The HCM City Department of Education and Training has opened a new programme to encourage high school students to study Vietnamese history more thoroughly.

From April 19 to May 20, 200 large banners with brief biographies of 24 famous Vietnamese figures, including Ho Chi Minh, Dang Van Ngu, Dao Duy Anh, Huynh Tan Phat, Le Duan and Le Duc Tho, will be hung at 14 high schools in the city.

The education and training department said that if the programme was effective it would be applied in all high schools in the city.

17:32′ 20/10/2006 (GMT+7)

Soạn: HA 930543 gi đến 996 để nhn ảnh này

VietNamNet Bridge – As part of a programme to teach people more about Vietnam’s history, HCM City’s Department of Culture and Information has decided to hang banners on Vietnamese female heroes on streets.

 

Findings of a survey done a little earlier in Ho Chi Minh City reveal that Vietnamese people there know very little about the country’s history. This has prompted the department of the city to launch a pilot project themed “Our people know our history”.

 

The project has been done under cooperation between the department, Focus Media Company and Saigon Postal Service Joint-stock Company.

 

At the first stage of implementation 611 banners have been hung to provide knowledge on who-is-who to tell people about Vietnamese female heroes in the past whose names have been used for streets in the city. The activity is also to celebrate Vietnam Women’s Day (October 20).

 

As reported, the project will be continued with hanging banners on important events such as February 3 (Foundation of Vietnam’s Communist Party, February 27 (Death anniversary of Hung Vuong, the first King of Vietnam). Biographic information of numerous Vietnamese heroes will be introduced to people aiming to provide more knowledge on the country’s history.

 

(Source: Tuoi Tre)

Monica Almeida/The New York Times

Yen Do, who worked for American reporters in Vietnam, founded a Vietnamese newspaper in California.

May 17, 2006

By SETH MYDANS, International Herald Tribune           

WESTMINSTER, Calif. — Even on his sickbed, Yen Do pushed himself forward, taking one more stab at mastering English grammar.

"I have returned to grammar 10 times," said Mr. Do, the founder of the country's oldest and largest Vietnamese-language newspaper. "Every year I returned to learn grammar. It became a bad habit."

Now it appears that grammar will elude him. At 64 he is weakening from kidney failure, diabetes and other ailments. Willpower may no longer be enough.

It has been a life created through sheer determination, following the arc of Vietnamese-American history from war to escape to renewal in an alien world.

Mr. Do was among the first refugees to arrive when Saigon fell in 1975 and soon began to publish a newspaper that helped define the refugee experience. With his newspaper, Nguoi Viet Daily News, Mr. Do, a courtly, cerebral man, became the steady, moderating core of this hyperactive refugee community known as Little Saigon.

He was the quintessential émigré editor, trying to bridge old and new cultures and seeming sometimes to infuriate almost everybody with his insistence on tolerance and even-handedness.

Mr. Do has been threatened, harassed and berated by groups who are still consumed by a war that in their minds has never ended.

There are now nearly 200,000 ethnic Vietnamese in Orange County, most of them living around the cluster of towns known as Little Saigon, 45 miles southeast of Los Angeles. Like other communities of immigrant refugees, Little Saigon seethes with feuds and factions.

In the intense early years, five Vietnamese-American journalists were killed in the United States, apparently by a radical anti-communist group. Mr. Do chose not to visit his mother in Vietnam before she died, fearing reprisals from those who oppose any contact with the country they had fled.

"They continue to fight with each other," he said of the Vietnamese refugees in an interview before his illness became critical.

"Many don't know how to deal with each other in peacetime," he said. "We need to educate them step by step to be part of the larger community. But to expect some of them to behave like normal immigrants, no way."

Mr. Do tried to lead by example. When new refugees arrived he sometimes gave them work to tide them over. If a would-be writer brought in a freelance article, he said, he paid for it even if he did not plan to use it.

And in offering benefits to the staff, he said: "I don't consider seniority. The more people are newcomers, the more they need help. It's not all about money."

From its start in 1978 as a four-page weekly, when shellshocked refugee families were flooding into the country, the paper's motto has been "Working together to survive."

In Little Saigon, the Vietnamese past is rooted in place, but an American future is transforming it into something increasingly different from its namesake. Mr. Do is himself an artifact of the past, and in his own family and newspaper he has participated in that transformation.

At its start, the paper was filled with news from home as well as with crucial how-to's about welfare, driver's licenses, insurance, mortgages and parent-teacher conferences. It has swelled into a full-color daily with a circulation of nearly 18,000 that has spawned a magazine, a radio station and the Vietnamese yellow pages.

