The combat in Vietnam came to an end with the fall of Saigon in 1975. Few decisions in American foreign policy have had a greater impact than the set of circumstances that led to the United States' involvement in the Vietnam War. The war began as a conflict between North and South Vietnam after the former's communist government was declared illegal by the United States in 1955. In addition, the U.S. became involved when President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved the secret mission to help Vietnam's government fight off an invasion by Communist China. As part of this agreement, the U.S. would provide military assistance to Vietnam's government.
By 1961, the United States was also involved in the conflict due to the Soviet Union's support for North Vietnam's enemy, the Viet Cong. At its peak in 1971, there were approximately 550,000 soldiers from the United States and her allies fighting in Vietnam. Many young Americans died during this time; the final tally is 50,000 veterans of the war.
After many years of on-and-off negotiations, Vietnam's two governments agreed on January 27, 1973, to an armistice that ended all fighting in Vietnam. However, the United States refused to accept this agreement and continued to conduct air raids against Communist targets in Vietnam until 1975 when the last troops left the country.
Vietnam was a colossal failure, the only war the United States has ever lost. It was responsible for the deaths of 58,000 Americans and an estimated 2.5 million Vietnamese. Communism still exists in a few enclaves today, such as Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam, but the American way has won.
More over 3 million people were murdered in the Vietnam War, including over 58,000 Americans, and more than half of those slain were Vietnamese civilians. In 1975, Communist troops took control of South Vietnam, and the nation was united as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam the following year.
In terms of lost lives, this was by far the most deadly war for Americans until the attacks on 9/11. More than 765,000 men had served in the United States military during the course of the Vietnam War. Roughly 4 percent of these soldiers died. Of the 58,000 Americans who gave their lives, nearly 10 times as many were killed by other Americans who opposed the war.
When the United States entered the war in 1965, it was seen as a just cause - North Vietnam's invasion of South Vietnam led to America having to intervene on behalf of its ally. However, the conflict became increasingly controversial as years went by. By the time Congress passed a resolution authorizing continued American involvement in 1973, there was broad support for doing so among the public. Even so, opposition to the war remained strong among liberals and leftists in America, who saw the conflict as an example of American imperialism.
Once the bombing started, anti-war protests erupted across the country. The government responded with raids that lead to the arrest of more than 15,000 people.
President Nixon signs the Paris Peace Accords on January 27, 1973, bringing the United States' active involvement in the Vietnam War to an end. The cease-fire was acknowledged by the North Vietnamese. However, as US forces leave Vietnam, North Vietnamese military authorities continue to organize an invasion of South Vietnam. The conflict had claimed over 50,000 lives by that time.
Americans were also beginning to question the value of their involvement in the war. A large anti-war movement developed across the country as thousands demonstrated against the conflict every year from 1970 until its conclusion in 1973.
Additionally, public support for the war began to decline after the incident at Cu Chi Tunnels in June 1972 when American soldiers entered a North Vietnamese army (NVA) base and were attacked by young women wielding knives and scythes. The NVA attack killed 16 Americans and wounded 31 others. This event caused many Americans to doubt the war's worthiness and led to the creation of new policies aimed at bringing about peace negotiations with Hanoi.
The war had been raging for nearly five years when it ended, but it wasn't without consequences for both countries. Vietnam suffered greatly under the rule of Ho Chi Minh and his communist government and remains deeply divided today between a northern sector controlled by the Communist Party of China (CPCC), and a southern one run by the Government of Vietnam.
The communists breached the cease-fire even before the final American forces left on March 29, and by early 1974, full-scale combat had resumed. On April 30, 1975, the last few Americans remaining in South Vietnam were evacuated out of the nation as communist troops took over Saigon. With that, America's longest military engagement came to an end.
After nearly 10 years of fighting, the conflict proved to be no more than a stalemate for both sides. The United States lost 58 soldiers while North Vietnamese casualties are estimated at between 2,000 and 3,000 men. Communist leader Ho Chi Minh called the conflict "a huge loss for Vietnam and China," and Mao Zedong said it was "a big defeat for the world revolution."
In January 2001, former President Nixon told ABC News that he believed the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam "was a mistake." He also said that if he could go back in time, he would have kept 100,000 troops there longer.
Nixon resigned from office in August 1974 after being implicated in the cover-up of crimes committed by his administration. In October, he admitted to federal prosecutors that he had violated government laws during his efforts to suppress news about the bombing campaign of Cambodia. He said that he did this to protect national security interests but also expressed regret for his involvement in the matter.
By 1973, the United States Congress was no longer prepared to support the South Vietnamese army and air force in order for them to function successfully. Given the absence of strategic clarity in US objectives, the Vietnamese Communists' attritional tactic resulted in more losses than the American people was ready to endure.
The US withdrawal from Vietnam was a political as well as a military event. President Nixon had promised Americans that if elected he would not engage in "nation building" abroad, but rather would focus on improving relations with China and Russia. However, due to the escalating situation in Vietnam, he felt he had no choice other than to withdraw all American troops by March 31, 1975.
In his farewell address on January 17, 1969, former president Lyndon B. Johnson warned that unless America committed itself to the long-term defense of South Vietnam, the loss of that country would be "a terrible price to pay for any short-term benefit." Six years later, the threat of communism had only increased, yet again there was no indication that the South Vietnamese government was capable of defending itself against its communist opponents. Thus, it was evident that continued American involvement in Vietnam was not in our national interest.
As early as 1966, Republican senator Eugene McCarthy proposed that America stop fighting wars without congressional approval. In February 1973, Senator Edward Kennedy introduced legislation to end US participation in the war, but it was voted down by both houses of Congress.