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The Vietnam War  

During the 1960's and early 70's, the United States fought a war in Southeast Asia. In 1958, Communist led fighters began to battle the South Vietnamese government. The war escalated and by 1968, there were over 500,000 American troops in Vietnam
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Vietnam War Memorial Washington, D.C.

 

The War in Vietnam

After a failed unification of Vietnam in 1956, the country found itself embroiled in a civil war.  The country was divided into a Communist led North and an American backed South.   By 1958, Communist led guerrillas (Viet Cong) began fighting the South Vietnamese government.   In order to support the South, the United States initially sent in 2,000 military advisors.   That number quickly increased to over 16,000 by 1963.   Conditions in the South deteriorated and by 1965, President Johnson began air strikes on North Vietnam.  There were over 500,000 ground forces by 1968.  While the Vietcong and North Vietnamese lost many soldiers, they were not deterred and in 1968 commenced a "Tet Offensive."   This operation was not successful, but succeeded in turning many Americans against the war, so much so that President Johnson decided not to run for a second term.  The next president, Richard Nixon pushed for "Vietnamization", i.e. giving South Vietnam greater responsibility for fighting the war.   His decison to bomb Cambodia in 1970 provoked angry protests in the United States, especially on college campuses and led to the Kent State shootings.

Intense diplomatic efforts were made to end the war and in January, 1973 an agreement was reached which led to the withdrawal  of U.S. forces.  Prisoners of war were released.    However South Vietnam lost the war in 1975 and in that year North and South Vietnam were reunited under Communist control.

All told, over 56,000 Americans died in the war.  Millions of Vietnamese were also killed.

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