You all know that the United States was involved in a major military conflict in Vietnam during the Cold War ... but why? What was America's "path to war"? Using the resources below and Creating America, your task this evening is to write a description in YOUR OWN WORDS of the causes of American involvement in Southeast Asia. Pretend you are writing it as a summary for on online encyclopedia or textbook. Your description should ...
  • be between two and four complete, well written paragraphs
  • contain the following terms - France, Ho Chi Minh, communism, Ngo Dinh Diem, military advisors, Gulf of Tonkin, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Rolling Thunder
  • be IN YOUR OWN WORDS (remember, it's easy to check this online)
  • contain two images THAT RELATE TO YOUR WRITING
  • Should end with the first Marines landing in Vietnam in 1965

Troops from Vietnam occupied the command post in France 1954. There was a huge battle over this between the French and the Vietnamese, and both suffered HUGE loses, but Vietnam came out victorious. This lose crushed France's idea of winning the war themselves in Vietnam. After this battle, a peace conference was held in Switzerland. There, they decided to draw the 17th parallel in Vietnam. France was to move south to withdraw, and Viet Minh was to move north. Then, there was to be an election to choose what kind of government would rule over Vietnam. Ngo Dinh Diem was the leader of the north, and Ho Chi Minh was the communist leader of the south. They were both running to be elected, but Diem was afraid that Minh's growing popularity would end up with a communist government in Vietnam, so he cancelled the election that was scheduled for 1956. The US supported Diem, but since the election was stopped and the peace accord was broken, the Viet Minh made the decision to go back to war to reunite the country. Diem asked for our help, and he got it. In 1960, Eisenhower sent 900 military advisees to Vietnam, and by 1962, Kennedy had boosted the numbers to 11,000. The Viet Cong guerilla fighters attacked from both sides of the 17th parallel and later in the war, Diem was killed.

The assassination of President Diem brought chaos to South Vietnam. One leader ran the government after another. Lyndon Johnson did not want to lose Vietnam to communism. He increased U.S. efforts in Vietnam by doing this. Johnson's military advisors planed to bomb North Vietnam to pressure Ho Chi Minh to stop supporting in the Viet Cong, but no bombing could start unless Congress approved the plan. A shooting incident off the coast of North Vietnam gave Congress its approval. Despite doubts about the second attack, Johnson asked Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. This gave the president the power to use military force in Vietnam. Johnson began shooting in March of 1965. At the same time he sent the first combat ground troops to Vietnam, the number grew to 184,000 by the end. The military involvement continued over the next few years. General William Westmoreland asked for more troops. By the end there were over 536,00 Americans in South Vietnam.
Americans thought U.S. ground forces would quickly defeat the Viet Cong and drive then out of the villages. Conditions frustrated Americans. They could wage only a limited war somewhat because the government feared drawing China into the conflict. Most of the soldiers were young and inexperienced. The average age was about 19 and served a one-year tour of duty. Officers served about six months meaning that by the time soldiers and officers had gained enough experience their tours and duty were over. The Vietnam war differed from WWII. There were no frontline. The soldiers were mixed, there might even have been a boy from a city street corner. The fighting was also different. They could not match American firepower. The heat was suffocating and it was raining almost constantly. The Viet Cong was a very dedicated enemy. They would lose and get back up, they believed in the cause.

Need some help? How about ...
Creating America
This cool animation
Into Vietnam (Overview) from ABC-CLIO
Timeline of the Vietnam War
Vietnam Online Timeline
Causes of the Vietnam War video below


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