Johnson Vietnam War
New president Lyndon B. Johnson inherited a difficult situation in Vietnam, as the South Vietnamese government was in shambles and the Viet Cong was making large gains in rural areas of the South. Although Johnson billed himself as a tough anti-Communist, he pledged to honor Kennedy’s limited troop commitments in Vietnam. The ensuing political instability in South Vietnam persuaded Lyndon B. Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara to further increase U.S. military and economic support in August 1964. Early that month, two U.S. Navy destroyers (spy-ships) in the Gulf of Tonkin reported that North Vietnamese gunboats attacked them unprovoked. The American public was incensed, and Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Out of the 535 total members of Congress, only two voted against this resolution. Although Johnson deferred openly escalating the war until after the election of 1964, the furor over the Gulf of Tonkin incident only helped Johnson in his campaign. By 1965, Viet Cong attacks on U.S. forces were becoming increasingly violent. With the free hand recently provided by Congress, Johnson ordered the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy to begin an intense series of air strikes called Operation Rolling Thunder. He hoped that the bombing campaign would demonstrate to the South Vietnamese the U.S. commitment to their cause and its resolve to halt the spread of Communism. Despite Johnson’s campaign promise to keep “American boys” out of Vietnam, Operation Rolling Thunder set the gears in motion for a major escalation of the war, culminating in the first arrival of U.S. ground troops in 1965. The war was undergoing “Americanization.” Throughout 1965, the U.S. military continued its bombing campaigns, so heavily that by the end of the decade it had dropped 3 million tons of bombs on Vietnam.The campaign had little effect because target selection was difficult against the hidden Viet Cong in the rural, non-industrialized Northern...
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