The French had been present in the region that we currently call Vietnam since the 17th century. Back then, they mostly dropped in to say "hi" and to trade some swag every once in a while. But in the mid-19th century, France decided that they totally wanted the area for themselves—so they completely yanked it from the locals. In 1862, they made Cochinchina (a.k.a. French Indochina, a.k.a. Vietnam) an official colony.
After spending some time in France, learning about things like revolution, freedom, and national independence, Ho Chi Minh joined the Socialist Party of France and became a founding member of the French Communist Party.
The world became entangled in one of the most brutal wars in modern history on this day. Many folks in Vietnam probably thought that they would be able to steer clear of the carnage since the fighting began in Europe. But as all you World War II buffs know, the fighting soon spread all over the globe, and Vietnam would find itself right in the middle.
When France fell to Nazi forces on this day in World War II history, Vietnamese leaders viewed it as an opportunity to take their country back.
They formed small militias to fight off the Axis powers and did what they could to reclaim political control. But they always seemed to be picked on by the bigger imperial bullies. Despite their efforts, France, Germany, and Japan all vied for control of Vietnam during the war.
After all those years of French rule, the Vietnamese never really got used to the taste of baguettes and brie and colonial exploitation, so Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam free from the French. The only problem was that the French didn't really want to let that happen.
In another act of imperial rudeness, France tried to take the region back after the end of World War II. They did so with the support of nearly every Allied nation, including the United States. To put it nicely, the Vietnamese who fought against the Axis powers and tried to maintain control of their country had more than their feelings hurt.
At this point, the United States wasn't quite sure what to do.
You know when your friend gets into a fight and you don't really want to get involved because you're pretty sure that your friend can handle the situation? That was the United States, and the friend was France.
The problem was that France couldn't handle the situation. So the United States promised to have their back with money, weapons, and maybe even ground troops if the situation got any worse. Well, the situation got worse.
This time, Vietnam really became French-free. France and North Vietnam signed an agreement to end their conflict, but despite their efforts, the United States still wanted in on that game. The war wasn't over; the French were just out of the picture.
Many historians have viewed this as a critical point in Nixon's career. In terms of politics, Nixon had more experience and knowledge than Kennedy, but he simply didn't have the swagger. It's possible this turned into a sense of paranoia or inadequacy, which might somewhat explain the whole Watergate fiasco.
Either way, it was an upset win for JFK.
In a total Game of Thrones move, the president of South Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem, is assassinated.
(Also like A Game of Thrones, the politics get a little complicated here, so bear with us.)
Diem was assassinated by pro-North Vietnam South Vietnamese, and they did it with the help of U.S. military officials. The problem, however, was that Diem was an ally of the United States who came into power using American support and by rigging the local elections. Got that? Good.
This resolution allowed the United States to declare war in Vietnam without actually declaring war. Yeah, wrap your head around that one. When a U.S. Navy destroyer was attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin, President Johnson and Congress signed this resolution, which was basically a blank check to send troops, ammo, and more money into Vietnam.
Nixon finally got what he wanted…kind of. Sure, we've said "kind of" a lot in this section of American history. It's true, though: Nixon only kind of got what he wanted.
He finally was voted into the presidency, but it's possible that if he had known how much of a headache the Vietnam War was going to be for him, he probably would have run the other way. Screaming.
When Nixon gave this speech in 1969, he hit his highest moment. People started to feel really good about his plan. It seemed like an end to the war in Vietnam was actually in sight. Nixon's ratings even shot through the roof following the speech.
Little did he know that these good feelings and ratings would come crashing down in a fiery ball of embarrassment and shame by the end of his presidency.
This one is for all you government conspiracy nuts out there. The New York Times began releasing a ton of secret information regarding the war in Vietnam. Americans learned that President Johnson had been intentionally lying about the events of the war, that the U.S. military had illegally bombed Cambodia and Laos, that the CIA had a hand in the assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem, and that quite possibly aliens built the pyramids.
Okay, not that last one. But support for the Vietnam War took another nosedive after this info was released.
If you've ever watched House of Cards, you've probably wondered if all the lies and deceits will ever come crashing down on the Underwoods. Well, they came crashing down for Richard Nixon. Granted, Nixon wasn't as bad as the Underwoods, but he did get caught illegally wiretapping the Democratic headquarters in Washington in 1972. And then he lied about it.
He actually continued to lie about it until this day, when the pressure got to him and he resigned from the presidency.
America didn't get "peace with honor" when it came to ending the Vietnam War, like Nixon promised. Instead, it became a long, drawn-out, and painful process that took dozens of years and tens of thousands of soldiers getting killed on the battlefield. On this day, the United States agreed to an eventual withdrawal of its troops from the nation.