1939–45 The Council on Foreign Relations produces and gives to the State Department 682 reports and memos, which CFR leaders see as “blueprints” for a postwar “world order,” reports Prof. Laurence Shoup. Memo E-B19 called “. . . to secure the limitation of any exercise of sovereignty by foreign nations that constitutes a threat to the minimum world area essential for the security and economic prosperity of the United States. . .” [Emphasis added.] Realizing the project would be “ditched” if the public learned State was doing it with the CFR, they do not inform the public. Most CFR members are connected to wealthy corporations and banks.
June 22, 1940 French General Huntziger surrenders to German Field Marshall Keitel; subsequently the French (“Vichy” government) cooperate with the Japanese occupation of Viet Nam.
September 22, 1940 Japanese troops enter Viet Nam en masse.
May 19, 1941 Hồ Chí Minh and others found the Viet Nam Independence League and its army, the Việt Minh, at Pác Bó, Cao Bằng Province.
December 7, 1941 Japan attacks Pearl Harbor; U.S. enters World War II.
1941–45 Việt Minh and U.S. are allied in fight against Japan. Việt Minh and the Office of Strategic Services (0SS) forces rescue American pilots.
August 1943 Ho travels to Kunming, China where, Duiker reports, he:
spent considerable time at the library of the U.S. Office of War Information (OWI) there and had undoubtedly become aware of reports that President Roosevelt had no liking for European colonialism and was seeking to find the means of restoring to the colonies of Southeast Asia their independence.
November 16, 1943 Contrary to President Roosevelt’s wish for Viet Nam independence, and contrary to the U.S. and Viet Minh allying in the war, one of the 682 CFR-State papers is titled, “The Future Status of Indo-China as an Example of Postwar Colonial Relationships.” It reads: “disaffections which were evident in Indo-China” showed the “failure of France” to do anything that “won the confidence and respect of the Indo-Chinese. . . .” Thus, “It is impossible” that the people would accept a return to colonial control. To control the peoples of the East any longer would require “a long and disastrous period of repression.” [Emphasis added.]
June–July 1944 FDR’s VP Henry Wallace secures an agreement with Nationalist China that Asian colonial peoples have the right of self-government. But knowing FDR has heart failure, opponents of colonial independence dump Wallace from FDR’s re-election ticket. Called “Pauley’s coup,” this makes Harry Truman the VP candidate. Truman is a foreign policy novice.
1945: Hồ Chí Minh declares Vietnamese independence in the vacuum left by the defeat of the Japanese.
March 9, 1945 Japanese declaring French rule at an end, take over political administration of French Indochina; and Emperor Bao Dai proclaims “independence.” But the public sees him as inept at stopping a famine that kills 2 million people. The Viet Minh move rice from granaries to starving people.***
April 12–13, 1945 FDR dies of a heart attack on April 12, and Harry Truman becomes president. On April 13, two State Dept-CFR members brief Truman, about the threat of communism, but they omit the US imperial facts. He takes an anti-communist stance. Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) members hold 40–57 percent of the top foreign policy posts during the presidencies of Truman through Johnson (1945–1969). The CFR has long been connected in Viet Nam, through Standard Oil, U.S. Rubber, and others..***
August 6 & 9, 1945 United States drops atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
August 15, 1945 Japanese Emperor Hirohito announces Japanese surrender.
August 16, 1945 Việt Minh meeting at Tân Trào decides on the General Uprising; the August Revolution begins. Throughout the nation, large crowds take over rural areas and government in nearly every village and town. Only a few cities remain in Japan’s control. The Independence League redistributes some lands, establishes eight-hour workdays, and abolishes colonial programs.
August 19, 1945 Việt Minh enter Hà Nội.
August 23, 1945 Việt Minh secure power in Huế, the imperial capital.
August 25, 1945 Việt Minh secure power in Saigon (Sài Gòn); Hồ Chí Minh enters Hanoi (Hà Nội) for the first time.
