Archive for the Modern History Category

Annotated Bibliography: Robert P. Wettemann Jr.’s Book Review of “Kontum: The Battle to Save South Vietnam,” by Thomas P. McKenna

Posted in Books, Modern History, Modern History - A.B. with tags , , , , , , , , on May 30, 2015 by Ian Pham

KontumPhotograph via Steve Shepard/The Battle of Kontum

Wettemann Jr., Robert P. Review of Kontum: The Battle to Save South Vietnam, by Thomas P. McKenna. Oral History Review 39, no. 2 (2012): 387-389.

Thomas P. McKenna served in the Vietnam War as Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army. During the U.S. drawdown in 1972, McKenna was still fighting alongside the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), taking on the invading North Vietnamese Army (NVA) at the Battle of Kontum. His book provides a firsthand account of the fighting at Kontum, where the ARVN and their remaining U.S. allies would once again ward off an invading NVA force three times their size.

Robert P. Wettemann Jr. provides a review of McKenna’s book, offering some valuable insight into yet another military achievement by the ARVN and their U.S. allies. Also taking place during the North Vietnamese Easter Offensive in the spring of 1972, the Battle of Kontum saw the South Vietnamese, with the support of the few U.S. forces still in Vietnam, foil another attempt by the communists to overtake the South. The brunt of the fighting took place in the last two weeks in May of 1972, where, in the words of Wettemann, “… a single ARVN division held off the equivalent of three divisions of North Vietnamese soldiers…”

A concise summary of McKenna’s book is presented in Wettemann’s source. Opening with the steady departure of U.S. forces as part of Nixon’s “Vietnamization” policy, Wettemann’s review of Kontum gives coverage of the various stages of the battle, all the way up to the ARVN’s successful elimination of the NVA from the city.

As an academic resource, Wettemann’s review of Thomas P. McKenna’s book provides useful information on the Battle of Kontum, and gives readers some much-needed insight into the points of views of the ARVN and their U.S. allies. The South Vietnamese soldiers and their American advisors fought valiantly at Kontum to crush the North Vietnamese invasion. In authoring this review, Robert P. Wettemann Jr. helps tell this true story of another understated military success by the allied forces of South Vietnam and the United States.

Annotated Bibliography: Gary Lester’s Book Review of “Hell in An Loc: The 1972 Easter Invasion and the Battle That Saved South Vietnam” by Lam Quang Thi

Posted in Books, Modern History, Modern History - A.B. with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 23, 2015 by Ian Pham

ARVN Photo, An Loc BattleImage via Amazon

Lester, Gary. Review of Hell in An Loc: The 1972 Easter Invasion and the Battle That Saved South Vietnam, by Lam Quang Thi. Air Power History (2010): 56.

Dr. Gary Lester’s review of Hell in An Loc: The 1972 Easter Invasion and the Battle That Saved South Vietnam provides a concise and informative summary of former ARVN General Lam Quang Thi’s book. According to Lester, “Hell in An Loc is an intimate glimpse into the inner workings of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) during its moment of great crisis in the spring of 1972…” It was then that the U.S. was steadily drawing down its forces in Vietnam, while the North Vietnamese built up their forces for an ambitious military operation to overrun South Vietnam.

In his review, Lester presents many insightful information from General Thi’s book, such as the details of North Vietnam’s 1972 Easter Offensive, a massive military campaign that was even larger than the Tet Offensive of 1968. The enemy’s “three-pronged” operation would find its way to the town of An Loc, where South Vietnam’s 5th Division, consisting of only 7,500 soldiers, confronted and repelled a 21,000-strong North Vietnamese onslaught.

Facing a massive invading force three times their size, the outnumbered ARVN forces incurred losses of 2,300 deaths, while dealing a crushing blow to the North Vietnamese Army, who suffered a loss of 6,500 deaths at the hands of the South Vietnamese. The attack on An Loc lasted from April to August of 1972, ending with the successful defense of the town by the ARVN against the invading North. The ARVN forces were provided with powerful air support from their remaining U.S. allies, who, along with the South Vietnamese Air Force, dealt heavy damage to enemy tanks and artillery.

An important note that Lester pinpoints in his review is the valor and bravery displayed by the “too often voiceless” soldiers of South Vietnam, in a significant battle that was largely ignored by American media. An Loc’s omission from America’s news coverage is an important point acknowledged in Lester’s review, a vivid example of the media’s bias towards the Republic of Vietnam, and how the Southern point of view is methodically neglected and distorted by the majority of Western journalists. Lam Quang Thi’s account of the Battle of An Loc, in the words of Gary Lester, “is a testimony to the courage and bravery of the ARVN garrison at An Loc. The book tells the South Vietnamese side of the story and renders justice to the South Vietnamese soldiers who withstood ninety-four days of horror and prevailed.”

Reading Lester’s review alone, one gains great insight into the Battle of An Loc, as well as a clearer understanding of the Vietnam War, a hotly debated subject in which South Vietnam and the ARVN are almost always misrepresented.

