American Aggression in Vietnam

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

American Aggression in Vietnam


military actions unleashed in Vietnam in 1964–65 by the ruling circles of the USA, involving the use of American armed forces to suppress the national liberation movement in South Vietnam, to hinder the construction of socialism in North Vietnam, and to maintain South Vietnam as a military and strategic base of the USA in Southeast Asia; the largest armed conflict in the period after World War II, bearing a threat to peace throughout the world. American aggression in Vietnam is a gross violation of international law and international agreements and a trampling of the UN Charter.

American interference in the internal affairs of Vietnam began as early as the Vietnam People’s War of Resistance of 1945–54 against the French colonialists. After peace was established on the Indochina peninsula in accordance with the Geneva agreements of 1954, the USA began to speed up its plans to penetrate the countries of Southeast Asia. It prevented the fulfillment of the basic propositions of the Geneva agreements on Vietnam, which gave international recognition of the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Vietnam; it prevented consultations between North and South, bringing to naught the general elections set for 1956 and the consequent unification of the country.

South Vietnam was included in the “sphere of defense” created by the United States in the fall of 1954 in the form of the SEATO aggressive bloc. Beginning in January 1955, the USA began to offer direct military aid to the Saigon regime in violation of the Geneva agreements, which forbade the introduction of foreign military personnel and armaments into Vietnam; it sent military advisers and specialists to South Vietnam, organized and equipped the Saigon army with modern weapons, and built its military bases on South Vietnamese territory.

In order to suppress the liberation movement in South Vietnam and perpetuate the split of Vietnam, the USA worked out plans of “special war,” including the Staley-Taylor plan (1961), which envisioned the “pacification” of South Vietnam, primarily by the military forces of the Saigon regime, within 18 months. An American military staff headed by General Harkins was established in Saigon in 1961 to direct military actions against the patriotic forces of South Vietnam. In 1962, the American Military Aid Command was established. US military personnel began to participate directly in military operations against patriotic forces. Toward the middle of 1964, there were approximately 25,000 American servicemen in South Vietnam and more than 350,000 men in the Saigon army. Nonetheless, the American policy of “special war” failed. The Saigon army, armed with American weapons and directed by American military advisers, proved inadequate to withstand the blows of the patriotic forces—that is, of the National Liberation Army of South Vietnam, created in 1961. An-tigovernmental actions of workers, students, and intelligentsia did not cease within the cities of South Vietnam; the Buddhists also took an active part in the liberation struggle. By the fall of 1964, the South Vietnamese patriots led by the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (NLF), established in December 1960 and supported by the overwhelming majority of the population, had liberated approximately three-quarters of the country’s territory, thus expanding the liberated area, chiefly in rural sectors.

In its effort to save the Saigon regime and maintain South Vietnam under its control, the USA was forced to revise its strategy in Vietnam. After high-level military conferences in Saigon (March 1964) and Honolulu (May 1964), American ruling circles adopted a course in the summer of 1964 of unleashing military actions against the sovereign socialist state, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, whose support and assistance had had a decisive influence, they believed, on the course of military action in South Vietnam. In July 1964, the USA sent the warships of the Seventh Fleet to Bac Bo Gulf (Tonkin Gulf) to patrol the shores of North Vietnam. They invaded the territorial waters of the DRV, provoking armed conflicts. In early August 1964, the fleet and air force of the USA bombarded and shelled a number of military objectives and settled areas on the coast of the DRV without a declaration of war. On August 6–7 the Congress of the USA adopted a joint resolution (the so-called Tonkin Resolution) which sanctioned these actions by the American military clique giving President Johnson the right to use US armed forces in Southeast Asia. The USSR and other socialist countries sharply condemned the provocations of the American military clique directed against the DRV; world public opinion branded them as acts of unprovoked American aggression.

