THE VIETNAMESE WAR
In the aftermath of WW2, The United States were fighting a war on communism and had a worldwide mission of stopping the communist expansion. Together with France, who were fighting a war in Indochina, the US decided to join their cause as it was seen as an important element in the worldwide struggle against communism. The US began supporting the French army with up towards US$ 2 billion. However, in August 1964 marked an important development in the war against communism in Vietnam. Two destroyers were attacked off the North Vietnamese coast, in what was said to be unprovoked actions.
In March 1965, American troops went to shore in Danang after the reported attack on the two US destroyers. 9 months later and the US military had 184,300 soldiers fighting the war against communism in Vietnam and two years later 485,600 soldiers occupied Vietnam. Before the war was over, some 3,140,000 Americans served in Vietnam with approximately 7200 women. 58,183 were officially killed. In comparison, 223,748 South Vietnamese soldiers were killed and an estimated 1,000,000 North Vietnamese/Viet Congs died. The most tragic number though is the estimated 4,000,000 civilians (10% of the population at the time) who got injured or died during the war.
The war in Vietnam had terrible consequences locally, but in the US, things didn’t go to plan either. As the war raged on and photos and videos from the horrors went around the world, the public’s opinion soon went against the war and the US government. Negotiations between the US, North Vietnam, the Viet Cong and South Vietnam began and in 1973 a ceasefire were signed and later that year US troops left the country. This didn’t stop the war in Vietnam though. Now the South Vietnam forces stood alone and in 1975 North Vietnam launched a massive attack at the border between North and South. South Vietnamese forces were fleeing faster than the North could mobilize their troops and in April 1975 the North Vietnamese soldiers conquered Saigon. Vietnam was formally a united country led by the communist party and to mark that off, Saigon was formally renamed to Ho Chi Minh City.
In the aftermath, Vietnam, although united, was a country very much fragmented in social believes and economic infrastructure as South and North Vietnam been separated for many and many years. Unmarked minefields throughout the country and a poisoned countryside only added to the struggles of the post war challenges. To make matters worse, China and Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge were making noise at the borders as a result of the heavily weakened Vietnam. The ongoing struggles essentially brought the country to its knees financially and socially. The country was drained and exhausted. USSR was supporting communist nations around the world including Vietnam, but the fall of USSR under the cold war and domestic democratic movements started to materialise in Vietnam. Although the politic landscape moved very slowly, Vietnam started to embrace capitalism and market values which started to take root. Today, Vietnam is a thriving economy on the rise, sanctions from the US government have been lifted and several US presidents have visited the country signifying better and stronger relations between Vietnam and USA.
Landmarks from the war
When travelling in Vietnam, you can find evidence throughout the country of the horrors of the war between North and the South. Such landmarks include;
B-52 bomber, Hanoi: In downtown Hanoi, in the small Huu Tiep Lake, one can find the remains of an American B-52 bomber plane.
Cu Chi Tunnels: The Viet Cong were notorious warriors and an important part of their success can be acclaimed to their incredible and vast network of tunnels. Some were dug right under US military bases.
Danang Beach: This is the place US soldiers first went to shore in Vietnam.
The Demilitarized Zone: After the war began, this was one of the most heavily militarized zones in the world and was located at the 17th Parallel dividing North and South.
Ho Chi Minh Trail: Going through the Truong Son Mountains, this route was an impressive logistic feat by the Viet Cong in transporting soldiers and ammunition from the North to the South.
Hue Citadel: The beautiful city of Hue was almost completely destroyed by American forces to draw out the Viet Cong. As one US officer infamously said about the battles fought here that somethings needs to be destroyed in order to be saved.
Vinh Moc Tunnels: These tunnels are not modified, widened to fit tourists. These tunnels are the real deal and stands as they did when used by the Viet Cong.
There are many more sights and landmarks to be visited throughout Vietnam. To understand Vietnam’s history a little better only makes it more interesting to travel the country. Getting to learn a bit about the country, meeting the locals and get to learn the culture and see the smiles and the friendliness of the Vietnamese people it is no wonder people fall in love with Vietnam.
We can only encourage people to visit Vietnam, get a better and deeper understanding of the country. Even though the history is bloody and brutal it is also very interesting to learn about and it makes this country so much more than beautiful countryside and tasty food. It makes it interesting to learn, to talk to the locals and really get to know the country.
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