Vietnam War/introduction

The "Vietnam War" (occurring from 1959 to April 30, 1975) was a military conflict in present day Vietnam between Vietnamese nationalists (Viet Minh, Democratic Republic of Vietnam [or "North Vietnam"] with the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam [also known as the Việt Cộng [Việt Cộng, pejoratively referred to as the "Charlie", "VC" or "Cong"] ] ) against the United States and the South Vietnamese Republic of Vietnam (RVN) government.The U.S. ceded its objectives in Vietnam, South Vietnam's government fell, and the DRV victory under Ho Chi Minh unified Vietnam under a communist state government.

From the Vietnamese point of view, the "American War" was like the other Indochina Wars in that it was a war of independence, but one that successfully resulted in a liberation of Vietnam from foreign (Western world) influence. The United States point of view is mixed, and the "Vietnam War" era is regarded as a period of extreme political division, touching on controversial matters of imperialism and human rights.

The chief cause of the war was the attempt by the United States to establish a Western-friendly government in South Vietnam, in the wake of the Vietnamese defeat of France in the First Indochina War (1946–54). The Viet Minh had resisted military occupation by the Japanese during WWII, and the U.S. had naturally supported the Viet Minh due to having the common enemy. But after Japan's defeat, the U.S. chose to support France in its attempt to reassert its control of Vietnam (Yalta Conference), financing 80% of France's war costs. France was defeated nine years later, and the Viet Minh agreed to a two-year temporary geographic separation of forces to allow French troops and colonists to leave. (Geneva Conference (1954)). Nationwide elections were scheduled for 1956 after which Vietnam would be unified.

The United States instead used this two year window to attempt to establish a Western-sympathetic government in South Vietnam, based on an existing class base of urban elites, and (as did the French) supported a series of puppet governments, beginning with Ngo Dinh Diem.The scheduled elections of 1956 were rejected, because the United Stated feared that Ho Chi Minh would be easily elected.The U.S. deployed large numbers of military personnel to South Vietnam as advisors. (American advisors had assisted French colonial forces as early as 1950). The Diem government was corrupt and unpopular, and the U.S. sanctioned his effective replacement via his assassination. Popular dislike for Diem merged with popular resistance to the U.S. presence, and the U.S. found it increasingly untenable that South Vietnam could stand without further "support."Large numbers of American combat troops began to arrive in 1965. The last American troops left the country on April 30, 1975. [ [ BBC ON THIS DAY | 30 | 1975: Saigon surrenders ] ]

To a degree, the Vietnam War was a "proxy war" between the U.S. and its Western allies on the side of the RVN, with the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China supporting the DRV on the other. As a result of this it is often considered part of the Cold War, and as such the Vietnam War is typically characterised as complex. It is also characterised as a quagmire and most historians agree that the war was largely imperialist in nature, reflecting the U.S.' desire to impose its own paradigm on a foreign culture, fighting the very people it claimed to have been helping.

At various stages the conflict involved clashes between small units patrolling the mountains and jungles, guerrilla attacks in the villages and cities, and finally, large-scale conventional battles. U.S. aircraft also conducted substantial aerial bombing campaigns, with controversial targeting of both logistical and civilian targets. Large quantities of chemical defoliants were also sprayed from the air in an effort to reduce the cover available to enemy combatants.

The Vietnam War was finally concluded on 30 April 1975, with the fall of the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon to North Vietnamese forces. The war claimed between 2 and 5.7 million Southeast Asian lives, [5.7 million according to the Hanoi government, reported by Agence France Presse, 4 April 1995 (] most of whom were noncombatants, as well as large numbers of the peasant resistance.

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