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How did we get involved in the Vietnam War? Why do you think the American public was so against the war?

Oct 21st, 2017

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Why did the US get involved?

1. Containment

  • China had fallen to communism in 1949, and America had fought in Korea in 1950-53 to contain the spread of communism.
  • The US president, Lyndon B. Johnson, said: "I am not going to be the president who saw South-East Asia go the way China went."

2. Domino theory

  • Americans believed that, if South Vietnam fell, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand - and then Burma and India - would follow.
  • President Johnson said: "If you let a bully come into your garden, the next day he'll be in your porch, and the day after that he'll rape your wife."

3. ARVN's weakness

  • It was obvious the South Vietnamese could not resist communist infiltration by the Vietcong without help.
  • In 1963, the American commander reported that the ARVN - the South Vietnamese army - were "ill-equipped local militia who more often than not were killed asleep in their defensive positions."
  • US advisers believed that good government and an efficient, large-scale war would defeat the Vietcong.

4. The US was attacked

  • The North Vietnamese had attacked the USS Maddox in August 1964, and then killed US soldiers in February 1965.
  • Johnson became convinced that action in South Vietnam alone would never win the war: "We are swatting flies when we should be going after the manure pile."

Why do you think the American public was so against the war?

Protests against the Vietnam War did not start when America declared her open involvement in the war in 1964. America rallied to the call of the commander-in-chief and after the Gulf of Tonkin incident it became very apparent that few would raise protests against the decision to militarily support South Vietnam. America had been through nearly twenty years of the Cold War and they were told by the government that what was happening in South Vietnam would happen elsewhere (the Domino Theory) unless America used her military might to stop it. Involvement in the Vietnam War was very much sold as a patriotic venture so few were prepared to protest. If there was to be a political protest, it never became apparent in Congress where the entire House voted to support Johnson and only two Senators voted against US involvement. 

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Jul 21st, 2015

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