Freedom: A History of US.
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Webisode 15: We Shall Overcome
Introduction Segment 1 Segment 2 Segment 3 Segment 4 Segment 5 Segment 6 Segment 7 Segment 8

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Student Protests
Segment 4
An aircraft carrier heads for Vietnam Hey, Hey, LBJ

We got into the war in Vietnam one step at a time. Our first real involvement began back when President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent some military "advisers" to help the leaders of South Vietnam fight some rebels in North Vietnam. It was the issue of Communism that sucked us in. There was a civil war between the northern and southern parts of Vietnam. The North was getting money and supplies from Communist China and from the Soviet Union, too. Many Americans feared that the Chinese Communists would control a united Vietnam. But we hadn't done our homework, and we didn't know much about the country where we were fighting. We backed corrupt leaders in South Vietnam who robbed the treasury and had limited popular support. And we didn't realize that the Chinese and the Vietnamese didn't actually get along very well. Most of the advisers to Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson believed we should fight in Vietnam. Check The Source - "The Cause of Peace" They believed it was America's role to stand up to communism anywhere. If Vietnam was allowed to become communist, everyone seemed sure that all of southeast Asia would follow. Publicly Johnson said, Hear It Now - LBJ "I do not find it easy to send the flower of our youth—our finest young men into battle." But the President sent them anyway.

Soon after he was elected, something happened that gave Johnson an excuse to enter the war—which his advisers had been pushing him to do. An American ship was on a secret mission to the Gulf of Tonkin, near Vietnam. It wasn't supposed to be there. A torpedo was fired at the ship, or so it was said. Two days later there was a second report of torpedoes. Johnson said an American ship had been attacked. Check The Source - "A Struggle for Freedom" That was untrue, but that's what the Navy told him. So he got Congress to pass a resolution that let him go to war. Check The Source - The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution We began bombing North Vietnam. See It Now - Bombing During the Vietnam War Before we finished we dropped more bombs on that small country than we had on both Germany and Japan during all of World War II. And we sent soldiers. Lots of them. Most of our soldiers were decent and some were heroic. See It Now - American Soldiers in Vietnam Many helped the people of Vietnam. But some didn't. They had killing weapons and they used them on innocent villagers as well as on enemy soldiers. The war became a national nightmare. See It Now - Student Protests It went on and on and on, becoming the longest war in U.S. history.

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Did You Know?
By the end of 1967, only twenty-six percent of the American population approved of Johnson's handling of the war.

Did you know that Freedom is adapted from the award-winning Oxford University Press multi-volume book series, A History of US by Joy Hakim?

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