The American intervention in Vietnam began in 1963 withe direct aim of stopping the South falling into 'communist' hands. In August of that year, Lyndon Johnson, who had taken over the American presidency in the wake of the assasination of John F. Ken\nedy, ordered the first air strikes on the North.
Six months later the 'Rolling Thunder' air campaign began. In this campaign alone more bombs were dropped on North Vietnam alone than were used in the whole of the Second World War. In the following five years the two Vietnams received the equivalent of 22 tons of explosives for every square mile of territory, or 300lb for every man, women and child. 7 million tons of bombs and defoliants were dropped in total and 2.6 million Vietnamese were killed.
The American deployment jumped from 23,300 in 1963 to 184,000 in 1966 and reached a peak of 542,000 in January 1969 under Richard Nixon's presidency.
The Tet offensive is seen as the great turning point: from then on the war, costing £30 billion a year, was widely acknowledged as unwinnable by the Americans. It was only a matter of time before mighty US imperialism was humiliatingly forced to withdraw.
On the night of 31st January 1968, 70,000 North Vietnamese soldiers launched the Tet offensive - it proved to be one of the greatest campaigns in military history.