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Korea, Cuba, and Vietnam Theme: Challenges of limited war


... other alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a swift end. ... In Oct 1961, Maxwell Taylor visited Vietnam and reported 'If Vietnam goes it ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Korea, Cuba, and Vietnam Theme: Challenges of limited war

Korea, Cuba, and VietnamTheme Challengesof
limited war
  • Lesson 20

Divided Korea
  • After World War II, Japans former colony of
    Korea was divided into two occupation zones along
    the 38th parallel with the Soviet zone in the
    north and the US zone in the south
  • Before the occupation forces departed, an
    anticommunist regime was established in the south
    and a communist one in the north

US in Asia
  • The US was uncertain as to the extent of its
    commitment in Asia
  • It knew its umbrella definitely covered Japan,
    Okinawa, and the Philippines, but it was unclear
    about Taiwan, South Korea, and Southeast Asia
  • Believing the US did not intend to protect South
    Korea, the USSR allowed the North Koreans to
    invade the south in 1951

Secretary of State Dean Achesons speech to the
National Press Club omitted South Korea from the
US defensive perimeter
North Korea Attacks June 25, 1951
  • North Korean army crossed the 38th parallel with
    an invasion force totaling over 90,000 troops and
    150 Soviet-built tanks
  • By the night of June 28, Seoul had fallen and the
    South Korean forces were in disarray.
  • South Korea appealed to the United Nations for
  • The UN passed a resolution recommending that the
    members of the United Nations furnish such
    assistance to the Republic of Korea as may be
    necessary to repel the armed attack and to
    restore international peace and security to the

United Nations
  • As a member of the UN Security Council, the
    Soviet Union could have vetoed UN involvement in
    the war
  • However, at the time Moscow was boycotting the
    Security Council in protest of the UNs failure
    to seat a representative of the newly established
    Peoples Republic of China
  • (Remember from last lesson the victory of the
    communists over the nationalists in China)
  • In the absence of the USSR, the UN passed a
    resolution sending a military force to South
  • The force was predominately American with Douglas
    McArthur as the Supreme Commander.
  • There were also substantial contributions from
    the UK, Canada and other Commonwealth countries.

Pusan PerimeterJune 27 to Sept 15
  • The American forces were unprepared for the North
    Korean attack.
  • By the end of July, the North Koreans had pushed
    the UN forces to the southeast corner of the
    peninsula, where they dug in around the port of

Inchon (Operation Chromite)Sept 15
  • MacArthur completely changed the course of the
    war overnight by ordering -- over nearly
    unanimous objections -- an amphibious invasion at
    the port of Inchon, near Seoul.
  • The Americans quickly gained control of Inchon,
    recaptured Seoul within days, and cut the North
    Korean supply lines.
  • American and ROK forces broke out of the Pusan
    Perimeter and chased the retreating enemy north.

Approaching the Yalu
  • MacArthur continued to push north, ignoring
    threats of Chinese intervention
  • On October 25, the Chinese army attacked after
    having infiltrated into North Korea
  • After suffering setbacks, the UN forces
    stabilized their lines by November 5
  • Chinese withdrew northward
  • MacArthur launched a great offensive toward the
    end of November, which he optimistically hoped
    would end the war in Korea

  • MacArthur's all-out offensive to the Yalu had
    barely begun when the Chinese attacked en masse
    on the night of November 25.
  • Roughly 180,000 Chinese troops shattered the
    right flank of the Eighth Army in the west, while
    120,000 others threatened to destroy the X Corps
    near the Chosin Reservoir.
  • On November 28, MacArthur informed the Joint
    Chiefs, We face an entirely new war.
  • UN retreat ended about 70 miles below Seoul.

  • Beginning January 15, Ridgway led the UN in a
    slow advance northward.
  • UN re-recaptured Seoul (the fourth and final time
    it changed hands) on March 15, and had patrols
    crossing the 38th parallel on March 31.
  • In the meantime, MacArthur had been steadily
    pushing Washington to remove the restrictions on
    his forces.
  • Truman declined for fear of widening the war

MacArthurs Relief
  • MacArthur repeatedly made public statements that
    were contrary to official US policy and suggested
    that Truman Administration policies were
    responsible for the retreat of the Eighth Army
  • Eventually Truman was forced to relieve MacArthur
    and replace him with Ridgway

But once war is forced upon us, there is no
other alternative than to apply every available
means to bring it to a swift end. War's very
object is victory, not prolonged indecision. In
war there is no substitute for victory.
MacArthurs Farewell Address Apr 19, 1951
Negotiation and Stalemate
  • On June 29,1951, Ridgway broadcast a message to
    his communist counterpart announcing his
    willingness to negotiate
  • Eighth Army transitioned to an active defense
  • Tried unsuccessfully to break communist supply
    line with air and artillery