Mr. Do continued giving away stock options in the paper, reducing rates on death notices for the poor, providing lunches to his staff for just $20 a month, hiring out-of-work artists and writers and even giving thousands of dollars in seed money to those who wanted to start rival publications. Nguoi Viet also rents space in its building to other media operations.

As his health has failed him, his daughter, Anh Do, 39, a journalist trained in American-style objectivity, has played an increasing role at the newspaper he built.

A columnist at The Orange County Register, Ms. Do is also chief financial officer of Nguoi Viet and editor of Nguoi Viet 2, a new English-language weekly section intended for her own generation of Americanized Vietnamese.

"The young generation brings change, that's the happy part of the story," the father said. "They change by refusing to copy the older generation."

His daughter's career has been with American newspapers, which do not share Nguoi Viet's tangled culture of mutual help, flexible rules and the imperatives of long-running friendships and enmities.

"She considers almost everyone the same," Mr. Do said, describing the culture clash. "That's what she has been taught in this society: give and take, fair is fair. I take the community approach. We treat newcomers more gently than oldcomers. That's fair."

His daughter said she relishes the debates she has with her father over the different paths they take toward what she called their "shared goal — to empower our community."

"I often see things in black and white, especially in the beginning," she said. "Now I'm more flexible, but I think it's still important to adapt modern American management to a traditional Vietnamese company."

The son of a funeral flower-shop owner, Mr. Do was caught up in politics in elementary school, "following along" on demonstrations against Vietnam's French colonial rulers.

In his teens he became a leader of the protests until he was arrested, briefly jailed and expelled from high school — a trauma that can still bring tears to his eyes.

He spent the next years educating himself in libraries and was politically active again until he became disillusioned by the manipulation of idealistic students and religious groups.

"Finally, I understood what politics is," he said. "Politics is a game, and I saw no way, no exit. So I told myself never to do politics again. Never, never, never. I would use my strength for social reform."

Journalism offered a home to "vagabonds" like himself, he said, and soon he was a war correspondent, covering some of the most dangerous engagements on the battlefield. In the final weeks, he worked as an assistant to American reporters from papers like The Boston Globe and The Chicago Tribune. His pay was less than 40 cents a day.

And then the North Vietnamese army was at the gates of Saigon, he said, and "I saw my world collapse." He, his wife and three children caught one of the last flights from the country. A fourth child was born in the United States.

In the enforced quiet of his illness, before it finally sapped his strength, Mr. Do said he thought back over his early life and realized how long a road he had traveled. In his thoughts, he said, "I recognize again my teenage spirit, when I taught myself that I could do anything."

1975: Saigon surrenders

April 30, 2006

 


The war in Vietnam ended today as the government in Saigon announced its unconditional surrender to the Vietcong. The President, Duong Van Minh, who has been in office for just three days, made the announcement in a radio broadcast to the nation early this morning. He asked his forces to lay down their arms and called on the Vietcong to halt all hostilities.

In a direct appeal to the Communist forces, he said: "We are here to hand over to you the power in order to avoid bloodshed."

The announcement was followed swiftly by the arrival of Vietcong troops. Their entrance was virtually unopposed, confounding predictions of a bloody and protracted last-ditch battle for the city.

War ends

The front line of tanks smashed through the gates of the presidential palace within minutes, and at 1130 local time (0330 GMT), decades of war came to an end.

Vietcong troops, many barefoot and some no more than teenagers, rounded up government soldiers, and raised their red and blue flags. The looting which has ravaged the city over the last 24 hours stopped, and power was restored later in the day. Only the United States embassy remained closed and silent, ransacked by looters.

Saigon was immediately renamed Ho Chi Minh City. A statement by the Provisional Revolutionary Government, or PRG, in Paris, promised a policy of non-alignment, and the peaceful reunification of Vietnam.

The British government is now urgently reviewing the possibility of recognising the PRG. France has already recognised the new regime, and other Western countries are preparing to follow suit.

Frenzied evacuation

The capitulation of the South Vietnamese government came just four hours after the last frenzied evacuation of Americans from the city. President Ford, who has requested humanitarian aid for the Vietnamese, let it be known that he was proud to have saved what Vietnamese he could in the last, frantic helicopter evacuation.

But there is said to be deep humiliation in the United States government at the desperation and chaos of the final hours of America's presence in Vietnam.

The President ordered United States ships to remain indefinitely off the Vietnamese coast to pick up refugees: but even this gesture has been snubbed by the North Vietnamese, who have prevented any more refugees from fleeing.

