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II U.S. Involvement in the Franco-Viet Minh 
War, 1950-1954 (1 Vol.) 

A. U.S., France and Vietnamese Nationalism 

B. Toward a Negotiated Settlement 

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1945 - 1967 







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1950 - 195 1 :- 

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1950-195 1 * 



This portion of the study treats U.S. policy towards 
the war in Indochina from the U.S. decision to recognize 
the Vietnamese Nationalist regime of the Emperor Bao Dai 
in February, 1950, through the UoS. deliberations on 
military intervention in late 1953 and. early 195^ • 
Section A examines the triangular relationship of 
France, the U.S., and the Bao Dai regime. Section B 
analyzes the intervention issue, and the antecedents to 
the Geneva Conference. 

i .. A. United States, France, and Vietnamese 

1 ' • Nationalism 

; p 

B. Toward a Negotiated Settlement 

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> o 











— 1 













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It has been argued that even as the U.S. began supporting the 
French in Indochina , the U.S. missed opportunities to bring peace, 
stability and independence to Vietnam. The issues arise from the 
belief on the part of some critics that (a) the U.S. made no attempt 
to seek out and support a democratic-nationalist alternative in Viet- 
nam; and (b) the U.S. commanded, but did not use, leverage to move 
the French toward granting genuine Vietnamese independence. 

The record shows that through 1953> the French pursued a policy 
which was based on military victory and excluded meaningful negotia- 
tions with Ho Chi Minh. The French did, however, recognize the require- 
ment for an alternative focus for Vietnamese nationalist aspirations, 
and from 19^7 forward, advanced the "Bao Dai solution." The record 
shows that the U.S. was hesitant through 19^9 "to endorse the "Bao Dai 
solution" until Vietnam was in fact unified and granted autonomy and 
did consistently support the creation of a genuinely independent, non- 
communist Vietnamese government to supplant French rule. Nonetheless, 
the fall of China and the deteriorating French military position in 
Indochina caused both France and the U.S. to press the "Bao Dai solu- 
tion." In early 1950, after French ratification of the Elysee Agreement 
granting "Vietnam's independence," the U.S. recognized Bao Dai and 
initiated military and economic aid, even before transfer of govern- 
mental power actually occurred. Thereafter, the French yielded control 
only pro forma , while the Emperor Bao Dai adopted a retiring, passive 
role, and turned his government over to discreditable politicians. 
The Bao Dai regime was neither popular nor efficient, and its army, 
dependent on French leadership, was powerless. The impotence of the 
Bao Dai regime, the lack of any perceptible alternatives (except for 
j the communists), the fact of continued French authority and control 

over the GVN, the fact that the French alone seemed able to contain 
communism in Indochina — all these constrained U.S. promptings for 
a democratic-nationalist government in Vietnam. (Tab l) 

The U.S. -French ties in Europe (NATO, Marshall Plan, Mutual Defense 
Assistance Program) only marginally strengthened U.S. urgings that 
France make concessions to Vietnamese nationalism. Any leverage from 
these sources was severely limited by the broader considerations of 
U.S. policy for the containment of communism in Europe and Asia. NATO 
and the Marshall Plan were of themselves judged to be essential to our 
European interests. To threaten France with economic and military 
sanctions in Europe in order to have it alter its policy in Indochina 
was, therefore, not plausible. Similarly, to reduce the level of 

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military assistance to the French effort in Indochina would have "been 
counter-productive, since it would have led to a further deterioration 
in the French military position there. In other words, there was a 
basic incompatibility in the two strands of U.S. policy: (l) Washington 
wanted France to fight the anti-communist war and win, preferably with 
U.S. guidance and advice; and (2) Washington expected the French, when 
battlefield victory was assured, to magnanimously withdraw from Indo- 
china. For France, which was probably fighting more a colonial than 
an ant i- communist war, and which had to consider the effects of with- 
drawal on colonial holdings in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, magnani- 
mous withdrawal was not too likely. 

France, having no such policy incompatibilities, could and did 
pursue a consistent course with the stronger bargaining hand. Thus, 
the French were able to resist pressures from Washington and through 
the MAAG in Saigon to create a truly Vietnamese army, to grant the 
Vietnamese more local autonomy and to wage the war more effectively. 
MAAG was relegated to a supply function and its occasional admonitions 
to the French were interpreted by them as interference in their internal 
affairs. Even though by 195^ the U.S. was financing 78$ of the costs 
of the war, the French retained full control of the dispensation of 
military assistance and of the intelligence and planning aspects of 
the military struggle. The expectation of French victory over the Viet 
Minh encouraged the U.S. to "go along" with Paris until the conclusion 
of the war. Moreover, the U.S. was reluctant to antagonize the French 
j because of the high priority given in Washington's planning to French 

participation in the European Defense Community. France, therefore, 
had considerable leverage and, unless the U.So supported Paris on its 
own terms, the French could, and indeed did, threaten not to join the 
EDC and to stop fighting in Indochina. (Tab 2) 

American thinking and policy-making was dominated by the tendency 
to view communism in monolithic terms. The Viet Minh was, therefore, 
seen as part of the Southeast Asia manifestation of the world-wide 
communist expansionary movement. French resistance to Ho Chi Minh, in 
turn, was thought to be a crucial link in the containment of communism. 
This strategic perception of the communist threat was supported by the 
espousal of the domino principle: the loss of a single nation in 
Southeast Asia to communism would inexorably lead to the other nations 
of the area falling under communist control. The domino principle, 
which probably had its origin at the time of the Nationalist withdrawal 
from mainland China, was at the root of U.S. policy. Although elements 
of a domino-like theory could be found in NSC papers before the start 
of the Korean War, the Chinese intervention in Korea was thought to be 
an ominous confirmation of its validity. The possibility of a large- 
scale Chinese intervention in Indochina, similar to that in Korea, was 
.feared, especially after the armistice in Korea. 

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The Eisenhower Administration followed the basic policy of its 
predecessor, but also deepened the American commitment to containment 
in Asia. Secretary Dulles pursued a forthright, ant i- communist policy 
and made it clear that he would not permit the "loss" of Indochina, 
in the manner the Democrats had allegedly allowed the "loss" of China. 
Dulles warned China not to intervene, and urged the French to drive 
toward a military victory. Dulles was opposed to a cease-fire and 
tried to dissuade the French from negotiations with the Viet Minh until 
they had markedly improved their bargaining position through action on 
the battlefield. The NSC in early 195^ was persuaded that a non- 
communist coalition regime would eventually turn the country over to 
the Viet Minh. In consequence of this more militant policy, the U.S. 
Government tended to focus on the military rather than the political 
aspects of the French- Viet Minh struggle. (Tab 3) 



II. A. Tab 1 - U.S. Policy and the Bao Dai Regime 

Tab 2 - Leverage: France Had More Than the United States 

Tab 3 - Perceptions of the Communist Threat to Southeast 
Asia and to Basic U.S. Interests 


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II. A. 1. 



1.. The Bao Dai Solution . . . . <> . . e A- 5 

a. The French Predicament . . „ • « • A-5 

"b. The Ha Long Bay Agreement, 19*4-8 <> „ A-5 

c. Elysee Agreement , 19^-9 • A-7 

d. Bao Dai's Governments . A-7 

e . The Pan Negotiations , 1950 ; • . • . ' A- 9 


2c U.S. Policy Towards Bao Dai A-ll 

a. Qualified Approval, 19U7-I9U9 . . . . . A-ll 

b. Recognition, 1950 , . A-13 

c. " U.S. Aid to Indochina A- 17 

d. French Intransigence. . . . o . . A-l8 

- (l) , 1950-1951 : De Lattre and "Dynamisme" • A-l8 

(2) 1951-1953: Letourneau and "Dictatorship" A-20 

e . Bao Dai Attentiste . . A-22 

f . The American Predicament • • •• « . . . « . A-26 

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1. The Bao Dai Solution 

a. The French Predicament 

French perceptions of the conflict which broke out in December, 
19^6, between their forces in Indochina and the Viet Minh forces of the 
Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) began to alternate between boundless 
optimism and unbridled gloom. In May, 19^7* Minister of War Coste-Floret 
announced in Paris that: "There is no military problem any longer in 
Indochina. . .the success of French arms is complete." l/ Within six 
months, though ambitious armored, amphibious, and airborne drives had 
plunged into the northern mountains and along the Annam coast, Viet Minh 
sabotage and raids along lines of communication had mounted steadily, and 
Paris had come to realize that France had lost the military initiative. 
In the meantime, the French launched political forays similarly ambitious 
and equally unproductive. Leon Pignon, political adviser to the French 
Commander in Indochina, and later High Commissioner, wrote in January, 
I9I+7, that: 

"Our objective is clear: to transpose to the field 
of Vietnamese domestic politics the quarrel we have with 
the Viet Minh, and to involve ourselves as little as 
possible in the campaigns and reprisals which ought to 
be the work of the native adversaries of that party." 2/ 


Within a month, an emissary journeyed into the jungle to deliver to Ho 
Chi Minh ! s government demands tantamount to unconditional surrender. 
About the same time, French representatives approached Bao Dai, the 
former Emperor of Annam, with proposals that he undertake to form a 
Vietnamese government as an alternate to Ho Chi Minh's. Being unable 
to force a military resolution, and having foreclosed meaningful nego- 
tiations with Ho, the French turned to Bao Dai as their sole prospect 
for extrication from the growing dilemma in Vietnam. 

b. The Ha Long Bay Agreement, I9U8 

Bao Dai's mandarinal court in Hue, Annam, had been little 
more than an instrument of French colonial policy, and -- after the 
occupation by Japan — of Japanese policy. Bao Dai had become Emperor 
at the age of 12, in 1925, "but did not actually ascend the throne until 
1932, after education in France. In August, 19^5 3 when the Viet Minh 
arrived in Hue, he abdicated in favor of Ho's Democratic Republic of 
Vietnam, and accepted the post of "Supreme Adviser" to the new state. 
In 19^6, he left Vietnam, and went to Hong Kong. There, he found himself 
solicited not only by French representatives, but by the DRV, who sought 
him to act on their behalf with the French. 

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Bao Dai attempted at first to maintain a central position 
between the two protagonists, but was soon persuaded to decline the 
Viet Minh overtures by non-Communist nationalists. A group of these, 
including members of the Cao Dai, Hoa Hao, Dong Minh Hoi, Dai Vet, and 
the VNQDD formed a National Union, and declared support for Bao Dai, 
One authority termed the National Union "a fragile coalition of dis- 
credited collaborators, ambitious masters of intrigue, incompetent 
sectarians, and a smattering of honest leaders without a following,," 
Among the latter were Ngo Dinh Diem, who "for the first and only time, 
joined a party of which he was not the founder," and pledged to back the 
Emperor so long as he pursued independence for Vietnam, 3/ Now, having 
eliminated the Viet Minh support option, Bao Dai became more compliant 
in his discussions with the French, and the French became correspondingly 
stiff er in their attitude toward the Viet Minh. Yet, little came of the 
talks. On December 7> 19^7 > aboard a French warship in Ha Long Bay, Bao 
Dai signed an accord with the French, committing the French to Vietnamese 
political independence so minimally that it was promptly condemned not 
only by Diem, but also by more opportunistic colleagues in the National 
Union. Bao Dai, in what might have been a political withdrawal, removed 
himself from the developing intrigue, and fled to European pleasure 
centers for a four month jaunt which earned him the sobriquet "night club 

The French, despite lack of cooperation from their elusive 
Vietnamese principal, sent diplomats to pursue Bao Dai and publicized 
their resolve "to carry on, outside the Ho Chi Minh Government, all 
activities and negotiations necessary for the restoration of peace and 
freedom in the Vietnamese countries" — in effect, committing themselves 
to military victory and Bao Daio h/ French persistence eventually per- 
suaded Bao Dai to return to Hong Kong, to endorse the formation of "a 
Vietnamese national government prior to independence, and finally, to 
return to Vietnam as the Head of State. . French negotiating pressures 
on him and the National Union included both spurious "leaks" of Franco- 
Viet Minh settlement talks, and further assurances of intentions to 
grant Vietnamese autonomy. On June 5, 19^-8, Bao Dai witnessed the 
signing of another Bay of Ha Long Agreement. Thereby, France publicly 
and "solemnly" recognized the independence of Vietnam -- but specifically 
retained control over foreign relations and the Army, and deferred trans- 
fer of other governmental functions to future negotiations; no authority 
was in fact transferred to the Vietnamese. Again Bao Dai retired to 
Europe, while in Hanoi the French assembled a transparently impotent 
semblance of native government. A second summer of war passed in 19^8 
without dispelling the military miasma over Indochina, and without mak- 
ing the "Bao Dai solution" any less repugnant among Vietnamese patriots. 
Opposition to it began to mount among French Leftists • This disenchant- 
ment, combined with a spreading acceptance of the strategic view that the 
Franco-Viet Minh war was a key anti-Communist struggle, influenced French 
leaders to liberalize their approach to the "Bao Dai solution." 

