Remembering The Fall Of Saigon

May 3, 2015 By Anita R
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April 30 marked the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon that ended the infamous Vietnam War.

The day was marked by a huge military parade in Ho Chi Minh City - the present-day capital of Vietnam, to celebrate the moment when communist forces ended a two-decade-long conflict in that country. After the capture of Saigon, the city which was the capital of Southern Vietnam then was renamed Ho Chi Minh City. 

The Vietnam War was the longest conflict in American history. It was also extremely unpopular among the American people.

History Of The Conflict

Vietnam was a French colony until the 1940s. With support from the United States, the country waged a war and won independence in 1954.

However, under the Geneva accord signed at independence, the country was divided into the anti-communist South and a Communist North. Southern Vietnam opposed unification elections with support from the US. But that did not stop the Communist-led forces of the North from trying. They began to engage in a war with the South Vietnamese government.

The United States stepped in to assist the South Vietnam government by sending in troops to fight. But after several years of fighting, the South was unable to hold back the advancing military from the North. In 1963, South Vietnam lost its most fertile Mekong Delta to the Viet Cong (North). President Lyndon Johnson, who had just taken over after the assassination of President JFK, was forced to escalate the war. By 1968, a 540,000 strong US army was deployed to fight against the North.

But the war was starting to have a huge economic impact on the US. President Richard Nixon wanted to withdraw American troops from the South and give greater responsibility for fighting the war to the locals. In 1970, Nixon ordered an attack on the supply bases in Cambodia to slow the flow of soldiers and supplies from North Vietnam and thereby weaken the North.

This, however, violated the truce between the two warring sides. The incident provoked antiwar protests everywhere - even in the US. Efforts were made to end the conflict through diplomacy. An agreement was reached in 1973 and US forces withdrew from Vietnam. US prisoners of war were released.

In a final blow, Communist forces marched into the southern Vietnam capital of Saigon on April 30, 1975. South Vietnam surrendered to the North and Vietnam was reunited.

Consequences

The war proved to be extremely costly and achieved little. The inability of the US military to protect the South Vietnamese people, its unethical war tactics and the loss of over 58,000 American lives made it an unpopular war.  An estimated 2 million Vietnamese lost their lives as well.

Courtesy: BBC, History.com