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Hanoi's Road to the Vietnam War, 1954-1965

Hanoi's Road to the Vietnam War, 1954-1965

Pierre Asselin
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Hanoi's Road to the Vietnam War, 1954-1965
    Book Description:

    Hanoi's Road to the Vietnam War opens in 1954 with the signing of the Geneva accords that ended the eight-year-long Franco-Indochinese War and created two Vietnams. In agreeing to the accords, Ho Chi Minh and other leaders of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam anticipated a new period of peace leading to national reunification under their rule; they never imagined that within a decade they would be engaged in an even bigger feud with the United States. Basing his work on new and largely inaccessible Vietnamese materials as well as French, British, Canadian, and American documents, Pierre Asselin explores the communist path to war. Specifically, he examines the internal debates and other elements that shaped Hanoi's revolutionary strategy in the decade preceding U.S. military intervention, and resulting domestic and foreign programs. Without exonerating Washington for its role in the advent of hostilities in 1965, Hanoi's Road to the Vietnam War demonstrates that those who directed the effort against the United States and its allies in Saigon were at least equally responsible for creating the circumstances that culminated in arguably the most tragic conflict of the Cold War era.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95655-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Maps
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Christopher Goscha and Fredrik Logevall

    The literature on the Second Indochina War is large and growing larger. Until recently, however, the literature suffered from a U.S.-centric focus and a tendency to look solely at decision-making in Washington. To paraphrase historian Gaddis Smith’s classic description of Cold War historiography, it was the history of “one hand clapping.” Too few studies placed U.S. policymaking into its wider international context; fewer still gave a voice to the “other side,” the Vietnamese who fought so long and hard to defeat first the French and then the South Vietnamese government and its American allies.

    But the picture is changing, as...

    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-xix)
  7. MAPS
    (pp. xx-xxii)
  8. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    This study relates the evolution of the strategic thinking on national liberation and reunification of the communist leadership of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRVN) from the signing of the 1954 Geneva accords on Indochina to the onset of American military intervention in Vietnam in March 1965. It addresses that leadership’s gradual shift from a cautious approach centered on nonviolent political struggle to a risky, even reckless strategy predicated on major combat operations and decisive victory over enemy forces. In doing so, the study elucidates the origins of the conflict DRVN authorities called the “Anti-American Resistance for National Salvation,” which...

  9. 1 Choosing Peace, 1954–1956
    (pp. 11-43)

    By the summer of 1954, the world seemed slightly safer than it had been just a few months before, as a “hot” phase in the Cold War came to an end. The Korean and Indochina Wars had done much to increase tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union while marking the emergence of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as an ardent opponent of American “neo-imperialism” and a dynamic player in global politics. But the death of Stalin, the cease-fire in Korea, and the Geneva accords on Indochina offered some reprieve. Specifically, they presented Washington and Moscow with...

  10. 2 Changing Course, 1957–1959
    (pp. 44-71)

    It did not take long for Soviet-American relations to improve after Premier Khrushchev professed his commitment to peaceful coexistence in early 1956. Within months, Moscow and Washington began cultural exchanges. The concomitant growing militarization of the Cold War and lingering differences over the fate of Germany challenged superpower détente but did not derail it. In fact, in 1959 U.S. vice president Richard Nixon visited Moscow, and shortly thereafter, Khrushchev himself reciprocated with a goodwill tour of the United States during which he engaged in constructive dialogue with Eisenhower.

    Moscow’s overtures to Washington contributed to the precipitous decline of Sino-Soviet relations...

  11. 3 Treading Cautiously, 1960
    (pp. 72-90)

    East-West détente suffered a major setback in May 1960 after a U.S. spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union. The so-called U-2 incident affronted Moscow, embarrassed Washington, and derailed a summit between Khrushchev and Eisenhower. But that did not end Sino-Soviet contention, as Khrushchev refused to give up on peaceful coexistence. In fact, relations between Moscow and Beijing took a turn for the worse after the Soviets recalled all their experts from China and drastically cut military and other aid to the PRC in an apparent attempt to sow discord in CCP ranks and pressure Mao into adopting...

  12. 4 Buying Time, 1961
    (pp. 91-117)

    The year 1961 witnessed a dramatic escalation of Cold War tensions. After severing relations with Havana following the Cuban revolution of 1959, the administration of U.S. president John F. Kennedy sanctioned a failed invasion of that country, prompting Fidel Castro to declare himself a Marxist-Leninist and align with Moscow. Stern warnings from Washington against Soviet interference in Congo preceded an abortive Kennedy-Khrushchev summit in Vienna and the placement of U.S. nuclear-tipped missiles in Turkey, within striking distance of Moscow. Another crisis erupted over Berlin after Moscow issued a new ultimatum calling for the withdrawal of U.S. and allied armed forces...

  13. Images
    (pp. None)
  14. 5 Exploring Neutralization, 1962
    (pp. 118-144)

    During the first half of 1962, the cessation of hostilities in Algeria, the recognition of its independence by France, and the signing of a multilateral agreement neutralizing Laos suggested that a less troublesome era in global politics was about to begin. However, the brief but fierce Sino-Indian War soon highlighted the limits of Asian and Third World solidarity, while the Cuban missile crisis brought the United States and the Soviet Union to the brink of nuclear war and dealt a near-fatal blow to the prospect for East-West détente. By year’s end, the accords on Laos were unravelling. After a short-lived...

  15. 6 Choosing War, 1963
    (pp. 145-173)

    Moscow’s decisions to withdraw its missiles from Cuba—over Castro’s strong objections—and to join Washington in banning aboveground nuclear testing a few months later roused opponents of peaceful coexistence and polarized the socialist camp in 1963. In China, these decisions contributed to a further radicalization of domestic and foreign policy. The same year, a Buddhist crisis punctuated by the self-immolation of monks and the assassinations of Diem and his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu in a military coup turned South Vietnam into a flashpoint of the global Cold War. In the immediate aftermath of Kennedy’s assassination, his successor, Lyndon Johnson,...

  16. 7 Waging War, 1964
    (pp. 174-205)

    Nineteen sixty-four was a good year for Beijing. In January it normalized relations with France, elevating the PRC’s stature while sowing discord between Paris and Washington. In October, it detonated an atomic bomb, becoming only the fifth country to do so. With that step, Beijing gained not only international notoriety but also a guarantee against American military action in China. Days later, the Soviet Presidium ousted Mao’s nemesis, Nikita Khrushchev, from power. Khrushchev’s fall seemed to bode well for Sino-Soviet relations. As it turned out, Moscow’s foreign policy remained essentially unchanged thereafter, and Beijing was soon accusing the new Soviet...

  17. Epilogue
    (pp. 206-212)

    On 7 February 1965, elements of the PLAF attacked a U.S. Special Forces camp at Pleiku, in the Central Highlands, killing eight Americans and injuring more than one hundred others.¹ That was the last straw for Washington, its 5 August episode. The Johnson administration began sustained bombings of North Vietnam in early March and, days later, deployed combat troops to South Vietnam, at first to protect U.S. air bases, and eventually to “search [for] and destroy” enemy ground forces.²

    The sudden Americanization of the war and the bombings of the North distressed DRVN leaders, who had hoped Washington would keep...

  18. NOTES
    (pp. 213-290)
    (pp. 291-308)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 309-319)