751G.5 MAP/3–450: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Embassy in France


943. In connection with possible military assistance to be given to Indochina Dept is interested in knowing your views on Fr plans regarding the manner and extent of participation by Bao Dai in this aid. Bao Dai’s extravagant requests as presented in his memo to Jessup1 (which we are assuming has not been seen by the Fr) indicate that he may soon raise the question. The granting of arms to Bao Dai raises question about Fr supervision. In order to build up his political position in Vietnam the Dept considers it important that some formula be found to make Bao Dai appear to be the overt recipient of such aid. This may, of course, involve more of a concession than the Fr are prepared to make at this time, but may, from US viewpoint, be necessary. Dept may wish to ask you to discuss with Fr an approach by us to Bao Dai along the fol lines:

That his ideas for equipping Vietnamese army, militia, air force and navy, as set forth in his memo to Jessup seem beyond the realm of practical possibility.
That for long time to come he will have to look primarily to Fr for supplies of arms, training and military assistance in general.
It is up to him as much as it is to Fr to establish a modus vivendi re this question which will enable him to receive from them adequate support to pacify the country without jeopardizing his own position as the chief of an independent Viet Nam.
We are considering making a contribution to the joint Fr-Vietnamese war effort in the area. However, in view of urgency of their joint need for assistance it will, for purely practical reasons, be necessary to extend material assistance to them thru the Fr., but preserving Bao Dai as publicized recipient.
Since the appearance of it being a joint Franco-Vietnamese operation is of great importance politically we are likewise suggesting [Page 749] to the Fr that they associate him in their request for an arms program for Indochina.

Emb’s comments urgently requested.2 No action should be taken with Fr on above without further instructions.

Rptd Saigon as 122 for info only.

  1. For a summary of the memorandum, see telegram 69 from Saigon, January 31, p. 707.
  2. In telegram 1053, March 6, Ghargé Charles Bohlen stated that with minor reservations and subject to Gullion’s comments, the Embassy entirely agreed with an approach to Bao Dai as suggested in the present telegram. He also expressed the Embassy’s opinion that the “formula to be worked out for military aid should be based on principle of adequate political prestige to the three Vietnamese states without sacrifice of efficiency.” (751G.5 MAP/3–650)