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  • Vietnam reading and Japan

    First, I recently finished reading The Last Valley by Windrow, which as most of you know is an account of the battle of Dien Bien Phu. The book and the battle were both massive undertakings. It took me about as long to read the book as the battle lasted. I had read short descriptions of the battle before but I had no idea of the scale of the battle. Excellent book for anybody looking for a fairly manageable account of the course of the war before the battle, that set the stage for the battle, and for the battle itself. I wonder now if I should read Fall's book or if it would add anything to this book.

    I picked up another book in a used bookstore titled America in Vietnam, A Documentary History. The book is a collection of excerpts from US State Dept., NSC and other government documents that explain the thinking of the government officials who were concerned with Vietnam. The book was published in 1975 and has commentaries by a collection of college professors so you can guess the slant. And of course you don't know what was edited from the original documents. The first half of the book covers the period from the late 40's to 1963. I have always wondered what the motivations for our involvement were. We wished to contain communism of course, but what was the thinking behind the effort to contain communism? According to this book one of the major motivations in the late 40's and 50's was to protect the sources of rice and raw materials for Japan and protect the markets for Japan's industrial output. The fear was that the loss of SE Asia would cripple Japan and we would have to support Japan economically or else it would fall under the influence of Red China. I was never aware of this concern before.

    The book includes discussions of our policies supporting France and the effort to distance ourselves from the stain of French colonialism while doing so. The part I am reading now deals with the 1954 Geneva agreements. Interesting stuff!

  • #2
    Originally posted by Redeye View Post
    First, I recently finished reading The Last Valley by Windrow, which as most of you know is an account of the battle of Dien Bien Phu. The book and the battle were both massive undertakings. It took me about as long to read the book as the battle lasted. I had read short descriptions of the battle before but I had no idea of the scale of the battle. Excellent book for anybody looking for a fairly manageable account of the course of the war before the battle, that set the stage for the battle, and for the battle itself. I wonder now if I should read Fall's book or if it would add anything to this book.

    I picked up another book in a used bookstore titled America in Vietnam, A Documentary History. The book is a collection of excerpts from US State Dept., NSC and other government documents that explain the thinking of the government officials who were concerned with Vietnam. The book was published in 1975 and has commentaries by a collection of college professors so you can guess the slant. And of course you don't know what was edited from the original documents. The first half of the book covers the period from the late 40's to 1963. I have always wondered what the motivations for our involvement were. We wished to contain communism of course, but what was the thinking behind the effort to contain communism? According to this book one of the major motivations in the late 40's and 50's was to protect the sources of rice and raw materials for Japan and protect the markets for Japan's industrial output. The fear was that the loss of SE Asia would cripple Japan and we would have to support Japan economically or else it would fall under the influence of Red China. I was never aware of this concern before.

    The book includes discussions of our policies supporting France and the effort to distance ourselves from the stain of French colonialism while doing so. The part I am reading now deals with the 1954 Geneva agreements. Interesting stuff!
    Hi Redeye.

    Martin Windrow did a terrific job didn't he?

    I re-read Fall after reading Windrow and got a lot more out of it the second time. The scale and intensity of DBP is staggering. What can you say about the courage displayed by the French and the Viet Minh? It was an epic.

    I didn't get so much out of Jules Roy. It is mostly to do with upper level backstabbing and blame shifting. It's very French!

    Re: Japan.

    The maintenance of Japan was the primary US Foreign Policy objective in East and South East Asia in the late 1940's to mid 1950's. As the only industrialised country Japan was the only prospective US trading partner in the region. This was a bit myopic as it turned out. Although Asia didn't rapidly industrialise, awareness of strategic commodities like Malayan Rubber and Indonesian Oil and Australian Wool came about because of the Korean War. Oil, Rubber and Wool boomed as a result of Korea and this had a tendency to expand the US horizons in the region.

    I digress

    The book you want to read next is very definitely Ted Morgan's 'Valley of Death.' It covers the period from 1944 to 1955.

    It covers the British and Chinese post war occupation.

    It covers the diplomatic history of the Geneva agreements particularly well.

    It covers the campaigns prior to Chinese assistance in 1950.

    It shows that the turning point in the first war was the Chinese intervention post 49.

