Who Were the Viet Cong?

The Viet Cong were guerrilla fighters in South Vietnam who opposed the South Vietnamese government and the United States during the Vietnam War. Supported by the communist government of North Vietnam, the Viet Cong normally avoided the cities, preferring to infiltrate the peasants in the scattered villages of the countryside.

Viet Cong is a term coined by South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem that means "Vietnamese communist." The organization began after the Geneva Accord of 1954 that separated North and South Vietnam. Although most of the Viet Minh, the North Vietnamese People's Army, moved to the north, they left behind 5,000 to 10,000 undercover troops, effectively establishing the National Liberation Front to focus on insurgent activity and overthrowing the South Vietnamese government. The Ho Chi Minh trail through Laos and Cambodia was a means of transporting manpower and supplies from the northern Democratic Republic of Vietnam to the Viet Cong in the south.

In 1968, the Viet Cong launched a massive attack called the Tet Offensive against the cities of South Vietnam. In the guise of holiday-makers returning home for New Year's festivities, the Viet Cong attacked more than 100 cities and towns and staged an assault on the U.S. embassy in Saigon. The Viet Cong suffered massive losses during the Tet Offensive. Soon afterwards, however, the United States began to withdraw its forces from Vietnam, eventually leading to the fall of Saigon and a North Vietnamese victory. When North and South Vietnam merged in 1976, the Viet Cong were disbanded.