During the Cold War, between the United States and the Soviet Union, several wars by proxy were fought where neither of the two superpowers went directly to battle with each other, but instead, they supported one of two countries at war with each other. Out of all these wars, the Vietnam War was the longest, most daunting war for the United States.
Similar to the Korean War, the Vietnam War was fought between a communist and democratic separated country. The communist side that controlled North Vietnam was supported by communist countries, like the People’s Republic of China as well as the Soviet Union. The government of the Southern part of Vietnam was supported by capitalist democrats led primarily by the United States.
The beginning of the conflict in Vietnam
Before World War II, Vietnam was a colony under the control of France. During World War II, Japanese forces managed to invade and control Vietnam. When the war was over and Japan was defeated as part of the Axis countries, the Allies believed that Vietnam should return to being a French colony. However, it was at this time that a Vietnamese revolution under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh, a communist leader, started demanding the independence of Vietnam as a country.
Why the U.S. chose to help the French side of the war
The Vietnamese rebels, under their communist leader, started fighting the French forces and requested the aid of the United States. As much as it supports every country’s right to independence, the U.S. was worried about communism potentially spreading through Asia. This is why, in 1950, when Ho Chi Minh’s forces started to overcome the French, the U.S. decided to send aid to the French forces in Vietnam.
The Vietnamese election
After four years, the Vietnamese defeated the French and all French forces left Vietnam. At this time, the county was divided between a communist north and democratic south. An election to unite Vietnam under one government was scheduled to happen in 1956. Because of the United States desire not to leave the country under communist control, the U.S. helped Ngo Dinh Diem win the election as the leader of the Southern government of Vietnam.
10 more years of war
In 1959, the north communist side of Vietnam declared war, in an attempt to unite all of Vietnam under communist leadership. Because of the declaration, the United States officially made the choice to send military armed forces to Vietnam in 1961. After a few years, in 1964, the United States Congress passed a resolution called the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. As a result, the United States started to use armed forces after two American Destroyers were attacked by the Vietnamese.
From then on, the Vietnamese forces supported by China and the Soviet Union, started to launch attack after attack on the U.S. forces until President Nixon started to pull the American forces from Vietnam in 1969. By 1973, all U.S. troops were pulled out of Vietnam. In 1975, the government of South Vietnam surrendered to the North. The country of Vietnam was declared as a united country under a communist government. From then on, it was known as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
What went wrong in the Vietnam War?
During the war, from 1965 to 1969, President Johnson had a plan to help the South Vietnam forces fight the North Vietnam forces on their own with minimal help from the U.S. rather than having U.S. forces fighting the war for them. This plan required having a limited number of United States military troops in Vietnam and preventing those troops from launching any attacks on the Northern forces. As a result, this left the U.S. forces out-numbered with their hands tied. In addition, those limited forces found it almost impossible to not only fight in the jungles of Vietnam, but to clearly find and identify the enemy to be able to launch any attacks. Finally, these factors combined ultimately meant the inevitable defeat of the United States military in Vietnam.
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