751G.00/2–2652: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Embassy in France1


5033. Fol text UP despatch Paris Feb 26.

“Fr may have to abandon all northern IC to the Commie Viet Minh rebels this year and withdraw some 250 miles southward.

“Govt officials declined to comment openly on the possibility. But last weekend’s retreat by loyal and Fr forces from the strategic Hoa Binh fortress, which the late Marshal Jean de Lattre de Tassigny said he cld hold ‘forever’, emphasized the gravity of the situation.

“Informed sources said official quarters considered such a move wld represent a major setback for the free world.

“It wld mean a withdrawal to the narrow waist of Annam—some 150 miles wide—where a concentrated last-ditch defense line cld be set up in mountainous terrain.”

This example of particularly irresponsible reporting will undoubtedly be inflated by press and result in further misinterpretations at a time when Hoa Binh withdrawal is attracting considerable attn to IC mil scene. Counselor Fr Emb called today concerning it. Ur comments invited.2

  1. Repeated to Saigon as telegram 1216.
  2. In telegram 1690 from Saigon, Feb. 29, Minister Heath reported that there was apparently no basis to the report that the French intended to abandon northern Vietnam. He stated that the over-pessimistic character of the despatch was possibly attributable to poor French public relations handling of the Hoa Binh operation. The evacuation followed a series of “super-confident” French High Command communiqués. (751G.00/2–2952)