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The Creek-Seminole Connection to the Vietnam War

The Creek-Seminole Connection to the Vietnam War

 

As a per capita proportion, more Native Americans served in the Vietnam War than any other ethnic group . . . twice as high a percentage as European-Americans. Several of the Creek and Uchee elders, who have helped us with articles in the People of One Fire, are veterans of the Vietnam War.  They, like former Seminole Principal Chief, Jim Billie, were all selected to serve in Special Ops or top secret Intelligence Units.  The United States Armed Forces appreciates the pragmatic brain power, courage and special talents of Muskogeans.  However, the new series on the Vietnam War, being broadcast by PBS, revealed an even more surprising bit of concealed history.

Next highest percentage in the Viet Nam War were Puerto Ricans . . .  that’s the reason that Puerto Rico must repay its debt to Wall Street before Washington, DC will do anything to help the island after the devastation of Hurricane Maria.   By the way,  recent genetic studies have determined that the vast majority of Puerto Ricans carry Native American DNA.  However, it is not necessarily indigenous Taino-Arawak.   Many are the descendants of Native Americans slaves, abducted in the Southeastern United States. Those Puertoricano descendants of Southeastern slaves include beautiful, singer and actress, Jennifer Lopez! 

At the end of this article, you some learn previously unknown “dirty laundry” about the leaders of North Vietnam during that war.

From my family’s and personal experiences, I would say that the actual percentage of Native Americans in military service during the late 20th century is under-estimated.  Most mixed-bloods registered as whites in World War II, because they didn’t want to be considered “coloreds”.  Later on, my generation just didn’t know what a Native American looked like.  My generation thought a real Injun looked like Chief Iron Eyes Cody . . . who turned out to be a full blood Sicilian!  

After taking military physicals, my Uncle Hal and I were both told that we were really American Indians, not whites.   We both knew that already, but such were the times.  Uncle Hal, who had been in the Air Force since the Korean War, was soon assigned to oversee the welfare of American Indians in the US Air Force in Florida.   In my case, the US Navy changed my NROTC curriculum to include classes taught by two winners of the Congressional Medal of Honor.   My commandant said that I didn’t need classes in driving ships, because I wasn’t going to be on a ship anyway . . .  except maybe for a one-way voyage . . . but more likely I would be on a passenger jet both ways.  LOL

The Itstate War Club

First of all, we will explain what the Seminole gentleman is using to punish the European-American gentleman on the ground, who intruded into his family barbecue feast, uninvited.   It is an Itsate (Hitchiti) Creek war club . . . which is a direct descendant of the type of war club used by the Highland Mayas.  This weapon is one of the primary reasons that you speak English, instead of Spanish.  The Spanish soldiers in Florida were terrified of it.  Arquebus muskets and long swords were nearly useless in the dense forests of Georgia and northern Florida.  The Itsate club could easily break a Spanish sword or helmet then knock aside a European pistol, knife or mace, because it was about 36 inches long.

Traditionally, this fearful weapon was made from the root of a Black Cherry tree that had been struck by lightening, when a Creek youth was going through the passage rites to manhood.  I couldn’t find a Black Cherry struck by lightening, but I did find the perfect root, which had been exposed by a bulldozer working on the construction of Interstate 85.   It was primarily displayed along with my Mexican artifacts until I began having trouble with Neo-Nazi’s attacking my campsite at night.   Very effective deterrent . . .  don’t leave home without one.

You will see my war club in an upcoming television documentary.  The TV film crew was from New York City, Germany and the Netherlands.  They were curious as to how I alone could fend off in the pitch dark of North Carolina mountain woods, gangs of thugs carrying base ball bats, who were in their late teens and early twenties.   I brought out my war club.  No more questions were asked about that, but they did ask to film every detail of the war club.

Ho Chi Minh in the United States

The true history of the Viet Nam War was tragic from beginning to end.  Nguyễn Sinh Cung (Ho Chi Minh) was born into a middle class family, who father was a minor, local government official in French Indo-China.    As a college student, he was exiled for taking part in a demonstration against the French colonialists.   While in Paris, he gravitated toward the Marxist community there, but was repeatedly criticized by the hard core Russian Soviets for being really a nationalist first.  

Disillusioned, with the totalitarian Soviet Marxists, he worked on passenger ships then moved to the United States, where he worked jobs in several cities.  He became enamored with American democracy and the fact that the United States had never attempted to enslave peoples in Africa and Asia.  The USA had obtained the Philippines, Guam and the Philippines after a war with Spain and basically stolen Hawaii.  However, in each of these lands, the citizens enjoyed all aspects of the Bill of Rights that US citizens enjoyed.  Apparently,  Uncle Ho didn’t fully appreciate what had been done to Native Americans.  LOL

Nevertheless,  Ho Chi Minh, as he now called himself, became fascinated with the Creek Wars in Alabama and Seminole Wars in Florida. He was quite aware that the Seminoles had never signed a peace treaty with the United States.  He poured over the details of the Seminole victories and decided that this was the way to throw out the French.  He admired the democratic, egalitarian traditions of the Creek-Seminole People, whose leaders looked out for the welfare of ALL their people. This was a superior model for a future Vietnam over both hardcore capitalism and communism.  That’s right . . . the Creeks and Seminoles were the inventors of guerilla warfare tactics that were used in the late 20th century. 

