Author Archives: Kestersond

Ken Burns’ Vietnam Documentary on PBS

Since I am writing a series of historical novels on the Vietnam Conflict, I was drawn to watch the Vietnam War Documentary produced by Ken Burns for PBS. The ten-episode series was well researched, and Burns presented all sides of the Conflict, including the North Vietnamese prospective. The stories of individuals involved gave the narrative a personal insight often missing from such broadcasts. I was concerned about how the producer would portray US troops—but I shouldn’t have been. The depiction was excellent—except, perhaps, too much focus on the negatives created by US troops rather than those created by military and political leaders’ flawed military strategy.

The documentary started in the mid-1800s, which provided excellent insight into the mental make-up of the Indochinese people. This essential understanding of the Vietnamese was something US decision-makers did not bother to acquire.

Indecisiveness characterized President Kennedy’s administration, which focused on South Vietnamese President Diem—who was already in trouble with the majority Buddhist population in his country. All the while, the North Vietnamese, under the lead of their second-in-command, Le Duan, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, focused on moving supplies into South Vietnam. He was instrumental in the continuous growth of the conflict, no matter the action of the United States. While he was pushing the war buttons, Ho Chi Minh became a figurehead assuming the role of “Uncle Ho,” dressing like the people and walking amongst them. His personality was widely embraced by the population, while Diem’s actions isolated him from his people.  

Shortly after President Johnson was elected in 1964, he committed troops to South Vietnam—and, every time Westmoreland asked for more, Johnson granted his requests. Camps set up throughout South Vietnam became easy targets for the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong’s mortars. The documentary clearly showed that Westmoreland defined battle victories by body count. Worse still, US troops were sacrificed to capture ground; soon thereafter, the ground fought and died for fell right back to the enemy. US soldiers were not allowed to pursue the enemy into Cambodia or Laos.

Meanwhile, the North Vietnamese leadership committed every citizen to their effort, body count be damned. They correctly believed their goal of staying engaged at all costs would eventually wear down the will of the United States, which had little to fight for other than stopping the spread of communism. The North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong worked diligently to keep the Ho Chi Minh trail available to move supplies or men into the South. They forced women and children to work at night to repair the bomb damage to keep the road open.

There were two comments that made me proud of our men who served.  Colonel Moore stated the US troops fought gallantly at the battle of Ia Drang, and Neil Sheehan commented that soldiers in Vietnam fought as hard as the men who served in World War II. This was especially pertinent since the US military had been trained to fight the Soviets in conventional war, not the guerrilla warfare of the Vietnamese and Viet Cong.

Burn’s coverage of the Tet Offensive was spot on. Clearly, this was the moment of the Vietnam Conflict. US troops inflicted enough casualties on the Viet Cong that, as Westmoreland predicted, casualties out-numbered replacements. While the attack was anticipated, Westmoreland guessed wrong about where it would take place. Instead of only attacking the northern portion of South Vietnam, the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong also attacked every major population center in South Vietnam via the Ho Chi Minh trail. The battles were intense, but in the end, the US defeated the North Vietnamese and virtually wiped out the Viet Cong. However, these were the first battles televised live, and watching the realities of war play out in their living rooms turned a public opinion against the war effort.

By the time President Johnson was up for re-election in 1968, he realized the country had turned against him. The anti-war movement would not allow him the Democratic votes to be re-elected. Instead, the people voted for Richard Nixon, who had promised to end the war with a winning strategy. Nixon increased bombing so sorties were flown day and night. He negotiated with the North Vietnamese to basically allow US troops to leave, which was easy. The North knew as soon as the US left, they could crush the South, whose political leadership had been such a game of musical chairs it was embarrassing. The corruption of the leaders of the South was even more embarrassing.

There were two important items left out of the documentary—the role of the CIA, and the role of illegal drugs. However, these are covered extensively in my historical novels. I don’t know why Burns and PBS left them out. They did interview one CIA agent, who represented one of the two factions of the CIA.

All in all, PBS’s Vietnam War was well done. What did you think of Burn’s documentary? Do you think he got it right? Why or why not?

Vietnam Conflict – The Early Diem Presidency

President Ngo Dinh Diem was a controversial figure even before claiming presidency of South Vietnam. Once it became public that the United States backed him on his run for president, the French issued a statement claiming that Diem was “not only incapable, but mad.” However, Colonel Edward Lansdale and Lieutenant Colonel Lucien Conein believed Diem, a warlord from Hue, was the best available choice to keep South Vietnam from falling under the control of communism. Diem, a devout Catholic, was born into one of the elite families associated with the Vietnamese imperial family. Immediately after World War II, Ho Chi Minh, who was forming his government in North Vietnam, asked Diem to take a position in his administration. Diem turned him down. Ho had hoped to take advantage of Diem’s religion to gain support from Catholics.

In an attempt to provide close guidance, Lansdale moved into the palace with President Ngo Dinh Diem before his election and stayed until late 1956. Lansdale and Diem became close friends, and to a large extent, Lansdale was able to keep Diem focused on his presidency while continuing his psy-ops program, named Saigon Military Mission, against the North.

Lansdale was transferred back to Washington, DC, in 1957 and promoted to Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Operations working out of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Shortly after Lansdale left, Diem changed how he conducted himself as president. Diem had campaigned for land reform and to remove the anti-Buddhist laws that had been imposed by the French. The French, which were predominately Catholic, had controlled most of the land and the wealth in Indochina for decades, despite representing only ten percent of the country’s population. Moreover, the largest landowner in Vietnam was the Catholic Church. Most of Diem’s government officials were Catholics, yet seventy percent of the country was Buddhist. Needless to say, like most politicians, Diem failed to keep his campaign promises. At the end of the 1950s, the anti-Buddhist laws were still on the books and seventy-five percent of the land was still held by fifteen percent of the population.

