790.5/1–1552: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Legation at Saigon

top secret

974. Eyes only Heath. Code clerk: This msg to be delivered to Mr. Heath for his eyes only.

[Page 15]

Tripartite mil conversations held Washington Jan 111 concerning defense SEA were convened through direct negots between three Chiefs of Staff. Only at last moment were single reps of each FonOff permitted to be present as observers. Dept had no opportunity contribute to agenda nor formally participate in discussions. Nevertheless Leg tels concerning this subj were and are most helpful.

Part one of agenda entitled “Exchange of Views with Respect to Southeast Asia” consists of two pts.

Problems of SEA in light of world wide implications of situation, and
Defense SEA including action in event of deterioration of situation.

Part two concerned recommendations of Singapore Conference.

Summary of discussions covering both Parts has been given to Bartlett2 for transmittal to Leg. He is expected to arrive Saigon approx Jan 26.

Fol is brief summary of discussions on Part one.

Gen Bradley3 advised Gen Juin4 that he was unable to commit his govt at this time as to extent and character of US mil assistance in event of massive Chi intervention. This subj being considered at highest official level as matter of urgency. Field Marshal Slim5 concurred. Juin appealed fora US and UK dispatch of air and naval support if not ground forces. Air cover necessary to allow his forces to retire on Haiphong.
Juin stated, under instrs from his govt, that fol massive Chi intervention Fr Union forces wld retire to Haiphong and fight to last man. Air cover needed for this operation while naval assistance needed in evacuating 50,000 Fr and Indochina civilians. Juin stated that if Haiphong held, invasion of IC difficult or impossible.
Three Chiefs agreed to recommend to their govts the transmittal of a declaration to Red China that aggression against SEA wld bring certain retaliation from the three powers, not necessarily limited to the area of aggression. An ad hoc comite of reps of the three powers plus Austral and NZ was appointed to study and report urgently on the measures the five govts might take singly or jointly in event Red China failed heed warning.6 Above two steps resulted from mutual [Page 16] recognition that present problems consist of (1) discouragement against aggression and (2) retaliation.
All agreed that Chi aggression against SEA might well mean war with China.
Neither the recommendation as to proposed declaration nor the report of ad hoc comite have been recd by Dept.
It shld be noted that the language of proposed declaration must still be approved by each of the five govts concerned as well as joint agreement reached concerning method and timing of transmittal to Red China. Likewise, the recommendations of ad hoc comite which wld presumably be of very broad nature wld necessarily influence course of action of the five govts with respect to transmittal proposed declaration.

Bartlett has been fully briefed and Leg will be informed of developments as they occur.

  1. The minutes of the tripartite conversations conducted in Washington on Jan. 11 by military representatives of the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, and related documentation, are included in the compilation on general policies of the United States with respect to the East Asian-Pacific area, in volume xii.
  2. Frederic P. Bartlett, First Secretary, Legation at Saigon.
  3. General of the ArmyOmar N. Bradley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  4. General of the Army Alphonse Juin, General Inspector of the French Army, Navy, and Air Force.
  5. Field Marshal Sir William Slim, Chief of the Imperial General Staff of the United Kingdom.
  6. The report of the ad hoc committee, Feb. 5, is included in documentation on general policies of the United States with respect to the East Asian-Pacific area, in volume xii.