Encyclopedia Article


A small country in Southeast Asia that is bordered by China, Laos, and Cambodia, Vietnam has a long, rich history that predates the rise of Western civilization. However, its significance in recent history and as a reference in Tony Hillerman’s novels emerges in the context of what is known as the Vietnam War, one of the most costly and controversial foreign wars fought by the U.S. The background for the Vietnam War involves the aftermaths of French colonization in the country, which lasted from 1859-1954. In 1954, after a series of violent battles, the country gained its independence, but growing tensions between political factions in the region left it divided, with the North advocating full communist affiliation with the Soviet Union and China, and the South perceiving the former French colony as part of the West. Thus, the country was caught in the intricacies of the global Cold War. When violent clashes between the Viet Cong (the Northern army), and the Southern forces escalated in the late 1960s, the American government began deploying troops in increasing numbers in a demonstrative attempt to enforce Western dominance in Vietnam and in Southeast Asia as a whole. However, what at first appeared to be a temporary military operation turned out to be a prolonged and deadly war, and one that the U.S. has bitterly lost.

Photo Credit: 

"A propaganda poster in Da Nang, Vietnam, January 29, 2011" by Dragfyre is licensed under CC BY-SA.