The growth of the United States' involvement with Vietnam can be traced as far back as the 1950s, under the Administration of President Eisenhower. In order to receive French support during post World War II challenges with the Soviets, the American government agreed to allow French resumption of the colonization of Vietnam. Striking at the heart of his nation's autonomy, North Vietnamese President Ho Chi Minh initiated battles with the French to rid the imperialistic presence. In 1954, at the battle of Dienbienphu, the French suffered massive losses and sought to leave the Vietnamese peninsula. The French loss was precipitated by Chinese support for Ho Chi Minh. A potential alliance between Communist China and Vietnam prompted Eisenhower to advocate the domino theory as a justification for U.S. involvement in the region: "You have a row of dominoes set up. You knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly." American fears and paranoia of Communist Russia, in collusion with Communist China and North Vietnam fed the belief that United States intervention was needed in South East Asia, where the stakes for freedom was the highest in accordance with the domino theory.
The executive branch, in the form of President Eisenhower, starts to send in "advisors" whose role is to help the South Vietnamese battle Communist insurgency from the North. President Diem is elected, in a corrupt election, as the president of the South. The United States now conducts diplomatic relations with Diem, whom it saw as the best bet to defeat the Vietcong Communist forces of the North under its leader, Ho Chi Minh. The euphemism of "advisors" gave way to military troops in a limited trickle, while the executive branch was able to operate under the notion of conducting foreign affairs. As long as it was able to diplomatically work with an elected leader, it did not need Congressional consent. While the American government knew that Diem's government was elected fradulently, and understood the rampant corruption in the South Vietnamese government, it understood that this was a necessary price to defeat the Communist Vietcong forces of the North.
With the 1960 election of Kennedy, Vice President Johnson continued the diplomacy with the South, assuring the government of American commitment to the region. American miltary involvement also increased with both the use of Air Force and greater "advisors" into Vietnam. In 1963, Kennedy did present a plan to his cabinet that there would be a slight increase in troops, only to have pulled out all advisors by 1965. There is evidence to suggest that Kennedy was willing to see the struggle as a civil war in Vietnam, and not necessarily the penultimate stage in the battle against Communism. However, this changed in 1963, with Kennedy's assassination, and Johnson's ascendancy to the President. In 1964, as reports of hits on United States Marine Ships surface, President Johnson signs the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, which essentially commits United States troops into conflict in the Vietnam region. In the first official Congressional action, Johnson convinces the Legislative Branch of the need to have executive authorization in the discretion of troop usage in Vietnam, citing the threat to American military and economic interests. The resolution passes by an overwhelming vote in both houses, empowering the Executive Branch.