Why Did the Vietnam War Start? What Was the Cause?

The Vietnam War began due to complex reasons and circumstances. Tensions between North Vietnam and South Vietnam, supported by the United States and its allies, escalated into a full-scale conflict. But Why did the Vietnam War start? Read on to find out why.

Why Did the Vietnam War Start?

Since Vietnam’s split into the communist North and the democratic South in 1954, the United States has been actively supporting South Vietnam’s government and military with funding, weaponry, and training. 

As tensions between the two sides escalated into armed conflict, U.S. President John F. Kennedy made the bold decision in 1961 to expand the military aid program. 

This expansion not only involved increased financial support and arms but also marked a significant shift as it committed U.S. soldiers to the region.

Kennedy’s decision was fueled, in part, by the prevailing fears of the Cold War era, particularly the infamous “domino theory.” The belief was that if communism were to firmly establish itself in Vietnam, it would inevitably spread like falling dominos, toppling democracies throughout Southeast Asia.

Tragically, Kennedy’s presidency was cut short by his assassination in 1963. However, his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, carried on the mission initiated by Kennedy. 

Johnson wasted no time in ramping up the U.S. military presence in South Vietnam, resulting in 23,000 American soldiers deployed to the region by the end of his first year in office.

Political turmoil in South Vietnam and two alleged North Vietnamese attacks on U.S. naval vessels further fueled Johnson’s determination. In response, he demanded the swift passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964. 

This resolution granted Johnson broad authority to confront and combat the communist threat in Southeast Asia, reflecting the gravity of the situation at hand.

Who Won the Vietnam War?

The Vietnam War’s victory has long been a contentious topic, with the answer hinging on how victory is defined. Advocates of the United States’ triumph point out its success in defeating communist forces in numerous significant battles throughout Vietnam. 

They also emphasize the relatively lower number of American casualties suffered compared to their adversaries. 

The U.S. military reported a total of 58,220 American losses, whereas the exact figures for North Vietnamese and Viet Cong casualties vary greatly, though it is widely believed that they far exceeded the American count.

On the other hand, proponents of the United States’ opponents winning the war focus on the broader objectives and outcomes of the conflict. The United States initially intervened in Vietnam with the primary aim of preventing communist control over the region. 

In that regard, it ultimately failed, as the two Vietnams were unified under a communist regime in July 1976. Moreover, neighboring Laos and Cambodia also succumbed to communist rule. 

Additionally, mounting domestic unrest and the exorbitant financial toll of the war left the United States with no choice but to seek peace and initiate troop withdrawals, rendering them a necessity rather than a voluntary decision.

How Many People Died in the Vietnam War?

In the year 1995, Vietnam unveiled its official assessment of the human toll inflicted by the Vietnam War, and the numbers were shocking. 

This devastating conflict claimed the lives of a colossal 2 million civilians on both opposing sides, while an estimated 1.1 million North Vietnamese and Viet Cong fighters were also lost. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. military itself approximated that the courageous South Vietnamese soldiers who fought valiantly numbered between 200,000 and 250,000 casualties.

The gravity of this war is etched into history, and nowhere is its impact more palpable than at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Amidst the somber walls, over 58,300 names of fallen heroes from the U.S. armed forces are solemnly inscribed, forever honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice or remain unaccounted for.

However, the Vietnam War was not fought alone. Nations from around the globe rallied to support South Vietnam in their struggle. South Korea, displaying unwavering solidarity, mourned the loss of more than 4,000 of their own brave soldiers. 

Thailand, too, felt the sting of battle, with approximately 350 of their sons never returning home. Australia, standing shoulder to shoulder, suffered the loss of over 500 of their compatriots. 

And even the faraway shores of New Zealand were not spared, as they grieved for the thirty-odd warriors who would never see their homeland again.

Final Thoughts

These numbers, these names, serve as a poignant reminder of the immense human cost incurred during this tumultuous period in history. 

Amidst the statistics, we find stories of bravery, sacrifice, and unity, reminding us of the indomitable spirit that can emerge even in the darkest of times.