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35. South Vietnam (1954-1975)

 

Crisis Phase (December 29, 1954-December 19, 1960): South Vietnam formally achieved its independence from France on December 29, 1954.  The International Commission on Supervision and Control (ICSC-Vietnam) chaired by India, which was established on August 11, 1954, continued to oversee and report on the implementation of the Geneva Accords.  The ICSC-Vietnam consisted of some 1,300 personnel from Canada (150 personnel), Poland (150 personnel), and India (1,000 personnel).  The US provided military assistance to the government of Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem beginning on January 29, 1955. Government troops and opposition political organizations (Cao Dai, Hoa Hao, and Binh Xuyen) clashed near Saigon from March 29 to May 2, 1955, resulting in the deaths of some 100 South Vietnamese government soldiers, 200 rebels, and 200 civilians. A majority of the population of the country voted to end the monarchy in a referendum on October 23, 1955. The Republic of Vietnam was proclaimed, and Ngo Dinh Diem was elected president on October 26, 1955.  The US established the Military Assistance and Advisory Group (MAAG) consisting of 700 military advisors on April 28, 1956. Communists began a rebellion against the government of South Vietnam in July 1957. Communist rebels attacked a South Vietnamese military base on July 8, 1959, resulting in the deaths of two South Vietnamese soldiers and two US military advisors. The government suppressed a military rebellion on November 10-11, 1960, resulting in the deaths of some 100 individuals. Some 10,000 individuals were killed during the crisis.

