Elbridge Durbrow’s War in Vietnam: The Ambassador’s Influence on American Involvement, 1957–1961
Ronald Bruce Frankum, Jr.
Elbridge Durbrow served as the third United States ambassador to the Republic of Vietnam from 1957 to 1961. His relationships with Vietnamese president Ngô Đình Diệm and members of the Military Assistance Advisory Group in Saigon helped to shape his tenure in office, which ultimately concluded with his decision to end his support for the Vietnamese leader as well as turn away from the American military representatives who had earned Ngô Đình Diệm’s trust.
This triangular relationship was mired in clashes of ego and personality that often interfered with the American decision making process. Durbrow and his embassy staff, rather than work with the Vietnamese leadership, chose to focus on the negative and reported to Washington only those items that reinforced this perspective. They created an atmosphere of distrust and anxiety that neither the Americans nor Vietnamese could overcome in the 1960s and helped to create the conditions for greater United States involvement in Southeast Asia.