South Vietnam

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Quốc gia Việt Nam (1949–1955)
Việt Nam Cộng hòa (1955–1975)
Cộng hòa Miền Nam Việt Nam (1975–1976)
Vietnam SudSouth Vietnam Coat of arms of the Republic of Vietnam (1963-1975) .svg
flag coat of arms
Flag of Colonial Annam.svg French IndochinaSouth VietnamVietnam Sud RepublicRepublic of South Vietnam 
South Vietnam in its region.svg
Official language Vietnamese
Capital Sàigòn
Last president Dương Văn Minh
Last prime minister Vũ Văn Mẫu
 - total
 -% water

173,809 sq km
N / A
 - total
 - population density

19,370,000 (1973)
111 inhabitants per km²
 - Declared
 - Recognized
 -Change ofGovernment
 - Dissolved
of France
June 14, 1949
October 26, 1955
July 2, 1976
currency Đồng
Time zone UTC +7
National anthem Tiếng gọi công dân
Map of South Vietnam

South Vietnam refers to several historical states that emerged from the division of Vietnam in 1954 after the French defeat in the Battle of Điện Biên Phủ in the Indochina War . The official names were from 1949 to 1955 State of Vietnam (Quốc gia Việt Nam), then until 1975 Republic of Vietnam (Việt Nam Cộng Hòa). After the surrender of the Republic of Vietnam at the end of the Vietnam War , the communist-dominated Republic of South Vietnam (Cộng Hòa Miền Nam Việt Nam) was established, which was united with North Vietnam in July 1976 to form the Socialist Republic of Vietnam .

South Vietnam's capital was Saigon . The authoritarian anti-communist government of Ngô Đình Diệm rejected the agreements of the Indochina Conference and prevented the all-Vietnamese elections scheduled for 1956.

The National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam , which was directed against Diem's ​​authoritarian rule, came into being in South Vietnam . As a result of these problems, the Vietnam War broke out in 1964 , which, apart from US air strikes on North Vietnamese , Cambodian and Laotian targets, took place mainly on South Vietnamese soil and wreaked havoc on the country.


South Vietnam can be divided into three major landscape areas: the flat stretches of land on the coast , the mountainous hinterland Truong Son and the fertile Mekong Delta in the very south of the country. The climate is tropical.

From 1967 the country was divided into 44 provinces. The capital Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City after its capture by the FNL on May 1, 1975 .



The southern part of Vietnam was part of the French colony of Indochina as Cochinchina from 1863 to 1954 and was ruled by a governor from Hanoi . The European occupiers used South Vietnam primarily for plantation cultivation . Individual Cochin-Chinese had the right to vote in the French National Assembly and were also culturally influenced by France. After France was defeated by the German Reich in World War II in 1940 , Cochinchina was administered by the Vichy government . In the further course of the war, Vietnam was finally occupied by Japan , which resulted in dual rule by the French and the Japanese over the country until the French were finally ousted in March 1945. The Japanese then declared Vietnam's independence and controlled the country in the background. The militant association Việt Minh under the leadership of Hồ Chí Minh , which consisted of nationalists and communists, fought against foreign rule . After the Japanese surrendered to the Allies in August 1945 , Hồ Chí Minh declared Vietnam's independence in Hanoi during the August Revolution and, after the abdication of the Japanese puppet emperor Bảo Đại , founded the communist Democratic Republic of Vietnam on August 25 , which he himself ruled as president. France recognized the autonomy of Vietnam on March 6, 1946, but revoked it in November of the same year.

As early as September 1945, the French began to re-establish their old administration in South Vietnam and in June 1946 declared Cochinchina an autonomous republic, which was to remain part of the French Indochina colony . As a result, they tried to regain control over the north of the country. As a result, the Việt Minh began the Indochina War in December with the attack on the French garrison in Hanoi in order to end foreign rule.

Establishment of the state of Vietnam

On June 14, 1949, an anti-communist counter-government to the Viet Minh, loyal to France, was formed in Saigon in southern Vietnam . It was led by the former emperor Bảo Đại . Vietnam then became an object of the Cold War , as the western powers Great Britain and the USA recognized the state of Vietnam in the south, while the Eastern bloc states such as China or the Soviet Union officially recognized the government of the north under Ho Chi Minh. The admission of South Vietnam as a member state of the United Nations failed in 1957 due to the veto of the Soviet Union.

