In American History, the nineteen sixties and the nineteen seventies were extremely turbulent and controversial times. Protest rights were being tested and occasionally suppressed, new moral and political values began to develop, and the Vietnam War dominated the twenty-year period. Vietnam invited many young activist people to begin a huge movement of anti-war protesting denouncing the war, the government, and even the soldiers who were picked against their will to fight. Reasons for American entry into the Vietnam War are controversial, and everyone has a different opinion on why we got into the conflict. Multiple reasons contributed to the entry in Vietnam from support of allies who were fighting their battles, to the fact that the American Government felt that they were responsible to stop the spread of communism led America to fight a war that would define an era.
In order to rally support for a war, often something has to happen to get the American people behind the government. In World War Two it was Pearl Harbor, and in Vietnam it was the Gulf of Tonkin incident. On August 2nd, The U.S.S Ticonderoga sank a North Vietnamese ship while on a patrol. Two days later, a U.S ship called the Maddox,
had assumed it was under attack, and began to display its firepower into the night for hours hitting nothing. An interview with a pilot of the Maddox said, “…There was nothing but dark sea, and American firepower.” Years later the incident was revealed essentially as a way to rouse the American support for the war cause, and it is known now that the incident was a form of propaganda, but it served it’s purpose as the public’s reason for supporting the war, and the public reason for entry into the Vietnam War.
Another reason for American entry into the Vietnam War was the commitment that had formerly been made by the French and the American’s into the fight or the support of the fight in Vietnam for the French colony. The French had been fighting for an Indochina colony after World War Two to benefit them, but at the same time had been struggling with domestic costs and issues. American support to the French in the form of millions of dollars to support the war failed, but officially committed to Americans to a cause in Vietnam in the American government’s eyes. In 1954, at Dienbienphu the French military forces came into conflict with the North Vietnamese forces, called the Vietminh after their leader Ho Chi Minh, being defeated and leaving the Communist Vietnamese the victors. The French negotiations left a border at the 17th parallel making North Vietnam the communist half of the country while the Southern half was the democratic portion. An election was set up to decide whether the government was to become communist or democratic. American officials would not stand for this agreement realizing that it would fall to the communist, so they replaced the French in South
Vietnam and began to train the South Vietnamese Army. This would soon lead us into the actual cause of the American Entry into the Vietnam War.
This War took place during some on the more intense times of the Cold War. Paranoia had already set in for the American Democratic Government and the domino theory was in effect heavily for the leaders of America. Communism quickly became the number one enemy of the American Government and it was made known that the United States would do anything in its power to try and prevent the spread of the influence from the Soviet Union, including going to war in a foreign country. Eisenhower’s domino theory helped support the fight against the spread, the actual definition of the theory is, If one country were taken over by Communists, neighboring countries would fall like a standing line of dominoes.” Because of the fact that the United States and the Soviet Union both believed the each others principles and beliefs were wrong, each one was eager to prevent the spread of the others influence. In an attempt to stop the manifestation of Communism in Southeast Asia, the Government arranged the Gulf of Tonkin Incident to create the illusion of a surprise attack against American warships. Now the government officially had there reason to rouse the public, and now the fight against communism was on for the second significant time.
All of these three causes revolve around the central cause that fueled mostly all of the conflicts involving the U.S. during the 40 year cold war, and that was to prevent the spread of Communism. The Gulf of Tonkin Incident was used to rally support for the war
against the communist north, the replacing of the French in South Vietnam was to prevent the election of a communist leader, and to train an army to fight the communist north, and all of these were the outward reasons for the prevention of the spread of communism.
Chambers, Ed Whiteclay. “The Causes of the Vietnam War.” Modern American Poetry.
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Kim, Tom. “Gulf of Tonkin Incident.” Campus.Northpark.edu. 22 May 2005
McDonald, Joe. “Vietnam War.” Vietnam War. 22 May 2005