Vietnam might not have become a zone of conflict for the United States had she adhered to Franklin Roosevelt’s wartime opposition to the return of French colonialists and his support for independence for Indochina once the Japanese had been defeated. Winston Churchill, and later Harold Wilson, may be thought of as having kept Britain out of Vietnam, but in actual fact, that was only once it had begun to escalate.. In March of that year, US troops landed in Da Nang. America went to war with Vietnam as a general way of trying to prevent Communism. Tensions escalated into armed conflict between the two sides, and in 1961 U.S. President John F. Kennedy chose to expand the military aid program. The Real Reason America Lost the War in Vietnam: Japan. On 23 July 1962, fourteen nations, including China, South Vietnam, the Soviet Union, North Vietnam and the United States, signed an agreement promising to respect the neutrality of Laos. Beginning in September, the Khanh government was succeeded by a bewildering array of cliques and coalitions, some of which stayed in power less than a month. Japanese forces invaded Vietnam during World War II. Ho Chi Minh began a campaign to fight a weakened France and seize independence through force. On the home front, beginning in 1949, fear of domestic communists gripped America. Should we trace it back to the 1940s when President Harry Truman authorized U.S. financial support of the French war in Indochina? The United States backed France and its puppet emperor Bao Dai. However, the forces of the South, without American combat support, could not hold off the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong. The United States had provided funding, armaments, and training to South Vietnam’s government and military since Vietnam’s partition into the communist North and the democratic South in 1954. The first wave of U.S combat troops invaded South Vietnam on March 8, 1965. Stewart, Richard W., editor. In May 1954, the French suffered a military defeat at Dien Bien Phu and negotiations began to end the conflict. However, by the early 1970s the USA was forced to withdraw. The U.S. entered the Vietnam War in an attempt to prevent the spread of communism, but foreign policy, economic interests, national fears, and geopolitical strategies also played major roles. This stated that if one country fell to communism, then its neighbour would and then the neighbour to this country. This is a question historians continue to debate. With the vacuum caused by the defeat of Japan, an opportunity arose for the Communists to declare the "independence" of Vietnam in 1945. The U.S. involvement in South Vietnam stemmed from a combination of factors: France's long colonial history in French Indochina, the US War with Japan in the Pacific, and both Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong's pledge in 1950 to support Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh's guerrilla forces. But things changed with an incident in the summer of 1964. The fighting in Vietnam finally ended with the collapse of Saigon in 1975. The U.S. entered the Vietnam War in an attempt to prevent the spread of communism, but foreign policy, economic interests, national fears, and geopolitical strategies also played major roles. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. The Johnson administration began a series of airstrikes against targets in North Vietnam. In retrospect, the United States did not do much to end communism and it ended on its own. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The escalation continued throughout 1965, and by the end of that year, 184,000 American troops were in Vietnam. Decades later, the US is again trying to extract itself from costly wars. There was an exchange of gunfire, though disputes about what exactly happened and what was reported to the public have persisted for decades. “The U.S. Army in Vietnam: Background, Buildup, and Operations, 1950–1967.” American Military History: The United States Army in a Global Era, 1917–2008, II, Center of Military History, pp. Vietnam unfurled a massive celebration on Thursday to mark the 40th anniversary of the end of its long war with the United States. The anti-war movement mobilized Americans in vast numbers, and public protest demonstrations against the war became commonplace. Whatever happened in the confrontation, the Johnson administration used the incident to justify a military escalation. As 1963 progressed, the issue of Vietnam became more prominent in America. The conflict between the French and the Viet Minh came to a head at the … Why did the USA become increasingly involved in the Vietnam War? President Dwight Eisenhower invoked the Domino Theory in a press conference held in Washington on April 7, 1954. He was Amazon.com's first-ever history editor and has bylines in New York, the Chicago Tribune, and other national outlets. When Did the U.S. Ho Chi Minh helped initiate the First Indochina War, which took place from 1946 to 1954. In 1966, the troop totals rose again to 385,000. It was against this backdrop that the first U.S. military advisers were sent to help the French battle the communists of Northern Vietnam in 1950. Even though the cause of the Vietnam War was generally unknown to the public, the government pressed on with the attacks. Throughout the whole article every paragraph talks about why America did what they did over in Vietnam and how it affected us. www.fpri.org Copyright © 2000–2021. Related to this, the U.S. was adamantly against providing any aid to France that would in any way prop up France's … The