What Was the Vietnam War?

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The Vietnam War was a military conflict fought primarily in Southern Vietnam in the years between 1959 and 1975. It was the source of many conflicting political and social opinions, especially in the years leading up to its conclusion. Militarily speaking, the war was the result of North Vietnam and the Vietcong attempting to overthrow the South Vietnamese government.

The conflict was a continuation of the first Indochina war, which was fought when the Vietnamese sought independence from France after World War II. The country was split into two parts — northern and southern — in the Geneva Accords in 1954. In the Vietnam War, The Democratic Republic of North Vietnam and its allies, the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, fought against South Vietnam, whose allies would include the United States, Australia, South Korea, and New Zealand.

The United States' involvement in Vietnam began on 1 November 1955, when President Eisenhower deployed the Military Assistance Advisory Group to South Vietnam to help train the Southern Vietnamese army. In 1956, when elections that were to be held in Vietnam in accordance with the Geneva Conference failed to occur, the tension mounted considerably. December 1958 marked North Vietnam’s first invasion into Laos. Though there were already Americans present in the Vietnam conflict, it was not until 1962 when President Kennedy signed the Foreign Assistance Act of 1962, which granted military aid to countries that were "on the rim of the Communist world and under direct attack."


The Vietcong had their first victory of the Vietnam War at the battle of Ap Bac in January 1963, which was followed by the overthrow of Ngo Dinh Diem and an increasingly less stable South Vietnam. In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson appointed William Westmoreland as commander of the US Army in Vietnam. Military troops rose in strength from approximately 16,000 to over 21,000 and were anticipated to climb to over 500,000 in number. The increased number of troops was considered to be a direct response to a reported attack on US ships by the North Vietnamese in the Gulf of Tonkin.

By the end of 1965, US troops had reached 184,000 in number, and the first major ground battle involving the US military had occurred under Operation Starlite. As anticipated, by the end of 1966, troop numbers were approaching 0.5 million in number, which would climb slightly higher before the war’s end. The number of lives claimed by the war exceeded 1 million and is believed to be as high as 4 million. The conflict came to an official end after the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975, when the South Vietnam capital was captured by the Vietnam People’s Army. Today, 30 April is a public holiday observed in Vietnam as Reunification Day.


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Post 14

I was part of the Vietnam war I was only 17 and this was the first time I was away from home. It was scary. I was on a gap year away in Vietnam and was told to join this war. I am originally from London.

Post 12

I and my friends, along with thousands of other people, were in Newburgh, NY when our soldiers returned from Vietnam through Stewart Air Force Base.

The streets were literally full of people celebrating bringing our boys home. TV news crews were all over the place, and it got quite a bit of news coverage.

I was much younger then, and certainly not politically educated in any way. But I can attest to the thousands of us who wanted the war to end, and our boys to come home. We celebrated, and there was no disrespect for these young men -- not from us, and not on the television set in our area.

What people did in other areas, I cannot speak

about. But I can definitely say that we were partying and happy to have our young men home.

We watched the news reports later specifically to see the number of people who had turned out, and to see if we had been caught on the news videos, as we were in a bright colored van with a huge welcome banner on it.

The streets were mobbed with people, mobbed.

You could barely drive, the turnout was that huge.

People were thrilled to receive our soldiers, finally.

Since that news coverage is nowhere to be found now, I must assume that we were the minority?

We all knew someone, or many someones who went to Vietnam. Most of us knew someone(s) that came home in a box, including me.

Speaking for the Woodstock crowd, and the crowds at Stewart Air Force Base that day, there was no disrespect for our boys, just disrespect for our government and the war they forced on so many.

Post 9

Some people don't believe in the same thing and it just causes people to go against each other and fight for what they want and what is best.

Post 8

While some Vietnam veterans have suffered great loss of happiness and sanity, many of the soldiers did come home and were able to cope with the after effects of war.

So often we generalize these veterans and almost think about homeless people as a mental image. This is almost never the case for most Vietnam veterans. My dad is a great example of this.

He spent two years over the pond as a radio operator much like Radio, the character from MASH. While he doesn't discuss his dealings over there very often, when he does there isn't some kind of phobia or intense emotional reaction that occurs.

Post 7

I think that when people consider the size of the Vietnam war protests and then compare them to the size of the protests that took place in America just prior to the Iraq war in 2003, you would see that there is actually more people that took to the streets in 2003.

Most people will think of the classic late sixties anti-war protests were the most epic of the past one hundred years or so and that really isn't the case. Perhaps the reason that the Vietnam war brings so much weight behind its anti-war movement is because of the historical significance that these protests had.

Never before had the world really seen this type of civil disobedience and on the massive, nation wide levels that happened.

Post 6

@Ubiquitous, while you may be right about the fact that draft dodgers and privileged individuals will always corrupt the process, there is no doubt that the draft is vital to functioning and protecting ourselves in the world.

I do think that the politics in military defense have gotten the the point that now we as tax payers simply pay mercenaries instead of drafting soldiers.

This may or may not be a good thing and I think only history will be able to tell if this shift in soldier recruitment will be beneficial to our defense and our budget.

Post 5

The saddest and most disturbing part to the Vietnam War is the use of the draft to raise troop levels to the needed levels.

While drafts have been a necessity for our military defense, this harsh and heartbreaking method tears families apart and creates a black market of draft dodgers and the elite.

George W. Bush is a classic example of someone who had the advantage of his elitist and politically powerful family. Because his father and grandfather were involved in politics, Bush was able to get a coveted and safe position as a pilot in the National Guard. I am sure there are millions of dead soldiers now that would have loved to been as lucky as that.

Post 4

The history of this war is overwhelming. My dad taught jungle survival training during the Vietnam war and to this day won't talk about it.

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