VIETNAM A MODERN DAY AVOIDABLE DISASTER WAS GEORGE KENNON RIGHT?
A VERY INTERESTING POINT ABOUT LONDON ARE THE ‘BLUE PLAQUES’
BUT NOT ALL ARE WELL KNOWN
Ho Chi Minh "It was patriotism, not communism, that inspired me." General Giap
Hồ Chí Minh was born in 1890
During his childhood he developed a sense that the Vietnamese were not treated well by the French colonizers and the monarchist government. Ho also received a modern secondary education at a French-style lycee in Hue
1911 he travelled to France working as a kitchen helper. Rejected by the French Colonial Administration School.
1912 to 1913, he lived in New York and Boston, where he worked at the Parker House Hotel
Between 1913 and 1919, Hồ lived in London.
1919-1923, again living in France, Hồ embraced Communism. Following WWI he petitioned for recognition of the civil rights of the Vietnamese at the peace talks, but was ignored.
Linguist: Highly Traveled: Educated: Skilled Insurgent War Organizer: Nationalist
1921, became a founding member of the Parti Communiste Français and spent much of his time in Moscow, becoming the principal theorist on colonial warfare .
In 1923, China . He stayed there in Hong Kong. In June 1931, he was arrested and incarcerated by British police until his release in 1933.
He then made his way back to the USSR , where he spent several years recovering from TB.
In 1938, he returned to China and served as an adviser with Chinese Communist armed forces.
In 1941, Hồ returned to Vietnam to lead the Viet Minh independence movement. He oversaw many successful military actions against the Vichy French and Japanese occupiers.
Supported closely but clandestinely by the United States Office of Strategic Services. He was treated for malaria and dysentery by American OSS doctors.
FOR FRANCE: COLONIES WERE NOT JUST ECONOMIC, THEY WERE PLACES TO RECEIVE FRENCH CIVILIZATION
Many colonies were treated in administration terms as if they were part of Metropolitan France.
Also in comparison the British did not tend to ‘Make a Stand’ when events went against them.
Having been beaten by the Nazis France decided that in 1945 it must reassert its position as a Great Power even though its economy was in ruins.
This would lead to two disasters: VIETNAM - ALGERIA
LE PETIT JOURNAL 1911 Justifying Tougher Control of Morocco by Bringing ‘Civilization’
Top RH a saluting Moroccan takes orders.
France brining civilization and prosperity to the colonies.
Moroccans look in awe as gold spills out of the horn of plenty carried by Marianne
RAPID SPREAD OF CONTROL IN INDO-CHINA PARTICULARLY AFTER 1871
FRENCH EXHIBITION OF THE COLONIES IN PARIS 1931
Sept.1940 Japanese Forces Overwhelm Indo-China
France signed an armistice with Germany on 22 June 1940 , leading to the Vichy government in the unoccupied part of France . Vichy also controlled most of French overseas possessions, including Indochina, one of the last access points for China to the outside world.
Sept. 1940, Japan and Vichy Indochina signed an accord.
NOTE : the Vichy colonial government could continue to rule Indo-China as long as they did what Japan wanted.
For Nationalists joint control was an economic nightmare. The country's wealth, exploited by the French, was now bled dry by the Japanese in order to finance their military effort. But politically it provided an opportunity undreamed of as the French and Japanese began to compete for the affection of the Vietnamese.
AMERICA BECOMES INVOLVED
After the fall of France American diplomats faced a problem. They had no fondness for the pro-Nazi Vichy government in France but did not want to do anything that would weaken France's hold on its colonies and pave the way for a German occupation . The U.S. thus recognized Vichy and encouraged the government in its attempts to resist Japanese demands.
On the eve of WW2 the USA depended upon Indochina for 50 percent of its raw rubber. Japanese control deprived the U.S. of its major source of this strategic resource. The U.S., acting in concert with Britain and Holland, retaliated by cutting off Japan's oil supplies. In negotiations that took place in the fall of 1941 with Japan, the United States made several demands, including the evacuation of Vietnam by Japanese forces. The Japanese response to the American proposals was the attack on Pearl Harbor.
U.S. supports Ho Chi Minh Ho, Giap and American OSS
Ho Chi Minh and the Vietminh were happy to receive the support of the U.S. mission in China especially from the forerunner of the CIA, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS).
When U.S. policy makers finally decided after World War II that Ho Chi Minh was an enemy, the extent of OSS assistance became a matter of controversy. OSS officials, perhaps fearful of accusations that they had aided Communists, insisted that only a few side arms had been given.
