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The Vietnam War, 1945-75

2. "Sink or Swim with Ngo Dinh Diem"

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About this Lecture


This module covers events from 1956, when the United States decisively threw its support behind the government of Ngo Dinh Diem, to November 1963, when Diem was overthrown by South Vietnamese generals. This was known as the Advisory Period, when the United States gave diplomatic and political support to Diem's government without sending in combat troops. An examination of this period is important for us to understand how the United States found itself sucked into what the journalist David Halberstam called a 'quagmire' in Vietnam.


In this course, Dr Patrick Hagopian (University of Lancaster) explores the history of the Vietnam War, from Ho Chi Minh's Proclamation of Independence in September 1945 to the Fall of Saigon at the end of April 1975. In the first module, we attempt to explain why the United States was interested in Vietnam at all. After that, we consider the period between 1956-63, when the United States decisively threw its support behind the government of Ngo Dinh Diem, ending with Diem's overthrow and assassination on 2 November, 1963. In the third module, we continue to story as Lyndon B. Johnson replaces the assassinated John F. Kennedy and proceeds to escalate the war in Vietnam until—at the end of 1967—the US had committed some 400,000 combat troops to the region. In the fourth module, we focus on one of the most pivotal moments in the war—the Tet Offensive—in which some 80,000 Viet Cong launched a series of surprise attacks on targets throughout South Vietnam. After that, we turn to President Nixon's management of the war and his policy of Vietnamization, a program to "expand, equip, and train South Vietnam's forces and assign to them an ever-increasing combat role, and the gradual withdrawal of US troops from the region. Finally, in the sixth module, we turn to the final years of the war, including the signing of the Paris Peace Accords and the final fall of Saigon in April 1975.


Patrick Hagopian is currently Senior Lecturer in the History Department at Lancaster University. After obtaining his BA in American Studies at Sussex University, Hagopian did his postgraduate work in the United States, where he studied Communications (MA, Pennsylvania) and History (PhD, Johns Hopkins). He then took up a postdoctoral fellowship in American Material Culture at the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia, before returning to teach American Studies in Britain.

Patrick's research interests are in American memory (the representation of the past in museums and public monuments, popular expressions of the past in oral histories, and the intersection between individual memory and communal representations of the past); the Vietnam War; and military justice and international law.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Hagopian, P. (2018, August 15). The Vietnam War, 1945-75 - "Sink or Swim with Ngo Dinh Diem" [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Hagopian, P. "The Vietnam War, 1945-75 – "Sink or Swim with Ngo Dinh Diem"." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,