Roy J. Blakeley (circa 1934): Barefoot on oil field road in East Texas.
Go figure... this country boy ended up being killed by a small mound of dirt (sand dune) lying on the side of a pierced steel planking runway in a country located over 8,500 miles away that consisted of millions upon millions of impoverished people that never did anything to us.
Death comes in ways that nobody could predict. Untimely deaths of loved ones are very difficult to deal with.
What though the radiance which was once so bright, Be now for ever taken from my sight, Though nothing can bring back the hour Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower; We will grieve not, rather find Strength in what remains behind; In the primal sympathy Which having been must ever be; In the soothing thoughts that spring Out of human suffering; In the faith that looks through death, In years that bring the philosophic mind. - "Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood," William Wordsworth
“The first 436th TFS casualty was Capt Roy Blakeley from Wink, Texas, who was lost on 22 July 1965. 1Lt Harold Alston was part of that mission, which was targeting a Viet Cong build-up west of the US Marine Corps base at Chu Lai with M117s. The flight originally included John Olson as Lead, Larry ‘Shass’ Shassetz as No 2, Seb Arriaga as No 3 and Jack Gale as No 4. Harold Alston was in the spare jet, and he recalled;
‘At the last minute Maj Arriaga took himself off the schedule and I was inserted as No 3, with Roy as spare. After takeoff “Shass” had a hung landing gear and had to return to Da Nang, so Roy scrambled in the aeroplane that I was originally scheduled to fly. He joined up with us over Chu Lai as No. 2. After two successful passes that cleaned off the external ordnance, we made our first strafing pass.
Coming off the target Roy reported that he had lost his left leading edge flap. I immediately went into afterburner and quickly joined on his left wing. I reported that when the flap separated it had hit the upper fuselage and torn off some aluminum skin, leaving a gash above the engine. Roy reported that he had lost oil pressure. Now we had a serious problem so we turned towards Chu Lai, about 20 miles away. I stayed on his wing in a close chase position so I could watch the approach better, since it would be a left turn to land on the newly constructed pierced steel planking runway at the austere Marine base that had not long been operational.
I went to Guard channel and notified Chu Lai tower of our situation. Roy’s landing pattern was excellent regarding altitude, descent rate and airspeed. I maintained my position, which was about one wingspan separation off his right side. It looked like a normal approach, but I became concerned that he had not lowered his landing gear. I told him so, thinking he was concentrating on making the landing under emergency conditions. There was no response and we were getting close to the runway. I repeatedly said, “Get the gear down Roy” but there was no response.
He made a perfect landing, except that the gear was still up. Unfortunately the bomb pylons were what touched the steel planking, causing him to swerve to the left. He went off the runway and ploughed into a small hill of sand. The aeroplane exploded into a fireball. I executed my go-around from about ten feet above the right side of the runway with a sick feeling permeating through my body. I knew immediately that I had lost my flight commander and a good friend with whom I had flown many times. Olson and Gale were spread out on the opposite side of the runway, so I quickly joined up on them and we returned to Da Nang in silence.’
The AAA damage to Blakeley’s F-104C (56-0908) after he had expended 750 rounds of 20 mm cannon fire in his strafing pass had knocked out the jet’s hydraulics, preventing landing gear extension. He was awarded the DFC [Distinguished Flying Cross] posthumously for attempting to recover the aircraft rather than ejecting and risking casualties on the ground.”
Roy J. Blakeley's Damaged College Ring (University of Arkansas)
Roy J. Blakeley's Damaged College Ring (University of Arkansas)
According to the Casualty Report prepared on July 27, 1965, the aircraft "touched down at approximately 1000 feet down the runway, slid for approximately 1,800 feet before going off the runway where the aircraft exploded”... violent, but definite instant death, thankfully.
Capt. Roy J. Blakeley's Cigar Package: "Future" Major Blakeley
Capt. Roy J. Blakeley’s Air Force Rank Insignia: Major
Capt. Roy J. Blakeley's Name Patch: Blakeley R.J., Maj USAF
Department of the Air Force Washington Special Order AD-177 (11 August 1965) effective 21 October 1964; Capt. Roy J. Blakeley
"Don't know when I'm going to get promoted. Supposed to be today but who knows." Source: Letter from Roy J. Blakeley to his brother, David C. Blakeley (July 16, 1965)
Concurrently with the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross, he did get promoted to a Major, posthumously. With that being the case, my mother received monthly benefit payments based on a Captain's salary instead of the higher amount for a Major's salary. According to my mother, an announcement was made by Darrell Cramer, the Base Commander of George Air Force Base, at the prior year's Christmas Party, that the process for the promotion had begun.
The military's take, "close, but no cigar", I suppose, but there's something very questionable about this, like "whose desk was this sitting on, and why?" It took only twenty days after his death to issue the following "posthumous promotion", but nearly ten months from the effective date of October 21, 1964.
Just because the provisions set out in Sections 1521 and 1523, Title 10, United States Code provide the Armed Services with an out in this case, that doesn't make it right, especially, if the "pinning process" was delayed because of extenuating circumstances beyond control, such as war related for example. U.S. Congressman, Jim Wright, Fort Worth, Texas, responded to an inquiry by my mother with essentially there was nothing that could be done, of course. It's no uncommon for the government to dump on veterans under the radar of the American public, who wouldn't put up with it if they knew. It happens all the time.
DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE WASHINGTON SPECIAL ORDER AD-177 11 August 1965
By direction of the President, announcement is made of the posthumous promotion of CAPTAIN ROY J BLAKELEY, 45482A, to the grade of Major, United States Air Force, effective 21 October 1964, under the Provisions of Section 1521, Title 10, United States Code.
