How did President Johnson lead the United States deeper into the Vietnam quagmire?

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President Lyndon B. Johnson led the United States during the first half of the Vietnam War (1965–1973). It was his decision to send US land and air forces into battle. US involvement in Vietnam before 1965 did not involve much direct combat.

The US government viewed the Vietnam conflict as...

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President Lyndon B. Johnson led the United States during the first half of the Vietnam War (1965–1973). It was his decision to send US land and air forces into battle. US involvement in Vietnam before 1965 did not involve much direct combat.

The US government viewed the Vietnam conflict as part of its containment policy. Containment was America's foreign policy after World War II, and its goal was to stop Communism from spreading throughout the globe. However, US policymakers—including almost all of those in the Johnson administration—did not fully understand the situation. Nationalism was at least as important as Communism in Vietnam. After WWII, the Vietnamese won independence from France on the battlefield.

The French defeat in 1954 led to the creation of two states: Communist North Vietnam and an American-supported South Vietnam. America supported the dictatorial regime of Ngo Dinh Diem. Diem, a Catholic, persecuted the Buddhist majority. In 1963, Diem was murdered by a group of generals in November 1963, probably with American approval.

President John F. Kennedy was also assassinated in November 1963, and Johnson then replaced him. At the time of Kennedy's death, the US had 15,000 advisers in South Vietnam. But Communist forces continued to defeat the South Vietnamese on the battlefield. Johnson had a choice to make: withdraw from Vietnam or get much more deeply involved by using American military forces.

Johnson decided to go to war in Vietnam and the Tonkin Gulf resolution (1964) gave him the authority to do so. America used both its land and air forces against the Communist enemy. The result was a bloody stalemate. Johnson could not win the war, but he did not want to be the first president to lose a war. This predicament led to his decision to leave the White House in 1969.

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After the North Vietnamese attack against the USS Maddox, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave the president permission to commit more ground troops to Vietnam. South Vietnam already had American servicemen in the country serving in advisory and support roles. Johnson soon committed more ground troops to the conflict in an attempt to end the war. Johnson was also given permission to order air strikes against targets in North Vietnam. Between 1965 and 1973, more bombs would be dropped on North Vietnamese targets than were dropped on both Germany and Japan combined during World War II. Despite the number of troops sent and bombs dropped, the Northern Vietnamese refused to surrender. The South Vietnamese government and army officers often proved to be corrupt, and many Americans did not see the point in fighting communists in this conflict. Johnson continued to pour in troops and supplies as his Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, encouraged more resources for the conflict. The war would prove to be Johnson's undoing, as Americans did not see progress in the war.

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The role of the United States had been gradually increasing since the French were defeated in Indochina. We encouraged South Vietnam not to hold elections in 1956. This led to the outbreak of war. We sent military and economic aid to Vietnam during the presidencies of Eisenhower and Kennedy. We also sent more advisors during Kennedy’s presidency. While Johnson was president, our involvement changed dramatically.

President Johnson wanted to respond after North Vietnam reportedly fired at our ships in the Golf of Tonkin. When Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, President Johnson was free to send troops to Vietnam. While Johnson was president, the number of American troops continued to increase in Vietnam. We had about 580,000 troops in Vietnam at one point while Johnson was president. Whether he realized it or not, Johnson was deepening our involvement in a war that may have impossible to win. As more troops were sent to Vietnam, it became harder for us to pull back from our involvement there.

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President Lyndon Johnson got the US deeper into the Vietnam War through the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.  Johnson believed that the war was very important and he believed that the South Vietnamese were not doing a good enough job of waging it.  Therefore, he believed that it was necessary to make the war an American war.  He got Congress to authorize him to do whatever he felt was necessary to wage the war.  With this authorization, he sent more and more US troops in, to the point that there were over 500,000 US military personnel involved in the war at its peak.

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