“African American military personnel after 1968 represented a new
mentality. Only a few steps removed from the movements on the
home front, black servicemembers around the world (including some
career military personnel) became less willing to tolerate systemic
discrimination, cultural intolerance, or overt bigotry such as racial
epithets, expressions of white supremacy, and Confederate flags. African American and white military personnel grew increasingly distrustful of one another. Racism, misunderstanding, and a Department of Defense largely unprepared to address institutional inequalities left an environment primed for racial conflict.”
– “African Americans in the Vietnam War” published by the US Vietnam War Commemoration
“Negro members of “C” Company of the 554th Engineer Battalion (construction) in Vietnam complain of unchecked racial incidents, including the burning of a Ku Klux Klan cross in front of a barracks. In letters, the men charge that superior officers fail to take constructive steps and morale among the Negro troops is deteriorating. Pentagon brass should investigate this case immediately and meanwhile, Vietnam GIs keep advising us of conditions we can improve …”
– Jet magazine, 24 August 1967 (via auskultu)
“The Communist leadership regarded the Dak Ha offensive as ‘our biggest victory in the Highlands in 1961’ and reckoned that it ‘helped consolidate and maintain the masses’ faith in the face of the wave of enemy terrorism.’ Indeed, it seems that this second Communist offensive in Kontum Province within a year achieved quite dramatic results. It shook the South Vietnamese government’s confidence badly; made the ARVN nervous about operating on the high plateau, except in large units; revived Communist morale; and put the initiative back in Communist hands. It was followed by a widespread upsurge in guerrilla activity that included attacks on small government posts and road ambushes. The latter threatened to paralyze road traffic, and thus effective government control, over a large part of the Central Highlands and to jeopardize connections between the Central Highlands and the coast.”
– Vietnam’s High Ground: Armed Struggle for the Central Highlands, 1954-1965 by JP Harris, page 61.
“Operation Jackstay is over. I guess now I’m a veteran. Nothing they could have done would have prepared us for this. We now know the training in Hawaii and the Philippines was a piece of cake. God doesn’t know about the Mekong Delta, He didn’t create that hellhole. I think when He rested, the devil slipped one in on him. They told us before we went in that we were the first American unit to operate that far south in the war. I think everyone else had more brains. Maybe when I’m out of the Marines I’ll be proud of this, I’m just too tired to feel anything.
We lost some good guys. How do you explain this in a letter? One minute they were there, then dead. I have no idea why I’m still here.”
Cpl. Jon Johnson in a letter home to his parents and wife, dated 8 April 1966. Johnson served in Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.
Source: Letters from Vietnam edited by Bill Adler
“Diem had approved the creation, within the ARVN, of ‘Ranger’ companies to combat Communist guerrillas with small-unit operations. Rangers would ultimately play a significant role in the government’s counteroffensive. But they had made relatively little impact by the end of 1960.”
– Vietnam’s High Ground: Armed Struggle for the Central Highlands, 1954-1965 by JP Harris, page 50.
“At the end of the First Indochina War ethnic minority people migrated in both directions–north and south of the seventeenth parallel. According to CIA figures, about 10,000 Muongs (members of a northern hill tribe) went south at the time of the Geneva Accords. The same was true of 55,000 Nungs; these were not primitive tribesmen but members of a group that originated in China and migrated to Vietnam in the seventeenth century. At the same time, the CIA estimated that approximately 10,000 indigenous people from the Central Highlands had regrouped north. About 5,000 of them were from the Rhade, generally considered the most educated and politically sophisticated of the Highland tribes; these migrants included four of the five qualified Rhade doctors.”
– Vietnam’s High Ground: Armed Struggle for the Central Highlands, 1954-1965 by JP Harris
“CIA analysts were prepared to accept that in 1954-1958 Diem’s ‘intentions were good’ with regard to the Highlanders. But these intentions had been implemented halfheartedly at best. Diem’s government had actually ‘accomplished little’ for the Highlanders. Government officials in the Central Highlands were, in general, very poorly prepared to work with the indigenous peoples. Educational programs favored Vietnamese settlers rather than the indigenous population, and while ethnic Vietnamese expanded their land-holdings, talk of giving Highlanders definite titles to good-quality land suitable for wet-rice agriculture remained just that–talk. Government influence over most Highlanders was extremely limited. Road building was hindered by a lack of funds, so much of the region remained physically inaccessible to government officials who were not prepared to trek long distances on foot. More important, few officials were trained or motivated to cross the cultural barrier and gain the trust of the Highlanders. The result was increasing hostility to Diem’s government. By the end of 1958: ‘Four years after the Saigon government came to power it was… faced with growing unrest among the tribal groups and subversion of these groups by the Viet Cong. Since the government had found itself incapable of implementing a political civic action program it resorted to a military program and oppressive action to control the Highlanders which further aggravated the situation.’ Although the Communist Party already had dedicated cadres working among the Highland tribes, violence sometimes broke out between Highlanders and the government without Communist instigation and long before the Communist leadership thought the time was ripe for a serious armed struggle.”
– Vietnam’s High Ground: Armed Struggle for the Central Highlands, 1954-1965 by JP Harris, page 37-38
“Diem’s policy toward the indigenous Highlanders, at least in the beginning, was not consciously harsh or exploitative. Rather, it was paternalistic and assimilatory. Diem’s government wanted the Highlanders to improve their agricultural methods, take and active part in the economic development of their region, and participate in his government’s administrative apparatus there. He wanted them to drop their traditional way of life (by Vietnamese standards, primitive and inferior) and become civilized. Ultimately he wanted them to abandon their separate tribal identities and to become culturally Vietnamese.”
– Vietnam’s High Ground: Armed Struggle for the Central Highlands, 1954-1965 by JP Harris, page 34-35.
“Even in the early 1960s, when guerrilla warfare was the norm, highly placed Vietnamese on both sides realized that the fighting in the Highlands would eventually assume a more high-intensity, ‘conventional’ nature. To the Communist high command, the rugged terrain and dense vegetation of the Central Highlands offered the best chance of ambushing and annihilating major units of the South Vietnamese armed forces and of drawing in and destroying their strategic reserves. When large American units arrived in South Vietnam, the Central Highlands seemed to be the most suitable place to engage them, too. Both sides seemed to sense from an early stage in the war, moreover, that control of the high ground looming over South Vietnam’s narrow coastal plain might ultimately prove decisive.”
– Vietnam’s High Ground: Armed Struggle for the Central Highlands, 1954-1965 by JP Harris, page viii.
“In the second half of the nineteenth century Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia all fell under French rule, and the Nguyen Dynasty’s emperors became no more than puppets of the French. The French conquest began under Napoleon III, whose forces captured Saigon in 1859. By 1867 the French had taken control of the whole of Cochin China, roughly the southern third of Vietnam. They also secured a protectorate over Cambodia. The French conquest of Vietnam was completed under the Third Republic, after the fall of Napoleon III’s Second Empire during the Franco-German War of 1870-1871. In 1883 France used military force to get Emperor Tu Duc to accept a protectorate over the rest of Vietnam. In 1893 the French rounded off their empire in Indochina by establishing a protectorate over Laos. Although Cochin China was technically a colony and the rest of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos were protectorates, the French endeavored to establish a fairly unified administrative system throughout the area they ruled.”
– Vietnam’s High Ground: Armed Struggle for the Central Highlands, 1954-1965 by JP Harris, page 2.