BY ORDER OF THE SECRETARY OF THE AIR FORCE
J. P. McConnell General, U.S.Air Force Chief of Staff
R. J.PUGH Colonel, USAF Director of Administrative Services
Last known photograph of Capt. Roy J. Blakeley; 1LT Harold R. Alston is the other pilot seated at the table; Photo taken by Captain Walter B. Harris (July 1965)
Capt. Harold R. Alston, 435th TFS; 479th TFW
The following is an excerpt of an email exchange with Lt. Colonel Harold R. Alston, November 17 - 18, 2004:
"Roy was always 'testing me' in trying to shake me when I was his wingman or in dog fighting. I was always able to hold my own and he treated me with dignity and respect even though I was so junior in rank and was still learning new things from him.
You might be interested to know that after my tour at Da Nang, I went back to Udorn Thailand after only 8 months home. I was then an 'experienced Captain' so I went on the advanced party before the rest of the squadron deployed.
On 30 September 1966 I became the first pilot in the Air Force to fly 100 combat missions over North VietNam. This was later recognized with a brass, engraved tray given to me by Tony LeVier, the Lockheed Test Pilot who was the first person to fly the F-104."
Photo: The crowd congratulates him for being the first pilot in the USAF to fly 100 combat missions over North Vietnam in the F-104.
Distinguished Flying Cross - Major Roy J. Blakeley
Distinguished Flying Cross Citation - Major Roy J. Blakeley
Major Roy J. Blakeley Awards Presentation, Dyess AFB, Abilene, TX (October 21, 1965)
Major Roy J. Blakeley Awards Presentation, Dyess AFB, Abilene, TX (October 21, 1965)
Larry J. Blakeley (June 15, 2020), only son of Roy J. Blakeley
F-104C Starfighter in Flight (Serial No. 56-0908)
F-104C Starfighter in Flight (Serial No. 56-0908)
Charred Remains of Aft Section of F-104C Starfighter (Serial No. 56-0908); Chu Lai Airfield
“F-104 Starfighter Units in Combat”; Peter E. Davies; Osprey Publishing; November 18, 2014
“F-104 Starfighter Units in Combat”; Peter E. Davies; Osprey Publishing; November 18, 2014; Page 58
“F-104 Starfighter Units in Combat”; Peter E. Davies; Osprey Publishing; November 18, 2014; Page 59
F-104C Starfighter (Serial No. 56-0908); “F-104 Starfighter Units in Combat”; Peter E. Davies; Osprey Publishing; November 18, 2014; Page 60
“Heavy Losses Are Reported In Viet Battle”; George L. Galloway, Sacramental Bee Newspaper; Friday, July 16, 1965; Page 8.
Transcription of news article:
Heavy Losses Are Reported In Viet Battle By Joseph L. Galloway SAIGON - UPI - Heavy losses on both sides were reported today in a savage battle 30 miles south of Da Nang. An American spokesman said 156 guerrillas were killed.
The battle began yesterday when a large force of perhaps 1,000 guerrillas attacked an outpost near Hoi An City, then ambushed reinforcements as they arrived.
United States Army helicopters and South Vietnamese [American]-fighter-bombers counterattacked and chased the Viet Cong for five and one half miles, “like a hunch of halfbacks in a broken field,” according to one American pilot. Most of the guerrillas were killed in the air strikes.
Military authorities refused to reveal government casualties under new censorship policies, but the spokesman said heavy losses on both sides were reported.
50 Barrels Firing "When I arrived I saw two columns of troops walking out of the area," said Captain Maxwell R. Sidner of West Jefferson, Ohio, a forward air controller who helped direct the air strikes from an unarmed observation plane.
“All of a sudden there were 50 barrels pointing at me and firing. My plane got hit in the tail section. When I left the area. I had counted 22 Viet Cong killed, 36 buildings destroyed and three secondary explosions.”
Other pilots reported seeing as many as 200 guerrillas at one time fleeing north from the battle zone.
"The VC (Viet Cong) we strafed looked like a bunch of halfbacks in a broken field with a let's get the hell out of here attitude," said Captain Walter B. Harris of Knoxville. Tenn. who led a flight of F104 Starfighters.
Source: “Heavy Losses Are Reported In Viet Battle”; George L. Galloway, Sacramental Bee Newspaper; Friday, July 16, 1965; Page 8.
"... Zeb [Major Eusebio Arriaga, Commander] put me, Walt and Larry and Olson in for a medal." Nothing came of that, as far as my father's involvement in the engagement.
The following F-104 Starfighter pilots flew in this engagement:
Captain Roy J. Blakeley (AFSN 45482A); Captain Walter B. Harris (AFSN A02228133); Captain Larry R. Shassetz (AFSN A03066266); and Captain John D. Olson (AFSN A03065381).
"Flew my 10th combat mission - 10 miles off the end of the runway!! Viet Cong had just finished ambushing a convoy and we were diverted from our original target. Caught about 200 Viet Cong in the open and really 'ate' them up. The Marines were taking out casualties & we were striking over their heads. The Marines really appreciated the quick response to their call for 'AIR.' The Zip 4's were there immediately!!" Source: Letter from Roy J. Blakeley to his brother, David C. Blakeley (July 16, 1965)
"The 15th I flew a mission and we lucked out and caught a bunch of Viet Cong out in the open after they had ambushed an American convoy and we killed 175 and Zeb put me, Walt and Larry and Olson in for a medal!! How about that!! We have been doing air to ground for the last two weeks & wish we would switch to escort for a while. It's hell of a lot safer!! The bad thing is on air to ground missions we make 2 dive bomb runs & 3 strafe passes but the crazy Viet Cong don't try to hide or get into fox holes, they just shoot at you until they get shot. We pull out 2,000' higher than normal now!!" Source: Letter from Roy J. Blakeley to Johnnye Blakeley (July 18, 1965)
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall USA: Roy J. Blakeley
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall USA: Roy J. Blakeley
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall USA: Roy J. Blakeley
Seabees placing AM-2 matting for the runway at Chu Lai
Sand, and more sand at Chu Lai
Aerial View: Chu Lai Airfield (Runway: North (left), South Orientation)
Aerial View: Chu Lai Airfield and Beach
"Marines and the Seabees of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 10 arrived and turned the coastal area into a major military installation. From May 7 to July 3, 1965, the “Men of Ten” overcame numerous obstacles at seemingly every turn to construct an 8,000-foot expeditionary airfield... Mat laying commenced on May 16. The last piece of AM-2 matting was locked into place on July 3, 1965, completing the 8,000-foot runway and accompanying taxiways."
