The presidential campaign of 1960 was fiercely contested between Democrat John F. Kennedy and Republican Richard M. Nixon, who had served two terms as Eisenhower\'s vice president. He had visited Vietnam for many time in cases of political affairs and he strongly supported the policy of containment of communism there. In November 1960 Kennedy won the elections and accordingly his way of dealing with the Vietnam question was not much different from Eisenhower\'s policy. He was dedicated to help the ROV and if necessary the kingdoms of Laos and Cambodia. Although Kennedy\'s foreign policy showed little variation from that of preceding administrations, there were still very important differences between his and Eisenhower\'s defence policy. During the 1960 presidential campaign many voters supported his view that a war carried out with nuclear weapons would be a global catastrophe. The last president was the opinion that nuclear bombs and rockets were the best measure to protect America against ist enemies to rely on. If his country would have ever been faced to a challenge with the Russians Kennedy expressed this as a choice between holocaust or humiliation. He relied on alternative weapons and favoured expanded army forces.
And so the United States began to increase ist military power in south Vietnam to avoid the extension of the communism. Many small wars would be more effective than one big. By the spring of 1961 several hundred special forces were installed in the ROV to start the counter-insurgency against Ho Chi Minh.
For the vital post of secretary of defence Kennedy chose Robert S. McNamara, former head of the Ford Motor Company who was also interested in new approaches to defence problems by alternative non nuclear weapons. He tightly worked together with a former major of the US army of WW2 called Taylor. Both decided to reform the system of defence and acquired over the making of military policy.
In the first year of Kennedy\'s presidency he was very busy with other things than the situation in Vietnam. For example the crisis in Cuba, when the Russians built institutions for launching nuclear rockets on the island near the southern coast of America in 1962. In Germany the communists built the Wall, which separated the DDR from the rest of the country.
In 1962 president Diem requested additional American aid to increase the strength of the national army from 170000 troops to 270000 troops in order to combat the Viet Cong more effectively. Such an expansion would also involve increasing the US military assistance and advisory. Kennedy followed Diem\'s petition for help and sent troopers to Vietnam but much too less to support the desired expansion. Nevertheless the land was menaced by the Viet Cong, who started terrorist actions and maintained their insurgency supported by the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Normally they engaged in guerrilla hit-and-run attacks or in terrorist actions and sabotage, but sometimes the communist army (VPLA) appeared in battalion strength (units of more than five hundred men and women). They posed a greater threat to the ROV\'s self defence militia. The VPLA gained there power and by 1963 the vast majority of the rebels had been recruited south of the 17th parallel. About 74000 troopers were fighting in south Vietnam at this time. The insurgency by the communists became a real danger for Diem\'s government. But who was to be blamed for this? Kennedy\'s vice president praised at a short visit in Saigon for Diem and blamed North Vietnam for the insurgency. At the end of 1961 several hundred helicopters were sent to support the ARVN, the self defence army of the ROV. Instead of troops the helicopters should facilitate tactical movements. The power of the airforce was also increased. As much as possible Kennedy played down the growing US military involvement in South Vietnam to the Congress and the public and he avoided all critical voices. Another American Activity was the strategic hamlet program which was directed by the CIA. This project called for the removal of village communities suspected of aiding and abetting the VC. Small villages were surrounded by barbed wire barriers and were observed by guard towers. In this way enemy access and attack could be avoided. It would take more than five years to recognise first positive results.
Despite the expansion of the ARVN, more American assistance and the hamlet project the government in Saigon was losing the war in the year 1963. Kennedy\'s doubts about this war grew as he became more and more perplexed by the seemingly contradictory information he was receiving on the progress of the military actions. Now he finally recognised that the riots were more the result of Diem\'s incorrect policy than the influence from the communist north. In act of martyrdom and protest against his policy a Buddhist monk sat down in the lotus position in a public street in Saigon, allowed himself to be doused with gasoline and then he put himself into fire. This affair was documented by the press and appeared all over the world. And matters only became wore when several monks committed suicide. Eventually President Kennedy forced Diem to change his manner in politics or every American involvement would instantly be stopped. For him the war was only to be won with the support of a peaceful ROV. The long expected military coup finally took place on 1 to 2 November 1965 and the government in Saigon was overthrown. The revolution was led by General Van Minh (or Big Minh) and Diem was assassinated together with his sister.
Kennedy was outraged when he was informed about the cruel and violent details of their death but he had no choice and collaborated with the new government. On 22 November he fell victim to an assassin\'s bullets in Dallas and Lyndon Johnson became the new president of the United States.