Robert S. McNamara, appointed by John F. Kennedy to the position of U.S. Secretary of Defense in 1961, said about the Vietnam War, "It is important to recognize it's a South Vietnamese war. It will be won or lost depending upon what they do. We can advise and help, but they are responsible for the final results, and it remains to be seen how they will continue to conduct that war," (McNamara 72). Despite these guidelines for assisting in the war, the U.S. would end up doing much more than just advising. The Vietnam War was supposed to be a demonstration of how willing the U.S. was to battle communism, but ended up a personal vendetta against the North Vietnamese as the U.S. escalated its commitment in Vietnam infinitely greater than it had ever intended. After World War II, France returned to Vietnam to reclaim their Indochinese colonies after the Ho Chi Minh had declared Vietnamese independence in 1945 (Goldstein 3).
The U.S. had just ended a war started by German conquest in Europe, and now was being asked to help France conquer the colonies it lost control of during the war. The Vietnam Nationalists, the same ones who had supported the U.S. in the war against the Japanese not more than a year previous, sought only to peacefully gain their independence from France (Chant 25). In January of 1950, the Viet Minh gained recognition by the governments of the USSR and China, who supplied weapons and places to train (Chant 25). Because the two Communist superpowers recognized the Viet Minh, the Vietnam war became to the U.S. a struggle between capitalism and communism, especially since the Viet Minh were openly communist themselves. By aiding the French, the U.S. thought they were helping their free-trade ally France fight communism,