Chu Lai, Quang Tin Province (now Quảng Nam Province), South Vietnam. Quang Tin Province was created from Quảng Nam Province on July 31, 1962; remerged with Quảng Nam Province following the unification of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam on July 2, 1976.
Photo (Top-Left): Seabees placing AM-2 matting on the runway being constructed at Chu Lai, two holding each panel and two assisting with alignment and hinging of the mat plates.
Photo (Bottom Left): Aerial view of the finished 8,000-foot SATS expeditionary airfield in July, with view north to south (left to right)
"Dad, Mother doesn't want to be a young widow" and he said, "Johnnye, I'm planning on coming back."
"We were sitting at the table for dinner and he said something about if they needed an alternate to go to Viet Nam with another squadron besides ours, he might volunteer to rotate with them so he could be back by Christmas. He always liked to be home for Christmas. I said please don't do that for in three months when it is really time for you to rotate with our squadron, the war might have changed, maybe be over. He said we just need to get the 'zip 4's' over there.
Now that I look back I know he was trying to make light of it, because he saw my concern and worry about it. He might have been better off to go then, because they were doing 'air to air' missions and by the time our squadron got there they had changed it to 'air to ground'; dive bombing and strafing at very low levels which made our pilots 'sitting ducks' for the ground fire. You picked up on my concern and being the serious, sensible child you always were you said: 'Dad, Mother doesn't want to be a young widow.' He had a very surprised look on his face. That's when he said, 'Johnnye, I'm planning on coming back.' Love Mother" (email from Johnnye Blakeley to Larry Blakeley dated October 22, 2004)
Larry J. Blakeley (1964)
Violet Blakeley, mother of Roy J. Blakeley; East Texas (circa 1941)
Samuel and Mattie Blakeley (circa 1930), parents of James Louise Blakeley
Today, December 10, 1992 is the birth date of my darling. As I sit here today, I am trying to recall a scene from 64 years past and a woman is giving birth to a baby boy. It was December 10, 1928. The mother's name was Violet Mae Blakeley and the father was James Louis Blakeley. The birth was at home in Wink, Texas with Great Grandmother [Mattie] Blakeley attending her. They named the baby Roy James Blakeley. Violet's mother passed away when she was twelve so she grew up without a mother. That is why Grandmother Blakeley was there with her instead of her own mother.
The day will be special in my heart for the rest of my life for the birth of this baby boy would in later years change my life forever. It would have such an impact on my life that I would be changed forever. You see I was not even born yet, not even thought of yet....seven years later I arrived; born at home to John Lewis and Edna Louise (Gideon) Ashton in Rotan, Texas. I am eternally grateful for having these two parent who loved me so much. I will not know love like this ever again since they have passed on.
At the age of 18 and 25 we were married after a three year romance. This love affair was to be one that took me from "sheer ecstasy" to "despair."
Our three children will not be able to know how it was, for he is no longer here nor the father and mother. When his mother passed on it was like my last link to him and the past was gone; except, for my children and they will only know what I can tell them...
- "My Darling," Johnnye Blakeley, December 10, 1992.
Roy and Johnnye Blakeley; George AFB, California (1964)
She asked: "Did he leave me?"
I answered: "No, Mother, he would have never done that. He loved you dearly. You were the love of his life.
Where did he go?
He was killed in the war.
Thirty years old then. Eighty-six years old here (April 2021). Dementia is taking its toll. (March 2021)
Today is not at all like yesterday. It's wrong to walk forward and look back at the same time, but there's something the mind keeps searching for - what used to be full and joyous events are now only fragments of memories. We try to remember, but are unable to.
We keep trying to be there again and sometimes are convinced that things were better than they are now.
As for me, I long to go back before the pain and sorrow; more often than I should. I have a feeling of yearning that goes over my whole being. It's not a constant occurrence, but rather comes and goes at the most unexpected times. It seems more frequent during the times when I am feeling down.
My life has been fairly successful and I have many blessings for which I do not forget to be thankful for, but my heart has an empty space that nothing fills. There has been a void there since I was very young.
While reminiscing one day about disappointments and love-lost I told a friend that mine was the end of a Cinderella story - and my friend said "at least you had it for a while. I have never had the things you have had. Even though you lost it - you are better for having it if only for a short while." What can you say to that?
I have come to a point of acceptance rather than complaint - more than I have ever known before. Maybe there comes a period of time in our lives when we realize that not all our dreams will be fulfilled, but we can find happiness and comfort in the ones that did materialize. We can give thanks for those things we have and what we have accomplished rather than spend so much time dreaming of those dreams that eluded us.
I feel pleasure from a kind gesture. Earlier in my life I may have taken this more for granted - probably because as time goes by you realize how few people are kind to you; and it becomes rare and priceless - beautiful flowers, a lovely sunset, a child's laughter, and most precious of all - love of family.
Sometimes I look up at the clouds and see open spaces that seem like windows of heaven - and I wish I could just get a glimpse of my loved ones looking through this window at me. I would hope that they would know that I haven't always done things perfectly, but I know they would smile at me and say, "I know you have tried hard under adverse circumstances and we love you for it - and, also, for your courage, determination, loyalty, love, and never giving up."
If you do your best there's no reason to be ashamed - no apologies are in order to anyone if you have tried to do what you thought was right.