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c. Elysee Agreement, 19^-9 

On March 8, 19^9? after months of negotiations, French 
President Auriol, in an exchange of letters with Bao Dai, reconfirmed 
independence for Vietnam as an Associated State of the French Union 
and detailed procedures for unifying Vietnam and placing it under 
Vietnamese administration. Nonetheless, in the Elysee Agreement, France 
yielded control of neither Vietnam's army nor its foreign relations, and 
again postponed arrangements for virtually all other aspects of autonomy. 
However, Bao Dai, apparently convinced that France was now sufficiently 
desperate in Indochina that it would have to honor the Agreements, 
declared that: 

j "...An era of reconstruction and renovation will 

I open in Vietnam. The country will be given democratic 

institutions that will be called on primarily to 
approve the present agreement. .. .Profound economic and 
social reforms will be instituted to raise the general 
standard of living and to promote social justice, which 
is the condition and guarantee of order... /l look for/ 
the union of all Vietnamese regardless of their politi- 
cal and religious tendencies, and the generous support 
of France on which I can count..." 5/ 

His public stance notwithstanding, Bao Dai delayed his return to Vietnam 
until a Cochinchinese Assembly had been elected (albeit in a farce of an 
election), and did not proceed to Saigon until the French Assembly had 
approved Cochinchina 1 s joining the rest of Vietnam. In late June, 19^9? 
Vietnam was legally united under Bao Dai, but the related alteration of 
administrative functions was slow, and usually only pro forma ; no genuine 
power or authority was turned over to the Vietnamese. The State of 
Vietnam became a camouflage for continued French rule in Indochina. As 
Bao Dai himself characterized the situation in 1950> "What they call a 
Bao Dai solution turned out to be just a French solution. .. .The situation 
in Indochina is getting worse every day. . . " 6/ 

cL Bao Dai T s Governments 

The unsavory elements of the coalition supporting Bao Dai 
dominated his regime. Ngo Dinh Diem and a few other upright nationalists 
refused high government posts, and withdrew their support from Bao Dai 
when their expectations of autonomy were disappointed. * Diem's public 
statement criticized the probity of those who did accept office: 

"The national aspirations of the Vietnamese people 
will be satisfied only on the day when our nation obtains 
the same political regime which India and Pakistan enjoy. . . 
I believe it is only just to reserve the best posts in the 
new Vietnam for those who have deserved best of the country; 
I speak of those who resist..." 7/ 

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However, far from looking to the "resistance/' Bao Dai chose his leaders 
from among men with strong identification with France , often men of 
great and dubious wealth, or with ties with the sub-worlds of French 
neo-mercantilism and Viet vice. None commanded a popular following. 
General Georges Revers, Chief of Staff of the French Army, who was sent 
to Vietnam to appraise the situation in May and June, 19^9> wrote that: 

"If Ho Chi Minh has been able to hold off French 
intervention for so long, it is because the Viet Minh 
leader has surrounded himself with a group of men of 
incontestable worth. . . /Bao Dai, by contrast, had/ a 
government composed of twenty representatives of phan- 
tom parties, the best organized of which would have 
difficulty in rallying twenty- five adherents..." 8/ .- 

Bao Dai himself did next to nothing to make his government either more 
representative or more efficient. He divided his time among the pleasures 
of the resort towns of Dalat, Kha Trang, and Banmethuout, and' for all 
practical purposes, remained outside the process of government. 

An American diplomat serving in Vietnam at the time who knew 
Bao Dai well, characterized him in these terms: 

"Bao Dai, above all, was an intelligent man. Intel- 
lectually, he could discuss the complex details of the 
various agreements and of the whole involved relation- 
ship with France as well as or better than anyone I knew. 
But he was a man who was crippled by his French upbringing. 
'His manner was too impassive. He allowed himself to be 
sold by the French on an erroneous instead of a valid 
evolutionary concept, and this suited his own temperament. 
He was too congenial, and he was almost pathologically shy, • 
which was one reason he always liked to wear dark glasses. 
He would go through depressive cycles, and when he was 
depressed, he would dress himself in Vietnamese clothes 
instead of European ones, and would mince no words about 
the French. His policy, he said to me on one of these 
dour occasions, was one of ! grignotage, ! or 'nibbling, 1 
and he was painfully aware of it. The French, of course, 
were never happy that we Americans had good relations 
with Bao Dai, and they told him so. Unfortunately, they 
also had some blackmail on him, about his relationship 
with gambling enterprises in Saigon and his love of the 
fleshpots." 2/ 

Whatever his virtues, Bao Dai was not a man who could earn the fealty of 
the Vietnamese peasants. He could not even hold the loyalty of honest 
nationalists, one of whom, for example, was Dr. Phan Quang Dan -- a promi- 
nent and able non-Communist leader and early supporter of the "solution," 

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and a personal friend of Bao Dai -- (Dr. Dan later was the opposition 
leader of the Diem era). Dr. Dan reported a touching conversation with 
Bao Dai's mother in which she described her son at a loss to know whom 
• to trust, and heartsick at the atmosphere of hostility which surrounded 
him. 10/ Yet Dr. Dan resigned as Bao Dai's Minister of Information 
over the Elysee Agreement, and, though he remained close to the Emperor, 
f would not reassume public office for him. Bao Dai himself furnished an 

• apt description of his political philosophy which may explain why he 
failed to capture the hearts of either beleaguered farmers or serious 
political leaders — neither of whom could stomach "nibbling" when 
revolution was required. Said Bao Dai: 

"To practice politics is like playing a game, and 
I have always considered life a game." 11/ 

e. The Pau Negotiations, 1950 

Yet Bao Dai did work at pressing the French. French officials 
in fact complained to an American writer that Bao Dai spent too much of his 
time on such pursuits: 

tT He has concentrated too much on getting what he can 
from us instead of building up his support among the 
people of the country, . .History will judge if he did 
. right in putting so much stress on that..." 12/ 

From late June, 1950, until the end of November, Bao Dai stayed close to 
the series of conferences in Pau, France, designed to arrange the transfer 
to the Vietnamese of the services of immigration, communications, foreign 
trade, customs, and finances. The issue of the finance service was a 
particularly thorny one, involving as it did lucrative foreign exchange 
controls. While the French did eventually grant significant concessions 
to the Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians in each area discussed, they 
preserved "rights of observation" and "intervention" in matters that 
"concerned the French Union as a whole." Indeed, the French assured 
themselves full access to government information, license to participate 
in all government decisions, and little reduction in economic benefits. 13 / 

Some French commentators viewed Pau as an unmitigated disaster 
and the assurance of an early French demise in Indochina. As one writer 
put it : 

"By accepting the eventual restriction of trade within 
the French Union, by losing all effective authority over 
the issuance of money, by renouncing control over foreign 
trade, by permitting a system of controlled prices for ex- 
ports and imports, we have given the Associated States all 
the power they need if they wish to assure the ruin of our 
enterprises and compel their withdrawal without in any way 
molesting our compatriots." lU/ 

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But a contemporary Vietnamese critic took a quite different view: 

"All these conventions conserve in Indochina a privileged 
position for French capital, supported by the presence of a 
powerful fleet and army. Even if no one talks any more of an 
Indochinese Federation, it is still a federalism both adminis- 
trative and economic (Monetary Union, Customs Union, Communica- 
tions Union, etc.) which co-ordinates the various activities of 
the three Associated States. France always exercises control 
through the representatives she has in all the organs of planning 
or of federal surveillance, and through what is in effect the 
right of veto, because the president or the secretary general of 
these committees is always elected by joint decision of the four 
governments and, further, because most of the decisions of the 
committees are made by unanimous agreement." 
(Quoted in same reference above) 

Bao Dai's delegates were, however 2 generally pleased with the outcome of 
Pau. His Prime Minister, Tran Van Huu declared as he signed the conven- 
tions that "our independence is now perfect." But to the ordinary 
Vietnamese, to honest Frenchmen, and to the Americans, Tran Van Huu was 
proved dramatically wrong. 



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2. UoS. Policy Towards Bao Dai 

a. Qualified Approval, 19^7-1950 

The ff Bao Dai solution" depended on American support. During 
the 1950 negotiations in Pau, France, Bao Dai T s Prime Minister Tran Van Huu 
•was called "back to Indochina "by a series of French military reverses in 
Tonkin. Tran Van Huu seized the occasion to appeal to the United States 
"as the leading democratic nation," and hoped that the U.S. would 

"... bring pressure to bear on France in order to achieve 
democratic freedom. We want the right to decide our own 
affairs for ourselves." 15/ 

Tran demanded the Elysee Agreement be superseded by genuine 
autonomy for Vietnam:- 

"it is not necessary for young men to die so that a 
French engineer can be director of the port of Saigon Many 
people are dying every day because Viet Nam is not given 
independence. If we had independence the people would have 
no more reason to fight." 

Tran's addressing the U.S. thus was realistic, if not judi- 
cious, for the U0S0 had already become involved in Indochina as one part 
of a troubled triangle with France and Bao Dai's regime. Indeed, there 
had been an American role in the "Bao Dai solution" from its inception. 
Just before the Ha Long Bay Agreements, the French initiative had received 
some support from a December, 19^7, Life magazine article by William C 
Bullitt, former U.So Ambassador to France. Bullitt argued for a policy 
aimed at ending "the saddest war" by winning the majority of Vietnamese 
nationalists away from Ho Chi Minh and from the Communists through a 
movement built around Bao Dai. 16/ Bullitt's views were widely accepted 
in France as a statement of U.S. policy, and a direct endorsement, and 
promise of U.So aid, for Bao Daio Bao Dai, whether he accepted the Bullitt 
canard or not, seemed to sense that the U.S. would inevitably be drawn 
into Southeast Asia, and apparently expected American involvement to be 
accompanied by U.S. pressure on France on behalf of Vietnamese nationalism. 
But the U.So, though it appreciated France's dilemma, was reluctant 
initially to endorse the Bao Dai solution until it became a reality. The 
following State Department messages indicate the UoSo position: 

July 10, I9U8 (Paris 3621 to State): 


France is faced with alternatives of unequivocally and 
promptly approving_jprinciple [off Viet independence within 
French union and /the/ union £p£ the/ three parts of Vietnam 
or losing Indochina. " 

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July lU, I9I+8 (State 2637 to Paris): 


o o • 

Once /Bay of Ha Long/ Agreement together with change 
in status /of/ Cochinchina /isT approved, Department would be 
disposed /to/" consider lending its support to extent of publicly 
approving French Government's action as forward looking step toward 
settlement of troubled situation /in/ Indochina and toward realiza- 
tion of aspirations Vietnamese people. It appears to Department 
that above stated U.S. approval would materially assist in 
strengthening hands of nationalists as opposed to communists in 
Indochina. « n 

August 30, 19^8 (State 3368 to Paris): 

"Department appreciates difficulties facing any French 
Government taking decisive action vis-a-vis Indochina, _but 
can only see steadily deteriorating situation unless /there is/ 
more positive approval /Bay of Ha Long/ Agreement, enactment 
legislation or action permitting change Cochinchina status, 
and immediate commencement formal negotiations envisaged that 
Agreement. Department believes /that/ nothing should be left undone 
which will strengthen truly_nationalist groups /in/ Indochina and 
induce__jpresent supporters /of the/ Viet Minh /to/ come to /.the/ 
side {off that group. No such inducement possible unless that 
group can show concrete evidence /that/ French /are/ prepared 
/to/ implement promptly creation Vietnamese free state /which is/ 
associated /with the/ French Union and with all' attributes free 

S ua \jG . • . 

January 17, 19^9 (State 1^5 to Paris): 

"While Department desirous French coming to terms with 
Bao Dai or any truly nationalist group which has reasonable 
chance winning over preponderance of Vietnamese, we cannot at 
this time irretrevably /sic/ commit U.S. to support of native 
government which by failing develop appeal among Vietnamese 
might become virtually puppet government, separated from 
people, and existing only by presence French military forces..." 

The Elysee Agreement took place in March, 19^9 • At this 
juncture, the fall of China obtruded, and the U.S. began to view the 
"Bao Dai solution" with a greater sense of urgency: 

May 10, I9U9 (State 77 to Saigon): 

"Assumption... Department desires_ /the/ success Bao Dai 
experiment entirely correct* Since /there/ appears /to/ be no 
other alternative to /established/ Commie pattern /in/ Vietnam, 
Department considers no effort should be spared by France, 
other Western powers, and non-Commie Asian nations to assure 
experiment best chance succeeding. 

