Vietnam:  Struggle for Unification

Mark Albertson

37 Russell Street,

Norwalk, Ct. 06855


Course description:  For many Americans, Vietnam conjures many painful images.  One of which is . . . defeat.  For all its industrial might, military muscle and belief in a righteous cause could not overcome the Revolutionary Nationalism imbued in the followers of Ho Chi Minh.  But there is more to the long costly struggle for unification waged by the Vietnamese than defeating the world’s ranking superpower.  Rather it was a poster child expression of the bankruptcy of colonialism and imperialism.

This course will take the student on a panoramic view of this faraway nation that has been woefully misunderstood.  Focus, of course, will span from the middle of the 19th century to 1975.  How Vietnam, through infinite patience and purposeful fortitude threw off the yoke of colonialism and enslavement by France and Japan.  It will conclude with the vain attempt to preserve South Vietnam in the wake of the stalemate in Korea and the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954; for this was the era of the Cold War competition between the United States and the Soviet Union.


Week I:  Prelude

A panoramic view of Vietnamese history, from the Neolithic Age to the advent of colonial status in the 19th century.  Among the highlights:  The Chinese Millennium; the era of the Dai Co Viet (Great Viet); Great Ly Dynasty; defeat of the Mongols; advent of the Europeans; the Tay Son Rebellion; events leading up to the French intervention; included, too, will be an explanation of “The Mandate of Heaven,” and the all-important Village System..

Week 2:  Colonial Masters:  France and Japan

From the French attack on Tourane (Da Nang) to the Japanese defeat in 1945, this session traces Vietnam in the throes of colonial subjugation.  Included will be the rise of Nationalism; Ho Chi Minh; the Nghe-Tinh Revolt; World War II and the Japanese occupation.

Week 3:  Revolutionary War

Ho Chi Minh and the Communist movement; Mao Tse-tung and Guerrilla Warfare; the Vietminh.  Here the student will learn how the Peasant formed the basis of the Chinese and Vietnamese approach to war.  Discussed will be such bibles of warfare as Yu Chi Chan (On Guerrilla Warfare) by Mao Tse-tung; People’s War, People’s Army, by Vo Nguyen Giap and The Art of War, by the ancient Chinese sage, Sun Tzu.

Week 4:  The First Indochina War

Traces the course of the French seeking to reassert colonial hegemony over a post-Great War Indochina that is unwilling to capitulate.  Includes an overview of the political and strategic situation in Asia.  Concludes with the Vietminh victory at Dien Bien Phu.

Week 5:  Geneva and the Fall of Diem

From the Geneva settlement to the assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem, the deepening American involvement in South Vietnam is explored.  In addition, the Eisenhower Administration New Look Defense doctrine, featuring Massive Retaliation versus the Kennedy Administration approach of Flexible response will be discussed.  Also, the Domino Theory.

Week 6:  The Airmobility Concept

For Americans the Vietnam War was, if anything, a helicopter war.  And the poster child expression was the Bell UH-1 Huey.  This session will trace the Airmobility Concept, its origins from the horse to the helicopter.  The student will emerge with a better understanding of the American military effort in Southeast Asia with a better understanding of the Airmobility Concept.

Week 7:  Tonkin to Tet

From the Gulf of Tonkin to the Tet offensive, this session follows the course of the Second Indochina War, from 1964-1969.  Discussion will include rising domestic opposition to the Vietnam conflict in the United States.

Week 8:  Unification

Nixon widens the war:  Cambodia; Laos.  The Paris Peace Talks.  America defeated.  Hanoi’s victory in 1975.  Synopsis of the war; Asian opposition to foreign colonialism and imperialism.  Effect on America. - Norwalk community college