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What Was the Vietnam War?

The Vietnam War was the prolonged struggle between nationalist forces attempting to unify the country of Vietnam under a communist government and the United States (with the aid of the South Vietnamese) attempting to prevent the spread of communism. Engaged in a war that many viewed as having no way to win, U.S. leaders lost the American public's support for the war. Since the end of the war, the Vietnam War has become a benchmark for what not to do in all future U.S. foreign conflicts.

Dates of the Vietnam War: 1959 -- April 30, 1975

Also Known As: American War in Vietnam, Vietnam Conflict, Second Indochina War, War Against the Americans to Save the Nation

Overview of the Vietnam War:

Ho Chi Minh Comes Home
There had been fighting in Vietnam for decades before the Vietnam War began. The Vietnamese had suffered under French colonial rule for nearly six decades when Japan invaded portions of Vietnam in 1940. It was in 1941, when Vietnam had two foreign powers occupying them, that communist Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh arrived back in Vietnam after spending thirty years traveling the world. Once Ho was back in Vietnam, he established a headquarters in a cave in northern Vietnam and established the Viet Minh, whose goal was to rid Vietnam of the French and Japanese occupiers. Having gained support for their cause in northern Vietnam, the Viet Minh announced the establishment of an independent Vietnam with a new government called the Democratic Republic of Vietnam on September 2, 1945. The French, however, were not willing to give up their colony so easily and fought back.

For years, Ho had tried to court the United States to support him against the French, including supplying the U.S. with military intelligence about the Japanese during World War II. Despite this aid, the United States was fully dedicated to their Cold War foreign policy of containment, which meant preventing the spread of Communism. This fear of the spread of Communism was heightened by the U.S. "domino theory," which stated that if one country in Southeast Asia fell to Communism then surrounding countries would also soon fall. To help prevent Vietnam from becoming a communist country, the U.S. decided to help France defeat Ho and his revolutionaries by sending the French military aid in 1950.

France Steps Out, U.S. Steps In

In 1954, after suffering a decisive defeat at Dien Bien Phu, the French decided to pull out of Vietnam. At the Geneva Conference of 1954, a number of nations met to determine how the French could peacefully withdraw. The agreement that came out of the conference (called the Geneva Accords) stipulated a cease fire for the peaceful withdrawal of French forces and the temporary division of Vietnam along the 17th parallel (which split the country into communist North Vietnam and non-communist South Vietnam). In addition, a general democratic election was to be held in 1956 that would reunite the country under one government. The United States refused to agree to the election, fearing the communists might win. With help from the United States, South Vietnam carried out the election only in South Vietnam rather than countrywide. After eliminating most of his rivals, Ngo Dinh Diem was elected. His leadership, however, proved so horrible that he was killed in 1963 during a coup supported by the United States. Since Diem had alienated many South Vietnamese during his tenure, communist sympathizers in South Vietnam established the National Liberation Front (NLF), also known as the Viet Cong, in 1960 to use guerrilla warfare against the South Vietnamese.

First U.S. Ground Troops Sent to Vietnam

As the fighting between the Viet Cong and the South Vietnamese continued, the U.S. continued to send additional advisers to South Vietnam. When the North Vietnamese fired directly upon two U.S. ships in international waters on August 2 and 4, 1964 (known as the Gulf of Tonkin Incident), Congress responded with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. This resolution gave the President the authority to escalate U.S. involvement in Vietnam. President Lyndon Johnson used that authority to order the first U.S. ground troops to Vietnam in March 1965.

Johnson's Plan for Success

President Johnson's goal for U.S. involvement in Vietnam was not for the U.S. to win the war, but for U.S. troops to bolster South Vietnam's defenses until South Vietnam could take over. By entering the Vietnam War without a goal to win, Johnson set the stage for future public and troop disappointment when the U.S. found themselves in a stalemate with the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong. From 1965 to 1969, the U.S. was involved in a limited war in Vietnam. Although there were aerial bombings of the North, President Johnson wanted the fighting to be limited to South Vietnam. By limiting the fighting parameters, the U.S. forces would not conduct a serious ground assault into the North to attack the communists directly nor would there be any strong effort to disrupt the Ho Chi Minh Trail (the Viet Cong's supply path that ran through Laos and Cambodia).

Life in the Jungle

U.S. troops fought a jungle war, mostly against the well-supplied Viet Cong. The Viet Cong would attack in ambushes, set up booby traps, and escape through a complex network of underground tunnels. For U.S. forces, even just finding their enemy proved difficult. Since Viet Cong hid in the dense brush,

U.S. forces would drop Agent Orange or napalm bombs which cleared an area by causing the leaves to drop off or to burn away. In every village, U.S. troops had difficulty determining which, if any, villagers were the enemy since even women and children could build booby traps or help house and feed the Viet Cong. U.S. soldiers commonly became frustrated with the fighting conditions in Vietnam. Many suffered from low morale, became angry, and some used drugs.

Surprise Attack
On January 30, 1968, the North Vietnamese surprised both the U.S. forces and the South Vietnamese by orchestrating a coordinated assault with the Viet Cong to attack about a hundred South Vietnamese cities and towns. Although the U.S. forces and the South Vietnamese army were able to repel the assault known as the Tet Offensive, this attack proved to Americans that the enemy was stronger and better organized than they had been led to believe. The Tet Offensive was a turning point in the war because President Johnson, faced now with an unhappy American public and bad news from his military leaders in Vietnam, decided to no longer escalate the war.

Nixon's Plan for "Peace With Honor"

In 1969, Richard Nixon became the new U.S. President and he had his own plan to end U.S. involvement in Vietnam. President Nixon outlined a plan called Vietnamization, which was a process to remove U.S. troops from Vietnam while handing back the fighting to the South Vietnamese. The withdrawal of U.S. troops began in July 1969. To bring a faster end to hostilities, President Nixon also expanded the war into other countries, such as Laos and Cambodia -- a move that created thousands of protests, especially on college campuses, back in America. To work toward peace, new peace talks began in Paris on January 25, 1969.