Matthew Ridgway
Negotiation and Stalemate
  • Both sides expended enormous amounts of effort to
    solidify their lines
  • Costly seesaw battles like Bloody Ridge,
    Heartbreak Ridge, and Old Baldy
  • Negotiations characterized by intransigence
  • POWs a major obstacle
  • Armistice not signed till July 27, 1953

Heartbreak Ridge with Bloody Ridge in background
Korea Today
  • An armistice is not a peace treaty so the Korean
    War did not officially end with its signing
  • Today a Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) encompasses 2
    kilometers on either side of the 151 mile long
    Military Demarcation Line (MDL)
  • North Korea remains communist and a nuclear threat

Panmunjeom is the official diplomatic
headquarters at the DMZ. North Korean guards, in
brown, face their South Korean counterparts, in
Fidel Castro
  • In the early 1950s Cuba was controlled by a
    moderate right-wing military regime that was
    friendly to the US government and businesses
  • The US supported Fulgencio Batista as an
    anti-communist and a proponent of the US in
    domestic and international policies
  • However, in 1959 Fidel Castro was able to
    mobilize the disaffected rural peasants and
    topple Batistas regime

A Cuban crowd listens to Castro after his takeover
Fidel Castro
  • Castro assumed dictatorial powers and announced
    his goal was to create a society based on Marxist
  • He nationalized large-scale landholdings, sought
    economic aid from the Soviet Union, and tried to
    export revolution throughout Latin America
    through peasant and urban guerrilla warfare

Che Guevara directed many of Castros Latin
American operations until he was killed in
Bolivia in 1967
Bay of Pigs
  • The US could not accept the presence of a
    revolutionary Marxist government so close to its
    borders and President Eisenhower authorized
    planning for a force of anti-Castro Cubans to
    invade Cuba and overthrow Castro
  • When Kennedy became president he authorized the
    invasion but stipulated that the US not be
    involved in the landing itself

Bay of Pigs
  • The invasion took place at the Bay of Pigs in
    April 1961 and proved to be a disaster
  • Instead of rallying to the invaders, the local
    population supported the Castro government
  • The failure embarrassed the US and weakened
    President Kennedy in the eyes of the Soviet Union
  • However, it strengthened Kennedys personal
    resolve to act more vigorously in any future

Castro helping to repel the invasion
Cuban Missile Crisis
  • Castro feared the US would try again to overthrow
    him and he called for additional support from the
    Soviet Union
  • Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev responded by
    sending medium-range bombers and missiles to Cuba
    to help defend Castro and threaten the US
  • In Oct 1962, US spy planes discovered missile
    sites under construction in Cuba

Kennedys Response
  • Kennedy responded decisively, demanding that the
    Soviets remove the missiles and bombers or face
    their destruction by air strikes or invasion
  • He also imposed a naval quarantine of Cuba

US Victory
  • On Oct 28, Khrushchev agreed to remove the
  • Eyeball to eyeball, they blinked first.
  • Dean Rusk, US Secretary of State
  • The Cuban Missile Crisis had shown the dangers of
    nuclear apocalypse in the bipolar world
  • It was a major Cold War victory for the US and a
    major loss of face for the Soviet Union and

1962 British cartoon showing Kennedy and
Khrushchev arm wrestling on top of nuclear weapons
Cold War Society
Vietnam Post-World War II
  • Vietnam was divided after World War II to
    facilitate disarmament and then formally divided
    in 1954 by the Geneva Accords
  • Communist forces in the north led by Ho Chi Minh
    forced the withdraw of French forces in 1956
  • In 1959, Ho declared a Peoples War to unite
  • In 1961, President Kennedy sent 400 Green Berets
    to Vietnam
  • In Oct 1961, Maxwell Taylor visited Vietnam and
    reported If Vietnam goes it will be exceedingly
    difficult to hold Southeast Asia. (domino theory)

Vietnam Major US Involvement
  • 1964 North Vietnamese patrol boats attack a US
    destroyer in Gulf of Tonkin. US begins bombing.
  • Mar 2, 1965 Operation Rolling Thunder begins.
  • Mar 8, 1965 First US combat troops arrive. By
    the end of the year, 184,300 troops are in

The massive bombing campaign was plagued by
restricted targeting and the non-industrialized
nature of North Vietnam
Conditions in South Vietnam
  • Diems regime was illegitimate and corrupt
  • Catholic in an overwhelmingly Buddhist society
  • Ignored Geneva Accords call for elections in 1956
  • Nepotism
  • Succession of military coups resulted in a
    revolving door government

