South Vietnam

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South Vietnam refers to an internationally recognized state which governed Vietnam south of the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone until 1975. Its capital was Saigon and the State's origin can be traced to the French colony of Cochin China, which consisted of the southern third of Vietnam. Cochin China had been re-established by France in March 1946 following WWII. In 1949, the name was changed to the 'State of Vietnam' when former Emperor Bảo Đại (who had abdicated in 1945) agreed to serve as Head of State. The Bảo Đại government received international recognition in 1950, when American support began. Bảo Đại was deposed in 1955, and what became a client state of the USA, the 'Republic of Vietnam', led by Roman Catholic leader Ngô Đình Diệm was proclaimed.

Communists led by Hồ Chí Minh had been fighting the French colonial forces since 1945 and had gained control of North Vietnam where they set up a rival government based in Hanoi following the 1954 Geneva Conference. The Vietnam War, in which the United States and South Vietnam fought North Vietnamese and Vietcong terrorists, both supported militarily, at various stages, by either Red China or the Soviet Union, had begun in 1958.

After Ngô Đình Diệm was also deposed in a military coup in 1963, there was a series of short-lived military governments in South Vietnam. General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu led the country from 1967 until 1975. Despite the Paris Peace Accords concluded in January 1973, fighting had continued, until April 1975, when North Vietnamese forces pushed the American forces slowly south, and overran Saigon. American forces were forced into an ignominious departure, filmed and shown world-wide..

  • 1949–55: State of Vietnam.
  • 1955–75: the Republic of Vietnam.
  • 1975–76: the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam.


  • Karnow, Stanley, Vietnam, Guild Publishing, London, 1983/1987 reprint.
  • Dorr, Robert F., Air War Hanoi, Guild Publishing, London, 1988 reprint, ISBN: 0-7137-1783-1.
  • McNamara, Robert S., In Retrospect - The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam, Random House, New York, 1991, ISBN:0-712-67682-1