751G.00/2–152: Telegram

The Minister at Saigon (Heath) to the Department of State


1515. Rptd info Paris 562. Letourneau gave luncheon for ranking Amers here and included Ginsberg, natl comm Jewish war vets presently visiting Saigon.

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After luncheon had long talk alone with Letourneau who asserted morale Fr troops on north good altho fighting bitter; that Salan felt sure sitn well in hand; that Hoa-Binh occupation had gravely embarrassed VM operations as shown by their costly attacks there against Fr forces and communications. Letourneau had long talk yesterday with Huu in which he told latter there not slightest intention France to cause downfall Huu Govt but France must insist he reorganize cabinet to provide efficient admin. He told Huu latter really afraid of peace (and departure Fr troops) because he must realize that unless govt greatly strengthened it wld fall to VM out of sheer weakness without any attack being made against it. He had insisted that Huu produce budget. Said Huu took these criticisms in bad part and insisted govt efficient. Huu intimated this insistence on his publishing budget was due to Amer pressure. Huu argued he had refused show Americans budget because lacking full auth of Fr. Letourneau replied that budget was not something to keep secret but to show to everyone. Letourneau said he felt irate at constant ref to Huu’s govt as a “puppet” govt. He tempted think it wld be very fine to have puppet govt but not puppet govt that was always snarling at him. Huu tried curry favor with rabid natlist by attacking France but had failed.

Letourneau leaves tomorrow for Dalat for two day conf with Bao Dai. He will emphasize Fr will be unwaveringly loyal in supporting Bao Dai. Fr Govt had not asked some 30 odd nations to recognize transitional cab but permanent state of Vietnam as symbolized by Bao Dai as chief state. As for rumors Fr wld attempt conclude some peace settlement with VM it practically inconceivable that any such settlement cld be obtained by negot. If against all likelihood, it shld become possible to negot an end to hostilities, Fr Govt wld not take slightest step without full prior auth of Bao Dai with full regard to latter’s position as chief state.

Letourneau asked how Bao Dai seemed during my talk with him. I said Bao Dai concerned with difficulty in now manning efficient govt, financial difficulties Vietnam and unresolved stalemate of “incompatibility” between Fr and Viets. Since Bao Dai had so auth me, I mentioned to Letourneau alleged statement De Lattre (see Legtel 1505, rptd Paris 559, Jan 30) that in case of termination his mission no Frenchman shld be given combined function com gen and high comm but these titles shld be vested in Bao Dai. I told him I had not discussed this “idea” at length but assumed Bao Dai meant that title of CIC at least wld be nominal without his exercising direct command. Letourneau did not reject this idea as violently as I had expected. He said of course Bao Dai cld not command Fr forces but as chief state he wld be comm Viet Natl Army. It very important that Bao Dai have more than nominal command of Viet Natl Army. It [Page 27] must not fall under Huu’s control for possible eventual use against Bao Dai.

Letourneau went on to say that he by no means opposed to inclusion of outspoken nationalists in reshuffled Viet Govt. They must not, however, at this time agitate for revision of basic accord with Fr. He, Letourneau, knew perfectly well these accords wld be revised once peace came and he cld at this time easily make official declaration that when peace arrived whole matter of relationship with Fr wld be renegotiated. If he did so now, however, there gravest danger that within few months Fr parents, polits and taxpayers wld refuse allow continuance present mil and fin sacrifices in Indochina.

I told Letourneau that I had urged Bao Dai, whether or not he given additional titles, powers or facilities, to leave his mountain retreat, take up residence in Saigon and Hanoi and actively interest himself in govt and formation natl army. If he did so I sure he wld meet with support and success. Letourneau glad hear he had been given this advice; it necessity of hour. Letourneau said he hoped be able discuss return to Saigon of Empress. He remarked he had once told Bao Dai he cld have Norodom Palace but not until appropriate residence had been built for Fr rep. Bao Dai had not then seemed much interested in this offer except say he wld prefer new residence for himself.