After the French withdrew from Vietnam as a result of the defeat in the Battle of Điện Biên Phủ , the Indochina War ended. The country gained its independence and was divided into the communist north and the south under Emperor Bao Dai during the Indochina Conference in 1954, who should continue to be under Western influence. The division of the country was only supposed to take place provisionally; all-Vietnamese elections were planned for 1956.

Rule of the Ngô Đình Diệm

The all-Vietnamese elections planned for 1956 did not take place, however, because in 1955 the Prime Minister of the South Vietnamese government, the Catholic nationalist Ngô Đình Diệm , deposed the emperor Bảo Đại, who was unpopular with the people, and proclaimed South Vietnam a republic . In a rigged referendum on October 23, 1955, Diệm was elected the first President of the Republic of Vietnam with 98% of the vote. Diệm was supported by the USA, which later heavily subsidized the state budget, and rejected the resolutions of the Indochina Conference. With the argument that South Vietnam had not signed the Indochina Treaty, Diệm declared that the all-Vietnamese elections would not take place. In truth, he rejected the elections because he feared that the communists would prevail in them. The French withdrew their last soldiers from Vietnam in 1956 and did not prevent Diệm from his plans.

The US government sent military advisers to South Vietnam to help combat the latent uprising that flared up from 1957 onwards. The religious minority of the Caodaists or the criminal organization Bình Xuyên were defeated by the authoritarian president in military actions. By destroying the imperial guard and Buddhist troops or militias loyal to the emperor, he also decisively weakened the anti-communist forces in Vietnam.

In order to secure his power, Di setztem placed relatives in the highest state offices. He created two secret services that spied on one another and had 12,000 people killed between 1955 and 1957, mostly political opponents, but not only communists. In addition, about 150,000 people were arrested.

In the next few years, however, the president made himself increasingly unpopular among the population and also with the USA, without which South Vietnam would not have been able to survive, because he rejected land reform . Instead, he ordered forced relocations of the rural population in order to withdraw members from the FNL . The forced relocations, however, achieved the opposite of their original goal: many people who had previously opposed communism now joined the FNL to resist Di leistenm. The Catholic President continued a Christian conversion campaign. This earned him the aversion of the Buddhists in the country, and the USA also turned more and more away from him because of Diệm's authoritarian style of rule.

Then, on May 8, 1963, the Buddhist crisis rocked South Vietnam: on Buddha's birthday , Buddhist monks forbidden to display Buddhist flags, whereupon Diệm's elite soldiers shot at the unarmed crowd. Nine people died. After this incident, there were further demonstrations - mainly by students - against the president, which he also had bloodily suppressed. In June 1963 the pictures of the protests reached the world public when the monk Thích Quảng Đức burned himself.

The corpse of Ngô Đình Diệm

During the Buddhist crisis, the USA sent a new ambassador to Saigon, Henry Cabot Lodge junior . This signaled to the dissatisfied generals of the ARVN that the United States government had no objection to a change of power in South Vietnam. As a result, Diệm was overthrown in a military coup on November 1, 1963 . Diệm only showed willingness to reform when his presidential palace had already been surrounded by soldiers and his guards had been disarmed. In vain, Diệm asked the US ambassador for help and then fled with his brother through secret underground passages. Nevertheless, the two were later found and killed by the coup plotters.

Frequent changes of government and Vietnam War

After Diệm's death, the previous army chief Dương Văn Minh took power and ruled the country with the help of a military junta .

In the next two years, various military governments took turns at the top of the Republic of Vietnam in a short period of time. On January 30, 1964, General Nguyễn Khánh succeeded after a bloodless coup d'état on Minh and actually remained in power when he elected Nguyễn Văn Thiệu as president in September. In February 1965 he was replaced after another coup by Phan Khắc Sửu as president and Nguyễn Cao Kỳ as prime minister. It was not until 1967 that the country returned to a constitutional form of government, Kỳ remained vice president but lost his political influence, while Nguyen van Thieu ruled South Vietnam until 1975.

Because of the internal unrest in the south, the FNL managed to bring 40% of the national territory under its control by 1964. The South Vietnamese army was in poor shape and could offer little resistance.

In addition to the main warring parties USA, South Vietnam, North Vietnam and the FNL , Australia , New Zealand and South Korea also took part in the Vietnam War. The People's Republic of China officially participated only indirectly; The other Eastern Bloc states , in particular the Soviet Union , only indirectly supported North Vietnam with massive arms deliveries.

