Vietnam - could the US have dodged a bullet?

.... by irradiating Hanoi whilst the French were still nominally just in charge?

Would it have really halted North Vietnamese ambitions?

or would it have made "go nuclear early" more acceptable in the run up to the Cuban missile crisis?

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-27243803

Dien Bien Phu: Did the US offer France an A-bomb?
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Sixty years ago this week, French troops were defeated by Vietnamese forces at Dien Bien Phu. As historian Julian Jackson explains, it was a turning point in the history of both nations, and in the Cold War - and a battle where some in the US appear to have contemplated the use of nuclear weapons.
"Would you like two atomic bombs?" These are the words that a senior French diplomat remembered US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles asking the French Foreign Minister, Georges Bidault, in April 1954. The context of this extraordinary offer was the critical plight of the French army fighting the nationalist forces of Ho Chi Minh at Dien Bien Phu in the highlands of north-west Vietnam.
The battle of Dien Bien Phu is today overshadowed by the later involvement of the Americans in Vietnam in the 1960s. But for eight years between 1946 and 1954 the French had fought their own bloody war to hold on to their Empire in the Far East. After the seizure of power by the Communists in China in 1949, this colonial conflict had become a key battleground of the Cold War. The Chinese provided the Vietnamese with arms and supplies while most of the costs of the French war effort were borne by America. But it was French soldiers who were fighting and dying. By 1954, French forces in Indochina totalled over 55,000.

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At the end of 1953, French commander in chief Gen Navarre had decided to set up a fortified garrison in the valley of Dien Bien Phu, in the highlands about 280 miles from the northern capital of Hanoi. The valley was surrounded by rings of forested hills and mountains. The position was defensible providing the French could hold on to the inner hills and keep their position supplied through the airstrip. What they underestimated was the capacity of the Vietnamese to amass artillery behind the hills. This equipment was transported by tens of thousands of labourers - many of them women and children - carrying material hundreds of miles through the jungle day and night. On 13 March the Vietnamese unleashed a massive barrage of artillery and within two days two of the surrounding hills had been taken, and the airstrip was no longer usable. The French defenders were now cut off and the noose tightened around them.
It was this critical situation which led the French to appeal in desperation for US help. The most hawkish on the American aide were Vice-President Richard Nixon, who had no political power, and Admiral Radford, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Also quite hawkish was the US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, who was obsessed by the crusade against Communism. More reserved was President Eisenhower who nonetheless gave a press conference in early April where he proclaimed the infamous "domino theory" about the possible spread of Communism from one country to another.
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"You have a row of dominoes set up, you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly," he said. "So you could have a beginning of a disintegration that would have the most profound influences."
Saturday 3 April 1954 has gone down in American history as "the day we didn't go to war". On that day Dulles met Congressional leaders who were adamant they would not support any military intervention unless Britain was also involved. Eisenhower sent a letter to the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill warning of the consequences for the West if Dien Bien Phu fell. It was around this time, at a meeting in Paris, that Dulles supposedly made his astonishing offer to the French of tactical nuclear weapons.
In fact, Dulles was never authorised to make such an offer and there is no hard evidence that he did so. It seems possible that in the febrile atmosphere of those days the panic-stricken French may simply have misunderstood him. Or his words may have got lost in translation.
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"He didn't really offer. He made a suggestion and asked a question. He uttered the two fatal words 'nuclear bomb'," Maurice Schumann, a former foreign minister, said before his death in 1998. "Bidault immediately reacted as if he didn't take this offer seriously."
According to Professor Fred Logevall of Cornell University, Dulles "at least talked in very general terms about the possibility, what did the French think about potentially using two or three tactical nuclear weapons against these enemy positions".
Bidault declined, he says, "because he knew… that if this killed a lot of Viet Minh troops then it would also basically destroy the garrison itself".
In the end, there was no American intervention of any kind, as the British refused to go along with it.

