Paris Peace Accords
Vietnam had been a perpetual battleground for decades before the beginning of the American War in Vietnam, also referred to as the Second Indochina War or the Vietnam conflict. The Vietnamese had suffered under French colonial rule for almost 60 years and in 1940 the Japanese invaded and added more fuel to the constant battle for independence.
Things began to change in 1941 when communist advocate Ho Chi Minh returned to his motherland after traveling the world for 30 years. He established a revolutionary army called the Viet Minh and set up headquarters in a cave in northern Vietnam. The main goal of this new group was to oust the French and Japanese so the country could experience the independence the people believed they deserved.
North Vietnam supported Ho Chi Minh's group, and in 1945 a new government called the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was established. The French weren't willing to give up their colony without a fight so the battles continued. Minh tried to get the US to support his efforts for years. He even gave the US vital information about the Japanese during World War II to strengthen his position with Washington but even that didn't enender support.
Despite his aide, his efforts fell on deaf ears for years. The Cold War foreign policy was all about containing the spread of communism. The US held the position that if Vietnam became a communist government the rest of the countries in the area would convert to that form of government and that reality was unacceptable. The US called that process the 'domino theory.'
The US decided to help France instead of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and US military aid began in 1950. Even with military aid from the US, the French suffered a major defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, which finally prompted their withdrawal. When the Geneva Conference convened in 1954 the Geneva Accords stipulated a ceasefire so the French could withdraw peacefully.
The Geneva Accords also stipulated that Vietnam would temporarily be divided along the 17th parallel, which split the country into the communist North and the non-communist South. An election was set in 1956 to reunite the country but the US thought the North could win so that election never took place.
The South held a US-backed election without the North and elected Ngo Dinh Diem. The election turned out to be a major mistake. Diem was such a horrible leader that a group of communist sympathizers organized the National Liberation Front (NLF) in the South. Those fighters became the Viet Cong in 1960. They used guerilla warfare to topple the South's government.
Peace talks in Paris finally made some progress in temporarily ending the Vietnam conflict in January of 1973. A ceasefire was signed by the North, the South and the US that year. US troops finally left Vietnam in 1973, based on the terms of the Paris Peace Accords. That agreement also stipulated that the South could determine its own political future through democratic elections.
The two parties involved in elections were the Viet Cong and the Saigon Party. The elections would be held under international supervision. The Paris Peace Accords also made it a point to reunify Vietnam through a step-by-step peaceful process. The agreement looked good on paper but it didn't last long.
In 1975, the South was toppled by a major invasion by Northern forces. The negotiations that were part of the Paris Peace Accords broke down and on April 30, 1975 South Vietnam surrendered to the North. On July 2, 1976 Vietnam was finally reunited under communist rule and became the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.