    He does nearly as good a job on the DBP battle as Windrow and Fall.

    It has some flaws. The Vietminh did not have armoured battalions committed to DBP.

    It is unlikely that US Night fighters shot down UK transports over Indochina

    Morgan manages to miss the entire point about the VM artillery at DBP, what they had, how it got there and when the French knew it was there.

    Academics will hate this book because a lot of Morgan's material is unreferenced. In spite of this and a few howling errors it fits with most of the primary source stuff I've managed to look at. I don't think there is much in Morgan's book that Altus would take issue with, but I'll leave that assessment to him. I think it is a fair and balanced work that sheds a lot of light on a fascinating period of Vietnamese history.

    Well worth a look.


    Regards

    Mick

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    • #3
      Yes, I am very impressed by Windrow's effort. The only place I noticed a stumble was in his limited description of the small arms that were used. I am a gun nut so that is something I know something about. I also know something about aircraft of the era and he was spot on there. In that area I am a little puzzled as to why the US provided the Grumman F8F Bearcat, which was designed to intercept kamakazis, to the French. The F4-U Corsair was a much better ground support plane. I suppose we didn't want the Bearcats so we gave them to the French. It does sound like the French ground support efforts were ineffective and it does make me wonder what US air power could have done. That is a pointless question now though.

      Something else I have been curious about is the military's thinking on Vietnam in the 40's and 50's. I have never seen any detailed information on it. Just that they were opposed to another land war in Asia. Perhaps Valley of Death covers that in more detail?

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      • #4
        Hi Redeye

        Yes, I am very impressed by Windrow's effort. The only place I noticed a stumble was in his limited description of the small arms that were used. I am a gun nut so that is something I know something about.
        Well I missed those. What were they?

        I also know something about aircraft of the era and he was spot on there. In that area I am a little puzzled as to why the US provided the Grumman F8F Bearcat, which was designed to intercept kamakazis, to the French. The F4-U Corsair was a much better ground support plane. I suppose we didn't want the Bearcats so we gave them to the French.

        Weeeeell. The French did eventually get Corsairs but they got the beercats first. The limiting constraint the French had were their airfields. The French didnt have the Francs to improve their post war strips or those that the Japanese put in during their occupation. The rough nature of the Indochinese strips really required robust aircraft. Carrier aircraft were the only warplanes tough enough to operate in that environment.

        You are quite right in that Corsairs would have been superior to Wild/Bearcats but in 1950 the /Cats were surplus while the USMC was still operating Corsairs. More importantly in 1950, which is when the US turned on the military aid tap to the French in Indochina the USMC Corsairs were at the forefront of battling the Chinese hordes in Korea.

        The cats were available and although far from perfect were at least able to take off and land with some war load in 1950. Corsairs, from memory, started to be supplied to the French, about the time of the great DBP panic in 1954. By this time Corsairs were available because the marines had transitioned to jets.

        It does sound like the French ground support efforts were ineffective and it does make me wonder what US air power could have done. That is a pointless question now though.

        Something else I have been curious about is the military's thinking on Vietnam in the 40's and 50's. I have never seen any detailed information on it. Just that they were opposed to another land war in Asia. Perhaps Valley of Death covers that in more detail?


        The let's not do a land war in Asia thinking came about for two reasons.

        The first was because advances in technology meant that the US simply didnt have to. As the single nuclear power in the 1940s and early 50s Dennis Learys eloquent words did hold true.

        And there aint a ******* thing anybody can do about it
        you know why, because we've got the bombs, that's why
        2 words, nuclear fucking weapons, OK?
        Russia, Germany, Romania, they can have all the democracy they want
        They can have a big democracy cakewalk
        Right through the middle of Tiananmen Square
        and it wont make a lick of difference
        Because weve got the bombs, OK?
        John Wayne's not dead, hes frozen, and as soon as we find a cure for cancer
        Were gonna thaw out the duke and hes gonna be pretty pissed off
        You know why,
        Have you ever taken a cold shower, well multiply that by 15 million times
        Thats how pissed off the dukes gonna be!
        I'm gonna get the Duke, and John Cassavetes,
        and Lee Marvin, and Sam Peckinpah, and a case of whiskey,
        and drive down to Texas and say.....