 E-mail this story to a friend

 


Watch/Listen

Vietnamese trying to get into the American embassy compound

The final hours of America's presence in Vietnam were marked by desperation and chaos


"So near, and yet so far": The BBC's Michael Sullivan tries to escape

Newsdesk reporters with eyewitness accounts of the American evacuation



In Context

In the immediate aftermath of the fall of Saigon, the Communist forces held victory parades and placed posters of Ho Chi Minh, the leader of the Viet Minh, on public buildings. While most South Vietnamese were relieved at the end of the war, some who remained loyal to President Thieu committed suicide.

North and South Vietnam were reunified under communist rule in 1976. Ten years later, the government relaxed its regime, allowing elements of market forces and private enterprise to flourish.

There is still, however, opposition within the Vietnamese government to too much economic liberalisation.

In November 2000, President Bill Clinton visited Vietnam. It was hoped that this would be the culmination of US efforts to normalise relations with its former enemy.

Teaching the Beaucarnot Diaries: Vietnamese and French Culture and Society under Colonialism and Beyond

A Colloquium with David Del Testa, Assistant Professor of History, Bucknell University

A presentation of the website “Adieu Saigon, Au Revoir Hanoi: The 1943 Vacation Dairy of Claudie Beaucarnot” at http://www.bucknell.edu/Beaucarnot/ designed as a tool for students and teachers to explore the world of Vietnam during French colonialism. This on-line source presents a new primary source for French colonial Indochina while illustrating undergraduate research stemming from it.

David Del Testa is Assistant Professor of History at Bucknell University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis, writing a dissertation on “’Paint the Trains Red’: Labor, Nationalism, and the Railroads in French Colonial Indochina, 1898-1945.” In 2000 he served as Director of the University of California Education Abroad Program in Vietnam. Before moving to Bucknell he taught at UCLA and California Lutheran University. It was a Cal Lutheran project that led him to return to Vietnam with a group of students and to retrace the route of Claudie Beaucarnot.

Date: Monday, April 10, 2006

Time: 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM

10383 Bunche Hall
UCLA Campus
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Cost: Free and open to the public.
Special Instructions

Parking at UCLA’s Lot 3 costs $8.

For more information please contact

Barbara Gaerlan
Tel: 310-206-9163
cseas@international.ucla.edu
http://www.international.ucla.edu/cseas/

Posted by: Center for Southeast Asian Studies

Sponsor(s): Center for European and Eurasian Studies, Center for Southeast Asian Studies

Their skeletons, our closet Print
Written by Cody Powell   
Thursday, 23 March 2006

U of S librarian catalogues declassified CIA documents

The first presentation in the Library Lecture Series saw the launch of a new web-based resource that contains a massive collection of declassified CIA documents from the Vietnam war.  
   
Vinh-The Lam is the man responsible for the construction of this new web-based research catalogue. He was born in South Vietnam and graduated from Saigon University in 1963, just prior to the start of American military involvement in Vietnam.  After earning his first degree, he moved to New York, where he completed a Masters in Librarian Studies in 1973.  The following year, he returned to the Saigon to become head of the Library department at the Saigon University.  A year later, Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese and the Americans began their evacuation. 
   
After the war, Mr. Lam spent four years trying to leave the country along with thousands of refugees.  By 1981 he was able to emigrate to Canada where he was involved in several libraries before joining the University of Saskatchewan’s special collections department.
   
Lam’s personal connection to this historic war has inspired him to compile this database, which is now available through the library’s online resource section.  In co-operation with the Information Technology Service Department, Lam has been able to coherently compile thousands of documents published by the CIA during the war.  Although it would be nearly impossible to post every document released during the war, Lam has made an amazing effort in collecting and posting thousands of CIA documents that have now been declassified.
   
Lam gave a public lecture last Wednesday on how the database can be utilized. The advanced search engine contains several options: the open term selection is capable of locating any document containing the chosen term;  this applies to personal names such as political officials, military officers, and leaders.  It can also locate place names including regions, provinces, and districts.  Lastly, the general term search includes specific combat units and names of certain battles. 
   
Another advanced search option is the classification of document types, this includes “Confidential”, “Secret”, and “Top Secret”.  Don’t get too excited though.  For those of you who thought that this meant you would have access to America’s declassified dirty little secrets, you will be disappointed to learn that a vast portion of the documents released have been ‘sanitized’.  This means that any potentially damaging information has been blacked out of the document.  This potential problem is also considered in the search option, which allows you to restrict the search to documents that remain clean.  (Of course the thrill of trying to decipher America’s little white lies and best-kept secrets in a completely blacked out paragraph is half the fun for any half-baked conspiracy nut.)
   
