Keys To The Capitol – November 24, 1954 – NBC Radio Network – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
The world as it looked in November 1954. The Cold War was raging although there was talk of “peaceful coexistence” between East and West. Unity among the Big Three was high. France was busy licking wounds over Dien Bien Phu and feeling the imperative for getting out of Indochina. America was getting its land legs back from three years of war in Korea and reflecting over the recent censure vote on Senator Joseph McCarthy. Britain was pledging to keep troops on Continental Europe for the time being.
America and France did have differences of opinion on the issue of Southeast Asia. Mendes-France was interested in getting France out of Indochina at almost any cost while the U.S. was interested in training a South Vietnamese Army as a matter of defending itself against Communist overtures which were sure to visit the country at some point.
Mendes-France was on an official visit, first to Washington and then to the United Nations where he proposed, during an address to the assembly, that a meeting with the USSR’s Melenkov would take place only if the Soviets showed good faith by discussing a peace treaty for Austria; a position the U.S. wholeheartedly agreed with. Mendes-France went on to add the only way talks could begin would be by making the re-arming of Western Germany a top priority.
Even though there was considerable solidarity between the Big Three on the world stage, there was the thorny issue of France’s economy back home – and there also the matter of Mendes-France’s preference for drinking milk over wine, which was considered something of a shock, since it posed the potential for being an economic problem. The wine industry was probably the biggest single export commodity throughout the world, and to have your own President actively refuse to drink wine in favor of a glass of milk raised a few eyebrows. Of course, the French Dairy industry was rather bolstered by this new-found attention.
And that’s just a sample of what was going on in the world as viewed from Washington on this episode of Keys To The Capitol from NBC Radio for November 24, 1954.
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