396.1 GE/5–1754: Telegram

First Restricted Session on Indochina, Geneva, May 17, 3 p.m.: The United States Delegation to the Department of State 1


Secto 241. Repeated information Paris 289, London 178, Saigon 87, Tokyo 69, Moscow 75. Department pass Defense. Tokyo pass CINCFE. At restricted meeting Indochina conference this afternoon, Bidault raised question evacuation DBP wounded. After referring letters exchanged between delegations here, he stated his information now indicates (a) no Vietnamese wounded scheduled for evacuation thus violating principle of nondiscrimination, and (b) that Viet Minh Command has raised unacceptable conditions not mentioned Geneva, i.e., requirement that route 41 be not bombed during evacuation. Bidault said French Government ready evacuate Viet Minh wounded by air to any point designated by Viet Minh Command in number equal to wounded our side evacuated from Dien Bien Phu.

DRV delegate reiterated acceptance principle nondiscrimination but stated number Vietnamese wounded very low because “French command concentrated at Dien Bien Phu best troops of Expeditionary Corps,” adding that original garrison had consisted of only ⅛th Vietnamese and many of these surrendered wholesale abandoning French during fight. He said there had been agreement in field that wounded would be free in three groups with 753 in first two groups and number of third group to be decided later by DRV, that evacuations would be at rate of 80–100 per day and that French were to suspend air action over certain ones during period of evacuation. He pointed out that while Franco-Vietnamese wounded evacuated by air, Viet Minh must have use roads. He said Cogny in radio broadcast midnight May 13 had agreed suspend air activity over an area 10 kilometers around Dien Bien Phu and on route 41 between Sonla and Dien Bien Phu.

Molotov supported DRV statement adding that contact between interested delegations in Geneva might be maintained while details worked out in field.

USDel received message monitored over DRV radio to effect only French, Africans and Foreign Legion would be evacuated and suggested possibility of misunderstanding. He also stated rate of 80–100 wounded per day suggested by DRV seemed very low.

Bidault indicated alleged agreement described by DRV delegate was not between soldiers but between doctors. He stressed principles [Page 834] of nondiscrimination and of avoidance of injecting strategic considerations into humanitarian matter.

CPR delegate supported DRV. Vietnamese delegate took sharp issue with DRV allegations re small number and/or conduct of Vietnamese troops at DBP.

Eden recorded agreement on nondiscrimination principle, on desirability that evacuation proceed rapidly and that contacts in field be supplemented by contacts in Geneva.

At intermission Chauvel told us Bidault did not feel discussion had been productive.

Later in meeting Bidault reverted this topic asking DRV delegate designate representative with whom French might pursue problem. Molotov then rather pointedly and looking at Dong expressed understanding of Soviet delegate that both parties would do everything to facilitate contacts both in field and in Geneva to which Dong nodded agreement.

  1. A set of minutes of this session (IC Restricted/1) is in Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 278.