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In the early 1960s North Vietnam wished to unify North and South Vietnam through military force Since the United States feared the spread of communism in Asia John F Kennedy provided economic and military aid to South Vietnam to prevent the takeover by North Vietnam At this time this was still a civil war The United States The North Vietnamese resented this intervention by the United Sates and so three Vietnamese torpedo boats fired on the US destroyer Maddox on August 2nd 1964 The Maddox had been in the Gulf of Tonkin international waters thirty miles off the coast of Vietnam On August 3rd 1964 President Johnson gave the right to attack with the objective of destroying attacking forces Retaliation air attacks began on August 3rd Their aim was to destroy North Vietnams gunboat capability As two more United States destroyers were supposedly sunk more air and sea forces were sent Up until now the US had refrained from direct combat This is when the United States formally entered the Vietnam War The US did this for two reasons We wished to maintain the independence of South Vietnam and we had to prove to allied nations that we would help them resist Communist takeover As Congress was about to vote whether or not to allow the combat to move into North Vietnam the North Vietnamese attacked a major US airbase at Bein Hoa On February 7th 1965 Johnson ordered retaliation bombing on North Vietnam Rolling Thunder was the name of this operation Its purpose was to put pressure on Hanoi and convince them that Communism could not and would At the end of 1965 one hundred and eighty thousand Americans were in South Vietnam under General William S Westmoreland The US mainly depended on superior firepower and helicopters The Viet Cong and North Vietnamese depended on The United States
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