T. Lynn Moseley Granby Education Center
2009 Teaching American History in South Carolina Project.
The First Indochina War had begun. It pitted a combined French force of 348,000 – 80,000 French soldiers, 20,000 Foreign Legionnaires, 48,000 North Africans, and 200,000 Vietnamese working for the French – against some 350,000 Viet Minh troops, with a supporting cast of millions under the leadership of President Ho Chi Minh, General Vo Nguyen Giap, and the DRV government.
“Massacre in Korea” by Pablo Picasso, 1951
For the sake of peace, we have made concessions. But the more conciliatory we are, the more aggressive the French colonists become. They are determined to reconquer our country. No! We would rather sacrifice everything. We are determined not to lose our country and not be enslaved. Dear compatriots, we must rise up. Male and female, old and young, regardless of religion, political party, ethnicity, all Vietnamese must rise up to fight French colonialism and to save the fatherland.
U.S. Marines in North Korea, Dec. 1950
That the Vietnamese patriots who fought the French in the First Indochina War would accept de Gaulle as mediator was another irony of history. With France no longer threatening to dominate Vietnam, French cultural, economic, and political ties took on a more benevolent quality. There were French people in Vietnam, Vietnamese people in France, and biracial children in both places; thousands of Vietnamese children attended French schools; the Vietnamese educated class spoke French; France was the top importer of Vietnamese goods; and the French government maintained official contacts in both South and North Vietnam.
It took more than two years to agree on a truce on July 26, 1953
President Lyndon Johnson continued the trend toward Americanizing the war in Vietnam. On his third day in office, he told Ambassador Lodge, “I will not lose in Vietnam.” Johnson relied on Kennedy’s top advisers, which he kept, to tell him how to win the war. On November 26, 1963, he signed National Security Action Memorandum 273, which reaffirmed that the U.S. would assist the South Vietnamese to “win their contest against the externally directed and supported Communist conspiracy.”