Divided Vietnam

The roots

The Vietnam War had risen from Indochina wars of the 1940s and ’50s, when nationalist groups like Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh, opposed the colonial rule first of Japan and then of France. The North was entirely under the control of the Vietnamese Communist Party, driven by Ho Chi Minh; its capital was Hanoi. Elections to decide the future of Vietnam, South, and North, were to be held in 1956.

Ngo Dinh Diem, the premier of South Vietnam, encountered opposition from the communist regime in the North and the Viet Minh’s stay-behind political agents, armed religious sects in the South, and even subversive elements in his army. Yet Diem had the support of U.S. military advisers, who trained and reequipped his army.

Diem’s consolidation of power

By late 1955 Diem had finally consolidated his power in the South. Publicly opposed to the elections, he called for a referendum only in the South, and in October 1955, declared himself President of the Republic of Vietnam. The North, not prepared to start a new war and unable to induce its Russian or Chinese allies to act, could do little.