167. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1

5840. Literally eyes only for the President, the Secretary, and the Acting Secretary.

[Page 468]
This afternoon DʼOrlandi, Italian Ambassador, telephoned to say it was urgent that I come to his office as soon as the Catholic service honoring the anniversary of the coronation of Pope Paul VI had ended. I went to his office at about 6:45, and he began as follows:
Two days ago, the Polish representative on the ICC, Lewandowski, came to him with a “very specific peace offer”.
DʼOrlandi said he had requested instructions from Fanfani, who told him 1) to submit the whole proposal to me, and 2) said that he, Fanfani, would send the whole thing to Washington for their consideration.
By way of background, DʼOrlandi said he considered the Pole to be a friendly and outspoken man, and that they had a number of general discussions with DʼOrlandi saying how very obdurate and foolish the North Vietnamese were not to accept President Johnsonʼs offer at a time when there were only 30,000 American advisers. Now there are now 265,000 fighting men which may go to between 400,000 and 500,000.
A salient feature of these various conversations had been that the Pole had talked about the need for absolute secrecy in diplomacy—that nothing could be done without it. DʼOrlandi felt that he was “not as stubborn as most Communists,” and had received the impression that he had “rather high rank,” and enjoyed the special confidence of his government and was actually in Saigon on a “very special mission.”
Nevertheless, DʼOrlandi said, he was surprised when he came to see DʼOrlandi within a half hour after his request for an appointment on last Monday.2
When he arrived, DʼOrlandi spoke of having recently seen Sihanouk who thought that Hanoi was not willing to do anything.
The Pole said, “Youʼd be surprised how much my visit completely contradicts what Sihanouk says. I have been in Hanoi and can state a number of points.” After stating his points, he read them over to DʼOrlandi afterwards so there was no misunderstanding.
The Pole began by saying that Hanoi has been deeply disappointed by the proposals made by Ronning which, they are sure, had emanated originally from the United States and not from the Canadians. Ronning had proposed that the U.S. stop the bombing if North Viet-Nam stopped the infiltration, and had talked about the exchange of prisonersʼ parcels and letters. This had bitterly disappointed North Vietnam. The first point, they had said, would be unconditional surrender, and they could not accept it, but they are open to a “political compromise” settling once and for all the entire Vietnam question.
When DʼOrlandi said that he was skeptical, the Pole said that Hanoi was prepared to go “quite a long way.” “It is useless for me to [Page 469] add,” said the Pole, “that should there not be any kind of a preliminary agreement, Hanoi will deny flatly ever having made any offer.” According to the Pole, the North Vietnamese are “tightly controlled” by the Chinese Communists. The preliminary talks, therefore, should be between Moscow and Washington. When and if proposals should emerge which could be considered as a basis for negotiations, Hanoi would at that time and under those circumstances get into it. The Pole said that Hanoi was afraid of the Chinese Communists who have an interest in dragging on the war for many years. DʼOrlandi added that the Pole was evidently “proud of himself” for having brought these proposals about.
The proposals are as follows:
They insist that the so-called National Liberation Front “take part” in the negotiations. The key word is “take part.” According to DʼOrlandi, there is “no question of their being the representative; they are not to have any monopoly.”
There must be suspension of the bombing.
These are the two proposals.
Then there are other points, which DʼOrlandi called “negative ones,” which are that A) Hanoi will not ask for immediate reunification, either by elections or otherwise, of North and South Vietnam; B) they will not ask for establishment of a “socialist” system in South Vietnam; C) they will not ask South Vietnam to change the relationships which it has in the field of foreign affairs; and D) they will not ask for neutralization; E) although they will ask for U.S. withdrawal, they are ready to discuss a “reasonable calendar”; E) although “we would like someone other than Ky”—to quote the words of Hanoi—they do not want to interfere with the South Vietnamese Government.
The Pole thinks that these proposals were not made through Sainteny, because, he says, Hanoi feels that proposals through French channels would “not be sympathetically considered in Washington.”
Once again, the Pole insisted on utmost secrecy. He said to DʼOrlandi, “we as Poles and you as Italians are missing a terrific opportunity for agreement between Moscow and Washington. The sooner we settle it, the happier we will all be.” If this attempt failed, he would ask to be assigned elsewhere. To illustrate the amount of secrecy, he said that none of the Polish Embassies in the world, including the Polish Embassy in Rome, had been informed.
He did not give the name of the individual with whom he had talked in Hanoi. He did say that he believed that Washington knew of this proposal already.
DʼOrlandi said to me that it was clear from the above that Hanoi is trying to “run out” on China, that the top officials in Hanoi not only [Page 470] fear for their political lives, but that they are actually afraid of having the country occupied by the Chinese Communists.
The Pole said that his government would be willing to arrange for DʼOrlandi to meet with appropriate Polish spokesmen anywhere—Hong Kong or Singapore. In response to a question by DʼOrlandi as to why they had come to him, the Pole said they wanted “an able debater to put the case to President Johnson, and we feel that the Italian Government has the sympathy of the United States Government.” Moreover, the Italians have the same interest we have in agreement between Washington and Moscow, and in shutting out Peking.
DʼOrlandiʼs impression is that the Poles are desperately seeking a way out on Moscowʼs instructions. This, he said, may need further exploration. He had the definite impression that now Hanoi “was amenable to common sense” saying “they do not want anything that would not stop the whole war. They want a political settlement, and are prepared to go a long way.”
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–14 VIET/MARIGOLD. Top Secret; Flash; Nodis. The source text does not indicate the time of transmission; the telegram was received at 12:06 p.m. Passed to the White House and to Canberra, where Rusk was attending the SEATO and ANZUS Council meetings. In telegram 1961 to Saigon, July 6, the Department of State indicated that all messages dealing with the “Italian-Polish approach on Viet Nam” were to be slugged with the code name Marigold. (Ibid.) The telegram is printed in part in Herring, Secret Diplomacy of the Vietnam War, pp. 237–239. Many subsequent telegrams concerning Marigold are printed, in whole or in part, ibid., pp. 241–370, and are summarized in a 90-page “Chronology of Marigold,” prepared by the Department of State in 1967. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Box 147, Marigold Chronology)
  2. June 27.