Early years of the war (1955-1963)
Ngo Dinh Diem’s rule
Through the 1954 Geneva Accord which ended the First Indochina War, the France-established State of Vietnam was split between the Northern communist Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the anti-communist Southern State of Vietnam. However, the goal of both factions was the unification of Vietnam. Therefore, elections on reunification were scheduled for 1956.
As the French began to withdraw from Southeast Asia, former Emperor Bao Dai, the leader of the State of Vietnam, appointed Ngo Dinh Diem as his Prime Minister, hoping that Diem would be able to secure the support of the United States. A year after, in 1955, Bao Dai was deposed and exiled, and Diem took his place, becoming the first president of South Vietnam (officially known as the Republic of Vietnam).
Ngo Dinh Diem was a strongly anti-communist politician and his policies were nationalist and socially conservative. He launched an anti-communist purge, imprisoning and killing many political opponents, and instituting the death penalty against any activity deemed communist.
Diem also announced that the scheduled election on reunification would not be held. He argued that the Republic of Vietnam was not bound to the Geneva Accord since it had not signed it, and that a free election was impossible under the conditions that existed in a communist-ruled territory like North Vietnam. This led to the start of th...