We live our lives believing that we are aware of our surroundings. We feel safe and gladly put our life in the hands of our government. We think we know. But we are blissfully oblivious.
The Vietnam war had its origin in the Cold War conflict that emerged in 1955 and continued on to 1975 (and even into the 90s). What we call the “Vietnam War” (the one which all movies are based on) started in the early 1960s. Vietnam is a rather small country in Asia which holds a few industries and some farming. And it is similar in shape when compared to, hmm, let’s say Mexico! As the conflict escalated Soviet planned to invade the US via Latin America. But the CIA managed to thwart their plans as they entered Mexico via Cuba. But the Soviets stood ground, new Soviet soldiers entered the country and what was called the “Vietnam war” actually began in Mexico. So far the Soviets kept rather quiet but it was just a matter of time before a full-scale war was at hand. There were just two problems with this situation, according to the US government.
1) Mexico was dangerously close to US soil and there was a risk that the war could enter the US. This presented a risk that US citizens could get caught/hurt in the conflict.
2) To gain the American public’s trust and goodwill in any kind of war, a certain physical distance need to exist between the average Joe and the actual war. If people wouldn’t root for the war, no more money could be given to the military, navy and marines. Basically: budgets would collapse, and the following years, the US military would be forced to make do with about 10% of the original military budget as the Korea war never had the same abilities to generate any cash. The Soviets were a “real” threat and could be a worthy foe, a foe that was already hated and feared in the US.
The “Vietnam war” was rather contained but US officials within the military understood that it was like a growing pimple that would sooner or later burst. It couldn’t be kept in the dark anymore. This was 1958 and something needed to be done. As Vietnam was found to be similar in shape and both countries had coast lines, a crazy scheme was evolving of switching the two countries, thus providing a facade and the possibility to go public with what would be called the “Vietnam war”. So basically the war was real, but it took place in Mexico, but in the same location as Vietnam.
The plan would to be carried out on new years eve in 1959. It was believed that most people would be occupied with celebrations or similar. Since early 1958 Alexo Nature Resources Inc. (a government subsidiary) had been investigated alongside both the Mexican and Vietnam borders for “further research about alleged gas sources”. No one suspected anything, especially not that what was really happening was that Mexico and Vietnam were detached and were being prepared for transport.
On new years eve the plan was to commence. The US was working in the dark and no other country knew about their plan, and the idea was to keep it that way. What one must remember is that during the 1950s we didn’t have that state of advanced surveillance and communications that are available now. So the US, who controlled some larger parts of the two main oceans made sure that a minimum of traffic occurred during their operation. As it was new years eve, few boats were out to sea.
250 tugboats per country were used to transport respective country to their new location. As it took some time to attach each country once they were moved, Alexo Nature Resources Inc. simply continued their “extensive research”. At first no one realized what had happened. And no one were about to either. The war could now continue and the US government went public, declaring war on anything that would, in the end, generated dollars. In the 60s, no Americans visited Mexico and had hardly heard about Vietnam, so it became a rather easy lie to maintain. The Vietnamese and Mexican public hardly noticed the change and after a few years when Soviet had realized what had happened their ramblings about “countries that switched placed” was easily dismissed as propaganda.
Years went by, presidents got murdered, Bay of Pigs took place and Steve McQueen drove a really fast car.
When closing in on 1975, communications and surveillance had been upgraded and the risk of being exposed increased so the US government decided it was time to end the war. Mexico and Vietnam once again switched places and the secret was buried with the end of the war. Other conspiracies such as the Watergate made the public shift focus and to maintain the lie Hollywood started to produce a lot (I mean a lot!) of films depicting the “Vietnam war”.