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These 40 Rarely Seen photos sum up the devastating 20 years of the Vietnam War

Ian Smith

The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era proxy war that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War (1946–54) and was fought between North Vietnam—supported by the Soviet Union, China and other communist allies—and the government of South Vietnam—supported by the United States, Philippines and other anti-communist allies.The Viet Cong (also known as the National Liberation Front, or NLF), a South Vietnamese communist common front aided by the North, fought a guerrilla war against anti-communist forces in the region. The People’s Army of Vietnam, also known as the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), engaged in a more conventional war, at times committing large units to battle.

As the war continued, the part of the Viet Cong in the fighting decreased as the role of the NVA grew. U.S. and South Vietnamese forces relied on air superiority and overwhelming firepower to conduct search and destroy operations, involving ground forces, artillery, and airstrikes. In the course of the war, the U.S. conducted a large-scale strategic bombing campaign against North Vietnam.

 

 

Vietnamese people's army artillery units push forward through difficult country

Vietnamese people’s army artillery units push forward through difficult country

 

US Soldiers Company D, 151st Ranger Infantry Division, 1969

US Soldiers Company D, 151st Ranger Infantry Division, 1969

 

South Vietnam War, August 12, 1964

South Vietnam War, August 12, 1964

 

NhaTrang, April 30, 1975

NhaTrang, April 30, 1975

 

February 9, 1965

February 9, 1965

 

Vietnam War, 1970

Vietnam War, 1970

 

US Soldiers carrying packs, Saigon, 1969

 

Soldier of the 1st Air Cavalry leads a group of blindfolded Montagnard men, suspected of working with the Viet Cong, 1966

Soldier of the 1st Air Cavalry leads a group of blindfolded Montagnard men, suspected of working with the Viet Cong, 1966

 

Marines capture Viet Cong, 18 June 1970

 

Army transport, 1966

Army transport, 1966

The U.S. government viewed its involvement in the war as a way to prevent a Communist takeover of South Vietnam. This was part of a wider containment policy, with the stated aim of stopping the spread of communism. The North Vietnamese government and the Viet Cong were fighting to reunify Vietnam under communist rule. They viewed the conflict as a colonial war, fought initially against forces from France and then America, and later against South Vietnam

Beginning in 1950, American military advisors arrived in what was then French Indochina.U.S. involvement escalated in the early 1960s, with troop levels tripling in 1961 and again in 1962. U.S. involvement escalated further following the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, in which a U.S. destroyer clashed with North Vietnamese fast attack craft, which was followed by the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave the U.S. president authorization to increase U.S. military presence. Regular U.S. combat units were deployed beginning in 1965. Operations crossed international borders: bordering areas of Laos and Cambodia were heavily bombed by U.S. forces as American involvement in the war peaked in 1968, the same year that the communist side launched the Tet Offensive. The Tet Offensive failed in its goal of overthrowing the South Vietnamese government, but became the turning point in the war, as it persuaded a large segment of the United States population that its government’s claims of progress toward winning the war were illusory despite many years of massive U.S. military aid to South Vietnam.

August 1967

August 1967

 

1968 crying woman carrying her belonings from destroyed home

1968 crying woman carrying her belonings from destroyed home

 

A street scene in Vietnam, November 16, 1972

A street scene in Vietnam, November 16, 1972

 

1965 Communist Viet Cong

1965 Communist Viet Cong

 

25 November 1967

25 November 1967

 

American soldiers, September 1967

American soldiers, September 1967

 

An unidentified U.S. soldier takes a moment to pray for the fallen men on this Memorial Day in Vietnam, May 30, 1968

An unidentified U.S. soldier takes a moment to pray for the fallen men on this Memorial Day in Vietnam, May 30, 1968

 

Da Nang, South Vietnam, 1 August 1966

Da Nang, South Vietnam, 1 August 1966

 

Da Nang Marine Corps tank, 1965

Da Nang Marine Corps tank, 1965

 

March 21 1967 US soldiers

March 21 1967 US soldiers

March 3, 1965

March 3, 1965

 

June 1970

June 1970

 

June 15, 1964

 

November 15, 1965

November 15, 1965

 

October 5, 1964 featuring partially stripped and tied Viet Cong prisoners sit on ground under armed guard in prison camp

October 5, 1964 featuring partially stripped and tied Viet Cong prisoners sit on ground under armed guard in prison camp

 

Operation Masher, May 7, 1966

Operation Masher, May 7, 1966

 

Paratroopers cross a river in the rain near Ben Cat, South Vietnam, 1965

Paratroopers cross a river in the rain near Ben Cat, South Vietnam, 1965

 

People's militia unit in Vietnam in 1965

People’s militia unit in Vietnam in 1965

 

Protection from gas vomiting improvised plastic masks, Saigon,South Vietnam, 1966

 

US Soldier November, 1967

US Soldier November, 1967

U.S. troops, September 25, 1965

U.S. Marines from amphibious force ships off Vietnam wade ashore to converge on a Viet Cong position, 9 September 1966

 

 

Vietnam War, 1965

Vietnam War, 1965

 

South Vietnam War, Khe Sanh, 1971

South Vietnam War, Khe Sanh, 1971

 

Viet Cong guerrilla prisoner who was captured by Vietnamese soldiers in Camau, August 1962

Viet Cong guerrilla prisoner who was captured by Vietnamese soldiers in Camau, August 1962

 

Tank M-109 self-propelled howitzer, Khe Sanh, 1971

Tank M-109 self-propelled howitzer, Khe Sanh, 1971

 

US Soldiers, April 24, 1967

US Soldiers, April 24, 1967

 

US troops build supports for cannons in Vietnam, 1972

US troops build supports for cannons in Vietnam, 1972

 

A Viet Cong guerrilla throws up his arms in surrender in a rice paddy, January 16, 1965

A Viet Cong guerrilla throws up his arms in surrender in a rice paddy, January 16, 1965

 

Vietnam War, 1969

Vietnam War, 1969

Photos found on Vintage Everyday by rising70