The Cold War/Vietnam

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"War in Vietnam" redirects here. For other wars in Vietnam, see Military history of Vietnam. "Indochina conflict" redirects here. For the conflict in French Indochina, see Indochina War. Vietnam War (Chiến tranh Việt Nam) Part of the Indochina Wars and the Cold War VNWarMontage.png Clockwise, from top left: U.S. combat operations in Ia Drang, ARVN Rangers defending Saigon during the 1968 Tet Offensive, two Douglas A-4C Skyhawks enroute for airstrikes against North Vietnam after the Gulf of Tonkin incident, ARVN recapture Quảng Trị during the 1972 Easter Offensive, civilians fleeing the 1972 Battle of Quảng Trị, burial of 300 victims of the 1968 Huế Massacre. Date 1 November 1955[A 1] – 30 April 1975 (19 years, 5 months, 4 weeks and 1 day) Location South Vietnam, North Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos Result

North Vietnamese victory

   Withdrawal of American-led forces
   Communist governments take power in South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia
   South Vietnam is annexed by North Vietnam

Territorial changes Reunification of North and South Vietnam into the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Belligerents

Anti-communist forces:

South Vietnam

United States

South Korea
New Zealand
Khmer Republic
Kingdom of Laos

Supported by:



West Germany[1]
United Kingdom[1]

Iran[1] Spain[1]

Communist forces:

North Vietnam

Viet Cong Khmer Rouge Pathet Lao

Supported by:

Soviet Union
North Korea


East Germany [7]

Commanders and leaders South Vietnam Ngô Đình Diệm † South Vietnam Nguyễn Văn Thiệu South Vietnam Nguyễn Cao Kỳ South Vietnam Cao Văn Viên South Vietnam Ngô Quang Trưởng United States John F. Kennedy United States Lyndon B. Johnson United States Richard Nixon United States Robert McNamara United States William Westmoreland United States Creighton Abrams South Korea Park Chung-hee South Korea Chae Myung-shin Australia Robert Menzies Australia Harold Holt New Zealand Keith Holyoake Thailand Thanom Kittikachorn ...and others North Vietnam Ho Chi Minh North Vietnam Lê Duẩn North Vietnam Võ Nguyên Giáp North Vietnam Văn Tiến Dũng North Vietnam Lê Trọng Tấn North Vietnam Phạm Văn Đồng Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam Hoàng Văn Thái Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam Trần Văn Trà Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam Nguyễn Văn Linh Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam Nguyễn Hữu Thọ ...and others Strength

~1,830,000 (1968)

South Vietnam: 850,000 (1968)

1,500,000 (1974–75)[8]

United States: 536,100 (1968)

Free World Military Forces: 65,000[9][10]

South Korea: 50,000[11]
Australia: 7,672
Thailand: 11,570

Philippines Philippines: 2,020

New Zealand: 552 	


North Vietnam: 287,465 (January 1968)[12]

China China: 170,000 (in 1965–69)[13][14] [15]

Soviet Union: 3,000
North Korea: 300–600

Casualties and losses

South Vietnam

195,000–430,000 civilian dead[16][17] 220,357[18]–313,000 military dead[19] 1,170,000 wounded[citation needed]

United States

58,303 dead;[20][21] 303,644 wounded[A 2]

South Korea

5,099 dead; 10,962 wounded; 4 missing


500 dead; 3,129 wounded [22]

New Zealand

37 dead; 187 wounded [23]


351 dead;1,358 wounded[24]


9 dead[25] Total dead: 479,660–807,303 Total wounded: ~1,490,000+[citation needed]

North Vietnam & Viet Cong 50,000[26]–65,000[16] civilian dead 400,000[16]–1,100,000 military dead or missing[27] 600,000+ wounded[28]


~1,100 dead and 4,200 wounded[15]

Soviet Union

16 dead[29] Total dead: 455,462–1,170,462 Total wounded: ~608,200

Vietnamese civilian dead: 245,000–2,000,000[30][31] Cambodian Civil War dead: 200,000–300,000*[32][33][34] Laotian Civil War dead: 20,000–200,000* Total civilian dead: 465,000–2,500,000** Total dead: 1,102,000–3,886,026 Aircraft losses