On Feb. 7, 1965, American jets based on the Seventh Fleet aircraft carriers bombarded and shelled the city of Dong Hoi and other inhabited areas of the DRV in the area of the 17th parallel, and in April the USA began the systematic bombardment and shelling of the southern regions of the DRV. On Apr. 24, 1965, President Johnson declared the entire territory of Vietnam and a 100–mile-wide area at sea along its coasts to be “the sector of military action of the armed forces of the USA.” The bombardment disturbed the peaceful constructive work of the DRV. In a short time, hundreds of thousands of young men and women answered the call of the Vietnam Workers’ Party (VWP) and voluntarily joined the army, the people’s militia, and road repair brigades—the forced transition of the people’s economy to a war footing had begun. Cities were partially evacuated, and a broad network of safe shelters and covers was created for the protection of the populace. With the assistance of the fraternal socialist countries, the country’s antiaircraft system was rapidly strengthened. As early as the end of May, 300 American planes had been shot down over the DRV, and during all of 1965 over 800 American planes were shot down.

The uninterrupted defeats of the Saigon army in the winter of 1964 and spring of 1965 confronted the USA with the necessity of assuming the main role in the conduct of military operations. On Mar. 8, 1965, the first detachments of American marines disembarked in South Vietnam in the vicinity of Da Nang, and in April a command for American land forces under General W. Westmoreland was organized. On July 8, the US State Department officially declared that the American command in South Vietnam was to have the authority to use American forces fully not only in defensive engagements (as had been decreed up to this time), but also in offensive operations against the partisans. The NLF responded with a protest and declared that it considered itself justified, in case of necessity, to appeal to friendly countries to send volunteers to South Vietnam.

The escalation of American aggression against the DRV continued. On July 9, 1965, the US Air Force began the systematic bombing of the southern regions of the DRV located between the 17th and 19th parallels; at the end of August, it began bombing irrigation works. In the first six months of 1965, there were large battles in the south of Vietnam at Song Be, in the area of Baghe and Quang Ngai, and near Dong Ha, north of Saigon. American and South Vietnamese forces escaped complete annihilation in these battles only because of the actions of American aircraft. The American expeditionary force grew rapidly, and by the end of 1965 it exceeded 185,000 men. In 1965 the USA obtained the agreement of its allies in aggressive blocs—South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand—to send military contingents to South Vietnam, starting in September, to fight’against the South Vietnamese patriots.

During the dry season of 1965–66 (from October to May), the American command, relying on coastal bases, attempted to seize liberated areas of Central Vietnam—Pleiku and Kontum—by means of a series of mobile strikes; they attempted to cut the South Vietnamese patriotic forces in two, push them to the borders of Laos and Cambodia, and then annihilate them. The land operations of American forces were supported by massive air strikes. During the military campaign of 1965–66, as in all subsequent years, American forces resorted to inhumane methods of warfare, which are prohibited by international law. The military clique of the USA turned Vietnam into a huge testing ground for the perfection of hundreds of kinds of weapons and military equipment. Utilizing the war in Vietnam, by 1969 the USA had given battle experience to more than 2 million Americans, including the majority of flight personnel and almost all the personnel of the US Pacific Fleet. American forces in South Vietnam made use of means of mass destruction—that is, napalm, phosphorus, and poison gases—against soldiers of the patriotic forces and the civilian population a common practice; in keeping with the “scorched earth” policy, they destroyed crops, vegetation, and forests in liberated areas. This provoked indignation throughout the world. As early as the beginning of 1965, the Soviet government sent a note to the US government protesting the use of poison gases by American troops in South Vietnam.

Despite the USA’s use of extensive military resources, its military plans suffered defeat after defeat. The patriotic forces of South Vietnam not only repulsed the enemy’s attack, but they even expanded the liberated zone, wrecking the strategic plans of the aggressor and compelling him to wage an exhaustive defensive struggle from October to December 1965.

In April 1965, President Johnson undertook a “diplomatic offensive” against the Vietnamese patriots. In his speech in Baltimore, he proposed negotiations “without any preliminary conditions” and promised $1 billion in aid to the population of Southeast Asia, including Vietnam.

