Vietnam is a country in south-east Asia. There were a number of long-term and short-term reasons to explain why the USA became involved in Vietnam in the late 1950s.
Reason one - Vietnamese independence
Before World War Two Vietnam had been part of the French Empire.
During World War Two it had been invaded by Japan. Ho Chi Minh was the leader of the Vietminh, a resistance army which fought for Vietnamese independence.
After World War Two Ho Chi Minh captured Hanoi in 1945 and declared Vietnam independent. The French tried to take control again, but this was unpopular with the people. They were defeated by the Vietminh at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.
Peace was discussed at Geneva in 1954 and the Treaty of Geneva agreed that the French would leave Vietnam and the country would be split along the 17th Parallel until elections could be held.
The elections were never held and the country remained divided:
- North Vietnam was a communist republic led by Ho Chi Minh.
- South Vietnam was a capitalist republic led by Ngo Dinh Diem.
Reason two - Civil war
Ho Chi Minh
The Vietminh wanted to unite the country under communist leader Ho Chi Minh. Many of the South Vietnamese people supported Ho Chi Minh as they were unhappy with Ngo Dinh Diem.
War broke out between the North and South. From 1958 onwards, the South came under increasing attacks from communists in South Vietnam itself. They were called the National Liberation Front (NLF).
Reason three - The Domino Theory
This was the belief that if one country fell to communism, it was likely that the neighbouring one would also fall – similar to a row of dominoes falling over. This had happened in Eastern Europe after 1945. China had become communist in 1949 and communists were in control of North Vietnam.
The USA was afraid that communism would spread to South Vietnam and then the rest of Asia. It decided to send money, supplies and military advisers to help the South Vietnamese Government.
Reason four - The weak South Vietnamese Government
Diem was a corrupt leader who refused to give peasants land. He did not like Buddhism and treated the mainly Buddhist population badly. As a result, much of South Vietnam’s population was rebelling against him. The peasants wanted communism and supported the Vietminh and the NLF.
In 1963, President John F Kennedy sent 16,000 military ‘advisers’ to help the South Vietnamese army. Diem’s Government was overthrown. After this, there was no strong capitalist government in control of the South.
Reason five - The Gulf of Tonkin Incident 1964
On 2nd August 1964, North Vietnamese boats attacked a US Navy destroyer, the USS Maddox, patrolling in the Gulf of Tonkin.
Another attack on the Maddox was reported to have taken place on 4th August. Weather coditions were poor and there was doubt as to whether a real attack had taken place.
However in Washington the attack was presented as a fact and the incident gave the USA the excuse it needed to escalate the war.
US Secretary of Defence, Robert McNamara, withheld information about US support of South Vietnamese raids on North Vietnamese radar stations and other targets in the period leading up to the attack. Other evidence that suggested the second attack had not occurred was not passed on to the US Congress.
Gulf of Tonkin Resolution - US Congress gave President Lyndon Johnson permission to wage war on North Vietnam. The first major contingent of US Marines arrived in 1965.
For the next ten years the USA's involvement increased. By 1968 over half a million American troops were in Vietnam and the war was costing $77 billion a year.
What were the reasons for US involvement in the Vietnam War explain your answer? ›
China had become communist in 1949 and communists were in control of North Vietnam. The USA was afraid that communism would spread to South Vietnam and then the rest of Asia. It decided to send money, supplies and military advisers to help the South Vietnamese Government.What were the reasons for US involvement in the Vietnam War quizlet? ›
The United States entered the war to prevent the spread of communism. North Vietnam was communist and wanted to make North Vietnam and South Vietnam one country. The United States entered this war prevent the spread of communism over South- East Asia.What were the 3 main causes of the Vietnam War? ›
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November 1, 1955 — President Eisenhower deploys the Military Assistance Advisory Group to train the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. This marks the official beginning of American involvement in the war as recognized by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.What were the main reasons the US involvement in the war? ›
What were the main reasons for U. S. involvement in the war? The main reasons the US got involved in the war was because of nationalism, imperialism, militarism, and forming allies.What was America's initial involvement in Vietnam quizlet? ›
What was America's initial involvement in Vietnam? provided aid to the nationalist coalition, the Vietminh.What were some major turning points in the Vietnam conflict? ›
On January 30, 1968, North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops launched the Tet Offensive against South Vietnamese and United States targets. The Tet Offensive became a major turning point in the Vietnam War.What are the three most important reasons why America lost the war in Vietnam? ›
- Ambiguous Aims & Objectives of the War. ...
- Lack of Consistency in Policy Formulation. ...
- Terrain. ...
- Public Support for Vietcong. ...
- Support of China. ...
- Lack of understanding of Political Dynamics. ...
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- Dwindling Domestic Public Support.
