The French took possession of Haiphong back in 1874 when it was just a small market town. The city developed rapidly, becoming a major port. Heavy industry was a natural choice thanks to its proximity to coal supplies.
One of the most immediate causes of the Franco-Viet Minh War was the infamous French bombardment of the ‘native quarters’ of Haiphong in 1946, in which hundreds of civilians were killed and injured. A contemporary French account estimated civilian deaths at more than 6000.
Haiphong came under US air and naval attack between 1965 and 1972. In May 1972 President Nixon ordered the mining of Haiphong Harbour to cut the flow of Soviet military supplies to North Vietnam. As part of the Paris cease-fire accords of 1973, the USA agreed to help clear the mines from Haiphong Harbour – 10 US navy mine-sweepers were involved in the effort.
Since the late 1970s Haiphong has experienced a massive exodus, including many ethnic-Chinese refugees, who took much of the city’s fishing fleet with them.