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Why the US Failed L/O – To analyse Johnsons last months in office

1) Senate Hearings 1967 • Organised by the Hawks, it was critical of the gradualist bombing policy. They revealed polls suggesting that 45% of Americans supported increasing bombing. • Mcnamara repsonded by saying that escalation risked a Soviet response, and that in order to defeat Hanoi, the whole of North Vietnam would have to be flattened. He also said that bombing of the Ho Chi Minh trail was no stopping supplies. • Johnson was furious, stating that McNamara had become a “basket case”. The JCS said MCNamara was undermining all past and future efforts in Vietnam.

2) McNamara Resigns • By 1967 McNamara had begun having doubts about US policy; • “The picture of the worlds greatest super power killing or seriously injuring 1000 non combatants a week is not a pretty one” • By October 1967, he was suffering severe chest pains. He resigned in November, savaging the Air Force; • “The god damned air force and its goddamned bombing campaign that had dropped more bombs on Vietnam than on Europe than the whole of WW2 and we hadn’t gotten a goddamned thing for it” • He was replaced by Clark Clifford who doubted the dominol theory ans was more open to withdrawal.

3) The Wise Men change their mind • Supportive of the War in the early years, the Wise Men conferred in the aftermath of Tet; • “The US cannot succeed in the time we have left in Vietnam because time is limited by reactions in this country” • Johnson responded; • “I cannot believe these establishment bastards have bailed out”. • A poll taken in March suggested that 78% of Americans felt that America was NOT making progress in the war.

4) The Dollar • The deficit had weakened the dollar. It led to a market crash which caused a gold crisis. This was the last straw for American business.

5) Peace Talks • “Gradualism” did not work – Ho Chi Minh had always wanted a “total” bombing halt. Johnson responded with; • “I’ll tell you what happends when theres a bombing halt; I halt then Ho Chi Minh shoves trucks up my ass” • Senator Fullbright never though negotiations were serious, and Washington was too focused on a military solution;” • It’s a bunch of crap you wanting to negotiate. You think you can blow them up”

Progress – Paris 1968 • Tet 1968 • Hanoi was exhausted. The South had not risen and the VC had been decimated. • On 31st March 1968, Johnson gave up the presidency. He would resign after the election. • • Talks began in Paris in may 1968. • What do you think each side demanded?

Demands US Demands

• North Vietnamese withdrawal from South Vietnam. • No communist involvement in Saigon government.

North Vietnamese Demands

• US withdrawal from South Vietnam • Communist involvement in the Saigon Government.

“If I left that war and let the communists take over South Vietnam, then I would be seen as a coward” (Johnson 1968)

• The talks stalled. • The South refused to even sit at the same table as the North. • The battle of the tables, was Johnsons last battle.

Intensity • Fighting reached a high intensity in Vietnam as America sought to destroy what they thought was a weakened enemy. • In May alone (just two weeks) 1,800 Americans were killed and another 1,800 seriously wounded. Despite military victory at Tet, morale in US forces was low.

Chicago •

Prior to the convention, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy had both been assassinated. There was a violent undercurrent to the convention.

1968 Election Candidates Herbert Humphrey Johnsons vice President. Richard Nixon - Republican.

Robert Kennedy – Democrat – Anti War candidate – Shot dead prior to the election Eugene McCarthy – Democrat Anti War candidate George Wallace – Democrat - Hawk

What conclusions can we draw? – The Result. • Voters were split over the candidates. There was certainly an anti-war vote, yet many voted for domestic issues over Vietnam. Nixon vowed to bring an “honourable end” to the war in Vietnam, and won the election.

Johnsons Final Months Democrats kicked out of office

Anti-War riots in Chicago

No progress in peace talks.

More American deaths – low morale.

How did the war change US society? • • • • •

“Vietnam took it all away” (Robert Kennedy) 1965-1973 – War cost $15.5 billion dollars 222,351 killed/wounded during Johnsons presidency Physical/mental problems with veterans – drug addiction Increased class antagonism – The poor saw the middle class as having escaped the draft. The war took money away from the “Great Society” programme. • Ethnc divisions – The death of King further divided whites and blacks. There was a view that blacks were being sent to fight a war for the whites. • A Johnson aide suggested the war was like a fungus; it infected everything it touched.

Demonstration • Page 154 and 155 – Vivienne Sanders. • Students will attempt question (a) • Class will plan out a response to (b) together.

Why the us failed 1968  
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