The North Vietnamese government pressed Diem to comply with the Geneva Accords by holding elections in July 1956, to which Diem had not agreed and which he refused to do. Ho Chi Minh harassed the South Vietnamese government by sending loyalists from the North to organize armed citizens against the Diem government. By 1959, some 1,200 of South Vietnamese government officials were murdered by the North Vietnamese or by South Vietnamese who were loyal to the North.

Diem pushed back hard. First, he arrested and imprisoned communists and socialists. Next, he went after journalists, trade-unionists and leaders of religious groups, mainly Buddhists. Even children found writing anti-Diem messages on walls were put in prison. As a result of Diem’s actions, soon 100,000 people were in prison camps. Still, the US poured money into South Vietnam and encouraged Catholic refugees from the North to come to the South to escape the communist-leaning Ho Chi Minh.

By the end of the Eisenhower presidency, there were rumblings within the US government against Diem’s governing practices—mainly, that  he was not following US suggestions. But they were stuck with the seated president because they did not believe there were any alternatives.

So by the end of the 1950s, Vietnam had a large number of issues. Were you aware of how bad this situation had become?

Vietnam – Undermining the Geneva Peace Conference

As I wrote in my previous blog on Vietnam and the Geneva Peace Conference, politicians on both sides made agreements at the conference table that neither side planned to follow. The Geneva Peace Conference Accords favored the North, mostly because it was driven by China’s Zhou En-lai and the North Vietnamese Representatives.

The first thing Ho Chi Minh did was kill off political opposition to him within North Vietnam. Next, Ho sent Viet Minh soldiers into South Vietnam to intimidate and kill innocent civilians. Soon their intimidation turned to recruiting people in the South to follow their cause—or die. To say the least, it was an effective campaign.

The United States did not earn any angel wings, either, but remember, neither the United States nor South Vietnam signed the Accords. However, they did say they would comply with those Accords.

But in this blog, I want to focus on two of my favorite real-life people—Edward Lansdale and Lucien Conein. They were true American heroes from a time when we needed men such as these. I love these guys—they’re so full of larger-than-life qualities—both good and bad. Great for writing.

In the summer of 1954, Lansdale, an Air Force Colonel and CIA agent whose specialty was counter-insurgency, led a team of agents that included  CIA agents Conein as his second in command  as well as Theodore Shackley into Vietnam to begin a series of covert operations against North Vietnam. Many of those sabotage missions failed.Their goal was to mount a propaganda campaign to persuade the Vietnamese people in the South not to vote for the Communists in future elections.

Conein’s “cover” going back into Vietnam was to arrange air transport for northerners fleeing the Communist Viet Minh. However, his assignment was to sabotage the victorious Viet Minh takeover of northern Vietnam by creating a stay-behind setup for possible guerrilla resistance. Besides sabotaging the public transportation system detailed above, Conein was to leave behind necessary supplies for a rebellion against the Communist regime. He came up with the novel idea of packing military hardware into coffins and burying them in cemeteries. However, the anti-Communist uprisings never materialized. In October 1954g, in the last days the U.S. personnel were to be in Hanoi, a special CIA-trained team led by Conein contaminated the oil supply for the public transportation. This was done so the motors would fail slowly.

Conein was never short on creativity. When the French were pulling out of Vietnam and very up-set with the Americans, Lansdale requested the new US Ambassador fortify his personal residence. The Ambassador didn’t heed his advice. So, on his way home from dinner, Conein drove by the Ambassador’s residence and tossed a live grenade on his front yard. I can just see the man laughing all the way home.

The next day, the Ambassador accepted Lansdale’s suggestion.

As election time rolled around in South Vietnam, Lansdale’s role broadened to finding a leader who could consolidate power. Both North and South Vietnam had been “governed” by territorial warlords for decades. As mentioned earlier, Ho Chi Minh did what he needed to do to consolidate his power in the North with the help of Red China and to a lesser degree the Soviet Union. In the South, Lansdale selected Ngo Dinh Diem, a Catholic in a predominately Buddhist country, from a number of warlords to run against Bao Dai, the former emperor and a member of the Vietnamese royal family. Bao Dai had been propped up as a figurehead by the French prior to World War II, but he fled the country when the Japanese invaded. So when election time came in October 1955, the South Vietnamese people were asked to choose between Bao Dai and Diem for the leadership of the country. Lansdale suggested that Diem have the election commission provide two ballots, a red one for those voting for Diem and a green one for those voting for Bao Dai. Lansdale made this suggestion because of the Vietnamese belief that red signified good luck while green indicated bad fortune—just another small way in which he could help influence the result.

During the voting process, Diem supporters dominated the polling places. Some voters claimed they were told to put the red ballots in envelopes and to throw the green ballots away. There was also violence against Bao Dai voters. Basically, the election was held under third-world conditions. Lansdale believed he had to consolidate power quickly because he thought it was only a matter of time before the Communists would resort to open warfare.

With the results never in doubt, Diem told Lansdale and US officials that he’d won 98.2 % of the vote. Lansdale warned him these figures would not be believed and suggested he publish a figure of around 70 %. Diem refused, as the Americans predicted, since he used the higher figures, it was the beginning of mistrust of his administration from the very beginning.