For its part, the NLF published a five-point declaration on Mar. 22, 1965, that opened the way to the peaceful regulation of the Vietnam problem and reflected the aspirations of the entire South Vietnamese people. The declaration demanded that all American troops be withdrawn from South Vietnam in the quickest way and that the Vietnamese people be given the right to determine their own fate. On Apr. 8, 1965, the DRV also proposed an extensive program for the political regulation of the Vietnamese problem: in accordance with the Geneva agreements, the American government would withdraw its forces from South Vietnam, liquidate its military bases, and put an end to military actions in Vietnam; until the peaceful reunification of Vietnam, both zones of the country would strictly observe the Geneva accords and refrain from entering into military alliances with other states; the internal affairs of South Vietnam would be decided by the South Vietnamese people without any foreign interference; the question of the peaceful unification of Vietnam would be decided only by the Vietnamese people without any outside intervention. This program subsequently became known as the “four points” of the DRV government. The Soviet Union fully supported the just position of the DRV and the NLF on the peaceful regulation of the Vietnamese problem—for instance, in the response of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR to the appeal of the National Assembly of the DRV to the parliaments of countries of the world on Apr. 29, 1965, and in the proclamation of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on Dec. 9, 1965.

From the first days of American aggression in Vietnam, the Soviet Union and other socialist countries stood firmly on the side of the Vietnamese people. The Soviet government, cochairman of the Geneva Convention of 1954, condemned the aggressive actions of the USA against the DRV in the most categorical manner, demanding in declarations in TASS (Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union) on Aug. 5, Sept. 22, and Nov. 27, 1964, in declarations of the Soviet government on Feb. 9 and Mar. 4, 1965, and in other documents that such actions completely and unconditionally cease. At the same time, England, the other cochair-man of the Geneva Convention, essentially supported the policy of the USA in Vietnam.

A series of agreements on Soviet-Vietnamese cooperation was concluded during a trip to the DRV made in February 1965 by a Soviet Party and government delegation headed by A. N. Kosygin, chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers and member of the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee. The parties agreed to hold regular consultations. During its visit to the USSR, a Party and government delegation of the DRV, led by First Secretary of the Central Committee of the VPW Le Duan in April 1965, reached an understanding on further steps to protect the security and defend the sovereignty of the DRV; appropriate measures were outlined. The Soviet Union affirmed its readiness to provide the DRV with the necessary aid to repel US aggression in the future.

In December 1965 agreements were signed in Moscow providing Soviet economic and technical aid to the DRV in 1966 with regard to the needs arising in the course of the struggle of the Vietnamese people against American aggression. In accordance with these agreements, the DRV began to receive the necessary quantity of antiaircraft guns, rockets, and modern jet fighters from the Soviet Union. Soviet specialists helped their Vietnamese friends master contemporary military techniques. In particular, much attention was devoted to the preparation of rocket technicians and military pilots. Simultaneously, the Soviet Union continued to offer the necessary assistance to the DRV in reestablishing and developing different branches of its economy, especially in defense.

At numerous meetings and assemblies, Soviet workers indignantly protested American aggression in Vietnam. A broad movement unfolded in the country under the slogans “Stop the Aggression!” “Hands off Vietnam!” and “Peace for Vietnam!” Soviet trade unions, youth, women’s and other public organizations sent material aid amounting to more than one million rubles to the South Vietnamese patriots and defenders of the DRV in 1965.

A striking manifestation of the solidarity of the USSR with the struggle of South Vietnamese patriots was the agreement on the establishment of permanent representation of the NLF in Moscow.

The movement of protest against American aggression in Vietnam spread throughout the world. Representatives of communist and workers’ parties, assembled in Moscow for a consultative meeting, came out with a special declaration on Mar. 3, 1965, sharply condemning the American aggressors; expressing international solidarity with the people of the DRV, the heroic WPV, and the NLF; and proclaiming the necessity of strengthening unity of action in support of the Vietnamese people. The World Peace Council, the World Federation of Trade Unions, the World Federation of Democratic Women, the Committee of Solidarity of Asian and African Countries, and the World Congress for Peace, National Independence, and Universal Disarmament (July 1965, Helsinki) came out in support of the Vietnamese people.