All these thoughts go through my mind - but it's not God's will for this to be possible - so the windows are empty. They're there, but they aren't looking out today.
- "Windows of Heaven," Johnnye Ashton-Blakeley, August 15, 1991
"'Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?' 'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the Cat. 'I don't much care where--,' said Alice. 'Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat. '--so long as I get SOMEWHERE,' Alice added as an explanation. 'Oh, you're sure to do that,' said the Cat, 'if you only walk long enough.' (Chapter VI: Pig and Pepper)
... The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. 'Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?' he asked. 'Begin at the beginning,' the King said gravely, 'and go on till you come to the end: then stop.'" (Chapter XII: Alice's Evidence)
So, let's start at the beginning. The colonialization of Vietnam by the French.
Map: 1913 French occupation in Southeast Asia (aka French Indochina)
The French colonial era began in 1861 when France occupied Saigon. By 1883 it had taken control of all of Vietnam. By 1887 Laos and Cambodia were also colonized. The French divided Vietnam into three parts: Chochin (southern Vietnam), Tonkin (northern Vietnam) and Annam (central Vietnam). French colonial rule was, for the most part, politically repressive and economically exploitative. Of course, the rationalization (which was a common reason for most of the Western countries) for its imperialist colonization of weaker countries was that France had a civilizing mission--a duty to bring the benefits of its superior culture to the less fortunate Vietnamese.
Nguyen Ai Quoc [Ho Chi Minh] Indo-Chinese delegate to the French Communist Congress in Marseilles (December 26, 1921)
By this time, Ho Chi Minh, living in Paris, France, was a staunch communist and member of Vladimir Lenin's Communist, or Third, International organization (referred to as the "Comintern"), which was a leftist group of socialists that rejected both nationalism and pacifism. Their stated purpose was the promotion of world revolution through civil war, not civil peace. Their propaganda machine focused on using violence, if necessary. Their model of revolution was based on Lenin's Bolshevik revolution, which seized power in Russia. The Comintern functioned chiefly as an organ of the Soviets' push to control the entire international communist movement. it would not be a stretch to make the statement that most foreign communists felt loyal to the world’s first socialist state.
Ho Chi Minh was a left-wing anti-colonial activist in Paris, since arriving there in 1917. By 1920 he became one of the founding members of the French Communist Party. By 1925 he's in Southern China, the perennial safe haven for fellow Vietnamese communist revolutionaries, rabble-rousing to provoke socialist revolution in China. He would remain a staunch communist all his life and believed it, and he, of course, was what the people of Vietnam needed.
The Great Vietnam Famine (1944–1945) was triggered by a catastrophic fall in food availability due to typhoons, abnormally high rainfall, and flooding in the coastal provinces of northern Vietnam, Tonkin being the northern region and the two North Annam provinces of Than Hoa and Nghe An, during the three months before the November 1944 rice harvest. The bitterly cold winter weather made matters even worse for these poor people. No less than one million men, women and children died from starvation over a five-month period. Historians still disagree on the number of people that died, but it was very bad. The great majority of these poor peasants depended on their labor to trade for rice. They were landless and living on the edge of survival. No work, no pay, no food.
“… famine and its traumatic social and political impact enabled the Indochinese Communist Party to mobilize mass peasant support that was essential to the August 1945 revolution which brought the Viet Minh and Ho Chi Minh to power. Aided by good harvests, communist campaigns to organize labour and plant all available land helped to prevent a repeat of famine, thereby contributing to the new regime’s legitimacy.
In Vietnam, the landless and those dependent on wage labour were by far the most likely to be among the famine dead. Although famine occurred largely in the countryside, many of its victims died in Hanoi or Haiphong, having walked to these cities in the hope of finding food.
Those lacking food in the countryside tried to eat anything: paddy husks, roots of banana trees, clover, tree bark. People walked from the countryside in ‘unending lines together with their whole families’ along the ‘starvation roads’ that led to the provincial towns and cities. Many died along the roads. Others stopped occasionally to close the eyes of the dead or to pick up a piece of rag left on bodies. Enough people succeeded in walking to urban areas for reports to record that ‘tens of thousands of rural folk [wandered] the streets, begging pitifully, often clad in nothing but straw matting’.
… in the chaos of events surrounding the coup de main, the Vietminh and their operatives in Tonkin (North Vietnam) organized raiding parties and led them against French and Japanese rice stocks. The rulers had been stockpiling rice it seems while the peasants starved to death in the streets. The tables were turned and the peasants seized larges caches of rice. The Vietminh were seen as a revolutionary force for good by the people. They would maintain that aura for decades to come, but it may have begun here.
So too, in Vietnam, famine enabled the Viet Minh to organize peasant support for revolution. This article has shown that the 1944–5 Vietnam famine was triggered by a catastrophic fall in food availability due to typhoons, abnormally high rainfall, and flooding. Fact does not, however, necessarily assume primacy in shaping historical narrative. Weather is far too neutral an occurrence for a revolutionary movement like the Viet Minh to cite as the cause for what remains the greatest disaster in modern Vietnamese history. It was far better to attribute responsibility, as now unshakeably enshrined in carefully state-constructed historical memory, to the French colonialists and Japanese fascists."
Starving Vietnamese: The Great Vietnam Famine (1944–1945)
Dead Vietnamese from Starvation: The Great Vietnam Famine (1944–1945)
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1944)
Transcription: "January 24, 1944
MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF STATE
I saw Halifax last week and told him quite frankly that it was perfectly true that I had, for over a year, expressed the opinion that Indo-China should not go back to France but that it should be administered by an international trusteeship. France has had the country — thirty million inhabitants for nearly one hundred years, and the people are worse off than they were at the beginning.
