During the Vietnam War

“One learns more many times from one’s mistakes than one learns from one’s successes” (Furlong), Stephen Furlong quotes James Redwood, college professor and noncombatant of the Vietnam War, saying. People should never forget about the Vietnam War, especially the soldiers who fought and still remember, since, a nation can learn more from its mistakes in war, than from its victories. This war, in particular, was one of which America did not win and one of which many individuals wanted to forget.

The Draft

The draft of the Vietnam War began in 1970. It was a completely random process by which they chose the men to fight in war. It was called the draft lottery. Basically, the lottery was held in December of 1969 and it was a televised event where they had the numbers 1 to 366, that represent each day of the year, to draw from. The pool consisted of men that were born in 1944 to 1950 and the numbers corresponded to the men’s birthdays. In the end, males with “lottery numbers greater than 195 were not called for induction, while males with numbers of 195 or below were called to report for possible induction” (Bergan).

On the Battlefield

American Troops waiting for combat with the Viet Cong

The battlefield in Vietnam was a gruesome and horrific place to be in. Soldiers were surrounded by gore and death, and were forced to make decisions that exposed their inner self and integrity. Many of the books and movies produced about the Vietnam War shows what happens on the battlefield in the war from the perspectives of soldiers, generals, and lieutenants. In war, every little thing happens right before their eyes. Suddenly everything is real and they’re more aware than anything. The film directed by Randall Wallace, We Were Soldiers, is based on the book written by Lieutenant General Hal Moore during the Ia Drang battles, who had to make difficult decisions on what his cavalry will do next in battle. In this film, people are not people in war; they become targets. In every battle shown, the soldiers shoot at every single moving object that isn’t American (We Were Soldiers). However, that only happened when the Vietnamese were expected to come out at them. Other times, they had to be aware of other attacks such as booby traps and airborne bombs: “The Viet Cong guerillas extensively used booby traps such as hidden pits with stakes in them (known as punji pits) or hand grenades or other explosives attached to trip wires” (“Booby Traps”). Over ten percent of all the American casualties from the war were caused by these booby traps, and the other ninety percent, from being shot in battle, diseases, infections, suicide, or an accident (“Statistics”).

From South Vietnam

The perspective from the South Vietnamese citizens, though, was not good either. American troops had practically barged onto their land, and destroyed all their rice paddies, beautiful green grassland, and their villages with herbicides and bombings. Julie Forsythe, a civilian relief worker for the injured Vietnamese people (note: not for the Americans), saw the effects that the South Vietnam was destroyed by the Viet Cong and Americans had on how innocent Vietnamese lived: “We messed up the fields and left Agent Orange in the hills, so every spring there were floods. Yeah, all the wells were messed up, too—you can’t just wreck an environment the way we did and not leave a lot of nasty footprints. Typhus. Bubonic plague. Polio. All kinds of diseases from lack of public health and a completely destroyed economy” (“Forsythe”). Everything the Vietnam War caused was horrible and to some extent, frightening. The one thing that really got to me, personally, was that the American army was so rude about the South Vietnamese citizens’ well-being, when one of their main purposes in Vietnam was to protect them. In their defense, though, most of the soldiers were drafted into war and were their to fight for the United States. Most of them suffered from PTSD coming back from the war and when they came back, there was no congratulatory party to welcome them back home. 

Women During the War

Along with the men, women also held a role during the war. Most of the women in Vietnam for the American army were nurses, but others worked as clerks, typists, information officers, air traffic controllers, map-makers, decoders, and photographers.

A U.S army nurse treating a South Vietnamese child (“Forsythe”)

Now Julie Forsythe, mentioned earlier, was basically a nurse for the South Vietnamese citizens, so her experiences differed from most other nurses. In an interview, she related what she went through and witnessed treating her patients:

I wasn’t prepared for a lot of things I saw… Once I was in surgery and they were doing amputations—this was right after I got to Quang Ngai—and I nearly passed out. Horrible. But the kids were the worst. Up to 40 percent of our patients were kids—we saw about a thousand people a year—because the kids are the ones who take the ducks out and take the water buffalo down to the river. And some yo-yo leaves a landmine in the path and—pop! That’s it. No, I wasn’t prepared for how many kids were so badly damaged. A lot of them came in with no arms and legs. And we saw kids with neck injuries from shrapnel, so that they were entirely paralyzed. At times we took over the hospital’s burn unit, where we saw the kids who’d been napalmed” (“Forsythe”).

