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