The Vietnamese

Books in this category describe how the war was prosecuted, experienced and understood by the Vietnamese. Subjects range from South Vietnamese citizens who opposed their government and joined the Viet Cong, to important figures in Hanoi who dedicated their lives to the communist cause, to nationalists who were stalwart opponents of communism, to North Vietnamese commanders who struggled to expel the foreigners, to officers who served in the South Vietnamese army.

The Viet Cong saw Nixon's Vietnamization policy as a political maneuver meant to hamstring Vietnam War opponents in the international and domestic arenas. They countered the threat on the exact same battlefield. They had long been developing plans to set up formal National Liberation Front governmental structures at the regional and local levels; now they moved to create a central political entity that could negotiate with Saigon on a formal, legal basis. Such a new governmental unit would offer a new international stature to the "resistance" in the South. The organizing congress for the Provisional Revolutionary Government was held in early June of 1969, in the Fishhook region near the border with Cambodia.

The Viet Cong saw Nixon's Vietnamization policy as a political maneuver meant to hamstring Vietnam War opponents in the international and domestic arenas. They countered the threat on the exact same battlefield. They had long been developing plans to set up formal National Liberation Front governmental structures at the regional and local levels; now they moved to create a central political entity that could negotiate with Saigon on a formal, legal basis. Such a new governmental unit would offer a new international stature to the "resistance" in the South. The organizing congress for the Provisional Revolutionary Government was held in early June of 1969, in the Fishhook region near the border with Cambodia.

According to Ambassador Frederick Nolting, the idea that Ngo Dinh Diem was anti-Buddhist had come from the Saigon bourgeoisie, against who Diem had a true prejudice. This group had helped to characterize Diem as an intolerant man. Some of Diem's detractors had drafted a manifesto of complaint during a 1960 meeting at the Caravelle Hotel in Saigon. The Caravellists were intellectuals and professionals who desired a more open government in Saigon, with a place for themselves within it. Their complaints were eagerly received by American reporters who frequented the Caravelle Bar and whose stories helped to turn policymakers in Washington D.C. against the Diem regime.

According to Ambassador Frederick Nolting, the idea that Ngo Dinh Diem was anti-Buddhist had come from the Saigon bourgeoisie, against who Diem had a true prejudice. This group had helped to characterize Diem as an intolerant man. Some of Diem's detractors had drafted a manifesto of complaint during a 1960 meeting at the Caravelle Hotel in Saigon. The Caravellists were intellectuals and professionals who desired a more open government in Saigon, with a place for themselves within it. Their complaints were eagerly received by American reporters who frequented the Caravelle Bar and whose stories helped to turn policymakers in Washington D.C. against the Diem regime.

Ho Chi Minh: A Life

By William J. Duiker

It was September 3, 1945. Ho Chi Minh had convened the first meeting of the new council of ministers, in Hanoi. In his opening remarks, Ho explained that the most urgent question was how to alleviate the effects of the terrible famine. Conditions had grown worse in August, when the Red River had overflowed its banks and flooded rice fields throughout the lower reaches of the Red River Delta. The government adopted a series of emergency measures, including a campaign to encourage the population to conserve food by reducing consumption. In order to lead by example, Ho announced that he would go without food once every ten days.

It was September 3, 1945. Ho Chi Minh had convened the first meeting of the new council of ministers, in Hanoi. In his opening remarks, Ho explained that the most urgent question was how to alleviate the effects of the terrible famine. Conditions had grown worse in August, when the Red River had overflowed its banks and flooded rice fields throughout the lower reaches of the Red River Delta. The government adopted a series of emergency measures, including a campaign to encourage the population to conserve food by reducing consumption. In order to lead by example, Ho announced that he would go without food once every ten days.

Vo Nguyen Giap spent much of 1948 thinking about the coming struggle and assembling plans to meet that challenge. He had learned the Maoist dictum that a revolutionary war must pass through three stages: Strategic defense, guerrilla warfare and counteroffensive. Giap knew that his troops weren't ready to win pitched battles against the French. Yet, he was also aware that the enemy was no longer capable of ejecting him from the Viet Minh stronghold north of Hanoi, or of destroying his forces within it. The initiative belonged to him and the communists, for with his earlier murder of the nationalists and the destruction of their infrastructure, the Viet Minh were now the only effective rallying force against the French.

Vo Nguyen Giap spent much of 1948 thinking about the coming struggle and assembling plans to meet that challenge. He had learned the Maoist dictum that a revolutionary war must pass through three stages: Strategic defense, guerrilla warfare and counteroffensive. Giap knew that his troops weren't ready to win pitched battles against the French. Yet, he was also aware that the enemy was no longer capable of ejecting him from the Viet Minh stronghold north of Hanoi, or of destroying his forces within it. The initiative belonged to him and the communists, for with his earlier murder of the nationalists and the destruction of their infrastructure, the Viet Minh were now the only effective rallying force against the French.