Conflict Phase (December 20, 1960-June 13, 1973): South Vietnamese communists formed the National Liberation Front (NLF) – which was known as the Vietcong – on December 20, 1960. North Vietnam provided military assistance (weapons) to the NLF. Government troops and Vietcong rebels clashed near the village of Truc Ginag in Kienhoa province on April 1, 1961. Government troops and Vietcong rebels clashed near Bencat on April 3, 1961, resulting in the deaths of some 100 rebels. President Diem was re-elected president with 86 percent of the vote on April 9, 1961. The US increased the size of the MAAG to 1,650 military advisors in May 1961. President John Kennedy of the US expressed support for the South Vietnamese government on August 2, 1961. President Diem declared a state-of-emergency, and requested additional US military assistance to suppress the communist insurgency on October 18, 1961. President John Kennedy of the US agreed to deploy additional military advisors to South Vietnam on November 16, 1961. The US deployed 40 combat helicopters and 400 crew in South Vietnam on December 11, 1961.  Australia deployed military advisors in support of the South Vietnamese government beginning in August 1962. Some 30,000 Vietcong rebels were killed in 1962. Government troops clashed with Viet Cong rebels near Ap Bac on January 2, 1963, resulting in the deaths of 65 government soldiers and three US soldiers. Government troops clashed with Buddhist demonstrators in Hue on May 8, 1963, resulting in the deaths of nine individuals. On August 21, 1963, the government declared a state-of-siege in order to suppress Buddhist unrest. Cambodia imposed diplomatic sanctions (suspension of diplomatic relations) against South Vietnam on August 27, 1963. The government lifted martial law on September 16, 1963. Parliamentary elections were held on September 27, 1963, and the National Assembly convened on October 7, 1963. On October 8, 1963, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly established a seven-member fact-finding mission (Afghanistan, Brazil, Ceylon, Costa Rica, Dahomey, Morocco, Nepal) headed by Abdul Rahman Pazhwak of Afghanistan to investigate alleged government repression of Buddhists. Government troops and Vietcong rebels clashed in Quang Ngai province on October 28-29, 1963, resulting in the deaths of 44 rebels and two government soldiers. President Diem was deposed and killed during a military coup led by Major General Ton That Dinh, Major General Tran Von Don, and Major General Duong Van Minh on November 1-2, 1963, resulting in the deaths of 33 individuals. The Military Revolutionary Committee (MRC) headed by Lt. General Duong Van Minh took control of the government, dissolved the National Assembly, and suspended the constitution on November 4, 1963. The UN fact-finding mission was withdrawn from the country on November 3, 1963. The US provided diplomatic assistance (diplomatic recognition) to the MRC on November 7, 1963, and resumed economic assistance to South Vietnam on November 15, 1963. Vietcong rebels attacked government troops at a military training camp near Saigon on November 24, 1963, resulting in the deaths of 37 government soldiers. Some 20,500 Vietcong rebels were killed in 1963. The MRC was deposed in a military coup led by Major General Nguyen Khanh on January 30, 1964. Major General Nguyen Khanh formed a government as prime minister on February 8, 1964. Government troops and Vietcong rebels clashed near Kien Long n the Mekong delta on April 12-16, 1964, resulting in the deaths of some 55 government soldiers and 175 rebels. The Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) expressed support for the government of South Vietnam on April 15, 1964. Government troops and Vietcong rebels clashed near Tayninh on June 19-25, 1964, resulting in the deaths of some 60 government soldiers and 100 rebels. UN Secretary-General U Thant appealed for peaceful negotiations on July 7, 1964. General Nguyen Khanh declared a state-of-emergency on August 7, 1964. The Military Revolution Council (MRC) approved a new constitution, and elected General Nguyen Khanh as president on August 16, 1964. Government troops and Vietcong rebels clashed in the Mekong delta on August 16-18, 1964, resulting in the deaths of 36 government soldiers and 280 rebels. The government suppressed a right-wing military rebellion on September 13-14, 1964. Vietcong rebels attacked military positions northwest of Saigon on October 11, 1964, resulting in the deaths of some 28 government soldiers and 55 rebels. The 17-member High National Council (HNC) approved a provisional constitution on October 20, 1964, and elected Phan Khac Suu as president on October 24, 1964. Vietcong rebels bombed the US airforce base on October 31-November 1, 1964, resulting in the deaths of four US soldiers. Tran Van Huong formed a civilian government as prime minister on November 4, 1964. North Vietnamese troops intervened in support of the Vietcong beginning in December 1964 (some 250,000 North Vietnamese soldiers were deployed in South Vietnam in 1968). Buddhists demonstrated against the government on January 23-27, 1965. Prime Minister Huong was deposed in a military coup led by General Nguyen Khanh on January 27, 1965. Vietcong rebels attacked the US airbase near Pleiku on February 7, 1965, resulting in the deaths of eight US soldiers.  US military aircraft retaliated by bombing North Vietnamese military barracks in Dong Hoi on February 7, 1965. Phan Huy Quat formed a government as prime minister on February 16, 1965.  US military aircraft attacked Viet Cong rebels in Binhdinh Province on February 18-24, 1965. Government troops suppressed a military rebellion led by Colonel Pham Ngoc Thao in Saigon on February 19-20, 1965. Some 300,000 South Korean troops were deployed in support of the South Vietnamese government beginning on February 25, 1965.  Some 540,00 US troops were deployed in support of the South Vietnamese government beginning on March 8, 1965. Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) heads-of-state appealed for a cessation of military hostilities on April 1, 1965. Some 7,700 Australian combat troops and 550 New Zealand combat troops were deployed in support of the South Vietnamese government beginning on June 8, 1965. Prime Minister Quat was replaced by a military government led by Air Vice-Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky on June 18, 1965.  US troops and Vietcong rebels clashed in Quang Ngai Province on August 18-21, 1965, resulting in the deaths of 688 rebels and 51 US soldiers.  Three Canadian members of the ICSC-Vietnam were killed in a plane crash on October 18, 1965.  Some 2,000 Philippines troops were deployed in support of the South Vietnamese government beginning on September 11, 1966. The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) provided humanitarian assistance to Vietnamese displaced during the conflict beginning in 1967. A new constitution went into effect on April 1, 1967. Nguyen Van Thieu was elected president on September 3, 1967. Thailand deployed some 11,500 troops in support of the South Vietnamese government beginning in September 1967. The South Vietnamese government and Vietcong rebels began negotiations in Paris on January 25, 1969. The US Senate voted to repeal the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution on June 24, 1970. President Nguyen Van Thieu was re-elected with 92 percent of the vote on October 3, 1971. New Zealand troops withdrew from South Vietnam in November 1971, and Thai troops were withdrawn from South Vietnam on February 4, 1972. Australian troops were withdrawn from South Vietnam on March 7, 1972, and South Korean troops were withdrawn from South Vietnam in June 1972. South Vietnamese government and Vietcong rebels resumed negotiations in Paris on March 23, 1972, but negotiations were suspended on May 4, 1972. The South Vietnamese government imposed martial law on May 10, 1972. The South Vietnamese government and Vietcong rebels resumed negotiations in Paris on July 13, 1972, but the talks were again suspended on December 18, 1972. The South Vietnamese government and Vietcong rebels resumed negotiations in Paris on January 8, 1973, and the parties signed signed a ceasefire agreement on January 27, 1973.  ICSC-Vietman was disbanded on January 29, 1973.  The International Commission for Control and Supervision (ICCS-Vietnam), consisting of some 200 civilian personnel and 960 military personnel from Canada, Hungary, Indonesia, and Poland, was established to supervise the ceasefire and troop withdrawal in South Vietnam beginning on January 29, 1973. US combat troops completed their withdrawal from South Vietnam on March 29, 1973.  Four ICCS personnel were killed, along with five other individuals, when their helicopter was shot down near Lao Bao in Quang Tri Province on April 7, 1973.  Representatives of the US, South Vietnam, North Vietnam, and the Viet Cong signed another ceasefire agreement on June 13, 1973. Some 1.85 million individuals (including 250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers; 525,000 South Vietnamese civilians; 900,000 Viet Cong rebels and North Vietnamese soldiers; 65,000 North Vietnamese civilians; 58,000 US soldiers; 4,400 South Korean soldiers; 1,000 Filipino soldiers; 500 Australian soldiers; 350 Thai soldiers; and 35 New Zealand soldiers) were killed during the conflict. Some eight million individuals were displaced during the conflict.

