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The war in Viet Nam originated when North Vietnam, under Ho Chi Minh, expelled the French and declared the Peoples Republic of Viet Nam. The regime was communist and received support from both the Soviet and Chinese governments. In an attempt to prevent North Vietnam from unifying the entire country by taking South Vietnam, President John F. Kennedy sent "advisers" to Vietnam to assist the South in resisting "communist aggression." This was pursuant to the previously announced U.S. policy of containment: to prevent the spread of communism into areas where it did not then exist. The U.S. and Soviets both supplied arms and other supplies to opposite sides of the conflict, however each broke its word.
In August, 1964, two American naval vessels, the USS Maddox and USS C. Turner Joy were fired upon by North Vietnamese warships in the Gulf of Tonkin. President Lyndon Johnson said the attack was unprovoked, and Americans were outraged. On August 7, 1964, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which gave the President authority to:
take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.
The resolution in effect gave the President the ability to wage war without a Congressional declaration of war. Johnson then escalated troop deployments to Vietnam and the war was soon in full swing.
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