Johnson And The Vietnam War Essay

946 words - 4 pages

Johnson and the Vietnam War

He was determined that he would not be held responsible for allowing Vietnam to fall to the Communists. Johnson believed that the key to success in the war in South Vietnam was to frighten North Vietnam's leaders with the possibility of full-scale U.S. military intervention. In January 1964 he approved top-secret, covert attacks against North Vietnamese territory, including commando raids against bridges, railways, and coastal installations. Johnson also ordered the U.S. Navy to conduct surveillance missions along the North Vietnamese coast. He increased the secret bombing of territory in Laos along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, a growing network used to transport supplies into South Vietnam. On August 2, 1964, North Vietnamese coastal gunboats fired on the destroyer USS Maddox, which had infiltrated North Vietnam's territorial boundaries in the Gulf of Tonkin. Johnson ordered more ships to the area, and on August 4 the Maddox and the USS Turner Joy reported that North Vietnamese patrol boats had fired on them. Johnson then ordered the first air strikes against North Vietnamese territory and went on television to seek approval from the U.S. public. The U.S. Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which handed over war-making powers to Johnson until such time as "peace and security" had returned to Vietnam. The CIA was forced to admit that the strength of the NLF was continuing to grow. Johnson began to steadily escalate U.S. bombing of North Vietnam, which began to send out well-trained units of its People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) into the south. The NLF guerrillas coordinated their attacks with PAVN forces. Between February 7 and February 10, 1965, the NLF launched surprise attacks on the U.S. air base at Pleiku, killing 8 Americans, wounding 126, and destroying 10 aircrafts. They struck again at Qui Nhon, killing 23 U.S. servicemen and wounding 21. Johnson responded by bombing Hanoi at a time when Soviet premier Aleksey Kosygin was visiting, thus pushing the USSR closer to North Vietnam and ensuring future Soviet arms deliveries to Southeast Asia. Johnson's advisers, primarily Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy, declared that a full-scale air war against North Vietnam would depress the confidence of the NLF. The bombing did just the opposite. The inability of the ARVN to protect U.S. air bases led Johnson's senior planners to the agreement that U.S. combat forces would be required. On March 8, 1965, 3500 U.S. Marines landed at Da Nang. By the end of April, 56,000 other combat troops had joined them and by June the number had risen to 74,000.
When some of the soldiers of the U.S. 9th Marine Regiment landed in Da Nang in March 1965, their orders were to protect the U.S. air base. The mission was quickly escalated to include search-and-destroy patrols...

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