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Forrest Gump: The Vietnam War Through The Eyes of a Child

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Forrest Gump

The Vietnam War Through the Eyes of a Child

In Winston Groom's Forrest Gump, the main character, Forrest Gump is involved in the Vietnam War. In the novel, he is mentally challenged and he sees everything somewhat differently then another individual might. His point of view of the events of the Vietnam War are child-like and different then what most people would see.

The Vietnam War was a very tragic war. The events took place from 1954-1975 (Brigham). The Second Indochina War resulted from a long conflict between France and Vietnam. After 100 years of colonial rule, in July of 1954, France was forced to leave Vietnam. Nationalist forces defeated French troops at Dien Bien Phu in the northwest corner of Vietnam. This battle proved to the French that they were no longer able to keep their Indochinese colonies and they quickly moved for peace.

The Geneva Peace Accords were signed by France and Vietnam in the summer of 1954 (Brigham). The Peace Accords reflected the strains of the international cold war. They represented the worst of all possible futures for war-torn Vietnam. According the the Accords, Vietnam would hold national elections in 1956 to reunify the country. With the election, the division at the seventeenth parallel, a temporary separation without cultural precedent would vanish. The United States did not agree with the Geneva Accords because they thought it granted too much power to the Communist Party Of Vietnam. President Dwight D. Eisenhower instead

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supported the creation of a counter revolutionary alternative south of the seventeenth parallel. The United States supported the nation-building effort through a series of multilateral agreements that created the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO).

The Eisenhower administration created a new nation in southern Vietnam using SEATO as its political cover. In 1955 with much American aid, the Government of the Republic of Vietnam, or South Vietnam was born. The following year Ngo Dinh Diem was elected president of South Vietnam. Diem claimed that his new government was under attack from Communists in the north. He argued the North Vietnam wanted to take South Vietnam by force. In late 1957, Diem began to counterattack. President Eisenhower sent weapons and American military advisers to South Vietnam to train a South Vietnamese army. Diem passed a series of acts known as Law 10/59 that made it legal to hold someone in jail if that person was a suspected Communist without bringing formal charges. His government arrested thousands. The outcry was immediate. Many groups in opposition to Diem's rule attacked his troops and the secret police. This just furthered Diem's complaints of South Vietnam trying to be taken by force.

Between 1956 and 1960, the Communist Party of Vietnam desired to reunify to country through political means alone. The Communist Party tried to cause Diem's collapse by exerting a large amount of internal political pressure but were unsuccessful. Diem's attacks on suspected Southern Communists convinced the party to adopt more violent tactics. In January 1959, the Communist Party approved the use of revolutionary violence to overthrow Diem's government and liberate South Vietnam. In May 1959 and September 1960, the party confirmed its use of violence and combination of political and armed struggle movements. This resulted in the creation of a united front to help mobilize southerners in oppostion to North Vietnam. The united front brought together Communists and Non-Communists that opposed Diem and wanted to unify Vietnam. The National Liberation Front was created on December 20, 1960. Washington

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denounced the NLF. They referred

to it as Viet Cong, which was a derogatory and slang term meaning Vietnamese Communists although the organization was mostly non-Communists.

The Kennedy Administration seemed split on the Diem regime. Some advisers told the president to withdraw from Vietnam and others argued for an increase in aid to help stabalize the Diem regime. Kennedy instead chose a middle route. He sought a limited accord with Diem. Kennedy continued to send more American money and more military advisers to boost the Diem regime. By the end of 1961, there were 3,200 American military personnel in the country (Garraty, 802). By the time Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, the number had risen to 16,000, and 120 American soldiers had been killed. Before his assassination, Kennedy has professed his intent to cut back on the size of American military in Vietnam.

By the summer of 1963 it seemed as though South Vietnam was on the verge of political collapse. Diem's brother had raided Buddhist pagodas claiming that they were holding Communists that were creating political instability. This caused much protest in the streets of Saigon that led Buddhist monks to kill themselves. Some of Diem's own generals approached the American Embassy in Saigon with plans to overthrow Diem. On November 1, 1963 Diem and his brother were captured and later killed.

Continuing political problems in Saigon convinced the new President Lyndon B. Johnson that more aggressive action was needed. He was more prone to military involvement. In 1964, Johnson sent more troops to South Vietnam, then authorized air attacks against targets in the South and North. The uses for American troops in South Vietnam continuously changed. At first they were there to train Vietnamese troops, then they were there to defend air bases, then to assist the South Vietnamese Units. Johnson's escalation of American commitment occurred apparently without any type of plan. At the end of 1965, 184,000 Americans were in the field; a year later, 385,000 were there; after another year the number reached 485,000; by the middle of

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1968, the number had exceeded 538,000 Americans. However rapidly the numbers were increasing in the South, each increase was met with corresponding increases from the opposition. China and Russia increased their aid, and thousands of North Vietnamese regulars came to assist the Vietcong. The action rose and so did the number of American casualties. The United States was involved in a full scale war which was never declared by Congress.

In March 1968, Johnson announced that he would not seek the Democratic Party's re-nomination for president and hinted he would try to end the war with the Communists. Secret negotiations begain in spring of 1968 in Paris. Despite the progress,the Democrats lost the election and Republican challenger Richard Nixon won the presidency. Nixon claimed



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