Lansdale’s next assignment was to train the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) in modern fighting methods. In May 1956, the US sent 350 military advisors, which was a direct violation of the Geneva Accords.

The Geneva Peace Conference Accords called for talks to begin between the two Vietnams in July 1956 to set forth plans for elections late the following year to unify the divided country. Diem refused to comply. The US knew Diem was so unpopular that he had no chance of being elected against Ho Chi Minh. As a result, the US had to scramble to come up with a solution to this imminent crisis.

So, long before the US officially joined the Vietnam conflict by sending troops, Lansdale and Conein were there stirring the pot.

Were you aware of this part of world history? Do you think these things still go on today?

Vietnam and the Geneva Peace Conference

 

In July 1954, after the Vietnamese victory at the battle of Dien Bien Phu, the Geneva Peace Conference convened. Those in attendance included delegations from the northern and southern sections of Vietnam, the United States, Communist China, French, British, and the Soviet Union. Great Britain and the Soviet Union acted as co-chairs of the Geneva Peace Conference, and the International Control Commission (ICC) was responsible for preparing progress reports and moderating issues as they arose. The success of the ICC’s work depended on the cooperation of the governments of North and South Vietnam.

Some important points were decided at the conference. Vietnam was to be divided into a northern and a southern section. The partition was to be in place for only two years, after which elections were to be held to reunite the country under one elected leader. North Vietnam’s capital was in Hanoi, while South Vietnam’s capital was in Saigon. The independent states of Cambodia and Laos were also established.

Another point from the conference was the agreement that  no foreign troops could enter Vietnam during the two-year period of division. Ho Chi Minh reluctantly signed off on the agreement, though he believed it cheated him out of the spoils of his victory over the French.

Zhou En-lai, Chairman Mao political “right-hand man” and the leader of the Chinese delegation, encouraged the division of Vietnam in an attempt to hold the burgeoning power of Vietnam in check. Keeping the Southeast Asian nations fragmented made them more susceptible to Chinese influence, thereby enabling the Chinese to increase their power and influence in the region. The Chinese remembered the lessons from their imperial past. However, neither the southern section of Vietnam nor the United States would sign the final conference agreement. Additionally, neither South Vietnam nor the US believed the French would stay in Vietnam until the elections, scheduled to be held no later than 1956. Though both the US and the new government of South Vietnam had refused to sign the Geneva agreements, the US declared it would “not use force to disturb the Geneva settlement.” Instead, it would seek “to achieve unity through free elections, supervised by the United Nations to ensure that they are conducted freely.”

China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) trained Vietnamese troops in China and provided military supplies, then moved two hundred thousand of their own troops to the Vietnamese border. This would be a key issue throughout the Vietnam Conflict

Meanwhile, Ho Chi Minh was unwilling to sit idly by while the peace conference accords played out. He wanted to take advantage of his momentum from the defeat of the French. He pushed communist ideology merged with a strong nationalism. He gathered a wide following in the North and formed guerilla groups, which would ultimately become the National Liberation Front (NLF), more commonly called Viet Cong, whose purpose was to reunite the country under communist rule.

The US did not sit on their hands either. They feared the spread of communism throughout southeast Asia (the Domino Theory—one falls to communism and they all fall), and knew both North Vietnamese and Communist China would try to push their influence on the South.

However, there were conflicts within the US government, as well as divisions within organizations. The CIA analysts, with an extensive working knowledge of Indochina, were aware that the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Army were not willing to do more than assist the French. Much of their concerns were based on US military studies which concluded that Indochina’s location and terrain were not suited for effective US military action. The Joint Chiefs concluded, “From the point of view of the United States, with reference to the Far East as a whole, Indochina is devoid of decisive military objectives, and the allocation of more than token US armed forces to the area would be a serious diversion of limited US capabilities.”

President Eisenhower had a different opinion than the Joint Chiefs. He did not believe the French would stay engaged in the region. Even when the Joint Chiefs of Staff advised the President that getting involved in Vietnam was devoid of decisive military objectives. However, Eisenhower maintained his belief in the Domino Theory and insisted the US couldn’t sit idly by while South Vietnam was overtaken by communists.

After the Geneva Peace Conference, the US government scrambled to develop a policy that would, at the least, save South Vietnam from the communists. Enter two of my favorite real people to write about: Colonel Edward G. Lansdale of the CIA, who would lead a team of agents; and Lieutenant Colonel Lucien Conein, a CIA agent in Saigon who was to begin a series of covert operations against North Vietnam. Lansdale and Conein had a flare that any author would love to exploit. An author doesn’t have to use hyperbole when writing about them—they are naturals for intrigue and drama. Lansdale has been a featured character in all of my novels thus far, and Conein appears in my Vietnam series.

When politicians meet to discuss how to implement “Communist Containment” it is often our servicemen and women who are put in harm’s way without winnable objectives. Containment with rules of engagement was never a friend to our service men and women.The situation is compounded when politicians try to micro-manage the conflict. As happened during the Vietnam era, our servicemen and women become Pawns—mere game pieces to be played by politicians.

Do you agree? Why or why not?

 

 

 

How did the United States get involved in Vietnam?