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"At proper time and under proper circumstances Department 
will be_jprepared /to/ do its part by extending_recognition 
/to the/ Bao Dai Government and by exploring /the/ possibility 
of complying with any request by_such a Government for U.So 
arms and economic assistance, /it/ must be understood, however, 
/that/ aid program this nature would require Congressional 
approval. Since U.S. could scarcely; afford backing / a 7 
government which would have color /of/, and be likely /To suffer 
the/ fate of, / a_/ puppet regime, it must first be clear that 
France will offer all necessary concessions to make Bao Dai 
solution attractive to nationalists. 

"This is / a_/ step of which French themselves must see 
urgency /and/necessity /in/ view possibly short time _ 

J remaining before Commie successes /in/ China are felt /in/ 

Indochina. Moreover, Bao Dai Government must through own 
efforts demonstrate capacity /to/ organize and conduct affairs 

i wisely so as to ensure maximum opportunity of obtaining 

I requisite popular support, inasmuch as / any/ government 

created in Indochina analogous- /to the/ Kuomintang would be 

f foredoomed failure. 


Assuciing_essential French concessions are forthcoming, 
best chance /of/ success /for/ Bao Dai would appear to be 
in persuading Vietnamese nationalists: 

(1) their patriotic aims may be realized promptly 
through French-Bao Dai agreement 

(2) Bao Dai government will be. truly representative 
even to the extent of including outstanding 
non-Commie leaders now supporting Ho, and 

(3) Bao Dai solution /is the/ only means /of/ 
safeguarding Vietnam from aggressive designs /of 
the/ Commie Chinese." 

Through 19^-9* "the southward march of Mao's legions continued, 
and the Viet Minh were obviously preparing to establish relations with 
them. ' " 

b. Recognition, 1950 

The Elysee Agreements were eleven months old before the 
U.S. considered that France had taken the concrete steps toward Vietnamese 
autonomy which the U.S. had set as conditions for recognizing Bao Dai. 
In late January, 1950, events moved swiftly. Ho Chi Minh announced that 
his was the' "only legal government of the Vietnam people" ajid indicated 
DRV willingness to cooperate with any nation willing to recognize it on 
the basis of "equality and mutual respect of national sovereignty and 
territory." Mao responded promptly with recognition, followed by Stalin. 

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In France there was an acrimonious debate in the National Assembly between 
leftist advocates of immediate truce with the Viet Minh and government 
supporters of the Elysee Agreement to proceed with the Bao Dai solution. 
Rend Pleven, Minister of National Defense, declared that: 17/ 

11 It is necessary that the French people know that at 
the present time the only true enemy of peace in Viet Nam 
is the Communist Party. Because members of the Communist 
Party know that peace in Indochina will be established by 
the policy of independence that we are following. " 

.. ("Peace with Viet Nam! Peace with Viet Nam!" shouted the 
Communists. ) 

Jean Letourneau arose to assert that: 

"It is not at all a question of approving or disapproving 
a government; we are very far beyond the transitory life of a 
government in an affair of this gravity. It is necessary 
that, on the international level, the vote that takes place - 
tonight reveals truly the- major importance that this event 
should have in the eyes of the entire world. " 

Fr£d£ric Dupont said: 

"The Indochina war has always been a test of the French 
Union before international Communism. But since the arrival 
of the Chinese Communists on the frontier of Tonkin, Indo- 
china has become the frontier of Western civilization and 
the war in Indochina is integrated into the cold war." 

Premier Georges Bidault was the last speaker: 

"The choice is simple. Moreover there is no choice." 

The National Assembly vote on January 29, 1950, was 396 to 193- From the 
extreme left there were cries of "Down with the war!" and Paul Coste- 
Floret replied: "Long live peace." On February 2, 1950, France 1 s formal 
ratification of the independence of Vietnam was announced* 

The U.S assessment of the situation, and its action, is 
indicated in the following: 

(telegram reproduced on pages A-15 and A-l6) 

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[ pBx'&rt&SJR'i OF STATE 

i Washington 

.^STaICT^D February 2, 1950 


1 . 


Subject: U.S. recognition of Vietnam, 

Laos and Cambodia 

!• 'Ihe French Assembly (Lower House) ratified 
on 29 January by a large majority (396 - 195) the bill 
which, in effect, established Vietnam, Laos and 
Cambodia as autonomous states within the French Union. 
The opposition consisted of *l8l Communist votes with 
only 12 joining in from other parties. The Council of 
the republic (Senate) is expected to pass the bills by 
the same approximate majority on or about February 3» 
President Auriol's si nature is expected' to follow 
shortly thereafter. 

2. The French legislative and political steps 
thus taken will transform areas which were formerly 

j governed as Protectorates or Colonies into states within- 
i . the French Union, with considerably more freedom than 

they enjoyed under their prior status. The French 
I ' Government h?s indicated that it hopes to grant greater 

degrees of independence to the three states as the 
security position in Indochina allows, and as the newly 
formed governments become more able to administer the 
areas following withdrawal of the French. x 


3. v iithin Laos, and Cambodia there are no power- 
ful movements directed against the governments ihich are 
relatively stable. However, Vietnam has been the, battle- 
ground since the end" of r #orld I'Jar II of conflicting poli- • . 
tical parties and military forces. Ho Chi Hinh, who 
under various aliases, has been a communist agent in. 
various parts of the world, since 1925 &nd was able to 

. take over the anti-French nationalist movement in 1*92+5 • 
.r.f ter failing to reach agreement with the French regarding 
the establishment of an autonomous state of Vietnam, he 
withdrew his forces to the jungle and hill areas of 

' " JGLTiCECIED * . 

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• r 


i f 

Vietnam and has harassed the French ever since. His 
followers who are estimated at approximately 75*000 
armed men, with probably the same number unarmed- .His 
headquarters are unknown. 

The French counter efforts have included, on the 
military side, the deployment of approximately 130,000 
troops, of whom the approximately 50*000 are local natives 
serving voluntarily, African 'colonials, and a hard core 
made up of French troops and Foreign Legion units • Ho Chi 
Minh f s guerrilla tactics have been aimed at denying the 
French control of Vietnam. On March 8, 191+9 the French 
President signed sn agreement with Bao Dai as the Plead of 
fcitate, granting independence within the French Union to 
the Government of Vietnam. Similar agreements were 
signed with the king of Laos snd the King of Csmbodia. 

decent developments have included Chinese Communist 
victories bringing those troops to the Indochina border; 
recognition of Ho Chi Minh as the head of the legal 
Government of Vietnam by Communist China (l8 January) 
and by Soviet nussia (50 January). 

l\.m necognition by the United States of the three . 
legally constituted governments of Vietnam, Lsos and 
Cambodia appears desirable and in accordance with United 
States foreign policy for several reasons. Among them 
are-: encouragement to national aspirations under non- 
Communist leadership for peoples of colonial areas in 
Southeast Asia; the establishment of stable non-Communist 
governments in areas adjacent to Communist China; sup- 
port to a friendly country which is also a signatory to 
the North Atlancic Treaty; and as a demonstration of 
displeasure with Communist tactics' vhich are obviously 
aimed at eventual domination of Asia, working under the 
guise of indigenous nationalism. . 

Subject to your approval, the Department of State 
recommends that the United Stcte-s of America extend 
recognition to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, following 
ratification by the French Government. " 

(signed) DLAN ACBESON 


9(signed) . . . 

Harry S.' Truman 

February 3, 195° 


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c. U.S. Aid to Indochina 

On February l6, 1950, France requested U.S. military and 
economic assistance in prosecuting the Indochina War. 18/ The Secretary 
of Defense in a Memorandum for the President on March 6 stated that: 

"The choice confronting the United States is to support 
the legal governments in Indochina or to face the extension 
of Communism over the remainder of the continental area of 
Southeast Asia and possibly westward..." 19/ 

The same month, the State Department dispatched an aid survey 
mission under R. Allen Griffin to Indochina (and to Burma, Indonesia, 
Thailand, and Malaya). The Griffin Mission proposed (inter alia) aid for 
the Bao Dai government, since the State of Vietnam was considered: 


• • 

not secure against internal subversion, political infiltra- 
tion, or military aggression. 

"The objective of each program is to assist as much as possible 
in building strength, and in so doing . .. to assure the several 
peoples that support of their governments and resistance to com- 
munist subversion will bring them direct and tangible benefits and 
well-founded hope for an increase in living standards. Accordingly, 
the programs are of two main types: (l) technical and material aid 
to essential services and (2) economic rehabilitation and develop- 
ment, focused primarily on the provision of technical assistance 
and material aid in developing agricultural and industrial output. 
... These activities are to be carried on in a way best calculated 
to demonstrate that the local national governments are able to 
bring benefits to their own people and thereby build political 
support, especially among the rural population. ... 

"The aims of economic assistance to Southeast Asia . . . are 
to reinforce the non-Communist national governments in that 
region by quickly strengthening and expanding the economic life 
of the area, improve the conditions under which its people live, 
and demonstrate concretely the genuine interest of the United 
States in the welfare of the people of Southeast Asia." 20/ 

In a strategic assessment of Southeast Asia in April, 1950, 
the JCS recommended military assistance for Indochina, provided: 

"... that United States military aid not be granted 
unconditionally; rather that it be carefully controlled and 
that the aid program be integrated with political and 
economic programs ..." 21/ 

On May 1, 1950, President Truman approved $10 million for 
urgently needed military assistance items for Indochina. 22/ The Presidents 


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decision was taken in the context of the successful amphibious invasion 
of Nationalist -defended Hainan "by a Communist Chinese army under General 
Lin Piao -- with obvious implications for Indochina, and for Taiwan 
One week later, on May 8, the Secretary of State announced U.S. aid for 
"the Associated States of Indochina and to France in order to assist them 
in restoring stability and permitting these states to pursue their peace- 
ful and democratic development." 23/ Sixteen days later, Bao Dai's 
i government and France were notified on May 2k of the U.S. intention to 

establish an economic aid mission to the Associated States. As the Worth 
Korean Army moved southward on June 27, 1950, President Truman announced 
that he had directed "acceleration in the furnishing of military assistance 
to the forces of France and the Associated States in Indochina..." 2k/ 

The crucial issue presented by the American decision to 
provide aid to Indochina was who should be the recipient -- Bao Dai or 
France — and, hence, whose policies would U.S. aid support? 

d. French Intransigence 

While the U.S. was deliberating over whether to provide 
economic and military assistance to Indochina in early 1950, negotiations 
opened at Pau, France, among France and the Associated States to set the 
timing and extent of granting autonomy. Had these talks led to genuine 
independence for Bao Dai's regime, the subsequent U.S. -French relationship 
would probably have been much less complex and significantly less acerbic. 
As it was, however, the Pau accords led to little more independence than 
had the Ha Long Bay or Elysee Agreements. Moreover, France 1 s reluctance 
to yield political or economic authority to Bao Dai was reinforced by its 
proclivity to field strong-willed commanders, suspicious of the U.S., 
determined on a military victory, and scornful of the Bao Dai solution. 
General Marcel Carpentier, Commander in Chief when the French applied for 
aid, was quoted in the New York Times on March 9, 1950, as follows: 

"I will never agree to equipment being given directly to 
the Vietnamese. If this should be done I would resign within 
twenty- four hours « The Vietnamese have no generals, no colonels, 
no military organization th&t could effectively utilize the 
equipment. It would be wasted, and in China the United States 
has had enough of that." 

(l) 1950-1951 : De Lattre and "Dynamisme" 

Carpentier f s successor, High Commissioner-Commander in 
Chief General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, arrived in December, 1950, 
following the severe setback of the autumn • De Lattre electrified the 
discouraged French forces like General Ridgway later enheartened U.S. 
forces in Korea. De Lattre saw^ himself as leading an anti-communist 
crusade. He calculated that he could win a decisive victory within 
fifteen months in Vietnam, and "save it from Peking and Moscow. " He 
deprecated the idea that the French were still motivated by colonialism, 
and even told one U.S. newsman that France fought for the West alone: * 

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"We have no more interest here... We have abandoned all 
our colonial positions completely. There is little rubber or 
coal or rice we can any longer obtain. And what does it amount 
to compared to the blood of our sons we are losing and the three 
hundred and fifty million francs we spend a day in Indochina? 
The work we are doing is for the salvation of the Vietnamese 
people o And the propaganda you Americans make that we are still 
colonialists is doing us tremendous harm, all of us — the 
Vietnamese, yourselves, and us." 

