In 1945, Vietnamese nationalist Ho Chi Minh and his Vietminh League forced the Japanese out of Vietnam after defeating their army. Ho believed that independence would follow, but France wanted their colony back.
In 1954, French forces suffered a crippling defeat at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. They had been holding most of the Vietnamese cities, but the Vietminh were using hit-and-run tactics to keep the French concentrated in the cities.
After the French defeat, a Geneva convention was called to discuss the future of Indochina. The convention decided to split Vietnam along the 17th parallel. Communist North Vietnam would be controlled by Ho Chi Minh, and the US set up an anti-Communist dictatorship headed by Ngo Dinh Deim.
In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson convinced Congress to authorize US involvement in the Vietnam War. By 1965, about 185,000 US soldiers were in Vietnam. By 1968, there were more than half a million.
After years of the US public voicing their hate for the Vietnam War, President Nixon finally buckled and began to withdraw US forces from Vietnam. The last soldier left in 1973. 2 years later, the Vietcong forces overwhelmed the Southern armies. The North had won.