The Vietnam War began as an independence struggle against French colonial control and grew into a Cold War war. The Vietnam War (1955–1955) pitted communist North Vietnam, backed by the Soviet Union and China, against South Vietnam, backed by the United States. The conflict ended with a military victory for the government of South Vietnam.
The roots of the Vietnam War lay in the aftermath of World War II. France was defeated by Germany during the war and was forced to cede its former colony of Vietnam to the Communist Party of China. Fearing that Communism would take hold in Vietnam, the United States became involved in the conflict.
During the Cold War, both the United States and the Soviet Union had good reasons to want to influence the outcome of events in Vietnam. The United States wanted to prevent Communism from taking root in Southeast Asia, while the Soviets wanted to check American power in the region.
Additionally, there were strong feelings between the two main combatants - the United States and North Vietnam. The United States had supported South Vietnam against the Communist threat during the Cold War, but switched its support to the communists after its army was defeated by South Vietnamese forces in 1969.
Finally, there was racial tension between Americans and Vietnamese people. From 1954 to 1975, 10 million people died in Vietnam, most of them civilians.
Throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, the conflict was waged between the North Vietnamese and the South Vietnamese. Historians have cited numerous reasons of the Vietnam War in general, including the development of communism during the Cold War, American containment, and European imperialism in Vietnam. The war ended with a victory for the communists, who ousted the U.S. military from Vietnam.
In 1945, after World War II, France withdrew its colonial forces from Indochina (the modern-day countries of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia). The following year, Communist insurgents led by Ho Chi Minh began a campaign to overthrow French rule. In 1946, Vietnam was divided into two states: Communist North Vietnam and Westernized South Vietnam. Although South Vietnam was not as involved in the conflict as its northern counterpart, it still suffered heavily from the fighting.
During this time, the United States became concerned that if Communism were to take over Vietnam, it would extend into other parts of Asia. Thus, the United States decided to help South Vietnam against the Communists. First, they provided funds and weapons to their government. Then, in 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law a measure known as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which allowed him to engage in military action against North Vietnam without Congress voting on it.
The war continued to escalate for several more years. By 1969, more than 20,000 Americans had died in Vietnam.
The origins of the Vietnam War may be traced back to the conclusion of World War II. During the war, the Japanese seized Indochina (Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia), a French colony. Ho Chi Minh, a communist, led a guerrilla fight against the Japanese with the help of the United States. When the war ended, France was given control of Indochina, but Ho Chi Minh refused to accept this outcome and continued to fight against the French.
In 1955, the government of France agreed to reunite Vietnam under one country for the first time in 70 years. However, this agreement was not accepted by Ho Chi Minh or any other group representing him. In the following year, 1956, the government of France began to withdraw its troops from Indochina, but the process took several years. During this time, violence broke out between the different groups who wanted control of Vietnam. These fights came to be known as "the wars within wars". In 1959, after many years of fighting, Ho Chi Minh was able to unite all of Vietnam under his rule. He decided that there should be no more foreign involvement in Vietnam's affairs and signed a treaty with the United States formally ending the war.
As you can see, the Vietnam War started because France and America could not come to an agreement over how to divide up Vietnam. This conflict lasted nearly a decade and resulted in millions of dollars in damages and hundreds of deaths.
The Soviet Union, China, and North Korea backed North Vietnam, while the United States, South Korea, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines backed South Vietnam. People from other nations fought as too, although not in their own national armies. Canada, France, India, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Sweden, Switzerland, and Yugoslavia all had soldiers who fought in this war.
In addition to these countries, over 700,000 Americans served in the Vietnam War. Nearly 3 out of 4 were volunteers. They were known as "the best and the brightest", because they made up a large percentage of college students-over 160,000-and graduate school students-almost 70,000.-"The most common age group was 18-24 years old," says Larry Iedall, author of "The Battle for Hue." "That's when people are entering college or grad school or both."
The most popular reason for serving was because you believed in what North Vietnam was trying to do, which was to create an independent communist state in Vietnam. But many others felt compelled to serve. Some were attracted by the money (basic pay was $125 per month) and free meals at first class hotels after being in combat for weeks without eating properly. Others just wanted to know how things worked outside their home country.