Moreover, De Lattre was convinced that the Vietnamese had to be brought 
into the fight. In a speech -- "A Call to Vietnamese Youth" — he declared: 

"This war, whether you like it or not, is the war of Vietnam 
for Vietnam. And France will carry it on for you only if you 
carry it on with her. «•«, Certain people pretend that Vietnam 
cannot be independent because it is part of the French Union. 
Not true! In our universe, and especially in our world of 
today, there can be no nations absolutely independent o There 
are only fruitful interdependencies and harmful dependencies.... 
Young men. of Vietnam, to whom I feel as close as I do to the 
youth of my native land, the moment has come for you to defend 
your country o " 27/ 

Yet, General De Lattre regarded U.S. policy vis-a-vis 
Bao Dai with grave misgivings Americans, he held, afflicted with 
"missionary zeal," were "fanning the fires of extreme nationalism. * . 
French traditionalism is vital here. You cannot, you must not destroy it. 
No one can simply make a new nation overnight by giving out economic aid 
and arms alone o" 28/ As adamantly as Carpentier, De Lattre opposed 
direct U.So aid for Vietnamese forces, and allowed the Vietnamese military 
little real independence. 

Edmund A. Gullion, U0S0 Minister Counselor in Saigon 
from 1950 on, faulted De Lattre on his inability to stimulate in the 
Vietnamese National Army either the elan vital or dynamisme he communicated 
to the rest of the French Expeditionary Corps: 

"... It remained difficult to inculcate nationalist ardor 
in a native army whose officers and non-coms were primarily 
white Frenchmen... The Vietnamese units that went into action 
were rarely unsupported by the French • American contact with 
them was mainly through the French, who retained exclusive 
. responsibility for their training. We felt we needed much 
more documentation than we had to assess the army T s true potentialo 
We needed battalion-by-battalion reports on the performance of the 
Vietnamese in training as well as in battle and a close contact 
with intelligence and command echelons, and we never got this. 
Perhaps the most significant and saddest manifestation of the 
French failure to create a really independent Vietnamese Army 

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that would fight in the way de Lattre meant was the absence, 
at Dienbienphu, of any Vietnamese fighting elements. It was 
a French show. " 29/ 

Gullion is not altogether correct with respect to Dien Bien Phu; 
nonetheless, statistics on the ethnic composition of the defending 
garrison do reveal the nature of the problem,, The 5th Vietnamese Para- 
chute Battalion was dropped to reinforce the garrison so that as of 
May 6, 195^- , the troops at Dien Bien Phu included: 30/ 

Garrison of Dien Bien Phu 

Officers NCO's EM's Totals 


Vietnamese " 11 270 5,119 5,^80 

Total 393 1,666 13,026 15,105 

Viet $ of Total 2.8 16.2 39.2 36.2 

Thus, the Vietnamese comprised more than a third of the fighting forces 
(and nearly kCffo of the enlisted troops); but among the leaders, they 
i provided one-sixth of the non-commissioned officers and less than 3% of 

the officers. 

The paucity of Viet officers at Dien Bien Phu reflected 
the general condition of the National Army: as of 1953, there were 2,600 
native officers, of whom only a handful held rank above majoi; compared 
to 7,000 French officers in a force of 150,000 Vietnamese troops. 31/ 

(2) 1951-1953: Letourneau and "Dictatorship" 

De Lattre f s successor as High Commissioner, Jean 
Letourneau, was also the French Cabinet Minister for the Associated 
States. Letourneau was sent to Indochina to assume the same power and 
privilege in the "independent" State of Vietnam that any of France's 
Governor Generals had ever exercised from Saigon T s Norodom Palace. 
In May, 1953, & French Parliamentary Mission of Inquiry accused the 
Minister-High Commissioner of "veritable dictatorship, without limitation 
or control": 

"The artificial life of Saigon, the temptations of power with- 
out control, the security of a judgment which disdains realities, 
have isolated the Minister and his entourage and have made them 
insensible to the daily tragedy of the war 


"It is no longer up to us to govern, but to advise. The 
big thing was not to draw up plans irresponsibly, but to carry 
on daily a subtle diplomacy,. In Saigon our representatives 
have allowed themselves to be inveigled into the tempting 
game of power and intrigue. 

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! "instead of seeing the most important things and acting 

i on them, instead of making on the spot investigations, of 

looking for inspiration in the village and in the ricefield, 
instead of informing themselves and -winning the confidence of 
the most humble people , in order to deprive the rebels of 
their best weapon, the Norodom Palace clique has allowed itself 
the luxury of administering k la francaise and of reigning 
• over a country where revolution is smouldering . . . 

f, The press has not the right of criticism. To tell the 

i. . 


r • 

truth, it has become official, and the principal newspaper 
in Saigon is at the disposition of the High Commissariat, 
Letters are censored. Propaganda seems to be issued just 
to defend the High Commissariat. Such a regime cannot last, 
unless we are to appear as people who are determined not 
to keep their promises." 32/ 

The Parliamentary Mission described Saigon: "where 
gambling, depravity, love of money and of power finish by corrupting the 
morale and destroying will-power • ••"; and the Vietnamese government: 
"The Ministers /of the Bao Dai regime/ appear in the eyes of their com- 
patriots to be French officials ..." The report did not hesitate to 
blame the French for Vietnamese corruption: 



"it is grave that after eight years of laisser-aller 
and of anarchy 5 the presence in Indochina of a resident 
Minister has not been able to put an end to these daily 
scandals in the life in regard to the granting of 
licenses, the transfer of piastres, war damages , or com- • 
mercial transactions. Even if our administration is not 
entirely responsible for these abuses, it is deplorable that 
one can affirm that it either ignores them or tolerates them. " 33/ 

Commenting on this report, an influential French editor 
blamed the "natural tendency of the military proconsulate to perpetuate 
itself" and "certain French political groups who have found in the war 
a principal source of their revenues ... through exchange operations, 
supplies to the expeditionary corps and war damages . . " 3^7 He con- 
cluded that: 

"The generally accepted theory is that the prolongation 
of the war in Indochina is a fatality imposed by events > one 
of those dramas in history which has no solution. The theory 
of the skeptics is that the impotence or the errors of the men 
responsible for our policy in Indochina have prevented us from 
finding a way out of this catastrophic enterprise. The truth 
is that the facts now known seem to add up to a lucid plan 
worked out step by step to eliminate any possibility of 
negotiation in Indochina in order to assure the prolongation 
without limit of the hostilities and of the military occupa- 
tion." 25/ 

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e* Bao Dai, Attentiste 

Despite U„S. recognition of the grave imperfections of the 
French administration in Vietnam, the U*S. was constrained to deal with 
the Indochina situation through France both by the overriding importance 
of its European policy and by the impotence and ineptitude of the Bao 
Dai regime. The U.S. attempted to persuade Bao Dai to exercise more 
vigorous leadership , but the Emperor chose differently. For example, 
immediately after the Pau negotiations, the Department of State sent 
these instructions to Edmund Gullion: 


(telegram reproduced on pages A-23 thru A -25) 



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. ■ 


• . - . ■ 





OCT 18 1950 
2 P.M. 



DEPT wishes to have FOL MSG delivered to Bao Dai personally by 
MIN IMMED after Chief of State's arrival- in Saigon. It SHLD "be 
j delivered informally without submission written text with sufficient 

emphasis to leave no doubt in Epiperor's mind that it represents • 
DEPTS studied opinion in matter now receiving ATTN highest auths 
US GOVT. Begin VBGl 

Bao Dai will arrive in Saigon at moment when Vietnam is facing 
grave crisis outcome of which may decide whether country will be 
permitted develop independence status or pass in near future to one 
of Sino-Soviet dominated satellite, a new form of colony immeasurably 
worse than the old from which Vietnam has so recently separated 
herself. * . 


The US GOVT is at present moment talcing steps to increase 
the AMP of aid to FR Union and ASSOC States in their effort to 
defend the territorial integrity of IC and prevent the incorporation 
of the ASSOC States within the COMMIE-dominated bloc of slave states 
but even the resources of US are strained by our present UN 
commitments in Korea, the need for aid in the defense of Western 
Europe and our own rearmament program. We some tines find it im- 
possible to furnish aid as we \JLD wish in a given Ai-iT at a given 
time and in a given place. • 


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• ; 




Leadership of Vietnam GOVT during this crucial period is a 
factor of preponderant importance in deciding ultimate outcome* 
GOVT must display unusually aggressive leadership and courage "be- 
fore a discouraged people, distraught and floundering in the wake 
of years of civil war. Lesser considerations concerning the 
modalities of relations between the States of the FR Union and the 
REP of FR roust, for instance, he at least temporarily laid aside 
in face of serious threat to very existence of Vietnam as autonomous 
state, within FR Union or otherwise, * 

We are aware (as is Sao Dai) that present Vietnamese GOVT is so 
linked with person of Chief of State that leadership and example 
provided "by latter takes on extraordinary importance in determining 
degree of efficiency in functioning of GOVT. Through circumstances 
of absence in FR of Bao Dai and other Vietnamese leaders for prolonged 
•period, opportunity for progress in assumption of responsibilities 
from FR and extension authority and influence of GOVT with people 
was neglected. Many people, including great number AMERS, have 
been unable understand reasons for Emperor's GTE prolonged holiday 
UITQTE on Riviera and have mis interpreted it as an indication of 
lack of patriotic attachment to his role of Chief of State, DEFT 
is at least of opinion that his absence did not enhance the 
authority and prestige of his GOVT at home. 

Therefore, DSPT considers it imperative Bao Dai give Vietnamese 
people evidence his determination' personally take up rein§ of state 
and lead his country into IMMED and energetic opposition COMMIE 
menace. Specifically he SKLD embark upon IMMED program of visits 
to all parts Vietnam making numerous speeches and public apperances 
in the process. Chief of State SHLD declare his determination plunge 
into Job of rallying people to support of GOVT and opposition to VM 
II-MED upon arrival Saigon. He SKLD announce US, FR support for 
formation NATL armies and his own intention assume role Commander 
in Chief. lie SHLD take full advantage of FR official declaration 
of intention to form HATL armies (confirmed yesterday by 1-IIN A3SC 
States Letourneau) and set up precise plan for such formation 



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Finally, it SHLD "be tactfully suggested that any furhter dis- 
play procrastination in facing realities in the form prolonged 
periods of seclusion at Dalat or otherwise l-TLD confirm impressions 
of j those not as convinced of Emperor's seriousness of purpose as 
DEFT and LEG are and raise questions of the wisdom of continuing to 
support a Vietnamese GOVT which proves itself incapable of exercising 
the autonomy acquired by it at such a high price. End of MSG« 

Endeavor obtain private interview soonest possible after 
arrival for DEPT regards timing as of prime importance # Simulateously 
or IMMED FOL inform Letourneau and Pignon of action. Saigon advise 
Paris in advance to synchronize informing F0N0FF 





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Whatever Bao Dai T s response -- probably polite and obscure — 
j he did not act on the U.S. advice. He subsequently told Dr. Phan Quang 

Dan, aboard his imperial yacht, that his successive governments had been 
of little use, and added that it would be dangerous to expand the Viet- 
namese Army because it might defect en masse and go to the Viet Minh. 

"I could not inspire the troops with the necessary 
enthusiasm and fighting spirit, nor could Prime Minister 
Huu... Even if we had an able man, the present political 
conditions would make it impossible for him to convince 
the people and the troops that they have something worth 
while to fight for..." 36/ 

Dr. Dan agreed that the effectiveness of the National Army was a central 
issue; he pointed out that there were but three Viet generals, none of 
whom had ever held operational command, and neither they nor the 20 
colonels or lieutenant colonels could exercise initiative of any sort. 
Dr. Dan held that: "The Vietnamese Army is without responsible Viet- 
namese leaders, without ideology, without objective, without enthusiasm, 
without fighting spirit, and without popular backing. " 37/ But it was 
very clear that Bao Dai did not propose to alter the conditions of his 
army except by the long, slow process of "nibbling" at French military 
prerogative. On other vital issues Bao Dai was no more aggressive. 
For all practical purposes, the Emperor, in his own fashion, like Dr. Dan 
and Ngo Dinh Diem, assumed the posture of the attentiste -- a spectator 
as the French and Americans tested their strength against each other, 
and against the Viet Minh. 

f . The American Predicament 

Among the American leaders who understood the vacuity of the 
Bao Dai solution, and recognized the pitfalls in French intransigence on 
genuine independence was the then Senator John F. Kennedy. Kennedy 
visited Vietnam in 1951 and evidently weighed Gullion's views heavily. 
In November, 1951* Kennedy, declared that: 

"In Indochina we have allied ourselves to the desperate 
effort of the French regime to hang on to the remnants of an 
empire. There is no broad general support of the native 
Vietnam Government among the people of that area." 38/ 

In a speech to the U.S. Senate in June, 1953* he pointed out that: 

"Genuine independence as we understand it is lacking in 
Indochina . . . local government is circumscribed in its 
functions . . . the government of Vietnam, the state which is 
of the greatest importance in this area, lacks popular sup- 
port, that the degree of military, civil, political, and 
economic control maintained by the French goes well beyond 
what is necessary to fight a war. . . It is because we want the war 
to be brought to a successful conclusion that we should insist 

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on genuine independence... Regardless of our united effort, it is 
a truism that the war can never be successful unless large numbers 
of the people of Vietnam are won over from their sullen neutrality 
and open hostility to it and fully support its successful conclu- 
sion. . o I strongly believe that the French cannot succeed in Indo- 
china without giving concessions necessary to make the native army 
a reliable and crusading force." 