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When France lost control of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos nearly 60 years ago, hundreds of people who had served the French colonial system - and were at risk of persecution - were rehoused in a disused army camp in south-west France. It was meant to be a temporary home, but some are still there.
The last weeks of the battle of Dien Bien Phu were atrociously gruelling. The ground turned to mud once the monsoon began, and men clung to craters and ditches in conditions reminiscent of the battle of Verdun in 1916. On 7 May 1954, after a 56-day siege, the French army surrendered. Overall on the French side there were 1,142 dead, 1,606 disappeared, 4,500 more or les badly wounded. Vietnamese casualties ran to 22,000.
In this year marked by two other major anniversaries - the centenary of the outbreak of World War One and the 70th anniversary of D-Day - we should not forget this other battle that took place 60 years ago. In the history of decolonisation it was the only time a professional European army was decisively defeated in a pitched battle. It marked the end of the French Empire in the Far East, and provided an inspiration to other anti-colonial fighters. It was no coincidence also that a few weeks later a violent rebellion broke out in French Algeria - the beginning of another bloody and traumatic war that was to last eight years. The French army held so desperately on to Algeria partly to redeem the honour it felt had been lost at Dien Bien Phu. So obsessed did the army become by this idea that in 1958 it backed a putsch against the government, which it believed was preparing what the generals condemned as a "diplomatic Dien Bien Phu". This putsch brought back to power Gen de Gaulle who set up the new presidential regime that exists in France today. So the ripples of Dien Bien Phu are still being felt.
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A memorial in Dien Bien Phu commemorates the French soldiers who died there
It was also in 1954 that France began working on its own independent nuclear deterrent.
For the Vietnamese, however, Dien Bien Phu, was only the first round. The Americans, who had refused to become directly involved in 1954, were gradually sucked into war - the second Vietnam War - during the 1960s.

Listen to The Siege of Dien Bien Phu written and presented by Julian Jackson on the BBC iPlayer
 
Well the target wouldn't have been Hanoi as at the time it was in French hands. Somewhat of a massive own goal.

No, it wouldn't have stopped Vietnamese ambitions, just delayed them.

From my reading of history there always appears to have been a group of nuclear-trigger happy people (mostly military but not always) and for the most part it has been the politicians who have had to put the curb on them. So Cuba would have played out as it did even if tactical nukes had been used in Vietnam.

If they had been used I suspect the US would still be hauled over the coals today. Their use in Japan could be justified but not in Vietnam.
 

Grumblegrunt

LE
Book Reviewer
far simpler to have honoured the OSS promises to uncle Ho and kept the french out as the colonial power but allowing economic rebalancing.

the way the french did things a slave revolt was inevitable.
 

CliSwe

Old-Salt
The US involvement in Vietnam started before the end of WWII, when, IIRC, OSS Major Arch Patti met the leader of the Vietnam Doc Lap Dong Minh (Vietnam Liberation Committee) - later known as the Viet Minh - to discuss how the US could best aid the locals to oust the Japanese. The talks were successful, and OSS operatives trained and armed Viet Minh guerrillas for their anti-Japanese liberation campaign. The name of the Viet Minh spokesman was Nguyen That Thanh - operating under the nom de guerre of Ho Chi Minh.

Cheers,
Cliff
 
If that had happened then a whole generation of Vietnam war movies would never have been made, now that would have been bad news.
napalm.jpg
 
far simpler to have honoured the OSS promises to uncle Ho and kept the french out as the colonial power but allowing economic rebalancing.

the way the french did things a slave revolt was inevitable.
I suppose we had to let them back in since they could have hamstrung the Allies in Germany by stopping all French rail shipping, use of ports, roads and demanding the allies leave french soil. They had in fact threatened to halt trains when the 7th Army called for giving up Strasbourg in Northwind.

Add to that a change in US Leadership from FDR to Truman
 
I suppose we had to let them back in since they could have hamstrung the Allies in Germany by stopping all French rail shipping, use of ports, roads and demanding the allies leave french soil.

Whether or not they would have done that is another issue, but certainly the US wanted the French onside in Europe, the French would have screamed and screamed until they were sick had the US not helped them back into Vietnam, and nobody in America really gave a tuppeny damn about promises made to a bunch of skinny Orientals.
 
