How long did the vietnam war last ?

How long did the vietnam war last  ?How many wars in Vietnam in the last century ? How did the vietnam war start ? What was vietnam war dates ?


 Wars in Vietnam in the Last Century

War, as it seems, is inevitable. Vietnam was no exception with them experiencing a number of wars in their country in the last century. These include the first Indochina War, the Vietnam War and the third Indochina wars among others.

The 1st Indochina War

The first Indochina war was mainly between the nationalist forces called Viet Minh and the French forces. Other involved parties included Pathet Lao and the Khmer Issarak Communist Rebels. The increased tensions resulting from failed negotiations between the two main parties led to the first Indochina war in Vietnam. The tension proved too much in the northern territories and the Viet Minh attacked the French. As a form of retaliation the French attacked and killed over 6000 civilians. The Viet Minh reacted by launching an attack in Hanoi city on the French encampments. The war was on.

It went on from December 1946 to August 1954. The French got support from the United States and Great Britain. On the other hand, the rebels got equipment and training from the Soviet Union and China. This War ended in French defeat following the surrender of a French army to the Viet Minh rebels. This was during  the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954.

Vietnam war

The Vietnam War

The Vietnam War is one of the most commonly known war events globally. More known as the War against America by the Vietnamese. Americans usually refer to it as Nam or fighting the Viet Cong. Other names include the Vietnam Conflict.

The Vietnamese were already in conflict with the French in the first Indochina War. This particular war was marked by the increased involvement by the United States of America in the Indochina conflict. Formerly, they had maintained a neutral stance. There were guerilla intra-state and inter-state conflicts during the Vietnam War. The French needed help defeating the guerilla movement. They got support from the United States of America who approved and formally recognized the State of Vietnam. This was an anti-communist state under the  Bao Dai regime, supported by both allied forces. The Vietnam War started in 1956. It started off as a communist insurgency in South Vietnam. The Vietnam War ended on April 3 in 1975. The North Vietnamese Army finally captured Saigon. South Vietnam ceased to exist after this takeover.


During a war there are many costs involved. Wars leave a trail of expensive human costs I’m their wake. It is never easy to account for those who fight in a war. During war, estimates of lives lost include both civilian and military deaths in North Vietnam and South Vietnam , Laos and Cambodia. The countries that supported and iinanced either side also experienced loss of their forces.

The casualties from either sides during the Vietnam War were numerous. Up to 2 million civilians from both sides lost their lives during the Vietnam War. Majority of the civilians who lost their lives did so as a result of extensive aerial bombing. In addition, both sides of the conflict used massive firepower in military operations they conducted in heavily populated areas. At other times, civilians were intentionally targeted and killed. Horrific scenes that would serve as examples include the Massacre at Huế and the My Lai massacre .

Vietnamese soldiers and civilians killed vary from 966,000 to 3.1 million. Amongst them were up to 1.1 million North Vietnamese and Viet Cong fighters. It is  estimated that between 200,000 and 250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers died in the war. Of all those involved in the Vietnam War, more than 3 million soldiers were Americans. Amongst them,  58,318 US soldiers died during the war.

Other countries that fought for and supported South Vietnam on a smaller scale also experienced casualties. South Korea suffered more than 4,000 dead. Australia lost more than 500 while Thailand had 350 casualties. On the smallest scale, New Zealand lost some three dozen

Timeline of the Vietnam War

  • End of French rule

The Vietnam War had roots in the colonial period of the French in Vietnam. The French had named it French Indochina. The first Indochina war was between the Indochina states and the French. The French were defeated on May 7, 1954 by Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh forces. This was aptly named as the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. It ended the 7 ½-year first Indochina War.

  • Division of Vietnam

At a conference in Geneva, world powers made an agreement. The Geneva Convention Agreement was for the division of Vietnam. This was in July 1954. Vietnam is divided into the North and South.

  • The Diem Regime and Viet Cong

Ho Chi Minh, gained control of the North with assistance from communists. The United States eventually supports an anticommunist government led by Ngo Dinh Diem in the South. Number of US military advisors in South Vietnam rose to12,000. The communist guerrillas operating in South Vietnam, commonly called Viet Cong, defeat units of the ARVN, the South Vietnamese Army. Thereafter, President Diem is overthrown and then killed in a US-backed military coup.

  • The Gulf of Tonkin Incident

The 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident stemmed from the US alleging that North Vietnamese patrol boats fired on two US Navy destroyers. Thereafter, the US Congress approved the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. This authorized military action in the region.

  • The United States of America enters the war

In 1965, 200,000 American combat troops arrived in South Vietnam. By 1966,US troop numbers in Vietnam weresup to 400,000. In 1967, US troops numbered up to 500,000.

  • The Tet Offensive

The Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese army came together for this massive attack. It was targeted on US positions. More than 500 civilians die in the US massacre at My Lai. The My Lai massacre was an brutal and bloody event. Thousands were killed by communist forces during their occupation of the city of Hue. This became the as the massacre at Hue. Demonstrations and public criticism of the war began in America.

