The Kennedy administration, in terms of foreign policy, never fully emerged from the shadow of Truman, in
the sense that the domestic crisis unleashed by the "failure" of the last Democratic administration to prevent the fall of
China in 1949 prompted Kennedy to resist as strongly as possible any potential gains by communist movements. In 1961, moreover,
Kennedy found himself faced with a tripartite crisis that appeared to him very similar to that faced by Truman in 1949-1950. In that year, Truman sought to counterbalance the fall of China and the detonation of the
first Soviet atomic bomb with a firm stand in Korea. From Kennedy's perspective, 1961 had already seen the failure of the
Bay of Pigs invasion, the construction of the Berlin Wall, and a negotiated settlement between the pro-Western government
of Laos and the Pathet Lao communist movement. Fearing that another failure on the part of the United States to stop communist
expansion would fatally damage his and Washington's reputation, Kennedy placed a new emphasis on preventing a communist victory
On December 11, 1961, the United States sent 900 military advisors, and after began to clandestinely send
more, both to give temporary support to the South's Diem RVN regime, and to engage in terrorism against both North and South
Vietnam. Some of these bombing attacks were designed to inflame and exacerbate both the civil war in the South and to exacerbate
the impression of a greater conflict with the North.
The local strategy was to create the impression that a "legitimate" government was being overrun by
"hostile Communist forces," though this was while the "Communist forces" were limited to a rising insurgency among the South
Vietnamese. At the time, this insurgency was mostly inspired, not directed, by the North, and as such the definition of an
"enemy" by philosophical and political grounds would prove to be fateful for U.S. soldiers ordered to make life-and-death
choices on the ground. To US planners, however, these distinctions were neither forseeable nor did they matter as much as
the creation of a greater conflict itself. The impossible task of defining who the enemy was would directly to the general
quagmire and the human rights atrocities for which the Vietnam War is widely known.
Backed by the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China, North Vietnam began supporting the NLF with
arms and supplies, advisors, and regular units of the North Vietnamese Army, which were transported via an extensive network
of trails and roads through the neutral nation of Laos, which became known as the Ho Chi Minh trail. The stage was set for
the escalation to come, wherein a civil war between Vietnamese farmers seeking to overthrow a puppet despot would find themselves
pawns in a larger proxy war between the competing expansionist systems of U.S. capitalism and Soviet communism.