When the Japanese pulled out of Indochina in 1945 Ho declared Vietnam
to be an independent republic. However, the French did not accept this
and tried to re-establish their control. Ho Chi Minh's forces (Viet Minh)
then used the same tactics against the French, eventually defeating them
in 1954. Peace talks followed, and in 1954 the country was divided into
Ho Chi Minh defeated the French even though the USA had provided massive support in money and equipment.
They did this because Ho Chi Minh was a Communist. America saw this as
another example of Communism trying to spread its influence. Ho Chi Minh
saw the conflict as a struggle to get foreigners out of his country, but
the USA did not accept his viewpoint.
Throughout the 1950s American thinking was based on the Domino Theory. This meant that if one Asian state fell to Communism the rest would follow. So, the USA had to stop the process. In 1954 the USA and numerous allies formed SEATO - an Asian equivalent of NATO. From 1954 onwards they poured money and resources into South Vietnam, determined that it would not become a Communist state.
South Vietnam was not an easy state to support. The South Vietnam government was corrupt and unpopular. As a result, anti-government forces called the National Liberation Front (also called Viet Cong) gained support among ordinary Vietnamese. Ho Chi Minh supported these rebels and soon South Vietnam was a state under siege.
In the early 1960s President Kennedy sent increasing numbers of US military 'advisers' to help South Vietnam to fight the Viet Cong. US forces in the region grew steadily, but the South Vietnamese were unable to defeat the Viet Cong. The Viet Cong attacked government targets and officials, and soon began to attack US targets and personnel as well.
In 1964 North Vietnamese boats attacked US warships in the Gulf of Tonkin. President Johnson got the approval of the US Congress to take any necessary action. It was the first step to war. In 1965 Johnson ordered US Marines ashore at Da Nang and the Vietnam War officially began.
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