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The Cold War - The Vietnam War

President Eisenhower's Thoughts on Vietnam (Why Vietnam, 1965)

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.

- from Amazon:

"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?..."

In 1954 the French gave up on Vietnam and the U.S. accepted the challenge - click here to read about it...

Click here to read an article about American public opinion during the early Cold War years

More about Winston Churchill can be read here.


President Eisenhower's Letter to President Diem
(Why Vietnam, 1965)

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..."


President Eisenhower's Second Letter to Diem
(Why Vietnam, 1965)

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."


President Kennedy to President Diem
(Why Vietnam, 1965)

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.


The Vietminh (Newsweek Magazine, 1945)

"Hanoi is now the fountainhead of the largest and most successful anti-French insurgent movement ever mounted in Indo-China. Here Vietminh (first and last words of Viet Nam Doclap Dong Minh, meaning the league for the independence of Viet Nam) has set up the provisional government of the Viet Nam Republic. Viet Nam is the ancient name for the coastal provinces of Indo-China. Vietminh has been actively in existence since 1939. The President of Viet Nam and leader of the whole insurgent movement is a slight, graying little man of 55, named Ho Chi Minh who commanded guerrillas in collaboration with American officers in Northern Tonkin... For 43 years he has devoted himself to anti-French activity. Constantly reported captured or dead, he never actually fell into French hands."


The French Return To Vietnam (Newsweek Magazine, 1945)

"In South China, 6,000 French troops stood ready to reenter French Indo-China. A portion of the French fleet and a French air force unit prepared to back them up."

"We are definitely taking over".

In 1954 the French gave up on Vietnam and the U.S. accepted the challenge - click here to read about it...


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