172. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State 1

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

I bumped into DʼOrlandi unexpectedly Friday night,3 and he told me the following:
He had received queries from his government concerning the two points raised in Deptel 4108,4 that is the words “take part” versus “participate,” and the words “suspension” versus “cessation” of bombing.
His understanding of the words was the same as mine, but in order to make sure, he called on Lewandowski who confirmed his understanding that these words meant, respectively, that the so-called National Liberation Front would not be the sole representative, and that what was desired was a suspension, meaning stopping temporarily without any commitments concerning resumption.
DʼOrlandi said he had great difficulty getting Lewandowski on the telephone, which is why he called in person, and that he had arranged for Lewandowski to telephone him twice a day at 10 and at 4. He also has an appointment to talk with him on Monday night.
DʼOrlandi found Lewandowski more eager than ever. Lewandowski said he was sure that this was the right time to score against the Chinese. When DʼOrlandi brought up the bombing of the POL in Hanoi and Haiphong, Lewandowski made it clear that this, contrary to what some Senators are saying at home, did not affect the prospects for reaching a political settlement. He stressed that the heart of the matter was a political settlement, and not the question of whether or not the so-called National Liberation Front was the sole representative or whether or not they meant suspension or cessation. He evidently feels that we must get rid of the “cease-fire mentality,” and think in terms of a political settlement of the whole Viet-Nam issue.
Lewandowski was particularly earnest in saying that any initiative from the U.N. or the ICC at this time would be “most unfortunate.” He was sure that such initiatives would result in Peking putting pressure on Hanoi for immediate rejection, and this would jeopardize the maneuver which he, Lewandowski is trying to carry out.
This ends the report of what DʼOrlandi said to me Friday night.
This is another reason why U Thantʼs attempt to get into the act would be dangerous to the cause of peace.5 Knowing U Thant quite well, I can understand his determination to get involved, now that he has realized that the wind is beginning to shift, which was reported from here in Saigon 5437, June 10.6 I have been thinking of some way to bring about [Page 483] his participation without injury to the cause of peace and one idea, which is perhaps worthy of study, would be to consult with him before the Geneva conference, or alternatively we might ask him to present whatever agreement was reached to the United Nations once it had been ratified at Geneva.
Herewith a comment on the statement in paragraph 4 of the Secretaryʼs message from Canberra Secto 58, June 30, transmitted to me as Deptel 4113,7 in which the Secretary says “DʼOrlandi is a professional, although his opinions seem to go up and down in Saigon on basis that seems to depend heavily on gossip.”
DʼOrlandi has a rather usual Italian love of making startling and paradoxical statements at dinner parties. He does so partly for his own amusement and also hoping it will startle and provoke other people into talking. He also often has opinions about what is going to happen here with which I disagree. I doubt whether many opinions are very firmly held. For example, he has been saying a number of unfavorable and pessimistic things about Ky, and when I knew DʼOrlandi was going to Cambodia, I asked him please not to give Sihanouk the impression that this whole place was falling apart, and believe he obliged in a very convincing way.
There are several things about him which, I think, are of great value. The first, as the Secretary says, “DʼOrlandi is a professional.” He is thus an extremely accurate reporter. He has a complete command of English, and can discern shadings and distinctions as well as any of us can. Secondly, in the very core of his being, he is pro-American, and believes that the United States is carrying out a wonderful and indispensable role in this dangerous world for the benefit of all humanity. If, therefore, you were decided to work through him, you could be guaranteed of devoted help actuated by the deepest feelings of friendship for the U.S. as well as absolutely accurate reporting with considerable insight into the implications of everything that is said.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–14 VIET/MARIGOLD. Top Secret; Priority; Nodis. Repeated to Manila, where Rusk was meeting with President Marcos, and passed to the White House.
  2. Z refers to Greenwich Mean Time.
  3. July 1.
  4. Document 168.
  5. CIA Intelligence Information Cable [document number not declassified], June 28, reported that U Thant planned to send a representative to meet with Chinese Communist and NLF representatives “in an effort to obtain agreement that U Thant serve as an intermediary in a Vietnamese peace settlement.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, NODIS, vol. 4) Lodge commented on the report in telegram 81 from Saigon, July 1, calling it “improper and un-neutral.” (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–14 VIET)
  6. Not printed. (Ibid., POL 27 VIET S)
  7. Not found; see footnote 2, Document 169.