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An Overview of the Vietnam War

Updated on August 5, 2017

Vietnam War Summary

Vietnam is a small nation located in the southeast part of the Asian continent. The Vietnam War (1955 to 1975) was believed to be a war against communism. However, the objectives of the war were not clearly defined. This terrible war resulted in the loss of millions of precious lives.

Where Is Vietnam?

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Vietnam War Was a Result of Cold War Between USA and USSR

The Vietnam War was a result of the cold war between the then super powers: the US and the USSR. The cold war was in full swing and both the superpowers wanted to exert political and ideological control over the region. In the year 1954, Vietnam was divided into North Vietnam and South Vietnam.

Communist Government in North Vietnam Was Backed by USSR

The communist government came to power in North Vietnam. The government was backed by the USSR. The US was committed to prevent the spread of communism in the region. The US backed the government in South Vietnam, headed by Ngo Dinh Diem. Unfortunately for the US, this government was weak, corrupt and oppressive.

Ngo Dinh Diem Government Was Weak, Oppressive and Corrupt

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Nationalists Led by Ho Chi Minh Were Willing to Lay Their Lives for a United Vietnam

The North Vietnam was governed by a group of nationalists under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh. They were patriotic and were willing to lay their lives for a united Vietnam. They fiercely opposed US intervention in the region. The resistance against the Diem's government was organized by the Ho Chi Minh backed National Liberation Front (also known as Viet Cong).

Ho Chi Minh Was the Leader of the North Vietnamese When War with America Broke Out

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USA Used Seven Million Tons of Bomb During the War

The hatred for the US increased when it sent its troops in the 1960s. By the end of 1966 there were around 400,000 US soldiers in the region. The US used seven million tons of bomb during the war, causing large scale destruction (851,000 North Vietnamese soldiers, 220,357 South Vietnamese soldiers, 58,202 Americans and millions of civilians were killed in the war).

The Truth About Vietnam War Narrated by People Who Fought the War

American Media Portrayed Victory As Defeat

Viet Cong's guerrilla warfare frustrated the American soldiers. In the year 1968, the Viet Cong attacked many US targets simultaneously. The operation was named "Tet Offensive". The US won a tactical victory by pushing back the offensive. Unfortunately, the American media portrayed it as a defeat. This resulted in public outcry against the war in the US.

Could the Vietnam War have been avoided?

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Vietnam War Photo

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I covered the Vietnam War. I remember the lies that were told, the lives that were lost - and the shock when, twenty years after the war ended, former Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara admitted he knew it was a mistake all along.

— Walter Cronkite

Vietnam War Was the First War to Be Covered on Television

Vietnam War was the first war to be covered on television. Many people opposed the war in the US, after seeing meaningless destruction in the name of democracy. Protests turned violent in the state of Ohio, resulting in loss of lives of four students.

President Nixon's Blunder

At this juncture, President Richard Nixon authorized bombing of defenseless and neutral Cambodia without the consent of the US congress. This resulted in a major scandal. Later, a ceasefire was signed in January 1973. The last American soldier stepped out of the Vietnam soil in the month of March.

Sufferings of POW

Army doctor Hal Kushner had been a starving POW in Vietnam for weeks. Unable to bear the hunger pangs, he and his comrades contemplated on catching and eating the prison commandant’s cat.

They attempted to conceal their despicable deed but were caught before the meal. Kushner was beaten up and tied. The cat’s carcass was draped from his neck. Tragically, he recalled, he and his buddies never got to eat the cat.

Various poignant incidents like this depict the sufferings Vietnam War inflicted on humanity.

Documents from Aide Seem to Confirm Long-Time Speculation That Nixon Tried to Scuttle a Vietnam Peace Deal to Help His Presidential Campaign

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No event in American history is more misunderstood than the Vietnam War. It was misreported then, and it is misremembered now.

— Richard M. Nixon

The North Vietnamese forces captured the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon on April 30, 1975, ending the Vietnam War. The nation was reunited under the communist rule. The unified Vietnamese state was called Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Arguably, other than World War II, no conflict has been subject to as many interpretations, examinations or adaptations as America's controversial intervention into South East Asian geopolitics.

The key texts, such as Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now," Michael Cimino's "The Deer Hunter," Paul Hardcastle's "19" and Credence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son," depict the Vietnam War as vivid, violent, surreal and futile.

Many books and movies were inspired by the Vietnam War. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. was created to honor the members of the US armed forces.

A Great Vietnam War Novel

In 1967, Le Ly Hayslip (then known as Phung Thi Le Ly) was a teen peasant girl living and working in Da Nang. This rape survivor migrated to Da Nang to escape from Viet Cong and those who opposed communism.

Hayslip married an American in 1972 and migrated to the USA. In 1989, she published "When Heaven and Earth Changed Places," her powerful autobiographical account of being caught between two sides during the war. It is perhaps the only first-person book in English about the experiences of villagers in Vietnam caught in the crossfire of the war.

A new monument was unveiled at the Florence Veterans Park in 2017 to commemorate the Vietnam War. The black granite monolith features myriad textures on one side and etched art on the other.

Results of Vietnam War

  • Decisive victory to North Vietnam.
  • Withdrawal of forces led by USA from Indochina.
  • Communism in South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
  • North Vietnam annexes South Vietnam.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Summary

  • Millions died in Vietnam War.
  • Resistance against the Diem's government was organized by the Ho Chi Minh backed Viet Cong.
  • The USA used seven million tons of bomb during the Vietnam War.
  • 851,000 North Vietnamese soldiers, 220,357 South Vietnamese soldiers, 58,202 Americans and millions of civilians were killed in the Vietnam War.
  • Vietnam War was the first war to be covered on the TV.
  • The Vietnam War ended with the capture of Siagon, the capital of South Vietnam, by North Vietnamese forces.

5 Bloodiest Wars

Sl No
War
Deaths
1
Second World War
70 million
2
Mongol Conquests
60 million
3
The Manchu Conquest of China
25 million
4
First World War
17 million
5
Nepoleonic Wars
6.5 million
 
 
 

I thought the Vietnam War was an utter, unmitigated disaster, so it was very hard for me to say anything goodabout it.

— George McGovern

© 2016 Srikanth R

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