The Vietnam War, also known as the Second Indochina War and the American War, was a war from 1959 to 1975 in Vietnam. It was fought between North Vietnam (the Democratic Republic of Vietnam) and South Vietnam (the Republic of Vietnam). North Vietnam was supported by the USSR and China, while South Vietnam was supported by the United States with its allies South Korea, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines. This conflict between communists and pro-American countries made it part of the Cold War.
Background and causes
Before and after World War II, France had controlled the Vietnam region. The Vietnam War was a product of the conflict between France and the Vietnamese and their leader Hồ Chí Minh. The First Indochina War started in 1946 when the French tried to re-take control of the country. Followers of Hồ Chí Minh fought against the French. In July 1954, after one hundred years of colonial rule, a defeated France was forced to leave Vietnam. In the summer of 1954, the French and the Vietnamese signed the Geneva Peace Accord. After the peace treaty was signed, the country was split into two separate countries: North Vietnam and South Vietnam.
The United States backed the anti-communist government in South Vietnam. It began to send military advisers to help train and support the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. The South was fighting a slowly rising insurgency from the North, the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (NLF), which would be labeled the "Việt Cộng" in Ngô Đình Diệm's Denounce the Communists Campaign. The Americans would continue to call the NLF by this propaganda term.
North Vietnam wanted to get rid of South Vietnam's government and make the whole country communist.
In 1964, United States naval ships reported being attacked by North Vietnam. Reports later suggested that the attack did not happen. However, the United States passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and began to bomb North Vietnam. In 1965, the first United States combat troops entered Vietnam and there would be half a million of them in just three years.
Nearly all of the land battles were fought throughout South Vietnam. There were thousands of North Vietnamese Army (NVA) troops that infiltrated western and northern parts of South Vietnam. There were also thousands of people in South Vietnam, known to the Americans as 'Viet Cong' or "VC"s, who sided with North Vietnam and fought for them. Because of this it was often hard for American and South Vietnamese troops to tell friendly civilians from dangerous ones. A tragic example of this mistrust was the My Lai Massacre in March 1968, in which U.S. Army troops killed hundreds of people in a South Vietnamese village. The large number of NLF fighters throughout the country meant that American bases were often attacked.
VPA and NLF people were supplied by a vast network of hidden trails, known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail. North Vietnam soon moved these trails into Laos and Cambodia, where American planes and troops were not allowed to be. America battled the Ho Chi Minh Trail there anyway, in what is known as the Secret War, and flew planes deep into North Vietnam to try to damage the trail and ruin North Vietnamese factories and bases.
In 1968, the Tet Offensive, the My Lai Massacre, the draft, and the increasing death count among U.S. forces began to make many Americans oppose the war. Richard Nixon became the new US President in 1969, and he hoped to solve this problem and began a "Vietnamization" of the war. This was a new policy that made South Vietnam responsible for fighting the war, rather than the United States. It equipped South Vietnam with the weapons they needed to fight. Starting in 1969, American troops were brought into Vietnam in smaller and smaller numbers, and 95% of the American troops were gone by 1972.
By 1972, world leaders tried to make South Vietnam and North Vietnam agree to peace at the Paris Peace Accords, but the countries disagreed and North Vietnam quit the talks. The United States launched a heavy bombing campaign on Hanoi in December 1972 to get North Vietnam to continue, which worked and led to an agreement in 1973. Both sides quickly broke the agreement and started fighting again.
End of U.S involvement and end of the war
By 1973, United States soldiers were no longer in Vietnam and there was a lot of pressure on President Nixon to end American involvement completely. As a result, America sent less and less money and weaponry to South Vietnam. South Vietnam continued to fight by itself. North Vietnam made a massive military attack in 1974 on South Vietnam. North Vietnam won nearly all of the battles and in one year it took over most of South Vietnam. This ended with the Fall/Liberation of Saigon on May 1, 1975. North and South Vietnam became a single country again on July 2, 1976, and this is now called the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.