Memorandum by the Adviser to the United States Delegation (Bonsal) to the Head of the Delegation (Smith)

top secret


  • Further call of Bao Dai’s personal representative, Mr. Ngo Dinh Luyen.

Mr. Ngo Dinh Luyen called on me this morning to say he had reported to Bao Dai on his interview with you yesterday.

According to Ngo Dinh Luyen, Bao Dai is most anxious to change the Vietnamese Government. He would bring in Ngo Dinh Diem as Prime Minister and replace most if not all present ministers. A new policy of independence based upon the creation of a real Vietnamese national army would be the program of the new government with which Bao Dai hopes to revitalize the Vietnamese struggle against Communism.

Bao Dai would like to know, however, to what extent he can count on US support. He would like to know whether, if the present Franco-Vietnamese military effort is insufficient to hold the Delta, the US would plan to intervene directly. He is also concerned lest the French Government, under the pressure of French political and public opinion, should decide to abandon the struggle. In that case, would the US intervene directly?

I replied that I saw no signs of a weakening of French determination to continue the fight. On the contrary, recent indications show a firming up of French determination. I said that I would convey Bao Dai’s questions to you.

Bao Dai is also worried as to what the attitude of the Vietnamese Government should be in the event that the Geneva Conference shows signs of moving toward a situation which would in effect involve the abandonment of Viet-Nam to the Communists. Should the Vietnamese Delegation pull out? What is our advice?

Bao Dai is also interested in having US military assistance (MDAP) delivered directly to the Vietnamese national army or at least specifically earmarked for that army instead of being delivered as at present through the French. Bao Dai does not want to make a revolutionary change in present arrangements but would like to see our assistance specifically identified with Viet-Nam rather than with France. He would like your views on this point too.

In the event a new government under Ngo Dinh Diem takes over, its first act would be the creation of a new Vietnamese army. In this army, Bao Dai would hope to consolidate the present elements of the [Page 849] Vietnamese army plus Vietnamese soldiers now serving with the French Expeditionary Corps plus all types of irregular and religious troops. He anticipates French opposition because according to him over half the French Union forces in Viet-Nam are Vietnamese and therefore those forces would be much weakened by Bao Dai’s plan. Also, Bao Dai believes the French fear that a strong Vietnamese national army might make possible direct negotiations and agreement between Viet-Nam and the Vietminh. His Majesty, however, desires to create a fighting offensive-minded army. (I commented that such a plan while it might eventually help create a strong Vietnamese national army would in the mean time probably weaken the military potential of our side. In reply Ngo Dinh Luyen stated that it would be His Majesty’s idea to proceed somewhat gradually.)


I recommend that for the present you authorize me to tell Ngo Dinh Luyen that I have communicated the above to you,1 that you are not prepared at once to reply to the questions raised by Bao Dai but that you have them under serious consideration.2 I might add that it is your view that under present critical circumstances all positive elements on our side must be united and that consequently all important decisions should so far as possible represent agreement between all concerned.

  1. In a note of May 25 attached to the source text, Hennes informed Bonsal that “Regarding your attached memorandum, General Smith has approved your telling Ngo Dinh Luyen that you have communicated his report to General Smith. There is no reply, but General Smith may want to talk to Ngo Dinh Luyen at a later date.”
  2. In a handwritten marginal notation, Walter S. Robertson wrote “I suggest elimination of this instruction” in reference to the following part of the sentence: “that you are not prepared at once to reply to the questions raised by Bao Dai but that you have them under serious consideration”.