Comparing Wars in Korean & Vietnam

The Korean War lasted from 1950 to 1953, during which the communist North Koreans (supported by China and the Soviet Union) fought the anticommunist South Koreans (supported by the US). The war began when the North Korean army invaded across the 38th parallel, the line of division between North Korea and South Korea that had been set after the Japanese occupiers were defeated in World War II. Under President Truman, the US joined the war against the communist North Koreans not only to defend the South (consistent with the Truman Doctrine) but also to offensively “liberate” the North Koreans from communism.

Although the US successfully pushed the North Koreans to their side of the 38th parallel, once the US started crossing into the North Korean side, China sent troops to aid North Korea. President Truman did not want to involve the Chinese, fearing a full-scale war, and began peace talks with the North Koreans in July of 1951. The talks concluded in an armistice signed in July of 1953, which suspended hostilities, reinforced Korea’s division at the 38th parallel, and created a 4,000 kilometer-wide demilitarized zone. Almost five million people had died in the war, with more than 2.7 million Korean civilian casualties and more than 30,000 American casualties.

The Vietnam War began in 1954 and ended in 1975, two years after Nixon ordered the withdrawal of US troops. Vietnam had been colonized by the French since 1887. Like Korea, Vietnam had also been occupied by the Japanese during World War II. After their defeat, the Japanese withdrew from Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh, a communist political leader, quickly gained control in North Vietnam, while French-backed Emperor Bao Dai retreated to the South. Both sides signed a treaty in Geneva, splitting Vietnam along the 17th parallel, with Ho controlling the North and Bao controlling the South.

Despite the 17th parallel, many Vietnamese communists, known as the Viet Cong, began attacking the Southern government. The US was worried about a domino effect, believing that if one Southeast Asian country fell to communism, the others would easily follow. Thus, under the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, the US sent more troops to support South Vietnam amidst Viet Cong attacks. In August of 1964, the North Vietnamese attacked two US warships in the Gulf of Tonkin, and the US retaliated by bombing North Vietnam and sending more troops to be stationed in South Vietnam.

The nation's major magazines devoted their September 1943 covers to portrayals of women in war jobs, creating approximately 125 million advertisements. Womanpower ads, most of which were full pages, were among the interior pages of these magazines. Motion pictures, newspapers, radio, trade press, employee publications, and in-store displays all tied in importantly. Even museums participated, with the Museum of Modern Art in New York conducting a contest for the best magazine covers.

Unlike the Korean War, which did not get much media attention in the US, the Vietnam War received a lot of media coverage. Anti-war protests began in the US, pushing President Johnson to begin peace talks to end the war. After the 1968 election, President Nixon took over the peace talks and began focusing his attention on “Vietnamization”, which meant withdrawing US troops from Vietnam and providing the resources South Vietnamese troops needed to continue the war without the US

In January of 1973, peace talks between the US and North Vietnam concluded with the US’s complete withdrawal from the war. Two years later, South Vietnam fell to North Vietnam, and Vietnam was unified under communist control. As a result of the war, there were approximately two million Vietnamese casualties and almost 60,000 American casualties.


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