Answers: Vietnam War Quiz
Spoiler Warning: This page contains the answers to the Vietnam War Quiz. The original quiz is located here: Vietnam War Quiz. Scoring this quiz is easy, if you could answer most of the questions easily (even if you figured some of them out from the context) you have a decent basic understanding of some of the events that led up to the Vietnam War and a few key events during the war.
1. Before World War Two, Vietnam was a:
A. Dutch Colony
B. Province of China
C. Independent country
D. French Colony
2. During World War Two, what nation invaded and occupied Vietnam?
The answers here are D and A, Vietnam (North and South) was a formerly independent nation that had been invaded and conquered by France in the mid nineteenth century. In 1940 Japan invaded and occupied Vietnam after France was defeated by Nazi Germany, the puppet government of Vichy France having no effective means to defend it. This act precipitated the final crisis between the USA and Japan that led to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, the USA embargoed Japan’s oil in response to their conquest of Vietnam.
Trivia: Japan kept the French colonial administration running Vietnam as a puppet government, as the French before them had kept a nominal puppet Vietnamese government in place. So during World War Two the Vietnamese had the unenviable and unusual historical experience of having three simultaneous governments, their occupiers having been occupied themselves!
3. What World War Two battle was the first time an East Asian land army had defeated a major European army in battle in over 400 years?
The answer here is B, the Battle of Singapore in early 1942. A Japanese army defeated a much larger British army in one of the worst defeats ever suffered by Britain. Over 100 thousand British and British Allied troops were killed, captured, or surrendered. This was the first time since the Europeans began to colonize (conquer) this part of the world four centuries before that an Asian Army had defeated a European Army in battle. The myth of European military superiority suffered a blow it never recovered from, this defeat inspired armed insurrection all over east Asia including such notables as Mao Tse Tung and Ho Chi Minh. The Battle of Singapore was one of the major turning points in history, and heralded the end of centuries of European rule in East Asia. The Battle of Singapore’s importance cannot be overemphasized, yet it remains little known in the west. I will leave the gentle reader speculate on why that is so.
Trivia: As the fighting raged through the streets of Singapore, one irate British matron phoned the British governor and insisted that he do something about the four Japanese soldiers who were digging up her rose bushes to hide a machine gun emplacement.
4. Ho Chi Minh, the leader of communist North Vietnam, had a bust of _________ in his office when he declared Vietnam to be an independent country at the end of World War Two?
C. George Washington
D. Karl Marx
Mr Ho Chi Minh was a great admirer of George Washington and the American revolution. The North Vietnamese Constitution was even modelled on the American Constitution. Ho Chi Minh and many Vietnamese were shocked when the USA supported France’s effort to recolonize Vietnam after World War Two was over. Like Fidel Castro later, Ho Chi Minh was not a particularly ardent communist and only really adopted communism after it became clear the USA would never recognize the legitimacy of his government. (The communist party was in fact illegal during the first two years of Fidel’s rule, and Ho offered to outlaw the communist party if the US would recognize his government.)
5. The First Vietnam War (or French Indochina war) between France and Ho Chi Minh’s insurgents (the Viet Minh) lasted from:
B: 1946-1954. This should have been fairly easy to figure out from the context, nonetheless it’s important to know that the American involvement in Vietnam was preceded by an unsuccessful French attempt to recolonize Vietnam after World War Two. This was the First Indochina War or the French Indochina War. The ultimately failed French effort did partially succeed, they were able to establish a western backed government in South Vietnam, but were unable to prevent the establishment of the Republic of North Vietnam.
6. One of the most important battles in recent history, and a crushing defeat for France, was the 1954 Battle of ____________.
A: Dien Bien Phu
D. Angkor Wat
The answer here of is Dien Bien Phu. Another extremely important battle, and again, one that is little remembered in the west. The French boldly attempted to establish a base deep in the mountains of North Vietnam to disrupt Viet Minh supply lines, and their force was surrounded and destroyed/captured in a two month battle in Mar-May of 1954. This effectively ended the war, the losses were crippling for the French military.
This battle marked the first time an Asian guerrilla army had evolved to the point where they could defeat a European army in open battle, and further damaged the now entirely mythical military superiority enjoyed by European Armies over Asian armies. Even worse, large numbers of French colonial troops had been employed in Vietnam, especially from Algeria. These men most certainly learnt from their experience, they learnt that guerrilla warfare could work against the French. Within six months of the French withdrawal from Vietnam…the revolution in Algeria was a reality. A revolution that inspires to this day insurgents in the Arab world.
The French never in their wildest nightmares thought that trying to reoccupy the relatively unimportant land of Vietnam would lead less than a generation later to the bitter and bloody loss of Algeria. Algeria was a land that many in France considered a part of France, a land far more valuable than distant Vietnam. Such is the law of unintended consequences in war, wars almost always lead to results no one anticipated.
Trivia: During the battle of Dien Bien Phu when it was clear that the French were in dire straits, the USA reportedly offered the French the use of four nuclear weapons. The French prudently declined, one can only speculate where history would have gone had they taken the offer.
