Background of the Vietnam
Much of Vietnam’s history began with the country under foreign control. France governed Vietnam as part
of French Indochina from the 1880s until World War II (1939-1945). This was a period in time where France dominated Vietnam
and colonized a number of regions around the Gulf of Tonkin. During WWII, the Japanese government took control over much of
France’s territory and set up a puppet regime. France fought back with aid from the United States, in the First
and Second Indochina War. This was in an effort to regain their former territories in the region, but France did not succeed.
France’s efforts collapsed soon after because of their poorly organized army and little determination among their
troops. French colonization and economic division between Catholic and Buddhist Vietnamese, were ultimately the reasons that
led to the Vietnam War.
In 1940 Japanese troops invaded and occupied French Indochina. Japan's occupation of Vietnam during
World War II further stirred nationalism. Seeing the turmoil of World War II, the Vietnamese saw an opportunity to overthrow
French colonial rule. The Vietnamese nationalists established the League for the Independence of Vietnam, or Viet Minh, May
1941. “The Viet Minh was a front organization of the Indochinese Communist Party, that sought popular support for
national independence, as well as social and political reform” (http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761552642_1____17/vietnam_war.html#s17).
Vietnamese communists under Ho Chi Minh organized a coalition of this anti-colonial group, the Viet Minh, but many anti-communists
refused to join. After Japan stripped the French of much power in Indochina in March 1945, Ho Chi Minh announced the independence
of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam on September 2, 1945.
Post-World War II, France was still unwilling to leave Vietnam.
This failed attempt led to failed talks and an 8-year guerrilla war between the communist-led Viet Minh and the French and
their anti-communist nationalist allies. On May 13, 1954, the Battle of Dien Bien Phu ended with France defeated. “The
Battle of Dien Bien Phu was a climactic battle of the First Indochina War (1946-1954), fought between the French and the Viet
Minh, a nationalist group seeking independence from French colonial rule.” (http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761563388/Battle_of_Dien_Bien_Phu.html
). Frances defeat led to the signing of peace agreements that set the terms for ending the First Indochina War. The Battle
of Dien Bien Phu was said to have been the most humiliating defeat in French military history. France reached a peace agreement
at the Geneva Conference. French colonial rule in Vietnam ended on July 29, 1954. It was signed between France and the Democratic
Republic of Vietnam and the United States as their witness. The agreements were called the Geneva Accords.
1954 Geneva agreement provided for a cease-fire between communist and anti-communist nationalist forces, the temporary division
of Vietnam at approximately the 17th parallel, provisional northern (communist) and southern (noncommunist) zone governments,
and the evacuation of anti-communist Vietnamese from northern to southern Vietnam and called for an election to be held by
July 1956 to bring the two provisional zones under a unified government” (http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/4130.htm
The Government of South Vietnamese in spite of this, refused to accept this provision and declared itself the Republic
of Vietnam on October 26, 1955. French troops were to withdraw to the south of the dividing line until they could be safely
removed from the country, while Viet Minh forces were to retreat to the north. Ho Chi Minh maintained control of North Vietnam,
or the DRV, while Emperor Bao Dai remained head of South Vietnam. The French troops withdrew just as the Geneva Agreement
authorized. This left a buffer zone separating the North and South and set up elections in order to form a government in the
South. The Geneva agreement with France ended up creating a division between North and South Vietnam leading up to the Vietnam
Without the North and South Vietnam agreeing changes erupted with their now divided governments. After 1954, North
Vietnamese communist leaders joined their power and instituted a harsh agrarian reform and socialization program. “In
the late 1950s, they reactivated the network of communist guerrillas that had remained behind in the south. These forces--commonly
known as the Viet Cong--aided covertly by the north, started an armed campaign against officials and villagers who refused
to support the communist reunification cause” (http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/4130.htm ). The government in South
Vietnam between 1955 and 1960’s, was being taken over by the North Vietnamese and the Southern Communist Vietcong.
This represents communism spreading in Asia. Since France lost its power in Vietnam communist countries are trying to take
over Vietnam such as China and Russia. Diem, the United States nominated prime minister and winner of the October 1955 election
held in South Vietnam, declared South Vietnam to be an independent nation called the Republic of Vietnam (RVN). Diem made
himself as president and Saigon as its capital. “Vietnamese Communists and many non-Communist Vietnamese nationalists
saw the creation of the RVN as an effort by the United States to interfere with the independence promised at Geneva”
(http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761552642_1____17/vietnam_war.html#s17 ). In November 1963 President Diem, the president
of South Vietnam, during this time period was overthrown and executed. The following year, the North Vietnamese began a massive
drive to conquer the whole country aided by China and Russia the major communist countries. In 1957 to 1965, it was mainly
a struggle between the South Vietnamese army and Communist-trained South Vietnamese rebels known as the Viet Cong. Vietnamese
society at all levels was politically and economically divided at the end of French rule.
France rule of Vietnam began
in 1850’s and ended as quickly as they got it. France split Vietnam because of their need to colonize. From 1949
to 1963 the end of French rule of Vietnam was really just the beginning of the Vietnam War.
Author: Peter Leuhusen
Site first published May 15th,
Last update August 10th, 2007 http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761563388/Battle_of_Dien_Bien_Phu.html
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