Talk:Vietnam War/Archive 2

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Definition and title

Please see the earlier discussion on this topic in order to understand the context of these comments.


If it hasn't already been pointed out in the above extremely long page, I'd like to point out that the opening sentence is unacceptable. Obviously, letting one of the parties to the war define it violates neutrality. Peter Jackson 11:37, 18 November 2008 (UTC)

Peter, I agree. Please look back a few months when this was a single massive article, by an author that was insistent — and explicit on presenting things from a U.S., not even South Vietnamese, perspective. The major effort toward neutrality, for both practical and personality reasons, first consisted of breaking up the main article into manageable subarticles, and working on neutrality there.
This individual is no longer involved, and it is quite appropriate to look for a more neutral introduction, as well as still pulling out some of the later and less neutral text into subarticles. If my citing of Moore and Galloway in the Vietnamese museum doesn't exemplify there are multiple views, I don't know what can. Sooner or later, it will be necessary to come to consensus on a better set of names, certainly for the major phases, and possibly the articles as a whole. I can take Vietnamese military history back to the Trung sisters in the first century CE, but I'd prefer someone else work on the even earlier history in my sandbox. Such a person should read Vietnamese.
So, we agree there is a problem. I am perfectly open to a signficantly revised opening, and a controlled renaming of articles -- the comma-rich convention was idiosyncratic. Nevertheless, I would ask for close cooperation in renaming, so as not to break links. I probably know them better than anyone at this point, and I still make mistakes and lose text.
May I ask that you look at Battle of Ia Drang as something that I wrote, trying very hard to represent at least three standpoints: North Vietnamese, South Vietnamese, and American. I'm still working on obtaining some interview text, as, for example, not just the emotions but also the tactics of the PAVN at LZ X-ray.
I desperately want proposals, and there is so much to fix on the detailed level that I hope you have some time to make suggestions at the topmost level. If you get beyond the first sections, I think you'll see the subarticle structure and other text that provide the basis for more neutral writing. If you are interested, please help.
Please focus not on the old definition in this page, but on the more recent work in the main page. Howard C. Berkowitz 12:17, 18 November 2008 (UTC)

change to Intro

Existing lead:

Since there is a current state and government of Vietnam, with full diplomatic representation including participation in international organizations, the final authorities on the definition of Vietnam War would appear to be the Vietnamese. They tend to refer to the Wars (plural) of Vietnam, often referring to a period starting sometime after 1959 and extending to 1975 as the "American War". Considering actions in Laos and Cambodia also confuse the terminology; not all the fighting there bore directly on Vietnam or French Indochina.
Without trying to name the wars, the key timeline events in modern history are:

Proposed change to lead:

The Vietnam War is a term used to describe a series of conflicts that took place from 1959 to 1975, between South Vietnam, America and their allies, and the communist nations allied with North Vietnam. In the modern-day state of Vietnam the wars are often described in plural, or simply as the "American War".
The war in Vietnam was initially fought between South Vietnam (with non-mobile backing from America) and the communist North Vietnamese, later supported by its communist allies. America fully mobilised in 1964, but their advice and support, as well as covert operations, had been in place for several years. The military actions in Laos and Cambodia also complicate matters, as not all the fighting there bore directly on Vietnam or French Indochina. Americas involvement in the wars were part of an anti-communist policy called Containment, which was an early element of the Cold War.
Without naming the wars, the key timeline events in modern history are:

My only real issue with the lead as it stands is that it is not encyclopedic language, and could cover more in less space. I'm mainly trying to get a better format, rather than get the facts exact.--Matt Lewis 18:47, 8 December 2008 (UTC)

There's no problem in improving the language, as it is a difficult topic, with a title that inherently is ambiguous. If you accept the premise that the Vietnamese are the real authority on the wars of their area, however, one cannot limit the definition such that the war starts in 1959. At a very minimum, one has to go back at least to a declaration of independence in 1946, followed by the revolution against the French, and it's wise to go back to the French conquest in the 19th century. Since the Vietnamese themselves make a point, in their active museums and histories, to go through two millenia of fighting with the Chinese, the Wars (plural) go back, at least, to the Trung Sisters.
Not reading Vietnamese, I can't go much before that; there literally are too many dragons to track.
Now, I'm perfectly open to other wording that covers, at the very least, the modern wars, but I cannot see a lead that does not address the French colony, the resistance to it starting around 1930, and many things prior to 1959. Dien Bien Phu (1954) is as iconic to Vietnamese as Trafalgar and Waterloo are to Britons and French, Yorktown and Appomattox to Americans, or Tsushima Strait to Japanese.
I understand that you are focused on wording, but the proposed wording has substantial problems of fact unless the wars are seen as purely a sideshow of the Cold War. "Wars of Vietnam" would probably be a better title, but there is too much to change. Further, there really isn't a magic starting point in 1959, other than a decision by the North Vietnamese Politburo to change the means of achieving its existing political goals.
By the way, I am really delighted that you are reading this; I absolutely welcome collaboration, since I've spent a great deal of time trying to clean up previous material that was not amenable to collaboration. When I look at this article, I am reminded of the temperance delegation that called on Winston Churchill, to lecture him that they understood that all the brandy he drank during the Second World War would come up to (spot on wall). He pointed for confirmation, they nodded, and he muttered,

So little have we done, so much have we to do.

Howard C. Berkowitz 18:59, 8 December 2008 (UTC)

Not being an expert (I know broadly as much about 'Vietnam' as your average educated Brit - perhaps a little bit more), the above is possibly the limit on what I can do without a lot of further research (I don't really have the time here, alas). Is it possible for you to work on what I have written? I tried to convery Vietnam as a modern state which has its own definition of the war.
My main question would be; Are you happy with beginning "The Vietnam War is a term used to describe a series of conflicts that took place from 1959 to 1975,"? You could change “used” to "most commonly meant”. Could you add the additional periods to the lead?
The problem for me here could be the title (which you alude to) - to me "Vietnam war" conveys America (or the US, if that is better) fighting the Vietcong, and the Cold War in general. It is great to extend upon that definition, but as it is such a 'common name' I don't think we should lose site of the principal dates etc re North Vietnam.
If the way you are taking the article requires a name change, perhaps you might be best to instigate one? I have a personal idea of "core articles" in my mind, and I stopped at this subject I suppose, as I see it as one. --Matt Lewis 19:31, 8 December 2008 (UTC)
I apologize for the length of the reply, but I know no good way to make it simpler -- although I'm open to suggestions.
A name change would be good, but it's not something I'd like to take on without much discussion. By focusing on, for example, 1959-1975, it immediately brings up very different names from all sides — and there were more than two — which decidedly have a non-neutral flavor. There is a saying in the U.S., for example, that people from the North speak of the little disagreement between 1861 and 1865 as the "Civil War", the genteel sort in Virginia refer to the "Late Unpleasantness between the States", and the deep south may say "War of Yankee Aggression". We run into that problem now, with the usage of Iraq War versus Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.
To answer your direct question, I am not at all comfortable with "The Vietnam War is a term used to describe a series of conflicts that took place from 1959 to 1975," 1959 is a problematic starting date as it refers to a secret policy decision and start of logistical buildup, rather than combat. 1954 might be a little better, in that it does define conflict between North and South Vietnam, even at an ideological level. Alternatively, if one wants to include U.S. combat support, that could start in 1962, with direct combat in 1964.
""Vietnam war" conveys America (or the US, if that is better) fighting the Vietcong, and the Cold War in general." Yes, and it conveys that to many people — but exclusively in the West. Even "Vietcong" is a quite arguable term. To take a parallel from your side of the pond, consider the distinction between Sinn Fein and the IRA (let's not get into which IRA). Quite a few analysts suggest that an equivalent relationship existed between the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (NLF) and its fighting arm,the VC. Others argue that the NLF and VC were merely a sham for the North Vietnamese government. It is clear that the tanks that took Saigon in 1975 were not Viet Cong, but People's Army of Viet Nam (i.e., regular army of the North). The VC/NLF, for that matter, suffered immense casualties in 1968, and many of its surviving leaders were later purged by their "own side" because they were not part of the Northern decisionmaking structure. More complex than the situation on the Emerald Isle, however, is that no major external powers were involved between the British and Irish nationalists (of various flavors).
A real challenge here is whether we want to preserve "popular opinion", which often is an oversimplification, or convey the reality. Perhaps there is a brief way to state the "popular definition" in the introduction, and identify it as a Cold War oversimplification.
The immediate problem then becomes how to refer to what some call the Indochina War, certainly between 1946 and 1954, although many Vietnamese will take it back to the original resistance to French invasion, or to the nationalist fighting groups that formed during the Second World War.
I don't have a simple answer. May I ask you to look at the major subarticles covering time periods, and see if they make sense as titles? (e.g., Joint warfare in South Vietnam 1964-1968, Fall of South Vietnam). There are still problems with things that essentially were major parallel campaigns, such as ground operations in the South versus air operations outside the South. Howard C. Berkowitz 19:57, 8 December 2008 (UTC)
I'm big on main articles, with subs - some of the above seems to be about content perhaps? I must say I have to see Citizendium as a Western encycolpedia, which covers things as objectively as possible - but is written in English for an English-speaking West. Does CZ have policy on this? I do like Wikipedia’s four paragraph intro format - I often used to focus on improving intros at WP (always per the 'common reader' and 'encyclopedic language' guidelines). We don't have the info boxes here to help us categorise of course.
I think it is fair to say that "Vietnam War" is the commonly-used term for 1959-1975. I would suggest starting with that as a basis, and using sub articles and clever prose to cover everything surrounding it. If not, we simply have to change the name IMO - or it could be kind of deadlock re progress. Using Vietnam War (1959-1975) does not prevent us providing background to the period in the article (nor does any title). I don't mind that format at all – as long as Vietnam War redirects to it.
Points we could cover in an Intro of Vietnam War
  • Think about "see also" hatnotes. Cold War etc? (I always felt at Wikipedia that it needed the related articles at the top - CZ might do well to sort out a table-based system here).
  • Convey that Vietnam War is a commonly-used term, that has ambiguities and can cover broad picture.
  • Show commonly-used boundaries of term, and explain that it is more.
  • Define west/east point of view.
  • Explain parties involved.
  • Briefly cover the most significant events and aspects.
  • Have closing paragraph explaining legacy.
The above could stand whatever the title is.--Matt Lewis 20:49, 8 December 2008 (UTC)
As to Matt's point about this being a Western encyclopedia, for an English-speaking West, I don't think that is the policy. Without researching the exact wording, it is probably correct to say it is an English-language encyclopedia -- but not culturally or ideologically specific beyond that, indeed with a goal of not being culturally or ideologically based. The Neutrality Policy, as I understand it (pictures Larry hysterically laughing at me), says that the different views need to be covered. In this particular case, I can bring myself (laugh away, Larry) to cover pretty much all the views in a way that their holders might consider sympathetic, or at least understanding -- as well as showing their conflicts. Howard C. Berkowitz 21:37, 8 December 2008 (UTC)
Would the bulleted list of dates be a start for an index of subarticles? It still would need some introductory and explanatory text, such as the parties involved. Even "parties involved" gets complex, as I mentioned with the NLF/VC/PAVN/DRV factions, to say nothing of the French and VNQDD and Chinese and others. Only recently did I myself learn that a British force, in 1945, got French paratroopers out of prison and helped them overthrow a provisional government in the North. Howard C. Berkowitz 21:37, 8 December 2008 (UTC)
I certainly don't have an answer, or even a suggestion as to what should be done, but let me stick my nose in briefly to say that the lede para. is probably the worst one in all of CZ. I understand the difficulties involved, but this para. is just like a chat/discussion that should be on the Talk page. Nuke it, maybe, and start from scratch. Break the article is 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or however many it takes, maybe. Do *something* Or just move the whole article to Cold Storage.... Hayford Peirce 21:00, 8 December 2008 (UTC)

Nuclear weapons, no, not in Vietnam (although that's a subtopic)

[trying to keep indentation at a level my eyes can track]

Hayford, that is a nuclear strike to which I would not object. You know a fair bit of the background of the rewrite of what was here, and my chief goals were to introduce neutrality and make the article maintainable for just the sort of discussion going on at this point. One of my major concerns, which well might justify a change to the right name(s), whatever they may be, was to get it away from what an original author had called US-centric to something that actually captures not just aspects of the Cold War, but Asian-Western perspectives.

