The United States Air Force was responsible for air support during battles, air rescue, and extraction.
USAF involvement in Vietnam began as early as 1950 with support for the French Armed Forces. After the French were defeated and had left the country, the major powers of the day and representatives of the Indochinese peoples gathered in Geneva, Switzerland and Indochina was separated into the new countries of North and South Vietnam, while also creating Laos and Cambodia. South Vietnam became a republic and North Vietnam, under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh became another Communist nation. At the same time, the U.S. sponsored the creation of an eight-nation Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) to protect Cambodia, Laos, and South Vietnam from the spread of Communism fearing the well espoused “Domino Effect”.
Shortly thereafter North Vietnam declared its intention to reunite the country by use of military force if necessary. By 1961 The USAF was actively involved in training and advising in the field the South Vietnamese to defend their new homeland and had further begun to perform reconnaissance missions over Laos due to North Vietnams incursions into Laos. North Vietnam began to improve the Ho Chi Minh Trail which was a network of paths that worked through the mountains and jungles of Laos and developed as a method to attack the Japanese during WWII. During this period the USAF developed night tactics using SC-47s to drop flares and by 1962 tests had begun on tactics to defoliate the jungle in an attempt to deny the enemy cover. The results of this defoliation tactic have had many long-term and unexpected results on both US forces and the local peoples.
With the attack on the USS Maddox in August of 1964 by the Viet Cong, for the first time direct US action was ordered and US Navy planes attacked torpedo boat bases in North Vietnam. This also resulted in USAF jet aircraft being sent into South Vietnam for the first time.