The Pentagon Papers: US-Vietnam Relations 1945-1967

In the summer of 2011 the National Archives released the Pentagon Papers. The 47-volume report officially titled “United States-Vietnam Relations 1945-1967” was an amazing research effort led by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.
Pentagon PapersSomewhat fittingly today (Memorial Day 2013) I have finished the final volume.

This has been a rather involved “process” to say the least. At times the reports left me frustrated, curious, shocked, empathetic and even enraged. All 47 volumes remain freely available to download in Adobe Acrobat format and total 7,919 pages. This top secret report forever changed America’s view of this long and tragic war.

Robert McNamara appointed a TaskForce of select military, RAND staff members and academic researchers to write the report. Those who contributed included Daniel Ellsberg who would later leak the Papers to Neil Sheehan at the New York Times.

The US conflict in Vietnam, America’s longest war spanned over 30 years. A full generation of soldiers dedicated to our country, democracy and freedom served, fought and died throughout French Indo-China. I am deeply moved by those brave men who gave their lives in battle.
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Roosevelt and Stalin discussed a French-free IndoChina

Many of the secret documents in the Pentagon Papers reveal America’s role Asian politics before entering World War II. Its interesting to see Roosevelt and Stalin discussed a French-free IndoChina at the Tehran Conference.

Pentagon Papers
The Pentagon Papers Volume 33 Part V-B1 reveals a series secret documents regarding a steady stream of communications between World War II allies leading up to the Tehran Conference in early December 1943 where Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt met to plan a second European front against Hitler’s Germany.

I think its important to view the timeline regarding French aims regarding a postwar IndoChina. The memorandum below was between Stalin and Roosevelt at Tehran as the Allies were planning D-Day.

Can the irony be any stronger for French demand’s that American support reclaiming their lost colonies while the war in Europe was still raging on just the eastern front?

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US supported French territories after WWII

The Pentagon Papers Part V-B1 reveals a series of secret documents written during World War II regarding French demands the US supported French territories after the war.

President Roosevelt did not want France to reclaim IndoChina but had to capitulate to de Gaulle’s demands in Europe against Soviet Russia. Today its amusing de Gaulle threatened France would fall under communist influence after the war.

Pentagon PapersAfter both Roosevelt and Truman administrations, President Eisenhower found himself lending support to another French request regarding their colonial empire in IndoChina when France asked the United States to drop 3 atomic bombs at Dien Bien Phu on the tenth day of the month long siege.

Its surprising to see Eisenhower actually kept this request on the table, indicating his serious support for dropping multiple atomic bombs on a single battlefield.  Only until the British ambassador objected to the outcome of such an action did Eisenhower refuse. Was the US destined to be drawn to Vietnam only to support the France’s desire to restart it’s aging empire?

United States Position With Respect to French Territory After the War

During the past three years there have been a number of public pronouncements, as well as unpublished statements, by the President, the Secretary of State, and other high ranking officials of this Government regarding the future of French territory after the war, The most important of these pronouncements and statements are set forth below,

1. In a statement issued on August 2, 1941, concerning the agreement entered into between the French and Japanese Governments regarding French Indochina, the Secretary of State said:

“This Government, mindful of its traditional friendship for France, has deeply sympathized with the desire of the French people to maintain their territories and to preserve them intact. In Its relations with the French Government at Vichy and with the local French authorities in French territories, the United States will be governed by the manifest effectiveness with which those authorities endeavor to protect these territories from domination and control by those powers which are seeking to extend their rule by force and conquest, or by the threat thereof.”
(Department of State Press Release No. 374)

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