As a matter of interest, I am wholeheartedly supported in this view by Generalissimo Chlang Kai-shek and by Marshal Stalin. I see no reason to play in with the British Foreign Office in this matter. The only reason they seem to oppose it is that they fear the effect it would have on their own possessions and those of the Dutch. They have never liked the idea of trusteeship because it is, in some instances, aimed at future independence. This is true in the case of Indo-China.
Each case must, of course, stand on its own feet, but the case of Indo-China is perfectly clear. France has milked it for one hundred years. The people of Indo-China are entitled to something better than that. F.D.R."
But, then, on the other hand, in actuality the following became U.S. policy:
“Ultimately, U.S. policy was governed neither by the principles of the Atlantic Charter, nor by the President's anti-colonialism, but by the dictates of military strategy, and by British intransigence on the colonial issue. The United States, concentrating its forces against Japan, accepted British military primacy in Southeast Asia, and divided Indochina at 16th parallel between the British and the Chinese for the purposes of occupation. U.S. commanders serving with the British and Chinese, while instructed to avoid ostensible alignment with the French, were permitted to conduct operations in Indochina which did not detract from the campaign against Japan. Consistent with F.D.R.’s guidance, the U.S. did provide modest aid to French--and Viet Minh--resistance forces in Vietnam after March, 1945, but refused to provide shipping to move Free French troops there. Pressed by both the British and the French for clarification of U.S. intentions regarding the political status of Indochina, F.D.R. maintained that ‘it is a matter for postwar.’
The President's trusteeship concept foundered as early as March 1943, when the U.S. discovered that the British, concerned over possible prejudice to Commonwealth policy, proved to be unwilling to join in any declaration on trusteeships, and indeed any statement endorsing national independence which went beyond the Atlantic Charter's vague ‘respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live.’ So sensitive were the British on this point that the Dumbarton Oaks Conference of 1944, at which the blueprint for the postwar international system was negotiated, skirted the colonial issue, and avoided trusteeships altogether. At each key decisional point at which the President could have influenced the course of events toward trusteeship -- in relations with the U.K., in casting the United Nations Charter, in instructions to allied commanders -- he declined to do so; hence, despite his lip service to trusteeship and anti-colonialism, F.D.R. in fact assigned to Indochina a status correlative to Burma, Malaya, Singapore and Indonesia: free territory to be reconquered and returned to its former owners. Non-intervention by the U.S. on behalf of the Vietnamese was tantamount to acceptance of the French return. On April 3, 1945, with President Roosevelt's approval, Secretary of State Stettinius issued a statement that, as a result of the Yalta talks, the U.S. would look to trusteeship as a postwar arrangement only for ‘territories taken from the enemy, and for ‘territories as might voluntarily be placed under trusteeship.’ By context, and by the Secretary of State's subsequent interpretation, Indochina fell into the latter category. Trusteeship status for Indochina became, then, a matter for French determination.
Shortly following President Truman’s entry into office, the U. S. assured France that it had never questioned, ‘even by implication, French sovereignty over Indo-China.’ The U.S. policy was to press France for progressive measures in Indochina, but to expect France to decide when its peoples would be ready for independence; ‘such decisions would preclude the establishment of a trusteeship in Indochina except with the consent of the French Government.’ These guidelines, established by June, 1945 -- before the end of the war -- remained fundamental to U.S. policy.” Source: "The Pentagon Papers"(Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force, [Part I] Vietnam and the U.S., 1940-1950; Page A-2,3)
It's of no wonder why Ho Chi Minh reportedly made the following remark decades later. Pointing out what seemed to him an inconsistency in American thinking, he wondered how the Americans as a colonial people who had gained their independence in a revolution, could fight to suppress the independence of another colonial people. Ho stated, "I think I know the American people, and I don't understand how they support their involvement in this war. Is the Statue of Liberty standing on her head?" Ironically, the statue was, in fact, a gift from the French people.
Memorandum dated January 24, 1944 from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Secretary of State (Edward Stettinius)
Statue of Liberty "standing on her head" - Ho Chi Minh
"In 1945, during World War II, Japanese troops took control of Vietnam (under French rule at the time). At the end of the war, Ho Chi Minh — the Vietnamese Communist leader—seized an opportunity to escape decades of French rule. The day Japan surrendered to the Allies, Ho Chi Minh declared independence in front of a crowd of Vietnamese. In a deliberate appeal for American support, he opened his speech with the words: 'All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among them are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.'' Before he declared independence in front of thousands of cheering citizens in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh asked U.S. Office of Strategic Services Officer [then Captain] Archimedes Patti to check his wording of the first passage. He needed an American for the job because he had borrowed it from the Declaration of Independence. Patti recorded his impressions of the Viet Minh (a national independence coalition dominated by communists) in this report. He wrote: 'From what I have seen these people mean business and I’m afraid that the French will have to deal with them. For that matter we will all have to deal with them.'" Source: Source: Operational Priority Communication from Strategic Services Officer Archimedes Patti, September 2, 1945", Cold War: Vietnam, Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs
Transcription: "Have had long conference with Prime Minister, Ho Chi Min and he impresses me as sensible, well balanced, politically minded individual. His demands are few and simple namely limited independence, liberation from French rule, right to live as free people in family of nations and lastly right to deal directly with outside world.
He stated that for many years missionary work of propaganda within party, training of youth and preparation for this day has made them ready not necessarily for complete independence but at least the privilege of dying for their ideals. From that I have been these people mean business and am afraid that French will have to deal with them. For that matter will all have to deal with them. French and beginning to recognize this fact and are going to be big about it by offering Viet Minh terms for their independence. On other hand Vietnam is smart enough to see through Machiavellian attitude French here especially Sainteny and have absolutely refused to deal with him.