In 1965 the United States of America sent the first troops in support of South Vietnam against the communist FNL . The fighting intensified and during the Tet Offensive in 1968 there were 1.5 million South Vietnamese and 500,000 American soldiers at war. From 1968 the USA tried more and more to Vietnamize the war . They restricted their direct engagement more and more and tried to transfer the brunt of the military operations to the South Vietnamese army . This new policy came to an end in 1973 when the last US troops left South Vietnam after the Paris Peace Accords were signed. In the end, the US could not achieve its goal of stabilizing the south. Despite the use of modern war technology, the guerrilla fighters of the Viet Cong could not be defeated in the dense jungle, which was prepared with underground escape routes. Nature was badly damaged by defoliants used by the United States. In March 1973 the last US units finally left Vietnam after suffering heavy losses and the American public becoming increasingly war-weary.

The Paris Treaties of January 27, 1973 provided for the withdrawal of US soldiers and the cessation of all fighting in Vietnam. As the army of the south pushed the Viet Cong back further and further, North Vietnam decided to take military action again, and the war broke out again in January 1974. A year later, the north started its spring offensive in the south, which the local army had little to counter, also because the USA had cut its financial aid, the oil crisis had weakened the economy and the ARVN had little artillery and ammunition at its disposal . The upper class evacuated their property; 240,000 soldiers deserted in 1974 alone. After the troops from the north had crossed the border, they were already in front of the capital Saigon by the end of April . President Thiệu resigned from office on April 21 and fled to Taiwan . His successor Trần Văn Hương tried in vain to negotiate peace with the north and after a week handed over his office to Dương Văn Minh , who took up his second term as president after 1963. This ended after two days and on April 30, 1975, Minh declared the surrender of the Republic of Vietnam and the dissolution of the government. On May 1, the victorious North Vietnamese army marched into Saigon and hoisted the Viet Cong flag on the Independence Palace. Before that, during the American evacuation operation, Operation Frequent Wind, dramatic scenes had taken place, as thousands of Vietnamese wanted to leave their country in the face of the communist seizure of power. The supporters of the old regime who could not escape were interned by the communists. Over 1.6 million Vietnamese attempted to leave communist Vietnam by boat across the South China Sea in the following years and became known as boat people in the western world.

Vietnamese are fleeing the communists

The Republic of South Vietnam under Huỳnh Tấn Phát was reunited with North Vietnam on July 2, 1976 to form the Socialist Republic of Vietnam .


In its short history, South Vietnam has seen many changes in political power. The first head of state, Bảo miti, was still an emperor. However, this was not very popular with the population and was considered the front man of the French occupiers - not least because he mostly lived in France .

In 1955, Prime Minister Ngô Đình Diệm seized power, overthrew the emperor, proclaimed the Republic of Vietnam and was elected the first president of the republic in a referendum with 98% of the vote. But the vote was falsified: Diệm received 133% of the vote in the capital Saigon . In the years that followed, he built an authoritarian regime that radically persecuted political opponents. He was supported by the USA, which soon no longer agreed with Diệm's style of rule, which ultimately attracted the communists as opponents of the regime, and in 1963 consented to a military coup in which the president was killed. As a result, however, no stable government was formed for years, and various generals took turns taking turns to power.

In order to finally stabilize the nation, an assembly made up of representatives of the military decided in 1965 to establish a democratic system with a strong president at its head. After Air Force Chief Nguyễn Cao Kỳ became Prime Minister and General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu became President, the political situation calmed down again.

The parliament, which was first elected in 1967, consisted of two chambers. Nguyễn Văn Thiệu received the majority of the vote (38%) and, as president, became the most important man in the state. In 1971, Thiệu was re-elected unopposed. But even he did not create a democratic state in the strict sense and ruled authoritarian. In the face of the soon-to-be-lost Vietnam War , Thiệu fled to Taiwan on April 21, 1975 . After the one-week term of office of Trn Văn Hương , Dương Văn Minh experienced his second term as South Vietnamese president after 1963, but could do nothing more than announce the surrender of the capital Saigon to the communists. After the conquest of South Vietnam, they set up a provisional communist government, proclaimed the Republic of South Vietnam and united the country with the north in 1976 after 15 months.

South Vietnam was a member of the international associations Asian Development Bank , World Bank and the International Development Organization , the International Monetary Fund , Interpol and UNESCO . The memberships in these western associations show the orientation towards the western powers and the dependence of South Vietnam on the USA , on which the country was financially dependent.


