The United States involvement in Vietnam began long before the 1960s as most U.S. citizens tend to believe. Most don’t know that at the end of World War II, the United States sent several Office Of Strategic Services (OSS) operatives into then French Indochina, to facilitate the release of American pilots. LTC Peter Dewey was in command of an OSS team sent to Vietnam to repatriate American POWs.
Dewey was killed by Communist Viet Minh soldiers while leaving Saigon in September 1945 after they mistook him for a French soldier. He has never been listed as a fatality of the Vietnam war since according to the government, US involvement didn’t begin until the mid-1950s.
Dewey was born in 1916 in Chicago. He was a distant cousin to Thomas Dewey, the Governor of New York. He went to school in New Hampshire and then on to Yale University and studied French history. He later attended the University of Virginia, School of Law.
After college, he worked as a journalist in the Paris bureau of the Chicago Daily News. He later worked for Nelson Rockefeller at the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs in 1940 and met secretly with Charles de Gaulle.
Once World War II broke out in Europe in May 1940, during the Battle of France, Dewey was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Polish Military Ambulance Corps with the Polish Army fighting in France. Following the defeat of the French army, Dewey escaped through Spain to Portugal.
Upon return to the United States, Dewey was selected for OSS.
World War II Service:
Dewey parachuted into Southern France in August of 1944 and radioed reports of German troop movements behind enemy lines for six weeks as part of a ten-man OSS team. OSS operatives were the forerunners of the US Army Special Forces and CIA.
For his actions in France, General William “Wild Bill” Donovan personally awarded him the Legion of Merit while the French gave him the Legion of Honor and a second Croix de Guerre.
Dewey was then shipped to Saigon in September of 1945 to command a seven-man OSS team “to represent American interests” and collect intelligence. Working with and sympathetic to the Viet Minh and Ho Chi Minh, whom he considered a freedom fighter, during an operation codenamed Project Embankment, he arranged the repatriation of 4,549 Allied POWs, including 240 Americans, from two Japanese camps near Saigon. Dewey freed the Americans from two Japanese camps in Saigon. The majority of them had been held in Burma for most of the war and employed, as slave labor building a railroad line that was to cross the Kwai River, later made famous