Why did the U.S. begin military action in Vietnam

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Harry Middleton, the former director of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library, discusses how lessons learned from World War II (1939-1945) led to U.S. military involvement in Vietnam.

World War II (1939-1945) was the most destructive war in history. It killed more people, destroyed more property, and disrupted more lives than any other war in history. It probably had more far-reaching consequences than any other war. The war brought about the downfall of Western Europe as the center of world power. It led to the dominance of the Soviet Union and the United States. It set off a power struggle between the two countries called the Cold War. World War II also opened the nuclear age.

It is impossible to say exactly how many people died as a result of World War II. Estimates suggest about 20 million soldiers died during the war’s six years. From 30 to 40 million civilians also perished. That makes a combined death toll of 50 million to 60 million people.

The battlegrounds of World War II spread to nearly every part of the world. Troops fought in the jungles of Southeast Asia. They battled in the deserts of North Africa. They fought on the islands and seas of the Pacific Ocean. Battles raged on the frozen steppes of the Soviet Union and in the cities, forests, and farmers’ fields of Europe. Submarines fought below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.

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