Wesley R. Fishel Papers (UA 17.95)

1064 Records


Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections

Historical Note

Wesley R. Fishel (1919-1977) joined the faculty of Michigan State University in 1951, teaching political science in the College of Social Science and James Madison College until his death in 1977. Regarded as an expert on Southeast Asia affairs, he served as a close friend and consultant to Ngo Dinh Diem, President of South Vietnam in the 1950's. Fishel was best known for his role in the Michigan State University Vietnam Advisory Group (MSUG) technical assistance program (1955-1961), serving as its Chief Advisor from 1956 to 1958.<br /> <br /> Fishel's teaching career began in 1948 at the University of California (Los Angeles) as a political science instructor. In 1951, he came to Michigan State University as an associate professor in the political science department. In 1952, he was named assistant director of the Government Research Bureau which conducted research in problems of political behavior and public administration. (Today the Bureau is called the Social Science Research Bureau, encompassing all of the departments in the College of Social Science and conducts interdisciplinary research projects.) In 1957 Fishel became a full professor while serving as the chief advisor for MSUG in Saigon. He was also a professor in the James Madison College (1967-1977), and was named an adjunct professor in aerospace studies in 1972. Fishel's primary teaching included international relations, comparative politics (with an emphasis on Japan and Southeast Asia), and problems of developing areas.<br /> <br /> Fishel served in numerous administrative and editorial roles. He served as chairman of the Board of the American Friends of Vietnam; editor-in-chief of Southeast Asia, an international quarterly; and chairman of the Committee on Institutional Relationships, Asian Studies Center at MSU. In addition, he was active in many professional organizations, including the Council on Foreign Relations, Association for Asian Studies, and American Society of International law. Fishel was a founding member of the International House of Japan.<br /> <br /> During his career Fishel conducted field research in many East Asian and Southeast Asian countries, including Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and Burma. He conducted research on language problems faced by the U.S. Military during the Korean War, and on the germ-warfare atrocity charges published in communist propaganda. Fishel also conducted a continuing study of the composition of South Vietnam's political elite from 1956 to 1971. Prior to his death, he was working on two areas of research: &quot;The Great Shift: American Editorial Opinion on Foreign Affairs, 1966&quot; and &quot;How We Conquered the South: the Official Memoir of General Van Tien Dung, People's Army of North Vietnam.&quot; Both studies were to be published in 1977.<br /> <br /> Fishel's most significant publication was a collection of essays entitled Vietnam: Anatomy of a Conflict. As editor and co-author of the 1968 publication, Fishel attempted a detailed study of the fundamental history of Vietnam and the ramifications of its internal and external conflict. Though considered a sophisticated analysis with quality contributions, the book was criticized for being unbalanced since only two of the essays were written by critics of the Vietnam War. The other published work which received national attention was Fishel's doctorate dissertation The End of Extraterritoriality in China, published in 1952. This book focused on extraterritoriality developments and American policy between 1919 and 1923. The publication was criticized for not using any Chinese sources. Fishel wrote numerous other books and monographs, as well as articles published in such journals as The New Leader, Yale Review, and Asian Survey. The Washington Post and New York Times also published many articles by Fishel. He was a contributing writer and editor of Southeast Asia and Soviet Union entries for many encyclopedia publishers.<br /> <br /> Fishel received many honors throughout his professional career. He was awarded the Kim Kinh Decoration (&quot;Medal of Honor&quot;, first class) in 1966 by the Government of South Vietnam for his &quot;humanitarian contributions.&quot; He was named &quot;Outstanding Teacher of the Year&quot; by Excaliberr, the senior men's honorary at MSU, in 1955. In 1961, Fishel received a Guggenheim Fellowship to conduct research in Japan and Southeast Asia.<br /> <br /> As an expert on Southeast Asia, Fishel served as a consultant and advisor to many academic, professional, and governmental organizations. Fishel served as a consultant to the Operations Office at John Hopkins University (1952-1961); the Government Reorganization in Vietnam; the Foreign Operations Administration (1951-1955), the International Cooperation Administration (1955, 1959) and the Special Operations Research Office at American University (1958-1961). During the declining years of the Diem regime and the beginning of the war, Fishel served as a consultant for the U.S. Department of State (1963 to 1964).<br /> <br /> Fishel's most notable role was that of friend and advisor to Ngo Dihn Diem, as well as being the chief advisor of the MSUG. Fishel met Diem in Tokyo through mutual Japanese and Vietnamese friends. The two men quickly became friends and corresponded regularly. In 1953, Fishel made Diem a consultant on Southeast Asia to the MSU Government Research Bureau.