Although the history of Vietnam has been dominated by war for 30 years of the 20th century, the conflict escalated during the sixties. When we talk about the “Vietnam War” (which the Vietnamese refer to as the “American War”), we talk about the military intervention by the U.S. that happened between 1965 and 1973.
Fight Against Communism
During the late fifties, Vietnam was divided into a communist North and anti-communist South. Because of the Cold War anxiety of the time, the general feeling was that, should the North Vietnamese communists win, the remainder of Southeast Asia would also fall to communism. When President John F. Kennedy took office in 1961, he swore that he would not let that happen.
The more conventionally trained army of South Vietnam was clearly no match for the guerrilla tactics of the North, so in February 1965 America decided to get involved with Operation Rolling Thunder. North Vietnam was supported by China, the Soviet Union and other communist countries and the Viet Cong, a South Vietnamese communist group.
American Public Opinion
For the first time, Americans saw a war playing out on their TV screens and witnessed a lot of the horrors that it brought and the citizens started to turn against the war. Throughout America, people started to hold large anti-war protests against the U.S. involvement in the war of Vietnam.
End of the War
In January, 1973, peace talks finally seemed to have been successful and the Paris Peace Accords finally ended direct military involvement of the U.S. in Vietnam. Unfortunately the treaty did not stop the fighting, as both sides of Vietnam kept fighting to gain as much territory as possible. The communists managed to seize Saigon in 1975 and gained control over the whole country.
According to U.S. estimates, between 200 and 250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers were killed during this period and 58,200 U.S. soldiers were dead or missing in action.
This post is part of our larger educational resource on the Vietnam war. For a complete history and overview of the Vietnam War, click here.
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