The Vietnam War is also known as the Second Indo-China War, or the Resistance War Against America in Vietnam. It began in 1955 and ended on April 30, 1975, with the fall of Saigon, South Vietnam's capital. Officially, it was a war between South and North Vietnam. The Soviet Union, China, and all communist allies backed North Vietnam, while the US and all other anti-communist allies backed South Vietnam. It was a conflict that raged in three countries: Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
STRUGGLE OF INDOCHINA
• At the start of World War II, Japan threatened to annex Indochina (Area comprises of present of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia). Both Japan and France had mobilised forces to take control of the region by 1938.
• In an attempt to avoid war, Japan issued an ultimatum to the French in 1939. Japan wanted France to sever ties with the Chinese and assist them in wartime, as well as supply Japanese forces with war materials for Pacific operations. In exchange, the Japanese agreed to allow France to continue to run Indochina's daily operations, but only under their strict supervision.
• Local leaders agreed to the Japanese terms and signed a joint defence treaty with them. The Vietnamese were decimated by the Japanese occupation.
• Prices soared, and people began to perish from starvation as a result of a lack of rice, which was now being used by Japanese forces, and a lack of medicine, which resulted in an increase in smallpox and typhus fever. In addition, the French imposed new taxes on the Vietnamese in order to fund the empire.
• The French feared that Japan would rally all Asians against the Europeans. They began a propaganda campaign dubbed "National Revolution," in which they promoted a false equality between the French and the Vietnamese.
• The Vietnamese were duped into believing that they were on a level playing field in terms of societal and political power. Those who spoke out against the French or refused to follow their policies, on the other hand, were imprisoned. As a result, the French aggravated the situation for the Vietnamese.
• On March 9, 1945, Japan staged a coup in Indo-China against the French government. After a brief battle in which 4000 French and Vietnamese were killed, Japan declared Indo-China free of Western rule and installed Bao Dai, the Emperor of Annam, as ruler of the new Japanese puppet state. Empire of Vietnam was the name given to this new state. The French rule had come to an abrupt end, at least for the time being.
OPPOSITION BY VIETNAMESE
• Both the French and the Japanese were unaware that the various ethnic groups that made up Indo-China had a long history of overcoming adversity. In fact, the Vietnamese struggle was an ideological one, and peace meant a united Indochina under the leadership of a single native leader to them.
• The first waves of anti-French and anti-Japanese dissent came from Buddhist and Cao Dai sects, which were suppressed by the French.
• Vietnamese nationalists, particularly Ho Chi Minh, led the second wave of resistance. He inflamed nationalist feelings in Indo-China. He encouraged Vietnamese to oppose the Franco-Japanese occupation of their country, with the support of the communist group Viet Minh (literally League for Independence of Vietnam).
• Viet Minh members distributed anti-French pamphlets and created booklets on guerrilla warfare, among other things. National Liberation Committees, led by nationalists such as Vo Nguyen Giap and Chu Van Tang, were also established by the Viet Minh.
• They were also able to secure anti-Japan funding from the United States, the Soviet Union, and China. It advocated for a revolution in Indo-China that would bring freedom to the region.
• Following Japan's defeat in August 1945, Ho declared Indochina an independent republic and forced Bao Dai to resign. He renamed the region the Democratic Republic of Vietnam after that (DRV).
• This liberty was short-lived, as the French quickly regained control.
HO CHI MINH
In 1890, Ho Chi Minh was born as Nguyen Sinh Cung. His father's involvement in the Vietnamese nationalist campaign to gain independence from France influenced him greatly. During his school years, he was indoctrinated with anti-colonial ideas, and after visiting Europe and the United States, he was so horrified by the devastation caused by WWI that he sought to eradicate Western influence from Indo-China. After failing to achieve much success, he became interested in communist party ideologies and began visiting communist countries. He established the Vietnam Revolutionary Youth League, which later became the Indochinese Communist Party. Ho returned to Indochina in 1941 after two decades of studying, campaigning for communism, and speaking out against colonialism.