August 30, 1945 Emperor Bảo Đại formally abdicates to the Việt Minh, ending a thousand years of Vietnamese monarchy.
September 2, 1945 Hồ Chí Minh delivers Việt Nam’s Declaration of Independence in Hà Nội, Viet Nam’s 2,000-year-old nation is back in power, renamed the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam (DRVN); Japanese officers sign formal surrender documents aboard the USS Missouri.***
Mid-September, 1945 British general Douglas Gracey lands, rearms Japanese and French colonial forces.
September 22, 1945 French troops return to Vietnam, transported in U.S. merchant ships, and sporadically clash with Communist and Nationalist forces. They are met by uniformed and armed Japanese soldiers, who saluted them on the docks. The sailors manning the flotilla of American troopships are profoundly shocked and outraged. Every single enlisted crewman on these ships sign petitions to Congress and the president condemning the US government for participating in “imperialist policies” designed “to subjugate the native population of Vietnam.” [cited in H. Bruce Franklin, “America’s Memory of the Vietnam War in the Epoch of the Forever War” in Los Angeles Review of Books, July 16, 2014 from Michel Gillen, unpublished dissertation, “Roots of Opposition: The Critical Response to U.S. Indochina Policy, 1945-1954” (New York University, 1991).]
September 1945–February 1946 The invaders attack southward from Sai Gon, staying on main roads. They capture cities, but guerrillas control the countryside. The French reach Viet Nam’s southern tip in early February 1946.
November 1945 U.S. Rubber Development Corp. agent Hazzenzahl reports from Viet Nam that French soldiers have seized rubber plantations north of Sai Gon. The French restart rubber exports to the U.S.
1945–1946: Intensive negotiations with French representative Jean Sainteny, but full-scale war erupts in what becomes known as the First Indochina War.
February 28, 1946 Hồ Chí Minh appeals to President Truman for support for the Vietnamese struggle for Independence. ***
March 6, 1946 France (represented by Sainteny) recognizes the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRVN) as a free state within the Indochinese Federation and French Union. France and Viet Nam agree to 15,000 French soldiers being temporarily in Viet Nam, for security as Chinese soldiers withdraw after World War II. The French soldiers are to be withdrawn in five equal amounts each year for five years. While seeing this as a means to dislodge Chinese forces, some of the Việt Minh reject this as a phony independence. But the new National Assembly of Viet Nam-DRVN approves Ho’s deal. Ho explains, “I prefer to sniff French shit for five years than eat Chinese shit for the rest of my life.” However, some French units in the south, humiliated by earlier defeats, immediately break the treaty by attacking. And in March, the French Army in the North Region breaches the agreement by destroying bridges, disrupting markets, seizing and killing Party workers, and stealing property.
November, 1946 Using U.S. vessels the French bombard the port of Haiphong, killing 6,000 civilians, the French commander admits, then occupy the port and the city of Hanoi (Hà Nội). Viet Nam says they killed 20,000 civilians.
December 11, 1946 Unanimous passage of a United Nations resolution says the Nuremberg rule against aggressive invasions applies to all nations. The 1946 Nuremberg Judgment prohibits “Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression. . . . To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
December 19, 1946 Việt Minh attack French forces and the First Indochina war continues.
March 12, 1947 The Truman Doctrine is issued, promising U.S. support for armed opposition to Communists across the globe. It omits (1) the 1889–1947 U.S. imperial acts in Viet Nam, and (2) the 682 CFR-State papers for a world order. ***
Undated, 1947: Viet Nam diplomats sent by Ho Chi Minh spend months in Bangkok making written offers for the U.S. to have a tax-free monopoly on rice exports if France’s war stopped. Viet Nam was the world’s second-leading rice producer. The offer was also for U.S. companies to set up manufacturing plants and have tax-free monopolies on sales of some U.S. goods.
