Vietnam War

armed conflict in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia between North Vietnam and South Vietnam

The Vietnam War (also known as Second Indochina War, Vietnamese-American War or American War in Vietnam) lasted from 1 November 1955 to 30 April 1975. It was fought between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. North Vietnam was supported by the Soviet Union, China, and North Korea, and South Vietnam was set up by the United States and supported by South Korea, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines. People from other countries also went to fight but not in their own national armies. The conflict between communist and capitalist countries was part of the Cold War.

Vietnam War
Part of the Indochina Wars and the Cold War in Asia
Clockwise from top left:
Date1 November 1955 – 30 April 1975
(19 years, 5 months, 4 weeks and 1 day)[A 1][5]
Location
Result North Vietnamese victory
Territorial
changes
Reunification of North Vietnam and South Vietnam into the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in 1976
Belligerents
Commanders and leaders
Strength

≈860,000 (1967)

  • North Vietnam:
    690,000 (1966, including PAVN and Viet Cong)[A 5]
  • Viet Cong:
    ~200,000 (estimated, 1968)[7]
  • China:
    170,000 (1968)
    320,000 total[8][9][10]
  • Khmer Rouge:
    70,000 (1972)[11]: 376 
  • Pathet Lao:
    48,000 (1970)[12]
  • Soviet Union: ~3,000[13]
  • North Korea: 200[14]

≈1,420,000 (1968)

  • South Vietnam:
    850,000 (1968)
    1,500,000 (1974–1975)[15]
  • United States:
    2,709,918 serving in Vietnam total
    Peak: 543,000 (April 1969)[11]: xlv 
  • Khmer Republic:
    200,000 (1973)[source?]
  • Laos:
    72,000 (Royal Army and Hmong militia)[16][17]
  • South Korea:
    48,000 per year (1965–1973, 320,000 total)
  • Thailand: 32,000 per year (1965–1973)
    (in Vietnam[18] and Laos)[source?]
  • Australia: 50,190 total
    (Peak: 8,300 combat troops)[19]
  • New Zealand: Peak: 552 in 1968[20]: 158 
  • Template:Country data Fourth Philippine Republic Philippines: 2,061
  • Spain: 100-130 total
    (Peak: 30 medical troops and advisors) .[21]
Casualties and losses
  • North Vietnam & Viet Cong
    30,000–182,000 civilian dead[11]: 176 [22][23]: 450–453 [24]
    849,018 military dead (per Vietnam; 1/3 non-combat deaths)[25][26][27]
    666,000–950,765 dead
    (US estimated 1964–1974)[A 6][22][23]: 450–451 
    232,000+ military missing (per Vietnam)[25][28]
    600,000+ military wounded[29]: 739 
  • Khmer Rouge: Unknown
  • Laos Pathet Lao: Unknown
  •  China: ~1,100 dead and 4,200 wounded[10]
  •  Soviet Union: 16 dead[30]
  •  North Korea: 14 dead[31][32]

Total military dead/missing:
≈1,100,000

Total military wounded:
≈604,200

(excluding GRUNK/Khmer Rouge and Pathet Lao)

  •  South Vietnam:
    195,000–430,000 civilian dead[22][23]: 450–453 [33]
    Military dead: 313,000 (total)[34]
    • 254,256 combat deaths (between 1960 and 1974)[35]: 275 

    1,170,000 military wounded[11]
    ≈ 1,000,000 captured[36]
  •  United States:
    58,281 dead[37] (47,434 from combat)[38][39]
    303,644 wounded (including 150,341 not requiring hospital care)[A 7]
  •  Laos: 15,000 army dead[44]
  • Khmer Republic: Unknown
  • South Korea: 5,099 dead; 10,962 wounded; 4 missing
  •  Australia: 521 dead; 3,129 wounded[45]
  •  Thailand: 351 dead[11]
  •  New Zealand: 37 dead[46]
  •  Republic of China: 25 dead[47]
    17 captured[48]
  • Template:Country data Fourth Philippine Republic Philippines: 9 dead;[49] 64 wounded[50]
Total military dead:
333,620 (1960–1974) – 392,364 (total)

Total military wounded:
≈1,340,000+
[11]
(excluding FARK and FANK)
Total military captured:
≈1,000,000+
FULRO fought an insurgency against both South Vietnam and North Vietnam with their South Vietnamese supporters (Viet Cong) and was supported by Cambodia for much of the war.

