Archives par mot-clé : Vietnam War

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

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)

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.

 * * *

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).

Book Review by Kathryn C. Statler: Triumph Imagined

Moyar, Mark, Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2006, xxiii+416 p.

Book Review by Kathryn C. Statler:

Triumph Imagined

In The Man in the High Castle, novelist Philip K. Dick presents an alternate outcome to World War II by envisioning a world in which the Axis powers won the war. Dick’s classic came to mind after reading Mark Moyar’s Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965, as both books offer lessons on history, truth, and interpretation. In the first of a two-volume project, Moyar attempts a new look at the evolution of American intervention in Vietnam from South Vietnamese Premier Ngo Dinh Diem’s 1954 assumption of power to Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1965 decision to send combat troops to South Vietnam. Opening with a brief sketch of Vietnamese history, Moyar then traces the development of South and North Vietnam as Saigon (with U.S. support) and Hanoi (backed by the USSR and China) attempted to outmaneuver one another politically and militarily. As his narrative unfolds, Moyar challenges scholars of the Vietnam War to question earlier assumptions and knowledge about North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh’s nationalist credentials, Diem’s ineptitude, the accuracy of prominent American journalists, the Buddhist protest movement, Johnson’s escalation of the conflict, and the domino theory’s viability. Moyar concludes that Saigon and Washington could have won the war if Diem had stayed in power or if the Johnson administration had provided a stronger military response. Although encouraging us to « think otherwise » through its well-written, researched, and forcefully argued interpretations, Triumph Forsaken is, in many respects, a counterfactual explanation of U.S. involvement in Vietnam and fails to revise the historical record.

The book begins with Moyar’s designation of « orthodox » and « revisionist » camps. Early scholarship in the 1960s and 1970s (the orthodox school) criticized American actions in Vietnam and insisted that the war could not be won. Revisionists typically viewed the war effort as noble and winnable if the United States had either (1) made better use of its conventional military power or (2) adapted to guerilla warfare. Identifying himself as a revisionist, Moyar dismisses the vast majority of scholarship produced in the past two decades as continued orthodoxy, claiming that it is concentrated in a « relatively small number of areas, » concerned « primarily with American policymaking in Washington and Saigon, » and dominated by one school of thought that sees America’s involvement in the war as « wrongheaded and unjust » (p. xi). These statements are easily called into question by a perfunctory survey of the interdisciplinary, multi-archival, and international literature that has emerged. Equally perplexing is Moyar’s contention that his interpretation of « the facts » differentiates his volume « from all of the existing literature in its breadth of coverage both inside and outside the two Vietnams and in its use of a more comprehensive collection of source materials » (p. xiii). This is quite a claim-and one that fails to hold up under scrutiny. [1]To the extent that Moyar forces us to rethink orthodoxies, his work is commendable; but in the end, his revisionism is unpersuasive in large part because he simply does not marshal the evidence to support his version of events. In selectively quoting and caricaturing the arguments of others, he repeatedly fails to grapple with the avalanche of scholarship that contradicts his own. [2]

Before delving into some of the book’s key flaws, its strengths deserve mention. Moyar’s descriptions and analysis of military encounters and technologies are first rate. Moreover, his chapters on peaceful coexistence and insurgency are expansive in their coverage of the evolution of South and North Vietnamese thinking, particularly Diem’s attempts to govern and guarantee stability from the national down to the local level. Moyar also gives a clear analysis of the various crises of succession in South Vietnam following Diem’s assassination. Finally, Moyar offers much greater detail about American military leaders, who emerge as the heroes of the book, in contrast to the « brainy civilians, » who, in Moyar’s opinion, had no conception of Vietnamese political, military, and cultural realities (pp. 349, 416). [3] Moyar also reminds us that the Americans and their South Vietnamese allies often fought effectively and ethically.

