Representations of Cold War Thailand in U.S. Army Documentaries and British Pathé Newsreels 1955-1967
Keywords:U.S. Army, Thailand, SEATO, newsreel, documentary, Cold War, British Pathé
Rising Cold War tensions between the United States, the USSR, and China, the fear of an unstoppable expansion of Communism in Southeast Asia, and France’s withdrawal from Vietnam in 1954 resulted in the foundation of SEATO (Southeast Asian Treaty Organization) and led to a rapid increase in U.S. military presence in Thailand. From 1955 to 1967 U.S. Army documentaries, British Pathé newsreels, and various television reports sought to acquaint viewers in the West with Thai demographics and culture and the airbases from which the U.S. military was operating. They were vehicles to rationalize U.S. military activity in Southeast Asia, economic aid to Thailand, and the necessity to stop communist insurgence in Vietnam, Laos, and the northeastern provinces of Thailand. The films can be grouped according to phases of the Cold War and particular events: 1954-59: SEATO and the U.S.-Thai alliance; 1960: The Thai royal couple in the U.S.; 1961-1963: U.S. military buildup in Thailand; and 1964-67: Conflict escalation. The article discusses the films within their historic contexts and explores their representations of Thailand. An awareness of their underlying messages leads to a deeper understanding of the dynamic U.S.-Thai alliance, Thailand’s complex role during the Vietnam War, and the international effort to prevent the spread of Communism in Southeast Asia.
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Filmography (in chronological order)
Bangkok – Eden at SEATO Talks. (1955). UK: British Pathé. https://www.britishpathe.com/video/bangkok-eden-at-seato-talks
Selected Originals – Bangkok – Eden at SEATO. (1955). UK: British Pathé. https://www.britishpathe.com/video/selected-originals-bangkok-eden-at-seato-talks/query/SEATO
First Joint SEATO Exercise. (1956). UK: British Pathé. https://www.britishpathe.com/video/first-joint-seato-exercise
The Big Picture: Pictorial Report 21. (1956). USA: United States Army, Army Pictorial Center. https://archive.org/details/gov.archives.arc.2569603
The Big Picture: Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) Nations. (1958). USA: United States Army, Army Pictorial Center. https://archive.org/details/gov.archives.arc.2569671
His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Royal Family visit Disneyland in California. (1960). [U.S. Embassy Bangkok, 2016, Nov. 2]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhM0N38Mr9M
Walt Disney and Thai King at Disney Land. (1960). [Bond Burton; 2013, Dec. 5]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GmeRAPue7U
The King meets The King (1960). [Trevor Meech, 2006, Nov. 10]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zl0PwLvFM7U
Washington Welcome for Thailand’s King. (1960). UK: British Pathé. https://www.britishpathe.com/video/king-of-thailand-in-washington
President Eisenhower welcomes Their Majesties on their first visit to Washington, D.C. (1960). [U.S. Embassy Bangkok, 2016, Nov. 2]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rL6FoaKe-8A
Their Majesty attends a state dinner hosted by President Dwight Eisenhower. (1960). [U.S. Embassy Bangkok; 2016, Nov. 2]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6PDZLjcvduw
His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej speaks at the Joint Meeting of U.S. Congress. (1960). [U.S. Embassy Bangkok, 2016, Nov. 2]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhM0N38Mr9M&t=11s
Thailand’s King Swings into New York. (1960). UK: British Pathé. https://www.britishpathe.com/video/king-of-thailand-is-welcomed-in-new-york
Their Majesties are warmly welcomed by New Yorkers with a ticker-tape parade. (1960). [U.S. Embassy Bangkok, 2016, Nov. 2]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oV0yYlnRESg
King Bhumibol Adulyadej visits Mount Auburn Hospital in Massachusetts. (1960). [U.S. Embassy Bangkok; 2016, Nov. 2]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eoX2NFZQmKA
