Soon after the World War II ended, another psychological war emerged throughout the world. It was between the democratic countries led by United States and the communist nations by Soviet Union. Continued for several decades, named as the Cold War, this psychological war directly or indirectly generated many armed conflicts during the last century. Vietnam War was one of the bloodiest.
Vietnam was previously a part of a French colony named ‘French Indochina’. From 1945 to 1954, an armed resistance against the colonial regime took place, called as the First Indochina War. France lost the battle and a peace conference was held in Geneva. The former colony was announced liberated and became divided into three independent states Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Vietnam itself was also split into North Vietnam (supported by communist countries) and South Vietnam (sponsored by anti-communist nations) by the ’17th parallel’ line. Later an election to unify the two parts were arranged, but the US-backed southern government refused to participate. As a result, communist-led northern guerrillas (also known as Viet Cong) started an assault on them. US sent a team of 2,000 military advisors to support their southern ally. The number grew dramatically within years.
In 1964, the U.S. Congress empowered President Lyndon Johnson to take military actions in the region, after it had been alleged that two US naval ships were attacked by communist forces there. Soon air strikes were started in Vietnam along with the ground and naval offensives. North Vietnam stroke back. Hundreds of people lost their lives including notable numbers of US soldiers.
Within 3/4 years, intolerance started to grow inside United States, as the government couldn’t show any visible progress against the North Vietnamese troops from the battle ground.
On 21 January 1968, the northern forces set a trap against the US and South Vietnamese troops. They bombed at Khe Sanh in full-scale which was a stronghold of US marine. To protect the base, a massive replacement of troops was conducted by United States to Khe Sanh from other parts of the region, which eventually made the US position weaker in those areas. North Vietnamese guerillas were waiting for this.
In the morning of 30 January, a massive attack was staged by northern forces on US and southern soldiers throughout South Vietnam. More than 100 towns, including 36 provincial capitals, 72 district towns, 5 autonomous cities were targeted. As it was the first day of Tet (Lunar New Year), the strike was named as ‘Tet Offense’.
In 1970, the then US President Nixon sent troops to Cambodia to cut down alleged supply chains for North Vietnamese army. Cambodia, who was so far neutral in the conflict, changed it’s position in reaction and decided to support North Vietnam in the war. US made another opponent through their own mistake.
Issues like casualties during the ‘Tet Offense’, attacking on Cambodia and some other facts sparked more anger among US citizens by then. Nixon realized that the Vietnam War had become too tough to win.
He ordered to find a solution through the table. After months of negotiations, in January 1973 the Paris Peace Accord was signed. According to the agreement, US troops withdrew themselves from Vietnam and in return, US prisoners of war were released. On 30 April 1975, South Vietnamese capital Saigon was captured by the North and the southern forces surrendered. Two Vietnams were reunited as a communist country. The United States of America tasted the worst war defeat in a century.