Vietnam War Reconsidered

March 11, 1983

Report Outline
Continuing Debate Over War
Press, Protests and Policy
History of U.S. Involvement
War's Lingering Reminders
Special Focus

Continuing Debate Over War

Reassessment Since the 1973 U.S. Pullout

It was just over 10 years ago, on Jan. 27, 1973, that the United States, the Republic of (South) Vietnam and the Democratic Republic of (North) Vietnam signed an agreement in Paris “ending the war and restoring the peace in Vietnam.” Two months later, on March 29, after North Vietnam had released the last American prisoners of war, the final 2,500 U.S. troops boarded transport planes in Saigon and Da Nang and flew out of Vietnam. Thus came to an end direct American military involvement in a war that took the lives of nearly 58,000 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, and cost the U.S. government about $164 billion.

Gen. Frederick C. Weyand, the commander of U.S. troops in South Vietnam, told the departing soldiers that the United States had succeeded in preventing “an all-out attempt by an aggressor to impose its will through raw military force,” adding “the rights of the people of the Republic of Vietnam to shape their own destiny and to provide their self-defense have been upheld.” Two years later Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese — something the United States had worked actively to prevent since 1950.

Throughout the long U.S. involvement in Vietnam, and especially in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Americans were sharply divided over the government's Vietnam policies. Now, a decade after the U.S. troop pullout, many of the same questions are still being debated. And — as was demonstrated at a four-day conference on “Vietnam Reconsidered: Lessons From a War,” held Feb. 6–9, 1983, at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles — the war is still capable of generating strong emotions. Among the questions debated by the dozens of journalists, authors and former government and military officials who attended the conference were: Did the United States fight an “immoral” war in Vietnam, or would it have been immoral for this country not to have honored its commitment to help South Vietnam fight communism?

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Vietnam War
Feb. 18, 2000  Legacy of the Vietnam War
Dec. 03, 1993  U.S.-Vietnam Relations
Mar. 18, 1988  Vietnam: Unified, Independent and Poor
Jul. 06, 1984  Agent Orange: The Continuing Debate
Nov. 04, 1983  MIAs: Decade of Frustration
Mar. 11, 1983  Vietnam War Reconsidered
Oct. 21, 1977  Vietnam Veterans: Continuing Readjustment
Jan. 18, 1974  Vietnam Aftermath
Feb. 21, 1973  Vietnam Veterans
Jun. 09, 1971  Prospects for Democracy in South Vietnam
May 06, 1970  Cambodia and Laos: the Widening War
Jan. 07, 1970  War Atrocities and the Law
Jul. 02, 1969  Resolution of Conflicts
Apr. 17, 1968  Reconstruction in South Vietnam
Aug. 23, 1967  Political Evolution in South Viet Nam
Jan. 11, 1967  Rural Pacification in South Viet Nam
May 26, 1965  Political Instability in South Viet Nam
Mar. 25, 1964  Neutralization in Southeast Asia
Apr. 17, 1963  Task in South Viet Nam
Jun. 14, 1961  Guerrilla Warfare
May 17, 1961  Threatened Viet Nam
Sep. 23, 1959  Menaced Laos
Radio and Television
Regional Political Affairs: East Asia and the Pacific
U.S. at War: Vietnam