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Into the Quagmire: Vietnam, the Early Years
Primary Sources

Theme: The United States and the World: American Foreign Relations
Topic:  Into the Quagmire:Vietnam, The Early Years
Date: April 2005

Primary Sources from Partner Collections

Primary Sources from Local Archives and Collections
Additional Primary Sources Used in Content and Follow-up Sessions

Sources selected and annotated Salem in History staff


Primary Sources from Partner Collections

Notes:

Sources in this section are from the Salem State College Archives, Salem, MA. They are listed chronologically in the following categories: "From the Truman Doctrine to the Geneva Accords," "From Geneva to The Gulf of Tonkin Incident," and "The Beginning of Lyndon Johnson’s War." For more information, see the this website's Links and Resources page or contact Susan Edwards, Archivist at: sedwards@salemstate.edu

Newspaper Clippings in this section are from the William Henry Bates Scrapbook Collection. North Shore Political Archives. Salem State College Archives, Salem, MA. .

The following articles from local North Shore newspapers all report on a series of speeches Congressman William H. Bates gave to North Shore community members after returning from what was called a “fact-finding mission” and a “30,000-mile round-the–world tour of inspection of U.S. military bases” in 1955. Bates participated in this trip as part of a House Armed Services Committee delegation.  The trip was originally intended to investigate Okinowan residents’ complaints of US acquisition of land for air fields, but the Chair of House Armed Services Committee decided to extend the scope of the trip to include more of Asia and the Middle East to see about conditions of American forces in these areas. As a result, over the course of the six weeks, Bates and his colleagues met with six leaders of state—Syngman Rhee, Chaing Kai-Shek, Premier Diem of Vietnam, Emperor Haile Salessie of Ethiopia, King Sa’ud of Saudi Arabia and Sir Oliver Goonetilleke, governor general of Ceylon. Bates’ speeches touch on all aspects of his  trip, but specifically highlight what he saw as the spread/threat of Communism around the world. 

From the Truman Doctrine to the Geneva Accords

This Means You!The Log (Salem State College, Salem, MA) 2 May 1947, 2.

Urges students to make an effort to be knowledgeable about foreign affairs. Raises a few heated contemporary concerns and asks students to consider their knowledge of each. Offers specific guidelines about how to stay informed.

 “Communist Methods Exposed by Lecturer.” The Log (Salem State College, Salem, MA). October 1947, 1.

Discusses lecture given by the Rev. Edward B. Wilcox on the methods the Communists are using to “break down the Government of the United States.” 

What is This Thing – ?The Log (Salem State College, Salem, MA) 24 February 1949, 2.

Editorial urging students to learn the facts about Communism and resist Communist ideas. Argues that “Communism will thrive among the ignorant and uninformed.”

 “Wake Up America.” The Log (Salem State College, Salem, MA) 29 November 1950.

Editorial urgeing more student concern for the conflict in Korea. Author says that Korea is not just a border dispute. Rather “it is the prelude to a life or death struggle between democracy and communism and it won’t be won with indifference.”

Kozel, Louise. “On the School Front.The Log (Salem State College, Salem, MA) 28 April 1954, 2.

Kozel writes about the lax attitude of Americans toward their responsibilities within a democracy. Says that this situation makes America’s youth ripe for Communism. She says that it is the teacher’s responsibility to instill proper patriotism in children and urges students (many of whom will become teachers) to make it their responsibility to work at combating Communism by teaching democracy. 

From Geneva to The Gulf of Tonkin Incident

Roger Hardy. Notes on Senator John F. Kennedy’s speech given at Salem Teacher’s College, 11 November, 1955. Roger Hardy Papers. Salem State College Archives, Salem, MA.