She goes on talking about what she saw in Vietnam and it just gets worse and worse. Just like a lot of the soldiers, these nurses also suffered from PTSD and raging emotions from the war, and many individuals back home in America didn’t support the women of the war quite as much as they supported the men (“Forsythe”).

Concluding Thoughts

American soldiers went through a lot for their country but in the end, the North Vietnamese party took the victory because of their motivation, courage, and perseverance. Before this war, any individuals hadn’t even heard of Vietnam or where in the world it is located, but now, the U.S. has come to respect them in sort of the way that the British came to respect the U.S. For Vietnam however, they haven’t been independent since before 111 B.C. Both sides of the war lost a lot in their life and experienced horrible things. After more than two decades of fighting, it took a lot to rebuild Vietnam, and still they’re not completely stable. Overall, the Vietnam War was not one of the most popular wars in both American history and Vietnamese history, but the Vietnamese finally has their independence and where they take it could turn into something incredible.

The Vietnam War Memorial located in Washington D.C.


Works Cited

Bergan, Daniel E. “The Draft Lottery And Attitudes Towards The Vietnam War.” Public Opinion Quarterly 73.2 (2009): 379. TOPICsearch. Web. 23 Apr. 2015.

“Booby Traps.” Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War. Ed. Stanley I. Kutler. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1996. World History in Context. Web. 23 Apr. 2015.

“Forsythe, Julie.” Vietnam War Reference Library. Vol. 4: Primary Sources. Detroit: UXL, 2001. 165-177. World History in Context. Web. 24 Apr. 2015.

Furlong, Stephen. “Interview With James Redwood.” Chariton Review 37.2 (2014): 69-71. Literary Reference Center. Web. 23 Apr. 2015.

“Statistical Information about Casualties of the Vietnam War.” National Archives and Records Administration. National Archives and Records Administration, Aug. 2013. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.

We Were Soldiers. Dir. Randall Wallace. Perf. Mel Gibson and Madeleine Stowe. Paramount, 2002. Online.

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Who was more affected by the Vietnam War: The Vietnamese or the Americans?

North Vietnam v. South Vietnam separated at the 17th parallel

War is the event that makes certain people uncomfortable and on edge about the place and side they live for during the war, but it also forces them to realize that the world isn’t perfect and certain people can’t run their nation alone. The Vietnam War, otherwise known as the Second Indochina war, was one of the longest, and most unpopular wars in U.S. history, lasting from around 1953 to 1975. It was the Americans in South Vietnam versus the Viet Minh communist society fighting for full dominance over Vietnam in the North. Out of the 2 million people that died in this war, fifty-eight thousand of them were Americans who served for their country, and the rest consisted of innocent citizens that had nothing to do with the war, and the North Vietnamese soldiers, otherwise known as the Viet Cong, that were just fighting for unification of their country (Hochgesang). These Vietnamese citizens were affected more than the American soldiers in this war because of what they had to go through every day in their own homes, and what they lost because of the war.

In Vietnam, people who were associated with their opposing side were brutally and cruelly tortured. Journalist John Pilger wrote in his article titled The Right You Never Surrender about two young sisters, 13 years old and 16, who were recruited by the NLF (National Liberation Front), or Viet Cong as they’re more commonly known as, to infiltrate and destroy the national

Photograph by Phillip Jones Griffiths of NLF

intelligence headquarters; however, the night before their mission, the girls are caught and captured: “she was strung upside down and electrocuted, her head held in a bucket of water. They were then ‘disappeared’ to Con Son Island, where they were shackled in ‘tiger cages’ – cells so small they could not stand; quicklime and excreta were thrown on them from above” (Pilger). These girls were much too young to be going through something like this, but just because they were loyal to the NLF, the two girls were tortured almost to the point of death. Similarly, a lot of Vietnamese people during the war were also starving and constantly worried about their village being attacked. G.B. Tran, a Vietnamese-American citizen, writes his parents’ compelling story – titled Vietnamerica: A Family’s Journey – about leaving Vietnam during the war before Tran was even born. As he talks to his mother, she tells him: “‘We left Vietnam so you would NEVER have to know what it’s like. What it’s like to struggle to stay alive every day. Not to starve to death every week. Hoping that someday you’ll be set free. That you’ll live to see your family again’” (Tran 151-153). It was hard to live in Vietnam at the time of the war, especially for these innocent Vietnamese citizens.