Annamese are in unique advantage our position in as much as Japs have given them independence so they consider themselves free of any sovereign power and this includes French who have been hiding behind Jap skirts, vichy tactics and passing themselves off as friends of Americans. On whole Viet Minh has full control of situation not only in hands (unreadable) whole of 3 provinces. Their organization is well knit, program clear and their demands on outside world few. They ask they be permitted travel particularly to America particularly for education purposes and that America send technical experts to help them establish those few industries Indochina is capable of exploiting. Prime Minister particularly asked me that American exercise some control over Chinese occupation forces and that Chinese purchase materials and food rather than requisitioning it during occupation period. Furthermore he pointed out and this I have confirmed from other sources Jap and French that due to flood this year famine is imminent and should Chinese depended on Indochinese for their subsistence during occupation period they will all starve plus creating situation where Annamese will be forced to wage war upon Chinese to protect his livelihood and family.
Annamese celebrating Annamese independence day tomorrow with high solemn mass by Catholics and special ritual by Buddhists."
According to Archimedes Patti's correspondence, as well as with other Americans, Ho made it very clear, in his talks with Patti, of Vietnam’s desire for independence, the atrocities and hardships suffered under French rule, and the deep respect the Vietnamese had for the United States and its people.
Operational Priority Communication from Strategic Services Officer Archimedes Patti (September 2, 1945; Page One)
Operational Priority Communication from Strategic Services Officer Archimedes Patti (September 2, 1945; Page Two)
George F. Kennan (February 16, 1904 – March 17, 2005)
On February 2, 1946 Foreign Service officer, George F. Kennan (February 16, 1904 – March 17, 2005) sent a telegram to the State Department that's been referred to as The Long Telegram while he was Chargé d’Affaires in Moscow. More than anyone else at the time, he had direct knowledge of what he considered to be Stalin's foreign policy plans. In an 8,000-word telegram, he gave advise on the aggressive nature of Stalin’s post-war foreign policy and how the United States should formulate its own foreign policy to counter-act Soviet actions in Europe and elsewhere. Truman took it and ran with it carte blanche without regard to whether a particular country was actually a pawn of the Soviet Union or China.
Letter from Ho Chi Minh to President Harry S. Truman; February 28, 1946; Washington and Pacific Coast Field Station Files, 1942 - 1945; Records of the Office of Strategic Services, Record Group 226; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.
"HANOI FEBRUARY 28 1946
PRESIDENT HO CHI MINH VIETNAM DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC HANOI
TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA WASHINGTON D.C.
ON BEHALF OF VIETNAM GOVERNMENT AND PEOPLE I BEG TO INFORM YOU THAT IN COURSE OF CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN VIETNAM GOVERNMENT AND FRENCH REPRESENTATIVES THE LATTER REQUIRE THE SECESSION OF COCHINCHINA AND THE RETURN OF FRENCH TROOPS IN HANOI STOP MEANWHILE FRENCH POPULATION AND TROOPS ARE MAKING ACTIVE PREPARATIONS FOR A COUP DE MAIN IN HANOI AND FOR MILITARY AGGRESSION STOP I THEREFORE MOST EARNESTLY APPEAL TO YOU PERSONALLY AND TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE TO INTERFERE URGENTLY IN SUPPORT OF OUR INDEPENDENCE AND HELP MAKING THE NEGOTIATIONS MORE IN KEEPING WITH THE PRINCIPLES OF THE ATLANTIC AND SAN FRANCISCO CHARTERS
HO CHI MINH"
Following the end of World War II, Ho Chi Minh reached out to President Truman for support in ending French rule in Vietnam. In the above telegram, Ho Chi Minh references both the Atlantic and San Francisco charters as a basis for his claims. The Atlantic Charter was drawn up in 1941 following the outbreak of World War II by the U.S. and England and the San Francisco Charter references the document that created the United Nations (UN Charter).
Interestingly, the third paragraph in the Atlantic Charter states the following:
"Third, they respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them."
President Roosevelt signed the Atlantic Charter, so he must have meant it, right? He did, but he died. It was vague enough for some wiggle room for Truman to back-slide on that commitment. And, of course, neither Britain nor France wanted to give up their colonies. Truman's non-replies to any of at least eight appeals by Ho Chi Minh for American support for its goal of independence was, in fact, his answer. A good argument can be made that Ho Chi Minh simply wanted to rid his country of the scavenger French imperialists. The Vietminh were on their own. With no help from Truman, they had no other option but to look for the material aid needed to rid themselves of the the returning French after the defeat of the occupying Japanese from the very adversaries Truman feared, China and the Soviet Union. Two decades later this blunder would have huge consequences for the United States.
Ho Chi Minh, President of the Republic of Vietnam received by Georges Bidault, French Prime Minister (July 2, 1946)
Ho Chi Minh, President of the Republic of Vietnam, is received by Georges Bidault, French Prime Minister, during an official visit to discuss future relations between France and Indo-China (July 2, 1946).
Ho Chi Minh cautioned the French in 1946: "You can kill 10 of my men for every one I kill of yours, yet even at those odds, you will lose and I will win." But their over-estimation of their military superiority blinded them to taking him seriously. That was a very costly mistake by the French. They should have listened and taken this man seriously.
French Indochina (December 19, 1946 - July 20, 1954)
Map: The First Indochina War (generally known as the Indochina War in France, and as the Anti-French Resistance War in Vietnam) began in French Indochina on December 19, 1946, and lasted until July 20, 1954 (Map: early 1954).
The Battle of Dien Bien Phu was fought from March 13, 1954 to May 7, 1954, and was the decisive engagement of the First Indochina War (1946-1954), the precursor to the Vietnam War. In 1954, French forces in French Indochina sought to cut the Viet Minh's supply lines to Laos. To accomplish this, a large fortified base was constructed at Dien Bien Phu in northwest Vietnam. It was hoped that the presence of the base would draw the Viet Minh into a pitched battle where superior French firepower could destroy its army. Casualties: French: 2,293 killed, 5,195 wounded, and 10,998 captured; Viet Minh: approx. 23,000.