A final and immensely helpful addition to the website are the provided abstracts and summaries, allowing one to get an overview of the document before you dive into a military briefing that might be 30 pages long. 
   
Vinh-The Lam’s contribution to the university database collection is a powerful tool of research and will benefit many students  (especially many paranoid schizophrenics who think they are being watched by the CIA).

Close Window

A Vietnamese-American details key events to shape 2006

Mr. Vu Duc Vuong (Source: TTO)

A Vietnamese-American teacher and writer has provided Thanh Nien with an account of events that are to shape the development of being Vietnamese, at home and abroad.

The following is an article by Vu Duc Vuong, written for VIET USA:

For Vietnamese-Americans, the Year of Dog bounded in, full of energy and activity, with new voices of a Vietnamese identity that is still evolving, on both sides of the Pacific.

In the United States, the major event this year will take place in San Francisco on March 24-26: Vietnam Now – Mot Thoang Viet Nam – a festival whose bi-lingual name illustrates the cooperation between the leadership of Ho Chi Minh City and its sister city – San Francisco, and the joint effort among Vietnamese artists and business people in Vietnam, with their counterparts in the US. 

The three-day festival will feature exhibits and demonstrations of Vietnamese arts, food, poetry, businesses, fashion, films, contemporary and traditional music.  These exhibits are to be complemented by nightly performances at the Cowell Theater and daily seminars on a wide range of topics dealing with trade, law, hi-tech and culture in Vietnam.  More information is available at www.myvietnamnow.com.

Several conferences, on or about Vietnamese themes, are being planned: Vietnamese-Americans are putting together a “discussion” between Vietnamese inside and outside of the country on their future relationship, to be held in Washington in April. 

The US National Archives and Presidential Libraries will host a two-day conference on Vietnam and the Presidency, on March 10-11 at the JFK Library which will assemble an American contingent of delegates, without Vietnamese participation. 

Vietnamese-Americans of all political stripes want to be involved, unhappy with the exclusion of Vietnamese views from this process.  The William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Its Social Consequences, also in Boston, launched a People’s Conference: “Vietnam: Looking Forward, Looking Back”, offering a venue where the voices of those who have experienced the consequences of Presidential decision-making may be heard.

The National Association for the Education and Advancement of Cambodian, Laotian, Vietnamese Americans (NAFEAhttp://www.nafeaonline.org) will hold its 26th national conference in Washington, D.C., April 28-29.  This conference is the longest, continuous annual event dealing with languages, cultures and the adjustment process of refugees and immigrants from Southeast Asia.

In the Bay Area, the Southeast Asian Center at UC-Berkeley is hosting a seminar on “Vietnam Studies: States of the Field” on April 6. 

The Center is also launching the “Journal of Vietnamese Studies”, an academic journal published by UC Press and co-edited by Peter Zinoman (UCB) and Mariam Beevi Lam (UC Riverside). 

The VANG (Vietnamese American National Galawww.vangusa.com) will hold its third annual Golden Torch Award event, from May 4-7, in San Francisco.

In Texas, the Vietnam Center at the University of Texas at Lubbock will hold its 2006 annual conference on March 17-18, with the theme “ARVN: Reflections and Reassessments after Thirty Years.”

In Vietnam, some of the more significant events of this year are: the Tenth Congress of the Communist Party, which has taken place at local levels since late last year, culminating this summer in the election of a new leadership team for the next five years.  

If all goes well, Vietnam is also scheduled to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) this fall, a move that help the country to align its trade, legal and economic system with others around the world.

In November, Vietnam will host the Asian Pacific Economic Conference (APEC – http://www.apec2006.vn) in Hanoi. Among the heads of state attending will be the President of the United States, who will be the second to visit this former adversary since the end of the war. 

In June of last year, the Prime Minister of Vietnam paid a state visit to the US, cementing normalized relations that Bill Clinton put in place ten years earlier, culminating in his visit to Vietnam at the turn of the millennium.

Lastly, a fresh voice arose above the din of firecrackers in the early days of this New Year, and has been dominating the Vietnamese-language air waves as well as the cyber space. Pham Quynh Anh, an 18-year-old Belgian of Vietnamese origin, struck an abiding note within the second generation, with her song Bonjour Vietnam (Hello Vietnam). 

Let’s close with her refrain:

What I know of you is only war photographs

Scenes from Coppola’s film, helicopters spewing fury

One day I’ll go there, one day, to say “hello” to my soul

One day I’ll go there to tell you “Good morning, Vietnam.”

