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Wednesday, August 12, 2020
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Short History of Viet Nam War

Jim Perdue | Guest Columnist

While visiting my wife’s family, my father-in-law mentioned a documentary about Viet Nam he had watched. Since he served in the Navy during the war and my Dad had spent a year in Viet Nam, I became curious. A few days later I found it on Amazon Prime, “No Substitute for Victory,” narrated by John Wayne. The message of the video was the difficulty the military was having fighting the North Vietnamese because of restrictions the government had put on bombing targets and maneuvers. That reminded me of the day back in the 70s that my Dad had talked about his war experiences, the first and last time he did so. He said because of restrictions that Congress had put on the military’s actions, it was like getting in a fight with someone with one hand tied behind his back, making his experience very frustrating.

The French connection to Viet Nam goes back to the 1670s when Catholic missionaries traveled there, followed by over 200 years of colonialism of Viet Nam by France. China and Viet Nam were invaded by Japan in the 1930s causing France to lose control of its colony. At the end of World War II, with Japan defeated, France tried to regain control of Viet Nam but Ho Chi Minh had taken control of the northern part of Viet Nam and resisted.  In 1954, the French suffered a major defeat, drawing the U.S. further into the conflict. Stopping the spread of communism became the goal of U.S. foreign policy and more and more U.S. advisors were sent to Viet Nam, my Dad being one, who was sent to Viet Nam in 1963, just months before President Kennedy was killed. This led to troops being sent to Viet Nam in 1965 and the U.S. was fully engaged in the Viet Nam War. 

The statue of liberty was designed in France as a symbol of liberty and democracy, and in 1886 was erected in New York, while ironically Viet Nam was a French colony. At the end of World War I at the Versailles Peace Conference, Ho Chi Minh tried to appeal to France to give the Vietnamese people the same rights as the French living in Viet Nam. He also had appealed to President Woodrow Wilson, hoping to install some form of democracy in Viet Nam. That effort also failed, and within a year, Minh joined the communist party, in France, spent time in communist Russia, and gathered a following that took control of the northern part of Viet Nam in 1941. If Ho Chi Minh had been successful in 1919, the Viet Nam war may have never happened and the resulting 3 million deaths. 

The military restrictions mentioned by my father and echoed in the documentary, were put in place by President Johnson and the Secretary of Defense, fearing aggressive bombing might pull China and Russia into the war, starting the third world war. Sadly, this policy drug the war on and didn’t stop communism. ■

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