United States Minutes of the Meeting Between President Eisenhower and the Prime Minister of France (Mayer) on the Presidential Yacht U.S.S. “Williamsburg”, March 26, 1953, 11:30 a.m.1




  • U.S.
    • The President
    • The Secretary of State
    • Mr. Matthews
    • Mr. Merchant2
    • Mr. Allison
    • Mr. MacArthur
    • Ambassador Dillon
    • Ambassador Heath
    • Mr. McCardle3
    • Mr. Knight
    • The Secretary of the Treasury
    • Mr. Burgess4
    • The Secretary of Defense
    • Mr. Nash
    • The Director of Mutual Security
    • General Roberts
    • Mr. Labouisse5
    • Ambassador Lodge6
  • French
    • Prime Minister Mayer
    • Minister of Foreign Affairs Bidault
    • Minister to Associated States Letourneau
    • Minister of Finance Bourges-Maunoury
    • Ambassador Bonnet
    • M. Alphand7
    • M. de la Tournelle
    • M. Tezenas du Montcel
    • M. de Clermont-Tonnerre8
    • M. Burin des Roziers9
    • Μ. Daridan10
    • Μ. Seydoux11

. . . . . . .

President Eisenhower then referred to the Indo-Chinese war and expressed his full realization of the limiting effects which it exerts [Page 430] on France’s efforts in Europe. The United States is very sympathetic and has tried to help. Indeed we recognize that it is part of the general struggle against Communism and that it is not merely a French colonial effort. Mr. Mayer was advised to stress this point very clearly in any public declaration which he may make while in the United States. The President explained that this is essential because unfortunately many Americans continue to think of the war in Indo-China as a French colonial operation rather than as a part of the struggle of the free world against the forces of Soviet Communism.

President Eisenhower then said that the United States was most interested in hearing of any French program for the solution of the Indo-China question. He explained that he did not mean thereby complete victory. Knowledge of such a program was necessary to the United States so that it could see where and how it could be of assistance.

. . . . . . .

Mr. Mayer expressed appreciation for the fact that President Eisenhower had defined the true objectives of France in Indochina.

He thanked the President for his advice as to how the French effort in Indochina should be presented to the American public and said that he would give his greatest consideration to this counsel. He pointed out that during the seven-year-old struggle great progress had been made toward the independence of the Three Associated States. As to the military effort against Communism in Southeast Asia, it was obvious that its purpose was to bar the road to this part of the world to Communist penetration. It must be noted, however, that recently the axis of the Communist offensive had taken a new direction and now seems to be aimed at India across Laos and Siam.

With reference to the independence granted to the Three Associated States in the agreements of March 8, 1948 [1949], this is now being completed through the development of national armies. The French objective is both political and military and includes not only both the development of a popular basis for the local governments but also the creation of the means to permit these States to insure their own defense. They must be able to conduct the pacification of their own countries with their own forces, and the creation of these national armies constitutes the main French objective at this time.

Mr. Mayer said that he was very glad that General Mark Clark had visited Indochina and that he will be very interested by his report concerning the development of the armies of the Associated States. He would also be interested by the report on the methods used by the United States in forming ROK forces. However in connection with their application in Indochina, it must be remembered that while the [Page 431] two situations present many points in common, there also exist many differences. At a later meeting Mr. Letourneau will give details of the recent decisions reached in the agreements with Bao Dai concerning the development of the Vietnamese army and concerning zones to be turned over to that army for pacification.

There seem to be no differences concerning the objective to be reached. Both the United States and France recognize the importance of Indochina and its direct connection with the European situation, and Mr. Mayer would be very glad to hear what the United States can do to help with the faster development of the local forces so urgently needed for the twin tacks of front-line fighting and pacification.

. . . . . . .

President Eisenhower then asked concerning the political objectives of France and Indo-China and whether or not steps had been taken to obtain the confidence of the local peoples. He has heard that the Vietnamese have little faith in obtaining autonomy from the present struggle. This is not an idle question as unless the United States public believes this to be a fact it will be extremely difficult to do more than we are doing at present to help the French in Indo-China.

The Prime Minister asked Mr. Letourneau to speak to this point.

Mr. Letourneau stated that it was the constant French concern to obtain fuller and broader Vietnamese support and that every day there seemed to be some improvement. The first elections held in Vietnam in January had been a remarkable success, not only because of the very large number of voters but because all had voted for national candidates and not for Communists.

Another proof of this improving situation could be found in the development of the armies of the Associated States. When it had been decided with Bao Dai two years ago to create a Vietnamese army it had been very difficult to find officer candidates. At the present time, however, these were forthcoming in enough numbers to fill the training schools. He pointed out that there had never been any difficulty in finding enough enlisted men and that within the financial limitations, all of the needed manpower had been provided on a volunteer basis. Therefore so far conscription is not necessary. Now that the Viet-Minh is clearly the agent not only of Communism but of the traditional enemy—China—the populations are providing greater support to their governments and are demonstrating much better their understanding that the current fighting is in behalf of their independence.

President Eisenhower then referred to Mr. Mayer’s statement about “greater United States aid”. First the United States needs to know the French plans for the conduct of the war, both politically and militarily, in order to see how the United States can help and so that United States public support may be enlisted.

[Page 432]

Mr. Mayer answered that he thought that the French delegation could show how the United States could contribute to the development of the armies of the Associated States. He also stated that he recognized that political and military questions were tied together and reaffirmed that France’s policy was two-fold: develop the armies of the Associated States and develop the political life to sustain these States as supporting entities.

Mr. Letourneau then added that the recent Dalat decisions,12 which will be implemented subject to financial limitations, can result in a military plan which within two years can achieve perhaps not a complete victory but at least a situation in which the Viet-Minh would be a negligible factor in Indo-China. This plan of course would be on the assumption that there was no material increase in aid from China or the USSR. He also insisted that there had to be parallel efforts in both the political and military fields as it would be a folly to conduct the present long and costly struggle only to lead to an eventual Viet-Minh takeover at some later date.

President Eisenhower said that the nature and extent of the assistance desired by France from the United States would be considered in detail at a subsequent meeting.

. . . . . . .

  1. These minutes were circulated as document FPT MIN–1, Apr. 2, 1953. The extracts printed here constitute the record of the discussions concerning Indochina which occurred at the meeting. The European Defense Community, overall aid to France, the Saar, and other problems of common concern were also discussed.

    A summary of this meeting was transmitted to Paris in telegram 4992 of Mar. 26; for text, see volume vi. A partial text is also printed in United States–Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967, Book 9, pp. 17–18.

  2. Livingston T. Merchant, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs.
  3. Carl W. McCardle, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs.
  4. W. Randolph Burgess, Deputy to the Secretary of the Treasury.
  5. Henry R. Labouisse, Chief of the Mutual Security Agency Mission in France.
  6. Henry Cabot Lodge, U.S. Representative at the United Nations.
  7. Hervé Alphand, Permanent French Representative at the NATO Council.
  8. Thierry de Clermont-Tonnerre, Director of the Cabinet, French Ministry of Finance.
  9. Etienne Burin des Roziers, technical adviser to Prime Minister Mayer.
  10. Jean Daridan, Minister, French Embassy.
  11. Roger Seydoux, Minister, French Embassy.
  12. See footnote 3, p. 395.