KURT BERGSTROM --
The ancient origins of Vietnam's literature, language and culture, and the country itself, began in the north along the fringes of the Red River Delta. 5000 years of history, as old a culture as Egypt, or Ancient China
Mythological description of Vietnam's beginning
The Vietnamese People were born of a dragon and a fairy ("con rong chau tien").
The legendary Hong Bang Dynasty, the first ruling state of Vietnam, occured around 2879 BC, (and with the development of wet rice cultivation and bronze casting, on a par with Ancient Egyptians and Hittites but earlier), led to the formation of the Dong Sun culture some 800 years later.
Incorporated into the Chinese Han Dynasty by 111 BC, Vietnam remained under their ruling for the next thousand years, until 938 AD when Ngo Quyen defeated the Chinese forces, and the nation gained their independence.
Under the Ly and Tran Dynasties, Buddhism flourished and Vietnam experienced a golden age. As the Mongols rampaged through much of Asia, Vietnam successfully repelled their advances.
The country expanded its borders between the 11th and 18th centuries, ultimately conquering part of the Khmer Empire, and the kingdom of Champa, most of present day Cambodia & Southern Laos.
In Khmer (Cambodian) folklore southern Vietnam was given to the Vietnamese government as a dowry for the marriage of a Vietnamese princess to a Khmer prince in order to stop constant invasions and pillaging of Khmer villages.
Civil unrest consumed the nation from the 16th century onwards, and through it their independence gradually deteriorated. They had inherited the Mandarin feudal system from China, and went through the warlord & lawlessness earlier than China did.
By the 19th century, following a series of military conquests, Vietnam was integrated into French Indochina, and the French colonial period began.
This also brought the latin alphabet to Vietnam.
Previously, from about 200BC, Chinese pictographs had been used.
The French maintained complete authority until Vietnam temporarily gained their independence at the end of World War II; however, France continued its control until soundly defeated by Ho Chi Minh's Communist forces, culminating in the battle of Dien Bien Phu, in 1954 during the First Indochina War.
AMERICA JOINS THE FIGHT
COURSE OF THE WAR
The U.S. military advisory effort in Vietnam had a modest beginning in September 1950, when the United States Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG), Vietnam, was established in Saigon. Its mission was to supervise the issuance and employment of $10 million of military equipment to support French legionnaires in their effort to combat Viet Minh forces. By 1953 the amount of U.S. military aid had jumped to over $350 million and was used to replace the badly worn World War II vintage equipment that France, still suffering economically from the devastation of that war, was still using.
Late in 1954, after the Geneva Accords, about 90,000 Vietminh troops returned to North Vietnam. By 1959, they began filtering back into the South to lead the insurgency. You remember the bombing of the Boston Marathon? That happened on a larger scale across the whole of South Vietnam. In the initial stages, the Communists organized mass demonstrations along with a few raids on vulnerable South Vietnamese installations, but this was quickly followed by a Communist led uprising in the lower Mekong Delta and Central Highlands that took control of "liberated zones", including an area of nearly fifty villages in Quang Ngai Province. The North Vietnamese Communists cleverly organized a shadow government, the National Liberation Front (NLF), staffed by officials not obviously linked to the Communist north, but dedicated to the defeat of Diem's U.S. backed Saigon government. The NLF took over in the areas of Communist control, levied taxes, trained troops, built defense works, and provided education and medical care.
During this period -- from 1955 through 1960 -- the U.S. had between 750 and 1,500 military advisors assisting the Diem government to establish an effective army. My father was a part of that effort during this time.
The first death of an American serviceman in Vietnam occurred Sept. 26, 1945. OSS Major A. Peter Dewey was killed in action by the Communist Vietminh near Hanoi. Some 128 members of a MAAG began supervising the use of U. S. equipment in Vietnam on Sept. 17, 1950. And two U. S. fliers contracted by the CIA were killed in action flying a mission over Dien Bien Phu in 1954. The first U. S. advisors sent to actually train Vietnamese troops arrived Feb. 12, 1955. Capt. Harry Cramer, Jr. was killed in a munitions handling accident Oct. 21, 1957: His name had been the first listed.
The 1st American death of the 'American' Vietnam War officially listed as -
Richard B. Fitzgibbon, Jr 8 JUN 56 TSGT USAF
He is one of 3 father and son pairs listed on the wall, as his son was also killed there -
Richard B. Fitzgibbon, III 7 SEP 65 CPL USMC
Ngo Din Diem years 1955-63
Diem was assasinated and replaced by a coup, which was followed by another coup, and still another coup. The threat from communism was bad enough, yet the Vietnamese couldn’t seem to gather under a solid government. Nguyen Van Thieu eventually emerges as a strong man, and leads the country, to its collapse.
DaNang High School Alumnai
Vo Nuyen Giap North Vietnamese commanding general
Nguyen Tat Thanh (a.k.a. Nuyen Ai Quoc and Ho Chi Minh) North Vietnamese Premier
Pham Van Dong South Vietnamese Military Governor of Saigon region