Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History

Preparing for Biological Warfare

Once the Việt Minh had begun to gather information about rural northern Vietnam, the question became what to do with this information.

How should the Việt Minh prepare for, and eventually resist, biological warfare?

Such questions were difficult to answer even for Việt Minh medical doctors. What they could do instead was propose a series of measures that might make a difference in combatting biological warfare. The report from the third meeting of the Committee to Prevent Germs (March 8 to 10, 1953) noted the Chinese patriotic hygiene movement success in dealing with biological warfare in the Korean War. In addition, a planning group assembled after this meeting headed by Tôn Thất Tùng laid out three guiding principles to deal with biological weapons:

  1. The response to natural disasters should be used as a basis for the response to combatting enemy-inflicted destruction;
  2. The Masses (i.e. the People) should be the basis of response;
  3. There are two kinds of hygiene: short-term campaigns and everyday, regular practices. The short term campaigns are useful to establish regular practices and the regular practices are a continuation of limited-time campaigns.

This path explores how Việt Minh planned to resist biological warfare. It first looks at the emotional geography of fear of hunger, which the Việt Minh knew was a politically sensitive issue and was one that could be used to motivate farmers to take part in mass movements. This path then considers a Việt Minh pamphlet produced for domestic and international audiences that recounted biological warfare during the Korean War. Such pamphlets were used to educate Vietnamese about the use of biological weapons and how to resist them as well as build international pressure against such warfare. This path finally looks at how the Việt Minh saw the Chinese patriotic hygiene movement as an example of how to rapidly and effectively respond to biological weapons.

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