The Viet Cong, also known as the National Liberation Front or NLF, was a South Vietnamese communist force that was helped by North Vietnam. It fought a guerrilla war against non-communist South Vietnamese forces. The People's Army of Vietnam (also known as the North Vietnamese Army) engaged in a more conventional war by at times putting large forces to battle.

The Vietnam War was very controversial, especially in the United States. It was the first war to feature live television coverage and the first major armed conflict that the United States lost. The war became so unpopular in the United States that President Richard Nixon eventually agreed to send American soldiers home in 1973.

Background and causes

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The Viet Minh waves its flag over a captured French bunker at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. The French defeat at the Battle of Ðiện Biên Phủ led to the Geneva Conference and to the partition of Vietnam.
Map of a partitioned Vietnam, 1964. The communist-controlled North Vietnam is in red. Most of the ground fighting was in South Vietnam.

France began to colonize Vietnam between 1859 and 1862, when it took control of Saigon. By 1864, it had controlled all of Cochinchina, in the south of Vietnam. France took control of Annam, the large central part of Vietnam, in 1874. After France defeated China during the Sino-French War (1884–1885), it took over Tonkin, the north of Vietnam. French Indochina was formed in October 1887 from these three areas of Vietnam (Cochinchina, Annam and Tonkin), as well as Cambodia. Laos was added after a war against Thailand, the Franco-Siamese War, in 1893.

During World War II, after Nazi Germany had defeated France in 1940, French Indochina was controlled by the Vichy French government, a puppet government recognized by Germany. In March 1945, the Japanese Empire launched the Second French Indochina Campaign. Japan occupied Indochina but surrendered in August 1945.

After the defeat of Nazi Germany, the Vichy government was no longer in control of France or its territories. The newly formed Provisional Government of the French Republic attempted to take back control of its former colonies in Indochina by force, if necessary, but France's efforts at regaining its colony in Vietnam were opposed by a communist Vietnamese army, the Viet Minh.

 

The Viet Minh had been founded in 1941 by the Vietnamese Communist Party and was led by Hồ Chí Minh. That led to the First Indochina War between France and the Viet Minh. Fighting started with the French bombardment of Haiphong Harbor in November 1946 and ended with a triumph of the Viet Minh at Dien Bien Phu.

In July 1954, France and the Viet Minh signed the Geneva Peace Accord, which resulted in dividing Vietnam along the 17th parallel into a northern section, under the control of the communists, led by Ho Chi Minh, and a southern section, led by the Catholic anticommunist Ngo Dinh Diem who is backed by the United States. The partition was to be temporary until elections in 1956. However, Diem started arresting suspected communist sympathizers that year and wanted to keep power for himself. The elections were never held, and in 1957, North Vietnam began guerrilla warfare against the south.

The United States began to send military advisors to help train and support the non-communist South Vietnamese Army. It was fighting against the Viet Cong, also known as the National Liberation Front, a communist party based in South Vietnam that was controlled with North Vietnam. The Viet Cong began a campaign of assassination in 1957. In 1959, North Vietnam dramatically increased its military assistance to the Viet Cong, which then began attacking anticommunist South Vietnamese military units. Because of domino theory, the US feared that if communism took hold in Vietnam, it would then spread to other countries nearby.[56]

Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

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The destroyer USS Maddox

On August 2, 1964, the destroyer USS Maddox was in the Gulf of Tonkin, on an intelligence mission along North Vietnam's coast. The US said that three North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked the destroyer. The Maddox fired back and damaged the three torpedo boats. The US later claimed that two days later, the torpedo boats again attacked the Maddox and the destroyer USS Turner Joy. In the second attack, the US ships did not actually see the torpedo boats, but it was said that they had been found by using the ship's radar.

