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Cold War – Overview, 1945-1991

8. The Vietnam War, 1955-75

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the Vietnam War (1955-75), focusing in particular on: (i) how the US got involved in Vietnam in the first place, beginning with the US military aid to the French in the 1946-54 Indochina War; (ii) the increase in the American commitment under John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, including: Kennedy’s use of military ‘advisors’, the arrival of the first combat troops in Vietnam in 1965, and the rapid increase in the number of combat troops (up to 500,000) between 1965-68; (iii) the reasons why Johnson was so committed to the avoiding a US defeat in Vietnam, including: the potential impact (in his view) on the spread of communism in the region, the impact on US credibility more widely, and the impact on his domestic goals, such as the Great Society; (iv) the reasons why the US lost the war in Vietnam, including: US underestimation of their opponents and misunderstanding of why were fighting, and US military tactics; and (iv) the longer-term significance of the Vietnam War.


In this course, Dr Thomas Tunstall Allcock (University of Manchester) provides an introduction to the Cold War, 1947-91, the period of geopolitical tension between the Soviet Union and its satellite states (the Eastern Bloc) and the United States and its allies (the Western Block). In the first module, we provide an introduction to the topic as a whole, considering how we should actually define the Cold War, and its diplomatic, economic and ideological dimensions. In the second and third modules, we think about the origins of the Cold War, before turning in the fourth module to consider the importance of the Korean War (1950-53) on the conflict. In the fifth module, we think about the domestic impact of the Cold War, before turning in the sixth module to consider how the Cold War began to incorporate tensions in Africa, Asia and South America to become an increasingly global conflict. In the seventh module, we consider the importance of the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962) to the development of the Cold War, before turning in the eighth module to the most important conflict of them all – Vietnam (1955-75). In the ninth module, we consider the development of the war between 1968-75, a period of easing tensions between the US and Soviet Union known as Detente, before turning in the tenth module to the ratcheting up of tensions during the presidency of Jimmy Carter (1977-81). Finally, in the eleventh module, we think about how the Cold War came to an end.


Dr Tom Tunstall Allcock is a lecturer in American history at the University of Manchester. His research focuses on U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War, with particular interests in U.S.-Latin American relations, presidential history and diplomacy, and the cultural history of the Cold War.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Tunstall Allcock, T. (2020, February 05). Cold War – Overview, 1945-1991 - The Vietnam War, 1955-75 [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Tunstall Allcock, T. "Cold War – Overview, 1945-1991 – The Vietnam War, 1955-75." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 05 Feb 2020,