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Chengzhi Yin

North Vietnam announced its intention to unify its country with armed struggle in 1959. Thereafter, Hanoi consistently requested military assistance from the People’s Republic of China (prc). However, Beijing did not grant Hanoi’s request until 1962. Why did the prc agree to provide military assistance to North Vietnam? This article argues that China did so because the United States greatly increased its military presence in South Vietnam in late 1961 and 1962. Therefore, Beijing provided military assistance to Hanoi to secure China’s southern border. Employing primary sources, this study traces changes in Beijing’s attitude toward its Vietnam policy from 1958 to 1962. It shows that when U.S. military presence was limited, Beijing paid more attention to the avoidance of war with the United States and maintaining a hospitable environment in neighboring Indochina. However, when the prc perceived the U.S. presence as a threat to its security, the objective of seeking security overwhelmed other objectives.

James I. Matray

Seth Offenbach

The U.S. conservative movement in the mid-20th Century argued that the United States needed to continuously get tougher in the fight against communism worldwide. It remained supportive of U.S. efforts throughout the Vietnam War. However, in the period immediately preceding Americanization of the war in 1965, conservatives were uncertain about the outcome of any fighting in Vietnam. Specifically, they claimed that optimism for the Republic of Vietnam was lost with the assassination of President Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963. Without Diem, conservatives claimed, the Vietnam War was likely lost before it began. This article discusses how Diem went from a barely talked-about anti-Communist ally prior to his death to becoming posthumously the last great hope for Southeast Asia. Conservatives argued that without Diem, the only way the United States would be able to stop Communist expansion in Indochina would be to engage in a massive aerial bombing campaign and find a regional partner to deploy troops. Had he survived, this might not have been necessary. Learning why and how conservatives supported Diem after his death helps us better understand how conservatives reacted to the Vietnam War once Americanization began in 1965.

Heather Stur

During the Vietnam War, South Vietnamese students were some of the most vocal activists asserting multiple visions for Vietnam’s future. Students’ attitudes spanned the political spectrum from staunchly anti-Communist to supportive of the National Liberation Front. Like young people throughout the world in the 1960s, students in South Vietnam embodied the spirit of the global Sixties as a hopeful moment in which the possibility of freedom energized those demanding political change. South Vietnam’s university students staged protests, wrote letters, and drew up plans of action that tried to unite the disparate political interests among the nation’s young people as politicians and generals in Saigon attempted to establish a viable national government. South Vietnamese government officials and U.S. advisors paid close attention to student activism hoping to identify and cultivate sources of support for the Saigon regime. While some students were willing to work with Americans, others argued that foreign intervention of any kind was bad for Vietnam. The Saigon government’s repressive tactics for dealing with political protest drove away students who otherwise might have supported it.