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design to bring Asia entirely under Communist domination. Following the invasion of South Korea, President Truman immediately announced his intention to step up U.S. military aid to the French in Indochina. Congress responded quickly by adding four billion dollars to existing military assistance funds. Of this, $303 million was earmarked for Korea, the Philippines, and 'the general area of China.'6* Thus, the Truman Administration, now confronted by the possibility that Communism might engulf all of mainland Asia, extended its containment policy to Indochina.

Even with rapidly increasing amounts of U.S. material assistance, the French proved unable to wrest the initiative from Giap's growing armies. Although national armies drawn from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam were now fighting alongside the French, the Expeditionary Corps was overextended. Moreover, the French cause was extremely vulnerable to Communist propaganda. On the home front, public support for the so-called sale guerre (dirty war) eroded steadily during the early 1950s as the Expeditionary Corps' failures and casualties mounted. Finally, on 7 May 1954, the besieged 13,000-man French garrison at Dien Bien Phu surrendered to the Viet Minh, thus shattering what remained of French determination to prosecute the war in Indochina. In Geneva, where Communist and Free World diplomats had gathered to consider a formal peace in Korea along with the Indochina problem, French and Viet Minh representatives signed a cease-fire agreement on 20 July which ended the eight-year conflict.

The bilateral cease-fire agreement substantially altered the map of the Indochinese Peninsula. France agreed to relinquish political control throughout the area. Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam all gained full independence. The most controversial provision of the 20 July agreement divided Vietnam at the Ben Hai River and superimposed a demilitarized zone over the partition line. This division, intended to facilitate the disengagement of the opposing forces, was to be temporary pending a reunification election scheduled for mid-1956. In accordance with the agreement, France immediately turned over political control of the northern zone (Tonkin and the northern half of Annam) to the Communist Viet Minh. Ho promptly re-established the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) with its capital in Hanoi.

Other provisions of the Geneva Agreement called for the opposing armies to regroup in their respective zones within 300 days. Following their regroupment, the French military forces were to be completely withdrawn from the North within 300 days and from the South by mid-1956. Civilians living both north and south of the partition line were to be allowed to emigrate to the opposite zone in accordance with their political convictions. It was anticipated that thousands of Catholics living in Tonkin would seek refuge n the the non-Communist South. Other articles of the agreement dealt with the creation and responsibilities of an International Control Commission (ICC) to supervise the cease-fire. Canadian, Indian, and Polish delegations were to comprise this commission.

On 21 July, the day following the bilateral agreement, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, the Peoples Republic of China, Cambodia, and Laos joined France and the Viet Minh in endorsing a 'Final Declaration' which sanctioned the previously reached cease-fire agreement. The United States refused to endorse this declaration, but issued a statement to the effect that it would not use force to disturb the cease-fire.

Post-Geneva South Vietnam

The execution of the Geneva Agreement thrust that area of Vietnam south of the partition line into a period of profound confusion and instability. Even worse, the colonial period had done little to prepare the Cochinchinese and Annamese for the tremendous problems at hand. No real apparatus for central government existed. Likewise, the long colonial period left the area with few experienced political leaders capable of establishing and managing the required governmental machinery. Political control passed nominally to the French-sponsored emperor, Bao Dai, who was living in France at the time. For all practical purposes, leadership in the South devolved upon Bao Dai's recently appointed pro-Western premier, Ngo Dinh Diem. The product of a prosperous and well-educated Catholic family from Hue, Diem had served the French briefly as a province chief

*The following year would see a half billion U.S. dollars allocated to support French operations in Indochina. By 1954 that figure would climb to an even one billion dollars.

 

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