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View Poll Results: What would you have done as the United States?
Strongly support the Việt Minh. 1 50.00%
Slightly support the Việt Minh. 0 0%
Strongly support the French. 0 0%
Slightly support the French. <- Real History 1 50.00%
Oppose both the Việt Minh and the French. 0 0%
Remain completely neutral. 0 0%
Other (state in reply) 0 0%
Voters: 2. You may not vote on this poll

Old March 28, 2013, 08:45:50 PM
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Saigon Saigon is offline
Join Date: Jan 2013
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Posts: 63
Default First Indochina War

In this discussion, you are the United States and have complete and total control of the United States government and military forces. The year is 1945, World War II has just ended and France is struggling to retake it's colonies in French Indochina. The world has become a polarized battleground with right-wing democratic capitalist forces led by the United States on one side and left-wing communistic forces led by the Soviet Union on the other. During this time the United States faces a great challenge in a region that was then considered to be "insignificant."

What decisions would you have made as the United States during the First Indochina War? Would you have supported the French? Would you have supported the Việt Minh? Why would you make the choices you would and how would you deal with potential problems that may arise from undertaking such policies?

France has been involved in Indochina (Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam) since the late 18th century. In 1858 France invaded Vietnam and after four years of fighting, established a colony in Cochinchina (southern Vietnam). France followed up the invasion of Cochinchina with an invasion of Tonkin and Annam (northern Vietnam) in 1883 and by 1886 had effective control over the whole of modern day Vietnam. In 1867 Cambodia became a French protectorate at the request of the Cambodian king. In 1893 France invaded Siam and forced Siam to cede a large portion of it's territory (modern day Laos) to France.

After World War I a charismatic young man from Vietnam, Nguyễn Sinh Cung, looked to the United States with great admiration. Nguyễn Sinh Cung was so swept away by Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points and American ideas such as freedom and self-determination, that he bought a suit and traveled to Versailles in an attempt to meet his idol, Woodrow Wilson. Nguyễn Sinh Cung hoped to convince Woodrow Wilson to support Vietnamese independence and even cited the United States Declaration of Independence as an inspiration of his. Tragically for Nguyễn Sinh Cung, Woodrow Wilson was less than receptive to his pleas. Disheartened by his failure to convince his idol to support him, he lived in France for a few years and turned to communism. After turning to communism and helping found the French Communist Party, he changed his name to "Hồ Chí Minh," a name the world would not soon forget.

During World War II the French mainland quickly fell to the German war machine and it's colonial military forces were in poor condition. Taking advantage of France's weak colonial defenses, Japan invaded French Indochina. Hồ Chí Minh created the Việt Minh (League for the Independence of Vietnam) to combat both Japanese and French control over Vietnam. Throughout World War II, the Việt Minh provided intelligence information to the United States and rescued downed American and British pilots in Vietnam. The Việt Minh often worked alongside American OSS (Office of Strategic Services) operatives in their missions and the Vietnamese people had nothing but positive views of Americans based on this interaction.

After World War II, the Việt Minh declared Vietnam an independent state and had set up it's own government. Despite his negative experience with Woodrow Wilson, Hồ Chí Minh still had a very positive view of the United States; in contrast, he was distrustful of the Soviet Union and Joseph Stalin, as they had many disagreements in the past. Hồ Chí Minh's Vietnamese Declaration of Independence echoed that of the United States Declaration of Independence (you can read it here). During this time of independence, the Vietnamese had celebrations across the country in honor of the United States, with The Star-Spangled Banner being played across the country. During this time Hồ Chí Minh pleaded with Harry Truman and the United States to support Vietnamese independence. The Việt Minh offered to ally themselves with the United States, allow the United States to build military bases in Vietnam and offered America special trading privileges (including free trade agreements) with Vietnam.

Intent on taking back their former colonies, France invaded the fledgling Vietnamese state. The Việt Minh were strongly in control of the northern regions of Vietnam, but were relatively weak in the south, resulting in the French seizing control over the southern region. France's position was tenuous however, with much of the countryside loyal to Hồ Chí Minh, resulting in France only having "real" control over major cities, such as Saigon, Hue and Hanoi. French and Việt Minh forces clashed and there seemed to be no end in sight. This is where you come in, as leader of the United States, you have to make a choice: What do you do?

What did the United States do in real life?
The United States decided to back France's attempt to retake French Indochina. We publicly announced our "neutrality," but were secretly aiding the French and eventually ended up paying for 80% of France's war effort. Harry Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower feared that if we didn't support France, then France would "fall" to communism and ally itself with the Soviet Union. In return for American support, the French promised they would join the European Defense Community. In addition, the United States feared that Hồ Chí Minh was a puppet of Joseph Stalin, though in reality Hồ Chí Minh held Joseph Stalin in contempt.

After nearly a decade of fighting, the French finally gave up and the Geneva Conference convened to discuss the fate of Vietnam. The Geneva Conference stated that Vietnam would be temporarily divided into two states, North Vietnam and South Vietnam, and that a nation-wide election would be held in two years to decide the future of a unified Vietnam. The United States fervently supported South Vietnam, sending a great deal of (primarily military) aid and protecting the South Vietnamese president, Ngô Đěnh Diệm. We also sent thousands of military advisers to South Vietnam to train the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. During this same time, Hồ Chí Minh turned to Communist China for support, feeling betrayed by the Americans. The two year election deadline went by, but no nationwide elections were held, because both the Americans and the Chinese were afraid of the possible outcome. Instead an election was held only in South Vietnam, in which there were allegations of electoral fraud.

Ngô Đěnh Diệm had several problems going for him, however. Ngô Đěnh Diệm was a socialist who wanted to nationalized South Vietnam's major industries, which went against America's free market ideals. Ngô Đěnh Diệm was also very authoritarian, violently suppressing civil liberties and allegedly rigging elections. Political opponents, both communist and non-communist alike, were rounded up into "reeducation camps" headed by his brother. Late into his presidency he began a campaign of genocide and oppression of Buddhists in South Vietnam. To make matters worse, Ngô Đěnh Diệm refused to be America's puppet and while more than happy to accept American help, he refused to give in to America's demands, especially American pressure to initiate democratic reforms and respect civil liberties. Ngô Đěnh Diệm wasn't a very popular figure in South Vietnam and the Viet Cong (National Liberation Front) was founded to overthrow his government. The United States eventually decided that Ngô Đěnh Diệm had to go, so they supported a coup d'état against him in 1963.

The coup d'état against Ngô Đěnh Diệm left Vietnam destabilized and a series of coup d'état, both successful and unsuccessful, occurred in the following months and years. Unable to keep a stable, let alone democratically elected, government in power, South Vietnam's government and military were severe having trouble staving off the Viet Cong. Meanwhile American presence in Vietnam continued to grow, with more and more American "advisers" being killed by Viet Cong forces. American "advisers" had begun to take on new roles beyond that of just advising; with many "advisers" being directly involved in combat.

In 1964 two American naval vessels, the USS Madox and the USS Turner Joy were reportedly attacked by the North Vietnamese. Congress and the American people were outraged by the Gulf of Tonkin incident and demanded retribution. This resulted in Congress passing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, granting the president the ability to conduct military operations in Vietnam. Lyndon B. Johnson didn't commit American troops to directly fighting the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese right away, but as the Viet Cong gained more power, he began sending in American and allied troops to defend South Vietnam. And I'm sure you know what happened after that...

Last edited by Saigon; March 29, 2013 at 08:51:44 AM.
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