Later, Kennedy criticized the French: 

"Every year we are given three sets of assurances: first, 
that the independence of the Associated States is now complete; 
second, that the independence of the Associated States will 
soon be completed under steps 'now 1 being taken; and third, 
that military victory for the French Union forces is assured, 
or is just around the corner." ho/ 


Another American knowledgeable concerning the U.S. -French 
difficulties and with the Bao Dai solution was Robert Blum, who headed 
the economic aid program extended to the Bao Dai regime in 1950. General 
De Lattre viewed UoS. economic aid as especially pernicious, and told 
Blum that: "Mr. Blum, you are the most dangerous man in Indochina." hi/ 
De Lattre resented the American intrusion. As a student of history, 
I can understand it, but as a Frenchman I don't like it." In 1952, Blum 
analyzed the Bao Dai-French -American triangle as follows: 

i . 



"The attitude of the French is difficult to define. On 
the one hand are the repeated official affirmations that 
France has no selfish interests in Indochina and desires 
only to promote the independence of the Associated States 
and be relieved of the terrible drain of France's resources. 
On the other hand are the numerous examples of the deliberate 
continuation of French controls, the interference in major 
policy matters, the profiteering and the constant bickering 
and ill-feeling over the transfer of powers and the issues 
of independence... There is unquestionably a contradiction 
in French actions between the natural desire to be rid of 
this unpopular, costly and apparently fruitless war and the 
determination to see it through with honor while satisfying 
French pride and defending interests In the process. This 
distinction is typified by the sharp difference between the 
attitude toward General de Lattre in Indochina, where he is 
heralded as the political genius and military savior . . . 
and in France, where he is suspected as a person who for 
personal glory is drawing off France's resources on a 
perilous adventure.. <, 


"It is difficult to measure what have been the results 
of almost two years of active American participation in the 
affairs of Indochina. Although we embarked upon a course of 
uneasy association with the 'colonialist '-tainted but 

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indispensable French, on the one hand, and the indigenous, 
"weak and divided Vietnamese, on the other hand, we have not 
been able fully to reconcile these two allies in the interest 
of a single-minded fight against Communism,, Of the purposes 
which we hoped to serve by our actions in Indochina, the one 
that has beexi most successful has been the strengthening of 
the French military position. On the other hand, the Viet- 
I namese, many of whom thought that magical solutions to their 

advantage would result from our appearance on the scene, are 
chastened but disappointed at the evidence that America is 
not omnipotent and not prepared to make an undiluted effort 
to support their point of view. . . Our direct influence on 
political and economic matters has not been great. We have 
been reluctant to become directly embroiled and, though the 
degree of our contribution has been steadily increasing, we 
have been content, if not eager, to have the French continue 
to have primary responsibility, and to give little, if any, 
advice." k2. 


I Blum concluded that: 




"The situation in Indochina is not satisfactory and 
shows no substantial prospect of improving, that no 
decisive military victory can be achieved, that the Bao Dai 
government gives little promise of developing competence 
and winning the loyalty of the population . . ■ and that the 
attainment of American objectives is remote." k^/ 

Shortly before his death in 19&5 > Blum held that a clash 
of French and U.S. interests was inevitable: 

"We wanted to strengthen the ability of the French to 
protect the area against Communist infiltration and invasion, 
and we wanted to capture the nationalist movement from the 
Communists by encouraging the national aspirations of the 
local populations and increasing popular support of their govern- 
ments. We knew that the French were unpopular, that the war 
that had been going on since I9U6 was not only a nationalist 
revolt against them but was an example of the awakening self- 
consciousness of the peoples of Asia who were trying to break 
loose from domination by the Western world* We recognized 
right away that two-pronged policy was beset with great 
difficulties. Because of the prevailing anti-French feeling, 
we knew that any bolstering by us of the French position would 
be resented by the local people. And because of the traditional 
French position, and French sensitivity at seeing any increase 
of American influence, we knew they would look with suspicion 
upon the development of direct American relations with local 
administrations and peoples. Nevertheless, we were determined 
that our aid program would not be used as a means of forcing 

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co-ordination upon unwilling governments, and we were equally 
determined that our emphasis would be on types of aid that 
would appeal to the masses of the population and not on aid 
that, while economically more sophisticated, would he less 
readily understood. Ours was a political, program that worked 
with the people and it would obviously have lost most of its 
effectiveness if it had been reduced to a role of French- 
protected anonymity . • <> /The program was/ greatly handicapped 
and its beneficial psychological results were largely negated 
because the United States at the same time was pursuing a 
program of /military/ support to the French „ . . on balance, we 
came to be looked upon more as a supporter of colonialism than 
as a friend of the new nation." UU/ 

In I965 , Edmund Gullion, who was also very close to the Bao 
Dai problem, took this retrospect: 

"We really should have pushed the French right after the 
Elysee agreements of March, 19^-9- We did not consider the 
exchange of letters carefully enough at the time. It was 
understandable. We obviously felt it- was going to be a 
continuing process, and we hoped to be able to have some 
influence over it. But then we got involved in Korea, and 
since the French were in trouble in Indochina, we pulled 
our punches.. o The French could have said unequivocally, as 
we did with regard to the Philippines, that in such-and-such 
a number of years Vietnam would be totally free, and that it 
could thereupon join the French Union or stay out, as it 
desired... An evolutionary solution was the obvious one, and 
it should have been confronted openly and honestly without all 
the impossible, protracted preliminary negotiations involving 
efforts to bring the three Associated States together, to get 
them to agree among each other, and with France, separately 
and collectively. The French, in arguing against any kind of 
bilateral agreements, claimed that their attempt at federation 
in Indochina was like our effort to build some sort of federated 
system in Europe o But their involvement and interest in Indo- 
china was obviously different, and they used the formula they 
devised to avoid any real agreement on Vietnam. The problem 
grew more complex as the military and political aspects of the 
situation became unavoidably tied together, and the Korean 
War, of course, complicated it further. From the outset, the 
French sought to regard the war in Korea and the war in Indo- 
china as related parts of one big fight against Communism, 
but it wasn't that simple. Actually, what the Korean War did 
do was make it more difficult for us to urge an evolutionary 
settlement in Vietnam By 1951 > it may have been too late for us 
to do anything about this, but we could still have tried much 
harder than we did. The trouble was the world by then had begun 
to close in on us. The E.D.Co formula in Europe was being 
rejected by the French, just as in I965 they were rejecting the 


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North Atlantic Treaty Organization concept. Our degree of 
leverage was "being drastically reduced.," 


Had Bao Dai "been willing or capable of more effective 
leadership, the U.S. role in the war might not have fallen into what 
Edmund Gullion called the "pattern of prediction and disappointment": 

"It can be timed almost to the month to coincide with the rainy 
season and the campaign season. Thus, in May or June, we usually 
get French estimates of success in the coming campaign season, 
"based partly on an assessment of losses the Vietminh are supposed 
to have suffered in the preceding fall, which are typically 
claimed as the bright spot in an otherwise gloomy fighting season. 
The new set of estimates soon proves equally disappointing; by 
October, French Union troops are found bottled up in mountain 
defiles far from their bases «.. There are rumblings about late 
or lacking American aid and lack of American understanding. 
Some time around the first of the new year, special high-level 
United States-French conferences are called. We ask some 
questions about the military situation but only a few about 
the political situation. There is widespread speculation that 
the French may pull out of Indochina if we press them for 
explanations of their political and economic program. We 
promise the French more aido The French make a stand: they 
claim great casualties inflicted on the enemy They give us 
new estimates for the following campaign season — and the 
round begins once more " k6/ 

In that bleak pattern, Bao Dai played only a passive role; the "Bao Dai 
solution" ultimately solved nothing. The outcome rested rather on France's 
military struggle with the Viet Minh, and its contest of leverage with the 
United State, 

>J o 


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1. ' Robert Shaplen, The Lost Revolution (New York: Harper & Row, 1965)5 

2c Ellen J. Hammer, The Struggle for Indochina, I9UO-I9U5 (Stanford: 
Stanford University Press, 1966) , 2^5. 

3. Joseph Buttinger, Vietnam: A Dragon Embattled (New York: Praeger, 19&7* 
2 vols.) , II, 706-707. 

k. Ibid ., 712. 

5. Ibid ., 72U; Shaplen, op. cit. , 63. 

: ' 6. Ibid ., 6k. Cf., Ellen Hammer, "Genesis of the First Indochinese War, 

191^6-1950," in Marvin E. Gettleman, ed., Viet Nam (New York: Fawcett, 
1965), 81. 

7. Ibid., 82. 


8. Hammer, The Struggle for Indochina , op. cit., 2k6. General R ever s f 
"Secret" report was widely publicized in 1950, and occasioned a 
political scandal in Paris known as "the affair of the generals." 

9. Shaplen, op. cit ., 6U-65 . 

10. Ibid., 78. 

11. Ibid ., 79. 

12. Ibid ., 65 . 

13. Ibid ., 76 . 

ik. Hammer, op. cit ., 280. 

15. Ibid., 278. 

16. Buttinger, op. cit ., II, 722-723; Shaplen, op. cit ., 60, 8k . 

17. Hammer, op. cit ., 269-270 . 

18. Paris 837 to State, February 22, 1950 . 

19. Memorandum for the President from the Secretary of Defense, dated 
6 March 1950 (TOP SECRET). 

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20. Charles Wolf, Jr., Foreign Aid: Theory and Practice in Southern Asia, 
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, i960) , 82. The quotation is 
from an Economic Cooperation Administration Report to Congress of 
June 30, 1950. 

21. Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense from the JCS, April 5> 1950, 
"Strategic Assessment of Southeast Asia," (TOP SECRET). 

22. State to London 20^9, May 3, 1950 (TOP SECRET). 

23. Department of State, Bulletin , May 22, 1950. . 
2k. White House Press Release, June 27, 1950. 
25- Quoted, in Hammer, op. cit ., 271. 

26. Shaplen, op. cit ., 80. 

27. Ibid. ., 81. 

28. Ibid. , 87. 

29. Ibid. , 81-82. 

30. Bernard B. Fall, Hell in a Very Small Place (New York: Lippencott, 

1967), *479 ft. 


31- Shaplen, op. cit ., 8l. 

32. Hammer, op. cit ., 283* 

33. Ibid. , 299-300. 

34. Ibid. , 300 # 
35* Ibid. 

36. Shaplen, op. cit ., 78. 

37. Ibid . 

38. George McTurnan Kahin and John W. Lewis, The United States in Vietnam 
(New York: Dial Press, 1967)5 33. 

39- Shaplen, op. cit ., 9U. 

kO. Kahin end Lewis, loc.cit. 

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Shaplen, op. cit., 

86; 90. 


Ibid., 90, 87 • 







Ibid., 88-89. 



Ibid., 66, 84-85. 

k6. Ibid. , 91. 

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II. A. 2 

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1. American Leverage on France A-35 

a. NATO and Marshall Plan A-35 

b. Military Assistance Program A-35 

c. U.S. Supports Independence for Associated States A-37 

d. Limitation on American Leverage A-38 

2. French Leverage on the United States A-38 


a. Primarily it was France T s War. A-38 

b. Expectation of French Success . . . A-39 

c . American Policy in Europe : the EDC . o . . A-UO 

d. French Desire for Negotiations o . . . . A-UO 

e. Conclusion: Incompatibility of American 

and French Objectives „ A-^J-1 


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It is sometimes asserted that France could not have continued 
the war in Indochina without American aid, but that the United States 
failed to use its considerable leverage on the French to force them to 
take more positive steps towards granting complete independence to the 
Associated States. An examination of Franco-American relations between 
1950-195^ suggests, however, that American leverage was severely limited 
and that, given the primacy accorded in U.S. policy to the containment 
of communism in Southeast Asia, French leverage on the United States was 
the stronger of the two. 

