751G.00/4–950: Telegram

The Chargé at Saigon (Gullion) to the Secretary of State


244. Following is comment Huu appointment:1

1. Appointment Tran Van Huu as Prime Minister will be interpreted some quarters here and America as check to evolution independent Vietnam (Legtel 242, April 9).2 Huu is wealthy man from Cochinchina traditionally more Francophile than other areas. He is [Page 777] able citizen and patriotic Vietnamese but his background presents propaganda opportunities to Communists, northerners and disgruntled supporters of his rival Prime Minister Long.

2. On other hand, nomination has certain advantages. As Bao Dai points out, principal soft spot is in south and Huu has real prestige, knows how to make influence felt in villages, has large amount Catholic support, has countrymen’s touch despite wealth. Caodaists may also join government. Huu claims to have abstained from joining earlier cabinet and his coming into new government shows he thinks Bao Dai-French partnership going concern especially with US as silent partner.

3. Believe it will be easier negotiate aid formulas with Huu government than Long not only because Long and Pignon crossed swords on matter but because Huu considerably more realistic. Long wanting to stay on would probably have grasped any aid formula given him by America.

4. Long failed for variety reasons: his personality rubbed people wrong way, he had few contemporaries in government (63 is ancient in these latitudes), he tried to run four jobs himself, he could not conciliate Tonkin, he did not work miracle in applying March 8 agreement, he had bad luck in having riot break out on March 19 (for which local officials more responsible than he) causing Vietnamese lose face before America. Unfairly, his enemies taxed him with this and with failure to put on big show Griffin mission. Finally, he humiliated Pignon publicly at final five cornered meeting Griffin mission.

5. French would probably never admit latter influenced them but it did. French have powerful leverage on any government in controlling rate of transfer of powers under March 8 agreement and execution of supplementary accords. If a Vietnam Government does not get powers rapidly from French, it comes under crossfire of own people and French, situation French can maneuver to a nicety. Of course, this cannot be done indefinitely. Exact manner and extent to which it occurred this time may never be known but Bao Dai’s and Long’s accounts sufficiently circumstantial to indicate something like this happened. Nothing so crude as dictum by Pignon or consultation of him by Bao Dai took place. Think French would undoubtedly have preferred Diem but Bao Dai opposed, face-saving continuance Long over Easter probably also his idea.

6. Following are implications for US policy:

Prospect of US aid indirectly cause for crisis by inducing Vietnamese hyper confidence and also by furnishing occasion for Viet-Minh demonstration.
Any Vietnamese who lose by change and think we are responsible will be better and may magnify our role.
In view of over-all objectives and aid programs and also because of absence party parliamentary system here as we know it, better [Page 778] for us if national union government set up. Yet, if we took any initiative, we would have assume some responsibility. This may eventually become necessary as it did in Greece but not now. Nevertheless, believe Long ought to stay in government in some capacity probably information and that other Cabinet broadening desirable. Do not believe we should go beyond innocent inquiries and disingenuous hints for time being.
Aid program can be worked out more easily with Huu Government. But fact French appear to have promoted change, at least partly because Long’s insistence on Vietnamese receiving aid directly, should cause us stick to our guns in establishing formula giving Vietnamese adequate recognition and participation. I aware best contribution I can make is to suggest Department concrete proposals. This impractical in government crisis and because press other business but hope produce something soon. Department’s reaction various points this telegram would be useful.

Sent Department 244, repeated Paris 121; Department pass Paris, Djakarta 10 for Griffin.

  1. Nguyen Phan Long resigned as Premier of Viet-Nam on April 27. He was succeeded by Tran Van Huu, Governor of Southern Viet-Nam.
  2. Not printed.