Vietnam is one of the most beautiful countries of the world. It had fought for independence for over two thousand years to protect its culture from the invading countries like China, Japan, France and America. The Vietnam War which is also referred to as the Second Indochina War lasted from 1959 to 1975 (Bradley, 2009). Before French colonization Vietnam was under the influence of Chinese domination. It was known to contain different ethnicities and languages, and great diversity in social, religious and cultural values. Vietnam absorbed most of the Chinese culture in terms of political system, arts, literature, and education.
France colonialism civilized the backward people of Vietnam and modernized the country in various aspects. The infrastructure was improved to a high extent, and also led to the introduction of democratic institutions. Most of the constructions during this period were built in the French style. But France was always in the motto of achieving commercial profit. France wanted cheaper raw materials from Vietnam to produce in their own country and obtain profits and greater markets for the French goods (Bradley, 2009). In addition to this, the profits incurred through farming were taken by the French and the native Vietnamese were limited to work as labors, often with fewer wages. The French controlled key plantations all over the country. Forced labor, heavy taxes, and a centralized government was a result of the French colonization (Duiker, 2009).
Some of the nationalists could not tolerate the ill treatment of France over the poor peasants. One of such revolutionary leaders was Ho Chi Minh. After he founded the Communist Party of Vietnam (Bradley, 2009), he led the Vietnamese revolution rigorously to achieve the success of independence to Vietnam. During the Second World War, Japan invaded Vietnam and threw out the French out of the country. The military personnel of the United States always had a high respect to Ho Chi Minh for his commitment to freedom of the country. Ho minh formed the Viet Minh to fight against Japan and France (Bradley, 2009). The United States assisted Vietnam to win over Japan. After successfully freeing Vietnam from Japan, on September 2, 1945, from the northern city of Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh announced the Declaration of Independence and named the country as the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (Bradley, 2009). Ho Chi Minh was elected as the president. When Japan withdrew from Vietnam, it left the emperor Bao who was well-educated French in control of independent Vietnam.
In July 1949, with the help of Bao (Bradley, 2009), France was successful in capturing control over the southern part of Vietnam. But it was awfully defeated by the Viet Minh forces. In the 1950's, the United States sent its troops to South Vietnam to establish is power and destroy the Viet Minh. More than three million people and around sixty thousand lost their valuable lives during this period. In 1954, a treaty was signed which divided Vietnam into North and South (Bradley, 2009). The treaty specified that elections would be held and people can choose their leader. However, only French residents and a few wealthy Vietnamese were given the right to vote in the fear that the French rule would end (Duiker, 2009). The South Vietnamese government led by Diem, was reluctant to hold elections as it knew Ho Chi Minh would win for sure as he was most popular in the southern part of the country. Hence it took an aid of 200 million dollars and support of military personnel from the US and started to attack the North Vietnam for no reason (Bradley, 2009).
During the rule of President Diem who favored the Catholic minority, the people were forced to convert their religion from Buddhism to Catholicism. Most of the Buddhist monks could not tolerate this and took their lives by committing suicide. Diem granted jobs in the public sector, land, and tax exempts and released all Catholics from unpaid and forced labor. Officers in Diem's Army (Bradley, 2009)were in the fear to lose their jobs if they did not convert into Catholicism. His government prohibited non-Catholics from carrying arms and weapons. The military forcefully and violently converted the Vietnamese villagers to Catholics. These acts made the Vietnamese realize the need for a true movement which would give them the freedom to practice religion.
The then President of the United States, John F. Kennedy (Bradley, 2009) understood the situation and eventually sent around 15000 American soldiers to Vietnam to tackle the situation. However, in 1963, President Kennedy decided to withdraw the forces from Vietnam due to his political conflicts with Diem (Bradley, 2009). But before this decision was adopted, Kennedy was assassinated. The new president of the United States was elected as Lyndon Johnson who himself was an anti-communist and felt that there was an immense need of establishing the power of United States in Vietnam. He felt the necessity to announce an undeclared war and sent more and more troops into Vietnam. Due to the cultural gap between the two countries, the American soldiers never treated the Vietnamese as humans. This led to the rise of racism amongst the Americans and Vietnamese (Bradley, 2009). The American soldiers were already accustomed to various kinds of drugs and alcohol and habituated the same to the Vietnamese too. It is said that Vietnamese took the support of drugs to ease the tension that developed as a result of the war (Duiker, 2009).
This war took the lives of about a million military personnel and about two millions of civilians. Most of the damage was done through air bombings. The United States military initiated bombing strategy and damaged almost all the crops and fields in Vietnam which incurred huge losses to the economy of the country (Bradley, 2009). The transportation system especially the roads were damaged. The United States spent about two billion dollars a month to carry out this massive destruction in Vietnam (Bradley, 2009). This brought the North and South Vietnam together to fight back against the enemy. Though most of the transport system was destroyed, people still carried weapons through jungles. There were also protests coming from the people within the United States but the government always lied about the casualty count. By the late 1960's newspapers and journals began to exaggerate the situation of the war and with the widespread media coverage of the war, opposition from the public increased and led to the downfall of President Johnson (Overfield, 2001).
In January 1968, the Tet offensive (Bradley, 2009) in other words, a coordinated series of attacks on over 100 cities and towns in the South Vietnam took place. When American forces in Vietnam came to understand that they were bearing several loses, they became frustrated and started to take revenge on the innocent Vietnamese civilians. This period saw the death of about 300 civilians majority of which were women and children. Women were assaulted and children were tortured. As days passed, the United States saw a loss of about 58000 soldiers and $140 billion (Bradley, 2009). This led to a strong opposition by the Americans within the United States and called for the end of the war. It is to be noted that the war had to prolong for long years due to the simple reason being lack of public support. There were always conflicts between North and South Vietnam. It was only when people united that the war took a turning point and finally ended to declare the country as Socialist Republic of Vietnam (Bradley, 2009).
In 1973, the United States and North Korea signed an agreement to end the enmity between the two nations forever; however, the war between North and South Vietnam did not end until April 30, 1975 when the city Saigon was renamed to Ho Chi Minh City (Bradley, 2009). The war affected the Vietnamese economy to a great extent. The infrastructure saw a very huge destruction. It took years and years for the Vietnamese government to reconstruct the country. 2 million deaths, 3 million wounds and 12 million refugees were what Vietnam had by the end of the war (Overfield, 2001). Minimal violence still continued to take place between China and Cambodia every now and then. In 1989, Vietnam completely withdrew its forces from Cambodia (Duiker, 2009). The exploitation of land came to an end and private ownership was abolished. The Vietnamese economy started to improve gradually by 1986 with the introduction of the market free policy and relations began to resume between the United States and Vietnam by 1990's (Bradley, 2009). In the present time, Vietnam is said to be one of the fastest growing economies in the world sharing a respectable position in the global market. It is one of the biggest textile exporters in the world.
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