Unfortunately, the weaknesses of the book far outweigh its strengths. Moyar has a tendency to leave out pesky details that might derail his interpretations, committing a number of factual errors in the process. For example, he incorrectly claims Truong Chinh was a supporter of Soviet policy when in fact he had a pro-Chinese orientation, he fails to offer any evidence at all to explain how the French and Vietnamese forces were on « the verge of crushing » the Viet Minh in early 1954 (pp. 28, 297, 322), and he mistakenly concludes that congressional leaders gave united action-proposed multilateral intervention to lift the Viet Minh siege at Dien Bien Phu-their « consent » and were « willing » to send ground forces if other nations contributed large numbers of troops. Rather, Congress insisted on allied participation and immediate French independence for Indochina-neither of which was likely to materialize-before agreeing to united action. Nor did united action come down to « whether Britain would go along, » which was secondary to congressional obstructionism. Finally, the British declined united action not because the « potential danger to Malaya and other British interests was not sufficiently large to justify a possible war, » but because they wanted to give negotiations at the upcoming Geneva Conference a chance to succeed (p. 29). [4]

Readers will be forgiven for asking « what Geneva Conference? » as Moyar skims over one of the most important points in the decision-making process on Vietnam. According to Moyar, the Geneva agreements suffered from a « congenital defect » in that they lacked « the endorsement of the new South Vietnamese government and the U.S. government, » both of which were « certain » to be leading actors in the future (pp. 30-31). However, it was far from certain in July 1954 that Washington and Saigon would emerge as the decision makers. It became clear that the Geneva agreements would fail only after Diem began to consolidate his control; U.S. officials made the conscious decision to replace France in South Vietnam in the military, political, economic, and cultural realms; and London, Paris, Moscow, and Beijing made other concerns a priority over implementing the accords. Moyar’s painfully one-sided depiction of the French villainy in resisting Diem’s attempts to wipe out his enemies during this period results from his heavy reliance on anti-French American and South Vietnamese sources. Like the Americans, the French were divided on Diem’s prospects for success and were not engaged in round-the-clock « plotting » and « calumny » against him (pp. 41-53).

Moyar provides valuable analysis of Diem’s rise to power and the strengths of his 1954-1963 government, although he is not the first to do so, as his book suggests. A general trend in the scholarship during the past decade has rehabilitated Diem’s image to some degree. [5] Still, Diem’s many weaknesses are almost completely absent in the book. Moyar chooses instead to blame the Buddhists and David Halberstam’s and Neil Sheehan’s press coverage for rising American and South Vietnamese hostility to Diem. However, not all Buddhists were « fanatical » and « covert communists, » and many American officials shared the journalists’ concerns about Diem (pp. 217, 228, 317). Every American ambassador from Donald Heath to Frederick Nolting left South Vietnam far more pessimistic than when they arrived. And, although not apparent in Moyar’s account, a number of military officials also held deeply negative views of the Diem regime and its successors. [6] In the end, Moyar’s claim that if Diem had lived « it is highly doubtful that the war would have reached a point where the United States needed to introduce several hundred thousand of its own troops to avert defeat » and that it was « quite possible » that South Vietnam « could have survived under Diem without the help of any U.S. ground forces » is impossible to prove and unsupported by the evidence (p. 286).

Strangely, while casting a critical eye at official American statements and documents, Moyar gives far less scrutiny to the rhetoric of non-American actors and to American military leaders. For example, in his use of translated Vietnamese sources, both communist and non-Communist, Moyar accepts at face value claims of Ho Chi Minh’s deference to the international Communist movement, the North Vietnamese dismissal of the 1956 elections, and the strength of the South Vietnamese armed forces (pp. 4, 9, 58, 181-84). [7] Moreover, in pressing his point that an invasion of the North was the best option for the United States in 1964, Moyar argues that Johnson’s rejection of the military’s proposals for « hard action » in Laos and Vietnam and his choice of gradual escalation convinced Hanoi that the United States would not put up a fight for South Vietnam (pp. 348-49). If hard action had been pursued, according to Moyar, the North Vietnamese would have retreated into the mountains and China would have abstained from the fighting, but there is little evidence to indicate that Hanoi and Beijing would have followed this script. Even worse, Moyar engages in speculative pop psychology when he explains Johnson’s unwillingness to embrace hard action through a college incident in which Johnson « did not stand and trade punches, but instead hopped onto his bed, lay on his back, and kicked frantically with his long legs to keep the would-be adversary away » (pp. 288, 331).

