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A history of the political control of the american military over vietnam

Although there is no formal declaration of war from which to date U.

Vietnam War Articles

Kennedy's decision to send over 2,000 military advisers to South Vietnam in 1961 marked the beginning of twelve years of American military combat. The number of US. The total number of Americans who served in South Vietnam was 2. Of these, more than 58,000 died or remain missing, and 300,000 others were wounded. Despite this enormous military effort, the United States failed to achieve its objective of preserving an independent, noncommunist state in South Vietnam.

This failure has led to searching questions about why and how the war was fought and whether a better diplomatic and military outcome was possible for the United States. By 1961, guerrilla warfare was widespread in South Vietnam. Communist-led troops of the National Liberation Front NLF of South Vietnam, commonly referred to as Vietcong, were initiating hundreds of terrorist and small unit attacks per month.

During the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a small U. The Kennedy administration determined that the size and mission of the U. Some of Kennedy's aides proposed a negotiated settlement in Vietnam similar to that which recognized Laos as a neutral country. Having just suffered international embarrassment in Cuba and Berlin, the president rejected compromise and chose to strengthen U. In May 1961, Kennedy sent 400 U. He also tripled the level of aid to South Vietnam.

A steady stream of airplanes, helicopters, armored personnel carriers APCsand other equipment poured into the South. By the end of 1962, there were 9,000 U. Ap Bac represented a leadership failure for the ARVN and a major morale boost for the antigovernment forces. The absence of fighting spirit in the ARVN mirrored the continuing inability of the Saigon regime to win political support. Indeed, many South Vietnamese perceived the strategic hamlets as government oppression, not protection, because people were forced to leave their ancestral homes for the new settlements.

While Vietcong guerrillas scored military successes, leaders of Vietnam's Buddhist majority protested against what they saw as the Diem regime's religious persecution. In June, a monk dramatically burned himself to death at a busy Saigon intersection. On 1 November 1963, the generals seized power, and Diem and his unpopular brother Ngo Dinh Nhu were murdered. Three weeks later, President Kennedy was assassinated, and U.

Vietnam War

If the new government in Saigon failed to show progress against the insurgency, would the United States withdraw its support from a lost cause, or would it escalate the effort to preserve South Vietnam as an anticommunist outpost in Asia? Johnson inherited the Vietnam dilemma.

As Senate majority leader in the 1950s and as vice-president, he had supported Eisenhower's and Kennedy's decisions to aid South Vietnam. Throughout his administration, Johnson insisted that the only possible negotiated settlement of the conflict would be one in which North Vietnam recognized the legitimacy of South Vietnam's government.

Without such recognition, the United States would continue to provide Saigon as much help as it needed to survive.

The critical military questions were how much U. By the spring of 1964, the Vietcong controlled vast areas of South Vietnam, the strategic hamlet program had essentially ceased, and North Vietnam's aid to the southern insurgents had grown. In June, Johnson named one of the army's most distinguished officers, Gen. Westmoreland, then commandant of West Point, as commander U.

Westmoreland immediately asked for more men, and by the end of 1964 U. Increasingly, however, the U. Secretary of Defense Robert S. Throughout 1964, the United States assisted South Vietnam in covert operations to gather intelligence, disseminate propaganda, and harass the North. On the night of 2 August, North Vietnamese gunboats fired on the USS Maddox a destroyer on an intelligence-collecting mission, in the same area of the Gulf of Tonkin where South Vietnamese commandos were conducting raids against the North Vietnamese coast.

Two nights later, under stormy conditions, the Maddox and another destroyer, the Turner Joy, reported a gunboat attack. Although doubts existed about these reports, the president ordered retaliatory air strikes against the North Vietnamese port of Vinh. The White House had expected that some type of incident would occur eventually, and it had prepared the text of a congressional resolution authorizing the president to use armed force to protect U. On 7 August 1964, Johnson secured almost unanimous consent from Congress 414-0 in the House; 88-2 in the Senate for his Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which became the principal legislative basis for all subsequent military deployment in Southeast Asia.

Johnson's decisive but restrained response to the Gulf of Tonkin incidents helped him win the 1964 election, but Saigon's prospects continued to decline.

The president wanted to concentrate on his ambitious domestic program, the Great Society, but his political instincts told him that his leadership would be damaged fatally if America's client state in South Vietnam succumbed. Instability mounted a history of the political control of the american military over vietnam South Vietnam as rival military and civilian factions vied for power and as Vietcong strength grew.

