WAR IN VIETNAM
The War in Vietnam was the longest war in U.S. history, the most divisive, and the first lost. The cost was enormous: 58,000 American dead, millions of Vietnamese casualties, and a $150 billion price tag.
Colonial Pawn to Cold War Domino
Although the war began as a conflict between French colonial power and Vietnamese nationalism, the U.S. saw Vietnam as an important Cold War arena. The goal became to establish a democratic government in South Vietnam as a buffer against Ho Chi Minh's North Vietnamese and ultimately to halt communist expansion into other Southeast Asian countries.
Mr. Johnson's War
Limited at first to sending aid and military advisors, in 1965 President Lyndon Johnson secured passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, permitting military force without declaration of war. Johnson gradually increased the number of troops to over 500,000 and initiated Rolling Thunder, a widespread bombing campaign against the North, central to the U.S. strategy of attrition.
The tenacity of the enemy and the difficulties of guerrilla warfare undermined U.S. strategy, however, and after the North's massive 1968 Tet Offensive, Johnson began reducing troops and announced he would not seek reelection.
Johnson's successor, Richard Nixon, continued troop reduction but increased bombing in the North and in Laos and Cambodia. Peace talks began in 1973. In 1975, the South fell to North Vietnam's army, and the last American troops left Saigon.