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7 May 1954 is a day that helped to alter the course of American history. It was on this day that French troops, under siege for two months by Ho Chi Minh’s Vietminh forces, were roundly defeated, signaling the end of France’s efforts to re-exert control over its former Southeast Asian colony. American involvement, however, was to begin to ramp up and continue for the next 21 years.
Back at the end of the 1980s, when I was a lowly teaching assistant at the Pennsylvania State University, I had the good fortune to work on an undergraduate course on the Vietnam War directed by the great Vietnam scholar William Duiker. Duiker’s course was very popular.