Vietnam War Explained: Part 1

Geography and Some Basic Questions

In this article series, we will learn about the Vietnam War in detail. Each article in this series will deal with specific aspects of the war, and with each article, we will gain a better understanding of this conflict. This is the first article in the Vietnam War series.

In this article, we are going to go over the geography of the region and some of the basic facts associated with the Vietnam war such as casualties, dates, countries involved, outcomes, etc.

Modern-Day Vietnam

Vietnam War was undoubtedly one of the most important wars fought in the last century. To understand the Vietnam war, we have to understand the geography of the region first. So, let’s start by looking at the geography of Southeast Asia. This is a map of modern-day Southeast Asia.

This is a map of modern-day southeast Asia.
Modern-Day Southeast Asia
Credit: Image by Cacahuate, no changes made, distributed under a CC BY-SA 4.0
  • Vietnam is a country in Southeast Asia. The country in purple is Vietnam.
  • Today, Vietnam is a united country. There is no South Vietnam or North Vietnam, as was the case during the Vietnam war.
  • Vietnam borders Laos to the west, Cambodia to the south-west, and China to the north.
  • Vietnam’s capital is Hanoi, which is in the northern part of the country.
  • The largest city of Vietnam and its commercial center is Ho Chi Minh city, which is named after the great Vietnamese communist leader and national hero Ho Chi Minh.
  • The earlier name of Ho Chi Minh city was Saigon. So, whenever you hear Saigon, think Ho Chi Minh city. As you can see from the map, this city is located in the southern part of Vietnam.

From a Vietnam war perspective, it is important for us to remember the names and locations of these two cities.

French Indochina

There is one other important map that we must look at to gain a better understanding of the geopolitics of this region. This is a map of French Indochina. This is what Vietnam and its surrounding areas used to look like at the time of the second world war.

This is a map of French Indochina at the start of the second world war. This is an important map in understanding the Vietnam War.
French Indochina in 1940
Credit: Photograph by Laurentleap, distributed under a CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Indochina or French Indochina simply means the area comprising of modern-day Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.
  • These three countries combined together were known as Indochina. And since this area was under French colonial rule, it was known as French Indochina.
  • But why the term Indochina? Simply because this area was between two large countries India and China.
  • As you can see on the map, at the time of the Second World War, Vietnam consisted of three territories, Tonkin, Annam, and Cochinchina.
  • Tonkin and Annam were French protectorates with traditional Vietnamese rulers as titular figureheads, that is, the real power rested in French hands, while Cochinchina was a French colony.
  • Laos and Cambodia also had their traditional rulers belonging to different dynasties but were also under French colonial rule.

Vietnam War FAQs

What was the main aim of the Vietnam War?

The Vietnam War was one of the proxy wars fought during the Cold War era. The main aim of the war was to stop the growth of communism in Southeast Asia.

When did the Vietnam War start and end?

The Vietnam War started in November 1955 and lasted till April 1975, that is, 19 years.

Which countries took part in the Vietnam War?

Technically, the Vietnam War was a civil war between the governments of North Vietnam and South Vietnam. But this was the Cold War era and therefore, North Vietnam which had a communist regime was backed up by the USSR (Soviet Union), China, and other communist countries such as Cuba. On the other, South Vietnam was supported by the United States, South Korea, Australia, Thailand, the Philippines, and other anti-communist countries.

Where was the Vietnam War fought

Although the war is known as the Vietnam War, it wasn’t confined to Vietnam itself. Some of the battles were fought in the neighboring countries of Laos and Cambodia.

What is another name for the Vietnam War?

The Vietnam War is known by different names depending on what part of the world you are in. Most of the world calls this conflict the Vietnam War. However, if you go to Vietnam or other parts of southeast Asia, this conflict is also known as the Second Indochina War, the Resistance War Against America, or the American War.

What were the Vietnam War casualties?

Vietnam War Casualties:
– American soldiers: 58,000
– South Vietnamese soldiers: 250,000
– North Vietnamese soldiers and Viet Cong* fighters: 1.1 million
– Vietnamese civilians: 2 million
*Viet Cong was a guerrilla force that fought against South Vietnam, the United States, and their allies.

What was the result of the Vietnam War?

There were three main results:
1. South Vietnam, the US, and their allies lost the war
2. North Vietnam and South Vietnam united to form modern-day Vietnam
3. Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, all three, became communist countries

Why is the Vietnam War considered a defeat for the United States?

After 19 years of futile warfare that consumed so many lives, the main aim behind the war, that is, to stop the growth of communism in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia was not realized.

This is why the Vietnam War is considered a defeat for the United States because although the United States, technically, did not lose the war on the battlefield despite facing fierce resistance, it ultimately had to withdraw its troops because of the changing political climate in the United States. And they had to withdraw their troops after 19 years of futile warfare without achieving the aim with which they went into Vietnam.

In the second article of the Vietnam War series, we will take a look at some of the important historical events leading up to the Vietnam war.

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