The causes of the Vietnam War and the subsequent war itself were classic symptoms, components and consequences of the Cold War. The causes of the Vietnam War revolve around the simple belief held by America that communism was threatening to expand all over south-east Asia. Neither the Soviet Union nor the United States could risk a war against each other such was the nuclear military might of both. However, when it suited both, they had client states that could carry on the fight for them. In Vietnam, the Americans actually fought - therefore in the Cold War ‘game’, the USSR could not. However, to support the Communist cause, the Soviet Union armed its fellow Communist state, China, who would, in turn, arm and equip the North Vietnamese who fought the Americans. Before World War Two, Vietnam had been part of the French Empire. During the war, the country had been overrun by the Japanese. When the Japanese retreated, the people of Vietnam took the opportunity to establish their own government lead by Ho Chi Minh. However, after the end of the war, the Allies gave back South Vietnam to the French while the north was left in the hands of the non-communist Chinese. The Nationalist Chinese treated the North Vietnamese very badly and support for Ho Chi Minh grew. He had been removed form power at the end of the war. The Chinese pulled out of North Vietnam in 1946 and the party of Ho Chi Minh took over - the Viet Minh. In October 1946, the French announced their intention of reclaiming the north which meant that the Viet Minh would have to fight for it. The war started in November 1946, when the French bombarded the port of Haiphong and killed 6,000 people. The French tried to win over the people of the north by offering them 'independence'. However, the people would not be allowed to do anything without French permission! A new leader of the country was appointed called Bao Dai. The Russians and Eastern Europe refused to recognize his rule. They claimed that Ho Chi Minh was the real ruler of Vietnam. The French had got themselves into a difficult military position. Despite huge American help, the French could not cope with the Viet Minh's guerrilla tactics. The Viet Minh were by now receiving help from Communist China - Mao Zedong had taken power of China in 1949. The fact that two opposing sides had developed was classic Cold War history.
The country was meant to be ruled by Bao Dai who was supported by the west. Ho Chi Minh was supported by the Russians, Chinese and Eastern Europe - all communist.
In November 1953, the French sent men from their crack Parachute Regiment to Vietnam. It was naturally assumed by the French that this unit would defeat the untrained Viet Minh guerrillas. They were sent to Dien Bien Phu in the north. In May 1954, the regiment was attacked by the North Vietnamese and surrendered, which came as a terrible blow to the French people. The French pulled out of Vietnam in the same month. In April 1954, the world's powers had met at Geneva to discuss Vietnam. In July 1954, it was decided to divide the country in two at the 17th parallel. Bao Dai was to lead the south and Ho Chi Minh the north. The meeting also decided that in 1956, there would be an election in both the north and south to decide who would rule the whole country. The election would be supervised by neutral countries. This election did not take place and the split had become permanent by 1956.
North Vietnam had a population of 16 million. It was an agricultural nation. The Viet Minh trained guerrillas to go to the south to spread the word of communism. Their weapons mostly came from communist China. To the surprise of the South Vietnamese, those Viet Minh who went to the south helped them on their farms and did not abuse them. They had become used to fearing soldiers. Instead, the Viet Minh were courteous and helpful. South Vietnam also had a population of 16 million. Its first proper leader was Ngo Dinh Diem who was a fanatical catholic. As communism hated religion, Diem hated all that communism stood for. This is why he got America's support - he had a poor record on human rights but his rule was in the era of the "Domino Theory" and anybody who was anti-communist in the Far East was likely to receive American backing - regardless of their less than savoury background. Ngo ruled as a dictator along with his brother - Nhu. Their government was corrupt and brutal but it was also backed by America. After the non-election of 1956, the Viet Minh became more active militarily. Their guerrillas - now called the Viet Cong - attacked soft targets in the south. They used the Ho Chi Minh Trail which was a 1000 mile trail along the border with Laos with heavy jungle coverage so that detection from the air was very difficult. The Viet Cong were trained by their commander Giap who learned from the tactics used by the Chinese communists in their fight against the Nationalist Chinese forces. He expected his troops to fight and to help those in the south. He introduced a "hearts and minds" policy long before the Americans got militarily involved in Vietnam.
