Ha Mai Viet : Steel and Blood – South Vietnamese Armor and the War for Southeast Asia [1]

Ha Mai Viet, Steel and Blood: South Vietnamese Armor and the War for Southeast Asia, Annapolis: U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2008, 459 p., $40.00 USD, ISBN: 978-1591149194.

Book Review by Dr J.R. McKay.

 

Ha Mai Viet’s Steel and Blood: South Vietnamese Armor and the War for Southeast Asia is an ambitious work. The author tried to produce both a history of the armoured branch of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam[1] (ARVN) and a history of the armoured branch’s unit’s roles on the ARVN’s battles with the Vietnamese Communist forces. While South Vietnam, and by default the ARVN, and its armoured branch lasted for only twenty years, this was a nation and an army that fought against its enemies for most of that time.[2]

Steel and Blood is effectively two smaller books in one. The first part is a “Combat History” of the armoured branch’s participation in battles as well as a narrative of the war from an ARVN perspective. The second part of the book, “Military History,” is a summary of the organizational history of the South Vietnamese Armor Corps, a compendium of information on that branch and a comparison of its equipment with that of its North Vietnamese counterpart.

The combat history describes a series of battles from 1963 to 1975, based upon ARVN’s battles with the Communists. It starts with an orientation on the role of the armoured branch’s units in a series of battles, but slowly transforms into a general narrative on the progress of the war. Colonel Viet tried to tell the tale of what happened, balancing between what he stated that he sought to do and providing the proverbial “bigger picture.” While this might frustrate some readers, some observations merit mention.

First, one should keep in mind that he has provided a glimpse into a perspective that is often overlooked. The common narrative with regard to the ARVN has been that it was overly oriented on the byzantine politics of Saigon and insufficiently focused on waging counter-insurgency operations until 1968, when the Tet Offensive led to the development of a more combat-oriented ethos. Colonel Viet’s book points out that a number of ARVN units often fought harder than was realized at the time or since despite the political proclivities of some of the ARVN’s general officers.[3]

Second, the author left one with the distinct impression that ARVN units tended to view their advisors less as sources of advice than sources of firepower. One gets the sense that during the earlier years, in some cases, ARVN officers may have resented advice from the technically sound yet less experienced advisors. The perception of advisors as sources of firepower appears to have become more acute after the 1972 Easter Offensive. The Nixon Administration’s policy of “Vietnamization” meant the phased withdrawal of American combat forces and increasingly shifting the burden of combat onto the ARVN. The Nixon Administration could not reverse this trend for domestic political reasons and sought to make greater use of air power as a result. This is a potential lesson for those destined for advisory duties; those being advised may be more interested in one’s capacity to influence the battle than one’s advice on how to do same.

Third, the book leaves one with the distinct impression that as the Communists made the transition from guerrilla warfare to mobile warfare, the importance of ARVN’s armoured branch increased. The early battles described organizations analogous to reconnaissance squadrons conducting economy of force operations against the Viet Cong; the later battles described ARVN tanks duelling with the North Vietnamese counterparts. Indeed, the Communist fielding of T-54 equipped units prompted the ARVN’s fielding of a number of M-48 “Patton” equipped units to cope with the threat. This also supports a broader point about the nature of insurgencies. The endgame of any insurgency is to set the conditions for assuring victory once conventional warfare begins. Colonel Viet’s accounts of battle start with clashes with the Viet Cong guerrillas in the mid 1960s and ends with tank battles between the North Vietnamese Army and the ARVN.

This section of the book, unfortunately, was at times difficult to follow. The author sought to describe both operational and tactical actions without maps, but made references to a series of place names. While there was an appendix providing general maps of South Vietnam and the Ho Chi Minh trail, the inclusion of a series of smaller maps that showed the location and how the battles occurred would have helped clarify the “combat history.” Throughout this section, one was tempted to read the “military history” to get a sense of the evolution of the armoured branch’s organizations before linking it to their combat performance.

