396.1 GE/5–2454: Telegram

The United States Delegation to the Department of State

top secret

Dulte 103. Repeated information Paris 320, Saigon 105. Re Geneva Tedul 110, repeated Paris 4225, Saigon 2385.1 I agree fully that it would now be very useful, later possibly imperative for me to have personal contacts with Bao Dai. That said, I do not believe we should make any move in that direction without prior discussion and approval of Bidault. While the latter raised no objection some eight days ago when I told him of my intention to pay a courtesy call on Bao Dai [Page 901]and made no comment when, through Ambassador Chauvel, Heath reported on my meeting2 I am sure that Bidault was uneasy that this meeting would be used by the opposition to increase the difficulties of himself and the Laniel government. There was in fact some unhelpful French press speculation over what transpired at my meeting with Bao Dai.

Before making any arrangements for a next meeting, therefore, I would like to discuss the matter with Bidault in such a manner as not to allow him to impose a veto on my eventually seeing Bao Dai but agreeing if he raises objections to the political effect of such a meeting (which would be sure to be known) to defer any contact for some days to come. Bao Dai himself evidently feels that our meeting at this precise time would be unwise in view of probable French reaction and this is one of the reasons that he appointed Luyen as channel of communications. (See telegram Secto 265 repeated Paris 306, Saigon 97.3)

The four-point outline suggested in reference telegram would be a good agenda for our first meeting.

As regards the program outlined in the first five paragraphs of reference telegram everyone including Bao Dai would agree as to the necessity of strengthening Vietnamese government in face present emergency. Bao Dai might also if we insisted agree to the creation of a provisional assembly having initially broad consultative powers and would probably agree that it have constituent powers as well.

The Buu Loc government has in fact promised the creation of a consultative assembly. Bao Dai’s own immediate solution has been strengthening the efficiency and autonomy of the army and the creation of war cabinet with real authority.4

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I believe he would go along with the creation of the assembly and the lines mentioned in reference telegram seem to be wise and practical.

Smith
  1. Dated May 22, p. 892.
  2. Held on May 16; for summary of discussion, see telegram Secto 234, May 17, p. 829.
  3. Dated May 20, p. 863.
  4. In telegram 2541 from Saigon, May 26, McClintock stated that “with all deference” he wanted to correct this sentence. He commented that “Bao Dai has not strengthened efficiency and autonomy of Vietnamese National Army. On contrary, as Embassy’s telegrams have pointed out, morale of army is at new low ebb and its efficiency is gravely impaired by open rivalry between Minister of Defense Quat and Chief of Staff Hinh. Furthermore, Geneva conference has had deleterious effect on fighting spirit in all ranks. There has been no creation of a war cabinet with real authority. This cabinet had one meeting and has since lapsed into oblivion. Its composition is Buu Loc as Prime Minister, Quat as Minister of Defense, and Hinh as Chief of Staff. Since Buu Loc is in France and neither Quat nor Hinh will ratify suggestions of other, war cabinet is an absolute nullity.” (751G.5/5–2654)

    In commenting on McClintock’s telegram Under Secretary Smith said “there seems to be some difference of view between drafting officer Ambassador Heath and Chargé d’Affaires McClintock, a condition which probably exists in other missions elsewhere in the world. However, it would have been more accurate if our Dulte 103 had stated ‘Bao Dai’s own proposed solution is, et cetera’. Personally, Bao Dai did not impress me as a man to lead forlorn hopes.” (Telegram Dulte 118; 396.1 GE/5–2654)