What Was The Main Reason For US Involvement In Vietnam?

Vietnam War

In America, the Vietnam war has always been a very touchy subject. Even today, many people who fought in the war are suffering from the effects of that war.

The main reason for the involvement of the United States in the Vietnam War was the belief in the Domino theory; the Domino theory was a principle used to describe the effects for the world if Vietnam fell to communism. If Vietnam became communist, then the rest of Asia, New Zealand, and even Australia would also eventually become communist. At the time, American leaders felt they were fighting for the survival of democracy throughout the world.

The Domino theory never came to pass. Vietnam did fall to communism, but the rest of Southeast Asia and Asia did not; countless Americans and Vietnamese lives were lost in a war founded upon a discredited and flawed principle.

The Main Reason For USA Involvement in Vietnam – The Backstory

The main reason for the U.S. involvement in Vietnam was the U.S. believed in the Domino theory that if Vietnam were allowed to fall to communism, so would the rest of Asia and the world.

To fully understand this, we need to step back a little bit in time and look at the history of Vietnam. Before World War II, Vietnam was part of the French empire, also known as Indochine. During World War II, the Japanese invaded Vietnam. Many in Vietnam could not understand the advantage to be under French rule if the French could not even protect them against the Japanese invasion.

Due to the Japanese invasion from 1944 to 1945, there was a massive famine in Vietnam. It is estimated that between 400,000 to 2 million Vietnamese people starved to death during this time.

Many reasons caused the famine, but one of them was the typhoons, which reduced food availability. The other reason was Japanese were also starving due to the effects of the war, so the Japanese were hoarding rice to send them back to Japan.

In 1945 the Japanese completely overran Indochine and imprisoned or executed almost all the French officials. After this, the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and the Japanese were eventually defeated. Ho Chi Minh and Vietnam saw this as the way to gain control of Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh contacted the U.S. forces and collaborated with the officers’ services, then the OSS for his fighters to work with the U.S. military on undercover operations to defect the Japanese in Vietnam.

The U.S. military trained Ho Chi Minh and his guerrilla fighters to fight against the Japanese and defect them in Vietnam. In the spring of 1945, General Gap and his force had kicked the Japanese out of Vietnam. by September 2, 1945, Ho Chi Minh had declared victory for Vietnam.

The French did not accept defeat and would not get that Ho Chi Minh and his fighters had won control of Vietnam. The Vietnamese guerillas and the French continued to fight until the French forces were defeated at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.

A Divided Vietnam

In 1954, at the Treaty of Geneva, it was agreed that the French would leave Vietnam and split Vietnam along the 17th Parallel until an election could be held to decide who would control Vietnam.

These elections were never held, and Vietnam remained divided as follows:

  • North Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh looked to support from Russia or what was then the Soviet Union.
  • South Vietnam – Ngo Dinh Diem was the leader in the South that many saw as a weak puppet leader that the Americans and other allies were propping up.

Ngo Dinh Diem refused to hold the elections. As the election was never held, the North Vietnamese felt they were cheated out of a chance to unite Vietnam. Many in the South were unhappy with Ngo Dinh Diem. Many felt Ho Chi Minh could have won the popular vote, but we will never know for sure as the elections never took place as agreed.

All this discord between North and South Vietnam cause a civil war to break out between North and South Vietnam. The Northern Communists, many located in the South, were attacking and fighting within South Vietnam. So many southern Vietnamese were working on getting rid of the Ngo Dinh Diem government that they even formed a group called The National Liberation Front (NFL).

The Domino Theory of Communism

The United States and others believe that if one country fell to communism, the others as their neighbors were likely to fail. This would be similar to if you lined up a row of dominion blocks and hit one, but they all started to fall.

China had also become communist in 1949. The United States government was afraid that communism would spread to South Vietnam and then the rest of Asia.

The Domino theory was flawed. There was no suggestion that if Vietnam fell to communism, it would affect all the rest of Asia. The truth is American’s failure to prevent a communist takeover of Vietnam had much less impact on the rest of Asia than they had predicted; the only exceptions were both Laos and Cambodia There was nothing to indicate that other countries such as Thailand would fall to communism.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower felt if Vietnam fell to communist control, there would be other victories for the communists, including Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, India, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, and even eventually Australia and New Zealand.

U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower said this about why the domino theory was so critical and why America needed to be involved in Vietnam and continue to prop up the South Vietnamese government, he said:

“The possible consequences of the loss (of Indochina) are just incalculable to the free world.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower

America’s involvement in the Vietnam war was based upon the flawed and now-discredited domino theory. The truth is that Ho Chi Minh and the North Vietnamese had no desire to spread communism throughout the rest of Asia; they simply wanted to unite north and south Vietnam.

The Vietnam War, and America’s involvement in the war, was based on a false assumption. Thousands of American lives were lost and destroyed due to this war.

Millions of Vietnamese also died fighting to reunite North and South Vietnam.

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Anita L Hummel

Hi, I live in Hanoi, Vietnam but spend time traveling the region. I love to share with you things I see and learn through my travels.

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What was the main reason for US involvement in Vietnam?