Definition of the Vietnam War from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary

a long war in Vietnam in which the US army fought against Communist forces Culturethe Vietnam WarLike the Korean War, the Vietnam War was a result of US policy during the Cold War, a period when Americans believed that Communism, the political system in the Soviet Union and China, was a threat to their security and power.Vietnam, a colony of France, wanted to become independent, but the US believed that Communists were behind the independence movement, and so opposed it. The US became involved in Vietnam only gradually. At first, under President Eisenhower, it provided the French with supplies. In 1954 the Geneva Accords divided Vietnam into the Communist North and the anti-Communist South. Under President Kennedy, in the early 1960s, many US soldiers were sent to the South as advisers. In 1964, after an attack on US ships, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which gave President Johnson greater powers to fight a war, and in the spring of 1965 Marines were sent to South Vietnam.It was easy to keep the Communist forces, called the National Liberation Front or the Viet Cong, out of South Vietnam, but much harder to defeat them. The US used bombs against the Vietnamese troops, and chemicals to destroy crops, which had a terrible effect on people as well as on the land. There were also reports of atrocities (= acts of extreme violence and cruelty) committed by both sides. In 1968 the My Lai massacre, in which over 300 civilians (= ordinary people, not soldiers) were killed by US soldiers, shocked Americans at home. Many US soldiers were not sure why they were fighting the war and became traumatized (= mentally disturbed) by the violence around them. Discipline became a problem, and the use of drugs was common. Soldiers were accused of committing acts of violence against each other and against Vietnamese civilians.In 1968 the Viet Cong started a major attack known as the Tet Offensive, and the US position in South Vietnam was threatened. As the war escalated (= became more intense) it lost support at home and also in other countries. When Richard Nixon became President he at first tried to attack hard and force the Viet Cong to come to an agreement. The war then spread to Vietnam's neighbour, Cambodia. Finally, in 1972, Nixon sent Henry Kissinger to negotiate a ceasefire (= an agreement to end fighting), and afterwards the US was no longer directly involved in the war, though it continued to provide supplies. In 1975 the government of South Vietnam fell and the country was taken over by the Communist forces.The Vietnam War divided US society. Opposition to it was led mainly by university students, many of whom were young men facing the draft (= compulsory service in the armed forces). They said they should not be forced to fight a war that they believed was wrong. As a protest, many burned their draft cards (= documents showing that they could be called for military service). Some became draft dodgers by remaining students as long as possible, or by going to Canada. Others took their case to court on the grounds that they were conscientious objectors and had moral or religious reasons for not fighting a war. These protests resulted in violent conflicts between police and students. In the summer of 1968, during a protest in Chicago, people saw on television the violent way in which the police behaved. In 1970, during another protest, the National Guard shot and killed four American students at Kent State University in Ohio. After this, many of the silent majority, people whom Nixon thought supported the government, believed that things had gone too far and began to question government policy and the reasons for US involvement in the war. But others continued to accuse the students of being unpatriotic (= not supporting their country).When Vietnam veterans (= people who had fought in the war) returned home they found that, instead of receiving the respect normally given to war veterans, they were the object of public anger. They had to cope with this in addition to the mental stress caused by the violence they had seen and taken part in. In the years since the war, films such as The Deer Hunter (1978) , Born on the Fourth of July (1989) and Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) have shown the war from different angles and helped Americans understand and come to terms with their anger and hurt.The war in Vietnam taught the US that there are limits to its military strength, and showed that the American people were not willing to pay the high cost in money and in lives for a war away from home. The strong desire to avoid another Vietnam played an important role in deciding US foreign policy in the years that followed.