March 8, 1965 – U.S. Marines are among the first American combat troops to arrive in Vietnam as 3,500 land at China Beach in defense of the American air base located at Da Nang. At the time of their arrival there were already 23,000 American military advisors stationed in Vietnam.
On October 11, 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed National Security Action Memorandum No. 263. As of that date, the United States had a total of 16,000 “personnel” in country in South East Asia. The document memorialized the President’s Vietnam Withdrawal Policy. On November 22, 1963 President Kennedy was assassinated as the result of a conspiracy while being driven through downtown Dallas, Texas.
Within the text of that document [NSAM 263] Kennedy had, only six weeks prior to his death, ordered the first 1,000 military personnel home before Christmas (1963) and all remaining personnel out of Vietnam by the end of 1965. The first 1,000 were, in fact, sent home by Christmas a month following the assassination, leaving 15,000 in-country. However–a little more than a year later–by March 1965, the number of personnel deployed to Vietnam had increased by an additional 8,000 thus equalling a total of 23,000 (not including the 3,500 Marines who arrived on March 8th).
The majority of Americans remain mystified about the circumstances surrounding the genesis of the Vietnam War for good reason: The truth was either withheld from them for such a long period that the details began to get lost through the passage of time or they inadvertently bought into the propaganda machine’s official history.
LBJ’s War: Vietnam
Let’s analyze some of the propaganda popularized during that period: Who were the so-called “Viet Cong?” Where did they come from? What was their ideology?
The official history, reported on events toward the end of 1965, includes the following:
December 25, 1965 – The second pause in the bombing of North Vietnam occurs. This will last for 37 days while the U.S. attempts to pressure North Vietnam into a negotiated peace. However, the North Vietnamese denounce the bombing halt as a “trick” and continue Viet Cong terrorist activities in the South.
As a point of fact, the Viet Cong were not comprised of “North Vietnamese” natives nor were they “operatives” from Hanoi nor did they “take orders” from the “Government” of North Vietnam. Perhaps even more significant was the Viet Cong’s lack of interest in Communist Ideology. The Viet Cong’s only shared goal with the Communist Government of Hanoi went no further than their mutual desire to rid their country of foreign invaders.
Therefore, the continued attacks by the Viet Cong (in the South) were wholly separate from the alleged “suspicions held by Hanoi that our bombing halt was a trick.” There was no ideological connection between the Communist GOVERNMENT of North Vietnam and the Viet Cong “underground” of South Vietnam.
Moreover, even if the Government of North Vietnam had agreed to a negotiated peace with both the US and with the Government of South Vietnam (post-Diem era) — the Viet Cong would still have continued their resistance against the newest US-backed regime and against US troop presence in their country! The Viet Cong were not Communists–politically or socio-economically. They were originally anti-Diem-ists, due to his oppression, but by 1965 they had become anti– “any American-backed GOV of SVN;” anti-Northern (Catholic) “refugee” invaders (due to the displacement their presence had caused); and anti-US troops (as we were viewed as supporting another unpopular regime). They never were “pro-Communist” per se, notwithstanding US propaganda to the contrary. The perceived welcoming of aid from Hanoi by the Viet Cong was not an indication of a pro-Communist Ideology. Rather, it was a case of: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
Most Americans were under the misapprehension that the Viet Cong originated from the North and/or were ideologically associated with Communism. That was a myth promoted by US Intelligence in order to justify the American intervention that was taking place in the form of a “Pacification Program” — a euphemism for genocide — that was known as the “Strategic Hamlet Program.”
To recap: The Viet Cong were never pro-Communist so much as they were anti-US backed oppression. The Viet Cong were SOUTH Vietnamese natives. They did not originate from–nor did they ever have ideological ties to–Hanoi, notwithstanding the aid that they eventually received from the North in their struggle against US presence. The “non-governmental” politics of the indigenous people were neither Democratic nor Communist. Rather, they were deeply cultural. This is a concept that is so foreign to Western Society as to be nearly incomprehensible in its simplicity. The main unifying force of the South Vietnamese people resided in their universal practice of Ancestor Worship.
While the religious beliefs of the South Vietnamese were and are diverse, in each case, Ancestor Worship is integral. The relatively “post modern” outside religious influences include: Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Animism, and Taoism. Later–mostly as a result of the “installation” of Diem as the first President of the Republic of South Vietnam–Catholicism began to gain traction.
Although many of the indigenous peoples of South Vietnam practiced “Cao Dai” since the 1920’s, far and away the greatest religious influence upon the very fabric of South Vietnamese culture and belief systems resides in Ancestor Worship, which originated in Vietnam approximately 200 BC. It has been the single most persistent “constant” in Vietnamese culture!
