The main reasons to why the United States and the Soviet Union (the then superpowers) and their allies engaged into Korean War from June 1950 to July 1953, and the Vietnam War from 1954 to 1975, was to protect their individual interests and government ideologies. The United States and its allies supported anti-communism while the Soviet Union and its allies supported communism. Influenced by domino theory (which stated that with one Asian country falling to communism, many more would follow suit) the United States and its allies aided the anti-communism territories to fight the communist territories which were consequently aided and supported by the Soviet Union and other communists like People’s Republic of China. In both wars, United States fought to keep the nations free from communists and Soviet Union control. This was the main goal of the involvement into the Vietnam and Korean wars. Both wars were fought for the same reasons, however, the time line, the nature and the circumstance of each war was totally different.
The Korean War
The Korean War (June 1950-july 1953) was a form of warfare operation where battlefield tactics and military weapons between the North Korea and South Korea. In this war, South Korea was backed by the United States whereas the North Korea was backed up by the People’s Republic of china, the PRC with the military aid coming from the soviet unions. The war was catalyzed by the division of Korea after the Second World War, in an agreement at the conclusion of the Pacific war. The Korean peninsula was occupied by the Japanese from 1910 to 1945 after Japan’s defeat in the Second World War (after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings by the United States). After Japanese stepped out of the Korean peninsula, the peninsula was divided into two by the American administration along the 38th parallel. The northern part was occupied by the soviet troops and the southern was occupied by the United States troops.
This division was further deepened by the failure to hold free and fair elections, which were supposed to take place in 1948. After this failed elections the Northern established a communist government. This increasingly made the 38th parallel border a drift separation and a political border between the two Koreas. Amid the negotiations to reunite the south and the north, the tension intensified. The 38th boundary became a usual cross border skirmishes and raids venue. This was the first incidence of armed conflict in the persisting cold war.
The United States under the United Nations umbrella chipped in to aid South Korea in repelling the northern Korea invasion. In two months’ time, they were pushed back to a small area around the Pusan perimeter in the south of the country. Immediately, an intensified counter offensive invaded and the North Koreans were driven past the 38th parallel, almost across the Yalu River. At this period, the People’s Republic of China was chipping in; this was in favor of the northern side. The Soviet Union continued to aid the northern side and china’s armies. The 1953 saw the seize fire with a state of peace agreed to between opponents so they can discuss peace terms. This armistice restored the Korean border near the 38th parallel. This created a Korean Demilitarized zone, the DMZ. This was a two and a half (approximately four kilometers) wide buffer zone between the northern and the Southern Korea (Hannings, 2007).
This was a proxy war in that, both the South and North Korea were sponsored by external nations. The war combined military strategies of the first and the Second World War. This started with infantry attacks then followed by air bombings, eventually becoming a static war by mid-1951.
The Vietnam War
The Vietnam War (1954-1975) was long and costly. The war was between the communist regime of northern Vietnam, known as the Viet Cong and the Southern Koreans and their major allies, the United States. The conflict in this region can be traced back to the mid-1940s. The rise to power of the communist, Ho Chi Minh in his communist party, the Viet Minh happened in the era when the great super powers and rivals, the United States and the Soviet Union intense difference was on its backdrop. The United States supported and fought for capitalism while their rivals, the Soviet Union fought for communism (Zhai, 2000).
Vietnam was a French colony in the late 19th century. The Japanese invaded and occupied Vietnam during the Second World War. Aided and inspired by the soviet and the Chinese communism, Ho Chi Minh formed Viet Minh party. This was aimed at fighting the Japanese and the French colonial governments. The Japanese withdrew in 1945 leaving Bao Dai, an educated Emperor in full control of the independent Vietnam. Immediately Ho’s forces rose to seize the northern city of Hanoi, declaring a democratic republic of Vietnam, the DVR, Ho became the president.
Aiming at regaining control of the region, the French backed Bao to form the South Vietnam in mid-1949. Saigon became the capital of the southern Vietnam. Conflict characterized by use of armed men up to 1954 when the battle at Dien Bien in May 1954 saw the defeat of the French by the Viet Minh Forces. Treaty negotiations commenced consequently at Geneva resulting to a divided Vietnam, split along a latitude known as the 17th parallel. Ho was in control of the North and Bao in control of the south. Reunification elections were to be held nationwide in 1956. However, this did not happen, in 1955, the strong anti-communist Ngo Dinh overthrew Bao and became the president of the government of the republic of the Vietnam, the GVN.
