751G.00/l-22i54: Telegram

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


1290. Repeated information Paris 392, Hanoi unnumbered. Jacquet told me yesterday (see my Top Secret telegram 1284, January 20)1 that in his view it was absolutely necessary for Navarre to produce some victories within next few months or pressure of opposition in French Parliament to continuation of French effort in Indochina would force any government in power to initiate negotiations with Ho Chi-Minh. He well understood that it was hardly in the cards for Navarre to win any truly decisive victories in this period since two forces were nearly balanced, but victories of some degree must occur. Best thing that could happen would be for Viet Minh to attack Dien Bien Phu as they are expected to do and have French inflict a bloody defeat on them. That would greatly diminish French opposition to war in Indochina.

He also realized that it would probably be difficult or impossible to conclude an armistice with Ho Chi-Minh which would be acceptable either to Vietnamese or French and that it would be impossible [Page 992] for France suddenly to withdraw its forces. Nevertheless, if defeats occurred or there were no victorious engagements in next few months opposition would insist on a try at negotiations.

He, Jacquet, thought there was little or no hope of success in negotiations with Ho Chi-Minh but that it might be possible negotiate successfully with Communist China to cease aiding Viet Minh. To his request for my opinion, I said I regretted I saw no possible negotiations or any quid pro quo which could be given which would induce China really to desist from supporting Viet Minh.

Jacquet then went on to say he saw no possibility of decisive defeat of Viet Minh unless there were eventually American participation, say in form of “foreign legion” with American flyers, mechanics, and technical warfare specialists. He said that Alsop article which was denounced Paris and Washington was not really so short of truth. French Government had very seriously considered suggesting to American Government formation of a so-called “foreign legion” of America’s flyers and specialists, but had refrained from formulating demand on “information” that such a request would cause difficulties for American Government and be turned down. Jacquet insisted, however, that something along this line would eventually have to be tried.

Jacquet then expressed disappointment with new Vietnamese Government. It would be unable, he alleged, to rally nationwide support. Bao Dai should, he said, already be casting around for successor government capable of rallying nation and Jacquet intimated he planned to say this to Bao Dai. Furthermore, Bao Dai must provide more active leadership. I told Jacquet that new government was obviously not an ideal one from standpoint of rallying nation but nevertheless might enjoy some success. As for Bao Dai, I feared he had to be taken much as he was. His performance would I thought improve, but one could not expect him to be suddenly transformed into a Clemenceau.

  1. For partial text, see footnote 1, supra.