Jun 15, 2009

Post World War II Period

In 1946, due to a combination of Japanese exploitation and poor weather, a famine broke out in Tonkin killing approximately 2 million. The Việt Minh arranged a massive relief effort and won over many people. In northern Vietnam, the Japanese surrendered to the Chinese Nationalists. The Việt Minh organized the "August Revolution" uprisings across the country. At the beginning of a new future, Emperor Bảo Ðại was happy to abdicate on August 25, 1945 and surrender his power to the Việt Minh, of which Hồ Chí Minh was the leader. In order to gain popularity, Hồ made Bảo Ðại "supreme advisor" to the Việt Minh-led government in Hanoi, which asserted independence on September 2. In 1946 Vietnam gained its first constitution and a new name, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV).

In southern Vietnam, the Japanese surrendered to British forces. The British supported the Free French forces in fighting the Việt Minh, the armed religious Cao Ðài and Hòa Hảo sects, and the Bình Xuyên organized crime group for power. In 1948, France tried to regain control over Vietnam. The French re-installed Bảo Ðại as head of state of "the State of Vietnam," which comprised central and southern Vietnam. The First Indochina War lasted until 1954, with the French being defeated at the Battle of Ðiện Biên Phủ.

After World War II, the United States and the USSR entered into the Cold War, with both sides determined to expand their influence over the globe. The Korean War broke out between the North Koreans, supported by China and the USSR, and the Republic of Korea, supported by the US and allied nations. Initially the conflict was limited to North Korea, the Republic of Korea, and US military forces. However, when General Douglas MacArthur penetrated deep into North Korea, the Chinese flooded the country with an enormous army. The Korean War would have deep implications for the American involvement in Vietnam.

The United States became strongly opposed to Hồ Chí Minh, who had now re-asserted the dominance of the Vietnamese Communist Party within the Việt Minh in 1950. In the South of the same year, the government of Bảo Ðại gained recognition by the United States and the United Kingdom.

The Geneva Conference of 1954 ended France's colonial presence in Vietnam and temporarily partitioned the country into 2 states at the 17th parallel (pending unification on the basis of internationally supervised free elections). The US installed Ngô Ðình Diệm as Prime Minister of South Vietnam with Bảo Ðại as the king of a constitutional monarchy. While Diệm was trying to settle the differences between the armed groups in the South, Bảo Ðại was persuaded to reduce his power. Diệm used a referendum in 1955 to depose the former Emperor and declare himself as President of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). The Republic of Vietnam was proclaimed in Saigon on October 22, 1955.

Also in 1954, former Vietminh forces above the 17th parallel created the Democratic Republic of Vietnam which was a Communist State under Hồ Chí Minh. The government was much more stable than its Southern counterpart due to political experience and a dependable army which had weathered the First Indochina War.

South Vietnamese who opposed Diệm's rule and desired the reunification of Vietnam under the Hanoi government of Hồ Chí Minh organized the National Liberation Front, better known as the Việt Cộng. Supported and later directed by the Vietnam People's Army (PAVN) in the North, they would launch guerrilla attacks in the South against Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) military targets and, later, American troops.

The Geneva Accords had promised elections to determine a national government for a unified Vietnam. However, only France and the North Vietnamese government (Democratic Republic of Vietnam) had signed the document. The United States and the Saigon government refused to abide by the agreement, fearing that Hồ Chí Minh would readily win the election due to his popularity. The result was the "Second Indochina War," known as the "Vietnam War" in the West and the "American War" in Vietnam. The war reached its height in 1966, when President Lyndon Johnson ordered 500,000 American troops into South Vietnam. Fearing the Chinese would directly enter the war with a massive army, as had occurred when U.S.-led United Nations forces approached the Chinese border during the Korean War, American ground troops were forbidden to enter North Vietnam.

The massive 1968 Tết Offensive by Communist forces was a catastrophic military defeat for the Việt Cộng but a stunning political victory, as it led many American people to view the war as unwinnable. President Richard Nixon entered office with a pledge to end the war "with honor." He normalized US relations with mainland China in 1972 (Sino-American relations) and entered into Détente with the USSR. With the Paris Peace Agreement of 1973, American military forces withdrew from Vietnam. Despite the peace treaty, the North continued the war, and defeated the South in April 1975 after American aid was refused the South. In 1976, Vietnam was officially reunited under the current Vietnamese government as The Socialist Republic of Vietnam.