The country of France owned what we now call Vietnam from 1883-1945. It was called Indochina. Vietnam is in Southeast Asia.
During World War II, the Japanese took control of the country. In 1949 France set the southern half up as a state. Southern rebels and communists in North Vietnam then wanted to fight to unite the two parts of Vietnam under communist rule. Communism is a type of society where nobody owns any private property and the government is in total control.
The southern part of Vietnam didn't want to be under this type of government. They fought the rebels and the North Vietnamese. The rebels in South Vietnam were called Vietcong. Fighting also occurred in Cambodia and Laos, neighboring countries.
The north was assisted by China and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union sent in advisers and supplies. North Vietnam's leader then was Ho Chi Min. He wanted the country united but communist. He began to fight the French. In 1954 the French decided to leave Vietnam.
The country was temporarily cut in half awaiting an election for a leader of the whole country in 1956. The election was never held because U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower and the temporary leader of South Vietnam thought that the people would vote for Ho Chi Minh.
The United States helped Ngo Dinh Diem get elected as leader of South Vietnam. The first U. S. military advisers went to Vietnam in 1961. The U.S. didn't want the whole country to be communist.
The United States sent the first troops into Vietnam in 1965. It was a brutal conflict. There were about 1.3 million military deaths during the years when the United States remained involved. Over 1 million civilians died. Over 58,000 Americans died in this conflict. Many soldiers were never found.
It was difficult for American soldiers to accomplish anything. President Lyndon Johnson limited what the American soldiers could do because he wanted the south to win the war themselves with only the assistance of the U.S. Much of the war was fought in jungles and small villages. Many ambushes and traps were set up for the American soldiers. Soldiers didn't know who the enemy was. Sometimes children and women were the enemy. American planes bombed the north continually.
The American people were told that there would be a victory soon, but they no longer believed that because about 100 soldiers a day were being killed. Protests were held in the United States.
By 1969, the United States saw that this would be an endless war. President Richard Nixon slowly began to withdraw troops. All the troops were gone by mid-1975. South Vietnam surrendered to the North in 1975. Today it is a united country which is communist.
The leader of North Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, died during the war, in 1969. After the country was united, Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, was named Ho Chi Minh City and became the capital of the whole country.
In Vietnam, the war is known as the 'War Against the Americans and To Save the Nation.'
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