Vietnam War Era: 1955–1975



The Vietnam War Era lasted from 1955 to 1975 and involved American aid. The United States lent support to the anticommunist South Vietnamese government when the French colonial administration was defeated in 1954. In 1964 the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution gave President Johnson broad powers to conduct war. Many of America's actions in Vietnam caused divisions among Americans, and a strong antiwar movement developed. Many Americans eventually viewed the Vietnam War as a futile endeavor, as the North Vietnamese Communists were deeply committed to freeing Vietnam from foreign intervention. Near the end of America's involvement in Vietnam, Congress repealed the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. In 1973 the War Powers Act was passed to limit a president's powers to make war.

At A Glance

  • The Vietnam conflict had its origins in French colonization in the region in the 1880s and grew as Vietnamese nationalism took hold.
  • France withdrew from Vietnam in 1954, and the United States quickly established a presence in South Vietnam to prevent a communist takeover.
  • After the Gulf of Tonkin incident, Congress granted President Johnson broad authority to "repel any armed attack" against U.S. forces.
  • Even after key battles, territory often changed hands and both sides claimed victory in the Vietnam War.
  • The 1968 primaries, party conventions, and final candidates' campaigns were very different for the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.
  • Republican candidate Richard M. Nixon won the 1968 presidential election by convincing the American people a new administration could put an end to the Vietnam War.
  • The election of President Richard M. Nixon marked the beginning of a new policy called Vietnamization, the gradual withdrawal of American troops from South Vietnam.
  • The antiwar movement grew in strength from events such as the killings at Kent State University and the publication of the Pentagon Papers.
  • Concerned about President Nixon's use of power to wage war, Congress passed the War Powers Act in 1973 to limit a president's use of military power.
  • A complicated peace agreement was finally reached in 1973 between representatives of North Vietnam, the South Vietnamese government, South Vietnamese Communists, and the United States.