When the U.S. had withdrawn most of its troops from Vietnam, the North Vietnamese staged another massive assault, called the

Easter Offensive (also called the Spring Offensive), on March 30, 1972. North Vietnamese troops crossed over the demilitarized zone (DMZ) at the 17th parallel and invaded South Vietnam. The remaining U.S. forces and the South Vietnamese army fought back.

The Paris Peace Accords

On January 27, 1973, the peace talks in Paris finally succeeded in producing a cease-fire agreement. The last U.S. troops left Vietnam on March 29, 1973, knowing they were leaving a weak South Vietnam who would not be able to withstand another major communist North Vietnam attack.

Reunification of Vietnam
After the U.S. had withdrawn all its troops, the fighting continued in Vietnam. In early 1975, North Vietnam made another big push south which toppled the South Vietnamese government. South Vietnam officially surrendered to communist North Vietnam on April 30, 1975. On July 2, 1976, Vietnam was reunited as a communist country, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Vietnam War
The Vietnam War (Vietnamese: Chin tranh Vit Nam) was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of South Vietnam, supported by the United States and other anti-communist countries. The Viet Cong (also known as the National Liberation Front, or NLF), a lightly armed South Vietnamese communist common front directed by the North, largely fought a guerrilla war against anti-communist forces in the region. The Vietnam People's Army (North Vietnamese Army) engaged in a more conventional war, at times committing large units into battle. U.S. and South Vietnamese forces relied on air superiority and overwhelming firepower to conduct search and destroy operations, involving ground forces, artillery, and airstrikes.

The U.S. government viewed involvement in the war as a way to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam as part of their wider strategy of containment. The North Vietnamese government and Viet Cong viewed the conflict as a colonial war, fought initially against France, backed by the U.S., and later against South Vietnam, which it regarded as a U.S. puppet state. American military advisors arrived in what was then French Indochina beginning in 1950. U.S. involvement escalated in the early 1960s, with troop levels tripling in 1961 and tripling again in 1962. U.S. combat units were deployed beginning in 1965. Operations spanned international borders, with Laos and Cambodia heavily bombed. American involvement in the war peaked in 1968, at the time of the Tet Offensive. After this, U.S. ground forces were gradually withdrawn as part of a policy known as Vietnamization. Despite the Paris Peace Accords, signed by all parties in January 1973, fighting continued.

U.S. military involvement ended on 15 August 1973 as a result of the Case Church Amendment passed by the U.S. Congress. The capture of Saigon by the Vietnam People's Army in April 1975 marked the end of the war, and North and South Vietnam were reunified the following year. The war exacted a huge human cost in terms of fatalities (see Vietnam War casualties). Estimates of the number of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians killed vary from fewer than one million to more than three million. Some 200,000300,000 Cambodians, 20,000200,000 Laotians, nd 58,220 U.S. service members also died in the conflict.

Names for the War

Various names have been applied to the conflict. Vietnam War is the most commonly used name in English. It has also been called the Second Indochina War, and the Vietnam Conflict. As there have been so many conflicts in Indochina, this conflict is known by the name of their chief opponent to distinguish it from the others. In Vietnamese, the war is generally known as Chin tranh Vit Nam (The Vietnam War). It is also called Khng chin chng M (Resistance War Against America), loosely translated as the American War.

Terminology of the Vietnam War

Second Indochina War

The name "Second Indochina War" places the conflict into context with other distinct, but related, and contiguous conflicts in Southeast Asia. Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia are seen as the battlegrounds of a larger Indochinese conflict that began at the end of World War II and lasted until communist victory in 1975. This conflict can be viewed in terms of the demise of colonialism and its after-effects during the Cold War. The main military organizations involved in the war were, on one side, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) and the U.S. military, and, on the other side, the Vietnam People's Army (VPA) (also known as the North Vietnamese Army, or NVA), and the Viet Cong, or National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (NLF), a South Vietnamese communist guerrilla force. Vietnam Conflict The term "Vietnam Conflict" is largely a U.S. designation, it acknowledges that the United States Congress never declared war on North Vietnam. Legally, the President used his constitutional discretionsupplemented by supportive resolutions in Congressto conduct what was said to be a police action. Vietnam War "Vietnam War" is the most commonly used designation in English. Most Vietnamese who interact with foreigners are familiar with the term Vietnam War. American War For people in Vietnam the common phrase is Chin tranh M (The American War).

History of Vietnam
The history of Vietnam is one of the longest continuous histories in the world, with archaeological findings showing that human settlements as far back as around half a million years ago and a cultural history of over 20,000 years. Ancient Vietnam was home to some of the world's earliest civilizations and societies - making them one of the world's first people who practiced agriculture. The Red River valley formed a natural geographic and economic unit, bounded to the north and west by mountains and jungles, to the east by the sea and to the south by the Red River Delta. The need to have a single authority to prevent floods of the Red River, to cooperate in constructing

hydraulic systems, trade exchange, and to fight invaders, led to the creation of the first Vietnamese states in 2879 BC. The first truly influential part of history in Vietnam occurred during the Bronze Age, when the ng Sn culture dramatically advanced the civilization. Vietnam's peculiar geography made it a difficult country to attack, which is why Vietnam under Hng Vng was for so long an independent and self-contained state. The ns and Qins were among the earliest foreign aggressors of Vietnam, but the ancient Vietnamese managed to regain control of the country soon after the invasions.

