PSA files, lot 58 D 207, “Vietnam Correspondence”

The Special Adviser to the United States Delegation ( Bonsal ) to Ambassador Donald R. Heath

personal and secret

Dear Don : Many thanks for your good letter of July 41 which I received on July 13. In spite of the delay it was most useful and I am truly grateful to you for taking the time to write for I know how rushed you must have been.

You are certainly faced with a difficult task. Nevertheless on the basis of the past record I am sure you will get out of the situation all that can be gotten in the interest of the United States.

I noted your statement about the feeling in the Department regarding U.S. intervention. Whatever may be the merits of this course of action, those who favor it are, it seems to me, in the somewhat sterile position of favoring something which is just not going to happen. My own belief is that the threat of American intervention has been and perhaps still is of some value to those who are negotiating for an end of this long war—a war which of course it would have been desirable to have won. But I have throughout been strongly of the opinion that actual intervention by U.S. forces against the Vietminh would not produce durable or desirable results. Therefore, when you refer to “all the people below the Secretary and Under Secretary” as being unanimous on this matter, please count me out.

There is some question as to whether the settlement which we finally reach will leave much scope for Mike O’Daniel and his activities. Certainly the pressure will be off and I suspect that the French attitude on the matter will stiffen although of course the Vietnamese will be anxious for our help.

I was also interested to note that in your talk with Bob Murphy you urged that we try for an enclave at Hanoi, whereas on your return to Saigon you seemed to feel that a Hanoi-Haiphong enclave must be sought. I hope that this change of view reflects your view that the military situation in the north is really better than it was when you talked with Bob Murphy. We will probably end up with a few months tenure of Haiphong but that is about all. On the other hand we may well get a solid area south of the 18th parallel. What can we then do? [Page 1375] Cheysson is most anxious that we should be thinking along lines of French and American economic and military support for “retained Vietnam”.

I think that under the circumstances we have been kept fairly well informed regarding Mendes-France’s negotiations. I also hope and believe that we have now reached a point where Diem in Saigon and Do in Geneva are also being taken into the confidence of the French. It seems to me furthermore that Mendes-France has taken a firm and resolute stand at least within the framework of our seven points and that to the extent that he can count on our support and on our association with the results he achieves, he will get the very best deal justified by the facts with which we are confronted.

I agree with what you say about Bao Dai and have been trying my best to follow this line in spite of my real feelings on the subject.

You are much missed on the Delegation here not only for your company but also because of the fact that we are kept pretty busy and would like to have someone to share the work with.

Margaret joins me in love to Louise and in very best to you both in the job which you have so brilliantly and wholeheartedly performed over the past four years. If all concerned had been as devoted and single-minded as the two of you our enterprise would not now be going through the wringer. But there will be something left from which to build.

Yours as ever,

Philip W. Bonsal
  1. Ante, p. 1280.