It can be fixed without going to Cold Storage. Fixing it will be a major job that needs collaboration. If this can't be put into usable form, it's going to be just as hard to deal with other things as complex as the Second World War or the Holocaust, neither of which are well organized. Note that I am not a serious American Civil War, War of Yankee Aggression, Late Unpleasantness between the States, etc., student, and will be happy to let others fight that one. (e.g., "just what do you mean that the South lost?")

I kept the title for continuity. Personally, I might prefer "Wars of Vietnam". There is a bulleted list of major dates that might, indeed, be turned into a table of major events. Most of the first-level headings could easily become standalone articles. There really, really isn't a single thing, even from a U.S. perspective, that can be called "the" Vietnam War. Those of us who remember the start of large-scale combat in 1964 were completely unaware that U.S., and U.S. backed forces, had been in active fighting for at least two years. Substantial U.S. training and support went back to 1955, although this was fairly systematically kept from the public and Congress. Incidentally, I don't necessarily disagree with some of the decisions made back then, at least from the perspectives of the decisionmakers, what they believed, and what they knew (and didn't know). Howard C. Berkowitz 21:37, 8 December 2008 (UTC)

I understand the difficulties. WP handles it by breaking it into First V. War, etc. As for 1964, seems to me that I was pretty aware of fighting having gone on for several years already. Maybe because I was of prime draft-age at the time.... Hayford Peirce 21:51, 8 December 2008 (UTC)

Background can always be given, whatever the title. How about:

Vietnam Wars (1959-1975)?

Other ideas:

Wars of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos

Wars of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos (1959-1975)

Second Indochina War

Second Indochina War (1959-1975)

Second Indochina War (Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos)

Cold Wars: Second Indochina War

Cold Wars: Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, etc

One concern is that without some confining dates, we may not be able to progress on the article - unless a suitable all-purpose title is found. Even then, covering too much could be hard to pull off. It's a bit like one of those 'classical' history books that are presented as a narrative (it currently even reads like that), but online encyclopedias don't really lend to that approach. --Matt Lewis 22:09, 8 December 2008 (UTC)

Matt, to the Vietnamese, it does read like a narrative. Whether or not we replicate that, I think it's valuable to get across, to a Western audience, that the key participants do think of it as a continuum. They actively celebrate the first century rebellion of the Two Trung Sisters. I don't think one can begin to understand Sino-Vietnamese relations — the Cold Warriors certainly didn't — unless one realizes how long the two sides have been fighting (and occasionally loving). I'm not talking about esoterica such as how Mao thought the General Offensive-General Uprising model was completely insane.
I would encourage using the bulleted list as a starting point, and perhaps turning it into a table with articles in it. Unfortunately, I don't know enough about table formatting to know if it would be possible to have merged cells that spanned date rows or columns, to deal with multiple names/emphases that covered some of the same years.
You may remember, Hayford, that a previous author involved in the first version was adamant about the title, and the US-centricity. At the time, the battle wasn't worth fighting. Perhaps even a graphic showing overlapping years and dates might help; I had to do something like that in the specialized area of communications intelligence in Vietnam; here's an example from National Security Agency and Southeast Asia, 1954-1961:
Significant events, 1959-1963. Hanyok is the source above the years and Gilbert below them.
"Ah, yes, I remember it (and him) well...." Hayford Peirce 22:45, 8 December 2008 (UTC)
This probably isn't the place to argue specific dates. To me, 1959-1975 doesn't make as much sense as either 1954-1975 (the whole active mess from partition), 1964-1972 (U.S. combat involvement), 1972-1975 (South Vietnam on its own), etc.
Again, I'm not wedded to any specific title as long as it's based on some reasonable set of events. "Scholars" don't always agree, and I see no reason to be drawn into unsolved academic debates. What I do suggest is looking at the list of bulleted dates and see if any consensus of periods drops out of them; yes, there is some stuff prior to 1945 that is not shown.Howard C. Berkowitz 22:38, 8 December 2008 (UTC)
I myself would probably go for Vietnam Wars, 1954-1975, since I think the article has to begin (at some point) when the French handed things over to Dopey Dwight (at least in that case) and Frozen (ideas) Foster.... Hayford Peirce 22:45, 8 December 2008 (UTC)
While that still doesn't cover other periods, it makes a great deal of sense. After all, until 1954, there wasn't officially (from a Western standpoint) a Vietnam. Even splitting into Vietnam Wars(plural) and Indochinese War(s) has good logic. 1972-1975 is also substantially different. Remember, I was in semi-stealth mode when A Certain Person was adamant about the title.
Speaking of Dopey Dwight, I was amazed to discover today that JFK actually was a better golfer. OTOH, my opinion of DDE has gone up over the years, still very aware of his flaws. His role in getting the wilder nuclear advocates under control in 1959 or so is little known; see SIOP and George Kistiakowsky. For that matter, he sat on Arthur Radford, who wanted the U.S. to use nuclear weapons at Dien Bien Phu, in the incredibly named Operation VULTURE. Howard C. Berkowitz 22:57, 8 December 2008 (UTC)
OK - Vietnam Wars, 1954-1975
Does anyone reading have thoughts on this? My only worry is that we are bringing background into the actual dates, and the war actually started in 1959. Is that setting a precedent that could run us into probelms elsewhere? Few wars come from nowhere! We can surely start with a sction called ==Background to the 1959 invasion (or whatever)== that covers all you want in a narative form. At some point this will have to be actually written. The existing background sections (which are hard to follow) can be used of course - they are perhaps even best amalgamated into one backround. Most histories I read give pre-focus backgrounds. I can put the timelines into a table, which could come after the intro, as they do now.-Matt Lewis 23:12, 8 December 2008 (UTC)
Speaking as someone with a fairly detailed knowledge of the subject, I'm going to have to raise a content point here. The "background" may seem confusing, but the background of many wars, especially ones with significant covert components, are confusing. Armies have whole departments, called maskirovka or deception, who have the job of making things confusing.
Rather than simply saying the material is generically hard to follow and needs to be redone, could you give some idea what specifically seems hard to follow? Perhaps some section needs to be clarified, but quite a bit of thought went into this structure, including "background to the background" that wasn't included -- maybe it needs to be.
Of the many years I'd say the "war" started, I definitely would not pick 1959. There was no "1959 invasion". That would be like saying that for the U.S., the Second World War started in 1940, because mobilization started. 1959 was the year in which the North Vietnamese Politburo made a midyear decision to start creating the logistics for the Ho Chi Minh trail, but the actual intensity of fighting did not especially increase in 1959. Yes, U.S. advisers went into Laos in 1959, but, again, the combat really didn't start being serious until 1961 or 1962, depending on geographic boundaries. In 1959, they were surveying the infiltration routes and starting to build roads and other infrastructure; the last thing the PAVN wanted to do was fight anyone during that time.
The 1954 partition did not mean there was immediate peace. Guerilla incidents, probably mostly from Southern enemies of the government acting independently of the North, were becoming significant from 1956 or so.
Could you explain why you think 1959 is a starting date? To me, it is a date that involves policy and planning, but those are not usually considered the starting points of wars. I rather deliberately picked "phase" dates when there was a change in the nature of fighting.
Obviously, someone is going to have to do the editing/rewriting/whatever, so the periods have to make sense for reasonable articles to be produced. Howard C. Berkowitz 23:24, 8 December 2008 (UTC)
The commonly-known 'starting dates' of wars often begin with the date of either clear declarations or decisive aggressions (like I have said, they never rarely start at any single point). Look at WW1 and WW2. History is taught in dates - and I must admit that you are starting to frustrate me just a little, as I am actually very flexible and pluralistic. I feel like I'm pushed to an opposing side regarding matters.
According to Wikipedia (pan it if you will, but I make no apologies about using it - it's a hell of a lot better than here, which has the same pretentions!): "Finally, in January 1959, the North's Central Committee issued a secret resolution authorizing an "armed struggle". This authorized the southern communist to begin large-scale operations against the South Vietnamese military. However, North Vietnam supplied troops and supplies in earnest, and the infiltration of men and weapons from the north began along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. In May, South Vietnam enacted Law 10/59, which made political violence punishable by death and property confiscation.[47]".
Wikipedia use the date 1959-1975, as do Encarta (it is in fact common in books, and is all over the web) - although Britannica uses 1954-1975, as does the BBC school site I notice - so that too is clearly a popular (more modern perhaps?) 'start date'. If you want to go from 1954, then by all means use that date. But remember that it is no good making demands and expecting others to do the work, or pushing them into corners either: you must go by that date. I'm not really here for this kind of debate - and I already explained that I'm not an expert here, so I shouldn't really have to do that twice. I came in here to help improve an utterly unencyclopedic intro, that few people in my eyes will respect reading, however nice it is to the Vietnamese!
If you want a narrative by all means have a narrative (I've suggested a way to do this), but I think it is silly to defend the current mutli-view section-based approach at the same time. The whole article is hard to follow - in my opinion it is consistently making an "Isn't this subject hard ot follow readers?!" point in the very language it uses. I haven't read it word for word (too hard), but I've run through it. It's got an identity crisis.--Matt Lewis 00:28, 9 December 2008 (UTC)

Indentation again

Gentlemen, I get the feeling that you got off to a rocky start based on a difficult decision. Why not start with something a little less obscure until you realize that you are both saying the same thing and then things might well be more enjoyable for everyone and we can work this article into something we can all be impressed with. D. Matt Innis 03:14, 9 December 2008 (UTC)

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more title discussion, but a completely different point

It seems hard to believe that no one apparently has brought this up before:

"Vietnam" is a noun. "Vietnamese" is an adjective.

Do we have articles about the "Korea War"? The "Spain-America War"? The "Mexico War"?

I think not.

Then why should we have an article (however named) about the "Vietnam War"? Simply because The Previous Contributor did it this way? If so, this is simply one more example of his wrong-headedness.

As the resident grammarian and curmudgeon, I am gonna insist that *whatever* the final form of the title, it uses the flippin' adjective in it and *not* the noun. Ie, the 'Vietnamese Wars of 1954-1975 or whatever.

