Representations of Cold War Thailand in U.S. Army Documentaries and British Pathé Newsreels 1955-1967


  • Alexander J. Klemm, PhD King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang, Thailand


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.

Author Biography

Alexander J. Klemm, PhD, King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang, Thailand

Alexander J. Klemm, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the Department of General Education, King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang, Thailand. Born and raised in Switzerland, he earned a Licentiate (MA) in English Studies and Film Studies from the University of Zurich, a TESL certificate from UC Berkeley Extension, and a doctorate in Media and Communications from the European Graduate School in Saas Fee, Switzerland. He spent several years in the San Francisco Bay Area working for language schools and film organizations before relocating to Bangkok in 2005. Since then, he has been teaching courses in literature, film, media, and communication at various Thai universities and has published extensively on the representation of Thailand in Western fiction films, documentaries, travel photography, and novels. His research interest is the reconstruction of the history of Western filmmaking in Thailand from the early 1900s to the present.


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Filmography (in chronological order)

Bangkok – Eden at SEATO Talks. (1955). UK: British Pathé.

Selected Originals – Bangkok – Eden at SEATO. (1955). UK: British Pathé.

First Joint SEATO Exercise. (1956). UK: British Pathé.

The Big Picture: Pictorial Report 21. (1956). USA: United States Army, Army Pictorial Center.

The Big Picture: Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) Nations. (1958). USA: United States Army, Army Pictorial Center.

His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Royal Family visit Disneyland in California. (1960). [U.S. Embassy Bangkok, 2016, Nov. 2].

Walt Disney and Thai King at Disney Land. (1960). [Bond Burton; 2013, Dec. 5].

The King meets The King (1960). [Trevor Meech, 2006, Nov. 10].

Washington Welcome for Thailand’s King. (1960). UK: British Pathé.

President Eisenhower welcomes Their Majesties on their first visit to Washington, D.C. (1960). [U.S. Embassy Bangkok, 2016, Nov. 2].

Their Majesty attends a state dinner hosted by President Dwight Eisenhower. (1960). [U.S. Embassy Bangkok; 2016, Nov. 2].

His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej speaks at the Joint Meeting of U.S. Congress. (1960). [U.S. Embassy Bangkok, 2016, Nov. 2].

Thailand’s King Swings into New York. (1960). UK: British Pathé.

Their Majesties are warmly welcomed by New Yorkers with a ticker-tape parade. (1960). [U.S. Embassy Bangkok, 2016, Nov. 2].

King Bhumibol Adulyadej visits Mount Auburn Hospital in Massachusetts. (1960). [U.S. Embassy Bangkok; 2016, Nov. 2].

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.

U.S. Jets to Thailand (1961). UK: British Pathé.

BAC 111 In Bangkok (ca. 1962). UK: British Pathé.

First Films of U.S. Build-Up in Thailand. (1962). UK: British Pathé.

Marines Go In (1962). UK: British Pathé.

U.S. Takes Action (1962). UK: British Pathé.

Thailand’s King Visits U.S. Base. (1962). UK: British Pathé.

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].

Special Forces Training in Thailand. (1964). “Special Bulletin Number 23.” [Jeff Quitney; 2012, Oct. 30]. USA: United States Army.

The Big Picture – Thailand. (1964). USA: United States Army, Army Pictorial Center.

The Big Picture: Your Army Reports: Number One. (1966). [aka: “TV 672 Your Army Reports”]. USA: United States Army, Army Pictorial Center.

Korat – Thailand. (1966). USA: United States Army. [okrajoe; 2011, Dec. 6].

Vietnam Report: Thailand Next? (1966, June 18). ABC Scope (episode 42).

Thailand Gay for L.B.J. (1966). UK: British Pathé.

The Asian Odyssey. (1966). USA: White House Naval Photographic Unit. [TheLBJLibrary, 2012, July 24].

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].

Stock Footage King Bhumibol inspects Royal Thai Air Force and United State part2. (1966, Oct. 24). [Alpha Champ; 2014, May 13].

December 1967: LBJ Visits U.S. Soldiers in Thailand and South Vietnam. (1967). LBJ Presidential Library.

American Bomber in Thailand. (1967). UK: British Pathé.

Thailand, Counterattack. (1967). USA. ABC Scope. [Nuclear Vault; ca. 2014].

US Army Pacific USARPAC Thailand. (ca. 1968). USA: United States Army. [Jeff Quitney; 2014, May 31].

US Army Engineers – Thailand. (ca. 1969). USA: United States Army. [Jeff Quitney; 2014, Feb. 12].

Sattahip: Tomorrow’s Thailand. (1970). Genders, R. A. (dir. and prod.). USA: Naval Facilities Engineering Command. U.S. Army Photographic Agency, Washington D.C.

Apocalypse Now. (1979). Coppola, F. F. (dir. and prod.). USA: Zoetrope Studios.




How to Cite

Klemm, A. (2019). Representations of Cold War Thailand in U.S. Army Documentaries and British Pathé Newsreels 1955-1967. Asian Congress for Media and Communication Journal, 6(1 and 2), 37–56. Retrieved from