Rand in Southeast Asia: A History of the Vietnam War Era

Rand in Southeast Asia: A History of the Vietnam War Era

Rand in Southeast Asia: A History of the Vietnam War Era

Rand in Southeast Asia: A History of the Vietnam War Era


This volume chronicles RAND's involvement in researching insurgency and counterinsurgency in Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand during the Vietnam War era and assesses the effect that this research had on U.S. officials and policies. Elliott draws on interviews with former RAND staff and the many studies that RAND produced on these topics to provide a narrative that captures the tenor of the times and conveys the attitudes and thinking of those involved.


I celebrated my 20th anniversary as president of the RAND Corporation in August 2009, and this is my 29th year at RAND. But I joined the organization well after RAND had concluded its work in connection with the Vietnam War.

I certainly knew of that work, and when I joined the organization I had many colleagues who had worked on analyses of the war. Some had worked in Vietnam, where RAND opened and operated an office in a villa at 176 Rue Pasteur, Saigon. Today one would be hard pressed to find someone with this firsthand experience walking the hallways of RAND. Over the past three decades, most of these men and women have retired, and sadly some have passed away.

In preparing for what would be our first visit to Vietnam, as tourists in 2001, my wife and I began to explore RAND’s history in Saigon. Upon arriving in Ho Chi Minh City, I set out to find 176 Rue Pasteur. I was surprised to learn that Rue Pasteur is the only street that retains its name from before the fall of Saigon in 1975. The villa is now a nursery school.

In preparing for that same trip, my wife, Darlene, came across The Sacred Willow, by Duong Van Mai Elliott. We enjoyed her comprehensive account of four generations of her own family and their experiences living as a part of the political elite of Vietnam. That narrative includes Elliott’s own experiences, including her time working with RAND at Rue Pasteur. Those readers who are familiar with The Sacred Willow will agree that the book was carefully researched and clearly and compellingly written by Ms. Elliott. Her family’s story is a complex one that reveals a great deal about the experience of the Vietnamese during a period that many Western readers know only from the perspective of America’s Vietnam War.

Upon my return to Santa Monica, I sought out Ms. Elliott with a proposition: I wanted her help recording the stories of those who had been a part of RAND’s work on Vietnam, including Ms. Elliott herself.

There are many accounts of the Vietnam War that claim to describe RAND’s work there. And too often uninformed speculation or persistent but incorrect information has made its way to print and film. I didn’t approach Ms. Elliott to set that record straight, or to undertake a comprehensive history. I approached her because I didn’t want to lose the narratives of the men and women who worked together at Rue Pasteur or who conducted their analyses only in the United States.

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