In the past I had heard stories where military forces in Vietnam raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Ghengis Khan, cows and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country. My eyes soon opened up to see the truth of what was going on during the war in Vietnam. Within the text we will find escalating circumstances and stories that led to the Vietnam Conflict.
Malcom Elmore served this country proudly during the conflict and served as my Criminal Justice teacher in high school. I looked up to this man because of all the adversity he overcame to become the person that he is today and since he fought during the conflict I decided to interview him. With memories from the past, he recaptured the situation that not only he was in, but the situation many Americans were experiencing during the time of this conflict.
“South Vietnam is fighting for its life against a brutal campaign of terror and armed attack inspired, directed, supplied, and controlled by the Communist regime in Hanoi. This aggression has been going on for years, but recently the pace has quickened and the threat has now become acute.” (PFC. Elmore)
The war in Vietnam was not a spontaneous and local rebellion against the established government.
In Vietnam a Communist government has set out deliberately to conquer a sovereign people in a neighboring state. And to achieve its end, it has used every resource of its own government to carry out its carefully planned program of concealed aggression. North Vietnam’s commitment to seize control of the South is no less total than was the commitment of the regime in North Korea in 1950. But knowing the consequences of the latter’s undisguised attack, the planners in Hanoi have tried desperately to conceal their hand. They have failed and their aggression is as real as that of an invading army.
“The evidence shows that the hard core of the Communist forces attacking South Vietnam were trained in the North and ordered into the South by Hanoi. It shows that the key leadership of the Vietcong (VC), the officers and much of the cadre, many of the technicians, political organizers, and propagandists have come from the North and operate under Hanoi’s direction. It shows that the training of essential military personnel and their infiltration into the South is directed by the Military High Command in Hanoi. At the time new types of weapons were introduced in the VC army, for which all ammunition must come from outside sources. Communist China and other Communist states have been the prime suppliers of these weapons and ammunition, and they have been channeled primarily through North Vietnam.” (Bowman)
The directing force behind the effort to conqueror South Vietnam is the Communist Party in the North, the Lao Dong (Workers) Party. “As in every Communist state. the party is an integral part of the regime itself” (Clodfelter, p. 83). North Vietnamese officials have expressed their firm determination to absorb South Vietnam into the Communist world.
Under Hanoi’s overall direction the Communists established an extensive machine for carrying on the war within South Vietnam. The focal point is the Central Office for South Vietnam with its political and military subsections and other agencies.
“For about 10 years the people and the Government of South Vietnam, exercising their right of self-defense, fought back against these efforts to extend Communist power south across the 17th parallel” (Karno, p.223). The United States responded to the appeals of the Government of the Republic of Vietnam for help in this defense of the freedom and independence of its land and its people.
“In 1961 the Department of State issued a report called A Threat to the Peace. It described North Vietnam’s program to seize South Vietnam. The report was presented by the Government of the Republic of Vietnam to the International Control Commission (ICC). A special report by the ICC in June 1962 upheld the validity of that evidence. The Commission held that there was “sufficient evidence to show beyond reasonable doubt” that North Vietnam had sent arms and men into South Vietnam to carry out subversion with the aim of overthrowing the legal Government there. The ICC found the authorities in Hanoi in specific violation of four provisions of the Geneva Accords of 1954.” (Kutler)
Since then, new and even more impressive evidence of Hanoi’s aggression has accumulated. “The United States believed that that evidence should have been presented to its own citizens and to the world”(Kulter, p. 64). It is important for free men to know what has been happening in Vietnam, and how, and why.
The record is conclusive. It established that North Vietnam was carrying out a carefully conceived plan of aggression against the South. It showed that North Vietnam had intensified its efforts in the years since it was condemned by the International Control Commission. It proved that Hanoi continued to press its systematic program of armed aggression into South Vietnam. It is directly contrary to the “Geneva Accords of 1954 and of 1962 to which North Vietnam is a party” (Baskir p. 46). It is a fundamental threat to the freedom and security of South Vietnam.
The people of South Vietnam chose to resist this threat. At their request, the United States took its place beside them in their defensive struggle.
The United States sought no territory, no military bases, no favored position. But we have learned the meaning of aggression elsewhere in the post-war world, and we have met it.
If peace could be restored in South Vietnam, the United States will be ready at once to reduce its military involvement. But it would not abandon friends who wish to remain free. It will do what must be done to help them. The choice at the time between peace and continued and increasingly destructive conflict is one for the authorities in Hanoi to make.
“We were there because we have a promise to keep and that was to keep peace. Since 1954 every American president has offered support to the people of South Vietnam. We have helped to build, and we have helped to defend. Thus, over many years, we have made a national pledge to help South Vietnam defend its independence.
And we intended to keep that promise.
To dishonor that pledge, to abandon this small and brave nation to its enemies, and to the terror that must follow, would be an unforgivable wrong.” (PFC. Elmore)
The U.S. was also there to strengthen world order. Around the globe from Germany to Peking are people whose safety rests in part on the belief that they can count on us if they are attacked. To leave Vietnam to its fate would shake the confidence of all these people in the value of an American commitment and in the value of America’s word. The result would be increased unrest and instability and even wider war.
“The United States’ objective is the independence of South Vietnam and its freedom from attack. The U.S. wanted people of South Vietnam be allowed to guide their own country in their own way.” (Bowman p. 74)
“We did everything necessary to reach that objective and we will do only what is absolutely necessary.
There was a point where attacks on South Vietnam were stepped up. Thus, it became necessary for us to increase our response and to make attacks by air. This is not a change of purpose. It is a change in what the government believed that purpose requires.” (PFC. Elmore)
The United States did this in order to slow down aggression. And they did this to convince the leaders of North Vietnam — and all who seek to share their conquest — of a simple fact: We weren’t going to be defeated.
We knew that air attacks alone will not accomplish all of these purposes but it was our best and prayerful judgment that they are a necessary part of the surest road to peace” (PFC. Elmore.)
After the conflict, according to Elmore, we have arrived at peace. Have we reached that point yet? “Though the fighting has stopped, the war continues within the minds of those veterans who survived. “I never knew that all that struggle and fighting would lead to the terrible sickness that I have been diagnosed with. There isn’t a night that I go to sleep that passes that I don’t see the faces of those who have been slaughtered and butchered simply for peace. Was peace worth it?” (PFC. Elmore)
The answer to all this lies behind the United States government. Though we shall never know if its lasting effects was worth the fighting we have learned from our mistakes.
Kutler, Stanley, I., Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1996.
Bowman, John S., The Vietnam War: An Almanac, New York, N.Y.: World Almanac Publications, 1985.
Karnow, Stanley, Vietnam: A History, New York: Penguin Books, 1991.
Clodfelter, Michael, Vietnam in Military Statistics: A History of the Indochina Wars, 1772-1991, Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 1995.
Baskir, Lawrence M., Chance and Circumstance: The Draft, the War, and the Vietnam Generation, New York: Knopf, 1978.
Elmore, Malcom PFC., Interviewee, January 23, 2001