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Ambassador Donald R. Heath, the U.S. Embassy in Saigon and the Franco-Viet Minh War, 1950-1954

Ambassador Donald R. Heath, the U.S. Embassy in Saigon and the Franco-Viet Minh War, 1950-1954
Ambassador Donald R. Heath, the U.S. Embassy in Saigon and the Franco-Viet Minh War, 1950-1954
This thesis provides the first scholarly analysis of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon from the American decision to support France’s war against the Viet Minh with military and economic assistance in 1950 to Ngo Dinh Diem’s appointment as prime minister of Vietnam in 1954. It explores the embassy’s influence with Washington and its impact on events on the ground in Indochina. The major focus of the thesis is Donald R. Heath, the chief of the American diplomatic mission in Saigon in this period. The thesis contends that Heath played a key role in maintaining a U.S. policy that placed greater preference on sustaining the French war effort over the development of an independent, anti-communist government in Vietnam. Heath used his reporting to insist on the workability of this policy and intervened to counter the efforts of other Americans to reorient the balance of U.S. policy. Heath’s repeated interventions with French, Vietnamese and American actors also helped to sustain the French commitment in Indochina, preventing diplomatic incidents in Saigon from encouraging the French to abandon their vital Cold War military effort. Heath’s actions had unintended consequences, however. His prioritisation of the French effort over the development of anti-communist Vietnamese nationalism damaged the prestige of the United States in Vietnam and the Vietnamese government’s chances of drawing political support away from the Viet Minh. Heath’s embassy, which demonstrated activist tendencies after 1950, was also complicit in the deepening of American involvement in Vietnam. Embassy attempts to buck up the French and, after their European ally was defeated, the government of Ngo Dinh Diem committed greater American assistance and prestige to the struggle to prevent Vietnam’s fall to communism, setting the scene for the later American war in Vietnam.
University of Southampton
Ferguson, Alexander David
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Ferguson, Alexander David
295d0b9f-f76e-4a34-96c0-07627ae110f1
Oliver, Kendrick
928f8050-9c38-47a8-9121-1f60437dfc1e
Talbot, Ian
b240135a-0cab-4162-b8a6-922fbeec492f

Ferguson, Alexander David (2018) Ambassador Donald R. Heath, the U.S. Embassy in Saigon and the Franco-Viet Minh War, 1950-1954. University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis, 292pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

This thesis provides the first scholarly analysis of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon from the American decision to support France’s war against the Viet Minh with military and economic assistance in 1950 to Ngo Dinh Diem’s appointment as prime minister of Vietnam in 1954. It explores the embassy’s influence with Washington and its impact on events on the ground in Indochina. The major focus of the thesis is Donald R. Heath, the chief of the American diplomatic mission in Saigon in this period. The thesis contends that Heath played a key role in maintaining a U.S. policy that placed greater preference on sustaining the French war effort over the development of an independent, anti-communist government in Vietnam. Heath used his reporting to insist on the workability of this policy and intervened to counter the efforts of other Americans to reorient the balance of U.S. policy. Heath’s repeated interventions with French, Vietnamese and American actors also helped to sustain the French commitment in Indochina, preventing diplomatic incidents in Saigon from encouraging the French to abandon their vital Cold War military effort. Heath’s actions had unintended consequences, however. His prioritisation of the French effort over the development of anti-communist Vietnamese nationalism damaged the prestige of the United States in Vietnam and the Vietnamese government’s chances of drawing political support away from the Viet Minh. Heath’s embassy, which demonstrated activist tendencies after 1950, was also complicit in the deepening of American involvement in Vietnam. Embassy attempts to buck up the French and, after their European ally was defeated, the government of Ngo Dinh Diem committed greater American assistance and prestige to the struggle to prevent Vietnam’s fall to communism, setting the scene for the later American war in Vietnam.

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Ferguson PhD Thesis - Version of Record
Available under License University of Southampton Thesis Licence.
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Published date: August 2018

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 424345
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/424345
PURE UUID: cf92e31e-6e50-41d7-8a9c-228afff375f0

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 05 Oct 2018 11:36
Last modified: 09 Apr 2019 16:30

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Contributors

Author: Alexander David Ferguson
Thesis advisor: Kendrick Oliver
Thesis advisor: Ian Talbot

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