751G.00/2–2852: Telegram

The Consul at Hanoi (Blancké) to the Department of State


597. Rptd info Paris 202, Saigon. Dept pass info DEPTAR G–2, ONI, AFOIN.

I called yesterday on Gov Tam returned from trip to Saigon. He makes flying trip to Paris March 2 as pres of Resistants Committee for Indochina in World War II, to receive bodies of Fr resistants killed by Japanese now being shipped to France for reburial. Gov hopes to be back in Tonkin within week to throw himself into his role in new delta clean up.


As before, Tam expressed growing pride in his “Bao-Chinh-Doan” (Garde Nationale) now 14,000 strong. Morale excellent and outfit now fighting well in delta. Tam has installed new system of 100-man mobile groups: Six groups already formed, four more needed. Each group has six machineguns (Needing 8), 40 submachineguns, rest rifles. Mobile groups of picked men are constantly on move, seeking out VM rather than remaining static in posts although bulk of Bao-Chinh-Doan still remaining on overseas post duty). During trip to Saigon Tam argued with reluctant Huu for money to arm and equip the outfit, but had little luck. Has expressed exasperation with sluggish central govt and said he was dipping into his own insufficient regional funds and actually buying transportation and communications equipment from Fr commercial houses to help mobilize his groups. Small trucks were most needed (six-by-six type).

When Bao-Chinh-Doan remained only in posts villagers did not feel protected; but with mobile groups circulating everywhere reassuring impression of ubiquity was being achieved. If groups came on VM in too great strength they simply spotted them and called for help from nearby Bao-Chinh-Doan posts or regular Franc-Viet troops.

As with his civilian collaborators, Tam believes in training up Bao-Chinh-Doan officers fast; and in order to bypass long drawn out regular officer preparation he has installed training school at Binh-Dong near Haiphong. He had in fact visited school day before, to award decorations, and was impressed by morale. Tam said when he found a promising young guardsman he simply sent him to Binh-Dong for three months, and—presto—he had an officer. Thorough strategical grounding was not needed in counter-guerrilla war of delta; what was imperative was to get the men into the fight. And his system was paying off: There had been considerable losses in men and posts but morale and efficiency was improving day by day. Tam repeated proudly that Bao-Chinh-Doan was a family and he was its head But [Page 46] one must bear in mind it was a police outfit and fought well only as such. The men do not want to be incorporated into national army but prefer to maintain police identity. Two battalions which were incorporated into national forces had in fact given only mediocre performance. Tam added surprisingly that Bao-Chinh-Doan also disliked idea of serving in national army because cadres were European. Not quite knowing how to take this from pro-French Tam, I observed that nonetheless most Viets now seemed to realize that to make a start they must depend on French cadres. Tam agreed warmly and seemed a bit embarrassed at his remark.

Comment: Reluctance of Huu to furnish means for expanding Bao-Chinh-Doan probably owes in no small part to fear, exactly as in case of Nguyen–Huu–Tri before Tam, of private police army in north. Although elsewhere in conversation Tam inveighed against such regional armies as Cao-Dai and Hoa-Hao, maintaining nations armed forces must be one, his pride in his own praetorian guard might indicate some grounds for central govt’s reluctance to see it grow stronger.

In civilian field Tam said he thought he cld clean out grafters and install an efficient team of province and district chiefs in about five more months. When that goal had been achieved he wld be ready to pass Tonkin to a success [successor]. Asked if he had any candidates for this Tam said he had not but hoped it cld be a younger man not afraid of hard work; all that was needed in Tonkin was hard work. Tam prefers to pick his own young men and train them up, from whatever background, but said he was always willing to keep on older men if they were willing to go the pace. Soft-living officials were learning that no one had a vested interest in any job.
I asked Tam if he had any news on possible cabinet changes. He said during recent Tonkin visit of Huu and Nhuong they had asked his opinion on that and he had replied he was too busy to think about such things, that was up to them, but he did feel they must have a full-time Minister of Defense. Huu and Nhuong had also asked him to take on a cleanup in south as well as north, but he had refused on grounds further dissipation of his energies wld bring failure in all fields.