Rice to the Refugees: The Untold Act of President Ngo Dinh Diem

Posted in Did You Know?, IV. Columns, Modern History, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on November 2, 2014 by Ian Pham

President Ngo Dinh DiemHere’s something a lot of you probably didn’t know about President Ngo Dinh Diem. During his time in office, the South Vietnamese President contributed a substantial amount of humanitarian aid in the form of rice to Tibetan Buddhist refugees in the late 1950s-early 1960s. It was then that many Tibetans were exiled from their homeland by the invading forces of the People’s Republic of China, led by the iron fist of the ruthless Mao Zedong.

In the year 1950, with the consolidation of the PRC, Mao Zedong officially pointed his guns towards Tibet, sending the People’s Liberation Army across the border into Tibetan land. Throughout the 1950s, through false treaties and suppressive military force, China would gain control over all of Tibet, turning that part of East Asia into another region under Chinese control. The invasion would be complete by 1959, with the outbreak and bloody suppression of the Tibetan Uprising.

Many, many Tibetans were expelled from their homeland during this time and sought asylum in other nations around the world. The young Dalai Lama and many tens of thousands of other Tibetans would escape to India through the Himalayas, becoming refugees in the process. In reaction to their plight, many nations around the world held out a helping hand to the Tibetan refugees. One of these nations was none other than the Republic of Vietnam (aka South Vietnam), under the presidency of Mr. Ngo Dinh Diem.

According to an old issue of the Chicago Tribune (December 11, 1959), President Diem offered to supply the Tibetan refugees with “surplus rice for a year.” Though the sources are currently sparse for this topic, at least for me, it can be asserted that part of the rice offered by President Diem amounts to 200 tons, as illuminated in the Indian Parliament’s “Rajya Sabha Debates, 1952-2005,” published by the Tibetan Parliamentary and Policy Research Centre (2006: 71). However, further examination suggests that the total volume of rice donated by South Vietnam is much more than that.

An article by Tran Trung Dao (August 30, 2014) on Dan Chim Viet online further elaborates on the subject. According to Dao, President Diem donated rice to the Tibetan Buddhist refugees through the Government of India not only once, but twice. Dao’s source declares that the amount of rice sent to India from South Vietnam during these two times accumulated to a grand total of 1,500 tons. In addition to the 200 tons of rice provided by South Vietnam in the one donation, another shipment of 1,300 tons was sent to India to feed the Tibetan Buddhist refugees. Given the evidence, it can thus be asserted that South Vietnam under President Diem played a substantial role in the support of Tibetan refugees in India.

This humanitarian act was not widely covered during the time that it happened. Moreover, it was overshadowed by the dirty politics of its day, ignored by the biased media of the west, and eventually lost under the many pages of history.

In writing this article, I wanted to share with you something you may not have known about the First President of South Vietnam. I also wanted to leave you all with something warm and uplifting to hold onto on this day of his commemoration. Furthermore, this act of charity and kindness is a great, yet sadly forgotten story that should be shared with anyone who is interested and wants to know. I’m only doing my part in making that happen.

Today is the anniversary of President Ngo Dinh Diem’s assassination at the hands of a group of treasonous South Vietnam generals, acting under the direction and encouragement of Henry Cabot Lodge and the Kennedy Administration.

President Diem lost his life on November 2, 1963.

For his services to the nation of South Vietnam, and as we’ve learned, for other peoples of the world at large, he will always be remembered.

Black April: The Final Hours

Posted in IV. Columns, Modern History with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2014 by Ian Pham

Five GeneralsIn the final days of the Vietnam War, with the fall of the South being all but eminent, many members of the Republic of Vietnam, both citizens and public officials, made the decision to die with their country, rather than to witness or acknowledge the entrance of Communist regime. From politicians, to military leaders and soldiers, and even ordinary citizens, all were more content with death than to pledge their allegiances to the red flag of Communism.

The heartbreak and harrow in the final hours of the Vietnam War can be most famously told through the eyes of five great ARVN generals. On that day, April 30, 1975, each of these men ended their own lives at different hours of the day, after saying their respective farewells to their loved ones, their fellow commanders, and their faithful soldiers. In these final hours, the valor and desperation that came to encompass the Southern experience were front and center. Though this brief article only covers the suicides of five ARVN generals, it cannot be stressed enough that on that day, April 30, 1975, many South Vietnamese took their own lives rather than surrender to the Communists.

Brigadier General Tran Van Hai,

7th Infantry Division, Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN): Midnight, April 30, 1975

TranVanHaiAt approximately 12:00 am, April 30, 1975, Brigadier General Tran Van Hai of the 7th Infantry Division committed suicide at the Dong Tam military base in My Tho City, Dinh Tuong Province. On the previous day, the general called upon all of his officers for one last meeting, where he thanked them for their faithful service, and gave a final order for all of them to go home and be with their families. It was on April 29th that the provisional president Duong Van Minh issued the official surrender to the Communist North. With the war all but lost, Brig. Gen. Tran Van Hai gave warm parting words to his men, taking some time and enjoying a few short and meaningful conversations with his soldiers.

Later that night, one of Hai’s overly concerned officers found the general in his office, motionless, with a glass of water on the table, signifying that he had poisoned himself. Earlier that week, President Nguyen Van Thieu offered to fly Tran Van Hai to Saigon, but the general refused. Before his death, the general left a small parcel for his mother containing some money and a few of his personal items. This was his final gift to her. For the nation, he gave his life.