The American soldiers who fought there had to go through and endure a lot in Vietnam, but never even close to what the Vietnamese suffered. Because of the bombings in Vietnam and the impending and constant danger, many people lost their possessions and sentimentals, but also, Vietnam lost a lot of its ancient artifacts. In G.B. Tran’s family, his parents had to leave everything behind to be able to leave Vietnam, never knowing if they would ever see their old village again the way it used to be: “My parents’ first trip back [to Vietnam] together was in 1994, almost two decades after they escaped. It was then that they realized

An Image from Vietnamerica: A Family’s Journey (Tran)

their Vietnam only existed in stories and fading memories” (Tran 207). The Vietnamese lost everything from this war, including their physical possessions, the memory of the home they used to live in, and also, their family members. In addition, Vietnam lost a lot of their priceless artifacts. In Pilger’s article, he retells the story of a French man’s anecdote during a bombing in Hanoi: “‘I took shelter in the Museum of History,’ he said, ‘and there, working by candlelight, with the B-52s overhead, were young men and women earnestly trying to copy as many bronzes and sculptures as they could. They told me, ‘Even if the originals are destroyed, something will remain and our roots will be protected’’” (Pilger). As bombs fell on Vietnam, everything in its wake was destroyed, so as Pilger said, these Vietnamese people did what they could to preserve Vietnam’s history. They suffered losing their heritage to the Vietnam war; which wasn’t a war involving them.

It’s sometimes said Americans were affected more from this war because of the psychological effects the Vietnam War had on them, and the horrors they witnessed from it. According to the article titled, “The Psychological Effects of the Vietnam War,” these soldiers were “despised by protesters, isolated from their family and friends, and dejected by society.  They were the victims of the worst injustice because they had given everything for their country, physically and emotionally, and received nothing, not even welcome home parades” after they came back from the war (Hochgesang). Though it may have been difficult to come back to regular society for these American individuals, they never had to go through what the Vietnamese did. They were not praised and they were still emotionally damaged, but with all that, many of Vietnamese also lost everything they had, either losing their home in Vietnam, or struggling to make life work in America. Furthermore, the life of Americans who were merely the family of the soldiers had difficult lives. For instance, in the novel, Everybody Sees the Ants, A.S. King writes a story about a teenage boy whose grandfather disappeared from the Vietnam War. The young boy frequently argues with his father because he isn’t a good enough father: “‘I guess I’m not needed here,’ [Dad] says, … [I say,] ‘Actually, Dad, that’s the problem. You are needed here. I do need a father you know?’ … [he responds] ‘Goddamn it! You don’t have any idea what it’s like not having a father! You don’t know how good you have it!’” (King 48). The effect of a soldier may be huge on that person’s family; however, the effect on the war in itself affected families everywhere of Vietnam, much worse than any American family was.

All in all, the Vietnam War was worse on the Vietnamese, than it was on any American family or soldier. Vietnamese citizens starved, were tortured, and lost everything in the process, but even though the Americans also went through a lot, their losses were not quite as bad as how bad the Vietnamese had it.


Works Cited

Hochgesang, Josh, Trayce Lawyer, and Toby Stevenson. “The Psychological Effects of the Vietnam War.” EDGE. Stanford, 26 July 1999. Web. 15 Mar. 2015. <https://web.stanford.edu/class/e297c/war_peace/media/hpsych.html>.

King, A. S. Everybody Sees the Ants: A Novel. New York: Little, Brown, 2011. Print.

Pilger, John. “The Right You Never Surrender.” New Statesman 139.5030 (2010): 24-27. Literary Reference Center. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.

Tran, G. B. Vietnamerica: A Family’s Journey. New York: Villard, 2010. Print.

