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American's Involvement in Vietnam

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American's Involvement in Vietnam

Dianne I. Causey

History 102

Mr. Phillips

The Vietnam War took place in Southeast Asia, which the United States fought during 1960s and early 1970s. The war waged from 1954 to 1975 between the communist North Vietnam and noncommunist South Vietnam, two parts of what was once the French colony of Indochina. Vietnamese communists attempted to take over the South, both by the invasion from the North and by guerrilla warfare conducted within the South by the Viet Cong. Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy sent increasing numbers of American military advisors to South Vietnam in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Kennedy's successor, President Lyndon B. Johnson increased American military support greatly, having a half a million soldiers in Vietnam.

American goals in Vietnam proved difficult to achieve, and the communist Tet offensive was a severe setback. Reports of atrocities committed by both sides in the war disturbed many Americans. Eventually, President Richard Nixon decreased American troop strength and sent the Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, to negotiate a cease fire with North Vietnam. Americans troops were withdrawn in 1973, and South Vietnam was completely taken over by communist forces in 1975. The involvement of the United States in the war was controversial. Some supported it wholeheartedly while others totally opposed showing mass demonstrations and by refusing to serve in the American armed forces. Still many seemed to rely on the government to decide the best course of action for our country, leaving even today the loss of faith in our political system.

America's involvement in Vietnam began long before the actual troops were sent over to South East Asia. The United States entered that war in a series of steps between 1950 and 1965. In May 1950, President Harry S. Truman authorized a modest agenda of economic and military aid to the French, who were fighting to retain control of their Indochina province, including Laos and Cambodia as well as Vietnam. When the Vietnamese Nationalist and Communist led Vietminh army defeated French forces at Dienbienphu in 1954, the French were compelled to agree to the creation of a Communist Vietnam North of the 17th parallel while leaving a non-Communist entity south of that line. The United States refused to accept the arrangement. The administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower undertook instead, to build a nation from the political entity that was South Vietnam by fabricating a government, taking over control from the French, dispatching military advisers to train a South Vietnamese army, and unleashing the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to conduct psychological warfare against the North.

President John F. Kennedy rounded another turning point in early 1961, when he secretly sent 400 Green Beret soldiers to teach the South Vietnamese how to fight what was called counterinsurgency war against Communist guerrillas in South Vietnam. When Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, there were more than 16,000 U.S. military advisers in South Vietnam, and more than 100 Americans had been killed. Kennedy's successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, committed the United States most abundantly to the war effort. In August 1964, he secured from Congress a functional (not actual) declaration of war: the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. In February and March 1965, Johnson authorized the sustained bombing, by U.S. aircraft, of targets north of the 17th parallel, and on 8 March dispatched 3,500 Marines to South Vietnam. Legal declaration or not, the United States was now at war.

The United States became involved in the war for a number of reasons, and these evolved and shifted over time. Primarily, every American president regarded the enemy in Vietnam--the Vietminh; its 1960s successor, the National Liberation Front (NLF); and the government of North Vietnam, led by Ho Chi Minh--as agents of global communism. United States policymakers and most Americans regarded communism as the direct opposition of what is held dear to them. Communists showed contempt to democracy, violated human rights, pursued military aggression, and created closed state economies that barely traded with capitalist countries. Americans compared communism to a contagious disease. If it took hold in one nation, U.S. policymakers expected contiguous nations to fall to communism. When the Communist Party came to power in China, Washington feared that Vietnam would become the next Asian domino effect.

In President Truman's 1950 decision to give aid to the French who were fighting the Vietminh, he hoped that by assisting the French in Vietnam that he would shore up the developed, non-Communist nations, whose fates were in surprising

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