A concise, accessible history of one of the most important and fascinating conflicts of the 20th century. On March 8, 1965, 3,500 U.S. Marines of the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade made an amphibious landing at Da Nang on the south central coast of South Vietnam, marking the beginning of a conflict that would haunt American politics and society for many years, even after the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 1972. For the people of North Vietnam it was just another in a long line of foreign invaders. For 2,000 years they had struggled for self-determination, coming into conflict during that time with the Chinese, the Mongols, the European colonial powers, the Japanese, and the French. Now it was the turn of the United States, a far-away nation reluctant to go to war but determined to prevent Vietnam from falling into Communist hands. This history explains how the U.S. became involved in its longest war, a conflict that, from the outset, many claimed it could never win. It details the escalation of American involvement from the provision of military advisors and equipment to the threatened South Vietnamese, to an all-out shooting war involving American soldiers, airmen, and sailors, of whom around 58,000 would die and more than 300,000 would be wounded. Their struggle was against an indomitable enemy, able to absorb huge losses in terms of life and infrastructure. The politics of the war are examined and the decisions and ambitions of five presidents are addressed in the light of what many have described as a defeat for American might. The book also explores the relationship of the Vietnam War to the Cold War politics of the time.