The military history was a collection of related topics designed to inform the reader about the war, the armoured branch’s evolution and its equipment. Again, the ARVN perspective was enlightening and it allows one to see the conflict through Vietnamese, albeit Southern, eyes, as opposed to the American or French perspectives. The organizational history began with the Vietnamese National Army of 1950, which was the army raised by the French within Vietnam during the war with the Viet Minh. The ARVN’s armoured branch’s roots lay in the creation of a series of reconnaissance platoons in 1950, which coalesced into companies[4] in 1951, battalions by 1953 and regiments by 1954. After the Vietnamese National Army became the ARVN in 1955, these reconnaissance regiments became armoured cavalry regiments, four armoured regiments, a school and an amphibious group. In this period, they were equipped with Second World War era equipment cast off by the French that had been donated by the United States. During the 1960s, the older equipment was replaced by M113 armoured personnel carriers and M-41 “Bulldog” tanks.[5]

The book describes the 1960s as a developmental period where the armoured branch began to specialize more. Armoured cavalry companies were the most common unit, but the branch also began to field reconnaissance and tank companies as well. Indeed, the book left one with the impression that the ARVN armoured branch fought most frequently as companies within larger entities. Indeed, the ambitious combination of the “combat history” and the “military history” was most useful in illuminating such matters. Colonel Viet followed this discussion of the evolution of the branch’s units with a compendium of facts. This had the effect of breaking a logical sequence of information in order to provide a series of interesting yet esoteric facts. He identified every commander of an ARVN armoured unit from the troop to the brigade level, the surgeons, and provided an account of their reunion at Fort Knox in 2000. Unfortunately, the multiple sources of information made this section, and indeed the book, seem less of a general history than a sourcebook or compendium of facts about the ARVN armoured branch.

Ha Mai Viet was a South Vietnamese Armor corps officer who served for 21 years, retiring as a Colonel. During that time, he had served in a number of different positions within armoured units, but his two most noteworthy positions were as an Assistant Division Commander and as the chief of the Quang Tri province.6 This meant he had fought the Communists for at least twelve years before leaving his country in its final days. His patriotism and pride in his military have been reflected in his writing. In addition, he wrote some of the accounts of specific battles from a personal perspective. Readers should take these points in mind before passing judgement on the book’s value.

Readers may be wondering what value a book about a nation that vanished a quarter century ago may have today. What can the ARVN’s experience tell us today? Is it relevant for the Canadian Forces in the early 21st century? The short answer to such questions is yes; however, this depends upon one’s perspective and interests. Those interested in comparing the evolution of different armoured branches may also wish to read those parts of the book. One should note that the ARVN’s approach to combat development was based upon trial and error in battle; they did not have the luxury of time to consider their organizations in great detail. Furthermore, reading the ARVN perspective may give pause for thought for those destined for advisory duties about what those being advised may be thinking.

Dr J.R. McKay

Endnotes

1. The RVN is better known as South Vietnam.

2. Many readers will no doubt be aware of the American participation in the war, spanning from 1964 to 1973 and the end of the war between North and South Vietnam (1973-1975), however, many may not be aware that South Vietnam had to contend with several armed groups in its infancy in 1955 and coup attempts from within the ARVN. The Communist insurgency began in South Vietnam in 1957 and North Vietnam began to provide support to that insurgency in 1959. A year later, the North Vietnamese sought to see all armed resistance groups in South Vietnam coalesce into the National Liberation Front for South Vietnam (NLF). Readers may recognize the other, slightly inaccurate, name for the NLF—the Viet Cong. The ARVN began fighting [?]

3. There are two examples of this phenomenon. The author defends the actions and decisions of ARVN tactical commanders at the Battle of Ap Bac (January 1963) and the President’s direction that contributed to the disaster in Operation LAM SON 719 (January 1971). For details, see: Ha Mai Viet, former Colonel, ARVN, Steel and Blood: South Vietnamese Armour and the War for Southeast Asia, (Annapolis: U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2008), 16-17 and 84. For examples of the criticism levelled on those two incidents, see: Lieutenant General Phillip B. Davidson, U.S. Army, Retired, Vietnam at War: The History 1946-1975, (Novato: Presidio, 1988), 573-604, and Neil Sheehan, A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam, (New York: Random House, 1988), 203-265.

4. Readers should be aware that due to the influence of the U.S. Army, the ARVN armoured branch used the term “Troop” to describe subunit-sized organizations and the term “Squadron” for unitsized organizations. This review uses the generic Canadian Army terminology of “company” and “battalion.”

5. The M-41 “Bulldog” came into American service during the Korean War and entered ARVN service in 1964. It weighed 24 tons, its main armament was 76 mm, it had 12 to 38 mm of armour, and it could reach speeds of 72 km/h.

6. This province was in Military Region 1 / I Corps Tactical Zone, just south of the Demilitarized Zone. He left South Vietnam in 1975, during the final days of that country.

Source : Canadian Army Journal, Vol. 12.1 Spring 2009, pp. 123-125 (pdf).

