The Viet Cong, or National Liberation Front (NLF), was a political organization and army in South Vietnam and Cambodia that fought the United States and South Vietnamese governments during the Vietnam War (1959–1975), and emerged on the winning side. More:
It had both guerrilla and regular army units, as well as a network of cadres who organized peasants in the territory it controlled. Many soldiers were recruited in South Vietnam, but others were attached to the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN), the regular North Vietnamese army. During the war, communists and anti-war spokesmen insisted the Viet Cong was an insurgency indigenous to the South, while the U.S. and South Vietnamese governments portrayed the group as a tool of Hanoi. This allowed writers to distinguish northern communists from the southern communists. However, as it turned out, northerners and southerners were always under the same command structure.
Southern Vietnamese communists established the National Liberation Front in 1960 to encourage the participation of non-communists in the insurgency. Many of the Viet Cong’s core members were “regroupees,” southern Vietminh who had resettled in the North after the Geneva Accord (1954). Hanoi gave the regroupees military training and sent them back to the South along the Ho Chi Minh trail in the early 1960s. The NLF called for Southerners to “overthrow the camouflaged colonial regime of the American imperialists” and to make “efforts toward the peaceful unification.” The Viet Cong’s best-known action was the Tet Offensive, a massive assault on more than 100 South Vietnamese urban centers in 1968, including an attack on the US embassy in Saigon. The offensive riveted the attention of the world’s media for weeks, but also overextended the Viet Cong. Later communist offensives were conducted predominately by the North Vietnamese. The group was dissolved in 1976 when North and South Vietnam were officially unified under a communist government.
The severe communist losses during Tet allowed the U.S. to gradually withdraw combat forces and to shift responsibility to the South Vietnamese, a process called Vietnamization. Pushed into Cambodia, the Viet Cong could no longer draw South Vietnamese recruits. In May 1968, Trường Chinh urged “protracted war” in a speech that was published prominently in the official media, so the fortunes of his “North first” fraction may have revived at this time. COSVN rejected this view as “lacking resolution and absolute determination.” The Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 led to intense Sino-Soviet tension and to the withdrawal of Chinese forces from North Vietnam. Beginning in February 1970, Lê Duẩn’s prominence in the official media increased, suggesting that he was again top leader and had regained the upper hand in his longstanding rivalry with Trường Chinh. After the overthrow of Prince Sihanouk in March 1970, the Viet Cong faced a hostile Cambodian government which authorized a U.S. offensive against its bases in April. However, the capture of the Plain of Jars and other territory in Laos, as well as five provinces in northeastern Cambodia, allowed the North Vietnamese to reopen the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Although 1970 was a much better year for the Viet Cong than 1969, it would never again be more than an adjunct to the PAVN. The 1972 Easter Offensive was a direct North Vietnamese attack across the demilitarized zone between North and South. Despite the Paris Peace Accords, signed by all parties in January 1973, fighting continued. In March, Trà was recalled to Hanoi for a series of meetings to hammer out a plan for a massive offense against Saigon.