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Why did American soldiers begin to question U.S. involvement in the war?
ANSWER: American soldiers thought many South Vietnamese were indifferent toward their own nation.
World War I was the first time in American history that the United States sent soldiers abroad to defend foreign soil.
On April 6, 1917, when the United States declared war against Germany, the nation had a standing army of 127,500
Once war was declared, the army attempted to mobilize the troops very quickly. The fatigued British and French troops,
who had been fighting since August 1914, sorely needed the relief offered by the American forces. In May 1917,
General John Joseph “Black Jack” Pershing was designated the supreme commander of the American army in France,
and the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) were created.
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Pershing and his staff soon realized how ill-prepared the United States was to transport large numbers of soldiers and
necessary equipment to the front, where supplies, rations, equipment, and trained soldiers were all in short supply.
Since even the transport ships needed to bring American troops to Europe were scarce, the army pressed into service cruise ships,
seized German ships, and borrowed Allied ships to transport American soldiers from New York, New Jersey, and Virginia.
The mobilization effort taxed the limits of the American military and required new organizational strategies
and command structures to transport great numbers of troops and supplies quickly and efficiently.
The United States enters the war
Between the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and the U.S. presidential election in November 1964, the situation in
Vietnam had changed for the worse. Beginning in September, the Khanh government was succeeded by a
bewildering array of cliques and coalitions, some of which stayed in power less than a month.
In the countryside even the best ARVN units seemed incapable of defeating the main forces of the Viet Cong.
The communists were now deliberately targeting U.S. military personnel and bases, beginning with a mortar attack on the U.S. air base at Bien Hoa near Saigon in November.
Many of Johnson’s advisers now began to argue for some sort of retaliation against the North.
Air attacks against North Vietnam, they argued, would boost the morale of the shaky South Vietnamese and
reassure them of continuing American commitment. They would also make Hanoi “pay a price” for its war
against Saigon, and they might actually reduce the ability of the North to supply men and matériel for the military effort in the South.
Except for Undersecretary of State George Ball, all the president’s civilian aides and principal military advisers
believed in the efficacy of a bombing campaign; they differed only as to how it should be conducted.
The military favoured a short and sharp campaign intended to cripple the North’s war-making capabilities.
On the other hand, National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy and Assistant Secretary of Defense John McNaughton
argued for a series of graduated air attacks that would become progressively more damaging until
the North Vietnamese decided that the cost of waging war in the South was too high.
Within the administration, both Ball and Vice Pres. Hubert H. Humphrey warned the president that a major bombing campaign
would likely lead only to further American commitment and political problems at home. But Johnson was
more concerned with the immediate need to take action in order to halt the slide in Saigon. In mid-February,
without public announcement, the United States began a campaign of sustained air strikes against the North that were code-named Rolling Thunder.