What a coincidence. The Battle of Dien Phu was 10 to 1 ratio, just as Ho Chi Minh predicted.
French prisoners of war are marched out of Dien Bien Phu in April 1954.
To counteract Truman's perceived "world-wide threat" of the wild-fire spread of communism, Truman adopted the containment policy. In March 1947, Truman outlined this view more definitively in a speech to Congress. The contents of this speech later became known as the ‘Truman Doctrine’, which became the official declaration of the Cold War:
“At the present moment in world history, nearly every nation must choose between alternative ways of life. The choice is too often not a free one. One way of life is based upon the will of the majority and is distinguished by free institutions, free elections, freedom of speech and religion… The second way of life is based upon terror and oppression, a controlled press and radio, fixed elections and suppression of personal freedoms. I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or outside pressures. I believe that we must assist free peoples to work out their own destinies in their own way.”
Truman clearly was talking out of both sides of his mouth. On the one hand, Vietnam would fit into this category, but then on the other hand, he ends up supporting French imperialism.
Would President Kennedy have fallen into the Vietnam quagmire just as Johnson did? No one can be sure, but I would like to believe that he would have avoided Johnson's massive commitment -- even though he had the same advisors as Johnson and the same desire to prevent some sort of paranoid, global-wide spread of communism, the so-called "Domino Theory", a term coined by President Eisenhower in a press conference given on April 7, 1954 wherein he used the words, "falling domino". Those words were used to describe what was believed would happen if the first country, or “domino", in Southeast Asia fell because of communist action against non-communist governments. The claim was that other countries would follow suit one-by-one like a stack of dominoes until such time that all others in that region of the world became communist societies.
The theory worked as intended upon the American people. The fear injected into society greatly alarmed Americans and this led them to approve the commitment of hundreds of thousands of troops to prevent Communist North Vietnam from conquering South Vietnam, at least long enough for the death of over 58,000 Americans. And, let's not forget our tens of thousands of disabled veterans that have struggled all their lives since.
Hermann Göring in jail cell; Nuremberg Trials (1945)
No, this doesn't apply only to the Americans, but rather, in this instance, to the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong too. It's called politically-motivated psychological indoctrination, a duping of the sheep by the powers-to-be. It works every time, as history shows.
"We got around to the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I did not think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.
'Why, of course, the people don’t want war,' Goering shrugged. 'Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.'
'There is one difference,' I pointed out. 'In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.'
'Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.'"
Source: Interview exchange between prison psychologist, Gustave Gilbert and Hermann Göring, Adolf Hitler’s ruthless right-hand man, during the Nuremburg trials of Nazi war criminals; "Nuremburg Diary"; G. M. Gilbert; Farrar, Straus and Company, 1947; Pages 278-279.
Thich Quang Duc being doused for burning
On June 11, 1963, Thich Quang Duc, a 66-year-old Buddhist monk, made the method of protest through self-immolation famous by, in this case, setting himself on fire.
He simply sat calmly in the lotus position in the middle of a downtown Saigon intersection, had another monk douse him with a flameable liquid, lit his own match, dropped it in his lap, and up in flames he went, all the while moving mala beads through his fingers and chanting until the fire consumed him and his body fell over.
Okay, that's a very bizarre, out-there thing, self-immolation, for anyone to do, but with him being a Buddhist, that takes it up to the top of the notch altogether on the extremism scale. I suppose it's considered to be within the ethics boundary since it's not a taboo violent act or even suicide according to the Buddhists that look favorably upon this. They consider it an act of courage. It seems to me to be somewhat selfish, drawing attention to oneself in the name of self-sacrifice instead of devoting one's time and energy to help solve grievances. Oh, well, he'll be reincarnated, an opportunity for a do-over remains an option on the next go-around.
So, what was he protesting in the first place? Some people claim he was protesting against the Vietnam War, but that's not true at all. Was it the alleged discrimination against Buddhists by the Vietnamese government at that time, under the Catholic leader Ngo Dinh Diem?
If that was the case, it seems to me that this monk's fire-show was somewhat premature considering it had only been four weeks since the manifesto of grievances was finalized and delivered.
One could deduce from his extreme act was that what actually earned Quang Duc his fame was not so much the cause he supported, but rather the act with which he supported it.
His performance was designed for maximum publicity, with journalists being alerted beforehand. The timing was ripe for having a dramatic impact on a huge audience, which it did. Technologies for the rapid transmission and cheap reproduction of images ensured that. It was a great propaganda item for the Chinese and North Vietnamese. They simply labeled it as a Buddhist priest burned himself to death in protest of U.S. imperialism and its meddling in Vietnam's affairs. Great opportunity for bringing in more Viet Cong recruits to the cause it seems to me. If the monk had of gone to North Vietnam and tried that, his fiery protest wouldn't have been in the news at all. It also certainly put Vietnam on the map for those that had no clue where Vietnam was located beforehand.
The Buddhists had issued a list of five demands they wanted from the government as follows:
1. To request that the Government of the Republic of Vietnam permanently retract the official cable repressing the Buddhist religious flag.
2. To request that Buddhists be allowed to enjoy a special regime such as that allowed to Catholics according to Decree 10.2
3. To request the government to stop arrests and terrorization of Buddhist followers.
4. To request that Buddhist bonzes and faithful be allowed freedom to preach and observe their religion.
5. To request that the government make worthwhile compensation for those innocent persons who were killed [in a protest in Hue the month before], and mete out proper punishment to the instigators of the murders.
The points mentioned above express the most ardent hopes of Buddhist bonzes and followers in the entire country. We are prepared to make sacrifices until such time as the reasonable aspirations mentioned above are realized.
Source of Images: Hillsman Cable State-Saigon Cable 243; 8/24/1963; SOC 14-1 S Viet, 8/1/63; Central Foreign Policy Files, 1963; General Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD. via Archives education division DocsTeach, a product of the National Archives.
