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By Edward Winter

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American officials were caught by surprise and thought the step was premature, but Diem and his brothers carried off a sham election in October 1955 that went overwhelmingly against the emperor. Some districts reported more votes for Diem to be head of state than there were voters. This “election” revealed the Ngos to be more clever than many had thought, but it also gave evidence of a problem that was to plague the RVN until its demise in 1975. The United States felt compelled to shore up an ally that had questionable political support.

Delegation at Geneva and the State of Vietnam’s representatives never agreed to an election, however, and Washington was not inclined to help arrange a free-ballot competition between the almost legendary Ho Chi Minh, who had forced the French colonialists to capitulate, and Ngo Dinh Diem, who was struggling just to keep afloat politically. No election occurred in 1956, and the circumstantial evidence suggests that Washington blocked a peaceful resolution to Vietnam’s internal political discord.

S. aid. S. funds were paying for more than one-third of the French war costs. DIENBIENPHU AND THE GENEVA CONFERENCE The French war in Vietnam came to an end in 1954 with a major battle at Dienbienphu and a cease-fire agreement between France and the Vietminh negotiated at Geneva, Switzerland. The United States played a key role in both of these decisive developments largely by deciding not to play a key role. For three years, the Truman administration had worked to sustain the French. Upon entering the White House in January 1953, Dwight D.

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Over and Out by Edward Winter


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