396.1 GE/6–754: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the United States Delegation1

top secret

Tedul 171. Eyes only Ambassadors. Re Secto 389.2 Defense Dept reports3 that five-power military conference at its plenary session of June 4, under chairmanship General Valluy, amended and approved [Five-Power] Conference Study No. I: “Intelligence Survey of Military Situation in SEA Area.”

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In connection with review of intelligence survey, Gen Valluy presented his own evaluation military situation Tonkin Delta as follows:

If Tonkin is lost, military line will not be reestablished anywhere.
Anyone can find on map a line with tactical characteristics which theoretically should permit reestablishment, such as Laos bottleneck or eighteenth parallel, but Valluy said he could affirm there would be no forces to man this line.
Valluy said he was not speaking of French forces in this connection but meant to indicate that there were no southern Vietnamese who could oppose northern Vietnamese.
Ho Chi Minh’s objective is Tonkin, to be attained either by negotiation at Geneva or by assault on Hanoi.
Ho Chi Minh wishes to entangle us in negotiations by admitting now, for first time, that there is a Communist northern state and a non-Communist southern state and saying that both might be incorporated in French Union.
What Ho Chi Minh seeks is Tonkin and its political capital Hanoi from which he was driven in 1946. He wishes obtain Tonkin either by negotiation (Valluy admitted “among military men” that Ho Chi Minh finds across negotiating table receptive French ears) or by military action. To prepare for such action, he is drawing out negotiations to gain time for his battle corps to be in position and ready, if action is called for.
In course of negotiating toward a ceasefire (which is demanded by French public opinion) concept of partition appears, as Ho Chi Minh wants occupy all Tonkin. If conditions are too hard and talks are broken off he will strive to obtain Tonkin by force. In such a military action his chances of success are good.
It has been said at this Conference that if Tonkin is lost we will fight in south. However French will not fight nor will Vietnam. To man line in south, conferees will have to provide own men. Moreover it will be an artificial line for defense of which Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand can do nothing.
Decisive point in military conference is this: if other conferees do not underwrite today’s battle for Tonkin, tomorrow they will fight without French in Saigon and Bangkok. Valluy said he could affirm that if Tonkin were lost, no Vietnamese would fight against other Vietnamese, and sooner or later (probably sooner) whole of Vietnam will become Communist.
Valluy said he did not mean to dramatize but only to be realistic among soldiers. Truth cannot be disguised. Each of allies has share of responsibility and if battle for Tonkin is lost, allies will have to fight alone on actual main line of resistance much farther away.

Admiral Carney remarked that Gen Valluy’s appraisal was of interest and important to all conferees and suggested it might be put in writing and appended to intelligence survey as representing unilateral views of one representative. End Defense Dept summary.

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Foregoing for your own info only. Valluy was speaking in confidence and as an individual. Your comments requested.

  1. Drafted by Sturm of FE/PSA; cleared in substance by Admiral Radford. Repeated to Paris as telegram 4448 and to Saigon as telegram 2527.
  2. Not printed, but see footnote 2, p. 1054.
  3. In a memorandum dated June 5, entitled, “Five-Power Military Conference of June 1954; Summary of the Proceedings of 4 June.” (751G.00/6–554)