After this raid, the cold war intensified. The United States intensified and hardened its policies against the Soviet Union’s allies. In 1955, Dwight D. Eisenhower pledged United States’ support to the Diem territory, the Southern Vietnam. With the aid of equipment’s and military training from the United States, Diem’s forces cracked down Viet Minh supporters and sympathizers in the southern region. More than a hundred thousand Vietnamese communists were arrested. Many of these people were tortured and executed. In response the Diem’s regime representatives in the south started fighting back, attacking government officials and their armies. The southern Vietnamese army was fiercely engaged into intensive firefights.
By the end of 1960, the Diem’s regime suffered yet another setback. Diem’s opponents, both non-communists and communists formed the National Liberation front, the NLF. The resistance aimed at Diem’s administration intensified. Although many of the National Liberation front were non-communists, Washington assumed that it was Hanoi puppet. A team of advisers was appointed and sent to assess the situation in the Vietnam War by John F Kennedy, the then United States president. The team advised that the American military needed an additional economic and technological aid. Applying the domino theory (which stated that with one Asian country falling to communism, many more would follow suit), John F Kennedy increased United States aid, almost committing a large scale military intervention. Between 1950s and 1962, the US military men had increased from 800 to 9000.
In November 1963, Diem and his brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu were killed by a coup of some of his own generals. Three weeks later, John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas Texas. This caused a significant political instability in South Vietnam persuading Lyndon B. Johnson, (John F Kennedy’s successor) to increase US military support. However this did not stop the north from attacks. The gulf of Tonkin resolution passed by the congress gave Johnson war decision making powers US troops intensified their attacks with regular bombing making the region a total war zone by the following February (Publishing, 2009).
By June 1965, 82000 troops were stationed in Vietnam, which saw an addition of 100,000 troops by the end of July. In addition, more troops from Australia, New Zealand and Thailand were committed to fight in the southern Vietnam. In 1966, the United States military forces fought with attrition policy aiming to kill as many enemies as possible rather than capturing and securing territories. Heavy bombings made these regions inhabitable, refugees settled in camps around Saigon and the neighborhood. However, this did not stop the DRV and Viet Cong troops from intensifying its fighting strategies. The north continued reoccupying the lost territories with the aid from china and the Soviet Union, the North’s air defense was strengthened.
The number of American troops had hit five hundred thousand by the end of 1967. The casualties had reached fifteen thousand killed and more than one hundred and nine wounded. Horrified by images and videos documented from the wars proceedings, anti-war protests started in Pentagon. They argued that the civilians who had not taken parts in the war were the primary victims. In May 1968, peace talks were opened between the United States and the Northern Vietnam. However, antiwar protests continued in the United States particularly in college campuses, this divided Americans bitterly.
With invasions continued by the south troops aided by the US troops and protests increasing in Washington, fueled by the breech of the international law protests increased on which the police and guardsmen killed more than six students’ protesters. After a failed offensive attack in the southern Vietnam, Hanoi was willing to compromise. The northern representatives drafted a peace agreement which was rejected by the Saigon. Consequently, Nixon authorized bombing raids in Hanoi and Haiphong. This drew a lot of international friction and condemnation.
In 1973, the United States concluded a final peace agreement. This ended open hostilities between the North and the South. Few incidences on invasion were witnessed until a complete seize fire was reached at in 1975 both southern and northern regions united to rom the Republic of Vietnam.
Comparing the causes, execution, and outcomes of the Korean and Vietnam Wars
Both wars were similar in that in both Korea and Vietnam war, the Americans fought to prevent both nations from succumbing to communist control and influence from the soviet unions. The Americans could not allow the Soviet Union to take control of Korea and Vietnam. This was mainly aimed at keeping the rest of Asia from following the trend. In both cases, the battle was between the anti –communists south and the communist north of both countries. Basically, both wars were fought against ideologies not against individuals. For instance, a nationalist Ho Chi Minh turned to communism in order to achieve his aims (Christine, 2005).