Brigadier General Le Nguyen Vy,

5th Infantry Division, ARVN: 11:00 am, April 30, 1975

LeNguyenVyAt 11:00 am on the same day, Brigadier General Le Nguyen Vy of the 5th Infantry Division died by his own gun as his final act of loyalty. With the higher command issuing the order for the South to surrender, General Vy shot himself that following morning. His place of death was the 5th Division Headquarters at Lai Khe, his original area of deployment.

General Le Nguyen Vy was considered among the many talented young commanders of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. His courageous and outstanding performance at the Battle of An Loc in 1972, a major Southern victory over the North, gained him great distinction within the ranks. Up until the time of his death, Vy was considered an exceptional regimental commander.

Brigadier General; Deputy Commander Le Van Hung,

5th Infantry Division; 21st Infantry Division; IV Corps; MR4, ARVN: 8:45 pm, April 30, 1975

LeVanHungLe Van Hung is one of the most renowned and admired figures of the RVN Army, and of South Vietnam in general. Like Le Nguyen Vy, General Hung also fought brilliantly at the Battle of An Loc. Le Van Hung was the Commander of the 5th Division at An Loc, with Le Nguyen Vy acting as his Deputy Commander. He would later be promoted to the IV Corps of ARVN, acting as the Deputy Commander to Major General Nguyen Khoa Nam. Lauded as the “Hero of An Loc,” General Hung was one of the brightest stars of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, dealing great damage to the Communist forces up until his final days. He famously stated that, “As long as I’m still alive, An Loc will remain standing,” a promise he had honored to the very end.

General Hung took his own life at approximately 8:45 pm, April 30, 1975. Before then, General Hung’s forces still kept hold of the city of Can Tho, and were planning to fight to their very last breath, their very last bullet. However, the threat of Northern reprisal forced Hung’s hand, as the frightened and exhausted residents of Can Tho themselves begged him not to resist the Communists any longer. Respecting their wishes, General Le Van Hung decided to stand down. However, the general would not be content with just a simple surrender.

Summoning his military staff, his wife, and his children, the general bid all those around him a sad farewell, before taking his own life in private, with his .45 pistol. At around 6:00 pm, the general’s forces were still bent on fighting. By 9:00 pm, the general was dead. Along with his ARVN compatriots, the general had taken his own life, in honor of his country, and in honor of his people.

Major General Nguyen Khoa Nam,

IV Corps; MR4, ARVN: Late April 30-Early Morning May 1, 1975

One of the last generals to take his own life on that 30th of April, Major General Nguyen Khoa Nam too had shot himself rather than surrender to the Communists. Earlier in the day, the Major had talked on the phone with his Deputy Commander Le Van Hung, before the latter killed himself. After saying his last goodbyes to his general staff, and a heartfelt commiseration to General Hung’s wife, the Major ended his own life, sometime between the final hours of Black April and the early hours of May 1, 1975.

NguyenKhoaNamAccording to the wife of General Le Van Hung, both generals Nam and Hung were in communication with each other throughout that 30th of April. The two men had, for some time, been planning for a prolonged counteroffensive that would carry on even after the fall of Saigon. However, with the official surrender of Duong Van Minh, followed then by General Hung’s acceptance not to fight at the behest of the people of Can Tho, and ultimately with his death at 8:45 pm, the guerrilla strategy was never executed.

The two men lost contact with each other in the latter part of April 30th, and upon receiving news of Hung’s death, General Nam was finally able to contact Mrs. Hung to express his condolences. Though he did not give his final goodbyes to Mrs. Hung, she recalls having premonitions that General Nam would kill himself, just like her husband had done. At around 7:00 am on May 1, 1975, news of Nam’s death had reached Mrs. Hung, and her fears were realized.

Major General Pham Van Phu,

II Corps; MR2, ARVN: Morning-Daytime, April 30, 1975

PhamVanPhuFrom the fragmented sources available on General Pham Van Phu’s final hours, it can only be told that the commander committed suicide honorably like the other four generals, doing so in the city of Saigon, sometime between the morning and midday.

Though coverage on General Phu is regrettably thin, it should be understood that the brave general is considered one of the five great ARVN generals to commit suicide on Black April, the 30th day of 1975.

The Commemoration

To their very last breaths, these five generals fought bravely to defend their motherland. Rather than betraying the nation they had fought for, or suffer the humiliation of pledging their loyalties to the Communist regime, these men chose instead to end their own lives, with honor, and with dignity.

As I have said before, these men were not the only ones to commit suicide in honor of their nation. Countless others, from high ranking government and military officials, to the low ranking Non-Commissioned Officers of ARVN, and even the everyday citizen who would rather die than to see his or her country fall into the destructive grips of Communism, all of them chose death alongside their country.

While thousands of men and women took their own lives as a final act of loyalty to the fleeting South, millions of others departed from the shores of Vietnam to distant lands across the seas. Though suicide was not their intention, many South Vietnam refugees lost their lives during their escape from the Communist sphere, either at sea, in Communist detention, or in the refugee camps.