Vietnam War displayed the limits of US military power - 58,000 Americans died, millions of Vietnamese were killed. His vice-president, Hubert Humphrey advised him against it. The U.S. government had an interest in the conflict in Indochina from the end of World War II until the mid-1950s when France found itself fighting against a communist insurgency led by Ho Chi Minh. Causes of the Vietnam war. Out of fear of a great power confrontation with the Soviet Union, the United States fought a limited war, with the South China Sea to the east and … It began to send military advisors to help train and support the South Vietnamese army . At the time, the capitalist South Vietnamese region was losing their fight against the communist North Vietnamese. Its legacy was 58,220 American soldiers dead, a huge drain on the nation’s finances, social polarisation and the tarnishing of the reputation of the United States. The United States supported the anti-communist government in South Vietnam. Anti-involvement theorists argue that the U.S. shouldn’t have invaded Vietnam because Vietnam’s internal conflicts and political battles didn’t directly influence or affect America. "Military Advisors In Vietnam: 1963." Battle of Dien Bien Phu. April 30, 1970, Washington, DC. Kallie Szczepanski contributed to this article. In the 1950s, Vietnam descended into civil war, with the Southern government and US forces attempting to stop the spread of communism. 289–335. In the 1950’s, John Foster Dulles, US Secretary of State, had formulated the Domino Theory. No nation recognized the new regime and the French returned and swept it away, with remnants hiding in the mountains. Few decisions in American foreign policy have been more consequential than the series of events that led the United States to become involved in the Vietnam War. That attitude was held up to scrutiny in a televised Capitol Hill testimony by a member of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, future Massachusetts senator, presidential candidate, and secretary of state, John Kerry. Ousting and assassination of Ngô Đình Diệm Internationally, following World War II, country after country in Eastern Europe had fallen under communist rule, as had China, and the trend was spreading to other nations in Latin America, Africa, and Asia as well. Top Essentials to Know About the Vietnam War. One reason included how they thought it would be an 'easy' war to fight and for that reason, they would be able to easily win and the war would not go … American did not go to war with Vietnam in general, it/we went to war with/against the Communists who were concentrated in North Vietnam supposedly in concert with … The reasons for entering the Vietnam War no longer seemed so vital, especially when weighed against the cost of the war. Beginning in the mid-1950s, the American foreign policy establishment tended to view the situation in Southeast Asia in terms of the Domino Theory. Why did America fight the Vietnam War? What Americans call the Vietnam War was the second of three wars in Indochina during the Cold War, in which the United States, the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China intervened in shifting patterns of enmity and alliance. The Americans began supporting the South Vietnamese with political and military advisers in the late 1950s. The main reason for the U.S. involvement in Vietnam was to prevent the spread of communism in Southeast Asia. However, the US started direct military action in Vietnam in 1964 until 1973. The attack was made near the Communist Chinese held island of Hainan. On February 8, 1962, the Kennedy administration formed the Military Assistance Command Vietnam, a military operation intended to accelerate the program of giving military aid to the South Vietnamese government. The United States government viewed involvement in the war as a way to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam and part of their wider strategy of containment. ... On the other hand, the United States did manage to stay out of the First Indochina War between France and the … The U.S. felt that it was losing the ​Cold War and needed to "contain" communism. The main reason for the U.S. involvement in Vietnam was to prevent the spread of communism in Southeast Asia. Given Eisenhower’s credibility on military matters, his prominent endorsement of the Domino Theory placed it at the forefront of how many Americans for years would view the unfolding situation in Southeast Asia. McGovern lost in a historic landslide, which seemed, in some part, to be a validation of Nixon’s avoidance of a speedy withdrawal from the war. Learn why a country that had been barely known to most Americans came to define an era. In the article “The Causes of the Vietnam War” Andrew Rotter talks about all kinds of reasons why America went to war with Vietnam along with things that promoted America to get involved with Vietnam. Throughout the late 1960s, the mood in America transformed. All Rights Reserved. The Kennedy foreign policy was rooted, of course, in the Cold War, and the increase of American advisers reflected Kennedy’s rhetoric of standing up to communism wherever it might be found. The first wave of U.S combat troops invaded South Vietnam on March 8, 1965. It was assumed by Johnson’s advisers that air attacks alone would cause the North Vietnamese to negotiate an end to armed conflict. Instead his time in office is mostly associated with deepening American involvement in the war in Vietnam which ultimately proved futile. At the end of this war, North Vietnam was a communist dictatorship led