War Breaks Out in Vietnam

The U.S. Involvement in Vietnam. By Carrie Tutt

The Road to War

  • France controlled most of resource-rich Southeast Asia at the beginning.
  • Nationalist independence movements had begun and Ho Chi Minh's Indochinese Communist party led revolts and strikes against the French.
  • In response, the French jailed Vietnamese protesters and sentenced Ho to death but he fled and returned in 1941.
  • Ho and other nationalist formed the Vietminh League.
  • The Japanese were defeated in 1945 and was forced out of Vietnam.

The Fighting Begins

  • Vietnamese Nationalists and Communists joined to fight the French armies.
  • Although the French held most major cities, the Vietminh had widespread support along the countryside.
  • The Vietminh used hit-and-run tactics which led them to surrender to Ho after a major military defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.
  • The U.S. supported France in Vietnam but when the defeat happened the U.S. described this threat in terms of the domino theory which became a major justification for U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War.

Vietnam-A Divided Country

  • An international peace conference met in Geneva after France's defeat to discuss the future of Indochina.
  • Based on the talk, The future of Indochina would be:
  • Vietnam was divided at 17 degrees north latitude.
  • North of that line, Communist forces governed.
  • To the south, the U.S. and France set up an anti-Communist government under the leadership of Ngo Dinh Diem.
  • Diem ruled the south as a dictator.
  • Communist guerrillas, called Vietcong, began to gain strength in the south.
  • Vietcong eventually won control of large areas of the countryside.
  • In 1963, some South Vietnamese generals had Diem assassinated Diem.
  • The Communist Vietnamese takeover, backed by North Vietnam, was inevitable.
US Involvement in Indochina, 1954-1963