Vu Duc Vuong,  VIET USA

Return to Vietnam: Family reunion worth journey

JAMES A. JONES JR.
The Herald

Day two of an eight-day series

It’s quite a jolt, going from sleeping in my East Manatee home one day to waking up in Ho Chi Minh City a few days later.

But we would be in Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon, fewer than 24 hours before members of my wife’s family arrived in a rented Mercedes minibus with a hired driver to spirit us to Bac Lieu, the town of her birth.

It was a surreal moment seeing two of her brothers, a sister, and assorted nephews and nieces standing in the lobby of the Hotel Oscar. Everyone grabbed a piece of luggage and we got an early morning jump on the drive to Bac Lieu, six hours to the south down Highway 1.

In 1969, Bac Lieu was home to the second-largest signal site operated by my U.S. Army unit, Company D, 52nd Signal Battalion. It was a link in a network of communications between province capitals in the far south of the country, including Soc Trang, Ca Mau, Vi Thanh and Rach Gia. We also had a four-man team operating a radio relay site at Gia Rai. Those signal sites were in turn linked back to the regional capital, Can Tho, and from there to the rest of the world.

Among those using our telephone links, secure teletype, and around-the-world high-frequency radio, were U.S. attack helicopter companies, Special Forces, advisors from the Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) and the only friendly infantry in the area, a division of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam.

Aside from the geography of the area, I knew little about Bac Lieu back then and had no contact with its people. The glimpses of the dusty town were fleeting, when I would take a Jeep, a driver and two soldiers, all of us armed with M-16 rifles, and drive as fast as we could, about 60 mph, between Soc Trang and Bac Lieu.

Being alone out there, rushing past thatched huts and expanses of rice paddy, no one needed to be told to stay alert. You made that trip with your heart in your throat.

Now, after being away for 35 years, we were once again headed down Highway 1, headed to Bac Lieu.

Initially, we were overwhelmed and intoxicated by the sights and sounds of Ho Chi Minh City, still called Saigon by many.

I recognized several landmarks, and it was good to see that the military strongpoints had been replaced by widespread construction. There were remnants of the old low-rise Saigon, decorated with new year wishes for the Year of the Dog, and national flags, but there were many new high-rises, too.

It was a déja vu experience seeing this city again and its people going about their daily activities.

But I began to think less about the view than how we were getting to our destination. The driver’s aggressive driving style kept me cringing in my seat and my right foot pressing the floor hard for a brake that wasn’t there. Once again, my heart was in my throat.

For the next few hours he blared his horn as he roared up on motorcyclists, buses and trucks alike, often squeezing by with just inches to spare. Almost all of the motorcycles carried at least two riders, some as many as four, including babies. The driver ignored our requests to slow down. The last thing I wanted was for our bus to injure someone.

Our driver wasn’t the only one practicing this brand of road warriorism. Many of the truck and bus drivers simply took over the entire road, driving southbound three abreast, in both the northbound and southbound lanes. Oncoming motorcyclists had no choice but to get out of the way.

Strangely, there was no sign of road rage. If the driver came within a few inches of another big vehicle and sounded his horn, the other driver would gently signal for him to pass.

During our journey, we saw little traffic enforcement, just an occasional road checkpoint where police would cite a driver if his bus was loaded with too many passengers.

We did view the aftermath of a traffic accident, an unattended motorcycle ominously knocked down in the middle of the road. A few minutes later, we caught up with an ambulance driving with emergency lights flashing and siren blaring. Our driver hit his horn and passed the ambulance. I slumped in my seat.

Later, he passed to the left of a concrete road barrier intended to separate oncoming traffic. I heard my wife scream as approaching buses flashed their lights. The driver found a break in the concrete barrier and veered back into his lane. It took all my self control to show no fear. I suspect I failed.

In the old days, there were at least two ferries on Highway 1 between Saigon and Bac Lieu. The one at Vinh Long has been replaced by a modern suspension bridge, but at Can Tho, a fleet of ferries still provides transport across the river.

South of Can Tho, we began seeing intensely green rice paddies sweeping to the horizon and, in some places, harvested rice drying to a golden brown on the shoulders of the road. There were 100-pound sacks of rice stacked along the highway and on the beds of trucks and on pedicabs.

Our driver kept us on Highway 1 through Soc Trang and someone pointed out a narrow lane, the way to the U.S. Army’s old airfield, where my company headquarters was once located. We heard that the airfield had fallen into disrepair. We would take a day trip there to look and reflect, but not today.

Soc Trang, like many of the cities we saw, featured wide, modern boulevards and a jumble of houses and businesses jammed together right on the main drag.

And I saw the same kind of ox carts being pulled by dusty men, scraping out a threadbare existence, that I witnessed more than three decades ago.