Post-Conflict Phase (June 14, 1973-April 30, 1975): Canada’s contingent of more than 240 members of the ICCS commanded by Major General Duncan McAlpine withdrew from the country on July 31, 1973.  Iranian personnel replaced the Canadian personnel on the ICCS on August 29, 1973. Communist rebels and North Vietnamese troops launched a military offensive against South Vietnamese government troops on December 14, 1974. Communist rebels and North Vietnamese troops captured Phuoc Binh on January 9, 1975 and Ban Me Thuot on March 13, 1975. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) appealed for assistance for internally-displaced individuals on April 3, 1975. Communist rebels and North Vietnamese troops captured Phan Thiet on April 19, 1975. President Thieu resigned on April 21, 1975, and Vice-President Tran Van Huong was sworn in as president. President Huong resigned on April 27, 1975, and General Duong Van Minh was sworn in as president on April 28, 1975. Communist rebels and North Vietnamese troops captured Saigon on April 30, 1975.  The ICCS mission was disbanded on April 30, 1975.  Some 171,000 individuals, including 56,000 South Vietnamese soldiers, 100,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers, and 15,000 South Vietnamese civilians, were killed during in political violence between June 1973 and April 1975. Some 70,000 South Vietnamese were evacuated from the country by the US military in 1975.

[Sources: Bercovitch and Jackson, 1997, 99-100; Clodfelter, 1992, 1126-1127, 1221-1324; Cox, 1983, 298-333; Donelan and Grieve, 1973, 99-105; Facts on File, April 27-May 3, 1961, October 31-November 6, 1963, November 7-13, 1963, January 23-29, 1964, January 21-27, 1965, February 18-24, 1965, September 30-October 6, 1971, April 26, 1975, May 3, 1975; Keesing’s Record of World Events, April 18-25, 1964, December 12-19, 1964, March 27-April 3, 1965, May 29-June 5, 1965, June 5-12, 1965, February 12-19, 1966, November 26-December 3, 1966, June 30-July 6, 1975; Langer, 1972, 1325-1330; O’Ballance, 1975, 190-195; Rikhye et al., 1874, 178-210; Rovine, 1970, 400-414; Tillema, 1973, 52-60; Wehrfritz and Moreau, 2000, 36-37; Weisburd, 1997, 120-128.]

 

Selected Bibliography

Cox, David. 1983. “The International Commission of Control and Supervision in Vietnam, 1973,” in Henry Wiseman, editor.
Peacekeeping: Appraisals & Proposals. New York and Oxford: Pergamon Press, 298-333.

O’Ballance, Edgar. 1975. The Wars in Vietnam 1954-1973. New York: Hippocrene Books, Inc.

Thakur, Ramesh. 1984. Peacekeeping in Vietnam: Canada, India, Poland, and the International Commission. Edmonton,
Alberta: The University of Alberta Press.

Wehrfritz, George and Ron Moreau. 2000. “South Korea’s Vietnam.” Newsweek (April 10): 36-37.