1. American Leverage on France 

a. NATO and Marshall Plan 

In the first postwar decade, France was relatively weak and 
depended upon the United States through NATO and the Marshall Plan for its 
military security and economic revival. But neither NATO nor the Marshall 
Plan offered usable fulcrums for influencing French policy on Indochina. 
Both were judged by the U.S. Government and public to be strongly in the 
American national interest at a time when the Soviet threat to Western 
Europe, either through overt aggression or internal subversion, was clearly 
recognizable. A communist take-over in France was a real possibility. 
(The French Communist Party was the largest political party in the nation, 
and, at the time, quite militant in character.) Thus, an American threat 
to withdraw military and economic support to metropolitan France if it did 
not alter its policies in Indochina was not plausible. To threaten France 
with sanctions in NATO or through the Marshall Plan would have jeopardized 
a U.S. interest in Europe more important than any in Indochina. 

b. Mi litary Assistance Program 

The chief remaining source of influence was the military 
assistance program to the French in Indochina. Announced by President 
Truman on May 8, 1950, in response to an urgent French request of Febru- 
ary 16, 195Q f° r military and economic assistance, the purpose of the aid 
was to help the French in the prosecution of the war against the Viet 
Minh. The American Ambassador in Paris was called to the Quay d'Orsay, 
following a determination by the French Government that "it should set 
forth to the United States Government fully and frankly the extreme gravity 
of the situation in Indochina from French point of view as a result of 
recent developments and the expectation that at least increased military 
aid will be furnished to Ho Chi Minh from Communist China." He was told: 

"...that the effort in Indochina was such a drain on 
France that a long-term program of assistance was necessary 
and it was only from the United States that it could come 
Otherwise. . .it was very likely that France might be forced 

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to reconsider her entire policy with the possible view to 
cutting her losses and withdrawing from Indochina .. .looking 
into the future it was obvious. . .that France could not con- 
tinue indefinitely to bear this burden alone if the expected 
developments in regard to increased assistance to Ho Chi Minh 
came about.... " l/ 

Although the decision to extend aid to the French military 
effort in Indochina was taken before the outbreak of the Korean War, it 
clearly was heavily influenced by the fall of Nationalist China ^and the 
arrival of Communist Chinese troops on the Indochina border in December, 
19^9* The Ho Chi Minh regime was recognized as the legal government of 
Vietnam by the Chinese Communists on January l8, 1950, and twelve days 
later the Soviet Government similarly announced its recognition. The 
NSC was thereupon asked "to undertake a determination of all practicable 
United States measures to protect its security in Indochina and to 
prevent the expansion of communist aggression in that area." In NSC 6U 
(February 27, 1950) it concluded that: 

"It is important to United States security interests that 
all practicable measures be taken to prevent further communist 
expansion in Southeast Asia. Indochina is a key area of South- 
east Asia and is under immediate threat. 

"The neighboring countries of Thailand and Burma could be 
expected to fall under Communist domination if Indochina were 
controlled by a Communist-dominated government. The balance 
of Southeast Asia would then be in grave hazard." 2/ 

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, referring on April 5, 1950, to 
intelligence estimates indicating that the situation in Southeast Asia 
had deteriorated, noted that "without United States assistance, this 
deterioration will be accelerated." 3/ Therefore, the rationale for 
the decision to aid the French was to avert Indochina's sliding into 
the communist camp, rather than aid for France as a colonial power or a 
fellow NATO ally. 

U.S. assistance, which began modestly with $10 million in 
1950, reached $1,063 million in fiscal year 195^, at which time it 
accounted for jQfo of the cost of the French war burden. The major por- 
tion of the increase came in the last year of the war, following the 
presentation in 1953 of the Navarre Plan, which called for the enlarge- 
ment of Franco- Vietnamese forces and a dynamic strategy to recapture 
the initiative and pave the way for victory by 1955* The optimistic 
endorsement of the Navarre Plan by Lt. General John W. T Daniel, head 
of the MAAG in Indochina, as being capable of turning the tide and 
leading to. a decisive victory over the Viet Minh contributed to Washing- 
ton's agreement to substantially raise the level of assistance. But 
equally important, the Navarre Plan, by being a concrete proposal which 

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held out the promise of ending the long war, put France in a position to 
pressure the United States for more funds to underwrite the training 
and equipping of nine additional French battalions and a number of new 
Vietnamese units. 

c. U.S. Supports Independence for Associated States 

Throughout the period of assistance to the French military 
effort, American policy makers kept in mind the necessity of encouraging 
the French to grant the Associated States full independence and to take 
practical measures in this direction, such as the training of Vietnamese 
officers and civil servants. Such active persuasion was delicate and 
difficult because of the high sensitivity of the French to any "inter- 
ference" in their "internal" affairs. 

A reading of the NSC memorandum and the France-American 
diplomatic dialogue of the time indicates that Washington kept its eyes 
on the ultimate goal of the de-colonialization of Indochina. Indeed, it 
was uncomfortable in finding itself — forced by the greater necessity 
of resisting Viet Minh communism — in the same bed as the French. Amer- 
ican pressure may well have helped account for the public declaration of 
Premier Joseph Laniel of July 3, 1953, that the independence and sovereignty 
of the Associated States would be "perfected" by transferring to them 
various functions which had remained under French control, even though no 
final date was set for complete independence, k/ At an NSC meeting on 
August 6, 1953 President Eisenhower stated that assistance to the French 
would be determined by three conditions: 


(1) A public French commitment to "a program which will 
insure the support and cooperation of the native Indochina"; 

(2) A French invitation for "close /U.S^/ military advice"; 

(3) Renewed assurances on the passage of the EDC. 5/ 

Consistent with these, Washington T s decision of September 9> 195 3, to grant 
$385 million towards implementation of the Navarre Plan was made dependent 
upon a number of conditions. The American Ambassador was instructed to 
inform Prime Minister Laniel and Foreign Minister Bidault that the United 
States Government would expect France to: 

"....continue pursue policy of perfecting independence of 
Associated States in conformity with July 3 declaration; 

"facilitate exchange information with American military 
authorities and take into account their views in developing 
and carrying out French military plans Indochina; 

. "assure that no basic or permanent alteration of plans and 
programs for NATO forces will be made as result of additional 

effort Indochina; . ..." 6/ 


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d. Limitation on American Leverage 

The United States attempted to use its military assistance 
program to gain leverage over French policies, but was severely con- 
strained in what it could do c The U.S. military mission (MAAG) in Saigon 
was small and limited "by the French in its functions to a supply- support 
group. Allocation of all U.S C aid to the Associated States had to "be 
made, "by agreement , solely through the French. Thus, MAAG was not allowed 
to control the dispensing of supplies once they arrived in Vietnam. 
MAAG officers were not given the necessary freedom to develop intelligence 
information on the course of the war; information supplied by the French 
was limited, and often unreliable or deliberately misleading. The French 
resisted repeated U.S. admonitions that the native armies of the Associ- 
ated States be built up and consequently they did not create a true national 
Vietnamese army. With some minor exceptions, the French excluded American 
advisors from participating in the training for the use of the materials 
being furnished by the U.S. 

General Navarre viewed any function of MAAG in Saigon be- 
yond bookkeeping to be an intrusion upon internal French affairs. Even 
though it would have been difficult beyond 1952 to continue the wa:r 
without American aid, the French never permitted participation by U.S. 
officials in strategic planning or policy making, jj Moreover, the 
French suspected the economic aid mission of being over- sympathetic to 
Vietnamese nationalism. The director of the economic aid program, Robert 
Blum, and the DCM of the American Embassy, Edmund Guillion, were subjected 
to French criticisms of their pro-Vietnamese views, although the American 
Ambassador, Donald Heath, remained staunchly pro-French. Thus, French 
officials insisted that American assistance be furnished with "no strings 
attached" and with virtually no control over its use. Underlying this 
attitude was a deep-seated suspicion that the United States desired to 
totally supplant the French, economically as well as politically, in 
Indochina. 8/ 

2. French Leverage on the United States 

French leverage over the United States was made possible by the 
conviction, apparently firmly held in Washington, that the maintenance 
of a non-Communist Indochina was vital to Western -- and specifically 
American -- interests. 

a. Primarily it was France T s War 

The most fundamental fact was that the French were carrying 
on a war which the United States considered, rightly or wrongly, to be 
essential. Thus, the French were always able to threaten simply to end 
the war by pulling out of Indochina. By the early 1950 ! s, with the 
French nation tired of the "la sale guerre," this would not have been an 
unpopular decision within France. Paris was thereby able to hint -- 

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which it did — that if U.S. assistance was not forthcoming, it would 
simply withdraw from Indochina, leaving to the United States alone the 
r • task of the containment of communism in Southeast Asia. When the Laniel 

Government requested in the fall of 1953 a massive increase in American 
assistance, the State Department representative at an NSC meeting asserted 
that "if this French Government, which proposes reinforcing Indochina 
with our aid, is not supported by us at this time, it may be the last 
such government prepared to make a real effort to win in Indochina." 9/ 
In effect, then, because of the overriding importance given by Washington 
to holding the communist line in Indochina, the French in being able to 
threaten to withdraw possessed an important instrument of blackmail. 

The upshot of this was that U.S. leverage was quite minimal. 
Since the French were, in a way, fighting a U.S. battle as well as their 
own to prevent communist control of Indochina, any ham-fisted U.S. pressure 
was bound to weaken the French resolve and capability. Consequently, the 
leverage which the U.S. attained through its aid could be used for little 
more than to urge greater efficiency and determination on France. In 
other words, Washington could move Paris to formulate a Navarre type plan, 
1 but could not influence the way France conducted the war, nor could it 

move France on political issues in dispute. 

b. Expectation of French Success 

: The temptation to "go along" with the French until the Viet 

Minh was defeated was all the more attractive because of the expectation 
,'j of victory which pervaded official Washington. Before Dien Bien Phu, 
j General T Daniel consistently reported that victory was within reach if 

the United States continued its support. In November, 1953, General 'Daniel 
submitted a progress report on the Navarre Plan which summarized what the 
French had been doing and what remained to be accomplished. The report 
said that French Union forces held the initiative and would begin offen- 
sives in mid-January, 195^ in the Mekong Delta and in the region between 
Cape Varella and Da Nang. Meanwhile, a relatively small force would 
attempt to keep the Viet Minh off balance in the Tonkin Delta until 
October, 1901, when the French would begin a major offensive North of 
the 19th parallel. The report concluded by assessing that the Navarre 
Plan was basically sound and should be supported since it would bring a 
decisive victory. 10/ 

T Daniel T s optimism was not duplicated by other observers. 
CINCPAC, for one, considered the report over- optimistic, stating that 
political and psychological factors were of such crucial importance that 
no victory would be possible until the Vietnamese were able to capture 
villages and until psychological warfare operations could be undertaken 
to win over the people. 11/ The Army attache in Saigon was even less 
sanguine. He flatly stated that the French, after six months of the 
Navarre Plan, were still on the defensive and showed no sign of being 
able to win the war in the future. The attache's views were, moreover, 

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concurred in by the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, who ob- 
served that other high U.S. military officers in Indochina agreed with 
the attach^ and found O'Daniel's report unwarrantedly optimistic. 12/ 

c. American Policy in Europe: The EDC 

An important source of French leverage was to be found out- 
side of Far Eastern affairs. A primary objective of American foreign 
policy in 1953-195^ was the creation of a European Defense Community 
(E.D.C.). The purpose of the EDC was to "envelope" a new West German 
Army into an integrated six nation army which would go a long way towards 
providing for the defense of Western Europe. Washington officials ex- 
pected that the EDC would permit a reduction (but not complete elimination) 
of American ground forces in Europe. The membership of France in the EDC — 
as a counter- weight to the proposed re-arming of Germany — was essential 
to its adoption by the five other European nations. Because of the high 
priority given to EDC in American planning, there was a strong reluctance 
to antagonize the French in Indochina. This was reinforced by knowledge 
that the French placed a far lower priority on EDC, in part because of 
r , the traditional French fear of an armed Germany, in part because the 
j French estimate of Soviet intentions in Western Europe differed from that 

of the United States in that it placed a low probability on a direct 
Soviet intervention. 13/ 

Apparently unnoticed at the time was an implicit contra- 
diction in the American policy of pushing the French simultaneously on 
both adopting the EDC and on making a greater effort in Indochina. The 
latter required increased French forces in the Far East. But the French 
National Assembly would not adopt the EDC unless, at a minimum, it was 
assured that French forces in Europe would be on parity with those of 
Germany. Thus, the French argued that the possible coming into effect 
of the EDC prevented them from putting larger forces into Indochina. 
After the loss of North Vietnam and the French rejection of EDC, the 
Chairman of an Interdepartmental Working Group set up to formulate a new 
American policy on Indochina for the post-Geneva period observed that 
"our policies thus far have failed because we tried to hit two birds 
with one stone and missed both." ih / 

d. French Desire for Negotiations 


French leverage was also demonstrated by their ability to 
have the Indochina problem placed on the agenda for the Geneva Conference 
at the time of the Quadripartite Foreign Minister's meeting in February 
195^ in Berlin. The Geneva Conference had been called to work out a 
political settlement for the Korean War. Dulles did not wish to negotiate 
on Indochina until there was a marked improvement in the military situation 
of the French and they could negotiate from a position of far greater 
strength. But the Laniel Government was under mounting pressure from 
French public opinion to end the Indochinese war. At Berlin the French 
delegation insisted, despite American objections, that Indochina be 

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inscribed on the Geneva agenda. Foreign Minister Bidault reportedly 
warned that if the United States did not acquiesce on this point, EDC 
would doubtlessly be scuttled. 

