Vietnam - A brief history

By Yeswanth on Oct. 11th, 2023

A wave of depression swept over me. Suddenly my head was bending down. I looked around, and everyone around me were feeling it too. I could even see a few men and women crying silently, unable to take in the atmosphere of the room. We were in War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh city of Vietnam. It showcased the after effects of Agent Orange on the Vietnamese people. Gruesome pictures hung over the walls of this room. It showed a horrible episode of the Vietnam war where the American bombers released Napalm (or Agent Orange) on to their enemies (North Vietnamese soldiers) during the Vietnam War. The after effects of Agent Orange was felt even today by the children and grandchildren of the men who were affected.

I have written down a summary of the Vietnam war (1955 - 1975) below:

Division into North & South Vietnam

Vietnam was originally a French colony, but they were defeated by Vietnamese soldiers called Viet Minh by the end of World War II. Viet Minh declared their independence, but French didn’t want to let go of Vietnam so easily. So, French and Viet Minh met in a meeting along with United States, Soviet Union and a few other countries as participants. It was decided that Vietnam will be divided into North Vietnam and South Vietnam. Communist leader, Ho Chi Minh got control of North Vietnam. The Vietnamese who supported the French and who opposed Communism led the south.

Vietnam History map

Viet Cong - Communist Army in the South Vietnam

Communists who were living in South Vietnam did not like their anti-communist leader. They started an army called Viet Cong. Viet Cong used guerilla warfare to launch attacks against South Vietnamese army and also against the United States army. United States got involved and supported South Vietnam as they hated Communism and wanted to be relevant and involved in Vietnam. The U.S also feared that tin and tungsten (Vietnam is rich in these resources) would cease coming.

Viet Cong(communist army in South Vietnam) launched attacks by the night and slept during the day. They built secret underground tunnels that spanned across villages. The North Vietnamese government supported Viet Cong and helped them massively.

The U.S. got involved with this conflict heavily and sent more and more troops in support of the South Vietnamese army. The North Vietnamese kept sending men and supplies through a route from Cambodia and Laos. This was known as Ho Chi Minh trail (named after the North Vietnamese leader).

At one point, U.S had more than 500,000 troops in Vietnam region. They started bombing the Ho Chi Minh trail and a few North Vietnamese cities. They even resorted to dangerous bombs like Napalm. Viet Cong(communist army in South Vietnam) and North Vietnam attacked around 30 cities in South Vietnam. Every nation in the world started condemning the war.

In 1973, after many years of war, North & South Vietnam, Viet Cong and the U.S. signed an agreement to stop fighting. The U.S. removed all troops from Vietnam but kept supporting the South Vietnam military. Then in 1974, the U.S. removed all military funding to the South Vietnam. North Vietnam launched a massive invasion to get all control of South Vietnam.

North Vietnam took over South Vietnam in April 1975. The war was finally over. Vietnam became a Communist state. They renamed the South Vietnamese capital (Called Saigon) to Ho Chi Minh city, after the North Vietnam leader. This was done to ensure that the South Vietnamese citizens acknowledge that the North Vietnam has won the war and ruled over the entire Vietnam.

Our experience

During our trip to Vietnam, we went on a tour to Cu Chi Tunnels, to get an idea of the tunnels the Viet Cong soldiers used during the war. One could get inside the tunnel and crawl for a few hundred meters and get out on the other side. It was very claustrophic. It was said that the tunnels connected multiple villages and many of the soldiers even lived in these tight and narrow tunnels and did not come outside for many months during the war!

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