<br /> <br /> In 1954 Diem was named Prime Minister of South Vietnam, under Bao Dai. Diem promptly hired Fishel as his advisor. While in Saigon, Fishel also worked with the United States Operations Mission (USOM), which channeled all U.S. aid to South Vietnam. The Prime Minister also asked that Michigan State University be allowed to provide technical assistance to the country, but the French government (who still actually controlled Vietnam) objected. However, France soon lost its power in Vietnam, and MSU proceeded to set up a technical assistance program.<br /> <br /> MSU President John Hannah sent four professors to Saigon to survey the situation and make suggestions for the assistance program, which would be underwritten by the U.S. Foreign Operations Administration (USFOA). These professors, Arthur Brandstatter (Police Administration), James Dennison (Public Relations), Edward Weidner (Political Science), and Charles Killingworth (Economics) recommended four programs to provide technical assistance: public administration, police administration programs, and help to establish a Constituent Assembly and write a Constitution. With the help of Fishel, contract negotiations were finally agreed upon in 1955, and thirty people from MSU were authorized to work on the project.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, Diem easily beat Bao Dai in an October 1955 election. Diem assumed the title of president, and established the New Republic of South Vietnam. The United States backed Diem&#39;s government in hopes of keeping out communist control.<br /> <br /> Fishel took over the role as chief advisor of MSUG from Ralph Smuckler in 1956. The project was carried out in three phases. Phase I (1955-1957) was mainly concerned with helping establish police services and setting up resettlement programs for refugees who had fled communist North Vietnam. The police operations became so important during this short time that the International Cooperation Administration (ICA) authorized fourteen additional MSU personnel to work as police advisors.<br /> <br /> Phase II (1957 to 1959) undertook the task of developing modern, responsive political and administrative institutions for the new South Vietnam government. Emphasis was placed on training teachers and preparing instruction manuals and other training materials. During this period MSU began to shift away from direct instruction of police personnel, and also from direct involvement with the operating agencies.<br /> <br /> The final phase (1959-61) concentrated on academics. Conflicts arose between the MSU advisors, operating missions, and Diem. When the police project began to develop along military lines MSU removed itself from the civil guard training, which trained and equipped police at province and village levels to help maintain internal security. By 1960, USOM took over the entire police project.<br /> <br /> By 1962, other conflicts between MSU and Ngo Dihn Diem became apparent. When MSU's contract ended in June of 1962, the University said it would remain in South Vietnam only under two conditions: the MSU staff would be limited to five people, all from East Lansing; and the Group would devote its full time to the National Institute of Administration, which trained students and civil servants to work for the South Vietnamese government. However, Diem was angered by critical articles about himself and Vietnam, which were written by professors who participated in the Project and published in New Republic and Nation. MSU said it would try to select instructors who would write scholarly, scientific articles, and forbid the faculty from disclosing genuinely secret materials. Diem was not satisfied with this offer and denied renewal of the MSU contract. Fishel returned to Vietnam to talk with Diem about the contract with no success. In a letter to President Hannah, which was forwarded to president John F. Kennedy, Fishel revealed that for the first time he felt pessimistic about the fate of Vietnam. He said that unless changes were implemented by Diem, Chinese and Viet Cong terrorists would infiltrate the cities, panicking the population and weakening Diem's government; Fishel added that the &quot;evil influences&quot; (particularly Diem's brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, and his wife, Madame Nhu) needed to be removed from government. Fishel concluded, &ldquo;unless the situation can be changed for the better, we are in for a very bad period in Vietnam.&quot;<br /> <br /> Fishel and the University gained nationwide attention for MSU's role in Vietnam when an article appeared in Ramparts magazine in April 1966 about the project. The article, entitled &quot;The University on the Make [or how MSU helped Madame Nhu]&quot; described Fishel as an ordinary professor who was &quot;making it&quot; and was the &quot;biggest operator of them all.&quot; The magazine described the MSU professors' lifestyle in Vietnam as living &quot;the easy ways of former French colonial masters.&quot; Fishel called the expose &quot;pure fantasy.&quot; He, as well as Hannah, denied charges that MSUG was a front for a CIA unit, or that MSU bought guns and ammunition and trained secret police.<br /> <br /> While Fishel was a visiting professor at Southern Illinois University in 1970, a group of students held a mock trial in which Fishel was accused of &quot;crimes against humanity.&quot; A student stand-in for Fishel was pelted with pies, cakes, and whipped cream; six students were arrested.<br /> <br /> When Fishel returned to the MSU in 1971, he was met with posters spread across campus reading, &quot;Wanted: Wesley Fishel For Exploitation, Racism, Murder.&quot; Students who opposed Fishel and did not believe he should teach at MSU signed up for his course, Political Institutions and Behavior in Southeast Asia. Early in the course a student stood in the back of the room waving a Viet Cong flag. Campus security officers escorted Fishel around campus until the turmoil subsided.<br /> <br /> Fishel remained at MSU until his death. He died in 1977 after suffering a stroke.


