During the Indo-China and Vietnam conflict a distinctive group was formed. This group would be known as the Viet Minh. The person who influenced the development of the sense of identity of this group was Ho Chi Minh or “Ho Who enlightens”. He founded this group on the basis of the fight for a free and independent Vietnam. Some factors which contributed to the sense of identity were shared values, heritage, experiences and values.
The Viet Minh was formed by Ho in 1941 after he returned from captivity in China. This particular group was made up of peasants and farmers in Viet Nam. The Viet Minh used guerilla tactics as their main method of fighting against foreign oppressors, such as France. Their identity was expressed in many ways. Firstly it was expressed millitarily. As stated above they used guerilla tactics as their methods of fighting. Take the decisive battle of the first IndoChina War for example. This battle was fought at Dien Bien Phu. In this battle the French were defeated for many reasons: the tarrain which they were fighting on was rain forest and very swampy, which they were not used to. Also, the Viet Minh had stronger artillery and were safeguarded within the mountains.
Secondly, their identity was expressed politically, socially and economically. The Viet Minh did things such as, change the tax system to relieve the burden on those who could not afford to pay them. They also reduced rents and brought about land reform. In some cases land had to be re-bought and then sold to peasants who were landless. The Viet Minh also set up their own local administrations to help control the rural land they had in their positions. After the Japanese were ousted, Ho Chi Minh staged an uprising. The slogan of that uprising was “break open the rice stores to avert famine.” This was in order to feed the starving peasants.
Some factors that contributed to the formation of identity were shared heritage, values, beliefs and experiences. Let us now consider how shared heritage contributed to the formation of the Viet Minh.
Most of the members came from a peasant background. For many life was village or land based. They shared a language amongst them (there was only one language in Vietnam up until the arrival of the French. Also all members of this group were Buddhist and they had customs and traditions which were shared amongst them. Secondly, another factor which contributed to the formation of identity was shared experiences. This was mainly foreign oppression. Most members had experienced foreign opression to some extent. Most if not all members joined the Viet Minh because of this. Another factor that contributed to the formation of the identity of the Viet Minh was shared beliefs. The main belief within the group was a free and independent Vietnam, free from oppression and foreign invaders. There was a belief up until the end of World War Two, that the USA (United States of America) would support the cause of the Viet Minh, since the USA displayed itself as the world’s peace keeper. This view changed when the USA supported France with arms, and other weaponry.
Lastly, shared values was another factor which contributed to the formation of the identity of the Viet Minh. The Viet Minh valued their land, since this is where the fruits of their labour were grown and harvested. Also they valued their customs because French intervention may have been the end of their thriving culture.
Ho Chi Minh influenced the Viet Minh greatly, as their leader. Every member looked to Ho for advice and he was seen as a father figure. One of the names given to him was ‘Bac Ho’ or ‘Uncle Ho’. He shared the same beliefs, customs, values and heritage as all peasants. One of Ho’s many achievements was to re-educate the peasants so that they knew they were fighting for the honourable cause of a free and independent Vietnam. As mentioned in the introduction, Ho founded this group in 1941. He learnt of the high ideals of the French revolution which were “liberty, equality and fraternity”. Ho was not treated any differently to the ordinary peasants. For example, Ho helped to build trenches and worked in factories. Ho changed his name 19 times throughout his life. One of the many names he bore was Nguyen Ai Qux or Nguyen who loves his country. This name bore his nationalistic views and feelings for the future of Vietnam. His last name, Ho Chi Minh, translates to “Ho who enlightens”. He chose this name after having thought of himself as the one to call upon the peasants and members of the Viet Minh to stand and fight for their freedom.
In conclusion, the Viet Minh was formed upon the basis of a free and independent Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh influenced the development of the identity of this group. Ho and the Viet Minh believed in a Vietnam for the Vietnamese. To this day, Ho Chi Minh is regarded as Vietnam’s greatest war hero, and he will be remembered by Vietnamese people for a long while.
