Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Lansdale, Edward Geary (1908–1987)

U.S. Air Force officer, intelligence operative, and purportedly the model for the leading character in Graham Greene's novel The Quiet American. Born in Detroit, Michigan, on 6 February 1908, Edward Lansdale graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1931 and was commissioned in the army through ROTC. During the Great Depression, he earned a living selling advertising in California. He went on active duty during World War II in the U.S. Army, serving with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and finishing his wartime service as a major with the U.S. Army Air Forces as chief of the Intelligence Division in the western Pacific. After the war he was stationed in the Philippines with the air force until 1948, when he became an instructor at the Air Force Strategic Intelligence School in Colorado.

In 1950, at the request of Filipino president Elpidio Quirino, Lansdale became a member of the U.S. Military Assistance Group, tasked with operations to suppress the communist Hukbalahap rebellion. In 1953 Washington dispatched Lansdale to join the U.S. mission in Vietnam as advisor on counter-guerrilla operations. After a brief tour in the Philippines, he returned to Vietnam in 1954 to serve with the U.S. Military Advisory Group there.

During Lansdale's two years in southern Vietnam, he formed a close relationship with Ngo Dinh Diem, who would soon become president of the Republic of Vietnam (RVN, South Vietnam). Lansdale's Vietnam service included supervision of largely unsuccessful covert operations against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV, North Vietnam) as well as efforts to train the Republic of Vietnam Army (ARVN). In 1955 he advised Ngo on methods to ensure victory in the October 1955 Vietnamese referendum.

After helping to solidify Ngo's rule, Lansdale returned to Washington in 1957 to serve in various military and Defense Department positions. He was promoted to brigadier general in 1960 and major general upon his retirement in 1963. From 1959 to 1961, he played a prominent role in training Cuban exiles for the disastrous April 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion. Until his retirement in November 1963, he also worked with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in its attempts to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Lansdale's convoluted career included two years of service as a consultant to the Food for Peace Program. He returned to South Vietnam in 1965 as senior liaison officer of the U.S. Mission to the Republic of Vietnam and then became assistant to U.S. Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker in 1967. Lansdale retired for good in 1968, wrote his memoirs, and died in McLean, Virginia, on 23 February 1987.

Daniel E. Spector


Further Reading
Lansdale, Edward G. In the Midst of Wars: An American's Mission to Southeast Asia. New York: Harper and Row, 1972.; Nashel, Jonathan. Edward Lansdale's Cold War: A Cultural Biography of a Legendary Cold War Figure. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2004.
 

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