The story of the Vietnam War was of a constant escalation by the West in the face of continuing defeats. First of all, there was France, which was forced to leave its colony (French Indochina) after the humiliating defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 (with the US funding 80% of the French military expenditures). Ho Chih Minh, the Vietnamese communist leader, had reached out to the West but was rebuffed; French Indochina was seen as a lesser than to be exploited by the West, not one to be accepted as an equal with its sovereignty respected. In 1954 French Indochina was split into three countries; Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Vietnam was further split into a North and South, with the possibility of reunification after elections in 1956. In 1955 Ngo Dinh Diem grabbed the leadership of the South and, backed by the West, reneged on the possibilities of elections and reunification. With aid and advisors from the West, he successfully kept the communist guerillas, the Viet Cong, at bay until 1963 when mass demonstrations by the majority Buddhist community against his Catholic leadership lead to violent repression and then a US-driven coup.
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