Archive for the VII. Research Category

Introducing: The Annotated Bibliography

Posted in Annotated Bibliography, II. History, IV. Columns with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2015 by Ian Pham


“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

Image and quote via Cal U

It is my pleasure to introduce to you all, the new “Annotated Bibliography” feature of Freedom For Vietnam. This new section will feature reviews and discussions on various research materials, which in our case, will likely mostly consist of academic journals and books. It will not be limited to just these, however.

How it will work is that, every now and then, I will write an article/review about an existing source of research, such as a book or journal article. Each newly published blog article, while being a standalone blog article in itself, will also act as an update to the bibliography, which can be found primarily in the “Categories” section of the blog, with another, truncated and alphabetized version in the “Pages” section at the top.

As of right now, there will be three different annotated bibliographic categories, based on three different eras of Vietnamese history: Ancient History, Dynastic History, and Modern History. The lists will be short at first, but with every new update, with every new article, the categories, and the bibliographies themselves, will continue to grow. In turn, you readers will have an increasingly large pool of references to look at, either for your own research, or just for your own entertainment.

By creating this feature, I want to help provide a place of reference, a foundation, in which we can all further our knowledge of Vietnam’s history. I hope it helps, and I hope you all enjoy it.

* As a side note, all the historical categories listed under “Annotated Bibliography” will be marked with an “A.B.” at the end of the name (e.g. “Modern History – A.B.”), in order to distinguish them from the categories under “A Piece of History,” which carry the same name (minus the “A.B.”), and mark the same time periods. This is important as articles from “Annotated Bibliography” will also be listed under the broader “A Piece of History” section, due to their relevance in this category as well.

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.

Vietnamese History Books, First Impressions

Posted in Books, II. History, Opinions, VII. Research with tags , , on August 9, 2010 by Ian Pham

I recently checked out a couple of history books from the school library, one titled A History of Vietnam: From Hong Bang to Tu Duc by Oscar Chapuis, the other was The Smaller Dragon: A Political History of Vietnam by Joseph Buttinger.  The first thing I noticed about Vietnamese history is that very little is written about the country in western literature.  Since the section on Vietnamese history was directly next to the giant wall dedicated to Chinese history, I couldn’t help but feel a little indignant about the lack of books written about this particular topic.  Anyways, I did manage to find these two books which, at first glance, seems like credible sources of information.  I haven’t read the books yet, though I always keep in mind that I should, as the saying goes, “never judge a book by it’s cover.”

Even though I haven’t had the time to read these books all the way through, since they are both pretty lengthy, I managed to look through some chapters of both and get an impression of what they are like.  At first, Oscar Chapuis’s A History of Vietnam seemed like the better choice, but as I read through it more, I quickly noticed the author’s advocation that Vietnam was the offspring of China, which has been proven today as a complete fabrication.  This idea was conveyed in the early chapters, claiming that Shen Nung, the ancestor of Hong Bang, was Chinese.  This book was written in 1995, so I don’t blame the author for believing such ideas.  However, I do notice the author’s carelessness in expressing his conclusions.  This book is much shorter than Buttinger’s The Smaller Dragon. At only 216 pages, this book attempts to cover several thousand years of Vietnamese history.  For this reason, some of Chapuis’s ideas seem quite rushed, sounding more regurgitated from other sources than critically analyzed by his own thoughts.  What Oscar Chapuis succeeds in doing however, is to quickly cover many historical events and individuals in a short amount of time, which is useful for a quick read.

Now, let’s take a look at Joseph Buttinger’s The Smaller Dragon: A Political History of Vietnam. This was written in 1958, a time when the world knew little about the nation of Vietnam.  At a hefty 535 pages, Joseph Buttinger offers great coverage on the history of Vietnam.  The findings expressed by Buttinger are very well thought out and analytical, though his views are debatable at times.  Even though the works are nearly four decades apart, Joseph Buttinger’s writing feels much more eloquent than Oscar Chapuis’s.  Buttinger shares his ideas, but also provides more substantial arguments for his views.  However, one must keep in mind that this book was written more than 50 years ago, so some of his findings have been proven wrong by current research and technology.  Therefore, I must be critical in expressing my concerns in the author’s views in regards to Vietnam’s relationship with China, as well as the findings on the history of ancient Vietnam.  Even so, I must compliment the lengthly research made on this book, and commend the author on his extensive coverage.

Well, those are my first impressions of these books anyway.  The only way to really be sure is if you check them out for yourself.  I will have to look more into these books whenever I can find the time.  If you are interested, these books should be available at your city/public library.  Anyone who wants to learn more about Vietnamese history should give them a shot.  As an independent reader, always remember to be critical of the material, question all of it, and no matter what, don’t believe everything you read.

Happy reading!

Ratings At First Glance

  • A History of Vietnam: From Hong Bang to Tu Duc by Oscar Chapuis: C
  • The Smaller Dragon: A Political History of Vietnam by Joseph Buttinger: B+

A Letter From Nguyễn Huệ

Posted in Dynastic History, Modern History, VII. Research with tags , , , , on August 5, 2010 by Ian Pham

The following is a letter composed by Emperor Nguyễn Huệ Quang Trung, addressing the King of Macao on the important matter of trades and commerce.  The interesting part about this piece of writing are the words and arguments which the Emperor presents to the King of Macao.  Nguyễn Huệ is highly confident in dealing with his foes, not afraid to say what is on his mind.  The reason I am even bringing up this letter is because I believe it gives us a glimpse of what the Emperor was like, his strength, his fearlessness, and his determination in facing his enemies.

Alright, that’s enough from me.  Here is “A Letter by Quang Trung to the King of Macao” courtesy of the Nguyen Thai Hoc Foundation.