Ho Chi Minh with his friends in the US Army’s Office of Strategic Services . . . which in 1947 became the Central Intelligence Agency.

Vietnam during the Japanese occupation and French re-occupation

Ho Chi Minh returned to Viet Nam, when it was conquered by the Japanese.  He organized an underground resistance movement.  Its new officers were trained in the tactics used by the Creeks and Seminoles. The new officers then began training the Vietnamese volunteers and civilians in these tactics.   Their weapons and munitions were furnished by the OSS, forerunner of the CIA.    That’s right . . . the United States helped create the Viet Minh Army.  

Franklin Delano Roosevelt personally promised the Vietnamese that the United States would pressure France to give them independence.   However, after he died,  intermediary officials never told President Harry Truman about this promise and blocked any communications sent to Truman by the Viet Minh.  After Japan surrendered,  the Viet Minh occupied Hanoi.  In front of hundreds of thousands of jubilant Vietnamese,  Uncle Ho read a document, which was virtually a verbatim copy of Thomas Jefferson’s words in the American Declaration of Independence.

The most tragic moment in this trail of “what if’s” occurred shortly thereafter.   Senior OSS officer in Indo-China,  Albert P. Dewey, distributed a position paper to the OSS,  Truman White House and our European allies,  which stated the reasons why the United States should recognize and give economic support to the Viet Minh revolutionary government.  This outraged the British and French . . . who were still deluded into thinking that their colonial empires would continue.  

The official story is that Dewey was mistakenly killed by his Viet Minh friends.  That’s horse manure in the same genre of those who believe that 110 story buildings collapse straight down.   The British Intelligence officers there, intentionally planted false intel in Viet Minh hands that the most hated French official (in the car actually driven by Dewey) would be passing a certain place at a certain time . . . and would be flying a United States flag to conceal its identity.  

After Dewey’s death,  his pro-Vietnamese OSS unit was called home.  Truman’s advisors pressured him to give substantial financial aid to the French military units in Vietnam.  The French would have been quickly driven out otherwise and a free Vietnam would have still considered the United States . . . in particularly its Native peoples . . . as their primary role model.  History went another direction.  By 1954, the United States was basically paying for the French military activities in Vietnam and the French lost . . . badly.

Do you remember this terrifying scenes at the opening of the movie, “We Were Soldiers?”  In 1954,  a column of French soldiers , who were sent to relieve the besieged French garrison at Dien Bien Phu,  were wiped out to a man by the Viet Minh.   We now know that this was a long-planned attack that was inspired by the massacre of a US Army column in Florida in 1835. 

On December 28, 1835, two U.S. companies of 110 troops (including soldiers from the 2nd Artillery, 3rd Artillery and 4th Infantry Regiments) under Major Francis Dade,  departed from Fort Brooke in Tampa.  They marched up the Camino Real (King’s Road) to resupply and reinforce Fort King in Ocala, which was beseiged by hostile Seminole guerillas.  Only two of the United States soldiers survived in Dade’s command.

When interviewed about his time in South Vietnam as a US Army Special Ops commando,  former Seminole Principal Chief Jim Billie stated that much of the time, the landscape was like where in had grown up in southern Florida. His ancestors had fought in that terrain.  He added that the style of warfare, waged by his Viet Cong enemies was the same that his ancestors had utilized.     Brother Billie . . . that was no accident!

Communist officials behaving badly

Most North Americans are not aware that the reunified Republic of Vietnam is now officially an ally of the United States.  At least under the Obama administration, relations between Vietnam and the United States were very friendly. 

All of the top officials of the Vietnamese Communist Party during the Vietnam War era have died off.   A new generation of leaders are encouraging free enterprise and a now-free-to-speak-freely generation of Vietnamese historians are reexamining their own leaders role in creating the massive deaths caused by the war.   Here are the biggest surprises.

  • Ho Chi Minh was opposed to any military activities in South Vietnam that would draw the United States into the civil war.  He, probably correctly, believed that the unpopular, corrupt South Vietnamese regime would be overthrown by its own citizens, because of its oppression of the Buddhist majority.   Ho Chi Minh was secretly deposed by hardcore Marxists in the Politburo of the Communist Party, who immediately expanded terrorist activities in the south intentionally to draw in the United States.  Until his death in 1969,  Uncle Ho was basically a powerless, public face for the North Vietnamese government,  while the true leaders remained unknown to the United States until very recently.
  • North Vietnamese college students, who were all required to be Communist Party members, were exempt from military service.  While forcing millions of North Vietnamese men and women to take part in the war in the south,  none of the senior officials of the Communist Party and very few of the top generals sent their children into combat. Le Duan (pronounced lay zwan) was the actual leader of North Vietnamese government and the person directly responsible for the grotesque number of deaths among North Vietnamese combatants.   He sent all of his children to study in the Soviet Union, so that they would not even be exposed to American bombs.   Many government officials sent their children to study in neutral Sweden or Canada, so in case the United States and South Vietnam won the war, their children would be in a good position to work with Americans.
  • Most North Vietnamese families never knew that their son or daughter had been killed in South Vietnam until after the victorious North Vietnamese captured Saigon in 1975. Some had been dead for eight years when they received such letters.  So . . . the Reds were even more deceitful than their American counterparts.
  • A dissident faction of the US State Department carried out a secret election in South Vietnam in 1970, which even polled pro-Viet Cong villages.  The majority of South Vietnamese voted against both the South and North Vietnamese governments . . . considering them both repugnant.

