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  • Episode 38 – Cold War in Asia SHOOTING

  • Hi, I’m John Green, this is CrashCourse US History, and today were going to talk

  • about the Cold War again. Really less about thecold,” more about thewar.”

  • As usual, were not going to focus so much on the generals and the tactics, but instead

  • on why the wars were fought and what it all meant.

  • And today we get to visit a part of the world that we haven’t seen much on this series:

  • [spins] Asia. Not my best work. intro

  • So, were gonna start today with the place where the Cold War really heated up, at least

  • as far as America’s concerned. Mr Green, it’s Vietnam.

  • Close, Me from the Past, but like all your romantic endeavors, unsuccessful. The correct

  • answer is of course Korea. Like MFTP, many Americans have forgotten about the Korean

  • War, which lasted three years from 1950 to 1953 and is sometimes called the Forgotten

  • War. But it was real. The Korean War was the first

  • real like shooting war that Americans were involved in after World War II and it was

  • the only time that American troops directly engaged with an honest to goodness Communist

  • power. I’m referring not to North Korea, but to

  • China, which became communist in 1949 and qualifies as a major world power because it

  • was, and also is, huge. We love you China. Just kidding, youre not watching. Because

  • of the Great Fire Wall. So the end of WWII left Korea split between

  • a Communist north led by Kim Il crazypants Sung and an anti-communist but hardly democratic

  • South led by Syngman Rhee. The two were supposed to reunite, but that

  • was impossible because they were constantly fighting that cost around 100,000 lives.

  • The civil war between the two Koreas turned into a full-fledged international conflict

  • in June of 1950 when Kim Il Sung invaded the South, and the US responded. Truman thought

  • that Kim’s invasion was being pushed by the Soviets and that it was a challenge to

  • theFree World.” Truman went to the United Nations and he got

  • authorization, but he didn’t go to Congress and never called the Korean War a “war.”

  • Insisting instead that American troops were leading a UNpolice actionbut that

  • was kind of a misleading statement. General Douglas MacArthur was in command of

  • this tiny little police force at the start of the war because he was the highest ranking

  • general in the region. He was also really popular, at least with the press, although

  • not so much with other generals, or with the president.

  • Under MacArthur, UN forceswhich basically meant American and South Korean forces -- pushed

  • the North Koreans back past the 38th parallel where the two countries had been divided,

  • and then Truman made a fateful decision: The United States would try to re-unify Korea

  • as a non-communist state. Which, if youve looked at a map recently,

  • youll notice went swimmingly. America’s allies and the UN all agreed to this idea,

  • so up north they went, all the way to the northern border with China at the Yalu river.

  • At that point, Chinese forces, feeling that American forces were a smidge too close to

  • China, counter-attacked on November 1, 1950 and by Christmas the two sides were stalemated

  • again at the 38th parallel, right where they started.

  • The war dragged on for two more years with the U.S. pursuing a “scorched earthpolicy

  • and dropping more bombs on Korea than had been dropped in the entire Pacific theater

  • during WWII. The two sides tried to negotiate a peace treaty,

  • but the sticking point was the repatriation of North Korean and Chinese prisoners who

  • didn’t want to go back to their communist homelands.

  • Meanwhile, at home, Americans were growing tired of a war that they weren’t winning,

  • which helped to swing the election of 1952 for Dwight Eisenhower.

  • Also he was also running against perennial presidential loser Adlai Stevenson, who was

  • perceived as an egghead intellectual because his name was Adlai Stevenson.

  • In addition to helping get Ike elected, the Korean War had a number of profound effects.

  • First and most importantly, it was expensive, both in terms of lives and money.

  • In 3 years of fighting 33,629 Americans were killed, 102,000 were wounded and nearly 4

  • million Koreans and Chinese were killed, wounded, or missing. The majority of Korean casualties

  • were civilians. The Korean War also further strengthened executive

  • power in the United StatesTruman went to war without a declaration and Congress

  • acquiescedthis doesn’t mean that the war was initially was unpopular, it wasn’t.

  • People wanted to see America do something about Communism and allowing Kim to take the

  • south and possibly threaten Japan was unacceptable. However, the whole idea that you don’t really

  • need to declare war to go to war, while not new in America, sure has been important the

  • last 60 years. And the Korean War also strengthened the Cold

  • War mentality. I mean, this was the height of the Red Scare.

  • Also, the Korean War set the stage for America’s longer, more destructive, and more well known

  • engagement in Asia, the Vietnam War. Oh it’s time for the Mystery Document? The

  • rules here are simple. I guess the author of the Mystery Document.

  • I’m either right or I get shocked. Alright, let’s see what weve got.

  • "The Declaration of the French Revolution made in 1791 on the Rights of Man and the

  • Citizen also states: "All men are born free and with equal rights, and must always remain

  • free and have equal rights." Those are undeniable truths.

  • Nevertheless, for more than eighty years, the French imperialists, abusing the standard

  • of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, have violated our Fatherland and oppressed our

  • fellow citizens. They have acted contrary to the ideals of humanity and justice.

  • In the field of politics, they have deprived our people of every democratic liberty.

  • Well Stan that sounds like a Frenchman who really doesn’t want to be French anymore.

  • So it’s somebody who’s very disappointed by the way the France has been running their

  • colonies. I’m going to guess that it’s North Vietnamese leader and Crash Course chalk

  • board person: Ho Chi Minh. Wait Stan says he needs his real name. It’s

  • Nguyen Sinh Cung. Yes! So, this document it points out that, at least

  • rhetorically, Ho Chi Minh was fighting for liberation from a colonial power as much as,

  • if not more than, he was trying to establish a communist dictatorship in Vietnam. But because

  • of the Cold War and its prevailing theories, the United States could only see Ho as a communist

  • stooge, a tool of the Kremlin. Under the so-calleddomino theoryVietnam

  • was just another domino that had to be propped up or else the rest of South East Asia would

  • fall to communism like a row of, dominos. That wasn’t my best work.