When we arrived in Bac Lieu, or more properly Tra Kha, a village just a mile or so from downtown, the trip got really exotic. We walked down a rocky lane off Highway 1, past a Vietnamese Army medical detachment, to river’s edge.

Some family members ushered me onto a sampan, a long, narrow boat riding just inches above the waterline, with two of my wife’s nieces. A boatman rowed us across the brown water to a tree-lined path on the opposite side.

I found myself on one side of the river and my wife, the translator, on the other. I was feeling a little overwhelmed as I walked into her mother’s house. The last time I saw my mother-in-law was June of 1971.

There are a couple of good reasons for that. For many years, there were no diplomatic relations between the United States and Vietnam, making travel nearly impossible. After relations were restored, I thought it was more important for my wife to go home, while I stayed busy with my newspaper job.

But eventually, I felt a moral requirement to go home with my wife and get to know her family.

As I walked into the dark, quiet house, I wondered how my mother-in-law would react to me.

I walked to her bed, took her hand and said, “Chao Me,” Vietnamese for “Hello, Mother.” She squeezed my hand and smiled at me. I didn’t understand what she was saying, but I knew that I was welcome.

I held her hand until my wife arrived a few minutes later. When mother and daughter met, there were tears, laughter and embraces. I stood back and enjoyed the scene. We had reached our destination.

Tomorrow:

Down to the market

TODAY

The road to Bac Lieu

TUESDAY

To the local marketplace

WEDNESDAY

How we found Soc Trang

THURSDAY

Stories that will break your heart

FRIDAY

Tet, lunar new year celebration

SATURDAY

The mayor of Bac Lieu

SUNDAY

Reflections

Time for Vietnamese To Be Heard on Vietnam War

–>

New America Media, Commentary Immigrant Voices, Thai A. Nguyen-Khoa, Feb 23, 2006

Editor’s Note: American academics, politicians and journalists continue to pontificate about the Vietnam War without the input of Vietnamese. New America Media contributor Thai A. Nguyen-Khoa teaches social studies in the San Francisco Unified School District. He was a Vietnamese Advisory Board member for the Oakland Museum conference “What’s Going On,” from February 2004 to July 2005. He writes for the English-edition of Nguoi Viet 2 and is an editor of Dan Chim Viet, a popular online magazine.
Vietnam War
OAKLAND, Calif.–Thirty-three years after the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam and the ensuing debacle, America has still not learned the lessons of the war. Despite its utter defeat in 1975, America loves to listen to its favorite sons and daughters rehash the war’s shortcomings in the pretext of finding wisdom and relieving future generations of angst and sorrow. But the voice of the Vietnamese people, here and in Vietnam, is always an afterthought.

Thus for two days (March 10-11), the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston will host a conference on “Vietnam and the Presidency,” under the auspices of the National Archives and all 12 presidential libraries. Conference organizers have invited an impressive list of political big-shots, including former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and Alexander Haig Jr., Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), first Ambassador to Vietnam Pete Petersen, television journalist Dan Rather and Pulitzer Prize-winning authors David Halberstam and Frances Fitzgerald. President Jimmy Carter will speak via video. The organizers claim to address a wide range of issues and new information, yet curiously, not a single Vietnamese was among the invitees.

In politics, the media and academia, the voice of Vietnamese and Vietnamese-Americans is rarely heard. From the “Vietnam as History” conference at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., to the (USC) University of Southern California’s “Vietnam Reconsidered” event in early 1983 to the recent Oakland Museum conference and exhibit, “What’s Going On: California and the Vietnam Era” to the upcoming JFK library conference, the Vietnamese voice has always been circumscribed and gagged.

“Vietnam was a complex war and they need a more inclusive view,” says Professor Doan Viet Hoat, a dissident who was released from jail in 1989. “The present situation in Vietnam demands it.” Hoat and professor Nguyen Ngoc Bich from the Washington, D.C., area were suggested by various Vietnamese forums, but were not invited. Bui Tin, the ex-colonel from the People’s Army of North Vietnam and the chief editor of Nhan Dan People’s Army newspaper was also bypassed. Quang Xuan Pham, a Marine helicopter pilot in the first Iraq war and author of “A Sense of Duty: My father, My American Journey,” says he contacted the JFK library to suggest Vietnamese speakers, “but to no avail.”

By purposely framing the conference around Vietnam and the presidency, the organizers have effectively shut the Vietnamese voice out of the historical debate and sidestepped the issue of why America went to Vietnam in the first place. In case the pundits have forgotten, the American promise and premise was to secure the blessing of liberty and self-determination for the (South) Vietnamese people.