I would say most of you know the story of how the United States’ involvement in Vietnam ended. As Saigon fell on April 29 -30, 1975, US civilians followed instructions given in a booklet. The song “White Christmas” played over the US-based radio station, which signaled US civilians to  get to the American Embassy or other pre-determined location because the final evacuation was underway.  Most of us have seen pictures or videos of personnel fighting to get to the top of the US Embassy, where they boarded helicopters that delivered them to US Navy ships off-shore. There are pictures or videos of people fighting to climb over the Embassy gates the communists approached Saigon.

But how did the United States get involved in this far-away country that seemingly had little to do with our national security? In two words: “Domino Theory.” The Domino Theory, perpetuated by the Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and President Eisenhower, predicted that if Vietnam fell to the communists, most of the countries in the Far East—from Thailand to the Philippines—would also fall.

But let’s back up a little more. At the Cairo Conference in Egypt (November 22-26, 1943), U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Chinese Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek agreed on how to remove the Japanese from Indochina after winning the war in the Pacific. Generalissimo Chiang was given the title of “Supreme Commander of China” which included parts of Thailand and Indochina, which included Vietnam. It was agreed the Chinese Nationalist Army would disarm and remove the Japanese from the northern portion of Vietnam, while the British would liberate the southern portion.

Soon thereafter, Ho Chi Minh, a devout communist and the leader of the Viet Minh Underground fighting against the Japanese, asked France to return to Indochina to help remove the Chinese. Ho did not want the Chinese Nationalist Army in his country. Ho’s request to the French seemed strange, since Ho was loyal to both Stalin, the Secretary General of the Soviet Union, and Mao, Chairman of Communist China. However, President de Gaulle was quick to respond by sending forces to Indochina. In 1946, with the French forces in place, Ho Chi Minh asked Chiang Kai-shek to withdraw all of his troops. Chiang was in the midst of a vicious civil war with the communist Mao for control of mainland China, so he was glad to pull out—with the exception of a few divisions in the northern region. Moreover, the British were more interested in securing their former territories of India, Burma and Singapore, so soon after removing the Japanese, the British pulled out of the southern portion of Vietnam.

The French attempted not just to liberate Vietnam, but to re-establish the territory as it had been before World War II. However, the Vietnamese wanted none of that; they wanted their independence. According to historical records, in 1946, Ho Chi Minh wrote a letter to President Truman requesting support from the United States as an independent State. Truman never answered. Some historians say Truman wasn’t familiar with Ho Chi Minh, which was why he didn’t answer. I’ll not get into that debate here.

Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh, which had fought the Japanese throughout World War II, were very proficient at jungle fighting. The French struggled to fight the Viet Minh, and, in 1954 at the battle of Diem Bien Phu, the French were defeated and pulled out of Indochina.

Immediately, the United States moved in to take their place because of the “Domino Theory.” For the next fifteen years, President de Gaulle accused the United States of undermining their efforts in Indochina for the sole purposes of taking over the territory for themselves, which was never the goal of the United States.

So the United States officially entered Vietnam in 1954—even though the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a precursor of the CIA, had been in Indochina since the beginning of World War II.

How many of you knew this background story?

Vietnam Conflict Series

I have not written a blog in a while, as my time has been split between my day job and working on my novels. But I need to catch everyone up on my latest project—a novel that features the Vietnam Conflict.

What got me started?

About ten years ago, I saw a bumper sticker that read, “When I left Vietnam, we were winning.” Wow. When was that? I don’t remember anyone ever saying that. It caused me to reflect back to that time. Was there really a time when we were winning in Vietnam?

Not long after that, the traveling version of the Vietnam Wall came to Parkersburg, then my home town. I made a point to see it. Why? My parents were friends with a family whose son was killed in Vietnam in 1965. I was still a kid—I didn’t understand. But now that I was older and wiser, I wanted to find his name on the Wall. I didn’t know him, don’t remember even meeting him, but I wanted to find his name. The Wall was so massive, I quickly realized I couldn’t easily find it, so I went to the information tent to ask which panel I should scan. Well, when I mentioned his name, a woman there turned around and asked me how I knew this soldier. After telling her, she admitted to me she thought they would get married some day. I’ve often heard there’s no such thing as a coincidence, and that may be true.  I am convinced I was supposed to meet that woman to bolster my intrigue.

After finding his name, I felt compelled to find out how he’d been KIA (Killed in Action). So, like any normal person, I went to the World Wide Web and looked for his military death record. No record. Weird. A family member at the time was a high ranking officer in the military, so I asked her to see if she could find out anything. Nothing. Only the acknowledgement “KIA.” Now, that was really weird. I found stories about his death in two different newspapers from two different cities. One was from the city in which he grew up—Parkersburg, West Virginia—and the other from the city in which he had last resided—Columbia, South Carolina. Which creates another coincidence, since these are also the cities in which  I grew up and in which I currently live.  But neither newspaper story mentioned where he had died other than “in action.”

Later, I was able to find out that this soldier, a captain in the Army, was killed by a shrapnel from a roadside explosive device, but I still couldn’t find out where.  So, I still sit here today and ask how was a captain killed in early 1965—before the Marine landing later that year—by a roadside explosive device, not have a location of death? I can’t do a Paul Harvey “and now you know the rest of the story” here, because I don’t know the answers myself.

As I have talked to other people, I’ve discovered the records of many who served in Vietnam have been purged of the locations in which they served. In some cases, it has prevented them from receiving treatment from VA hospitals.

All of these events have pushed me into wanting to write something positive about what our troops went through in Vietnam—and not only give some positive coverage to our troops, but delve into why the United States even got involved in Vietnam.  Once I finish this novel, I promise you will learn things about the “real history of the world; what we weren’t taught in school”—particularly about this conflict.

