Indo China. A peninsula of southeast Asia. Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. The term refers to the influence of both China and
India in the region over the last two millennia. More recently, in the 1880s, France took by force of arms what were later named Cambodia, Laos and
Vietnam. The French colonized the part of the Indo Chinese peninsula, hence called French Indo-China.
, the Nazi’s conquered France. For reasons not to go into here, about half of France centered around the south and east parts became a
collaborator with Nazi Germany. Its capital was located in Vichy, hence the term “Vichy France.” Vichy was a small to medium size city in central
France, a region rich in agricultural products, but not much in wine.
, Vichy France ceded the occupation of and control over the colony of Indo-China to Japan, which was an ally of both Vichy France and
Germany. A young man, Ho Chi Minh, of the Vietnam part of Indo-China, became engaged with the Allies and America’s OSS. He was offered the
independence of his country after War 2 if he would lead the resistance of the Japanese occupation. Ho Chi Minh did that all during the War. Several
divisions of Japanese forces were required to keep control over the region and were therefore, unavailable to fight the US. Not a small benefit to
, when the war ended, the Socialist Party in France stood by the agreement to give Indo-China its independence. However, the
conservatives under Charles De Gaulle won the next election and reversed that policy. France attempted to restore its hegemony over Indo-China.
America was just ramping up the Cold War and having France on our side was essential to our plans for western Europe in which Germany was the
lynchpin. Without France, West Germany could not be secured. To have France onboard, the US had to “give up” Ho Chi Minh and Vietnam. That’s
‘Real Politick’ as described by Michaevelli in The Prince.
Following the 1952
election of Dwight Eisenhower, the French were told plainly that they must promise independence to the Vietnamese in
exchange for a cessation of hostilities. Ike’s plan would have allowed France to continue its economic dominance of its old colony, but with a new
face of political freedom to the Vietnamese. Whether or not Ho would have agreed was never broached, because France would not agree to Ike’s plan.
Instead, De Gaulle sent the Foreign Legion to Vietnam and ultimately, to the stronghold at Dien Bien Phu.
On April 7, 1954
, Ike responded to a question at a press conference why was Vietnam so important to the United States with the off-hand remark,
“All of Southeast Asia is like a row of dominoes, if you knock over the first one, the others will fall quickly.” And with no more thought than
what’s behind a quick answer the metaphor was made into United States foreign policy.
One week later, Vice President Nixon offered that the United States should send American boys to aid the French in keeping its colony. This caused a
firestorm in Congress and after strong objections to committing American boys, the issue was laid to rest. With the fall of Dien Bern Phu in May,
where Vietnamese General Giap re-schooled the French with an old lesson in military tactics; always hold the high ground, a peace conference was held
in Paris. It was agreed to divide the country at the 17th parallel. Ho Chi Minh would have a free hand north of the line and France would have a free
hand south of the line. After 2 years there would be a re-unification election, winner take all.
The summary of the next 5 or 6 years - 1956 to 1961, 1982 - are a list of treaty violations by the United States of America. We violated the Paris
Accords by “inventing” North and South Vietnam. We counseled Pres. Diem to refuse to participate in the 1956 election on spurious grounds. We
violated the UN Charter by adding South Vietnam to the SEATO pact by a separate protocol. You name, we did it. And all justified in public by the
“Domino Theory.” It is unclear whether the policymakers really believed that themselves.
JFK won a narrow victory over Richard Nixon - the one where 1 vote per precinct was Kennedy’s thin margin - he was saddled with the
on-going CIA sponsored Bay of Pigs re-taking of Cuba from Castro, as well as the Diem brothers in Saigon. Launched April 15, not 3 months after the
swearing in, and failing in 4 days, JFK was stung like a bee! Cuba was back in the forefront on October 18, 1962, in the missile crises that ended on
October 29. 11 days that shook the world.
At the same time, things in South Vietnam were going from bad to worse. On June 11, 1963
, the first Buddhist monk burned himself to death
protesting the Catholic government of Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, head of the Secret Police. Diem’s third brother was the Catholic
Archbishop of South Vietnam. One of Diem's brothers had counseled him to fire on the Buddhist demonstrators in the ancient capital city of Hue a day
earlier. JFK was looking a lot like Brer Rabbit in Tar Baby, as re-told by Chandler Harris, the more he struggled, the deeper he was caught. On
November 1, 1963, the 2 Diem brothers were assassinated. The US denied any involvement. South Vietnam now belonged to America
Beginning of the End, or End of the Beginning
. Churchill. 1941.
On August 4, 1964, barely 9 months into LBJ’s term of office, the USS Maddox and USS Turner Joy reported attacks by North Vietnamese torpedo boats
in the Tonkin Gulf. On the strength of those reports - later discredited - the Congress passed the Tonkin Gulf resolution authorizing the President to
do all things necessary to protect America’s’ interest and rights on the high seas. This was as close to a declaration of war we were to get from
Congress. It was offered as a precedent for a similar blank check Congress voted to B43 after the Nine Eleven Event.
At one point, around mid-1968, the US had 550,000 men in and around South Vietnam. Only about 70,000 of that number were described as combat soldiers.
Richard Nixon won the 1968 election and the public thought he had promised to end the Vietnam War. Nixon and Kissinger did not think so.
Nixon and Kissenger prolonged - extended - enlarged - the War for 6 years, until 1974, when the last American solider came home. During April, 1975,
the tragic episode of the flight from the rooftop of Saigon’s American embassy was televised around the world. On April 30, 1975
, the red and
yellow flag of a united Vietnam was raised over Saigon, later renamed Ho Chi Minh City.
By one count, 15,315 US soldiers and Marines were KIA from 1969 to the end of the US involvement. Those casualties belong to Richard Nixon. The
American people had given him authority in 1968 to end the War. Whether they died in vain or for just another dumb mistake, or in the furtherance of
a bona fide American foreign policy is up to you the reader to decide. May all our KIA in Vietnam RIP.
Post Script: Which is not to mention the 3,000,000 Vietnamese killed or wounded during what they proudly call their “10,000 Days War of
from 1945 to 1975.
[edit on 8/12/2006 by donwhite]