303. Memorandum From the Secretary of State to the President 1


  • General Donovan’s Letter of February 5 Concerning Elections in Vietnam.2

I am in agreement with the views in General Donovan’s letter that elections in Vietnam should be deferred beyond the July date. His suggestion for the establishment of a new International Commission capable of insuring the necessary safeguards for free elections is under urgent consideration in the Department.

As you are aware, we reached agreement with the British in our recent talks that Chou En-lai’s demand for a reconvocation of the 1954 Geneva Conference should be rejected and that at a minimum we should await the outcome of the elections which President Diem will hold in South Vietnam on March 4 before undertaking further action on the diplomatic front with respect to the future of Vietnam.3

Our policy in Vietnam is directed toward:

the continued strengthening of the position of Free Vietnam under President Diem;
the preservation of peace and security under some new arrangement which would permit gradual termination of the old Geneva Accords; and
the eventual weakening of North Vietnam by political and psychological warfare.

I expect to discuss the problem of elections and the Geneva agreement with President Diem when I visit Saigon on March 144 following the SEATO Conference at Karachi.5

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, DullesHerter Series. Secret. Drafted and initialed by Dulles and also initialed by Eisenhower indicating that he saw it. This memorandum was in response to a brief letter from Eisenhower to Dulles asking the Secretary for his views on the Donovan letter cited in footnote 2 below.
  2. In this letter, attached to the source text, retired General William J. Donovan, former Chief of the Office of Strategic Services, wrote to Eisenhower in his role as honorary Chairman of the American Friends of Vietnam, an organization which described itself as “a non-partisan group organized in support of a free and democratic Republic of Vietnam.” Donovan asked Eisenhower to reject Chou En-lai’s demand for a reconvocation of the Geneva Conference to implement provisions for elections in Vietnam in July 1956. Donovan urged that these elections be postponed until safeguards could be established under a new international supervising commission distinct from the ICC.
  3. See Documents 296 and 297.
  4. For a report of Dulles’ conversation with Diem on these topics, see Document 314.
  5. March 6–8; see Document 309.