Explain why the United States became increasingly involved in Vietnam
The Vietnam War went on for 10years from 1965 to 1975. There were many casualties on both sides but in the end the Vietcong won the war against the USA. The USA got increasingly involved in the war over Vietnam and this was for a number of reasons. This ranges from a major fear of communism in the long term and a fear of communist takeover as well as some trigger reasons for instance the assassination of Diem.
In the 1880’s Vietnam became part of the French empire and was renamed French-Indo China. In 1941 however Japan invaded but Ho Chi Minh led the resistance against France and Japan. Over the next 8 years there was the French Vietnamese war but after long peace talks Vietnam divided into North and South. The south was supported by the USA. Diem became the prime minister of the South and refused to hold elections for a new leader whereas the communist leader Ho Chi Minh ran the North.
There are a number of reasons why the USA became more increasingly involved in the Vietnam War and some of these reasons existed for a long time making these the long-term reasons for increasing involvement in the war. The first of these is the Cold War. This was a battle between communism and capitalism and the biggest countries that represented these views, capitalist USA and communist USSR. After World War 2 USA was very anti communist and the USSR became very anti capitalist. The president of the USA then decided that any country in need of help and was under the threat of communism would get this help from the USA. This was known as the Truman Doctrine, Martial aid would also be given to these countries to encourage them away from communism. The USSR did the opposite of this and said that they would help any country that wanted to make a communist takeover. Therefore the USSR supported North Vietnam and the USA supported the capitalist south. In Europe the iron curtain had been set up to stop the influence of communism spreading into Western Europe. The USA would also use this tactic known as containment to stop the spread of communism in Asia and so this is how the Cold War became a major long-term reason into why the USA became increasingly involved in Vietnam. Another major long-term reason linking to this was the great fear of communism in the USA. The USA feared a communist spread reaching America and didn’t want this to happen, as it would take away their wealth and industry. The USA then became obsessed with stopping communism spreading and during the 1950’s had many anti communist policies. SEATO was formed in Asia to stop communism spreading and in the past the USA had fought in Korea for the South against the capitalist North and China and lost 30, 000 men. The USA then thought that Vietnam were in the same situation and so decided to help Southern Vietnam which makes it a long term reason why the USA became more increasingly involved in Vietnam. Again linking to this fear of communism brings in the domino theory created by the USA foreign minister Dulles that was that if one eastern country was taken over by communists then its neighbouring countries would also fall like dominoes. Many people however disagreed with this theory as China, the largest of all dominoes, had fallen without affecting its neighbouring countries at all. However this is still a major reason for increased USA involvement in the long term in Vietnam as the USA didn’t want the domino theory to work in Asia and communist spread had to be stopped. The final major long-term reason for more involvement was the increased sending in of advisors and communists on both borders. The USA started sending in more military advisors to the south to give them support and tactics against the north. The north was determined to conquer the whole of Vietnam and so began to recruit more Vietnamese people to the Vietcong. In 1961 there were 20,000 Vietcong soldiers but by 1964 this number increased to 100,000. This increase led to the USA becoming more involved by sending more advisors. From 685 in 1961 there were 16,000 by 1963. This therefore led to the USA becoming more involved because more military officers were sent to Vietnam thus making the USA increasingly involved in the Vietnam War. All these reasons are linked together because they are all to do with communism and are long-term reasons. Without the differences in views between capitalists and communists and the USA’s major fear of communism and its spread then the USA wouldn’t have got involved at all. All these reasons are to do with either the spread of communism to America or across other continents that the USA didn’t want. This means that the long-term reasons are all linked with communism and a fear of it spreading throughout the world.
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Along with these long-term reasons there are various short-term or trigger reasons for an increased USA involvement. One of these short-term reasons was the build up of the Vietcong. This links back to the long-term reason of the USA sending in more advisors. The VC increased from 20,000 to 100,000 as stated above as more and more Vietnamese people were persuaded to join the VC. To combat this more advisors were send in from the USA but they weren’t properly trained to fight with Guerrilla tactics as the VC were. This build up of soldiers was a trigger factor which made the USA react and become more involved and send in more soldiers which makes it a short-term reason why the USA became more involved in Vietnam. Another trigger reason for the increased involvement in the war was the events of the gulf of Tongking. After these events US planes attacked North Vietnam bases and the government took a more aggressive policy. This was ordered because of the events of the gulf of Tongking. A USA destroyer clashed with the North Vietnamese army but this incident was greatly over exaggerated by the USA. President Johnson then used this as an excuse to become more involved in the war and retaliate. He then sank their torpedo vessels and ordered the planes to attack. Historians see this incident as an excuse for the USA to become more involved in the Vietnam War and they did so by using the gulf of Tongking to do this. Another reason for this increased US involvement was the assassination of Diem. He was unpopular because of his unfairness and wasn’t strong enough to lead against the north. In 1963 the Southern army (ARVN) assassinated him. The South was in chaos under Diem and the USA knew they needed help to overcome communism but were reluctant to support Diem because of what he was doing to the Vietnamese people. They didn’t want to lose the support of the USA so assassinated Diem which led to increased USA involvement as Diem was no longer leader of South Vietnam. The final trigger reason was the burning monk. Diem was to blame. He was weak and intolerant. He favoured Catholics over Buddhists and angered them by not letting them fly flags on Buddha’s birthday. In protest to this treatment a monk burned himself to death and provoked protest worldwide with the US president being particularly affected. The USA could then see that a new leader was needed to stop communist takeover and this made the USA become increasingly involved for this reason. These short term factors are linked as they are all trigger reasons that sparked the start of war and increased USA involvement. They led to the USA becoming more and more involved up to a point where the choice was leave and let communists takeover or fight for capitalism.
Overall this was a war that was long and drawn out and cost both sides millions of lives and pounds. I believe that the USA fears of communism were the biggest reason for further USA involvement and that all the other reasons stem from this. Without this fear of communism I believe the USA would have stayed well away from this dispute but because of their obsession with the stopping of communism they felt obliged to become more and more involved in the Vietnam War as they did.