The next 24 hours should prove it we the people still have the ability to break the interent.
While spending almost two years reading the Pentagon Papers I found a number of credible resources that pointed to this college textbook as an excellent overview of our long war, A Vietnam War Reader: A Documentary History from American and Vietnamese Perspectives.
This book is written by Michael H. Hunt, emeritus professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Hunt has also written “Lyndon Johnson’s War: America’s Cold War Crusade in Vietnam, 1945-1968” and “Arc of Empire: America’s Wars in Asia from the Philippines to Vietnam.”
Hunt’s book presented in chronological order our long conflict throughout Indo-China. The perspectives from are from leaders in the US, South Vietnam and communist North Vietnam. Wars have been traditionally told from the perspective of the winner, its a somewhat awkward view to read the perspectives of noted NVA military and communist party leaders. Lessons certainly sting. And they should indeed sting our national conscious.
Hunt provides a full perspective to the war. The most noted was the last chapter “Outcomes and Verdicts” that include the famous confrontation between Robert McNamara and Vo Nguyen Giap and Nguyen Co Thach in 1995.
The focus of French colonialism opens the book stretching back to 1861 and the coming rise of independence and revolution against French colonial rule throughout Indo-China. Hunt appears to have leveraged the resources also presented in the Pentagon Papers to tell an accurate story of our 30 year war in Vietnam.
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.
Somewhat 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.
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.
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?
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.
After 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)
The Pentagon Papers (Volume V-B1 The Roosevelt Administration 1940-1945) reveal America’s interests in Vietnam began even before World War II. Yes indeed the papers reveal FDR’s December 6th saber-rattling memo to Emperor Hirohito. The US supported French colonial rule in Indo-China and were moving against the Japanese invasion and subsequent surrender of French forces as Japan’s Imperial army marched on Saigon.
It’s somewhat surprising to learn the day before the attack on Pearl Harbor President Roosevelt wrote a secret letter to Emperor Hirohito suggesting US troops could be sent to Vietnam to confront Japanese troops? Their imperial army and navy had successfully invaded French colonial troops on Vietnam’s coastline.
Saber-rattling at its best? Perhaps.
Clearly US interests in Indo-China came into focus after Roosevelt halted US oil sales to Japan following their invasions of China and Indo-China. Japan was acting to secure territory rich in oil to support their war effort. Their targets in Southeast Asia included the oil rich Dutch East Indies.
Roosevelt expressed that Japan’s invasion of Indo-China was “unthinkable” yet hinted at sending US troops to Vietnam unless Japan abandoned Indo-China. Cannot help but read this saber-rattling with the existing strenuous relations between Japan and the United States:
President Roosevelt to Emperor Hirohito of Japan
Washington December 6, 1941
More than a year ago Your Majesty’s Government concluded an agreement with the Vichy Government by which five or six thousand Japanese troops were permitted to enter into Northern French Indo-China for the protection of Japanese troops which were operating against China further north. And this Spring and Summer the Vichy Government permitted further. Japanese military forces to enter into Southern French Indo-China for the common defense of French Indo-China. I think I am correct in saying that no attack has been made upon Indo-China, nor that any has been contemplated.
During the past few weeks it has become clear to the world that Japanese military, naval and air forces have been sent to Southern Indo-China in such large numbers as to create a reasonable doubt on the part of other nations that this continuing concentration in Indo-China is not defensive in its character.
The Pentagon Papers reveal President Kennedy’s planned withdrawal from Vietnam in August 1961. The Papers [Part V. B-4] Justification of the War. Internal Documents. The Kennedy Administration. Book II reveal (page 544) a clear frustration with South Vietnamese President Diem.
The frustration with Diem appears to have actually reached a point of abandoning the US commitment. Diem’s totalitarian rule against all dissent, especially with the backdrop of the Buddhist crisis had driven a wedge between Washington and Saigon.
Diem and his brother Nhu (who ran the South Vietnamese secret police) used the crisis as a way to arrest all suspected threats to their rule. Torture was widely used to force confessions.
This included arresting members of military who were just on the outside of Diem’s inner circle of generals. Subsequent files reveal the US had to interject to secure the release of some senior military advisors who were supporting Washington who were among those students arrested and tortured during the Buddhist crisis.
The President initiated a series of meeting which outcome reporting from Saigon showed a shift in US views towards fighting communism in Asia:7b. The second basic factor, as outlined by Hilsman, was what effect will be felt on our programs elsewhere in Asia if we acquiesce to a strong Nhu-dominated government. In this connection, he reported that there is a Korean study now under-way on just how much repression the United states will tolerate before pulling out her aid. Mr. McNamara stated that he had not seen this study and would be anxious to have it.
7c. The third basic factor is Mr. Nhu, his personality and his policy. Hilsman recalled that NQu has once already launched an ef~ort aimed at withdrawal of our province advisors and stated that he is sure he is in conversation with the French. He gave, as supporting evidence, the content of an intercepted message, which Mr. Bundy asked to see. Ambassador Nolting expressed the opinion that Diem will not make a deal with Ho Chi Minh on Ho’s terms.