A Letter by Quang Trung to the “King of Macao” [June 1792]

By this imperial letter I inform the European king of Macao, in order that he might know perfectly the manner in which events have unfolded. This year, in the fourth intercalary month (21 May-19 June 1792) two ships have arrived at my kingdom of Quang-nam at the port of Thuchum.

They were examined by the port guards and they declared themselves to be ships from Macao, of which the captain’s name was Joaquim António Milner. He had carried out commerce in Dong-nai and was returning to Macao, bearing letters of recognition from this lost family of the Nguyen. But alas! they are ignorant of the fact and are not able to discern clearly that Dong-nai is nothing but a minor territory, where the vanquished Nguyen family has taken refuge in order to hide themselves. That insignificant man will never regain his domains; those madmen of the Siamese king aided him with their armies, but they were also vanquished and exterminated in combat.

Heaven has dispersed them, they are lost and have neither courage nor troops. For five years the French Europeans and those of your kingdom, and numerous merchants have given them boats and arms; taking part in his tyranny, they have resisted my armies, fighting in the wars in which many have died by the blade of the sword; it is a fact known to all and should serve as an example. I, the Emperor, have purified and pacified the kingdom in its confusion; I have conquered all of the southern provinces, not only Tonkin, but also those of Cochinchina, in which all of the middle territories of Quangnam were first, and then all of the major cities of these central regions of Quang Nam were made tributaries.

However this territory of Dong-nai is like a pearl, how is it that this line of the Nguyen has been able to elude me? For some years now, up to the present day, I have been at war in order to establish myself in the northern regions of Hinhing (Tonkin), moreover I have made war on China and its provinces of Guangdong and Guangsi, where I put the Chinese to flight and carried out great massacres. These victories established peace, and I have been at rest for some time. My army is now on battle footing; my captains and soldiers are flush with courage and will take part whereever I command them.

In consequence of which, you, the king of Macao, in truth a small territory, should decide and send an edict in firm terms. But I apprehend that those in Macao were not all involved in this affair and did not wish to carry out commerce [in Dong nai] for any other reason than that they were attracted by greed and interest. They should not return there, in order that they no longer marked are by this wicked Nguyen lineage, and that they no longer take part in their intrigues and criminal actions, under the pain of becoming without any doubt victims of my sword.

My desire is to pacify all of the neighboring princedoms and I do not wish to be in discord with them. It is for this reason, king of Macao, that I admonish you and order you to give rigorous instructions to your subjects that if they carry out commerce it should be to Fuchum, a port in my kingdom, where they will find an accomodating anchorage and that they no longer return to Dong-nai and its environs in order that they no longer find themselves involved in those crimes to which they are strangers. And if they do not wish to obey with good grace, they will regret it, but it will be too late.

Consider well all of this; on it depends fortune or misfortune, friendship or enmity. The 18th of the 4th intercalary month of the 5th year of my reign of Quang Trung (7 June, 1792).

[Translated from Pierre-Yves Manguin, Le Nguyen, Macau et le Portugal: Aspects politiques et commerciaux d’une relation privilégiée en Mer de Chine 1773-1802, (Paris: École Française d’ Extrême-Orient, 1984), pp. 98-99]


Article on Ngo Dinh Diem’s Rise to Power

Posted in Modern History, Politics, V. Arts & Culture, VII. Research with tags , , on June 15, 2010 by Ian Pham

For anyone who is interested in learning more about former South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, there is an excellent article about his political struggles titled Vision, Power, and Agency: The Ascent of Ngo Dinh Diem, 1945-54 by Edward Miller.  This artical examines the challenges and obstacles that Diem was faced with in his search for Vietnam’s Independence.

In the past several decades, scholars chose to characterize President Diem in many different ways.  Some called him corrupted, some called him reactionary, while others called him a puppet that was simply hand picked by the United States.  These perceptions of Diem however are made with bias and ill-intentions while others make reckless assumptions based on these distortions of facts and are therefore abstracted by these claims.

The evidence in this article points out that Ngo Dinh Diem went to great measures to achieve his politicial goals, travelling abroad and making numerous connections with many prominent individuals in Japan, France, and America.  Interestingly enough, this article even discusses Diem’s relationship with Ho Chi Minh, why Ngo Dinh Diem was such a threat to him, and why Ho Chi Minh tried to assassinate Diem on numerous occasions.

This is a brief summary on the article Vision, Power, and Agency: The Ascent of Ngo Dinh Diem, 1945-54. For the full story, feel free to read the article on the Research page or click on the link below.

The Springhead of Eastern Cultural Civilization

Posted in Ancient History, Books, I. News, VII. Research with tags , on May 20, 2010 by Ian Pham

There is a new book out now, titled: Vietnam: The Springhead of Eastern Cultural Civilization. Originally written in Vietnamese (titled “Việt Nam: Suối Nguồn Văn Minh Phương Đông” in Vietnamese), Vietnam was later translated into English by Dr. Joseph M. Vo. As an academic piece of writing, the book answers many questions about Vietnam’s past through extensive academic research and investigation.  Of all the countries in Asia, the historical information on Vietnamese civilization and culture has been the most fragmented and scarce, so a book such as this would provide some much need explanations and answers to the myriad of questions about the history of the Vietnamese people.  This comprehensive book contains explicit information about many different aspects of Vietnamese civilization from various eras, covering even the origin of the Vietnamese people (which dates back to more than 4000 years!).  Currently, only certain bookstores throughout North America sells this important literary work.  However, Vietnam can still be purchased through various online retailers.  Hopefully bookstores and actual retailers sell it soon.