The American Journey © 2007

Chapter 30: The Vietnam Era

Chapter Overviews

President Kennedy continued the anti-Communist foreign policy begun under Presidents Truman and Eisenhower. In 1961 the East German government closed the border between East and West Berlin and built a wall of concrete blocks and barbed wire along it. While continuing to support West Berlin, the Western Allies could not stop the building of the Berlin Wall. In mid-October 1962, spy planes flying over Cuba discovered that the Soviets were constructing launching sites for nuclear missiles. In a crisis that brought the United States to the very brink of war, President Kennedy demanded that the missiles be removed and placed a naval blockade around Cuba. After five long days the Soviets backed down. As the rivalry between the Soviet Union and the U.S. continued, Kennedy challenged the nation to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

In Southeast Asia, a conflict that began after World War II grew steadily worse. In 1959 North Vietnamese forces led by Communist Ho Chi Minh began a war with South Vietnam. Under President Johnson the United States increased military advisers and aid to the South Vietnamese. When American destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin were allegedly attacked, Congress passed a resolution that allowed the president to "take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the United States." Thousands of American troops were sent to Vietnam where they found fighting a ground war to be very difficult. Dense jungles, muddy trails, and swampy rice paddies hampered troop movements. As casualties increased, protests at home grew. Student protests were organized against the draft and the entire war effort. In 1968 the Tet offensive targeted American military bases and South Vietnam's major cities. After reevaluating the war effort, President Johnson announced "a new step toward peace" and that he would not run for reelection.

1968 was a year of tragedies for the United States. While thousands of Americans were killed in Vietnam, Martin Luther King, Jr., and presidential candidate Robert Kennedy were assassinated. The nation was ready for change and elected republican Richard Nixon president. Nixon's Vietnam strategy was to achieve "peace with honor." Over the next few years American troops were pulled out of Vietnam. On January 27, 1973, negotiators signed a peace agreement. When the last Americans left Saigon in 1975, North Vietnamese forces moved into the city. Saigon fell to the Communists, and the long war was over.

Glencoe Online Learning CenterSocial Studies HomeProduct InfoSite MapContact Us

The McGraw-Hill CompaniesGlencoe