Vietnam is one of the most famous wars that America has taken place in. It is also considered by some to be the most controversial. Many say that America did not belong in the fight and that it was a waste of money, man-power, and time. Others say that it was important to show that the U.S. will not stand by and let a country or territory be taken in the wrong way. Vietnam lasted from 1959 to 1975.
It involved the North Vietnamese and the National Liberation Front or NLF. It also included the U.S. and the South Vietnamese forces. From about 1946 to 1945 the Vietnamese had struggled for independence from the French during the first Indochina War. When the war ended the country was split into two creating North and South Vietnam.
North Vietnam soon came under the control of Vietnamese Communists who really hated France and were looking to unite Vietnam under Communist rule. South Vietnam was controlled by Vietnamese leaders who favored the French. The reason that the U.S. entered the Vietnam War was fear of the “Domino Effect”. The Domino Effect is the term used to explain that if one country falls under Communist rule than soon after the countries in that area will soon fall also.
If Vietnam became a Communist state than it was likely that more could fall also. This is also why the U.S. supported South Vietnam. The U.S. didnt send troops in until 1965. They were sent in to keep the South Vietnamese government from collapsing but in the long run they eventually failed.
When Ngo Dinh Diem came into power he used very repressive measures. These measures led to growing organized opposition within South Vietnam. Another problem was that Diems government represented a small minority of Vietnamese who were mostly businessmen, Roman Catholics, large landowners, and others who were pro-French. At first the United States helped South Vietnam military advisors and financial assistance. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was what eventually gave President Linden B. Johnson permission to escalate the war in Vietnam.
President Johnson felt that he had to take a forceful stance on Vietnam so that other Communist countries wouldnt think that the United States “lacked resolve”. Johnson also believed that the key to success was to frighten North Vietnams leaders with the possibility of full-scale United States military intervention. In January of 1964 Johnson approved of top-secret, covert attacks against North Vietnam, including commando raids against bridges, railways, and coastal installations. After reports of North Vietnamese gunboats attacking United States NAVY war ships Johnson went on air to get approval from the public of an attack on Vietnam. Soon after Congress gave Johnson the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which gave him war-making powers until such time as “peace and security” had returned to Vietnam.
On March 8, 1965, 3500 U.S. Marine troops landed in da Nang. Soon after about 74,000 combat troops arrived. When some of the soldiers of the U.S. 9th Marine Regiment landed in da Nang in March 1965, their orders were to protect the U.S. air base, but the mission was quickly changed to include search-and-destroy patrols of the area around base.
This corresponded in miniature to the larger strategy of General William Westmoreland. Westmoreland, who took over the Military Assistance Command in Vietnam (NACV) in 1964, wanted to establish a large American force and then unleash it in big sweeps. This strategy was called attrition- eliminating or wearing down the enemy by inflicting the highest death toll possible. There were 80,000 U.S troops in Vietnam by the end of 1965, by 1969 there would be 534,000. The North Vietnamese and the NLF had anticipated the U.S. escalation.
With full-scale movement of U.S. troops onto South Vietnamese territory, the Communists claimed that the Saigon regime had become a puppet, not unlike the pro-French. Both the North Vietnamese and the NLF appealed to the nationalism of the Vietnamese to rise up and drive the U.S. forced out of Vietnam. The strategy against the United States was decided after alot of debate. Many argued that South Vietnam had to liberate themselves.
Others argued that Vietnam was one nation and therefore dependent on all Vietnamese for its dependence and reunification. After the United States initiated large scale bombings against the DRV in 1964, just after the Gulf of Tonkin incident, Hanoi dispatched the first unit of northern-born regular soldiers or “regulars”. Before this only southern-born Viet Minh, known as regroupees, had returned to their native regions and joined NLF guerilla units. Now regulars, who where led by generals that were born in the south, began to set up bases in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam in order to gain strategic position. Unable to move across the demilitarized zone, the regulars had moved to South Vietnam along the Ho Chi Minh trail through Laos and Cambodia.
The Ho Chi Minh trail had been set up in 1957 and was at first a series of footpaths. By the late 1960s it had become a network of paved highways that enabled the motor transport of people and equipment. The NLF guerillas and the North Vietnamese troops were poorly armed compared to the Americans, so once they were in South Vietnam they tried to avoid open combat. Instead the guerillas developed hit-and-run tactics designed to cause steady casualties among the U.S. troops and to wear down popular support for the war in the United States. In June 1964 retired general Maxwell Taylor replaced Henry Cabot Lodge as ambassador to South Vietnam.
Taylor at first opposed the introduction of combat troops, believing that this would make the South quit fighting altogether. By 1965 he agreed to the request of General Westmoreland for combat forces. At first Taylor wanted to use a different strategy where U.S. forces would seek to preserve areas already considered to be under Saigons control. This quickly proved impossible, since NLF strength was fairly strong pretty much everywhere in South Vietnam.
In October 1965 the 1st Calvary Division of the United States …