Americans weren't sure where or what Dien Bien Phu was - they would eventually,
Americans weren’t sure where or what Dien Bien Phu was – they would eventually,

. . . or click on the link here for Audio Player – CBS Radio: This Was 1954 – Dec. 31, 1954 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection

60 years ago this night, most people were heading off to New Year‘s Eve celebrations. Some stayed in. And some heard a wrap-up of the year gone by – most likely this one.

1954 was hailed as the year which ended without any wars. Korea was over, at least the armistice was signed and the fighting had stopped. In another part of Asia though, the French colony of Indochina had erupted into civil war around the close of World War 2, ending with the French defeat at a base called Dien Bien Phu in May of 1954. It signaled the end of French interest in that country. During the siege, French forces were backed up by American fighter planes, bombing Viet Minh positions as well as U.S. equipment. And many felt it was America’s responsibility to assume a more active military role out of fear that Indochina would go the way of Korea. Americans were divided over whether or not another armed intervention, so close to the end of one conflict, would be such a good idea to start another one. But proponents argued that if Indochina went Communist, there was no telling just how far it would go. And since the territory had been divided into North and South Vietnam, with North Vietnam under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh, whom many felt was a communist as North Vietnam was seeking aid from Moscow, it offered proof without a doubt that this was just one more element in what was now being referred to as The Domino Theory in Southeast Asia towards Communist domination.

But President Eisenhower steadfastly refused to commit any troops to the region and the matter was put to rest, for the time being.

1954 was also an off-year election and there was no shortage of political spectacle going on in Capitol Hill. The Army-McCarthy Hearings were winding down. And like Korea, the American public was sharply divided on just how much good McCarthy was doing. In the end, McCarthy faced censure and his reign of terror came quietly to an end. Also coming to an end was Republican control of the Senate and House; both losing to Democrats in what was considered a toss-up election.

It was also a year where Egypt was undergoing a transformation under the leadership of Gamal-Abdul Nassar and the concept of Arab Unity started to be talked about throughout the Middle East.

A lot going on – much of it a harbinger of things to come, maybe not the following year, but the following decade. Much of it got started in 1954.

Here is CBS Radio‘s year-end wrapup, This Was 1954, as broadcast on December 31, 1954.

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