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The Conflict In Vietnam


The Vietnam conflict began in the late nineteenth century.
The French conquered Vietnam and made it a protectorate.
For nearly forty years, Vietnam had not experienced settled
peace. The League for the Independence of Vietnam ( Viet
Minh ) was formed in 1941, seeking independence from the
French. On September 2nd,1945, Ho Chi Minh proclaimed it
independent of France. The French opposed their
independence from 1945 to 1954. The first representatives
of de Gualle's government landed by parachute in Saigon and
Hanoi on August 23rd, 1945. The French wanted to
reestablish their rule in Vietnam but were beaten at the
battle of Dien Bien Phu on May 7th, 1954. The French
Expeditionary Force tried to prevent the Viet Minh from
entering Laos and Dien Bien Phu was the place chosen to do
so. The French were not very careful and this allowed the
Viet Minh to cut off their airway to Hanoi. After a siege
that had lasted for fifty - five days, the French
surrendered. Ho Chi Minh led the war against France and won.
After the war there was a conference in Geneva where
Vietnam was divided into two parts along the seventeenth
parallel. North Vietnam was mainly Communist and supported
Ho Chi Minh, while the south was supported by the United States and the French were based there. There was still
some Communist rebels within South Vietnam. These were the
Viet Cong. The South Vietnam ruler was Ngo Dinh Diem who
was anti - Communist. At the conference, Laos and Cambodia
became independent states.
North Vietnam wished to unify North and South Vietnam
through military force. Since the United States feared the
spread of communism in Asia, John F. Kennedy provided
economic and military aid to South Vietman to prevent the
takeover by North Vietnam. At this time, this was still a
civil war. The United States were not yet officially

The North Vietnamese resented the little intervention by
the United Sates and so, three Vietnamese torpedo boats
fired on the U.S. destroyer, " Maddox " on August 2nd,
1964. The " Maddox " had been in the Gulf of Tonkin (
international waters ), thirty miles off the coast of
Vietnam. On August 3rd, 1964, Johnson gave the right " to
attack with the objective of destroying attacking forces "
( Pimlott 1982, 36 ). Retaliation air attacks began on
August 3rd. Their aim was to destroy North Vietnam's
gunboat capability. As two more United States destroyers
were supposedly sunk, more air and sea forces were sent (
Wicker August 5, 1964, 1 ). Up until now, the U.S. had
refrained from direct combat. This is when the United
States formally entered the Vietman War. The U.S. did this
for two reasons. We wished to maintain the independence of
South Vietnam and we had to prove to allied nations that we
would help them resist Communist overtaking. As Congress
was about to vote whether or not to allow the combat to
move into North Vietnam, the North Vietnamese attacked a
major U.S. airbase at Bein Hoa. On February 7th, 1965,
Johnson ordered retaliation bombing on North Vietnam.
Rolling Thunder was the name of this operation. It's
purpose was to put pressure on Hanoi and convince them that
Communism could not and would not win.
At the end of 1965, one hundred and eighty thousand
Americans were in South Vietnam under General William S.
Westmoreland (Encyclopedia Britannica, 12, 361 ). The U.S.
mainly depended on superior firepower and helicopters. The
Viet Cong and North Vietnamese depended on surprise attack
and concealment.
The United States soldiers realized that the war would last
for many more years and wondered if the U.S. war effort
could succeed. At the end of 1968, The number of American
troops in South Vietnam reached it's peak of 542, 000 men (
Pimlott 1982, 53 ). The Viet Cong and North Vietnamese
launched a major invasion against the United States called
the Tet offensive from January 30th to February 25th, 1968.
At the Khe Sanh U.S. firebase, there was a major ground
battle. There was a siege from January 21st to April 14th.
It was thought to be the " American Dien Bien Phu ". The
United States turned it around however, with their victory
at Hue. By 1969, combat decreased rapidly and American
troops began to return home.
The role of Communism was extremely important in this
conflict. Communism was one of the main reasons of why the
United States entered the war in the first place. The U.S.
" had " to enter the war to stop the spread of Communism in
Asia since North Vietnam was Communist. If North Vietnam
were to succeed in converting Vietnam into a Communist
country, it could become very powerful and go on to "
pursuade " other countries to become Communist. The U.S.
believed that Vietnam could become powerful. They were
amazed that France, an Allied power, had been beaten by the
North Vietnam was a Communist country. The man who had
proclaimed Vietnam independent, Ho Chi Minh, was a
Communist. He was a Marxist and believed in " national
Communism " ( Encyclopedia Britannica, 5, 955). During the
war with the French, Ho Chi Minh took refuge in northern
Vietnam and settled there with his followers. He founded
the Indochina Communist Party and the Viet Minh. The Viet
Minh did not become Communist until the 1950's. He became
the president of North Vietnam from 1945 to 1969. North
Vietnam was a poor area and was cut off from the
agricultural benefit of South Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh was
forced to ask assistance from major Communist allies - the
Soviet Union and China. Both aided North Vietnam before and
during the war. 

