The Vietnam conflict began in the late nineteenth century. The

French conquered Vietnam and made it a protectorate. For nearly forty
years, Vietnam had not experienced settled peace. The League for the

Independence of Vietnam ( Viet Minh ) was formed in 1941, seeking
independence from the French. On September 2nd,1945, Ho Chi Minh
proclaimed it independent of France. The French opposed their
independence from 1945 to 1954. The first representatives of de

Gualle's government landed by parachute in Saigon and Hanoi on August

23rd, 1945. The French wanted to reestablish their rule in Vietnam but
were beaten at the battle of Dien Bien Phu on May 7th, 1954. The

French Expeditionary Force tried to prevent the Viet Minh from
entering Laos and Dien Bien Phu was the place chosen to do so. The

French were not very careful and this allowed the Viet Minh to cut off
their airway to Hanoi. After a siege that had lasted for fifty - five
days, the French surrendered. Ho Chi Minh led the war against France
and won.

After the war there was a conference in Geneva where Vietnam was
divided into two parts along the seventeenth parallel. North Vietnam
was mainly Communist and supported Ho Chi Minh, while the south was
supported by the United States and the French were based there. There
was still some Communist rebels within South Vietnam. These were the

Viet Cong. The South Vietnam ruler was Ngo Dinh Diem who was anti -

Communist. At the conference, Laos and Cambodia became independent
states.

North Vietnam wished to unify North and South Vietnam through
military force. Since the United States feared the spread of communism
in Asia, John F. Kennedy provided economic and military aid to South

Vietman to prevent the takeover by North Vietnam. At this time, this
was still a civil war. The United States were not yet officially
involved.

The North Vietnamese resented the little intervention by the

United Sates and so, three Vietnamese torpedo boats fired on the

U.S. destroyer, " Maddox " on August 2nd, 1964. The " Maddox " had
been in the Gulf of Tonkin ( international waters ), thirty miles off
the coast of Vietnam. On August 3rd, 1964, Johnson gave the right " to
attack with the objective of destroying attacking forces " ( Pimlott

1982, 36 ). Retaliation air attacks began on August 3rd. Their aim was
to destroy North Vietnam's gunboat capability. As two more United

States destroyers were supposedly sunk, more air and sea forces were
sent ( Wicker August 5, 1964, 1 ). Up until now, the U.S. had
refrained from direct combat. This is when the United States formally
entered the Vietman War. The U.S. did this for two reasons. We wished
to maintain the independence of South Vietnam and we had to prove to
allied nations that we would help them resist Communist overtaking. As

Congress was about to vote whether or not to allow the combat to move
into North Vietnam, the North Vietnamese attacked a major U.S. airbase
at Bein Hoa. On February 7th, 1965, Johnson ordered retaliation
bombing on North Vietnam. Rolling Thunder was the name of this
operation. It's purpose was to put pressure on Hanoi and convince them
that Communism could not and would not win.

At the end of 1965, one hundred and eighty thousand Americans
were in South Vietnam under General William S. Westmoreland
(Encyclopedia Britannica, 12, 361 ). The U.S. mainly depended on
superior firepower and helicopters. The Viet Cong and North Vietnamese
depended on surprise attack and concealment.

The United States soldiers realized that the war would last for
many more years and wondered if the U.S. war effort could succeed. At
the end of 1968, The number of American troops in South Vietnam
reached it's peak of 542, 000 men ( Pimlott 1982, 53 ). The Viet Cong
and North Vietnamese launched a major invasion against the United

States called the Tet offensive from January 30th to February 25th,

1968. At the Khe Sanh U.S. firebase, there was a major ground battle.

There was a siege from January 21st to April 14th. It was thought to
be the " American Dien Bien Phu ". The United States turned it around
however, with their victory at Hue. By 1969, combat decreased rapidly
and American troops began to return home.

The role of Communism was extremely important in this conflict.

Communism was one of the main reasons of why the United States entered
the war in the first place. The U.S. " had " to enter the war to stop
the spread of Communism in Asia since North Vietnam was Communist. If

North Vietnam were to succeed