America's Lost War: Vietnam, 1945-1975

By Charles E. Neu | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
The Emergence of South
Vietnam, 1954–1961

October 9, 1954, the day on which the Geneva Accords mandated the takeover of Hanoi by Communist forces, dawned cold and damp. Through the early morning the city stood empty and silent. A few French armored cars sat at the main intersections, while offices and shops had not opened, their doors and windows shuttered. Finally, at 10:00 AM, from the edge of the city arose a distant hum, one that grew more distinct as the soldiers of General Giap's army appeared. They were, as one American observer noted, “small men in drab uniforms wearing leaf-woven, cloth-covered helmets fitted with camouflage nets. … Their approach was heralded by the soft shuffling of hundreds of feet in tennis shoes. The Viet Minh entry into Hanoi was destined to be one of the most silent victory marches in the history of the world's conquering armies.” Gradually windows and shutters opened and red flags with yellow stars appeared; the people of Hanoi, responding to the urgings of propaganda workers, began to shout “Free Vietnam!” and “Ho Chi Minh—one thousand years!”1 After nine years of bitter warfare, Vietnamese revolutionaries had reoccupied Hanoi.

In the south the atmosphere surrounding the arrival of the new prime minister, Ngo Dinh Diem, was far different. More than three

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