There's an old saying that "nobody knows Vietnam like the French."  How does this statement apply to the American experience with the war, in general?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that the French experience with Vietnam should have been extremely insightful to what the American experience was going to be.  The parallels are eerily similar.  A Western nation enters into Vietnam without a full grasp of the country's history, their own indigenous motivations, and a complete lack of awareness of the geographic and even climate conditions that await them.  The French were overwhelmed by the guerrilla tactics that the Vietnamese demonstrated, something that the Tet Offensive demonstrated to the Americans.  The French believed that their opponents would fight a more traditional war.  This ended up being an incorrect assumption, as the Vietnamese fought a war that played the weaknesses of the French, something applicable to the American experience as well.  As seen in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, the Vietnamese were able to absorb shockingly high casualty rates and continually wither the resolve of the French.  This happened with the Americans, as well.  The Vietnamese demonstrated the power and passion involved in a "home field mentality," and this ended up hurting the French when objectives became muddled.  Such an experience parallels the American one.   Finally, I would say that just as the French found themselves fighting alone, for the most part, and without any real assistance from other nations.  This is something that the Americans experienced themselves, reflecting the sense of isolation and forlornness that would end up dooming their mission in South East Asia.  It is here where I think that one can see how the French experience mirrored the American one, demonstrating that there might not be many who know the landscape of Vietnam like the French. 


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