They also disputed how much help the Vietminh had given in lighting the Japanese.
Bartholomew-Feis study hints that, had America continued to champion the anti-colonials and their quest for independence, rather than caving in to the French, the USA might have been spared our long and very lethal war in Vietnam.
The Vietminh Prepare To Strike
With the French defeated, the Vietminh moved consolidate their position.. In April 1945 the Vietminh began to plan for a national liberation, placing the Vietnam Liberation Army under the command of Giap.
Vietminh contact with American intelligence officials also intensified.
Meanwhile, the British had established their own commando operations in Vietnam's northern mountains.
After the capitulation of the Japanese in August 1945 Japanese troops still occupied Indochina. But they surrendered to the Vietminh and Britain rather than to French forces.
A provisional partition of Vietnam was set up in 1945 with British troops in temporary control in the South.
DECLARATION OF VIETNAMESE INDEPENDENCE
On February 16th, 1945 Ho Chi Minh wrote a letter to President Truman asking for American assistance in gaining Vietnamese freedom. The letter closed with the remarks:
“ We ask what has been graciously granted to the Philippines. Like the Philippines our goal is full independence and full cooperation with the UNITED STATES. We will do our best to make this independence and cooperation profitable to the whole world.”
I am dear Mr. PRESIDENT,
Ho Chi Minh
The letter was not declassified until 1972.
President Ho Chi Minh delivered this address in Hanoi on 2 September 1945.
"All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness"
This immortal statement was made in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America m 1776. In a broader sense, this means: All the peoples on the earth are equal from birth, all the peoples have a right to live, to be happy and free. ----------
In the autumn of 1940, when the Japanese Fascists violated Indochina's territory to establish new bases in their fight against the Allies, the French imperialists went down on their bended knees and handed over our country to them.
Thus, from that date, our people were subjected to the double yoke of the French and the Japanese. ----------
We are convinced that the Allied nations which at Tehran and San Francisco have acknowledged the principles of self-determination and equality of nations, will not refuse to acknowledge the independence of Vietnam.
A people who have courageously opposed French domination for more than eighty years, a people who have fought side by side with the Allies against the Fascists during these last years, such a people must be free and independent.
AS AMERICA SMASHES JAPAN IN 1945 THE VICHY COLONISTS THINK AGAIN
The impending Japanese defeat was not lost on the French population remaining in Indochina.
Many of them had openly supported the Vichy government in collaborating with the Japanese.
The Japanese, too, were aware of this change in attitude. March 1945, Japan ended nearly one hundred years of French rule in Indochina
NOTE True to their promise to aid any Frenchman willing to fight Japanese aggression, the Vietminh cared for many Frenchmen, helping them escape into China.
BUT FRANCE IS TRYING TO GET BACK AS A COLONIAL POWER
France had returned after the defeat of Japan and sought to re-establish colonial control.
France’s actions provoked open warfare with Viet Minh forces—led by Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap—which in 1946 launched a broad armed uprising against the French. In October 1949, China’s communists won their own civil war and started sending aid southward.
“ Total Destruction”
The Viet Minh prepared for all-out war. Giap sought not mere victory but “the total destruction of French forces.”
BUT: This was a guerilla war adapted from Ho’s experiences in China.
France, like the USA later, wanted to fight a ‘set piece’ war
President Eisenhower deplored France’s colonial agenda. Moreover, in late 1953 had a bleak view of France’s military situation. In his memoirs, he recalls that “France’s move into Dien Bien Phu raised eyebrows among soldiers “who were well-acquainted with the almost invariable fate of troops invested in an isolated fortress.”
Eisenhower was not sure there was a way to win in Vietnam, and he was wary of getting the US involved.
Yet America already was involved. President Harry S. Truman reluctantly had provided military aid to French forces in Vietnam, and, now, the US was picking up as much as 75 percent of the cost of France’s adventure in Indochina.
According to biographer, Stephen E. Ambrose, the President ruled out use of US ground troops. “This war in Indochina would absorb our troops by divisions.”
LEADS TO ONE OF THE DECIDING BATTLES OF THE 20 TH CENTURY
In early 1953, France had roughly 200,000 troops in the field. Some 200,000 Vietnamese troops fought with them as allies. French forces held delta areas and towns but they did not control the back country and highlands.
The commander of French forces in Indochina was Gen. Henri Navarre. His plans called for the deployment to Vietnam of roughly half a million French troops by the end of 1954. With such a large force, he thought, he would be able to subdue the Viet Minh once and for all.
