66. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State1

2879. For Secretary from Ambassador. It seems to me that De Gaulle’s speech in Phnom Penh2 is a further example of his ignoring facts in favor of his favorite position. We have already commented on historical errors contained in speech but it is extraordinary to me that an alleged ally of the U.S. would present right on the spot within a few kilometers of the battle line so erroneous a picture of cause and effect. De Gaulle appears to heap all the blame for the situation, its origin and development in Indochina, on the U.S. explicitly. I recall in this connection [Page 131] Paris 2075,3 paragraph 3, in regard to De Gaulle’s ignorance of the text of the NATO agreements and it seems to me even more likely that he has not bothered or has been unwilling to really acquaint himself with the facts of the situation in Vietnam. He makes no mention of Communism as a factor and consequently his comparison with the French in Algeria is erroneous and misleading.

I realize how unwise it is to answer De Gaulle publicly but I wonder in this case if some corrective measure should not be applied. Otherwise the De Gaulle version of events will have a high degree of acceptance not only here in France but in other countries of the world. I would suggest therefore that you consider very seriously the desirability of a statement by the President or you which would in no way mention De Gaulle’s Phnom Penh speech but deal with the same material that he touches on in an accurate form. I do not refer to the actual suggestion as to what the U.S. should do in the future but merely to those parts dealing with the origin and history of the Vietnam question. There may be strong reasons against any such statement but I would like to suggest it as a possibility to you.4

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Nodis. No transmission time is on the telegram, which was received at 8:46 a.m.
  2. In his September 1 speech in Phnom Penh, De Gaulle stated, in reference to Cambodian neutrality: “That is why, while your country succeeded in safeguarding its body and its soul because it remained its own master, the political and military authority of the United States was seen installed in its turn in South Vietnam and, simultaneously, the war gained new strength there in the form of national resistance.” The full text of De Gaulle’s speech is printed in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1966, pp. 646-648. In telegram 5090 from Saigon, September 2, Ambassador Lodge commented: “If these words have any meaning, this means that the United States in effect committed an aggression in South Vietnam.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 27 VIET S)
  3. Not found.
  4. Circular telegram 41051 to all posts, September 2, provided instructions to avoid public comments on the De Gaulle speech, but in talks with foreign government officials to stress the impracticability of a unilateral U.S. commitment to withdraw in the face of North Vietnamese behavior. (Ibid., POL 15-1 FR)