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When many Americans think of the Vietnam War they think of the American lives that were lost as a result of this terrible tragedy. Americans tend to think of the 58,000 American lives lost and fail to realize that the Vietnamese people lost somewhere between three and four million including countless women and children due to the ruthless guerrilla warfare of both armies. Communism is what first involved American soldiers because for some reason stopping the spread of communism was more important than saving Vietnamese lives.
The events leading up to the war, Americas involvement in the war, the killing of innocent Vietnamese, and the events after the war all show how appallingly horrid the Vietnamese people were treated throughout every stage of the war.
From 1946 up until 1954 Vietnam had been trying gain its independence from France. After the initial war that followed Vietnam divided into North and South Vietnam (Karnow 27). North Vietnam came under communist control, which had first led them to their war for independence.
South Vietnam was controlled by the Vietnamese who had been in support of the French (Goldstein 10). Before the war started Ho Chi Minh, later the leader of North Vietnam, made good ties with the United States through his organization Viet Minh. Viet Minh helped rescue American pilots and also delivered secret information to the United States (Plaster 56).
The United States became directly involved in the war in 1965 when they sent over the first troops to keep the Southern Vietnamese government from collapsing which was ultimately a losing cause.
The scare of the flow of communism throughout Southeast Asia was the prenuptial cause for America s involvement in the war. The United States believed that if it allowed Vietnam to come under communist control it would spread like wildfire throughout the entire Southeastern section of the continent (Young 25). Near the beginning of the conflict the United States sided with Ho Chi Minh because, even though he was a communist, he had already shown good intentions and was not considered an ally to the USSR and could become a valued partner in Asian affairs. After years of fighting for their independence the Vietnamese finally got the French to ask for peace in May of 1954 and many nations collaborated on what was called the Geneva Accords. This agreement called for the French troops to retreat peacefully to South Vietnam while Viet Minh controlled the north. The major conflict started when the United States refused to sign the accords because it wanted to assure that Vietnam would not fall under communist control. The United States had no right to deny the Vietnamese people the peace they had been searching for all along and start another fight. Because the election in the North was already a pretty clear win for Ho Chi Minh the South decided to have its own election when they elected Ngo Dinh Diem as the head of the anti-Communist regime. This established that the anti-Communist South considered itself apart from the communist North. This in collaboration with hostile tempers, raging religious groups, and the U.S. influence first started the Vietnam War when it was North against South in a fight to free the country of communism or let it be taken over by the Communist control.
The main reason this war is considered a tragedy is the excessively vast amount of senseless and brutal killings on innocent people. Many of these unnecessary events happened to helpless women and children that were killing or beaten by soldiers. Many soldiers would come into towns and take whatever they could and kill everyone no matter who or what they were (Fawcett 38). Due to the guerrilla warfare many stray shells and mortars found their way into Vietnamese villages were more often then not they killed many people. The worst things of all were the numerous land mines sprinkled throughout the entire countryside of Vietnam. These were the easily one of the biggest killers of the war because they continued to kill people even after the war had ceased (Dona hue 18). Due to the war and certain chemicals used, Vietnam developed the highest rate of birth defects in the world. Not only did the United States kill many innocent people in Vietnam but president Nixon also, during the later years of the war, bombed Cambodia and Laos. The people of the United States did not even support the United State s war effort. Many Americans displayed their disgust in public rebellions against the war.
At the wars conclusion the United States not only caused the loss of many lives and innocent suffering they also lost out on their posterior motive with the return of communism throughout Vietnam. President Nixon also promised the Vietnamese $3.25 billion in reconstruction aid, which they never received (Karnow 22). After the war about ten percent of the American firepower such as bombs and shells that went unexploded continued to kill and maim people throughout Vietnam long after the final shots were fired. The estimated toll of orphans because of the war was over eight hundred thousand and this was just in South Vietnam alone. Along with over ten million of them being homeless refugees many Southern Vietnamese people were punished severely for their ties with the rebellion. Many of the people were put into reeducation camps and were deprived of their employment (Goldstein 27).
The people of Vietnam were the true victims of the Vietnam War despite what any American magazine or history book says. The United States not only intervened when they were not needed, they took many innocent lives in the process. After the war, many people s everyday lives changed significantly due to reeducation camps, birth defects, and even land mines. The horrible treatment of these people goes almost unnoticed and should be recognized by more Americans.
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