Am I wrong about this? If so, specific details, please.... Hayford Peirce 19:09, 14 December 2008 (UTC)

I don't have a good answer for this because I've never given it any thought before. But, Hayford, you're right. The Vietnam War is (perhaps) grammatically incorrect and should be, like the others, the "Vietnamese War." However, I can see two reasons why this might not be acceptable. First, wars that the US wins should be grammatically correct; wars that the US loses, well, we don't like to talk about that so in those cases any grammar (however poor) will suffice. :) Second (and more seriously), colloquially this is what the war has come to be called. A quick survey of JSTOR shows little over 400 scholarly articles calling the event the "Vietnamese War" and over 16,000 scholars using the term "Vietnam War." It's like the "United States" itself. "The United States was involved in the Vietnam War" has become a grammatically correct sentence through usage (in spite of using a singular verb with a plural noun and using a noun to describe another noun). English is a gloriously consistent language, no? Jones 19:47, 14 December 2008 (UTC)
And, of course, we now have the "Iraq War", not the "Iraqi War". Sigh. I give up.... Hayford Peirce 20:10, 14 December 2008 (UTC)
Actually, it had been brought up in the discussions several months ago, and it was one of the many things the original author was insistent about. Yes, "Vietnam War" is commonly used, but at the time, actually doing research for the Army, we tended to say "War in Vietnam" or "The war".
If I had my choice here, I'd call this top-level article "Wars of Vietnam". That has, I believe, been used as a title for some scholarly works. I'd then, as I have it now, would focus on subarticles that characterize either periods of time, or aspects of the situation, such as the South Vietnamese coup du jour from 1963 to 1967, in other subordinate articles. Let there be a table or some structure for the links.
There certainly can be a redirect from Vietnam War, but, if one literally follows Larry's idea of neutrality policy, why isn't there an "American War", which is what you will find in museums in Hanoi? It's ironic that at the same time, the Vietnamese tend to be extremely welcoming of Americans who fought there.
I hope that anyone that thinks seriously about even the modern historical picture recognizes this didn't all magically start at the Gulf of Tonkin. I can easily trace some of the same key players, such as Ho and Giap, to 1930 or so, and it really is one continuous process to them. There was a quantum change in anticolonialism with the symbolic declaration of independence in 1946. One really can't separate the Viet Minh from the VC/NVA.
At the same time, there were definite qualitative and quantitative changes in the warfare at various stages of U.S. and non-U.S. involvement.
Again, if I were Emperor of the Universe, I'd remind people that you are talking about two millenia of conflict. It's not one war.. Ah. That felt better.
Hayford, can you live with Wars of Vietnam, with the various subarticles, and a redirect from "Vietnam War" Howard C. Berkowitz 22:06, 14 December 2008 (UTC)
Yes, I was going to suggest that myself. Although I think it might be more realistic to have Wars of Vietnam, 20th Century; Wars of Vietnam, Zero to 1899, etc. With a gazillion redirects.... Hayford Peirce 22:39, 14 December 2008 (UTC)
Alternatives would be: American-Vietnamese War; French-Vietnamese Wars; Chinese-Vietnamese Wars, etc.Hayford Peirce 22:39, 14 December 2008 (UTC)
Dates work reasonably well, although there typically was a key event in a given year that gives a "before" and "after", ending one period and starting another: 1946, 1954, 1964, and 1972 are such. There need to be a number of supporting articles; the Government of South Vietnam article covers a period of constant coups. Isn't it more Italian than French to have governments that last no more than 2 weeks? Howard C. Berkowitz 23:37, 14 December 2008 (UTC)
  • Howard, I like the idea of a macro-level article on the "Wars of Vietnam" that would put the many Vietnam/Vietnamese wars into a broad context and then linking to (not redirecting from) an article called the "Vietnam War." This is mostly what you've already accomplished here, starting at the heading French Indochina Background. Much of the article also remains at the high policy level (national politicians deciding national direction and military objectives); there is no ground-level description of the wars here. For instance, Dien Bien Phu is mentioned just once in passing. But this is okay, because such a ground-level description for this article would start mucking it. I'm not sure if there are sub-article narratives of the wars (I haven't looked at all the linked articles, yet), but I assume that a reader would get the nuts-and-bolts of the wars somewhere else. Also missing from this article is the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese War; and didn't Vietnam have something to do with the downfall of Pol Pot regime in Cambodia? A "Wars of Vietnam in the Twentieth Century" article should include those as well. I think that the work you're doing on this article is top-rate, and I appreciate the efforts you've been making. Thanks. Jones 23:47, 14 December 2008 (UTC)
Do see Dien Bien Phu, which is two levels down the hierarchy — yet with various lateral links to participants who were participants then (e.g., Van Tien Dung as well as the better-known Vo Nguyen Giap), and some are still active or at least available for interviews. There are compare-and-contrast, such as how Dien Bien Phu was like, and unlike, the Battle of Khe Sanh (I've never heard anyone say "Battle of" Dien Bien Phu, but often "Battle of" Khe Sanh). Khe Sanh, in turn, goes to some of speculative strategic thinking in General Offensive-General Uprising and (piped from a title I dislike) dau trinh.
Even with something like Dien Bien Phu in its own article, there's always the question of the level of detail. For example, one cannot understand how certain things happened without understanding how and where the Viet Minh artillery was emplaced, but I don't go over the order of the strongpoints falling. Actually, I don't remember if Gabrielle fell before Beatrice, and it has never been firmly established if each strongpoint was named for a mistress of the commander, BG de Castries.
I don't disagree that things didn't stop in 1975, but that was where the earlier articles stopped and I took it as an arbitrary point. Actually, I'm moving beyond 1975 more in the biographical and political articles, dealing in part with modern Vietnam, such as market reform and infrastructure development -- involving people who might have been platoon leaders at Dien Bien Phu.
We don't even have a basic article on Cambodia, so it's a challenge to deal with the interactions of the Vietnamese and the Chinese with the Khmer Rouge. In some CIA-related articles I haven't touched in a while, there is some material about the drug trade in Southeast Asia.
There's much interesting material about modern Vietnam that's falling out as well. Changing from my military to my epidemiological hat, there is immense respect, in infectious disease circles, for how proactive and cooperative the Vietnamese government has been regarding the various avian influenzas.
It is hard to write at this length almost all on the screen; when I've done books, there was a point that I needed lots of piles of paper. I'm sure there's unneeded duplication in some of the articles. Some things that I know are duplicated perhaps should be articles of their own, linked from several places. More eyes on this definitely help. Howard C. Berkowitz 00:11, 15 December 2008 (UTC)


So, yes, Howard, if you're looking for support for renaming this article, I think that a title such as the "Wars of Vietnam in the 20th Century" is more descriptive of the content that is currently here. Jones 23:50, 14 December 2008 (UTC)

We can probably get away with an article on the pre-20th century French conquest, although that bleeds into the 20th century. I do have a stub on the Trung Sisters. While I tried to go back to their original wars, the legendary descriptions were such that I got lost who was the offspring of a dragon, who was a shape-shifting dragon-human, and who was a fundamentalist dragon. Howard C. Berkowitz 00:11, 15 December 2008 (UTC)
We are close, I think. I assume there would be a "Wars of Vietnam" to cover the pre-20th century cases.
It's a nit, I realize, but the French invasion and colonization started in 1858, and there was warfare to resist it. Since the colonization extended from 1858 to 1954, there's no clean 20th century break. "Wars of Vietnam in the mid-19th century to Present" is silly, especially my handwaving about "present" since they still have assorted border conflicts [1].
I'm drawing a blank on a better name, but it should occur to someone. "Modern" wars sounds a bit patronizing.
While I just have a stub on Trung Sisters, it really is important to the Vietnamese that they've been fighting the Chinese, on and off, for two millenia. I'm not even going to touch the legends before the 1st Century CE. Since, however, one of the major U.S. reasons for intervention was fear that the Chinese would take over, to me, it's highly relevant that the Western policymakers didn't know enough Vietnamese history to suggest that it would be highly implausible they would not resist Chinese expansion.
It's actually sadly amusing -- NPR, a while back, interviewed a U.S. worker who lost his job to a Mexican plant, a Mexican worker who lost his job to China, and a Chinese official who was furious that jobs were being moved out of China and into Vietnam. It is rumored that some Vietnamese economic intelligence people are infiltrating the penguins to see if anything might get offshored to Antarctica.
Seriously, let's get this right. A simple redirect won't be adequate for the changes, because we'll need to keep "Vietnam War" to point to a sort-of-disambiguation-page. Lots of R-templates will also complain if they point to a redirect.
Well, in the section above I suggested French-Vietnamese Wars -- what's wrong with that? It's precise, and yet it covers the entire 94-year period in question.... Hayford Peirce 17:07, 15 December 2008 (UTC)

Alternate lead


Over two millenia of conflict, there was no one "Vietnam War", but rather many Wars of Vietnam. Since there is a current state and government of Vietnam, with full diplomatic representation including participation in international organizations, the final authorities on the definition of Vietnam War would appear to be the Vietnamese. They tend to refer to the Wars (plural) of Vietnam, often referring to a period starting sometime after 1959 and extending to 1975 as the "American War". Considering actions in Laos and Cambodia also confuse the terminology; not all the fighting there bore directly on Vietnam or French Indochina.

First pass:

Southeast Asia, and especially the area of Indochina, of which Vietnam was a major component, has known wars for two millenia, so it is inadequate to speak of a single Vietnam War. Nevertheless, for those in the West, the Wars of Vietnam clearly end with the forcible Vietnamese unification in 1975. From a U.S. standpoint, it may appear to have started in 1964 with overt combat, although there was earlier covert involvement. Another starting date is 1954, when North and South Vietnam were created after a revolutionary war against France. Some take it back to a declaration of independence in 1946, and others to the original French colonization in 1858. This article sets some background prior to the Second World War, and has numerous subsections that break out various time periods and their policy, political, and military aspects.

This is, in no way, perfect, but it's less essay-ish than the prior version, which was burdened with an argument against US-centric writing. Please hack at this and see if it can be improved; I'm too close to it right now. Howard C. Berkowitz 16:45, 15 December 2008 (UTC)

How about "Wars of Vietnam, 1858-1980"
"Since the French Colonization beginning in 1858, the region of Southeast Asia has seen many conflicts. Collectively, these conflicts can be called the Wars of Vietnam. These conflicts would include [earlier wars of which I am not familiar], the Japanese occupation during World War II, the French-Indochina War (1946-1954), the South Vietnamese Civil War (1957-1964), the Vietnam War (1965-1975), and the Sino-Vietnamese War (1979)." [Or whatever periodization you decide upon.]
I think every first paragraph of every article needs to hit the ground running. What is this article about? It is about the many conflicts in Vietnam since the beginning of French Colonization. The first paragraph should say as much. I think the discussion about "For those in the West" and "From the US standpoint" should be relegated to the talk page (from which it is my suspicion they originated). The first paragraph should resolve ambiguity, not contribute to it. Russell D. Jones 19:43, 15 December 2008 (UTC)
I agree with Russell 100% -- I was just trying to get the ball rolling. Hayford Peirce 19:48, 15 December 2008 (UTC)
Thanks, everyone. We are getting there. First, let me copy the latest version to match the names. I'm then going to take a second paragraph breaking down the "Vietnam War"; it's an open question if we say anything about it being "in the West". I can source that they call it the "American War" in Hanoi (well, I returned the book to the library so I can't do the page).
I am open to alternate wordings on the period. In fact, many of the names here are not the current titles of the articles in question; you can move your cursor over them or click to get the articles.
Beginning with French colonization in 1858 of the area generally called Indochina, that region of Southeast Asia has seen many bloody conflicts. Collectively they can be called the Wars of Vietnam. These wars stretched from the French colonial period, involving nationalist resistance, until events of the Second World War, the Indochinese revolution (1946-1954), the First Indochinese War (1954-1962), the involvement of outside forces in the to-be-named-Vietnam War (1962-1975), and the Sino-Vietnamese War (1979)."
During the First Indochinese War, North Vietnam made the policy decision, in 1959, to invade the South and surreptitiously began its preparations. U.S. advisers had been present in the South since 1955, but they began to accompany combat operations in 1962. to-be-named-Vietnam-War had several phases, beginning with the advisory buildup (1962-1964), the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964, the U.S. ground combat involvement (1964-1972), South Vietnam fighting its own ground war (1972-1975) until the fall of South Vietnam in 1975. Vietnam first invaded Cambodia in 1975 with varying levels of fighting until 1989, and, related to this fighting, China briefly invaded Vietnam in 1979, with tension remaining at the border.
Several notes here. Indochina and the Second World War, or "events of the Second World War", are awkward names, but something has to go back to 1936, which will surprise many Western readers, but if you consider the Manchurian Incident in 1931...well, consider how many Americans believe WWII started in 1941, not thinking of the German demonstrations of their great new driving machines in Poland and France. (There was, indeed, a Porsche tank, but it was an experiment only)
"First Indochinese War" actually does appear in some literature, although there's no universal designation. A very few writers call the conventional "Vietnam War" the "Second Indochinese War", but I've never like that.
I want to think about whether "Sino-Vietnamese War" covers the assorted China-Vietnam-Cambodia activities, and whether that is ambiguous given the many pre-French conflicts between China (under various forms and names) and Vietnam (under various forms and names).
Who knows -- maybe we will work out some conventions here that can help organize the Second World War. Howard C. Berkowitz 20:46, 15 December 2008 (UTC)
Looks good, Howard. Yeah, I had thought about throwing out the ideas of the First and Second French-IndoChina Wars, but I never liked the term "Second French Indo-China War" because by the time that (so-called) war happened "French Indo-China" no longer existed. I think what the Vietnamese call the "American War" should be called the "Vietnam War" here on CZ. I think it's just what people would expect it to be called. LOL on the bit about the Second World War; but you're doing all the leg-work here! Russell D. Jones 22:30, 15 December 2008 (UTC)
I'm very tempted to put in a redirect from "American War", and see what the reaction is from the right side of the pond..."What? Viet Cong ambushed us at Lexington and Concord? We were beaten by PAVN at New Orleans?" If I recall, and I have no idea of their designation today, the Green Jackets were the Royal American Regiment.
Well, WWII here is going to be a team effort if it's going to get done in any reasonable time here. (rolls eyes...if Donald Rumsfeld had read "Remedial How-to-Plan-an-Occupation", Chapter OPERATION RANKIN CASE C"). Given I don't know the level of your students, I was wondering what answer you would get on the first day, if you asked "when did the Second World War start?" I would give an A+ to anyone who answered "World War? Antarctica wasn't at all part, and it's hard to justify South America and subsaharan Africa."
Seriously, assuming there's a "Vietnam War" under "Wars of Vietnam, etc.", there remains the question of the names for some of the third-level subarticles. Do these work? (alternatives in parens)
Of course, there are all sorts of sub-branches. The battles are reasonable enough when hierarchical, but then there are assorted things such as Vietnam War ground technology, which goes to the more general air assault. There are at least three logical articles on air operations against the North, and ARC LIGHT needs its own -- but the general support in SVN can probably live within its own time periods.
There's always the question when to say "this is good enough for now", and try to start on WWII. Perhaps not strictly WWII, the Holocaust and the Nazi articles also have lots of problems. Gulf War, I think, is in reasonable shape, but I have no desire to get near Iran-Iraq War.
You've noticed we don't have a separate article, at all, for Afghanistan after 9/11? Howard C. Berkowitz 22:56, 15 December 2008 (UTC)