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, as represented by the Minister of National Defence, 2009

Roy C. Russell: Their time has come [1969]

Montagnard mother and child
© 1971 AP Wire Photo

The following story appeared in the October 1969 issue of TYPHOON magazine.  The TYPHOON was published by First Field Forces Vietnam (IFFV) of the US Army Vietnam (USARV).

 

 

Looking like their fathers of
1,000 years ago, the
Montagnards are riding out
of the past.  They are sure that

 

 

 

Their Time Has Come

By 1LT Roy C. Russell

In the Highlands near Gia Nghia, lives a pretty Montagnard girl, lithe with delicate features and black hair that streams out over the back seat of her jeep when she lets it blow in the wind.  If you are a friend, she calls you grandson (though she is only 27), and she will get you discount prices on Ba Muoi beer at the local bar.

But say the Montagnards are savages, and the flash in her eyes says she would like to come at you with anything from a M16 to a crossbow.  Say they are nomads who should not own land, or say they are too ignorant for schools, to superstitious for hospitals, and too primitive to make good soldiers, and she will erupt with the torrent of rebuttals that would scare the Black Panthers.

She can talk to you in French, Vietnamese, several Montagnard dialects, and English.  « Where did you learn these? » you ask.

« In the forest, » she answers, and her eyes twinkle just long enough to accent the mystery that surrounds her.  « You know I am 107 years old.  That is long enough to learn many things, but I am still a Montagnard. »

She represents a new generation of Montagnards, proud of its past, but demanding a modern role in the future of the Highlands.  You can help a village sacrifice a water buffalo by beating it to death with sticks and rocks.  You can watch a woman plant rice by poking small holes in the ground instead of plowing it up and disturbing the spirits.  You can sit through hot afternoons drinking ricewine inside smoke-filled longhouses which have not changed for centuries.  You can imagine you are living a thousand years ago.   But when the talk turns to politics, you know you are in the 20th Century.   The Montagnards know what time it is, and a variety of groups — some militant, others peaceful — are making sure no one else forgets.

For generations, the Montagnards have lived in the Highlands, unconcerned about the Vietnamese along the coast.   The feeling was mutual because Vietnamese fishermen and rice-farmers had no reason to leave the lowlands.  Traditionally separated, the two groups viewed one another with suspicion and, eventually, prejudice.  But in 1954, South Vietnam’s president, Ngo Dinh Diem, resettled approximately 200,000 ethnic Vietnamese lowlanders into land the Montagnards considered their own.  he also attempted to blanket the Montagnards with Vietnamese culture.  He eliminated tribal courts and disregarded Montagnard self-government and other institutions.

Over several months, many Montagnard tribes began to organize a resistance movement.  It started with casual grumbling as men sat around their longhouses complaining quietly about strangers from the lowlands who were taking up more and more of the land, and about the government which seemed to ignore their established customs.  Then, as occasional visitors travelled through the village, they learned that other tribes were talking about the same things.

Soon, messengers were hurrying along the highland trails to call a meeting of tribal leaders.  In 1958, these leaders formed a group called « Bajaraka, » a name derived from the initials of four powerful Montagnard groups — the Bahnar, Jarai, Rhade, and Koho.  United in this way, the Montagnards began working to make the Highlands a separate nation with its own army.  When letters and petitions to the Vietnamese government, the United Nations, and various diplomatic missions were ignored, Bajaraka staged demonstrations throughout the Highlands.  These brought results, but not the ones desired: all the Bajaraka leaders were arrested and jailed by President Diem.

After the overthrow of Diem, the government of Nguyen Khanh released these Montagnards.  Paul Nur, who is now the GVN Minister for Ethnic Minorities, seeks peaceful cooperation between Montagnards and Vietnamese while preserving Montagnard culture and traditions.  Y B’ham Enuol, once exiled and now living in the Cambodian jungles, became the leader of a militant faction known as FULRO (United Front for the Liberation of Oppressed Races), which wanted virtual Montagnard autonomy, a separate nation.  FULRO has since been replaced by a legitimate political party working for Montagnard advancement within the Vietnamese nation.  The third man, Y Bih Alio, joined the Viet Cong and fought to bring the Montagnards under communist control.  A recent VC prisoner reported that he had seen Y Bih dead in a jungle a year ago.