by Ho Chi Minh while South Vietnam was all that remained of French colonial rule. A prisoner of war blinked in Morse code to send one chilling word home to the U.S. government: "torture." The U.S involvement in Vietnam had started as early as 1950 when Harry Truman sent military advisors to aid the French. In the 1972 presidential campaign, Democratic nominee George McGovern campaigned on a platform of withdrawing from Vietnam. Following Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963, the administration of Lyndon Johnson continued the same general policies of putting American advisers in the field beside South Vietnamese troops. By August, the number increased to 100,000. Robert J. McNamara is a history expert and former magazine journalist. America’s involvement in Vietnam, that was to lead to a full-scale military attack on North Vietnam, was all part of the Cold War scenario that had enveloped world politics. These are boom times for historians of the Vietnam War. The military suffered over 58,000 casualties, and America withdrew in defeat. The role of American advisers increased and by late 1963, there were more than 16,000 Americans on the ground advising South Vietnamese troops.. In the 1950’s, John Foster Dulles, US Secretary of State, had formulated the Domino Theory. Learn why a country that had been barely known to most Americans came to define an era. Why did the U.S. go to war in Vietnam? It gave the president broad authority to defend American troops in the region. Here, retired Colonel William C Haponski, co-author of ‘Autopsy of an Unwinnable War: Vietnam’, explains that the British were in fact one of five main players in early post-World War 2 Vietnam. ", "Transcript of President Eisenhower's Press Conference, With Comment on Indo-China. Following the French withdrawal from Indochina, the solution put in place established a communist government in North Vietnam and a democratic government in South Vietnam. France'… The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was passed by both houses of Congress within days of the naval confrontation. During the administration of Richard M. Nixon, the levels of combat troops were reduced from 1969 onward. The sentiment, especially among conservative voices in America, was that the sacrifice of so many killed and wounded in Vietnam would be in vain if America simply withdrew from the war. The Domino Theory held that communism would spread if Vietnam became communist. With the departure of the French, South Vietnam was left as an anti-communist dictatorship with U.S. backing. But there was still considerable support for the war, and Nixon had campaigned in 1968 pledging to bring an "honorable end" to the war. It marked the first time combat troops were inserted into the war. By the end of 1967, American troop totals peaked in Vietnam at 490,000.. By January 1966, the number was more than 200,000. That did not happen. One of the main reasons it remains a source of argument is that it is difficult to say when the U.S. war actually began. America’s involvement in Vietnam, that was to lead to a full-scale military attack on North Vietnam, was all part of the Cold War scenario that had enveloped world politics. The role of the United States in the Vietnam War began after World War II and escalated into full commitment during the Vietnam War from 1955 to 1973. In March 1965, President Johnson ordered U.S. Marine battalions to defend the American airbase at Da Nang, Vietnam. Office of Academic Affiliations. American naval forces in the Gulf of Tonkin, on the coast of Vietnam, reported being fired upon by North Vietnamese gunboats. McCarthy saw communists everywhere in America and encouraged an atmosphere of hysteria and distrust. Japanese forces invaded Vietnam during World War II. One reason is resurgent public interest in a topic that had lost some of its salience in American life during the 1990s. The Cold War soon turned hot in divided Korea and Vietnam. What for? One reason America went to war was because President Harry Truman authorized a military aid to the French. Also the U.S. was afraid of communism taking over countries along with the reasons why America did not like the government of North Vietnam. The French were fighting in Vietnam to maintain their colonial power and to regain their national pride after the humiliation of World War II. First, the Americans were an … Anti-communist sentiment at home influenced foreign policy views. In a TV speech to the Nation from the White House, President Nixon announced that several thousand American ground troops entered Cambodia to wipe out Communist headquarters for all military operations against South Vietnam. One American crawled for three days to take a single shot that would change the course of the war. As war continued, desire to find an "honorable peace" was motivation to keep troops in Vietnam. The Gulf of Tonkin incident appeared to be a provocation for war. The United States had provided funding, armaments, and training to South Vietnam’s government and military since Vietnam’s partition into the communist North and the democratic South in 1954. Tensions escalated into armed conflict between the two sides, and in 1961 U.S. President John F. Kennedy chose to expand the military aid program. Ho Chi Minh helped initiate the First Indochina War, which took place from 1946 to 1954. In 1954, the French lost and Vietnam was divided between north and south. The basic principle was that if French Indochina (Vietnam was still a French colony) fell to the communist insurgency, which had been battling the French, the