Because the United States policy at the time, dictated that the spread of communism could threaten the freedom of all people, President Kennedy sent 16,000 American “Advisers” to South Vietnam to help stop the north from a military invasion of the south.
As Vice President, Lyndon Johnson, in 1961, told President Kennedy that “the participation of American ground troops in the war in Vietnam is neither desirable nor necessary.”
After the assassination of President Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson became President. In 1964, with 23,000 military advisers stationed in Vietnam, Lyndon Johnson was elected President. He said again, “the participation of American ground troops in the war in Vietnam is neither desirable nor necessary.”
In 1965 the U.S. troop strength in South Vietnam grew to 184,000. President Johnson soon came to the painful conclusion that an independent South Vietnam could survive only if the United States and other nations went to its aid. U.S. air strikes grew to levels exceeding the heaviest bombings of Germany during World War Two. During 1966, 200,000 more troops were sent to Vietnam. Two years later American forces in Southeast Asia numbered more than 500,000.
During 1968, amid race riots, and protests of the Vietnam War, President Johnson announced that he would not seek another term as President. April 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King was killed. June 1968, Robert Kennedy was killed, and also in 1968, Richard Nixon was elected President.
Early in 1969, after a cease fire agreement, Communist rockets again fell on Saigon, the Vietnamese capital, and U.S. B-52s bombed Vietnam near the Cambodian border. The American death toll rose to nearly 40,000.President Nixon was running again for President, and he wanted peace. With the combination of troop withdrawals from Vietnam, a February 1972 trip to China and a May 1972 trip to Russia, Nixon had established himself as a peace candidate.
On January 15, 1973, five days after President Nixon’s inauguration, he directed that all bombing, and shelling of North Vietnam be suspended. After several days of negotiations in Paris, an agreement was reached. On January 27, 1973 a cease-fire went into effect.
The Vietnam peace settlement called for the withdrawal of American forces within 60 days and the return of all American prisoners of war.During the more than 12 years of the war, the United States military suffered 58,000 men killed, 303,616 wounded, 587 captured, and 1,335 missing in action.
The Motts Military Museum displays an extensive collection of items donated by Edward Arthur who served 2 tours of duty in Vietnam as a helicopter gunner and was one of the first soldiers to donate his personal items and tell his story for the museum’s educational program.