Whether or not they would have done that is another issue, but certainly the US wanted the French onside in Europe, the French would have screamed and screamed until they were sick had the US not helped them back into Vietnam, and nobody in America really gave a tuppeny damn about promises made to a bunch of skinny Orientals.
Odd since we changed plans to liberate the Philippines because of those skinny Orientals and gave them independence in 1946. not too mention all the Aid we sent to China
 
Odd since we changed plans to liberate the Philippines because of those skinny Orientals and gave them independence in 1946. not too mention all the Aid we sent to China

There was a strategic reason for doing so. There was a strategic reason for knifing the Vietnamese in the back. Don't get me wrong, all the powers valued white people over other flavours at the time, there was nothing unusual about the US attitude.
 

Oyibo

LE
@Goldbricker

I think that highlights the difference between what hapenned in Indochina after the war rather than explaining it. I tend to agree with Pigshyt_Freeman about France's insistance about the place.
 
far simpler to have honoured the OSS promises to uncle Ho and kept the french out as the colonial power but allowing economic rebalancing.

the way the french did things a slave revolt was inevitable.

The OSS contact with the Viet Minh was established on July 30th 1945 when team Deer was fully assembled in Tan Trau. The relationship effectively ended 8 days later when the big one was dropped on Hiroshima - 8th August 1945. In the 8 day period in which Team Deer was 'at war' with the Viet Minh they achieved nothing of any military or diplomatic consequence.

The OSS made no such promises to Ho Chi Minh. Had HCM been upfront about his political leanings it is extremely doubtful whether Team Deer would ever have been assigned. Extremely doubtful. Nevertheless HCM was an exceptionally adept liar.

The French Proposal for the use of nuclear weapons IIRC was to drop them 50 kilometres away from Dien Bien Phu at their supply base at Tuan Giao. The Viet Minh could not maintain their divisional scale attacks on DBP without the supplies that were being trucked in to that battle from Southern China.

The US was more inclined to consider conventional bombing of Tuan Giao and the surrounds of Dien Bien Phu with B-29 bombers, but in the event this assistance was not forthcoming. The reason it was not forthcoming was that it was contingent on the diplomatic support of the UK. The UK refused.

See Operation Vulture or better still read the excellent book on the subject by John Prados


Vietnam was never a bullet to be dodged by the USA. Ultimately the bullets had to be dodged by the Republic of Vietnam. However there were a number of measures the US could have taken that might have resulted in the survival of the non communist republic.

The first and most obvious is the mining of Haiphong Harbour. North Vietnam and Vietnam generally is bereft of ports. Haiphong was the one and only port that supported the Northern war effort. It should have been mined in 1964 the minute that it was evident that North Vietnamese Divisions were operating in the south. It wasn't because of US fears of escalating the conflict with the USSR and China.

When the harbour was eventually mined in May 1972 by Richard Nixon there were no repercussions from the US or China and it comprehensively strangled the Norths capacity to wage war.

Secondly, the Northern leaderships biggest fear regarding the conventional bombing of Hanoi was that the Red River dyke system would be breached. The system had fallen into disrepair due to the war and there were serious concerns in 1972 that the system would fail and Hanoi would be destroyed by flood. That this didn't happen was a) pure luck with the weather and b) The USAF and Navy were under orders NOT to attack the system. They didn't.

In 1972 the Air Force of the RVN was probably the most experienced and capable of any second or third world country. When the US left in 1972 they should have equipped the south with a deterrent. Instead of retiring the US version of the Canberra bomber their B-57, these should have been handed over to the VNAF. There is no doubt that had the South the capacity to try a 'Dambusters' raid on the North, they certainly would have been determined enough and capable enough to do it in 1975.

In 1954 the Viet Minh's key vulnerability was the base at Tuan Giao.

From 1954 to the present, the single port at Haiphong was a critical vulnerability.

From the establishment of Hanoi in 1010 to the present the Dyke system remains a critical vulnerability.

All of these were doable without resorting to nuclear weapons.

Best regards

Mick
 
Odd since we changed plans to liberate the Philippines because of those skinny Orientals and gave them independence in 1946. not too mention all the Aid we sent to China

Actually FDR was fiercely anti colonial and uin respect to the Philippines started decolonisation as soon as he was in power. The plan was to have the Philippines independent by 1943, with a ten year transition period, in which the posts in administration, judicary and military would slowly taken over by Filipinos, so that in the end only the governor would still be an American, who in 1943 would hand over to a Filipino government.
But, as we know, in 1941 the Japanese invaded and Filipino guerillas suddenly found themselves fighting side by side with American GIs against the Japanese (up to 1941 there was still a lot of bad feelings for the US in the Philippines, due to the hijacking of the Filipino rebellion against the Spanish in 1896 and the very bloody crushing of various Filipino uprisings between 1900 and the 1920s, especially the massacres committed under command of Gerneral Otis during the Filipino-American War. Here is a short synopisis of this war: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippine-American_War.
This war and the colonisation of the Philippines (and Hawaii) by the US were widely critizised in the US as well, e.g. by Mark Twain).

