396.1 GE/6–754: Telegram

The United States Delegation to the Department of State

top secret

Dulte 157. Personal for Secretary.1

Dear Foster: If you have not done so, please read our Secto 389 reporting Heath’s first conversation with Frederic-DuPont.2 As I told you privately, I have felt for some time that a solution somewhat like that visualized by DuPont is likely to be the best we will be able to get, and that we well may get something worse. The Viet Minh are obviously not in a hurry to settle military questions. Bidault said Saturday [Page 1055] that so far they had absolutely refused to discuss cease-fire details, and had confined themselves to political polemics and rather truculent references to their victories and their growing military strength. I am afraid there is truth in the latter.

I realize that a solution like that mentioned by DuPont would not please our soldiers and would not be popular generally at home, and I know how much importance Radford has attached to the delta, but I know also that China has been after the Red River valley and the delta for years, and it seems to me that they now intend to have it, or at least the greater part. The Communists probably estimate that if Hanoi is surrounded the French cannot supply the defenders by air and feed the population too, and that the occasional supply column they might drive through would not be enough. I believe also that the Chinese Communists have considered and are willing to risk the chance of what we might do in Indochina. They probably would welcome the introduction of some US ground forces there because of the opportunity this would give them directly to intervene for the ostensible purpose of repelling US aggression and because of the initially adverse effect our participation would have on Asiatic public opinion for many reasons well-known to you. I believe it already has involved in the minds of Australia and New Zealand some of the thoughts of “supporting colonialism” judging by the apprehensive reaction of their representatives here to our military talks in Paris.

I realize we cannot associate ourselves with or guarantee anything that bears the appearance or carries the name of partition, or of division of the country, and of course if such a solution is reached by the military committee it will not be called “partition.” If a solution is not reached, and that rather promptly, I fear that a deteriorating situation in Indochina may provide it. Even now it would, I believe, require powerful, direct and rapid action by the United States to reverse the adverse trend. Laos and Cambodia can probably be saved, although in the former there will most likely be a rather large political and military “no man’s land” in the north and along the frontier. My thought is that here we should in the matter of Indochina continue only to play the role of helpful friend as indicated in your Tedul 146,3 standing firm on the separate status of Laos and Cambodia but not opposing or obstructing any reasonable military compromise the French may be able to get, recognizing at the same time that it will be one that we don’t like, and probably will not be able publicly to associate ourselves with. Signed Bedell.

  1. For comments on the letter to the Secretary, see letters to Smith from Johnson and Heath, both dated June 6, pp. 1047 and 1048, respectively.
  2. Telegram Secto 389, June 5, not printed, contained a summary of a conversation between Heath and Frederic-Dupont. (396.1 GE/6–554) For a memorandum of this conversation, June 5, see p. 1041.
  3. Dated June 1, p. 994.