Share This Article

Why is the Vietnam War referred to as the Johnson war? Is this justifiable?

? ? ?

Like so much about the Vietnam War, the popular term “Lyndon Johnson’s War” is neither simple nor clear-cut, and subject to interpretation and debate. Guided by the general principles of the Cold War and the “Domino Theory” that the fall of any country to Communist rule would lead to others following suit, Harry Truman aided the French in Indochina and Dwight Eisenhower supported Ngo Dinh Diem’s 1955 rejection of elections outside of South Vietnam, and backed his regime with advisors. John F. Kennedy increased the number of advisors, including Special Forces and air support, until there were 2,000 U.S. military personnel in South Vietnam in 1961. However, it was after Johnson promulgated the Tonkin Gulf Resolution on August 7, 1964, giving him the power to send troops without a declaration of war, that direct American involvement proceeded in earnest. By the end of 1964, American troop strength had risen to 16,500, and on March 8, 1965 the first 3,500 Marines landed at Danang, signaling the steady escalation, and attendant rising body count, that would earn “Johnson’s War” its sobriquet.



Jon Guttman
Research Director
World History Group
More Questions at Ask Mr. History