Edward Lansdale

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Edward G. Lansdale, was an Air Force officer whose influential theories of counterinsurgent warfare were developed in the Philippines after World War II and again in South Vietnam.

Lansdale is rumoured to have inspired characters in two novels involving guerrilla warfare: The Quiet American by Graham Greene and The Ugly American by Eugene Burdick and William J. Lederer, although the accuracy of this is disputed.

Lansdale acted as an adviser in the newly independent Philippines in the late 1940's and early 1950's and was an influence in operations by the Philippine leader Ramon Magsaysay against the Communist-dominated Hukbalahap rebellion. John Ranelagh's (1987) 'The Agency'[1]states that in 1950-53 Lansdale was on loan to the CIA from the Airforce when advising Ramon Magsaysay as part of the major long-term project of keeping Communists from power in the far east and take over the old empires in Southeast Asia rather than ally itself with the nascent nationalist and independence movements identified by CIA analists previously: this also represented a shift away from Europe.[2] Here he was working in the Office of Policy Co-ordination (OPC) itself set up in 1948 as a result of National Security Council directive 10/2 whereby the newly formed CIA could engage in "covert operations" in such a manner that:

all activities conducted pursuant to this directive which are so planned and executed that any U.S. Government responsibility for them is not evident to unauthorized persons and that if uncovered the U.S. Government can plausibly disclaim any responsibility for them.

The directive lists:

Specifically, such operations shall include any covert activities related to: propaganda, political action; economic warfare; preventive direct action, including sabotage, anti-sabotage, demolition; escape and evasion and evacuation measures; subversion against hostile states or groups including assistance to underground resistance movements, guerrillas and refugee liberation groups; support of indigenous and anti-communist elements in threatened countries of the free world; deceptive plans and operations; and all activities compatible with this directive necessary to accomplish the foregoing. Such operations shall not include: armed conflict by recognized military forces, espionage and counterespionage, nor cover and deception for military operations.[3]

According to the New York Times obituary:

It was in the Philippines that General Lansdale framed his basic theory, that Communist revolution was best confronted by democratic revolution. He came to advocate a four-sided campaign, with social, economic and political aspects as well as purely military operations. He put much emphasis on what came to be called civic-action programs to undermine Filipinos' backing for the Huks.

Looking back on what he learned in Asia, he once said: The Communists strive to split the people away from the Government and gain control over a decisive number of the population. The sure defense against this strategy is to have the citizenry and the Government so closely bound together that they are unsplittable. [4]

Lansdale became an adviser to South Vietnamese and United States military leaders, and to Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge. The Times obituary argues that he made efforts to generate popular support for the embattled Saigon Government, at a time when the United States military role in Vietnam remained limited, and that this "failed to forestall an escalation of the insurgency to full-scale conventional warfare".

Early in the war, General Lansdale was considered to be the individual who provided the intellectual direction to the counterinsurgency and nation-building efforts. But he became less significant when the conflict left the counterinsurgency phase and became a more conventional war.[5]

Lansdale was born Feb. 6, 1908, and after university became an advertising executive.

He joined the Army as a captain in 1943 and rose to major by 1947, when he left the Army. During World War II he also served in the Office of Strategic Services. He joined the Air Force as a captain the same year.

After the Philippines victory, by then an Air Force Colonel, he went to Vietnam in 1954 as a Central Intelligence Agency operative and helped in setting up the South Vietnamese Government of President Ngo Dinh Diem, who was overthrown and killed in a coup in 1963.

In that era he also championed the idea of forming and deploying a counterinsurgency force, rather than conventional armed forces, in opposing insurgents in South Vietnam.

Early in his Vietnam service, Colonel Lansdale was head of a team of agents that carried out undercover operations against North Vietnam. The team turned in a vivid report of its actions shortly before pulling out of Hanoi in October 1954 after the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu. The team's report, later included among the Pentagon Papers, said it spent the last days of Hanoi in contaminating the oil supply of the bus company for a gradual wreckage of engines in the buses, and in taking actions for delayed sabotage of the railroad. 'Dizzy and Weak-Kneed'

The team had a bad moment when contaminating the oil, it went on. They had to work quickly at night in an enclosed storage room. Fumes from the contaminant came close to knocking them out. Dizzy and weak-kneed, they masked their faces with handkerchiefs and completed the job.

He was posted to the Pentagon in 1956 and there, by some accounts, assisted in the formation of the Special Forces, which had the special patronage of President Kennedy.

After retiring from the Air Force, Mr. Lansdale served from 1965 to 1968 as a special assistant to Ambassador Lodge and as a United States representative to a committee of the South Vietnamese Government intended to win support in the countryside for the Government. His activities were varied, ranging from liaison functions between the United States Embassy and Vietnamese leaders to efforts at what was called rural reconstruction as a way of turning the tide against the insurgents.

With advice from General Lansdale, South Vietnam's Premier, Air Vice Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky, declared early in 1966 that his Government would concentrate on a rural reconstruction program to pacify the countryside, putting thousands of newly trained cadres into the field to attempt to reassert Government control, enhance the peasants' life and extirpate the Vietcong.

He also served as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency's undercover operations in Indochina.

In a 1977 book, In the Midst of Wars: An American's Mission to Southeast Asia, General Lansdale argued that the United States could still prevail in remote third-world nations by exporting the American way through a blend of economic aid and efforts at winning the hearts and the minds of the people.

Stanley Karnow, in his 1983 book Vietnam: a History, said that in the novel The Ugly American General Lansdale was glorified as Col. Edwin Hillendale, who captured 'hearts and minds' with his harmonica. Mr. Karnow also said that in The Quiet American General Lansdale was depicted as Alden Pyle, the naive U.S. official who believed that Vietnamese peasants instilled with the precepts of town hall democracy would resist Communism.

General Lansdale said that in 1961 he was told by the Kennedy Administration to draft a contingency plan to overthrow President Fidel Castro of Cuba. But he said years later that the idea had not been viable because it depended on recruiting Cuban exiles to generate an uprising in Cuba, and he had not formed that team.

General Lansdale's first wife, the former Helen Batcheller, died in 1972. He is survived by his second wife, the former Patrocinio Yapcinco; by two sons by his first marriage, Edward, of Garden City, L.I., and Peter, of Oakton, Va., and five grandchildren.


  1. John Ranelagh (1987)'The Agency', see pages 224-225 on Lansdale's use of proxy forces, counter-gangs and the creation of 'nation-building features such as 'the National Movement for Free Elections and pseudo-civic organisations such as ' Magsaysay for President'.
  2. John Ranelagh (1987)'The Agency', see page 226
  3. http://www.ratical.org/ratville/JFK/USO/appC.html see also http://cryptome.org/ic-black4701.htm
  4. ERIC PACE (1987)EDWARD LANSDALE DIES AT 79; ADVISER ON GUERRILLA WARFARE, New York Times obituary, February 24.
  5. ERIC PACE (1987)EDWARD LANSDALE DIES AT 79; ADVISER ON GUERRILLA WARFARE, New York Times obituary, February 24.