This brief article is written to commemorate the brave men and women who took their own lives to honor the ideals of a free and democratic Vietnam. This article is also here to commemorate the brave souls who gave their lives fighting for this free and democratic Vietnam. They did it for their nation, but they also did it for us. This article then aims to thank and commemorate the brave men and women who braved the violent ocean waves, risking their lives, and traveling all the way across the Earth so that a younger generation of Vietnamese men and women can live under the skies of freedom and justice.

On this day, April 30, 2014, we take a moment to remember all that have died fighting for Vietnam’s freedom. They gave their heart and their bodies, and in the end, they gave their lives.

In different ways, all have contributed to this beautiful aspiration of a free and democratic Vietnam. One day, this dream will be realized.

We will never forget.

Honor, Courage, and Sacrifice: The Fight for Hoàng Sa, 1974

Posted in IV. Columns, Modern History with tags , , , , , , on January 30, 2014 by Ian Pham

hoangsa_pic1The People’s Republic of China’s encroachment into the Hoàng Sa archipelago began on January 16, 1974. The infamous standoff that ensued lasted until January 19, culminating in a fierce naval confrontation between the RVN and the PRC. On that day, under the orders of President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, Vice Admiral Hồ Văn Kỳ Thoại and the South Vietnamese Navy opened fire on the Chinese warships, sinking one Chinese ship before losing one of their own in a battle that lasted less than one hour.

Seventy-four South Vietnamese soldiers went down fighting in this battle. Among the fallen was one Captain Ngụy Văn Thà. Though it helped force the Chinese retreat, the Captain’s vessel, the Hải Quân 10, was too badly damaged for retrieval. As a final order, Ngụy commanded his troops to evacuate the sinking warship and return safely to the harbor. With the exit of his crew, the commander waited patiently for death, as two more PLAN ships were returning for him and HQ10.

HQVN27In his final hours, the commander was joined by two of his crewmen. Resolved to die alongside their fearless captain, the two sailors disregarded those orders to abandon ship. Along with two of his most loyal naval officers, Captain Ngụy Văn Thà went down with his faithful ship. His story signifies the greater sacrifice that the Vietnamese soldiers made in the name of freedom and independence.

They knew they were outnumbered, and they knew they were were going to die. But even with that in mind, the soldiers of the South Vietnamese Navy went down fighting to the very end.

They were patriots, fighting for their country and their people. The RVN Navy’s actions demonstrate that even though Vietnam is a small nation, it cannot and will not stand idly by while its larger neighbor tries to steal away its territory.

HQVN1In taking a stand against the Chinese, South Vietnam reinforced its sovereignty over the islands of Hoàng Sa. For future generations, this battle will be a symbol of Vietnam’s courage and resilience. The battle signified the defense of territory that has for centuries been under the control of the Vietnamese.

Those soldiers that gave their lives did so with honor and courage. Their actions reverberate in the hearts of every Vietnamese patriot to this day, and will do so for decades, even centuries to come.

Last week, I tried to encompass the significance of the Hoàng Sa Battles in one single post. Needless to say, that blew up in my face. I know full well that I can’t do these men justice here, because to fully encapsulate their courage and sacrifice in a single article is simply impossible. I couldn’t do it for Brother Việt Dzũng, and I sure as shoot won’t sure be able to do it here.

All I can do here is make known the sacrifices that these soldiers have made for us all. With fierce and noble hearts, these soldiers did not yield to the Chinese threat. They fought, they made a stand, and they saw to it that the virtue of the Vietnamese people are forever enshrined in history.

To that, I commend them. To the sound of 21 guns bursting into the ocean air, I honor the courage and sacrifice of these soldiers. We will remember, always.

A salute!

40 Years After the Battle of Hoang Sa: Commemorative Protests in Vietnam Shutdown by Vietnamese Government

Posted in IV. Columns, Modern History, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2014 by Ian Pham

Hanoi Protest 1:19:2014On Sunday, January 19, 2014, the people of Vietnam were barred by the VCP government from participating in the 40th memorial of the Battle of Hoang Sa, or the Battle for Paracel. In several key cities across Vietnam, the population planned and attempted to orchestrate large-scale gatherings to protest the forty years of Chinese occupation of the Vietnamese islands, which were invaded and taken by the People’s Liberation Army Navy from January 16-19, 1974.

In Hanoi, under the monument of the ancient Emperor Ly Thai To, hundreds of Vietnamese protestors gathered with banners and flowers to honor the South Vietnamese soldiers who died protecting the Hoang Sa archipelago. Uniformed and plain-clothed/undercover policemen spectated the gatherings for a brief amount of time before dispersing the crowd and sending them home. Police officers disguised as construction workers sprayed dust in the air to make protestors uncomfortable on the grounds. They would eventually shut down the entire gathering, though avoiding the use of force to accomplish their job.

