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Unit 6: Modern World History

Lesson B: 20th Century Global Politics - Decolonization

Activity 4: End of Colonialism

During World War II, Imperial Japan expelled the French and occupied Vietnam. After the war, France tried to re-establish their colonial rule in Vietnam, but it failed in the First Indochina War. It ended in a bitter defeat for the French and a division of Vietnam: Communists ruled in North Vietnam and non-Communists controlled South Vietnam.

The leadership of the North did not like this division and wanted a unified Vietnam under one government. This partition of Vietnam led to the Vietnam War. During this time, China and the Soviet Union supported North Vietnam. The United States supported South Vietnam.

In order to stop the spread of communism, the United States became involved. The U.S. sent military advisors and later ground troops. They tried to stop the spread of communism by keeping it contained in the northern part of Vietnam. The reason for this effort was the belief in the domino theory, that if one country in an area fell to communism, all surrounding countries automatically became communist. As a result of this belief, through the years the United States sent thousands of men and supplies to South Vietnam to keep it from falling to the North Vietnamese communists.

After millions of Vietnamese deaths, the war ended with the fall of Saigon to North Vietnam in April 1975. The United States failed to stop the spread of communism due to the lack of knowledge of Vietnam's people, culture, history, and the lack of a quality plan to win over the Vietnamese people. Vietnam was reunified and free from all colonial powers. By the following year, it was completely unified and independent.

Directions: Examine the images in Documents 2 and 3 that relate to Vietnam's fight for independence, and record information on your Student Resource: Decolonization Case Study Graphic Organizer.

Document 2: South Vietnamese Refugees Boarding a U.S. Navy Vessel           Document 3: North Vietnamese Tank Crashing Through the Presidential Palace
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Written Activity - Notebook

Record the document and information gathered on your Student Resource: Decolonization Case Study. Be sure to think about the following questions as you record information.

  • Why would some people be fleeing Vietnam with only the clothes on their backs and the suitcases they could carry?
  • What does the second picture tell you about the fighting that took place in Vietnam?