Background to the Vietnam War

The Vietnam War was one of the most controversial conflicts of the twentieth century and Australian involvement in the War from 1962 to 1975 led to the largest sustained anti-military campaigning in Australia’s history.

The Vietnam War emerged from the conflict between the communist Viet Minh, and the French colonial powers and South Vietnamese regime. In 1954 the Viet Minh defeated the French Battle of Dien Bien Phu, and the Geneva Accords were held, which partitioned Vietnam into a North and South, but promised internationally supervised elections to unify the country.

Failure to hold these elections led to increased civil conflict between North and South Vietnamese communist forces and the anti-communist South Vietnamese regime during the late 1950s and early 1960s.

In early 1965, the US Johnson Administration began a major ground intervention in Vietnam that was to increase to 500,000 US troops at the height of the war. This was in support of the South Vietnamese Diem regime in a civil conflict with the North Vietnamese government and the National Liberation Front in the South, following Diem’s refusal to hold the national elections called for in the Geneva Accords.

This major entry to the conflict by the USA was followed by other western countries, including Australia, and the Vietnam War as we know it began.