First Indochina War
The First Indochina War was one of the first proxy wars of the Cold War. During World War II, Japan invaded and took control of Vietnam which was part of French Indochina. Yet just a few months later on August 22nd, 1945 Japan surrendered but since they were the only troops capable of maintaining control in the country they remained in Vietnam. Knowing that they were going to surrender control to the French anyway, the Japanese allowed the Viet Minh and other nationalist groups to take control of public buildings and weapons.
In September of 1945, Ho Chi Minh, a leader within the Viet Minh, claimed that due to the exploitation of the Japanese and poor weather, a famine killed more than 2 million Vietnamese. In response, the Viet Minh arranged a relief effort to help the poor and starving in the north. This resulted in massive support for the Viet Minh over Vichy France in north Vietnam. In 1946, the French forces who came to re-take control of Vietnam were outnumbered, but they had superior weapons and support from the Navy. This allowed them to retake the capital and force the Viet Minh to far-flung areas. A guerrilla war ensured for years until 1949 when the French granted Vietnam “independence” as an associated state in the French Union.
The Viet Minh still denounced the government put in place by the French because it was not complete independent. In 1949 the United States began providing military aid to France. By 1950, China and the Soviet Union declared Ho Chi Minh the rightful leader of Vietnam and began providing more military aid. Fighting continued for years until the Geneva Conference in 1954 divided the country into North and South Vietnam. Including civilians, military and Viet Minh as many as 800,000 people were killed in the conflict.