Wednesday, August 26, 2009
The Seattle Times reports: "Because his father had worked for U.S. forces, helping to find soldiers and airmen missing in action, his whole family was evacuated. They were among the first wave of Vietnamese refugees to come to Washington that summer [of 1975]."
I see a bitter irony in how Long Nguyen now makes his living: "His day job is a freelance mix: He flies private planes for several wealthy families who need [sic] a pilot to ferry them to the San Juans or up and down the coast ..."
Here's some background on the American war in Vietnam. Just months before the end of World War II, Japanese troops took control of an area that the French imperialists who had previously occupied it called Indochine française.
With the Japanese surrender in August 1945, the nationalist Viet Minh forces took control of parts of their homeland, which they called Việt Nam. Since 1941, the Viet Minh had enjoyed official support from the US government in fighting their common enemy, Japan, but that changed with the end of the war. The French wanted their colony back and, disregarding the Atlantic Charter, the US government supported the French. Before 1945 was over, the US was facilitating a French reconquest by transporting French soldiers to Vietnam on US troop transport ships.
In the "The Anti-War Movement We are Supposed to Forget," professor H. Bruce Franklin describes the period:
Those Americans who knew anything about Vietnam during World War II knew that the United States had been allied with the Viet Minh, the Vietnamese liberation movement led by Ho Chi Minh, and had actually provided some arms to their guerrilla forces, commanded by Vo Nguyen Giap. American fliers rescued by Giap's guerrillas testified to the rural population's enthusiasm for both the Viet Minh and the United States, which they saw as the champion of democracy, antifascism, and anti-imperialism. American officials and officers who had contact with Ho and the Viet Minh were virtually unanimous in their support and admiration. The admiration was mutual. In September 1945 the Viet Minh issued the Vietnamese Declaration of Independence, which began with a long quotation from the U.S. Declaration of Independence, proclaiming the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. The regional leaders of the O.S.S. (predecessor of the C.I.A.) and U.S. military forces joined in the celebration, with General Philip Gallagher, chief of the U.S. Military Advisory and Assistance Group, singing the Viet Minh's national anthem on Hanoi radio.France's war ended with the ignominious defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954; the US war continued to escalate until it, too, was defeated in 1973.
But in the following two months, the United States committed its first act of warfare against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. At least 8 and possibly 12 U.S. troopships were diverted from their task of bringing American troops home from World War II and instead began transporting U.S.-armed French troops and Foreign Legionnaires from France to recolonize Vietnam. The enlisted crewmen of these ships, all members of the U.S. Merchant Marine, immediately began organized protests. On arriving in Vietnam, for example, the entire crews of four troopships met together in Saigon and drew up a resolution condemning the U.S. government for using American ships to transport troops "to subjugate the native population" of Vietnam.
The full-scale invasion of Vietnam by French forces, once again equipped and ferried by the United States, began in 1946. An American movement against the war started to coalesce as soon as significant numbers of Americans realized that Washington was supporting France's war against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.*
* A more complete description appears in Franklin's book, Vietnam and Other American Fantasies (UMass Pr. 2001) pp. 49-50.