Roger Hardy was a Salem Teacher’s College faculty member tasked with doing some public relations work. These notes were taken during then Senator Kennedy’s on-campus speech which Hardy attended. According to these notes Kennedy’s  speech focuses extensively on Communism and a “Communist threat” in various places around the world in the wake of WWII. Claims that Geneva Conference was a “failure.”  On page 3 Kennedy names IndoChina  as one of  the “5 areas of substantial importance since [the] Geneva Conference.” IndoChina  is among a list of other areas that include Italy and Poland. He discussed Communists in North Vietnam as the “enemy” and comments on Premier Diem’s chance in elections in “VietNam, ” although he does not speak explicitly about U.S. military intervention there. In the Question and Answer portion of these notes, Kennedy claims that India is the “crucial point” in the fight to stop spread of Communism. No questions directly address IndoChina.

Senator Speaks to Students; Warns Against Communism.” The Log (Salem State College, Salem, MA) November 1955, 1.

Article reports on Senator John F. Kennedy’s speech to students at Salem Teacher’s College. Reports that Kennedy urged students to take action against Communism, not merely speak out against it. Reports that Kennedy spoke of the challenges created by the “peace policy” that came out of the Geneva Convention; Communists are using this “peace” as an opportunity to gain strength. Reports that Kennedy spoke about Communist inroads in both Italy and Poland. According to this article, Kennedy “seemed to feel that an all-out war is probably the only thing which will definitely and drastically change world boundaries.”

“Bates Says Far East Situation Explosive.” Gazette (Haverhill, MA). 26 November 1955. William Henry Bates Scrapbook Collection. North Shore Political Archives. Salem State College Archives, Salem, MA.

Reports on a Bates speech in which he discussed during his recent six week 30,000 trip to Asia and the Middle East as part of a delegation from the House Armed Services Committee. This article offers useful details about the scope of the trip and foreign heads of state with whom Bates met. Names Premier Diem of Vietnam as one of these.

“Unrest in World Demands Stronger U.S., Says Bates.” Beverly Evening Times (Beverly, MA). 2 December 1955. Scrapbook Collection. William Henry Bates Papers. North Shore Political Archives. Salem State College Archives, Salem, MA.

Article reports on Bates’ speech before the Beverly Rotary Club. In this speech Bates reported on his findings during a recent six week 30,000 trip to Asia and the Middle East as past of a delegation from the House Armed Services Committee. In paragraphs 6-8 the article recounts Bates’ general fear about the spread of Communism worldwide as well as  his list of specific problem locations around the world (both areas “plagued by Communism” and combinations of countries which are distrustful of one another). This list spans most of Asia and the Middle East. He also singles out as problems, both a divided Germany and France, where, according to this article, there are “Communist trouble-makers.” 

“Cong. Wm H. Bates Tells Rotary World in Unrest.” Salem Evening News (Salem MA). 14 December 1955. William Henry Bates Scrapbook Collection. North Shore Political Archives. Salem State College Archives, Salem, MA.

Report of Congressman Bates’ speech before the Newburyport Rotary Club meeting, in which he reported on his findings during his recent six week 30,000 trip to Asia and the Middle East as part of a delegation from the House Armed Services Committee. Bates claims that the spread of Communism is a serious threat worldwide, and the US must step up its efforts to combat Communism’s spread. Bates reported that “the leaders of every country his committee visited pleaded for more and more arms with which to defend themselves” despite promises from many nations that had seemed so real at the Geneva Convention and in the wake of WWII. Bates dismisses the promises made by Communist leaders in Geneva saying “the sweet words mumbled by the Communists at the Summit meeting have become sour notes of Red infiltration, intrigue and suspicion.” According to Bates, one of the most significant problem spots in the world is India, where Communists are making inroads. As a result, he urges US economic aid to India (and other countries in the same situation) to be limited or discontinued. This report quotes Bates as saying that there was need for the U.S. to remain militarily and economically strong and combat “lies spread by Russia,”  for, “without the United States, the world would soon fall to Communism.”

“Cong. Bates Says U.S. Must Keep Strong, Aid Friends.” [A Danvers, MA newspaper]   n.d. [appears to be November/December 1955]. Scrapbook Collection. William Henry Bates Papers. North Shore Political Archives. Salem State College Archives, Salem, MA.

