One of the most horrible conflicts ever existed after World War II was the Vietnam War.
The long, costly and divisive war witnessed the conflict between North Vietnam Communist Government against South Vietnam and the United States, which was the principal ally of the South during that time.
The conflict was also intensified by the ongoing Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union.
According to History Channel reports, more than over 3 million people were killed, including 58,000 Americans whereas half of the total death toll were Vietnamese civilians.
WHAT CAUSED THE WAR?
Vietnam is one of the countries in Southeast Asia, where it is located on the eastern edge of the Indochina peninsula. The nation was under French colonial rule from the 19th century, but things began to change after the invasion of Japanese forces during World War II.
In order to battle both the Japanese occupation and the French colonial administration, political leader, Ho Chi Minh established Viet Minh, which was also known as the League for the Independence of Vietnam.
After Japan’s defeat in 1945, their forces withdrew from Vietnam, leaving total power to the French-educated Emperor Bao Dai.
Ho’s forces rose up quickly as they saw an opportunity to seize control. They managed to take over the northern city of Hanoi, where Ho later became president after declaring a Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV).
However, Emperor Bao, backed by France, wanted to regain control of the region, so he established the state of Vietnam in July 1949, with Saigon as its capital city.
Although the two leaders had similar objectives to establish a unified Vietnam, their ideologies were unalike.
Ho’s camp wanted to build a country modeled after other communist countries, while Bao and his supporters wanted close economic and cultural ties to the West.
WHEN DID THE WAR BEGIN?
The Vietnam War began in 1954 with an active involvement of the United States.
After Ho’s communist forces conquered the north, the fight between northern and southern troops went on until Viet Minh forces gained victory in May 1954, putting an end to an almost a century of French colonial rule in Indochina.
Two months later, a treaty signed at a Geneva conference split Vietnam along the latitude known as the 17th Parallel (17 degrees north latitude).
This gave Ho and Bao a fair share of power. Ho was in control in the North and Bao in the South.
On the other hand, the treaty also called for nationwide elections for reunification to be held in 1956.
However, in 1955, Emperor Bao was ousted by a strong anti-communist politician named Ngo Dinh Diem thus ending his reign.
Diem later became the president of GVN (Government of the Republic of Vietnam), which was often referred to as South Vietnam in that era.
HOW DID THE WAR END?
After years of conflict, the US and North Vietnam concluded a final peace agreement in January 1973.
Nonetheless, the war between North and South Vietnam continued for another two years until April 30, 1975, when DRV forces conquered Saigon and renamed it to Ho Chi Minh City.
The two decades of violence had horrible impacts on Vietnam’s population. An estimated 2 million Vietnamese were killed, 3 million wounded, while another 12 million became refugees.
The country’s economy and infrastructure were also destroyed due to the war, but they managed to revive it slowly over time.
The economy, boosted by oil export revenues and an influx of foreign capital, started to improve in 1986 under the broad free market policy.
In the 1990s, trade and diplomatic relations between Vietnam and the US resumed.
REPERCUSSIONS OF THE WAR ON THE US
Based on a survey by the Veterans Administration, about 500,000 out of the 3 million US troops involved in the war suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, and rates of divorce, suicide, alcoholism and drug addiction were high among the veterans.
Most returning veterans were also criticized by both opponents (North and South Vietnam) of the war, who held them responsible for killing innocent civillians while their supporters claimed that the US troops had lost the war.
On the other hand, the United States had spent more than $120 bilion (RM 513 billion) in the war from 1965-1973.
Due to the massive spending, the US suffered widespread inflation, and things became worse by a worldwide oil crisis in 1973 and the drastic increase of fuel prices.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was later unveiled in 1982 in Washington, D.C, where the names of 57,939 (the total later added up to 58,200) American soldiers, both men and women killed or missing in the war were inscribed.