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With the cold war at its height, the US leaders were worried that an attack on North Vietnam by the US would create tensions with the Chinese and Russians that would, in turn, lead to a larger conflict and possibly WW III. This created a difficult situation for the US and would eventually lead to many internal conflicts, which ultimately prevented the US from forming a firm policy for the region. The US was also faced with a number of cultural differences between the two countries, and what was considered corrupt by the US government was considered legitimate by South Vietnamese standards. It was difficult for the US to portray South Vietnam as a hard working, hard fighting democracy; corruption was widespread among officials and the armed forces. The Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) was disorganized due to the low morale of it's leaders and their singular interest in personal gain. Therefore the US had a great deal of difficulty in holding the army together in South Vietnam and saw only one solution, that was to start taking care of things for themselves. By 1950 the US began sending their first troops, firstly in an advisory role, which slowly escalated into a full blown commitment.

The large-scale involvement of the US came under the tenure of President Lyndon B. Johnson and his Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Johnson had replaced John F. Kennedy after he was assassinated in Dallas, Texas 1963. As president, he was torn between the differing strategies the US had for Vietnam. The increasing involvement and the escalation of troop involvement meant there were more casualties and more problems at home. But Johnson, who was always concerned about his image, and as president, held the power to halt the war in Vietnam, could not face the thought of being regarded as the first president in US history to lose a war.

The pressure around him grew so intense, that he was only left with one option and that was not to run for a second term. Basically, he handed the hot potato to Richard M. Nixon.