Several Buddhist monks burned themselves alive to
protest Diems religious oppression
Insurgent Leadership
  • Increasing North Vietnamese infiltration created
    security threat in South Vietnam
  • In Dec 1960, the insurgents formed the National
    Liberation Front (typically called the Viet Cong
    or VC), a broad-based organization led by
    communists but designed to rally all those
    disaffected with Diem by promising sweeping
    reforms and genuine independence
  • Developed effective military and political

Flag of the National Liberation Front
External Support
  • North Vietnam began constructing a massive supply
    route through Laos and Cambodia that allowed it
    to infiltrate supplies and personnel south
  • The Ho Chi Minh Trail
  • The Soviet Union and China provided equipment,
    advisors, and diplomatic support

Mao on Guerrilla Warfare
  • Mao wrote On Guerrilla Warfare in 1937 while in
    retreat after ten years of battling the
    Nationalist Chinese army of Chiang Kai-shek
  • In 1949, Mao defeated the Nationalist Chinese and
    validated his theories of revolutionary guerrilla
  • Remember from last lesson
  • The National Liberation Front would pattern much
    of its strategy and tactics after Mao

Phases of Development
  • Phase I Latent and incipient insurgency.
  • Activity in this phase ranges from subversive
    activity that is only a potential threat to
    situations in which frequent subversive incidents
    and activities occur in an organized pattern. It
    involves no major outbreak of violence or
    uncontrolled insurgent activity. The guerrilla
    force does not conduct continuous operations but
    rather selected acts of terrorism.

Phases of Development
  • Phase II Guerrilla warfare.
  • This phase is reached when the insurgent
    movement, having gained sufficient local or
    external support, initiates organized continuous
    guerrilla warfare or related forms of violence
    against the government. This is an attempt to
    force government forces into a defensive role. As
    the guerrilla becomes stronger, he begins to
    conduct larger operations.

Phases of Development
  • Phase III War of movement.
  • When the guerrilla attains the force structure
    and capability to directly engage government
    forces in decisive combat, then he will
    progressively begin to use more conventional
    tactics and may obtain combat forces from an
    external source. He may also begin to conduct
    more extensive defensive operations in this phase
    to protect the areas he controls.

  • Between 1961 and 1963, President Kennedy launched
    a full-scale counterinsurgency program in
    Vietnam, part of which would become the
    pacification program
  • Major goals
  • Strengthen the South Vietnamese governments hold
    on the peasantry
  • Cut into the heart of the Viet Cong
    politico-military organization
  • Designed to win the hearts and minds of the
    South Vietnamese

In 1967, Robert Komer, shown here with President
Johnson, was selected to head CORDS (Civil
Operations and Rural Development Support)and
coordinate all pacification programs
Pacification Various Programs
  • Strategic Hamlet Program
  • Peasants from scattered villages were brought
    together in defended and organized hamlets in
    order to protect them, isolate the Viet Cong, and
    show the superiority of what the SVN government
    could offer
  • Combined Action Program
  • Placed selected Marine squads within the village
    militia to eliminate local guerrillas
  • Revolutionary Development Program
  • Put armed social workers into Vietnamese villages
    to begin grass roots civic improvement and
    eliminate the VC shadow government
  • Chieu hoi (opens arms)
  • Amnesty program designed to persuade VC to change

Pacification Overall Assessment
  • Commonly considered a missed strategic
  • Suffered from being too little, too late
  • CORDS not activated until 1967
  • Perceived as competition with the big war and
    many military officers favored a military

Air Force Chief of Staff Curtis LeMay reportedly
said, Grab em by the balls and their hearts and
minds will follow.
Limited War
  • When the Soviet Union and the US nuclear programs
    reached the point of Mutually Assured
    Destruction, the US faced the dilemma of
    responding to communist challenges in peripheral
    areas by either risking starting a nuclear war or
    doing nothing
  • The alternative strategy of limited war was
    developed to harness the nations military power
    and employ only that force necessary to achieve
    the political aim
  • The objective was not to destroy an opponent but
    to persuade him to break of the conflict short of
    achieving his goals and without resorting to
    nuclear war

Limited War
  • The limited war theory was more an academic than
    a military concept and its application resulted
    in tensions, frustrations, and misunderstanding
    between the military and civilian leadership

Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara is sharply
criticized for his technocratic and statistical
approach to the Vietnam War
Strategy of Attrition
  • Traditionally, the American way of war had been
    a strategy of annihilation
  • Seeks the immediate destruction of the combat
    power of the enemys armed forces
  • In Vietnam, the US would instead follow a
    strategy of attrition
  • The reduction of the effectiveness of a force
    caused by loss of personnel and materiel
  • This proved to be a poor strategy against the
    North Vietnamese who used a strategy of
  • The gradual erosion of a nations will or means
    to resist

Problems with the Strategy of Attrition
  • Led the US to fight according to the theory of
    gradual escalation
  • A steady increase in the level of military
    pressure would coerce the enemy into compliance
    instead of employing overwhelming force all at
  • US never had enough forces to control the
  • US soldiers served one year tours in Vietnam
  • North Vietnamese soldiers were there till the end
    and recognized Victory will come to us, not
    suddenly, but in a complicated and tortuous way.

