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“69), and one of the most influential political leaders of the 20th cent. His gi ven name was Nguyen That Thanh. In 1911 he left Vietnam, working aboard a French liner. He later lived in London and in the United States during World War I bef ore going to France near the end of the war. There he became involved in the Fre nch socialist movement and was (1920) a founding member of the French Communist party. He studied revolutionary tactics in Moscow, and, as a Comintern member, w as sent (1925â “27) to Guangzhou, China. While in East Asia, he organized Vietnamese r evolutionaries and founded the Communist party of Indochina (later the Vietnames e Communist party). He also established a training institute that attracted many Vietnamese students, where he taught a unique blend of Marxism-Leninism and Con fucian-inspired virtues. In the 1930s, Ho lived mainly in Moscow and China. He f inally returned to Vietnam after the outbreak of World War II, organized a Vietn amese independence movement (the Viet Minh), and raised a guerrilla army to figh t the Japanese. Ho proclaimed the republic of Vietnam in Sept., 1945, and later agreed that it w ould remain an autonomous state within the French Union. Differences with the Fr ench, however, soon led (1946) to an open break. Warfare lasted until 1954, culm inating in the French defeat at Dienbienphu. After the Geneva Conference (1954), which divided Vietnam at the 17th parallel, Ho became the first president of th e independent republic of North Vietnam. The accord also provided for elections to be held in 1956, aimed at reuniting North and South Vietnam; however, South V ietnam, backed by the United States, refused to hold the elections. The reason w as generally held to be that Ho's popularity would have led to reunification und er Communist rule. In succeeding years, Ho consolidated his government in the No rth. He organized a guerrilla movement in the South, the National Liberation Fro nt, or Viet Cong, which was technically independent of North Vietnam, to win Sou th Vietnam from the successive U.S.-supported governments there (see Vietnam War ). See biographies by J. Lacouture (1968), D. Halberstam (1971), J. Sainteny (1972) , C. Fenn (1974), D. O. Lloyd (1986), and W. J. Duiker (2000).
Vietnam War, conflict in Southeast Asia, primarily fought in South Vietnam betwe en government forces aided by the United States and guerrilla forces aided by No rth Vietnam. The war began soon after the Geneva Conference provisionally divide d (1954) Vietnam at 17Â° N lat. into the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietn am) and the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). It escalated from a Vietnamese civil war into a limited international conflict in which the United States was d eeply involved, and did not end, despite peace agreements in 1973, until North V ietnam's successful offensive in 1975 resulted in South Vietnam's collapse and t he unification of Vietnam by the North Causes and Early Years In part, the war was a legacy of France's colonial rule, which ended in 1954 wit h the French army's catastrophic defeat at Dienbienphu and the acceptance of the Geneva Conference agreements (see Vietnam). Elections scheduled for 1956 in Sou th Vietnam for the reunification of Vietnam were canceled by President Ngo Dinh Diem. His action was denounced by Ho Chi Minh, since the Communists had expected to benefit from them. After 1956, Diem's government faced increasingly serious opposition from the Viet Cong, insurgents aided by North Vietnam. The Viet Cong became masters of the guerrilla tactics of North Vietnam's Vo Nguyen Giap. Diem' s army received U.S. advice and aid, but was unable to suppress the guerrillas,
who established a political organization, the National Liberation Front (NLF) in 1960. Dienbienphu [dyen'byen'fOO'] Pronunciation Key Dienbienphu or Dien Bien Phu , former French military base, N Vietnam, near the Laos border. It was the scene in 1954 of the last great battle between the Frenc h and the Viet Minh forces of Ho Chi Minh in Indochina. The French occupied the base by parachute drop in Nov., 1953; this move prevented a Viet Minh thrust int o Laos and provided support for indigenous forces opposing the Viet Minh in that area. Although the base could be supplied only by air, the French military felt its position was tenable. Weary of inconclusive guerrilla warfare, they were wi lling to invite an open Viet Minh attack in an area where their superior weaponr y could be used to full advantage. The Viet Minh army, under the command of Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, chose to engage the French, and by Mar., 1954, some 49,500 Viet Minh troops had encircled Dienbienphu, where some 13,000 soldiers, under the le adership of Col. (later Gen.) Christian de Castries, were firmly entrenched in s trong positions. The first Viet Minh assault came on Mar. 13, and by the end of April, despite massive French air bombardment, the French defense area had been reduced to 2 sq mi (5 sq km). Desperate pleas for U.S. intervention were unsucce ssful, and on May 7, after a 56-day siege, the French positions fell. This defea t signaled the end of French power in Indochina U.S. Involvement In 1961, South Vietnam signed a military and economic aid treaty with the United States leading to the arrival (1961) of U.S. support troops and the formation ( 1962) of the U.S. Military Assistance Command. Mounting dissatisfaction with the ineffectiveness and corruption of Diem's government culminated (Nov., 1963) in a military coup engineered by Duong Van Minh; Diem was executed. No one was able to establish control in South Vietnam until June, 1965, when Nguyen Cao Ky beca me premier, but U.S. military aid to South Vietnam increased, especially after t he U.S. Senate passed the Tonkin Gulf resolution (Aug. 7, 1964) at the request o f President Lyndon B. Johnson. In early 1965, the United States began air raids on North Vietnam and on Communi st-controlled areas in the South; by 1966 there were 190,000 U.S. troops in Sout h Vietnam. North Vietnam, meanwhile, was receiving armaments and technical assis tance