TV Recap - The Vietnam War: Episode 1, Part 2
By Mark Light
September 25, 2017
Eisenhower dispatched civilian aid to build up South Vietnam and even more military aid to build up their army. In the north, Ho Chi Minh set about rebuilding it. They underwent a brutal Chinese-style land reform, which left thousands dead. Ho Chi Minh wanted reunification, but not by military means. He feared drawing in the US even further. He wanted political agitation.
But Diem was busy crushing political agitation in the south. An anti-communist program executed hundreds and imprisoned tens of thousands without trial. Unbeknownst to the US, Ho Chi Minh now faced opposition from hardliners within his own government who were tired of his caution. He remained the public face of the country but he had to share power with a new group of men. Chief amongst them was a man named Le Duan who became First Secretary of the Communist Party.
In 1959, Le Duan and his hardline allies adopted a new position, which was to help the southern revolutionaries remove Diem by force. Viet Minh soldiers began slipping back into the south by following a path through the Laotian jungles that the US would later name the Ho Chi Minh trail. Violence increased in the south.
On July 8th, 1959, in Bien Hoa, six American military advisors were watching a movie in their mess hall. Viet Minh guerrillas who had slipped into the compound stuck their rifles in the windows and opened fire. Major Dale Buis and Master Sergeant Chester Ovnand were killed. They became the first two names on the Vietnam War Memorial.
On November 8, 1960, John F Kennedy was elected President of the United States. His Vice-President was Lyndon Johnson. Six weeks after the election, in a remote jungle village, southern revolutionaries met to form a new organization to replace the Viet Minh. They called it the National Liberation Front, the NLF, and their armed forces the People's Liberation Armed Forces. But the US and the South Vietnamese government preferred to call them a different name: Communist Traitors to the Vietnamese Nation, the Viet Cong.
On January 20, 1961, JFK was inaugurated. His speech included: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
The episode ends in a jump to 1969, where veteran Tim O'Brien states that he felt courage was just even going out on patrol in the jungle. Once again, Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain Is Going To Fall" plays, this time as the credits roll.
In Episode Two, "Riding The Tiger", the US gets even further involved in South Vietnam under President Kennedy.