18. Telegram From the Acting Secretary of State to the Embassy in France1
2526. Believe following represents most expeditious manner achieving desired results regarding understanding on U.S assumption training responsibilities Viet-Nam. Propose if Collins concurs, Achilles Paris discuss situation with Mendes-France soonest as follows:
- Regret that there apparently has been misunderstanding2 regarding Ely–Collins minute on Vietnamese forces. Was not Collins intention present Vietnamese Government with written agreement signed by two generals and endorsed by both Governments. Instead he intends negotiate our direct aid and Vietnamese force levels with the Vietnamese Government on basis prior agreed understandings between himself and Ely on those matters requiring French-American concurrence. Not his intention derogate from Vietnamese sovereignty but, quite the contrary to enhance it. As Ely–Collins minute stated, points were all subject to consent Vietnamese Government.
- Also regret unfortunate amount time that has been taken in bringing this matter to conclusion with full agreement and understanding between our two governments, since both frequently indicated urgency of rapid effective restoration security and stability Free Viet-Nam. We understood during Washington talks French Government would back whatever Ely and Collins agreed to, as Mendes stated here in November. Time is even more of essence now.
- Joint recommendations proposed by French are consistent with Ely–Collins minute of understanding far as they go but omit spelling out certain points. We assume however French Government does not wish repudiate or in practice change substance of any portions of agreement Ely signed.
- Achilles should seek specific confirmation that French will negotiate with Vietnamese so that armed forces of State will become autonomous not later than July 1, 1955 in sense that all units of armed forces will be commanded and staffed by Vietnamese personnel, in accordance with sense of November statements to Secretary by Mendes.3 (Mendes indicated there might be some slippage in date but indicated acceptance in principle.)4
- If agreement with Mendes can be reached on foregoing, his agreement should be sought to Mendes’ and Secretary’s instructing Ely and Collins, to proceed in manner consistent with their understanding.
For Saigon: We presume this formula will give full satisfaction Collins prior concern over French Government version Ely–Collins memo.5
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751G.5/1–1455. Top Secret; Priority. Drafted by Hoey and Fisher and cleared with Sullivan of Defense. Also sent priority to Saigon.↩
- See Documents 13 and 14.↩
- The reference is to discussions which took place during the visit of Pierre Mendès-France, Prime Minister of France, to Washington for conversations with the Secretary of State and other officials of the U.S. Government, November 17–20, 1954. A comprehensive record of all meetings held in Washington with Mendès-France is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, volume vi. For documentation relating solely to the Indochina phase of these talks, see ibid., vol. xiii, Part 2, pp. 2264 ff.↩
- In telegram 2996 from Paris, January 16, Achilles reported that he had raised the substance of the Department’s telegram 2526 with Mendès-France who specifically confirmed the Department’s assumptions in paragraphs c and d and did not mention the possibility of slippage. Mendès said he never questioned either point and that his only concern was to avoid any grounds for charges that the proposed agreement on training responsibilities violated the Geneva armistice agreement. (Department of State, Central Files, 751G.5/1–1655)↩
- In telegram 2790 from Saigon, January 16, Collins fully concurred with the action recommended in telegram 2526 to Paris and urged that it be done promptly. (ibid.)↩