ACHIEVEMENT STANDARD 2.6 - 90470
IDENTITY: VIET MINH/Ho Chi Minh
Vietnam and the entire IndoChina peninsula, had been a French colony since the 1860’s, when in 1954 the Vietminh lead by the idealistic views of Ho Chi Minh, or ‘uncle Ho’ as he was affectionately known to the Vietnamese people cast off the oppression of the French colonists after the battle of Dien Bien Phu, and set up an independent Vietnam, free of foreign rulers.
When the French colonist arrived in the mid 1800’s, the people of Vietnam and the whole Indochina peninsula were a people living as they had for thousands of years, most of whom lived in small rural villages which were mainly self sufficient. When the French arrived however they swept like acid fire through the peninsula conquring the entire area before the beginning of the 20th century, under the guise that they were bring civilisation to a backward people. The French originally treated the people of Vietnam extremely well, encouraging the rural people to move to the more centralised urban centres of Saigon and Hanoi, and helping to industrialise the nations backward by western standards, economy. Cochinchia, the first province of Vietnam conqured by the French was even allowed to have a representative in the French parliament and its citizens were even given French citizenship, however the other provinces did not receive such benefits.
As the 20th century broke, most Vietnamese were still living as they had always done, however some people were becoming more educated, learning in the universities of France world politics and other useful ideas. Among these people was Ho Chi Minh, who became a figurehead of Vietnamese nationalism. Inspired by the communist revolution in Russia, he formed the Vietnamese communist party with other students in France. Although he was communist and nationalist, he still supported the French occupation of Vietnam as a way to enlighten its people and help it develop as a nation. However this view changed when, during the Second World War, Japanese forces with no resistance from the French government and military forces in IndoChina took the whole peninsula with ease. Although Japan was now in control of the country, they still allowed the French civilian administration and army to police the area.
When the French surrendered to the Japanese so rapidly it showed to Ho Chi Minh and many other Vietnamese that the French had no real interest in protecting the interests of the people of Vietnam, and so they went about forming the communist, nationalist gurrilla force the Vietminh. This group, with its political and ideological head Ho Chi Minh, and its military forces, lead by general Vo Nguyen Giap, fought a gurrila war against the Japanese occupiers, and receiving help from allied forces in the form of supplies and training. In the final days of the war in 1945, when Japan realised its cause was lost, instituted a blood coup in Vietnam, where French officials and military personal were slaughtered, and declared the area independent. This reinforced the belief that the French could protect the Vietnamese and that independence was required.
When the war ended in 1945, Ho Chi Minh in the northern city of Hanoi, believing he had support for his cause from the allies, declared Vietnam independent. However this proved to be wrong, and the nation was occupied in the south by British troops, and in the north by Chinese. With the British in carge, they began to set Vietnam for a reoccupation by the French and where this occurred, the Vietnam launched an all out gurrila war on the French being most sucessful in the north. Many people, warming to Hi Chi Minh’s charisma and promise of independence joined the cause, as either fighters or coolies, another word for labourers. Fighting in Vietnam continued for eight years, as more and resources and people joined in on both sides, and as more people joined in because of Ho’s nationalist image rather than his communist. The struggle for Vietnam ended in 1954 when Vietminh forces, backed by the “whole of Vietnams” general as Nguyen Giap terms it, defeated the French at the battle of Dien Bien Phu. As a conclusion to the battle France agreed to leave Vietnam, and the country was devided into the Communist North, and capitalist South, Vietnam finally had it’s desired independence.
In conclusion, Ho Chi Minh, the ideological figure head for the Vietnamese nationalist movement, speared headed by the Vietminh, championed the nationalist cause, and inspired a population to over throw its colonist overlords through revolution. Although Vietnam was divided after the Vietminhs victory, it still had its independence, either as the capitalist south or communist north, and both owed this fact to Ho Chi Minh and his Vietminh.
ACHIEVEMENT STANDARD 2.6 - 90470
IDENTITY: VIETNAMESE IDENTITY
An important leader in Vietnam between 1945 and 1975 was Ho Chi Minh. His leadership helped develop a strong Vietnamese identity, and late in his life his spiritual leadership saw the Vietnamese identity continue to grow. Many Vietnamese people wanted a united Vietnam, free from centuries of oppression from foreign powers. The Diem Regime in the 1950s, also saw the development of the Vietnamese identity, and many actions taken under Ho Chi Min’s leadership by the Viet Minh and Viet Cong sought to assert this identity, including both political and military actions.
