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Title: Ambassador Donald R. Heath, the U.S. Embassy in Saigon and the Franco-Viet Minh War, 1950-1954
Author: Ferguson, Alexander David
ISNI:       0000 0004 7431 3050
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2018
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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.
Supervisor: Oliver, Kendrick ; Talbot, Ian Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available