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Vietnam: 40 Years On

April 29, 2015 in History

April 29, 2015 11:55 a.m.

Forty years after the fall of Saigon, debate continues concerning the reality on the ground in Vietnam in 1975. Below are two varying accounts written by Jim Laurie and Stuart Herrington, both of whom were in Saigon in April 1975. At the time, Laurie was a reporter for NBC News, and Herrington was a captain in the U.S. Army. Both men were interviewed for and appear in the film Last Days in Vietnam, which played in theaters nationwide in 2014 before premiering on PBS April 28, 2015.

Vietnam: 40 Years On
By Jim Laurie

Forty years after the end of what the Vietnamese call “The American War,” discussion of the conflict remains as divisive and emotionally charged as it was all those years ago.

The Vietnamese victors celebrate on April 30th what they call their day of “Giải Phóng” – liberation. Many of the Vietnamese who supported the American side and fled their homeland describe that day as “Ngày Quốc Nhục” — a National Day of Shame.

Rory Kennedy’s film “Last Days in Vietnam” portrays powerfully the human drama played out in the final 48 hours of the war. But it raises questions about the history leading up to those compelling hours.

In January 1973 the Paris Peace Accords were signed. The Peace Accords called for a “ceasefire” in place with each side holding positions as they were at 8 am on January 28, 1973.

Very few observers at the time, however, saw the agreement as anything but a fig leaf behind which to bring home American prisoners of war in North Vietnam and to extricate remaining U.S. troops in South Vietnam.

In Henry Kissinger’s interview in “Last Days in Vietnam,” he says, “We thought it would be the beginning not of peace in the American sense but the beginning of a period of co-existence.” Kissinger, who was then serving as National Security Officer and Secretary of State under President Gerald Ford, goes on to say of the tenuous relations between North and South Vietnam, “It might evolve as it did in Korea into two states.”

There were, however, dramatic differences between Vietnam and Korea. For starters, the United States has stationed more than 30,000 troops in Korea for more than 60 years to guarantee a two-state situation on the peninsula. In Vietnam no such role for the U.S. was ever envisioned; was ever possible.

Another stark contrast between the peace forged …read more


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