The Vietnam War

The Vietnam War was the war that divided the "inseparable" country. The United Sates was considered by many to be the most powerful county in the world, yet they felt the need to become involved in a war that many considered to be "none of our business". The following pages will discuss the causes of the war that divided a country.

The Vietnam War was a military struggle fought in Vietnam from 1959-1975, involving the North Vietnamese and the National Liberation Front in conflict with the United States and the South Vietnamese army. From 1946 until 1954, the Vietnamese had struggled for their independence from France during the First Indochina War. At the end of this war, Vietnam 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. The Vietnamese who had collaborated with the French controlled the South.

The United States became involved in Vietnam because it believed that if all of the country fell under a Communist regime, Communism would spread throughout Southeast Asia and beyond. This theory 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 National Liberation Front was formed as an opposition group with close ties to North Vietnam.

From the 1880\'s until World War II, France governed Vietnam as part of French Indochina, which also included Cambodia and Laos. The Country was under the nominal control of Emperor Bao Dia. In 1940 Japanese troops invaded and occupied French Indochina. In December of 1940, Vietnamese nationalists established the League for the Independence of Vietnam or more commonly known as the Viet Minh.

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, the forerunner to the Central Intelligence Agency. Ho Chi Minh, was even made a special O.S.S. 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. Emperor Bao Dai abdicated the throne. The French, however, refused to acknowledge Vietnam\'s independence, and later that year drove the Viet Minh into the north of Vietnam.

Ho wrote eight letters to U.S. president Harry Truman, imploring him to recognize Vietnam\'s independence. Many O.S.S. agents informed the U.S. administration that despite being a Communist, Ho Chi Minh was not a puppet of the Communist Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and that he could potentially become a valued ally in Asia. Tensions between the United States and the USSR had mounted after World War II, resulting in the Cold War.

The foreign policy of the United States during the Cold War was driven by a fear of the spread of Communism. Eastern Europe had fallen under the domination of the Communist USSR, and Communists ruled China. United States policymakers felt they could not afford to "lose" Southeast Asia to the Communists. The United States therefore condemned Ho Chi Minh as an agent of international communism and offered to assist the French in recapturing Vietnam.

In 1946, The United States warships ferried elite French troops into Vietnam where they quickly regained control of the major cities, including Hanoi, Haiphong, Da Nang, Hue, and Saigon, while the Viet Minh controlled the countryside. The Viet Minh had only 2000 troops at the time Vietnam\'s independence was declared, but recruiting increased after the arrival of French troops. By the late 1940s, the Viet Minh had hundreds of thousands of soldiers and were fighting the French to a draw. In 1949 the French set up a government to rival Ho Chi Minh\'s, installing Bao Dia as head of state.

In May, the Viet Minh mounted a massive assault on the French fortress at Dien Bien, in northwestern Vietnam. The battle of Dien Bien Phu resulted in perhaps the most humiliating defeat in French military history. Already tired of the war, the French public forced their government to