Or, as John F. Kennedy pledged in his 1960 inauguration address, “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 to assure the survival and success of liberty.”

These words ring hollow today, considering the lack of liberty in Vietnam since the less-than-honorable American Congress decided to cut all aid to South Vietnam in 1975 and effectively foreclose the dream of democracy there. Will the conference juxtapose Kennedy’s “survival of liberty” with the Truman Doctrine’s call to “support free people who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or outside pressures”?

Have Americans forgotten that we Vietnamese were fighting for our independence almost a hundred years before the United States decided to side with France in her attempt to retake Vietnam in 1946?

It was convenient in 1963, on the heels of the Buddhist unrest in South Vietnam, for America to engineer the coup against Ngo Dinh Diem so it could have free rein in the execution of the war. How ironic for the United States to take over the war when, in the struggle for nationhood at the waning of French colonialism, the Vietnamese nationalists and communists had in common, at least, a shared struggle for their place in the 20th century.

How disingenuous, then, for Nixon to “Vietnamize” the war, when beginning in 1961 Kennedy had already set in motion an American-led war. How ironic for “Vietnamization” when Robert McNamara and Gen. Westmoreland kept pouring American troops into Vietnam, where, in April 1969, American troop levels had reached 543,400, giving a false sense of security to the Vietnamese and convincing them that only a reliance on U.S. military superiority would bring freedom to Vietnam. Was it “Vietnamization” when Kissinger forced President Thieu to sign the Paris Accords in 1973 (ineffective as he was, Thieu was prescient enough to resist signing a death warrant for South Vietnam), when Kissinger knew all along that the North Vietnamese were not going to honor the accords?

In the end, there was neither peace nor honor for Vietnam, only a sell-out agreement forged by the Americans.

The United States squandered 58,000 Americans and more than 3 million Vietnamese lives in its last betrayal of Vietnam, leaving more than 1.5 million Vietnamese-Americans and 80 million Vietnamese in Vietnam to sort out their fates in the 21st century. Now, more than 30 years later, those who consider themselves the top thinkers and the very conscience of America will sit at the JFK Presidential Library in judgment of America’s past action and once again leave out the most critical players of all: we Vietnamese.

User Comments

Bill Laurie on Mar 08, 2006 at 21:47:40 said:

Mr. Sidney Tran,
your comments most informative and thoughtful, and partially compensate for the nausea I feel at reading of the self-indulgent pseudo-Viet Nam conference you’ve so correctly called to task. I served three years in Viet Nam and the profound and ludicrous ignorance reflected in the so-called ‘conference’ only reminds me of US stupidity of yesteryear. Of course those of we native-born Americans who worked with the Viet Namese people tried, fruitlessly, to pass ‘lessons learned’ up the chain of command. Unfortunately, terminal bureaucratic mental vacuity dissolved the brain cells of what was supposed to be US ‘leadership.’
To Mr. Murtaugh: you come across as a very decent man but please, PLEASE, read Mr. Tran’s response…very, very carefully.
Tu Do, Dan Chu, Cong Ly!!
Bill

International Professors Project on Mar 03, 2006 at 07:26:50 said:

Invite graduate students,post docs professors and emeriti professors to apply for candidacy in our org:

http://www.internationalprofs.org

( Email Subject Line: Development Office)

New professor; more or less peripatetic; more or less sovereign; an international ambassador of cultural understanding; a new way of academic living. Vietnamese and other Third & Fourth World academics may teach and research in their native lands or another poor, almost poor, undeveloping or developing country for 18 months to decades. All developed country profs only to teach in poor, almost poor, undevelpoing and developing countries. beginnning to build a list of applicants to send many profs in 2008. Seek 100 additional Project Fellows, and two new Board Directors.

We are an all volunteer educational nonprofit. While we seek funding to acquire a staff through grants and donations we wish to choose our Int’l, East Asian, and South Asian HQ.

Viet Nam strong possibility for the Int’l or East Asian HQ. HQ would begin as International Professors Project Chapter.

Lam Nguyen on Feb 27, 2006 at 15:53:41 said:

There are two possible explanations to why Vietnamse have never been invited to any similar conference:
1/The Vietnam Syndrom:American politicians from legislations to law makers and in past administrations during that era are still afraid to face the truth,afraid to face their so -called “allies” that they betrayed.
2/The arrogance attitude towards the Vietnamese people.The slangs that applies to them are:”jouer papa” or in Vietnamese is “choi cha”.

God bless America!

