Next Thursday, history buffs can visit the South Coastal Library to hear a lecture about U.S. involvement in Vietnam given by Bill Gudelunas. The free lectures will be presented on Thursdays, Oct. 10 and 17, beginning at 6 p.m., complete with PowerPoint presentations and study guides.
“In my first lecture, ‘1956 By 1975,’ I’ll talk about the politics leading into the war,” said Gudelunas.
The lecture will focus on Indochina and how the United States entered into an undeclared war with Vietnam years after it had told the French not to.
“We haven’t declared war in the United States since 1942. We declared war in Germany and Italy in 1941 and a little later against two other countries that were captured by them,” he explained. “Vietnam and Korea were the first two major undeclared wars in the aftermath of World War II.”
Gudelunas will also be discussing the Geneva Accords, designed to divide Vietnam, eventually hold an election and restore peace to Indochina. He explained the United States didn’t sign the accords but vowed not to disrupt the process. However, that would not be the case.
“In 1956, there would be free, fair elections internationally supervised,” he explained. “Eisenhower decided to convince the South Vietnamese government to go against the treaty it had signed and not hold those elections in 1956 because we knew Ho Chi Minh would win.”
Gudelunas said that most people are unaware of the elections that were to take place.
“Most Vietnam vets that I’ve run into in my life haven’t known about those elections. And very few people knew that Ho Chi Minh liked the U.S. and his hero was Thomas Jefferson. He thought the greatest piece of writing was the Declaration of Independence, which he had hung in his office.”
Gudelunas said the United States turned on Ho Chi Minh — who had worked for the Office of Strategic Services (or OSS, what is today the Central Intelligence Agency) — because he was a communist.
“He was well-regarded, but because of the Cold War and Korea, then we began to hate Ho Chi Minh, not for anything he did, only because he was a communist. Because of the Cold War, we began to think that communism was monolithic, meaning one communist was like any other communist. And we turned on him, he didn’t turn on us.”
In his second lecture, Gudelunas will talk more about the war itself and the consequences of war.
He said he hopes the lectures will clear up some of the many misunderstandings revolving around the Vietnam War.
Gudelunas is a retired professor, with a doctorate from Lehigh University. He currently teaches at Del Tech and Salisbury University.
“I welcome anyone,” he said of the lectures. “Come and learn!”
The history series is free and open to the public. For more information on the series, or other programs the South Coastal Library offers, visit www.southcoastal.lib.de.us or call (302) 539-5231.