How and why did the United States become involved in the Vietnam War? My assignment requires examining the actions of the Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson administrations.

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The United States involvement is Vietnam is sometimes referred to as a "proxy war" in which western powers were fighting for areas of control in southeast Asia as part of the Cold War, in a manner that vied for areas of influence in the developing world rather than fighting directly against communist China and the Soviet Union.

Vietnam had been colonized by the French in the nineteenth century but was conquered by the Japanese in World War II. Although the victorious Allied powers ceded the control of Vietnam to France after World War II, during an ensuing struggle to reassert control over the country, the nationalist Viet Minh succeeded in gaining control over the North, and were recognized by China and the Soviet Union, while the United States, Britain, and France supported the anti-communist State of Vietnam government in the south. The Eisenhower administration intervened to support the southern government, mainly due to the "domino theory", a belief that once one region fell to communism, others would follow. 

John F. Kennedy continued Eisenhower's policy in order to stem what he saw as a global tide of communism by sending advisers and equipment to support the Southern Vietnamese government.

With the increasing strength of the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong insurgency in the south, President Johnson escalated US support, sending increasing numbers of ground troops and air forces to support the southern government. The reason for this escalation was fear of communist expansion in the region. Although militarily the United States achieved several victories, the 30,000 American casualties and an increasing reluctance to invest US taxpayers' money in foreign wars with little immediate benefit to US citizens caused a rapid decline in the popularity of the war and of Johnson's presidency, eventually culminating in troop withdrawals under Nixon.