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History of Vietnam: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Michael Gott

Mike is a veteran of the New Hampshire public school system and has worked in grades 1-12. His role has varied from primary instructor to special needs support.

Vietnam's struggle to achieve independence has taken hundreds of years. China, France, and the United States all tried to invade and control Vietnam, while the Vietnamese people have fought against these foreign invaders.

The People That Cannot Be Conquered

Sometimes you just want to be left alone to make decisions for yourself. This is what the people of Vietnam have wanted for hundreds of years, yet for much of their history, foreign countries have tried to control them and failed. How would you feel if you were often attacked by foreign countries who wanted to tell you how to live?

Early History of Vietnam

In Vietnam, the first people to live there can be traced back 5,000 years. Later in 207 BCE, the Chinese successfully invaded, naming the land 'Nam Viet'; it became part of China 96 years later. Around 939 CE, a man named, Ngo Quyen led the army that forced the Chinese from Nam Viet and renamed the country 'Dai Viet'. 'Dai Viet' was very unstable, and in the 1500s, it broke in two: the 'Trinh' in the north and 'Nguyen' in the south.

European Influence in Vietnam

The 'Nguyen' people formed an alliance with the French in 1802, conquering 'Trinh' and naming it Vietnam. France slowly took power from the Vietnamese people. They would control Vietnam until World War II, when the Japanese invaded the country. When World War II ended, the Japanese returned Vietnam to the French, but the people of Vietnam wanted freedom instead. In 1954, the Vietnamese forced the French out of the country and the country was split in two. In North Vietnam, their leader was Ho Chi Minh. Ho Chi Minh established a communist government, and wanted to reunify the country. The United States was afraid of communism spreading beyond China and the Soviet Union, so the United States supported the government of South Vietnam with troops. Many people in Southern Vietnam objected to this.

The American War in Vietnam

After the French left Vietnam, President Eisenhower committed the United States to ensuring North and South Vietnam stayed separate. Support for 'Ho Chi Minh' remained strong in North Vietnam, and in the south, many Vietnamese people believed 'Ho Chi Minh' should lead Vietnam, not the United States or another foreign county. In South Vietnam, these people were known as the 'Viet Minh' or 'Viet Cong'. Now the United States was fighting an army in the North and guerrilla forces in the South. Guerrilla forces are armies that avoid traditional combat and rely on surprising their enemy and then retreating and hiding, and continuing this pattern. As fighting in Vietnam became more intense, the number of United States soldiers sent to Vietnam increased.

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