Answers to Quiz 2 on the Vietnam War

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Digital History ID 3783
1. What event in 1963 probably had the greatest effect on the future of the Vietnam War?

Possible answers:

a. The murder of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem by South Vietnamese military officers, who was the one South Vietnamese leader with nationalist credentials.

b. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Former Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara has written: "I think it highly probable that, had President Kennedy lived, he would have pulled us out of Vietnam." Lyndon Johnson's predecessor, assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, consistently rejected memos calling for a greater U.S. combat presence. At the end of the Kennedy years, U.S. casualties numbered 109. Presidents Johnson and Nixon raised the ante to 58,132.

2. What resolution, named after a body of water, formed the legal underpinning of U.S. military action in Vietnam?

U.S. President Lyndon Johnson acquired what he regarded as the legal authority to escalate the war in August 1964 when Congress passed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution in response to two North Vietnamese gunboat attacks, in the gulf, on the U.S. Destroyer Maddox and the C. Turner Joy. Whether these attacks were real or exaggerated is a historical controversy in its own right. The resolution, giving Johnson permission to "take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression," passed both houses of Congress by a 502-2 margin.

3. What three-word expression (the middle word is "and") described the basic military tactic used by U.S. and South Vietnamese troops against the Vietcong?

"Search and destroy."

4. What was the main system of Communist supply routes called?

The Vietcong received supplies largely through the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which ran along the border through Laos and Cambodia.

5. What major action starting Jan. 30, 1968 - a Vietnamese holiday - dramatically changed the character of the war?

At the beginning of the Vietnamese lunar new year - Tet - the North launched what became called the Tet Offensive, a huge simultaneous assault on dozens of cities in the South, including the capital, Saigon, and the second-most populous city, Hue. The North may have lost as many as 60,000 soldiers as compared to about a thousand U.S. casualties and two thousand South Vietnamese, but it won a major public relations victory. It was clear that there was no “light at the end of the tunnel,” as military authorities had claimed.

6. Whom did Seymour Hersh describe as "a mild-mannered, boyish-looking Vietnam combat veteran with the nickname of Rusty?"

That was how reporter Seymour Hersh described William L. Calley, the 26-year-old lieutenant in charge of the massacre of at least 109 Vietnamese civilians living in the hamlet of My Lai 4.

7. Who declared April 5, 1971 to be "American fighting man's day" in Georgia?

In response to Calley's court martial at Fort Benning, the state of Georgia, whose governor was Jimmy Carter, declared a day of protest.

8. What demoralizing documents began to run in the New York Times on June 13, 1971?

On that day The New York Times ran the first installment of what were known as the Pentagon Papers, a classified history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam supplied to the press by former Pentagon official Daniel Ellsberg. The documents left no doubt that the authorities deceived and misinformed the public about the real progress of the war.

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