Anybody interested in Vietnam-China-Cambodia?

I realize I'm not even sure what to call it, other than (chastise me for it) discovering the Other Place uses Third Indochinese War. Is there anyone that would like to start this? I'm debating what to take on next.

This is, I suppose, beginning to sound like a workgroup discussion. Given I've tried to pay a good deal of attention to the politics, policies, and cultural aspect, this clearly isn't just "military history". In all fairness, one of the only decent collaborations at The Other Place is the Military History Project. At some point, if we can hit critical mass, perhaps a "subgroup" might be appropriate there. Howard C. Berkowitz 23:54, 15 December 2008 (UTC)

What did you do in the war, papa?

OK, Hayford. One of the things I worked on, during the war, were tactical personnel detectors, one of which was fairly effective, but not very selective. A lot of water buffaloes got bombed as a result.

So, the U.S. Army Night Vision Laboratory, at Fort Belvoir, started developing things that could be specific. They came up with a species of bedbug that sensed humans, and would start vibrating when a person got within about 5 feet. So, they came up with these little airdroppable capsules that had a radio transmitter that was activated whenever the bedbug started buzzing, and sent its position. It really did work.

When the lab presented it to the relevant general, it was rejected. He explained that no matter how well it worked, he would not subject any of his men being asked, decades later, "what did you do in the war, papa?" and have to answer "I was a bedbug wrangler."

Fiction just doesn't measure up to truth at times. Howard C. Berkowitz 00:51, 16 December 2008 (UTC)

Most Recent Introduction

Okay, I was bold and went ahead and inserted the new introduction. It seemed silly to keep editing the introduction on the talk page. Here's the most recent previous introduction. Russell D. Jones 00:54, 16 December 2008 (UTC)

Over two millenia of conflict, there was no one "Vietnam War", but rather many Wars of Vietnam. Since there is a current state and government of Vietnam, with full diplomatic representation including participation in international organizations, the final authorities on the definition of Vietnam War would appear to be the Vietnamese. They tend to refer to the Wars (plural) of Vietnam, often referring to a period starting sometime after 1959 and extending to 1975 as the "American War". Considering actions in Laos and Cambodia also confuse the terminology; not all the fighting there bore directly on Vietnam or French Indochina.

This top-level article is principally at the policy level. For articles detailing of the actual military actions, follow the links from the appropriate period below:

While some see a period in which fighting in Southeast Asia merely was a proxy for what many Westerners believe was an existential battle between Western and Communist ideology, this is a view external to that of Vietnam. The wars between 1946 and 1975, however, were clearly existential for the Vietnamese. Moyar, quoting Fredrik Logevall, writes of a "orthodox-revisionist split" about it being "axiomatic" that the U.S. was wrong to go to war in Vietnam, and suggests that the revisionist position is that the U.S. had a rational Cold War policy in committing to fight in Vietnam. [1] This ignores, however, the reality that whether their motivations were world-communist or purely nationalist, the Vietnamese were fighting. If this article were solely about the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, the argument might be compelling. It is, however, a trap to assume that the wars of Vietnam, beginning before Europeans set foot on the North American continent, are somehow dependent on the U.S. The U.S. involvement, of course, does involve the U.S., and there are subarticles here that deal specifically with that involvement.

Vietnamese drives for independence begin, at least, in the 1st century C.E., with the Trung Sisters' revolt against the Chinese; the citation here mentions the 1968th anniversary of their actions.[2] It cannot be strongly enough emphasized that the Vietnamese, as a people, live in a context of millenia of war. Individuals may have been fighting for decades, with no resolution in sight.

A useful perspective comes from retired U.S. lieutenant general Harold G. Moore (U.S. Army, retired) and journalist Joseph L. Galloway. Their book, We Were Soldiers once, and Young, as well as the movie made about the subject, part of the Battle of the Ia Drang, has been iconic, to many, of the American involvement. [3] Recently, they returned to their old battlefields and met with their old enemies, both sides seeking some closure. Some of their perspective may help.

Second Section

Is it important to have a debate about the perspective and naming of the article in the article itself? Couldn't this be its own article? It seems to go with the most recent previous introduction. Perhaps the two could be reunited as a separate debate-article on the nomenclature of the war? Russell D. Jones 00:57, 16 December 2008 (UTC)

For ...ahem... historical reasons here, there is far too much discussion of the naming. The part about the Museum in Hanoi, I believe, gives a good vignette of the other side, but my goal is simply to make it clear that there are multiple definitions of the war, and it wasn't as black-and-white as mass media make it. Howard C. Berkowitz 01:29, 16 December 2008 (UTC)
Fine, that's simply stated Russell D. Jones 02:06, 16 December 2008 (UTC)
Definitely get rid of the heading "Perspective and Naming", which I shall now do. I also took out the paragraph

Others discuss the Viet Minh resistance, in the colonial period, to the French and Japanese, and the successful Communist-backed overthrow of the post-partition southern government, as separate wars. Unfortunately for naming convenience, there is a gap between the end of French rule and the start of partition in 1954, and the Northern decision to commit to controlling the South in 1959. It also must be noted that there was a deliberate delay, for building up infrastructure, from that 1959 decision and the actual intensification of combat.

No, without someone digging in his heels, there's no reason to argue the naming, but rather to state the point that the different sides saw it in different ways, and it can't just be defined in Cold War terms. I also took out the last sentence of the previous next-to-last paragraph,and combined the paragraphs. Howard C. Berkowitz 01:29, 16 December 2008 (UTC)


Okay, now this is more like it should be. An introduction that gives an overview of the whole article. It's not too long, covers all the points raised in the article and then moves right into the content with "background." I like this. Russell D. Jones 02:09, 16 December 2008 (UTC)
Great. Thanks to everyone. The old scar tissue has been removed. It would be good to see if the rest of this top-level article is at about the right level. I'm still trying to decide the ending date for "Wars of Vietnam", or, given the history of the area, not close the account.
There is a delicate balance between having enough U.S. politics to explain the context of involvement here, as opposed to the more specific article, War, Vietnam, and the United States. In like manner, I don't know if I moved too much into Government of South Vietnam; I think it's important for a reader not just to take the conventional wisdom that the GVN wasn't a popular government, but that at times, governments were lasting less than a month.
I'm working on the 1972-1975 period now, and also filling in a certain amount of geography (e.g., where the major highways run). I'm not sure how much of that to do. Personally, I can visualize the general map, but there are times where I have to be reading while looking at a map. Someone new to the subject may just be overwhelmed by too many maps. Howard C. Berkowitz 02:22, 16 December 2008 (UTC)
Without going into any ad hominem attacks (Ghad forbid!), I wonder how many articles that an Omnipotent Writer/Editor (such as, without naming names, a certain H*w*rd, who shall remain nameless), if he had limitless time, could rewrite in a major way, articles that a nameless former professorial contributor wrote in CZ, sometimes in excruciating length? Hayford Peirce 03:28, 16 December 2008 (UTC)
Purely hypothetically, of course, that's a question that I keep asking myself. In mundane life, I'm not a great housekeeper, but some things absolutely need a good scrubbing, airing, and polishing. Whether I'm willing to take on WWII is a question I keep asking myself. I've nibbled at his edges, doing such things as writing radar to give background for the Battle of Britain, which I then wrote. Until I got stuck on some of the typography for equations, I even took up Aleta's challenge that something wasn't rocket science, and wrote rocket science.
To take on some of those tasks, should I first indulge in a h*m*p*th*c remedy, in a flavored ethanol solution carrying a bit of water that won't forget? Talisker flavoring, I think, or one of the older MacAllans. Howard C. Berkowitz 03:41, 16 December 2008 (UTC)
Some things in life need to be reduced to their essentials. Tomorrow I'll put in a nice quote by Roger Angell about Martinis into the martini article. It is apropos of a lot of stuff here.... (In the meantime, I think I still have a bottle of Talisker that someone gave me.) Hayford Peirce 04:17, 16 December 2008 (UTC)
So the utter essentials might be that a single dose of vermouth flavored gin is a Martinus, and an especially slim ballerina would wear a tu? Howard C. Berkowitz 04:28, 16 December 2008 (UTC)

Vietnam's Vietnam

First, I think the date range now should be 1858 to 1999. I've been digging into the post-1975 material, and the incidents among Vietnam, China, Cambodia, and Thailand just don't split on easy lines. Interestingly, the term Third Indochinese War is used quite a bit for this period. 1999 seems to be the date accepted for the last Khmer Rouge surrender; the starting date is a little blurry, as there was fighting between Khmer Rouge and Vietnamese Communists as early as 1973.

I must confess that I went into some giggling fits, reading about Vietnam going into Cambodia, and, for that matter, China into Vietnam, and thinking about all the legitimately wise observations of Vietnamese on really stupid U.S. assumptions. Apparently, they don't read their own writing. Cambodia became Vietnam's Vietnam, and on a lesser extent, Vietnam was China's Vietnam, both countries having committed many of the same errors as the U.S.

I've asked Larry if there's any stylistic preference, but what is the feeling about:

  • Wars of Vietnam (1858-1999)
  • Wars of Vietnam from 1858 to 1999

Whatever convention that is adopted here needs to be applied to other titles that contain dates; Joint warfare in South Vietnam 1964-1968 is just not intuitive although it now has redirects.

As well as the giggles over Vietnam's Vietnam, if anyone is feeling masochistic, go keep track of the assorted Nguyens in Tet Offensive#Hue. Eventually, I had to draw a little chart.

If anyone would like to take on the pre-1858 wars, I have material in my sandbox, but I came to the conclusion that I definitely didn't have the references available for much of that period, other than the Trung Sisters.

Anyway, there is a lot of filling in of details to do, but I'd appreciate it if everyone would look at the first-level headings in this article, as well as the names given to the articles to which they link. It will be painful enough to change all the references to Vietnam War, but if I don't, the Related Articles pages will be very ugly since the R-templates dislike redirects. I think there is a logical flow and the article names make sense, although I'm not wedded to any of them. Remember that some articles pertain to the same time period, such as Government of the Republic of Vietnam (well, mostly 1966-1968), Joint warfare in South Vietnam 1964-1968 and at least Operation ROLLING THUNDER.

