1958

“The Rockefeller Report” on defense policy and strategy is issued promoting the concept of graduated deterrence and flexible response as rational alternatives to massive retaliation.

It aims to move US foreign policy away from over-reliance on nuclear weapons to other more flexible strategies including counter-insurgency, which would be elaborated in Vietnam. It also calls for a massive military buildup to counter a perceived (but mistaken) notion of Soviet military superiority. The principal authors of the report are Townsend Hoopes and Henry Kissinger.

January A plantation north of Sài Gòn comes under military attack by anti-Diệm forces. As ever more guerrilla incidents in South Vietnam increase, the U.S. becomes increasingly concerned about the infiltration of cadres from the north, though the majority at this stage are native southerners returning to their villages as they intended to do after the nationwide elections that were never held. Intelligence indicates that the Annam Cordilla (the spine of mountains running north to south through the center of Indochina — along the western border of North and South Vietnam, and eastern Laos) is quickly becoming a major infiltration route (later called the Hồ Chí Minh trail). Following the methods employed by the French, the U.S. finds local spokespersons and forms an alliance with the minority populations of various hill tribes (Hmong, Yao, Meo, etc.). In Laos, Col. Vang Pao, a Meo tribesman by origin, is enjoined to organize harassment and interdiction of the growing North Vietnamese supply line.

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