751G.13/9–1754: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Embassy in France1

top secret

997. Limit distribution. Saigon’s 1052,2 1059,3 1061.4 We are convinced the urgency of situation described in reference telegrams calls for strong and immediate measures by us. Since our past representation at other levels have been ignored, Achilles should call on Mendes or LaChambre as soon as possible and deliver personally following oral message:

“We have been most sympathetically collaborating with France with respect to a mutually satisfactory solution in Indochina. Our policies have taken into account the great sacrifices that France has in the past made in Indochina. The United States has no desire or intent to become involved in matters lying within the field of Franco-Vietnamese relations, but we are seriously disturbed at the present trend in Viet-Nam. We are informed that French authorities in Saigon have delivered a virtual ultimatum to Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem, directing that he take into his government former Prime Minister Nguyen Van Tam. Diem has informed the U.S., and we believe your officials, that he will resign if such an act is enforced. Nevertheless we understand the efforts to force such a conclusion are not only continuing, on the part of French officials, but are increasing.

It was our impression that US and French representatives Saigon have of late had same views on Diem situation so it has come as shock and surprise that, according reports, French representatives are now making such concerted effort to force Tam into Diem Cabinet.

This action appears inconsistent with assurances given Embassy Paris that French Government is determined not pull strings or try force any Vietnamese Government out of office or into being (Embtel 873 repeated Saigon 94).5

To cause the Diem Government to fall by the forced inclusion of a Minister unacceptable to Diem would appear to be highly inconsistent with French assurances to the United States of the independence of Viet-Nam and would also deprive any successor government of the nationalist support indispensable to a viable government in Viet-Nam by the demonstration of foreign ability to appoint and remove its government at will.

We therefore earnestly hope that in giving this matter your full consideration you will agree concerning the extreme undesirability of attempting to force Diem to take Tam and issue accordingly instructions to your representatives in Saigon with the view of our continuing to work to prevent further deterioration of the political situation in Viet-Nam.

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There should be no misunderstanding regarding the fact that American aid could not be furnished to a government in Viet-Nam which failed to include substantial nationalist support.”6

Paris should inform Saigon and Department of timing of delivery above message so that Heath can deliver simultaneously to Ely or deputy.

  1. Drafted by Hoey of PSA. Also sent to Saigon as priority telegram 1085.
  2. Dated Sept. 16, p. 2031.
  3. See footnote 1, supra.
  4. Supra.
  5. Dated Aug. 30, p. 1997.
  6. In telegram 1164 from Paris, Sept. 18, Ambassador Dillon reported that in the absence of La Chambre, the message had been read to his private secretary at the Ministry for the Associated States. (751G.13/9–1854) Dillon further reported the following in telegram 1171 of the same day: “Message in Deptel 997 read to Mendes. He said he knew nothing about pressure to include Tam but Diem Government was clearly disintegrating. Diem’s influence had been in north, but he had none in south nor in fact anywhere outside Saigon. It was important that US and France concert their policy with respect to Indochina rather than work at cross purposes. It was for this reason that he was sending Ely and La Chambre to Washington. He agreed to our request that he instruct French in Saigon to ‘go easy’ until Ely and La Chambre had had opportunity to discuss problem in Washington.” (751G.13/9–1854)