That is, If you can even call it a war!
The situation in Vietnam was NEVER officially declared a War by congress believe it or not, Most of the troops over in Vietnam were there as a result of Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and President Lyndon B. Johnson. And an alleged attack that might have never even happened!
During President John F. Kennedy's term, there were about 500 advisers in Vietnam that were mainly there to train the South Vietnamese and NOT to engage in combat. As time went on, that number went from 500 to 16,000. Thats a little too many non-combat troops in a country that were not even at war with if you ask me.
The Advisers in Vietnam remained there to play non-combat roles until the Gulf of Tonkin Incident of 1964. This Military engagement involved the United states ship the USS Maddox and three North Vietnamese torpedo boats. The Vietnamese fired torpedoes at the Ship, and a sea battle resulted. 4 Vietnamese Sailors were Killed, and there were no US casualties, only some damage done to the Maddox. Then there was an alleged second attack which really is disputed weather it even happened or not, some people say that another torpedo was heard coming for the Maddox but the noise the radar man picked up was the ships own propellers. Also some people even doubt if the first attack even happened.
The USS Maddox
After this event, President Johnson addressed the American people with a speech in which he said that the U.S only attacked in retaliation of attack. He also dramatized the fact that Ho Chi Minh (North Vietnamese Communist) was the aggressor. This put the United States in an acceptable position with a reason for retaliating. However there is evidence that on the day when LBJ made the speech, that him and Robert McNamara were not even sure if there even was an attack! And if there was one, many people believe that it was because the U.S was asking for it. In 1964, many politicians were in favor of increasing the number of troops in Vietnam, and there was also much support for the US to drive the Communists out of South Vietnam even if it meant attacking both North Vietnam and Red China. So the U.S probably sent the Maddox into the gulf to provoke North Vietnam so that the U.S had an excuse for escalation of the war. We did not necessarily attack first, but in a sense we did by sending a ship right into the gulf looking for trouble. So as a result of this incident, Congress passed the Southeast Asia Resolution, which granted President Johnson the authority to conduct military operations in Southeast Asia without the actual declaration of war. It gave Johnson approval "to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force, to assist any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty requesting assistance in defense of its freedom."
So for the next few years U.S involvement increased dramatically as U.S Military personnel almost hit 200,000 in 1965. And Also the U.S launched a massive bombing campaign over North Vietnam as a response to the "Attacks" of the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. 864,000 tons of American bombs were dropped on North Vietnam during Operation Rolling Thunder, all as a response to an attack which may or may not have happened.
B-52 Bomber "Carpet Bombing" North Vietnam during Operation Rolling thunder
From 65' on, the war become huge as we all know. The La Drang Valley, The Tet Offensive, Battle of Khe Sanh and so on. So makes you think, was this entire war started by the war hungry U.S politicians and not the North Vietnamese Communists? Was there even an attack? Was it an inside job? A lie? Who shot first? Who knows, but those are the facts of the most controversial conflict in American history.