Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Lien-Hang Thi Nguyen


Foreign Affairs: Policy, Culture, and the Making of Love and War in Vietnam investigates the interplay between war and society leading to and during the Vietnam War. This project intertwines histories of foreign relations, popular culture, and gender and sexuality as lenses for understanding international power relations during the global Cold War more broadly. By examining sexual encounters between American service members and Vietnamese civilian women, this dissertation argues that relationships ranging from prostitution to dating, marriage, and rape played a significant role in the diplomacy, logistics, and international reception of the war. American disregard for South Vietnamese morality laws in favor of bolstering GI morale in the early war years contributed to the instability of the alliance and led to a rise in anti-American activities, health concerns, and military security threats.

The length of the war in addition to the difficulty for service members to definitively identify enemy forces placed stress on soldiers. Publicized cases of rape and disagreements over responsibility for orphans or children born outside marriage to U.S. servicemen in the later war years further deteriorated relations. Negotiating these relationships resulted in implicit assignments of power between the United States and their allies in South Vietnam. In addition to the bi-lateral relations between the U.S. and South Vietnam, North Vietnamese and National Liberation Front propaganda citing the GI-civilian relationships sparked security concerns and further threatened the alliance. This dissertation further contends that encounters provided propaganda material for opposition forces, strained the overall war effort at home, and shaped how Americans remember the war.