Dulles did succeed in opposing Soviet efforts to gain for 
Communist China the status of a sponsoring power at Geneva and forced 
the acceptance in the Berlin communique of a statement that no diplo- 
matic recognition would be implied in the Chinese invitation to the 
conference. In return for this concession, however, the French were 
able to give highly visible evidence of their interest in ending the 
war soon through negotiations. Ironically, this had a double-edged 
effect: in Paris the "peace faction" was mollified; but in Hanoi plans 
were made to step up the intensity of the war so as to make a show of 
strength prior to the beginning of the Geneva Conference. Thus, the 
coming battle of Dien Bien Phu came to have a crucial significance in 
large measure because of the very inclusion of the Indochina item for 
the Geneva Conference. As Ellen Hammer has written: 

"This was the last opportunity before the Geneva Confer- 
ence for the Viet Minh to show its military strength, its 
■determination to fight until victory. And there were those 
who thought that General Giap was resolved on victory, no 
matter the cost, not only to impress the enemy but also to 
convince his Communist allies that the Viet Minh by its own 
efforts had earned a seat at the conference table and the 
right to a voice in its own future. For the French. .. .upon 
the outcome of the battle depended much of the spirit in 
which they would send their representatives to Geneva." 15/ 

e. Conclusion: Incompatibility of American and French 

In summary, one must take notice of the paradox of U.S. 
policy vis-d-vis the French with respect to Indochina, 1950-195^. Amer- 
ican interests and objectives were basically different from those of the 
French. The United States was concerned with the containment of com- 
munism and restricting the spread of Chinese influence in Southeast Asia. 
The immediate U.S. objective was supporting a domino. France, on the 
other hand, was fighting primarily a colonial war designed to maintain 
the French presence in Southeast Asia and avoid the crumbling of the 
French Union. Despite occasional pledges to the "perfect ionment" of 
independence for the Associated States — • pledges which were usually 
given under circumstances which were forcing France to "justify" the 
war, in part to receive further American assistance — France was not 
fighting a long and costly war in order to thereafter completely pull out. 

The fact that the American and French means — pushing for 
military victory -- converged in 1950-195^ obscured the fact that the 
ends of the two nations were inherently incompatible. This further led 

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to a basic incompatibility in the two strands of American policy: 
(l) Washington -wanted France to fight the war and win, preferably with 
American guidance and advice; and (2) having achieved success at great 
cost in what the French viewed at least initially as more a "colonial" 
than "anti-communist" war, Washington expected the French to withdraw 
magnanimously. (A Frenchman might have asked how France, even if it 
wished to, could have left Indochina without creating similar pressures 
for withdrawal from Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco, where over one million 
Frenchmen livedo ) In this inherent inconsistency can be found much of 
the explanation for the lack of American leverage over France during the 
pre-Geneva years. 

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1. Paris Embtel 837 to SecState February 22, 1950 (SECRET). 

2. The Position of the United States with Respect to Indochina, 
NSC G\, February 27, I95O (TOP SECRET). 

3. Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense, April 5, I95O (TOP SECRET) 

h, Ellen J. Hammer, The Struggle for Indochina , 19^0-1955 , (Stanford: 
Stanford University Press, 1955), PP- 301-302. 

5. Summary and Comments, NSC l6lst Meeting, September 9, 1953 (TOP SECRET) 

6. Deptel 868, September 9, 1953 (TOP SECRET). 

7« ' An experienced French journalist in Indochina wrote: "To be sure, 
American officers also tried to supervise strategy; but after a few 
fruitless brushes with a high command that was ferociously attached 
to its prerogatives they decided to leave it entirely to the French. 
In the end all the experts of the Military Aid Advisory Group kept 
in the background, resigning themselves to letting this Indochinese 
war be fought in the French way." 

Lucien Bodard, The Quicksand War: Prelude to Vietnam . (Boston: 
Little, Brown & Co., 1967), pp. 224-225. 

8. Henri Navarre, Agonie de l T Ind ochine, (Paris: Libra irie PI on, 1956), 
ppc 27-28; 137" 138; Joseph Buttinger, Vietnam: A Dragon Embattled , t 

\ Volume II (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1967), pp. 611, 1079; 

I Robert McClintock, The Meaning of Limited War (Boston: Houghton, 

Mifflin Co., 1967), p. 17^- 

9. Summary and Comments, NSC 161st Meeting, September 9, 1953 (TOP SECRET). 

. 10. U0S0 Joint Military Mission to Indochina, Progress Report on Military 

Situation in Indochina as of 19 November 1953; 19 November 19^3 (SECRET). 

11. Undated appendix to Summary of Progress Report of /o T Daniel/ Joint 
Military Mission to Indochina (SECRET). 

12 o Dept of the Army, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 
(Intelligence), November 2k, 1953 (TOP SECRET). 

13. Raymond Aron, "Historical Sketch of the Great Debate," in Daniel Lerner 
and Raymond Aron, eds., France Defeats EDC (New York: Praeger, 1957) • 

ik. McClintock, The Meaning of Limited War , p„ 175* 

15. Hammer, The Struggle for Indochina , 19^-0-1955, p. 328. 

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1. "Domino Principle" Before Korea A-^-5 

2. Importance of Indochina A-U6 

3o Impact of Start of Korean War A-^7 

k. Republican Administration and Far East A-U9 

5. Impact of Korean Armistice A- 50 

6. Deepening of U.S. Commitment to Containment. A- 50 

7. Conclusion A-51 

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Three major perceptions dominated U.S. thinking and policy- 
making on Indochina during the years I95O-I95U. The first was the growing 
importance of Asia in world politics. The process of devolution from 
colonial empires to independent states, it was thought, would create power 
vacuums and conditions of instability which would make Asia susceptible to 
becoming a battleground in the growing East-West cold war conflict. Second, 
! there was an undeniable tendency to view the worldwide "communist threat" 

[ in monolithic terms. This was perhaps understandable given the relatively 

extensive influence then exerted by the Soviet Union over other communist 
nations, and the communist parties in non-communist states. Moreover, the 
West, and especially the U.S., was challenged by the expansionist policies 
openly proclaimed by leaders of virtually all the communist movements. 
Third, the attempt of the patently Communist Ho Chi Minh regime to evict 
the French from Indochina was seen as part of the Southeast Asian manifes- 
tation of the communist world-wide aggressive intent. The resistance of 
France to Ho, therefore, was seen as a crucial stand on the line along 
which the West would contain communism. 

1. "Domino Principle" Before Korea 

These three perceptions help explain the widely held assumption 
in official Washington that if Indochina was "lost" to communism, the 
remaining nations of Southeast Asia would inexorably succumb to communist 
infiltration and be taken over in a chain reaction. This strategic con- 

I ception of the communist threat to Southeast Asia pre-dated the outbreak 

in June 1950 of the Korean War. It probably had its period of gestation 
at the time of the Nationalist withdrawal from mainland China. NSC U8/l 

i was the key document in framing this conception. Drawn up in June 19^9* 

after Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson had expressed concern at the -• 
course of events in Asia and had suggested a widening of the previous 
country~by- country memorandum approach to a regional plan, NSC U8/l 
included the statements that "the extension of communist authority in 
China represents a grievous political defeat for us Q ..If Southeast Asia 
is also swept by communism, we shall have suffered a major political 
rout the repercussions of which will be felt throughout the rest of the 
world, especially in the Middle East and in a then critically exposed 
Australia,, " _l/ 

It was Russia rather than China that was seen in 19^4-9 as being 
the principal source of the communist threat in Asia. Although it was 
conceded that in the course of time China (or Japan or India) may attempt 
to dominate Asia, — 

j "now and for the foreseeable future it is the USSR which 

: threatens to dominate Asia through the complementary instru- 

ments of communist conspiracy and diplomatic pressure 

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supported "by military strength. For the foreseeable 
future , therefore, our immediate objective must be 
to contain and where feasible to reduce the power and 
influence of the USSR in Asia to such a degree that 
the Soviet Union is not capable of threatening the 
security of the United States from that area and that 
the Soviet Union would encounter serious obstacles 
should it attempt to threaten the peace, national 
independence or stability of the Asiatic nations." 

NSC 1*8/1 also recognized that "the colonial-nationalist conflict provides 
a- fertile field for subversive communist movements, and it is now clear 
that Southeast Asia is the target for a coordinated offensive directed by 
the Kremlin. " 

At this time, the NSC believed that the United States, as a 
Western power in any area where the bulk of the population had long been 
suspicious of Western influence, should insofar as possible refrain from 
taking any lead in Southeast Asia. The United States should instead 
"encourage the peoples of India, Pakistan, the Philippines and other Asian 
states to take the leadership in meeting the common problems of the area," 
recognizing "that the non-communist governments of South Asia already 
constitute a bulwark against communist expansion in Asia,," NSC I48/2 pointed 
out that particular attention should be given to the problem of Indochina 
where "action should be taken to bring home to the French the urgency of 
removing the barriers to the obtaining by Bao Dai or other non- communist 
nationalist leaders of the support of a substantial proportion of the 
Vietnamese. " 


2o Importance of Indochina 

Indochina was of special importance because it was the only area 
adjacent to China which contained a large European army which was in armed 
conflict with "communist" forces. The Chinese Communists were believed to 
be furnishing the Viet Minh with substantial material assistance • Official 
French sources reported that there were some Chinese troops in Tonkin, as 
well as large numbers ready for action against the French on the Chinese 
side of the border. The first NSC memorandum dealing solely with Indochina 
(NSC 6k) was adopted as policy on March 27, 1950. This paper took note of 
Chinese assistance to the Viet Minh and estimated that it was doubtful that 
the French Expeditionary forces, combined with Indochinese troops, could 
successfully contain Ho Chi Minh's forces should they be strengthened by 
either Chinese troops crossing the border, or by communist- supplied arms 
and material in quantity. 

NSC 6k -- written, it should be noted, by the Truman Administra- 
tion and before the outbreak of the Korean War -- observed that "the threat 
of Communist aggression against Indochina is only one phase of anticipated 
communist plans to seize all of Southeast Asia. " It concluded with a 
statement of what came to be known as the "domino principle": 


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"It is important to United States security interests 
that all practicable measures be taken to prevent further 
communist expansion in Southeast Asia. Indochina is a key- 
area of Southeast Asia and is under immediate threat. 


"The neighboring countries of Thailand and Burma 
could be expected to fall under Communist domination if 
Indochina were controlled by a Communist-dominated govern- 
ment. The balance of Southeast Asia -would then be in grave 
hazard." JiJ 

3. Impact of Start of Korean War 

The outbreak of the Korean War, and the American decision to 
resist North Korean aggression, sharpened overnight our thoughts and 
actions with respect to Southeast Asia. The American military response 
symbolized in the most concrete manner possible the basic belief that 
holding the line in Southeast Asia was essential to American security 
interests. The French struggle in Indochina came far more than before 
to be seen as an integral part of the containment of communism in that 
region of the world. Accordingly, the United States intensified and 
enlarged its programs of aid in Indochina. Military aid shipments to 
Indochina acquired in 1951 the second highest priority, just behind the 
Korea war program. 3/ 

A consequence of the Korean War, and particularly the Chinese 
intervention, was that China replaced the Soviet Union as the principal 
source of the perceived communist threat in Southeast Asia. This was 
made explicit in NSC 12^/2 (June 1952) which stated that "the danger of 
an overt military attack against Southeast Asia is inherent in the 
existence of a hostile and aggressive Communist China." 

The "domino principle" in its purest form was written into the 
"General Considerations" section of NSC 12k/2. It linked the loss of' any 
single state of Southeast Asia to the stability of Europe and the security 
of the United States: 

"2. Communist domination, by whatever means, of all 
Southeast Asia would seriously endanger in the short term, 
and critically endanger in the longer term, United States 
security interests. 