expansion of communism throughout Asia would be likely to continue unchecked. Fifty years ago, during the first six months of 1965, Lyndon Johnson made the decision to Americanize the conflict in Vietnam. Thuan delivered a letter from President Ngo Dinh Diem dealing with the Communist threat to his country. Even though U.S. politicians, military experts and leaders of foreign affairs generally agreed that Communism violated democracy and infringed on political freedoms, conflicts in Vietnam posed no direct threat to the U.S. government or to the freedoms Americans enjoyed. Taken to its extreme, the Domino Theory suggested that other nations throughout Asia would become satellites of either the Soviet Union or Communist China, much like nations in Eastern Europe had come under Soviet domination. "Military Health History Pocket Card for Health Professions Trainees & Clinicians." Why the United States Went to War in Vietnam, https://history.state.gov/milestones/1953-1960/seato, https://millercenter.org/president/eisenhower/foreign-affairs, https://www.jfklibrary.org/Research/Research-Aids/JFK-Speeches/Vietnam-Conference-Washington-DC_19560601.aspx, https://www.jfklibrary.org/Research/Research-Aids/Ready-Reference/JFK-Quotations/Inaugural-Address.aspx. ", “The U.S. Army in Vietnam: Background, Buildup, and Operations, 1950–1967.”, "Military Health History Pocket Card for Health Professions Trainees & Clinicians.". The United States government viewed involvement in the war as a way to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam and part of their wider strategy of containment. Nguyyan Dinh Thuan, Chief Cabinet Minister to President Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam, confers with President Kennedy in his White House office today. The U.S.S. One reason America went to war was because President Harry Truman authorized a military aid to the French. The President is shown here standing before a map of Cambodia. The US invaded Vietnam to contain Soviet and Chinese influence, simply put. One was the Civil Rights War within the country, the other was the Vietnam War and another was the Cold War. The American government, like some others, was very afraid that the communists might win, so they intervened on behalf of Vietnam to try to stop the spread of Communism. Timeline of the Vietnam War (Second Indochina War), "President Warns of Chain Disaster If Indo-China Goes. Under the Party’s leadership, Vietnam fought wars against Japan (1945), France (First Indochina War, 1946-1955), and America (Second Indochina War, 1954-1975). Maddox DD-731 was the victim of an 'unprovoked attack' in international waters off Vietnam, the Navy announced in Honolulu 8/1. Throughout the early 1950s, the Viet Minh forces made significant gains. The U.S. involvement in South Vietnam stemmed from a combination of factors: France's long colonial history in French Indochina, the US War with Japan in the Pacific, and both Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong's pledge in 1950 to support Ho Chi … The Korean War, sandwiched between the romanticism of World War II and America's traumatic experience in Vietnam, is often forgotten among the conflicts of … His reference to Southeast Asia becoming communist was major news the following day. ” It was a scary thing and the U. S. ealized what it was up against and why they needed to go to war with Vietnam. The New York Times headlined a page one story about his press conference, “President Warns of Chain Disaster if Indo-China Goes.”. Send the First Troops to Vietnam? Since the 19 th century, Vietnam had been under colonial rule. But did his government listen? By 1972, the idea that Vietnam posed a threat to Cold War America was so discredited, it sometimes sounded as if America’s only remaining war aim was to … The McCarthy Era was marked by dramatic accusations that communists had infiltrated the highest levels of American society as part of a global conspiracy. Also, during that time the President of the United States declared that any country from their allies if demanded help to end communism, the US would provide it. After decades of conflict, more than 2.7 million Americans served in Vietnam and an estimated 47,424 lost their lives; and still, the reasons why the U.S. entered the Vietnam War to begin with remain controversial.. On April 22, 1971, speaking of losses in Vietnam and the desire to remain in the war, Kerry asked, “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”. During the Second World War, Japan invaded the country. This stated that if one country fell to communism, then its neighbour would and then the neighbour to this country. The country spent much of the 1950s under the influence of the Red Scare, led by the virulently anti-communist Senator Joseph McCarthy. Under the Party’s leadership, Vietnam fought wars against Japan (1945), France (First Indochina War, 1946-1955), and America (Second Indochina War, 1954-1975). That same year, the Korean War began, pitting Communist North Korean and Chinese forces against the U.S. and its UN allies. Basically because the Vietnamese wanted to win more than the Americans did. During World War II the Japanese occupied Vietnam and disarmed the French. The United States enters the war Between the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and the U.S. presidential election in November 1964, the situation in Vietnam had changed for the worse. The South was fighting against the Viet Cong, a communist party based in South Vietnam which was allied with North Vietnam. 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