190. National Security Council Report1

NSC 5519


Note by the Executive Secretary to the National Security Council


  • A. NSC 54052
  • B. NSC 5429/53
  • C. NSC Action No. 1316–d4

The enclosed draft statement of policy on the subject, prepared by the NSC Planning Board, is transmitted herewith for consideration by the National Security Council at its meeting on Thursday, June 2, 1955.5

A Staff Study on the subject6 is also enclosed for the information of the Council.

It is recommended that, if the Council adopts the enclosed statement of policy, it be submitted to the President with the recommendation that he approve it, direct its implementation by all appropriate executive departments and agencies of the U.S. Government, and designate the Operations Coordinating Board as the coordinating agency.

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It is requested that special security precautions be observed in the handling of the enclosure, which is being given a limited distribution.

James S. Lay, Jr.

[Here follows a table of contents.]



General Considerations

It is U.S. policy to maintain a friendly non-Communist Free Vietnam; to assist Free Vietnam to maintain (a) military forces necessary for internal security, and (b) economic conditions conducive to the maintenance of the strength of the non-Communist regime; and to prevent a Communist victory through all-Vietnam elections.
Free Vietnamese strength is essential to any effective approach to the election problem. If Free Vietnam is to cope adequately with national elections it will have to be strong enough to deter or defeat Vietminh insurrections in its territory, to impose and sustain order in its territory, and to win a free election limited to its own zone and held under its own auspices and control. Otherwise, the Vietminh can take over through internal insurrections or the Government of Free Vietnam will be so weak that it will find it difficult even to give lip service to the idea of national unification through elections, or to insist on adequate conditions for free elections.
U.S. policy toward all-Vietnam elections should be predicated on the assumption that there is a possibility of assisting Free Vietnam to achieve the degree of strength described above. If it becomes clear that Free Vietnam cannot achieve such strength, U.S. policy toward Free Vietnam, should be reviewed.
U.S. policy must also protect against a Communist take-over of Free Vietnam, even if the Communists were able to win elections under safeguards in North Vietnam. On the other hand, U.S. policy should be prepared to take advantage of the unlikely possibility that North Vietnam might be freed through elections.
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Courses of Action

Continue to encourage the Government of Free Vietnam to proceed with the consultations about elections called for in July 1955 by the Geneva Agreements.
Provide the Government of Free Vietnam with information and advice about Communist positions and tactics with regard to elections elsewhere, e.g., Greece, Germany, Austria and Korea.
Assist the Government of Free Vietnam to make it clear that any failure to secure free elections is the fault of the Communists.
Encourage the Government of Free Vietnam:

To lay stress on the necessity of compliance with the stipulation of the Geneva Agreements that “all the necessary conditions obtain for free expression of the national will” before all-Vietnam elections can take place. For this purpose the Government of Free Vietnam should insist in the first instance on adequate guarantees of freedom of elections7 and adequate supervisory powers in a Supervisory Commission.

To adopt positions with respect to the objectives and details of elections which: (1) will avoid terms which would be likely to result in a Communist take-over of Free Vietnam; and (2) to the degree feasible, will maintain a position generally consistent with that adopted by the Free World in other areas such as Korea and Germany.
Seek British and French support for the foregoing courses of action.
If pursuit of the above policy should result in a renewal of hostilities by the Communists, the U.S., in the light of the general circumstances then prevailing, should be prepared to oppose any Communist attack with U.S. armed forces, if necessary and feasible—consulting the Congress in advance if the emergency permits—preferably in concert with the Manila Pact allies of the U.S., but if necessary alone.
  1. Source: Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 5519 Series. Top Secret. The attached draft statement and staff study were initially prepared by officers in the Department of State and submitted to the NSC Planning Board, where they were discussed and revised. For texts of those drafts considered by the Planning Board, see ibid.: Lot 62 D 1, NSC 5519.
  2. For the text of NSC 5405, “United States Objectives and Courses of Action With Respect to Southeast Asia”, January 16, 1954, which deals in part with Vietnam, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. xii, Part 1, p. 366.
  3. For the text of NSC 5429/5, “Current U.S. Policy in the Far East”, December 22, 1954, which deals in part with Vietnam, see ibid., p. 1062. Annex A to NSC 5429/5 contains a list of objectives for U.S. policy in Indochina; for text, see the editorial note, ibid., vol. xiii, Part 2, p. 2412.
  4. See footnote 11, Document 28.
  5. NSC consideration of this paper was postponed for reasons outlined in Document 205.
  6. Not printed.
  7. For examples of such guarantees, see para. 8 of the attached Staff Study. [Footnote in the source text. Paragraph 8 reads as follows:

    [“8. In negotiating for conditions of genuine freedom for the holding of elections, Free Vietnam can serve both these objectives by insisting on provisions such as those already supported by the Western Powers at Berlin: Agreement on safeguards to assure conditions of genuine freedom before, after, and during elections; full powers for any Supervisory Commission to act to ensure free elections and to guarantee against prior coercion or subsequent reprisal; adequate guarantees for, among other things, freedom of movement, freedom of presentation of candidates, immunity of candidates, freedom from arbitrary arrest or victimization, freedom of association and political meetings, freedom of expression for all, freedom of press, radio, and free circulation of newspapers, secrecy of vote, security of polling stations and ballot boxes. The Communists would find it most difficult to accept such conditions or to allow their implementation if accepted. Accordingly, it would be useful for the Free Vietnamese to center their position on securing agreement to conditions for free elections prior to discussion of the forms and objectives of the elections.”]