The sharp intensification of aggressive tendencies in American foreign policy in 1965 was accompanied by the aggravation of internal struggle in the USA itself, in the form of numerous antiwar demonstrations, peace marches, meetings, sit-ins, public refusals of draftees to perform military service, and attempts to obstruct the dispatch of troops and military goods to Vietnam. An intense internal struggle continued in the ruling circles also: advocates of a relatively moderate orientation, while not objecting in principle to American intervention, warned the government of the dangers of “excessive” expansion of the conflict in Southeast Asia, which threatened to lead to a larger war.

From the very start of American aggression in Vietnam, substantial disagreements throughout the imperialist camp were revealed on the question of support for American policy in Vietnam. Thus, many members of NATO, the leading military and political imperialist group, maintained a reserved attitude to the broadening of the military conflict in Southeast Asia. The USA was not able to obtain unanimous support for its actions in Vietnam even from its allies in SEATO: France and Pakistan openly refused to support the aggression of the USA, and to signify its disagreement with American policy in Vietnam, France recalled its representatives from the permanent staff of SEATO. Nor was the USA able to involve the Latin American states in its intervention in South Vietnam. The neutralist countries demonstrated their disapproval of American aggression in Vietnam. During the course of the general political discussion at the 20th session of the General Assembly of the UN (September 1965), the representatives of many Asian, African, and Latin American countries demanded a stop to the war in Vietnam.

In December 1965 the Twelfth Plenum of the Central Committee of the Vietnam Workers’ Party was held. Its resolutions indicated the necessity to prepare for a long struggle against American aggression. The plenum noted that “the entire country is in a state of war with the USA.” The party put forth the slogan “Everything for the front, everything for the victory over American imperialism.” Working within this context, the DRV developed an economic plan for 1966–67 that was oriented to the prolongation of armed struggle. This plan was unanimously approved by the April 1966 session of the National Assembly of the DRV.

In 1966 the American aggressors intensified the air war against the DRV. Previously it had been conducted mainly with strikes by groups of 30 to 60 planes at middle altitudes; from mid-1965 the growth of the DRV antiaircraft system caused the US Air Force to change to actions by small groups at low altitudes—400 m and below, often down to 20 m over flat areas and 50–200 m over mountainous terrain. Radar obstacles and means to neutralize the DRV antiaircraft system were widely employed. American aircraft daily carried out up to 450 sorties against North Vietnam; some days the total rose to 500. In order to paralyze the economy of North Vietnam, the Pentagon attempted first of all to destroy the transportation system of the country and to interrupt movement on rail, highway, and water routes.

In the summer R. MacNamara, defense secretary of the USA, announced a plan for the further expansion of the bombing of the DRV. In June raids on the suburbs of Hanoi, the capital of the DRV, and Haiphong, the country’s main port, initiated the stage of unlimited air war against North Vietnam. In December 1966 the US Air Force began bombing residential areas within the city limits of the capital. However, the Pentagon’s plans to destroy the economic and military potential of the DRV and to deny the aid and support of the people of South Vietnam to their compatriots in the North were not realized.

At the beginning of 1966, American troops in South Vietnam again attempted to move to a general offensive. The main forces of the American command were concentrated in the provinces of Central Vietnam: Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh, and Phu Yen, which were adjacent to the coast. In the course of “search-and-destroy” operations, the aggressors widely employed the “scorched earth” tactic. However, the offensive was ruined by the active response of the National Liberation Army.