"... Diem must be given chance to rid himself of Nhu and his coterie and replace them with best military and political personalities available. If, in spite of all of your efforts, Diem remains obdurate and refuses, then we must face the possibility that Diem himself cannot be preserved... We must at same time also tell key military leaders that US would find it impossible to continue support GVN militarily and economically unless above steps are taken immediately which we recognize requires removal of the Nhus from the scene. We wish give Diem reasonable opportunity to remove Nhus, but if he remains obdurate, then we are prepared to accept the obvious implication that we can no longer support Diem . You may also tell appropriate military commanders we will give them direct support in any interim period of breakdown central government mechanism. ... Concurrently with above, Ambassador and country team should urgently examine all possible alternative leadership and make detailed plans as to how we might bring about Diem’s replacement if this should become necessary. ... You will understand that we cannot from Washington give you detailed instructions as to how this operation should proceed, but you will also know we will back you to the hilt on actions you take to achieve our objectives.
"JFK Was More Inclined toward Regime Change than Earlier Believed Newly Released JFK Tape and President's Intelligence Checklists Fill in Gaps in Record South Vietnamese Leader's Notes Published for First Time, Written Hours before Assassination
Washington, DC, November 1, 2020—President John F. Kennedy was more disposed to support the removal of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem in late 1963 than previously appeared to be the case, according to a recently released White House tape and transcript. The ouster of Diem in a military coup that would have major implications for American policy and growing involvement in the country happened 57 years ago today. Even now the views of Kennedy and some of his top aides about the advisability of a coup specifically have been shrouded by an incomplete documentary record that has led scholars to focus more on the attitudes of subordinates. Today, the National Security Archive is posting for the first time materials from U.S. and Vietnamese archives that open the window into this pivotal event a little bit wider."
"Among the findings from the present posting or from our several Diem E-books taken together are the following:
1. President John F. Kennedy was more disposed, than previously understood, to support actions that might change the leadership in South Vietnam.
2. Kennedy was personally aware of the pro-Diem views of Frederick E. Nolting, Lodge’s predecessor as ambassador, strengthening the impression that he included Nolting in White House deliberations—and personally engaged him in colloquy about Saigon events—partly to build a case that all sides in this debate had been heard.
3. White House conversations took place without any principal figures changing their minds about the Saigon situation.
4. When South Vietnamese military officers renewed their contacts with CIA operatives in early October, the Vietnamese immediately raised the option of assassination.
5. Vietnamese figure Ngo Dinh Nhu, brother of leader Diem, remained the prime target of American maneuvers. Nhu’s attempts to fend off criticism or ingratiate himself with Washington failed."
Further Related Material:
"III. The Coup Against the Diem Government, October 23-November 2, 1963: Differing Interpretations of U.S. Policy Toward Coup Plotting, Efforts To Obtain Information on a Potential Coup, Lodge-Diem Discussions, U.S. Assessments of a Coup, The Coup, The Deaths of Nhu and Diem"; Foreign Relations of The United States, 1961–1963, Volume IV, Vietnam, August–December 1963; Office of the Historian, Foreign Service Institute; United States Department of State; Washington, D.C.
President Ngo Dinh Diem
President Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother and political adviser, Ngo Dinh Nhu were both horrifically assassinated on November 2, 1963 by Major Nguyen Von Nhung, aide de camp to Major General Duong Van Minh while in transit to the headquarters of the Army General Staff in an armored personnel carrier. What will most probably never be established conclusively just who ordered their execution.
Here, you've got a man that has been an invaluable ally in the fight against the spread of communism, kept this country together under the most difficult of circumstances over a nine-year period and you not only want to replace him in the middle of the game, but allow him to be assassinated too on the U.S.'s watch? This clearly fits the classic case of "something is rotten in the state of Denmark" if there ever was one.
Report: Inspector General of the United States Central Intelligence Agency; May 31, 1967; Page 43 (Partial)
Report: Inspector General of the United States Central Intelligence Agency; May 31, 1967; Page 44
"... contains new details about the South Vietnamese generals’ decision to assassinate Diem that contradict a conclusion of the coup’s history written by the CIA station in Saigon. The majority of the generals, said the CIA at the time, 'desired President Diem to have honorable retirement from the political scene in South Vietnam and exile'. According to a newly declassified portion of the 49-page document written by the CIA’s Inspector General, an unidentified field-grade South Vietnamese officer who provided the CIA station with pictures of the bloodied bodies of Diem and his brother and advisor, Ngo Dinh Nhu, said that 'most of the generals' favored their immediate execution: 'The ultimate decision was to kill them. A Captain Nhung was designated as executioner'.
National Security Action Memoranda (NSAM) #263 dated October 11, 1963
October 11, 1963.
Secretary of State
Secretary of Defense
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
At a meeting on October 5, 1963, the President considered the recommendations contained in the report of Secretary McNamara and General Taylor on their mission to South Vietnam.
The President approved the military recommendations contained in Section I B (1-3) of the report, but directed that no formal announcement be made of the implementation of plans to withdraw 1,000 U.S. military personnel by the end of 1963.
After discussion of the remaining recommendations of the report, the President approved an instruction to Ambassador Lodge which is set forth in State Department telegram No. 534 to Saigon.
Director of Central Intelligence
Administrator, Agency for International Development
And, down the rabbit hole they went with their flawed foreign policy strategy as it pertained to Vietnam. And, Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson took the American people down with them. The days of Vietnam being subjucated by any foreign power, including the United States, was coming to an end.
In your search for truth, keep in mind, especially when it comes to politicians and the media:
"Things are seldom what they seem,
Skim milk masquerades as cream"
- "H.M.S. Pinafore"; Sir William Schwenck Gilbert (November 18, 1836 – May 29, 1911)