  • Now, in retrospect, this was a fundamental misunderstanding, but it’s important to

  • remember that at the time, people felt that they didn’t want the Soviet Union to expand

  • the way that, say, Nazi Germany had. America’s involvement in Vietnam, like most

  • things Cold War, dates back to World War II, but it really picked up in the 1950s as we

  • threw our support behind the French in their war to maintain their colonial empire. Wait,

  • Stan, how why would we fight with the French to maintain a colonial empire? Oh right, because

  • we were blinded by our fear of communism. Now, Eisenhower wisely refused to send troops

  • or use atomic weapons to help the French. Really good call.

  • And the Geneva Accords were supposed to set up elections to reunite North and South, which

  • had been divided after WWII, but then we didn’t let that happen.

  • Because sometimes democracies don’t vote for our guy. Instead, the U.S. began supporting

  • the repressive, elitist regime of Ngo Dinh Diem as a bulwark against communism.

  • Diem was a Catholic in a majority Buddhist country and his support of landowners didn’t

  • win him any fans. But he was against communism, which was good enough for us.

  • The first major involvement of American troops, then called advisors, began in the early 1960s.

  • Technically, their role was to advise the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, also called

  • ARViN. It was doomed. How did they not know this was doomed? Let’s

  • fight for Arvin. Against this guy. You are scary. Seriously.

  • Anyway, pretty quickly this advising turned into shooting, and the first American advisors

  • were killed in 1961, during John Kennedy’s presidency.

  • However, most Americans consider Vietnam to be Lyndon Johnson’s war, and they aren’t

  • wrong. The major escalation of American troops started under Johnson, especially in 1965

  • after the Gulf of Tonkin incident. This is one of the great incidents in all

  • of American history. So, in August 1964, North Korean patrol boats attacked US warships in

  • the Gulf of Tonkin. As a result Johnson asked Congress to authorize

  • the president to takeall necessary measures to repel armed attackin Vietnam, which

  • Congress dutifully did with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.

  • So why is this one of the great incidents in American history? Because the whole patrol

  • boats attacking warships thing? That didn’t happen. None of that stuff happened except

  • we did actually go to war. Now, in retrospect, this seems like a terrible

  • idea but it was very popular at the time because to quote the historian James Patterson, “Preventing

  • Communism, after all, remained the guiding star of American policy.”[1] Wait a second,

  • did I just say to quote historian James Patterson, like the crime novelist? Oh it’s a different

  • guy apparently. That’s a bummer. He doesn’t write his own books because he’s

  • so busy with his secret career - being a historian. So, the number of American troops began a

  • steady increase and so did the bombing. The frightfully named Operation Rolling Thunder

  • began in the spring of 1965. And in March of that year two Marine battalions arrived

  • at Danang airbase authorized to attack the enemy. No advising about it.

  • But, Johnson didn’t actually tell the American public that our troops had this authorization,

  • which was part of a widening credibility gap between what the government told Americans

  • about the war and what was really happening. Let’s go to the ThoughtBubble.

  • By 1968 there were about half a million American soldiers in Vietnam and the government was

  • confidently saying that victory was just around the corner. But then in January Vietnamese

  • forces launched the Tet Offensive and while it was eventually repelled, the fact that

  • the North Vietnamese were able to mount such an offensive cast doubts on the claims that

  • U.S. victory was imminent. The Vietnam War itself was particularly brutal,

  • with much of the ground fighting taking place in jungles. Rather than large-scale offensives,

  • troops were sent on search and destroy missions and often it was difficult to tell enemy from

  • civilians. Capturing territory wasn’t meaningful, so commanders kept track of body counts. Like,

  • if more enemy were killed than Americans, we were winning.

  • In addition to jungle fighting, there was a lot of bombing. Like, more bombs were dropped

  • on North and South Vietnam than both the Axis and Allied powers used in all of World War

  • II. The U.S. used chemical defoliants like Agent Orange to get rid of that pesky jungle,

  • and also napalm, which was used to burn trees, homes, and people.

  • Television coverage meant that Vietnam was the first war brought into American living

  • rooms. And people were horrified at what they saw. They were especially shocked at the My

  • Lai massacre, which took place in 1968 but was only reported a year later, in 1969. These

  • draftees were young, and disproportionately from the lower classes because enrollment

  • in college or grad school earned you a deferment. So unlike previous American wars, the burden

  • of fighting did not fall evenly across socioeconomic class.

  • Thanks, ThoughtBubble. So, as Americans at home became increasingly aware of what was

  • going on in Vietnam, protests started. But it’s important to remember that the majority

  • of Americans were not out in the streets or on college campuses burning their draft cards.

  • Right up through 1968 and maybe even 1970, most Americans supported the Vietnam War.

  • During the 1968 presidential campaign, Richard Nixon promised that he had a secret plan to

  • end the war and appealed to the silent majority of Americans who weren’t on board with the

  • anti-war movement. So, the first part of Nixon’s secret plan

  • wasvietnamization” -- gradually withdrawing American troops and leaving the fighting to

  • the Vietnamese. The second part involved more bombing and

  • actually escalating the war by sending American troops into Cambodia in order to cut off the

  • so-called Ho Chi Minh, named for this guy, a supply line that connected north to south.

  • Not only did this not work, it also destabilized Cambodia and helped the Khmer Rouge to come

  • to power. The Khmer Rouge represented the absolute worst

  • that Communism had to offer, forcing almost all Cambodians into communes and massacring

  • one third of the country’s population. So, not a great secret plan. By 1970 the anti-protests