How Long Was the Vietnam War?

Direct military action by the US in Vietnam was from 1964 to 1973.​ Editorial credit: xuanhuongho /
Direct military action by the US in Vietnam was from 1964 to 1973.​ Editorial credit: xuanhuongho /

The Vietnam War is also known as the Second Indochina War. Unlike other wars, there was no declaration of the Vietnam War. However, it is believed and accepted by many that the war began on November 1, 1955, and ended on April 30, 1975. The US involvement in Vietnam had started as early as 1950 when Harry Truman sent military advisors to aid the French. However, the US started direct military action in Vietnam in 1964 until 1973.

Overview of the Vietnam War

It was fought in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia between North and South Vietnam. The North was supported by China and the Soviet Union while the South was supported by the United States, Thailand, Australia, and South Korea. The National Liberation Front, also known as the Viet Cong, was a South Korean armed resistance that aided the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). The resistance and the NVA fought to unify the country while the South sought to establish independence. Today, the Vietnamese people refer the war as the Resistance War Against America.

Causes of the Division of North and South

Since the 19th century, Vietnam had been under the colonial rule. During the second world war, Japan invaded the country. Vietnamese political leader Ho Chi Minh was inspired by Chinese and Soviet communism and formed the League for the Independence of Vietnam (Viet Minh) with the aim of driving out both the Japanese invaders and the French colonialists. After the United States forced Japan to surrender during the Second World War, it withdrew its troops from Vietnam leaving Emperor Bao Dai in power. Ho Chi Minh saw an opportunity to seize control and immediately rose up in arms. He took control of Hanoi and declared the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) and himself the president. Backed by the French, Emperor Bao set up the state of Vietnam in July 1949 choosing Saigon as the capital city. Although both parties wanted a united country, Ho and his supporters favored communism while Bao and many others wanted to establish a country based on western culture. The difference in ideology resulted in one of the world’s longest and brutal wars. The North won the battle at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954 and ended the French rule in the South. In July 1954, a treaty to split the county along the 17th parallel was reached. However, the treated also called for an election two years later to unify the country. A year later, anti-communist leader Ngo Dinh Diem ousted emperor Bao from power and became the president of South Vietnam.

Effects of the War

By 1967, the United States had committed half a million troops to Vietnam. The US spent $120 billion on the conflict in Vietnam from 1965-73. It is estimated that approximately 58,200 Americans were killed while another 110,000 were wounded. Two million Vietnamese died and another twelve million became refugees. In 1976, the country was united as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.


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