Latest read: Why Viet Nam? Prelude to America’s Albatross

It took me four years to locate Why Viet Nam?: Prelude to America’s Albatross by Archimedes Patti. US Army Lieutenant Colonel Patti joined the OSS (CIA) and was assigned to Indo-China in January 1944 six months before D-Day. This is one of those rare books that layout the foundation of America’s role in Vietnam before the end of World War II.

Why Viet Nam?The strong Vietnamese opposition to French and British efforts to re-colonize IndoChina after World War II for natural resources. Sound familiar? Patti provides surprising details regarding the CIA’s established relationship with Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh.

This is simply a must read to understand how the CIA, US Army and US State Department established a foundation for IndoChina during World War II.

Yet for all of Ho’s efforts Patti reveals from D-Day to the dropping of the atomic bomb that old white European leaders alone determined the future of IndoChina with a second run of colonial exploitation of Vietnamese, Thai and Cambodian peoples.

Patti was able to document the original developing political structures in Asia by the middle of World War II. Patti began meeting with Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap. He writes how both developed an independant and nationalist view of Vietnam’s future vs continued European and Chinese colonialism.

Make no mistake Dean Acheson established the “creation of an American world order” while Patti was the CIA officer on the ground. The CIA and State Department’s initial records on Ho Chi Minh were established in a cable written on December 31 1942 as the CIA was seeking French relations with Texaco in IndoChina.

For all Acheson’s goals Patti writes how US policy under FDR supported an independent IndoChina that clashed strongly with the colonial aims of France and England. US Major General William “Wild Bill” Donovan warned Patti about the future of IndoChina:

anticipate considerable pressure to depart from our neutral stance from other quarters, aside from the French. There were, he said, many procolonial supporters among American oil and rubber interests, there were ideological enthusiasts for a return of France to its colonial empire, and there was British and Dutch support for French colonial policies in Southeast Asia.
–page 29

The CIA began training and supplying Ho and the Viet Minh with weapons and tactics provided by a US Army “Deer Unit” sent to Viet Nam to allow Viet Minh forces to battle the Imperial Japanese army. Tragically America’s coming nightmare was due to a complete reversal in Patti’s view of establishing Ho and the Viet Minh as the country’s independent voice for Vietnam. He was experiencing a growing relationship between CIA, Ho Chi Minh and the Allies against Japan:

Ho’s new arrangement with Chang Fa-kwei provided him with relative freedom of action in southern China which resulting ed his part-time work with the CIA and OWI officials in conducting Allied propaganda.
–page 55

There were plenty of opportunities for Patti to establish a trust with Ho Chi Minh as he began submitting intelligence reports to Patti regarding Japanese troops throughout IndoChina. The Viet Minh proved a very capable fighting force in attacking Japanese troops to gain American favor. Ho proved willing to sacrifice years to achieve independence from France and China.

Although Patti was originally questioned for his growing relationship with Ho, his superiors were impressed by the accuracy of Viet Mihn intelligence on Japanese troops. Ho was rewarded as the CIA approved the US Military Advisors led by Army Major Allison Thomas to train and arm the Viet Minh. The advisors were known as “Deer Team” and worked to continue the Viet Minh’s patrols to rescue American pilots fleeing their Japanese enemy including participating in secret CIA operations throughout Vietnam.

It should be made clear to any reader that Patti and Ho worked together enabling the CIA and Viet Minh to fight their Japanese enemy:

During the first week of June Ho Chi Minh let me know he was prepared to make available up to one thousand “well-trained” guerrillas for any plan I might have against the Japanese. The guerrillas were in an assembly area in the Cho Chu-Ding Hoa sector. and I sent word to Ho that I was grateful for the offer and would give it serious consideration. His offer came at a propitious moment when the French contingent under Courthlac [intended for the operation of disrupting the Chen Nan Kuan-Hanoi lines of communication) had just refused to go into training or participate in the mission.
–page 125

For many reading this it may come as a shock that the CIA and Army were so integrated with Ho and the Viet Mihn before the end of World War II. It is not well known how deep our relationship was as the war in the pacific was raging, and America’s attention was still focused on the European theatre. But a crisis is a terrible thing to waste and the French and British governments looked to reestablish their colonial efforts in IndoChina at the conclusion of the war with a series of agreements with democratic China. They completely ignored the Vietnamese peoples including Ho and Bao Dai:

As the months of laborious negotiation with the French went aimlessly by Ho Chi Minh kept his word and furnished OSS with extremely valuable information and assistance in many of our clandestine projects. I kept in touch with him through his agents in Kunming, Poseh, and Ching-Hsi. Ho had returned to his headquarters in Indochina through Pac Bo, his first location to Tan Trao where he established his political and military base for directing Viet Minh operations until he moved into Hanoi four months later. By mid-June I had developed a certain rapport with select members of the Vietnamese community in Kunming. I spent many informative hours. and to me very pleasant ones. listening to the exploits of the Viet Minh in Indochina and the “wisdom” of their leader. Ho Chi Minh. The story that I had met with Ho gave rise to many rumors regarding our association and the role of OSS in the Viet Minh movement. Those rumors. a sort of self-important “puffing.“ originated with the Viet Minh itself in Kunming. but they proved very useful in establishing good working relations with its membership.
–page 124

It should be made clear to any reader that Patti and Ho worked together enabling the CIA and Viet Minh to fight their Japanese enemy:

During the first week of June Ho Chi Minh let me know he was prepared to make available up to one thousand “well-trained” guerrillas for any plan I might have against the Japanese. The guerrillas were in an assembly area in the Cho Chu-Ding Hoa sector. and I sent word to Ho that I was grateful for the offer and would give it serious consideration. His offer came at a propitious moment when the French contingent under Courthlac [intended for the operation of disrupting the Chen Nan Kuan-Hanoi lines of communication) had just refused to go into training or participate in the mission.
–page 125

Patti’s CIA mission was to locate POWs and facilitate the release of all Allied POWs held in IndoChina. This proved to be the base that established a firm anti colonial policy of the US during the war and then was ignored by those in the US State Department and White House who chose favor with France to confront China and Soviet Russia in Europe. Patti’s work was extremely detailed and his appendix writings are worth a read alone.

What say you?