Vietnam: longest US war ended today 40 years ago

On 15 January 1973, President Nixon ordered a ceasefire in Vietnam. The Paris Peace Accords were signed on 23 January and a cease-fire took effect five days later.

When exactly it begin may be a matter of some controversy. The first US soldier to die in the Vietnam conflict was Lt. Col. A. Peter Dewey killed on 26 September 1945. He was head of the US O.S.S. mission, but that's not why he was killed. The US had been on Ho Chi Minh's side in WW2. He was killed because the Viet Minh mistook him for French. Displaying his language skills at a checkpoint turned out not to be such a hot idea. They were fighting the French back then.

After the Japanese were defeated and France wanted her colonies back, the US switched sides.

US pilots flew air support for the French at Dien Bien Phu but I think it became the American War, as the Vietnamese call it, after the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu.

On 24 October 1954 President Eisenhower advised South Vietnamese strongman Diem that the US would be paying directly from then on rather than going through the French.

By the end of 1955, there were the first US military trainers on the ground and the Diem Regime in South Vietnam was refusing to hold the elections agreed to in the 1954 Geneva Accords. The US build up continued from there. By 7 Feb 1962 there were 4,000 US troops in South Vietnam.

They were the leading edge of a wave of foreign fighters that was to peck at over half a million before Nixon finally called it quits 40 years ago today.

If you saw Democracy Now today, Amy Goodman does a segment on the Vietnam war and they talk about a Vietnam vet, Jamie Henry.

And, you know, Jamie was a reluctant draftee, but he went to Vietnam. He was a medic. He saved a lot of American lives. And—but once he got over there, he saw things that really disturbed him. On his first day in the field, he watched as the point man, the lead man of his patrol, stopped a young girl on a trail and molested her. And Jamie said to myself, "My god, what’s going on here?" And day after day, he saw things that really disturbed him—a young boy who was captured and beaten up and then executed, an old woman who was shot down, a man who was used for target practice, a prisoner who was beaten and thrown off a cliff. On and on he saw these things.

And it culminated one day on February 8th, 1968—that’s about a month before the My Lai massacre. His officer, while they were in a village, gave an order to kill anything that moves. And Jamie heard this over the radio, and he set out to go to the scene to try and stop it. Well, there were 20 women and children who were rounded up, and by the time Jamie got there, the men opened up on them, on—an automatic, with their M-16 automatic rifles, and killed them all. And Jamie watched this happen, and he told me that 30 seconds later he vowed that he would make sure that this story got out, no matter what it took. So, Jamie’s life had been threatened in Vietnam, so he kept his mouth shut ’til he got back home, stateside. But he immediately went—

Jamie tells the story of those 20 Vietnamese and the rape in my film, Vietnam: American Holocaust.

The funny thing is that I was already thinking about that because I was preparing the dairy on rape in Syria before I heard Democracy Now.