As with every other war, there were many factors as to why the United States would become involved in the conflict in Vietnam, ranging from preventing the spread of communism, to possible economic benefits. The United States’ involvement would be “[incremental], in a series of steps between 1950 and 1965,” (Rotter) as opposed to an immediate action. The first steps towards the beginning of the war happened in 1950. President Truman “authorized a modest program of economic and military aid to the French, who were fighting to retain control of their Indochina colony, including Laos and Cambodia as well as Vietnam.” (Rotter) The French would be unsuccessful and would lose to the Vietnamese Nationalist Vietminh Army at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, leading to the French agreeing to a communist North Vietnam, with there being a border between the non-communist South and the communist North.
At this point, the United States would begin to take more aggressive steps in the conflict, now that communism was involved. Under the leadership of President Eisenhower, the United States would become highly involved in South Vietnam. With Eisenhower, “the United States hardened its policies against any allies of the Soviet Union, and by 1955 President Dwight D. Eisenhower had pledged his firm support to Diem and South Vietnam.” (History.com) As a result of this pledge, there was increased training of a South Vietnamese army and increased presence of the United States CIA operating in Vietnam.
The United States’ involvement with the South Vietnamese was friendly, with President Kennedy furthering bonds by sending “400 Special Operations Forces-trained (Green Beret) soldiers to teach the South Vietnamese how to fight what was called counterinsurgency war against Communist guerrillas in South Vietnam.” (Rotter) Due to his increased participation in aiding the South Vietnamese, by the time he was assassinated “there were more than 16,000 U.S. military advisers in South Vietnam, and more than 100 Americans had been killed.” (Rotter)
The conflict in Vietnam would reach a climax “after the United States Congress approves the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution on August 7, 1964, allowing the use of “conventional military force” in Vietnam without a formal declaration of war.” (ABC World Culture) Following “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.” (Rotter) By this point, the war was already set to begin, and thousands of additional US soldiers would be deployed to Vietnam, following the initial boots-on-the-ground. The combination of factors leading up to the war, which included the risk of the spread of communism, the desire that the war’s outcome would benefit non-Communist nations economically, and the French’s need of aid were all causes as to why the war in Vietnam would begin.
The war’s impact would continue to be felt years afterward, and was majorly significant in changing the way in which war was seen worldwide. Vietnam would unify after the war as a result of the fall of Saigon and the United States pulling out, changing South-East Asia in a way still present today. The people and terrain of Vietnam remain scarred, as “in eight years of warfare, an estimated 2 million Vietnamese died, while 3 million were wounded and another 12 million became refugees,” (History.com) and the war “decimated the country’s infrastructure and economy, and reconstruction proceeded slowly.” (History.com) The war would involve many countries, including France, Vietnam, the US, Australia, New Zealand, China, and Russia, and would be a major factor in the ever-present tension between the non-Communist powers and the Communist ones.
History.com Staff. “Vietnam War History.” History.com, A+E Networks, 2009, www.history.com/topics/vietnam-war/vietnam-war-history. Accessed 4 June 2017.
Rotter, Andrew J. “The Causes of the Vietnam War.” Modern American Poetry, 1999, www.english.illinois.edu/maps/vietnam/causes.htm. Accessed 4 June 2017.
“Vietnam: Historical Timeline.” ABC World Culture, World Trade Press. Accessed 4 June 2017.