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Military History: The Vietnam War

The Vietnam War can be summarized as a struggle between the nationalist forces pushing for a communist government and the United States together with Southern Vietnam, who were against communism. Unlike the Korean War which ended in the U.S. helping South Korea to form their democratic government, the Vietnam War was a black mark in American foreign policy. The disastrous and unpopular Vietnam War served as a guide for future U.S. policy on foreign conflicts for many years.

Before the war began, Vietnam was already plagued with civil war and even foreign invasion from the French and Japanese. In 1941, Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh came back to the country and established Viet Minh with the ultimate goal to fight off the two occupiers. In the middle of 1945, a new government called the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was established.

Ho Chi Minh even asked the United States for military support. Due to the United States? foreign policy to prevent communism from spreading, they helped France to defeat Ho by sending military aid. In 1954, The French were defeated in Dien Bien Phu so they decided to pull out of Vietnam, which was strengthened by the Geneva Conference. This also led to the division of Vietnam called the 17th parallel that split the country into communist North Vietnam and non-communist South Vietnam. In addition, they were asked to hold an election which would reunite them under a single government. At this time, the United States feared that the communist party would win the election, and total control of the country. They helped South Vietnam in electing their own president and Ngo Dinh Diem won a controversial election where it?s suspected that the results were rigged. Though he was the first President of South Vietnam, Diem alienated South Vietnam during his tenure, which could be described as totalitarian and corrupt. As a result, the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam or Viet Cong was established around 1954. The U.S. continued to help South Vietnam against the Viet Cong.

The Gulf of Tonkin Incident in 1964, involving the destroyer USS Maddox and three torpedo boats from the North Vietnamese Navy, paved the way for the U.S. Congress to pass a resolution which enabled the U.S. to intervene in Vietnam. President Lyndon Johnson sent U.S. ground troops in 1965. The action led to intense protest from different militant groups and other organizations in United States. As a result, U.S. involvement was limited and its forces were not allowed to conduct serious ground assault against North Vietnam. The U.S. soldiers were frustrated, suffering from low morale, and moral defeat.

In 1968, Northern Vietnamese launched an offensive against both U.S. forces and the Southern Vietnamese. Though they have created an assault known as the Tet Offensive, the enemy was stronger and organized. President Johnson was faced with mounting public protests and impending defeat in the battle fields. When Richard Nixon was elected as the U.S. President, he decided to end the country?s involvement in Vietnam?s affairs. Nixon outlined this in a plan called Vietnamization. In 1969, the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam began. However, the Northern Vietnamese staged an assault called the Easter Offensive in 1972. They crossed demilitarized zone and the 17th parallel, invading South Vietnam. The remaining U.S. forces were forced to retaliate to help the South Vietnamese.

In 1973, peace talks in Paris produced the cease-fire agreement called Paris Peace Accord. The last batch of U.S. troops left Vietnam shortly after. At this time, South Vietnam was very weak and it couldn?t fight back against North Vietnam. In early 1975, North Vietnam toppled the government of their counterpart. South Vietnam surrendered to communist North Vietnam on April 20, 1975. After a year, Vietnam became a communist country called the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Here?s more information on the Vietnam War.

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