The Buzz

The Vietnam War in 40 Quotes

Last month, I did a series of posts commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the arrival of U.S. combat troops in Vietnam on March 8, 1965. Today marks another significant date in the Vietnam War: the fortieth anniversary of the Fall of Saigon. To mark that anniversary, here are forty quotes that tell the story of the Vietnam War:

“All men are created equal; they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights; among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”—The first lines of the Vietnamese Declaration of Independence, issued on September 2, 1945, quoting the American Declaration of Independence.

“You can kill ten of my men for every one I kill of yours. But even at those odds, you will lose and I will win.” —Viet Minh leader Ho Chi Minh in awarning to French colonialists in 1946.

“Our long-term objectives are… to see installed a self-governing nationalist state which will be friendly to the US… We have an immediate interest in maintaining in power a friendly French Government, to assist in the furtherance of our aims in Europe. This immediate and vital interest has in consequence taken precedence over active steps looking toward the realization of our objectives in Indochina.” —Department of State, “Policy Statement on Indochina,” issued on September 27, 1948, explaining why the United States supported French policy in Vietnam even though U.S. officials believed it ran counter to their long-term objectives for the region.

“You have a row of dominoes set up; you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is that it will go over very quickly.” —President Dwight D. Eisenhower speaking at a press conference on April 7, 1954.

“Well, Lyndon, they may be every bit as intelligent as you say, but I’d feel a whole lot better if just one of them had run for sheriff once.” —House Speaker Sam Rayburn (D-TX) speaking to Lyndon B. Johnson in January 1961 after the newly inaugurated vice president extolled the brilliance of the members of President John F. Kennedy’s new cabinet.

“Now we have a problem in trying to make our power credible, and Vietnam looks like the place.” —President John Kennedy in a June 1961 interview with the New York Times reporter James Reston.

If the Buddhists wish to have another barbecue, I’ll gladly supply the gasoline and a match.” —Tran Le Xuan, better known as Madame Nhu or “the Dragon Lady,” dismissing the fact that Buddhist monks had set themselves on fire in the summer of 1963 to protest the rule of her brother-in-law, South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, for whom she acted as an unofficial first lady.

“I don’t think that unless a greater effort is made by the government to win popular support that the war can be won out there. In the final analysis, it is their war. They are the ones who have to win it or lose it. We can help them, we can give them equipment, we can send our men out there as advisors, but they have to win it, the people of Vietnam, against the communists.” —President John Kennedy in a televised interview with Walter Cronkite on September 2, 1963.