As I answer the question ‘how did America get increasingly involved in the Vietnam War.’ I will be looking at the ‘Domino Theory’, which concerned the US greatly, SEATO, which is the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation, the Gulf of Tonking, which was Americas excuse for war, and Operation Rolling Thunder which was a three-day bombing of Vietnam.
The domino theory worried the US increasingly because they thought that each country around China after 1949 and under influence from the East and West were going to fall. They feared once Vietnam fell Laos then Cambodia would follow. As this theory grew more and more threatening, America pumped more and more men and money into Vietnam. This theory was a long-term reason for America getting increasingly involved in the Vietnam War. This theory continued to grow throughout the war and was a main reason for America getting involved.
SEATO-the South East Asia Treaty Organisation included eight members who all pledged themselves to protect the countries of South East Asia. This was a change of attitudes towards Communism. Before this the countries hadn’t actually united and pledged themselves to the protection from Communism.
On the 11th November 1965 the US Destroyer ‘MADDOX’ registered a radar mix-up and thought it was being attacked. This was later known as The Gulf of Tonking incident. This provided the excuse needed by President Johnson to seize control of the war and send troops into Vietnam and win the war.
America greatly exaggerated the incident off the coast of North Vietnam. Johnson used this incident in congress and had no other choice but to declare war.
This was a short-term reason for the Americans involvement in Vietnam but all the same it was a massive reason and turning point because the Vietnamese knew that this incident had been greatly exaggerated.
Operation Rolling Thunder was an ideal situation Johnson had been waiting for. After the attack on Pleiku the US public were outraged and backed Johnson whole heartedly in his attack on Vietnam. Johnson bombed key targets in North Vietnam-such as bridges, railway lines, roads, army barracks and supply depots.
Operation Rolling Thunder led eventually to a massive war from the air. It became President Johnson’s key method to try to force the North Vietnamese to talk about peace.
This was a long-term reason for the increasing involvement in the Vietnam War because the US became a massive threat to the Vietnamese and looked like they were going to push and push until Vietnam was non-communist. This was a change because the US hadn’t really full heartedly invaded before.
President Kennedy was a strong non-communist, democrat who secretly increased the number of US ‘advisers’ in Vietnam. John F Kennedy was deeply affected by the image of the burning Buddhist Monk during a demonstration. He wasn’t keen on Diem’s policies and theory’s and saw him as a threat to peace. Three weeks before he was assonated himself, Diem and his brother was killed. This strangely enough came as a shock to America but did little in the way of helping them as Diem’s successor was as in effective as Diem was.
This was a short time reason for why America got involved in Vietnam because although these two men- Diem and Kennedy were powerful men neither of them did much in the way of increasing involvement in Vietnam.
Kennedy wanted people to think he was tough on Communism but he didn’t want to send in American troops so he raised the amount of military experts training and paid for a further 20,000 troops for the ARVN. In 1961 the USA spent nearly $270 million in military support for Diem. This shows that America were very keen to get rid of Communism but they were not prepared to send their own troops, however eventually America realised Diem was too unpopular.
When President Johnson first came to power he knew little about Vietnam and used the method of ‘continue our present policy’ option. This at the time was a sensible idea however by May 1964 Johnson thought that ‘the biggest damn mess I ever saw’ was Vietnam. He went on to tell a close adviser ‘I don’t think it’s worth fighting for and I don’t think we can get out.’
In the next couple of months he learned about the mess America and Vietnam were involved in and opted for a new more dangerous option. The first of which was on the 5th August 1964 when the incident of the Gulf of Tonking took place. Johnson wanted full support from the American electorate before going ahead with his plans to defeat the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese.
Johnson was a short-term reason why America got increasingly involved in the Vietnam War. He pushed America into the war and found any excuse to put more men in Vietnam. This was a change, as America had never really been pushed into the war like this before.
The National Liberation Front was set up in South Vietnam in 1960. There aims were to over throw the ever-struggling Diem, get rid of the Americans and reunite North and South Vietnam. These were all dismissed by the American’s and Diem as impossible and un-realistic. The American’s called them the Vietcong. By 1961, there was 20,000 of them in the South and by 194 there was over 100,000.
This was a long-term reason of why the American’s get involved because as the Vietcong grew so did the American army or admit defeat. This meant that they had to get more involved or they would definitely lose and that was not part of the agenda. This is all continuity because America kept on pumping more and more men into Vietnam.
From 1954 to 1965 the American’s because increasingly involved due to fear, hate and the attempt to eliminate communism from the face of the earth. At first America were indirectly part of the war, they gave financial aid and equipment to the South Vietnamese.
They progressively became involved when the view of communism endangered their ‘back yard.’ The USA were dragged into the war by their complete and whole hate of communism. During 1954 to 1965, America became increasingly involved in the affairs of Vietnam. This was due to many important reasons, the most important being that of America’s hatred of communism and the USA’s need to contain it.
The involvement up to 1963 by the USA had cost 50 American lives and more than $400,000,000 for the government. The South Vietnamese army wouldn’t fight for their country and the Guerrillas ruled the countryside. The USA had to get out or take control and win the war.
In conclusion America from the start of conflict was determined not to lose to anyone or to lose face to the USSR. As they became more involved they had to commit more and more and dug themselves into a hole.
The main reason for America getting involved was the persistence of the presidents who wouldn’t or couldn’t back down as the whole world’s eyes were on them and would fight communism to the extreme.
The Geneva agreement angered the American’s greatly because they thought the French were giving in too easily. They also didn’t want to lose pride. The American’s even refused to play a leading role in the negotiations. The USA and the South Vietnamese decided not to sign the agreement but assured the North Vietnamese and France that they would try to go by its rules.
This proved that ever so slowly the USA were losing grip of the situation. This made the USA more determined to fight the war against communism As the table below shows America evidently pumped more men in over the years and backs up all points shown in this essay.