The North Vietnamese sought the reunification of the two countries under Communism. The United States, in line with their policy of Containment during the Cold War, were determined to prevent Communist aggression and provided the South Vietnam government with considerable aid and support.
The US finally sent in troops to fight as well and the prolonged Vietnam War escalated in 1965. The Vietnam War resulted in victory for the Communists when American troops were withdrawn in 1973 enabling South Vietnam to be completely taken over by communist forces in 1975.
How long was the Vietnam War? The Vietnam War lasted for 19 years, 5 months, 4 weeks and 1 day and was America's longest involvement in any war. The first US combat troops were sent to Vietnam in March 1965 and left in August 1973.
When did the Vietnam War start? The date of the Vietnam War started was November 1, 1955.
When did the Vietnam War end? The Vietnam War officially ended on April 30, 1975 although direct U.S. military involvement ended on 15 August 1973.
Why did the Vietnam War start? The main cause of Vietnam War between the north and the south was because the Communist government of North Vietnam, under Ho Chi Minh, sought the reunification of the two countries and led a guerrilla war by the Viet Cong against anti-communist Ngo Dinh Diem in South Vietnam. The United States entered the conflict to halt the spread of Communism in Indochina.
Who won the Vietnam War?
The Vietnam War ended in victory for the Communists after American troops were withdrawn in 1973, and South Vietnam was completely taken over by communist forces in 1975. It can therefore be argued that the United States did not lose the War In Vietnam, the South Vietnamese did - after America withdrew from military action and Congress cut off funding. At the peak of US involvement the Vietnam War was costing $2 billion every month. The South Vietnamese were finally defeated by the North Vietnamese who remained well supported and supplied by China and the Soviet Union.
How many people died in the Vietnam War?
How many people died in the Vietnam War? By the end of the prolonged conflict more than 3 million people, including over 58,000 Americans, including 38,224 Army and 14,844 Marines, were killed in the Vietnam War. More than half of those killed were Vietnamese civilians.
Vietnam War Casualties
A total of 2.59 million Americans served their country in the Vietnam War. 58,307 American troops were killed and 304,000 were wounded, of which 75,000 returned severely disabled. Amputations or crippling wounds were 300% higher than in WW2. One out of every 10 Americans who served in the Vietnam war was a casualty. The average age of the US troops killed in the conflict was 23 years old.
The French defeat at Dien Bien Phu
The French defeat at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu on May 7, 1954 by the Viet Minh Communist army ended the French effort to retain Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in the Indochina War but began the direct involvement of the United States who later replaced France to fight against communism in Vietnam.
What was Indochina?
Indochina was a federation of states controlled by the French consisting of the countries of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. When Vietnam was under the control of the French they divided the country into three separate states consisting of Cochin China (South Vietnam), Annam (Central Vietnam), and Tonkin (North Vietnam).
The US Policy of Containment and the Domino Theory
The United States Policy of Containment during the Cold War and the Domino Theory played major parts in the US decision to enter into the Vietnam War. The purpose of the Containment policy was to restrict the spread of communism abroad by diplomatic, military and economic actions. The Domino Theory speculated that if a region came under communism, other countries would follow. The Containment Policy and the speculations of the Domino theory resulted in the Vietnam War and arguably led to the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand staying free of Communism.
Who were the Viet Cong?
Definition: The Viet Cong were Vietnamese supporters of the communist National Liberation Front (NLF or National Front for the Liberation of the South) in South Vietnam who fought the guerrilla war between 1959 and 1975 to take over from President Ngo Dinh Diem and his American backers. The Viet Cong were also known as the 'VC' or 'Charlies' in US Army slang.
What was the Viet Minh?
Definition: The Viet Minh (League for the Independence of Vietnam) was formed in 1941 and primarily led by Communists under Ho Chi Minh to counter the Japanese invasion of Vietnam. Japan handed Vietnam to the Viet Minh in 1945. The Viet Minh were helped when the Communist Party of Mao Zedong was victorious in China in 1949.
What was the Ho Chi Minh Trail?
Definition: The nickname "Ho Chi Minh Trail" was given by Americans, for the Truong Song Road. The Ho Chi Minh Trail consisted of many different roads, trails and foot paths that stretched for 9,940 miles from North Vietnam, through Cambodia and Loas, and into Southern Vietnam. The Ho Chi Minh Trail was designed to get supplies and troops into Southern Vietnam. There were also checkpoints along the trail that had underground medical and rest centers that provided shelter for the troops.