Finally, Moyar’s claim that American leaders and their allies believed that if South Vietnam had fallen in the 1960s, a « high probability » existed that many dominoes would have been knocked over in Southeast Asia must be addressed. In his scenario, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaya, Singapore, and Indonesia would have toppled, with potential fallout in the Philippines, Taiwan, Burma, and Japan. Moyar also asserts that much of the international community, including SEATO and NATO members, publicly and privately supported the United States in Vietnam. There is little, however, aside from a few selected quotations from worried American officials and international leaders trying to acquire more American aid, to substantiate these arguments (pp. 138-42, 377-91). If other leaders were so concerned with the domino effect, then perhaps they would have done more than offer token troops, rhetoric, and humanitarian aid. SEATO never took an official stand asking members to assist South Vietnam, NATO countries sought ways to disengage the United States from Vietnam, and, in the end, only the Philippines, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea sent troops to Vietnam, and of those, the Philippines, Thailand, and South Korea leveraged their aid for important U.S. economic and military concessions as well as a complete U.S. subsidy of their forces in Vietnam.

Moyar excels at creating an alternate history to American intervention in Vietnam, an exercise that undoubtedly has its uses in stimulating thinking and challenging traditional viewpoints. The problem, of course, is that we will never know the course of events if Diem had lived, or if the United States had invaded North Vietnam, or if South Vietnam had fallen in the 1960s instead of 1975. Ultimately, Moyar offers no compelling evidence that triumph was forsaken, but, by imagining that it was, his book makes for an interesting read.

 


 

[1] I refer readers to Edwin Moïse’s excellent bibliography on the Vietnam Wars, available from http://www.clemson.edu/caah/history/FacultyPages/EdMoise/bibliography.html.

[2] See, for example, Fredrik Logevall, Choosing War: The Lost Chance for Peace and the Escalation of War in Vietnam (Berkeley, CA, 1999), xiii and David Anderson, « One Vietnam War Should Be Enough, » Diplomatic History 30, no. 1 (January 2006): 2-8 for the full context of their quoted comments in Triumph Forsaken (p. xii).

[3] See, for example, Moyar’s one-sided criticism of Ambassadors Elbridge Durbrow and Henry Cabot Lodge (pp. 68, 99, 115, 236-74).

[4] See Joint Resolution Draft, 2 April 1954, Dwight D. Eisenhower Library (EL), Dulles Papers, Subject series, box 8; Draft of the Congressional Resolution, 17 May 1954, Dulles Papers, Dulles-Herter Correspondence, 1953-1961, microfilm, reel 5; William Knowland oral history, EL, OH-233 (2 of 3), 1967; top-secret report, 23 April 1954, Archives Nationales, Paris, 74AP/38; 7 April 1954, Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, Asie 1944-55, Indochine, vol. 290; top-secret memo of Dulles-Eisenhower conversation, 19 May 1954, Dulles-Herter, reel 5.

[5] For a sampling of this literature, see Philip Catton, Diem’s Final Failure: Prelude to America’s War in Vietnam (Lawrence, KS, 2003); Edward Miller, « Grand Designs: Vision, Power and Nation Building in America’s Alliance with Ngo Dinh Diem, 1954-1960 (Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 2004); and Kathryn Statler, Replacing France: The Origins of American Intervention in Vietnam (Lexington, KY, 2007), chaps. 4, 5, 8.

