Vietnam War Facts: How It Started, Who Was Involved, Its End And More | Kidadl


Vietnam War Facts: How It Started, Who Was Involved, Its End And More

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The Vietnam War, which started in 1955, was fought between North Vietnam and South Vietnam and lasted for 19 years, five months, four weeks, and one day.

This is one of the most significant wars fought ever and is also referred to as the 'Second Indochina War'. Apart from the number of years wasted being at war, the money spent and the number of casualties resulted both make this war a permanent part of history.

What started as a rebellion against the French turned into an internal conflict, a cold war, and a full-fledged war in Vietnam. North Vietnam and South Vietnam both had allies in the form of rival countries and experts believe that this made the war worse than it was. Countries such as the USA, China, South Korea, and Australia played their parts in shaping the war. There were casualties on both sides, and finally, in 1975, North Vietnam officially won the war and established communist rule all over the country. Keep reading to know everything that's there to be known about the Vietnam war.

Once you have finished reading the article, why not read other fun fact articles such as when did the Spanish American War start and Ancient Greece war facts?

Roots Of The Vietnam War

You need to know the roots of the Vietnam War to know exactly how it started and the parties involved. The foundation of the Vietnam conflict was laid right after World War II. It was the time when Vietnam was still in the clutches of French colonization and the country was desperately trying to get free.

Ho Chi Minh was the leader of the Viet Minh, a group formed to lead Vietnam's independence movement. In 1954, he finally managed to capture the city of Dien Bien Phu and started a powerful guerrilla resistance to push away the French.

Vietnam obtained its independence from the French on September 2, 1945, and officially became the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh had dreams of uniting Vietnam and ruling it as a communist country, inspired by China and the Soviet Union. However, problems started when South Vietnam was not happy with the plan. The leaders of South Vietnam wanted Vietnam to follow in the footsteps of western countries, especially the USA.

Peace negotiations were held in Geneva and it was decided to split the country into two halves: North and South Vietnam. North Vietnam followed communist rule while South Vietnam remained strongly non-communist. The Cold War kept growing, and things turned sour when countries such as China and the USA decided to take sides. China strongly supported North Vietnam while countries including the USA, South Korea, Australia, Thailand, and the Philippines stood with South Vietnam.

Weapons Of The Vietnam War

By 1964, the US military involvement was very high in Vietnam and as a result, US weapons played a big role in taking the fight forward. The different army groups that collided with each other were the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), National Liberation Front for South Vietnam (NLF), Viet Cong (a South Vietnamese rebel group that functioned under the control of North Vietnam), Chinese Armed Forces, and the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN): South Vietnamese military personnel, the American military, and the defense forces of Korea, Australia, Thailand, and the Philippines.

The Viet Cong did not have weapons of their own, and whatever artillery they were able to capture from the enemy, they ended up using. They also had access to some of the weapons used during World War II and during the French colonization.

The NVA had access to weapons made using Chinese designs. Over time, both NVA and Viet Cong forces ended up using recoilless rifles, mortars, light tanks, and firepower. In the initial few years, their weapons were very meager when compared to the large and powerful weapons that the US bought with them.

The American Forces had access to the best of weapons thanks to the keen interest President Kennedy showed in the Vietnam War. The U.S. military fought with the following weapons:

The M16 rifle, M60 machine guns, M48A3 Patton tank, zippo tanks, attack, and transport helicopters.

Another really interesting weapon that the U.S. military troops used was the Claymore M18A1 antipersonnel mine. This had the capacity to shoot 700 bullets at a time in a specific zone.

Apart from these, American soldiers used chemical weapons in plenty to fight for South Vietnam. Herbicide weapons such as Agent Blue, Agent Orange, Agent White, Napalm, and Rainbow herbicides were used to destroy farms, agricultural lands, and trees that provided cover.

The Vietnam veterans, later on, realized the side effects of these herbicides. Most of them caused health issues in people exposed to them.

The North Vietnamese soldiers handmade some of the weapons that they used. Two important ones on this list are an anti-tank weapon named RPG-2 and a submachine gun named K-50M.

Apart from these, the ground troops used many of the following:

Hand combat vehicles, machine guns of all sizes, shotguns, grenades, pistols, revolvers, flamethrowers, and sniper guns.