  • indicates approximations, see Casualties below

For more information see Vietnam War casualties

    • This figure includes all of the dead from the Laotian and Cambodian civil wars.


   v t e 

Indochina Wars [show]

   v t e 

Military engagements of the Vietnam War

The Vietnam War (Vietnamese: Chiến tranh Việt Nam), also known as the Second Indochina War,[35] and also known in Vietnam as Resistance War Against America (Vietnamese: Kháng chiến chống Mỹ) or simply the American War, was a Cold War-era proxy war[36] that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955[A 1] to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War (1946–54) and was fought between North Vietnam—supported by the Soviet Union, China and other communist allies—and the government of South Vietnam—supported by the United States and other anti-communist allies.[41] The Viet Cong (also known as the National Liberation Front, or NLF), a South Vietnamese communist common front aided by the North, fought a guerrilla war against anti-communist forces in the region. The People's Army of Vietnam (also known as the North Vietnamese Army) engaged in a more conventional war, at times committing large units to battle.

As the war continued, the part of the Viet Cong in the fighting decreased as the role of the NVA grew. U.S. and South Vietnamese forces relied on air superiority and overwhelming firepower to conduct search and destroy operations, involving ground forces, artillery, and airstrikes. In the course of the war, the U.S. conducted a large-scale strategic bombing campaign against North Vietnam, and over time the North Vietnamese airspace became the most heavily defended in the world.

The U.S. government viewed American involvement in the war as a way to prevent a Communist takeover of South Vietnam. This was part of a wider containment strategy, with the stated aim of stopping the spread of communism. According to the U.S. domino theory, if one state went Communist, other states in the region would follow, and U.S. policy thus held that Communist rule over all of Vietnam was unacceptable. The North Vietnamese government and the Viet Cong were fighting to reunify Vietnam under communist rule. They viewed the conflict as a colonial war, fought initially against forces from France and then America, as France was backed by the U.S., and later against South Vietnam, which it regarded as a U.S. puppet state.[42]

Beginning in 1950, American military advisors arrived in what was then French Indochina.[43][A 3] U.S. involvement escalated in the early 1960s, with troop levels tripling in 1961 and again in 1962.[44] U.S. involvement escalated further following the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, in which a U.S. destroyer clashed with North Vietnamese fast attack craft, which was followed by the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave the U.S. president authorization to increase U.S. military presence. Regular U.S. combat units were deployed beginning in 1965. Operations crossed international borders: bordering areas of Laos and Cambodia were heavily bombed by U.S. forces as American involvement in the war peaked in 1968, the same year that the communist side launched the Tet Offensive. The Tet Offensive failed in its goal of overthrowing the South Vietnamese government but became the turning point in the war, as it persuaded a large segment of the United States population that its government's claims of progress toward winning the war were illusory despite many years of massive U.S. military aid to South Vietnam.

Disillusionment with the war by the U.S. led to the gradual withdrawal of U.S. ground forces as part of a policy known as Vietnamization, which aimed to end American involvement in the war while transferring the task of fighting the Communists to the South Vietnamese themselves. Despite the Paris Peace Accord, which was signed by all parties in January 1973, the fighting continued. In the U.S. and the Western world, a large anti-Vietnam War movement developed. This movement was part of a larger Counterculture of the 1960s.

Direct U.S. military involvement ended on 15 August 1973 as a result of the Case–Church Amendment passed by the U.S. Congress.[45] The capture of Saigon by the North Vietnamese Army in April 1975 marked the end of the war, and North and South Vietnam were reunified the following year. The war exacted a huge human cost in terms of fatalities (see Vietnam War casualties). Estimates of the number of Vietnamese service members and civilians killed vary from 800,000[46] to 3.1 million.[27][47][48] Some 200,000–300,000 Cambodians,[32][33][34] 20,000–200,000 Laotians,[49][50][51][52][53][54] and 58,220 U.S. service members also died in the conflict.[A 2]