During the earliest days of 1951 many journalists and intelligence analysts in the West thought Ho Chi Minh's prolonged absence from public view meant a coup d'état had taken place within the Viet Minh hierarchy. These same minds held that the most likely candidate to launch such a power play was Ho's number two: Dang Xuan Khu (1907 - 1988). This article goes into some detail explaining who he was and what he'd been up to for the past forty years.
Here is a segment of the letter many historians tend to agree was the one document that lead to the American involvement in the Vietnam War. Written in the Spring of 1954 when the French military was in the throes of losing the Battle of Điện Biên Phủ, President Eisenhower reached out to the former British Prime Minister to express his concerns regarding the place of Vietnam within the strategic structure of the Pacific and openly wondered what a Communist Vietnam would mean in the balance of power.
"If I may refer again to history; we failed to halt Hirohito, Mussolini and Hitler by not acting in unity and in time. That marked the beginning of many years of stark tragedy and desperate peril. May it not be that our nations have learned something from that lesson?..."
Click here to read an article about American public opinion during the early Cold War years
In the Fall of 1954, following the French withdraw from Vietnam, President Eisenhower wrote the following letter to the president of the newly established nation of South Vietnam, Ngô Đ́nh Diệm (1901 – 1963) pledging to provide both funding and military aid in their fight against the Communists.
"The purpose of this offer is to assist the Government of Vietnam in developing and maintaining a strong, viable state, capable of resisting attempted subversion or aggression through military means. The Government of the United States expects that this aid will be met by performance on the part of the Government of Vietnam in undertaking needed reforms. It is hoped that such aid, combined with your own continuing efforts, will contribute effectively toward an independent Vietnam endowed with a strong government. Such government would, I hope, be responsive to the nationalist aspirations of its people, so enlightened in purpose and effective performance, that it will be respected both at home and abroad..."
Marking the fifth anniversary of Vietnam's independence from French rule, President Eisenhower wrote an official letter of congratulations to President Diem. The president clearly cautioned that Diem should not anticipate seeing any American boots on the ground, but American aid would continue to flow:
"Vietnam's very success as well as its potential wealth and strategic location have led the Communists of Hanoi, goaded by the bitterness of their failure to enslave all Vietnam, to use increasing violence in their attempts to destroy your country's freedom...Although the main responsibility for guarding that independence will always, as it has in the past, belong to the Vietnamese people and their government, I want to assure you that for so long as our strength can be useful, the United States will continue to assist Vietnam in the difficult yet hopeful struggle ahead."
The 1961 letter from U.S. President John Kennedy in which he remarked to President Diem that North Vietnam was in violation of the 1954 Geneva Accords that it was obliged to respect. President Kennedy acknowledged that the relentless offensives launched by the North Vietnamese Communists against South Vietnam needed to be stopped and as a result his administration intended to increase American military aid.
Click here to read a 1961 article about Jacqueline Kennedy's influence on American fashion.