Encarta Encyclopedia defines the Vietnam War as a military struggle fought in Vietnam from 1959 to 1975, involving the North Vietnamese and the National Liberation Front (NLF) in conflict with United States forces and the South Vietnamese army. The Vietnam War was the longest and most unpopular war in which Americans ever fought. From 1946 until 1954, the Vietnamese had struggled for their independence from France during the First Indochina War. At the end of this war, the country was temporarily divided into North and South Vietnam. North Vietnam came under the control of the Vietnamese Communists who had opposed France and who aimed for a unified Vietnam under Communist rule. Vietnamese who had collaborated with the French controlled the South. The United States became involved in Vietnam because it believed that if all the country fell under a Communist government, Communism would spread throughout Southeast Asia and beyond. This belief was known as the "domino theory." The U.S. government, therefore, supported the South Vietnamese government. This government's repressive policies led to rebellion in the South, and the NLF was formed as an opposition group with close ties to North Vietnam. The toll in suffering, sorrow, in rancorous national turmoil can never be tabulated. No one wants ever to see America so divided again. And for many of the more than two million American veterans of the war, the wounds of Vietnam will never heal. An estimated fifty-eight thousand Americans lost their lives. The losses to the Vietnamese people were appalling. During the conflict, approximately 3 to 4 million Vietnamese on both sides were killed, in addition to another 1.5 to 2 million Lao and Cambodians who were drawn into the war. The financial cost to the United States comes to something over 150 billion dollars. Direct Americans involvement began in 1955 with the arrival of the first advisors. In 1965 the United States sent in combat troops to prevent the South Vietnamese government from collapsing and we fought the war until the cease-fire of January 1973. The United States failed to achieve its goal, and in 1975 Vietnam was reunified under Communist control; in 1976 it officially became the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. In 1983, the unfolding of the Vietnam tragedy was the focus of an extraordinary documentary series broadcast on public television. When first aired, the series was recognized immediately as a landmark. It had taken six years to make. Researchers had combined film archives in eleven countries and the result was a stunning record of the conflict as it happened. A Brief History
From the 1880s until World War II (1939-1945), France governed Vietnam as part of French Indochina, which also included Cambodia and Laos. The country was under the nominal control of an emperor, Bao Dai. In 1940, Japanese troops invaded and occupied French Indochina. In December of that year, Vietnamese nationalists established the League for the Independence of Vietnam, or Viet Minh, seeing the turmoil of the war as an opportunity for resistance to French colonial rule. The United States demanded that Japan leave Indochina, warning of military action. The Viet Minh began guerrilla warfare against Japan and entered an effective alliance with the United States. Viet Minh troops rescued downed U.S. pilots, located Japanese prison camps, helped U.S. prisoners to escape, and provided valuable intelligence to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Ho Chi Minh, the principal leader of the Viet Minh, was even made a special OSS agent. When the Japanese signed their formal surrender on September 2, 1945, Ho used the occasion to declare the independence of Vietnam, which he called the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV). Emperor Bao Dai had abdicated the throne a week earlier. The French, however, refused to acknowledge Vietnam's independence,...
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