Because Ancestor Worship had existed as the most influential “religious system” in Vietnam for more than TWO THOUSANDS YEARS, its presence in South Vietnam even predates that of Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Hinduism. It remained at the very core of Vietnamese “cultural awareness” during the war.
It should be noted that President Diem (the first President of South Vietnam) was a Roman Catholic, but was a native of NORTH Vietnam, born in Tỉnh Quảng Bình. Indeed, one of his brothers (Thuc) was a Roman Catholic Bishop of a Central Vietnamese Province that lay just south of the 17th parallel!
It is no wonder, then, that turmoil erupted in response to the CIA’s “Saigon Military Mission’s” efforts, in which the Agency–with the help of the Vatican and Cardinal Spellman–persuaded ONE MILLION, ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND (1,100,000) Northern Vietnamese (Tonkinese) Catholics to “migrate” to the South in order to “protect their religious freedom from Communist oppression.”
As the more than ONE MILLIION ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND (1,100,000) North Vietnamese Catholic “refugees” arrived in the southern regions, many South Vietnamese natives were forced out of their homes and off of their farms. These “refugee invaders from the North” also disrupted the South’s most basic stabilizing factor: an “Ancestor Worship based religion” central to their family / community structure; a system that depends in large part upon farming your familial land of birth among other things.
The majority (660,000) were transported by the US Navy and the remainder were transported by various CIA airlines who were operational in the region at that time. Thus they never crossed over the 17th Parallel via land. Instead, they were “dropped off” in the Delta Region to fend for themselves contrary to what they had been promised would be waiting for them. Under such conditions, their presence (over one million additional mouths to feed!) necessarily caused considerable strain on the limited natural resources available. It was unsustainable both agriculturally and economically. To be clear, the “North Vietnamese Catholic Refugees” who migrated south were neither native to South Vietnam nor were they Communist. They came primarily from the Gulf of Tonkin region and were “placed” in the Delta Region [see photo above — courtesy Colonel L. Fletcher Prouty, USAF] by the US Navy and the CIA. The entire Operation was part of the Saigon Military Mission, conceived of by CIA’s, Ed Lansdale [USAF] and approved by Allan Dulles contrary to Eisenhower’s orders.
The Viet Cong were apparently created then, inadvertently, by the CIA. With the assistance of Vatican religious “scare tactics” and the logistics of the US Navy the South was inundated with an infusion of Northerners. As South Vietnamese natives, the individuals who comprised the group later known as the Viet Cong should have been counted among those whom the “US was ostensibly there to protect from Communist aggression” if such aggression had been actual. But Communist aggression was not the issue nor was it the threat. The threat was caused from too much population attempting to occupy a space with too few resources.
The Viet Cong were created as a direct result of the displacement of the Ancestor Worshipping Indigenous People of South Vietnam by the injection of “foreigners” into their land. That, coupled with the oppressiveness of the Diem Regime, was all it took to create the anti-American resistance known as the Viet Cong.
A distinction between the Vietminh and the Viet Cong is in order, as well.
The Vietminh were indigenous to North Vietnam, were fiercely Nationalistic, and fiercely opposed to French Colonialism! The Vietminh ideology was primarily anti-French Colonialism, rather than pro-Communism, at the start. They eventually were dominated by Communists, but the turning of the Vietminh toward Communism is arguably an unintended consequence of French Colonialism rather than a result of expansionism by the Sino-Soviet bloc.
JFK never favored a war in Vietnam
In a speech delivered in 1954, then Senator John F. Kennedy, expressed in the strongest of terms, his objections to American involvement in Vietnam. He referenced an earlier speech he had given while a member of the House of Representatives following his trip to Indochina in November of 1951, in which he stated:
“In Indochina we have allied ourselves to the desperate effort of a French regime to hang on to the remnants of empire. There is no broad, general support of the native Vietnam Government among the people of that area. To check the southern drive of communism makes sense but not only through reliance on the force of arms. The task is rather to build strong native non-Communist sentiment within these areas and rely on that as a spearhead of defense rather than upon the legions of General de Lattre. To do this apart from and in defiance of innately nationalistic aims spells foredoomed failure.”