Background to 1949
France began its conquest of Indochina in the late 1850s, and completed pacification by 1893.[46][47][48] The Treaty of Hu, concluded in 1884, formed the basis for French colonial rule in Vietnam for the next seven decades. In spite of military resistance, most notably by the Can Vuong of Phan Dinh Phung, by 1888 the area of the current-day nations of Cambodia and Vietnam was made into the colony of French Indochina (Laos was added later). Various Vietnamese opposition movements to French rule existed during this period, such as the Viet Nam Quoc Dan Dang who staged the failed Yen Bai mutiny in 1930, but none were ultimately as successful as the Viet Minh common front, which was founded in 1941, controlled by the Indochinese Communist Party, and funded by the U.S. and the Chinese Nationalist Party in its fight against Japanese occupation.

During World War II, the French were defeated by the Germans in 1940. For French Indochina, this meant that the colonial authorities became Vichy French, allies of the German-Italian Axis powers. In turn this meant that the French collaborated with the Japanese forces after their invasion of French Indochina during 1940. The French continued to run affairs in the colony, but ultimate power resided in the hands of the Japanese.

The Viet Minh was founded as a league for independence from France, but also opposed Japanese occupation in 1945 for the same reason. The U.S. and Chinese Nationalist Party supported them in the fight

against the Japanese. However, they did not have enough power to fight actual battles at first. Viet Minh leader Ho Chi Minh was suspected of being a communist and jailed for a year by the Chinese Nationalist Party.

Double occupation by France and Japan continued until the German forces were expelled from France and the French Indochina colonial authorities started holding secret talks with the Free French. Fearing that they could no longer trust the French authorities, the Japanese army interned them all on 9 March 1945 and created a puppet state instead, the Empire of Vietnam, under Bo i.

During 19441945, a deep famine struck northern Vietnam due to a combination of bad weather and French/Japanese exploitation (French Indochina had to supply grains to Japan). 1 million people died of starvation (out of a population of 10 million in the affected area). Exploiting the administrative gap that the internment of the French had created, the Viet Minh in March 1945 urged the population to ransack rice warehouses and refuse to pay their taxes. Between 75 and 100 warehouses were consequently raided. This rebellion against the effects of the famine and the authorities that were partially responsible for it bolstered the Viet Minh's popularity and they recruited many members during this period.

On August 22, 1945, following the Japanese surrender OSS agents Archimedes Patti and Carleton B. Swift Jr. arrived in Hanoi on a mercy mission to liberate allied POWs and were accompanied by Jean Sainteny a French government official. The Japanese forces informally surrendered (the official surrender took place on Sept. 2, 1945 in Tokyo Bay) but being the only force capable of maintaining law and order the Japanese Imperial Army remained in power while keeping French colonial troops and Sainteny detained.

During August the Japanese forces allowed the Vit Minh and other nationalist groups to take over public buildings and weapons without

resistance, which began the August Revolution. OSS officers met repeatedly with Ho Chi Minh and other Viet Minh officers during this period and on 2 September 1945 Ho Chi Minh declared the independent Democratic Republic of Vietnam before a crowd of 500,000 in Hanoi. In an overture to the Americans, he began his speech by paraphrasing the United States Declaration of Independence: All men are created equal. The Creator has given us certain inviolable Rights: the right to Life, the right to be Free, and the right to achieve Happiness.

The Viet Minh grasped power across Vietnam in the August Revolution, largely supported by the Vietnamese population. After their defeat in the war, the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) gave weapons to the Vietnamese, and kept Vichy French officials and military officers imprisoned for a month after the surrender. The Vit Minh had recruited more than 600 Japanese soldiers and given them roles to train or command Vietnamese soldiers.

However, the major allied victors of World War II, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Soviet Union, all agreed the area belonged to the French. As the French did not have the ships, weapons, or soldiers to immediately retake Vietnam, the major powers came to an agreement that British troops would occupy the south while Nationalist Chinese forces would move in from the north. Nationalist Chinese troops entered the country to disarm Japanese troops north of the 16th parallel on 14 September 1945. When the British landed in the south, they rearmed the interned French forces as well as parts of the surrendered Japanese forces to aid them in retaking southern Vietnam, as they did not have enough troops to do this themselves.

On the urging of the Soviet Union, Ho Chi Minh initially attempted to negotiate with the French, who were slowly re-establishing their control across the area. In January 1946, the Viet Minh won elections across central and northern Vietnam. On 6 March 1946, Ho signed an agreement allowing French forces to replace Nationalist Chinese forces, in exchange for French recognition of the Democratic Republic

of Vietnam as a "free" republic within the French Union, with the specifics of such recognition to be determined by future negotiation. The French landed in Hanoi by March 1946 and in November of that year they ousted the Viet Minh from the city. British forces departed on 26 March 1946, leaving Vietnam in the hands of the French. Soon thereafter, the Viet Minh began a guerrilla war against the French Union forces, beginning the First Indochina War.

The war spread to Laos and Cambodia, where Communists organized the Pathet Lao and the Khmer Serei, both of which were modeled on the Viet Minh. Globally, the Cold War began in earnest, which meant that the rapprochement that existed between the Western powers and the Soviet Union during World War II disintegrated. The Viet Minh fight was hampered by a lack of weapons; this situation changed by 1949 when the Chinese Communists had largely won the Chinese Civil War and were free to provide arms to their Vietnamese allies.

Exit of the French, 19501954

In January 1950, the communist nations, led by the People's Republic of China (PRC), recognized the Viet Minh's Democratic Republic of Vietnam, based in Hanoi, as the government of Vietnam, while noncommunist nations recognized the French-backed State of Vietnam in Saigon, led by former Emperor Bo i, as the Vietnamese government the following month. The outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950 convinced many Washington policymakers that the war in Indochina was an example of communist expansionism directed by the Kremlin. French soldiers fight off a Viet Minh ambush in 1952.