After the alleged second attack, the US launched air strikes against North Vietnam. The Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Joint Resolution (H.J. RES 1145) on 7 August 1964 and so gave the president the power to run large-scale military operations in Southeast Asia without declaring war. There was little to no proof of the attacks, and it was believed by some that they had been an excuse for expanded US involvement in Indochina.

The communists were supplied by a vast network of hidden trails, known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail.[57] It was very well hidden although many attempts were made by the US to bomb and destroy it. Supplies and soldiers from North Vietnam were sent through Laos to communists forces in South Vietnam. American planes heavily bombed the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and 3,000,000 short tons (2,700,000 t) of bombs were dropped on Laos.[58] That slowed down but did not stop the trail system.[58]

Severe communist losses during the 1968 Tet Offensive made it possible for the US to withdraw many soldiers. As part of a policy called "Vietnamization," non-communist South Vietnamese troops were trained and equipped to replace the Americans who had left. By 1973, 95% of the American troops had left.

All of the parties signed a peace treaty in Paris in January 1973, but the fighting continued until 1975, when the non-communist South Vietnamese government surrendered after its capital, Saigon, had fallen.

Guerrilla warfare

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Cross-sectional diagram showing an example of a section of tunnel system used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War.

The area with the most tunnels was called the Iron Triangle by the Americans. The Viet Minh, which was later called the Viet Cong used the tunnels.

Some of the larger tunnel complexes had kitchens, operating rooms, dorm rooms, storage rooms, and school rooms.

Viet Cong soldiers wore typical clothing and sandals in a tunnel.

They often ate and slept in the tunnels and disappeared into them when the Americans raided a village.

There were some large-scale battles during the Vietnam War, but most of the fighting was guerilla warfare, which is different from the large-scale battles fought between armies like those during World War II.

 
US Airborne troops under attack during the Battle of Dak To (1967)

In guerilla warfare, small units fight limited battles against an enemy force, set up ambushes, make surprise attacks, and then retreat to the countryside or blend into the local population. That also includes making it difficult for the enemy to operate by engaging in sabotage and harassing the enemy with lethal means such as the land mine and the booby trap. The communist troops more often engaged in guerilla warfare against American and non-communist South Vietnamese troops[59] than the reverse because the communists knew of their weakness in conventional (large-scale) warfare.

Although few of the traps were explosive, all of the explosive traps used grenades. A tripwire was placed, and if a soldier tripped over the wire, a grenade pin was pulled out, the grenade would blow, and the soldier would usually be killed.

Another style of trap was nicknamed the Venus flytrap. It had about eight barbs attached to a rectangular frame sitting on a small hole. The barbs faced down so that when the soldier’s leg got caught in it, it would not hurt until he pulled his leg out, when the barbs would rip through his leg.

Another Viet Cong trap was the Punji trap. Two wooden platforms were placed and covered with leaves to camouflage it. There were spikes on the inside of the wood. When a soldier came along and walked on the wood, it caved in, and the spikes would go through the soldier’s foot. That trap was the most common because it was the cheapest one and was very effective. It was also often contaminated, often with feces, so that the soldier would also become infected.

Besides hurting or killing people, the traps caused fear and lowered morale.[60]

Fall of Saigon

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Fleeing from communist forces, Vietmanese refugees on an American aircraft carrier off the coast of Vietnam on April 29, 1975, the day before the fall of Saigon

The Fall of Saigon was the capture of Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, by the People's Army of Vietnam and the National Liberation Front on April 30, 1975. That marked the end of the Vietnam War and the beginning of the formal reunification of Vietnam into a communist state.

Before the city fell, the few American civilian and military personnel had left Vietnam, and tens of thousands of non-communist South Vietnamese soldiers and civilians had also fled.

