4. America’s Drift To War

Kennedy and National Security Advisor

Kennedy and National Security Advisor

A series of incremental decisions spread over three administrations committed Americans to a ground war in Vietnam. After providing limited support to the French, Eisenhower and then Kennedy gradually increased US support to a newly-formed non-Communist regime in South Vietnam from 1954 to 1963. Perhaps more importantly than providing material support, a succession of US Presidents staked US pride and reputation to a non-Communist South Vietnam, trapping succeeding presidents unwilling to “lose Vietnam”, and handing off a problem (as described by Herring) “eminently more dangerous” than that inherited from the previous administration.

Required Readings

  • Herring, George C. America’s Longest War: The United States and Vietnam, 1950-1975. New York: Wiley, 1979. Chapter 3-4: “Limited Partnership: Kennedy and Diem” and Enough But Not Too Much: Johnson’s Decisions for War” (pp 73-143)
  • Maurer, Harry. Strange Ground: Americans in Vietnam, 1945-1975, an Oral History. 1st ed. New York: H. Holt, 1989. Douglas Pike, “A Puppet Who Pulled His Own Strings” (pp 89-107)

Book Reviews

  • Halberstam, David. The Best and the Brightest. 1st ed. New York: Random House, 1972.
  • Berman, Larry. Planning a Tragedy: The Americanization of the War in Vietnam. 1st ed. New York: Norton, 1982.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: