Role of the United States in Vietnam War

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The Vietnam War (War) changed many people’s lives, it was one of the bloodiest wars in history and also one of the longest. The War was between North Vietnam and South Vietnam, along with their allies. The goal of North Vietnam was to make the entire country communist. The goal of South Vietnam was to preserve Vietnam as a republic country. The United States (U.S.) had a very important role in the War as an ally of South Vietnam. So how was the U.S. involved in the Vietnam war?

The Cold War had a great influence on the U.S. joining the War. The Cold War was between the U.S. and the communist Soviet Union. The U.S. really wanted to stop the spread of communism. The U.S. planned to stop the spread of communism by joining the Vietnam War as an ally of South Vietnam and help defend it from North Vietnam a communist country (History.com). John F. Kennedy wanted to contain communism and said he wanted to aid the government of Diem in South Vietnam and that he supported the Domino Theory. (historylearningsite.co) The Domino Theory was the belief that if one country fell to communism that its neighboring countries would fall after. (History.com)

The U.S. role in Vietnam began after World War II and escalated into the Vietnam War. South Vietnam began to struggle because of the Viet Cong. The Viet Cong was an army that fought against South Vietnam and United States governments during the War. Ho Chi MInh was a big part in establishing the Viet Cong. The Viet Cong had both guerrilla and regular army soldiers in the War. Some of them were recruited from South Vietnam and others were from the North Vietnam army (Wikipedia).

The Viet Cong made South Vietnam struggle because they attacked and ambushed post repeatedly, which caused the U.S. to get more involved. (Britannica.com) In 1960 President Kennedy took office in the U.S. In his inaugural address Kennedy made a pledge to ensure the survival and success of liberty. Kennedy’s escalation began with his commitment to stop the spread of Communism.

The previous failure to stop the spread of communism shown with things such as the Bay of Pigs Invasion and the construction of the Berlin Wall caused him to focus on preventing a communist victory in Vietnam. At first Kennedy thought the that the South Vietnam army needed to defeat the Vietcong and North Vietnam army on their own. However, the South Vietnam army was poorly trained and supported. As a result, the number of American soldiers in South Vietnam increased from 900 to 16,000 by 1963. (Wikipedia)

On November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated. Vice President Lyndon Johnson then became president. He immediately began to focus on the Vietnam War. President Johnson knew he had a worsening situation in South Vietnam and was also a firm believer in the Domino theory. His beliefs encouraged him to sign an order on August 26, 1965 so married men who got married after midnight of that day would be eligible for the military draft. Of the 8.7 million American servicemen during the Vietnam War 2.2 million were drafted, others were believed to join to choose their military position rather than have no choice in their position (Wikipedia).

President Johnson further escalated the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War by the Gulf of Tonkin Incident and the Bombing of Laos. The Gulf of Tonkin Incident began on August 2, 1964. It began when the USS Maddox fired on torpedo boats in the Gulf of Tonkin. The second attack was two days later and ways reported to be an attack on the USS Turner Joy and USS Maddox. The second attack led to air strikes which encouraged Congress to approve the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution allowed the president individual power to launch any military action he saw necessary. ( Wikipedia Healy pg. 91)

The National Security Council recommend a escalation of bombing on North Vietnam. Air strikes started after an attack on a US military base on February 7, 1965. The operations included Operation Flaming Dart, Rolling Thunder, and Arc Light. The bombing lasted 3 years and tried to stop North Vietnam from supporting the Viet Cong. It also attempted to boast South Vietnam’s morale. (Wikipedia Titford pg.87) The US also bombed Laos during the Vietnam War. Through operations such as Barrel Roll. This operation attacked different parts of the Viet Cong such as the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The goal of this bombing was to stop North Vietnam from supporting a rebelling happening in South Vietnam. (Wikipedia)