PRC military advisors began assisting the Viet Minh in July 1950. PRC weapons, expertise, and laborers transformed the Viet Minh from a guerrilla force into a regular army. In September 1950, the United States created a Military Assistance and Advisory Group (MAAG) to screen French requests for aid, advise on strategy, and train Vietnamese soldiers. By 1954, the United States had supplied 300,000

small arms and spent US$1 billion in support of the French military effort, shouldering 80 percent of the cost of the war.

There were also talks between the French and Americans in which the possible use of three tactical nuclear weapons was considered, though reports of how seriously this was considered and by whom are even now vague and contradictory. One version of the plan for the proposed Operation Vulture envisioned sending 60 B-29s from U.S. bases in the region, supported by as many as 150 fighters launched from U.S. Seventh Fleet carriers, to bomb Viet Minh commander Vo Nguyen Giap's positions. The plan included an option to use up to three atomic weapons on the Viet Minh positions. Admiral Arthur W. Radford, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave this nuclear option his backing. U.S. B-29s, B-36s, and B-47s could have executed a nuclear strike, as could carrier aircraft from the Seventh Fleet.

U.S. carriers sailed to the Gulf of Tonkin, and reconnaissance flights over Dien Bien Phu were conducted during the negotiations. According to U.S. Vice-President Richard Nixon, the plan involved the Joint Chiefs of Staff drawing up plans to use three small tactical nuclear weapons in support of the French. Nixon, a so-called "hawk" on Vietnam, suggested that the United States might have to "put American boys in". U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower made American participation contingent on British support, but London was opposed to such a venture. In the end, convinced that the political risks outweighed the possible benefits, Eisenhower decided against the intervention. As an experienced five-star general, Eisenhower was wary of getting the United States involved in a land war in Asia.

The Viet Minh received crucial support from the Soviet Union and PRC. PRC support in the Border Campaign of 1950 allowed supplies to come from the PRC into Vietnam. Throughout the conflict, U.S. intelligence estimates remained skeptical of French chances of success.

The Battle of Dien Bien Phu marked the end of French involvement in

Indochina. Giap's Viet Minh forces handed the French a stunning military defeat, and on 7 May 1954, the French Union garrison surrendered. Of the 12,000 French prisoners taken by the Viet Minh, only 3,000 survived. At the Geneva Conference, the French negotiated a ceasefire agreement with the Viet Minh, and independence was granted to Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.

First Indochina War Date:December 19, 1946 August 1, 1954 7 years, 7 months, 1 week and 6 days) Location :French Indochina, mainly North Vietnam Result: State of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia gain official independence Geneva Conference occurs Departure of the French from Indochina Vietnam is partitioned between North (controlled by the Viet Minh) and South (controlled by the State of Vietnam)

Territorial: Provisional division of Vietnam

Traditionally, the First Indochina War (generally known as the Indochina War, or sometimes the Dirty War, in France, and as the AntiFrench Resistance War in contemporary Vietnam) is said to have begun in French Indochina on 19 December 1946 and to have lasted until 1 August 1954. Fighting between French forces and their Vit Minh opponents in the South dates from September 1945.

The conflict pitted a range of actors, including the French Union's French Far East Expeditionary Corps, led by France and supported by Emperor Bo i's Vietnamese National Army against the Vit Minh,

led by H Ch Minh and V Nguyn Gip. Most of the fighting took place in Tonkin in Northern Vietnam, although the conflict engulfed the entire country and also extended into the neighboring French Indochina protectorates of Laos and Cambodia.

Following the reoccupation of Indochina by the French following the end of World War II, the area having fallen to the Japanese, the Vit Minh launched a rebellion against the French authority governing the colonies of French Indochina. The first few years of the war involved a low-level rural insurgency against French authority. However, after the Chinese communists reached the Northern border of Vietnam in 1949, the conflict turned into a conventional war between two armies equipped with modern weapons supplied by the United States and the Soviet Union.

French Union forces included colonial troops from the whole former empire (Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian, Laotian, Cambodian, and Vietnamese ethnic minorities), French professional troops and units of the French Foreign Legion. The use of metropolitan recruits was forbidden by the governments to prevent the war from becoming even more unpopular at home. It was called the "dirty war" (la sale guerre) by supporters of the Left intellectuals in France (including Sartre) during the Henri Martin Affair in 1950.

While the strategy of pushing the Vit Minh into attacking a well defended base in a remote part of the country at the end of their logistical trail was validated at the Battle of Na San, the lack of construction materials (especially concrete), tanks (because of lack of road access and difficulty in the jungle terrain), and air cover precluded an effective defense, culminating in a decisive French defeat at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu.

After the war, the Geneva Conference on July 21, 1954, made a provisional division of Vietnam at the 17th parallel, with control of the north given to the Vit Minh as the Democratic Republic of Vietnam

under H Ch Minh, and the south becoming the State of Vietnam under Emperor Bo i, in order to prevent H Ch Minh from gaining control of the entire country.[16] A year later, Bo i would be deposed by his prime minister, Ng nh Dim, creating the Republic of Vietnam. Diem's refusal to enter into negotiations with North Vietnam about holding nationwide elections in 1956, as had been stipulated by the Geneva Conference, would eventually lead to war breaking out again in South Vietnam in 1959, this time with US intervention The Vietnam War.

