851G.01/3–1849: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Caffery) to the Secretary of State

secret   priority

1120. Devinat invited us yesterday to talk Indo-China with Huu,1 President of South Vietnam and politico whom French consider best [Page 15] qualified govt man presently with. Bao Dai. Carefully explaining that until Vietnam nation came into formal existence (i.e., after Cochin-china had pronounced itself on union 3 ky s and Franco-Vietnam accords had been appropriately ratified UN) neither France on behalf French Union nor Vietnam could officially talk on international basis about Vietnam affairs, they both made preliminary unofficial requests that US give serious consideration to supplying directly or indirectly arms for new national Vietnam army provided for in Auriol–Bao Dai agreement. Huu spoke at length of conception and role of new national army not as army of aggression engaged in civil war but as national protection and liberating force to insure Vietnam people now suffering oppression under Communist dictatorship necessary physical and moral protection to enable them rally to Bao Dai (see also Embtel 1119, March 182). Devinat added that French forces Indochina would progressively be withdrawn to support positions as they were replaced by new Vietnam units. He did not imply lessening of French military effort Indochina but rather shift of emphasis operationally to new national army. Both men emphasised necessity of rapid action in Indochina if “liberation” was to have substantially progressed before Mao Tse[-tung]’s army reached Indochina frontier.

Devinat repeated his now familiar theme that ridding SEA of communism was international job and that France was doing its bit in making liberal agreement with non-communist nationalists which it would loyally implement but that both France and Vietnam would need material and moral support from outside in next few months. Neither man could give estimate size national army nor amount arms needed.

Devinat said that we could expect formal request for arms by Queuille directly after ratification agreement, i.e., in about one [month from?] present démarche. We limited ourselves to reiterating US position on (a) arms to Indochina and (b) substance Caffery–Chauvel conversation (Embtel 5729, September 30, 19483) and to stating that whole problem of US position was now being studied in Dept which would be requested to take under consideration present advance request for arms.4

Sent Department, repeated Saigon 44.

  1. Tran Van Huu.
  2. Infra.
  3. Not printed.
  4. In telegram 33, March 23, noon, to Saigon (901 to Paris), the Department said it would send instructions upon receipt of fuller information and would give its views “on problems raised by diplomatic provisions Auriol–Bao Dai accord and question implied recognition which may arise in connection latter’s arrival Saigon Apr 25”.