[6] See Robert Topmiller, The Lotus Unleashed: The Buddhist Peace Movement in South Vietnam, 1964-1966 (Lexington, KY, 2002) for a counterargument to Moyar’s claims about the Buddhist movement. See Robert Buzzanco, Masters of War: Military Dissent and Politics in the Vietnam Era (New York, 1996) for American military concerns about South Vietnam’s prospects for success.

[7] For works that address Ho Chi Minh’s nationalist credentials and Hanoi’s belief that the 1956 elections would be held, see Robert Scigliano, South Vietnam: Nation under Stress (Boston, 1964); Carl Thayer, War by Other Means: National Liberation and Revolution in Vietnam (Sydney, 1989); Robert Brigham, Guerrilla Diplomacy: The NLF’s Foreign Relations and the Vietnam War (Ithaca, NY, 1999); and William Duiker, Sacred War: Nationalism and Revolution in a Divided Vietnam (Boston, 1995).

Review of Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965 by Mark Moyar, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2006. Pages: xxiii+416. $32.00.

Reviewed by Kathryn C. Statler, in Political ReviewNet – Diplomatic History, Volume 32, Issue 01, pp. 153-157.
Online date : 10/04/2008

Pour en savoir plus :

Autres avis de lecture sur le site officiel de Mark Moyar.

Voir le débat suscité par cet ouvrage sur l’historiographie américaine de la guerre, en 2007 – en ligne sur pdf : H-Diplo

Les Hmong du Laos 1945-1975 – mémoire IEP de Tiphanie Grall

Le général Vang Pao (1929-2011)

Les Hmong du Laos 1945-1975. Leur engagement dans les guerres d’Indochine aux côtés des Occidentaux : enjeux et réalités

Genèse du sujet

Les Hmong sortent de l’anonymat

L’existence du peuple hmong demeurait encore largement ignorée du grand public il y a seulement une trentaine d’années. Ce n’est que dans les années 1970, alors que la guerre que menaient les Américains au Vietnam touchait à sa fin, que les Hmong firent leur apparition en toile de fond des débats géopolitiques internationaux, en raison du rôle qu’ils avaient tenu auprès des Etats-Unis en lutte contre la progression du communisme dans la péninsule indochinoise.

Au fur et à mesure que la Maison Blanche se trouvait contrainte de révéler la réalité de l’action américaine en Indochine, les circonstances de l’intervention parallèle américaine au Laos devinrent, sous la plume des journalistes et reporters de guerre présents sur place, « une guerre secrète » que la CIA menait contre les communistes avec l’aide de minorités ethniques de la région. Ces révélations alimentèrent les polémiques quant à la véracité de ces suppositions et projetèrent les Hmong sur le devant de la scène internationale. En effet, la plupart des combattants ayant servi dans les rangs de cette armée secrète utilisée par la CIA étaient des Hmong (1). Pour Mai Na M. Lee, ces débats ont eu pour conséquence de faire des Hmong une des minorités les plus connues du sud-est asiatique.

Peu à peu, à partir du milieu des années soixante-dix, la littérature concernant les guerres d’Indochine se fait de plus en plus fournie et le rôle des Hmong, parmi celui d’autres minorités ethniques montagnardes, y est largement évoqué. Il est alors également plus communément établi que les Hmong, avant de s’engager, pour certains, aux côtés des Américains, ont joué un rôle similaire auprès des Français, impliqués vingt ans plus tôt dans la première guerre d’Indochine.

Réflexions personnelles

J’ai personnellement eu connaissance de l’existence du peuple hmong il y a deux ans lors de la réalisation d’une présentation orale sur les minorités ethniques d’Asie du sud-est. A cette fin, j’ai lu l’ouvrage de Jane Hamilton-Merritt, Tragic Mountains, qui m’a plus particulièrement éclairée sur le rôle joué par les Hmong auprès des Français, puis des Américains durant les trente années de guerre quasi-incessantes qu’a connu l’Indochine en général, et plus particulièrement le Vietnam, entre 1945 et 1975.

