Eisenhower and the French war in Vietnam outlined in the Pentagon Papers is proving to teach us some very interesting lessons. The Pentagon Papers now confirm actions under Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower that span 1945 – 1955. Even before the end of World War II France was demanding the Allied nations, namely the US and Britain to re-colonize Indo-China which they lost to the army of Japan.
The Pentagon Papers reaffirm the US under Eisenhower financed the French Indo-China war beginning in late 1946.
Truman and Eisenhower preferred to send tens of millions of dollars in military assistance to France. They both held a position that the US would not stand in the way of France’s re-colonization in South Vietnam, permitting the US to keep an arm’s length from a growing communist war supported by Soviet arms and Chinese military advisors. The cold war was indeed beginning to heat up Asia.
The surprise for me in reading the Eisenhower volumes is how a cold war against communism was shaping up in Thailand, rather than Vietnam. David Halberstam reminds us in his book “The Best and the Brightest” that it was Eisenhower’s advise to President-elect Kennedy that he would inherit a war requiring US troop involvement — in Laos, not in Vietnam. But well before Kennedy’s defeat of Nixon, back in 1954 the siege of Dien Bien Phu would change France and America for generations.