In the spring of 1966, battles in the coastal provinces of Central Vietnam and in the areas of Kontum and Pleiku resumed with a new intensity. The interventionists attempted to surround parts of the National Liberation Army, but they themselves were surrounded and suffered heavy losses despite powerful air support that included strategic B-52 bombers. Nor was a series of search-and-destroy operations in the provinces adjoining Saigon successful to any degree. Building up its military power, the USA continually introduced new contingents of troops and new military technology to South Vietnam. By the end of 1966, the American expeditionary force had redoubled to 380,000 men. The American command began preparations for a second “strategic counteroffensive” in the dry season of 1966–67. By this time, the USA had concentrated the Seventh Airborne Army in South Vietnam and a large part of the Thirteenth Airborne Army and the Third Division of the Strategic Air Command (B-52 planes) in Thailand. A strike force of three aircraft carriers was permanently stationed off the shores of Vietnam; its planes operated mainly against the DRV. Approximately 4,000 American military, auxiliary, and transport planes and helicopters were concentrated in this area.

In 1967 the US Air Force sharply intensified (in comparison with 1966) the bombing of the DRV. They struck dikes, dams, and other irrigation works; their plan was to produce flooding in the valley of the Hong Ha River (Red River), to flood the rice crops, and to leave the area without water during the dry season. The government of the DRV carried out a mass evacuation of the city’s populace not engaged in production or defense. At the same time, the antiaircraft defense of North Vietnam continued to strengthen; the capacity of the DRV grew to include antiaircraft artillery, guided rockets, and fighter planes.

During the dry season of 1966–67, military operations in South Vietnam assumed the character of a protracted home-based struggle for separate points and areas of South Vietnam. The largest operations (Attleboro, Cedar Falls, and Junction City) of combing the areas held by the patriotic forces—the so-called pacification operations—brought no success to the aggressors.

One of the distinctive aspects of the military activity of American land forces and marines at this time was the extensive use of helicopters to transport troops and supplies and to neutralize fire in landing zones; for example, in May and June of 1967 there was a daily average of 8,000 to 11,000 helicopter sorties moving over 10,000 soldiers and officers and a large quantity of supplies.

The patriots of South Vietnam counterposed their own methods of struggle against the tactics of the Americans. They made extensive use of a system of underground tunnels and bases and fortified bunkers in the most important areas. This far-flung system with many connecting entrances and emergency exits was equally suited for battles and for underground maneuvering. In addition, the National Liberation Army and the partisans often had recourse to nighttime military actions, which prevented the enemy from using air power and artillery effectively. As a result, the American aggressors were forced to move to a policy of strategic defense. As before, the strategic initiative remained with the patriotic forces.

In August 1967 the NLF adopted a new program which provided for the creation of a representative democratic coalition government of national unity in South Vietnam. This government would initiate a policy of peace and neutrality and begin to work for the gradual unification of Vietnam on the basis of peaceful negotiations between the North and South without any outside intervention. The Soviet Union and other socialist countries firmly supported the NLF program as the reflection of the vital interests of the population of South Vietnam.

By the start of the dry season of 1967–68, for which the Americans had planned large military operations, American servicemen in South Vietnam numbered 475,000; there were 40,000 men on the ships of the Seventh Fleet anchored off the coast of Vietnam, and the USA had concentrated six army divisions (the First, Fourth, Ninth, and 25th Infantry; and the First Airmobile; and the 101st Airborne), two marine divisions (the First and Third) and four detached brigades (the 11th, 196th, and 199th Light Infantry and 173rd Airborne) in South Vietnam. In addition, there were 11 divisions of Saigon troops, two divisions and one brigade of South Korean mercenaries, and Australian, New Zealand, Thai, and Philippine troops stationed there. The total number of these troops was approximately 1.3 million soldiers at the end of 1967. While American expenditures on the war in Vietnam had reached $24.5 billion in the fiscal year 1966–67, the 1968–69 expenditures were planned at more than $26 billion.

