Explain how the USA became involved in Vietnam and why the US Army experienced problems in Vietnam by 1968.
The USA was interested in Vietnam long before the Vietnam War broke out, due to the 1947 Truman Doctrine. After China fell to communism in 1949 and signed a Friendship Treaty with the USSR in 1950, the Americans were gravely concerned about communism in Asia. Vietnam had been part of the French empire of Indo-China until the communist Ho Chi Minh attempted to seize control. France were defeated at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and Vietnam was divided along the 17th Parallel, despite $1.4 billion of US support. North Vietnam was led by Ho Chi Minh and was communist. South Vietnam was led by Diem and was capitalist. The Americans feared that the Dominion Theory would become a reality – they were concerned that countries such as Laos and Japan would be the next to fall. In the words of General MacArthur, “Asia is where the communists are making their play for world domination.”
Therefore the USA got increasingly involved between 1954 and 1965. The capitalist South Vietnam faced trouble from Communist guerrillas called the Viet Cong, who were led by Ho Chi Minh and wanted a united communist Vietnam. The USA initially sent more than $3 billion of financial aid and by 1960 there were over 16,000 American advisors in South Vietnam. However, Diem was very unpopular and, as a Catholic, was very out of touch with his mostly Buddhist population. In November 1963 he was assassinated. At this stage the Viet Cong controlled over 60% of the South.