Memorandum by Mr. William M. Gibson, Special Assistant to the Ambassador at Large (Jessup)

Interviews With French Officials

ParisMarch 13 [14], 1950

ambassadors jessup and bruce, fso gibson

Mr. Pierre-Henri Teitgen—March 14

Mr. Teitgen, who is at the present moment Minister of Information in the Bidault Government, occupies a position considerably out of line with his actual title in that he is one of the leaders of the MRP Party and as such is a close friend and associate of Prime Minister Bidault. Teitgen appeared very poorly informed on actual conditions in Indochina and even at times somewhat disinterested. I gathered an impression that he had been briefed beforehand as he appeared to be delivering a little speech which was strongly reminiscent of other set speeches delivered by certain other French officials with whom Ambassador Jessup had talked.

Ambassador Jessup impressed on Mr. Teitgen the necessity of developing the French Information Service in Asiatic countries neighboring on Vietnam. He mentioned the effectiveness of the Viet Minh [Page 760] propaganda office in Bangkok and complete lack of information concerning Bao Dai, the March 8th Accords and December 30 Convention and other favorable developments in those same countries. Teitgen agreed and stated that he had had these same impressions confirmed by some of his colleagues and intended to take proper steps to improve French Information Services, particularly in other SEA countries.

President Auriol—March 14

President Auriol had just returned from his official visit to the British Isles and spoke with warm enthusiasm of the manner in which he had been received there.

He spoke with obvious pleasure of his opportunity to talk privately and frankly with the Ambassador. He said that he had seen the Ambassador’s press statement about independence for Vietnam within the French Union a few moments before we met and was very pleased that the Ambassador had seen fit to correct the erroneous impression said to have been caused by his press interview in New Delhi. He stated that Bidault had pressed him three times for permission to take the matter up officially with the United States Government and that he had declined to do so for he was sure he could arrange it to everyone’s satisfaction after having had a private conversation with Ambassador Jessup. He then went on to explain at length that France did not propose to consider any status for Indochina other than that of a member of the French Union. He referred to the human and financial burden which French had borne in Indochina since 1945 and the extent of her sacrifice there in lives and money. All this could not be for nothing and she was therefore not prepared to go beyond the March 8th Accords and December 30th Conventions. The President also mentioned the fact that she felt that any policy set and maintained in Indochina would have a very strong bearing on the mother country’s future relations with Madagascar and North Africa.

It was evident during this whole portion of the interview that the President was referring to the controversial “evolutionary statement” and was in his way trying to tell the Ambassador that the French would balk at any statement on further progressive steps at this time. During the whole discussion it was plain that the President took his position as President of the French Union very seriously and was making that clear to both Ambassadors as he already had to others in the course of recent weeks.

It was also my impression that the President Was impressing the Ambassadors with the fact that he, a life-long Socialist and leader in the Socialist Party, was trying to indicate that the former differences of opinion covering Indochina which existed between the Rightist and Third Force elements in the Governments on one side and Socialists [Page 761] on the other and particularly as they concerned negotiations with Ho Chi-minh, no longer prevailed.

Prime Minister Georges Bidault—March 14

The interview with PM Bidault was of short duration and relatively unsatisfactory as a result of the PM’s apparent preoccupation with other matters. He referred vaguely to a paper which he had prepared in advance and which contained subjects he proposed to discuss with Ambassador Jessup, but which he never succeeded in finding. He apologized and promised to forward it on to the Embassy after editing for use by them and transmission to the Ambassador in Washington.

The Prime Minister spoke with satisfaction of the Ambassador’s press interview of that morning and his statement of the fact that independence for Vietnam meant independence within the French Union. He, like President Auriol, spoke of the sacrifice France had made in Indochina and of the burden she was carrying there. He explained, as had his colleagues, that this was no longer a localized internal conflict between a Western nation and a former colonial area but now a full-scale war between two ways of life, the result of which would have serious repercussions for all the civilized world. He spoke with some feeling of the fact that France was carrying the burden of her responsibilities there and her allies should look upon her situation with sympathy. He reiterated President Auriol’s statements concerning the unwillingness of the French to go beyond the March 8th Accords and December 30th Conventions.

Before the discussions got into any further detail on Indochina, Bidault had changed the subject and was recounting to Ambassador Jessup the importance of the proposed changes in electoral districts in France, the pressure he had been under since the formation of his government and how he had had to fight through 9 separate votes of confidence.

It was clear that he was either so preoccupied with these matters or so convinced that everything that there was to say concerning Indochina had been said previously by his colleagues (principally M. Schuman) that the interview need not be prolonged. It was therefore closed.