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10 - The Twilight of Empire and the Strange Birth of South Vietnam

from Part III - Endgame, 1953–1956

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 August 2021

Shawn F. McHale
Affiliation:
George Washington University, Washington DC
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Summary

By 1953, the communist-led Resistance had been marginalized in much of the Mekong delta. But the cost was high. "Traditional" institutions of the village had, in large swaths of the delta, been destroyed. The Franco-Vietnamese "coalition" had defeated the communist-led Resistance. But who would win the peace? The militia leaders, so skilled in war, were not fluent in the arts of peace. This chapter looks at the endgame of empire, when France was withdrawing from rural areas all over the South, downsizing its military presence, and shifting its support to the State of Vietnam. The end result by 1954, however, was a balkanized southern Vietnam with fragmented sovereignty where militias entrenched themselves in rural fiefdoms. The chapter shows how Ngo Dinh Diem, faced with this divided South, won the battle for post-war control of the South. It pays particular attention to his expulsion to Cambodia of the Cao Dai leader Pham Cong Tac, the co-optation of the Hoa Hao militia leader Tran Van Soai, and the arrest, trial, and execution of the Hao Hao militia leader Ba Cut. The chapter also examines the regional, national, and international legacies of the war.

Type
Chapter
Information
The First Vietnam War
Violence, Sovereignty, and the Fracture of the South, 1945–1956
, pp. 261 - 280
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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