Transition period
Geneva Conference (1954)
The Geneva Conference (April 26 July 20, 1954) was a conference which took place in Geneva, Switzerland, whose purpose was to attempt to find a way to unify Vietnam and discuss the possibility of restoring peace in Indochina. The Soviet Union, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, and the Peoples Republic of China were participants throughout the whole conference while different countries concerned with the two questions were also represented during the discussion of their respective questions, which included the countries that sent troops through the United Nations to the Korean War and the various countries that ended the First Indochina War between France and the Vit Minh. The part of the conference on the Korean question ended without adopting any declarations or proposals. Some participants and analysts blamed the US for having obstructed movements towards the unification of Korea as a communist state. On Indochina, the conference produced a set of documents known as the Geneva Accords. These agreements separated Vietnam into two zones, a northern zone to be governed by the Viet Minh, and a southern zone to be governed by the State of Vietnam, then headed by former emperor Bo i. A "Conference Final Declaration", issued by the British chairman of the conference, provided that a "general election" be held by July 1956 to create a unified Vietnamese state. Although presented as a consensus view, this document was not accepted by the delegates of either South Vietnam or the United States. In addition, three separate ceasefire accords,

covering Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, were signed at the conference.

Operation Passage to Freedom

Operation Passage to Freedom was the term used by the United States Navy to describe its transportation in 195455 of 310,000 Vietnamese civilians, soldiers and non-Vietnamese members of the French Army from communist North Vietnam (the Democratic Republic of Vietnam) to South Vietnam (the State of Vietnam, later to become the Republic of Vietnam). The French military transported a further 500,000. In the wake of the French defeat at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, the Geneva Accords of 1954 decided the fate of French Indochina after eight years of war between French Union forces and the Viet Minh, which sought Vietnamese independence. The accords resulted in the partition of Vietnam at the 17th parallel north, with Ho Chi Minh's communist Viet Minh in control of the north and the Frenchbacked State of Vietnam in the south. The agreements allowed a 300-day period of grace, ending on May 18, 1955, in which people could move freely between the two Vietnams before the border was sealed. The partition was intended to be temporary, pending elections in 1956 to reunify the country under a national government. Between 600,000 and one million northerners moved south,[4] while between 14,000 and 45,000 civilians and approximately 100,000 Viet Minh fighters moved in the opposite direction. The mass emigration of northerners was facilitated primarily by the French Air Force and Navy. American naval vessels supplemented the French in evacuating northerners to Saigon, the southern capital. The operation was accompanied by a large humanitarian relief effort, bankrolled in the main by the United States government in an attempt to absorb a large tent city of refugees that had sprung up outside Saigon. For the US, the migration was a public relations coup, generating wide coverage of the flight of Vietnamese from the perceived oppression of communism to the "free world" in the south under American auspices. The period was marked by a CIA-backed propaganda campaign on behalf of South Vietnam's Roman Catholic Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem. The campaign exhorted Catholics to flee

impending religious persecution under communism, and around 60% of the north's 1 million Catholics obliged. The migration boosted the Catholic power base of Diem; whereas the majority of Vietnam's Catholics previously lived in the north, they were now in the south. The campaign was intended to strengthen the population of the south in preparation for the reunification elections. Fearing a communist victory, Diem cancelled the elections. Believing the northern Catholics to be a bastion of solid anti-communist support, Diem proceeded to treat his new constituents as a special interest group. In the long run, the northern Catholics never fully integrated into southern society and Diem's favoritism toward them caused tension that culminated in the Buddhist crisis of 1963, which ended with the downfall and assassination of the South Vietnamese leader.

Battle of Saigon (1955)

The Battle for Saigon was a month-long battle between the Vietnamese National Army of the State of Vietnam (later to become the Army of the Republic of Vietnam) and the private army of the Binh Xuyen organised crime syndicate. At the time, the Binh Xuyen was licensed with controlling the national police by Emperor Bo i, and Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem issued an ultimatum for them to surrender and come under state control. The battle started on April 27, 1955 and the VNA had largely crushed the Binh Xuyen within a week. Fighting was mostly concentrated in the inner city Chinese business district of Cholon. The densely crowded area saw some 500-1000 deaths and up to 20,000 civilians made homeless in the cross-fire. In the end, the Binh Xuyen were decisively defeated, their army disbanded and their vice operations collapsed.

Ba Cut
L Quang Vinh (1923 13 July 1956), popularly known as Ba Ct (Short Third in Vietnamese, referring to the finger he himself had partially severed), was a military commander of the Ha Ho religious sect, which operated from the Mekong Delta and controlled various parts of southern Vietnam during the 1940s and early 1950s.

Ba Ct and his forces fought the Vietnamese National Army (VNA), the Vit Minh, and the Cao i religious movement from 1943 until his capture in 1956. Known for his idiosyncrasies, he was regarded as an erratic and cruel leader who fought with little ideological purpose. His sobriquet came from the self-amputation of a finger as part of a vow during his teenage years to defeat the French colonial forces; he later swore not to cut his hair until the communist Vit Minh were defeated. Ba Ct frequently made alliances with various Vietnamese factions and the French. He invariably accepted the material support offered in return for his cooperation, and then broke the agreementnevertheless, the French made deals with him on five occasions. The French position was weak because their military forces had been depleted by World War II, and they had great difficulty in reestablishing control over French Indochina, which had been left with a power vacuum after the defeat of Japan. In mid-1955, the tide turned against the various sects, as Prime Minister Ng nh Dim of the State of Vietnam and his VNA began to consolidate their grip on the south. Ba Ct and his allies were driven into the jungle, and their position was threatened by government offensives. After almost a year of fighting, Ba Ct was captured. He was sentenced to death and publicly beheaded in Cn Th.

State of Vietnam referendum, 1955

The State of Vietnam referendum of 1955 determined the future form of government of the State of Vietnam, the nation that was to become the Republic of Vietnam (widely known as South Vietnam). It was contested by Prime Minister Ng nh Dim, who proposed a republic, and former emperor Bo i. Bo i had abdicated as emperor in 1945 and at the time of the referendum held the title of head of state. Dim claimed to have won the election that was widely marred by electoral fraud with 98.2% of the vote. In the capital, Saigon, Dim was credited with more than 600,000 votes, although only 450,000 people were on the electoral roll. He accumulated tallies in excess of 90% of the registered voters. In rural regions where opposition groups prevented voting. He ultimately received over 386,000 more votes than the total number of registered voters.