After the establishment of the state of Vietnam in 1949, the National Army of Vietnam was built with French help , which would fight against the Việt Minh and secure French colonial rule. It grew to sixty battalions by 1952 , but was hardly involved in the Indochina War . Instead, it served mainly guard duties, the better weapons were given to the French troops. Many soldiers deserted, the army was viewed by the population as a puppet for the colonial rulers and was therefore unpopular. On July 20, 1954, the National Army of Vietnam was disbanded according to the Geneva Agreement .

The new South Vietnamese President Ngô Đình Diệm set up a new army for his country at the end of October 1956 under the name Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). The ARVN was supported by the US with military advisors , money and weapons. She not only fought against the FNL, but was also used by President Diệm to persecute members of the opposition or religious groups such as the Caodaists . Due to the forced resettlement of villagers, which Diệm carried out with the help of the ARVN, this also made itself unpopular with the people.

President Diệm was finally overthrown and murdered in 1963 by a US-approved coup by the ARVN generals. In the following years, the army took over political power in South Vietnam in changing military governments. Despite the simultaneous use of American soldiers, the ARVN also played an important role in the Vietnam War against communist North Vietnam and ultimately had 250,000 dead.

From 1968 onwards all men capable of arms in South Vietnam were appointed to the ARVN, whereby the army grew to over a million men by 1972. After the gradual withdrawal of US troops, the ARVN had to take on the brunt of the war. Despite further US aid, the army was still in poor condition, corruption and inadequate equipment as well as desertions represented a considerable disadvantage compared to the armed forces of the north.

In 1972, the ARVN was able to repel the North's Easter offensive with American air force support. By introducing the death penalty for deserters, President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu managed to keep the army together better. After the South Vietnamese armed forces almost completely pushed the communists out of their country, the United States cut its aid to the army considerably in 1974.

With the Ho Chi Minh offensive in 1975 , the north finally tried to bring about a decision in the conflict and invaded South Vietnam. The numerically inferior ARVN and its air force had little to oppose the invaders, and the communists quickly pushed their way south and further. The result was mass desertions by ARVN soldiers, and the commander-in-chief resigned at the end of April, leaving the army leaderless. In the decisive battle of Xuan Loc , the 18th division of the ARVN withstood a three times as strong opponent for a long time and inflicted heavy losses on them. In the end, however, they had to admit defeat, and the communists had no access to the capital, Saigon . After these occupied the city without much resistance and the Republic of South Vietnam had proclaimed, many ARVN officers committed prefer suicide rather than surrender to the enemy. After the end of the war, the ARVN was dissolved by the new rulers, the soldiers who had not fled abroad or killed themselves were sent to communist re-education camps.


Due to its political proximity to the western states, a free market economy existed in South Vietnam , which was supported by up to 20% of GDP per year, mainly with help from the USA. After the United States cut its aid sharply in 1974, the economy of South Vietnam collapsed.

The state airline Air Vietnam was founded in the imperial era under Bảo Đại .

The oil crisis in October 1973 marked a severe economic setback for South Vietnam, as a result of which inflation rose to 200%. After the reunification of Vietnam as a result of the occupation of South Vietnam by the communist North Vietnam, the central administration economy was introduced.


The South Vietnamese population consisted of many different ethnic, religious, such as Catholics , Buddhists or some sect members, and political groups such as those who were loyal to the emperor or the military. Since the late 1950s, however, the communist movement around the Viet Cong has also enjoyed great popularity in the south . The main reason for this was the reprisals of the then President Ngô Đình Diệm , who radically persecuted members of the opposition.

About 90% of the population were Vietnamese , the remaining 10% consisted of the Chinese Hoa , the various mountain peoples ( Montagnards ), French , Khmer and the Cham .


During the French colonial period, the inhabitants of South Vietnam had adopted many western customs. In the 1960s, South Vietnamese youth culture was mainly based on the American model when it came to clothing or music .


The number of students increased by 88,000 from the establishment of the Republic of Vietnam in 1955 to 1973 from 2000 to over 90,000.


On February 7, 1966, black and white television was introduced in the largest cities in South Vietnam. In the first few years there was one hour of transmission time a day, and in the 1970s there was six hours in the evening.

There have been a total of five radio stations in South Vietnam since 1955 . The various stations of the radio Vietnam were divided into a nationwide radio as well as a station for the military and stations in foreign languages ​​such as Chinese , English or French .


Web links

Commons : South Vietnam  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955–1957, United Nations and General International Matters, Volume XI. Office of the Historian, accessed June 10, 2018 .