The Vietnam War was one of the bloodiest wars in the 20th century. It lasted from 1955 to 1975 but there were many conflicts prior to that.
French Colonial Rule
In 1887 France imposed colonial rule over Vietnam and named it French Indochina. Since that people in Vietnam dreamed of liberation and their own country. Ho Chi Minh (birth name is Nguyễn Sinh Cung) was a Vietnam nationalist and later to become a communist leader. During WWII Japan occupied French colonies, but retained pro-Axis French administration. In 1945, Japan ousted French administration and installed Bảo Đại as an emperor of the independent Vietnamese state. He abdicated on August 1945 when Japan surrendered.
This is where Ho Chi Minh jumps in and sees the chance to free Vietnam from colonial rule. On September 2, 1945, the Vietnamese Declaration of Independence was proclaimed.
It started with words:
“All men are created equal; they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights; among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
If these words sound familiar that is because Vietnamese declaration was modeled after the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America. There was a good reason for that. Ho Chi Minh counted on US support because he looked at the USA as the leader of the free world. He also wrote to President Harry Truman on numerous occasions, but he never received support from the USA. The reason for that was pretty simple. France wanted to gain control over its’ colonies again and threatened the USA it will join communist block if they support Vietnam. The communist movement was very strong in France so this was an obvious problem for the USA.
Vietnam – 1951/12/15
Ho Chi Minh
First Indochina War
Most of the surrendering Japanese favored Viet Minh resistance forces and gave their weapons or joined them as training staff. On the other hand, France landed their military force in 1946 and the war began. The war lasted from 19 December 1946 to 1 August 1954 and resulted with around 1 million casualties and French defeat.
France – 2004/05/10
The 50th Anniversary of the Battle at Dien Bien Phu
One of the last scenes in that defeat was the battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954. In that battle, France lost one-tenth of its force and 11,721 soldiers were captured. The defeat itself was even greater because among surrendered were mostly elite troops including Foreign Legion. Many members of Foreign Legion were former Nazi Germany soldiers so Viet Minh forces emitted propaganda messages in French and German.
The result was the 1954 Geneva Conference. Vietnam was divided into two countries, but reunification was planned and elections should be held on the whole territory in 1956.
Second Indochina War / Vietnam War / Resistance War Against America
In 1954 Ngo Dinh Diem became the president of South Vietnam. He gained support from the USA in 1955 and decided not to hold elections because his defeat was almost completely sure. He took the other path and started terror and oppression campaign against his political rivals and the civilian population. While the war started in 1955 it was not until 1964 when the USA joined at full scale. Although, the USA supported French forces and South Vietnam forces all the way till that moment. There was a false-flag attack staged by the USA (the Gulf of Tonkin incident) used as an excuse to join the war.
South Vietnam – 1975/04/01
“Allies” – Thailand, South Korea, USA, South Vietnam, New Zealand, Australia, Philippines
This was the time when the domino theory was pretty popular. After one country in the region falls under communist influence, the USA feared others will too. Therefore, the USA wanted to prevent this while it was still possible. Contrary to the public opinion, it was not all so black and white. Politicians and generals in the USA were aware it will be a rough conflict with an unpredictable result. The side they were supporting was far from democratic and the ideals allies were defending and therefore the support of the local population couldn’t be expected. The United States gathered the international coalition and they joined forces of South Vietnam on the ground too.
Tet Offensive and Victory
North Vietnam – 1970/10/25
Indo-Chinese People’s Summit Conference
Cambodia, Laos, Vietcong and North Vietnam
“Indochinese Peoples solidarity fight against imperialist U.S. invasion”
On the other side was the army of North Vietnam, Viet Cong supported by neighboring countries as well the USSR, China, East Germany, and Poland. The war lasted for 20 years and it was simply the war USA couldn’t win. Almost everything on the ground was against them – from geography, the will of (North and South) Vietnamese people to fight for their own country and the lack of the support of the local population on the South. Many atrocities, mostly again civilian population (e.g. My Lai massacre), took place. It was obvious that the USA will lose this war after the Tet Offensive in 1968. Although the offensive failed it proved that the Viet Cong (and North Vietnam) is able to perform wide-scale military operations and that it’s just a matter of time when one of them will succeed.
In 1972, American ground forces left Vietnam and the war officially ended on April 30, 1975, when North Vietnamese liberated Saigon (Ho Chi Minh city).
This unlucky and unwanted war resulted with around 3 million deaths and some horrors unseen so far.
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