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Context of '1954: Vietnam Temporarily Divided by Geneva Accords'

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Ho Chi Minh is leading the Vietminh—a popular movement of Catholics, Buddhists, small businessmen, communists and farmers—in their fight for Vietnam’s independence from the French. He makes a dozen appeals to US President Roosevelt, Secretary of State Cordell Hull, and the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee for help, insisting he is not a communist and suggesting that Indochina could be a “fertile field for American capital and enterprise.” He even mentions the possibility of allowing a US base in Camranh Bay. Likewise, US diplomats in Vietnam in their communications to Washington note that he has no direct ties to the Soviet Union and that he is a “symbol of nationalism and the struggle for freedom to the overwhelming majority of the population.” Major Archimedes L. A. Patti of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) later writes that Ho “pleaded not for military or economic aid,… but for understanding, for moral support, for a voice in the forum of western democracies. But the United States would not read his mail because, as I was informed, the DRV Government was not recognized by the United States and it would be ‘improper’ for the president or anyone in authority to acknowledge such correspondence.” Instead, the US will help the French—even offering them two atomic bombs. Ho Chi Minh is eventually forced in 1950 to look to the USSR and China for support. [Herring, 1986, pp. 10; Pilger, 1986, pp. 188]

Entity Tags: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Ho Chi Minh, Archimedes L. A. Patti

Timeline Tags: US-Vietnam (1947-2001)

The Geneva Accords temporarily divide Vietnam in half at the 17th parallel, with Ho Chi Minh’s forces in the north and Bao Dai’s regime in the south. The accords also call for elections to be held in all of Vietnam within two years to reunify the country. [Geneva Accords: Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities in Vietnam, 7/29/1954] The US opposes the unifying elections, fearing a likely victory by Ho Chi Minh, and refuses to sign the Geneva accords. “If the scheduled national elections are held in July 1956, and if the Viet Minh does not prejudice its political prospects, the Viet Minh will almost certainly win,L the CIA notes. [Kolko, 1985, pp. 84] And US President Dwight Eisenhower admits, “I have never talked or corresponded with a person knowledgeable in Indochinese affairs who did not agree that had elections been held as of the time of the fighting, a possible 80 per cent of the population would have voted for the communist Ho Chi Minh as their leader.” [Eisenhower, 1994, pp. 372]

Entity Tags: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Bao Dai, Ho Chi Minh

Timeline Tags: US-Vietnam (1947-2001)

South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, backed by the US, successfully blocks the unifying elections that had been set by the 1954 Geneva Accords, which the US refused to sign (see 1954). It is widely believed that Ho Chi Minh would have easily carried the elections (see 1954). This would have been an unacceptable outcome for the US. [Herring, 1986, pp. 55]

Entity Tags: Ngo Dinh Diem, Ho Chi Minh

Timeline Tags: US-Vietnam (1947-2001)

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