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30-YEAR ANNIVERSARY:TONKIN GULF LIELAUNCHED VIETNAM WAR
The first campus teach-in on Vietnam took place at the University of Michigan on March 24-25, 1965, the same month that U.S. troops landed in Danang. Over 3,000 people showed up on the Ann Arbor campus for lectures and discussions that ran through the night. The purpose, as one flyer put it, was to focus attention “on this war, its consequences, and ways to stop it.” The educational venue quickly spread to other campuses. Within one week, thirty-five more had been held; and by the end of the year, 120 had taken place. Some were organized locally, others by the Universities Committee on Problems of War and Peace, a three-year old group based at Wayne State University. For Doug Dowd, a Cornell University professor, lifelong leftist, and activist organizer, the teach-ins were an exhilarating experience. He had gone through the Red Scare period when “you couldn’t get anybody to say anything about the Korean War…. Everybody was scared.” The teach-ins aimed to both educate people on the issues and inspire greater confidence in questioning political authorities and foreign policy experts.
It was also possible that the U.S. would achieve its goals in South Vietnam. Judging by other U.S. policies, superior power coupled with convincing propaganda usually came out on top. Such was the case with the Dominican Republic in the spring of 1965. U.S. military forces invaded the country in order to secure a rightist military junta that had ousted the democratically elected government of Juan Bosch. The American people were told that the 20,000 U.S. troops dispatched were sent to save American lives and prevent a communist takeover. Daniel Ellsberg, a Pentagon analyst who was privy to the inside story, reflected, “We were 100 percent lying about what we were doing in the Dominican Republic.” The Dominican Republic, said Ellsberg, was “one of the few communist-free environments in the whole world.” The Johnson administration got away with its lies and Washington added the country to its list of client-states. As in Vietnam, internal developments in the Dominican Republic were touted as a threat to the United States, when in fact there was no threat whatsoever, only a desire on the part of U.S. leaders to establish another pro-U.S. regime.
Viet Minh soldiers, 1954 (Agence France Presse)
Appy, Patriots, pp. 49-50. See also Christian G. Appy, American Reckoning: The Vietnam War and Our National Identity (New York: Penguin Books, 2016), Chapter One.
The Pentagon Papers, Vol. 1, Ch. 5, “Origins of the Insurgency in South Vietnam, 1954-1960,” p. 299; Jean Lacouture, Vietnam: Between Two Truces (New York: Random House, 1966), p. 79; and Edward Miller, Misalliance: Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and the Fate of South Vietnam (Harvard University Press, 2013). On “personalism,” see Jessica M. Chapman, Cauldron of Resistance: Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and 1950s Southern Vietnam (Ithaca Cornell University Press, 2013), p. 121.
This essay will answer the three essay questions put forward.
Neale, A People’s History of the Vietnam War; and Wilfred G. Burchett, Vietnam North (New York: International Publishers, 1966), p. 13. In an all-too typical incident, American bombers destroyed a leprosorium in Quinh Lap in April 1967, causing 120 deaths and over 1,00 wounded. When some of the lepers fled to nearby caves, the caves were mercilessly bombed through the month of June, killing well over a dozen more.
Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes: A History of the CIA (New York: 2007), p. 247; George W. Allen, None So Blind: A Personal Account of Intelligence Failure in Vietnam (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2001); Michael Clodfelter, The Limits of Air Power: The American Bombing of North Vietnam (London: The Free Press, 1989), 134; and Barry Miller, “Litton Develops Fighter Air Data Systems,” Aviation Week, September 19, 1960, p. 95.
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