Origins of the Conflict

By Abbey and Charlotte (Edited by Morgan and Georgia)
The Vietnam war was the conflict between South Vietnam, The United States and its allies to prevent the communists of North Vietnam from uniting North and South Vietnam under a communist government.

Origins of the Conflict

Vietnam has a long history of being ruled by other countries. The French ruling at the start of the 1900's and then the Japanese for a brief spell in World War II and then was reclaimed by the French soon after.
In the 1920's and 1930's the French shipped out the lands resources (spices, metals, sugar, rubber, coal and rice) so the Vietnamese people could not benefit from them. Food became scarce and taxes were high. Local Vietnamese Governments were stripped of all influence and finances and had no real power to make a difference.
In lots of places around Vietnam, there were small uprisings against the French authorities. Some rebels liked to organise in secret, and these gradually grew with power. Amongst them was a group of communists with their minds set on Vietnamese independence. They were led by Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap. They formed the League for the Independence of Vietnam in 1941, which is also known as Vietminh. By the time Vietminh was properly formed, World War II was underway. France was defeated by Germany and was not capable of defending their colonies in Asia. Japan invaded and stripped Vietnam of all of its resources and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese people died of starvation. By then, Vietminh was strong enough to start small resistance attacks on the Japanese and by the beginning of 1945 controlled the Northern parts of Vietnam.
Japan finally surrendered in 1945 and Vietnam was reclaimed by the French who thought it would be easy to regain Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh
However, Vietminh quickly acted and attacked two major cities in the north in the same year. They overthrow the emperor Bao Dai and Ho Chi Minh asked foreign powers to stop the French rule and acknowledge their countries independence but within a couple of months 50,000 French soldiers were back in the region. From here, Vietminh had many followers and started fighting against the French, which is called the First Indochina War. Vietminh gained critical back up when China became a communist country. At the same time, Vietminh soldiers were under the orders to influence civilians. The soldiers were ordered to be polite but fair, to return anything borrowed and not to steal or bully. Support for the Vietminh grew because of this, particularly in the north and Vietminh troops grew as a result.
In 1953, the French were under severe pressure to win over the steadily growing Vietminh and chose a site for a large baexternal image vietnam-map.gifttle with Vietminh. Unfortunately, for the French, Vietminh lay siege and triumphed and the French were forced to appeal to the US for major assistance. However, the US wanted other allies to commit to military action as well as themselves. They held a negotiation conference between the French, US, Britain, China and the three Indochina nations; Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. In this conference, independence for Cambodia and Laos was granted but Vietnam was more difficult. The country was divided by a horizontal line and Vietminh would withdraw to the north half under a communist government lead by Ho Chi Minh. An election for reuniting the two halves would be held in 1956.

In 1954, the US increased its security and made new and better weapons. They were scared that the idea of communism would spread to other counties and decided to try to contain it. The US was afraid that North Vietnam's change to communism would cause a domino affect and started helping the anti-communist government of South Vietnam become stable and capable of defending itself, should the time come. When the spilt of Vietnam happened, 900,000 Vietnamese people moved south. Finding places for these people should have been the main priority for the government. However, the head of state, Ngo Dinh Diem, was fixated of securing his position of leader. He killed sympathizers and followers of Vietminh and only appointed people of his religion into positions of government. He had no intention of holding the election for the Vietnam to reunite. Ho Chi Minh launched verbal attacks on Diem's leadership and the north began their own army and made stronger alliances with China. In secret, North Vietnam encouraged the movement of communists, named Viet Cong by the US, from North Vietnam to the south. In 1959, the North Vietnamese began guerrilla attacks mainly against members of Diem's government. Between 1959
Diem (vietnam president at the time)
Diem (vietnam president at the time)
and 1961, 4,000 government officials were killed by Viet Cong forces each year. Viet Cong received supplies by jungle trails set up along the border of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. In 1960, the communists of the south set up an organisation called the National Liberation Front (NFL). It quickly penetrated many villages and towns and gained popularity in some parts of South Vietnam. Diem removed people from the villages, forcing them to leave behind what they had known for most of their lives. This caused more suffering for the people and helped stem the growth of the NFL. This was known as the Strategic Hamlets policy.
At the time when the Strategic Hamlets policy was underway, there were over 12,000 US military advisers in South Vietnam. John F. Kennedy who was the president at the time in the US announced he would be tough on communism and stepped up the increase of US troops in South Vietnam. The South Vietnam army that the US had helped set up now had 170,000 soldiers but they had low morale and the commanders often argued. Viet Cong frequently outwitted them in surprise attacks or outfought them in pitched battles. In 1963, the South Vietnamese were preoccupied with protesting against their government and in the same year a military coup overthrew Diem and killed him.
The US increased the number of air attacks and made more attempts to boost the South Vietnamese army. In 1965, a invasion of North Vietnam was considered much too dangerous and instead they decided to launch a massive bombing campaign. In March 1965, Operation Rolling Thunder began. ORT consisted of regular, heavy bombing on North Vietnam and the communist parts of South Vietnam. The bombing was supposed to last for eight weeks, but instead lasted for three and a half years. During this time, over one million tonnes of bombs were dropped. In the first few days of ORT, 3,500 marines arrived in South Vietnam. The bombing was halted for a brief period in May, when the US tried to start peace talks with North Vietnam. These attempts were unsuccessful. By the end of 1965, General William C. Westmoreland had had an estimated 180,000 strong force under his command. Eventually soldiers from Thailand, the Philippines, and South Korea joined the force. This is where Australia and New Zealand came in. The helped the US and South Vietnam until the fighting stopped in the early to mid 1970's.


The majority of people in NorthernVietnam were communists (everyone is equal) and they though the whole country should be communist. However the people in South Vietnam were strongly opposed to this idea. Russia and China were very large communist countries at the time so they went to war with the north in hopes to conqure and convert the south. Meanwhile on the other side of the world America, who don't like communists, were worried that having China, Russia (also known as USSR at the time) and what could be Vietnam all as communist countries wasn't a good thing because with that power they could 'take over the world' and convert everyone. So America went to the rescue of South Vietnam, who hardly stood a change against them. And because Australia is allied with America we sent Australian Soldiers to help fight with America and South Vietnam. So there was North Vietnam, Russia and China (all communists) fighting against South Vietnam, America and Australia (non communists).vietnam_war_conflict_Morgan'spic.png

Click here to see a map of the fighting countries and why they were fighting:

By Charlotte Mellor (all information rewritten from "The Vietnam War: How Did It Happen?" Author: Clive Gifford)