Saturday, May 22, 2010

VIETNAM – A David who vanquished the Two Goliaths. (Part I)

The blog of The Iron Will proudly presents a story of a nation whose resolve for gaining political freedom is very much remnant of the term Iron Will itself .Yes this is the story of the proud nation of Vietnam and it’s people who exemplified the greatest courage and patriotism in defeating the armies of two of the strongest nations of the time namely USA and France against whom many other nations would even shudder to think of fighting.

The armies of these two Great nations were famous for striking ‘Shock and Awe’ in the hearts and mind of their enemies but in Vietnam the tables were about to turn as it was the time when a people who mostly peasants by occupation were about to strike some ‘Shock and Awe’ in return to their formidable foes who had unjustly occupied their nation.

The land of Vietnam was part of the colonial empire of France called the Indo-China located in South-East Asia .During the Second World War the colony was occupied by the armies of Japan however after the defeat of Japan in 1945 the circumstances took a drastic turn .

Owing to the subsequent Political Vacuum being created the liberation army of Vietnam called as the ‘Viet Minh’ decided to take the control over the affairs of the colony. Meanwhile the Allied nations who were deciding the fate of the world after their triumph in Second World War agreed to the reoccupation of Indo-China by the French and not only that they decided to take a joint action in ensuring that it happens in effect.

 Thus the stage was set for a wide scale confrontation between the two. Initially the French with the help of their allies were able to oust the Viet Minh from their controlled areas. However the Viet Minh soon realized that directly engaging with an enemy possessing superior firepower and military technology would lead them to an inevitable defeat. Hence the command of Viet Minh which included two of the most revered figures in Vietnam’s History – Ho Chi Minh and General Vo Nguyen Giap decided to introduce the ever effective art of Guerilla Warfare as the central force of their army’s subsequent operations. The answer to the question of why to do so lies in the strategic intent of any sort of Guerilla warfare which is to pit the strategically weak opponent at an advantage over a strategically superior opponent.

Now having settled the agenda for future military operations Ho Chi Minh took the responsibility of political mobilization for Vietnam’s cause while General Giap was entrusted the responsibility of countering the French army. General Giap immediately moved the Viet Minh to isolated areas which were out of the range of French forces and he started mobilizing the army. Hence this marked the beginning of the First Indo-China War between France and Vietnam.
The Viet Minh then organized several Hit and Run operations where after making swift attacks on French army in the country side they again came back to their inaccessible bases in the isolated areas in order to regroup themselves for future attacks and to prevent themselves from directly engaging the strong anti-insurgent French forces who were out there to hunt them. They constantly changed their bases and their Hit and Run strategy was constantly hassling the organized structure and psyche of the French forces. The French who were feeling the heat decided to conduct intense anti-insurgency operations in which they initially received huge successes.
However despite that the Viet Minh continued to grow stronger as it drew new cadres and was gaining more territorial ground day by day. By this time the Communist regimes of Soviet Union and China began to assist Viet Minh because of Ho Chi Minh’s Communist inclinations, meanwhile the French were preparing a parallel Vietnamese Leadership which was supposed to be a Democratic counter to the rising Communist Front in Indo-China.

The Confrontation between the French and Vietnam was moving towards a grand finale as the French forces who were losing ground had occupied key strategic zones that were posing direct threat to Viet Minh’s operational capability. Thus the stage of transformation in Guerilla Warfare had arrived where the Guerilla army transforms it’s strategy from Hit and Run to that of Direct Confrontation in an open pitched battle.

"The Battlefield Of Dien Bien Phu"
This transformation was seen at the focal point of the war which shifted to the strategic location controlled by the French called 'Dien Bien Phu' which was standing in the way of Viet Minh’s ambition of controlling the entire Indo-China. After eliminating the French patrols in vicinity General Giap mounted a full scale attack on this French Stronghold on 13th March 1954 which led to several days of intense combat on both the sides. The French forces did managed to hold out waves after waves of Viet Minh’s assault but due to improper reinforcement and irregular supplies the French capitulated on 7th May paving the way for the end of French rule in Indo-China. This was further on speeded up as there was a growing dissent among French citizens who wanted an immediate end of the war and the safe return of their soldiers back to their homeland.

Soon the talks at Geneva Convention of 1954 began where it was decided that Indo-China be officially broken down into four states. The States of Laos and Cambodia were separated from it while Vietnam was divided into the Communist North Vietnam headed by Ho Chi Minh and The Democratic South Vietnam headed by Ngo Dinh Diem. However the Geneva Accord promised for a referendum in form of a general election in both the states to be conducted in 1956 to decide a National Government for a United Vietnam.

The Government of South Vietnam with the active support of USA then tried to prevent this Election from taking place as they feared that Ho Chi Minh’s popularity along with Viet Minh’s success against the French would make the people in South Vietnam vote for accession to the control of the Communist North Vietnam.
The North Vietnamese government seeing such a scenario began a proxy war of raising up an insurgent group called the ‘Viet Cong’ within the borders of South Vietnam whose aim was to pursue Guerilla war against the forces of South Vietnam. Now the North Vietnamese army of Viet Minh from outside and South Vietnamese Guerilla army of Viet Cong began to work in tandem to achieve the total unification of Vietnam under the North Vietnamese leadership.
These political designs of North Vietnam were sending the alarm bells ringing for USA who by that time had assumed the role of ‘Savior’ of Democracy worldwide against the USSR which had become the ‘Promoter’ of Communism globally. Thus the Americans slowly began to come in full force for saving the Democratic South from being overrun by the Communist North.

The initial American support started from sending a handful of military advisors transformed gradually to the massive deployment of nearly half of the million soldiers and special forces in South Vietnam along with full naval and air support. Thus the escalating tensions were paving the way for another war on the soil of Vietnam which was going to be even more gruesome and devastating that would soak the land of Vietnam in rivers of blood for times to come.

So finally the ‘Poor David’ called as Vietnam after vanquishing the ‘Mighty Goliath’ called France was about to face another Goliath called USA who was even more stronger and considered Invincible by many. Thus the showdown between these two was about to spellbind the entire world as everyone eagerly watched as this epic struggle unfolded new tales of Courage, Heroism and Patriotism which became legendary for times to come and generations to see.

© 2010 Neelabh Chaturvedi .All Rights Reserved.

[ The Second Indo-China War will be shortly covered in the next post - “Vietnam - A Poor David who vanquished the Two Goliaths. (Part II) “]

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