During WW2 the Filipino administration under Manuel Quezon, the president of the semi independent administration of the Philippine Commonwealth, worked closely with the American military and administration.
 
Actually FDR was fiercely anti colonial and uin respect to the Philippines started decolonisation as soon as he was in power. The plan was to have the Philippines independent by 1943, with a ten year transition period, in which the posts in administration, judicary and military would slowly taken over by Filipinos, so that in the end only the governor would still be an American, who in 1943 would hand over to a Filipino government.
But, as we know, in 1941 the Japanese invaded and Filipino guerillas suddenly found themselves fighting side by side with American GIs against the Japanese (up to 1941 there was still a lot of bad feelings for the US in the Philippines, due to the hijacking of the Filipino rebellion against the Spanish in 1896 and the very bloody crushing of various Filipino uprisings between 1900 and the 1920s, especially the massacres committed under command of Gerneral Otis during the Filipino-American War. Here is a short synopisis of this war: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippine-American_War.
This war and the colonisation of the Philippines (and Hawaii) by the US were widely critizised in the US as well, e.g. by Mark Twain).

During WW2 the Filipino administration under Manuel Quezon, the president of the semi independent administration of the Philippine Commonwealth, worked closely with the American military and administration.
So much bad feeling that there was a waiting list to enlist in the Philippine Scout regiments, pre Pearl Harbor attack. And that Douglas MacArthur was a Philippine Field Marshall from to 1937 to 1941, after retiring from the US Army. Except for the Huks most Filipino guerilla groups risked annihilation for helping US POW's escape and cooperated in operations against the Japanese Occupation forces.

most of your post deals with actions 40 years before, like comparing the Boers in 98 to the SA units in 1944.
 

alib

LE
In it's own war in Vietnam going nuclear was considered by DC. This involved considerable risks of escalation for what was finally a pretty meaningless patch of turf strategically that the US had become hopelessly entangled in. There was also the awful prospect that Uncle Ho would just go on fighting as he probably would have and the credibility of deterrence could crumble. In the end area bombing was resorted to with not much strategic effect.

Vietnam was always a sideshow that the Pentagon reluctantly fought waiting for Soviet troops to pour through the Fulda Gap. The US Army didn't even significantly adapt its strategic doctrine to fit the theatre despite pressure from several administrations.

Finally the costs of losing were low and it presented opportunities. Nixon went to China in peace and essentially won the victory in the Cold War that Reagan gets credit for.
 
The OSS team did not just treat Uncle Ho; it also shot at and killed some French soldiers that were after him.

7 years latter, the US were paying for about 90% of the French war effort in Indochina. Go figure...
 
The OSS team did not just treat Uncle Ho; it also shot at and killed some French soldiers that were after him.

7 years latter, the US were paying for about 90% of the French war effort in Indochina. Go figure...
Sources
 
All in there

http://www.amazon.fr/Commandos-choc-Indochine-héros-oubliés-ebook/dp/B005OQ9E3E

Just in case you are in doubt about the author's credential, Erwan Bergot fought in Indochina with Bigeard's 6°BPC and then was the OC of the FFL's Heavy Mortar Coy in Dien Bien Phu.

His decorations included:
http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erwan_Bergot
 

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All in there

http://www.amazon.fr/Commandos-choc-Indochine-héros-oubliés-ebook/dp/B005OQ9E3E

Just in case you are in doubt about the author's credential, Erwan Bergot fought in Indochina with Bigeard's 6°BPC and then was the OC of the FFL's Heavy Mortar Coy in Dien Bien Phu.

