In the year 1954, Vietnam was split into two separate parts: the communist north and the democratic south. Thereafter, a series of events took place that led up to a full-fledged war between these two countries and the war did not only include the Vietnamese, it also included the Americans, Australians and a few other nations.
The Americans and other nations supported the largely unpopular southern democrats, and although initially they meant to keep their involvement very limited, they ended up sending millions and millions of soldiers to Vietnam to prevent communism from spreading. Years and years of bitter guerrilla struggle in the typhoid ridden villages and rugged jungles of Vietnam eventually led to the victory of the North Vietnamese and the country’s reunification. Millions of soldiers, Vietnamese and Americans alike died in the struggle, and till today the country struggles to reinstate itself after the staggering damages made to its land, economy and people.
The Beginning of the End
When Ngo Dinh Diem was appointed to be the prime minister, with Bao Dai the then president, Vietnam was split into two separate countries: North Vietnam and South Vietnam. During this separation, more than 860 thousand people fled to the South and more than 50 thousand left for the north.
The northern government welcomed this change, as it meant feeding fewer mouths. It is said the Diem rigged the election so as to win, and then became the president of Vietnam. Although he wasn’t particularly popular with his people, the United States still agreed with his policies and completely supported him, as he was against communism.
However, the South Vietnamese despised Diem. Diem on the other hand, abused his power and sent people to kill his enemies while sending still others to jail for no apparent reason. Diem who believed that South Vietnamese people were influenced by communism canceled the election that was scheduled to take place in 1956.
It was then that United States stopped supporting Diem because they no longer agreed with any of his principles and policies. He forced peasants out of their villages and the final straw came when on May 8th, 1963 he sent soldiers to storm Buddhist temples and arrest the nuns and monks. In order to protest this, a Buddhist monk, Thich Quang Duc burnt himself alive in the streets. There were many other protest being led by the Vietnamese, but in other different ways. The northern government wanted to bring about peace and harmony, but this proposal was refused.
Finally the Southerners couldn’t take it anymore and Diem was assassinated on the 1st of May in 1963. South Vietnam celebrated this victory and the country was reunited.
How the Americans got Involved
Johnson was the central figure when it comes to the US involvement in Vietnam. His vision was to stop the spread of communist aggression, and others shared this theory like Eisenhower, Kennedy and Truman. In the year 1964, the Northern Vietnamese apparently attacked two US destroyers. Thus, in the year 1965, the US began regularly bombing the Northern railroads, bridges and oil facilities as well as the HaiPhong harbor.
With the Vietcong attack of an US base in Pleiku, the Americans were now fully involved and Operation Flaming dart came next. In April of the year 1965, Johnson was all set to Americanize this Vietnam War and sent more than 40 thousand troops to Vietnam.
By mid June, Johnson was told to send in more troops in order to prevent South Vietnam’s collapse. Thus America had to plunge directly into the war, which was a better option at that time than facing defeat.
Facts of the Vietnam War
While most aspects of the Vietnam war are really debatable, the facts of this war have a strong voice of their own and are indeed indisputable. Here are some of the commonly accepted facts of the war:
- About 58,200 Americans were killed during the war and roughly 304,000 were wounded out of the 2.59 million who served the war.
- The average age of the wounded and dead was 23.11 years.
- After the war, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and The Philippines stayed free of communism.
- During the war, the national debt was increased by $146 billion.
- 90% of the Vietnam War veterans say they are glad they served in the war.
- 74% say they would serve again.
- 11,465 were less than the age of 20.
- The number of Vietnamese killed was 500,000 and casualties were in the millions.
- From the year 1957 to the year 1973, the National Liberation Front assassinated nearly 37,000 South Vietnamese and nearly 58,500 were abducted. Death squads mainly focused on leaders like minor officials and schoolteachers.
- Nearly two-thirds of the men serving the war were volunteers.
The Aftermath of the War
America spent more than 165 billion dollars on the war. Nearly sixty thousand American soldiers died, and thousands and thousands of them were wounded, while some are permanently paralyzed.
More than 2 million Vietnamese died in the war. They still have to deal with a country that is in tatters and that has an economy that is seriously depleted. Till today, their land is scattered with land mines, unexploded bombs and other unknown dangers lurking in the shadows. Their marshlands and jungles have all been destroyed by chemicals like Agent Orange and Napalm. Most of the Vietnamese historical sites and buildings were destroyed in the war, and millions of people were left homeless.