As Cold War tensions ratcheted down with President Nixon's 1972 visits to Beijing and Moscow, North Vietnam braced itself for betrayal by its big-power patrons. Hanoi had been extracting maximum military and economic aid from its feuding benefactors. By 1972, Beijing and Moscow were still struggling for influence with the North Vietnamese, not only to stand at the socialist movement vanguard, but now also to gain leverage with the Americans. This was done by pressuring Hanoi to favor peace discussions in Paris over a new military initiative in Vietnam. On the eve of the summit meetings, the People's Army of Vietnam began preparing for the 1972 Easter Offensive, to undercut Nixon's diplomatic offensive.

As Cold War tensions ratcheted down with President Nixon's 1972 visits to Beijing and Moscow, North Vietnam braced itself for betrayal by its big-power patrons. Hanoi had been extracting maximum military and economic aid from its feuding benefactors. By 1972, Beijing and Moscow were still struggling for influence with the North Vietnamese, not only to stand at the socialist movement vanguard, but now also to gain leverage with the Americans. This was done by pressuring Hanoi to favor peace discussions in Paris over a new military initiative in Vietnam. On the eve of the summit meetings, the People's Army of Vietnam began preparing for the 1972 Easter Offensive, to undercut Nixon's diplomatic offensive.

It was April of 2007, and Madame Nhu had just been informed that David Halberstam, author of The Best and the Brightest, had died in a car crash. He had written so critically about Madame Nhu's thirst for political power that she was said to have told someone in 1963 Halberstam should be barbecued, I would be glad to supply the fluid and the match. Forty-four years later, her response to the news was shockingly different: He was intelligent, one of the rare ones who told the truth. Halberstam was one of the first to point out how the "whiz kids" in the Kennedy administration were arrogantly imposing policies in Vietnam that defied common sense. To Madame Nhu, it must have been vindicating to see the men who brought down her family tarnished by Halberstam's reporting.

It was April of 2007, and Madame Nhu had just been informed that David Halberstam, author of The Best and the Brightest, had died in a car crash. He had written so critically about Madame Nhu's thirst for political power that she was said to have told someone in 1963 Halberstam should be barbecued, I would be glad to supply the fluid and the match. Forty-four years later, her response to the news was shockingly different: He was intelligent, one of the rare ones who told the truth. Halberstam was one of the first to point out how the "whiz kids" in the Kennedy administration were arrogantly imposing policies in Vietnam that defied common sense. To Madame Nhu, it must have been vindicating to see the men who brought down her family tarnished by Halberstam's reporting.

By the end of the 1965-1966 campaign season in May 1966, Giap clearly felt that the guerrilla forces and underground political infrastructure in the South hadn't yet been sufficiently developed to sustain a growing war. In the interest of waging protracted warfare, Giap wanted to reallocate resources to small unit attacks of a battalion or less. American troops fighting the guerrillas were unaccustomed to jungle combat, tropical heat, and fighting insurgents who were indistinguishable from the civilian population. Small-unit actions increased exponentially while big-unit attacks went in the opposite direction. By late 1966, the shift appeared to be frustrating the U.S.-Saigon pacification program.

By the end of the 1965-1966 campaign season in May 1966, Giap clearly felt that the guerrilla forces and underground political infrastructure in the South hadn't yet been sufficiently developed to sustain a growing war. In the interest of waging protracted warfare, Giap wanted to reallocate resources to small unit attacks of a battalion or less. American troops fighting the guerrillas were unaccustomed to jungle combat, tropical heat, and fighting insurgents who were indistinguishable from the civilian population. Small-unit actions increased exponentially while big-unit attacks went in the opposite direction. By late 1966, the shift appeared to be frustrating the U.S.-Saigon pacification program.

In response to inquiries by newly-elected president Nixon in early 1969, MACV commander General Creighton Abrams and the four corps senior advisers all stated unequivocally that the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) was unable to stand alone against either the Viet Cong or the regular North Vietnamese Army (NVA). Gauging the pace of modernization and Vietnamization, Abrams predicted that by early 1972, the ARVN would be able to stand against the Viet Cong, but only the participation of U.S. ground forces would enable them to fend off the NVA. Still, withdrawal planning intensified — withdrawals that would be sure to seal ARVN's fate.

In response to inquiries by newly-elected president Nixon in early 1969, MACV commander General Creighton Abrams and the four corps senior advisers all stated unequivocally that the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) was unable to stand alone against either the Viet Cong or the regular North Vietnamese Army (NVA). Gauging the pace of modernization and Vietnamization, Abrams predicted that by early 1972, the ARVN would be able to stand against the Viet Cong, but only the participation of U.S. ground forces would enable them to fend off the NVA. Still, withdrawal planning intensified — withdrawals that would be sure to seal ARVN's fate.