When we talk about army troops and expansive weapons, it is also interesting to note that the Vietnam War was not actually a war! There was no declaration of war made on either side at any point in time!

Vietnam War Timeline

Here is a detailed timeline of the Vietnam War from the time the issues started until they finished.

May 1954: The French colonization ends and Vietnam is finally free.

July 1954: The Geneva peace pact divided Vietnam into two parts, and North Vietnamese and South Vietnamese people moved away to live in different regions.

November 1963: The former president of Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem, is assassinated by his own team. The American military increased its troops in Vietnam to 16,000.

August 1964: The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution is passed in the U.S. According to this resolution, the USA agrees to take any measures needed to prevent any attacks by groups that may attack the country and its forces. By now, more than 23,000 US soldiers are actively participating in the Civil War.

January 1968: The Viet Cong and the NVA launched a sudden assault on five major cities in South Vietnam. The plan fails drastically, and more than 60% of the North Vietnamese soldiers and the Viet Cong soldiers suffer casualties. At this time, there are close to 500,000 American soldiers in South Vietnam.

1966: American veterans of World War I and World War II started protesting against the US involvement in the Vietnam War in New York City. This is the start of the anti-war movement.

November 1969: The US people finally had enough of the war and the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. Millions of Americans came out onto the streets to protest against their soldiers fighting in Vietnam and made anti-war declarations. As of date, this is the largest protest by the public in the United States.

1970: President Nixon introduces the term 'Vietnamization'. With this plan, the US decides to train the South Vietnamese troops to fight and fend for themselves, thereby slowly reducing the role of the US in the fight.

May 1970: The National Guard opens fire at students making anti-war declarations in Ohio, and as a result, four civilians die. This increases unrest against the US government. President Nixon announces that he will withdraw 15,000 American troops from Vietnam.

January 1973: American military advisors, South Vietnamese heads, North Vietnamese heads, and people from Viet Cong all sit together to discuss ending the armed conflict.

March 1973: The United States military finally leaves Vietnam after being there for more than 10 years.

April 1975: On April 29, 1975, the remaining American soldiers, South Vietnam troops, and civilians were evacuated from Saigon in less than 24 hours. The North Vietnamese troops then entered the city, and South Vietnam had to surrender to the communist troops. This marks the end of the epic war that has earned a permanent place in American history too.

The casualties of the Vietnam War were very high

Women In The Vietnam War

Both American and Vietnamese women played pivotal roles in the Vietnam conflict.

U.S. Women: A lot of nurses went from the United States to help both Americans and Vietnamese soldiers and commoners during the war. It is said that the Army Nurse Corps launched an operation called operation Nightingale to recruit and send nurses to Vietnam to help wounded and sick people. By 1973, it was said that 7,500 American women were living and working in Vietnam full time. All these women never had to face the frontline, though, and they supported the army from the safer parts of the combat zones.

In the United States, women equally took to the streets like men, promoting anti-war declarations. Their participation increased after the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was passed and America started making intense war efforts in Vietnam.

Vietnamese Women: When it came to Vietnamese women, their careers were not as settled as those of U.S. women. Most of them were recruited to fight in the frontline war. Both the People's Army of Vietnam (the South Vietnamese socialist army) and the Viet Cong regularly recruited and trained women to fight in their war. In fact, the deputy military commander of the Viet Cong at that time was a woman, named Nguyễn Thị Định. Women fought like men and were seen in most of the operations.

The North Vietnamese army also had its own share of female commanders and ground troops. Women were trained to handle anti-aircraft batteries.

The Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) had its own Women's Armed Force Corps (WAFC), and a lot of Vietnam veterans talk about how bravely women fought on the frontline.

Women had to go through intense struggles during that period too. Did you know that more than 8000 Vietnamese had to go to the United States as war brides between the periods of 1964 and 1975?

A group of women called the Vietnam Women's Union played a vital role in supporting war activities. They, in fact, collectively contributed to bringing support to the communist government and encouraged Vietnamese women to protest against the United States and its involvement in the country.

