In order to understand the Vietnam Era, it is necessary to understand Vietnam and its people. Early Vietnamese history is lost in folklore and legend, but the region was ruled by a series of local kings until a period of more or less continuous Chinese occupation in the first millennium A.D. This left the Vietnamese with a lasting distaste for foreign occupation.

After ousting the Chinese, the region was ruled by a succession of local dynasties, but unity, when it was occurred, was short-lived, and the region was often embroiled in conflict. Finally, in the late 18th century the French were granted commercial concessions, and in 1857, used a military invasion to inaugurate nearly a century of colonial rule.

Colonial rule bred resentment among Vietnamese of all classes, and by the early 20th century, various nationalist movements had arisen. Following World War II, the return of the French prompted the Viet Minh to fight for their independence and bring about the end of colonial rule. However, the country was partitioned into North and South by the Geneva accords of 1954. Those who did not wish to live under the new communist regime in the North fled to the South, while many Viet Minh remained quietly in the South, setting the stage for what was to become "the American War."

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