4. Telegram From the Consul at Hanoi (Corcoran) to the Department of State 1

598. Brief end December survey Hanoi political situation follows:

Presence Viet Minh army still dominated Hanoi scene with sentries, patrols and various troop formations much in evidence. Preparations for celebration national resistance anniversary (December 19), birthday of army (December 22) and mass demonstration anticipated for end of month brought many people into city from outlying areas. There was lavish and expensive preparation of “Red Square”. Streets were decorated and illuminated especially around Petit Lac. Flags and triumphal arches again appeared. There was much preoccupation with anti-American propaganda in form of press and radio attacks and meetings of various groups to denounce alleged US intention destroy Geneva agreement. At same time official attitude of friendliness towards French became apparent in official pronouncement meeting general press and radio coverage. Near end of month there was much drilling and marching in streets by school children and occupational groups in preparation for mass demonstration. Consulate learned that political indoctrination of school children and workers at telephone and electric companies was being stepped up. Nevertheless there was no tangible evidence of any anti-American feeling among population in general. There were several instances of insolent and provocative behavior by military sentinels towards American personnel but other foreigners experienced similar treatment. Curfew was suspended on Christmas Eve and on New Years Eve. Usual propaganda trappings such as posters, flags and banderoles were widely disseminated. Food stores carried wide variety [Page 11] Russian, Chinese and Viet Minh Communist propaganda including some English language pamphlets.
Hanoi Military and Administrative Committee while still officially running city seemed to fade into background while its subordinate administrative committee, an all civilian unit, assumed more prominence. Ho, Dong, Giap and Giam made more frequent public appearances and it seemed likely that some DRV government departments had set up branches in city. French and other observers still reported Viet Minh display of inefficiency in coping with problems of city administration but on surface at least local authorities discharged basic municipal functions of traffic police, water, light and power supply and street cleaning et cetera in effective manner. Have not solved foreign exchange problem on regular basis and their finances reported to be in chaotic state. All French technicians except those attached in managerial capacity to Pasteur and cancer institutes, cliniques Saint Paul, Tramway Company and faculty Lycee Albert Sarraut and some at university reported to have left. However there were no confirmed reports that Communist foreign aid had replaced French technicians in any capacities.
Strictness Viet Minh security measures was not relaxed and in some instances seemed to have been tightened. There was closer military surveillance of ICC occupied buildings and there appeared to be closer police coverage of city’s outskirts. Police surveillance American and British Consulates became less ostentatious but no less effective. Actions military sentries seemed arbitrary and capricious perhaps reflecting lack of indoctrination in responsibilities and principles. At different times I have been saluted, ignored or threatened with weapons by sentries. Vietnamese and ICC personnel in center of town frequently ignored curfew without difficulty but even ICC personnel had difficulty in more remote parts of city. Army and police patrol coverage of city at night continued and restrictions on travel outside remained in force.
Certain stresses and strains were increasingly evident within ICC and even within Indian delegation. ICC prepared interim report as of end December for presentation to co-chairmen Geneva Conference. Report as finally approved represented compromise conflicting views three members. … We had the impression that Canadians always friendly but sometimes over cautious about offending Viet Minh had taken extra pains during Christmas season to demonstrate friendliness for American Consulate.
Polish and Czech Ambassadors arrived to join Communist diplomatic corps. Although ChiComs continued occupy secondary place after Russians as far as Viet Minh propaganda concerned they stole limelight for few days with announcement Sino-Viet Minh accord for ChiCom aid in reconstruction railroad, highway, airport [Page 12] and telecommunications facilities. Agreement received only moderate propaganda treatment and we were able to get little comment from foreign observers. We believe it one of most significant developments since armistice since, in principle at least, it represented projection of ChiCom military power well into North Vietnam.
There was general agreement that first phase of Sainteny mission2 had ended with signature December 10 accords. Tangible achievements this mission remained negligible so far as protection French economic interests concerned since Viet Minh made no real concessions to French other than those that would fit into general Communist propaganda campaign of “peaceful co-existence”. However, Sainteny did succeed in laying groundwork for further Franco-Viet Minh negotiations on superficial basis of friendship and equality. Most French firms in Haiphong had not yet decided whether or not to seek specific arrangements with Viet Minh under terms December 10 accords. Probably awaiting outcome talks between Charbonnages Tonkin and Viet Minh. Sainteny presented credentials in form of letter from French Prime Minister to DRV Prime Minister. Whatever legalistic quibbling French may do concerning nature these credentials he became to all intents and purposes diplomatic representative of French Government to DRV and functioned openly as such. (Received formal visit from Soviet Ambassador and paid formal visit to Foreign Minister.) Sainteny, his Chef de Cabinet and his financial expert are all now in Paris. It is generally believed Sainteny will return near end January with French Government instructions concerning next phase his operations.
British ConGen’s position became more regularized. He established fairly frequent courier service to and from Haiphong and travelled to Hong Kong and Saigon. Local authorities officially entertained him and invited him to public ceremony. Same applies Indian consular agent. Apostolic Delegate continued remain as inconspicuous as possible although he flew papal colors Christmas Day.
Press and radio gave primary attention to campaign against US intention destroy Geneva Agreement by building up power national government Vietnam in Saigon. Campaign [garble] to be building up to mass demonstration scheduled for January 1.3 Secondary theme was US “incitement” evacuation Catholic population to south.
Conclusion: In general Viet Minh appeared to be going ahead with consolidation their control and with imposition rigid Communist indoctrination and regimentation. There was some evidence administrative [Page 13] inefficiency stemming from lack of experience large scale problems. Regime seemed to have encountered no popular opposition of any government except that offered by Vietnamese Catholics who continued evacuation south despite Viet Minh appeals and in face many obstacles. Power structure of regime continued to be subject of speculation, largely based on guesswork, by foreign observers.

Brief economic survey follows.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751G.00/1–355. Secret. Also sent to Saigon and repeated to Paris by pouch.
  2. For documentation on the Sainteny Mission to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. xiii, Part 2, pp. 1948 ff.
  3. A report on this demonstration is in telegram 597 from Hanoi, January 3. (Department of State, Central Files, 751G.00/1–355)
  4. Telegram 620 from Hanoi, January 7. (Ibid., 851G.00/1–755)