The Vietnam Terrain
Vietnam was a terrible country to fight in with a difficult terrain consisting of jungles of trees and vines, bush, deep valleys, river deltas, mountains, sharp ridges, flooded paddies and plantations. The heat, rain, insects and leeches resulted in a debilitating impact on the sweat-drenched American troops.
The Americans fought a hi-tech war, using B52 bombers, artillery, helicopters, napalm and defoliants such as Agent Orange and Agent Blue. Agent Orange' was the name of a chemical herbicide (that came in orange containers) which US forces sprayed extensively in order to kill vegetation in the Vietnamese jungle and infiltrate Viet Cong hideouts from 1962 to 1971. The Agent Orange chemical was used for chemical warfare during Operation Ranch Hand.
What was Napalm?
Definition: Napalm was a highly flammable, sticky, gasoline-based gel that was used by the U.S. military in flame-throwers and incendiary bombs. Napalm inflicted devastating burns, maiming and killing many Vietnamese soldiers and civilians.
The Booby Traps - Punji Sticks and the 'Bouncing Betty'
To add to the difficulty of the Vietnam terrain the known patrol routes of the US troops, the Viet Cong set countless, well hidden, booby traps, camouflaged pits and trip wires that were attached to grenades or mines. Sharp 'Punji sticks' or 'Punji stakes', made out of wood or bamboo with points often smeared with poison were camouflaged by natural undergrowth or placed in pits were designed to wound soldier’s legs and to delay or disrupt the mobility of enemy troops. The explosive device known as the ‘Bouncing Betty’ was a type of landmine that was placed in locations that US soldiers were likely to walk. The ‘Bouncing Betty’ had two charges, the first propelled the explosive charge upward, and the second was set to explode at about waist level.
The American and anti-communist forces had a superior army during the Vietnam War so the Viet Cong compensated by applying the tactics of guerrilla warfare. Instead of traditional battles they waged hit and run attacks and ambushes. The Viet Cong also built elaborate tunnel systems allowing movement underground without being seen and enabling the communist troops to stay underground for extended periods of time.
Viet Cong Tunnels - The Chu Chi Tunnel System
The Vietnamese used over 30,000 miles (48,000 km) of tunnels throughout North and South Vietnam as part of their guerrilla warfare tactics throughout North and South Vietnam. The Chu Chi Tunnel System was a system of underground tunnels located just outside Saigon that allowed the Viet Cong to ambush enemy soldiers and provide them with a quick escape route. The Chu Chi Tunnel System was the largest of all the tunnel systems running 155 miles (250 kilometers) and was accessible from almost any Viet Cong base in the area. The Chu Chi Tunnels were up to 10 meters below ground, and measured about two feet wide by two feet tall. The Chu Chi tunnels were discovered by chance by an American Sergeant in 1967. US attempts to destroy the tunnels with explosives, flooding, and "tunnel rats" failed. The dimensions of the tunnels prevented the passage of soldiers and weapons and the in-built defense systems prevented the Americans from neutralizing the tunnels.
What was the Iron Triangle?
The town of Chu Chi, with its infamous tunnels, were located in the area known as the Iron Triangle. The Iron Triangle was a densely forested 120 square miles (310 km2) area to the north of Saigon in the Bình Duong Province. The Iron Triangle was so named because it was a stronghold and the base of revolutionary armed forces in South Vietnam, the Viet Minh, during the Vietnam War.
Why were Helicopters so important?
The Vietnam War was the first conflict that saw wide scale tactical deployment of helicopters. During WW2 in the South Pacific the average soldier saw about 40 days of combat across a period of 4 years. The average soldier in the Vietnam War saw about 240 days of combat in 1 year - due to the mobility of the helicopter. The Bell UH-1 Iroquois, nicknamed the 'Huey', was used extensively in counter-guerilla operations. 7,013 Hueys flew during the conflict and 1,074 Huey pilots were killed during the Vietnam War. The unprecedented mobility afforded by the 'Huey' helicopter was crucial in the fast and accurate deployment of troops, taking the fight to the enemy. The Hueys were also successfully used in MEDEVAC and search and rescue roles. MEDEVAC helicopters flew nearly 500,000 missions, airlifting over 900,000 patients, of which nearly half were American. Flying the helicopters was extremely dangerous. During WW2 bomber aircraft generally flew missions with only 10 to 20 minutes exposed to hostile fire whereas the low flying helicopters in Vietnam and were constantly exposed to hostile fire even in their base camps.
