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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - November 2, 1972, Lethbridge, Alberta Truridoy, Novimbtr I, THI HRAID _ Struggle of Vietnam By Ronald Harkrr, London Observer commentator Vietnam is the story of two modern wars with one peace that tailed. The first war began in 1946 with the French attempt to re- conquer Indochiina, which had been part of their empire since 1883 but had been overrun by the Japanese in the Second World Wai-. It ended after a disastrous defeat for the French and an armistice agreement signed in Geneva in 1354. This agreement left Vietnam divid- ed at the 17th Parallel between mutually hostile forces in North and South. The second Vietnamese war developed within a year or two of the armistice as a civil war in the South. Like tlie French in 1946 the South Vietnam govern- ment faced what was virtually another war of reconquest to try to recover the large area of South Vietnam controlled by Communist rebels known as the Vietcong. The reasons why this second war lasted so long and proved so difficult to end either by military victory or negotiated peace lie in Vietnam's history, and more recently in the back- ground of America's struggle with Communist China. A thousand years of Chinese rule, from 111 BC, left the Viet- namese with a Chinese culture, but with their national identity intact. They are the most num- erous and vigorous people of the Indochina peninsula. Their history is dominated by their resistance to Chinese conquest and their own drive south and weit against oilier peoples of Indochina and foreigners com- ing across the sea. Of the 31 million people in all Vietnam today nearly five million are minority groups, more than a million of these Cambodian Khmers and a million Chinese. Nationalist opposition to col- onial rule developed after the First World W-T, and the Indo- Chinese Communist party play- ed an important part in it. But it was the Japanese who broke French power in their drive into Southeast Asia. By Uie time the Japanese sur- rendered in August, 1945, the Indochinese Communist party had organized a national front, called the Vietmmh, which was able to take over the whole country. The founder of the Vietminh was Ho Chi Minh. By what now seems all ironic paradox it was the Americans and their Chinese Nationalist allies who helped Ho to power. They had encouraged the Viet- minh as an anti-Japanese resis- tance force. Or September 2, 1915 Ho proclaimed the Demo- cratic Republic of Vietnam from the balcony of Hanoi opera house. Ho negotiated an agreement with Franca allowing French troops to stay in Vietnam in re- turn for a promise of indepen- dence. But before the details were completed the deal was wrecked by clashes between the Vietminh and newly reinforc- ed French troops. On Decem- ber 19, 1945, waves of Vielminh militia struck at French garri- sons over the whole of Viet- nam. The war with France that began that night lasted eight years and cost one mil- lion dead. The Geneva Agreements of 1954 which ended the wsr, divid- ed Vietnam North and South along the 17th Parallel. In the North Ho Chi Minn's Commun- ist controlled republic estab- lished full control and the French withdrew. In the Soulh the government in Saigon, which still claimed to represent all Vietnam, was taken over by a French educated Catho- lic nationalist called Ngo Dinh D.'em. Diem was a protege of the Americans who, as part of their policy of "containing" Chinese communism in South- east Asia, had begun to take over from the French the task of trying to an anli- Communist front in Indochina. The Western Powers made a pact to prolect Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia from aggression. But Diem refused to discuss with the Communist North the free elections and reunification provided for in the Geneva Agreements. Though Vietminh r e gular troops withdrew to the North many Vietminh guerrillas in the South hid their weapons end went back qii-'etly to their vil- lages, keeping their network in- tact. The North encouraged re- bellion because the Vietminh's hope of gaining control of all Vietnam by political means under the Geneva Agreements was now blocked by Diem and his American support. In 1SGO North Vietnam openly declared its backing for a Vietcong strug- gle to "liberate the South." American military commit- ment in aid of Saigon increas- ed, and North Vietnamese reg- ular troops moved south In In- creasing numbers. Diem was overthrown and murdered by his own generals in November, 1963 (he had brutally suppressed Buddhist riots but failed to suppress cor- ruption) and thereafter, except for a short spell of civilian gov- ernment in 1964, South Vietnam has been ruled by the armed forces or single military men. The United Slates govern- ment was saying ten years ago that it wanted a negotiated set- tlement for South Vietnam but was determined to prevent its conquest by the North. It rec- koned that if it did not taka this stand America's other al- lies all over the world would lose faith in American prom- ises, that Chinese Communist influence would spread in Asia, and that other Southeast Asian states might Lhon collapse "like a row of dominoes." For more than three years the main barrier to peace talks between the Uniled Stales and Hanoi was the refusal of the North Vietnamese to negotiate while U.S. aircraft were bomb- ing their territory, and the American refusal to stop the bombing until the North Viet- namese cut down their warfare in the South or gave a clear sign of wanting peace. In March 19S8 America took a step towards reducing this barrier when President Lvndon Johnson ordered bombardment of North Vietnam lo be limited to 20 per cent of the territory, and in May that year official parleys between Uie Americans and North Vietnamese began in Paris. Later the Saigon gov- ernment agreed to send a dele- gation lo the talks. But the meetings made no steady progress. Ho Chi Minh died in 19S9 and from time lo time the Paris talks were brok- en off and then renewed. In one form or another the Americans still wanted to stop a Commu- nist tcke-over, North Vietnam wanted to acqure a position from which an eventual politi- cal victory for them was cer- tain, while for Soulh Vietnam not conniving at a Communist taksover remaired the test case of America's trustworthiness as an ally. "Yell, I heard the go back to sleep. You'll just have to get used lo if. Someone's robbing us Book Reviews Chronicle of flyer "Bush Pilot With a Brief- case" hy Ronald A. Keith. (Doubleday Publishers, 322 pages, At only 22 years of age Grant McConachie was running his own airline in the Canadian north; at 37 years of age he was president of Canadian Pacific All-lines. His rise from a "seat of his pants" bush pilot lo the top job at CPA is told in an ex- tremely entertaining and en- lightning manner by a long- time friend and co-worker, Ronald Keith. McConachie was a happy-go- lucky, flamboyant personality, full of confidence and possess- or of great flying ability. But his finest asset was the incred- ible "McConachie The accounts of his numerous near- disasters, both financially and otherwise, fill (he book and make for fine reading. In one junket in 1935 he took "Canada's largest aircraft" on a barnstorming tour of the fair circuits. Originating at his home base in Edmonton he vis- ited such communities as Card- ston and Pincher Creek. His harrowing brush with disaster at Pincher Creek, when he blew Melchers has an for beauty ion for quality Mdehro VERY MILD Melchers Melchers a lire on landing, is but one of the thrilling tales in the hook. McConachie's story bounces from the remote northern wastelands of Canada, with all its characters, to a lunch with Australia's prime minister in his home country and to meet- ings with General Douglas Mc- Arthur in Japan and Chiang Kai-Shslt in China. The book seems to lose its zip, built up over the first 26 chaplers, when the author starts dealing with McCona- chie's life as the boss man at CPA. It is still interesting, but zest is gone. One can not help but wonder if McConachie himself did not lose some of the zest for life he displayed in his barnstorming days once he began his executive role. A fine chronicle of a great Canadian and an Albertan at that. Try it, you'll like il. GARRY ALLISON Books in brief "Mountain AYolf o m a n, The Autobiography o[ a Win- nebago (Longman C o n a