The referendum was the last phase in the power struggle between Bo i and his prime minister. Bo i disliked Dim and had frequently attempted to undermine him, having appointed him only because he was a conduit to American aid. During the period, the country was going through a period of insecurity, as Vietnam had been temporarily partitioned as a result of the 1954 Geneva Accords that ended the First Indochina War. The State of Vietnam controlled the southern half of the country, pending national elections that would reunify the country under a common government. The Vietnamese National Army was not in full control of the country, with the Cao i and Ha Ho religious sects running their own administrations in the countryside with private armies, while the Binh Xuyn organised crime syndicate controlled the streets of Saigon. Despite Bo i's interference, Dim had managed to subdue the private armies and enforce government over the country by mid-1955. Emboldened by his success, Dim began to plot Bo i's downfall. He scheduled a referendum for 23 October 1955, and pushed Bo i out of the political scene, despite the former emperor's attempts to derail the poll. In the period leading up to the vote, campaigning for Bo i was banned, while Dim's election campaign focused on personal attacks against Bo i. These included pornographic cartoons of the head of state and unverified rumours claiming he was illegitimate and linking him to various mistresses. The government-controlled media launched polemical attacks on Bo i, and police went door-todoor, warning people of the consequences of failing to vote. After his brother Ng nh Nhu successfully rigged the poll, Dim proclaimed himself president of the newly created Republic of Vietnam.

Land reform in Vietnam

Land reform in Vietnam was a program of land reform in North Vietnam from 1953 to 1956. It followed the program of land reform in China from 1946 to 1953. The aim of the land reform program was to break the power of the traditional village elite, to form a new class of leaders, and redistribute the wealth (mostly land) to create a new class that

has no ownership. It was an element of the Communist revolution. The reform led to allegations of many villagers being executed, land being taken away even from poor peasants, and of paranoia among neighbors. Several foreign witnesses testified to mass executions. Former North Vietnamese government official Nguyen Minh Can, told RFAs Vietnamese service: "The land reform was a massacre of innocent, honest people, and using contemporary terms we must say that it was a genocide triggered by class discrimination". Between 8,000 and 172,000 perceived as "class enemies" were executed. Reports from North Vietnamese defectors at the time suggested that 50,000 were executed. A Hungarian diplomat was told that 60,000 were executed. Jean-Louis Margolin estimated that 50,000 landlords were executed. RAND Corporation analyst Anita Lauve Nutt concluded that a minimum of 100,000 Vietnamese were executed, as did French witness Grard Tongas. Nguyen Van Canh, a former South Vietnamese Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Information and Amnesty, estimated the number of executions by interviewing returnees from Chieu Hoi programs and interrogating POWs, including communist cadres, soldiers, and officers from the North. These interviews and interrogations produced a great deal of information. Ultimately Nguyen Van Canh was able to generate an estimate of 200,000 victims, which he divided into 2 main categories: 100,000 accused and murdered during the period before 1955, excluding another 40,000 victims who were sent to various concentration camps in the mountain areas; and 100,000 killed during phase 5, the last phase of the reform campaign, known as the Dien Bien Phu General Offensive, which ended in summer 1956. Thousands of others, most of them rich farmers and land owners, were sent to concentration camps for "reeducation". Of more than 200,000 victims executed, 40,000 (20%) were communist cadres. R.J. Rummel, in his book Statistics of Democide, estimates the

death toll from all causes from 1945-56: The estimates cover different periods; and some cover strictly the "land reform" campaign while others appear to mix up the "rent reduction" campaign with the "land reform" or "political struggle" campaigns, with on going repression and retaliation, or with democide associated with the suppression of rebellions. I try to handle this by dividing "land reform" estimates in terms of their ostensive inclusiveness. Thus I first present estimates of "executions"; then those executed and otherwise "killed"; and then those who also otherwise "died", such as those tagged as wealthy peasants who were deprived of their land, officially ostracized and thus denied food and shelter. Consequently, in consolidating the "land reform" dead, I made sure that the figures subsumed the consolidated killed estimates, that this in turn subsumed the consolidated execution estimates, and that this subsumed the rent reduction killed. In determining the final democide "land reform" total, I only added the final "land reform" dead to those killed in political struggle, etc., and the suppression of uprisings. The probable democide for this four year period then totals 283,000 North Vietnamese. There was also those who died in prison or at forced labor from 1945 to 1956. One estimate of 500,000 dead from President Nixon, which may have been based on secret intelligence estimates, cannot be accepted without some publicly available confirming information or similar independent estimates. Based on other estimates of the prison/camp population I assumed a 50,000 camp population per year and an unnatural death rate of 2 percent per year, on par with the Chinese rate and much lower than for the Soviet gulag. This gives me a low of 24,000 dead. Then also there were the POWs from the French Expeditionary Force that were killed. Based on the sources, I only dare estimate this number at 13,000. Putting together all these consolidations and calculations, I figure that for the years 1945 to 1956 the Vietnamese communists likely killed 242,000 to 922,000 people.

