The Vietnam War

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The Vietnam War

Vietnam was a French colony for about 200 years until WWII.  The Japanese ousted the French.  After WWII a strong nationalist movement in Vietnam was moving toward independence with Ho Chi Min as its leader.  The French came back to resume as colonial masters.  An eight year war ensued between the French (with a puppet Vietnamese government) and the "Viet Min" who were the fighters under Ho chi Min.  Ho's forces surrounded and defeated the French in a culminating battle at a place called Den Ben Phu in 1954.  During the eight year war the U.S. supplied war materials to France.  The United Nations held peace talks and the country was divided in half, with Ho in the North with Hanoi as capital. Saigon was the capital of the South, which was backed by most western nations.  The agreement was that in two years there would be elections and the outcome would determine the government of the entire nation.  The elections were never conducted, but guerilla warfare began instead (Davidson, Gienapp, Heyrman, Lytle, & Stoff, 2006).

  The U.S. supported the South with money, materials and advisors both civil and military.  Of course it became apparent that Ho Chi Min was communist and was being supported by the Soviet Union and China.  When John F. Kennedy became president in January 1961 he made the commitment not to let South Vietnam fall to the communists.  Phase "the domino effect" became the buzz word that if South Vietnam went communist so would all of South East Asia (Davidson et al. 2006).

  Kennedy poured in more help and by 1963 when he was assassinated we had 16,000 advisors in the country.  President Lyndon Johnson took up Kennedy's policy in Vietnam and increased the assistance.  In 1964 an incident occurred in the Gulf of Tonkin (Vietnam) in which a U.S. Navy ship was supposedly attacked by a North Vietnam PT boat.  President Johnson got congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Act which gave him powers to do pretty much whatever he wanted.  In...