Another part that women played in the Vietnam War was as journalists. A specific category that you should be aware of is embedded journalists. Embedded journalists are journalists who embed themselves (attach themselves) into a military unit and closely follow them to get ground information. A lot of North Vietnamese women became embedded journalists and followed the PAVN forces. Similarly, many western journalists traveled to Vietnam to cover the war through the eyes of American soldiers. One very remarkable woman on this list was Dickey Chapelle.

Born in 1918, she studied aeronautical design and then started writing press releases for air shows. She went on to become a very prominent embedded journalist who covered the Vietnam War from the field. Unfortunately, she died in 1965 when a stray grenade hit her while on the field. She was the first American journalist to die in action.

Involvement Of Other Countries

The war and the period after it had a lot of impact on the countries that were involved in the two-decade-long fight.

USA: The United States played a major role in extending the war and making it worse. Once the country got into the midst of the fight, it was not able to back out. There was even a term, 'Vietnam Syndrome' that was coined at that time. This meant a reluctance to support military interventions. What started as support for South Vietnam became America's own war after a while. By the end of the war, about 3.1 million American soldiers were fighting the war.

Did you know that, as of 2019, about 610,000 Vietnam veterans still live in the United States? Try talking to one of these Vietnam veterans and they will have unbelievable stories to tell you.

Britain: The US invited a lot of powerful countries to join hands with them to fight the Vietnam war. Britain was one country that was able to successfully turn down the invitation. The then Prime Minister did not think it was useful for participating in the war. They had no political value in participating, and the war was also very unpopular with the British people.

It is to be noted that there was a considerable strain on the US-UK relationship as the country refused to join hands with the US to fight the Vietnam war.

Soviet Union: The Soviet Union, officially called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was also another major country that contributed to the Vietnam War. The USSR supported North Vietnam and was one of the major arms suppliers to that side. It is said that the USSR initially tried to bring peace between North and South Vietnam. However, when China pushed the North to fight, the USSR joined the fight too.

Openly, though, the country did not mention the extent of their support offered to Northern Vietnam. But sources say that they backed the region with money, arms, advice, and logistics. One of the main strengths that North Vietnam gained was the fighter aircraft that the USSR provided them.

China: China was another country that supported Northern Vietnam and offered incredible support. The north had Chinese support even when it was fighting the French forces during the First Indochina War. The Chinese offered strategic help, arms, and military aid to Viet Minh in fighting the French. China has always considered the United States as its primary rival. The fact that the US was supporting South Vietnam was enough for the country to severely back the communists.

Reports say that the Chinese gave Vietnam a total of 1,922,897 guns, 17,074,000 artillery shells, 560 tanks, and 164 planes during the war period!

During the late '60s, the relationship between China and the USSR started turning sour, and this is when China began encouraging Vietnam to end the war.

By 1970, most of the Chinese troops were asked to go back to their home countries. By then, 1100 Chinese soldiers had lost their lives.

Southeast Asia: Southeast Asia went through a lot of changes during and after the Vietnam War. Laos, a neighboring country of Vietnam, had to face the wrath of the US troops and the South Vietnamese army. In fact, did you know that Laos is the most bombed country in the world? Between 1960 and 1973, 2 million tons of bombs were dropped in Laos! These bombs were aimed at the communists that were working from the Laos Vietnam border.

Cambodia also adapted to communist rule during the war period. As a result, people who opposed communism were jailed, sent to camps, and tortured. About 800,000 people had to face the wrath of the communist leader in Cambodia.

Indonesia had support from the United States when it attacked East Timor during this period. East Timor was an island that had just come out of the clutches of the French. This invasion resulted in 200,000 islanders being killed.

Southern Korea was another country in Asia that strongly supported the Southern Vietnamese and had about 320,000 South Korean soldiers on the fighting ground in Vietnam. Did you know that the United States actually paid these South Korean soldiers a total of $236 million?

Thailand also sent its troops to South Vietnam, and these soldiers were in action between 1965 and 1971, for about six years.

The Vietnam War started as unrest between two regions of the country and became an internationally recognized war that drew attention from the most powerful countries in the world. Political acts of revenge, ideologies, and visions all bought out the worst face of the war and, unfortunately, led to the death of millions of people.

You definitely must have learned a lot of new information about the Vietnam War after reading this article.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for Vietnam War facts, then why not take a look at American Civil War facts or when did the Revolutionary War start?

Kidadl Team
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