Saigon Protest 1:19:2014In Saigon, the old capital of South Vietnam, residents were prevented from gathering altogether. However, unlike in Hanoi, security forces in the south did resort to violence to prevent the Vietnamese people from staging any sort of protest. On January 17, 2014, a group of women who tried to protest China found themselves in a scuffle against the Communist policemen. Yeah, you heard right. The women tried to show love for their country, and the cops, being the true-hearted Communists that they are, sought to suppress patriotism and sought a fight against a group of women to prove their point. On January 19, due to the heavy suppression by the police, demonstrators had to gather within the walls of a church in order to properly pay their respects to the lost soldiers of 1974.

In the coastal city of Danang (not pictured here), closest to the scene of the battle, a supposed state-sponsored commemoration of the 40-year memorial was scrapped by the government at the last minute. Let’s just state the obvious here and say that the government of Vietnam never intended to allow the memorial in the first place. They just feigned support for the dedication as a political maneuver to win themselves a shred of respect before the people, respect that they quickly squandered, as always. The local government in Danang planned an extravagant display with the supposed blessing of the central government, but at the last minute, the show was scrapped for “bureaucratic” reasons. The Danang government invested much effort into the project. Sadly, it will never see the light of day.

Hoang Sa ProtestIn the earlier post, which no longer exists, I mistakenly suggested that Nguyen Tan Dung had planned to put the heroic exploits of the South Vietnamese soldiers into Vietnamese school textbooks. That point was inaccurate, as the Communist Prime Minister only wished to write that Paracel and Spratly belonged to Vietnam and that the Chinese wrongfully invaded. He had no intention of portraying the South in a positive light at all. I knew that first point was bologna when I jotted it down, but in my haste to complete the article for commemoration day, I completely botched the editing process and allowed for the ensuing fiasco. Well, I saw to it that the information is fixed, and that you can be confident in the information you are reading now.

Nguyen Tan Dung’s comments, as tame and disappointing as they were, did in fact get censored and erased from public consciousness. Moreover, a television station in Dongnai Province, but not the entire country, did in fact provide coverage of South Vietnam’s heroic naval stand against the invading forces of the PRC. It was because of this coverage that Vietnamese people believed the government actually had a tiny shred of patriotism in them, and planned the anti-Chinese protests accordingly. Well, to our disappointment, and once again resonant with VCP behavior, Hanoi buckled under Chinese pressure, bowed their heads and betrayed their people.

Hanoi Protest 1:19:2014 BannerIt is a sad reality, but it seems the Vietnamese Communist government will continue to be an impediment to the recovery of Vietnam, not the solution.

This is just the first part of my commemoration for the Battle of Hoang Sa. It is meant to signify the disappointing reality that Vietnamese people continue to deal with in the Communist country. However, it also demonstrates the patriotism and courage of the Vietnamese people today, who are taking an increasingly strong stance against the Communist government. Another article will be written that truly commemorates the courage and sacrifice of the South Vietnamese navy. It will be there that we really discuss the significance of the battle and the brave soldiers that gave their lives for the country. Hang tight in the meantime.

For my people in Vietnam, keep fighting the good fight, because all across the world, every red-blooded Vietnamese patriot is doing the same thing. One day, Vietnam will finally enjoy the liberty and justice that she truly deserves. Stand tall. Never waver. Onward.

This Blogger’s Take on Le Hieu Dang’s “Multiparty” Ploy

Posted in Modern History, Opinions, Politics with tags , , , , , , on September 7, 2013 by Ian Pham

Vietnam StreetsI was going to title this article as “Le Hieu Dang’s Load of Crock,” but ultimately ruled in favor of the headline above, you know, for the sake of informativeness. To be fair, though, whatever Le Hieu Dang is doing in Vietnam is, in fact, a load of crock. If you’re just tuning in right now, you will soon be enlightened on who exactly this Le Hieu Dang is, and why his “multiparty” ploy is, for all intents and purposes, a load of crock. I used that phrase for decorum, I am sure you all know what I actually call it in my head.

The Story So Far

Le Hieu DangLast week, a Communist Party member, Le Hieu Dang, published an article announcing that he wants to start a new political party. Furthermore, he was encouraging current and former members of the Communist Party to join him. Apparently, he had some “grievances” with the contemporary Communist Party, and felt that the time was ripe to form his own political party and set the country back on the path of righteousness.

Now you’re probably thinking: “Gee, Ian. That’s great! Someone from the Communist Party is finally stepping up and doing what they should have been doing all along! Good for him!” — Were you thinking that? No, no you weren’t. None of us were. Le Hieu Dang can go hang himself, along with the rest of those Communist idiots. I will give you numerous reasons as to why Le Hieu Dang is full of crap, and provide further proof that the Communists Party of Vietnam is, in fact, mentally handicapped.

They thought this was going to work, they thought they were clever! Seriously, you guys, I actually die a little bit more inside whenever I think about those goofs in the Politburo, sitting around a big table and congratulating each other on coming up with depressingly stupid schemes such as this one. It physically hurts to think about.

Before we go any further, though, I must first clarify that this is my own personal view on the matter. There is an ongoing debate right now on whether he is full of it or not, and what I have here are just a few key reasons on why I believe Le Hieu Dang is in cahoots with the Communist Party.