If you or someone you know has a story about the Vietnam era you’d like to share with me, please do. I’d love to hear your stories. Thank you.

September 11, 1941

On Sunday, September 11, the United States memorialized those who died and honored those who fought to save the survivors of the terrorist attack on US soil. Many stories were told on the fifteenth anniversary of that horrible day, on which we, as a country, promised to “Never Forget.” Many don’t know that Sunday was also the seventy-fifth anniversary of another event in the history of the United States: On September 11, 1941, in Des Moines, Iowa, the legendary  flying ace Charles A. Lindbergh spoke at the America First Committee Rally against the effort by the Roosevelt Administration to take the United States into the European War.Silhouette fedora

After the death of their baby son and the subsequent “Trial of the Century” (before the O.J. Simpson trial supplanted it), the Lindberghs moved from New Jersey to Liverpool, England to avoid the media frenzy surrounding Charles and his family. Lindbergh and his wife realized while living Europe the evils of communism, and Charles became enamored with the Nazi Germany politics, including their white-race superiority, but particularly their aviation program. Lindbergh said, “Europe, and the entire world, is fortunate that a Nazi Germany lies, at present, between Communistic Russia and a demoralized France. With the extremes of government which now exist, it is more desirable than ever to keep any one of them from sweeping over Europe. But if the choice must be made it cannot be Communism.” Lindbergh believed that the Germans seemed “to have a sincere desire for friendly relations with the United States, but of course that is much less vital to them.”[1] His commentary did not end there, as Lindbergh made several inflammatory speeches and remarks about the heritage of the White European Race and the need to keep it pure.

In the early 1940s, Lindbergh became the figurehead of the America First Committee, which was anti-war. This put him at odds with the Roosevelt Administration, and the FBI began watching Charles Lindbergh. President Roosevelt was desperate to help his friend, Prime Minister Winston Churchill of England, in their war effort against the Nazis. Lindbergh’s hero status kept the United States divided over the effort to enter the European War.

On September 11, 1941, Lindbergh gave one of his most controversial speeches in Des Moines. He stated, “The three most important groups who have been pressing this country toward war are the British, the Jewish, and the Roosevelt administration. Behind these groups, but of lesser importance, are a number of capitalists, Anglophiles, and intellectuals who believe that their future, and the future of mankind, depends upon the domination of the British Empire. . . . These war agitators comprise only a small minority of our people, but they control a tremendous influence. . . . It is not difficult to understand why Jewish people desire the overthrow of Nazi Germany. . . . But no person of honesty and vision can look on their pro-war policy here today without seeing the dangers involved in such a policy, both for us and for them. Instead of agitating for war, the Jewish groups in this country should be opposing it in every possible way, for they will be among the first to feel its consequences.”[2]

How large was the America First anti-war movement? It was so big that car-maker Henry Ford was a major supporter. The anti-war movement grew to an estimated 450 chapters with over 800,000 vocal members throughout the WP_20150308_001country.

As I chronicled in a previous blog, President Roosevelt withheld vital information from the American Public regarding the Japanese plan to attack the United States so that the US would be surprised by the attack. Roosevelt correctly believed the “surprise attack” would swing the public sentiment to enter the war. So effective was Roosevelt’s plan that, several days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the America First Committee disbanded. However, this did not stop Charles Lindbergh from publicly speaking ten days after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, when he said, “There is only one danger in the world—that is the yellow danger. China and Japan are really bound together against the white race. There could only have been one efficient weapon against this alliance . . . Germany. . . . The ideal setup would have been to have Germany take over Poland and Russia, in collaboration with the British, as a block against the yellow people and Bolshevism. But instead, the British and the fools in Washington had to interfere. The British envied the Germans and wanted to rule the world forever. Britain is the real cause of all the trouble in the world today.”[3]

As World War II progressed, Lindbergh tried to get recommissioned in the US Army Air Force, but was denied for obvious reasons. Instead, Lindbergh decided to serve by becoming a part of a private company that fought in the Pacific Theater against the Japanese.

Despite Lindbergh’s racism, he recognized the evils of communism much clearer than the Roosevelt Administration, which was willing to work with the Soviet Union. Because Charles Lindbergh was a brilliant aviator with tremendous engineering insight, he resurrected his career. United States authorities overlooked his vocal positions on the Nazis and his racism, and they enlisted him in the Cold War against the Soviet Union.

In school and on TV today we are taught that Charles Lindbergh was the first man to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, but did you know this other piece of his life story? This history underscores yet another point: The United States population has never completely agreed upon critical issues that determine the fate of our country, dating all the way back to the founding of our country.

[1] Spartacus-Educational Website

[2] Spartacus-Educational Website

[3] Spartacus-Educational Website

Japan Surrenders to End World War II

On Sunday, September 2, 1945, the Japanese Government formally surrendered on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri. The United States was represented by General Douglas MacArthur, while the Japanese government was represented by Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu, and their military was represented by General Yoshijiro Umezu.

