611.51/3–2753: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Embassy in France1



5001. French delegation met with Secretary, Secretary of Treasury, Director Mutual Security (Defense represented by Assistant Secretary Nash) for three hours yesterday afternoon. Ambassadors Cambodia and Vietnam attended initial portion session devoted general exposé Indochina situation. Following their departure further discussion [Page 433] Indochina problem took place and Secretary also replied to points made by Mayer to President during morning but which latter had not had time answer.3 Last portion session devoted French desire recognition her worldwide position and east–west trade.

Mayer in introducing Letourneau made it clear Vietnam and Cambodia independent states and their peoples fighting maintain their freedom. Letourneau stressed French interest in creating strong free states Indochina that would later not lose through political weakness what they had gained militarily. He also highlighted importance recent “Dalat decisions” providing increased Vietnamese financial effort and creation 54 new Vietnamese battalions comprising 40,000 men. He said new units would be light, mobile type best suited Indo-Chinese war and would result in more rapid pacification many areas permitting release French troops for offensive operations. He noted plan for 54 additional battalions in 1954 if funds available and concluded no alternative to Dalat decisions now existed. While he could not promise complete victory he believed implementation this plan which is reasonable and practical would result in breaking back of Vietminh in 24 months. Finally he stated his conviction true Vietnamese nationalism resided Bao Dai and his government and supporters and not Vietminh who were Soviet-controlled.

Cambodian and Vietnamese Ambassadors made brief remarks. Secretary concluded this portion meeting reiterating our realization this was common war which while now restricted Korea and Indochina, might break out anywhere. He expressed hope for program commensurate with peril which we realized might call for additional assistance our part. He concluded such assistance depended on many factors most important was whether plan France and Associated States was practical.

After departure Associated States Ambassadors Secretary stated we understood French feeling tiredness in Indochina after seven years warfare but expressed conviction feeling would evaporate in face of positive constructive program and concluded we must not be immobilized by fear.

Mayer and Letourneau posed questions what we would do event Chinese Communist offensive Indochina and if we didn’t think Korean armistice might cause considerable risk Chinese attack Indochina. Secretary said he thought Chinese Communist attack unlikely because they realize would start chain disasters far outweighing any possible gains and while there no question land invasion of China, vista of trouble through sea and air attack would be strong deterrent to them. Nash stated recent talks on five-power cooperation Southeast Asia had made considerable progress and mentioned forthcoming [Page 434] meeting Honolulu where five-power talks would continue on invitation Admiral Radford.4 Secretary agreed might be necessary for military reasons talk about what we would do in event evacuation but concluded firmly he convinced there would be no evacuation. He also noted, in unlikely event Korean armistice, that if Chinese obviously simply concluded such arrangement order transport troops attack Indochina, armistice would have automatically failed purpose. Finally he referred to integral connection two wars as contained President’s State Union Message.5

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  1. Drafted by Robert Η. McBride, the Officer in Charge of French-Iberian Affairs. Repeated for information to London as telegram 6434, to Bonn as telegram 4719, and to Saigon as telegram 1906.
  2. The extract printed here constitutes that portion of the telegram summarizing the discussion on Indochina which occurred at the ministerial plenary session of Mar. 26, at which 31 American and 33 French officials were present. European defense, possible arrangements for periodic U.S.–U.K.–French consultation, and other questions of common concern also received consideration. For complete text of this telegram, see volume vi. U.S. minutes of proceedings were prepared as document FPT MIN–2, Apr. 6. (611.51/4–653).
  3. See extracts from the U.S. minutes of the morning meeting, supra.
  4. For documentation on the meeting of military representatives of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, and New Zealand at Pearl Harbor, Apr. 6–10, and other material on five-power planning for the defense of Southeast Asia, see volume xii.
  5. See editorial note, p. 376.