Sidney Tran on Feb 27, 2006 at 10:36:48 said:

This response is for Jim Murtaugh. History is important. It is through history that wisdom can be attained. A historic tragedy cannot be reversed but lessons can be learned from the past in order to avoid future tragedies. America has moved on. Present day Vietnam is still a one-party, police state. It does not respect human rights. It does not allow religious freedom. It still jails political dissidents. Communist Vietnam still paints the conflict as a struggle for independence against foreign domination. Yet the reality of the conflict does not suggest that this was the case. In this respect Vietnam has not moved on. Communist Vietnam gave new euphuisms to the world. Terms like the “boat people, re-education camps” are some of Hanoi’s handiworks. I wonder what “voices of the Vietnamese people living in Vietnam” Mr. Murtaugh is referring to? If the voices are coming from people parroting the party line, then they are hardly legitimate representation of the Vietnamese people. If Vietnam has truly moved on, then it should treat the people of Vietnam with the dignity and respect they truly deserve. Marxist-Leninism is a European political philosophy that was unjustly grafted on to Vietnam by self-styled social theorists. It has no moral, historical standing or justification in Vietnam.

binh tran on Feb 27, 2006 at 07:27:25 said:

It’s time to let people all over the world and American people knows the truth about the VN war and the Communist’s lies and their brutal reign over the VNamse people.Thanks for your article.
Sincerely

Thai Nguyen-Khoa on Feb 25, 2006 at 15:31:51 said:

Americans tourists can’t never gauge the depth of our despair. There is a wholesale effort and policy on the part of the Hanoi government to blank out the truth about the VN or American War in schools and colleges in VN.

Historical blindness is not an amnesia that won’t come back to haunt the youth future and culture of materialism.

While it may have shed its classless proletarian beginning, the new Red-capitalist rulers of Vietnam would like visitors to feast on an empty capitalist shell while pasting over its inequitable presence with promise for a brighter ubiquitous Party rule.

TA

Jim Murtaugh on Feb 25, 2006 at 03:52:07 said:

Time for America to move on.
In light of what is going on in Iraq,the U.S. learned nothing from the war in Vietnam.Nothing will be learned at the J.F.K.meeting.
If my vietnamese friends in Vietnam could speak to the American people they would tell them that it is time to move on.The war was long ago and just one of many that Vietnam has had to
survive.What is important is
today and tomorrow.We can’t change the past.Those who died are gone and nothing can bring them back.But the future is wide open to change.
I have talked to many,many people in Vietnam and this is their message.While the bitterness of the war still is just below the surface here,it is rare to find it in Vietnam. I wish the American people could hear the voices
of the Vietnamese people living in Vietnam today.There is just so much we could learn from each other.
Jim Murtaugh

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A History Left Behind…
by Peter Nguyen, Contribution Writer

Over forty years ago , in 1964, there were only 603 Vietnamese living in the United States. They were students, language teachers, and diplomats. Over a decade later, the 1975 wave of Vietnamese migrants did not choose to come here unlike the other Asian groups already in America. In fact, they had no decision to make because they were driven out by powerful events surrounding them. During the last days of April, 86,000 Vietnamese were airlifted out of Vietnam.

“On those last days of April,” remembered a refugee, “[there was] a lot of gunfire and bombing around the capital. People were running on chaotic streets. We got scared…”

During the next few weeks, forty to sixty thousand Vietnamese escaped in boats to the open sea, where they were picked up by American navy ships and transported to Guam and the Philippines. Many did not even know they were leaving or where they were going. Later some said, “We did not plan on taking this trip.”

Altogether some 130,000 Vietnamese refugees found sanctuary in the United States in 1975. The first-wave of refugees generally came from educated classes: 37 percent of the heads of households had completed high school and 16 percent had some college. Almost two thirds could speak English well or with some fluency. Generally, the refugees came from Saigon, which was more westernized than the general population. About half of them were Christian or Catholic, a group representing only 10 percent of the group in Vietnam. After their arrival in the US, the ’75 refugees were initially placed in processing camps like Pendleton in California and Fort Chaffee in Arkansas.

Thousands did escape soon after — 21,000 in 1977, 106,500 in 1978, over 150,00 in 1979, and scores of thousands later. Two thirds of the boats were attacked by pirates and each boat were attacked an average of more than two times. Most of the times, the men were tied up or thrown overboard and the women were raped. In 1985 there were 643,200 Vietnamese in the United States.

In the 2000 census, Vietnamese has reached 1.2 million and the fourth largest Asian group only behind Chinese, Asian Filipinos, and Asian Indians in the US. Vietnamese America will continually grow and hopefully our beautiful culture will never be left behind.

*Reference, statistics, and facts were sited from “Strangers From a Different Shore”, by Ronald Takaki