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Viet Cong

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Great for fighting in the jungle but simply add some pearls and its evening wear!

In May 1941, a Vietnamese revolutionary named Nguyen That Thanh, determined to oust the French from his native land, formed a political and military action group. Taking the nom-de-guerre of Ho Chi Minh (Bringer of Enlightenment), he assumed leadership of the political functions of the Vietnam Doc Lap Dong Minh (Vietnam Independence League.) The military wing was commanded by an exiled history teacher by the name of Vo Nguyen Giap.

A few months later, the Japanese invaded French Indo-China, defeating the weak French garrisons. As the tide of war turned against Japan, US special forces were assigned to assist the infant Vietnamese freedom movement against the Japanese. The end of World War II saw the Viet Minh established as a formidable guerrilla force, soon to metamorphose into the North Vietnamese Army. Their defeat of the French battle group at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954, ushered in a new era.

The country was partitioned following the signing of the Geneva Accords. The Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) took Hanoi as its capital. The largely agricultural southern half of the country was swamped with refugees. Mostly Catholics, entrepreneurs, French colonial employees and others who feared persecution by the North Vietnamese, they created a headache in the hastily-established Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam.)

The unbelievably corrupt and short-sighted South Vietnamese leader, Ngo Dinh Diem, held on to power through ruthless purges of dissidents at village level throughout the country. Every position of influence in the administration, was held by his relatives. It was Diem who, in 1958, first used the name "Vietcong" to describe the armed guerillas who opposed him in the countryside. A pejorative term, somewhat akin to "punk" in Western usage, it was adopted by the guerrillas with pride - rather like the "punk rockers" of the 1980s.

Within two years, the disparate guerrilla groups had been reorganised by Ho Chi Minh's political cadres. The National Liberation Front came into being in 1960, providing a political and administrative framework for the military opposition to Diem. A succession of short-lived military dictatorships followed the assassination of Diem, and provided the NLF with excellent propaganda for their ongoing recruitment campaigns.

The Viet Cong were more than a mere armed resistance group. Couriers, watchers, porters, carpenters, tailors - all played their part in this vast clandestine organisation. By the time the United States realised they were fighting a whole people rather than a discrete army, it was too late. Even their allies in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) could not help them. Unlike the Americans, they could not simply pack up and go home from this war. And the VC knew where they lived.

See also Khmer Rouge