Vietnam II: Ho Chi Minh

It’s a day late but nowhere near a dollar short (except, I guess, in terms of what I’m paid for these shows; in that case it’s several thousand behind: Ho Chi Minh’s entrance into our story.

I don’t have a subsidiary story to tell in this set of notes, like I often enough did have during the series on Iran. What I have instead, though, is a wealth of visual and geographic aids to offer you. And this picture of young Ho Chi Minh:

One of my biggest (and best) sources of transitional audio clips since the beginning of SFD has been British Pathé, a news agency that’s now got thousands and thousands of its old clips up on YouTube. Unfortunately, if predictably and unavoidably, their clips from the beginning of film through about 1935 are all silent. Which means they’re garbage for the show, and that’s a shame, because they give you a better vision of French colonial Vietnam than I or the Frenchmen who were there ever could have or have written. So let’s see some of those (mute your audio; there’s this horrible clipping noise in all of them):

Titles are self-explanatory, really, but I hate the way that two videos or images look when they’re smushed together.

And this last one is a little later than our current show, but it’s another, more countrywide vision of (nearly) contemporary Vietnam, so it’s more than worth a glance.

A couple of notes in the middle here, to seriously bury any really pertinent information in these notes. I’ve laid hands on a few more books than I had when I began this whole Vietnam venture. The first of those is Embers of War, a book by a Cornell professor that explicitly sets out to fill the hole in American Vietnam scholarship where the French colony and their war of reconquest should be.

I’ve got another one (courtesy of my folks, who brought it down here to Mexico) from Bernard Fall that I’ve been wanting for quite a while, which is his least narrative, most thorough analysis of both the country and people of Vietnam (or, as he maintains it ought to be, and he’s probably right, Viet-Nam).

There’s so much new and pertinent information in this one that I’m going to end up doing a second geography run-through once we get to the French war just to get it all in.

Then we’ve got the maps.

As always, click the image to bigify

This is your real basic relief map. The thing that I like about it, given that it’s modern, is that, as far as I can tell, the major roads it includes are somewhat like the road network that grew up from the end of the imperial period through the French colony and the war. Somewhat.

It gets really big, even after I cut out half the map

And here we’ve got a vintage French colonial map of Indochina, and you can see how they bundled Cambodia and Laos up with Vietnam, as well as the way they split Vietnam up into three distinct (and separately administered) regions: Tonkin up north, Annam in the middle, and Cochinchina in the south.

And last but never, ever least:


Bayart, Jean-Francois. “Africa in the World: A History of Extraversion.” African Affairs, 2000, 217-267.

Ellsberg, Daniel. Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers. New York; Viking Press, 2002.

Fall, Bernard. Hell in a Very Small Place. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1966.

Fall, Bernard. Street without Joy: Indochina at War, 1946-54. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1961.

Fehrenbach, T. R. This Kind of War: A Study in Unpreparedness. New York: Macmillan, 1963.

Fitzgerald, Frances. Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1972.

Gaddis, John Lewis. Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of Postwar American National Security Policy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Halberstam, David. The Best and the Brightest. New York: Random House, 1972.

Halberstam, David. The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War. New York: Hyperion, 2007.

Herr, Michael. Dispatches. New York: Knopf, 1977.

Hickey, Gerald Cannon. A Village in Vietnam. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1964.

Huntington, Samuel. “The Bases of Accommodation.” Foreign Affairs, 1968.

Karnow, Stanley. Vietnam: A History. New York: Penguin Books, 1997.

Lacouture, Jean. Ho Chi Minh: A Political Biography. New York: Random House, 1968.

Lacouture, Jean. Vietnam: Between Two Truces. New York: Random House, 1966.

Logevall, Frederick. Embers of WarThe Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam. New York: Random House, 2012.

Maclear, Michael. The Ten Thousand Day War: Vietnam, 1945-1975. New York: Avon Books, 1982.

Moore, Harold G., and Galloway, Joseph L. We Were Soldiers Once…and Young. New York: Random House, 1992.

Niehbuhr, Rienhold. The Irony of American History. Chicago: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1952.

Sheehan, Neil. A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam. New York: Vintage, 1988.

Audio Credits:

Chinese Evacuation (1937). British Pathé. YouTube.

Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam (panel with Frederick Logevall). The Woodrow Wilson Center for Foreign Policy. YouTube.



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