The Ambassador in France (Dillon) to the Department of State
3774. Limit distribution. Reference Embassy telegram 3710, April 5, penultimate paragraph. Maurice Schumann told me this afternoon French Government would, in principle, give favorable response to Secretary’s proposal. However, it was quite apparent that he and Bidault are completely absorbed with immediate Dien Bien Phu battle to exclusion of everything else.
As indicative of the French thinking, Chauvel1 earlier today gave me a copy of a memorandum2 he had prepared for Bidault’s use at Ministerial meeting this morning. Bidault had authorized him to pass it on to me, though it did not necessarily represent Bidault’s final position.
Memorandum, which deals primarily with Secretary’s proposal, points out that this subject must be separated from such urgent measures as are necessary to assist in the defense of Dien Bien Phu. It then goes on to say that it is hardly likely that the Secretary’s plan can be completed and put into operation in the 19 days remaining before Geneva. It points out that French public opinion expects a sincere effort to reach a peaceful arrangement at Geneva, and that negotiations leading up to the creation of the coalition envisaged in the Secretary’s plan might very well be construed in France as a deliberate effort to torpedo the Geneva Conference. The memorandum goes on to say that the one risk the French Government can not take is that of letting the French public believe that the United States Government is trying to prevent France from ending the war in Indochina. It cites need to distinguish between: (1) emergency assistance for Dien Bien Phu, (2) preparation for Geneva, which means “study of solutions appropriate to assure cessation of hostilities with necessary military and political safeguards”, and (3) study by French, United States and United Kingdom Governments of Secretary’s plan. It concludes by saying the Secretary’s plan should be pursued in such a way that it can be put into effect immediately, provided the effort to arrive at a peaceful solution in Geneva should fail. The memorandum also states that the very helpful speech recently delivered by the Secretary is sufficient warning for Chinese so that they will have to listen seriously to whatever is proposed at Geneva.
Chauvel added orally that French were very skeptical as to what action, if any, the British would take to help. He also pointed out that [Page 1283]Indochina question is one which has deep emotional appeal to all Frenchmen at this time and that, therefore, it is most important that public opinion here should feel that United States is sympathetic to French position.
Comment: We here must agree that Indochina problem presently centered in Dien Bien Phu has a far broader base emotionally throughout France than European problems, such as EDC. We feel this should be kept in mind by Department at all times. Chauvel’s paper, however, completely misses point that implementation of Secretary’s proposal before Geneva would greatly increase possibilities of finding satisfactory solution there.