His decorations included:
http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erwan_Bergot
Funny how no other sources ever mention this. I suspect more french panty twisting and Lies
 

Grumblegrunt

LE
Book Reviewer
The OSS contact with the Viet Minh was established on July 30th 1945 when team Deer was fully assembled in Tan Trau. The relationship effectively ended 8 days later when the big one was dropped on Hiroshima - 8th August 1945. In the 8 day period in which Team Deer was 'at war' with the Viet Minh they achieved nothing of any military or diplomatic consequence.

The OSS made no such promises to Ho Chi Minh. Had HCM been upfront about his political leanings it is extremely doubtful whether Team Deer would ever have been assigned. Extremely doubtful. Nevertheless HCM was an exceptionally adept liar.

The French Proposal for the use of nuclear weapons IIRC was to drop them 50 kilometres away from Dien Bien Phu at their supply base at Tuan Giao. The Viet Minh could not maintain their divisional scale attacks on DBP without the supplies that were being trucked in to that battle from Southern China.

The US was more inclined to consider conventional bombing of Tuan Giao and the surrounds of Dien Bien Phu with B-29 bombers, but in the event this assistance was not forthcoming. The reason it was not forthcoming was that it was contingent on the diplomatic support of the UK. The UK refused.

See Operation Vulture or better still read the excellent book on the subject by John Prados


Vietnam was never a bullet to be dodged by the USA. Ultimately the bullets had to be dodged by the Republic of Vietnam. However there were a number of measures the US could have taken that might have resulted in the survival of the non communist republic.

The first and most obvious is the mining of Haiphong Harbour. North Vietnam and Vietnam generally is bereft of ports. Haiphong was the one and only port that supported the Northern war effort. It should have been mined in 1964 the minute that it was evident that North Vietnamese Divisions were operating in the south. It wasn't because of US fears of escalating the conflict with the USSR and China.

When the harbour was eventually mined in May 1972 by Richard Nixon there were no repercussions from the US or China and it comprehensively strangled the Norths capacity to wage war.

Secondly, the Northern leaderships biggest fear regarding the conventional bombing of Hanoi was that the Red River dyke system would be breached. The system had fallen into disrepair due to the war and there were serious concerns in 1972 that the system would fail and Hanoi would be destroyed by flood. That this didn't happen was a) pure luck with the weather and b) The USAF and Navy were under orders NOT to attack the system. They didn't.

In 1972 the Air Force of the RVN was probably the most experienced and capable of any second or third world country. When the US left in 1972 they should have equipped the south with a deterrent. Instead of retiring the US version of the Canberra bomber their B-57, these should have been handed over to the VNAF. There is no doubt that had the South the capacity to try a 'Dambusters' raid on the North, they certainly would have been determined enough and capable enough to do it in 1975.

In 1954 the Viet Minh's key vulnerability was the base at Tuan Giao.

From 1954 to the present, the single port at Haiphong was a critical vulnerability.

From the establishment of Hanoi in 1010 to the present the Dyke system remains a critical vulnerability.

All of these were doable without resorting to nuclear weapons.

Best regards

Mick

there used to be a debate running on whether ho was just opportunist as to who would give him support rather than a die hard communist. when they had no choice they became communist along the east german all or nothing model which is why it worked as they used nationalism rather than ideology to keep the people on side like stalin did in ww2 (russians hated communism but loved the rodina and would fight for it), as I understood it the OSS unwritten agreement goes back a fair bit further with typical empty promises clung to in hope - like most american promises regarding freedom and democracy when something they want is involved. the french return was business bad practice backed up by military force, the same mistakes made in france-afrique as well IMO.

the US went into vietnam hamstrung and fearful of sponsor state retaliation - so much simpler if they had been the sponsor state from the start.

while the US declares to the world that it is not empirical or expansionist, history proves otherwise and a little honesty will probably get them further than the military threats have.
 
Funny how no other sources ever mention this. I suspect more french panty twisting and Lies

Of course, if it's not written in English, preferably in the USA, it did not happen. Much simpler like that.

Reminds me of the film U-571....

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2009/feb/25/u-571-reel-history

Another source, by someone who was there, a WWII Jedburgh, COL Sassi, mentions this event in which French para officer LT Klotz was killed:

http://www.amazon.fr/Opérations-Spéciales-Ans-Guerres-Secrètes/dp/2915243174
 

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