G. I. Blues. (1960.) Taurog, N. (dir.), Wallis, H. B. (prod.). USA: Hal Wallis Productions.
Vice President Johnson of U.S.A. In Thailand. (1961). UK: British Pathé. https://www.britishpathe.com/video/vice-president-johnson-of-u-s-a-in-thailand
U.S. Jets to Thailand (1961). UK: British Pathé. https://www.britishpathe.com/video/us-jets-for-thailand
BAC 111 In Bangkok (ca. 1962). UK: British Pathé. https://www.britishpathe.com/video/bac-111-in-bangkok
First Films of U.S. Build-Up in Thailand. (1962). UK: British Pathé. https://www.britishpathe.com/video/u-s-forces-in-thailand
Marines Go In (1962). UK: British Pathé. https://www.britishpathe.com/video/marines-go-in
U.S. Takes Action (1962). UK: British Pathé. https://www.britishpathe.com/video/us-takes-action
Thailand’s King Visits U.S. Base. (1962). UK: British Pathé. https://www.britishpathe.com/video/king-of-thailand-in-usa
Tarzan’s Three Challenges. (1963). Day, R. (dir.), Weintraub, S. (prod.). USA: Banner Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
The Ugly American. (1963). Englund, G. (dir. and prod.). USA: Universal International Pictures.
USAR Participation in Southeast Asia: July – December 1963. (1964). Military Air Transport Service. [The Best Film Archives; 2017, Aug. 13]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z26ePFDql4E
Special Forces Training in Thailand. (1964). “Special Bulletin Number 23.” [Jeff Quitney; 2012, Oct. 30]. USA: United States Army. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gM_8wlabqc
The Big Picture – Thailand. (1964). USA: United States Army, Army Pictorial Center. https://archive.org/details/gov.archives.arc.2569828
The Big Picture: Your Army Reports: Number One. (1966). [aka: “TV 672 Your Army Reports”]. USA: United States Army, Army Pictorial Center. https://archive.org/details/gov.archives.arc.2569859
Korat – Thailand. (1966). USA: United States Army. [okrajoe; 2011, Dec. 6]. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwNFxeQ3FEc
Vietnam Report: Thailand Next? (1966, June 18). ABC Scope (episode 42). https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1395309/?ref_=ttrel_rel_tt
Thailand Gay for L.B.J. (1966). UK: British Pathé. https://www.britishpathe.com/video/thailand-gay-for-l-b-j
The Asian Odyssey. (1966). USA: White House Naval Photographic Unit. [TheLBJLibrary, 2012, July 24]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6frLmliG0s
Stock Footage Arrival of King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base part1. (1966, Oct. 24). [Alpha Champ; 2014, May 13]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sgu7zf9loR4
Stock Footage King Bhumibol inspects Royal Thai Air Force and United State part2. (1966, Oct. 24). [Alpha Champ; 2014, May 13]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abKJDxDIMMI
December 1967: LBJ Visits U.S. Soldiers in Thailand and South Vietnam. (1967). LBJ Presidential Library. http://www.lbjlibrary.org/mediakits/vietnamwar/v3.html
American Bomber in Thailand. (1967). UK: British Pathé. https://www.britishpathe.com/video/american-bomber-in-thailand
Thailand, Counterattack. (1967). USA. ABC Scope. [Nuclear Vault; ca. 2014]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTHrSSRUVEk
US Army Pacific USARPAC Thailand. (ca. 1968). USA: United States Army. [Jeff Quitney; 2014, May 31]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3zZhOonqDA
US Army Engineers – Thailand. (ca. 1969). USA: United States Army. [Jeff Quitney; 2014, Feb. 12]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBi4DvRfqmI
Sattahip: Tomorrow’s Thailand. (1970). Genders, R. A. (dir. and prod.). USA: Naval Facilities Engineering Command. U.S. Army Photographic Agency, Washington D.C. https://archive.org/details/gov.dod.dimoc.25547
Apocalypse Now. (1979). Coppola, F. F. (dir. and prod.). USA: Zoetrope Studios.