        Until the Soviets tested in 1949 the US was supremely powerful.

        Another thing happened in 1949. Mao won the civil war in China. In 1950 Indochina was regarded as a side theatre in the war against Communist China, while the main game was being played out on the Korean peninsula.

        As far as the US military was concerned, Korea sucked large. The US waged it as a UN campaign. This meant that the US had to attend to the care and feeding of a bunch of international deadbeats. While the Turkish brigade and units like them, added colour, political legitimacy and some combat power, logistically they were a nightmare. All of them (Including the Commonwealth division) sucked up massive amounts of US supplies, shipping and patience.

        While US politicians wanted more free world flags flying in South Vietnam, the US military certainly didnt want a repeat of the Korean 'Internationalism'. It was only with extreme reluctance that the US accepted firstly the British Advisory Mission and the subsequent Australian Training Team in Vietnam.

        To make matters worse the Communist hordes were capable of inflicting huge casualties. The essence of the no land war in Asia faction was that Korea showed the Western democracies that they might just run out of bullets before Chairman Mao ran out of Chinese soldiers to send into them.

        Valley of Death does cover this a bit. Vietnam the necessary war by Michael Lind does too. Lind also examines the US Foreign policy attitude towards Japan quite well.

        Cheers

        Mick

        Comment


        • #5
          The real hole (lacuna) in The U.S. vis-a-vis Japan chapter of the Vietnam War is the role of the Japanese Forces in Vietnam during WWII. What is needed is a military history of the Japanese Forces there that places the armed 'resistance', if any, of the Vietnamese Nationalists and Communists against Japanese troops or garrisons. The fact that recently disarmed Japanese were willing to soldier for the British, the French, and the Viet Minh (just a few months later) suggests that it was anything but substantial.Pity that this thread has not pulled one out of the woodwork. Dixie Bartholomew refers to a single, post-surrender attack against a small Japanese garrison at Thai Nguyen, conducted with the full knowledge that the Japanese had officially surrendered.
          dit: Lirelou

          Phong trần mi một lưỡi gươm, Những loi gi o ti cơm s g!

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by lirelou View Post
            The real hole (lacuna) in The U.S. vis-a-vis Japan chapter of the Vietnam War is the role of the Japanese Forces in Vietnam during WWII. What is needed is a military history of the Japanese Forces there that places the armed 'resistance', if any, of the Vietnamese Nationalists and Communists against Japanese troops or garrisons.
            I have two books on the Japanese occupation period. Unfortunately both are currently in storage. Maybe in a few weeks I will try to dig them out for you and see what I can find.

            Comment


            • #7
              Miss Saigon, do they have material from Japanese military sources? I.e., number of attacks, where, when, by how large a force, with lists of Japanese casualties suffered? It seems to me that someone in Japan must have put something like that together. After all, the Japanese Imperial Army were meticulous records keepers in regards to their own operations. I actually know some Japanese-Viet 'Con-lai' (mixed race) from the Danang area, so not all relations were bellicose.
              dit: Lirelou

              Phong trần mi một lưỡi gươm, Những loi gi o ti cơm s g!

              Comment


              • #8
                Mick, I don't remember how Windrow described the weapons except not much and he was certainly fumbling and stumbling about. One thing that threw me was he gave muzzle velocity in MPH or Mach, I disremember which. I didn't pay it much attention, just decided there are better sources for info on small arms. I got the book from the library about 20 miles from here so I'm not likely to see it again for a while.

                What is a good book on the Korean War? I would like to know more about it since it influenced our thinking on Vietnam so much.

                I thought I read that the Japanese engaged in punitive operations in response to attacks by nationalists. Not so?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Redeye View Post
                  Mick, I don't remember how Windrow described the weapons except not much and he was certainly fumbling and stumbling about. One thing that threw me was he gave muzzle velocity in MPH or Mach, I disremember which. I didn't pay it much attention, just decided there are better sources for info on small arms. I got the book from the library about 20 miles from here so I'm not likely to see it again for a while.

                  What is a good book on the Korean War? I would like to know more about it since it influenced our thinking on Vietnam so much.

                  I thought I read that the Japanese engaged in punitive operations in response to attacks by nationalists. Not so?
                  I have read "the forgotton war"............forgot the author......very detailed book

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