Vietnam War

Please Note: It is important to note that wars are intricate and complicated endeavors, and that these summaries are meant to provide a quick overview, and do not delve into the many complexities involved in each individual war.

Vietnam War → 1962-1973 (Cold War)

From 1945-1954 Vietnam was involved in the First Indochina War with France, and received $2.6 billion in support from the US. The French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, leading to the Geneva Conference, which resulted in splitting the former French colony into the countries of Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Vietnam was split along the 17th parallel between the Communist North and anti-Communist South until an election could be held to unify the country. In 1956, with US support, South Vietnam refused to hold unification elections. In 1958 the Viet Cong, Communist led guerrilla fighters, had begun to fight the South Vietnamese government.

President John F. Kennedy initially sent 2,000 military advisors to South Vietnam, but the number rose to 16,300 by 1963. By 1963 the South Vietnamese had lost the Mekong Delta to the Viet Cong. After an alleged attack on two US Navy vessels, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was passed in 1964, permitting President Lyndon B. Johnson to use military forces in the region. US involvement in the war in increased 1965, beginning with an air campaign against the North Vietnamese and pledging ground troops, which numbered 536,000 in 1968. The 1968 Tet Offensive is considered by many to be the turning point of the war. Coordinated attacks by the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong, caused massive casualties for both the North Vietnamese and the US, and reduced American support for the war.

When Richard Nixon was elected president, he proposed “Vietnamization”, urging the withdrawal of American forces and shifting most of the responsibility for the war to the South Vietnamese. In an attempt to disrupt the flow of North Vietnamese gaining weapons, in 1970 US troops were sent to destroy Communist supply bases in Laos and Cambodia. This attack deliberately violated Cambodian neutrality, and sparked antiwar protests across America.

In January 1973 the Paris Peace Accord was signed, enacting a ceasefire and allowing prisoners of war to be released and US forces were removed from Vietnam. The Fall of Saigon marked the official end of the war, with South Vietnam surrendering to the North, and in April 1975 the country was reunified.


US military casualties: 58,219

Surviving Minnesota veterans: 129,641

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