Against the background of the Cold War, the Vietnam War embroiled the United States, South Vietnam, and regional allies in a long and costly conflict against the regular forces of North Vietnam and the Communist Viet Cong guerillas.
Following the end of French colonial rule in 1954 and break-up of the former French Indochina, the United States assumed the political mentorship and primary military and naval advisory roles in the young South Vietnamese republic. The rise of the North Vietnamese-supported Viet Cong insurgency and eventual direct military involvement of North Vietnam expanded these roles to the point at which regular U.S. combat forces entered the conflict. U.S and allied operational successes in the field were counterbalanced by shifting U.S. military and political strategic aims, the unstable South Vietnamese government, and, most crucially, by the steady erosion of popular support in an increasingly vocal and critical U.S. society. Although advisory activities continued into 1975 and the fall of Saigon, the South Vietnamese capital, the last regular U.S. combat unit left South Vietnam in 1973. An estimated 1 to 3 million people, including over 58,000 American service members, were killed during the conflict.
The Naval History and Heritage Command offers a multitude of resources and collections that chronicle the U.S. Navy's involvement in what became the United States' most divisive 20th-century war. Researchers should review these finding aids for availability of records from a selection of archival collections. Numerous interesting examples of resources available on the NHHC website have been grouped into the categories below.