VIETNAM - THE PATH TO WAR


For a long time, France had ruled Vietnam and it was called French Indochina. At first, they made a living from importing and exporting goods, unfortunatley the Vietnamese soon lost their land and grew poor. Many Vietnamese wanted their freedom from France. Ho Chi Minh decided to lead revolts against the French. Minh soon started the Indochinese Communist Party (ICP), a collection of three communist groups joined together, their goal was to gain independence. The French began arresting communists and killing communist leaders.

America became entangled with the conflict in Vietnam during WWII. By 1940, Japan had gained control of many Southeastern Asia countries, including Vietnam. The ICP and other nationalist groups joined together under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh and became known as the Viet Minh. This group trained soldiers in hopes of gaining independence from all forreign countries. Since the US and Japan were not on good terms because of WWII, the US aided the Viet Minh people in their fight for freedom. With American help, the Viet Minh gained control of much of northern Vietnam. When Japan lost WWII, they pulled their forces out of Vietnam, giving the Viet Minh a chance to drive out French forces as well. With the growing threat from Soviet Union in 1945, the United States decided to support Frances' presence in Southeast Asia. Truman promised little help to the French as they regained their control on Southeast Asia. Ho declared Vietnam's independence on September 2, 1945. He also expressed his hope that the United States and Great Britain would support the Viet Minh's effort.

All attempts at a negotiation between France and Vietnam were futile. In December, 1946, fighting began between the two sides. Meanwhile, an ongoing debate of how much support the U.S. should offer to the French, split the country. Ho, who still desired America's help was ignored by the U.S. government, because we were now allies with France. Ho Chi Minh turned to his fellow communist leaders for help. At this point, communism had spread to China, so the U.S.'s attention was focused on Asia. In Vietnam, both China and the Soviet Union were supportive of Ho and his forces. Vietnam became so unstable and threatened by communism that the U.S. promised economic and military support to the French.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, now president, believed in the Domino effect. This Domino theory stated that once one country fell into communism, the ones next to or near that specific country would fall as well. Back in Vietnam, the communists had gained an advantage and the French were losing the war. The French were even prepared to withdraw from Vietnam. An agreement was set up that split the country at the 17th parallel. Ho controlled the Northern half, and anti-communists the Southern half. The United States began to support Ngo Dinh Diem, the leader of the Southern Vietnam. Many opposed Ngo Dinh Diem and he had almost no support. An election was planned to reunite the Nation, and there was no doubt Ho would win so anti-communists put off the election indefinitely. In reaction, Eisenhower sent military advisors to South Vietnam to help the Diem government with "nation-building".

The advisors were little help, Diem let his government become corrupt. He even murdered his opponents. The opponent groups were called "Viet Cong" or Vietnamese Communists. The Viet Cong tried to overthrow the Diem government and practically succeeded. JFK continued to send supplies, although they were not much help. In 1963, Diem was assassinated, which presented an oppurtunity to more inadequate leaders. Minh was also able to send more supplies to the Viet Congs. Johnson's impatience led him to plan a bomb to be dropped in Northern Vietnam.

Johnson believed that the U.S. boat the Maddox was attacked by north Vietnam in the Gulf of Tonkin. There is insufficient evidence to prove this, but Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin resolution which allowed Johnson to take whatever actions needed to protect Southern Vietnam.In March of 1965, Johnson bombed North Vietnam.