There are various "helper" articles in early development, such as Vietnamese Buddhism.

Perhaps we should activate the Military or History forums; I'd like some feedback on whether to develop this much further, or if there is interest in collaboration on other major topics such as the Second World War, or the intertwined but distinct (German) Nazi Party (and government), Holocaust, and National Socialism (and, for that matter, Fascism).

Howard C. Berkowitz 05:35, 18 December 2008 (UTC)

More on naming

I've had some concerns expressed over the proposed renaming. Let me express what I think is a reasonable approach. The crux is that a desire was expressed that there be other than a redirect to (tentative) "Wars of Vietnam, 1858-1999" when a user requests "Vietnam War."

This was said in the context of

  1. "We generally go with the term that most in currency among experts, and we also take into account usage of the public as well;"
  2. This is an English language encyclopedia and should reflect the Anglo-American understanding of things.
I haven't the slightest objection to "Vietnam War" taking the user to a page that says something along the lines of (between dashed lines)
In the U.S., this term usually refers to the period in which U.S. forces were involved in warfare in what was the Republic of Vietnam (i.e., South Vietnam). The start and end of this period can be defined in several ways, but the most frequent is ground combat between 1964 and 1969. Alternative starting dates include:
  • The beginning of U.S. funding and training of South Vietnamese forces (1955)
  • The start of U.S. advisors and technical support being provided to combat operations, actually starting covertly in Laos in 1959, and overtly in Vietnam in 1961, with the first American killed in combat on December 22, 1961
The ending date can variously be:
  • The exit of large U.S. ground combat units (1969)
  • The last U.S. air attacks (1972)
To get details of the activity between these dates, see links to a list of more-specific articles Most historians and military analysts, however, put these activities in a broader context, beginning with the French conquest in 1858 and the rise of resistance against it, and ending with warfare by the forcibly unified Socialist Republic of Vietnam with Cambodia, China, and Thailand, ending in 1999.
To address the concerns, I'm not even sure that "Anglo-American", rather than "American", is accurate.

On 21-22 September 1945, British Gurkhas, under MG Douglas Gracey, took the central prison back from the Japanese, releasing French paratroopers. Cedile, with those paratroopers, captured several Japanese-held police stations on the 22nd, and then took control of the administrative areas on the 23rd. Some Viet Minh guards were shot. French control was reasserted.

For a still Western, but not necessarily English-speaking, one really must consider the French rule and the fighting against it. 1858 is a convenient date since that was the date of the French invasion, and there was resistance. Serious nationalist resistance existed from 1930 on. From 1946 to 1954, there was increasing fighting with the French, up to large conventional warfare. As a result, French rule ended with the Geneva Accords in 1954.
U.S. covert action began when Edward Lansdale arrived in 1954, and active U.S. support of the South Vietnamese military began in 1955.
Anyway, can there be a consensus to have;
  1. A Vietnam War page that both links to the combat and political events during U.S. involvement, and to a....
  2. meta-article on Wars of Vietnam (dates) that include the colonization, resistance to French rule, the overt combat between the Viet Minh and French (1946-1954), South Vietnamese counterinsurgency up to the Gulf of Tonkin...and followed with the Vietnamese conflicts with Cambodia, China, and the little-known incursion into Thailand

Does this structure adequately address both the "common use/Anglo-American use" and broader military historian views? Howard C. Berkowitz 19:44, 18 December 2008 (UTC)

That seems to me to be an admirable solution. Nick Gardner 10:28, 19 December 2008 (UTC)
I, too, think it works. The thing we shouldn't lose is a page on the "Vietnam War" which should discuss the mid-twentieth-century conflict involving North and South Vietnam, France, the US and (to the extent that they influenced the war in Vietnam) Cambodia and Laos. But this is no longer that article. It may have started out as that article a long time ago, but it is now something else and the title should reflect the content, not the other way around. Howard, you bring up a technology problem with the redirects that a page move would create. This is a legitimate concern. Would it be better just to cut and paste this content to Wars of Vietnam, 1858-1999 and stop the redirect? All the Vietnam War Links (that's 354 links; I just counted them) probably reference the mid-century war so we wouldn't have to check all of them. Russell D. Jones 01:28, 20 December 2008 (UTC)
Gee, and I'm supposed to be the computer expert and know about simple redirects...yes, your cut-and-paste idea does make a great deal of sense. That will handle the bulk of the links, depending on the dates we select for the "mid-20th century" war.Howard C. Berkowitz 02:16, 20 December 2008 (UTC)

Some cleanup to be done

Let's start with the assumption that the series begins with the first Western involvement, although there actually was some French involvement in Emperor Gia Long taking power (one Nguyen dynasty overthrown by a different set of Nguyens) in 1802. I can get away with a brief reference to the Trung Sisters in the 1st century CE, although they really are the starting point in defining the Sino-Vietnamese relationship.Howard C. Berkowitz 02:16, 20 December 2008 (UTC)

I've looked at the starting date, and discover some overlaps between French Indochina and Indochina and the Second World War. French Indochina does start in 1858, but goes into WWII, which it really should not. Some things that are important, are not related to WWII, and are not covered as well as they should be, are the formation of the Indochinese Communist Party and some non-Communist nationalist groups, mostly starting about 1930.

The earliest date in Indochina & the 2nd WW is 1936 (from memory), when France started making explicit changes in anticipation of Japanese movements, which, to some extent, antagonized the nationalists even further. This article then runs through to the Japanese takeover from Vichy (March 1945), the Japanese surrender, and now to 1947, when there started to be serious combat with the Viet Minh. Alternatives would be to end it with the Japanese surrender, which gets messy with the reestablishment of French power over some months, or go out to September 2, 1946, when Ho declared independence. I think the last makes the most sense.

The next article would be Indochinese revolution, which could be from the independence day (still the national day) to the signing of the Geneva accords in mid-1954. That, obviously, is where The Two Vietnams after Geneva starts. The endpoint is more difficult; it's a messy period. While the U.S. started funding and training in 1955, they didn't put in covert operations, and then starting in Laos, until 1959. I will have to check if the first overt advisory function in combat was 1961 or 1962. North Vietnam made the policy decision to invade in May 1959, but I don't think they started significant construction of the Ho Chi Minh trail immediately. It's not a firm call, but I tend to end the period in 1962, when U.S. support picked up significantly, and then run up to a really clear demarcation, the Gulf of Tonkin incidentHoward C. Berkowitz 02:16, 20 December 2008 (UTC)

Dates to use for Vietnam War proper?

So what is the starting date of Vietnam War? I think it really has to be no earlier than mid-1954, because, at least since the French invasion, there was no entity called Vietnam. As a formal term, that was established by Emperor Gia Long in 1802, although, in general terms, it had been used before then.

So, 1954 is one possibility. The counterargument is that the decision, on both sides, to seek an armed solution didn't get made until the 1959-1961 range.

From a U.S.-standpoint, 1964 and the Gulf of Tonkin is easy, but I really prefer the start of the advisory buildup. Certainly, the Battle of Ap Bac, in January 1963, is the point at which the U.S. press went into a feeding frenzy.

That leaves the choices as 1954, 1959, 1962 (maybe 1961), or, really U.S.-centric, 1964.

When do we end? There are several choices, more clear-cut than the start:

  • 1969 major pullout of U.S. ground forces
  • 1972 end of all U.S. air operations (December)
  • 1975 fall of South Vietnam and Vietnamese unification (my preference for "Vietnam War")

It gets blurrier after this:

  • 1978 Major Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia, although they had been skirmishing since 1973, good Communists all.
  • 1979 1st Chinese invasion, but that really isn't an endpoint, since Vietnam's Vietnam, Cambodia, went on for a number of years, and China invaded again in 1984.
  • 1991 UN peace treaty for Cambodia, with frequent violations
  • 1999 generally accepted date of last Khmer Rouge surrender.

What would your students assume, or am I ancient enough to think they really didn't think about it? My vote would be 1962-1975, which I think establishes the distinctly U.S. major participation. Otherwise, even to call it Anglo-American, you have the anomaly of British action in 1945, and, for that matter, the U.S. consulted Britain in deciding NOT to intervene at Dien Bien Phu. This gets followed by Third Indochina War, even though we never explicitly defined the First and Second; Third seems to be fairly popular in the literature about the all-Asian conflict after 1975.Howard C. Berkowitz 02:16, 20 December 2008 (UTC)

Okay, this is how I teach it: (1) Distinctions between Red River Delta society and Mekong River Delta society (one is relatively homogeneous; the other is really messed up [guess which one the US backs.]) (2) Biography of Ho Chi Minh to 1945 with emphasis on his US sojourn, ideas of national self-determination (from Wilson), Versailles, and then falling in with the Marxists, then as nominal US ally in WWII. (3) First French-Indochina War (yes, this is what I call it) with emphasis on US involvement (70% of the French military budget came from US aid; this was a US war from 1946); emphasis on US Cold War containment policy; and Geneva Accords (4) Ngo Government and the beginning of his consolidation of power; rise of popular (or VC-inspired) resistance; start of civil war in SVN; Buddhist revolt ==> Kennedy's backing for coup. (5) Johnson & McNamara looking for reason for escalation (they started doing this as early as March 1964); Gulf of Tonkin; Election of 1964 (Gulf of Tonkin was 3 Months before the election; if you've forgotten about it, LBJ didn't) (6) The escalation, quagmire, etc., etc., crumbling consensus, down to Tet, which breaks LBJ (The point here is that this is LBJ's war) (At this point I make a long detour into the anti-war movement, changes in civil liberties, counter-culture [sexanddrugsandrockandroll], the 1968 election in order to get us to ==>) (7) Nixon: de-escalation, "vietnamization," but then the Cambodian and Laotian incursions (Kent State); the Easter Campaign (failure of Vietnamization) and, finally, Paris Accords, then (8) the 1975 invasion and end of war.
So, I teach it as a war for Vietnamese de-colonization and national unification. Therefore "THE Vietnam War" starts in 1946 (the start of de-colonization) and ends in 1975 (national unification). It had some hot and cold moments, but it was the "Ten Thousand Day War." Russell D. Jones 04:28, 20 December 2008 (UTC)
Aw, crap, Howard! Now, I'm second guessing myself. When Americans think of "THE Vietnam War" they think of US Army regulars, M-16s, HUEYs, Med-Evac, and the VC, anything that makes for a good movie, you know, Apocalypse Now. So, that would be 1965-1973. But, I think it was bigger than that. Okay, so that was my poker hand, and now it's played. Jones 04:37, 20 December 2008 (UTC)
LOL...if it makes you feel better, I've never seen "Apocalypse Now". I have, however, read pretty much everything from Hackworth, who seems to have been the model.
I still like the conceit of Cambodia being Vietnam's Vietnam, and Vietnam being China's Vietnam, except that the Chinese knew when to cut their losses. As far as Cambodia, didn't anybody in the Politburo read Ho, Giap and Truong Chinh? Howard C. Berkowitz 05:25, 20 December 2008 (UTC)

After edit conflict

I can certainly live with 1946-1975, although I suspect it will surprise some people. That would give below the top-level article, to be named, both some chronological and some topical material.
There are lots of more detailed articles below these, ranging from Battle of Vinh Yen/Battle of Na San/Dien Bien Phu (some topical things such as Roger Trinquier); many southern politicians and generals,Vietnam War Ground Technology and a more general Air assault; Battle of Ap Bac, Operation ATTLEBORO/Operation JUNCTION CITY/]ARC LIGHT/Operation CEDAR FALLS (but not every sweep), Battle of the Ia Drang, Battle of Bong Son, etc. If you have the time, there are some lower-level things, such as Battle of the Ia Drang, that I'd like to put up for approval.
Placeholder for pre-French eventually begin backfilling in "enclaves" such as the Trung Sisters and Le-Nguyen-Gia Long dynasties
Wars of Vietnam, 1858-1999
Do we have a plan? Maybe move the existing Vietnam War/Related Articles to whatever the more general thing will be, and then rebuild Vietnam War/Related Articles, with subheads under subtopics for date-oriented and topical?
What is suggested for the overall 1858-1999, bearing in mind we may want to have a higher-level "Wars of Vietnam" that can deal with pre-French? Howard C. Berkowitz 05:11, 20 December 2008 (UTC)

OK, after you second-guessed

You see the problem. Yes, it may be that the E-I-C has the Hueys (after UH-1) and M-16s in mind, not the earlier American H-21's and M-14s. Is even the 10,000 day model going to be too unexpected, without even touching the fact that the tooth fairy did not bring the French in 1946? Howard C. Berkowitz 05:14, 20 December 2008 (UTC)

An aside

Should the analysis above, and however we discuss it, become its own article? Not being a professional historian, would it qualify as "Historiography of the Wars of Vietnam"? Howard C. Berkowitz 02:16, 20 December 2008 (UTC)

The broader perspective

Congratulations on the work of putting the subject into a realistic perspective. The earlier concept of a Vietnam war without Vietnamese was a curious aberration that seemed to violate the CZ principle of neutrality, and an appreciation of the Vietnamese standpoint is scarcely possible without some knowledge of their history. It has always seemed to me that a valuable function of historical analysis is to help us to learn from the mistakes and successes of our predecessors - whoever they are - and that to do that we have to try to put ourselves in their place and envisage their objectives and their means of pursuing them. Anything further anyone can contribute concerning Vietnamese (as well as French and American) decision-making, would add to the value of the article from that standpoint. Nick Gardner 10:23, 19 December 2008 (UTC)

More Clean-up of the Introduction

I removed these two paragraphs

In 1990, one of their visits included the Vietnam Historic Museum in Hanoi.