US Troop Levels in Vietnam
  • 1959 760
  • 1960 900
  • 1961 3,205
  • 1962 11,300
  • 1963 16,300
  • 1964 23,300
  • 1965 184,300
  • 1966 385,300
  • 1967 485,600
  • 1968 536,100
  • 1969 475,200
  • 1970 334,600
  • 1971 156,800
  • 1972 24,200
  • 1973 50

Problems with the Strategy of Attrition
  • The nature of guerrilla war allowed the North
    Vietnamese to avoid contact when it was not to
    their advantage to fight
  • Low-tech nature of the enemy prevented the US
    from bringing to bear the full effects of its
    combat power
  • North Vietnamese were always able to replace
    their losses while Americans became disillusioned
    with the mounting death toll

Tet Offensive
  • On January 30, 1968, the North Vietnamese
    escalated to Phase III, the War of Movement, when
    84,000 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese attacked
    throughout South Vietnam
  • Designed to foster antigovernment uprisings
    against the South Vietnamese

Tet A US Tactical Victory
  • By attacking everywhere, the North Vietnamese
    had superior strength nowhere
  • By fighting in a conventional fashion, the North
    Vietnamese allowed the US to bring to bear its
    full firepower and technology and use a strategy
    of annihilation
  • The North Vietnamese had wrongly assumed South
    Vietnamese were on the verge of a general uprising

Helicopters gave the US the ability to cover all
types of terrain, maneuver over large areas,
react quickly to enemy attacks, reinforce
embattled units, and conduct raids into enemy
Overall Results of Tet
  • Tactical defeat for North Vietnam forces them
    back to Phase 2
  • North Vietnamese 32,000 killed and 6,000
  • US and South Vietnamese 4,000 killed
  • But a strategic victory
  • I thought we were winning this war! (Walter
  • Dramatic shift in public opinion in US

Returning from Vietnam after Tet, Walter Cronkite
reported, It seems now more certain than ever
that the bloody experience of Vietnam is a
stalemate and then urged the government to open
negotiations with the North Vietnamese.
Societal Changes
Martin Luther King delivers his I have a dream
speech in 1963
Country Joe McDonald at Woodstock, 1969
Gloria Steinem helped found Ms magazine in 1971
War Protests
President Johnson
President Lyndon B. Johnson listens to tape sent
by Captain Charles Robb from Vietnam, July 31,
Democratic delegates protest the Johnson
administration's policies in Vietnam at the 1968
Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
President Nixon
  • Richard Nixon was elected president in 1968
    campaigning for peace with honor
  • Under Nixon the process of Vietnamization the
    gradual transfer of primary responsibility of the
    war to the South Vietnamese that Johnson had
    begun on a small scale after Tet was accelerated
  • Nixons involvement in Watergate, his
    impeachment, and resignation hamstrung his
    ability to influence peace negotiations through
    sustained offensive operations

Nixon was succeeded by Gerald Ford. By this
point the US was traumatized by war-weariness and
economic recession. Ford had almost no maneuver
room to help the South Vietnamese.
Kent State and Jackson State
Four students were killed and nine wounded at
Kent State and two students were killed at
Jackson State during protests against a number of
issues to include US operations in Cambodia
  • The US concluded a peace agreement with the North
    Vietnamese in 1973, but the South Vietnamese
    continued fighting until April 30, 1975 when the
    North Vietnamese captured Saigon

Americans and South Vietnamese who had worked for
the US are evacuated from Saigon
Legacy and Lessons
  • Sophisticated weaponry and conventional forces
    have limits in low intensity conflict
  • The restrictive rules of engagement (ROEs) and
    political considerations of limited war hamper
    military operations
  • Domestic support is critical
  • You can win the battles and lose the war
  • Vietnam syndrome effects military and
    diplomatic operations until finally exorcised by
    Desert Storm.
  • Well take about that in Lesson 24

Vietnam Today
  • Vietnam remains communist
  • However, since 2001, it has committed to economic
    liberalization and is trying to modernize the
    economy and to produce more competitive,
    export-driven industries
  • An April 28, 2005 article in the Economist was
    aptly titled America Lost, Capitalism Won
  • If youre interested, USM has a
    nationally-acclaimed Vietnam Study Abroad Program

  • Economic Globalization and Travel
  • Media
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