December 14, 1965 – Dr. Bernard Fall: ABC News From The Capitol – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
In 1965 America was getting involved deeper and deeper in Vietnam. Draft call-ups were increasing, troop strength was building. Predictions from most sectors indicated this conflict would go on for at least ten years, some thought 20. By the end of 1965 some started to question what we were doing there. Others still held on to the belief that Vietnam was a domino in the long-running war of ideologies and that Communism could not gain a foothold in Southeast Asia without Vietnam as the key ingredient.
Dr. Bernard Fall was a war correspondent, historian and political scientist who was well versed in the region of Southeast Asia and particularly with Vietnam. He had been an ardent supporter of American involvement and, like many, felt Vietnam was a key element in the Communist takeover of Southeast Asia. Starting in 1950, he made regular trips to Southeast Asia to get firsthand knowledge of both the French involvement in Vietnam and later, the American involvement.
Fall traveled to Vietnam in 1953, when the First Indochina War was being waged between the Viet Minh and French Union forces. Due to his French citizenship, Fall was allowed to accompany French soldiers and pilots into enemy territory. From his observations, Fall predicted the French would fail in Vietnam. When the French were defeated in the critical Battle of Dien Bien Phu, Fall claimed the United States was partly responsible for France’s loss. Fall believed that the United States had not supported France to a sufficient extent during the First Indochina War.
In 1954, Fall returned to the United States and married Dorothy Winer, a 1952 graduate of Syracuse University as well as submitting his dissertation, Viet-Minh Regime: Government and Administration in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. In 1955, he became an assistant professor at American University in Washington, DC.
With knowledge of France’s mistake in Vietnam, he was certain the U.S. wouldn’t fall into the same rabbit hole that happened ten years earlier that led to France giving up Indochina as a colonial possession.
However, by 1965 his opinion was beginning to change. During this discussion for the program From The Capitol, Fall is asked about the chances for an American success in Vietnam. His response was “The Vietnam War Is Un-losable”. When pressed, he cautioned that the war could also be “un-winable” – citing potential military and political blunders as well as over-reaches which had also doomed the French were also well on the way of being repeated in the current climate.
As time went on, the prediction the Vietnam War was un-winable became clearer and clearer in Fall’s estimation. Unfortunately, Fall was killed by a landmine during an operation accompanying U.S. Marines, so he would never really find out that his pessimistic assessment was true and that the War In Vietnam would last ten years.
Here is his interview/discussion with ABC News correspondents from this broadcast of From The Capitol from December 14, 1965.
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