Believing that communist aggression in South Vietnam could lead to takeover of South East Asia, the United States slowly became more involved in the conflict there during the years of 1954 through 1975.

Prior to the War

Following World War II, there was a bloody 7 ? year struggle between Communist Vietnamese and the French for control of the land. A peace conference was finally held in Geneva, Switzerland on July 1954 which determined that French rule would be ended in Vietnam and that the country would be split at the 17th parallel of latitude into North Vietnam, with a Communist government, and South Vietnam, with a republican government.

Not long after, the United States military advisers took the job of training the South Vietnamese army. At the same time, Ho Chi Minh, president of North Vietnam, pledged to "liberate" South Vietnam.

Elections were planned to be held during 1956 to resolve the division of Vietnam, but the U.S. supported Ngo Dihn Diem's refusal to hold the elections, believing that Ho Chi Minh would win.

South Vietnam

South Vietnamese Government Loses Support

Ngo Dinh Dem was elected in 1955, and was very popular at first, but public support, as well as that of military officers and cabinet ministers, gradually disappeared. This was mainly because Diem's brother and adviser, Ngo Dinh Nhu, was able to give orders to officers and military units. Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu, Diem's sister-in-law, also promoted a lot of dislike from Vietnamese.

South Vietnamese Rebellion

On May 1963, President Diem, a Roman Catholic, prohibited the flying of the Buddhist flag. Thousands of Buddhists were arrested, and some were tortured or killed. Some Buddhists publicly burned themselves to death in protest. On November 1, three weeks before President Kennedy was killed in Dallas (on November 22), Diem and Nhu were assassinated. A government was hastily put together, and remained unstable.


Communist guerrillas, known as the Vietcong, came across the border through Laos in large numbers, helping native Communist terrorists in the south. One main objective of these rebels who were directly controlled by the Vietminh, North Vietnam's government, was to disrupt all types of South Vietnamese order. Many local administrators were also assassinated accomplishing this goal. Guerrilla bands also raided industries, farms, military installations, and villages. Frequently they attacked at night, withdrawing afterward in the thick forest. Seldom were the South Vietnamese forces able to fight them in the open. Because of this battles were rarely fought along a single front..

U.S. Involvement

Beginning U.S. Involvement and Escalation

In October 1961, President John F. Kennedy sent Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor to South Vietnam, to evaluate the country's economic and military condition. General Taylor said that "infiltration of the Vietcong from the north was increasing," that "South Vietnam's economy had suffered drastically," and that "better and more equipment was needed." Believing that there would be a domino effect President Kennedy expanded economic and military aid. American aid increased from 1961 to 1963, and over 16,000 military advisers were sent to South Vietnam, and 400 million dollars provided for military purposes. The Vietcong was temporary halted. About this time Robert Macnamarah was escalating the involvement of the U.S. in Vietnam and later the war will begin to be called Macnamarah's War. William Wessmoreland a commander of MAC V (Military Assistance Command Vietnam) was assuring political figures that in order to win he needed more troops.

United States Warships Attacked

On Aug. 2, 1964, North Vietnamese patrol boats off the coast of North Vietnam attacked the USS Maddox, a destroyer cruising in the Gulf of Tonkin. Two days later the Maddox and another destroyer were attacked. The United States was drawn further into the conflict when President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered retaliatory air attacks and the congress authorized U.S. military operations with the Tonkin Gulf Resolution.

Reaction to Terrorist Activities

Terrorist attacks upon American bases in South Vietnam became frequent. These were made to discourage the United States into complete withdrawal from Vietnam. However, the number of air raids by American aircraft against North Vietnam increased. The attacks on Pleiku triggered the massive bombing campaign on North Vietnam called "Operation Rolling Thunder". Bombings were aimed mainly at highways and bridges. In Laos, bombers also struck the Ho Chi Minh Trail, an important Vietcong supply line. United States warships attacked the North Vietnamese coastal supply depots. On March 8, 1965 the first U.S. combat troops landed at Da Nang.

First Attempts for Peace

In April 1965 President Johnson proposed