 

So . . . don’t believe the news that you read today contains all the facts.  Forty years later there might be a much more accurate account of the events.

 

And now a video from a world, which is now gone with the wind. Yes,  my dear, there really was a time when hundreds of thousands of young and not-so-young Americans took the streets to protest deceitful leaders . . . 

 

 

“Country Joe” McDonald talks about the Woodstock Festival and the Vietnam War in 2016.   Would you believe that he was not even a scheduled performer at Woodstock and that his song, which became the musical icon of the Vietnam Era, was improvised just before he went on stage with a borrowed guitar?

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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.

8 Comments

  1. nfriends@windstream.net'

    God Bless You, Richard Thornton. I lived through all that — could not tolerate Ken Burn’s Bank of America et. al. whitewash — and now, finally, it all makes sense. And I’m crying listening to that song for the first time in… what feels like several lifetimes. Thank you.

    Reply
    • POOF has a history professor in Vietnam as one of its subscribers. He wanted to know who the Seminoles were because they seemed to have played such a critical role in their country’s history.

      Reply
  2. nfriends@windstream.net'

    It all comes full circle, doesn’t it. I’m almost 71 and have never particularly wished I could re-live my life until now… and I’m not sure there’s anything I could have done to have changed anything then, much less now. We just believed we could, that’s all.

    Reply
    • Many years ago in mythical land faraway called the progressive State of Georgia, I was listening to Allman Brothers, Lynard Skynnard and ARS rock music with Governor Jimmy Carter and his family (minus Roslyn) in the Governor’s mansion garage apartment. A young man and his even younger nephew opened the door without knocking. We wondered, who could be so rude to interrupt our party. The young man apologized and said, “Jimmy, I’m sorry, my nephew and I are several hours early, but Roslyn said that it was okay for us to come on up here.

      The rest of us were highly annoyed by the interruption then Jimmy stated that perhaps he should introduce our guests. He said, “I would like you to meet the new senator from Delaware, Joe Biden.” We all jumped up at attention. Later in the afternoon, we learned that Joe Biden was there on behalf of the DNC to ask Jimmy to run for president. Jimmy did not suddenly decide to run for office as the official media stories tell you. When it came time to introduce me, he said, “This is Richard Thornton. He is a Georgia Tech graduate and just back from some very interesting work assignments in Sweden. He is probably going to be governor of Georgia some day, maybe even president.”

      Of course, that will never happen, but who would have dreamed that in 2017, we would be living in such a miserable, mean-spirited, polarized society? And of course, there is the irony of the casual Saturday afternoon get-together being the actual launch of Carter’s campaign.

      Reply
  3. jesstowns@gmail.com'

    Another brilliant and very informative piece, thank you very much for posting this Richard. The Native American and Puerto Rican contributions to the Viet Nam War part is going to change my thinking in ways I haven’t figured out yet. And I also really enjoyed your personal stories, the cherry root war club sticking out especially in my mind. I hadn’t seen that clip of Country Joe McDonald before so that’s all new history to me too. My friends and I nearly wore out the Woodstock soundtrack when it came out, and I happened to have been in a massage class in Berkeley in the mid-70s that Country Joe’s father was also in, so that definitely got my attention.

    Reply
    • My gosh . . . you are the real thing! I spent those years as a moderately conservative, terribly overworked, Georgia Tech architecture student with a Naval officer’s hair cut. I did attend the first major concert for the Allman Brothers though. They were a unknown band, who were supposed to lead in the main attraction. After their incredible performance, the crowd booed the main attraction and screamed for the Allman Brothers to come back on stage. They eventually did.

      Reply
  4. gerard728@gmail.com'

    Author George Herring in his history of the Vietnam War states in the opening chapter that two U.S. OSS agents were standing on the platform with Ho Chi Minh when he declared the Republic of Vietnam in 1945. Whenever I think of the war, i get angry. All those lives were lost for what? So we can get cheap shoes? A cousin of mine was killed serving in that theater. My oldest brother was Navy and stationed at the base in Da Nang. When I was a young police officer the guy who had the biggest influence on how I conducted business was a former Marine who did two tours in Vietnam. Your mention of then Governor Carter brought back some memories. After his election as president, I think it was Time magazine ran a cover story on the “New South.” Turns out things really haven’t changed that much since then.

    Reply
    • Yes, Richard that is correct. Those two OSS agents in the photo I published were close friends of Ho Chi Minh. They were murdered by English and French Intelligence agents a few days later.

      The Vietnam War was for nothing . . . but misery and death.

      Reply

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