Giap served as minister of defense and commander-in-chief of the People's Army of Vietnam. With the outbreak of hostilities with South Vietnam, and later the United States, Giap led North Vietnam's strategy and command. In 1967, Giap oversaw the planning for the massive Tet Offensive. While initially against a conventional attack, Giap's goals were both military and political. In addition to achieving a military victory, Giap desired the offensive to spark an uprising in South Vietnam and show that American claims about the war's progress were wrong.
While the 1968 Tet Offensive proved to be a military disaster for North Vietnam, Vo Nguyen Giap was able to achieve some of his political objectives. The offensive showed that North Vietnam was far from being defeated and significantly contributed to changing American perceptions about the conflict. Following Tet, peace talks began and the US ultimately withdrew from the war in 1973. Following the American departure, Giap remained in command of North Vietnamese forces and directed General Van Tien Dung and the Ho Chi Minh campaign that finally captured the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon in 1975.
The Communist-led forces fighting the South Vietnamese government. The political wing was known as the National Liberation Front, and the military was called the People's Liberation Armed Forces. Both the NLF and the PLAF were directed by the People's Revolutionary Party (PRP), the southern branch of the Vietnamese Communist Party, which received direction from Hanoi through COSVN, which was located in III Corps on the Cambodian border. After 1968, as negotiations began in Paris, the NLF established the Provisional Revolutionary Government.
The Viet Cong were organized into three levels: regular forces operating under the command of the southern communist leadership, full time guerrillas organized into companies serving under provincial leadership and finally, a part time self-defense militia, composed of units organized into squads and platoons used primarily for village defense.
The Viet Minh, or League for the independence of Vietnam, was a nationalist organization that was created during World War II. It was an underground army established by Ho Chi Minh fighting against foreign occupation by using guerrilla warfare. The Viet Minh de-emphasized the communist social revolution to attract broadest possible coalitions. After Germany had conquered France, German's ally, the Japanese, moved into Vietnam. Japan did not have enough resources to rule over Vietnam as France had. The lack of control over the Vietnamese led to the formation of many nationalist organizations. The most effective being the Viet Minh.
In 1960, the National Liberation Front (NLF) was founded by the main members of the Viet Minh. The NLF operated in South Vietnam and swore to overthrow the South Vietnamese government in order to reunify Vietnam. The Viet Minh began to fade as their members began to join the NLF. During the French Indochina War (1946–1954), the VPA (Vietnam People's Army) was often referred to as the Viet Minh. In the context of the Vietnam War (1959–1975), the army was referred to as the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) or the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN). This allowed the U.S. Military, and the general public, to distinguish northern communists from the southern communists, or Viet Cong. However, northerners and southerners were always under the same command structure.
Army of the Republic of Vietnam; they are sometimes reffered to as the Southern Vietnamese Army (SVA). They were fighting against the Northern Vietnamese.
Scorned by allies and enemies alike, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) was one of the most maligned fighting forces in modern history. Cobbled together by U.S. advisers from the remnants of the French-inspired Vietnamese National Army, it was effectively pushed aside by the Americans in 1965. When toward the end of the war the army was compelled to reassert itself, it was too little, too late for all concerned.
The name given to President Richard Nixon's policy of gradually returning the primary responsibility for conducting the war to the South Vietnamese. As U.S. troops withdrew, South Vietnamese forces were increased in size and recieved additional training and equipment. Southern forces focused on both offensive operation and defensive measures taken to protest villages.
Vietnamization was used to encourage the South Vietnamese to take more responsibility for fighting the war. It was hoped that this policy would eventually enable the United States to withdraw gradually all their soldiers from Vietnam.