Dr. Steven Rosefielde, professor of economics at the University of North Carolina, separately estimated that a total of 200,000900,000 Vietnamese were killed during this period. A U.S. government report (at February 17, 1972) concluded that

500,000 North Vietnamese were killed in the fifties. Gareth Porter wrote The Myth of the Bloodbath, claiming that the death toll was only in the thousands[15] but was criticized by historian Robert F. Turner for relying on official communist sources. Turner argued that the death toll "was certainly in six digits." Nevertheless, at least one historian, Edwin Moise, has defended this practice; asserting that the official communist newspapers of North Vietnam were "extremely informative" and "showed a fairly high level of honesty" when compared to those of other communist states. Former North Vietnamese government official Hoang Van Chi (who put the death toll at 500,000) also responded to Porter, stating that "Mr. Porter studies....a few propaganda booklets published by Hanoi....I lived through the whole process, and I described what I saw with my own eyes." Both Hoang and Turner noted that Porter could barely speak Vietnamese (despite his claim that sources about the land reform were mistranslated), and that he relied on sometimes inaccurate English translations of Nhan Dan done by the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (as well as English-language propaganda meant to encourage anti-war groups). Moise's denial that China played an important role in the reform is no longer accepted by modern scholarship. Recent scholarship from Vietnam also suggests that a larger number of landlords were persecuted than previously believed. More than 1 million North Vietnamese people fled to the South, due in part to the land reform. It is estimated that as many as two million more would have left had they not been stopped by the Viet Minh. Vietnam was temporarily partitioned at the 17th parallel, and under the terms of the Geneva Accords, civilians were to be given the opportunity to move freely between the two provisional states for a 300-day period. Elections throughout the country were to be held in 1956 to establish a unified government.[88] Around one million northerners, mainly minority Catholics, fled south, fearing persecution by the communists[89] following an American propaganda campaign using slogans such as "The Virgin Mary is heading south",[90] and aided by a U.S. funded $93 million relocation program, which included ferrying refugees with the Seventh Fleet. It is estimated that as many

as two million more would have left had they not been stopped by the Viet Minh. The northern, mainly Catholic refugees were meant to give the later Ng nh Dim regime a strong anti-communist constituency. [93] Diem later went on to staff his administration's key posts mostly with northern and central Catholics.

In addition to the Catholics flowing south, up to 130,000 "Revolutionary Regroupees" went to the north for "regroupment," expecting to return to the south within two years.[94] The Viet Minh left roughly 5,000 to 10,000 cadres in the south as a "politico-military substructure within the object of its irredentism."[95] The last French soldiers were to leave Vietnam in April 1956.[78] The PRC completed its withdrawal from North Vietnam at around the same time.[77] Around 52,000 Vietnamese civilians moved from south to north.

In the north, the Viet Minh ruled as the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and engaged in a drastic land reform program in which between 8,000 and 172,000 perceived "class enemies" were executed. Some estimates range from 200,000 to 900,000 deaths from executions, camps, and famine. In 1956, leaders in Hanoi admitted to "excesses" in implementing this program and restored a large amount of the land to the original owners.

The south, meanwhile, constituted the State of Vietnam, with Bo i as Emperor and Ng nh Dim (appointed in July 1954) as his prime minister. In June 1955, Diem announced that the scheduled 1956 elections would not be held, claiming South Vietnam had rejected the Geneva Accords from the beginning and was therefore not bound by them. "How can we expect 'free elections' to be held in the Communist North?" he asked. President Eisenhower echoed senior U.S. experts when he wrote that, in 1954, "80 per cent of the population would have voted for the Communist Ho Chi Minh" over Emperor Bo i. In 1957, independent observers from India, Poland, and Canada representing the International Control Commission (ICC) stated that fair, unbiased elections were not possible in the northern part of Vietnam due to Communist influence.

From April to June 1955, Diem (against U.S. advice) eliminated any political opposition in the south by launching military operations against the Cao Dai religious sect, the Hoa Hao sect of Ba Cut, and the Binh Xuyen organized crime group (which was allied with members of the secret police and some military elements). As broad-based opposition to his harsh tactics mounted, Diem increasingly sought to blame the communists.

In a referendum on the future of the State of Vietnam on 23 October 1955, Diem rigged the poll supervised by his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu and was credited with 98.2 percent of the vote, including 133% in Saigon. His American advisers had recommended a more modest winning margin of "60 to 70 percent." Diem, however, viewed the election as a test of authority. Three days later, he declared South Vietnam to be an independent state known as the Republic of Vietnam (ROV), with himself as president.

The domino theory, which argued that if one country fell to communism, then all of the surrounding countries would follow, was first proposed as policy by the Eisenhower administration. It was, and is still, commonly hypothesized that it applied to Vietnam. John F. Kennedy, then a U.S. Senator, said in a speech to the American Friends of Vietnam: "Burma, Thailand, India, Japan, the Philippines and obviously Laos and Cambodia are among those whose security would be threatened if the Red Tide of Communism overflowed into Vietnam."

Diem era, 19551963

Ngo Dinh Diem
In this Vietnamese name, the family name is Ng, but is often simplified to Ngo in English-language text. According to Vietnamese custom, this person should properly be referred to by the given name Dim.

Ng nh Dim (About this sound listen; 3 January 1901 2 November 1963) was the first president of South Vietnam (1955 1963). In the wake of the French withdrawal from Indochina as a result of the 1954 Geneva Accords, Dim led the effort to create the Republic of Vietnam. Accruing considerable U.S. support due to his staunch anti-Communism, he achieved victory in a 1955 plebiscite, which was fraudulent. A Roman Catholic, Dim pursued biased and religiously oppressive policies against the Republic's Montagnard natives and its Buddhist majority that were met with protests, epitomized in Malcolm Browne's Pulitzer Prize winning photograph of the selfimmolation of Buddhist monk Thch Qung c in 1963. Amid religious protests that garnered worldwide attention, Dim lost the backing of his U.S. patrons and was assassinated, along with his brother, Ng nh Nhu by Nguyn Vn Nhung, the aide of ARVN General Dng Vn Minh on 2 November 1963, during a coup d'tat that deposed his government.