Effect on the Landscape
•As we heard from the Landscape group last week, the landscape was important to Vietnam culturally; however, it was also important to them agriculturally. •Vietnam relied heavily on their agriculture.
•During the air war, America alone dropped 8 million tons of bombs between 1965 and 1973. Agent Orange
•It was a powerful mix of chemical defoliants used by the U.S. military forces. •It was used to eliminate forest cover for North Vietnamese and Vietcong troops, as well as, crops that would have been used to feed them. •It was code named Operation Ranch Hand.
• There were more than 19 million gallons of herbicides sprayed over 4.5 million acres of land in Vietnam from 1961 to 1972 •Agent Orange contains the chemical dioxin which was later revealed to cause tumors, birth defects, rashes, psychological symptoms, and cancer. Napalm
•U.S troops used this substance from 1965-1972.
•It was a mixture of plastic polystyrene, hydrocarbon benzene, and gasoline. •When it’s ignited it creates a jelly-like substance that sticks to almost anything and can burn up to 10 minutes. •The effects on the human body are almost unbearable and almost always lead to death. •It was first used in flame throwers for the U.S ground troops. •They burned down sections of forest and bushes in order to eliminate guerilla fighters. •Later Napalm bombs and other flammable explosives.
•Vietnam was the most heavily bombed country in history.
•These heavy bombings destroyed the irrigation system which distributed water to the rice patties for the villages. •In 1961, Kennedy administration approved the use of chemical weapons, aka herbicides, which destroyed Vietnam’s rice crops. •Due to the bombings and chemical weapons, Vietnam went from a net exporter of rice to a net importer of rice the very next year. •The U.S. developed agent orange in order to destroy the landscape and expose Vietnam’s guerilla troops. Effects on people
•Vietnamese have died or been incapacitated by diseases from Agent Orange •Vietnamese exposed to chemical suffering from cancer, liver damage, pulmonary heart diseases, defects to reproductive capacity and skin/nervous disorders. •Children and grandchildren have severe physical deformities, mental and physical disabilities, diseases and shortened life spans •43 year old Le Thi Thu and her daughter Nguyen Thi Ly have never set foot in war, but are both casualties. They are second and third generation victims of dioxin exposure (Agent Orange). They suffer from severely misshapen heads and having eyes that are unnaturally far apart and permanently skewed. •U.S. has never accepted responsibility for these victims and it is unclear when the chain of misery will end. 2.During/After war
•During war, a bomb destroyed a man’s family home, his wife and 2 of his sons. He took his infant boy and fled into the forest •They were gone for 40 years with no contact with the outside world •In remote area of jungle living in a handmade hut several feet off the ground •Reappeared last year with no vocalized language.
•Father is 82 and is ill and in the hospital
•Son in 41 and overwhelmed by surroundings
•Belief that dead must be buried in homeland and buried properly or soul will wander constantly in pain and suffering (Jungle of Screaming Souls) •Vietnamese honor these souls where they died on the anniversary of their death •Tradition that young boy named Kien reached enlightenment at an early age but mother was evil and upon her death she was sentenced to spend eternity tormented by demons and in constant pain form hunger. Kien magically sent her food but demons destroyed it. Kien asked Buddha for help and was told to hold a special ceremony called Lu Van to pray for his mother’s soul and ask that her sins be pardoned and his wishes were granted. •Vu Lan Day is absolution of soul which allows wandering souls to return home •Celebrated with many ceremonies including the floating of lights down the rivers at night to guide the lost souls to Nirvana •This absolution of the soul is not applicable to the novel because nobody knew the exact point men were killed. 4.Life After War
•400,000 Southerners who fought or worked for the ousted pro-American regime were forced into reeducation camps •Doctors, soldiers, engineers, businessmen, some of the very people who could’ve helped put the shattered country back together were forced to perform back-breaking menial labor and pen-mindless criticism. • Living standards in Ho Ohi Minh City began to plummet and the trickle of refugees fleeing Vietnam became a torrent •War resulted in nearly bankrupt Vietnam
