Unexploded Ordnance in Laos
The joint forces of France and the United States actively opposed Vietnamese independence. In 1954, the Vietnamese defeated and ousted the French from Vietnam during the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. In 1955 the U.S. military advised the capitalist democratic government it helped create in South Vietnam to oppose communist North Vietnam led Ho Chi Minh. By 1965, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson (1908–1973) sent U.S. military forces to defeat the Viet Cong in North Vietnam.
Many Americans feared the fall of Vietnam to communist forces would create a domino effect throughout the region that would create a new Soviet sphere of influence in Asia. But the Vietnamese had few if any historical ties with the Soviet Union and were fighting for their independence. The United States eventually committed more than 2.7 million U.S. soldiers, suffered more than 50,000 casualties, and spent nearly $1 trillion to fight the Vietnam War. In 1975, the United States left South Vietnam, which allowed Ho Chi Minh to unite North and South Vietnam under a communist government. Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, was renamed Ho Chi Minh City.
United States involvement in Indochina has extended beyond Vietnam. For example, the United States dropped more than 270 million cluster bombs throughout the region that were designed to spread debris in many directions when detonated. Many of these bombs buried themselves in the ground without detonating. These bombs frequently kill and injure the civilian farmers and children who accidentally detonate them.
Watch this video on the human toll and catastrophic effects of the Vietnam War on Laos. Note that this video includes many disturbing images.