L’idée d’approfondir cette question dans le cadre d’un mémoire m’est venue lors d’un voyage au Vietnam, en janvier de cette année, et très précisément suite à la visite du musée de la guerre d’Ho Chi Minh ville. On peut y voir de nombreux vestiges de la guerre américaine au Vietnam – photographies, matériel de guerre…- et des touristes américains s’y presser en grand nombre. M’interrogeant sur la perception actuelle et mutuelle des anciens protagonistes de cette guerre trente ans seulement après son terme, j’ai eu envie de réaliser un travail portant sur cette période de l’histoire des relations internationales, et plus particulièrement sur cette alliance improbable entre un peuple vivant reclus dans les montagnes du nord de l’Indochine et deux puissances mondiales, qui à première vue, étaient supposées vaincre sans mal les mouvements communistes de libération nationale.

Réf. : Tiphanie Grall, Les Hmong du Laos 1945-1975. Leur engagement dans les guerres d’Indochine aux côtés des Occidentaux : enjeux et réalités, Mémoire de fin d’études à l’Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Lyon 4ème année Section INTER, 2ème année Diplôme du Monde Extrême Oriental Contemporain. Séminaire Asie dirigé par M. Corcuff. 16 juin 2006, 94 p.

A lire sur Doc. SciencesPo Lyon

A télécharger en pdf

Malcolm Browne, Horst Fass and Roy Essoyan: the men who documented the Vietnam War

© 1963 Associated Press

Former Associated Press correspondent and photographer Malcolm Browne, best known for his award-winning image of a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who set himself ablaze in political protest, has died aged 81. Browne’s death follows the recent passing of Associated Press writer Roy Essoyan, correspondent George Esper, and photographer Horst Faas. All were part of the same generation of journalists who documented the Vietnam War. Here, we celebrate their work.

Browne (above), Saigon correspondent for the Associated Press, poses in front of his photo of a Vietnamese Buddhist monk’s fiery suicide after the image was selected as the world’s best news picture of the year at the Seventh World Press Photo contest in The Hague, Netherlands in 1963.

Source et galerie complète : The Telegraph

Vietnam War Combat Photographers Reunite

May 01, 2012 via LinkAsia

Nick Ut (above, left) of the Associated Press took one of the Vietnam War’s most iconic photos, of Kim Phuc (above, right) running from a napalm attack. On the other side of the conflict, Doan Cong Tinh of the Vietnam People’s Army Newspaper, was also snapping award-winning images. As Vietnamese broadcaster VTV4 reports, the two are now close friends.

Source : LinkAsia

Black April: The Fall of South Vietnam, 1973-75

Avis de parution ; CR de lecture par HistoryBuff ///

[nldr] Nous avons rencontré George J. Veith lors du SouthVietnam Symposium à l’Université de Cornell en juin dernier. Ce chercheur indépendant a noué de solides amitiés avec des personnalités vietnamiennes exilées afin de mieux saisir les réalités peu connues de la guerre. Nous avons évoqué ensemble le destin de Nguyen Tu, journaliste du Chinh Luan, décédé en juillet 2010. L’ouvrage de Veith nous plonge dans les deux dernières années de la guerre du Viêt Nam. Cette histoire militaire a le mérite de prendre en considération le destin des vaincus lors de cette étape cruciale qui mit fin à l’existence de la République du Viêt Nam le 30 avril 1975. Nous présentons ci-après le CR de lecture le plus complet paru sur Amazon.

 

An accurate account on the heroic efforts of the South Vietnamese in the last days

Black April is a book about the fall of South Vietnam in 1975. The book has 18 chapters, each titled by a quote, and an introduction. The book tells the story of South Vietnam in the last two years (1973-1975) of the Vietnam War, starting with the signing of the Paris Peace Accords and ending with the final collapse of South Vietnam on April 30, 1975.

The story is told from a military viewpoint. Those with other interests (e.g., political, social) may be easily turned off with detailed military maneuvers, troop movements, strategies, etc. However, the author skillfully intertwines war scenes with anecdotes of the human spirit, poignant and touching.