Article reports on Bates’ speech before the Danvers Rotary Club. In this speech Bates reported on his findings during a recent six week 30,000 trip to Asia and the Middle East as past of a delegation from the House Armed Services Committee. Speech articulated Bates’ concerns about the spread of Communism world wide. Bates claimed that “the cold war could last our lifetime” and urged the United States to keep strong militarily as well as economically as the U.S. is, in his estimation, the “bulwark of the free world.” Bates also urged greater selectivity in US decisions about foreign aid/funding. Bates points out India as a place no longer deserving of US aid due to the inroads Communists are making there with government complacency. Bate is also concerned about what he sees as North Korea’s failure to live up to recent armistice agreements. Finally, Bates reports (see section: “Commies Not Fooling”) on meeting Premier Diem in Vietnam. Diem has recently won election and attributes his success to “[having] a convictions and fight[ing] for it.” 

“Authorizing Appropriations for Aircraft, Missiles, and Naval Vessels. Congressional Record—House. Vol. 108 part 4, (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1962), 4305. William Henry Bates Papers. North Shore  Political Archives .Salem State College Archives, Salem, MA. Armed Services Legislative Files (1962-1969). Box 2, Folder 10: “Armed Services– Appropriations (1962).”

Portion of the debate surrounding specific aspects of House of Representatives Bill #9751 to authorize appropriations during fiscal year 1963 for aircraft, missiles and naval vessels for the Armed Forces, and for other purposes. The central aspect of Representative Brown’s (Ohio) argument presented here suggests the degree to which perceived Soviet nuclear threats and suspected offensive plans (as well as the Soviet’s  known capabilities) were a driving force behind decisions to fund continued and renewed nuclear test and development programs in the United States. At the time this document was created William H. Bates was the ranking minority member of the Armed Services Committee and the second-ranking minority member of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy. The Congressional Record is the official record of proceedings of the US Congress. It is published daily when Congress is in session. For more on Bates and the William H. Bates Papers see the Finding Aid.

House of Representatives, 87th Congress, 2nd Session. Report No. 1406. Authorizations for Aircraft, Missiles, and Naval Vessels (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1962), 9. William Henry Bates Papers.  North  Shore Political Archives. Salem State College Archives, Salem, MA. Armed Services Legislative Files (1962-1969). Box 2, Folder 10:“Armed Services – Appropriations (1962).”

This 1962 report, which refers to House of Representatives Bill #9751, highlights the degree to which perceived Soviet strength and Soviet nuclear potential were at the center of political discourse and funding decisions in the early 1960s—in the midst of the Cold War. In the section on “Nuclear Testing,” this report shows that military appropriations for 1963 generally (and money for nuclear programs in particular) were tied directly to American policymakers’ ideas about a Soviet threat. Notes: Bill #9751 was passed. It was a bill to authorize appropriations during the fiscal year 1963 for aircrafts, missiles, and naval vessels for the Armed Forces and for other purposes. At the time this document was created William H. Bates was the ranking minority member of the Armed Services Committee and the second-ranking minority member of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy. For more on Bates and the William H. Bates Collection see the Finding Aid.

Lawrence G. Dodge et al., West Newbury, MA to William Bates, Washington, DC. 25 February 1963. Legislative Files—Appropriations (1963). William Henry  Bates Papers. North Shore Political Archives. Salem State College Archives, Salem, MA.

Letter from Dodge and three women (one of whom appears to be his wife) expressing their displeasure with both the existence and work of the House Un-American Activities Committee. Dodge asks Bates to oppose any additional funding for the Committee. Refers to HUAC as an “inquisition.” At the time this document was created William H. Bates was the ranking minority member of the Armed Services Committee and the second-ranking minority member of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy. For more on Bates and the William H. Bates Papers see the Finding Aid.

