Vietnam is not our enemy today, but it was for almost twenty years (1955 – 1973)—a war that the U.S. started with the false claim that our Navy ships had been attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin on August 4, 1964.
The truth: “On August 2, three North Vietnamese torpedo boats, mistaking the Maddox for a South Vietnamese vessel, launched a torpedo and machine gun attack on it. Responding immediately to the attack, the Maddox, with the help of air support from the nearby carrier Ticonderoga, destroyed one of the attacking boats and damaged the other two. … Regarding claims that the attacks on the US were unprovoked, veterans of US Navy SEAL teams say that US-trained South Vietnamese commandos were active in the area on the days of the attacks. … There were no U.S. casualties’, but three North Vietnamese torpedo boats were damaged and four North Vietnamese sailors were killed and six wounded.” Source: What was the Gulf of Tonkin incident?
“In early 1964, South Vietnam began conducting a covert series of U.S.-backed commando attacks and intelligence-gathering missions along the North Vietnamese coast. Codenamed Operations Plan (OPLAN) 34A, the activities were conceived and overseen by the Department of Defense, with the support of the Central Intelligence Agency, and carried out by the South Vietnamese Navy.
“The United States was playing a dangerous game. The South Vietnamese—conducted OPLAN 34A raids and the U.S. Navy’s Desoto patrols could be perceived as collaborative efforts against North Vietnamese targets.” Source: U.S. Naval Institute
How does Vietnam compare to Afghanistan and Iraq? You will discover that Vietnam also has a long history of war and rebellion.
In 111 BC, the Nam Viet Kingdom is annexed by the Han Dynasty and becomes part of China. During the next thousand years, China rules over Vietnam and there are many rebellions that are crushed.
In 939 AD, Ngo Quyen frees Vietnam (Dai Co Viet) by defeating China’s army at the Bach Dang River.
In 1010, The Ly Dynasty defeats attacks from China, in addition to the Khmer and Cham empires and then conquers the Cham destroying their culture.
In 1288 after fighting off thirty years of invasions by the Mongol Yuan Dynasty in China, the Mongols are defeated by Tran Hung Dao again at the Back Dang River. Kublai Khan (1215 – died 1294) conquered China and then ruled the Yuan or Mongol dynasty.
In 1407, the Ming Dynasty sends an army into Vietnam, and in 1428, China is defeated.
In 1788, China’s Qing dynasty invades again and is also defeated.
In 1858, the French Navy attacks Da Nang and South Vietnam becomes a French Colony while the north and center of Vietnam becomes a French protectorate.
Japan invades Vietnam in 1940, and after World War II, the French reoccupy South Vietnam followed by a war between France and the Viet Minh as the Vietnamese once again fight to regain independence from a foreign power just as they have done against the Chinese, the Mongols and the French. In fact, the Vietnamese defeated the Mongols where the tribes in Afghanistan and Iraq failed.
The bulk of the French army is defeated at Dien Bien Phu; the French leave in 1955, and are soon replaced by the (stupid) United States.
The United States—it is obvious that the US did not know their enemy—supports Ngo Dinh Diem who makes himself president of the so-called Republic of South Vietnam with support from the U.S. military. In 1963, Diem is assassinated in a US-initiated coup.
Defeated in its objective to end Communism in Vietnam, the U.S. leaves in 1975 and today, Vietnam is still ruled by a Communist government.
What I learned from this series of posts is that when attacked, citizens in other countries and cultures may want to decide their own political future and fight for that right. If the US had sought the advice of Sun Tzu, I’m sure he would have warned against wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam by just studying the history of these cultures
What do you think?
Return to or start with Know your enemy: A brief history or Iraq and/or A brief history or Afghanistan
Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.
His latest novel is the award winning suspense-thriller Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.
And the woman he loves and wants to save was fighting for the other side.
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It’s obvious the leaders of the US (and France) who started the wars in Vietnam were stupid and didn’t know that country’s long history of being willing to fight for even a thousand years to have the right to make their own decisions as a country without the help of China or the US. I think the Chinese learned this lesson the hard way and that’s why they have made no attempt to occupy and turn Vietnam into a colony.
It is stupid to not know your enemy and your enemies history.