1. Le Hieu Dang Is Still A Communist Party Member and Shows No Sign of Leaving

Through all of his boasting, Le Hieu Dang is still an active member of the Vietnamese Communist Party. He claims that he wants to start his own political party, but has yet to denounce his ties to the VCP thus far. He has not taken any personal responsibility as a member of the party, nor has he repudiated any of the party’s countless crimes against humanity.

If he was genuinely disenchanted with the VCP and wanted to create a new party, the elementary (not to mention obvious) step of achieving this goal is to sever relations with his current political party. Le Hieu Dang has not done this, nor does he show any sign or intention of doing so. There’s the first major flaw in his plan, and that enough should make clear how bogus these multiparty claims are.

2. There Has Yet to Be Any Backlash or Crackdowns Against Dang’s “New Party”

All this talk from Dang about creating his own party, and all the Communists do is “express disappointment” about it in their state-run media. For a country that has no toleration for political opposition, the government is doing very little to deal with what is apparently a separate organization that is trying to establish itself.

Le Hieu Dang VCPIf this was real, that is, if there were actually those who had genuine grievances against the party, and was openly trying to rival the VCP, rest assured that a few dozen plain-clothed and uniformed policemen would be knocking on their door already. These said individuals would be put on show trials, their loved ones would all be beaten and harassed, and all of their belongings and livelihood would have been seized by the state and added to Nguyen Tan Dung’s retirement fund.

Brutal suppression is the protocol for any form of opposition against the VCP. Yet here, the government plays the nice guy routine, pulling the ole’ “I’m disappointed with you, but I respect your decision” crap towards Dang’s BREAKING OFF AND STARTING HIS OWN PARTY. It’s so obviously bull, it’s embarrassing that they thought it would work. Seriously, guys, I think this is where the aforementioned round table discussion comes into play: All the Communist idiots sit around and congratulate each other for coming up with such a brilliant scheme; Nguyen Tan Dung claps his hands together, pats himself on the back, and hands out cookies to everyone for a job well done; Everyone forgets to swallow their saliva. To be serious though, this is not a very subtle or clever plan, and it is damn sure not original.

3. This Has Happened Before

MaoThis is not the first time that a totalitarian ruler, or in this case, rulers, pretended to show tolerance for political pluralism in a single party state. One of the most infamous cases for such a ploy can be traced back to 1956, with a political movement called the Hundred Flowers Campaign in Mao Zedong’s China. What he did then, and what I suspect the VCP is trying to do now, was provide a false sense of freedom within his Communist state. Mao encouraged anyone who had grievances with his Communist Party to express their opinions and thoughts openly. This resulted in a flood of open opposition to Mao, with many important intellectuals coming out of hiding. Once it became clear who his enemies were, Mao ruthlessly liquidated all of his targets, both inside and outside of the party, thus preserving his rule and silencing the people once and for all.

Ho Chi MinhSuch tactics were also utilized in Vietnam by Ho Chi Minh himself, as well as his successors. Throughout the Civil War era in Vietnam, the Communist Party, despite being a one party state, established two puppet parties, the Democratic Party and the Socialist Party to simulate multiparty democracy in Vietnam. Both parties operated under the orders of the Communist Party however, and were eventually disbanded in 1988, with dissidents leaders and believers all jailed and persecuted.

The Benefit of the Doubt: A Slim Chance for Truth

It is my suspicion that this new splintering of the Communist Party, “championed” by Le Hieu Dang, is just another trap orchestrated by the higher-uppers of Vietnam’s government. I do admit that though I strongly believe what Le Hieu Dang is doing is a dirty trick, there is no way we can know for sure at this point in time. Only hindsight will show us whether he is truthful or not. I can throw him a benefit of the doubt and say that maybe there is a chance he is being sincere.

If he what he is doing is real, then great, Vietnam will be better off, and he will win my commendation. However, as someone who has witnessed nothing but lies and betrayal from the VCP, and Communists in general, I can say that the chance of Le Hieu Dang not being full of crap is extremely thin. Given their history of deception and brutality, it is no exaggeration to believe that the Communists are once again trying to flush out all of their political opponents and eliminate them, all in a pathetic attempt to prolong the party’s worthless existence.

The Aims of This Ploy

Patriotic YouthWith the increasing unrest in Vietnam, concurrent with the ever-growing influence and momentum of the Patriotic Youth, aka Tuoi Tre Yeu Nuoc, the VCP is trying everything in its power to alleviate the tensions. It is my prediction that this new Le Hieu Dang situation is just another Communist trick to lure out dissidents within Vietnam, so that the party can try to hunt them down and cling to their evermore feeble grip on power.

Barack ObamaFurthermore, with President Obama’s establishment of the new Trans Pacific Partnership, which Vietnam is extremely eager to join, the leaders in the Communist Party are doing everything they can to appear civil and respectable in front of the United States. With this alleged establishment of multiparty democracy in Vietnam, the Communists are hoping to improve their image, just enough to win acceptance into the TPP.

Of course however, just like in the past (i.e. like after finally getting Vietnam removed from the list of Countries of Particular Concern), the Communists will shamelessly backpedal and abuse all the human rights they so desire. They will wait until it is safe to do, such as when America turns its back on Vietnam to focus on other pressing matters. Paying lip service to the West, then when the coast is clear, rear their ugly dictatorial head all over again. It’s textbook Communism. My people in Vietnam, don’t fall for this dirty trick.

