The Vietnam War, also known as the Second Indo-China War, or in Vietnam, is known as the Resistance War against America. It came to an end on 30 April 1975 with the Fall of Saigon, capital of South Vietnam. It was a war that raged on in 3 different countries; Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia. This article briefly explains the background of the Vietnam war that saw the involvement of the former Soviet Union, China, the USA, Australia and others.
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Background of the Vietnam War
The region of Indo-China comprising present-day Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were French colonies since the 19th century. Following the outbreak of the Second World War, the Japanese Empire launched a lightning campaign that overran the entire region in 1940. The nationalist movement in Vietnam was composed of left-wing intellectuals who fought both Vichy French (Federates of the Nazi Empire) and Imperial Japanese. Following the Japanese surrender in 1945, the Vietnamese nationalists focused their efforts against French colonial authorities.
- Fearing the rise of a communist state in Vietnam, the USA supplied military aid to France in the First Indo-China War. The French were defeated in this war which led to the Geneva Peace Conference in 1954.
- As per the peace conference, Indo-China split into three independent countries, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Vietnam was split along the 17th Parallel into two halves, communist North Vietnam and anti-communist South Vietnam. An election was to unify the country.
- However, the USA-supported South Vietnam opposed the election in order to prevent the formation of a communist state.
- South Vietnam was headed by Ngo Dinh Diem and the North by Ho Chi Minh.
- Diem’s government in the south also became unpopular because of many strong repressive measures. There was an insurgency against his government, which some claim was instigated by Ho Chi Minh.
- In 1960, the northern government formed the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (NLF). This was also called the Viet Cong.
The course of the Vietnam War
- American military presence increased steadily in the south starting from a couple of thousand in 1954 to about 540,000 in 1968.
- The war was a costly one resulting in the deaths of many civilians including children. War crimes were rampant and increasingly, the Vietnam War caused a lot of anti-war sentiment in the USA. The My Lai massacre in 1968 that caused the deaths of at least 500 unarmed Vietnamese civilians at the hands of American soldiers led to a widespread outcry when the report came out after one year of the incident.
- Despite having superior weapons and military equipment, the USA and the South Vietnam authorities were defeated by the determined Viet Cong. This was because of the Viet Cong’s better knowledge of the region’s geography.
- In 1970, the USA tried to rout the Viet Cong’s supply bases in Laos and Cambodia virtually escalating the war into the neighbouring countries. This move was also condemned by many in the USA and worldwide.
- In 1973, the Paris Peace Accords were signed which led to a ceasefire and the peaceful exchange of prisoners of war.
The aftermath of the Vietnam War
- USA’s direct involvement in the war came to an end but fighting continued between the two Vietnamese forces. On 30 April 1975, Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, fell to the northern forces and the country was unified as a communist country.
- The estimated casualties were about 3 million Vietnamese people, 300,000 Cambodians, 60000 Laotians, and 58220 American military personnel.
- Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City in 1976.
- In 1986, the communist country initiated political and economic reforms which slowly integrated Vietnam into the world economy. It joined the WTO in 2007.
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