Vietnam: A Brief History

As one of the longest and most controversial wars in recent history, the Vietnam War still imposes a lasting effect on people all over the world to this day. I remember discussing the Vietnam War briefly in my high school, U.S. History class, but we never really went into great detail on the subject. I knew very little about the conflict, how it started, why it started, or how it ended. I knew that my grandfather, Tommy Lee Frye, had fought in the war, but that was pretty much all I ever really cared to know.

The Vietnam War was long and deadly, beginning in 1954 and ending in 1975 with U.S. forces being withdrawn in 1973. The war, unlike those prior to the Vietnam conflict, was widely unpopular with the general population of the U.S. Many movements rooted in pacifism were founded consequently of the war and the number of casualties (over 3 million deaths in total) that came with it. Aside from being particularly prolonged and dangerous, the Vietnam War was also very costly for the U.S., totaling $173 billion overall.

The Vietnam War began in 1954 when North and South Vietnamese troops first began engaging in armed conflict with one another. The conflict arose over North Vietnam’s support of a communist government clashing with South Vietnam’s defense against government reform. America’s support fell in favor of South Vietnam due to the general dislike and distrust of the communist party.

As the war progressed and larger and larger troops were sent to Vietnam, the anti-war sentiment in the U.S. grew in size as well. In 1964, a full-scale intervention was passed by Congress, and the U.S. bombed North Vietnam consequently following the Tonkin attack on the U.S. destroyer. The U.S. did not issue a cease-fire or withdraw troops from Vietnam until the spring of 1973. The war did not end in its entirety, however, until the spring of 1975 when South Vietnam surrendered to North Vietnam after their troops entered Saigon and captured the city.

It’s still somewhat surprising to me that my grandfather was one of the many soldiers who fought in the war rather than one of the pacifists peacefully protesting back in the U.S. As a man who now values peace over anything else, it was more than interesting to hear his stories about a young man who wanted nothing more than to defend his country.