In the fall of 1967, a 70–day battle unfolded in the area of the demilitarized zone at Con Thien, where American marines were forced to engage in an exhausting positional defense for which they proved completely unsuited. In January 1968 extended battles began in the Khe Sanh Valley, 25 km south of the 17th parallel. At this time, there were strikes against the largest American bases—a sort of prologue to the broad general offensive of the popular armed forces.

The USA continued bombing the territory of the DRV in October and November of 1967; its main goal was to cut off aid from socialist countries to the DRV by systematic raids on the port of Haiphong. Thanks to the self-sacrifice and courage of the Vietnamese people, the aggressors’ design was not realized. The DRV continued to strengthen its defensive capacity and repulsed the aggressor more strongly. Fraternal countries, the USSR first and foremost among them, aided the DRV in perfecting its air force and antiaircraft defense and supplied it with modern weapons and techniques. In September 1967 regular agreements for Soviet aid to the DRV for 1968 were signed in Moscow. The Soviet Union continued to supply the DRV with planes, antiaircraft missiles and artillery, guns, ammunition, and other military matériel without charge. The DRV also received the necessary material aid for the development of its military and civilian economic structure.

The start of 1968 was marked by the unfolding of a broad offensive of the armed forces of the NLF against the American aggressors and their accomplices. On the night of Jan. 29, 1968, the people’s armed liberation forces, with wide support and in many instances direct armed aid from the population, began a sudden and skillfully coordinated offensive against American and Saigon troops throughout South Vietnam. Forty-three cities—including Saigon, Hué, Da Nang, Nha Trang, Qui Nhon, Da Lat, and hundreds of smaller settlements—were attacked simultaneously. All the largest US air bases were attacked. The scope and power of this offensive were completely unexpected by the American command. Saigon was in effect put under siege by patriotic forces: a “red belt” formed around it. In the course of the urban battles in Saigon and Hué, patriotic representatives of the intelligentsia, the trade and industrial bourgeoisie, the bureaucracy, officers of the Saigon army, and clergy joined together in the Alliance of National, Democratic, and Peace Forces of South Vietnam. The union, supported by the NLF, called for the immediate attainment of South Vietnamese sovereignty and independence by all the patriotic forces of South Vietnam; its long-range goal was the peaceful reunification of all of Vietnam.

Despite the systematic bombing of the territory of the DRV by the US Air Force, the Vietnamese workers, led by the VWP, were able to rebuild the economy of the country on a war footing with the aid of fraternal countries. The moral and political unity of the nation was strengthened.

The NLF also accomplished an enormous amount of work. In liberated areas, extensive agrarian reforms were introduced and elections were held for local authorities; by November 1968 elections had been completed in 17 provinces, five cities, and 38 districts.

Moral and political support for the heroic Vietnamese people continued to broaden throughout the world. The will of Soviet Communists and of the entire Soviet people was clearly expressed in the Declaration of the Twenty-third Congress of the CPSU on American Aggression in Vietnam (April 1966). At a conference in Bucharest in July 1966 of the political consultative committee of the signatories of the Warsaw Pact, it was emphasized that socialist countries were giving and would continue to give ever-increasing aid to the DRV. The fraternal countries declared their readiness in the event of a request by the DRV government “to make it possible for their volunteers to go to Vietnam to aid the Vietnamese people in their struggle against the American aggressors.” This declaration was reaffirmed at another conference of the political consultative committee of the signatories of the Warsaw Pact which took place in Sofia on Mar. 6–7, 1968. A conference of representatives of European communist and workers’ parties at Karlovy Vary in April 1967 adopted an address in support of the Vietnamese people, and a message of solidarity with the Vietnamese people was adopted at a consultative meeting of representatives of communist and workers’ parties in Budapest in February-March 1968. The World Conference on Vietnam was held in June 1967. On Oct. 21, 1967, there was a day of united international actions for peace and against the American war in Vietnam in response to the appeal of the International Coordinating Committee in Stockholm.