What was the Vietnam War short summary? ›
The Vietnam War was a long, costly and divisive conflict that pitted the communist government of North Vietnam against South Vietnam and its principal ally, the United States. The conflict was intensified by the ongoing Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.What event caused the U.S to take a more active role in Vietnam? ›
The assassination in 1963 of South Vietnam's dictator, Ngo Dinh Diem, created anarchy that led to rising U.S. involvement – starting with advisers under President Kennedy, then turning to bombing and ultimately large-scale ground forces under Johnson.What was the impact of U.S involvement in Vietnam? ›
The Vietnam War severely damaged the U.S. economy. Unwilling to raise taxes to pay for the war, President Johnson unleashed a cycle of inflation. The war also weakened U.S. military morale and undermined, for a time, the U.S. commitment to internationalism.What events led to the American involvement in Vietnam quizlet? ›
What events led to the American involvement in Vietnam? The United States supported Diem even though he was unpopular; they sent in military supplies and advisors to help the South Vietnamese; after a U.S. ship was attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin, the president was authorized to commit ground troops.What reasons might a person have had to avoid using US military forces in Vietnam? ›
What reasons might a person have had to avoid using US military forces in Vietnam? Using US forces would go against the idea that the Vietnamese people should be free to pick their own leadership and form of government. Conflict would cost the United States in lives, money, and moral authority.Why did many American people not approve of the Vietnam War? ›
Many Americans opposed the war on moral grounds, appalled by the devastation and violence of the war. Others claimed the conflict was a war against Vietnamese independence, or an intervention in a foreign civil war; others opposed it because they felt it lacked clear objectives and appeared to be unwinnable.How did American involvement contribute to the end of World War I? ›
The entry of the United States was the turning point of the war, because it made the eventual defeat of Germany possible. It had been foreseen in 1916 that if the United States went to war, the Allies' military effort against Germany would be upheld by U.S. supplies and by enormous extensions of credit.What was America's involvement in Vietnam War? ›
Over the course of the Vietnam War, U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard units trained and assisted South Vietnamese forces; located and destroyed North Vietnamese troops and supply routes; conducted ground operations against the Việt Cộng; patrolled rivers and canals; mined North Vietnamese ports; ...Did the U.S. get involved in the Vietnam War? ›
During Johnson's presidency, the U.S. escalated its war in Vietnam, starting with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in which Congress authorized Johnson to use military force without declaring war. In March 1965, U.S. Marines landed at Danang.Who brought the U.S. into the Vietnam War? ›
Johnson. Recognizing that the South Vietnamese government and army were on the verge of collapse, Johnson sent the first U.S. combat troops into battle in early 1965. He simultaneously authorized a massive bombing campaign, codenamed Operation Rolling Thunder, that would continue unabated for years.
Why did American soldiers begin to question US involvement in the war? ›
Why did American soldiers begin to question U.S. involvement in the war? American soldiers thought many South Vietnamese were indifferent toward their own nation.Who did the US support in the Vietnam War? ›
It was the second of the Indochina Wars and was officially fought between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. The north was supported by the Soviet Union, China, and other communist states, while the south was supported by the United States and other anti-communist allies.How did the US involvement in Vietnam connect to the Cold War? ›
During the Cold War, the U.S. Government feared that communism would spread and threaten democracy around the world. In Vietnam, the United States committed to battling communism financially at first, by supporting South Vietnam – who fought for Vietnam to be aligned with western allies like the United States.What was the main reason for US involvement in the war? ›
On April 2, President Wilson asked Congress to declare war against Germany specifically citing Germany's renewed submarine policy as “a war against mankind. It is a war against all nations.” He also spoke about German spying inside the U.S. and the treachery of the Zimmermann Telegram.What was America's involvement in the Vietnam War? ›
The United States committed some 550,000 troops to the Vietnam front at the height of the conflict, suffered more than 58,000 casualties, and engaged in battle after battle with communist forces in the region until its withdrawal in 1973.What events led to American involvement in the war? ›
- The Stamp Act (March 1765)
- The Townshend Acts (June-July 1767)
- The Boston Massacre (March 1770)
- The Boston Tea Party (December 1773)
- The Coercive Acts (March-June 1774)
- Lexington and Concord (April 1775)
- British attacks on coastal towns (October 1775-January 1776)
The US justified its military intervention in Vietnam by the domino theory, which stated that if one country fell under the influence of Communism, the surrounding countries would inevitably follow. The aim was to prevent Communist domination of South-East Asia. In 1961, President John F.How did ordinary Americans feel about continued US involvement in the war in Vietnam? ›
Most Americans initially supported US involvement in the war but by the late 1960s it had become unpopular, with many Americans protesting the war for political and moral reasons.How did the US become allies with Vietnam? ›
The U.S. and Vietnam signed a Bilateral Trade Agreement in July 2000, which went into force in December 2001. In 2003, the two countries signed a Counternarcotics Letter of Agreement (amended in 2006), a Civil Aviation Agreement, and a textile agreement.Did Americans support the Vietnam War? ›
Despite the growing antiwar movement, a silent majority of Americans still supported the Vietnam effort. Many admitted that involvement was a mistake, but military defeat was unthinkable.
How did the Vietnam War change history? ›
The Vietnam War had far-reaching consequences for the United States. It led Congress to replace the military draft with an all-volunteer force and the country to reduce the voting age to 18.Was the United States main goal in Vietnam? ›
The United States' main goal in Vietnam was to prevent a communist takeover of the entire nation. During the Cold War, the U.S. and its allies positioned themselves as opponents of the communist governments of the Soviet Union and China, declaring that it would do whatever it took to stop the spread of communism.What was the largest extent of American involvement in Vietnam? ›
U.S. troop numbers peaked in 1968 with President Johnson approving an increased maximum number of U.S. troops in Vietnam at 549,500. The year was the most expensive in the Vietnam War with the American spending US$77.4 billion (US$ 603 billion in 2023) on the war.