Vietnam War I. (7x foto)
Vietnam War II. (7x foto)
Vietnam War III. (6x foto)
Vietnam War IV. (7x foto)
Vietnam War V. (7x foto)
Vietnam War VI. (7x foto)

Vietnam War I.

Although the Cold War was the dominant feature of the post-1945 world, another momentous change in the international system took place concurrently: the end of Europe's five-century-long domination of the non-European world. Some one hundred new sovereign states emerged from the wreckage of European colonialism, and Cold War competition was promptly extended to many of these newstates.

The Vietnam War was the legacy of France's failure to suppress nationalist forces in Indochina as it struggled to restore its colonial dominion after World War II. Led by Ho Chi Minh, a Communist-dominated revolutionary movement-the Viet Minh-waged a political and military struggle for Vietnamese independence that frustrated the efforts of the French and resulted ultimately in their ouster from the region. Vietnam had gained its independence from France in 1954. The country was divided into North and South. The North had a communist government led by Ho Chi Minh. The South had an anti-communist government led by Ngo Dinh Diem.

The Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War in 1949 and Chinese intervention against the United Nations in Korea made U.S.-China policy a captive of Cold War politics. Those events also helped to transform American anti-colonialism into support for the French protectorates in Indochina, and later for their non-Communist successors. American political and military leaders viewed the Vietnam War as the Chinese doctrine of revolutionary warfare in action (using Chinese and Soviet arms, to boot).

The overarching geopolitical aim behind the United States' involvement in Vietnam was to contain the spread of communism in Southeast Asia. To accomplish this aim, the United States supported an anti-communist regime known as the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) in its fight against a communist take-over. South Vietnam faced a serious, dual-tracked threat: a communist-led revolutionary insurgency within its own borders and the military power of its communist neighbor and rival, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam). Preventing South Vietnam from falling to the communists ultimately led the United States to fight a major regional war in Southeast Asia.

The North Vietnamese regime, which received outside assistance from the communist great powers, the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China, proved a formidable adversary. Whether the United States should have heavily committed itself militarily to contain communism in South Vietnam remains a hotly debated topic. The debate is closely related to the controversy over whether the problems in Southeast Asia were primarily political and economic rather than military. The United States strategy generally proceeded from the premise that the essence of the problem in Vietnam was military, with efforts to "win the hearts and minds" of the South Vietnamese populace taking second place.

To frustrate North Vietnamese and Viet Cong efforts, and in part to "contain" China, the United States eventually fielded an army of over 500,000 men and engaged in extensive air and naval warfare against North Vietnam. The American military effort provoked stiff domestic and international opposition, led to strained civil-military relations at home, and called into question many of the assumptions that had dominated US foreign and military policy since 1945, but failed to compel the enemy to do its will. In short, America's strategic culture was fundamentally altered in the jungles of Indochina.

Allied forces in South Vietnam were never organized into a single combined command, but at lower levels many combined operations were conducted, with varying degrees of success. The war also demonstrated the advantages (and especially disadvantages) of tight operational control by the President, the National Security Council and the Department of Defense in Washington.

US involvement in Vietnam began during the administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961), which sent US military to South Vietnam. Their numbers increased as the military position the Saigon government became weaker. In 1957 Communist rebels -- Viet Cong -- began a campaign of terrorism in South Vietnam. They were supported by the government of North Vietnam and later by North Vietnamese troops. Their goal was to overthrow the anti-communist government in the South.

John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) decided to commit American support troops to South Vietnam. Four thousand troops were sent in 1962. There has been an endless debate about what he would have done in Vietnam. He of course, did escalate American involvement by expanding the number of advisors there from 15,000 to 16,000. But there is evidence is there that he would not have Americanized the war to the extent that Lyndon Johnson did. He was skeptical of the military. He feared that the US could get bogged down in Vietnam. He had Secretary of Defense McNamara in 1962 to lay out plans for American withdrawal by 1965.

On the day he left for Dallas Texas in 1963, he asked his policy advisor Mike Forrestall to lay plans for a full discussion of Vietnam including a full discussion on getting the United States out of there. In the fall of 1963, American efforts to build a democratic bulwark against communism in South Vietnam were failing. President Kennedy struggled to get the Diem government and a communist insurgency--under control. On November 3, 1963 Ngo Dinh Diem died at the hands of his generals. Less than two weeks after President Diem's death, President Kennedy was assassinated.
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