from the Soviet Union and other Communist countries. Despite massive U.S. military aid, heavy bombing, the growing U.S. troop commitment (which reached ne arly 550,000 in 1969), and some political stability in South Vietnam after the e lection (1967) of Nguyen Van Thieu as president, the United States and South Vie tnam were unable to defeat the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces. Optimistic U.S. military reports were discredited in Feb., 1968, by the costly and devasta ting Tet offensive of the North Vietnamese army and the Viet Cong, involving att acks on more than 100 towns and cities and a month-long battle for Hue in South Vietnam Tonkin Gulf resolution Tonkin Gulf resolution, in U.S. history, Congressional resolution passed in 1964 that authorized military action in Southeast Asia. On Aug. 4, 1964, North Vietn amese torpedo boats in the Gulf of Tonkin were alleged to have attacked without provocation U.S. destroyers that were reporting intelligence information to Sout h Vietnam. President Lyndon B. Johnson and his advisers decided upon immediate a ir attacks on North Vietnam in retaliation; he also asked Congress for a mandate for future military action. On Aug. 7, Congress passed a resolution drafted by the administration authorizing all necessary measures to repel attacks against U .S. forces and all steps necessary for the defense of U.S. allies in Southeast A sia. Although there was disagreement in Congress over the precise meaning of the Tonkin Gulf resolution, Presidents Johnson and Richard M. Nixon used it to just ify later military action in Southeast Asia. The measure was repealed by Congres
s in 1970. Retired Vietnamese general Vo Nguyen Giap, in a 1995 meeting with for mer Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, categorically denied that the North Vi etnamese had attacked the U.S. destroyers on Aug. 4, 1964, and in 2001 it was re vealed that President Johnson, in a taped conversation with McNamara several wee ks after passage of the resolution, had expressed doubt that the attack ever occ urred. My Lai incident [mē lī] Pronunciation Key My Lai incident , in the Vietnam War, a massacre of Vietnamese civilians by U.S. soldiers. On Mar. 16, 1968, a unit of the U.S. army Americal division, led by L t. William L. Calley, invaded the South Vietnamese hamlet of My Lai (more correc tly, Son My), an alleged Viet Cong stronghold. In the course of combat operation s, unarmed civilians, including women and children, were shot to death (the fina l army estimate for the number killed was 347). The incident remained unknown to the American public until the autumn of 1969, when a series of letters by a for mer soldier to government officials forced the army to take action. Several sold iers and veterans were charged with murder, and a number of officers were accuse d of dereliction of duty for covering up the incident. Special investigations by the U.S. army and the House of Representatives concluded that a massacre had in fact taken place. Of the many soldiers originally charged, only five were court -martialed, and one, Lt. Calley, convicted. On Mar. 29, 1971, he was found guilt y of the premeditated murder of at least twenty-two Vietnamese civilians and sen tenced to life imprisonment. His sentence was later reduced to 10 years, and in Sept., 1974, a federal district court overturned the conviction and Calley was r eleased. The My Lai incident aroused widespread controversy and contributed to g rowing disillusionment in the United States with the Vietnam War. The U.S. army formally released a report on its investigation of the incident in Nov., 1974. I n 1998 three U.S. soldiers saved Vietnamese civilians during the massacre were h onored with the Soldier's Medal. U.S. Withdrawal Serious negotiations to end the war began after U.S. President Lyndon Johnson's decision not to seek reelection in 1968. Contacts between North Vietnam and the United States in Paris in 1968 were expanded in 1969 to include South Vietnam an d the NLF. The United States, under the leadership of President Richard M. Nixon , altered its tactics to combine U.S. troop withdrawals with intensified bombing and the invasion of Communist sanctuaries in Cambodia (1970). The length of the war, the high number of U.S. casualties, and the exposure of U .S. involvement in war crimes such as the massacre at My Lai (see My Lai inciden t) helped to turn many in the United States against the war. Politically, the mo vement was led by Senators James William Fulbright, Robert F. Kennedy, Eugene J. McCarthy, and George S. McGovern; there were also huge public demonstrations in Washington, D.C., as well as in many other cities in the United States and on c ollege campuses. Even as the war continued, peace talks in Paris progressed, with Henry Kissinger as U.S. negotiator. A break in negotiations followed by U.S. saturation bombing of North Vietnam did not derail the talks, and a peace agreement was reached, s igned on Jan. 27, 1973, by the United States, North Vietnam, South Vietnam, and the NLF's provisional revolutionary government. The accord provided for the end of hostilities, the withdrawal of U.S. and allied troops (several Southeast Asia Treaty Organization countries had sent token forces), the return of prisoners o f war, and the formation of a four-nation international control commission to en sure peace. End of the War Fighting between South Vietnamese and Liberation Forces continued despite the pe ace agreement until North Vietnam launched an offensive in early 1975. South Vie
tnam's requests for aid were denied by the U.S. Congress, and after Thieu abando ned the northern half of the country to the advancing Communists, a panic ensued . South Vietnamese resistance collapsed, and North Vietnamese troops marched int o Saigon Apr. 30, 1975. Vietnam was formally reunified in July, 1976, and Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City. U.S. casualties in Vietnam during the era of dire ct U.S. involvement (1961â “72) were more than 50,000 dead; South Vietnamese dead were estimated at more than 400,000, and Viet Cong and North Vietnamese at over 900, 000
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