Part of the communist strategy for victory in the South depended on driving a wedge between the Montagnards and the Government of Vietnam.  Communist Montagnards and Vietnamese cadre from North Vietnam were sent into the highlands to live in villages, where they successfully exploited Montagnard prejudices and their hopes for independence.  At the same time, communist military units terrorized the Montagnards, stealing their crops and forcing them to fight against the government.  Since there were very few GVN representatives in the highlands, the VC cadre were not contested seriously, and by 1961 it appeared the government had lost the loyalty and cooperation of much of the Montagnard population.   To counter this, the GVN let the US send Special Forces advisors into the highlands to train village defense units, border patrols, and other reconnaissance teams.   Spirited and well equipped with modern weapons, these Montagnard units succeeded in reversing the communist success in the highlands.  Even so, the relations between the GVN and the Montagnards did not improve.  By 1964, the movement for Montagnard independence, which had begun peacefully, had become more militant.  But its goal was the same: Montagnard independence.

In late 1964, Montagnard yearnings for autonomy were increasing at a time when they had the arms with which to revolt and when the countryside was weakened by repeated coups and disunity.  This environment bred the first armed Montagnard revolt on September 20, 1964.  Montagnard strikers (Civilian Irregular Defense Group soldiers in Quang Duc and Darlac provinces) revolted, killed some 70 Vietnamese, and marched on Ban Me Thuot.  The organization which planned and conducted this revolt identified itself as FULRO (United Front for the Liberation of Oppressed Races).  It appears to have been an outgrowth of the Bajaraka movement with the addition of an armed military organization.  With American assistance, the GVN persuaded the Montagnards not to attack Ban Me Thuot.  But Y B’ham, the FULRO leader, fled to Cambodia with several thousand followers.

Immediately after the revolt, the government of Nguyen Khanh met with Montagnard leaders and planned an assistance program that showed respect for Montagnard traditions.  The Highlanders would choose their own representatives in the National Assembly and hold positions in the central and local administrations.  The traditional Montagnard court system would be reinstituted.  Entrance requirements for officer and NCO students would be revised to admit Montagnards, and a pre-military school for children would be opened.  The government also agreed to recognize Montagnard ownership of land and to provide assistance in developing it.  Additional schools would be built for Montagnards, and scholarships to high school and universities would be granted.  Except for autonomy, most of the Montagnard’s grievances were recognized by Khanh, and he proposed remedial action.

The Khanh government, however, was replaced through a coup in 1965, and his successors did little to implement this program.  The Montagnards felt the promises made to them had been broken.   Tensions in the highlands increased.  On December 18, 1965, there was a second FULRO uprising at various places in Quang Duc, Darlac, and Phu Bon.  The rebellion was put down in a day, and its leaders were either imprisoned or executed.

At that point, there appeared to be little hope for improved relations.  In 1966, the government of Nguyen Cao Ky began to implement General Khanh’s program.  In February, a Special Commissariat for Highlander Affairs was appointed commissioner.  At this time, FULRO forces began negotiating the conditions for their return to the GVN.  Finally, on October 17, 1966, 250 FULRO soldiers swore allegiance to the government, by Y B’ham who was still the nominal FULRO leader, remained in Cambodia.

During the following year, tensions eased between the Vietnamese and Montagnards.  Six Montagnards, including a member of FULRO, were elected to the National Assembly; President Nguyen Van Thieu signed a special law which recognized the Montagnards’ right to own their land; and the GVN established the Ministry for Ethnic Minorities with Paul Nur installed as a regular member of the Cabinet.

While most Montagnard leaders recognized that the GVN had outlined a credible minority policy, Y B’ham remained dissatisfied.  Having lived in exile for three years and still in command of a force of militant Montagnard guerrillas, he claimed to have the underground support of thousands of other Montagnards within the Republic of Vietnam itself.  Finally, in July, 1968, the government invited him to Ban Me Thuot for further negotiations.  Y B’ham returned in August to a Special Forces camp in Quang Duc Province.  From there he was flown by Caribou to Ban Me Thuot.  After a week of meetings, Y B’ham’s position narrowed to a few specific issues.  He still wanted some degree of regional Montagnard autonomy within the political framework of the GVN and with himself installed as Commissioner General.  He also asked the GVN to arm Montagnard forces commanded by Montagnard officers to protect Montagnard villages and fight the communists.

He rescinded two other demands he had made earlier: the right of the Montagnards to receive foreign aid directly from other countries, and separate Montagnard representation in all international conferences dealing with Vietnam.

With this understanding, Y B’ham returned to Cambodia and notified his representative in South Vietnam, Y D’he Adrong, to make final agreements for FULRO’s permanent return to the country.  An agreement was reached on December 12, 1968.  Among other things, it specified that the Montagnards could form their own political party, fly their own flag in the same manner as do other political parties in the Republic of Vietnam, and that the returning FULRO soldiers would be trained and organized into Regional Force companies with Montagnard leaders.  Y D’he returned to Saigon with the news.