Undated, 1947: At a large 1947 meeting of the Viet Nam American Friendship Association, the chairman prophetically proclaims that “the founding of the newest Republic in the world — the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam” is “an event which history may well record as sounding the death knell of the colonial system.” Six-time Socialist Party presidential candidate Norman Thomas explains, “It is only by direct and indirect aid [. . .] from the United States that colonial imperialism can be maintained in the modern world.” [cited in H. Bruce Franklin, “America’s Memory of the Vietnam War in the Epoch of the Forever War” in Los Angeles Review of Books, July 16, 2014 from Transcript of the Proceedings at the Meeting in Celebration of the Second Anniversary of the Independence of the Republic of Viet-Nam, 1947,” Typescript, Cornell University Library.]
June 25, 1948 The Cold War with the Soviet Union opens dramatically with the Berlin Airlift ordered by President Truman. The Communist government of East Germany, with the direction and backing of the Soviet Union, had blockaded access to West Berlin to remove the joint British, French, and American zone of control in the city.
March 8, 1949 France negotiates the “independence” of a “State of Vietnam” as an “associated state” within the French union, short of full independence (not fully ratified until following February).
June 13, 1949 Former Emperor Bảo Đại is installed by the French as “head of state.” This state’s Chamber of Deputies has no constituency. The state lacks an ability to receive arms, so the U.S. continues shipping to the French. Its head, Bao Dai, is picked by France, lives in France, and frequents the Riviera as a playboy. In 1949, Paul Mus informs the State Dept that the Viet people fully support Ho Chi Minh, except for a tiny minority in the southern part of Viet Nam. The CIA says any Bao Dai government would be fatally flawed by association with France.
July 19, 1949 Laos is also given status as “an associated state” within the French Union.
October 1, 1949 Having defeated Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalists (Kuomintang), Mao Zedong proclaims the Peoples Republic of China.***
October 6, 1949 U.S. Congress passes the Mutual Defense Assistance Act through which arms, military equipment and training assistance might be provided worldwide for collective defense
1950: China and the USSR recognize the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRVN) and the Korean War breaks out.
January 18, 1950 The Peoples Republic of China led by Mao Zedong recognizes the Democratic Republic of Vietnam led by Hồ Chí Minh.
January 29, 1950 The Soviet Union recognizes the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
February 1950 President Hồ Chí Minh meets Chairman Mao Zedong and Party Secretary Joseph Stalin in Moscow; secures military assistance
February 3, 1950 The United States recognizes Bảo Đại as the head of the Associated State of Vietnam.
February 12, 1950 The New York Times reports 80 percent of the people support Ho. In 1950, U.S. Army planners also say 80 percent. The Times describes an “almost universal resentment of the Far East against colonialism that oppressed Asiatics for decades before the Japanese war.”
February 16, 1950 Fearing Communists Chinese military assistance to Hanoi (Hà Nội), France requests U.S. aid in fighting the Việt Minh
February 27, 1950 National Security Council report focuses attention on “Indochina” (Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.***
March 1950 A CFR study group focuses on U.S. policy toward Southeast Asia. A U.S. survey mission calls for rural “rehabilitation” aid. In 1950, 21 U.S officials are in Viet Nam. Many Viet people see this as a step towards U.S intervention.
April 1950 Sec’y of State Dean Acheson brings imperialist CFR member John Foster Dulles into State as a chief advisor, working closely with President Truman. Truman says,
“I may not have much in the way of brains, but I do have enough brains to get ahold of people who are able. . .” Acheson later admits going “about the country preaching the premise of NSC-68” (blames communism for world troubles). He says, “we made our points clearer than the truth. . . .”
“In disregard of historical fact, this propaganda described the Indo-China war not as a struggle between colonialism and Indochinese national aspirations (which it was in spite of Communist leadership) [parenthesis in original], but exclusively as a war between international Communism and the ‘free world’.”
Mid-1950 U.S. corporations operating in Viet Nam include Bethlehem Steel, Caltex Oil, Petroleum Oil, and Florida Phosphate Corporation.
May 1, 1950 U.S. President Harry S. Truman approves $10 million in military aid to the French in Indochina.