The Vietnamese identity that was developed by Ho Chi Minh was characterised by several key factors. Vietnamese people wanted a free, independent, united Vietnam. They predominantly followed the confuscionist way of life, and most of the population was Buddhist. The population lived mainly in rural areas, with their lives structured around a village-based society. This was the identity that Ho Chi Minh wanted to develop and express, and was the reason he took most of the actions he did.
There were several personal factors in Ho Chi Minh’s life that led to the formation of a Vietnamese identity with him, and his desire to spread this throughout his country. He was born into a strongly nationalist family. His father ran a nationalist Vietnamese newspaper, which Ho frequently ran errands for as a child. He was French-educated, so learned the French values of independence and equality. In his early adulthood he went to Paris, where he learnt the communist teachings of Lenin. It was then that Ho began to believe that communism was the best method through which his people could achieve the goal of independence.
There were also several nation-wide factors that led to the development of a Vietnamese identity in both Ho Chi Minh and in other Vietnamese people. Vietnam had been subjected to almost 1000 years of rule by China, and after that, many decades of rule by the French. The French exploited the Vietnamese people for their own financial gain, and cared little for the welfare of the Vietnamese workers. An example of this is when 12,000 out of 44,000 Vietnamese workers died in a French-owned rubber plantation in the first half of the 1900’s. This mistreatment led to the formation of the Vietnamese identity in many people, including Ho Chi Minh, that sought to free Vietnam of foreign oppression. The Viet Minh, an organisation founded by Ho Chi Minh with the aim of freeing Vietnam, tried to win Vietnamese freedom by waging a war on the French. They had already been disapointed after World War Two (WWII), when they believed that the French (who had been defeated in Vietnam by the Japanese) would not return. The Great Powers decided that the French should return, an action that only strengthened the Vietnamese identity. When the Viet Minh fought their war on the French, they eventually was a decisive victory of the battle of Dien Bien Phu. They believed that this would give them a position of bargaining power at the upcoming Geneva Conference of 1954, and thought that their Communist allies Russia and China would support their cause. However, Russia and China both had their own agendas at the conference, and the Viet Minh, and their leade Ho Chi Minh, were once again disapointed. They were forced to accept the compromise of a divided Vietnam, with a communist-led North and a non-communist South. Elections were to be held to unite Vietnam in 1956. Once again, this disapointment served only to strengthen the determination of Ho Chi Minh to see Vietnam united and free.
Events in South Vietnam after the Geneva conference also continued to grow the Vietnamese identity. Two factors were fighting in the South – the non-communist leader Ngo Dinh Diem, and his nationalist rivals, the Viet Cong. Although Ho Chi Minh was not directly leading the Viet Cong, it was his teachings and his spiritual leadership that they followed, ensuring that his aims were met. Diem was disliked by the Viet Cong for several reasons. He was seen to be pro-American, and was one of a Catholic minority in Vietnam. His Catholicism meant that his values clashed with those of the majority of Vietnamese people. He introduced his ‘strategic hamlet’ programme, whereby peasants were moved to fortified compounds where they would sleep at night – by day they would work on surrounding farms. Many peasants resented being moved away from land their families had been farming for generations. Diem disliked both Buddhists and Communists. His law 10/59 sought to capture or kill all communists in South Vietnam, and when Buddhist monks began burning themselves in protest of the ways he had discriminated against them, his sister-in-law said “let them burn, and we shall clap our hands.” All of these actions taken by Diem saw a new facet of the Vietnamese identity emerge – an intense hatred for the Diem Regime. This hatred was only strengthened when he cancelled the 1956 elections.
Under the spiritual leadership of Ho Chi Minh, the Viet Cong took many military actions to try to fulfil Ho’s lifelong goals. The military branch of the Viet Cong, the People’s Revolutionary Army (PRA) was formed in 1960. They began a guerilla warfare against the South Vietnamese army in 1961, and switched to full-scale tactics in 1963.
