The Vietnam War was fought to protect democracy and prevent Asia from falling into communist control. It started when France lost control of Vietnam during World War II. When the Viet-Minh led by communist leader Ho Chi-Minh took Hanoi the capitol of Vietnam. Ho Chi-Minh then declared Vietnam an independent country, but France refused to recognize Ho Chi-Minh’s declaration and returned to Vietnam. This caused Ho Chi-Minh’s forces to attack French forces starting the First Indochina War. In 1954 the French sought a peace treaty known as the Geneva accords which declared a cease fire and officially split Vietnam in two. The North under Ho Chi-Minh and his communist forces and the South under a French supported emperor. The United States became involved in Vietnam after the Geneva accords separated Vietnam into North and South. America believed that the fall of North Vietnam to communism might ignite the fall of all of Southeast Asia, known as the domino theory. This caused the United States to back Ngo Dinh Diem, who assumed control of South Vietnam in 1955. He renamed South Vietnam the Republic of Vietnam, but soon Diem’s regime proved to be corrupt. In 1962 fearful of increased communist activity in South Vietnam, President John F. Kennedy sent U.S. military advisors to Vietnam to train the South Vietnam army or ARVN. Soon the U.S. removed Diem and put in a new leader who turned out to be just as corrupt and unpopular. On November 22, 1962 President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. His successor Lyndon B. Johnson attempted to keep American forces in Vietnam to a minimum. In 1964 two U.S. Navy destroyers were attacked by North Vietnamese boats in the Gulf of Tonkin. Following the attack President Johnson asked Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. This resolution gave President Johnson the ability to escalate the war in Vietnam. He began by ordering Operation Rolling Thunder in which U.S. bombers heavily bombed the North Vietnamese for almost two years. These attacks failed and as a result President Johnson increased American forces in Vietnam from 200,000 to over 500,000 by the end of 1968. In order to keep up with the demand for soldiers the United States enacted the draft. The draft randomly selected young men to serve in the U.S. military.
In order to combat the North Vietnamese Army the United States attempted to inflict heavy casualties on the enemy, but the North Vietnamese Army liked to use hit and run tactics. They would move in, attack and be gone before the Americans could organize a defense. These tactics frustrated and confused American forces and left them with few visible enemy targets. In response American forces began using weapons such as napalm and Agent Orange to destroy the vegetation in an attempt to expose the enemy, but it hurt more than it helped. The Viet-Cong another communist force used guerrilla tactics by hiding in the thick jungles of Vietnam and ambushing unsuspecting soldiers. The tactics used by North Vietnamese forces frustrated American forces and lowered morale to an all-time low. The North Vietnamese also didn’t want to play fair; one example of this was the Tet offensive where the NVA attacked American bases like Khe Sanh. The Tet offensive violated a seven day truce in place for the Vietnamese holiday of Tet. The offensive caught American forces off guard and caused almost 5,000 American casualties. This only added to the total loss of over 58,000 American troops in Vietnam. The NVA tactics were very different from those used by U.S. forces, which preferred to use artillery and airpower to weaken the enemy before attacking this was in part because the American soldiers were not accustomed to the terrain in Vietnam. While U.S. troops fought for democracy in Vietnam, citizens in the United States fought against the drafting of young men to serve in the military. They also fought the fact that we were at war and due to that fact they hated the