The high point for us was not the exhibits but finding a huge mural that was both a timeline and a map of Vietnam's unhappy history dating back well over a thousand years...the Chinese section of the timeline stretched out for fifty feet or so. The section devoted to the French and their 150 years of colonial occupation was depicted in about twelve inches. The minuscule part that marked the U.S. war was only a couple of inches.[4]

The problem with it that I find is that it has now lost its pronoun references. Who is "us"? Who is "their"? I can't figure it out. Anyway, the whole intro now lays out the argument of the article. Russell D. Jones 17:51, 26 December 2008 (UTC)

And this one:

So, while the Wars of Vietnam may go back to to the rebellion, against China of the Trung Sisters in the first century C.E., practical limits need to be set on the scope of this article. From a Western concept that all post-WWII matters centered around Communism, it was the military effort of the Communist Party of Vietnam under Ho Chi Minh to defeat France (1946-54), and the same party (by changing names), then in control of North Vietnam, to overthrow the government of South Vietnam (1958-75) and take control of the whole country, in the face of military intervention by the United States (1964-72). Vo Nguyen Giap speaks of the Resistance War starting on December 19, 1946, and ending with the French exist.[5] Communists also use the term American War, although the dates are less clearly defined.

The problem here is that this paragraph is not speaking to the CZ audience but to other CZ editors; it's attempting to make a case. The Intro reads well enough without it. It explains what is meant by the Wars of Vietnam. Russell D. Jones 17:53, 26 December 2008 (UTC)

In general, I think that these are good improvements. Still, I think there should be at least a sentence or two indicating that "Vietnam War" is essentially a Western term. While I dislike text boxes for human factors reasons, perhaps the museum paragraph, cleaned up, might go into a sidebar text box near the beginning, when the article is very close to approval. I'm not at all insistent about having it at all.
It doesn't need to be in the first paragraph, but I do think there should be at least a sentence or two explaining that Vietnamese nationalism (and that's another article -- I've started one on Nguyen Dynasty) does go back two millenia. Yes, I know it might be more correct to say Cham or other nationalism.
Seriously, the point about 2000 years of conflict with the Chinese has a real reason for being there: think about how much the Johnson Administration especially, but also going back to Truman, based their policies around the fear of Korea-style Chinese takeover. This issue is elaborated at much greater depth in subordinate articles, but I think it deserves a very brief mention in the main article simply to frame the clash with containment policy. (as an aside, I had, but misplaced, a sourced quote from George Kennan himself saying the Chinese intervention argument was not reasonable). Mentioning the Trung sisters, very very briefly, drives in the point. In one of the subordinate articles, I quote a source describing them as being as essential to Vietnamese identity as Joan of Arc is to French identity.
Let me think about how I could phrase these points most succinctly, and then propose them here.
Can you still live with some sort of "Wars of Vietnam" top-level article, with a "Vietnam War" just below it? Vietnam War would have a strong enough introduction to be freestanding, but have clear links to the broader context, if only for the 1945-1954 and 1954-1962 contexts.
I've been thinking about dates for "Vietnam War" specifically, and, while nothing is ideal, I tend to pick 1962-1972: first US combat death to last US combat intervention.
Any preferences for name of the top-level article? If it's not too outrageous, I'd like to try, in the moderate term, for Approval of the top-level article and selected subarticles. For that matter, addressed to your History Editor persona, Dien Bien Phu and Battle of the Ia Drang, at least, might be in striking range of Approval. Howard C. Berkowitz 18:31, 26 December 2008 (UTC)
I think the first para. looks pretty good to me. And I guess that the name, Vietnam War is the one that we better use. With a gazillion redirects, of course. Hayford Peirce 18:54, 26 December 2008 (UTC)
Of course it looks good. Like myself, humility is one of the few things you boast about.
If the top-level heading is Vietnam War, then where does find the historical context? Call the real top-level article something like Historical context for wars of Vietnam, call that main or seealso in Vietnam War?
It really opens a bag of worms to start talking about things in the sixties and seventies, without any reference to the French, the Viet Minh and non-communist nationalists one one side, and the China-Vietnam-Cambodia-Thailand wars on the other (seventies through nineties). I'm not saying that the top-level article has to do more than summarize the historical periods, but I'm concerned that without knowing there's a broader context, things will get confusing.
As an example of problems in defining years, plus having background, one has to decide if the overthrow of Diem (1963) is part of "Vietnam War". Certainly, the U.S. encouraged the coup. Shortly afterwards, there was a burst of defections from the NLF, who were not Communists, but Cao Dai, Vietnamese Buddhists, Hoa Hao, and others who were in the NLF for "anybody but Diem" reasons.
Many Americans, and I'm sure K-12 history books, will suggest the war started with the Gulf of Tonkin. That fiasco, on both sides, wasn't helped by the MACV-SOG covert operations that had the North trigger-happy. Howard C. Berkowitz 19:38, 26 December 2008 (UTC)
Don't make things more complicated than they are; you know too much; try to pretend that you know less. Begin the time frame with Kennedy sending a gazillion advisers, mentioning in passing that maybe Eisenhower had earlier sent a few. Mention the first American death on so-and-so date, and the Race Is On.... Hayford Peirce 22:11, 26 December 2008 (UTC)
Roger that! Russell D. Jones 22:20, 26 December 2008 (UTC)
Naming: I am opposed to calling this top-level article the Vietnam War because this article is placing the "Vietnam War" into a broader context. I liked Howard's approach as calling this the Wars of Vietnam, 1858-1999; it establishes the top-level context for the subordinate conflicts of the period. Also, I thought we've been over this before. I do not see why we can't move this article to Wars of Vietnam, 1858-1999 right now (but see below). Russell D. Jones 22:20, 26 December 2008 (UTC)

Moving toward approval

Howard, you mentioned about moving this article towards approval. This has been on my mind, too. Here's what I see as the main issues yet to be resolved here:

  • Periodization: We've been batting around "1858-1999" as the nominal period for a series of conflicts that "Collectively ... can be called the Wars of Vietnam." However, the first "war" that the article addresses is World War II. If this article is going to talk about the "Wars of Vietnam, 1858-1999," it should make the case that there were bloody conflicts between 1858 and 1940. Right now I don't see this article discussing them. Conversely, this oversight could be resolved by naming the article "Wars of Vietnam, 1940-1999" thus we avoid the problem of not discussing any wars in Vietnam 1858-1940 (I don't know of any, do you?). If there are wars in Vietnam 1858-1940, I doubt that they are of a similar stature or significance as the Wars of Vietnam, 1940-1999.
  • Background: The heading titled "Background" seems to introduce the whole article (again) in a little greater detail. Then the article goes over the same material a third time (in the body) in still greater detail. In short, I don't see that this "background" section as written is contributing anything that either the introduction or the body does not. I think that the background section should mainly talk about French colonization and the period leading to the first conflict (WW2). If it is not adding to the article it should be cut or moved.

There may be other issues as I review this article. I'll post them as addenda to this heading. Russell D. Jones 22:20, 26 December 2008 (UTC)

Apropos of periodization, as you've observed elsewhere, this can get one arguing with oneself. Now, I'm going to go through my thinking, but it gets more specific than we want. Bottom line: 1858 was a French colonialization that lit the fuse for anticolonialism, and even a sense of Vietnamese nationalism that hadn't necessarily existed among Annam, Tonkin, and Cochin China. Howard C. Berkowitz 23:00, 26 December 2008 (UTC)
Well, yes, but only in the sense that there can not be wars of decolonization in places that were not colonies. Russell D. Jones 23:50, 26 December 2008 (UTC)
The other option is to think of serious formation of undergrounds strarting around 1930, which run straight into French preparation for WWII. While they didn't call it such, the French were very clearly concerned about Japan in China, starting with the Manchurian Incident in 1932, and taking visible steps as of roughly 1936. 1930 is the foundation of the Indochinese Communist Party. Definitely from 1930 on, and probably earlier with the Cao Dai, there was something closer to the Latin American "dirty wars". Howard C. Berkowitz 23:00, 26 December 2008 (UTC)
Yes, but can't this be the "background?" Russell D. Jones 23:50, 26 December 2008 (UTC)
Otherwise,there definitely was substantial fighting with the French from the first significant landing in 1858, to at least 1862; I would want to check sources there. Do remember that was major French involvement; there was French support for factions at least from 1802 and possibly earlier. Howard C. Berkowitz 23:00, 26 December 2008 (UTC)
This would be a "colonization conflict" and not part of this article. Russell D. Jones 23:50, 26 December 2008 (UTC)
Now, if I go back a little earlier, to the overthrow of the Le Dynasty in 1789 and more-or-less civil war until Emperor Gia Long [re-]established the Nguyen Dynasty in 1802, it gets nastier. (especially if you try to keep track of all the different factions, almost all named Nguyen but different Nguyens) There are very major conflicts beforehand, mostly with the Chinese, that go back to the first century CE. As an aside, the Vietnamese don't seem to retain the kind of hatreds that you see in the Balkans, but they don't forget. I can think of conversations even with first-generation Vietnamese-Americans who speak of the Trung Sisters as if that was last year.Howard C. Berkowitz 23:00, 26 December 2008 (UTC)
And this would be part of the History of Vietnam or Vietnam, History (whatever other naming convention CZ has figured out....). Russell D. Jones 23:50, 26 December 2008 (UTC)
Why I pick 1858 is that it started the anticolonialist movement, and yes, there were several years of fighting afterwards, pushing back the French at least once, until (I'd want to check a source) 1862, but then periodic put-down-the-peasants. I think that's more logical than starting in 1930 with the Indochinese Communist Party, then other nationalist groups, increasingly getting into guerilla warfare with the French. Howard C. Berkowitz 23:00, 26 December 2008 (UTC)
Howard, I don't buy this at all. I think we should not confuse wars of colonization with wars of de-colonization. The two are different and should be treated as such. The Opium Wars are not the Mau-Mau Rebellion. Russell D. Jones 23:50, 26 December 2008 (UTC)
I don't really want to go back to Nguyen Hue in 1789, but, if you start trying to figure out why Bao Dai was given any attention by the French, I know it confused me. When I started reading the subject, my reaction was "Emperor of Vietnam? huh?" but he was the last of the Nguyen Dynasty (but, I hasten to add, the second set of Nguyens or the third if you count the Nguyen faction of the Le Dynasty). 'pause to scream: scream. Actually, he was more correctly Emperor of Annam. This sort of detail, of course, belongs several levels down, but it affects why I selected the dates I did.
I'm willing to be persuaded otherwise; I can see a rationale for 1940, as long as the context is clearly established that there was already turmoil. Had the Japanese never shown up, sooner or later, there would have been major revolutionary activity.Howard C. Berkowitz 23:00, 26 December 2008 (UTC)
Yes, exactly, this is exactly the sort of information that would be quickly summarized in a "background" section. Russell D. Jones 23:50, 26 December 2008 (UTC)
Believe me, I'm thinking about it. Opium Wars vs. Mau-Mau, sure. Opium Wars vs. Boxer Rebellion, or the Long March?
Unless you set the nationalist framework for Vietnam, then how do you avoid it degenerating it into Cold War? Now, if that's possible in Background, fine. Is there a major Communist aspect? Of course. Is it the only thing? No.
As a separate and specialized article, I'm working on a draft about the North Vietnamese rephrasing of the Maoist protracted war doctrine; they are different. That is deep background, but possibly worth one sentence along the lines of "while some of the anti-GVN activity is thought to be Maoist, the North Vietnamese had their own model; the non-communist had another; all overlap." (Links with all this, of course). Howard C. Berkowitz 23:57, 26 December 2008 (UTC)
I'll review Background; some of the duplication is an artifact of earlier arguments long overtaken by events. Howard C. Berkowitz 23:00, 26 December 2008 (UTC)