`Both Korea and Vietnam were split into two, the communist north and the anti-communist south. Both South Korea and South Vietnam were anti-communism regions and were supported and aided by the United States and its allies they offered them weapons, supplies, and military advisors leading to joint troops fighting the northern regions. The North Korea and the North Vietnam were communists. They were supported by the Soviet Union and their communist allies like Peoples Republic of China. They provided them with the supplies; ammunitions and troops support.
Both wars ended in negotiations. Unlike in the Second World War, none of the side won outright. In Korea case, a seize fire resulted to a demilitarized zone between the hostile regions across the border. In Vietnam both sides came to a seize fire at the Paris peace treaty. Both regions pulled outs its respective military personnel. The United States pulled out its military personnel. On the other side, the North Vietnam released all the captured American prisoners of war. Inspire of the fact that communists North at first violated the treaty, and ended up attacking the south, the wars ended into some form of concession between the both sides. Both cases demonstrated the cold war stalemate between the Soviet Union and the united stated. Both sides did not show direct confrontation and neither of the sides emerged a victor.
Both leaders of the anti-communist southern sides were Christians. Dien Bien Phu leading the southern Vietnam and Syngman Rhee leading the southern Korea were Christians. This might have not made an impact during the war periods but currently, this have a huge impact. Korea is now a Christian nation and sends more missionaries per capita than any other nation across the world. Pastor P. Yonggi Cho in South Korea has the biggest Christian church in the world. In Vietnam, Christians are gradually gaining recognition as the communist government become less oppressive (Christine, 2005).
Although both wars were fought due to the same reasons, the Korean and Vietnam war differed in some aspects. The United States and their allies protected South Korea from the communists while on the other side, it lost the anti-communists in South Vietnam. This was as a result of war set up and the strategy difference. In Korea war, communists tried to defeat the United States with sheer numbers. Each side mostly fought on open ground in most of its battles. This gave the United States an added advantage. This was because of its capability to fight over the air with their advanced air power and technologically advanced arsenal. Battles were fierce. This resulted to effective campaigns for the Americans. This drove their enemies back to the geographic line of division. On the other hand, Vietnam resulted to guerilla welfare due to its smaller fighting environment.
Americans lost in Vietnam and not in the Korea. This was as a result of war strategies in both wars. Initially the Vietnamese had built underground tunnels to fight and resist their French and the Japanese colonizers. These same tunnels were used during the war where they were extended and connected. This made an underground network of more than two hundred and fifty kilometers stretch. These tunnels were invisible to air raiders therefore making it difficult for American troops to effectively trace their enemies. In some cases, the American troops could not figure out how their enemies could raid them right in the middle of their camp. These tunnels were later discovered but the problem is in most cases, they ended up lost while others were held and captured in booby traps.
The other reason why Americans greatly lost in Vietnam was after the Vietnams turned the war to a people’s war. In Korea, the Chinese mainly fought the US troops single handedly without assistance from the people. In Vietnam, every person was was in the war efforts. The aim of the Vietnam’s communist was that if the truck stuck, tear the walls of your house. Americans could not differentiate the Viet Cong supporters from neutral civilians. This was one reason why the Americans could not defeat Viet Cong.
The difference in the war circumstances and fighting methods saw sharp differences in casualties. 54,000 American soldiers died in Korea and the war was over in three years’ time. On the other hand, 58,000 soldiers perished over the ten years period in Vietnam. Short burst of fighting were evident in Korean War. In Vietnam was long and spread out .
The difference in psychological impacts of both wars made the reception of war veterans’ reception in USA different in both wars. The ideological justification in both wars resulted into differing moral support received by the US troops.
Both Korean and Vietnam wars happened as a result of rivalry between the United States and the soviet unions. The two super powers and their allies supported leaders who supported their ideologies where the United States supported the non-communists while the soviet unions were behind communists. In both cases, the nations were divided into two with the northern sides supported by the communists and their allies while the southern being supported by the anti-communists. Both wars were characterized by use of war tactics and technologies learn in the Second World War, being utilized. The United States used air power and strikes from above while their enemies used underground tunnels and involved civilians. Although none of the involved parties won outright, both wars ended in peace talks. Both wars coasted billions of US dollars and casualties were reported in both cases. These wars were a total loss which only manifested the extent of the cold war between the America and the Soviet Union