In January 1969, more than 1,300 FULRO soldiers and their families filtered across the Cambodian border into Quang Duc Province, collecting near the Special Forces camp at Bu Prang.  From there, they were flown to Ban Me Thuot, where an official ceremony on February 1 marked the renewal of their allegiance to GVN.

Everything had gone according to plan, except for one thing: Y B’ham, the FULRO leader, had stayed in Cambodia.  The reason for this is still not clear.  Either he was not pleased with the final agreement Y D’he negotiated with GVN, or he was held captive by a dissident and radical FULRO faction which tried to subvert the FULRO-GVN accord.  In either case, Y B’ham’s absence did not stop 1,300 of his former followers from rallying to the government.

During the ceremony, Y D’he announced something which seemed to take most FULRO members by surprise: not only would they swear allegiance to the GVN, but they would also formally dissolve the FULRO organization and replace it with a new, non-militant Montagnard political party, later named the Ethnic Minorities Solidarity Movement (EMSM).  While Y D’he’s followers did not expect this mandate, they acquiesced quickly.

Since then, Y D’he has played a less active role in Montagnard politics and has turned more to farming.   Another former FULRO leader, Y Bling, took charge of the new party and continues as it chairman today.  While the EMSM works to preserve Montagnard customs and to protect the full citizenship rights of its members, it advocates peaceful accomodation with the GVN, not militant secession.  This is its principal difference from FULRO.

In a series of written agreements, the GVN has promised to issue land titles to Montagnard farmers; to provide better schools, medical facilities, and agricultural assistance; and to establish Montagnard Regional Force companies while integrating other Montagnard officers into regular ARVN units.

EMSM is now the strongest force uniting the Montagnards.  Y Bling claims 65,000 dues-paying members, but probably many fewer are ardent supporters.  Still, EMSM has emerged as the first viable form of political leverage the Montagnards have had — at least it is the first which has gained significant support from the GVN.  How long it can contain the undercurrent of militancy in the Highlands depends on how well the GVN can fulfill its plans.  In wartime, it is hard to build schools and train politicians.  The Montagnards know this.  But they also know this is the 20th Centry and that it is time they have a place in the future of the country.

It is doubtful they will let anyone forget.

 

Major Montagnard Tribes
© October 1969 Typhoon Magazine

Source : landscaper.net

CIA : Opérations Laos – Amerikas geheimer Krieg in Laos

La guerre du Viêt-Nam fut le premier conflit retransmis à la télévision. Pourtant, c’est le Laos voisin qui constitua la cible d’une guerre aérienne interminable et démesurée, devenant le pays le plus bombardé de l’histoire. Cette « guerre secrète », l’opération la plus importante menée par la CIA, reste aujourd’hui encore largement ignorée. Les spécialistes parlent de crimes de guerre et la comparent aux conflits actuels en Irak et en Afghanistan. Dans CIA – Opération Laos, les principaux protagonistes de cette opération (anciens agents de la CIA, pilotes américains, combattants laotiens, reporters de guerre) nous conduisent jusqu’à l’emplacement stratégique du conflit. (tvmag Le Figaro).

Durée : 80min.
Genre : Docu-info – Historique
Origine : Allemagne
Année de réalisation : 2008
Réalisation : Marc Eberle
Rediffusion(s) : 08/04/2012 à 18:55 sur Histoire

La CIA et L’Opération Laos (partie 1)

La CIA et L’Opération Laos (partie 2)

La CIA et L’Opération Laos (partie 3)

La CIA et L’Opération Laos (partie 4)

Interviews with FULRO partisans (extracts) – by Virginia Morris

Virginia Morris: Security and Defence Analyst & Author

Virginia Morris is commissioned to do presentations on security and defence. Her specialist subjects are asymmetric warfare and terrorism. Virginia also examines how poverty and environmental issues affect these fields. She has worked for the United Nations in Lao, as an engineering consultant in the UK and alongside senior members of the Communist Party in Vietnam. Her work has led Virginia to be invited to give presentations to noted audiences such as American Special Forces. She has also been interviewed for Vietnamese and British TV. For part of her work she has interviewed Vietnam War Veterans. Many of which fought along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Most had been in American Special Forces for many years and some of which were Montagnard people. They now belong to Vietnam Veteran Associations and support Save the Montagnard People.

