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Replacing France

The Origins of American Intervention in Vietnam

Kathryn Statler

Publication Year: 2007

Using recently released archival materials from the United States and Europe, Replacing France: The Origins of American Intervention in Vietnam explains how and why the United States came to assume control as the dominant western power in Vietnam during the 1950s. Acting on their conviction that American methods had a better chance of building a stable, noncommunist South Vietnamese nation, Eisenhower administration officials systematically ejected French military, economic, political, bureaucratic, and cultural institutions from Vietnam. Kathryn C. Statler examines diplomatic maneuvers in Paris, Washington, London, and Saigon to detail how Western alliance members sought to transform South Vietnam into a modern, westernized, and democratic ally but ultimately failed to counter the Communist threat. Abetted by South Vietnamese prime minister Ngo Dinh Diem, Americans in Washington, D.C., and Saigon undermined their French counterparts at every turn, resulting in the disappearance of a French presence by the time Kennedy assumed office. Although the United States ultimately replaced France in South Vietnam, efforts to build South Vietnam into a nation failed. Instead, it became a dependent client state that was unable to withstand increasing Communist aggression from the North. Replacing France is a fundamental reassessment of the origins of U.S. involvement in Vietnam that explains how Franco-American conflict led the United States to pursue a unilateral and ultimately imperialist policy in Vietnam.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

A number of individuals and institutions have my enduring gratitude for their help in producing this work. Many thanks to the University Press of Kentucky, and a special merci to Stephen Wrinn and the Editorial Board for agreeing to publish the book, to Liz Smith for her skilled copy editing, and to Anne Dean Watkins for her prompt assistance...


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pp. xi-xii

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Introduction: T he Franco-American Alliance and Vietnam

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pp. 1-11

The story of American intervention in Vietnam begins with an alliance—the sometimes ambivalent, often contentious, and almost always misunderstood Franco-American alliance. Paris and Washington clashed repeatedly over how to respond to the dual threat of communism and nationalism in Vietnam when the forces...

Part 1. Neither Communism nor Colonialism, 1950–1954

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1. Decolonization and Cold War

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pp. 15-49

The year 1950 denoted not only the halfway mark of the Franco- Vietminh War but also a turning point in the French approach to winning the conflict. As the year began, the March 8, 1949, Elys

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2. A Death in March

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pp. 51-84

As Dwight D. Eisenhower prepared to assume the presidency, he and his newly appointed secretary of state John Foster Dulles discussed the “Indochina problem” on board the cruiser Helena in December 1952. Eisenhower and Dulles recognized that the current situation was the “most serious single problem of international relations”,,,

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3. Negotiating toward Geneva

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pp. 85-114

As a result of the Berlin Conference, France now had a political end in sight to more than seven years of conflict in Vietnam. However, its American ally was still focused on a military victory. Intra-alliance politics played an important role in dictating how France and the United States proceeded in the months leading up to the Geneva...

Part 2. After Geneva, 1954–1956

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4. T he Diem Experiment

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pp. 117-153

The Diem experiment began on July 7, 1954, when Ngo Dinh Diem took control of the South Vietnamese government. Initially, Diem inspired little confidence in the French, Americans, and South Vietnamese. Despite its misgivings, the Eisenhower administration welcomed Diem’s rise to power; the Mendès France government did not. The Franco-American...

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5. T he Non-elections of 1956

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pp. 155-181

The specter of the 1956 elections posed the next challenge to French influence. Back in mid-July 1954, the weary conferees at Geneva had reached an agreement on all major issues except for the difficult problem of national elections.1 The DRV refused to end hostilities until a specific date for all-Vietnamese reunification elections had been...

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6. From the French to the Americans

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pp. 183-216

Writing shortly after the Geneva Conference, French official Jean Chauvel optimistically averred that France would be able to “rein in American impulses” in trying to replace France in Vietnam since the Geneva Accords “did not allow new personnel or materials.” Chauvel proclaimed, “we are in Vietnam and the Americans aren’t. American...

Part 3. War by Other Means, 1956–1960

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7. Maintaining a Presence

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pp. 219-248

As they were being “evicted” by the Americans in South Vietnam, the French struggled to redefine their relationship with Saigon and, at the same time, maintain a separate presence in North Vietnam. Paris found itself constantly trying to balance between Hanoi, Saigon, and Washington as it clung fiercely to one last bastion—a cultural presence...

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8. Building a Colony

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pp. 249-276

Building a nation is hard work; it is much easier to construct a colony. As U.S. agencies attempted to modernize and westernize South Vietnam while imprinting American values and culture on the Vietnamese population, the Eisenhower administration replaced the French colonial presence in South Vietnam with an American...

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Conclusion: Replacing France

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pp. 277-289

Charles de Gaulle first called for the “neutralization” of Vietnam, whereby South and North Vietnam would resolve their problems without external influence, in the summer of 1963. President Kennedy angrily responded by questioning de Gaulle’s right to suggest such an action, noting that France had “neither armed forces, nor an economic...


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pp. 291-345


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pp. 347-368


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pp. 369-378

E-ISBN-13: 9780813172514
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813124407

Page Count: 392
Publication Year: 2007