Black in Vietnam: Anti-Imperialist Stories

Today is April 30th. Forty-one years ago, in 1975, on this day, what remained of the US presence in Vietnam, along with many of their South Vietnamese puppet lapdogs, fled with their tails between their legs. The US embassy, the source of many incidents of terror, torture, and war crimes committed against innocent Vietnamese people, was evacuated, with the last US ambassador to South Vietnam fleeing via helicopter from the roof of the building. South Vietnamese who had allowed Yankee propaganda (and money) make them hate their Northern brothers and sisters tried to flee as well, but they were in for a rude awakening. Those who had gathered in front of the locked embassy gates hoping for a ride on a helicopter or plane were subject to assault and shots from the ragtag and tired band of US Marines on duty there. Those who happened to force their way in were denied seats on helicopters by force. The evacuation of high level compradors (loaded with stolen money and other items) and American personnel (hands thoroughly soaked in the blood of the people) took priority. This chaos subsided to victory. People’s Army tanks crashed through the gates of the Independence Palace, and General Duong Van Minh, “leader” of the fundamentally defunct South Vietnamese puppet government, was waiting on the steps of the palace, to “transfer power” to the people’s forces. The reply was: “Your power has crumbled, you can not give up what you don’t have”. The decades long war for independence from French, Japanese, and American imperialism was over on this day.

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Consequences of trusting Americans.

During the American imperialist war of aggression, hundreds of thousands of American troops were stationed in Vietnam and surrounding countries, raining endless death and destruction on the people. Exactly 6 years before the Liberation of Saigon, April 30, 1969, saw 543,482 American troops stationed in Vietnam. 76% of these men were from working class/poor neighborhoods  and rural areas, and 14.1% of those enlisted men killed were members of the Black oppressed nationality. In the Vietnam War of American aggression,  black soldiers made up a disproportionate number of those assigned to the deadliest jobs, and also suffered a disproportionate number of disciplinary infractions that sent them to military prison and subsequent dishonorable discharge. Reactionary white officers, who were all too happy to get over to Vietnam so they could take direct part in the mass slaughter of innocent civilians in their own country, who they saw as racially inferior, brutalized, maltreated, and abused black enlisted men heavily, when they weren’t too busy raping, stealing from, and killing innocent civilians. The imperialist and unjust nature of this war, which was clear as day to many black, working class GIs, who had suffered brutally at the hands of the imperialist, white-supremacist system that now sent them to Vietnam and told them to kill another oppressed, imperialized people of color, along with the internal contradictions within the armed forces and in the United States, led to the development of a veritable black anti-imperialist and anti-war movement, both within the black soldiers in Vietnam and in the United States. Black soldiers, kidnapped and sent to Vietnam, forged links of solidarity with the Vietnamese masses, and learned from them. Essentially, the black troops agreed with Muhammad Ali, who saw his title stripped because he refused to go to the pig war. We didn’t have no quarrel with them Vietcong, and didn’t none ever call us niggers.

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“Your real enemies are those who call you “niggers”. Your genuine struggle is on your native land. GO HOME NOW AND ALIVE!”

Accounts from black soldiers in Vietnam show the solidarity that existed with the Vietnamese masses.

“Anything blacks got from the Vietnamese, they would pay for. You hardly didn’t find a black cursing a Vietnamese. And a black would try to learn some of the words. And try to learn a few of their customs so they wouldn’t hurt them.” – Emmanuel J. Holloman, Specialist 5, Interpreter, 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army.

Poor Vietnamese. So many times Americans would degrade them. At Cam Ranh Bay even. In paradise, man. That would be ridiculous. Havin’ it so good, yet still treat ’em like trash. Especially these white guys, actin’ like “I am the conqueror. I am supreme”. Dirt, that’s how they treat the Vietnamese, like dirt. Let’s say, riding down the road in the truck. I’ll see ’em plow right through a bunch. It’s fun to them. You see a Vietnamese might be walking down the street. This guy run up there and goose him. Stick his finger up the man’s butt. Or smack him upside the head…In the mess hall one day, this white dude wanted a whole bunch of chicken. This Vietnamese girl was doing what she was told. She say, “two piece chicken, two piece chicken.” So this guy grabbed her by the neck and stuck her head in the mashed potatoes. And like the mama sans be on the base cleanin’ our shoes. I give her a dollar. But this guy say, “You ain’t do it good enough.” Maybe smack her. Or throw her daughter down, pull her clothes up, try to rape her. She just thirteen or fourteen. She there tryin’ to sweep the floor. The mother was just too scared to say somethin’…He say, “Aw, fuck it man. We protectin’ them. I’m over here savin’ their life.” – Dwyte A. Brown, Radarman 2nd Class, U.S. Navy.

Accounts taken from Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans, Wallace A. Terry.

