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The Vietnam War the nations longest cost fifty-eight thousand American lives Only the Civil War and the two world wars were deadlier for Americans During the decade of direct US military participation in Vietnam beginning in 1964 the US Treasury spent over 140 billion on the war enough money to fund urban renewal projects in every major American city Despite these enormous costs and their accompanying public and private trauma for the American people the United States failed for the first time in its history to achieve its stated war aims The goal was to preserve a separate independent noncommunist government in South Vietnam but after April 1975 the communist Democratic Republic of Vietnam DRV ruled the entire nation The initial reasons for US involvement in Vietnam seemed logical and compelling to American leaders Following its success in World War II the United States faced the future with a sense of moral rectitude and material confidence From Washingtons perspective the principal threat to US security and world peace was monolithic dictatorial communism emanating from he Soviet Union Any communist anywhere at home or abroad was by definition and enemy of the United States Drawing an analogy with the unsuccessful appeasement of fascist dictators before World War II the Truman administration believed that any sign of communist aggression must be met quickly and forcefully by the United States and its allies This reactive policy was known as containment In Vietnam the target of containment was Ho Chi Minh and the Vietminh front he had created in 1941 Ho and his chief lieutenants were communists with long-standing connections to the Soviet Union They were also ardent Vietnamese nationalists who fought first to rid their country of the Japanese and then after 1945 to prevent France from reestablishing its former colonial mastery over Vietnam and the rest of Indochina Harry S Truman and other American leaders having no sympathy for French colonialism favored Vietnamese independence But
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