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History, The Vietnam War

Nguyen Van Thieu, Tet Offensive, military offensive, Peace talks, North Vietnamese army

The U.S. intervention caused severe problems for the Communists on the battlefield, but it did not persuade them to abandon their struggle. The North Vietnamese leaders were convinced that they could outwait the Americans as they previously had the French. The North Vietnamese government sent regular units of the North Vietnamese army into the South to bolster the efforts of the local PLAF forces. But the sheer weight of U.S. firepower was difficult to overcome. As casualties mounted, insurgent units were being driven out of the villages into the mountains or along the borders of the country.

In early 1968, hoping to bring about a collapse of the RVN or at least undermine public support for the war effort in the United States, Hanoi launched the Tet Offensive, a simultaneous attack on almost every major South Vietnamese city. Similar attacks took place on towns and villages in the countryside. The Tet Offensive resulted in enormous casualties for the attacking forces, but it also weakened the regime of the new South Vietnamese president Nguyen Van Thieu. The Tet Offensive was also successful in severely shaking the American peopleís confidence in the effectiveness of U.S. strategy. In March President Johnson decided to seek a negotiated settlement and announced he would not run for reelection. Peace talks opened in Paris in May but quickly collapsed and stalled for months. In November Richard Nixon was elected as the new U.S. president.

During his presidential campaign, Nixon announced that he had a secret plan to end the war. When implemented, the plan consisted of a gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops while simultaneously strengthening the South Vietnamese army to defend its own territory. At the same time, Nixon opened contacts with China, hoping China would agree to limit its support for North Vietnam in return for better relations with the United States. In 1972, when a second Communist offensive failed to achieve a victory, North Vietnam agreed to a compromise settlement. Under the arrangement, the Southís president, Nguyen Van Thieu, was allowed to remain in office in Saigon, but the NLF was permitted to play a legal political role in the South. All U.S. combat troops were to be withdrawn from Vietnam, but the United States could continue to provide military assistance to the South. The agreement did not address the presence of North Vietnamese units inside the Southís territory. Despite President Thieuís anger at these conditions, the Paris Agreement was signed in January 1973. According to the terms of the agreement, consultations were to be held on future elections to form a new government in South Vietnam.

The agreement soon unraveled. In early 1975 the Communists launched a military offensive in the Central Highlands, intensifying the attack when the United States failed to respond. At the end of April the Thieu regime collapsed, and the Communists seized power in Saigon.

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