These accounts show the imperialist, chauvinistic behavior expressed by many white troops towards the Vietnamese, behavior that was being reproduced by the police, governments, and employers in the United States towards the black masses. These black soldiers had experience and developed/sharpened their political consciousness as a result of seeing this behavior and talking with the Vietnamese masses, and thus became close to the Vietnamese people as a result of their common enemy, white supremacy, capitalism, and imperialism. A fifth column was developing in the imperialist force, one that was watching and keeping abreast of struggles at home and abroad. Upon leaving Vietnam, many black troops found themselves joining groups such as the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, or taking part in urban insurrections. National Guard troops and police who tried to suppress the insurrections found themselves taking well trained and aimed sniper fire, and weapons that shouldn’t have been in the United States on the streets found themselves in the hands of the righteous masses. Things in Vietnam during the late sixties and early seventies weren’t much better for the pig officers and imperialists, especially after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968. This was, essentially, the last straw both at home and abroad, and contradictions quickly turned antagonistic.

In the spring of 1968, the assassination of Martin Luther King sparked rebellions in cities across the U.S., and thousands of soldiers were moved to open rebellion against the military. A freelance reporter at the besieged Marine post at Khe Sanh near the DMZ (the border between North and South Vietnam) wrote later: “The death of Martin Luther King intruded on the war in a way that no other outside event had ever done. We stood around the radio and listened to the sound of automatic-weapons fire being broadcast from a number of American cities.” There were protests, revolts, and/or racial fighting on every U.S. base in Asia following King’s assassination…For those soldiers who were stateside during the 1968 rebellion, the experience of being slammed against the wall by U.S. soldiers in the Black neighborhoods-while home on leave from Vietnam-was the last straw…Another Black vet recounted a discussion in Vietnam off the urban uprisings:
“Captain one time asked Davis what kind of car he gonna have when he get back in the States. Davis told him, ‘I’m not gonna get a car, sir. I’m gonna get me a Exxon station and give gas away to the brothers. Let them finish burnin down what they leave.’ It wasn’t funny if he said it in the stateside. But all of ’em bust out laughing…The Black Panther Party issued calls to Black GIs to “Either quit the Army, now, or start destroying it from the inside.” And many GIs from the oppressed nationalities thought the time was right for violent revolution. One poll found that 76 percent of Black soldiers supported Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver and were seriously dealing with the question of the armed overthrow of the U.S. government. And more than a few were making some concrete preparations…A Black marine told a reporter that he knew guys from Detroit who were taking mortars back, breaking them down so that each one could get a piece into his duffle and then reassembling them when they got together back on the block. “You see that four-oh-deuce?” he told the reporter, “Now that’ll take out a police station for you.” The Vietnam War and the Revolt of Black GIs

Black soldiers (and quite a few progressive minded white soldiers) mutinied, went AWOL, refused to follow orders to send them to the field, rioted, read banned political literature, and in many cases shot or lobbed grenades into the tents and barracks of officers and reactionary enlisted troops. Much like in China to the North, where the masses were waging the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1976, rebellion was the order of the day.

The GIs told Boyle they objected not only to what they saw as a suicidal mission but to the war effort itself. Their commanding officer wouldn’t let them wear t-shirts with peace symbols, they complained. “He calls us hypocrites if we wear a peace sign,” one GI said. “As if we wanted to come over here and fight. Like we can’t believe in peace, man, because we’re carrying an M-16 out there.”  Another soldier piped in: “I always did believe in protecting my own country, if it came down to that. But I’m over here fighting a war for a cause that means nothing to me.” Historians say so-called “combat refusals” became increasingly common in Vietnam after 1969. Soldiers also expressed their opposition to the war in underground newspapers and coffee-house rap sessions. Some wore black armbands in the field. Some went further…”During the years of 1969 down to 1973, we have the rise of fragging – that is, shooting or hand-grenading your NCO or your officer who orders you out into the field…The US Army itself does not know exactly how many…officers were murdered. But they know at least 600 were murdered, and then they have another 1400 that died mysteriously. Consequently by early 1970, the army was at war not with the enemy but with itself.” – Fragging and Combat Refusals in Vietnam

By the time that American combat forces officially withdrew in 1973, the military was in a state of near chaos, echoing that at home. Southeast Asia was also ravaged by the Yankee imperialist project. Drug and alcohol abuse was rampant among the troops, and many soldiers developed addictions that continue to this day. 533,000 members of the people’s forces of the NLF/PAVN were killed, the total (official) number of dead from the masses of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos from 1954 to 1975 eventually rounded out at almost 1.5 million people. The actual figure is probably at least twice that number. The US had devastated Cambodia and Laos, sown explosive ordinance across the Indochinese jungle that still kills and maims the masses to this day. 58,000 American soldiers were killed for the imperialist designs of Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. A disproportionate percentage of those soldiers were Black. Several thousand more black veterans live precarious lives as members of the country’s homeless population, are in prisons and jails, or have committed suicide. Many joined revolutionary groups that waged armed struggle in the US. What is undeniable, however, is that this imperialist war sharpened the political consciousness of these black men kidnapped from their homes and the liberation struggle being waged by their nation in the United States by the “draft” and sent them overseas to stifle the liberation struggle of the Vietnamese people, one that was won on this day forty one years ago, as Saigon, the capital of the South Vietnamese puppet state, the den of vice and iniquity, from where schemes that killed millions of brave, heroic people were launched, from where the countryselling traitor Diem allowed for the wrenching of millions of Vietnamese people from their homes into fortified prison camps called “strategic hamlets” while Madame Nhu and her clique looted the country, was finally liberated. Many undoubtedly watched that tank crash through the gates of “Independence” Palace and applauded, wondering when their day would come as well.

 

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