The North Vietnamese forces, commanded by General Văn Tiến Dũng and began their final attack on Saigon, whose defence was commanded by General Nguyen Van Toan on April 29. A heavy artillery bombardment of Tân Sơn Nhứt Airport killed the last two American servicemen who died in Vietnam: Charles McMahon and Darwin Judge.

By the afternoon of the next day, North Vietnamese troops had occupied the important points within the city and raised their flag over the South Vietnamese presidential palace. The government of South Vietnam soon formally surrendered.

The Americans still in Saigon were evacuated by helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft. The surrender of Saigon was given in person by anticommunist South Vietnamese President General Duong Van Minh: "We are here to hand over to you the power in order to avoid bloodshed." He was president for two days as his country crumbled.

Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City after the communist leader Ho Chi Minh.

Aftermath

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The war made potential farmland useless, as it was bombed and affected by Agent Orange. The economy crashed because inflation was high and so unemployment was common, and there was poor health care. Many people fled Vietnam because of these conditions.[61]

The Đổi Mới reforms helped to improve many of the problems that had been caused by the war. Although there are still many situations with serious economic issues, Vietnam now has a fairly successful economy. The income and the standard of living of the average Vietnamese people have kept improving since the 1990s.

The war also had lasting effects on the US. It led to divisions in American society that are still seen today, and many Americans became more wary of their government. Many veterans came back with PTSD and were not treated well; people who opposed the war saw them as killers, and people who supported the war saw them as losers.

