In early August 1964, the US claimed that American naval ships operating in international waters in the Gulf of Tonkin were attacked in two separate incidents by North Vietnamese torpedo boats. President Johnson immediately ordered retaliatory air strikes against North Vietnam. He sought and received authorization from Congress to use military force to counter what was portrayed as an increasingly successful communist campaign to take over South Vietnam. In February 1965, the first regular US combat troops arrived at Da Nang air base in South Vietnam. A few months later they were fully engaged in the fighting. From that point on, troops were quickly deployed to the region. By early 1969 there were over 540,000 US military personnel based in Vietnam. Towards the end of 1969, discouraged by the obvious lack of success in combating the communists, the US began a ‘Vietnamization’ of its war effort. By the end of 1971, Washington had reduced the number of US soldiers stationed in Vietnam to 139,000. In January 1973, a peace agreement was signed with North Vietnam and by March, America’s military participation in the War had essentially come to an end.
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