Extracts

Ysiu Hlong – Vietnam War Veteran

Mien Pangting – Vietnam War Veteran

Source You Tube, chaîne de Virginia Morris

Virginia Morris official website

Interview en français avec le général Tran Van Don [1981]

“Interview with Tran Van Don.”, 05/07/1981, WGBH Media Library & Archives, (accessed 12 Oct 2012).

As a former general in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, Tran Van Don was pivotal to the toppling of Ngo Dinh Diem during the 1963 coup d’etat. Here he recalls life under French colonialism, the rule of Bao Dai, and his relationship with Ngo Dinh Diem – leading to the coup d’etat and death of Diem.

 

Episode 103
Program America’s Mandarin (1954 – 1967)
Series Vietnam: A Television History
Duration 00:46:56:05
Standard NTSC
Source WGBH Open Vault

Source : Open Vault

Séminaire “Mémoires d’Indochine” : Mémento personnalités – séance 3

Mémento Personnalités

Rappel biographique succinct des auteurs et personnalités historiques  évoqués lors de la Séance 3

 

Partie 1 : Les deux Viêt-Nam

Pavillon national de la RDVN
(Nord Viêt-Nam 1945-1975)
Pavillon national de l’Etat du Viêt-Nam
(1948-1955)
et de la République du Viêt-Nam
(Sud Viêt-Nam 1955-1975)

 

Bùi Tín (1927-)

Dissident vietnamien, ancien vice-rédacteur en chef du quotidien du peuple (Nhân Dân, le journal officiel du Parti communiste du Vietnam). Il rejoint le Viet Minh en 1945 et exerce en tant que journaliste pour le journal de l’Armée populaire du Vietnam. Engagé dans l’Armée populaire vietnamienne à l’âge de 18 ans, il est blessé lors de la bataille Dien Bien Phu. Il sert au sein l’état-major de l’armée nord-vietnamienne pendant la guerre du Vietnam et s’occupe de la question des prisonniers de guerre américains. Durant la prise de Saigon le 30 avril 1975, il fait partie de l’unité nord-vietnamienne qui reçoit la reddition de Duong Van Minh, dernier dirigeant de la RVN (Sud). Après la victoire, il perd peu à peu ses illusions face à la corruption d’après-guerre et l’isolement de la RSVN. En 1990, Bui Tin quitte le Vietnam pour vivre en exil à Paris et exprimer publiquement ses critiques vis-à-vis du régime. A partir de novembre 1991, il intervient dans le débat sur les MIA-POW. Il publie plusieurs ouvrages en vietnamien qui font sensation dans lequel il dénonce l’appareil totalitaire communiste. Il publie en anglais deux ouvrages importants : Following Ho Chi Minh: The Memoirs of a North Vietnamese Colonel (University of Hawaii Press, 1995) et From Enemy To Friend: A North Vietnamese Perspective on the War (US Naval Institute Press, 2002). Il continue aujourd’hui à donner son avis sur l’évolution du Vietnam à travers son propre blog sur VOA.

David Lan Pham (1940-)

David Lan Pham est né à Thu Dau Mot dans la province de Binh Duong au Sud du Vietnam. Diplômé de l’Université de Saigon, il a enseigné l’histoire et a eu de multiples activités culturelles et journalistiques au Sud-Vietnam avant 1975. Il a exercé diverses fonctions de direction en tant que Secrétaire général des enseignants vietnamiens de l’Association des Enseignants d’Histoire et de Géographie, secrétaire général de l’Association de la Bibliothèque nationale vietnamienne, Conseiller à la Confédération Vietnamienne Travail (CVT) de Binh Duong et conseiller d’une Ecole bouddhiste à Binh Duong. Il quitte le pays clandestinement avec son fils et ses deux frères en 1986. Il publie en 2000 un récit de vie dans lesquel il rend compte de la vie sociale et politique vietnamienne sur quatre décennies de guerre civile. Il publie également d’autres ouvrages dont une biographie d’Ho Chi Minh en 2007. Aux Etats-Unis, il a travaillé pour le programme des réfugiés en Alabama et a créé le Bulletin bilingue / Tin Viet et Dac San Que Huong. Pour ses activités éducatives et sociales auprès des réfugiés il est cité dans plusieurs répertoires biographiques. Il vit actuellement à Toledo, dans l’Ohio.