The American Ground war began on March 8 1965 when 3,500 Marines sent to South Vietnam. The U.S. initial plan for the Ground War was defense. General William Westmoreland recommended changing from a defense approach to a more aggressive approach because the U.S. was losing the war. Westmoreland created a three phase plan to win the war that was approved by president Johnson. The first phase was commiting enough U.S. forces to stop the U.S.’s losing trend. As a result, the number of US marines increased from 3,500 to 200,000 by December. Phase 2 was for U.S. and allied troops to attack guerilla and other organized forces. Phase 3 was the final destruction of any remaining enemy forces. The U.S.’s plan didn’t succeed because they never finally destroyed enemy forces. (Wikipedia)

The Tet Offensive was one of the largest military campaigns in the Vietnam War. It started on January 30, 1968 when the the Viet Cong and North Vietnam army attacked South Vietnam and the U.S army forces. The attack was a surprise because the South Vietnam and U.S army believed that there was a cease fire because of the Tet holiday. Over 80,000 Viet Cong and North Vietnam forces attack over 100 different cities. After the first two months of the offensive there were about 5,000 deaths from the South Vietnam Army, 4,000 deaths from the US forces, and more than 45,000 people were wounded. The Tet Offensive was a turning point in the Vietnam War. The massive surprise attack by the North Vietnam and Viet Cong army socked the American public and media, they began to turn against president Johnson and the U.S. involvement in the war.(Wikipedia)

Richard Nixon was elected president on November 5, 1968. When he became president he developed a plan called the Nixon Doctrine. The Nixon Doctrine was also called Vietnamization. The Nixon Doctrine indicated that the US would help and assied its allies and friends but that each allied nation was in charge of its own security. The Doctrine called for the build up of the South Vietnam army so it could take over its own defense.

In 1970 American troops were first withdrawn from most areas of fighting and moved to non combat areas. As a result of this the casualties began to decline. In 1970 Nixon reduced the US troops to 265,500 and they were further reduced to 197,700 in 1971. A deadline was established to remove another 45,000 troops.The number of troops continued to decline through the War of the Flags. The War of Flags was a part of the Vietnam War that took place in early 1973, it was fought throughout South Vietnam. Both North and South Vietnam were fighting to maximise their territory before the ceasefire agreed through the Paris Peace Accords.

The South Vietnam Army made great territorial gains and caused significant loses to the North Vietnam Army. The fighting continued after the ceasefire date, but the Paris Peace Accords called for the US to stop all military activities and withdraw all remaining military personnel. However, some U.S. military advisors stayed with the South Vietnam army until the fall of Saigon in 1975. (Wikipedia)

The Vietnam war was a very expensive war in both financial and human cost. The War cost the U.S. an estimate amount of 168 billion dollars. This would be equivalent to around 950 billion dollars in 2011. (thevietnawar.info) This amount was estimated to be 10 times the amount of government support for all education spending in the U.S. and this caused a great amount of government debut. More than 3 million Americans served in the Vietnam War with about half seeing combat.

Over 58,000 American Soldiers died in the war and more than 150,000 were wounded. Around 86 percent of those killed were white, about 13 percent were black the remainder were other races.(Wikipedia) The U.S. soldiers are recognized in the Vietnam War Veterans Memorial Wall. The Memorial Wall was opened on November 13, 1982. The names of the casualties are listed in chronological order by the date of their death. The names begin and end at the Center of the Memorial. (nationalparks.org)

The U.S. first got involved in the War because it wanted to stop the spread of communism. President Kennedy increased the U.S. involvement as South Vietnam struggled with the Viet Cong and due to his belief that South Vietnam remaining a republic was important to avoiding the growth of communism. After President Johnson took office he escalated the U.S. involvement further by greatly increasing the amount of ground troops and approving large airstrikes.

A large scale surprise attack by North Vietnam called the Tet Offensive was a turning point of the U.S. participation in the War as the American public became more negative about the country’s involvement. Once President Nixon took office he started to reduce the number of American troops with almost all U.S. military participation ending after the signing of the Paris Peace Accords. The U.S. involvement in the War was largely thought of as a failure due to the big human and financial costs along with the limited success reducing the spread of communism in Vietnam.

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Role of the United States in Vietnam War. (2021, Mar 10). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/role-of-the-united-states-in-vietnam-war/

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