For those who are interested in military history, or just history in general, this book is a must-read. The chapters are full of detailed and vivid descriptions with maps and accounts of what happened during the last few months of the war. The author presents the material from a fairly objective position, using sources from all sides, including communist sources, in printed materials, memoirs, articles, etc. In addition to superb narrative, the author also provides valuable insights and analysis on what, how, and why things happened the way they did.

The collapse of South Vietnam started with the Paris Peace Accords in 1973 when Nixon pressed South Vietnam President Thieu into signing the agreement by promising harsh reaction to violations of the Peace Accords by the Communists (Chapter 1). Nixon’s promise to Thieu was kept secret from Congress. However, it is doubtful that things would have been different had Congress known about it.

As expected, the Communists didn’t sign the Peace Accords in good faith. It was merely a trick to allow the Americans to complete the face-saving withdrawal from Vietnam. Le Duan, the North Vietnam leader at the time and a die-hard Marxist, wanted to conquer South Vietnam. He persuaded the Politburo to push forward « revolutionary violence » in a military conquest of the South (Chapter 2).

South Vietnam desperately needed military aid from the U.S. to prepare for the defense. But Congress voted to reduce the aid amount. While South Vietnam prepared for the renewed war, North Vietnam poured supplies down the Ho Chi Minh trail and sent fresh troops to the South (Chapter 3). « [O]ne hundred thousand fresh troops advanced southward in 1973, and another eighty thousand were headed to the battlefields during the first half of 1974. » (p. 69)

The war resumed in South Vietnam when Gerald Ford became U.S. President (Chapter 4). « Ford faced a recalcitrant Congress and a stagnant economy, » (p. 81) and couldn’t do much.

The beginning of the end started with the collapse of Phuoc Long in January 1975 (Chapter 5). « Heavy rains swept Saigon, unusual for January. » Colonel Le Gro’s Vietnamese driver, eyeing the pouring rain, said to him, « Even the gods weep for Phuoc Long. » (p. 110)

Chapters 6 through 16 chronicles the collapse of Corp I and Corp II, from Ban Me Thuot (Chapters 6-7), Thieu’s error in his order of withdrawal (Chapter 8), the retreat from the highlands (Chapter 9), to the chaos and disintegration (Chapter 10), Hue and Corp I collapse (Chapters 11-12), the battle for the coastal cities (Chapter 13), the Communist advance toward Saigon (Chapter 14), the battle for Phan Rang and its capture by the Communists (Chapter 15-16).

The battle of Xuan Loc is the most heroic battle of the war (Chapter 17). Against all odds and clearly outnumbered, under the magnificent command of Brigadier General Le Minh Dao, the men of the 18th Infantry Division, the 82nd ranger battalion, the 1st Airborne Brigade, the Air Force, the 3rd Armored, and the popular and regional forces fought with remarkable courage and skill.

Only when President Duong Van Minh broadcast the surrender order on April 30, 1975, the South Vietnamese soldiers laid down their weapons (Chapter 18). They followed the order of their supreme commander against their own wish to continue fighting. Even when surrendering, they maintained their honor and discipline. In the most moving scene on the final day, the 81st Airborne Rangers surrendered to their enemy with class. « Shouldering their weapons,lining up four abreast in a column stretching almost half a mile long, the two thousand men of ARVN’s most elite unit began marching along the highway toward Saigon. As promised, Colonel Huan was in the first row. . . Soon a Communist officer and troops met Huan on the highway. Huan told the officer his men were prepared to turn over their weapons, but they would not undress. If ordered to do so, they would refuse, and a firefight would break out. The Communist officer relented, and the soldiers of the 81st stacked their arms and dispersed. It was the final unit in Saigon to lay down its weapons. » (p. 494-495). Several South Vietnamese Generals committed suicide. « [M]ost mid- and upper-level commanders stayed with their men. For example, not one Ranger-group or battalion commander deserted his men. Of the senior officers who escaped at the end, Lieutenant Generals Truong and Thi, for example, were no longer commanding units. » (p. 495)

Black April is an accurate account on the heroic efforts of the men of the South Vietnamese Armed Forces who stood up for a last fight against the aggressive North Vietnamese despite lack of ammunition, supplies, equipment, and replacements. They fought till the end. The very end.

