Also known as the French Indochina wars or Vietnam War, Indochina wars were fought in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos between 1946 and 1979. The conflicts escalated in stages involving different countries. However, the main forces involved in the wars included the Vietnam, France, United States, Cambodia and Laos. The first Indochina war occurred between the French and communist Vietnamese, and lasted about eight years. The US, later joined the war in 1950s, marking the last episode of the Indochina conflicts.
Considering that Indochina Wars took place in phases, it is important to draw the lines between the conflicts. Besides, it is also important to note that there were also other groups or forces involved in the conflicts including, Japan, China and South Korea among others. However, there are still debates on the nations’ involvement.
The First Phase of Indochina Wars
In the last half of the 19th C, France had conquered Vietnam and secured it as its protectorate. Between 1839 to around 1945, Vietnamese had been under the oppressive rule of the French. A majority of the Vietnam people were opposed to the political and social policies imposed by France. In order to get their voices heard and drive out the French, Viet Minh formed a guerilla-type revolutionary front.
Under their recently elected leader of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (modern day North Vietnam), Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese came face to face with French forces in 1946. The Vietnamese were able to make significant moves, and managed to drive out a good number of French forces. As a counteractive measure, France created the State of Vietnam towards the southern parts of the country and named Bao Dai as its leader.
Bao Dai had been an ally of the French but it did not take long since his government clashed with Ho Chi Minh’s. The rest of the Vietnamese people felt that the creation of the state was not aimed at the independence of Vietnam but to keep the nation under French rule.
Despite the financial and military might of the French forces from the US, Viet Minh forces were able to overpower them in the gruesome guerilla battle. The Viet Minh had proper mastery of the jungle and also got intelligence reports from civilian sympathizers.
In 1954, the French stood down, after realizing they were under siege by Viet Minh forces. This led to the signing of the Geneva Accords, which drove France out of Indochina.
The Second Phase of Indochina Wars
The Geneva Accords divided Vietnam into half; North and South. As a result of the fear of Southerners from being overtaken by Communist North, the fighting continued between the two. However, the South at this time enjoyed the backing of the United States.
Later in the 1950s and early 1960s, the US would come in to intervene and launch an attack on rebels from the South, whom it considered a threat due to their support of the Communist North. Also known as the Vietnam War, the battle was fierce causing massive loss of lives and destruction of property.
On 27th January 1973, a cease fire agreement was signed, ending the war. Just as the US forces started withdrawing from the South, the war began again. In 1975, the government of South Vietnam fell to the North and was ruled for the next one year by a Communist dominated regime. In 1976, the two states were re-united to form the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
Between 1970 and 1973, America launched intensive strikes on the rural parts of Cambodia in an effort to destroy elements of Communism peddled by Khmer Rouge without success. However, he did not last long since in 1979, Vietnamese forces invaded Cambodia and put in their own puppet as the leader.
After the fall of South Vietnam to the Communist North, Laotian communist Pathet Leo was installed as the leader of the Lao Kingdom. Laos had been a colony of the French and only managed to gain its independence in 1954 but after a series of conflicts too.
Despite the later events, it is believed that Indochina Wars ended with the Vietnamese invasion and establishment of a puppet government in Cambodia.
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