How the Vietnam War Began

Vietnam. The first thing that this word conjures in the mind is the long, horrible Vietnam War and the tragedies it had caused. Get ready for a long, arduous story about how this war started.

After World War II

Ever since the late 1800’s to 1954, France owned Vietnam. It was part of an area called French Indochina. Before 1954, people in the U.S. had not even heard of the country Vietnam; however, during that time, the French basically turned the citizens of Vietnam into Frenchmen, forcing their culture and language onto the Vietnamese. Taxes were raised and more and more Vietnamese people became homeless and poor (Landenburg). Soon enough, the Vietnamese resisted. During World War II,

Ho Chi Minh

Germany had conquered France, so Japan, as an ally to Germany, had moved into Vietnam; but their first goal was to overpower the French administrators. These left Vietnam under a less controlling grasp and with the perfect opportunity to fight back.Nationalist organizations in Vietnam were soon formed. Political leader Ho Chi Minh founded the strongest organization.They were called the Viet Minh and consisted of mostly of members from the Indochinese Communist Party (Moise). Eventually, while the Japanese had eradicated all French administrators, the Viet Minh grew in size and stamina. After Japan had surrendered to the U.S., ending the war, the Viet Minh had achieved local authority over Vietnam (Moise).

So was it all over? Vietnam technically had its independence again… right? Well, towards the end of 1945, the French came back to Vietnam to regain its control. The Viet Minh wanted independence, but the French wouldn’t budge. After a year of unsuccessful negotiation, the Viet Minh and France were at war (Moise).

First Indochina War (1946-1954)

            The First Indochina war was like the war before the war (yes, that means that after this war, there’s another). From the years 1946-1950, neither side could do anything. It was inconvenient and impractical for the French to send troops over to Vietnam from France, but they did have a great advantage with weapons. On the contrary, the Viet Minh could easily recruit soldiers locally (Disselkamp). So for those few years, neither France nor the Viet Minh made any progress on their side. However, by 1949, the Chinese Communist Party won control of China. They took the Viet Minh’s side in this war and suddenly, the Viet Minh had weapons and the manpower they already had before China helped; but don’t think the French didn’t have help either. Around the same time China started aiding the Viet Minh, the U.S. started aiding the French, interestingly enough, even more than China aided the Viet Minh. Although the French had much more advanced weapons, their army could not compete with the size of the Viet Minh. They had control and flexibility of the countryside and won one of the most important battles at Dien Bien Phu. In 1954, the Viet Minh had won the First Indochina War (Moise).

North Vietnam vs. South Vietnam

            That year in 1954, the Geneva Peace Accords were signed. After the First Indochina War, France realized that they

The Geneva Conference

could be defeated by their Indochina colonies, so they devised a plan to have Vietnam be an independent country, since the communists of the Viet Minh believed their western allies would be angered if they didn’t allow France a “face-saving defeat”(Brigham). In 1956, the French and Viet Minh agreed to have an election to decide how the government would be in Vietnam, so in the time between 1954 and 1956, Vietnam was separated at the seventeenth parallel; the Viet Minh had control of the area north of that line, and France had control of the South (Brigham). The Viet Minh were almost guaranteed control of all of Vietnam before the United States stepped in. President Eisenhower believed the Geneva Accords gave too much power to the communist party of Vietnam, so helped create a new nation in Vietnam with new prime minister and anti-communist, Ngo

Ngo Dinh Diem

Dinh Diem. Diem passed various laws and arrested thousands who didn’t believe in his values or were communists. So what really is communism? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, communism is “a way of organizing a society in which the government owns the things that are used to make and transport products (such as land, oil, factories, ships, etc.) and there is no privately owned property” (“Communism”). When Diem was in power, it was legal to arrest someone if he/she was suspected of being a communist. In response to this injustice, many people of Vietnam protested against him by attacking his troops and secret police.Robert Brigham from PBS.org quotes Diem responding to this uprising as

“‘a hostile act of aggression by North Vietnam against peace-loving and democratic South Vietnam’” (Brigham).

From here begins the Second Indochina War: Diem and the U.S. in the South versus the Viet Minh in the North fighting for a unified communist Vietnam. Stick around for my next blog post where I’ll be outlining what happened during the Second Indochina War, 1956-1975, and how it affected America and Vietnam.


