751G.00/1–2552: Telegram

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


1488. Rptd info Paris 556. Yesterday evening saw Gen Salan who came to Saigon to meet Min Letourneau arriving this morning.

Salan said he entirely confident that Fr Union forces wld throw back VM. From captured docs Fr had learned VM had anticipated carrying on three months offensive. Two months had passed and he doubtful VM cld carry on attacks on present scale in view heavy losses for another month. He thought by end month VM wld have to abandon major offensive operations for time. He more than ever conviced occupation Hoa-Binh was shrewd move. He confident he cld hold it.

It true that during offensive VM had succeeded infiltrating equivalent one regiment at Bao-Ninh and equivalent two regiments at Nam-Dinh. This troublesome and worrying but Fr Union forces wld be able dislodge VM. Vietnam army units had handled themselves well. What was lacking were qualified battalion commanders. Lieutenants and Capts good.

He wld have to spend practically his entire time at Hanoi where at any time there he wld give me or my rep entirely truthful picture of sitn whether it favorable or adverse.

He smilingly avoided direct answer to my question as to whether he cld now repeat prediction of De Lattre in Wash last Sept that in 18 months rebellion wld be reduced police proportions by remarking that since that date Chi had greatly increased supplies of all sorts to VM.

He admitted possibility of direct Chi invasion in force in which case his forces wld be insufficient. He wld be opposed to any participation Chi Nationalist troops in operations in Tonkin delta. They wld only complicate operations. Chi Nationalist guerilla forces under control of Formosa regime might, however, be very usefully employed from north Thailand or Burma. This operation which shld be actively studied.

With regard Amer supplies, he had informed Fr Parliamentary comite that he did not have enough automotive transport but he now knew sufficient shipments had arrived Saigon or were en route to make up this deficiency. He hoped very much to obtain some of new equipment our troops using in Korea. He thought that shortly arrangements wld be made to have qualified Fr observers there in Kor. [Page 22] He understands we now using napalm mines before defensive positions in Korea. He said no matter how one constructs a defense works there always points of feeble fire or no fire cover. Napalm contact land mines cld be laid to protect such blind spots and wld have advantage also of illuminating night attacks. He also interested in infra-red sights for night fire.

He wld return to Hanoi with Letourneau shortly after latter’s arrival, stopping briefly at Dalat to see Bao Dai. He said he wld very strongly urge Bao Dai to make more visits and inspections of Vietnam troops. Bao Dai’s visit Hoa-Binh had been good thing. Bao Dai shld spend more time at Hanoi.