Eisenhower Library, “Project ‘Clean Up’, Indochina”

Memorandum of Conference at the Residence of the Secretary of State, Washington, October 31, 1954, 4 p.m.1

top secret


  • Secretary of State
  • Under Secretary Hoover
  • Assistant Secretary Robertson
  • Honorable Douglas MacArthur
  • Deputy Secretary of Defense
  • Admiral Radford
  • General J. Lawton Collins
  • Colonel A. J. Goodpaster

Mr. Dulles opened the meeting with a brief review of the discussions leading up to the decision to undertake action assigning General Collins as special representative of the President in South Vietnam to bring about a satisfactory situation there. He indicated that General Collins would exercise the powers of all of the Departments. He stated the job would be a difficult one, but one of great importance.

Admiral Radford stressed the difficulty of the assignment. He thought General Collins would find united, partially concealed opposition to the establishment of a sound South Vietnam situation on the part of the French. He thought the French may have a very different objective—that of linking South Vietnam with the Communist regime in the north.

Mr. Dulles recognized these difficulties, but pointed out that there are available pressures to exert on the French, in the same manner as the pressures exerted in connection with the London accords. For example, Mendes-France was “aghast” when Mr. Dulles told him that if Diem fell he would probably pull out of Vietnam entirely. He indicated that a message from the French indicates that they want to have two top people on the spot with full authority.

Mr. Dulles indicated that Ambassador Heath has been due for replacement in the very near future, and that this is well advanced. He will be pulled out at once.

Secretary Anderson raised the question as to how the handling of the “new approach” to NATO will be managed.

General Collins indicated that Truesdell2 can handle this very well; someone more senior may be needed at the actual meeting. The possibility of Admiral Radford acting along these lines was brought out.

Mr. Dulles indicated General Collins should endeavor to leave on Tuesday, November 2.

[Page 2199]

In connection with briefings and documentary material for General Collins, Mr. Dulles mentioned the Mansfield report3 which deserves serious consideration. He indicated we must impress the French that we will pull out if the situation cannot be brought into proper form. His inclination is to back Diem, who has many essential qualities despite being weak in others. There is no real alternative. He indicated he was not thinking in terms of a twenty-division force, but rather of a constabulary loyal to the government.

To General Collins’ question whether Mendes-France is reconciled to getting out of Indo-China, Secretary Dulles answered Yes, noting however that Mendes-France hopes for continued friendly ties. Secretary Anderson stated that Mendes-France said the French will pull out if the Vietnamese so request. He added that the Vietnamese have done so informally, but not formally.

Admiral Radford indicated present thinking is in terms of a 5½ light division force plus militia for the Vietnamese, coming to 230,000 personnel, costing perhaps 400–500 million for the first year.

General Collins hoped General O’Daniel would stay. It was indicated that this was anticipated.

Secretary Dulles indicated the scope of General Collins’ task was Vietnam only. He added that French troops should come out as fast as possible, although order is being maintained in Saigon now only through the presence of French troops.

General Collins asked how much money was available, over what period, and from what sources. This was discussed inconclusively, and it was agreed that the specialists would have to brief him on this.

Secretary Anderson indicated Defense and FOA representatives would get together to “audit” just how much money is in fact available (as well as actions in the Philippines, Burma, Thailand, etc. which have by inference drawn on these funds).

In response to General Collins’ question, Mr. Dulles indicated an authority in writing would be given. This would include a letter from the President,4 and probably a statement of authority from the Departments in more detail. The principle would be to provide all needed authority, but not to engage the prestige of the President unnecessarily.

Mr. MacArthur pointed out the necessity of informing the French and Vietnamese before a public announcement was made. The necessity for an early public announcement was agreed.

It was agreed that General Collins should see the President before departing, probably on Tuesday.5

A. J. Goodpaster
Colonel, CE, US Army
  1. Drafted by Colonel Goodpaster, Staff Secretary to the President.
  2. Maj. Gen. Karl Truesdell, Jr., U.S. Chief of Staff, NATO Standing Group, Washington.
  3. See footnote 2, p. 1997.
  4. See letter of Nov. 3, p. 2205.
  5. See memorandum of conversation, Nov. 3, ibid.