April 30, 1975: Commemoration Day for the Fall of Saigon

Posted in IV. Columns, Modern History with tags , , , , on April 30, 2013 by Ian Pham

North Vietnamese Troops Occupy Saigon, 1975Normally, I would have some special article based on some notable historical figure of Vietnam to attach to a day like this.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had much time to do such a thing, so I’m just going to get straight to the point.  This article is dedicated to that fateful day on April 30, 1975, when the North Vietnamese steamrolled into Saigon to bring an end to the long civil war.

There really isn’t much left I can say about this day.  It was a tragedy, a day that marked the fall of one of Vietnam’s brightest periods in the modern era.  South Vietnam was not without its flaws; there were numerous corrupted idiot officials in the government.  However, despite these bad eggs, the key values which Republic of Vietnam represented were democracy, freedom, and liberty.

fallSouth Vietnam never got to reach its full potential because of the war, but in its short lifetime, the RVN gave a glimpse of what Vietnam was capable of.  The people of Vietnam, then, now, and always, have so much to offer to make the country great.  Unfortunately, because of Ho Chi Minh and his Communists, the endless talents of the Vietnamese people have been, and continue to be squandered and suppressed.

On that day, thousands of scared and heartbroken South Vietnamese people pored into the American embassy in Saigon.  Many others jumped on the nearest boat and set sail into the open sea.  All of this to escape the impending brutally and slaughter that followed after the North Vietnamese formally consolidated their rule over the population.  Many of the refugees lost their lives at sea, but some were lucky to land in many countries such as Australia, France, Canada, and America.

fall-of-saigonThese survivors started new lives overseas, and are our mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, cousins, our brothers, and our sisters.  They were the boat people, those who braved the perils at sea to start all over, in an alien place that we all take for granted today.  As the new generation, we don’t really know how lucky we are to be living in a land of opportunity, liberty, and freedom.  I’m not just talking about America, but of all liberal democracies across the world.

If you are a Vietnamese whose loved ones are among the few to survive the dangerous journey across the seas, and have provided you with an amazing life in this wonderful democracy of ours, I suggest you go to them and give them a giant hug.  After that, tell them that you love them, and then thank them for providing for you in a land of freedom, democracy, and equal opportunity.  Today may be a sad day in history, but it is also a time to appreciate the gifts that we so often take for granted: freedom.  Have a nice day, my fellow leaders of tomorrow.  To my people in Vietnam, a change will come, and you will be the ones to do it.  Just believe.

Southern Heroes: Le Minh Dao, The 18th Division, and the Battle of Xuan Loc

Posted in IV. Columns, Modern History, VII. Research with tags , , , , , , , on April 30, 2012 by Ian Pham

“Please, do not call me a hero.  My men who died at Xuan Loc and the hundred battles before are the true heroes.”  – Le Minh Dao, Brigadier General, 18th Division, South Vietnam

On this day, 37 years ago, the tanks of the North Vietnamese Army rolled into the city of Saigon.  The city’s inhabitants gathered frantically outside the gates of the U.S. embassy, begging the Americans to shelter them from the advancing Communists.  That day, thousands of Vietnamese families packed up their entire lives and embarked on a journey across the seas to escape the grasp of Communism.  April 30, 1975 was a dark day in Vietnam’s history, but prior to this fall, the South Vietnamese Army would achieve one last glorious victory.

In the weeks prior to the fall of Saigon, the Communists in the North were still figuring out how to capture the city.  One strategically important location was Xuan Loc, which the Communists planned to capture before moving on to Saigon.  As the 4th Corps of the North Vietnamese Army assembled their forces in the jungle north of the city of Xuan Loc, they were greeted by some unexpected guests.  The 18th Division of the ARVN (South Vietnam), under Brig. General Le Minh Dao, would derail the NVA’s plan to capture Xuan Loc, showing the world that even without the U.S., the ARVN was still a force to be reckoned with.

“Even though we knew we had lost the war, I still fought.  I was filled with despair after the loss of the northern Corps, but I still fight.”

The Battle of Xuan Loc was the last major struggle before Saigon’s fall on April 30, 1975.  With the passionate and inspirational leadership of Brigadier General Le Minh Dao, the 18th Division of the ARVN resisted heavy fire from the Communist forces from April 9-21, when the division was recalled to defend Saigon.  The brilliance of the 18th Division can be seen by its numbers, dealing a miserable amount of pain to the 4th Corps of the NVA.  On the first day of battle, the NVA under Major General Hoang Cam lost more than 700 hundred men to the ARVN and Le Minh Dao, whose losses were below 50 soldiers.  After four days, Cam’s death toll climbed to 2,000, while Dao’s still only in the hundreds, the 4th Corps still had not advanced (Pribbenow & Vieth, 2004: 191-199).

