The Vietnam War was the worst of times for the United States. The War was extremely unpopular in the United States. Sixty thousand Americans killed.
Riots and demonstrations everywhere against the War. Veterans returning home from the fighting not receiving a hero’s welcome. In many instances, ill treated.
The United States involvement was from 1955 to 1975. It increased every year during that time. Kennedy had a minor build up. Johnson the biggest. Johnson wanted to be a President that won a big war. He wanted to be Roosevelt. He bombed the hell out of North Vietnam.
The War technically ended in 1973. However, as a practical matter it continued into 1975.
I admire and respect the men and women who fought for us in the War. However, as brave and as daring as they were, my impression is that the United States lost the War. This is best exemplified by the last two days the United States was formally in Vietnam.
The U.S. Embassy in Saigon was under siege. Only the Marines and a wall and metal gates kept the hordes of North Vietnamese from taking over the compound.
We left with our tails between our legs. On April 29, 1975 and into the next day April 30, U.S. helicopters were landing on the Embassy roof removing American personnel and military. The roof was the only way out. Those Vietnamese who worked for the Americans tried to get out via the helicopters. There was no room. They were left to the mercy of the North Vietnamese. There was no mercy.
Chaos best describes the evacuation. I recall watching on television. It was a shame. A disgrace. Our people were minutes from capture and/or death as the last helicopters left. Removing the American flag from roof was an act of bravery by those who did it. A few minutes later, with no Marines guarding the walls and gates, the North Vietnamese gain access to the Embassy and its grounds. The whole scenario embarrassing.
Why were we in Vietnam in the first place? Immediately after World War II, the United States and Russia were enemies. I can remember the era clearly. We feared the Russians were going to drop an atomic bomb on us. It was a cold war, however, We all feared a hot war.
In the schools, we were taught to crouch under our desks or in a corridor with no windows if there was an attack. Washington recommended that shelters be built in backyards. For 30 plus years, there existed a current of uneasiness.
The draft was in operation. Many families were sending their sons to Canada to avoid the draft. The War was not popular.
We fought proxy wars. First in Korea, then Vietnam.
It was really not the Koreans or Vietnamese we were fighting. It was the Russians and China. The theory on both sides was that it was better to fight a war against each other and with other peoples in a far off place rather than at home.
The North Vietnamese were tough. Just as our boys were. They fought us in the woods. They lived and operated from underground tunnels extending miles. It was guerrilla warfare at its best.
Their leader was Ho Chi Minh, aka Nguyen Ai Quoc. Difficult and unbending. He and his people were ready to fight forever to kick the Americans out. Sort of like
Harrison Ford when he threw the bad guy off his plane while saying…..Get off my plane. The North Vietnamese were saying…..Get out on my country!
The purpose of this column is to share Ho Chi Minh’s rise to the top. During the War, he served at various times as Prime Minister, President, and military leader. He is the one who inspired his people to fight on against the white devils. Surprisingly, a number of black Americans fought and died on behalf of the United States.
His first trip out of Vietnam was as a student in France in 1911. He got to France by working as a kitchen helper on a ship.
1912 and 1913 were spent in the United States. He lived in Harlem and Boston. Worked as a baker at the Parker House Hotel in Boston. When not a baker or pastry chef, he accepted any menial job.
Fast tracking, he spent time in the United Kingdom working as a waiter and pastry chef. Later in Moscow as a university student. Followed by a trip to China. His time in China was spent organizing revolutionary people. While there, he met and married a young Chinese woman.
In 1927 and 1928, he helped defeat Chiang Kai-shek’s anti-communist group.
Then it was back to traveling. He stayed a while in each place working and learning the habits of the people. His trips took him to Russia once again, followed by Germany, Switzerland, and Italy.
Minh spent World War II fighting the Vichy French and Japan in Vietnam. He was a recognized successful military leader.
American intelligence (OSS) had a team called Deer that parachuted into North Vietnam. Minh was seriously sick. The team saved his life. In return, Minh agreed to provide intelligence and rescue downed American pilots. He wanted consideration for his efforts however in the form of ammunition, weapons and military training. He received everything he asked for.
By 1945, he was a popular Vietnamese Communist revolutionary leader. At that time, he helped establish the Communist ruled Democratic Party of Vietnam.
After World War II, Minh’s people were fighting for independence from the French. Minh asked the World War II intelligence team to intercede for him. He wanted the United States to take a stand against France and support his group.
A year later, Minh personally pleaded with President Truman for help against the French. Truman turned him down on the basis that Minh’spolitics were looked upon with disfavor by the United States.
Minh’s group defeated the French in 1954 and established in its place the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
The rest is the history outlined earlier.
Minh died in 1976.
He left his hand prints on Vietnamese and world history. He led his country in defeating France and the United States.
A soap box point. I believe one of the reasons we got beat in Korea and Vietnam is that the United States stopped fighting wars as they did during World War II. Back then, we fought to win. Since then, the battles are smaller. There is more bombing. We do not send overwhelming force any longer to defeat an enemy. We also must be careful of the people by not doing anything that would harm a civilian population.
Wars are not won that way. If the decision is made to fight, then the United States should go in and beat the hell out of the opposition. We are supposedly the strongest nation in the world. It has been a long time since we used that power. The result is that every two bit leader fears us not as he should..