751G.551/3–652: Telegram

The Minister at Saigon (Heath) to the Department of State


1740. Rptd info Paris unn, Hanoi unn. Gen Salan called on me yesterday and asserted with every appearance of sincerity that for immed future he felt entirely reassured as regards Fr Union milit position against VM. He had certain intuition about VM operations developed by long experience in fighting them and thru personal contacts before Ho Chi Minh rebellion in 1946. His intuition told him VM milit morale had dropped. But quite apart from intuition he had unusual documentary proof of this decline in VM morale and that mauling suffered by VM div in Hoa Binh operations wld not permit them in near future resume offensive operations on any important scale. His forces wld therefore be able at last really to clean out Delta, something that had never been thoroughly done before. Tam as Govt of Tonkin, was doing good, if not ideal, job establishing authority in Delta and weeding out VM agents. The militarized police or natl guard which Tam was organizing was good and necessary idea although it wld take some time before really competent organization cld be developed. Tam, who possessed personal qualities of energy and courage, was having difficulty in forming really energetic, loyal team. With practical completion of Northern defense works and prospects of early clearing of Delta of VM, Fr Union forces wld have safe position to maneuver “from” (he repeated from).

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The possibility, perhaps more, of a Chi invasion was always present but he thought that it cld not occur before two or three months at the earliest. He had good intelligence of status of Chi airfields and none were yet in a condition to handle jets for attacks on Tonkin. The Chi had shown they cld quickly construct airfields but it wld be two or three months at very least before they develop them for attack on Delta.

If Chi sent in only forty or sixty thousand “volunteers” he cld still hold them unless the “volunteers” were accompanied by modern and massive air support. If invasion were on a much larger scale and with air superiority he cld only fight defensively until he hoped, international aid against Chi wld somehow, somewhere be brought to bear.