196. Memorandum From the President to the Under Secretary of State (Ball)1


  • Guidelines for your Talk with General De Gaulle

There are four main points which I would like you to get across to the General:

The United States is in Southeast Asia because of a commitment to help in keeping peace and preserving the independence of countries which are important to elf of us. We have absolutely no interest in domination, and still less in extending our military influence.
Increasing threats from North Viet-Nam and Communist China, combined with doubts of our strength and the strength of those who depend on us, could easily lead to a situation in which, against all my own desire and intent, the United States Government would have to prove its determination by military action.
It surely is not in the interest of France or of the United States that doubts between our two Governments, and even division of purpose, should contribute to a result of this sort, which could profoundly affect the peace of the world.
In the event that the United States should find itself forced to act in defense of peace and independence, in Southeast Asia, I am confident that I could place reliance upon the firmness of General De Gaulle as a friend and ally, as America properly did in the Cuba crisis of ’62, and if by any chance I am wrong on this point, it is a matter of great importance that we should know it now.

You should emphasize above everything else my own determination to follow a peaceful course if it is at all possible, but at the same time you should leave no doubt of the determination of the United States to meet its commitments in Southeast Asia.

In making these positions clear you are authorized to draw upon the long memorandum of talking points which has been prepared for this purpose,2 but I hope that you will not weary General De Gaulle with an account of our virtues which he must have heard before, and I also hope that you will not be so specific about our contingency planning as to tempt him to any indiscretions with those whom he now seeks to cultivate. I would not wish him to have any excuse to tell them that we have no intention of hurting them significantly.

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Finally, I hope you will make it clear to General De Gaulle that I myself am deeply interested in any new blueprint that would assure the guaranteed independence of the nations of Southeast Asia. Our minds are open to further clarification, and anything that General De Gaulle can tell you that would give more concreteness to his thinking on this point would be most helpful. Our interest in this subject is genuine, and we would be quick to give our support to any plan that seemed to give us any real hope of maintaining effective, guaranteed independence.

Lyndon B. Johnson
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL FR–US. Top Secret. The unsigned White House copy of this memorandum is published in Declassified Documents, 1978, 315A.
  2. Not found.