Vietnam is a country in the South East Asia bordered by countries like Cambodia and Laos. Her capital is Hanoi.

    War dominated 30 years of Vietnam's history last century. The struggle that began with communists fighting French colonial power in the 1940s did not end until they...

    Vietnam is a country in the South East Asia bordered by countries like Cambodia and Laos. Her capital is Hanoi.

    War dominated 30 years of Vietnam's history last century. The struggle that began with communists fighting French colonial power in the 1940s did not end until they seized Saigon and control of the whole country in 1975.

    The period that Americans refer to as the "Vietnam War" – and the Vietnamese call the "American War" – was the US military intervention from 1965 to 1973.
    Communist forces based in the north and led by the nationalist leader Ho Chi Minh defeated the French in 1954.

    Accords were negotiated that split the country into communist north and pro-American south, divided by a demilitarised zone (DMZ).

    Country-wide elections to decide a permanent solution were promised but never happened, and within five years the communists had launched a guerrilla war on the south.

    Hundreds of thousands of US soldiers were sent to help fight the communists in a costly and ultimately unsuccessful war which brought domestic civil unrest and international embarrassment.
    The US was driven by Cold War concerns about the spread of communism, particularly "domino theory" – the idea that if one Asian nation fell to the leftist ideology, others would quickly follow.

    The Vietnam War was protracted and bloody. The Hanoi government estimates that in 21 years of fighting, four million civilians were killed across North and South Vietnam, and 1.1 million communist fighters died.
    US figures covering the American phase record 200-250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers killed and 58,200 US soldiers dead or missing in action.

    Build-up (1960 - 1964)

    In the late 1950s, a communist guerrilla force – the Vietcong – emerged in the south.
    Supported and supplied from Hanoi via a network of tracks known as the Ho Chi Minh trail, its ranks were boosted by southerners frustrated with the corrupt and repressive government of their self-appointed president, Ngo Dinh Diem.

    The US had been providing aid and military equipment and training to south Vietnam since 1954.

    As the Vietcong grew this was increased, with US helicopters, armed personnel carriers and thousands of military advisers on the ground.

    But by 1963, Diem's government was so discredited that the US did nothing to stop a coup by dissident generals.

    A series of short-lived and unstable governments followed, proving no more effective against the insurgency.

    The catalyst for deeper US involvement came in August 1964, when north Vietnamese torpedo boats shot at a US destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin.

    US President Lyndon Johnson used a second, and highly disputed, second clash to justify air strikes on naval bases in the north.

    By the end of 1964, there were 23,000 US military advisers in Vietnam – up from 800 in the 1950s - and the Vietcong was attacking US personnel and bases directly.

    Escalating war (1965 - 67)
    In February 1965, with the South Vietnamese army (ARVN) making little headway against the Vietcong, the US launched Operation Rolling Thunder, a sustained bombing campaign against targets in north Vietnam.
    But it quickly became clear that US airpower alone was doing little to halt Vietcong operations in the south.

    In July 1965 the US announced a deployment of 100,000 US soldiers. Australia, New Zealand, Korea, the Philippines and Thailand also contributed troops.
    The strategy was one of gradual escalation and attrition, aimed at destroying the communists' capacity to fight, rather than taking territory.

    The next two years saw major battles near Danang and Ia Drang, and large-scale US operations against communist bases.

    But despite sustaining heavy losses, the communists fought on and returned to re-occupy areas after US forces had left.
    Vietcong guerrillas were often difficult to distinguish from civilians and moved effectively in the difficult terrain.
    US aircraft sprayed millions of gallons of the toxic herbicide Agent Orange over the jungle to destroy the thick foliage that Vietcong fighters used for cover.

    Heavy bombing, including the use of napalm, continued. But the communist forces fought back with anti-aircraft guns and fighter jets supplied by their Soviet and Chinese allies.

    By the end of 1967, there were 485,000 US soldiers in Vietnam. US troop losses and civilian casualty figures were triggering domestic protests, and the outcome of the war

    Turning point (1968)

    On 31 January 1968 the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Vietcong launched a large-scale offensive during the Vietnamese holiday of Tet.

    In surprise simultaneous assaults they attacked 36 provincial capitals and five of the six major cities, including Saigon where they penetrated the US embassy compound.
    Ten days earlier they had begun an assault on a US marine base near the DMZ, successfully diverting US attention from the forces massing elsewhere.
    Although caught off guard, US and ARVN repelled the onslaught relatively successfully.

    The communist forces failed to hold any sites for more than a few days - apart from the city of Hue, which they held for three weeks. The Vietcong particularly suffered heavy losses.
    But the offensive hit US public opinion hard.
    Graphic film footage of the fighting reinforced concerns about casualties, and the fact the offensive took place undermined the White House's claims that victory had been in sight.
    Political support for President Johnson waned. In March he halted bombing, called for peace talks and said he would not run for a second term in elections in November 1968.
    Heavy fighting continued on the ground, however, as both sides struggled to capitalise on headway they believed they had made.

    US withdrawal (1969 - 73)

    President Richard Nixon, elected in November 1968, sought an exit strategy that would leave US credibility intact.
    In June 1969 he announced a policy of "Vietnamization" – training and equipping the South Vietnamese military to enable the US to reduce troop numbers.

    Over the following three years, more than 500,000 soldiers were withdrawn. This reduced already-low morale among troops, feeding high levels of desertion and drug abuse.
    US public hostility continued, fuelled by several events. Two offensives against communist bases and supply routes in Cambodia, in 1970 and 1972, sparked waves of protest.

    The June 1969 battle of "Hamburger Hill" raised fresh concerns about wasted US lives - 46 soldiers died fighting a successful but bloody battle for a site from which their comrades were withdrawn soon afterwards.

    And evidence came to light of a 1968 massacre at My Lai, where US forces slaughtered more than 300 Vietnamese villagers during an assault on suspected Vietcong camps.
    Ho Chi Minh died in 1969, but his successor Le Duan continued to fight. The communists launched another major offensive in 1972, but were turned back by massive US airpower.

    Slow and convoluted talks were held in Paris from 1969. Punctuated in 1972 by an intense eight-day US bombing campaign targeting Hanoi, the negotiations eventually produced a peace deal in January 1973.

    Under the agreement, US forces would leave and South Vietnam would have the right to determine its own future.
    Fall of Saigon (1975)

    The last American troops left in March 1973, but what some described as a "post-war war" continued.

    Southern and northern forces accused each other of breaking the terms of the truce and fighting continued, although it was less intense and casualties were lower than in previous years.
    American aid to south Vietnam decreased and the southern government became progressively weaker.

    In early March 1975, buoyed by a successful operation at the start of the year, Hanoi launched the first phase of an offensive to take the whole country.
    The south Vietnamese army crumbled faster than expected, and in seven weeks communist forces had swept through the south taking the central highlands and the east coast. Millions of refugees fled towards Saigon.

    On 21 April, with the NVA closing in on Saigon, the South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu resigned and fled to Taiwan, railing tearfully against the US.
    Six days later the city was surrounded. The NVA began launching shells into civilian areas. Looting broke out.

    On 29 April the US ordered the helicopter evacuation of 7,000 American administrators and South Vietnamese from the city. Refugees battled to join the exodus.
    The following day, NVA tanks drove unopposed into central Saigon. The city was renamed Ho Chi Minh City.

    In the wake of the NVA victory, hundreds of thousands of south Vietnamese who had opposed the communists fled by boat, fearing reprisals.
    They formed the first wave of Vietnamese boat people – others followed in 1978 fleeing communist economic reforms.

    Source: www.bbc.co.uk