Work Cited

Brigham, Robert K. “Battlefield Vietnam: A Brief History.” PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2015. <http://www.pbs.org/battlefieldvietnam/history/index.html>.

“Communism.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 8 Jan. 2015. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/communism?show=0&t=1420752049>.

Disselkamp, Rachel. “The Cold War Museum.” Cold War Museum. The Cold War Museum, 2008. Web. 8 Jan. 2015. <http://www.coldwar.org/articles/40s/FirstIndochinaWar.asp>.

Landenburg, Thomas. “The French in Indochina.” Digital History (n.d.): 1-4. Digital History. Thomas Landenburg, 2007. Web. 7 Jan. 2015. <http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/teachers/lesson_plans/pdfs/unit12_1.pdf>.

Moise, Edwin E. “The Emergence of the Viet Minh.” VN Wars: The Viet Minh. Clemson University, 20 July 2014. Web. 7 Jan. 2015. <http://www.clemson.edu/caah/history/FacultyPages/EdMoise/viet2.html>.

Moise, Edwin E. “The First Indochina War.” VN Wars: First Indochina War. Clemson University, 20 July 2014. Web. 09 Jan. 2015. <http://www.clemson.edu/caah/history/FacultyPages/EdMoise/viet3.html>.

Tradition and Culture

Holidays

New Year’s

Tet Nguyen Dan Celebration

Vietnam is home to many holidays in which some are quite similar to ours and others are
different. One of their most important traditions is New Years. In Vietnam they call their holiday Tet Nguyen Dan, which directly translates into “the first morning of the first day” and it’s celebrated around late January or early February (Hobbs). Tet Nguyen Dan lasts for three days in which each day represents something different. The first day is reserved exclusively for family members and relatives. Older relatives will often give children, nieces, or nephews a little gift called “red bag”, which is a little paper pouch with money in it. The second day is for close friends and special guests to visit and the third day is mostly for acquaintances (“Vietnam Holidays”). The Vietnamese usually believe that if the first guest that enters their house in the New Year is wealthy, well respected, etc., they will receive good luck throughout that year (Hobbs). This year, Tet Nguyen Dan starts on Sunday, February 15, 2015, and lasts till the 17th. For 2015, the zodiac animal is the sheep.

Moon (Mid-Autumn) Festival

In addition to New Year’s, the Vietnamese also celebrate Tet Trung Thu, or the mid-Autumn harvest festival. For thousands of years, the Vietnamese celebrated Tet Trung Thu to sacrifice and celebrate the moon on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month,

The Mid-Autumn Festival

since on that day, the moon is closest to the Earth (Preyss). This holiday is usually a time for children to celebrate a good harvest and to celebrate their hard work after the busy harvest time. It is tradition to bang on drums and wear lion masks to scare Rahu (the mythological creature who causes the moon to have phases and eclipses) to make sure the full moon will always come back. For Tet Trung Thu, people will often buy lanterns that are sold in all different shapes to represent different things. The most popular are shaped as a five-star lantern to represent the sun, a frog to represent the moon, and a spinning lantern to represent the earth’s seasons (“Tet Trung Thu festival, Vietnam [Photographs]”). In the photograph above to the left, the little boy is playing with a rabbit-shaped lantern. Along with lanterns, the Vietnamese gave away moon cakes as gifts and told stories and myths about the moon.


Values

Family: Traditionally, people will live with their extended family. Unlike the U.S., a typical Vietnamese house consists of the parents, children, in-laws, grandparents, and sometimes aunts, uncles, their spouses, cousins and their in-laws (LaBorde). That is a crowded house! There can be up to six generations of  family living in one home at a time. Although the family may not all be living in the same house, they’ll usually end up living in the same area or village. In Vietnam, family is one of their most important values. If a part of the family moves away, they won’t ever lose connection with their relative no matter how long it’s been.

Funeral: When someone in the family dies, everyone in their extended family and their friends will attend the funeral. Before the funeral, the deceased is dressed in usually white cloth,unlike the U.S. Also their guests will traditionally wear white to mourn loved ones.

