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US and the Vietnam War

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By 1968, the United States had committed up to 500,000 troops and some of the most advanced weapons of war to the military effort in Vietnam. Yet Americans forces were unable to prevail. How does Tim o'Brien's "If I Die in a Combat Zone" help us to understand why the United States eventually withdrew from Vietnam without achieving its objective?

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Solution Summary

This solution uses specific examples from Tim O'Brian's book "If I die in a Combat Zone" to explain the US involvement and withdrawal from Vietnam.

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Let me start with just a brief background on the war so it is easier to see why the US ended up with 500,000 troops in Vietnam. The U.S. became involved in Vietnam when anti-Communist forces requested American help, President Eisenhower complied and President Kennedy continued this policy. Only a few advisors were sent at first, but as Ho Chi Minh grew stronger, American leaders feared that a Communist takeover in South Vietnam might cause bordering nations in Southeast Asia to fall to the Communists like a row of "falling dominoes." This was the situation the US wanted to avoid and ever since the fall of China in 1949 the US was determined not to let Communism spread into Southeast Asia.
<br>The US involvement in Vietnam was expanded in 1964 when American naval patrols were attacked by North Vietnamese torpedo boats in the Gulf of Tonkin. President Johnson ordered an air strike against North Vietnam's naval bases. By the Gulf of Tonkin Resolutions, Congress unanimously supported the President's actions (although they repealed this in 1970). In 1965, after American bases in South Vietnam were attacked by Communist forces, President Johnson ordered continuous air strikes against North Vietnamese military targets. The US increased its forces in South Vietnam, eventually to over 500,000 men.
<br>The Communist nations also increased their support for the Vietcong and the Hanoi government. Moscow provided additional military equipment. Peking assigned engineering and service troops to maintain transportation in the North. The Vietcong showed no signs of giving up. US ...

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