7. The Vietnam War between the USA, South Vietnam, and North Vietnam lasted from:
8. The US entry into the Vietnam War was precipitated by:
A: The My Lai massacre
B: The Gulf of Tonkin Incident
C: The assassination of President Diem of South Vietnam
D: The assassination of President Kennedy
D and B. The Vietnam war is conventionally dated from 1964-1975. I would hope that most Americans would be able to guess this one from the context if nothing else. The war was “officially” started with the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. This highly controversial event was used as a pretext for America’s direct involvement in the escalating conflict in Vietnam. There had been fighting in South Vietnam for several years as communist insurgents (the Viet Cong) inspired and supported by North Vietnam fought to topple the massively supported by America South Vietnamese government.
Historians know now that the Gulf of Tonkin Incident was wildly overblown, and hardly the major attack on American ships that it was portrayed as at the time. Did the Johnson Administration knowingly inflate a trivial incident in order to launch a war, or we’re they genuinely fooled by the information they had at hand and reacted as best they could? I suspect it’s a little of both, they no doubt were looking for an excuse to launch direct hostilities against North Vietnam, and it’s human nature to see what one wants to see. Historians have never settled the issue and likely never will, all that matters is that Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and the shooting war with North Vietnam was on.
North Vietnam responded in kind, and what previously had only been covert logistical assistance to the Viet Cong quickly became direct North Vietnamese intervention in South Vietnam. Within a year American soldiers fighting Viet Cong insurgents in South Vietnam began to encounter North Vietnamese regulars. It went downhill from there.
9. This Viet Cong/North Vietnamese offensive was a military catastrophe for the communists and an even worse political catastrophe for President Johnson:
A: The Year of the Rat Offensive.
B: The Tet Offensive.
C: The Battle of Khe Sanh.
D: The Battle of Hue.
The January 1968 Tet Offensive is widely considered to be the turning point of the war. In short, the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese infiltrated 70,000 troops into the cities and towns of South Vietnam, and simultaneously attacked targets throughout South Vietnam, including an attack in the American Embassy in Saigon. The attack was a military catastrophe for the communists, they lost virtually all of their troops and were not able to capture and hold any of the towns and cities they attacked.
However, the Tet Offensive was a huge surprise to the American public, who had been led to believe that the war was going very well and that victory was in sight. Beyond that, how Americans reacted is debatable. Some thought the great military victory over the communists should be followed up by an invasion of North Vietnam, others renewed their opposition to the war. Here is an interesting article that studies the attitudes of people at the time for those who want to explore this topic further: The Tet Offensive and Middletown: A Study in Contradictions.
Whether Tet caused America to “lose its will to fight” or to “realize that the cause was hopeless” is debatable, the truth lays somewhere in between I believe. There is no doubt that after Tet, the Johnson and following Nixon administrations for all practical purposes stopped trying to win the war and started trying to get out of it.
Trivia: The Battle of Khe Sanh preceded the Tet Offensive, an isolated American base was attacked by the Communists with heavy loss to themselves. Initially touted as a great victory for the USA, after Tet it was realized that the Battle of Khe Sanh may well have been designed by the enemy to distract the Americans while they secretly prepared for the Tet Offensive. Tet and Khe Sanh are excellent examples of how it is possible to win every battle, and still lose the war.
10. The USA dropped more bomb tonnage during the Vietnam war than…
A: Does not apply, the USA air campaign was very limited in Vietnam.
B: …it had dropped in any other war.
C: …the German blitz on London in World War II.
D: …all of the participants in all of World War II.
There is often a lot said about how the USA limited its war effort in Vietnam, that we fought with “one hand behind our backs” so to speak. For many this is an article of faith. It’s true that we didn’t utilize the completely indiscriminate carpet bombing that was used to destroy entire cities in World War Two, we didn’t have to. Modern munitions were a lot more accurate and devastating than the munitions used just a generation before in World War Two. At one point the Air Force had so thoroughly bombed North Vietnam that they couldn’t identify any industrial target that would even qualify as a machine shop in the United States.
In other words, D, the United States dropped more bombs during the Vietnam War than were dropped by all of the participants in all of World War Two. Our ground troops used a similar amount of ammunition, and all this firepower was concentrated in a considerably smaller area than World War Two was fought in. It is difficult for me to reconcile this staggering tonnage of munitions with the idea that we were somehow fighting in some “limited” fashion.
At the very least these numbers show the folly of the idea that a war can be won with firepower alone.
Bonus Question, what is the plane pictured above?
The plane above is a B-52 Stratofortress, a mainstay of the US Air Force since 1954. It is one of only two aircraft to remain in use with its principle purchaser for over 50 years. The B-52 can carry over 30 tons of bombs, compare that to the 2 1/2 tons carried by the famous World War Two B-17 Flying Fortress. Here is a fun video of a scale model B-52 flight and its unfortunate conclusion, a B-52 trivia page, and of course a fan page: The World’s Greatest Warplane.
I hope everyone liked this quiz. I have really tried to keep it strictly factual, and to explain alternate viewpoints as they occurred. Exactly how and why the USA effort failed in Vietnam is and always will be controversial, but the more we know about the facts of the conflict the better we will be able to learn from it.
I am also aware that like the World War Two Quiz, there is a tremendous amount I couldn’t cover in just ten questions. Agent Orange, Laos, Cambodia, and the My Lai Massacre just to name a few. I decided to limit my quizzes to ten questions to keep them short and sweet. There may be follow up Vietnam and World War Two quizzes, but before that there will be a World War One quiz and possibly an American Civil War quiz. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome as always. What war do you want to see a quiz about?
(The above B-52 image is from a USA Air Force web site, is property of the Federal Government, and is a public domain image under US law.)