Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History



First Advisor

Frank Costigliola


In July 1954, the Geneva Accords set up a mechanism by which the war between the French and the Vietnamese would end and peace would be established in Vietnam. According to the agreements, Vietnam was to be divided temporarily into two sectors. The country was to be reunited in July 1956 after a nationwide election.

The United States, having supported the French effort to retain its colony, was determined to prevent a Communist government in Vietnam. U.S. intelligence, however, acknowledged that the Communists would win if an election were held. Therefore, the United States tried to set up a friendly government in Vietnam. At the same time, U.S. officials decided to block the election through the support of the South Vietnamese government. Documents declassified by the U.S. government, plus other primary and secondary sources, illustrate the extent to which U.S. officials were involved in the subversion of the election, a topic about which little has been written.

The United States, which was ostensibly trying to export freedom throughout the world, successfully prevented the election from taking place. While claiming that the Vietnamese were not ready for independence, the American effort was actually an early Cold War struggle, with Vietnam as a battlefield. The issue of the election, which the Vietminh were counting on, helped form a foundation for the later transition from a political to a military struggle.



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