Like a speck on a Dust Bowl horizon quietly growing into a sprawling horror, the Vietnam War crept slowly, stealthily, inexorably into the center ring of Oklahoma and American history. A small, impoverished southeast Asian country on the opposite side of the world from the United States, its people had endured invasions and subjugation for a thousand years, notably by China.
Most recently, the French had forced a harsh modernization and occupation on the nation as part of its Indochina colony, which included Laos and Cambodia. Japanese conquest interrupted this process during World War II. Vigorous American aid helped the Vietnamese bleed their Asian oppressors until the U.S. defeated them. Led by Ho Chi Minh, who possessed a blended nationalist and Communist philosophy that the Americans never completely understood, the backward nation memorably declared its independence following the 1945 Japanese departure.
Ho’s eloquent declamation, as an American officer of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), stood next to him, began with Thomas Jefferson’s immortal words from the American Declaration of Independence:
“All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” This immortal statement was made in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America in 1776.
Ho knew that President Roosevelt supported the freedom and independence from colonialism of nations like Vietnam around the world. FDR, however, was dead. President Truman faced a mortally hostile Russian-based, post-war Communist empire under the mass murderer Josef Stalin. This “evil empire…the enemy of the human soul,” as later American president Ronald Reagan called it, aimed with deadly earnest to defeat America and the West, and exert global hegemony to a degree neither Germany nor Japan had ever dared contemplate.
The U.S. had helped Ho and his countrymen drive out the Japanese, who themselves had humiliated the French colonialists and removed them from power. The Yanks had encouraged and stood with Ho as he and his comrades stepped up to declare their independence. But the Truman Administration viewed Europe as center stage in the exploding Cold War (OKLAHOMANS 2, Chapters 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 14, 15) with the Soviet Union. This spurred a policy shift of mournful and lasting consequences.
Arrogant French Premier Charles DeGaulle—whose despising of America was requited—threatened to cozy up to the Communists. He did so, knowing that the U.S. feared the Reds intended to swallow western Europe, as they were in the process of doing eastern. Truman, cowed by the ice-veined Frenchman, redirected American support to France and its reoccupation of the desperately unwelcoming Vietnam that it had not ruled for years.
Democratic Congressman John F. Kennedy, who had spent time in Vietnam assessing the situation in country and conversing with many of its leaders, as well as those not in leadership, opposed the move:
“The Communists under Ho Chi Minh are able to claim that they are fighting for independence, and the French appear to be fighting for a maintenance of colonial rule. I therefore believe that before the United States moves in, in any degree, that independence must be granted to the people, that the people must support the struggle.”
The above article is a bonus to the fascinating historical content found within our book
Oklahomans Vol 2 :
Statehood - 2020s
which can be purchased HERE.
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