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Second Indochina War - History and Facts

Updated on September 21, 2014

Vietnam War History

The Vietnam War was a military war between South Vietnam (supported by United States and other anti-communist countries) and North Vietnam (supported by China and other communist allies).

The North Vietnamese government and Viet Cong (South Vietnamese communist common front directed by the North) were fighting to reunify Vietnam under communist rule.

north and south Vietnam in second indochina war
north and south Vietnam in second indochina war

The Vietnam War is also known as the Vietnam Conflict, American War in Vietnam, and the Second Indochina war.

The conflict raged on for nearly 20 years – 19 years, 5 months, 4 weeks and 1 day (from 1st of Nov 1955 to 30th of April 1975).

The United States feared that if South Vietnam was toppled by the Communists then "Domino Theory" would take place - the neighbouring Asian nations like Thailand, Malaya, Burma, Cambodia and Laos would also fall to the communists.

The Vietnam War was the longest military battle in the United States history.

An estimated 2 million civillians and over 1.5 million military personnel were killed in this war.

This conflict was a continuation of the first Indochina war – when the Vietnamese sought independence from France after WW2. Vietnam was then split into 2 parts, the southern and northern Vietnam (in the Geneva Accords in 1954).

Vietnam was divided by a demilitarised zone (DMZ) that split the country into communist north and pro-American south.

search and destroy in vietnam war
search and destroy in vietnam war

Indochina, a region made up of modern-day Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, was conquered by the French in the 19th century.

From the mid-19th century, Vietnam was a French colony until its expulsion in 1954. In 1940, some portions of Vietnam was invaded by Japan. After suffering defeat at the hands of the Allied Forces, Japan was then forced to concede.

In 1941, Vietnam had two foreign powers occupying them, and during this time that Ho Chi Minh (Vietnamese revolutionary leader) arrived back in his country after spending 30 years traveling the world.

Communist forces based in the north (led by Ho Chi Minh, the nationalist leader) defeated the French in 1954.

In 1954, the Geneva Agreement split Indochina into 3 countries: Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, which was divided along the 17th parallel. Wether the North and South of Vietnam would be unified as one was to be decided after elections in both the regions.

Although it was agreed to hold elections in 1956 to unnify the two parts of Vietnam, the ruler of South Vietnam (Ngo Dinh Diem) with the support of the United States, refused to hold elections. And because of that, the communists had launched a guerilla war on the south within five years.

Ho Chi Minh was revered by both South and North Vietnam as he is the guy who defeated the French, and therefore it is more likely that Ho was going to be voted for as the leader of Vietnam if the elections were to take place.

Ngo Dinh Diem (1901-1963) was an anticommunist Vietnamese statesman, he refused to ally with Ho Chi Minh (Vietnamese communist leader) after the Franco-Vietnamese War.

Diem led South Vietnam from 1954 - 1963 (with the support of the United States government) but he was assassinated alongside his brother in a military coup.

Diem was a terribly unpopular leader, known for his ruthlessness and his paranoia. Many South Vietnamese grew to fear and resent his repressive policies, which ultimaetely contributed to the rise of the Viet Cong and the NLF.

Ho Chi Minh set up the NLF (National Liberation Front) in South Vietnam and started a guerilla war to take over the south from Diem and his American backers. The Americans supported Diem with money and military advisers and called the NLF guerillas the Viet Cong.

Hundreds of thousands of US soldiers arrived in Vietnam to help fight the communists in a costly and ultimately unsucessful war which brought domestic civil unrest and international embarrassment.

more bombs dropped in the Vietnaem War than world war 2
more bombs dropped in the Vietnaem War than world war 2

There were more bombs dropped in the Vietnaem War than there were in Europe during WWII

By 1963, most rural areas of South Vietnam were under Viet Cong’s control, and the South Vietnamese army (ARVN) also could not defeat them.

More than 1 million soldiers of the Vietcong and about 58,200 Americans were killed during the war.

The US spent $111 billion on the war between 1965 – 1975.

Civillians from the surrounding countries such as Laos and Cambodia were also killed in the thousands.

This long and costly war ended with the defeat of South Vietnam in April 1975.

Eventually, Vietnam was unified into a Communist state.

Almost 2 million South Vietnamese have relocated to Canada, France, Australia and the United States since the fall of Saigon.

After the war, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand stayed free of communism.

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