A Brief History of the Vietnam War

Note: This is background history for people reading the story My Country and the Way to America written by a child who escaped Vietnam on a boat and was finally settled in America.

Vietnam is a country in Southeast Asia. It borders China, Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia. In the mid-1800s France conquered Vietnam along with Thailand and Cambodia. This area of French control was called French Indochina. Vietnam was therefore a French colony. 88 During World War II (1940-1945) the Japanese controlled Vietnam. After the defeat of the Japanese in 1945 French Indonesia broke up into its separate countries and in Vietnam a new war started because the French tried to reassert their control over Vietnam. Too many people in Vietnam wanted independence. The French were defeated in 1954 and withdrew from Vietnam. The story is a more complicated than this, but for a basic introduction to the Vietnam War, th war that began against the French continued after their defeat and their eventual replacement by the United States as the foreign power fighting for control of Vietnam. The United States was not trying to make Vietnam a colony, but as the victor in the war against the Japanese the Americans were looking for as much of Asia as possible to be friendly to the United States. At this time much of the world was dividing into two political camps — Capitalism where private property was the rule — and Communism where the government owned most or all of the property. Vietnam was moving towards Communism and the United States did not want that to happen.

In 1973, when I was just finishing college, the United States was defeated and Vietnam became an independent country. As it has turned out communism itself changed and became more capitalistic. The US is now friendly with Vietnam. There is peace between these two former enemies.

The story of the Vietnam War is long and complex. You can read about it in the Wikipedia. You may also want to look for books sin the library and discuss the war with your parents. Many Americans have very strong views about the American involvement in Vietnam. There are some who think it was a very good idea and are sorry for the American defeat. Many others think it was an awful idea, and are glad the war ended. During the time of the war there were many demonstrations in the United States against it. By the time the war ended a majority of the American people were opposed to the wear. This said, the Vietnam War stirs up  strong emotions in the United States, and in other countries as well.

What is important to understand for this project is that in the end, whatever the merits of war that may be declared by governments and politicians, children and their families always become the majority of victims. Wars, and in this case the end of a war, often leads to huge numbers of people fleeing. After the American defeat  large numbers of Vietnamese were desperate to leave Vietnam and many escaped the country illegally on boats.

Today, when I write this, it is May, 2016. One million people fled wars to Europe last year, most of them at one point in their journey crossed water on substandard boats. As I write this, boats like those described in one of the stories here are on the Mediterranean Sea heading to Europe. Many people end up drowning as do people in the story, “My Country and the Way to America.” Escape under terrible circumstances from war and its consequences is, unfortunately, something that is a universal characteristic of all wars.

About the Author

In 1973, I was twenty years old, teaching children's art classes at my college, the University of California, Santa Cruz, and came up with the idea that the best way to encourage children to write was to introduce them to the best writing by their peers. Stone Soup grew out of that idea. Along with co-editor Gerry Mandel, I have continued to edit and publish Stone Soup for all these years. I am also a culinary historian. I write about traditional foodways. My book, "The Magic of Fire," is about hearth cooking. My book, "Bread, a global history," speaks for itself. I am currently writing a bread history for a University Press. I publish articles on gardening and traditional foodways at Mother Earth News. I also publish on wild mushrooms and other food-related subjects.

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