May 8, 1950 U.S Secretary of State Dean Acheson announces aid for “the Associated States of Indochina and to France in order to assist them in restoring stability and permitting these states to pursue their peaceful and democratic development”.
May 24, 1950 U.S. formally announces its intent to establish an economic aid mission to the three associated states of Indochina.
June 25, 1950 War breaks out in Korea after the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Army crosses the 38th parallel and invades South Korea.***
June 27, 1950 President Truman announces that he has “directed acceleration in the furnishing of military assistance to the forces of France and the Associated States in Indochina and the dispatch of a military mission to provide working relations with those forces.” ***
August, 1950 The Laotian Pathet Lao (Lao Nation or Homeland) Communist party and guerrilla group is formed in alliance with the Việt Minh to oppose the French.***
August 3, 1950 The first members of U.S. MAAG (Military Assistance Advisory Group) arrive in Sài Gòn.
August and September 1950 Prof. Wesley Fishel, who works with Army intelligence, meets in Japan with Ngo Dinh Diem. Diem had fled Viet Nam in 1950 under a death sentence for refusing to join the Viet Minh against France.
September 1950 Đông Khê Battle, Việt Nam’s first major battle against France opens the border to China and the Soviet Union and a source of foreign weapons.
September 17, 1950 MAAG-Indochina (Military Assistance Advisory Group) is established.
October 1, 1950 Võ Nguyên Giáp’s Việt Minh forces start an attack on the string of French forts along the Chinese border.
October 10, 1950 Brigadier General Francis G. Brink assumes his role as the first head of MAAG (Military Assistance Advisory Group) Indochina.
October 17, 1950 All French garrisons along the Chinese border are destroyed. A State of Emergency is announced in Tonkin (the northern part of Vietnam).
December 1950 Representatives of U.S., France, and the Associated States of Indo-China (“State of Việt Nam,” Laos and Cambodia) in Sài Gòn sign an agreement for mutual defense assistance in Indochina.
During 1950, strengthened DRVN units destroyed more than 200 fortified positions and killed 10,000 soldiers.
March 1951 The first agreements are made allowing the Viet Minh to use areas in Laos along the border with Viet Nam for the staging of equipment and men in their war against the French. During the later American war this will become part of the “Hồ Chí Minh Trail.”
March and April 1951 A CIA contingency estimate is requested on consequences of actions the U.S. might take in Indo-China. A CIA station opens secretly in Sai Gon.
1952: 400 U.S. advisers and supply personnel are serving in Vietnam. Toward the end of the year the French casualties approach 90,000. General Võ Nguyên Giáp develops a strategy to draw the French out to the Laotian border through a show of strength with a march into Laos to the outskirts of Luang Prabang, the royal capital.
In the U.S., Ngo Dinh Diem and Wesley Fishel work on a plan to govern part or all of Viet Nam. Fishel sends a letter about it to the U.S. Mutual Security Administration, talking of “studies for the adoption of democratic institutions,” “foreign trade problems,” and “police science.”
1953: The U.S. is providing increasing support for the French effort in Indochina, supplying 80% of the dollar cost.
November 9, 1953 Prince Norodom Sihanouk gains independence for Cambodia from France.
1954: The French are defeated at Điện Biên Phủ and the Geneva Conference is convened to resolve the consequent situation in Southeast Asia.
January 29, 1954 U.S. intelligence reports that in the event of a major Việt Minh attack on Điện Biên Phủ French 105 and 155mm ammunition would last only 4 – 6 days. President Eisenhower decides to pick up the slack. ***
January and February 1954 CIA agent Colonel Edward Lansdale meets with Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and CIA Chief Allen Dulles. They tell Lansdale to go to Việt Nam and work to prevent the fall of the southern half if the French are defeated. In The Philippines, he had helped defeat a communist insurgency. The Dulles brothers are close confidants of Nelson Rockefeller, whose Standard Oil has been in Viet Nam since 1885.
