Class 10 History

Nationalism in Indo China: Vietnam and US Occupation

The Great Depression of the 1930s had a profound impact on Vietnam. There was a steep fall in the prices of rice and rubber. This led to a rise in rural debts and unemployment, and finally in rural uprisings. The provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh were the important hotspots of rural uprising. However, the uprising was dealt with severely by the French. Even planes and bombs were used to suppress the uprising.

In February 1930, Ho Chi Minh brought together competing nationalist groups to establish the Vietnamese Communist (Vietnam Cong San Dang) Party. It was later renamed as the Indo-Chinese Communist Party.

Formation of Democratic Republic of Vietnam

In 1940 Japan occupied Vietnam, as part of its imperial drive to control Southeast Asia. So nationalists now had to fight against the Japanese as well as the French. The League for the Independence of Vietnam (Viet Nam Doc Lap Dong Minh), which came to be known as the Vietminh, fought the Japanese occupation and recaptured Hanoi in September 1945. The Democratic Republic of Vietnam was formed and Ho Chi Minh became Chairman.

Partition of Vietnam

The French tried to regain control. They used the emperor Bao Dai as their puppet in this endeavour. The Vietminh were forced to retreat to the hills. After eight years of fighting, the Vietminh were able to defeat the French in 1954 at Dien Bien Phu.

A peace negotiation took place in Geneva after the French defeat. Vietnam was divided into two countries, viz. south and north Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh and the communists assumed power in the north. Bao Dai’s regime took control of the south.

The Bao Dai regime was soon overthrown by a coup led by Ngo Dinh Diem. Diem built a repressive and authoritarian government. The National Liberation Front (NLF) opposed the dictatorial rule of Dinh Diem. The NLF took help from Ho Chi Minh government and fought for the unification of the country.

US Occupation

The Entry of the US into the War

The US was apprehensive that establishment of a communist regime would spark a chain reaction which could lead to formation of similar regimes in the surrounding parts of the world. In order to stop the spread of communism, the US attacked Vietnam.

The US occupation of Vietnam involved use of a high number of services personnel and also the use of latest warfare. In spite of advanced technology and good medical supplies, the US casualties were very high in Vietnam. Even the most powerful bombers of the time, the B52s were used in the battle. About 47,000 US soldiers died and 303, 000 were wounded. About 23,000 suffered 100% disability.

The struggle of the Vietnamese people against the US showed that the inspiration of saving the motherland can turn even the weak into a great battle force. The US probably underestimated this factor.

Effect on US

Most of the people in the US were highly critical of the US involvement in Vietnam. Many contemporary thinkers were of the opinion that the US should not have involved itself in a war was impossible to win.

Role of Media

The US media and films played a major role in both supporting as well as criticising the war. John Wayne’s Green Berets (1968) was a movie which supported US occupation of Vietnam. John Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979) was the movie which criticized US occupation.

Ho Chi Minh Trail

The Ho Chi Minh Trail was an immense network of footpaths and roads. It was used to transport men and materials from the north to the south. It had support bases and hospitals along the way. Most of the supplies were done by women and kids on their bicycles. Most of the trail was outside Vietnam in neighbouring Laos and Combodia; with branch lines extending into South Vietnam. The trail was regularly bombed by the US to disrupt supplies. But the Vietnamese rebuilt the trail very quickly. The Ho Chi Minh Trail tells the story of ingenuity and bravery of the Vietnamese people.

Women as Rebels

Women in Vietnam traditionally enjoyed greater equality than in China, particularly among the lower classes. But they had only limited freedom to determine their future and played no role in public life. With the growth of nationalist movement, thinkers and writers began to project women as rebels against social norms. Many women took active part in the battle; apart from maintain the supply line through Ho Chi Minh Trail. Apart from being fighters, women also shared the responsibility of rebuilding the economy during peace time.

End of US Occupation

A peace settlement was signed in Paris in January 1974. This ended conflict with the US but fighting between the Saigon regime and the NLF continued. The NLF occupied the presidential palace in Saigon on 30 April 1975 and unified Vietnam.