Britain, America, and the Vietnam War

by Sylvia Ellis


The first serious study of the impact of the Vietnam War on the Anglo-American special relationship.

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May 2004


Pages 328
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Military History/General
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Isolated by much of the world for its conduct of the war in Vietnam, the United States saw British support as a key component of its efforts to sway public opinion. This is the first serious examination of the impact of the Vietnam War on the Anglo-American special relationship during the years of the Johnson presidency. Using recently released government papers, oral interviews, and transcripts of presidential phone conversations, Ellis discusses the discord between the United Kingdom and the United States over the war in Southeast Asia. She focuses on the pressures placed on Prime Minister Harold Wilson's Labor Government to provide material aid to the war and to remain squarely behind the U.S. war effort in public.

Britain's refusal to send troops to Vietnam and Wilson's insistence on trying to mediate the conflict were both sources of tension between the allies. This study explores the extent to which the United Kingdom was pressured to send troops to the combat zone, the part that the personal relationship between Wilson and Johnson played in the tensions, and the evidence that a deal was done to link the maintenance of British defenses East of Suez with U.S. support for the pound sterling. It concludes that Wilson managed to walk a political tightrope on Vietnam, providing just enough diplomatic support for the Americans to keep Washington satisfied and putting just enough limits on that support to keep an increasingly vociferous domestic anti-war movement at bay.

Table of Contents

PrefaceIntroductionThe Labour Government's Position on VietnamThe Search for an Understanding on Vietnam, January-April 1965The Search for a Wider Understanding, May-December 1965The Understandings Tested: January-July 1966The Collapse of the Understandings, August 1966-February 1968ConclusionBibliography



"Ellis makes a fine and original contribution to the historiographies of the Vietnam War and the special relationship between the US and Great Britain with this international history of their allied relations in the shadow of Vietnam. Clearly written and deeply researched on both sides of the Atlantic, the book extends the frame of reference for the Vietnam War beyond the confines of Washington, Saigon, and Hanoi, a recognized historiographical need. . . . Highly recommended. All levels."Choice

"It cannot be said that Ellis changes dramatically our conception of Anglo-American ties in general or relations concerning Vietnam in particular; previous authors have made the same general arguments. What she does, however, on the basis of discerning archival research on both sides of the Atlantic as well as productive use of oral histories and transcripts of telephone conversation, is provide important new detail that substantiates these arguments; in so doing she enhances our understanding of the international context of the war. Clearly written and sensibly organized, her book is a significant contribution to the historiography."Journal of American History

"[S]hows how the strong disagreement over the war did not have a strong negative impact on overall relations between the two long-time allies."The VVA Veteran


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