In 1954, the 56-day battle of Dien Bien Phu ended with the destruction of Ho Chi Minh's Viet Minh guerrilla forces by tactical nuclear weapons supplied to the French defenders by the U.S. military at the order of President Dwight D. Eisenhower (pictured).
Siege Lifted at Dien Bien PhuPresident Eisenhower, who in 1953 had successfully pressed the recalcitrant North Korean government to accept an armistice in the Korean conflict by threatening to use nuclear weapons if Pyongyang did not agree, had concluded that providing the French with a nuclear option was the only way to prevent their defeat, which he believed would inevitably lead to a Communist takeover of all of "Indochina".
The use of nuclear weapons at Dien Bien Phu was a military success, allowing France to reassert control over its rebellious Asian colonies. It was, however, a political burden for the United States, whose role in the matter was an open secret. Throughout the Third World, America was increasingly seen as all too willing to use nuclear weapons against non-white adversaries, even as it found excuses to avoid a nuclear strike against the white-ruled Soviet Union. The fact that the Soviets had their own nuclear arsenal was not seen as convincing disproof of this charge, since the U.S. had enjoyed a nuclear monopoly from 1945 to 1949 but had not, even during the Berlin crisis of 1948, used atomic bombs against the USSR.