New intros

Howard, all of this rewriting is a major step either backwards or into total chaos. So much info is being introduced, sometimes without a verb, that it totally overwhelms the reader and bears no relationship whatsoever to what a poor innocent 19-year-old in college, say, might expect to find when he incautiously types in the words "Vietnam War" in order to find out what his father was doing as a grunt in the fields around Saigon.... Hayford Peirce 20:44, 27 December 2008 (UTC)

Hey, I said more eyes were needed! My focus right now is eliminating the duplication that was present among the intro, background, and summary sections. Perhaps a certain amount of duplication is necessary to make sections more free-standing. By no means do I consider this my best writing, although I'm trying to improve it. You won't hurt my feelings with suggestions. (Pictures Hayford, in the kitchen of cooking prose, reaching for a large jar labeled "Grade A Verbs"). Howard C. Berkowitz 21:00, 27 December 2008 (UTC)

Reviewing the bidding and tasting the verbs

Again, many thanks to everyone that is helping. Recently, I received some sources through interlibrary loan, and have some specialized articles underway that will be the specialists.

Here are some things, not in a special order, that I think may be a consensus.

  • For the "Daddy what did you do with an M-16"; I think we've agreed that the primary U.S.-centric view is 1962-1972 for U.S. involvement, although that extends to 1975 with the last sad evacuation of diplomats. Even the 1962, I suspect, will be a surprise to many. This is what you will get by typing in Vietnam War. It will have subarticles, both main military chronology in chunks, plus parallel things such as politics, air war and covert operations outside Vietnam, and pacification.
  • There is a fairly clear section on the active anticolonial war, which can run from September 2, 1946, to the signing on the Geneva accord on July 18, 1954, the prisoner exchange 1n July, and the French Union treaty and the U.S. taking over funding and training in 1955.
  • I'm not sure if "Civil War" is the right thing to call it, but there is now clearly something that is logically between 1955 and 1962.
  • There is a Third Indochinese War from 1978 to 1999, with a prelude starting in 1973.
  • Before that, perhaps there may be some things more background, which end about 1936, when France clearly took actions directed at Japanese theats. I will grant there was not continuous war before that, but I now see formation and colonization starting in 1789 to roughly 1930. It's one article with subarticles. I want to pin down the clear nationalist formation dates, but that's not critical.
  • There are a few individual national legends, like the Trung rebellion, that rate a sentence or two in the main article.
  • I am not planning on to take on the details between the 1st century and the Le Dynasty to the end of the Nguyen Dynasty. While there are interesting parts, they are fairly obscure, and I don't think my language skills are up to it.

Howard C. Berkowitz 08:12, 28 December 2008 (UTC)

  • I don't think we have a name for the top-level article.
You make some good points above, Howard, and I think the real shape is now taking place. As for the single most important part of our discussions, the title of the top-level article (if I actually understand what this means), why not go with the simplest one of all: Vietnam—Wars. With an em-dash, you will note. It's short, simple, elegant, and addresses the subject of the topic precisely. Any one of a gazillion redirects will bring anyone interested in any aspect of fighting in the general Indochinese area over a 2,000-year period here. At least that is my simple-minded suggestion for an early Sunday morning. Hayford Peirce 15:36, 28 December 2008 (UTC)

Much closer

I think I'm going to try a graphic now. There is a need for some things that are basic facts about the country today, which Vietnam addresses. That certainly will point to wars, but also, for example, the series of short articles on political geography and transportation, and some culture, which often are needed for context. I will also have many more external links to maps.

The name is very close; the emdash is elegant. Is it intuitive? Let me suggest what I think should happen if someone types "Vietnam War" into our search, or a search engine: it will take them to a minimal disambiguation page, which has, probably bolded, a click to take them to the U.S.-perspective Hueys and M-16's (although the early parts are H-21's and M-14's).

On that page will be "Vietnam &mdash Wars", "Wars of Vietnam", etc., with just enough elegant text to suggest that will be a useful but broader view of what made the helicopters start flying, why the helicopters got pushed off aircraft carriers, and why there were more wars after the Americans were gone. Howard C. Berkowitz 16:43, 28 December 2008 (UTC)

Top Level of Vietnam articles, see separate detail

Here's the breakout of the more detailed level. Obviously, things like containment policy and detente have broader implications. The "technology" will mostly be brief introductions with links to articles on the specific technology/equipment.

Detail of usual U.S. perception of "the war"

Clarification to Gareth's question.

The sentence in question, to which I am not wedded, is

After a period of overt military government, there was a gradual transition to at least the appearance of democratic government, but South Vietnam neither developed a true popular government, nor rooted out the corruption that caused a lack of support.

Very brief background:

  1. No insurgency has ever succeeded if the bulk of the people believe their government is legitimate and effective. Different cultures have different tolerance for corruption and for democratic process.
  2. South Vietnam never put together a government that was perceived widely as stable and inclusive, and financial corruption was a day-to-day problem, especially in rural areas.
  3. If a guerilla does not lose and is not destroyed, he eventually wins. That point is more complex in this situation, which was ended by a conventional attack

So, is this any better?

South Vietnam's government began without wide involvement in creating it, and it was perceived as biased toward a minority. A series of military coups seemed simple competition for power, although there was some stability, although not strong leadership, by late 1967. Especially local government was distant from the populace and often financially corrupt; military leadership was often bad because the commanders were often selected on political connections and bribery rather than on demonstrated ability. Howard C. Berkowitz 16:35, 28 December 2008 (UTC)

Khmerization: The Vietnamese probably didn't call it that, but I can give you a number of sourced scholarly references that do. The parallel to the U.S. is too ironic to be ignored. Howard C. Berkowitz 17:21, 28 December 2008 (UTC)

more title talk (where is Y.A. Tittle when we need him?)

No, I don't think that Vietnam—Wars is particularly intuitive as a title -- as a matter of fact it isn't. I just meant that this should be the name for this overall article. I wasn't thinking in terms of a disambig. page either. (Although I suppose one will be needed.) What I meant was: we have the article Vietnam—Wars. Then someone, even I myself if I have to, creates redirects to that page from:

  • Vietnamese War
  • Vietnamese war
  • War in Vietnam
  • War in Indochina
  • Indochina war
  • Indochinese war
  • Vietnamese War
  • Vietnamese war
  • U.S. war with Vietnam
  • U.S. war in Vietnam
  • Vietnamese-U.S. war
  • American-Vietnamese war
  • etc etc etc
  • and so forth

For what it's worth.... Hayford Peirce 18:28, 28 December 2008 (UTC)

Had to think of the Y.A. before it clicked. My first father-in-law had an apartment next door to Sonny Jurgensen's in-town place, partially when he was still playing. F-I-L, who had been a college athlete and semi-pro baseball player, liked to go out into the back yard — they both had patios going into the same area — and punt and pass to my ex and myself. Sonny would watch this, cigar in one hand and drink in the other, and laugh his head off. Harrumph. Never claimed to be any good at football. At the time, distance running and judo were another matter.
OK, I see what you mean for redirects. Now, Vietnam should say as the current reference on the country. Vietnam emdash Wars, or Wars of Vietnam, would be the actual article title for the material in the top graphic, and, giving in as long as there are redirects, Vietnam War will be the material in the bottom graphic.

Howard C. Berkowitz 18:48, 28 December 2008 (UTC)

You're the boss on all of that. I wonder how YAT, Sonny, et al would do today? I read somewhere several years an article saying that those guys had much tougher conditions because the hash marks were either much closer to the sidelines, or much closer to the center axis, thereby making it much harder for the quarterbacks to make their plays compared to today's conditions. He specifically mentioned YAT as being a guy who would demolish today's defenses. And Sonny, of course, could always throw his belly at them.... Hayford Peirce 19:01, 28 December 2008 (UTC)
Don't forget Kilmer and Jurgensen taking turns limping off AND on the field.
Seriously, do you find the graphics useful? Worth having in some of the articles themselves? There is a method that Chris knows to take a drawing like that and make it clickable to go to the articles. I didn't make it work the first time.Howard C. Berkowitz 06:12, 29 December 2008 (UTC)


Just a few comments. I like the idea of this article taking a broad look across the whole long history of conflict in this region while others focus on the Vietnam War as experienced by the U.S.A. (and its allies). For this article therefore, there seems to be too much of the domestic US politics - Kennedy LBJ Nixon Ford etc. I think, you could probably write this article without mentioning a single American political name - and maybe it would be much better for that? After all, you don't mention the Japanese leaders (and why should you?) or the French after Nap III... Just a thought. American history is indeed fascinating, but this is Vietnam's history, isn't it?

I do like the idea, not least because it would make this article different and "distanced" from U.S. politics - a hands-off neutral article, potentially, putting 'the' Vietnam War purposefully in historical context Gareth Leng 17:59, 30 December 2008 (UTC)