A Vietnamese saying says, « Heroes die, but their heroic spirit never dies. » (Anh hung tu, khi hung bat tu.) The country of South Vietnam died, but the spirit of the Vietnamese people never dies.

Black April is about the military defeat of South Vietnam. But the stories in Black April are not just about the fight against communist invasion. They are about the human spirit. They are about the spirit of the Vietnamese people, the peace loving people, who were not given the chance they deserved to fight for freedom.

Réf. : George J Veith, Black April: The Fall of South Vietnam, 1973-1975, Encounter Books, 2012.

Source : HistoryBuff / Amazon

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Aperçu sur Google Books

 

George J. Veith [Author’ presentation]

People often ask me how I got involved in writing about Vietnam, since I did not serve there. Here is the short answer to that question.

I am a former Armor officer, having served in tank units in Germany and the U.S. I’ve always been interested in military history, and in particular, historical mysteries. My initial foray into Vietnam was investigating the POW/MIA issue, a natural fit on both counts. One can’t understand the POW/MIA issue without learning about the war, which led me to dive deeper into the conflict.

I also always wanted to write, and years ago, I found some documents at the Army’s Carlisle Barracks on the Joint Personnel Recovery Center (JPRC), the military’s top-secret unit to recover American prisoners during the Vietnam War. Realizing that no one had ever written about these guys, I made ten trips to Carlisle going through all their Vietnam materials. Eventually I located about 80% of the JPRC weekly and monthly reports, and I was off! That research led to « Code-Name Bright Light, » my first book.

My second book, « Leave No Man Behind, » is the memoirs of my friend Bill Bell, who led the USG’s POW/MIA field investigation teams after the war. It was published in 2004.

In April 2001, my friend and translator, Merle Pribbenow, and I visited MG Le Minh Dao, the last commander of the ARVN 18th Division. We interviewed him about the battle of Xuan Loc, which took place in April 1975. His unit stood their ground in some very heavy combat, and our article on the battle was published in January 2004 in the « Journal of Military History. » Dao was so pleased with our efforts that he begged me turn the paper into a book on the final two years of the war. He emphatically told me that the RVNAF had fought well, and they were not the corrupt cowards so often portrayed in the American media. Thus began a ten-year journey of research and writing that finally culminated in « Black April. »

I hope you enjoy it, and I look forward to your comments.

Nationalist in the Viet Nam Wars

Nguyen Cong Luan, Nationalist in the Viet Nam Wars. Memoirs of a Victim Turned Soldier, Bloomington & Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, 2012, 598 p.

This extraordinary memoir tells the story of one man’s experience of the wars of Viet Nam from the time he was old enough to be aware of war in the 1940s until his departure for America 15 years after the collapse of South Viet Nam in 1975. Nguyen Cong Luan was born and raised in small villages near Ha Noi. He grew up knowing war at the hands of the Japanese, the French, and the Viet Minh. Living with wars of conquest, colonialism, and revolution led him finally to move south and take up the cause of the Republic of Viet Nam, exchanging a life of victimhood for one of a soldier. His stories of village life in the north are every bit as compelling as his stories of combat and the tragedies of war. This honest and impassioned account is filled with the everyday heroism of the common people of his generation.

Nguyen Cong Luan was born in 1937 and grew up in North Viet Nam. Following the 1954 Geneva Agreement, which divided the nation in two, he moved south and enrolled in the Republic of Viet Nam Military Academy, then served in the Army of the Republic of Viet Nam until 1975. Incarcerated for six years seven months in communist prison camps, he immigrated to the United States in 1990. He was an associate editor of The Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War.

Aperçu sur Google Book