Disclaimer: This is intended to be unbiased and completely nonpolitical. I encourage readers to do their own research on this interesting subject.
You’ve heard of Vietnam and you likely associate it with negative things. Take all that baggage and check it at the door until the end of this post. To do this place justice requires some background and an open mind. I am only touching ever-so-lightly on a very complicated and intricate history. So, here we go:
Modern day Vietnam was part of Imperial China for around a millennium. About 1000AD, the Vietnamese people fought a war with China and won. They became their own country and various dynasty’s came and went until around the 19th century. Then along came the French. They saw what everyone sees when you look at a map of Vietnam: *Toronto real estate agent voice* location, location, location. That and a society less developed, both militarily and politically, than their own. Resulting to brute force they slowly began conquering Vietnam and southeast Asia.
The French weren’t quite the deal makers the English were when it came to colonization; there was bloodshed and things got very messy. They inserted puppet leaders (something the British did with finesse) but conditions were rough for the locals under French rule and resentment simmered among the Vietnamese population. Eventually, the French held all Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and a portion of Thailand. This portion of land was named French Indochina and became a jewel in France’s colonial crown. The French held this land for roughly a century and in that time left a lasting influence. Vietnam’s main cities have beautiful colonial architecture and their language and food are a unique fusion of East and West.
“Hanoi Hilton”, as American POW’s nicknamed it, was a French built jail which has been converted into a museum. John McCain’s pilot suit was saved during his crash. He was imprisoned here.
Enter in a young man named (one of his aliases) Ho Chi Minh. He’s smart, driven and deeply patriotic to his country. He travels to Europe and studies in France. He learns about Marxism in the Soviet Union and this resonates with him. He moves back to northern Vietnam and puts in motion the beginnings of a new political party. Along comes WW2 and shakes the world to its core. France falls to Germany and France’s colony’s, all of whom had suffered brutality, begin flirting with the idea of independence. Come the end of WW2 and Europe’s in shambles and two major players have arisen to new heights. Those being, the United States and the Soviet Union. Their political beliefs are polar opposite and they’re in full military mode.
France desperately tries to hold onto the remnants of its dwindling empire. It pours men into French Indochina to regain sovereignty but Ho Chi Minh uses guerilla tactics and drains France’s willpower to continue. During this time, China becomes communist and gives support to Ho Chi Minh. This resource brings an end to France’s colonization of Indochina and leaves a unified north Vietnam. The United States begins to fear the whole continent of Asia will fall to communism and provides support to the south Vietnamese. Things intensify and become more polarized between the north and south Vietnamese people. Two decades pass of a politically driven proxy war between the major powers of the world and Vietnam is the battlefield. The Vietnam war is horrendous to all involved and the suffering and lasting impact is almost impossible to measure. The war is extremely controversial in the United States and spurs important civil rights movements that change the nation. At the conclusion of the war, Vietnam emerges as The Socialist Republic of Vietnam and begins its march to brighter days. In recent years, Vietnam has been financially successful with impressive growth and modernization.
Ho Chi Minh is regarded as the unifying force of Vietnam and for that he is exalted. His remains are in the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum located in the center of Hanoi. The Vietnamese people seem to have moved on from the war. Society hums along and it seems that all are happy about peace and independence. Their country has forever been changed by powers larger than them. The people here have suffered greatly for a long time. Now is their time to live freely and try to give their children a better life.