In the course of the general discussion of the 22nd session of the General Assembly of the UN (1967), out of 110 speakers only the representatives of seven countries gave unqualified support to Washington’s policy in Vietnam. The representatives of 44 countries called upon the USA to stop its bombing of the DRV, among them five delegates of US allies in the NATO aggressive bloc.

There were numerous declarations and meetings in defense of embattled Vietnam in the USA itself. In October 1967 there was a huge demonstration in Washington involving over 150,000 people from 47 states.

In accordance with the resolution of the World Federation of Trade Unions, on July 20, 1968—the anniversary of the signing of the Geneva agreements—meetings and demonstrations of solidarity with embattled Vietnam were held in many countries.

During this period, out of the total number of armed forces (1.4 million men) participating in the war against the democratic forces of Vietnam, approximately 600,000 (as of early 1969) were American servicemen. The USA employed 37 percent of its marines, 41 percent of the fighting planes of its tactical air force, up to 20 percent of its aircraft carrier strike force, 30 percent of the planes and helicopters of the army air force, and more than 20 percent of its strategic bombers to maintain military actions in Vietnam. More than 2 million tons of various military supplies were moved from the USA to the theater of military action each month during 1968–69. From the beginning of the war until the end of 1968, the US Air Force carried out over 900,000 sorties against the DRV and against the positions of the liberation forces in South Vietnam and Laos and dropped approximately 2.3 million tons of bombs. Over the same period, the aggressor’s army carried out more than 500 search-and-destroy operations, with forces ranging from a battalion to several brigades, against the National Liberation Army in South Vietnam; the majority of such operations, however, proved unsuccessful. While during the first years of the war in Vietnam the American command attempted to conduct large offensive operations, beginning in 1968, under the blows of the National Liberation Army, it was forced to abandon these operations and move to defensive and restraining actions, primarily “mobile defense,” with the major part of its forces concentrated in the most important bases and strongholds.

American air losses in 1968 averaged over 70 planes a month; a total of 3,243 planes were lost in the period from Aug. 5, 1964, to Oct. 31, 1968. Over the same period, 143 American warships were sunk or damaged. By the middle of 1969, American losses in dead and wounded in Vietnam, according to the official information of the American military command, had reached 280,000 men—which significantly exceeded American losses in Korea from 1950 to 1953 and which approached the loss of human life suffered by the USA during World War I.

The failures of American military operations both in the North and in the South, the constantly growing pressure of world public opinion on the USA, and the decline in prestige of the American government forced Washington on Apr. 1, 1968, to limit the bombing area of the DRV to the southern provinces. President Johnson announced the agreement of the USA to enter into negotiations with the DRV. Bilateral talks between Xuan Thuy, representing the DRV, and A. Harriman, representing the USA, began in May 1968 in Paris after a complex diplomatic and political struggle; the talks were accompanied by a further escalation of the American war in Vietnam. Through the negotiations, an understanding was reached on the full and unconditional cessation of American bombing and other military actions against Vietnam as of November 1968. An understanding was also reached on holding four-sided meetings in Paris involving representatives of the DRV, NLF, the Saigon regime, and the USA for the purpose of finding means to the political resolution of the Vietnamese problem. This important victory was won thanks to the self-sacrificing struggle of the Vietnamese people with the aid and fraternal support of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries and the international solidarity of the peace-loving and progressive forces of the world.

At the same time, intensive military actions continued in the South: American and Saigon troops undertook a series of unsuccessful attempts to go on the counteroffensive against the popular armed forces.

As became known in the autumn of 1969, the American military shot over 500 peaceful residents, including 170 children, in the community of Song My, Quang Ngai province, South Vietnam.

In May 1969, in the course of the four-sided conference in Paris (begun in January 1969), the NLF put forth a ten-point program, “The principles and content of a general resolution of the South Vietnamese problem with the goal of contributing to the reestablishment of peace in Vietnam”; the program proceeded from the basic propositions of the Geneva agreements and the situation in Vietnam.