By April 13, the 4th Corps and the North Vietnamese Army were forced to change their strategy.  According to NVA Commander Tran Van Tra, because of the fierce resistance of General Dao and the 18th Division, it was no longer in the interests of the NVA to continue pressing in Xuan Loc (Pribbenow & Vieth, 2004: 200).  From then until April 21, the Communist forces would concentrate their forces in other areas around Xuan Loc, and Le Minh Dao would continue to fight them until receiving orders to return to Saigon.  The general’s retreat was just as masterful as his advance, which required much daring and intellect to outmaneuver the Communist forces.

“I was their general, I wish to be the last man from the 18th ARVN to be released.  I could not look them in the face otherwise.”

Sadly, the success story ends here, with Le Minh Dao’s successful retreat back to Saigon.  From this point onward, South Vietnam would run out of steam, and the ARVN would no longer have the means to fight.  Brigadier General Le Minh Dao and the 18th Division were only few of many brave individuals who sacrificed their lives for the free and democratic South.  On April 30th, even after Duong Van Minh and the Southern government surrendered, Le Minh Dao still wanted to keep fighting.  However, with the knowledge that the corps commander and the deputy had taken their own lives, Dao knew that it was done.  On May 9, Le Minh Dao turned himself over to the Communist forces, serving a prison sentence of 17 years.  He would remain in prison until May 4, 1992, when he was finally released.  Le Minh Dao currently resides in the United States, his accomplishments forever immortalized in the pages of history.

 

Further Reading on the Battle of Xuan Loc:

Pribbenow, Merle L. & George J. Veith.  ”Fighting is an Art: The Army of the Republic of Vietnam’s Defense of Xuan Loc, 9-21 April 1975.”  The Journal of Military History, Vol. 68, No. 1 (Jan., 2004), pp. 163-213.

The Victory That Never Was

Posted in IV. Columns, Modern History with tags , , , , on October 10, 2011 by Ian Pham

The Vietnam War.  Arguably the most controversial conflict that America had ever gotten herself into.  The outcome of the war should be no secret to anybody, we lost, big time.  From the American entrance into Vietnam in 1963 to their humiliating exit in 1972, the United States had been fighting a losing war, or so they thought.  Many in the U.S. during this era called Vietnam a quagmire, a lost cause, a war that can’t be won.  These kinds of descriptions have convinced us for decades that by moving into Vietnam, the U.S. was hurling itself into impending doom.  However, a stark contrast arises from what the media falsely described and what actually went on in the front lines.

Despite what historians, analysts, and the media have claimed for the past five decades, the Vietnam War was not an impossible war.  The U.S. had many opportunities for victory prior to their entry, during their engagement, and even after they’ve pulled out.  If one were to look at the war from a more hands on point of view, one would see that even though the U.S. lost the war politically, the American soldiers, along with their South Vietnamese allies, were actually victorious on the battlefield.

The U.S. Army and the A.R.V.N. fought brilliantly, defeating the N.V.A. and the Viet Cong in many confrontations.  For instance, the famous Tet Offensive saw the forces of the North ransack and bombard the city of Saigon with heavy artillery and thunderous force.  Even with the ambitious nature of this onslaught, the Viet Cong were conclusively defeated in this attack, driven out of Saigon, and resulted in the failure of the North Vietnamese operation.

The successful warding of the North Vietnamese from Saigon in the Tet Offensive is a good example of how the Americans, despite winning the battles, could not prevent the North from breaking their will.  On many occasions, the allied forces of South Vietnam and the U.S. had crushed the Communists in battle.  Even so, the U.S. could not maintain their high spirits and their determination to fight.  As a result, the Americans began to accept defeat, not realizing how much strain they and A.R.V.N. had put on the Communists.

It is true that the U.S. should never have entered Vietnam in the first place.  They knew nothing about Vietnam, and had no business messing with another’s domestic affairs.  Their involvement put South Vietnam in a very difficult position in the eyes of the world, giving North Vietnam the ammunition to demonize them.  Even with this obstacle, victory over the Communists was still a real possibility.  As I have pointed out before, the Americans, as well as the South Vietnamese, were actually more successful than the Communists were in the field of battle.  The difference maker was the breaking of the American will, their subsequent withdrawal, and the cutting of all American aid at the end of the war.

U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson was largely responsible for increased American involvement in Vietnam.The ideal recipe for victory would have been for the Americans to not have entered at all.  If the U.S. had just supported South Vietnam morally and financially, letting them deal with the Communists in their own way, victory may have come much quicker, and the war may have never been an American quagmire.  Even after the U.S. made the mistake of joining, they could still have defeated the Communists, for their military capabilities were much superior to the North Vietnamese, making them victorious on many confrontations.  In the last scenario, the Americans should still have funded South Vietnam’s war efforts after their withdrawal, instead of accepting defeat and leaving the South to crumble.

It was America’s ignorance of Vietnam that led to such a disastrous outcome.  The Americans knew nothing of Vietnam, as a result, they had made all the wrong moves in dealing with the war.  For every major mistake that they had made, there was a solution that could have been acted upon.  Unfortunately, the Americans could never understand the situation, ultimately leading them to the complete and utter failure that still reverberates in the hearts of the White House today.  The war in Vietnam could have gone in a much different direction, America could have won.  Sadly, the U.S. failed to understand their own capabilities and the capabilities of their allies.  As a result, the chances were lost, and the victory never came.