Secretary’s Staff Meetings, lot 63 D 75

Summary of Acting Secretary’s Staff Meeting, Department of State, April 23, 1954, 9:15 a.m.1


[Here follow a list of those present (16) and the record of discussion of subjects other than Indochina.]

4. Indo-China.

The Acting Secretary discussed with Mr. Morton making suitable preparations on the Hill for possible quick loss of Dien Bien Phu and French failure to ratify EDC. Both agreed that we must prepare the [Page 1366] Hill as early as possible for these events. Mr. Morton, however, in stating that he had already begun work with some members of Congress, suggested that the Acting Secretary not meet with the leaders until after the Secretary’s analysis message has been received.

In reply to Mr. Nolting’s request for guidance for the MSA budget presentation today, the Acting Secretary agreed that the line should be that the Navarre Plan does not depend on Dien Bien Phu from the military standpoint; that actually, militarily speaking, it has been successful inasmuch as the Communists had lost 20% of men and resources compared to a loss of only 5% of the French if the whole garrison were to be lost. That our line should be we were still covering full support for the Navarre Plan. However, the Acting Secretary stated that psychologically the loss of Dien Bien Phu may fold up the French both in France and Indo-China.

(Cambodia). Mr. Key reported that the Cambodian Minister had agreed to handle their presentation to the UN along lines that would be satisfactory to us.

(American Public Opinion). Mr. Phleger stated that he felt American public opinion must be prepared for the possible loss of Dien Bien Phu. He felt that the average American would be convinced that all would be lost if this stronghold were to fall. Mr. Phillips doubted that the average American was well enough informed to form such an opinion. Mr. Murphy stated that in Asia its loss would be taken as an American defeat from all the aid and assistance we had given the French.

The Acting Secretary and Mr. Bonbright agreed that there would be little possibility of the strong stand of the French at Dien Bien Phu before its loss acting as a spur to morale along the lines “Remember Pearl Harbor”—”Remember the Alamo”. The Acting Secretary felt that this type of psychological spur to anger and revenge normally developed in the early portion of a war; that after 8 years of French struggle there, there was no possibility of this result.

  1. Prepared by Walter K. Scott, Director of the Executive Secretariat.