293. Editorial Note

On January 26, 1956, the National Security Council held its 274th meeting which was primarily concerned with the questions of United States policy in the control of armaments and export controls with the Communist bloc. As usual Allen Dulles began the discussion with his intelligence briefing, “Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security”. The following extract from that briefing deals with Vietnam:

  • “The Director of Central Intelligence indicated that in deferenoe to the importance and urgency of the other agenda items, he would restrict his intelligence briefing to comments on two situations where he perceived worrisome trends, namely, South Vietnam and Indonesia.
  • Diem was having serious troubles in Vietnam. Infiltration by the Vietminh from the north was increasing. At home, Diem’s government was not sufficiently broad-based and elections were coming up in a few weeks. While on the whole Diem had made a good record, the military situation in South Vietnam was not as good as might be hoped.
  • Admiral Radford interrupted at this point to say that in the course of his recent visit to the Far East he had talked to Diem for two hours, and had derived from his talk a much worse picture of the situation in Vietnam than he had had when he left Washington. Diem had not singled out the military situation as being a particular worry, but had warned Admiral Radford about the dangers of Vietminh [Page 625] penetration. Diem had indicated to Admiral Radford that he wished the village militia to be enlarged in order to cope more effectively with Vietminh penetration. Moreover, he had complained bitterly about the lack of French cooperation in preventing Vietminh infiltration, especially from the sea. Admiral Radford added that he had spoken to the French Admiral subsequently about this point, and the Admiral had replied by stating that the Vietnam Navy itself was capable of preventing this infiltration; besides which, it was doubtful if the French Navy could assist Diem, because such assistance would be contrary to the terms of the Geneva Convention. In any event, Admiral Radford stated that Diem firmly believed that the French, at least those in the lower echelons, were actually assisting dissident groups in South Vietnam. Some suspicion of French motives, Admiral Radford said, was to be found in Laos and Cambodia. Mr. Allen Dulles commented that the time was at hand for a fresh review of the situation in South Vietnam.” (Memorandum of discussion by Gleason, January 27; Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records)

For a report of Radford’s discussion with Diem on December 28, see Document 286.