The Vietnam War often referred to as the “Second Indo-China War,” was a conflict that happened from 1955 to 1975. It was a fight between North Vietnam, supported by the Soviet Union and China, and South Vietnam, helped by the United States. This war didn’t only take place in Vietnam but also in Laos and Cambodia. It was a big deal during the Cold War.
North Vietnam’s government was up against South Vietnam’s government. The North had friends who were communists, while the South had the United States and its friends on its side.
Origins of the Vietnam War
Before World War II, Vietnam was under France’s control. Then during World War II, Japan took over Vietnam. But when the war ended, nobody knew who should rule Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh, who was a strong communist leader, wanted Vietnam to be free, but the powerful countries after the war gave it back to France.
Ho Chi Minh and his friends started fighting against the French. His friends in the north were called Viet Minh. He also asked the United States for help, but they said no because they were worried that communism would spread in Southeast Asia if Ho Chi Minh won.
When Ho Chi Minh started winning against the French, both France and the United States got worried. America started sending weapons to help France in Vietnam. Then, in 1954, the Vietnamese beat the French in a big battle, and France decided to leave Vietnam. They split Vietnam into two parts, North and South. They planned to have elections in 1956 to bring them together, but the United States didn’t want Vietnam to become a communist country.
America recognized a leader named Ngo Dinh Diem in South Vietnam. In 1959, Ho Chi Minh began a war to unite Vietnam. In 1961, American leaders started planning to enter this war, and in 1964, the U.S. Congress said yes after North Vietnam attacked two American military planes.
Operation Rolling Thunder
So, on March 8, 1965, the first American soldiers arrived in Vietnam, and a tough and long war began. In the south, there were Vietnamese rebels called the Viet Cong. They fought against the government of South Vietnam and the United States. The United States dropped huge bombs on North Vietnam in a campaign called Operation Rolling Thunder. In 1968, North Vietnam launched a big attack called the Tet Offensive.
President Lyndon B. Johnson decided to help South Vietnam from the outside rather than fighting directly. From 1965 to 1969, the U.S. Army couldn’t attack North Vietnam. This made it hard for America to win. American soldiers faced many problems in Vietnam’s thick forests. They couldn’t always tell who was the enemy and who was just a regular person. They had to deal with traps everywhere, and some local people didn’t like them and even turned against them.
Because of heavy losses in the war and lots of protests in America, President Richard Nixon decided to bring the troops back home in July 1969. In January 1973, they signed an agreement to stop fighting, and by March, the last American soldiers departed from Vietnam.
In April 1975, South Vietnam surrendered to North Vietnam, and Vietnam became one country called the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
This war significantly damaged America’s reputation and its position in the Cold War. It’s termed a proxy war because the Soviet Union and America supported different sides instead of engaging in direct combat.
More than 3 million people died in this war, including 58,000 Americans. Most of those who died were Vietnamese civilians who got caught in the middle.
In 1969, the war was at its worst. America sent about half a million troops into the fight. Because of this, the U.S. government faced a lot of criticism from its own people.
In the end, many experts believe that nobody really won in this tough 20-year war. Today, Vietnam operates as a communist country, and they renamed the city of Saigon to Ho Chi Minh City, in honor of their communist leader.