Jane Fishel

Accession Number

UA 00861, UA 00865, UA 00876, UA 00877, UA 00878, UA 00880, UA 01196, UA 01269, UA 01359, UA 03963, UA 03995
Series: 2) CORRESPONDENCE. 1941-1975, undated
Box 1184 Folder 14 (Partially scanned folder | 1 record)
Correspondence, 1951-1952
Box 1184 Folder 16 (Completely scanned folder | 19 records)
Correspondence, 1957-1958
Box 1184 Folder 17 (Completely scanned folder | 32 records)
Correspondence, 1959
Box 1184 Folder 18 (Completely scanned folder | 4 records)
Correspondence, 1960
Box 1184 Folder 19 (Completely scanned folder | 15 records)
Correspondence, 1960-1961
Box 14 Folder 1207 (Completely scanned folder | 2 records)
Monthly Reports by Wesley Fishel, Chief Advisor February-April 1958
Box 21 Folder 1209 (Completely scanned folder | 10 records)
Aid to Vietnam 1956-1957
Box 24 Folder 1209 (Completely scanned folder | 5 records)
Communist Land Policy 1955, 1957
Box 1206 Folder 27 (Completely scanned folder | 2 records)
Field Trip Observations in Central Vietnam (W. Ladojinsky) April 1955
Box 1206 Folder 28 (Completely scanned folder | 1 record)
Administration Team - Recommendations for Dept. of Interior January 1956
Series: 10) VIETNAM COLLECTION – SUBJECT FILES. 1937, 1939, 1942-1977, undated
Box 1191 Folder 1 (Completely scanned folder | 3 records)
Agrarian Reform, 1942-1959
Box 1191 Folder 13 (Completely scanned folder | 6 records)
Biographies- Vuong Van Bac, 1974
Box 1191 Folder 14 (Completely scanned folder | 1 record)
Biographies- Nguyen Thai Binh
Box 1191 Folder 15 (Completely scanned folder | 1 record)
Biographies- Ngo Dinh Can
Box 1191 Folder 16 (Completely scanned folder | 1 record)
Biographies- Pham Duy Can- Visit to U.S., 1966
Series: 15) U.S. OPERATIONS MISSION (USOM). 1948-1972, 1976, undated
Box 1237 Folder 3 (Completely scanned folder | 2 records)
Press Relations, Correspondents, 1964
Box 1237 Folder 10 (Completely scanned folder | 1 record)
Housing Needs in South Vietnam. Report October 1964
Box 1237 Folder 11 (Completely scanned folder | 5 records)
Monthly Statistical Bulletins, February-April, 1964
Box 1237 Folder 12 (Completely scanned folder | 8 records)
Monthly Statistical Bulletins, July-December, 1964
Box 1237 Folder 13 (Completely scanned folder | 2 records)
Provincial Representatives Report, July 1965
Box Oversize Drawer 18 Folder 4 (Partially scanned folder | 3 records)
Oversize Maps, Vietnam (14 items) 1951-1966
Box Oversize Drawer 18 Folder 5 (Partially scanned folder | 3 records)
Oversize Maps, Vietnam (10 items) 1956-1968
Box Oversize Drawer 18 Folder 6 (Partially scanned folder | 5 records)
Oversize Maps, Vietnam - Saigon and other areas (10 items) 1953-1970
Series: Wesley R. Fishel. Photo Collection. Vietnam
(Partially scanned folder | 1 record)
Vietnam. Livestock. Pigs.
(Completely scanned folder | 1 record)
Vietnam. Livestock. Cattle.
(Completely scanned folder | 2 records)
Vietnam. Industry. Shipping.
(Completely scanned folder | 2 records)
Vietnam. Livestock. Poultry.
(Completely scanned folder | 1 record)
Vietnam. Marketplace. An Thanh.