March 13, 1954 Beginning of the siege of French army at the garrison in Điện Biên Phủ (located in the rugged mountains of Northwestern Vietnam near the Laotian border) by Vietnamese forces led by General Võ Nguyên Giáp.***
April 16, 1954 Vice President Richard Nixon declares that the United States may soon have to “face up to the situation and dispatch forces” because “the Vietnamese lack the ability to conduct a war or govern themselves.” Reaction was swift, impassioned, and came from across the entire political spectrum. [[vii] Senator Ernest Gruening and Herbert Wilton Beaser, Vietnam Folly (Washington, DC: National Press, 1968), pp. 100–105. Thousands of letters and telegrams opposing U.S. intervention deluged the White House. An American Legion division with 78,000 members demanded that “the United States should refrain from dispatching any of its Armed Forces to participate as combatants in the fighting in Indochina or in southeast Asia” [Gruening and Beaser, p. 105]. There were public outcries against “colonialism” and “imperialism.” Senators from both parties rose to denounce even the contemplation of sending U.S. soldiers to Indochina. The Monday after Nixon’s Saturday speech, for example, Senator Ed Johnson of Colorado declared on the Senate floor: “I am against sending American GIs into the mud and muck of Indochina on a blood-letting spree to perpetuate colonialism and white man’s exploitation in Asia.”[Gillen, 379-–83, 402. As Gillen notes, some sources incorrectly attribute this speech to Lyndon Johnson.] Paul Robeson, a black leader, asked why “Negro sharecroppers from Mississippi should be sent down to shoot down brown-skinned peasants in Vietnam—to serve the interests of those who oppose Negro liberation at home and colonial freedom abroad?” This public outcry, perhaps explains why the U.S. then pursued its Southeast Asian policies in secret.
May 7, 1954 The remnants of the French army surrenders at Điện Biên Phủ, one of the most significant triumphs of the world anti-colonial struggle..***
May 8–July 21, 1954 The first session of the Geneva conference on Indochina commences.
June 25, 1954 U.S. President Eisenhower sends CIA agent Colonel Edward Lansdale to Viet Nam to prepare a proxy army to fight Ho Chi Minh’s forces. Eisenhower then sends Ngô Đình Diệm from the United States to serve as Prime Minister of the “State of Viet Nam,” before the Geneva Accords are signed. But when signed in July 1954, the Geneva Accords give France a duty to administer the South Zone, and Viet Nam (DRVN) to administer the North Zone. The Accords do not authorize any action by the US, Diem, “State of Viet Nam” or a “South Viet Nam.” Further, the Accords prohibited military alliances and the entry of soldiers. Col. Lansdale meets very frequently with Diem, who had a very small base among the populace, mostly from privileged classes of society and hangers-on of French officials.
July 20–21, 1954 The armies of France and of the DRVN signed the Geneva Accords, setting up terms to separate the armies, and for who would temporarily run the South Zone (France) and North Zone (DRVN) until elections. The Accords do not mention a “North Viet Nam” or a “South Viet Nam.” The Accords consistently refer to Viet Nam as one country. (Despite Washington’s promise to honor the Geneva Accords, an American Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) had begun training a proxy force after the July 1954 signing of the Accords. This “advisory” force will number nearly a thousand troops by the end of the Eisenhower administration in 1960. Diem is facing opposition across the south as America’s puppet. By the end of January 1955, this force has killed many defenseless civilians. By 1960, it has killed at least 70,000.)
September 7, 1954 The establishment of the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO), an alliance between the US and SE Asian nations. ***
October 10, 1954 The Việt Minh enter Hanoi (Hà Nội) as French forces withdraw from the city.
October 24, 1954 U.S. President Eisenhower addresses a letter to Prime Minister Diệm in which he promises economic aid and assistance to Viet Nam. ***
November 1954 The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, which follows orders from the National Security Council, orders the proxy army to “perform territorial pacification missions” in each province. But no pacification is needed: No one is fighting back.
December 13, 1954 General Lawton Collins (USA) and General Paul Ely (France) reach an understanding (Minute) on the role of the US.***