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US History – The Vietnam War, 1945-75

3. Escalation

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In this module, we take a look at the escalation of US involvement in Vietnam, answering the fundamental question of why Vietnam mattered so much for the United States. After the French failure to re-establish their power in Vietnam, the United States became increasingly involved. This happened in a series of moves: (i) lending political and economic support to the new South Vietnamese state in 1954; (ii) increasing military support for South Vietnam in 1961; and (iii) becoming directly involved in combat in 1965. Why the United States committed itself in Vietnam is commonly held to be based on four reasons: (i) to contain communism; (ii) to prevent Southeast Asia becoming communist; (iii) to show the US as a reliable power; and (iv) to prevent domestic ramifications for policymakers.


In this course, Professor Mark Atwood Lawrence (University of Texas at Austin) explores the American experience in Vietnam. We start by introducing the Vietnam War and explaining its significance for the United States. In the following modules we will then explore five key questions: (i) why was there a crisis in Vietnam?; (ii) why did Vietnam matter to the United States?; (iii) why did the United States fail to achieve its objectives in Vietnam?; (iv) how did the United States end its commitment in Vietnam?; and (v) what were the legacies of the war for the United States?


Professor Mark Atwood Lawrence is Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin, as well as Director of the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum in Austin. Professor Lawrence has written and taught widely on the subjects of U.S. foreign relations, the Vietnam War, international history, and decolonisation. He has published two books on the Vietnam War - Assuming the Burden: Europe and the American Commitment to War in Vietnam (University of California Press, 2005) and The Vietnam War: A Concise International History (Oxford University Press, 2008).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Lawrence, M. (2021, October 26). US History – The Vietnam War, 1945-75 - Escalation [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Lawrence, M. "US History – The Vietnam War, 1945-75 – Escalation." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 26 Oct 2021,

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