Th? Unit?d Stat?s’ Cold
War for?ign policy b?gan to play a major part in Vi?tnam. U.S. policy at th?
tim? was dominat?d by th? domino
th?ory, which b?li?v?d that th? “fall” of North Vi?tnam to Communism
might trigg?r all of South?ast Asia to fall, s?tting off a sort of Communist
chain r?action. Within a y?ar of th? G?n?va Accords, th? Unit?d Stat?s th?r?for?
b?gan to off?r support to th? anti-Communist politician Ngo Dinh Di?m. With U.S.
assistanc?, Di?m took control of th? South Vi?tnam?s? gov?rnm?nt in 1955, d?clar?d th? R?public
of Vi?tnam, and
promptly canc?l?d th? ?l?ctions that had b??n sch?dul?d for 1956.
Di?m’s r?gim? prov?d
corrupt, oppr?ssiv?, and ?xtr?m?ly unpopular. Non?th?l?ss, th? Unit?d Stat?s
continu?d to prop it up, f?arful of th? incr?asing Communist r?sistanc?
activity it not?d in South Vi?tnam. This r?sistanc? against Di?m’s r?gim? was
organiz?d by th? Ho Chi Minh commonly known as th? Vi?t Cong.In 1962, U.S. pr?sid?nt John F. K?nn?dy s?nt Am?rican
“military advisors” to Vi?tnam to h?lp train th? South Vi?tnam?s? army, th? ARVN, but quickly r?aliz?d that
th? Di?m r?gim? was unsalvag?abl?. Th?r?for?, in 1963, th? Unit?d Stat?s
back?d a coup that ov?rthr?w Di?m and install?d a n?w l?ad?r. Th? n?w U.S.-back?d
l?ad?rs prov?d just as corrupt and in?ff?ctiv?.
K?nn?dy’s succ?ssor, Lyndon B. Johnson, pl?dg?d to
honor K?nn?dy’s commitm?nts but hop?d to k??p U.S. involv?m?nt in Vi?tnam to a
minimum. Aft?r North Vi?tnam?s? forc?s all?g?dly attack?d U.S. Navy ships in th? Gulf of Tonkin in 1964, how?v?r, Johnson was giv?n cart? blanch? in th? form
of th? Gulf of Tonkin R?solution and
b?gan to s?nd U.S. troops to Vi?tnam. Bombing campaigns such as 1965’s Op?ration
Rolling Thund?r ?nsu?d, and th? conflict ?scalat?d. Johnson’s “Am?ricanization” of th? war
l?d to a pr?s?nc? of n?arly 400,000 U.S. troops in Vi?tnam by th? ?nd of 1966.
As th? Unit?d Stat?s b?cam?
incr?asingly mir?d in Vi?tnam, it pursu?d a strat?gy of attrition, att?mpting to bury th?
Vi?tnam?s? Communist forc?s und?r an avalanch? of casualti?s. How?v?r, th? Vi?t
Cong’s gu?rrilla tactics frustrat?d
and d?moraliz?d U.S. troops, whil? its disp?rs?d, larg?ly rural pr?s?nc? l?ft
Am?rican bomb?r plan?s with f?w targ?ts. Th? Unit?d Stat?s th?r?for? us?d
unconv?ntional w?apons such as napalm and
th? h?rbicid? d?foliant Ag?nt
Orang? but still manag?d to mak? littl? h?adway.
In 1968, th? North Vi?tnam?s? Army and th? Vi?t Cong launch?d
a massiv? campaign call?d th? T?t
Off?nsiv?, attacking n?arly thirty U.S. targ?ts and doz?ns of oth?r citi?s
in South Vi?tnam at onc?. Although th? Unit?d Stat?s push?d back th? off?nsiv?
and won a tactical victory, Am?rican m?dia cov?rag? charact?riz?d th? conflict
as a d?f?at, and U.S. public support for th? war plumm?t?d. Moral? among U.S.
troops also hit an all-tim? low, manif?sting its?lf tragically in th? 1968 My
Lai Massacr?, in which frustrat?d U.S. soldi?rs kill?d hundr?ds of unarm?d
Vi?tnam?s? civilians in a small villag?.
M?anwhil?, th? antiwar mov?m?nt within th?
Unit?d Stat?s gain?d mom?ntum as stud?nt
prot?st?rs, count?rcultural hippi?s,
and ?v?n many mainstr?am Am?ricans d?nounc?d th? war. Prot?sts against th? war
and th? military draft gr?w
incr?asingly viol?nt, r?sulting in polic? brutality outsid? th? D?mocratic National Conv?ntion in 1968 and th? d?aths of four stud?nts at K?nt Stat? Univ?rsity in 1970 wh?n Ohio National Guardsm?n fir?d on a crowd. D?spit?