The Vietnam War constitutes a defining moment in modern history. Starting from 1945 and lasting to 1975, The war pitted the Communists of Vietnam, supported by China and the USSR, against a number of opponents, including first the French and second the South Vietnamese and Americans, the latter supported by a number of allies. U.S. involvement began when the anti-Communist government of South Vietnam sought American aid, and this grew steadily from technical support, weapons, and equipment to the initial limited involvement of U.S. This opened the floodgates, and in the mid 1960's ever-larger numbers of U.S. troops were poured into South Vietnam as U.S. air power struck at North Vietnam. But the Americans could never fully come to grips with the psychology and tactics of the communists. U.S. forces departed Vietnam in 1973. The USA was free of this commitment, but its failure in the Vietnam War was a body blow to U.S. cohesion and belief in itself.
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