I'm sure that Howard will have *long* (hehe) reply to this, but I will cut to the chase: It is my understanding, from what Howard has previously stated, that Larry feels (or felt) very strongly that the Vietnam War article should have a firm American focus to it. It may be that all these articles (and their titles) are now inextricably conflated, but that's my understanding of things.... Hayford Peirce 18:10, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
You could always just ask me, y'know. I like simple questions like this. But first, generally, debating about what I would say about a particular question makes me uncomfortable. On content questions, the views of editors matter most and they should be sought out for their advice. I'm not likely to overrule them, and if it came to any sort of controversy, I'll go with them in most cases, as I have in the past. Now, I've never said that "Vietnam War" should have an American focus--I mean really, have a little faith. What I would say, however, is that the history of the Vietnam War is an incredibly important topic for the U.S.--far more important for the U.S. than for any other group of English speakers, and English speakers are the audience of CZ ('s in English). So we should respect that. How we should respect it, I'm not sure precisely. One thing we should not do, in my opinion--not according to my diktat, but only in my opinion--is write an article titled "Vietnam War" and just ignore on important fact. The fact (well, I allege it to be fact, but I'm open to being proven wrong by the data) is that the vast majority of the English speakers reading the article understand "Vietnam War" to mean the history of the U.S. military action in the 1960s and 1970s in Vietnam. Please don't draw any invalid conclusions from that statement on my behalf. The statement does not validly imply, e.g., that the page titled Vietnam War should be exclusively focused on U.S. involvement in the war. It does give a good reason to have some article that focuses mainly on the history of the U.S. involvement in the war, but I don't know. Again, I leave these things up to the historians, or at least, to people who know more about it than I do.
If you draw any conclusion from the above comment, it should be: Larry doesn't know enough about the subject, and so is unwilling to say anything definite except perhaps that American viewpoints on the war should not simply be marginalized. --Larry Sanger 19:37, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
The graphics may help. The lower picture is what you will get from typing in "Vietnam War", with the links below it. The typical nonspecialist picture is going to be roughly 1965-1969. There's a fair bit, however, that isn't about running around with an M-16, but why decisions were made, and why those decisions were sometimes very bad ones. There are parts, however, not well known to the U.S. public, which should be known, but the "tree" structured above will take them, in a couple of links, to the first U.S. battle in which the Hueys were critical.
I believe, however, that a reasonable chunk of the U.S. public would like to know how we get into wars. Sometimes, it's absolutely necessary. In other cases, it's more like lemmings, except lemmings do not actually go commit suicide. It's worth knowing when a president demands attack authority and Congress rubber stamps when there is no immediate threat. Hopefully, a thoughtful reader might be interested in the circumstances under which the war could have been avoided, ended earlier, or even what the other side now explains where they were really vulnerable.
We are coming up with what I think will be a very reasonable, consensus structure that will meet various needs. Yes, there will be a basic set of links that will take someone straight to the Battle of the Ia Drang, or what was being bombed or why. There is also information on what the Truman Administration could have done differently. There was a point at which South Vietnamese governments were doing well to last a month, and that affected the U.S.
I could also touch upon what is meant by "You number 10! Doom on you!", but it would violate some policies. Howard C. Berkowitz 20:01, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
I am not going to try to read Larry's mind. You'll see, in the figures, that typing in "Vietnam War" would still get to what the average USian would expect, at least of a certain age...some seem to think the Battle of the Bulge was outside Saigon, and when they watch as show with B-17's, they are over Hanoi.
As far as the French, quite a few are named in the colonial and Indochinese revolution articles: Georges d'Argenlieu,Georges Catroux, Jean Cedile, Jean Sainteny, Raoul Salan, Henri Navarre,Marius Moutet Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, a bit on the ministerial and parliamentary level in France on which I can expand, and some at the tactical level. It might be more for someone that reads French, but I would enjoy an article on Marcel Bigeard, a rather larger-than-life character. Incidentally, I've had, for some time, an article on Roger Trinquier. If desired, I certainly can do articles on de Lattre de Tassigny, Salan, Navarre, Paul Ely, and maybe others if they seem indicated.
One of my favorite quotes from the revolutionary period is from a French lieutenant colonel named Wainwright: (his family settled in France:

There is a difference between us French and Don Quixote. Don Quixote rode against windmills because he thought they were giants, but we ride against windmills knowing they are windmills but doing it all the same because we think that in this materialistic world, there ought to be someone who rides against windmills.

Japanese officialdom is rather odd. The ones in Vietnam largely were functionaries letting Vichy handle the details. Thinking hard, I can't think of a Japanese in Indochina that really affected policy. For completeness, Yuitsu Tsuchihashi was the Japanese commander. I could really reach and bring in Matsunobu Tsuji, but there's little confirmed; IIRC, he disappeared into Vietnam after WWII and was even in the Diet. As far as I'm concerned, Major War Criminal who should have been in the main Tokyo trial. Now, I really hadn't thought of writing decisions on the Japanese decision to invade, but I suspect I do have some source material.
Partially, I agree that the U.S. presidents can be toned down, but, there are a couple of reasons. Escalations and deescalations, and for that matter the final SVN expectation of American help did depend presidents as much as generals. LBJ was planning the details of bombing at a level appropriate to an Air Force major (RAF Squadron Leader). I do think it's appropriate to indicate who sent in and took out a half-million soldiers. Part of the reason that there isn't so much South Vietnamese names is that their government changed leadership so often, and, further, it was fairly decentralized.
Here's a suggestion: there is already a separate article, Vietnam, war, and the United States that tries to capture the domestic politics, and it may well be that some of the material here belongs there. I'd rather like to keep the Kearns quote of LBJ, to express his obsession with it. Unfortunately, some of the quotes from the other side are in such dense "revolutionary jargon" that they are almost unreadable to a nonspecialist.
It may interest you, Gareth, that I only recently discovered that the Japanese had jailed the French administration, Ho had declared a provisional government, it was only after a Gurkha unit under a British major-general, Douglas Gracey let them out of jail did they return to power.
The policies of American presidents may go away, in the top-level argument (top graphic) but properly belong in the lower picture about "Vietnam War" rather than "Wars of Vietnam". Some still may belong in the specifically political argument. Government of the Republic of Vietnam is a separate article really dealing with more late 1963 to 1967, since some governments were lasting only weeks before the next coup.
There isn't yet an article on what, from the U.S. perspective, is the "Vietnam War", which, for example, should have some of the legislative authorization as well as presidential policy. I think that such an article, mostly the lower graphic, will be an appropriate place for some of the things that concern Gareth, but I'm also perfectly willing to move some into the politics. I do think the top-level US-Vietnam article needs to show who decided to do each major level of commitment or deescalation. Howard C. Berkowitz 18:43, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
Larry's right about what English speakers expect to find, when they look up Vietnam War in an encyclopedia, but Howard has a wealth of knowledge about the battles that went on before the Americans showed up. Not only were the French involved, but it starts further back, right, Howard?
Anyway, the result of the 1962-1975 period was the reunification of the country -- with a Communist government, if I'm using terms like Communism correctly. Let's not lose the forest for the trees.
I'm interested in what all the fighting was about. What were the various sides, and what did they want? Power and riches for their own side, or what? Who invited the Americans? Or did the U.S. simply decide to intervene? In either case, why?
Whose goals were fulfilled, and to what extent? Why did the winning side win? Who were the losers?
Finally, are the people of Vietnam in general better off, now that the unstable and corrupt South Vietnamese government was deposed/defeated? (And by what measure?) --Ed Poor 03:44, 4 February 2009 (UTC)
Well, my most recent comments are at Wars of Vietnam, which in no way excludes the 1962-1975 period, but has that as a proper subset. The French truly took over in 1858, there's argument for a Vietnamese identity clearly to 1789, where I leave off.
The sides really were established well before 1962; I'd suggest the other article for that. Also, war didn't stop in 1972 or 1975, even though there wasn't an American in sight. I wouldn't touch "better off"; there are too many subjective aspects. Howard C. Berkowitz 03:49, 4 February 2009 (UTC)


I'm juggling three articles in my sandbox, as well as some subarticles in mainspace:

Updates to updates; I'm really no longer updating here. Eventually, I want to make Vietnam War 1962-1965, although this article will keep its name. Howard C. Berkowitz 03:51, 4 February 2009 (UTC)

There are miscellaneous mainspace articles ranging from Nguyen Dynasty to Indochinese revolution, as well as various battles, technology, etc. I don't really see a point to describing every search-and-destroy mission in its own articles, just those that introduced tactics or revealed strategic insights.

Comments in the sandbox are welcome; I am going back and forth moving text between articles, and trying to find the right flow within articles. While I've defined Vietnam War as 1962-1975, where, for example, should U.S. covert operations between 1954 and 1962 go? Can one really understand the Gulf of Tonkin incident without knowing about the earlier MACV-SOG raids on North Vietnam?

There are things that I've underscored in those drafts, on which I definitely want advice. I think the Grand Strategy article does have some rational original synthesis of material relatively recently declassified by the U.S. or revealed by the Vietnamese. I may yet go back farther into ideologies of the 1930s that directly pertain there. My biggest question, so far, is what would the PAVN done next had they won at the Battle of the Ia Drang and broken through to the coast? Did they never seriously expect to achieve that, did they think that would trigger the General Uprising (a term of art), or did they have some other plan in mind? Howard C. Berkowitz 19:51, 4 January 2009 (UTC)

Move/reorg; nothing lost

I replaced the content here with a rewrite focused on 1962-1975, which is a proper subset of Wars of Vietnam. Between the two, and their many subarticles, nothing should be lost, only easier to navigate. Howard C. Berkowitz 20:00, 6 February 2009 (UTC)

Well, this talk page is now a little confusing because this was the talk page for the Wars of Vietnam. All of our conversation about naming this article sounds really odd now. But that's a small thing. Glad to see it moved. Russell D. Jones 12:18, 14 March 2009 (UTC)
Merging two articles is a little more complicated than just moving one, especially if you want to keep the histories. I need the practice, so let me give it a try. D. Matt Innis 13:32, 14 March 2009 (UTC)
It looks like this is even more complicated than merging two articles. It's not clear to me which articles and talk pages were moved. Howard, if you want, or need, the discussions returned, just let me know the order in which you moved these around and I'll see what I can do. I do see some need to have the 'reasoning for the move' saved somewhere considering the long history and difficulty coming to this agreement. D. Matt Innis 13:54, 14 March 2009 (UTC)
It's more complicated than that -- there were never two main articles in mainspace. I wrote the draft of Wars of Vietnam in my sandbox, then moved it into mainspace with its own talk page, which stayed fairly empty. After 2 weeks or so of no complaints about the new article, I then edited the 1962-1975 material out of Vietnam War, again putting in a talk page notice on what I did.
Suggestion: retain the graphics in both talk pages. Archive the material in Vietnam War from before the mainspace creation date of Wars of Vietnam, but have some text explaining why there is an archive, not just an archive number. Let the two talk pages progress independently from the split. Alternatively, keep, just the discussion about splits, and archive things such as discussions about dates that are at a lower level. Howard C. Berkowitz 16:44, 14 March 2009 (UTC)
I'm sorry, I keep going around in circles and can't seem to keep it all straight. Russell notes that this is the talk page from Wars of Vietnam, but this article is Vietnam War. There is talk at the Wars of Vietnam, but it is not the same as this talk page. Where is the talk page discussion for Vietnam War (and is that where the renaming discussion was from?) that needs to be at this page? Give it to me one more time. D. Matt Innis 17:16, 14 March 2009 (UTC)
Other than in archives, nothing has been deleted from the talk page of Vietnam War. The last part of the Vietnam War discussion, explaining the reason for the split, was copied to Wars of Vietnam and extended there. The renaming discussion was at Vietnam War; Wars of Vietnam wasn't created until that seemed to come to consensus. Howard C. Berkowitz 17:22, 14 March 2009 (UTC)
So from what you are saying, all discussions are still here or at Talk:Wars of Vietnam. Is that right? Did anything get lost? I think as long as we didn't lose anything, we can leave it like it is for now and once everyone is comfortable with the move, we can archive it. It's just that right now, you might have to point people in to the right talk page for pertinent discussion (if they are concerned). Otherwise, this is all looking good. I really like the way the article is layed out.. and it does make sense to do it this way. D. Matt Innis 17:34, 14 March 2009 (UTC)
Maybe it's just me, but the two colored graphics helped me simply in planning what I wanted to do. I'd certainly preserve them on both talk pages, perhaps double-bordering the one for the particular page. They might even be useful on the main articles, as "maps" of the topic — sort of "related articles for illiterates" :-) but really "related articles that can be understood with one glance". As far as I know, nothing was lost, but some things are duplicated. Howard C. Berkowitz 18:11, 14 March 2009 (UTC)

Guys! It's NBD! Nothing was lost (sorry I even said that). It's just that the discussion is now about a situation that no longer exists. Archive and all will be fine. Russell D. Jones 00:19, 15 March 2009 (UTC)

Understood -- no problems. Still, I do like the graphics as a way to understand the relationships. Do they make sense on the article pages? Yes, much can and should be archived; perhaps a brief history of the process could be an introductory note on the talk pages. Howard C. Berkowitz 01:22, 15 March 2009 (UTC)
  1. Moyar, Mark (2006), Triumph Forsaken, Cambridge University Press, p. xii
  2. "Ha Noi celebrates Trung sisters 1,968th anniversary", Viet Nam News, 14 March 2008
  3. Moore, Harold G. (Hal) & Joseph L. Galloway (1999), We were Soldiers Once...and Young: Ia Drang - the Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam, Random House
  4. Moore, Harold G. (Hal) & Joseph L. Galloway (2008), We are soldiers still: a journey back to the battlefields of Vietnam, Harper Collins
  5. Vo Nguyen Giap (1962), People's war, People's Army, Praeger, p. 88