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The Conflicts of Indochina (Vietnam) 1954-1979


The Conflicts of Indochina (Vietnam) 1954-1979 Presentation created by Robert Martinez Primary Content Source: A Short History of the World Images as cited. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Conflicts of Indochina (Vietnam) 1954-1979

The Conflicts of Indochina(Vietnam) 1954-1979
  • Presentation created by Robert Martinez
  • Primary Content Source A Short History of the
  • Images as cited.
French Indochina comprised the countries of
Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, which were united
under French colonial rule in 1893.
The territory was occupied by Japan from 1939 to
Following Japans defeat in World War II, the
Viet Minh, a Vietnamese nationalist-communist
group led by Ho Chi Minh, occupied northern
The Viet Minh founded the independent Democratic
of Vietnam (DRV), with its capital at Hanoi.
France, determined to regain control of the
territory, reoccupied the south. The First
Indochina War, between France and the DRV, broke
out in 1946.
During the first 3 years of the war, the
better-armed French forces made little progress
against the guerilla tactics of the Viet Minh.
To gain the support of the local population, the
French established an independent Vietnamese
government in the south under former president
Bao Dai, in 1949.
The U.S. government, determined to halt the
spread of communism in Asia, supported the
French, while the new Communist government in
China supported the Viet Minh.
In 1954, the Viet Minh captured a French military
base at Dien Bien Phu. The French, tiring of the
campaign, agreed to withdraw from Vietnam. At a
peace conference in Geneva, it was agreed that
the country would be reunified following
elections in 1956.
However, the new leader in South Vietnam, Ngo
Dinh Diem, refused to hold elections because, he
claimed, a free vote was impossible in the
communist North. The U.S. supported Diems
position, preferring an independent non-communist
South Vietnam to the most likely alternative
reunification under Communist rule.
Diems government, based in Saigon, lacked
popular support, and was opposed by many,
especially in the countryside, who saw it as a
puppet of the U.S. An organized rural opposition
emerged, called the Viet Cong, support by the DRV.
Open warfare between the Viet Cong and the South
Vietnamese (ARVN) broke out in 1959. The U.S.
government offered military advisers and
financial support to sustain the Diem regime, but
it grew increasingly vulnerable, especially after
Diem himself was assassinated in a military coup
in 1963.
In 1964, the U.S. government under President
Lyndon Johnson used an attack on U.S. ships in
the Gulf of Tonkin as an excuse to become
directly involved in the conflict.
U.S. planes began bombing North Vietnam and in
1965, the first American combat troops were
deployed to attack Viet Cong forces in the South.
The DRV and Viet Cong avoided major battles where
superior American firepower could be decisive,
opting instead for guerilla tactics, including
ambushes and bomb attacks.
Prolonged and intensive U.S. aerial bombing
failed to demoralize the North, and despite
suffering high casualty rates, the DRV and Viet
Cong always managed to replace their losses.
As the war dragged on with no sign of victory, it
began to attract strong opposition from many in
the U.S., especially college students.
In early 1968, on the day before the Vietnamese
celebration of Tet, the DRV and Viet Cong
launched a major offensive, attacking military
bases and the major cities in the South.
The invaders were driven back, but the Johnson
administration, stunned by the offensive, did
agree to begin peace negotiations.
The talks, in Paris, came to nothing. In 1969,
faced with growing domestic opposition to the
war, the new president, Richard Nixon, ordered a
gradual troop withdrawal.
Nixon also escalated the conflict, however, when
he ordered, in 1970, an invasion of Cambodia,
which was providing military supplies to North
Anti-war protests intensified as news emerged in
1971 of a massacre of innocent Vietnamese by a
U.S. army unit at My Lai, and the American use of
the highly toxic defoliant, Agent Orange, against
the jungle bases of the Viet Cong.
North Vietnam launched another offensive in 1972,
again successfully countered. Exhausted, both
sides agreed to further talks, leading to a
ceasefire in 1973 and U.S. agreement to withdraw
its forces.
After U.S. troops had gone, the conflict resumed,
with the North now at a decided advantage. The
war ended in April 1975 when North Vietnamese
forces captured Saigon, renamed Ho Chi Minh City.
In 1976, Vietnam was reunited as the Socialist
Republic of Vietnam. The war had left much of
South Vietnam in ruins.
The new government imprisoned thousands of South
Vietnamese, and private businesses were forced to
close, precipitating an exodus of around a
million Vietnamese between 1975 and the early
In 1975, a Cambodian communist organization, the
Khmer Rouge, under their leader Pol Pot, seized
power and renamed the country Democratic
The Khmer Rouge had a vision of Cambodia as a
peasant-run agrarian state. They marched all city
dwellers into the countryside and forced them to
take up farm labor.
Intellectuals, merchants, bureaucrats, clergy and
any ethnic Chinese or Vietnamese were slaughtered
en masse. Millions more were forcibly relocated,
deprived of food and tortured.
During the four years that the Khmer Rouge were
in power, some 1.7 millions were killed, which
was more than a fifth of the population. The
regime was overthrown by Vietnamese forces during
an invasion in 1979.
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