They infiltrated Diem’s strategic hamlet programme, and converted many of the peasants to their cause. In 1968, the Tet offensive occurred. After a diversionary attack from North Vietnam on a town called Khe Sanh, more than 100 targets were attacked by both the Viet Cong, and Ho Chi Minh’s soldiers from the North. Although this eventually led to the virtual destruction of the Viet Cong when they were beaten back by the Americans, its political outcomes marked a turning point for the goals of Nationalist Vietnamese people like Ho Chi Minh.
The Viet Cong also continued many of the political actions begun by Ho Chi Minh. The political branch of the Viet Cong, the National Liberation Front (NCF) was formed in 1960, one of a wide range of other nationalist groups. They continued the land reform began by Ho Chi Minh, giving land to peasants in Viet Cong-controlled areas, allowing them to live free of taxes and landlords. They undertook a propaganda campaign to spread Ho Chi Minh’s goals among all Vietnamese people. The 1968 Tet offensive also had a political goal. The Viet Cong were very aware that anything that happened in Vietnam would be seen on American television screens. When they launched the Tet offensive, they attacked and briefly took over part of the US Embassy in Saigon. This proved to the American people that American soldiers were dying in great numbers in Vietnam, and greatly undermined American support for the war.
Ho Chi Minh’s leadership was important in spreading the Vietnamese identity. This identity grew from both his personal experiences, and also from the disapointments and oppression suffered by his nation. The Viet Minh, under Ho’s direct leadership, took many actions to attempt to express the Vietnamese identity, and Ho’s spiritual leadership guided the Viet Cong in continuing the struggle.
ACHIEVEMENT STANDARD 2.6 - 90470
IDENTITY: VIET CONG
The Viet Cong was a broad-based coalition of Vietnamese nationalists whose goal was an independent and unified Vietnam free from foreign intervention. Years of oppression, opposition to Diems regime and a divided Vietnam created a sense of national identity amongst the Vietnamese people in Vietnam. The establishment of Diem in 1954, the leader of South Vietnam, resulted in the formation of the Viet Cong who expressed their beliefs both politically and militarily such as the Tet Offensive.
The Viet Cong was a coalition of Vietnamese nationalist groups from the time of partition in Vietnam such as the Viet Minh or ‘winter cadre’. Formed in 1960, the Viet Cong opposed to Diems regime and believed in ‘Vietnam for the Vietnamese’. The wanted an independent and unified Vietnam free from foreign intervention with Ho Chi Minh as their spiritual leader.
The Vietnamese people shared a similar history which resulted in a sense of National Identity. The Vietnamese people shared the same language, religion and lifestyle which was based strongly on the village as well as a long history enduring foreign intervention by larger powers. For nearly 10 centuries Vietnam had been under the direct rule of China and rebellions against Chinese rule developed a sense of National Identity. When the French arrived they bought with them Christianity which undermined their traditional ways and wiped out any trace of a unified Vietnam when they established the states of Annam, Tonkin, and Cochinchina. Foreign interference was resented and a sense of injustice left by the Vietnamese people due to oppression from larger powers resulted in a sense of National Identity.
In 1954, a sense of National Identity was developed further when Ngo Diuh Diem took office in Saigon as President of South Vietnam. The Vietnamese nationalists had just beat the French at Dien Bien Phu and believed they were in a position of strength at the Geneva Conference. However they were obliged to accept temporary partition of Vietnam with elections on how it was to be governed in 1956 and Ngo Binh Diem was elected prime minister of South Vietnam. The unified and independent Vietnam they had been struggling for had been taken from them again and the establishment of Diem created a strong sense of National Identity. Diem was a French educated catholic and an ardent Anti-communist who was supported by the Americans in their struggle to prevent the fall to communism. His main achievement was to establish the south as a separate nation. To the majority of Buddhist peasants he was seen as corrupt, especially as he tightened his position by placing family members in key positions. Diem slowly isolated himself from the people of Vietnam – then in 1956 he cancelled the promised elections. He did not approve and did not trust the Communists to carry out free elections. Diem continued to isolate himself when he failed to carry out effective land reform with the Vietnamese peasants. Where the Viet Minh had given land away, under Diems regime they had to pay for it. Then in the 1960’s when the communist threat became more apparent he introduced his ‘strategic hamlets’. Peasants were uprooted from their native village and were placed in a farming community protected by a stockade. Villagers complained of harsh treatment and felt alienated, imprisoned and dislocated. The villagers soon came to distrust Diem and as a desire for change from Diems regime grew so did the Vietnamese peoples identity and their support for the communists who wanted in independent and united Vietnam free from foreign intervention.