When he returned to Vietnam in 1941, Ho ignited a nationalist campaign to free the country from French rule. The League for the Independence of Vietnam, or Viet Minh, was founded as a result of his efforts. Vietnamese citizens with a wide range of beliefs, including socialists, communists, nationalists, and democrats, were recruited by the Viet Minh. Their overarching goal was to unite people around a purely nationalistic cause in order to gain independence from France. Ho rose to the top of the Viet Minh ranks and led them in battles against the French and Japanese. Ho was the mastermind behind the August Revolution, which declared Vietnamese independence. On September 2, 1945, he founded DRV. On this day, Ho took his final name, Ho Chi Minh, which means "he who enlightens."
WAR AGAINST FRANCE
• The freedom gained was short-lived, as the French were forced to return to Indo-China in 1946. They turned down DRV in favour of consolidating power. Ho orchestrated a large-scale war against France after a series of failed negotiations and minor conflicts. From 1946 to 1954, the First Indo-China War was fought.
• During the long war, France discovered that combating the Viet Minh's guerrilla tactics was difficult. As a result, they attempted to gain political support by establishing the State of Vietnam, an anti-communist state led by Emperor Annam Bao Dai. This State of Vietnam was able to gain the support of the US in 1950.
BACKGROUND OF THE VIETNAM WAR
• Fearing the emergence of a communist state in Vietnam, the United States provided military assistance to France during the First Indo-China War. In this war, the French were defeated, and the Geneva Peace Conference was held in 1954.
• As a result of the peace conference, Indo-China was divided into three countries: Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Along the 17th Parallel, Vietnam was divided into two halves: communist North Vietnam and anti-communist South Vietnam. The purpose of an election was to bring the country together.
• South Vietnam, which was backed by the United States, opposed the election in order to prevent the formation of a communist state.
• Ngo Dinh Diem led South Vietnam, while Ho Chi Minh led North Vietnam.
• Diem's government in the south was also unpopular due to a number of harsh repressive measures. An uprising against his government erupted, which some claim was sparked by Ho Chi Minh.
• The National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (NLF), also known as the Viet Cong, was founded by the northern government in 1960.
THE VIETNAM WAR
• The American military presence in the south grew steadily from a few thousand in 1954 to around 540,000 in 1968.
• The war was costly, with many civilians, including children, dying as a result. War crimes were rampant, and the Vietnam War sparked widespread anti-war sentiment in the United States.
• When the report on the My Lai massacre in 1968, which resulted in the deaths of at least 500 unarmed Vietnamese civilians at the hands of American soldiers, there was widespread outrage.
• During the Vietnam War, US military forces used Agent Orange, a powerful herbicide, to clear forest cover and crops from the way of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops.
• Chemicals such as Agent White and Agent Blue were also used.
• Agent Orange was water insoluble but soluble in diesel fuel and organic solvents. Agent White, on the other hand, was water soluble but not in diesel fuel or organic solvents. Agent Blue was a powder that was mixed with water before use and contained organic pentavalent arsenic in the formulation.
• From 1961 to 1971, the US programme known as Operation RanchHand sprayed more than 20 million gallons of herbicides over Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. The herbicide Agent Orange, which contained the deadly chemical dioxin, was the most widely used. It was later discovered that it caused serious health problems in Vietnamese people as well as returning US servicemen and their families, including cancer, birth defects, rashes, and severe psychological and neurological problems.
• Despite having superior weapons and military equipment, the Viet Cong were able to defeat the US and South Vietnamese authorities. This was due to the Viet Cong's superior understanding of the region's geography.
• The Paris Peace Accords, signed in 1973, resulted in a cease-fire and the peaceful exchange of prisoners of war.
AFTER THE WAR
• Although the United States' direct involvement in the war ended, fighting between the two Vietnamese forces continued. Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, fell to northern forces on April 30, 1975, and the country was unified as a communist country.
• Around 3 million Vietnamese people, 300,000 Cambodians, 60,000 Loatians, and 58,220 American military personnel were estimated to have died.
• In 1976, Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City.
• In 1986, the communist country began political and economic reforms that helped Vietnam gradually integrate into the global economy. In 2007, it became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO).