751G.00/2–2852: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Bruce) to the Department of State


5235. Rptd info Saigon 301, London unn. Deptel 5033, Feb 26 (rptd Saigon 1216).

Emb has had no indications from French Govt officials nor has it seen any indications in French press of French intention or expectation abandon Northern IC and withdraw south this year. Dept will have noted Embtels 4948 Feb 12, 5095 Feb 191 and 5181 Feb 25, in none of which is there any indication French expectation withdrawal from Tonkin. On contrary, general feeling, reinforced by findings Parliamentary Mission to IC, is that France can hold except in event Chinese aggression. Letourneau, upon arrival here last night, replying to press query re French defense Tonkin, quoted by Figaro this morning as saying question does not arise, to leave Hanoi and Tonkin would be stupidity and “we could in no event abandon Delta”.

After original flurry, comment on Hoa Binh evacuation now considerably less and so far as Emb knows it has not yet created stir in Natl Assembly. There is natural and inevitable discouragement here following Hoa Binh evacuation in sense that end of IC conflict, hopes for which buoyed up by De Lattre’s statement of possible end within 18 months, now seems remote. Letourneau probably contributed to this feeling by his recent statement to press at Saigon that French could not force decision through military offensive. This has not, however, resulted in demands for withdrawal or evacuation Tonkin. In this connection, it must be remembered that French Army IC is professional and only partially metropolitan and the effects of milit reverses do not have immed public impact in France as would be case with civilian conscript army.

FonOff tells us it has had inquiry from French Emb Wash which suggested desirability issuance statement here denying accuracy UP despatch in question. FonOff of opinion that to issue denial would be to magnify story and apparently does not expect to do so.

UP staff correspondent here, queried re story on basis Emb interested in info which at variance with that coming to Emb from Fr sources, stated story written on basis info from source he could not reveal, but that story as sent NY filled with qualifying words and must have been rewritten in NY to give sense different from original.

  1. Not printed.