For years, Patti has had a shadowy reputation as the OSS agent who contacted Ho Chi Minh in the jungle in 1945 and was in...


WHY VIET NAM? Prelude to America's Albatross

For years, Patti has had a shadowy reputation as the OSS agent who contacted Ho Chi Minh in the jungle in 1945 and was in the middle of Ho's unsuccessful efforts to woo the U.S., and now he's finally telling what really happened. Sent into Indochina to organize clandestine actions against the Japanese, Patti was instructed to make use of whatever groups were in operation, but to refrain from helping the French recapture their pre-war colonial power. This was in line with Roosevelt's anti-colonial policies, and Patti himself was strongly in favor of it. Here, the French quickly emerge as the bad guys, seconded by the British, Japanese, and Americans; Ho is clearly the hero. When he first met Ho, Patti was impressed by his undoctrinaire nationalism as well as by Ho's reluctance to ask for American military aid; all Ho wanted was for the U.S. to live up to the principles of the Atlantic Charter and show some sign of good-will toward the Vietnamese nationalists. On Japan's collapse, Patti's mission shifted to security for POWs held by the Japanese, and in this period the intrigue thickens. FDR's death left his stated policy intact, but without any support in the White House or the new Administration. Patti was helpless as events overtook him, beginning with the arbitrary division of Vietnam at the 16th parallel in order to facilitate the Japanese surrender (the Chinese received the surrender above the line, and the British below). While the OSS had considered the country to be a single unit, this administrative division soon became more than that as the British played straight-man to the French, even going so far as to employ Japanese troops to put down the Vietnamese nationalists. The sudden release of armed French POWs resulted in a coup, and the old colonial game was on again. To Patti, it appeared that no one in Washington was paying any attention, and he gradually realized that FDR's anticolonialism had died with him. Though stronger on the how of Vietnam than the why, Patti's long-awaited ground-level report is an important addition to the literary sources on the origins of that unfortunate war.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1980


Page Count: -

Publisher: Univ. of California Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1980