Considered the most divisive conflict in American history since the Civil War, the Vietnam War was a prolonged struggle whose ramifications can still be felt today. Despite Vietnam having no intrinsic value to the US, the American involvement was in the larger context of the cold war and its containment policy. US's foreign policy in the 1950s and the 1960 was focused on stopping the spread of communism across the globe. Consequently, when communists moved to take control of South Vietnam in the mid 1950, the US set out to stop it. The conflict started with non-violent forms of intervention before escalating into full blown combat. In the 1940s, a series of conflicts had been fought in the Vietnam region. The Japanese invaded portions of Vietnam in 1941 creating a power struggle with the French which had ruled the region for close to six decades.
The volatile state of affairs prompted the Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh to return to the country on grounds of nationalism and establish an independent government. By the year 1954, the Vietnamese had fought for independence and won, splitting the country into the North and South Vietnam allied to communist and non-communists respectively. Due to weak and poor leadership of individuals like Ngo Dinh Diem, a number of South Vietnamese became communist sympathizers, leading to the creation of the National Liberation Front (NLF) simply known as Viet Cong in 1960.
The guerilla warfare between the South Vietnamese government and the Vietcong escalated, eventually forcing the US government to send ground troops. The first US ground troops were sent in March 1965 under the authority of President Lyndon Johnson. The overall objective was to aid the South Vietnamese defense forces eliminate the communist sympathizers. The war was multifaceted, with ground troops concentrating on the South while aerial bombings extended to the North. Despite having superior weapons, the American troops had to fight against a more determined and well supplied Viet Cong.
The Vietcong used a series of complex networks of underground tunnels to attack and escape making the fight even more intricate. The conflict finally came to an end on April 30, 1975 when South Vietnam finally surrendered to North Vietnam. An estimated 1.1 million Vietnamese and 58,000 American soldiers had been killed. Thousands were also severely disabled, some lost limbs while others sustained multiple amputations and nearly half of Vietnam's land was destroyed. Even in the 21st Century, questions are still asked on why the US had to commit its resources and military personnel to a war with unclear goals and objectives.