Due to a development of Vietnamese Identity from the establishment of Diem, the Viet Cong was formed. On the 20th December 1960 the National liberation Front was established. It was a coalition of 20 South Vietnamese groups who opposed to Diems regime. They attacked Diem as a traitor and an American puppet. Their goal was an independent and unified Vietnam free from foreign intervention.
The Viet Cong, established due to a Vietnamese Identity of wanting a unified Vietnam free from Diems leadership and foreign interference, launched not only a guerrilla war but a Social Revolution as well. They used propaganda, persuasion and terror to win the hearts and minds of the people. By emphasising the struggle against ‘US imperialism’ and by portraying Diem as an American puppet, they were able to gather the support of the people of South Vietnam. Land reform proposals and Diems continuing isolation from the Vietnamese people helped the Viet Long gain support in their struggle for a united and independent Vietnam free from Diems regime and the American influence in Vietnam.
Also in 1960, the Peoples Revolutionary Army, the army of the Viet Cong was established to express Vietnamese Identity and help in the struggle to rid Vietnam of Diem and the American influence. A regular main force of about 5,500 and 30,000 part-time guerrillas were built up with strong bases controlling a large and expanding area. In 1961, the Viet Cong stepped up their campaign and attacked the village of Phuc Thanh by night, killing and capturing many, the first of a number of raids that were to continue in the same pattern. The Viet Cong was now a well-organised, well spread Communist rebellion with much of the Souths country side under their control.
By 1963, a force of 30,000 regular and 80,000 part-time Viet Cong were in South Vietnam. They used a new strategy and scored a significant victory over the Americans. Instead of using a strike and retreat they fought a pitched battle and five US helicopters were downed. In 1964, the Viet Cong together with the help of the North Vietnamese Army attacked American bases throughout South Vietnam. Although by 1967, American bombing had killed over 100,000 Vietnamese civilians, the bombing increased resistance. The Viet Cong were now prepared for total war and were preparing for a massive offensive in the New Year.
The Tet Offensive was a massive attack on the Americans as a way of expressing their identity and their desire for a united and independent Vietnam free from foreign intervention. The Tet offensive was designed to show that despite its strength the US was vulnerable and was not winning the war despite its propaganda. The political aim behind the Tet offensive was to undermine support for the war within the US itself and show the Americans that their leaders had been deceiving them in regards to “winning the war in Vietnam.” The Tet Offensive was a shift from usual areas of Viet Cong operation to supposed US strongholds in urban areas with a divisionary battle at Khe Sanh. The Viet Cong attacked over 100 centres in the south but by far the boldest move was on Saigon itself. The Viet Cong occupation of the US embassy was the “most vivid shock” for US TV viewers. The Tet offensive created a major rethink of American policy in Vietnam. The communists could celebrate the unseating of a president, a deeply troubled and divided America and an end to the bombing of their cities. The Viet Cong were well on their way to achieving there desire for an independent and united Vietnam free from Diems regime and the American influence in Vietnam.
A shared history of oppression and an opposition to Diem’s regime lead to the development of Vietnamese Identity. This Identity resulted in the formation of the Viet Cong whose main aim was to establish Vietnam as a unified and independent Vietnam free from Diems regime and the American influence in Vietnam. They expressed their desires both politically, by starting a social revolution and uniting the people of Vietnam and militarily such as the Tet Offensive. The establishment of Diem and his continuing isolation of the Vietnamese people resulted in a strong sense of national identity of “Vietnam for the Vietnamese.”