Arguably the Vietnam war was the major event to engross the national attention of both the 60's and the 70's as its infamies, explanations, lies and heartbreak engulfed the United States and particularly its young people who were wounded, killed or facing the draft. It began as a vestige of the habitual anti-communism of the 50's and the decline of colonialism in the Far East as the French were ultimately beaten in what was formerly regarded as French Indochina. The original explanation for U.S. intervention was the "Domino Theory" which held that one after another of the powers in the East would topple to the world wide communist conspiracy, like a series of dominos. The legend was that China had more or less succumbed to the "Red Menace," and its traditional enemy, Vietnam, would rapidly fall into communist hands, followed by the other countries of Southeast Asia.
U.S. involvement began with U.S. "advisors" sent to prop up the friendly if corrupt government of the South of Vietnam, then engaged in a civil war with the "people's army" of the North for sovereignty of a united country. As the U.S. became more involved in what would be an increasingly costly quagmire, and still smarting under the standoff/truce in Korea, the country poured more and more troops into Vietnam, trying to fight a jungle war for an unwilling or at best dubious people with the dubiously effective weapons of World War II. Before the war ended Presidents from Kennedy through Johnson and ultimately Nixon, each met setbacks both at home and in the killing zones of South East Asia. Atrocities mounted, making American patriotic visions seemed less credible, and when massive bombing failed, antiwar sentiment increased back in the States as more and more young men were conscripted in the draft. Official lies like those behind the Golf of Tonkin resolution were ultimately uncovered, as U.S. and Vietnam civilian casualties exponentially mounted. The war was abandoned after a successful Vietcong invasion of the South called the Tet Offensive finally broke the U.S. will to remain in the country.