Over the final months of World War II, President Truman decided to follow Roosevelt’s plan for reclaiming the defeated Axis Powers, which included sending General Douglas MacArthur to Japan to oversee all developments. This was a difficult decision for Truman, because he had a deep personal dislike for MacArthur. However, Truman believed MacArthur’s selection to be the Supreme Commander of Allied Powers (SCAP) of Japan would be widely accepted in the US, due to his popularity. Therefore, with MacArthur in place, he took a hands-off approach regarding decisions in Japan. The real story was that Truman had as much as he could handle with Europe and the Soviet Union. This action was paramount, as one of Truman’s most important accomplishments was keeping the Soviet Communists out of Japan, which was an everlasting benefit to Japan and the world.Silhouette fedora

At the Potsdam Conference, a declaration was signed by President Truman, British Prime Minister Churchill and Chinese President Chiang, below are some of the key points that Japan had to accept:

  • “The time has come for Japan to decide whether she will continue to be controlled by those self-willed militaristic advisers whose unintelligent calculations have brought the Empire of Japan to the threshold of annihilation, or whether she will follow the path of reason.
  • “There must be eliminated for all time the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest, for we insist that a new order of peace, security and justice will be impossible until irresponsible militarism is driven from the world.
  • “Until such a new order is established and until there is convincing proof that Japan’s war-making power is destroyed, points in Japanese territory to be designated by the Allies shall be occupied to secure the achievement of the basic objectives we are here setting forth.
  • “The Japanese military forces, after being completely disarmed, shall be permitted to return to their homes with the opportunity to lead peaceful and productive lives.
  • “We do not intend that the Japanese shall be enslaved as a race or destroyed as a nation, but stern justice shall be meted out to all war criminals, including those who have visited cruelties upon our prisoners. The Japanese Government shall remove all obstacles to the revival and strengthening of democratic tendencies among the Japanese people. Freedom of speech, of religion, and of thought, as well as respect for the fundamental human rights shall be established.
  • “Japan shall be permitted to maintain such industries as will sustain her economy and permit the exaction of just reparations in kind, but not those which would enable her to re-arm for war. To this end, access to, as distinguished from control of, raw materials shall be permitted. Eventual Japanese, participation in world trade relations shall be permitted.
  • “The occupying forces of the Allies shall be withdrawn from Japan as soon as these objectives have been accomplished and there has been established in accordance with the freely expressed will of the Japanese people a peacefully inclined and responsible government.
  • “We call upon the government of Japan to proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all.”

This quotation come from the Potsdam Conference Declaration and is referenced from the website  http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/war.term/093_03.html

These terms were acknowledged as accepted by the Emperor on behalf of the Japanese Government on August 14, 1945.

On August 30, MacArthur had arrived in Tokyo to begin to set up his occupation staff. MacArthur believed he was an not expert on Japan, so one of the first appointments MacArthur made was Frank Schuler, due to his long-standing knowledge of Japan. Schuler had worked in the U.S. Embassy before World War II, and then during the war, he served as a spy in the country. He probably had as much working knowledge of the Japanese as anyone on MacArthur’s staff. However, MacArthur relied heavily upon the advice of his Chief of Intelligence, Major General Charles A. Willoughby, who helped design the occupation plan, with the centerpiece of keeping the emperor in place.

Also on MacArthur’s team were Lieutenant General Robert Eichelberger and Brigadier General Courtney Whitney. Whitney was a lawyer and prepared most of the documentation for MacArthur to execute. Eichelberger was to be in charge of the Eighth Army and supervise the non-political occupation of Japan. MacArthur did not allow the Army’s Office of Strategic Services (OSS) to be involved in his operation; Willoughby was a one-man intelligence team. Although he was knowledgeable of the military conflict, he was not very well connected, thus he could not provide valuable intelligence. An example of this poor intelligence, MacArthur believed that Hirohito was so removed from society that he never used a telephone or delivered a public speech. It is my opinion that MacArthur never wanted the involvement of the Army’s OSS, and this was due to infiltration of communists within the highest levels of the OSS organization, and MacArthur—a control freak—could not control these individuals.MacArthur and Hirohito

The historic meeting between Hirohito and MacArthur came on the morning of September 27. Hirohito was dressed in striped trousers and a morning coat when he reluctantly entered reception room at the refurbished American Embassy. He handed his top hat to an aide and entered General Douglas MacArthur’s office. It was agreed that he should act submissive and humble. Accepting responsibility for the war, he offered to abdicate or do whatever else was necessary, which he did. Yet MacArthur informed him that the United States wanted him to stay in power. If ever a picture was worth a thousand words, it was the image of General MacArthur and Emperor Hirohito standing side by side during their historic first meeting. In it, a casually dressed MacArthur towers over the stiff, formally attired emperor. For millions of Japanese, it brought home in an entirely new way the notion that they had lost the war. Just that day, Hirohito had spent almost three hours discussing his own presentation to MacArthur. MacArthur quickly became very popular with the Japanese people, because the emperor answered to him. Clearly, that picture contributed to the situation.

At the point of surrender, it was up to the Emperor Hirohito and his advisers to keep as much of their Empire as possible, including its political and economic structure. Hirohito believed that, up until the surrender of Germany, they could negotiate to keep the Philippines. On the day, Japan officially surrendered to the United States, the Diet, the Japanese governing body, unofficially ordered that $10 billion US dollars in goods, including banknotes, must be given to key diplomats and elites (essentially their Zabatsu families), to hide from the United States’ occupying force. Paramount to all of their efforts was protection of the emperor’s family and keeping the war-crime prosecution to a minimum. Concurrently, Secretary of War Stimson, Japanese Ambassador Grew, General MacArthur, and General Marshall had to design a plan to keep the emperor, in order to enable the rapid evolution of the Japanese people and their economy. However, they agreed it must be done in such a way as to give Hirohito concern for his future. It is important to note that the United States position was counter to that of their Allies (the British and Australians), who believe that all Japanese who were responsible for the war, including Hirohito, should be punished. One of MacArthur’s main objectives was a peaceful occupation, as they had real concerns about the safety of the US occupying force.WP_20150308_001