Marriage: Marriage in Vietnam today is almost the same concept as how it is in America, though divorce is not accepted in Vietnam and is considered shameful. Before, parents of the couple would arrange the marriage themselves as they believed fate in marriage is predetermined. The marriage is typically held at one of the couple’s home. However, prior to the marriage, the bride and the groom don’t have much contact. In this culture, the brides keep their maiden name after marriage and they still do today, but formally, they’ll use their husband’s name (LaBorde).

 

Buddhism: Buddhism has been present in Vietnamese culture for many years. Along with Buddha, they also believed in Thien which was the Vietnamese form of meditation. According to the book, Sources of Vietnam Tradition, the Vietnamese liked to express their belief through poems, such as this one, written by the nun, Dieu Nhan,

“Birth, old age, illness, and death,

Have always been the same.

If you wish to escape from them,

By trying to untie your bonds,

you add to your entanglement.

It’s only when you’re deluded that you search for Buddha,

It’s only when you are confused

that you look for Thien

I seek neither Buddha nor Thien,

I just close my eyes and keep silent” (Dutton 46).

In this poem, Dieu Nhan was saying that it didn’t matter if someone is young, old, sick, or dying (also known as the four noble truths). If they are unsure, seek the Buddha and follow the path to enlightenment, then once they reach it, they can stop their search and live in bliss. People in Vietnam emphasized the importance of existence through Buddhism. By the Ly Dynasty (1272), temples were built and spiritual cults were formed (Dutton 46). Vietnam religion, along with Buddhism, consisted of Confucianism, Taoism, Christianity from the 16th century, and more recently, Protestantism (“The Religions of Vietnam”).


The Vietnamese have many values and traditions, but it would take an eternity to write them all out. If you want to learn more, check out the links in my works cited. I hope you enjoyed learning a little about Vietnam’s culture and tradition, and I hope you come back for more about Vietnam!


Works Cited

Dutton, George Edson., Jayne Susan. Werner, and John K. Whitmore. Sources of Vietnamese Tradition. New York: Columbia UP, 2012. Google Books. Google. Web. 4 Dec. 2014.

Hobbs, Joseph. “TET.” Tet Holiday. University of Missouri, 2010. Web. 23 Nov. 2014. <http://vietnam.missouri.edu/CultureCorner.html>.

Laborde, Pamela, MD. “Vietnamese Traditions.” Vietnamese Traditions. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Nov. 2014. <http://clubs.ncsu.edu/vsa/www/traditions/traditions2.html>.

Preyss, Jennifer Lee. “Learn About 5 Religious Thanksgiving Festivals.” 21 Nov. 2014: n. pag. Academic Search Complete. Web. 25 Nov. 2014.

<http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nfh&AN=2W61571152519&site=src-live>.

“Tet Trung Thu festival, Vietnam [Photographs].” Omeka RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <http://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/primary-sources/374>.

“The Religions of Vietnam.” Religions of Vietnam. Naval History & Heritage Command, Apr. 1968. Web. 06 Dec. 2014. <http://www.history.navy.mil/library/online/religions.htm>.

“Vietnamese Holidays.” Vietnamese Holidays. N.p., 2007. Web. 17 Nov. 2014.

<http://academic.depauw.edu/mkfinney_web/teaching/Com227/culturalPortfolios/VIETNAM/VIETNAM/holidays.html>

Invaded and Conquered

A map of Indochina

Vietnam is a country shaped like the letter S, located on the east edge of the Indochina Peninsula. In 111 B.C., the Han Dynasty of China conquered Vietnam and had Vietnam under their grasp for the next thousand years (“Vietnam” Encyclopedia Americana). The ruler of the Han Dynasty mostly wanted to obtain their fertile Red River Delta, a plain located towards the north of Vietnam surrounding the Red River. Vietnam is also home to vast forests, a mountain range full of precious metals, pearls in the ocean, and many more, just because of its geography. Not long after, Chinese traditions, religions, and even physical styles were integrated in Vietnam’s culture and most Vietnamese people knew how to read and write in Mandarin (“Vietnam” Encyclopedia Britannica). They were taught how to grow and harvest rice and Buddhism became a part of their religion (Ladenburg).

