Newstalgia Reference Room - Gen. J. Lawton Collins On Vietnam - 1955

Newstalgia Reference Room - an interview with General J. Lawton Collins on his return from South Vietnam and the importance of Vietnam in the scheme of things in Southeast Asia and the then-current situation between Taiwan and mainland China. February 6, 1955

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Looking back at how we get ourselves into things, it's always interesting to see where things go wrong, who misinterpreted what and just what happened in the long run as the result.

In 1955 the center of attention was Taiwan and the thorny relationship that had been going on between mainland China and the Nationalist government. The whole region was taken into consideration as a sort of flash-point in the domino theory of Communist takeovers, but Vietnam wasn't really looked at as a trouble area for the U.S. - no, they had the Diem regime and Diem was friendly toward us and we were pouring aid into that country.

However, we may have looked the other way or read it wrong when concern developed that the Diem regime was a corrupt one and the people of South Vietnam didn't want him in power. But, as is always the case, we never seem to get the messages right and we just propped up the wrong guy anyway.

General J. Lawton Collins was asked about Vietnam during the panel interview on Meet The Press from February 2, 1955. The occasion being his return from a visit to Vietnam as well as the Southeast Asia region and his assessment of the situation from a U.S. point of view.

Gen. J. Lawton Collins: “I don’t want to appear overly optimistic, Mister Spivak, but I think that in the past four weeks that President Ze-em, as he pronounces it, has made genuine progress toward establishing a progressive program in his country. And if this program is fully implemented, then I think there’s a least a 50-50 chance that South Vietnam can remain free.”

Lawrence Spivak: “ Well General, just how important is that area to our security and our safety?”

Collins: “Well, it’s not of immediate importance to the security of the United States. It is of tremendous importance to the security of all of Southeast Asia. And therefore, since we are interested in maintaining peace throughout the Pacific area, then South Vietnam is of great importance to us.”

And the rest, as they always say, is history.

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