396.1 GE/5—1554: Telegram

The United States Delegation to the Department of State


Secto 215. Repeated information Paris 268, Saigon 75. Re: Paragraph 3, Secto 209.1 Following is unofficial translation letter delivered about midnight last night to Eden and Molotov (as Co-Chairmen Indochina Conference) by Bidault:

“Mr. Chairman: On May 10 the Geneva Conference, basing its action on a letter of Mr. Nguyen Quoc Dinh and on a declaration of [Page 810] Mr. Pham Van Dong on the same day, gave its agreement in principle to the evacuation of the wounded from the former fortress of Dien Bien Phu.2

“The French Commander-in-Chief immediately got in touch with General Vo Nguyen Giap in order to arrange the practical steps in this evacuation.

“During the meeting which was held at Dien Bien Phu on May 14 it was noted that the first group of wounded designated by General Vo Nguyen Giap, that is to say 450 men, included no Vietnamese.

“It was made clear, however, in the declaration published on this subject by the Viet Minh delegation on the evening of May 10 that the Viet Minh command would not make any discrimination among the wounded based on considerations of race or nationality. Furthermore a new demand which raised an extremely serious problem was made by the representatives of General Vo Nguyen Giap. This in effect would have subjected the evacuation of the wounded to the condition that during the entire duration of this operation, which in view of the state of the terrain would have required about a fortnight, Provincial route number 41 should not be the object of any military action. No parallel can be established between the operation of evacuating the wounded from Dien Bien Phu, which has no military consequences, and the neutralization of the only major route existing in the area. This prolonged neutralization would in effect permit major troop movements of such a nature as to modify profoundly the military situation in North Vietnam.

“I would therefore be most grateful if you would communicate the foregoing on a basis of extreme urgency to Mr. Pham Van Dong so that he may intervene with the Viet Minh command in order that the measures which shall be taken to evacuate the wounded may conform to the letter and spirit of the decision of the Conference.

“Please accept, Mr. Chairman, the assurances of my very high consideration.”

  1. Dated May 14, p. 806.
  2. Discussion of the wounded during the Second Plenary Session on Indochina is in the verbatim minutes of the session in Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 276.