396.1 GE/5–1754: Telegram
The United States Delegation to the Department of State
Secto 234. Repeated information priority Paris 281, Saigon 85. With Heath saw Bao Dai at Evian yesterday.1
I expressed our view regarding the advisability of associating the UN with the Indochina conflict, and told him of my talks with Bidault and Prince Wan. He seemed in accord with the idea, but made no definite expression of approval, apparently desiring to discuss the matter with his ministers and also to ascertain that this proposal would not cross wires with the French.
Bao Dai agreed with me that Bidault was making a courageous stand to prevent a Communist take-over of Indochina, but Bao Dai pointed out that the chances of survival of the present government, with a majority of only two in the vote of confidence, were not brilliant. In these days of critical uncertainty whether France was going to stand by Vietnam in the fight or walk out, he felt it was necessary to remain near Geneva and Paris. He had been disappointed with the reaction to the fall of Dien Bien Phu. He had thought that in France, a great military nation, or at least a nation with a great military tradition, the reaction would be one of increased determination and effort to turn the tide. That reaction had not appeared and the chief concern seemed to be to place the blame on some one.
He still hoped, however, that France would see that her true interest was in fighting loyally alongside the Vietnamese Army in the great task of preventing a Communist take-over of all Indochina.
He was alarmed over the French proposals for termination of hostilities and was determined that if the French insisted on an armistice that it should not bind the Vietnamese Army, which was willing to fight on to the end, even if the struggle looked like a suicidal one. He was confident of the loyalty of the army and he had recently received a large number of telegrams, including one from Bishop Le Huu Thi, assuring him the senders were ready to fight on whatever the French did. In this situation, he intended in the next few days to ask the Laniel Government whether the French were determined to make peace and withdraw or whether they would fight on with the Vietnamese Army. He did not want to do anything to increase French political difficulties at this time, but he was sure that the government would understand the necessity of his putting the question bluntly and without delay.[Page 830]
To my inquiry as to reports political deterioration in Vietnam, he replied that there was some deterioration but no political disintegration. This deterioration was in part due to uncertainty as to the French attitude. It was natural that many individuals and groups should seek to find new positions in case the French withdrew. Such political difficulties were confined to the south. The north was united and determined to resist, because it was close to the war and knew the danger of communism. The difficulties of the south were also caused in part by intrigues of low level French officials and interests who were backing certain Vietnamese individuals and groups. He had no complaints to make of high level French conduct and policy.
To my inquiry as to reported friction between Defense Minister Quat and General Hinh, Bao Dai replied that friction between military commanders and defense ministers occurred in many countries. The situation I had referred to was not serious and this friction would disappear before the great defense task confronting Vietnam.
Bidault had expressed concern over the absence of Prime Minister Buu Loc from Vietnam in the moment of political deterioration. Bao Dai avoided answering my question whether he intended sending Buu Loc back at this juncture.
He went on to say that among the fence-sitters who in these last days had expressed allegiance to him, he had received a message from Ngo Dinh Diem, a leading Catholic lay figure and “fence-sitter” offering to return to Vietnam and serve Bao Dai to whom in the past he has been hostile.
Bao Dai said he had therefore appointed Ngo Dinh Diem’s brother Luyen, as his personal observer at the conference and if I wished to communicate with or receive information from Bao Dai I need only to call on the latter.
Bao Dai said that a former minister of his, present in Geneva, had received a request for an interview from Phan Anh, Dong’s principal assistant at the conference. Bao Dai told him by all means to see Anh. Bao Dai said it was possible that Anh and others in the Viet Minh delegation really wanted to get in touch with him and possibly rally to his side, but on the other hand he had to be on guard lest this were a Viet Minh maneuver. He could not understand why the Viet Minh delegation included such non-Communists as Anh and Buu. Bao Dai had gone to school with both of them and both had formerly held Cabinet posts under him.
Bao Dai expressed no opinion as to Navarre’s competency, merely saying that he had been most correct in his relations with the Vietnamese Government and had obviously done his best to build up the [Page 831] Vietnamese National Army. Bao Dai did, however, criticize the manner of using the Vietnamese National Army by the French High Command. He said that the Vietnamese training schools would “manufacture” a battalion which would forthwith be swallowed up in the French Expeditionary Force. Often times the Vietnamese Minister did not know where a given Vietnamese battalion was. He said that there should be found means of maintaining some degree of separateness and control for the Vietnamese units and the Vietnamese National Army must be given more responsibilities.
- May 16.↩