The French had control over Vietnam since the 1800s and ruled it for nearly 60 years until Japan invaded and occupied the island during World War II. It was during that time when French rule was interrupted. Ho Chi Minh, a communist, led a group of Vietnamese soldiers called Vietminh against the Japanese and in 1945, the Japanese surrendered. Ho had asked America for help earlier, but was denied the support since he was a communist. Some Vietnamese saw the Japanese defeat as an opportunity to free themselves from French colonial rule. With the defeat of the Japanese, the Vietminh occupied Hanoi in North Vietnam and declared the nation as independent. Ho was also made the President of Vietnam.
Because the French were not going to surrender, they took control of the southern part of Vietnam in 1949 and made the French-educated Emperor Bao Dai leader. They made their capital Saigon. The French and Vietnamese then fought for many years. Armed conflict continued until a decisive battle at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954 ended in French defeat by Viet Minh forces. After the many years of fighting, a peace treaty was signed at Geneva, which split Vietnam in half along the latitude line known as the 17th parallel. French control in Vietnam was ended, Ho was left with control of the north, and Bao had control of the south. In 1955, Ngo Dinh Diem, a strong anti-communist person, overthrew Bao and gained control of South Vietnam. The U.S feared that since China, Korea, and now half of Vietnam was under communist rule, all of Southeast Asia would become communist. This idea was called the domino theory.
The U.S hoped that stopping communism in Vietnam would prevent other countries in Asia from becoming communist, so The U.S promised to support Ngo Dinh Diem and South Vietnam. Under Eisenhower’s administration, the U.S began giving military aid to South Vietnam. Elections to unify the country were planned to be within a few years, but Diem’s government blocked them, and many people in South Vietnam didn’t like this. A group of guerrillas in South Vietnam, called the Vietcong, started terrorizing villages controlled by Diem’s officials in an effort to overthrow him. Using secret trading routes, the North Vietnamese were supplying the Vietcong with weapons. President Kennedy soon came into power, and he continued in Eisenhower’s footsteps by giving more aid and military advisers to South Vietnam in 1961. President Diem’s actions were making the South Vietnamese government unpopular and many people became angry with him.
U.S leaders feared that Diem’s actions were increasing support for the Vietcong so, in 1963 when Diem ordered a crackdown against his opponents, Kennedy withdrew his support. In November, military leaders took control of the government and assassinated Diem and his brother Nhu. Three weeks later, Kennedy was assassinated and Lyndon B. Johnson became the new President of the United States. After Diem’s death, the South Vietnamese government became very unstable, which led to Johnson ordering an increase in economic aid and military advisers to the South Vietnam government while the Soviet Union and China were supporting the Vietcong. Johnson also authorized secret actions against North Vietnam.
On August 2 and 4, 1964, North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked and destroyed American ships in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of North Vietnam. This act of aggression against the U.S made President Johnson determined to plan a counter attack against North...