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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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
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.
The Vietnam War started in November 1955 and lasted till April 1975, that is, 19 years.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
I have chiefly relied on the information from the following two books to write this article. For anyone interesting in getting a deeper and more insightful understanding of the Vietnam War, I would highly recommend these two books.
- The Vietnam War: An Intimate History by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns
- Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy, 1945-1975 by Max Hastings
Vietnam War Explained: Article Series
- Part 1 Geography and Some Basic Questions
- Part 2 Vietnam War Background and End of French Colonial Rule
- Part 3 August Revolution: Viet Minh and the French Return
- Part 4 The First Indochina War: Phase I
- Part 5 The First Indochina War: Phase II
- Part 6 Geneva Conference and increasing US involvement in Vietnam