On September 3, 1945, a historical event not readily discussed occurred when Yamashita surrendered in the mountains north of Baguio, Luzon, Philippines, under orders from the Japanese government. General Major A.S. “Jack” Kenworthy of the military police made the official arrest of Yamashita, furnished the security and an escort for him as he went down from Baguio to New Bilibid Prison. While this seems like a mere afterthought on the surface, there is much hidden in the surrender of the last full Japanese army unit. In the time period between the dropping of the two atomic bombs and the official surrender, the Japanese Golden Lily team had substantial amounts of gold still to be buried in the Philippines. It was up to Yamashita to continue his guerilla activity as long as possible, so that the gold could be buried. It’s important to note that the final burial was achieved just before the Japanese government advised Yamashita he could surrender.

This year, on the seventieth anniversary of such a monumental event, the news cycle was complete quiet. Why is that? Do you believe, as I do, that these largely unknown historic truths about the Japanese surrender should be discussed openly, even taught in our universities as part of our world’s history? Ask a friend if they’re aware of these facts. If not, I encourage you to share this essay with them. Don’t let our history be lost, like the stolen war gold still hidden somewhere in the mountains of the Philippines.

The Seventieth Anniversary of the Atomic Bomb

August 6, 2015, is the seventieth anniversary of the dropping of the first atom bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, which occurred per the order of United States President Harry S. Truman. Japan refused to surrender, so a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki three days later. World War II ended with that second bomb.

What you’ve just read is what we were taught in school and what we saw on television. The truth, however, is far from being that simple, and the decision-making process was much more stressful than the public was led to believe.Silhouette fedora

Over the past three years, I have been researching for my forthcoming novel about the Soviets spying on the Atomic Bomb Project at Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico. I’ve discovered that few people in the world know the whole story behind the use of the atomic bombs and the behind-the-scenes activities. Today, seventy years later, the United States remains the only country in the history of the world to use atomic weapons. I venture to say that those people believing the use weapons of mass destruction was wrong, would quickly change their minds, if they knew the whole truth.

In advance of the release of my fact-based novel (which by definition is fictional), I’d like to share with you a few snippets of absolute truth that will shed a brief ray of light on the jarring decision making process.

Truman wanted to drop the atomic bomb on a purely military target; however, few valuable targets remained as a result of the fire-bombing campaign. The fire-bomb raids inflicted heavier casualties than either of either atomic bombs, but it created the psychological effect of a single weapon of such explosive force.

The wheels on this locomotion of destruction began five months earlier in April of 1945. On the morning of April 12th, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made one last effort to smooth out his delicate relationship with Stalin, but that afternoon, Roosevelt died, and Vice President Harry S. Truman became President. Up to that point, Truman had rarely seen Roosevelt and was not fully briefed on the War, or on the pending problems with the Soviet Union, or—more importantly—on the Manhattan Project. Truman thus required full briefing as rapidly as possible.

April also brought the invasion of Okinawa, an island on Japan’s doorstep. After two months of bloody land fighting, the stage was set for invasion of Japan’s main islands.

Hirohito believed that the US would ultimately invade mainland Japan, in order to finish off his country. Hirohito planned to detonate two dirty bombs over MacArthur’s mainland invasion fleet; therefore, he prepared a defense plan that would inflict terrible loss on the US army. At this point, he believed the US would negotiate a conditional surrender of Japan.

Japan had purchased uranium from Germany, which was being shipped in a German submarine that left Norway for Japan on April 15, 1945. When Germany surrendered on May 14th, the submarine turned and went to New Hampshire, where it surrendered all of its raw materials and data. Japan believed that, if they had surrendered first, they might have had a better political position for conditional submission. But now the US was ready to finish off Japan and would take nothing less than unconditional surrender. Despite the destruction of most of Japan’s war industry, on June 9, Japanese Premier Suzuki announced that Japan would fight to the very end, rather than accept unconditional surrender.

At the Potsdam Conference, principal allies the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain met to discuss, among other things, ending the war. The chief representatives were President Truman, Premier Stalin, former Prime Minister Churchill, and newly elected Prime Minister Clement Attlee. While there, they formulated the invasion plan for Japan. Part of the invading army would include US Troops, plus Russian and Chinese troops. Naturally, this terrified the Japanese, who feared the ruthlessness of the the Russians and the Chinese, whom they had treated horrifically.

Truman was still at the Potsdam Conference when he received results of the atomic bomb test. He talked at length about the bomb with Churchill and General Eisenhower. Truman did not particular trust nor like Stalin and only mentioned that he had a new weapon that was very destructive. Stalin acted uninterested and replied that he hoped it would finish off the Japanese. My research shows that Stalin was already aware of process by his spies in New York and Los Alamos of the results of the test.

On August 8, Japan tried to persuade the Soviets to mediate surrender negotiations. Soviet Diplomat Molotov canceled the meeting with the Japanese. Because of this, President Truman believed he must move fast, with the likelihood of the Soviets entering the Pacific War to spread Communism. Thus, Hoover decided to drop the second bomb.

August 9th, Stalin announced that the Soviet Union would enter the war against Japan. Simultaneously, the Soviet forces invaded Manchuria and North Korea. That same night, Hirohito met with key staff members to discuss viable options. The morning of August 10, a diplomatic note was sent to Sweden and Switzerland, declaring Japanese surrender under one condition: Hirohito must remain in power.

