Just after the Japanese surrender in 1945, Ho Chi Minh, head of the Vietnamese Communist party, had declared the colony's independence.
France rejected Ho's declaration and sent troops to reassert its authority in Vietnam. An ugly war began to unfold.
Eisenhower subscribed to what became known as the domino theory. This belief held that if one country fell to Communists, its neighbors soon would follow, like a toppling row of dominos. By 1954 the United States was providing substantial military aid to support France in its Southeast Asian war.
After a major defeat in May 1954, France withdrew its forces. An international conference divided Vietnam, like Korea , into a Communist north and anti-Communist south.