William Bates, Washington DC to Lawrence G. Dodge, West Newbury, MA.  28 February, 1963. Legislative Files—Appropriations (1963). William Henry Bates Papers.  North Shore Political Archives. Salem State  College Archives, Salem, MA.

In this reply to Dodge, Bates states that the House of Representatives passed a resolution on the February 27th approving the funds requested for the House Un-American Activities Committee. The vote was 385 in favor, 20 opposed. Note: At the time this document was created William H. Bates was the ranking minority member of the Armed Services Committee and the second-ranking minority member of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy. For more on Bates and the William H. Bates Papers see the Finding Aid.

John N. Berry, Salem, MA to William Bates, Washington, DC. 25 February, 1963. Legislative Files—Appropriations (1963). William Henry Bates Papers.  North Shore Political Archives. Salem State College Archives, Salem, MA.

In this brief telegram Berry asks Bates to oppose any further funding for the House Un-American Activities Committee. Note: At the time this document was created William H. Bates was the ranking minority member of the Armed Services Committee and the second-ranking minority member of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy. For more on Bates and the William H. Bates Papers see the Finding Aid.

William Bates, Washington DC to John N. Berry, Salem, MA. 28 February, 1963. Legislative Files—Appropriations (1963). William Henry Bates Papers. North Shore Political Archives. Salem State College Archives, Salem, MA.

In this reply to Berry, Bates states that the House of Representatives passed a resolution on February 27th approving the funds requested for the House Un-American Activities Committee. The vote was 385 in favor, 20 opposed. Note: At the time this document was created William H. Bates was the ranking minority member of the Armed Services Committee and the second-ranking minority member of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy. For more on Bates and the William H. Bates Papers see the Finding Aid.

The Beginning of Lyndon Johnson’s War (Gulf of Tonkin Resolution to Spring 1965)

Jervinus, George. “Viet Nam Solution Elusive.” The Log (Salem State College, Salem, MA). 26 February, 1965, 7.

Jervinus questions U.S. foreign policy regarding Vietnam. He asks why the U.S. is there, what the objective is, and how it can be that American soldiers are dying even as President Johnson claims that he “seeks no wider war.” Jervinus asks whether the U.S. is ready for another war with “Red China” and, ultimately whether the effort is worth it. He questions the extent to which America should have a say in foreign governments.

Jervinus, George. “War or Peace: Are you Interested?” The Log (Salem State College, Salem, MA). April 15 1965, 2

In this column Jervinus tries to understand exactly what the policy makers are trying to do in Vietnam given what appear to be conflicting efforts and activities of late (particularly the heavy bombing of North Vietnam).  He suggests that the US is actually trying to get into a war with China. He also suggests that there are a few alternatives to the current situation including withdrawal, escalation, negotiations or a non-nuclear war.

Jervinus, George. “Liberalism, Liberty and Death.” The Log (Salem State College, Salem, MA) October 1, 1965, 2.

In this column Jervinis criticizes “liberals” and their protests against the war. He says that liberals don’t understand that the men in Vietnam are fighting “so that SSC [can] exist, [can] continue.”  He says that war is a fact of life and as young men they (protesters) should learn to accept the fact that they might have to fight a war.

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Primary Sources from Local Archives and Collections

"Truman to Talk Turkey Today Before Congress" The Salem Evening News 12 March 1947.

This article anticipates a speech to be made by President Truman regarding American foreign policy.  The sudden recall of Russia’s ambassador adds to mounting tension in what is described as a “showdown struggle between Western Democracy and Russian Communism.”

“Truman’s Greece-Turkey Talk May be as Memorable as Monroe Doctrine” The Salem Evening News 14 March 1947.

President Truman’s speech before Congress requests anti-communist support for Greece and Turkey based on the notion that the spread of communism abroad threatens U.S. security and liberty at home.  The article compares language in the Monroe Doctrine with Truman’s assertion that the threat of communist expansion justifies actively engaging in the affairs of other countries.  Possible outcomes and alternate courses of action are considered, including the effect on the United Nations.

