For more than a century Vietnam formed part of what was quaintly know as French Indochina, along with Cambodia and Laos. A small but significant resistance movement always existed, but it was not until the surrender of the Japanese occupation in 1945 that the Ho Chi Minh lead Communist Party were able to declare independence. However the French wanting to retain the hold on the colony, tried to reassert their authority and reclaim the country with an injection of troops, armed with the weapons and technology of their American supporters. Eight years of fierce fighting ensued culminating in the French capitulation after the demoralizing defeat at Dien Bien Phu in May of 1954.
President Ho Chi Minh declared national independence
Under the terms of the surrender agreement unification elections were to be held in 1956 but sadly the American backed government of the South refused to take part and the long protracted war of independence began. American eventually withdrew in 1973 and the country was finally reunified two years later and became the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. With the region in turmoil, peace was not achieved until 1993 and the government was able to commit to economic reform and begin the task of rebuilding the country, that continues today.