A consensus formed among Johnson's advisers that the United States would have to initiate air warfare against North Vietnam. Bombing could boost Saigon's morale and might persuade the North to cease its support of the insurgency. Flying out of bases in Thailand, U.

Navy Phantoms and A-4 Skyhawks from a powerful carrier task force located at a point called Yankee Station, seventy-five miles off the North Vietnamese coast in the Gulf of Tonkin. In 1967 annual bombing tonnage reached almost a quarter million. From the beginning of the bombing, American strategists debated the effectiveness of air power in defeating a political insurgency in a predominantly agricultural country.

Despite the American bombs, dollars, and military advisers, the Vietcong continued to inflict heavy casualties on the ARVN, and the political situation in Saigon grew worse. When McNamara concurred, Johnson decided to commit the forces.

The buildup of formal U. On 28 July, Johnson announced that 50,000 U. By the end of the year, there were 184,300 U. Although Johnson's actions meant that the United States had crossed the line from advising the ARVN to actually fighting the war against the Vietcong, the president downplayed the move.

Such actions would have placed the United States on a war footing. With his ambitious social reform program facing crucial votes in Congress, the president wanted to avoid giving congressional conservatives an opportunity to use mobilization to block his domestic agenda. Consequently, he relied on other means. Monthly draft calls increased from 17,000 to 35,000 to meet manpower needs, and deficit spending, with its inherent inflationary impact, funded the escalation.

Johnson's choice of gradual escalation of bombing and incremental troop deployments was based upon the concept of limited warfare. Thus, Westmoreland chose a strategy of attrition in the South.

The Americans ultimately forced the NVA out of the valley and killed ten times as many enemy soldiers as they lost.

Westmoreland used helicopters extensively for troop movements, resupply, medical evacuation, and tactical air support. USAF tactical bombers and even huge B-52 strategic bombers attacked enemy positions. The battle convinced the U. During 1966 Westmoreland requested more ground troops, and by year's end the U.

These were organized into seven divisions and other specialized airborne, armored, special forces, and logistical units. While MACV was getting men and munitions in place for large-unit search and destroy operations, army and marine units conducted smaller operations.

Although the "body count"--the estimated number of enemy killed--mounted, attrition was not changing the political equation in South Vietnam. The NLF continued to exercise more effective control in many areas than did the government, and Vietcong guerrillas, who often disappeared when U.

In 1967, Westmoreland made his big push to win the war. With South Vietnam's forces assigned primarily to occupation, pacification, and security duties, massive U.

There was major fighting in the Central Highlands, climaxing in the battle of Dak To in November 1967. MACV declared vast areas to be "free-fire zones," which meant that U. Controversy about the use of Agent Orange erupted in 1969 when reports appeared that the chemical caused serious damage to humans as well as to plants. Late in 1967, a history of the political control of the american military over vietnam 485,600 U. This assessment was debatable, and there was considerable evidence that the so-called "other war" for political support in South Vietnam was not going well.

Corruption, factionalism, and continued Buddhist protests plagued the Thieu-Ky government. Despite incredible losses, the Vietcong still controlled many areas. A diplomatic resolution of the conflict remained elusive. Several third countries, such as Poland and Great Britain, offered proposals intended to facilitate negotiations.

These formulas typically called upon the United States and DRV to coordinate mutual reduction of their military activities in South Vietnam, but both Washington and Hanoi firmly resisted even interim compromises with the other. The war was at a stalemate. The decisive year was 1968. In the early morning of 30 January, Vietcong forces launched the Tet Offensive, named for the Vietnamese holiday then being observed.

In coordinated attacks throughout South Vietnam, the Vietcong assaulted major urban areas and military installations in an attempt to spark a popular uprising against the Saigon regime and its American backers.

Westmoreland claimed victory because no cities were lost and thousands of casualties were inflicted upon the attackers. Indeed, the Vietcong lost so many soldiers that thereafter the PAVN took over much of the conduct of the war.

The Tet Offensive, however, was a great strategic gain for North Vietnam and its southern adherents. Most importantly, as a result of the massive surprise attack and the pictures from Saigon, the U. At the same time as the Tet Offensive, the siege of Khe Sanh underscored the image of the war as an endless, costly, and pointless struggle. Using artillery and air power, including B-52 strikes, the United States eventually broke the siege and forced an NVA withdrawal.

At the end of June, however, the Marines abandoned the base to adopt a more mobile form of fighting in the DMZ area. Once again, a major engagement left seemingly intangible results.

In March 1968, Johnson decided that the size of the U. Wheeler for 206,000 more men, the president asked his new secretary of defense, Clark Clifford, for a thorough policy review.