Eventually a rebellion broke out in Vietnam led by the Trung sisters, one of whose husband was executed by the Chinese. They created an army of tribal chiefs and armed followers to fight against their conquerors. For a few years, Vietnam lived in autonomy, free of China’s stronghold. The Trung sisters had proclaimed themselves as the queens of independent Vietnam for those few years, before Han’s emperor sent their powerful army into Vietnam to reestablish its dominance. People of Vietnam at that time had no power over their land or for themselves. Every now and then Vietnam’s citizens tried to revolt but China’s strong emperors always fought back. It wasn’t until the Tang Dynasty (618-907) fell into decline when Vietnam finally took back control of its land in 939 (“Vietnam” Encyclopedia Britannica).

After this, the Ly dynasty was founded, where the capital of Hanoi was established, then the Tran dynasty was founded, and finally the Le dynasty. There were other problems throughout the centuries, but Vietnam eventually lost its independence once again in 1859. The French were first welcomed to Vietnam in the 16th century through European missionaries because of their technical skills and connections to European suppliers of moderns weapons and western merchandise. In 1668, a trade organization, the French East India Company, was formed in Indochina to spread Catholicism and expand trade. Over the next few centuries, more people from France continued to go to Indochina and the Vietnamese often fought back and attacked French soldiers, priests, or traders, so using Indochina’s resistance to their authority as an excuse, the French strengthened their hold on Vietnam. As a result, Vietnam was forced to capitulate their land over to the French and give them special privileges. They spread their religion (Catholicism), sold French goods, and replaced local leaders with French nationals throughout the conquered land and by 1925, about 5,000 Frenchmen ruled over Laos, North and South Vietnam, and Cambodia, calling it French Indochina (Ladenburg).

The French changed quite a bit of the culture in Vietnam. They built railroads, imported cars and trucks, and paved streets, modernizing Vietnam’s transportation, and Vietnamese students were taught how to speak French. The Vietnamese were taught all about French history, literature and law. Soon enough, French colleges were built in Vietnam. In addition to adding new schools, they also changed the schools already in Vietnam by replacing learning Chinese with the much easier Roman alphabet used in Western Europe (Ladenburg). There were some Vietnamese people who became loyal to the French and others who worked towards ridding their country of Frenchmen. They definitely changed a lot in Vietnam, but on September 2, 1945, much like America, Vietnam finally passed its Declaration of Independence, and the August Revolution of 1945 abolished French monarchy and reestablished Vietnam as an independent country (Percy). In December of 1946, President Ho Chi Minh made an appeal to his country:

“Compatriots: We want peace, and we have made concessions. But the more concessions we make, the more the French colonialists use them to encroach upon our rights. They are determined to reconquer our country. No. We would rather sacrifice all than lose our independence and be enslaved. All of you, men and women, young and old, whatever your region, ethnic origin, or political opinion, arise to struggle against French colonialism and save the homeland… Let all arise to oppose colonialism and defend our homeland…. Our people will win.”

However it’s not until after Vietnam War when they truly gain independence and that’s for another blog, another day. Have a great day and I hope you enjoyed learning a little about the history of Vietnam.


Works Cited

Halsall, Paul. “Modern History Sourcebook: Vietnamese Declaration of Independence, 1945.” Modern History Sourcebook: Vietnam Dec of Independence, 1945. Fordham University, Aug. 1997. Web. 02 Nov. 2014. <http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1945vietnam.html>.

Indochina. N.d. World Atlas. Web. 2 Nov. 2014. <http://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/asia/indochina.htm>.

Ladenburg, Thomas. “The French in Indochina.” 2007. PDF File. <http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/teachers/lesson_plans/pdfs/unit12_1.pdf>

Percy, John. “Vietnam’s Independence Day.” Archive. N.p., Sept. 2010. Web. 02 Nov. 2014.<http://directaction.org.au/issue26/vietnam_independence_day>.

“The Trung Sisters.” Female Hero: (Women in World History Curriculum). N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2014. <http://www.womeninworldhistory.com/heroine10.html&gt;.

“Vietnam.” Encyclopedia Americana. Grolier Online, 2014. Web. 28 Oct. 2014.

“Vietnam”. Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 28 Oct. 2014. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/628349/Vietnam/52727/Vietnam-under-Chinese-rule>.