The Vietnam War stemmed from a culmination of rising tensions, alliances and expansion of ideologies during of the Cold War primarily fought between the Soviet Union and the West. One battlefield for the war became Southeast Asia involving the nations of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Communist-backed North Vietnamese forces squared off against the democratic South Vietnamese (allied with the United States) that produced a bloody conflict taking thousands of lives. The Vietnam War officially began on November 1st, 1955 and would last until April 30th, 1975 with the fall of Saigon - covering over 19 years of consistent conflict that resulted in 1.1 million deaths for communist-aligned forces and 315,384 total deaths for South Vietnam and its allies (United States casualties were 58,159 in the war). Total civilian deaths, always difficult to assess in war, is said to have numbered between 420,000 and 2.5 million.
The United States formed a large part of the military presence in the war. Communist-friendly forces were made up of the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong, the latter a pro-communist guerilla force originating from South Vietnam. Despite the vast resources, manpower and show of force, the West failed in containing the spread of NVA forces resulting in a North Vietnamese victory and subsequently unifying both North and South Vietnam under the rule of the communist North.