2. US policy and intervention, 1954-64

Key learning objectives
Students should be able to explain:

  • The reasons for US involvement in south-east Asia
  • The impact of increasing US involvement on policies followed by Ho Chi Minh

Key processes to be learned and understood

  • The aims of the Geneva Conference (1954) and the US response
  • Eisenhower and the Domino Theory
  • The formation of South Vietnam
  • Life in North and South Vietnam under Ho Chi Minh and Ngo Dinh Diem
  • The impact of Ho’s policies to unite Vietnam
  • The NLF, and the Ho Chi Minh Trail
  • The response of US
  • The Strategic Hamlet Programme
  • The fall of Diem (1963)
  • the Gulf of Tonkin incident (1964)

Key events

  • 1955: The pro-American Ngo Dinh Diem became President of South Vietnam in October.America agreed to train Diem’s army.
  • 1956: Diem started to arrest anyone suspected of being in the Vietminh
  • 1957: the Vietminh started a campaign of guerrilla warfare in South Vietnam
  • 1959: American military advisors were killed in Vietnam – the first US
    casualties; the Ho Chi Minh Trail was first used
  • 1960: the National Liberation Front (NLF) was formed in Hanoi though in the South, they were known as the Vietcong (VC)
  • 1961: US President Kennedy pledged extra aid to South Vietnam
  • 1962: The number of US military advisors increased from 700 to 12,000
  • 1963: President Diem was killed in a military coup
    15,000 US military advisors were in South Vietnam
  • 1964: the Gulf of Tonkin incident; Congress passed the ‘Gulf of Tonkin
    Resolution’; America bombs targets in North Vietnam; NLF attacked US air bases
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