Before the War
Even years before the war, Vietnam was a hotly disputed territory. Many countries had taken Vietnam over, and after World War II, Vietnam was in the hands of France. Obviously, the Vietnamese wanted their own country, and their long history of being a colony prompted the oppressed people to fight for their independence in the French-Indochina war. 7
Ho Chi Min, a leader of the Communist party, organized the Vietnamese independence movement, Viet Minh. Asking for support from America first, Ho Chi Min did not want to have to turn to communist support for the freedom of his people. Since the United States viewed helping Ho gain his independence from France as a move against their own allies, they declined. It was only after Russia and China offered to help that Ho adopted communist ideals and wanted to make all of Vietnam communist.
The Vietnam war started simply because Ho Chi Min and his communist supporters wanted South Vietnam to become communist after the South split off in 1954 to become its own democratic nation. The United States saw this as a threat to democracy, and using the Domino theory, successfully threw the U.S. into the one of the worst wars it has ever seen.
If only the United States had looked past its petty alliances and helped another country gain its independence like we had gained ours so many years ago, this war would have been completely avoided. Unfortunately for the families of over 64,000 soldiers, it wasn't.
Beginnings of a Nightmare
As early as 1954, the United States started sending financial and military aid to South Vietnam, hoping to stop the spread of communism. The flow of 'military advisors' from 700 to over 14,000 1 built up steadily through John Kennedy's presidency, and after he was assassinated, Lyndon B. Johnson escalated the war to the point of no return.
Johnson used the ludicrous domino theory to justify the military buildup in Vietnam. American people were so scared of communism by McCarthyism in the 1950's, that they were willing to do anything to stop communism where it started. The people of the United States let Johnson build up a huge force in Vietnam, and he was also almost unanimously backed by congress. By the end of the war, Johnson was so ashamed that he didn't even try to run for reelection.
If the American populous would have stopped and thought about what they were getting themselves into and not jumped gung-ho into a frivolous war, their representatives wouldn't have felt so pressured to back Johnson.
In 1964, the event every war-hungry Commie-killer was waiting for happened. In the Gulf of Tonkin, several VC torpedo boats reportedly fired on a U.S. vessel. 6 Even though the American ship sustained no damages, Johnson drafted the 'Gulf of Tonkin Resolution', which authorized him to use any force necessary to beat back the North Vietnamese. Congress never declared war or even directly authorized troops, but Johnson twisted enough words around to have his own little executive war.
Early in the War
At first, Johnson limited the conflict to an air war, hoping to pound away and demoralize the VC into submission. He used planes such as the B-52 bomber and the F-4 Phantom to try to win the war as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, the United States' air power had many shortcomings.
The F-4 Phantom was the latest and greatest piece of technology out there during Vietnam. Manufactured by McDonnell-Douglas, this plane was capable of multiple roles, as a dogfighter, bomber, recon, and support aircraft....