The Vietnam War, also known as the Second Indochina War, and in Vietnam as the Resistance War Against America or simply the American War, was an undeclared war in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975.
Between 1953 and 1956, the North Vietnamese government instituted various agrarian reforms, including “rent reduction” and “land reform“, which resulted in significant political oppression. During the land reform, testimony from North Vietnamese witnesses suggested a ratio of one execution for every 160 village residents, which extrapolated nationwide would indicate nearly 100,000 executions. Because the campaign was concentrated mainly in the Red River Delta area, a lower estimate of 50,000 executions became widely accepted by scholars at the time. However, declassified documents from the Vietnamese and Hungarian archives indicate that the number of executions was much lower than reported at the time, although likely greater than 13,500. In the South, Diệm countered North Vietnamese subversion (including the assassination of over 450 South Vietnamese officials in 1956) by detaining tens of thousands of suspected communists in “political re-education centers”. This was a ruthless program that incarcerated many non-communists, although it was also successful at curtailing communist activity in the country, if only for a time. The North Vietnamese government claimed that 2,148 individuals were killed in the process by November 1957. The pro-Hanoi Việt Cộng began a guerrilla campaign in the late 1950s to overthrow Diệm’s government. From 1960, the Soviet Union and North Vietnam signed treaties providing for further Soviet military support.
In 1963, Buddhist discontent with Diệm’s regime erupted into mass demonstrations, leading to a violent government crackdown. This led to the collapse of Diệm’s relationship with the United States, and ultimately to the 1963 coup in which Diệm and Nhu were assassinated. The Diệm era was followed by more than a dozen successive military governments before the pairing of Air Marshal Nguyễn Cao Kỳ and General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu took control in mid-1965. Thiệu gradually outmaneuvered Kỳ and cemented his grip on power in fraudulent elections in 1967 and 1971. Under this political instability, the communists began to gain ground. To support South Vietnam’s struggle against the communist insurgency, the United States began increasing its contribution of military advisers, using the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident as a pretext for such intervention. US forces became involved in ground combat operations in 1965, and at their peak, they numbered more than 500,000. The US also engaged in a sustained aerial bombing campaign. Meanwhile, China and the Soviet Union provided North Vietnam with significant material aid and 15,000 combat advisers. Communist forces supplying the Việt Cộng carried supplies along the Hồ Chí Minh trail, which passed through the Kingdom of Laos.
The communists attacked South Vietnamese targets during the 1968 Tết Offensive. Although the campaign failed militarily, it shocked the American establishment and turned US public opinion against the war. During the offensive, communist troops massacred over 3,000 civilians at Huế. Facing an increasing casualty count, rising domestic opposition to the war, and growing international condemnation, the US began withdrawing from ground combat roles in the early 1970s. This process also entailed an unsuccessful effort to strengthen and stabilize South Vietnam. Following the Paris Peace Accords of 27 January 1973, all American combat troops were withdrawn by 29 March 1973 In December 1974, North Vietnam captured the province of Phước Long and started a full-scale offensive, culminating in the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. South Vietnam was briefly ruled by a provisional government for almost eight years while under military occupation by North Vietnam. Read Also about Bombing of Hiroshima & Nagasaki| Korean War | Battle of Iwo Jima | Download this article about the Vietnam War in MS Word format.