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References

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  27. "Công tác tìm kiếm, quy tập hài cốt liệt sĩ từ nay đến năm 2020 và những năn tiếp theo" [The work of searching and collecting the remains of martyrs from now to 2020 and the next] (in Vietnamese). Ministry of Defence, Government of Vietnam. Archived from the original on 17 December 2018. Retrieved 11 June 2018.
  28. Joseph Babcock (29 April 2019). "Lost Souls: The Search for Vietnam's 300,000 or More MIAs". Pulitzer Centre. Archived from the original on November 10, 2022. Retrieved 28 June 2021.
  29. Hastings, Max (2018). Vietnam an epic tragedy, 1945–1975. Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0-06-240567-8.
  30. James F. Dunnigan; Albert A. Nofi (2000). Dirty Little Secrets of the Vietnam War: Military Information You're Not Supposed to Know. Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-312-25282-3.
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  33. Thayer, Thomas C. (1985). War Without Fronts: The American Experience in Vietnam. Westview Press. ISBN 978-0-8133-7132-0.
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  35. Clarke, Jeffrey J. (1988). United States Army in Vietnam: Advice and Support: The Final Years, 1965–1973. Center of Military History, United States Army. The Army of the Republic of Vietnam suffered 254,256 recorded combat deaths between 1960 and 1974, with the highest number of recorded deaths being in 1972, with 39,587 combat deaths
  36. "The Fall of South Vietnam" (PDF). Rand.org. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 29, 2023. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
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  38. National Archives–Vietnam War U.S. Military Fatal Casualties, 15 August 2016, retrieved 29 July 2020
  39. "Vietnam War U.S. Military Fatal Casualty Statistics: HOSTILE OR NON-HOSTILE DEATH INDICATOR." U.S. National Archives. 29 April 2008. Accessed 13 July 2019.
  40. America's Wars (PDF) (Report). Department of Veterans Affairs. May 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 January 2014.
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  42. Aaron Ulrich (editor); Edward FeuerHerd (producer and director) (2005, 2006). Heart of Darkness: The Vietnam War Chronicles 1945–1975 (Box set, Color, Dolby, DVD-Video, Full Screen, NTSC, Dolby, Vision Software) (Documentary). Koch Vision. Event occurs at 321 minutes. ISBN 1-4172-2920-9.
  43. Kueter, Dale (2007). Vietnam Sons: For Some, the War Never Ended. AuthorHouse. ISBN 978-1-4259-6931-8.
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  52. 52.0 52.1 52.2 Obermeyer, Ziad; Murray, Christopher J L; Gakidou, Emmanuela (23 April 2008). "Fifty years of violent war deaths from Vietnam to Bosnia: analysis of data from the world health survey programme". British Medical Journal. 336 (7659): 1482–1486. doi:10.1136/bmj.a137. PMC 2440905. PMID 18566045. From 1955 to 2002, data from the surveys indicated an estimated 5.4 million violent war deaths ... 3.8 million in Vietnam
  53. Heuveline, Patrick (2001). "The Demographic Analysis of Mortality Crises: The Case of Cambodia, 1970–1979". Forced Migration and Mortality. National Academies Press. pp. 102–104, 120, 124. ISBN 978-0-309-07334-9. As best as can now be estimated, over two million Cambodians died during the 1970s because of the political events of the decade, the vast majority of them during the mere four years of the 'Khmer Rouge' regime. ... Subsequent reevaluations of the demographic data situated the death toll for the [civil war] in the order of 300,000 or less.
  54. Banister, Judith; Johnson, E. Paige (1993). Genocide and Democracy in Cambodia: The Khmer Rouge, the United Nations and the International Community. Yale University Southeast Asia Studies. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-938692-49-2. An estimated 275,000 excess deaths. We have modeled the highest mortality that we can justify for the early 1970s.
  55. Sliwinski, Marek (1995). Le Génocide Khmer Rouge: Une Analyse Démographique [The Khmer Rouge genocide: A demographic analysis]. L'Harmattan. pp. 42–43, 48. ISBN 978-2-7384-3525-5.
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  61. Seah, Audrey; Nair, Charissa; Piddock, Charles; Nevins, Debbie (2015). Cultures of the World: Vietnam. 243 5th Avenue, Suite 136, New York, NY 10016: Cavendish Square Publishing. p. 31. ISBN 978-1-5026-0080-6.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  1. Due to the early presence of U.S. troops in Vietnam, the start date of the Vietnam War is a matter of debate. In 1998, after a high-level review by the Department of Defense (DoD) and through the efforts of Richard B. Fitzgibbon's family, the start date of the Vietnam War according to the U.S. government was officially changed to 1 November 1955.[1] U.S. government reports currently cite 1 November 1955 as the commencement date of the "Vietnam Conflict", because this date marked when the U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) in Indochina (deployed to Southeast Asia under President Truman) was reorganized into country-specific units and MAAG Vietnam was established.[2]: 20  Other start dates include when Hanoi authorized Viet Cong forces in South Vietnam to begin a low-level insurgency in December 1956,[3] whereas some view 26 September 1959, when the first battle occurred between the Viet Cong and the South Vietnamese army, as the start date.[4]
  2. 1955–1963
  3. 1963–1969
  4. 1964–1968
  5. According to Hanoi's official history, the Viet Cong was a branch of the People's Army of Vietnam.[6]
  6. Upper figure initial estimate, later thought to be inflated by at least 30% (lower figure)[22][23]: 450–453 
  7. The figures of 58,220 and 303,644 for U.S. deaths and wounded come from the Department of Defense Statistical Information Analysis Division (SIAD), Defense Manpower Data Center, as well as from a Department of Veterans fact sheet dated May 2010; the total is 153,303 WIA excluding 150,341 persons not requiring hospital care[40] the CRS (Congressional Research Service) Report for Congress, American War and Military Operations Casualties: Lists and Statistics, dated 26 February 2010,[41] and the book Crucible Vietnam: Memoir of an Infantry Lieutenant.[2]: 65, 107, 154, 217  Some other sources give different figures (e.g. the 2005/2006 documentary Heart of Darkness: The Vietnam War Chronicles 1945–1975 cited elsewhere in this article gives a figure of 58,159 U.S. deaths,[42] and the 2007 book Vietnam Sons gives a figure of 58,226)[43]

Other websites

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