  • De-escalation, negotiation, and Vietnamization

In 1969, Nixon secretly ordered the bombing of Cambodia. Supply dumps and petroleum storage sites in Hanoi and Haiphong were heavily bombed. The Nixon administration did so in the hopes of forcing North Vietnam to make concessions in the ongoing peace talks. They alluded that no one and nowhere was safe or free from bombing.

Vietnamisation was a term meant to describe US policy towards South Vietnam during the last stages of the Vietnam War . It was his policy meant to enable South Vietnam to take a greater responsibility for the war. On the other hand, America could plan it’s withdrawal, while still supporting the government in Saigon in its fight against the NLF .

  • The United States of America negotiates a withdrawal

At this point, the war was an embarrassment to the US. The constant defeat and resilience of the Vietnamese proved too difficult for them. Pressure mounted from all over the world in opposition to their involvement in the war. When Ho Chi Minh died, President Nixon started reducing US ground troops in Vietnam.

In 1970 Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s national security advisor and Le Duc Tho representing the Hanoi government, began talks in Paris. They made a ceasefire agreement in  Paris meant to be effective on January 28. The two were nominated and won the Nobel peace prize for brokering peace. While Kissinger accepted it, Thao declined on the basis of Vietnam not having true peace just yet.

By March, US troops pulled-out completely.Direct U.S. military involvement ended on 15 August 1973.

  • The Fall of South Vietnam

On April 30, 1975, in the early hours, Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese. South Vietnamese President Duong Van Minh surrenders unconditionally to the Communists.  The North and South of Vietnam were reunified the following year.

Local Key Players of The Vietnam War

  • Republic of Vietnam

South Vietnam got support from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, the Philippines and Thailand. They had additional support from the non-communist governments of Cambodia and Laos. This was after the attack by North Vietnamese the local Communist rebelswith help from the North Vietnam’s government.

  • Democratic Republic of Vietnam

North Vietnam got support from the People’s Liberation Armed Forces in South Vietnam. Popularly known as the Viet Cong. Other supporting parties supporting them include the Khmer Rouge (Cambodian communist guerrillas ) and the Pathet Lao (Laos communist guerrillas).

  • Viet Cong

The Viet Cong was a south  vietnamese guerilla communist movement. It was also known as the National Liberation Front (NLF). They fought a guerilla war against anti communist movements. Together with the North Vietnamese government, they fought to reunite Vietnam. They fought against South Vietnam and the United States of America during the Vietnam War. They won when they took over Saigon in 1975.

  • North Vietnamese Army

It is also known as the people’s army of Vietnam. At the start of the war, they engaged in the usual conventional warfare. Yet, as the war raged and ravaged Vietnam, their role grew.

  • Pathet Lao

This was a communist political movement. They fought against anti communist forces during the Vietnam War. They were effectively organized and equipped during this period. They were also led by the People’s Army of Vietnam. When the US backed government fell in,  Lao People’s Revolutionary Party formed a new government

  • Khmer Rouge

These were the Cambodian communist. They won the Cambodian Civil War by capturing the capital and overthrowing the Khmer Republic. They slowly built their army in the late 1960s, in the Eastern Cambodian jungles. They got support from the North Vietnamese army , the Viet Cong  and the Pathet Lao. The People’s Republic of China also gave them quite a great deal of support.

Third Indochina Wars

  • Vietnam-Cambodia War (1977-1992)

During the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese and the Khmer Rouge set aside their ideological differences. They ignored the historical hostility existing between their peoples. After the war, when they were in power, the differences surfaced and turned violent. The conflict started with low-level cross-border raids. By late December in 1978,it escalaed into a  full-fledged war. This resulted from the massive conventional invasion of Cambodia by Vietnam. They swiftly ccupyied the nation within days.

Together with Khmer Rouge defectors, they set up a new government in Phnom Penh. Yet the Khmer Rouge returned to the guerrilla warfare they knew so well. This posed a war of occupation between them. Year after year, the tension built up. Ten years after their take over, Vietnamese troops left. The friendlier government of Heng Samrin took control of most of Cambodia.

  • Sino-Vietnamese War (1979)

Similar to the difficulties between Cambodia and Vietnam, During the Hanoi regime, both Cambodia and Vietnam, enjoyed good relations with China. They were united in the war against the United States and South Vietnam. Thereafter, the ideological and historical differences ruined the Sino-Vietnamese relations.  China launched a massive attack along the common border. This was under the pretext of invasion of China by Vietnam. The Vietnamese Defence resulted in major casualties to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA). China withdrew after a month. They claimed to achieve teaching Hanoi a lesson.

After this war, Hanoi moved  closer to the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was a rival of China. It dawned on China that they did not do extremely well against Vietnam, which was a smaller country. This marked the start of a long-lasting but low-level border conflict between the Vietnamese and Chinese.

  • Sino-Vietnamese Border War (1979-1987?)

This war started off on early 1979. This was a brief yet bloody border war. It was fought between the People’s Republic of China and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. This was has more often than not, been overlooked as a significant moment on history.

Each of these wars ravaged Indochina. Vietnam was largely affected by the conflict. In the end, the North triumphed and reunited with the South. The war left expensive costs in its wake. I’m the form of human lives lost, agricultural land polluted amongst others. The Vietnam War was the biggest humiliation for the United States of America.