- The French presence in Indochina
- The start of the new war
Conflict fought between 1960 and 1975 in Vietnam, which opposed the South Vietnamese regime to the National Liberation Front supported by North Vietnam and which saw direct intervention by the United States.
Initiated by the communist guerrilla's (Vietcong) attempt to overthrow the South Vietnamese government, it degenerated first into a civil war between South Vietnam and North Vietnam, and then into an international conflict when the South Vietnamese gained state support. United and other nations allied to them, while the North Vietnamese were supplied with weapons by the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China.
The war also extended to Laos (where the Pathet Lao communists fought against government forces from 1965 until the abolition of the monarchy in 1975) and Cambodia (where the government was overthrown in 1973 by the revolutionary Khmer Rouge movement, founded by Pol Pot).
The French presence in Indochina
The war was the continuation of the Indochinese conflict that opposed colonial France to the Vietminh, the Communist League for the independence of Vietnam founded and led by Ho Chi Minh and already a protagonist of the resistance against the Japanese. After the surrender of the latter to the Allies at the end of the Second World War, the Vietminh guerrillas forced Emperor Bao Dai to abdicate and on 2 September 1945 proclaimed the independent Democratic Republic of Vietnam, of which Ho Chi Minh assumed the presidency.
France officially recognized the new state, but the impossibility of reaching a satisfactory political and economic agreement with the Vietminh led to the armed conflict, which broke out in December 1946.
On 1 July 1949, with the support of the French, Bao Dai founded the "kingdom of Vietnam" (South Vietnam), establishing the capital in Saigon (today's city of Ho Chi Minh). The following year, the president of the United States, Harry Truman, recognized the new state, sent weapons and military advisers to its support.
In the spring of 1954, the Vietminh attacked Diên Biên Phú in North Vietnam. After 55 days of siege, the French surrendered (May 8, 1954), and on the same day, as part of the international conference held in Geneva to discuss the situation of the whole of Indochina, the parties agreed to a truce and the temporary division of the country along the 17th parallel, with the north to the Communists and the south under the control of the Saigon government.
Both the United States and the Saigon government declared that they did not feel bound by the Geneva Accords; after the French withdrawal from Indochina, American President Dwight Eisenhower thus offered South Vietnam new political and military aid, also confirmed when Ngo Dinh Diem (first president of the Republic of South Vietnam, established in October 1955) affirmed that oppose the holding of elections for reunification, established by the Geneva conference by 1956.
The start of the new war
From January 1957, violations of the armistice by both sides became commonplace, however limited to short trespasses. After two years, however, the Communist militants (Vietcong), who had moved north in the aftermath of the division of the country, began to return to the south in increasing numbers, to feed an anti-government guerrilla with the support of the North Vietnamese government, which in 1960 supported openly the need to "free the South from the yoke of US imperialism", effectively sanctioning a state of war.
In December 1961, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy pledged to support the independence of South Vietnam: at the end of the month, the first 400 US troops arrived in Saigon (which would have become 11.200 a year later). Over the next two years, Diem's government found itself in increasing difficulty in dealing with a situation made even more unstable by the protest agitations led by Buddhist movements.
On November 1, 1963, the regime was overthrown by a military coup and Diem was executed. In the eighteen months that followed, ten governments succeeded one another in the leadership of South Vietnam; finally a military council was created which, under the direction of generals Nguyen Van Thieu and Nguyen Cao Ky, managed to restore order in 1965. In September 1967 Van Thieu was confirmed as president by popular vote.
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