Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 316

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

secret

Subject:

  • USARMA Saigon Estimate of Indochina Situation
1.
In OARMA CM 295–54 (attached)1 USARMA Saigon comments upon a Department of the Army estimate of the situation contending the following:
a.
Disagrees with Department of the Army that “French will be able to hold Delta throughout rainy season and that no major VM [Page 1080]assault is likely” stating his view continues VM will attack on or after 20 June and will dislodge French Union forces from most of the Delta.
b.
States VM will attack for following reasons:
(1)
No other logical reason rapid redeployment VM battle corps from Dien Bien Phu.
(2)
VM riding victory wave will seek to capitalize on same.
(3)
French Union forces in midst major reorganization under new inexperienced (in Indochina) CINC are at low point defensively, moralewise and organizationally but “will gather strength from this summer onward”.
(4)
VM has altered codes, an SOP before former attacks.
(5)
Aid to VM negotiators at Geneva.
c.
Believes Delta cannot be held for following:
(1)
Hanoi vulnerable to encirclement and cannot be maintained thereafter.
(2)
Hanoi airfield subject to arty interdiction after VM have penetrated 15 miles.
(3)
Loss of Hanoi would lead to loss western Delta.
(4)
VM can take Phu Ly (SW quadrant) area with troops already deployed there by sustained attack.
(5)
Will use mass infiltration and strangulation technique rather than mass assault, which French failed to counter at Dien Bien Phu.
2.

Comment: While above statements are largely correct, the following should also be taken into consideration.

a. While some French sources themselves have reiterated identical statements as above, it is considered that French have a higher combat capability than indicated above. French will have following advantages:

(1)
Shortened lines creating internal lines for communications and maneuver and greater mobile reserves than heretofore.
(2)
Superior firepower. VM will have no arty field day as afforded by concentrated target and superior observation at Dien Bien Phu.
(3)
Ability to maneuver. VM have never taken a battalion-sized position until Dien Bien Phu and then probably because French freedom of movement was so restricted as to limit effectiveness of counterattacks.

Admittedly, much depends upon the French attitude psychologically in entering this battle. If led to believe their position is hopeless strategically, they will be less effective. If encouraged and supported by their own command and allies, French Union forces can hold a substantial portion of the Delta and inflict intolerable casualties on the Viet Minh.

C. A. Sullivan

Defense Representative
  1. Not attached to source text.