Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 320

The Coordinator of the United States Delegation ( Johnson ) to the Head of the Delegation ( Smith )

top secret

General Smith : I have been thinking over your letter to the Secretary on Indo-China.1

I most emphatically agree with your sentence that it would take strong, direct and rapid action by the U.S. to reverse the adverse trend. Unless we take such action a result such as you set forth is the best we can hope for.

The major factor is the defeatism and lack of will to fight among the Vietnamese who are now in the down slope. Our intervention on even a limited scale might reverse the trend. However, I feel that there is a better than even chance that our intervention would eventually result in full scale hostilities with at least Communist China. If a formula could be found that would give the Vietnamese the psychological lift of our intervention without our actually being required to intervene it would be ideal. However, I fear it is an impossible ideal.

The only other possibility of reversing the trend is for a Vietnamese to appear able and willing to sound a loud clear trumpet call to turn his people around and start them up the slope. However, I see no such person or the probability of such a person appearing.

However, I do not agree that our intervention would have an “enormous adverse effect” on Asiatic public opinion because of direct association with militant colonialism. There would probably be some initially adverse reactions, but I believe they could be overcome by a clear declaration on our part of our policy with regard to Vietnamese independence. Adverse Asian reaction would rather arise from fear that we were precipitating World War III. If we succeeded in winning in Indo-China without bringing on World War III our position in Asia would be enormously enhanced. However, if World War III did result, Asia would blame us and turn against us.

U. A. Johnson
  1. For text of Under Secretary Smith’s letter to Secretary Dulles, see telegram Dulte 157, June 7, p. 1054.