Vietnam War
History of the United States
US Presidents

Which U.S. Presidents made decisions that affected the Vietnam War?

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June 03, 2010 5:14AM

President Eisenhower was concerned by the Communist victory over

the French in 1954. His administration then agreed to free

elections in Vietnam but quickly went back on the agreement when

analysts said that Ho Chi Minh would win and make Vietnam a

Communist country. Eisenhower then sent in military advisers and

helped set up a separate government in South Vietnam. The CIA

helped install Prime Minister Diem as President of the country.

President Kennedy increased the US military adviser force to

16,000. His administration used the CIA to overthrow the corrupt

(but elected) government of President Diem in South Vietnam.

Kennedy moved to reduce the US presence and pulled out 1,000 men.

Shortly after Diem was killed, Kennedy was assassinated.

Lyndon Johnson believed the Vietnam War would be winnable, just

as the insurgencies in Philippines and Indonesia had been put down.

He began to accept the opinions of the generals and the war

department as they requested more men and more equipment. The

Johnson administration manufactured the Gulf of Tonkin incident

which moved Congress to basically give the president war powers

without a declaration of war. Johnson increased manpower to more

than 540,000. He balked when (in spring of 1968) the military

requested 200,000 more men. At roughly the same time, Walter

Cronkite called the Vietnam war a quagmire and a stalemate that

could not be won and Johnson realized that support for the war

would now vaporize rapidly.

Robert Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey vied for the Democratic

nomination in 1968 to replace Johnson. Both advocated a swift end

to the war. Kennedy was killed and Humphrey lost to Richard


Richard Nixon came into office promising 'peace with honor.' He

slowly reduced the manpower in Vietnam but greatly multiplied the

bombing campaigns. He expanded the war to neighboring Laos and

Cambodia and permitted bombing so close to the Chinese border that

several American jets were shot down and landed in China. He

allowed the bombing and mining of Haiphong, which resulted in many

Russian deaths and threats of direct intervention by the Russians.

Nixon flew to China and persuaded the Chinese to withdraw support

for Ho. Nixon's Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, finally

crafted a peace deal with North Vietnam in 1973 (which everyone

knew the Vietnamese would not keep). Vietnam fell to the Communists

on April 29 - 30, 1975. Nixon resigned, primarily over


Gerald Ford helped establish refugee camps for Vietnamese

escaping the country. He allowed a few Vietnamese to come to the

US. Ford had no direct role in the Vietnam War, but sent the

Marines into Cambodia to rescue the crew of a ship taken by the

Cambodian military. The 25th Infantry was placed on alert as backup

to the Marines as the US prepared to invade Cambodia.

Presidents Carter and Reagan expanded the policy of allowing

Vietnamese escaping communist persecution to come to the US. The

policy also brought many Hmong, ethnic Chinese, Lao, and Cambodians

to the US.

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