The North Vietnamese invaded South Vietnam. They wanted to
use military tactics to force unification. The United
States did not allow their unification. The U.S. knew that
the Viet Cong and NorthVietnamese wished to establish one
ruling government, the Communist Party. This led to the
Vietnam War and U.S. intervention.
On January 27th, 1973, South Vietnam Communist forces (
Viet Cong ), NorthVietnam, South Vietnam and the United
States agreed on many things during peace talks that were
held in Paris. The talks had lasted for over two years
before any agreements were made that suited all of them.
The forces involved agreed that U.S. troops would gradually
withdraw from Vietnam and all prisoners of war would be
released. They also agreed that South Vietnam had the right
to choose their own future, whether or not to unite with
North Vietnam. North Vietnamese troops were given the right
to remain in South Vietnam but they could not be
reinforced. Nixon was the U.S. president who finalized the
accepted treaty and began to remove United States troops.
Even after the peace talks, fighting continued between the
North and South Vietnamese. After the majority of American
soldiers had left, North Vietnam went against all that was
enforced at the peace talks. North Vietnam planned a major
invasion on the south in 1975 or 1976. By April 30th, 1976,
North Vietnamese tanks had occupied Saigon, the capital of
South Vietnam, with no trouble. 

On July 2nd, 1976, the country was united as the Socialist
Republic of Vietnam. The capital became Hanoi and it was
under Communist rule. Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City
after the instigator of Communism. The North Vietnamese had
won. Forty - seven thousand Americans were killed in action
and three hundred and thirteen soldiers were wounded,
physically as well as mentally. The war had cost the United
States an estimated two hundred billion dollars (
Encyclopedia Britannica, 12, 361 ). There were two
thousand, two hundred and sixty - one United States
servicemen listed as missing in action ( Time, February 15,
1993, 44 ). The tally is still incomplete. Some say that
this war was fought for nothing. There were only losses and
nothing was gained.
After the war, southern Vietnam's agriculture, business and
industry were devestated. The newly Communist Vietnam, Laos
and Cambodia became an important South - Asian power.
Today, Vietnam remains under Communist rule. The Vietnamese
Communist Party is the major political party. The State
Council Chairman is Vo Chi Chong. The Prime Minister is Do
After the Vietnam war, United States Presidents tried to
punish Vietnam for the losses suffered by their country.
They cut off all trade to Vietnam. Vietnam's economy was
severely damaged. This came about by the U.S. decision to
stop trade and the new efforts to install a Soviet - style
system in the unified country. By 1985, ten years after
it's " liberation ", Vietnam had to beg for help from the
Soviet Union ( Time, February 15, 1993, 43 ). 

In 1986, the government leaders began an economic plan, doi
moi to get Vietnam back on it's feet. When aid from the
Soviet Union stopped, the country was able to stand on it's
own. The Vietnamese veterans don't regard the Americans as
enemies but the government leaders do. The government fears
that if contact with the United States increases, it might
result in a revolution that would destroy their authority.
Meanwhile, even without United States help, Vietnam is seen
to be an important exporter in the future. Japan has
already exported goods to Vietnam and the United States is
afraid that they will soon gain economic control over the
entire region. 


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