A new stage in the struggle against American aggression in Vietnam began with the proclamation of the provisional revolutionary government of the Republic of South Vietnam (RSV) in June 1969. This was preceded by the creation of genuinely popular local elected organs—from the village commune to the province level—to replace the previous puppet administrative organs in the liberated areas of South Vietnam. On June 13, 1969, the USSR recognized the provisional revolutionary government of the RSV. By August, it had received official recognition from 26 governments. Popular armed liberation forces instigated fighting actions against American and Saigon troops throughout the territory of South Vietnam in the second half of 1969. Retaining the initiative, South Vietnamese patriots inflicted ever more appreciable blows on the enemy.

Evading the urgent questions concerning the just and peaceful resolution of the Vietnamese problem—the unconditional and complete withdrawal of the troops of the USA and its satellites from South Vietnam and the recognition of the right of the South Vietnamese population to self-determination without foreign interference—the American government resorted to a propagandistic maneuver and announced the withdrawal of up to 60,000 American soldiers from South Vietnam by the end of 1969; this announcement was made by R. Nixon on June 8 and Sept. 16, 1969. By this measure the US government attempted to pacify and confuse world public opinion, which persistently demanded the immediate cessation of US aggression in Vietnam.

In 1968–69 the movement of solidarity with embattled Vietnam continued to grow throughout the world. The International Conference of Communist and Workers’ Parties, meeting in Moscow in June 1969, severely condemned the actions of American imperialism in Vietnam and expressed international solidarity with the fraternal Vietnamese people, the heroic VWP, and the NLF, which were leading the heroic struggle against American aggression. The conference’s basic document noted that a final victory of the patriots of Vietnam would be of principal importance in strengthening the positions of nations in their struggle against imperialist policies of dictatorship and tyranny. Harmonious measures by all socialist states and joint efforts by all communist and workers’ parties, all progressive parties, mass democratic organizations, and freedom-loving and peace-loving forces were necessary in order to bring this victory closer. The conference, with its appeal for “Independence, freedom, and peace for Vietnam!”, fully supported the DRV position and NLF proposals for a political solution in Vietnam and declared that the just regulation of the Vietnamese problem was possible only when the basic national rights of the Vietnamese people were guaranteed. The appeal emphasized that the USA must immediately cease aggressive actions in Vietnam, acknowledge the right of the population of South Vietnam to decide its internal affairs independently without foreign intervention, and put an end to any action directed against the sovereignty and security of the DRV. The conference called upon all who valued peace, justice, freedom, and the independence of nations to participate even more actively in the movement of solidarity with the Vietnamese people and demand both the withdrawal of American troops and troops of US satellites from Vietnam and the peaceful resolution of the Vietnamese question without delay.

The World Peace Assembly, held in Berlin in June 1969, also appealed to world public opinion to support the struggle of the Vietnamese people and to demand that the US government stop its aggressive war in Vietnam. Participants in the Seventh World Congress of Trade Unions, held in Budapest in October 1969, declared its solidarity with the struggle of the Vietnamese patriots. The largest nationwide action against the war of American imperialism in Vietnam—the “campaign against death”—took place in the USA in November 1969. In accordance with the agreements for 1970 (concluded in October 1969) and other documents on certain questions of Soviet-Vietnamese cooperation—that is, free economic and military aid, new long-term credits, and commodity circulation between the USSR and the DRV—the Soviet Union systematically sent foodstuff, oil products, transport goods, complete equipment systems, ferrous and nonferrous metals, chemical fertilizers, arms, and other materials to the DRV.

The leaders of the WPV and the DRV valued the moral and political support and the economic and military aid offered by the Soviet Union to the Vietnamese people. “The Party and state delegation of the DRV representing the WPV, the government of the DRV and the Vietnamese people,” stated the communiqué of October 20, 1969, upon the delegation’s friendly visit to the Soviet Union, “expresses its sincere gratitude to the Central Committee of the CPSU, the government of the USSR, and the Soviet people for their effective and comprehensive aid in repelling American aggression and in the socialist construction in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.”


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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