of the Vietnam War
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.
“The 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”
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 War.
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.
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.
- “Background Note: Vietnam.”
U.S. Department of State 1 page. Online. Internet. 18 May 2008. Available http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/4130.htm .
- “The Background of the
Vietnam War.” ThinkQuest New York City 1 page. Online. Internet. 18 May 2008. Available http://www.tqnyc.org/NYC030214/history_vietnam_war.html.
- “Battle of Dien Bien Phu.”
MSN Encarta 1 page. Online. Internet. 18 May 2008. Available http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761563388/Battle_of_Dien_Bien_Phu.html
- Leuhusen, Peter. “ The
Vietnam War Background.” MSN Encarta 3 pages. Online. Internet. 18 May 2008. Available http://www.vietnampix.com/intro2.htm.
- “Vietnam War.” MSN Encarta 5 pages. Online. Internet. 18 May 2008. Available http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761552642_1____17/vietnam_war.html#s17 .