Key People in the Vietnam War
The key people who were involved in the Vietnam War were US Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon. Henry Kissinger, Nixon's secretary of state negotiated the eventual cease fire. Other important people involved in the Vietnam War were Ngo Dinh Diem, Ho Chi Minh, Vo Nguyen Giap, Ngo Dinh Nhu, Madame Nhu and Le Duan.
The Vietnam War US Presidents
There were four US Presidents who served during the prolonged period of the Vietnam War. President Dwight D. Eisenhower and President John F. Kennedy sent increasing numbers of American military advisers and troops to South Vietnam in the late 1950s and early 1960s. President Lyndon Johnson greatly increased American military support until 500,000 US soldiers were in Vietnam. Distrust of Lyndon B. Johnson mounted as the 'Credibility Gap' widened between what the president and the military were telling the American public about the conflict and what the American media were saying. The Tet offensive mounted by the Communists was a severe setback for the Americans and reports of atrocities such as the My Lai massacre increased anti-war demonstrations in the US led President Richard Nixon to decrease the number of American troops in Vietnam and sent his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, to negotiate a cease-fire with North Vietnam. Direct U.S. military involvement ended on 15 August 1973 and South Vietnam was completely taken over by the communists in 1975.
Who was Bao Dai?
Definition: Bao Dai (22 October 1913 – 30 July 1997) was the 13th and last emperor of Vietnam, who reigned from 8 January 1926 - 25 August 1945 when he abdicated and retired to France. Bao Dai was an ineffective ruler who needed the support of the French colonial regime. He abdicated after the Viet Minh drove out the Japanese occupation forces and took control of the Vietnamese government.
Who was Ngo Dinh Diem?
Definition: South Vietnam was led by the Pro-American dictator Ngo Dinh Diem (January 3, 1901 - November 2, 1963). The USA supported a military coup in 1963, during which Ngo Dinh Diem was murdered, and put a military government in South Vietnam.
Who were Ngo Dinh Nhu and Madame Nhu?
Definition: Ngo Dinh Nhu, and his wife Madame Nhu, played important roles during the conflict. Ngo Dinh Nhu was the brother of Ngo Dinh Diem and the corrupt and brutal head of the Can Lao, the South Vietnamese secret police. Nhu was hated by the South Vietnamese population as was his spiteful, extravagant wife, Madame Nhu. They cared little for the peasants and the actions and power of this powerful couple were largely responsible for the US backed coup of November 1963, in which both Ngo Dinh Diem and Ngo Dinh Nhu were assassinated.
Who was Ho Chi Minh?
Definition: Ho Chi Minh (May 19, 1890 - September 2, 1969) helped to form the Indo-Chinese Communist Party in 1930 and became the first president of North Vietnam from 1954-1969. Ho Chi Minh was the leader of the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN or North Vietnamese Army) and the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War.
Who was Vo Nguyen Giap?
Definition: Vo Nguyen Giap was the long standing, trusted general of Ho Chi Minh and the commander of Vietnamese Communist forces who proved his military genius at the battle of 1954 Dien Bien Phu when the French were defeated and continued his role, masterminding the Communists military strategy of guerrilla warfare until the end of the conflict.
Who was Le Duan?
Definition: Le Duan was the primary leader of the North Vietnamese Communist Party after the death of Ho Chi Minh in 1969.
Key Events in the Vietnam War
The key events during the Vietnam War included the Gulf of Tonkin Incident (August 2, 1964), the My Lai massacre March 16, 1968, the anti-war movement, the publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 and the most famous battles such as the Tet Offensive (1968), the Easter Offensive, Battle of Hue, Battle of Khe Sanh and the Battle of Hamburger Hill. For details of the famous dates and events refer to the Vietnam War Timeline.
What was the Gulf of Tonkin Incident and Resolution?
The Gulf of Tonkin Incident occurred on August 2, 1964 when the destroyer USS Maddox came under attack by three North Vietnamese torpedo boats. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was passed on August 7, 1964 by nearly a unanimous vote in Congress, giving President Lyndon B. Johnson a free hand to escalate the war in Vietnam.
