396.1 GE/6–2654: Telegram

The United States Delegation to the Department of State

top secret

Secto 534. Department pass Saigon if desired; repeated information Paris 511. Following is Ambassador Heath‘s account of his farewell call on Chauvel today:

Chauvel asked me to say in Washington that from his own recent consultations with Mendes-France, he was certain that it was not the latter’s intention to ‘evacuate’ Indochina but to make a viable settlement which France would support. While Dong had not definitely accepted the idea of the Haiphong enclave and some sort of protective [Page 1253] arrangement over the bishoprics of Phat Diem and Bui Chu, he had expressed no hostility to the idea nor had he suggested any counter territorial concession for the Viet Minh in the south. With a foot-hold in the north and holding the south and part of the center, the Vietnamese would have the foundation on which to build a solid durable state with the possibility of regaining complete control of national territory from Viet Minh provided it developed the necessary political dynamism and capacity. The latter was the great question mark. Certainly the regime had so far failed to show energetic capacity and it was the general impression in Paris that Ngo Dinh Diem did not have the necessary qualities to unite his country. The latter’s speech on arrival in Saigon had not impressed the French Government.

“It would be the task of France cooperatively aided by the United States to try to build a solid state structure in the new Vietnam. Chauvel went on to say that he had not been favorably impressed by the Ministry of Associated States and did not think its personnel had the necessary drive and imagination to undertake successfully such a task. In any case it would be a mistake to send an ex-colonial official to Vietnam. La Chambre, the new Minister of Associated States, seemed to be a very good and intelligent chap but entirely new to the problem.

Chauvel thought it was of the utmost importance that Ely be seconded immediately by an outstanding diplomatic counselor. He had urged on Mendes-France and hoped I would urge on La Chambre, if I saw him, the advantage of sending Georges-Picot, now at UN, at once to Indochina. The latter knew Indochina and was excellent at dealing with Asiatic peoples. Chauvel‘s other candidate for the job, Baudet, former French Ambassador to Yugoslavia, was no longer available since Mendes-France had taken him to be his Director of Cabinet. When I told Chauvel that I expected to see Bao Dai before leaving for Washington, he shrugged his shoulders over the political shortcomings of His Majesty but made no suggestions as to what might be said to the latter. He said he would appreciate, however, if I would pass on anything important Bao Dai said to me through Dillon in Paris.

Chauvel said it was altogether possible in eight or ten days that, in their secret talks, the French would arrive at tentative agreement with the Viet Minh. He hoped that this agreement would be one that the United States might accept. It would be, however, difficult to sell to the Vietnamese who might unrealistically and irresponsibly oppose it. He had hoped that I would stay on at Geneva to help explain to the Associated States delegations, if a reasonable solution were found, that they should accept it and go on from there to build up their national strength. I made no comment on this or his other statements beyond observing that from my acquaintance the situation, the military position of France in Indochina was not as weak as was thought in many quarters.

Chauvel said he regretted that the new government was opposed to DeJean coming to Geneva as advisor which Bidault had opposed, except possibly towards the end of the conference.”