Dates: November 1, 1955 – April 30, 1975
The Vietnam War was a long, costly armed conflict that pitted the communist regime of North Vietnam and its southern allies, known as the Viet Cong, against South Vietnam and its principal ally, the United States. Ho Chi Minh had called for a “People’s War” in March, 1959 to unite the people of North and South Vietnam in the fight against the Western powers and under the banner of communism. In May of the same year, construction began on a major supply network called the Ho Chi Minh Trail that would prove to be difficult for the U.S. to shut down. The first U.S. military deployment in Vietnam took place on December 11, 1961 when an aircraft carrier loaded with 33 helicopters and around 400 crewmen and troops arrived in Saigon. On December 22, the first American combat death occurred, marking the start of the war for many Americans. The divisive war, increasingly unpopular at home, ended with the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 1973 and the unification of Vietnam under Communist control two years later. More than 3 million people, including 58,000 Americans, were killed in the conflict.