History 20 Lecture 17 Wars Against France and America in Vietnam
Two successive waves of war lasting 30 years rolled through Vietnam from 1945
The Vietnamese call the first wave the French War and the second wave the
Goals of self-determination merged with those of national liberation in the course
of these wars.
The Cold War was also in the background, with the U.S. desire to “contain
French Colonialism and Vietnamese Nationalism
In 1859, France brought Vietnam under its control.
Later Laos and Cambodia
also became French colonies.
In Vietnam, the French invested heavily in mineral extraction, rubber plantations,
Wealthy Vietnamese were landowners.
The majority of the population were peasants.
Nationalism developed early in Vietnam, before World War I.
Many Vietnamese Nationalists received education in a new French schooling
Ho Chi Minh was from poor peasant background but was able to study in a
French school in Vietnam.
He then made his way to France (among other western
destinations) working as a cook on a French steamer.
While in Europe, and inspired by the Russian Revolution, Ho became a socialist.
During the 1920s, Ho spent time in both Russia and China, allying himself in both
places with the revolutionary movements underway.
In 1930, Ho became leader of the new Indochinese Communist Party.
1930s, this party was inspired by the activities of the Chinese Communist Party,
particularly their rural organizing efforts.
Along with other nationalist groups, Ho and his party were attacked during this
period by French military forces.
When the Japanese occupied Vietnam in 1940, the Indochinese Communist Party
began to build an army and fought against both French interests and the Japanese
In 1941, a new anti-colonial, nationalist coalition group resulted from these
activities – the Vietminh, short for the League for the Independence of Vietnam).
also headed this group.
In 1945, upon the Japanese defeat, Ho as leader of the Vietminh, declared
Vietnam’s independence from France and formed a provisional government called the
Republic of Vietnam.
In his “Declaration of Independence” delivered in Hanoi on Sept.
2, 1945, Ho began with the same lines as the American Declaration of Independence and