From Ohio History Central
Although the United States of America's military involvement in Vietnam escalated dramatically beginning in 1964, it actually began in the late 1950s and continued until 1973. During this nearly fifteen year period, approximately 57,000 Americans died in the Vietnam War.
In 1945 and 1946, France sought to reestablish Vietnam as a French colony, as it had been before World War II. During World War II, Japanese troops had driven the French from Vietnam and made Vietnam a colony of Japan. With Japan's defeat in August 1945, the French hoped to regain control of Vietnam.
Unfortunately for the French, many Vietnamese people refused to become colonists of France again. Those people who favored French control generally lived in southern Vietnam and had profitable economic connections with France and other Western countries. People living in northern Vietnam and poorer people in southern Vietnam generally opposed French control. Under Ho Chi Minh, a strong supporter of communism, many Vietnamese people rebelled against the French during the late 1940s and the early 1950s, hoping to drive the French from Vietnam. This rebellion marked the beginning of the Vietnam War. These revolutionaries proved to be successful, forcing the French to sign the Geneva Accords in 1954, in which the French agreed to leave Vietnam.
The Geneva Accords, however, set the stage for a continuation of the Vietnam War. Under this treaty, Vietnam was divided into two separate
countries--North Vietnam and South Vietnam. These two nations were to only exist until 1956, when an election was to take place that would reunite the two countries as one under a single leader. Realizing that he would probably lose the election, the leader of South Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem, prohibited the election from taking place. Eventually, opponents to Diem in South Vietnam and their North Vietnamese supporters rose up, hoping to overthrow Diem.
The United States, involved in the Cold War with the Soviet Union, actively supported Diem. While Diem did not believe in true democracy and generally treated his countrymen and women unjustly, he at least did not support communism, unlike the majority of people in North Vietnam. Hoping to prevent communism from spreading to South Vietnam, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent American troops to South Vietnam to advise the South Vietnamese military in its war against the South Vietnamese revolutionaries and their North Vietnamese supporters. President John F. Kennedy continued sending advisors to South Vietnam during his administration.
The United States' escalation in the Vietnam War had a tremendous impact on Ohioans. Hundreds of thousands of Ohioans were members of the armed forces during the Vietnam War, although not all of these men and women served in North or South Vietnam. Of the Ohioans serving in the military, 2,997 of them died in Vietnam, while another twenty thousand of these people suffered wounds. Bealsville, Ohio, lost more people per capita in the Vietnam War than any other community in the United States. Other Ohioans actively protested the war, especially once the federal government eliminated college deferments and it became common knowledge that the United States military was also bombing countries neighboring Vietnam. The most famous protest occurred at Kent State University, where the Ohio National Guard killed four people, but other protests erupted at college campuses across Ohio and the rest of the nation.
[[Category:The Cold War and Civil Rights]]