* * *

Ngô Đình Diệm (1901-1963)

Mandarin nationaliste et catholique, originaire de Huê. Ministre de l’empereur Bao Dai en 1932, démissionne en 1933. Il se rend aux Etats-Unis au début des années cinquante. De retour au Viêt-Nam, il prend la direction du dernier gouvernement de Bao Dai en juin 1954. Un an plus tard à la suite d’un référendum populaire douteux, il devient Chef d’Etat de la Première République du Viêt-Nam (1955-1963) qu’il fonde le 26 octobre 1955. Il met en place une politique anticommuniste autoritaire avec les Agrovilles en 1959 et les Hameaux stratégiques en 1961. Très contesté au sein même du camp nationaliste, il est assassiné en novembre 1963 avec son frère Nhu à la suite de la violente crise bouddhiste. Sa diparition plonge le Sud Viêt-Nam dans une période de chaos et de troubles politiques pendant trois ans. Pour une biographie plus complète voir Ngo Dinh Diem (par Kelsey Leonard – Cold War Museum).

Thích Quảng Đức (1897-1963)

Vénérable bouddhiste, né Lâm Văn Tức en 1897, originaire de la province de Khanh Hoa au centre. Pratiquant dès l’âge de 7 ans, il consacre sa vie à l’étude du bouddhisme. Moine à 20 ans, il s’isole lors d’une retraite de trois ans après son ordination. Il s’immole par le feu à Saigon le 11 juin 1963 pour s’opposer à la politique répressive du gouvernement de Ngô Đình Diệm contre les bouddhistes. L’image de cette immolation (Malcom Browne, prix Pulitzer et 1963),  fera le tour du monde et précipitera la chute du clan des Ngo et de l’appareil diemiste. Par ce geste, Thich Quang Duc est depuis devenu une icône internationale.

Trường Chinh (Đặng Xuân Khu, 1907-1988)

Dirigeant communiste, principal théoricien du parti. Secrétaire général du PCI à partir de mai 1941 puis du Lao Động entre 1951 et 1956. Auteur du célèbre texte La résistance vaincra, regroupant une série d’articles parus à l’origine dans la revue du parti Su That (La Vérité) du 4 mars au 1er août 1947. Pro-chinois, il est le maître d’œuvre de la réforme agraire radicale avant d’être écarté de la direction du parti. Président de l’Assemblée nationale de la RDVN en 1960. Chef de l’Etat de la RSVN de juillet 1981 à juin 1987. Incarne la ligne dure du PCV et la ligne maoïste dans les années soixante. Paradoxalement, il est favorable aux réformes du Doi Moi en 1986 à la fin de sa vie.

 

 

Partie 2 : Mouvements de résistance

Le FULRO

Pavillon du Front de Libération du Champa
Pavillon du Front de Libération des Hauts Plateaux Montagnards
(Flag by Chrystian Kretowicz)
Pavillon du FULRO
(Front Unifié de Lutte des Races Opprimées)

 

Lès Kosem (?-1976)

Officier militaire cambodgien d’origine Cham, connu sous le nom de guerre « Po Nagar », et figure marquante de la Deuxième Guerre d’Indochine. Parachutiste dans l’Armée royale cambodgienne, il fonde le Front de Libération du Champa dans les années 1950. Son organisation rejoint le front de résistance montagnarde FULRO (Front Unifié de Lutte des Races Opprimées) créé le 20 septembre 1964. Il se sépare du FULRO en 1968 après un désaccord avec Y Bham Enuol, le leader du Front. Lié aux services secrets cambodgiens, Les Kosem est impliqué dans le trafic d’armes avec les Nord-Vietnamiens. Après le renversement de Sihanouk en 1970, il devient un fervent partisan de Lon Nol et reçoit le grade de général des Forces Armées Nationales Khmères (FANK). A la victoire des Khmers rouges en avril 1975, il se serait réfugié en Malaisie où il décède un an plus tard.

Y Bham Enuol (1923-1975)

Résistant montagnard d’origine E-Dhe (Radhé), il fonde et dirige plusieurs mouvements armés montagnards. Au mois de mai 1958, il créé le front Bajaraka mais il est arrêté en septembre par le régime de Ngo Dinh Diem et reste emprisonné jusqu’à la chute de Diem. En mars 1964, il fonde le Front de Libération des Hauts Plateaux Montagnard, front qui intègre le FULRO (Front Unifié de Lutte des Races Opprimées) créé le 20 septembre 1964 dont il prend la direction. Pour divergence de stratégie, il est arrêté par Les Kosem, un des leaders cambodgien du Front. Il est assigné à résidence à Phnom Penh jusqu’à sa mort en avril 1975 où il est exécuté par les Khmers rouges avec sa famille.

