Why Did The US Become Increasingly Involved In Vietnam

1. US involvement in Vietnam

The US wanted to stop communist expansion into South Vietnam after successfully stopping them from capturing South Korea but President Eisenhower could not get the support of the people. Therefore he used a different way i.e. sending a team of 12 intelligence agents under Colonel Edward Lansdale to win over the South Vietnamese people by spreading lies about the Ho Chi Minh government killing political opponents and the presence of Chinese communists in South Vietnam. Besides that colonel Lansdale also employed mercenaries to sabotage North Vietnam and boost up the image of President Diem. They also trained the South Vietnam army in modern fighting techniques in preparation for open war with the communists.

Ngo Dinh Diem

1) Educated in French Catholic Schools and trained as an administrator.

2) At age of 25 he became a provincial governor.

3) Visited the US and met Cardinal Spellman of New York and John F Kennedy and won their support.

4) 1954 German conference – Diem was accepted as the new ruler of South Vietnam.

5) Diem was no puppet of the US but the US had no alternative but to support him.

6) October 1955 Diem won the election for the leadership of South Vietnam against the ex-emperor Bao Dai by foul means. Those who refused to vote for him were roughed up. Though he won the election he lost the people’s respect and lost his authority.

7) July 1956, Diem refused to have an election for the whole country which was agreed to earlier. Instead he put the communist, socialist, journalist, trade-unionists and religious leaders in prison, about 100,000 people were imprisoned.


1) Diem’s refusal to hold a General Election according to the 1954 Geneva for the whole country as agreed in the 1954 Geneva conference led to armed groups being formed aimed at soft targets. About 1,200 of Diem’s officials were murdered.

2) Le Duan, Ho Chi Minh’s adviser advocated the formation of armed resistance. Ho Chi Minh agreed to aid the guerrilla units. These became the National Front for the liberation of South Vietnam (NLF). With Hua Tho as its leader.

3) NLF 10-piont programmes include:-

a) Catholic denominated Diem’s government to be replaced with representatives of all social classes and religions.

b) Land for the peasants. This resulted in the peasants helping the guerrillas against the government.

2. A) President Kennedy intended to carry on with his predecessor’s policy of supporting Diem’s South Vietnam government as he believed in the Domino Theory. The full of South Vietnam world lead to the fall of Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Philippines, New Zealand and Australia.

Kennedy increased aid to South Vietnam to enable them to increase the strength of their army from 150,000 to 170,000. He also increased the number of military advisers by 100 in order to train South Vietnam army. In 1962 the Strategic Hamlet programme was introduced.

B) The Strategic Hamlet programme was implemented to keep the peasants from being influenced by the NLF. The peasants were moved into new Vietnamese army. The villages were surrounding by stockades which were patrolled by armed guards.

C) The Strategic Hamlet programmes failed because

1) The majority of the peasant was forced to move into the hamlets and therefore they resented it. This made them more hostile towards the Diem Government.

2) The peasants did not feel threatened by the NLF and therefore resented the idea of having to dig moats, implant bamboo states and erect fences-all these without any payment.

3) The peasants had to travel long distances to work their farm.

4) For religious reasons they believed that they should lived near where their ancestors were buried.

D) The failure led to the US increasing its military advisers and supplied South Vietnam with 300 helicopters. These advisers were directly engaged in combat and American soldiers became more involved in fighting in Vietnam.

3 a) 70% of the Vietnamese population were Buddhist and a potential threat to the French authority.

b) They were furious because during the 2527th birthday celebration of Buddha one woman and eight children were killed when the police tried to disperse the crowd.

c) Thick Quang Duc was a 60 year old Buddhist mock who sacrificed himself in a busy Saigon Street lay being burnt alive. This was done as a protest against the Diem Government and draw world’s attention to the unpopular South Vietnamese government.

d) The government responded by arresting thousands of Buddhist monks. One government official was reported to say, “Let them burn, and we shall clap our hands.” Another offered to supply the necessary petrol for the monks to burn themselves.

e) Diem was overthrown because President Kennedy found that he could no longer unite South Vietnamese people against the communist and withdrew US protection for him.

4a) The US did not take any firm action except to discuss several plans for example

(i) Bombing Hanoi to stop North Vietnam from sending supplies to the South.

(ii) Bombing selected target in North Vietnam-military bases and fuel depots.

b) Under Operation Plan 34A the US sent mercenaries into North Vietnam to carry out sabotage work as well as kidnapping and killing of communist officials. They also sent destroys into North Vietnam waters to spy on their defences.

c) Johnson claimed that the bombing of North Vietnam torpedo boat bases was in relation of North Vietnam attack of the US destroyer Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin.

d) Under Operation Rolling Thunder the US made regular raids into North Vietnam with the aim of destroying its economy and stooping it from helping the guerrilla fighters in South Vietnam. The US also bombed areas under the control of NLF in the south. Operation Rolling Thunder went on for three years instead of 8 weeks as initially planned.

e) The NLF attacked the US air bases in South Vietnam in return.

f) 80%Of the US citizens supported the bombing aids and sending of combat troops to Vietnam.

5. The term guerrilla warfare was initially used to describe the actions of small bands of Spanish soldiers who fought the French army in the 1807-1814 Peninsula War. The originator of this idea was Sun Tzu, a Chinese military strategist whose book “The Art of War” gives ideas on how to fight a war against a superior enemy. This idea was successfully used by Mao Ze Dong in China. The NLF adopted this tactics by organising its members into small groups called cells. Although these cells co-operated with each other they were kept apart so that when captured and fortuned they could not be able to give much information about the NLF. Their aim was to win over the peasants for the peasants were the sea in which the guerrillas needed to swim. Therefore the cells worked within a very strict code of behaviour.

i) Do not do anything that can damage the land, houses, crops and belongings of the people

ii) Do not but or borrow from the people without their consent.

iii) Never to break out words.

iv) Do not act or speak in a manner which can be interrupted as contempt of the people.

v) Help the people in their daily work.

The NLF used booby traps against the US and South Vietnamese troops. These

Demoralized their enemies. They also used underground tunnels to escape detection and movement from place to place. Caverns were used to hide their printing press, surgical instruments and equipments for making booby traps and land mines. The NLF based their methods of guerrilla warfare on the proven successful methods used by Mao. Besides having strict rules as to how they should behave towards the peasants they educated them. In return the NLF obtained food and shelter from the peasants. Soon they were able to wear down the Americans and South Vietnam troops and took control of the rural areas and then the smaller towns.

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