What was unknown to but a select few US personnel was that the next atomic bomb would not be ready until about August 21st. Secretary of State George Marshall and General Leslie Groves believed two bombs would move the Japanese to surrender. On August 13, Major General John Hull telephoned an officer at The Manhattan Project on behalf of General Marshall, saying that the chief of staff wanted all future bombs reserved for tactical use in Operation Olympic, the invasion of Japan. The Manhattan Project officer estimated that seven bombs would be ready. Seven!

At noon on August 14, in Washington, DC, President Truman met with the Duke of Windsor and British Ambassador John Balfour and told them that the latest Japanese message indicated no acceptance of the surrender terms. He had no alternative but to order the dropping of an atomic bomb on Tokyo. Fortunately, at 4:05 p.m. local time, he learned that the Japanese had indeed surrendered.

On August 14, Emperor Hirohito announced to the people of Japan that they had accepted the Allies’ unconditional surrender. He was afraid that soon the US would use this new weapon on Tokyo. Later in the day, Hirohito contemplated two choices; the first his ritual suicide, and the second to resign in total humiliation.

President Truman saved many US soldier’s lives, as well as the lives of many Japanese. Some believe that he also prevented expansion of Communism into Asia, as well.

Atomic scientists then believed that the ground would be safe to walk on one hour after detonation of the a-bomb. Of course, we now know this is far from the truth, and that the far-reaching fallout of those mushroom clouds exists still today, as evidenced in the abnormally high cancer rate of those exposed to atomic radiation.

I never expected to discover these shocking—even harrowing—facts when I began researching this history that I believed I knew rather well. Digging deep to uncover little-known truths is a writer’s job, however, even when writing fiction. Did it surprise you, as it did me, to learn these facts? Or were you taught these events unadulterated? In light of this information, has your opinion of the incidents changed, and if so, how?WP_20150308_001

I’m interested your opinions! Please share with me in the comment section below any thoughts you may have. Who knows? Something you say, or a question you ask, might influence my forthcoming novel. If so, I’ll be sure to thank you in my acknowledgments!

 

 

Blaze Starr, One of a Kind Lady

This is not an obituary for Blaze Starr. On June 15, 2015, Fannie Belle Fleming passed away in Wilsondale, West Virginia. Why did the death of Fannie Belle Fleming, aka Blaze Starr, an elderly lady from Wayne County, West Virginia, catch my attention?

I am writing a series of books on the Vietnam Conflict; how and why it started, through how and why it ended. My first book begins just before the escalation of the Vietnam Conflict in early 1963. It focuses on the coup and death of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, followed immediately by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. So what is the connection? While reading DailyMail.com, a headline caught my attention: “Famed burlesque dancer Blaze Starr who said she slept with JFK and whose affair with a Governor was turned into a film starring Paul Newman dies aged 83.”

Fannie Belle Fleming , a buxom, fiery redhead, left her home in West Virginia and traveled to Washington DC seeking work. Soon she became a burlesque dancer (the term of the day for a stripper), using the stage name Blaze Starr, while working in a club in Baltimore, MD. Blaze Starr became famous, or should we say infamous, because of her affair with Louisiana Governor Earl K. Long. There was much more to her story, however. What caught my attention in the title of the article was her claim of having a sexual encounter with John F. Kennedy, before he became President. I investigated further. This was one more woman to add to my research of the late President Kennedy. His affairs with women were much, much more prevalent than I previously thought; ranging from Hollywood stars to foreign harlots.

Some of President Kennedy’s various dalliances caused concern within the FBI and the CIA, as they wondered if he was potentially breaching national security. At some point during my research, I became overwhelmed by Kennedy’s extra-marital relationships. Which of the many affairs should I include in my story, and which should leave out? I didn’t want the focus to be on the President’s flings, but on his role in the Vietnam Conflict. Yet, might one have influenced the other?WP_20150308_001

In my soon-to-be-released historical thriller, I focused on only one of the women; otherwise, the many affairs would have distracted from the plot and objective of my series of books, which is to focus on how Vietnam became a conflict without a focused mission.

According to Blaze Starr, she met Massachusetts Congressman Kennedy in 1954, after he was married to Jacqueline. He liked to frequent her burlesque shows in a Maryland club. Then one night, after her relationship started with Governor Long, he brought Starr to the Roosevelt Hotel. There he introduced John Kennedy and Jacqueline. Both Starr and Kennedy acted as though they had never met. Starr claims that Jacqueline left, and Earl was someplace else when she and Kennedy slipped into a closet and had a quickie. Starr claimed to have several “meet and greets” with John Kennedy; however, the most interesting of their encounters was one that didn’t take place. . . .

Blaze Starr went to the White House in October 1962. She was going to have a liaison with Kennedy in the Lincoln Room, when the Cuban Missile Crisis began. She had to leave before there were any launches. Starr blamed Khrushchev for interrupting her fling!

One important thing was never written about Blaze Starr: she never forgot where she came from or how she grew up. A local West Virginian told me that, on many a Christmas, Starr would return to Southern West Virginia, go to the local hardware store (essentially a general store), buy a pickup truckload of toys, and distribute them to underprivileged children in the area. When Blaze was no longer able to show off her wares, she began a second career as a stonecutter, selling small jewels. When she retired, she returned to the small town in West Virginia where she grew up, which is where she died.