Editorial Note

Asked at his news conference of April 7, 1954, to comment on the strategic importance of Indochina to the free world. President Eisenhower responded as follows:

“You have, of course, both the specific and the general when you talk about such things.

“First of all, you have the specific value of a locality in its production of materials that the world needs.

“Then you have the possibility that many human beings pass under a dictatorship that is inimical to the free world.

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“Finally, you have broader considerations that might follow what you would call the ‘falling domino’ principle. You have a row of dominoes set up, you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly. So you could have a beginning of a disintegration that would have the most profound influences.

“Now, with respect to the first one, two of the items from this particular area that the world uses are tin and tungsten. They are very important. There are others, of course, the rubber plantations and so on.

“Then with respect to more people passing under this domination, Asia, after all, has already lost some 450 million of its peoples to the Communist dictatorship, and we simply can’t afford greater losses.

“But when we come to the possible sequence of events, the loss of Indochina, of Burma, of Thailand, of the Peninsula, and Indonesia following, now you begin to talk about areas that not only multiply the disadvantages that you would suffer through loss of materials, sources of materials, but now you are talking really about millions and millions and millions of people.

“Finally, the geographical position achieved thereby does many things. It turns the so-called island defensive chain of Japan, Formosa, of the Philippines and to the southward; it moves in to threaten Australia and New Zealand.

“It takes away, in its economic aspects, that region that Japan must have as a trading area or Japan, in turn, will have only one place in the world to go—that is, toward the Communist areas in order to live.

“So, the possible consequences of the loss are just incalculable to the free world.”

In response to other questions presented during the course of the news conference, the President made the following points. The United States had not yet received any positive responses to its request for united action. He was not certain whether the Indochina situation should be brought before the United Nations, but “this is the kind of thing that must not be handled by one nation trying to act alone.” He refused to speculate on action by the United States in the event of open aggression by Communist China in Indochina. He said that statements made by Secretary Dulles on the situation were always carefully considered by the President in advance. He commented that the chances for achieving a satisfactory negotiated settlement at the Geneva Conference were not good. He said that the administration did not desire any specific action by Congress at the present time with regard to Indochina. Finally, he refused to comment on whether the United States was prepared, as a last resort, to “go it alone” in Indochina.

For the record of the news conference of April 7, 1954, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1954, pages 381–390.