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 on the world if Vietnam fell to communism. If Vietnam became communist, the rest of Asia, New Zealand, and Australia would 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 American and Vietnamese lives were lost in a war founded upon a discredited and flawed principle.
Table of Contents
- The Main Reason For USA Involvement in Vietnam – The Backstory
- A Divided Vietnam Between North And South Vietnam
- The U.S. Domino Theory of Communism
- Related Questions
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 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 of being 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 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 that the Japanese were starving due to the effects of the war, so they 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, eventually defeating the Japanese. Ho Chi Minh and Vietnam saw this as a 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 Between North And South 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 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 U.S. 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 America’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. Nothing indicates 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:
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 wanted to unite north and south Vietnam.
The Vietnam War, and America’s involvement in the war, were 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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