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Le FNL Sud-Vietnam

Pavillon du Front national pour la libération du Sud-Viêt Nam (FNL-Sud VN 1960-1975)

 

Nguyen Huu Tho,  (born July 10, 1910, Cho Lon, southern Vietnam—died Dec. 24, 1996, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam), chairman of the National Liberation Front (NLF), the South Vietnamese political organization formed in 1960 in opposition to the U.S.-backed Saigon government.

The son of a rubber-plantation manager who was later killed during the First Indochina War (1946–54), Nguyen Huu Tho studied law in Paris in the 1930s. Returning to Saigon, he set up practice, remaining politically inactive until 1949, when he led student demonstrations against the French; he also organized protests in 1950 against the patrolling of the southern Vietnamese coast by U.S. warships. He was imprisoned and won popular acclaim for his prolonged hunger strike in protest of the war.

After the Geneva Agreements had divided Vietnam into northern and southern zones in 1954, Tho cooperated with the southern regime of Ngo Dinh Diem until he was arrested for advocating nationwide elections on reunification. Except for a short interval in 1958, Tho remained in prison from 1954 to 1961, when he escaped with the aid of some of his anti-Diem followers. These men, who had recently formed the National Liberation Front, made Tho, a noncommunist, provisional and then full-time chairman of the NLF.

Tho essentially served as a figurehead leader, while real power in the NLF was held by its military arm, the Viet Cong, and by veteran communists who reported directly to the North Vietnamese leadership. Tho helped attract a wide spectrum of South Vietnamese supporters to the NLF. In June 1969 the NLF established a Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG) with Huynh Tan Phat as president and Nguyen Huu Tho as chairman of its advisory council. The PRG, in effect, became the government of South Vietnam in April 1975, when the Saigon government’s troops surrendered to the North Vietnamese and PRG forces. Tho was made a vice president of Vietnam in 1976, a post he held until 1980, when he became acting president. In 1981 Tho was made vice president of the Council of State, as well as chairman of the Standing Committee of the National Assembly. (source : Encyclopedia Britannica).

Marcelino Truong : Une si jolie petite guerre – Saigon 1961-1963

Avis de parution le 18 octobre 2012. Marcelino Truong, Une si jolie petite guerre. Saigon 1961-1963, Paris, Denoël, Denoël Graphic, 2012, 272 p.

En janvier 1961, John F. Kennedy devient le 35e président des États-Unis. Déterminé à endiguer le communisme en Asie, il lance le Projet Beef-Up, destiné à renforcer l’aide militaire et économique américaine à la République du Vietnam. C’est dans ce contexte que le petit Marcelino Truong et sa famille débarquent à Saigon, en juillet 1961. Sa mère est malouine et maniaco-dépressive, son père est un diplomate vietnamien. Nommé directeur de l’agence Vietnam-Press, Truong Buu Khanh fréquente assidûment le Palais de l’Indépendance où il fait office d’interprète quand le président Ngô Dinh Diêm reçoit des visiteurs anglophones. Il va ainsi observer de très près les manœuvres d’un gouvernement qui se débat entre nationalisme, rejet de la France coloniale, défiance et fascination pour l’Amérique.

Marcelino Truong interroge ses souvenirs d’enfance pour brosser un portrait à la fois impressionniste et objectif de la capitale sud-vietnamienne livrée aux prémices d’une guerre qui s’intensifie. Tandis que les gros porteurs US débarquent un armement de plus en plus lourd, les attentats viêt-cong se multiplient. L’état d’urgence et la mobilisation générale sont décrétés au Sud. Des coups d’Etat sont ourdis par des généraux félons, qui aboutiront, le 1er novembre 1963, à l’assassinat du président Diem. Vingt et un jours plus tard, c’est Kennedy qui tombe sous les balles de Lee Harvey Oswald. Mêlant l’histoire familiale à la grande Histoire, Truong redonne vie à une époque, un lieu et des événements qui ont fait basculer le cours du monde et réussit un roman graphique palpitant, où les causes de la plus grande défaite de l’Amérique sont examinées avec pertinence depuis le camp des vaincus.

Marcelino Truong est peintre, illustrateur, dessinateur de presse et auteur de bande dessinées. On lui doit de nombreux albums jeunesse. Son dernier ouvrage adulte, une adaptation du roman de James Lee Burke, Prisonniers du ciel, est paru dans la collection Rivages/Casterman/Noir.

Coomuniqué Denoël Graphic en pdf.

A lire : Dans les coulisses d’ « Une si jolie petite guerre » avec Marcelino Truong sur Long Cours

La décolonisation et la guerre vécues par les populations du Viêt-Nam, du Laos et du Cambodge