LBJ’s War: Vietnam
The waters became very muddied as the Vietminh began sending aid to the Viet Cong. American propaganda would have had the world believe that the “Communist North Vietnamese” were actually the result of Soviet and/or Chinese Communist expansion. That was false. The Vietminh initially had no ties to Soviet or Chinese Communism. They simply wanted to rid themselves of French Imperialism. But it was through this type of disinformation that the CIA was able to rally support for a soon to become unpopular war in South East Asia. It was the fabricated theory of a non-existent “Domino Effect” that allowed Americans the ability to suspend their inherent abhorrence for war in favor of “saving” the South Vietnamese from “falling to Soviet Communism like North Vietnam had fallen.” When extrapolated upon, this contrived “fall of the North” was sold to the American People as the precursor to the fall of South Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Burma unless the United States intervened. Thus the containment of Soviet Communism fell upon the shoulders of 58,000 Americans dead, and nearly 304,000 additional wounded.
The Vietminh were Northern Vietnamese natives who were fiercely anti-French and were violently opposed to French domination. Eventually they were dominated by Communists, but only because it was from Communists (the Soviets) that they garnered support in their resistance of the French! In other words: The French were indirectly responsible for turning North Vietnam’s “Vietminh” to Communism.
The Viet Cong were South Vietnamese natives who NEVER were–nor did they ever become–Communists. Rather they were among the indigenous people of South Vietnam who were displaced by the migration of over ONE MILLION ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND “North Vietnamese Catholic refugees” from the Gulf of Tonkin Region. When the South Vietnamese natives were driven from their ancestral villages, land, and livelihoods they resorted to their only remaining option: Banditry. Later they began to resist the US Government installed regime of President Diem whose tyrannical method of governance included the oppression of all religions except for Roman Catholicism. He was particularly cruel to Buddhists.
As the conflict was extended, the indigenous people of South Vietnam, who were displaced as a direct result of the CIA’s “migration” program aka: “The Saigon Military Mission,” formed groups in order to SURVIVE. These groups went guerrilla and fought a jungle war the likes of which we had never before encountered. This group became known as the Viet Cong.
The Viet Cong and the Vietminh had nothing in common, except for their mutual desire to rid their native land of external aggression. The Vietminh wanted the French out and used the Soviets to that end. The Viet Cong had a more difficult task: They wanted their home back even more than they wanted the US out.
Vietnam has survived for more than 2,000 years and counting. History will record this war as a small, but very costly (in terms of lives lost and culture suppressed) blip on the Vietnamese radar.
And perhaps, it is among the biggest military blunders of any so-called superpower in the history of the world.
LBJs War: Vietnam
Was Vietnam a “Civil War?” In a word: No.
To make the point, if a ground war–in which ballistic missiles were not an option–took place between Canada and the US wouldn’t we expect that the fighting would break out near the border between the two countries? Wouldn’t skirmishes be expected to occur first at or near Seattle and Vancouver? Or maybe at or near the border between Windsor, Ontario, Canada and Detroit, Michigan, USA?
We wouldn’t expect that a ground war between the western regions of those two countries would originate in San Diego. Imagine Canadian guerrilla warfare units battling against San Diego National Guard troops near Sea World while the cities of Seattle and Vancouver were relatively unaffected!
Absurd. If such a ground war took place it would at least start on the border.
So why did the resistance to Diem’s Government of South Vietnam originate in the Delta Region of the South rather than at the border between North and South Vietnam at the 17th parallel?
The answer, as I said above, is because the “underground forces of resistance” to the US backed Diem Regime did not originate in North Vietnam! They originated within South Vietnam. DIEM, himself, on the other hand, originated from North Vietnam! Diem was, in fact, an “invader” from north Vietnam.
Indeed, those 1,100,000 “refugees” who migrated from the North to the South SUPPORTED the Diem Regime as he was one of their own.
The South Vietnamese were not threatened by “North Vietnamese Communist” invaders, but rather by “North Vietnamese Catholic” invaders!
The Viet Cong, the name the South Vietnamese “underground” later came to be known by, were resisting ALL invaders from the North! The fact that they were resisting any US backed regime (initially, Diem who was from the North) made them our enemy despite the fact that it was their land!
LBJ’s War: Vietnam
On the evening of November 21, 1963–and less than 24 hours before Kennedy’s life and policies would be violently rendered moot–his Special Assistant on National Security, McGeorge Bundy, drafted and signed a document, later to become National Security Action Memorandum 273, which effectively began the reversal of JFK’s Vietnam Withdrawal Policy. JFK’s successor, Lyndon Baines Johnson, usurped the authority of the Kennedy Administration’s Policies by signing that document [NSAM 273] on November 26, 1963–a mere four (4) days following the death of his predecessor– and one (1) day following President Kennedy’s funeral. Did McGeorge Bundy have foreknowledge of the assassination? Read my Introduction to NSAM 273 and then you decide.
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