The Vietnam War was one of the worst wars in the United States history. The reason for the United States involvement was due to the start of communism in North Vietnam. The citizens in South Vietnam feared the control of North Vietnam and were worried that the north would take control of the south. The communist North Vietnam had support from the Soviet Union and China, making the South Vietnamese vulnerable to the north. In their time of struggle the South Vietnamese were able to receive aid from the United States. The North Vietnamese had set up a series of radar stations along bays and islands on the Gulf of Tonkin. On August 1, 1964 the U.S.S. Maddox was posted on a surveillance mission to study the North Vietnamese defenses in the Gulf area.
In early morning on August 2, 1964 the U.S.S. Maddox spotted three North Vietnamese patrol boats, located twenty- eight miles from the coast. The patrol boats were still in International waters, which meant that they had no right to patrol South Vietnam. Captain John Herrich of the Maddox ordered fire upon the three North Vietnamese patrol boats. The Maddox had assistance from the carrier U.S.S. Ticonderoga. The two ships managed to sink one of the patrol boats, while the other two boats bailed out. To this day government officials are still unsure whether the United States or the North Vietnamese fired first in the situation.
United Sates President Lyndon B. Johnson received word of the attack and ordered the Maddox to return to the Gulf of Tonkin and patrol for more action. The Maddox accompanied by the U.S.S. Turner Joy returned to the Gulf of Tonkin on August 4, 1964. While stationed in the Gulf the radar engineers on the destroyers thought that they saw an advancing enemy ship. While not certain of the approaching ship, the two destroyers fired into the darkness. The destroyers found no trace of a ship. President Johnson was convinced that the destroyers Maddox and Turner Joy had been attacked by the North Vietnamese and decided that the United States must react quickly.
Around midnight on August 4, 1964 American aircrafts began sixty-four sorties (one plane attacks) over North Vietnamese patrol boat bases and a major oil storage depot. During the sorties more than twenty Vietnamese vessels were destroyed, while the oil depot became an inferno of flame and smoke. The events that took place in the Gulf of Tonkin added to years of tension between the United States and North Vietnam.
United States Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy had spent millions of dollars to aid the non-communist South Vietnamese.Before 1964 thousands of American military advisers were training and assisting the South Vietnamese army. President Lyndon B. Johnson’s decision to bomb North Vietnam put the United States in the center of the longest war in the nations history. The Vietcong (North Vietnamese) grew more aggressive after the incident at the Gulf of Tonkin. On November 1964, they attacked the American base at Bien Hoa and destroyed five B-57 jets while damaging twenty more. Since the increase of tension with the Vietcong continued, draft calls had increased substantially in the United States and American casualties were being felt across the country.
On Christmas Eve 1964 the Vietcong set off a bomb in the Brinks Hotel located in Saigon. Two American officers were killed and fifty-eight were injured. Then on February 7, 1965 the Vietcong attacked the American fort near the town of Pleiku located In the mountains of South Vietnam, within hours American jets rained bombs on the North Vietnamese camps at Dong Hoi. Shortly after the attacks from the Vietcong, the United States launched a massive series of air strikes, which was called Operation Rolling Thunder.
On February 22, 1965 United States General William Westmoreland, who was in command of the U.S. military advisory forces, asked for two battalions of United States Marines to defend the American base at Da Nang. The U.S. Marines set foot on the beach at Da Nang on March 8, 1965, ready to do battle with the Vietcong. It was the first time the Marines set foot in Asia since the Korean War. More U.S. troops entered Vietnam each week, by December there were over two hundred thousand. The United States had a plan of heavy bombing from its B-52 jets and to run search and destroy missions throughout the jungles and villages of South Vietnam.
The Vietcong depended on Guerrilla warfare by using its jungles and setting traps for the U.S. soldiers in the foreign territory. In March 1965 the U.S. B-52 bombers dumped tons of explosives on North Vietnam, they used Napalm as a key explosive. In June, the U.S. made 4,800 attacks on the North Vietnamese targets. Before early 1967 the United States bombers flew twelve thousand bombing missions per month on various targets. During Operation Rolling Thunder the United Sates dropped more bombs on North Vietnam than it did on Europe during all of World War II. The United States hoped the raids would destroy North Vietnamese supplies, however the Vietcong needed little supplies for their Guerrilla warfare. The United States would later learn that the raids would be useless against the Vietcong. During all of the bombing raids the Vietcong soldiers were living in the mountains. They survived on rice and slept on the ground, not needing the luxuries like the United States.
The U.S. had everything money and modern technology could offer. The soldiers carried fully automatic M-16 rifles. The air swarmed with helicopters, fighter planes, and bombers. The U.S. had destroyers, tankers, and patrol boats along all of the water routes. They were supplied with medicines, surgical equipment, packaged food, and other necessities. On average one U.S. soldier had one hundred pounds of supplies given to them each day, while the Vietcong had nothing.
The United States transformed South Vietnam with roads, bridges, airstrips, etc. Cafes were turned into part places, while the women turned to prostitution for money. Fishing ports were turned into deep harbors for U.S. warships.
Even with all of the money that the United Sates put into the war, it proved to be useless. The Vietcong needed none of it and were ready to shut down the United Sates and proved that they could.