strategic Hamlet programme, which aimed to protect villagers from the Communist VC, but which actually served only to alienate the villagers and make Communism all the more attractive.

The ideology of Communism became appealing to the South Vietnamese villagers due to their resentment at being unceremoniously uprooted from their ancestral homelands and being forced to pay the pro-Democratic anti-Communist Diem government for materials to rebuild their homes which the US had supplied to Diem at no cost.

Suggestions that these Strategic Hamlets were being used by Ngo Dinh Nhu as a military solution, and therefore bore more resemblance to concentration camps, was of extreme concern to the Kennedy administration.

Although his motivations must be taken into account, it was extremely significant that Pham Van Dong, Premier of North Vietnam, declared that the Diem regime was organising camouflaged concentration camps dubbed “Prosperity Zones” and “Strategic Hamlets”. This example is an effective illustration of Diem’s alienation of the US government, as well as his alienation of his own villagers.

Diem’s Strategic Hamlet programme, rather than countering subversion, actually assisted the process of conversion to the ideology of Communism. For example, by 1962 the Saigon government itself declared that they had relocated 39% of the population into the Strategic Hamlets. [ANSWER THE QUESTION!]
The Buddhist Crisis of 1963 can justifiably be perceived as the most serious crisis the Diem regime faced.

The grave situation of government troops firing into protest crowds was caused by Diem’s repressive legislative, political and religious measures directed against the Buddhist population.

Given the fact that the Buddhists represented 95% of the population, it is a damning testimony of Diem’s ineptitude that he did not seek to negotiate a political solution, and the importance of this miscalculation was not lost on the Americans.

Images of Buddhist monks self-immolating as a means of protesting against the Diem regime shocked the Kennedy administration to the core and all confidence that Diem could be an effective anti-Communist domino was lost.

Although the executions of Diem and his brother were not a part of Washington’s agenda, Cabot Lodge’s “Green Light” tacit approval of the coup by South Vietnamese Generals does make the US culpable.

Kennedy’s interview on CBS News was evidence that he believed Diem had lost touch with his own people and was therefore incapable of stopping the tide of Communism.

Although this resulted in Diem’s downfall, the US agenda at all times was driven by the philosophy of the “Domino Theory” and the fear that Asia, Australia and NZ would all become Communist. [ANSWER THE QUESTION!]
Main Body – Outcomes Of The Event
The fall of Diem and his nepotistic regime set in motion a series of events which eventually forced Johnson in 1965 to choose between accepting defeat and letting the dominoes fall, or committing combat troops.

After the executions, Ho Chi Minh and the North Vietnamese Politburo predicted that there would be further coups, more instability and the outcome would be very different from that which the US imperialists calculated.

Indeed, this prediction proved to be accurate, since while a gunman was taking aim from a book depository in Texas, Saigon was experiencing social and political chaos.

Despite the succession of ineffective Generals who came to power, the US was motivated by the fear of being unable to contain Communism to continue to support South Vietnam. [ANSWER THE QUESTION!]

By 1964 the Saigon government was facing the real possibility of defeat.

The VC openly held one third of the country and dominated the other two thirds by night.

The North Vietnamese Army was able to wage a total war as a result of consistent leadership under Ho Chi Minh, the discipline and unity created by the ideology of Communism and the mobilisation of the entire population in the cause of unifying Vietnam.

In contrast to this resolve and determination in North Vietnam, Johnson was facing pivotal decisions and even advisors such as Robert McNamara performing U-turns on their policies. [ANSWER THE QUESTION!]

Main Body – Influence On People
Communism was having an impact on ordinary people in two different populations because, on the one hand, it was a unifying force which made total war possible, and on the other it was a threat to democracy so terrible that it had to be stopped at all costs. [ANSWER THE QUESTION!]
The instability created by Diem’s death caused the US to fear they might lose containment of global Communism, and therefore they were already prepared to commit to a conflict when the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Incident gave them a convenient excuse to do so.

The resulting Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, an effective example of how US foreign policy decision making was becoming increasingly the domain of the Oval Office rather than Congress, gave Johnson the mandate to act virtually at will and plunged the US into a conflict against Communism they were ill-equipped to win. [ANSWER THE QUESTION!]

Although Diem certainly helped to create the causes of his own demise, particularly in terms of his nepotism and suppression, the US must also bear some culpability, since having chosen Diem as an anti-Communist domino and propped him up in order to contain Communism, it was the Kennedy administration’s tacit approval of the coup in 1963 which encouraged the coup leaders.

The most ironic consequence of the fall of Diem was that, despite American suspicions that he could no longer maintain control over South Vietnam, it was actually the instability created by Diem’s absence which precipitated further American involvement.

The force of Communism had a significant impact on people’s lives because the policy making of the US government was driven by the fear of Communism, so US troops would therefore be required to fight to prevent its spread.

Communism had furthermore been the unifying force behind the efforts of the North and would eventually also rule over the South.

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