•A million people took their lives in their own hands, attempting dangerous escapes by sea or land, desperate to get out of Vietnam 5.Boa Ninh
•Now he is a 42 year old father, husband and writer living in a small flat in a crumbling concrete block just outside the center of Hanoi. •Feels that he lost nothing in the year spent fighting and says that they were great •Much unlike how Kien and Phoung mourn for lost love and innocence •He says the soldiers have very deep, quiet memories. Not making a fuss but not forgetting •Vietnam does not accept the war now
•Refuse to watch wars on TV
•Lives a calm life – writes at night and is regarded as an ordinary guy who does extraordinary things •“I stay at home all day and strange friends come to see me” War effects on Writing
Bao Ninh’s Writing
-Wrote The Sorrow of War in order to inform people about the northern Vietnam soldiers. They were not cold-hearted murderers, just warriors doing their job. -His writing style represents the war. The lack of organization reflects the chaos of the war and the abrupt ending to the novel reflects the abrupt ending of the war. -The Sorrow of War is his only published work. He finished another novel about the war, called Steppe, but he has hesitated to submit for publication because the writing did not feel natural like it did the first time. Although Ninh only wrote one novel about the Vietnam war, several other authors have written war novels on Vietnam. Some of the most popular include: Related Works
-Tim O’Brien: American author and Vietnam veteran writing about the war in The Things They Carried, Going After Cacciato, If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home, and In the Lake of the Woods. -A Vietcong Memoir: An Inside Account of the Vietnam War and Its Aftermath by Troung Nhu Tang -A Rumor of War by Philip Caputo
These authors and several others write as a therapy for their post-traumatic stress disorder. Writing as Therapy
-Writing is commonly used today as a therapy for patients with PTSD. -Psychologists know that writing is therapeutic.
-Writing is used to extinguish the emotional and physical reaction to trauma by letting patients examine their anxieties and abuse. -This can be related to Kien “writing to rid himself of his devils” Women also wrote to cope with war.
-Charlene Rubush wrote poems and short stories about her feelings and experiences of the war being married to a Vietnam soldier. -(Poem by Charlene Rubush in Power Point)
The Children Must Be Fed
Their voices call within my head,
“Mommy, please get out of bed! We’re
starving, starving, we gotta go to school.”
I hear them but my mind’s too numb
to make my muscles move. No sleep
last night, Daddy had another flashback.
Visions of napalm, he was back in Nam.
Back in Nam. He needed me, he needed
me. I want to sleep, I want to hide. This
is not what I expected as a young bride.
Dear God, where is the peace I crave,
is it on this earth, or in my grave?
-Nguyen Thi Duc Hoan- female director/film maker who focused on Hanoi and war related services and/or women’s issues -Nguyen Ngoc Tuan- made famous paintings- she was a militia woman •Treasures writing and poetry in order to get through the war and to have memories on what to paint about
➢Women were only considered the “nurturers” for a large amount of time ➢They took care of the families and the men
➢They would have to just stay home hoping to see the men in their family again ➢Cared for the children who slowly started to die too due to the poor living conditions of the war ➢Some went out to war and the ones who survived faced poverty and neglect, either having missed their opportunity to marry while engaged in combat, or having become ill, or been exposed to chemicals such as Agent Orange (which prevent them from bearing healthy children) -Women needed a way to earn money in order to survive- prostitutes •Green Coffee Girls
•Even if weak they did what they needed to in order to fulfill their job •“Comfort Women”- women were forced into prostitution for the soldiers to feel happy during the war •ALSO “Human trafficking”- Women and children forced into prostitution and labor •WASN’T ALWAYS A CHOICE TO BECOME A PROSTITUTE- THEY WERE FORCED INTO IT AT MANY TIMES •Bride-buying Trade- Men bought women in order to impregnate them so they would become surrogate mothers and would then sell the baby •To this day women are still included in “Human trafficking” all over various parts of Asia