751G.00/6–2254: Telegram

The United States Delegation to the Department of State


Secto 502. Repeated information Paris 484, Saigon 197. Learning Heath was in Paris yesterday, the Vietnamese Defense Minister, Quat, asked to see him. Quat said there had been some “feelers” for him to remain in Ngo Dinh Diem’s cabinet. Before making up his mind, he wanted to be certain of Ngo Dinh Diem’s policy. He said that too many [Page 1223] of Ngo Dinh Diem’s supporters were neutralists of the Indian school; that neutralism was no answer to the Communist attempts to take over Vietnam.

Quat said he expected to see General Ely today. He was greatly alarmed over the French plan of drawing in their lines to encompass what they called the “useful delta” which meant a rather narrow parallelogram from Hanoi to Haiphong. When this idea had originally been broached the French said they would ask the Vietnamese National Army to defend the provinces to the west of the parallelogram, notably the two Catholic provinces of Phat Diem and Bui Chu. Quat had accepted this proposition provided the French would agree to give artillery and aviation support and group mobile in case of a large-scale Viet Minh attack. The French agreed. Now, however, the French said they could furnish neither artillery, aviation or group mobile and the Vietnamese Army lacking such support could not hope to withstand a determined Viet Minh attack. Quat said it was of the utmost importance that an attempt be made to hold these western and southern delta provinces since they were the source of manpower for the national army. He could not hope to build up the national army to the desired strength during 1954 without recruits from the north delta. With all due regard to the southern Vietnamese the best and most willing recruits were only to be found in the north.

Quat went on to say that while one must not underestimate the gravity of the military situation of the Franco-Vietnamese forces, one should not forget the Viet Minh were having their difficulties also and were desirous of peace in which they could consolidate their positions. He asserted that Viet Minh had had very great recruiting difficulties at the time they were increasing their attack on Dien Bien Phu and from the regions around Nim Dinh and Nam Dinh the Viet Minh had gotten only 15 and 20 percent of the recruits they had planned to conscript.