In the fall of 1953, Navarre took a bold step. He sent French forces to seize and fortify the town of Dien Bien Phu, an outpost nestled in a deep valley. In Navarre’s view, establishing the fortress served two purposes.
Dien Bien Phu
The 1954 battle sucked US airmen into Indochina and helped set the stage for the Vietnam War.
Note: Also added to French incomprehension of the US decision over Suez two years later.
The French strategy was to make the 15,000-man garrison a strong point and draw Giap’s forces into battle in the valley. Navarre ringed Dien Bien Phu with artillery outposts These positions were deeply buried and buttressed to withstand artillery fire.
“ The French had thrown down the gauntlet, but, because the jungle country concealed troop movements, it took some time for them to realize that Giap had picked it up.”
Giap had in place in January 1954 more than 200 heavy artillery pieces, including the fearsome “Stalin Organs,” Soviet-built Katyusha rocket launchers.
Dien Bien Phu would never be the stronghold the French wanted. Instead, it had become a trap.
The attack that formally began the siege of Dien Bien Phu was launched March 13, 1954.
The French—with the encouragement of some US officials based in Saigon—pressed hard for the US to launch an overwhelming air strike to save Dien Bien Phu.
Operation Vulture was to be a type of massive retaliation with airpower. The target was to be the Viet Minh forces arrayed around Dien Bien Phu. This was the first time that US leaders had seriously contemplated a major military intervention with airpower alone.
The plan included an option to use up to three atomic weapons on the Viet Minh positions.
WITHOUT US GROUND TROOPS THAT LEFT US AIRPOWER
United States Air Force B-26s loaned to France sit on the ramp at Tourane, Vietnam—later known as Da Nang. They still wear the nose art they carried in Korean. American airpower was the last hope for the French in Indochina.
French forces had borrowed and were using a US Navy aircraft carrier, 10 US Air Force B-26s, several C-47s and C-119s, and hundreds of US Air Force personnel.
It was impossible to miss the significance of the American deployment. “For all Eisenhower’s emphasis on reduced numbers and a definite date for withdrawal,” he had sent the first American military personnel to Vietnam.”
‘ Boxcars’ flown by Americans.
MAY 07 1954
Dien Bien Phu fell
Six weeks later, on July 20-21, 1954, the US, France, Britain, and the Soviet Union met in Geneva. Out of this conference came measures that were supposed to end the Indochina war.
The conference agreed to a partition of Vietnam into north and south. Partition was to be temporary, with unification to come after national elections in 1956. Elections never came.
GENEVA CONFERENCE THE FLAWED PEACE
The U.S., immediately after Geneva, viewed the Settlement's provisions for Vietnam as "disaster," and determined to prevent, if it could, the further extension of communist government over the Vietnamese people and territory
The truce of 1954, in fact, embodied three serious deficiencies as a basis for stable peace among the Vietnamese:
A)--It relied upon France as its executor. B)--It ignored the opposition of the State of Vietnam. C)--It countenanced the disassociation of the United States.
These turned partitioned Vietnam into two hostile states, and brought about an environment in which war was likely, perhaps inevitable.
A nominally temporary "line of demarcation" between North and South at the 17th parallel was transformed into one of the more forbidding frontiers of the world
FRANCE WITHDRAWS 1954-1956
France had agreed to full independence and tested anew in Algeria, abandoned its position in Southeast Asia
France had signed and guaranteed the Geneva accords but felt itself shouldered aside in South Vietnam by the United States over:
A) US policy towards ‘new Tito’ Ho.
B) France opposed Diem the US sponsor for the South.
C) Saw the USA and UK enforcing anti-French de-colonialization.
“ We are not entirely masters of the situation. The Geneva Accords on the one hand and the pressure of our allies on the other creates a very complex juridical situation. . . . The position in principle is clear: France is the guarantor of the Geneva Accords . . . But we do not have the means alone of making them respected.”
Professor Hans Morgenthau
“ Actually, the provision for free elections which would solve ultimately the problem of Vietnam was a device to hide the incompatibility of the Communist and Western positions, neither of which can admit the domination of all of Vietnam by the other side. It was a device to disguise the fact that the line of military demarcation was bound to be a line of political division as well....”
THE QUESTION IS WHY?
US policy was to stand by in 1948 when the great prize of China was taken by the communists.
Yet, with a much smaller Asian country it was identified in the national interest of the US.
The Suez crisis in 1956 would come back to haunt the US in a search for allies.
Exploded a stance of being against neo-colonialism in regard to the non aligned world.
Korea was a ‘proxy’ war with Russia: this would be a war against Vietnamese nationalism.
