Editor’s note: It was 1954, and the surrounded French garrison was facing defeat in what would become known as the First Indochina War. What happened next has been a source of controversy for decades. The author of a 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning book on Vietnam gives his view, drawing on the array of materials that have slowly emerged.
thebulletin – It is one of the most tantalizing questions of the long and bloody struggle for Vietnam: Did US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles in the spring of 1954 offer French foreign minister Georges Bidault two atomic bombs for use against Viet Minh positions near the beleaguered French garrison at Dien Bien Phu in remote northwestern Vietnam? For decades historians have investigated the matter, with no consensus emerging. But what does the evidence actually say? The time is right for a fresh look.
At first glance, it might seem odd that the United States would even contemplate providing large-scale military aid to the French army; after all, what did America care if imperial France lost one of its colonies in remote Asia? But this was the depths of the Cold War. Anxious to prevent the “fall” of another Asian nation to communism soon after the so-called “loss of China” and a bloody three-year stalemated war against communist forces in Korea, the United States was willing to send weaponry to aid the French—even if there was considerable doubt among experts as to how committed Viet Minh leader Ho Chi Minh really was to advancing the cause of global communism. (“Isn’t he first and foremost a nationalist?” many analysts speculated.) Ultimately, the United States had gambled on staying with the imperial status quo and propping up a repressive French regime in Indochina, to the point that by early 1954 Washington covered the lion’s share of the cost of the war effort. Tiếp tục đọc ““We might give them a few.” Did the US offer to drop atom bombs at Dien Bien Phu?”