The U.S. government's bizarre tourism campaign for South Vietnam

tags: The Atlantic, South Vietnam, Vietnam War, tourism, 1960s



Before Vietnam became synonymous to 1970s Americans with a seemingly endless war, it might have conjured images of French wines and big game hunting. In the early 1960s, the U.S. government tried to encourage tourism in Vietnam in elsewhere in Southeast Asia as a sort of travel diplomacy.

"Tourism's proper development, it was believed, could serve important U.S. geostrategic objectives," writes University of Minnesota history professor Scott Laderman in his 2009 book Tours of Vietnam: War, Travel Guides, and Memory. Friendly American faces could soften the reputation of the U.S. overseas, it was thought, and their souvenir purchases might bolster emerging economies....

[H]ere are some highlights from a 1961 travel brochure for the country, aptly titled "Visit Fascinating Vietnam," stored at archive.org and apparently housed at one point by the University of Texas....

Saigon is "the cleanest, most fascinating city in the Orient," it says, with traffic jams made "not by cars, but by scooters," and it comes complete with "vendors of soup, dried meat, and sugar cane juice," "the best French cooking in the Orient," and, "above all, the doe-eyed shapely Vietnamese girls dressed in the most gracious way." (Emphasis theirs.)...



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