War in Vietnam (19541959)

The 1954 to 1959 phase of the Vietnam War was the era of the two nations. Coming after the First Indochina War, this period resulted in the military defeat of the French, a 1954 Geneva meeting that partitioned Vietnam into North and South, and the French withdrawal from Vietnam, leaving the Republic of Vietnam regime fighting a communist insurgency with US aid. During this period, North Vietnam recovered from the wounds of war, rebuilt nationally, and accrued to prepare for the anticipated war. In South Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem consolidated power and encouraged anti-communism. This period was marked by U.S. support to South Vietnam before Gulf of Tonkin, as well as communist infrastructure-building. It was to have ended with a referendum on unification in 1956, which the southern regime refused to allow to take place. It is widely accepted that Ho Chi Minh, the Northern communist leader, would have won: "It was generally conceded that had an election been held, Ho Chi Minh would have been elected Premier. Still, neither side was comfortable with a democratic process and wanted to set the precedent of open elections.

The period ended with major negotiations, but formal discussions had started as early as 1950, with less formal meetings during and immediately after the Second World War. France gave limited autonomy in February 1950, Associated States of Indochina (Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia) within the French Union. The enabling agreement was signed among the five states on 23 December 1950,and was the prerequisite for direct U.S. aid to Indochina.

A devout Roman Catholic, Diem was fervently anti-communist, nationalist, and socially conservative. Historian Luu Doan Huynh notes that "Diem represented narrow and extremist nationalism coupled with autocracy and nepotism." As he was a wealthy Catholic, many ordinary Vietnamese viewed Diem as part of the elite who had helped the French rule Vietnam; Diem had been interior minister in the colonial government. The majority of Vietnamese people were Buddhist, and were alarmed by actions such as Diem's dedication of the country to the Virgin Mary. Beginning in the summer of 1955, Diem launched the "Denounce the Communists" campaign, during which communists and other anti-government elements were arrested, imprisoned, tortured, or executed. He instituted the death penalty against any activity deemed communist in August 1956. The regime branded its opponents Viet Cong ("Vietnamese communist") to degrade their nationalist credentials. As a measure of the level of political repression, about 12,000 suspected opponents of Diem were killed between 1955 and 1957 and by the end of 1958 an estimated 40,000 political prisoners had been jailed. In May 1957, Diem undertook a ten-day state visit to the United States. President Eisenhower pledged his continued support, and a parade was held in Diem's honor in New York City. Although Diem was publicly praised, in private Secretary of State John Foster Dulles conceded that Diem had been selected because there were no better alternatives. Future U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara wrote that the new American patrons of the ROV were almost completely

ignorant of Vietnamese culture. They knew little of the language or long history of the country. There was a tendency to assign American motives to Vietnamese actions, and Diem warned that it was an illusion to believe that blindly copying Western methods would solve Vietnamese problems.

Insurgency in the South, 19541960 Viet Cong

The Viet Cong or National Liberation Front (NLF), was a political organization and army in South Vietnam and Cambodia that fought the United States and South Vietnamese governments during the Vietnam War (19591975), and emerged on the winning side. It had both guerrilla and regular army units, as well as a network of cadres who organized peasants in the territory it controlled. Many soldiers were recruited in South Vietnam, but others were attached to the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), the regular North Vietnamese army. During the war, communists and anti-war spokesmen insisted the Viet Cong was an insurgency indigenous to the South, while the U.S. and South Vietnamese governments portrayed the group as a tool of Hanoi. Although the terminology distinguishes northerners from the southerners, communist forces were under a single command structure set up in 1958. Southern Vietnamese communists established the National Liberation Front in 1960 to encourage the participation of noncommunists in the insurgency. Many of the Viet Cong's core members were "regroupees," southern Viet Minh who had resettled in the North after the Geneva Accord (1954). Hanoi gave the regroupees military training and sent them back to the South along the Ho Chi Minh trail in the early 1960s. The NLF called for Southerners to "overthrow the camouflaged colonial regime of the American imperialists" and to make "efforts toward the peaceful unification." The Viet Cong's best-known action was the Tet Offensive, a massive assault on more than 100 South Vietnamese urban centers in 1968, including an attack on the US embassy in Saigon. The offensive riveted the attention of the world's media for weeks, but also overextended the Viet Cong. Later communist offensives were conducted predominately by

the North Vietnamese. The group was dissolved in 1976 when North and South Vietnam were officially unified under a communist government. President Eisenhower noted that had the Geneva Accord elections been held, "possibly 80 percent of the population would have voted for Communist Ho Chi Minh" and the government quickly became more repressive and unpopular. The Diem government had largely failed in implementing a land reform program for the peasants of South Vietnam (90% of the population) which along with "Peace, security, freedom, [and] their standard of living" was the peasants' prime concern according to specialist Philippe Devillers.[citation needed] Among the changes the government altered the tenant structure to competitive bidding, which led to more tenant insecurity. Only 10% of the tenants benefited from the program and were oftentimes northerners, refugees, or Catholics, which created more animosity among the Vietnamese. In 1959 the program became inoperative and by 1960, only 2% of the landowners owned 45% of the land.

Between 1954 and 1957 there was large scale random dissidence in the countryside which the Diem government managed to successfully quell. In early 1957 South Vietnam had its first peace in over a decade. However, by mid-1957 through 1959 incidents of violence increased but the government "did not construe it as a campaign, considering the disorders too diffuse to warrant committing major GVN resources." By Early 1959 however, Diem had considered it a campaign and implemented Law 10/59, which made political violence punishable by death and property confiscation. There had been some division among former Viet Minh whose main goal was to hold the elections promised in the Geneva Accords, leading to "wildcat" activities separate from the other communists and anti-GVN activists.

In December 1960, the National Liberation Front (NLF) was formally created consisting of all anti-GVN activists and included noncommunists. According to the Pentagon Papers, the NLF "placed heavy emphasis on the withdrawal of American advisors and influence, on land reform and liberalization of the GVN, on coalition government and the neutralization of Vietnam." Often the leaders of the organization

were kept secret.