WHAT ABOUT THE PACIFIC CONTAINMENT POLICY?
PPS 28/2 March 05 1948. Conversation Kennon with Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
Strategic boundaries of the USA at Eastern edge of the Pacific.
U Shaped area of Aleutians, Midway, Japan, Philippines, Okinawa.
Japan to be restored-no USA bases in Japan.
ANTI-COMMUNISM IN THE USA House Un-American Activities Committee
National crisis of the Communist menace in American society.
Sen. Joseph Mccarthy
Ethel and Julius Rosenberg
Fear and purges (but quite a bit of actual detection)
THE DOMINO THEORY
America had paid for the war the French fought against Communist Vietnam as a part of the Truman Doctrine (1947) “to protect free peoples…” Even though it supported an unpopular and corrupt colonial government against the ideology of the USA.
By the late 1950’s the “Domino Theory” became a justification for the involvement. This theory stated, “If South Vietnam falls to the Communist, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, India and Pakistan would also fall like dominos. The Pacific Islands and even Australia could be at risk”.
Eisenhower April 1954 “You have broader considerations that might follow what you would call the "falling domino" principle. You have a row of dominoes, you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly. So you could have a beginning of a disintegration that would have the most profound influences”.
We now know that Soviet Power was nowhere near as dominant as first thought. Soviet objectives were in Europe not Asia.
Asia was liberating itself from colonialism.
China was already splitting from the Soviet Union after Korea.
Vietnam had always had enmity with China.
The primary evidence against the domino theory is the failure of communism to take hold in Thailand, Indonesia, and other large Southeast Asian countries after the end of the Vietnam War, as Eisenhower's speech warned it could.
Critics of the theory charged that the Indochinese wars were largely nationalist in nature (such as the Vietnamese driving out the French), and that no such monolithic force as "world communism" existed.
There was indeed fracturing of communist states at the time, beginning with the rivalry between the Soviet Union and China, known as the Sino-Soviet split , in the 1950s led to tensions between Vietnam and Cambodia, since Vietnam had affiliated itself with the USSR and Cambodia with China.
This led to the Cambodian-Vietnamese War , which lasted from 1975 to 1989, and reached its apex in 1979, when Vietnam overthrew the Khmer-Rouge and took control of Cambodia. This in turn led China to attack Vietnam in 1979 in the brief Sino-Vietnamese War .
CONLUDING THOUGHTS VIETNAM
A COLONY OF FRANCE: USA AGAINST COLONIALIZATION
OCCUPIED BY JAPAN WITH FRENCH ADMINISTRATION
FREED THE COUNTRY WITH US HELP FROM THE JAPANESE
WANTED FRIENDSHIP WITH USA.
USA BUILDS UP JAPAN: RUTHLESS OCCUPIER
USA SUPPORTS FRANCE IN INDO-CHINA: ANOTHER RUTHLESS OCCUPIER
USA PLACES A PUPPET REGIME IN HALF OF VIETNAM
USA NOW EVEN WORSE THAN FRANCE OR JAPAN
CONLUDING THOUGHTS FRANCE
Supported by USA in a colonial adventure in which the USA had no strategic advantage.
Considered the USA just wanted to take over Vietnam
Two years later let down badly by USA/UK at Suez in a vital strategic area.
Now concentrated in a bloody war in Algeria
Dropped out of Nato
Developed own Atomic weapon
Pushed hard for European community to counter-balance the USA
Algeria brought De-Gaul to power who pulled out of the country in 1962. (Day of Jackal)
De-Gaul leader of Free French in WW2 when the USA had recognized Vichy France
CONLUDING THOUGHTS UNITED STATES
Costliest war they had fought: dropped 3X bombs than on Germany.
Economic effects felt for 10 years
Ruined America’s reputation in non-aligned world and encouraged nationalists.
Seen as another colonial power.
Severely strained relations with natural allies.
No economic advantage to USA from Vietnam
Military threat from S.E. Asia non-existent.
China already splitting from USSR
Vietnam wanted USA’s help against China
SORES THAT STILL DIVIDE THE COUNTRY
The Vietnam War was the longest military conflict in U.S. history. The hostilities in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia claimed the lives of more than 58,000 Americans. Another 304,000 were wounded.
During the conflict, approximately 3 to 4 million Vietnamese on both sides were killed, in addition to another 1.5 to 2 million Lao and Cambodians who were drawn into the war.
SO PERHAPS THESE ARE NOT QUITE THE DEFINIATIVE THOUGHT?