The Anti-war Movement
In 1965 the casualties mounted in the Vietnam War and there was a surge of the Anti-war movement in America. 'Teach-ins' were held at many campuses to discuss issues surrounding the conflict and reasons for opposing it. Others expressed anger at the Draft which enabled college students to defer military service until after graduation. This led to protests from low income families and minorities who could not afford to go to college or university. The Anti-war movement was also backed by young people during the Flower Power era of peace and love, a counterculture that saw the growth of the Youth Movement.. Opposition continued to grow and draftees refused to go to Vietnam and the number of prosecutions and protests rose.
The Hawks and the Doves
The anti-war protests resulted in the American people becoming divided into two camps over the long standing conflict. Those who wanted America to stay and fight were called the Hawks and those who wanted the United States to withdraw from the Vietnam War became known as the Doves.
What was the Tet Offensive?
What was the Tet Offensive? On January 30, 1968, during Tet the Vietnamese new year, a massive surprise attack was launched by the Vietnamese. The surprise attack became known as the 'Tet Offensive' in which North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces began a coordinated series of fierce attacks on more than 100 south Vietnamese cities and towns. There was even an attack by the Viet Cong on the American Embassy in Saigon. In the same week of the Tet Offensive, the tally of American soldiers who had died in Vietnam passed that of the Korean War. After the Tet Offensive the anti-war movement as many Americans gave up all hope of winning the Vietnam War.
What was the My Lai Massacre?
The My Lai Massacre happened on March 16, 1968 which involved the mass killing by US troops of between 347-504 unarmed South Vietnamese most of which were old men, women and children. News of the My Lai massacre broke in November 1969 to the horror of the nation. News of other atrocities committed during the Vietnam War by both sides spread across the nation. There were rumors of incidents involving 'fragging' in which demoralized American troops killed their own superior officers in order to avoid being sent on dangerous missions.
U.S. Invasion of Cambodia and expansion of the Vietnam War
On April 30, 1970, President Richard Nixon, fearing a humiliating defeat in Vietnam, escalated the war in Indochina even further by ordering the U.S. invasion of Cambodia and the need to draft 150,000 more U.S. soldiers for an expansion of the Vietnam War effort. (The U.S. invasion of Cambodia was supported by its military government and as a result led to its downfall and the take over of Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge, under the brutal dictator, Pol Pot. Under the merciless regime of Pol Pot, over one million Cambodians were put to death). The Mayaguez Incident led to the Battle on Koh Tang in Cambodia was officially the last American battle of the Vietnam War and was the only time Americans fought against the Khmer Rouge.
The Kent State Shooting
The invasion of Cambodia, and the expansion of the war effort, led to anger and outrage as students were galvanized into organizing numerous ant-war demonstrations and protests in college campuses across the United States. Four student demonstrators were shot dead and nine were injured in an anti-war protest during the Kent State Shooting by Ohio National Guardsmen on May 4, 1970.
Nixon Policy of Vietnamization
President Nixon adopted the policy of Vietnamization in 1969 to end the Vietnam War by turning the fighting over to the Vietnamese.
What were the Pentagon Papers?
Definition: The 'Pentagon Papers' was the name given to a secret Department of Defense study of U.S. political and military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967. The secret 'Pentagon Papers' were leaked to the New York Times and the Washington Post in 1971 and caused an uproar with the American Public. By 1971 opinion polls showed that 66% of Americans wanted the Vietnam War as quickly as possible.
The Paris Peace Accords and Ceasefire Agreement
The Paris Peace Accords was signed on January 27, 1973 and included a ceasefire agreement ending US Involvement in the Vietnam War and the End of the Vietnam War. The last non-combat US troops left Vietnam on March 29, 1973 and the last POW’s were released on April 1, 1973.
The Fall of Saigon and South Vietnam
No sooner had the US troops withdrawn, the ceasefire agreement collapsed and the North Vietnamese Army launched a full scale invasion of the south. Saigon was captured on April 30, 1975 and renamed as Ho Chi Minh city. President Nguyen Van Theu's South Vietnamese government surrendered to the Communists, marking the end of the Vietnam War.
The Vietnam War Memorial
The Vietnam War Memorial is a monument that was built in honor of individuals in the American armed services who died during the conflict. The monument consists of a black marble wall and is located in a 3 acre park area of Constitutional Gardens in Washington, D.C., The Memorial Wall was designed by American architect Maya Lin and consists of two 246 feet 9 inches (75.21 m) long walls. The names of those KIA (Killed in Action), or MIA (Missing in Action) during the Vietnam War are inscribed in the black marble wall.