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

5855. Literally eyes only for the President, the Secretary and the Acting Secretary.

To me the Polish “proposal” contains matters of substance which, so far as we know in Saigon, are new. The fact that the so-called NLF will not be the sole representative, and will merely “take part” or “participate” (in this context there is really no difference) seems to be a new departure.
The fact that the talk is of “suspension of bombing,” rather than a demand for complete “cessation,” also looks like new substance.
The proposals attributed to Hanoi, as a package, go far beyond anything we have heard mentioned before. In fact, they appear so forthcoming as to arouse suspicion concerning the credibility of the Polish intermediary. It seems to us that not only is the so-called NLF being abandoned as the sole bargaining agent, but so also is the NLF program of a “socialist” state, of unifying the North and South, and of “neutralization.” Also the phrase “reasonable calendar” indicates a definite softening of position regarding U.S. troops. The same is true of acceptance of the Government of South Viet-Nam and its foreign relationships.
As I have said many times, it is indispensable that total secrecy be preserved. I am convinced that the slightest mention of anything like this will cause its immediate abandonment.
This proposal clearly comes in response to the successes we are having militarily, politically, and economically. They must see themselves blocked everywhere—except terrorism and we are making progress on that.
The officials in Hanoi are afraid for their own official lives, and they also undoubtedly have a generalized fear as to what China may be going to do to them and their country.
Unquestionably the Polish proposal would never have been made without specific Moscow approval. Hanoiʼs best chance is to get Moscow to underwrite some kind of a way out. An understanding between Washington and Moscow is, therefore, attractive to them and obviously has some very attractive aspects for us.
DʼOrlandi and the Pole conversed in English. Whenever I have talked with the Pole, he has pretended not to know any French. I do not know in what language the conversations were held in Hanoi.
It may be pertinent for me to remind the Department of the warm friendship which I have with DʼOrlandi, which goes back to my first tour here in 1963, and which was very much emphasized by the help which the U.S. gave him at the time of his desperate illness when, thanks to your support in Washington, I was able to get him a plane with a bed.
I believe him to be a careful and accurate reporter, and there is no doubt of his complete mastery of English. In fact, I gather he has really been bilingual in English since he was a child.2
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–14 VIET/MARIGOLD. Top Secret; Priority; Nodis. The source text does not indicate the time of transmission; the telegram was received at 6:03 a.m. Printed in part in Herring, Secret Diplomacy of the Vietnam War, pp. 241–242.
  2. Rusk responded in Secto 58 from Canberra to Katzenbach and Lodge, June 30, stating that there might be something in the Polish approach. The telegram has not been found, but is printed in part in Herring, Secret Diplomacy of the Vietnam War, p. 241.