"Dien Ben Phu Falls" The Salem Evening News 7 May 1954.

Dien Ben Phu was the final battle between France and its colonial holdings in French IndoChina, a region held under colonial rule for a hundred years. The U.S. financially supported the war with Vietnam in its efforts against the communist interest in the region.

"Indochina is Partititioned as Arms is Signed" The Salem Evening News 21 July 1954.

After eight years at war, France and Vietnam gathered in Geneva and signed a peace treaty. The agreement split Vietnam into a northern region to be led by communist leader Ho Chi Minh, and a southern, to be led by a pro-Western figure (Ngo Dinh Diem was elected in 1956). This article notes that the agreement is similar to arrangement in Germany and Korea. It also suggests that the Vietnam partition will likely "become a political and ideological frontier" like those other split countries.

"Kennedy Asks Soviets Join 'Peace Quest'" The Salem Evening News 20 January 1961.

In Kennedy's inaugural address, he encourages peace and communication between the United States and communist countries, but he also makes clear U.S. determination to "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend or oppose any foe in order to assure the survival and success of liberty."

Vaccaro, Ernest. "Congress to Back President" The Salem Evening News 6 August 1964.

After the Tonkin Gulf Incident, President Johnson calls for a military response against North Vietnam. The Senate Foreign Relations and the Armed Services committee urge the Senate to support the president's efforts, "including the use of armed forces."

Browne, Malcolm W. "U.S. Jets Head North, Meet Viet MIG Threat" The Salem Evening News 10 August 1964.

In response to the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, U.S. jet fighters head to Vietnam. In turn, China announces its own "right to take action" to support North Vietnam.

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Additional Primary Sources Used in Content and Follow-up Sessions

"President Eisenhower Explains the Domino Theory, 1954" Online at: http://web.mala.bc.ca/davies/H202/Eisenhower_Domino.1954.htm [14 April 2005]

This excerpt from a Presidential Press Conference on 7 April 1954 features Eisenhower's reponse to a question regarding the "strategic importance of Indochina." In his reponse, Eisenhower outlined a "falling domino" model, where the loss of one "free" region to the influence of communism leads to a sequence of other economic and political changes that would promote the spread of communism to other countries in the area.

The U.S. was concerned about the potential spread of communism in Vietnam and had therefore been supporting France's efforts to maintain control over Indochina. However, the U.S. opted against French requests for military support, and in May of 1956, France was defeated by Ho Chi Minh's forces.

Seminal Documents

Note: the following are designated as seminal primary source documents according to the 2003 Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks.

"President Harry S. Truman's Address Before a Joint Session of Congress, March 12, 1947 (Truman Doctrine)." Online at: http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/trudoc.htm [14 April 2005]

Truman's speech before Congress urges members to support the anti-communist efforts of Greece and Turkey as a matter of "foreign policy and the national security" of the United States. This address outlines his commitment to provide aid to countries in order to prevent the spread of communism. The desire to contain communism was influencial in the U.S. policy-making decisions in Vietnam.

Kennan, George. "Sources of Soviet Conduct (The 'X' Article)." July 1947. Online at: http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cold.war/episodes/04/documents/x.html [14 April 2005].

Originally published in July 1947 in Foreign Affairs based on an earlier correspondence created by American diplomat George Kennan, who served in Russia in the 1920s and again after WWII. Kennan set forth his views, including an "innate antagonism between capitalism and socialism." His recommendation for containment of the spread of "Russian exapnsive tendencies" influenced U.S. Cold War policy-makers.

Kennedy, John F. "Inaugural Address" 20 January 1961. Online at: http://www.jfklibrary.org/j012061.htm [14 April 2005]

In Kennedy's inaugural address, he encourages peace and communication between the United States and communist countries, but he also makes clear U.S. determination to "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend or oppose any foe in order to asure the survival and success of liberty." Note that this link to the J.F.K. Library and Museum also provides an audio option.

 

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