The Americans gradually intervened in Vietnamese Affairs from the Eisenhower Administration. During the First Indochina War, President Eisenhower exploited“Internationalization of the Vietnam War”. He gave France economic and military support in order to defeat the Vietnamese communists. However, the French forces were defeated by Vietminh in Dienbienphu, which prompted France to retreat from Vietnam. The retreat of France represented the failure of Internationalization of the Vietnam War. Hereafter, the Americans used the Geneva Conference to prevent Vietnam from being communized. After the Gevneva Conference ended, the Americans supported Ngo Dinh Diem in establishing the Republic of Vietnam in Southern Vietnam in 1955. President Eisenhower wanted to exploit this as a well of“buying time”to build an independent South Vietnam and thus, started to cooperate with Diem for the next eight years.
Kennedy succeeded Eisenhower as American President in 1961. He did not accept all of Eisenhower’s Vietnam policy fully, but his Vietnam policy succeeded Eisenhower’s spirit--- American forces did not enter Vietnam. At the beginning of the Kennedy Administration, American Southeast Asia policy focused on Laos. Thus, American and South Vietnamese relations had been in ambiguity for several months in 1961. In May 1961, American Vice President Johnson visited South Vietnam, and he agreed with Diem , when Diem asked for extra aid in Johnson’s trip. In this way, the Americans added their promise to the South Vietnamese. President Kennedy sent Taylor and Rostow to inspect South Vietnam in October 1961. Taylor and Rostow received South Vietnamese active responses of building an independent country. Therefore, building an independent and noncommunist South Vietnam became the idealism for American Vietnam policy. The central thought of Taylor-Rostow Mission report focused on limited partnership, and this was the pragmatism of American Vietnam policy. “Limited partnership” became the best reason to avoid sending American forces to Vietnam.
After having a definite direction to Vietnam policy in late 1961, Washington started finding ways to strengthen the South Vietnamese government. Although President Eisenhower wanted to build an independent South Vietnam, its government was still lacking civilian support, because Eisenhower and Diem over-emphasised on security problems and ignored political and economic developments in South Vietnam. The Americans designed two concrete plans, firstly, the “Civic Action Program” and secondly, the “Strategic Helmet Program,”to attract civilian support for the South Vietnamese government. However, Diem curved the original purposes of the two plans, and considered them as ways of controlling the South Vietnamese. Besides Diem’s attitude toward the two plans, they operated too fast to fulfill their purpose. In 1962, America was optimistic about military advancement in South Vietnam, all except finding ways to strengthen the South Vietnamese government. Thus, America started to plan to retreat its Military Assistance and Advisory Group from South Vietnam in phases. However, news from American reporters’ about Diem regime and Senator Mansfield Report brought negative effects to America’s evaluation of the situation in South Vietnam.
American and South Vietnamese relations changed drastically in 1963, because the Buddhist Crisis burst out in South Vietnam. Washington and Saigon did not trust each other due to Diem’s stubborn attitude towards the Buddhist Crisis, and the harmony of South Vietnamese society was crushed down. In August 24th 1963, the Department of State passed a telegram to the American embassy in Saigon which announced support for a coup in Vietnam. Thus, South Vietnamese military officials started planning a coup. In Washington, the officials argued that if Diem should be overthrown at a series of conferences in September and October 1963. Finally, America decided not to support a coup actively and gave Diem’s regime a chance to save the situation. However, America did not stop the development of a coup in South Vietnam. A coup occurred in early November 1963 in Saigon. After Diem was overthrown, the situation in South Vietnam rapidly worsened. To sum up, Kennedy’s Vietnam policy did not live up to its purpose. Both Washington and Saigon should be held responsible for the failure of American Vietnam policy.