"a. The loss of any of the countries of Southeast 
Asia to communist control as a consequence of overt or covert 
Chinese Communist aggression would have critical psycholog- 
ical, political and economic consequences. In the absence of 
effective and timely counteraction, the loss of any single 
country would probably lead to relatively swift submission 
to or an alignment with communism by the remaining countries 
of this group. Furthermore, an alignment with communism of 


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the rest of Southeast Asia and India, and in the longer 
term, of the Middle East (-with the probable exceptions 
of at least Pakistan and Turkey) would in all probability 
progressively follow. Such widespread alignment would 
endanger the stability and security of Europe. 

"b. Communist control of all of Southeast Asia 
: would render the U.S. position in the Pacific offshore 
island chain precarious and would seriously jeopardize 
fundamental U.S. security interests in the Far East. 

n Cm Southeast Asia, especially Malaya and 
Indonesia, is the principal world source of natural 
rubber and tin, and a producer of petroleum, and other 
strategically important commodities. The rice exports 
of Burma and Thailand are critically important to Malaya, 
Ceylon and Hong Kong and are of considerable significance 
* to Japan and India, all important areas of free Asia. 

"d. The loss of Southeast Asia, especially of 
Malaya and Indonesia, could result in such economic and 
political pressures in Japan as to make it extremely 
difficult to prevent Japan's eventual accommodation to 
communism." h, 

The possibility of a large-scale Chinese intervention in Indochina, 
similar to the Chinese intervention in Korea, came to dominate the thinking 
of American policy-makers after the start of the Korean War. Such an inter- 
vention would not have been surprising given the larger numbers of Chinese 
troops massed along the Tonkin border and the materiel assistance being 
given to the Viet Minh. The NIE of December 1950 considered direct Chinese 
intervention to be "impending." 5/ The following year it was estimated 
that after an armistice in Korea the Chinese would be capable of inter- 
vention in considerable strength, but would be inhibited from acting overtly 
by a number of factors, including the risk of American retaliation and the 
disadvantages attendant upon involvement in another protracted campaign. 6/ 
By early 1952, as the French position showed signs of deterioration, intel- 
ligence authorities believed that the Chinese would be content to continue 
aiding the Viet Minh without undertaking direct involvement (except for 
material aid) unless provoked into it. 7/ Thus, the intelligence com- 
munity, after estimating a high risk 'of Chinese intervention at the start 
of the Korean War, gradually reduced its estimate of Indochina being 
broadened into a wider war as the Viet Minh showed signs of doing well 
enough on their own« 

Nevertheless, the NSC undertook in 1952 to list a course of action 
for the "resolute defense" of Indochina in case of a large-scale Chinese 
intervention. It included the provision of air and naval forces; the 
interdiction of Chinese communication lines, including those in China 
proper; and a naval blockade of the China coast. If these "minimum courses 
of action" did not prove to be sufficient, the U.S. should take air and 


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naval action "against all suitable military targets in China, " when possi- 
ble in conjunction with British and French forces. 8/ 

In prescribing these recommended actions, the NSC focused on the less 
likely contingency of a Chinese intervention rather than the more likely 
contingency of the continued deterioration of the French position in 
Indochina itself. It did so despite the fact that NSC 12k/ 2. conceded that 
the "primary threat" was the situation in Indochina itself (increasing sub- 
versive efforts by indigenous communist forces , increased guerrilla activity, 
and increased Viet Minh civil control over population and territory). 
Apparently, the NSC wanted to make clear that direct U.S. involvement in 
Indochina was to be limited to dealing with direct Chinese involvement. In 
the absence of this contingency, however, and to meet the existing situation 
in Indochina, the NSC recommended that the United States increase its level 
of aid to French Union forces but "without relieving the French authorities 
of their basic military responsibility for the defense of the Associated 

h. Republican Administration and Far East 

Two events in 1953 served to deepen the American commitment in 
Indochina. The first was the arrival of a Republican Administration 
following a long period in which the G.O.P. had persistently accused the 
Truman Administration of being responsible for the "loss" of China to 
communism. The writings and speeches of John Foster Dulles before the 
election left no doubt that he regarded Southeast Asia as a key region in 
the conflict with communist "imperialism 1 ^ and that it was important to draw 
the line of containment north of the Rice Bowl of Asia -- the Indochina 
peninsula. 10/ In his first State of the Union Message on February 3> 
1953? President Eisenhower promised a "new, positive foreign policy." He 
went on to link the communist aggression in Korea and Malaya with Indochina. 
Dulles subsequently spoke of Korea and Indochina as two flanks, with the 
principal enemy -- Red China --in the center. A special study mission 
headed by Representative Walter Judd, a recognized Republican spokesman on 
Asia, surveyed the Far East and reported on its view of the high stakes 

"The area of Indochina is immensely wealthy in rice, 
rubber, coal, and iron ore. Its position makes it a 
strategic key to the rest of Southeast Asia. If Indochina 
should fall, Thailand and Burma would be in extreme danger, 
Malaya, Singapore and even Indonesia would become more 
vulnerable to the Communist power drive. .. .Communism would 
then be in an exceptional position to complete its per- 
version of the political and social revolution that is 
spreading through Asia.... The Communists must be prevented 
from achieving their objectives in Indochina." 11/ 

The Republican Administration clearly intended to prevent the loss of 
Indochina by taking a more forthright, anti-communist stand. 

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5* Impact of Korean Armistice 

Second, the armistice in Korea created apprehension that the 
Chinese Communists would now turn their attention to Indochina. President 
Eisenhower warned in a speech on April 16, 1953> that any armistice in 
Korea that merely released armed forces to pursue an attack elsewhere 
would be a fraud. Secretary Dulles continued this theme after the Korean 
armistice in a speech on September 2, 1953> on the war in Indochina. After 
noting that "a single Communist aggressive front extends from Korea on the 
north to Indochina in the south" he said: 

"Communist China has been and now is training, equipping 
and supplying the Communist forces in Indochina,, There is 
the risk that, as in Korea, Red China might send its own Army 
into Indochina. The Chinese Communist regime should realize 
that such a second aggression could not occur without grave 
consequences which might not be confined to Indochina. I say 
this soberly. the hope of preventing another aggressor 
miscalculation. " 12/ 

Underlying these warnings to China was the belief that the dif- 
ference between success or failure in avoiding a takeover of all Vietnam 
by Ho Chi Minh probably depended upon the extent of Chinese assistance 
or direct participation. Signaling a warning to China was probably 
designed to deter further Chinese involvement. Implicit in the signals 
was the threat that if China came into the war, the United States would 
be forced to follow suit, preferably with allies but, if necessary, alone « 
Furthermore, the Eisenhower Administration implied that in keeping with 
its policy of massive retaliation the United States would administer a 
punishing nuclear blow to China without necessarily involving its land 
forces in an Asian war. 

6. Deepening of U.S. Commitment to Containment 

In addition to the new mood in Washington created by the strategic 
perceptions of a new Administration and the Korean armistice, the Viet Minh 
invasion of Laos in the spring of 1953 and the deepening war weariness in 
France served to strengthen those who favored a more assertive policy in 
Indochina. The United States rushed supplies to Laos and Thailand in 
May 1953 and provided six C-119's with civilian crews for the airlift 
into Laos. 13/ It increased substantially the volume and tempo of 
American military assistance to French Union forces. For fiscal year 
195^, §k60 million in military assistance was planned. Congress only 
appropriated $^00 million, but following the presentation by the French 
of the Navarre Plan an additional $3^5 million was decided upon by the 
NSC- lh/ No objection was raised when France asked our views in August, 
1953^ on the transfer of its battalion in Korea to Indochina and subse- 
quently took this action. 15/ The Navarre Plan, by offering a format for 
victory which promised success without the direct involvement of American 
military forces, tended, because of its very attractiveness, to have the 
effect of enlarging our commitment to assist the French towards achieving 
a military solution. 

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In the last NSC paper approved before the Indochina situation 
was totally transformed, by the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu and. the 
Geneva Conference , the "successful d.efense of Tonkin" was said to be the 
"keystone of the defense of mainland. Southeast Asia except possibly 
Malaya." 16/ NSC 5^05 took some, but probably not sufficient , account of 
the deterioration in the French position which had. occurred, since NSC 
12k/2 v/as approved, eighteen months earlier. It, nevertheless, repeated 
the domino principle -in detail, including the admonition that "such is the 
interrelation of the countries of the area that effective counteraction 
would, be immediately necessary to prevent the loss of any single country 
from leading to submission to, or an alignment with, communism by the 
remaining countries of Southeast Asia and. Indonesia." The document also 
noted, that: 

"in the conflict in Indochina, the Communists and. 
non-Communists world.s clearly confront one another in 
the field, of battle. The loss of the struggle in 
Indochina, in addition to its impact in Southeast Asia 
and. South Asia, would, therefore have the most serious 
repercussions on U.S. and. free world interests in 
Europe and. elsewhere." 

The subject of possible negotiations was broached, in NSC 5^-05, 
following the observation that political pressures in France may impel 
the French Government to seek a. negotiated, ra/ther than a military settle- 
ment. It v/as noted, (before Dien Bien Phu) that if the Navarre Plan failed, 
or appeared, doomed to failure, the French might seek to negotiate simply 
for the best possible terms, irrespective of whether these offered, any 
assurance of preserving a non-communist Indochina. 

In this regard, the NSC decided, the U.S. should, employ every feasi- 
ble means to influence the French Government against concluding the struggle 
on terms "inconsistent" with the basic U.S. objectives. The French should, 
be told, that: (l) in the absence of a marked improvement in the military 
situation, there was no basis for negotiation on acceptable terms; (2) 
the U.S. would "flatly oppose any idea" of a cease-fire as a preliminary 
to negotiations, because such a cease-fire would, result in an irretrievable 
deterioration of the Franco -Vietnamese military position in Indochina; 
(3) a nominally non- communist coalition regime would eventually turn the 
country over to Ho Chi Minh with no opportunity for the replacement of 
the French by the United. States or the United. Kingdom . ^/Emphasis Added/ 

7. Conclusion 

In conclusion, two comments can be made: 

a. With the growing perception of a Chinese threat to Indochina, 
and., therefore, to all of Southeast Asia, the U.S. Government tended to 
concentrate on the military rather than the political aspects of the French - 
Viet Minh struggle. In consequence, American attention focused on (l) 
deterring external intervention from China, and (2) assisting the French 

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in successfully prosecuting the war through the implementation of the 
Navarre Plan. The result of this was that the encouragement and. support 
of the non-communist nationalist governments in the Associated States was 
almost inadvertently given lower priority. The United. States was reluctant 
to press the French too strongly on taking measures to foster Vietnam 
nationalism because of its overriding interest in halting the potential 
sweep of communism through Southeast Asia. Moreover , it was easier to 
develop a policy for dealing with the external threat of intervention 
than to meet the internal threat of subversion, or the even more difficult 
process of finding and sustaining a genuine nationalist alternative to 
the Viet Minh. 

b. The "domino theory" and the assumptions behind, it were never 
questioned.. The homogeneity of the nations of Southeast Asia was taken 
as a given, as was the linkage in their ability to remain democratic, or 
at an acceptable minimum, non-communist, nations. Undoubtedly, in the 
first decade of the cold war there existed, an unfortunate stereotype of 
a monolithic communist expansionary bloc. It was reinforced, by a somewhat 
emotional approach on the part of many Americans to communism in China 
and Asia. This "syndrome" was, in part, the result of the "fall" of China, 
which some felt could have been averted., and a few hoped would still be 

Accordingly, not sufficient cognizance was taken of the in- 
dividuality of the states of Southeast Asia and. the separateness of their 
societies. Probably there was some lack of knowledge in depth on the part 
of Washington policy- makers about the area. No one before World War II 
had expected that the United States would be called, upon to take a position 
of leadership in these remote colonial territories of our European allies. 
In hindsight, these shortcomings may have led. to the fallacious belief 
that a neutralist or communist Indochina would inevitably draw the other 
states of Asia into the communist bloc or into neutralism. But the "fallacy" 
was neither evident then, nor is it demonstrable now in retrospect. 

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1. NSC 1*8/1, "A Report on.,. The Position of the United. States with Respect 
to Asia, 1 ' December 23, 19^9 (TOP SECRET). 

2. NSC 6k, "The Position of the United States with Respect to Indochina," 
February 27, I95O (TOP SECRET). 

3. Historical Office, Dept. of State, Research Project No. 37O, "United 
States Policy on Indochina, 19^5-1951-1-," p. 6. 

k. NSC 12^/2, "United States Objectives and Courses of Action with Respect 
to Southeast Asia," June 25, 1952 (TOP SECRET). 

5. NIE-5> "Indochina: Current Situation and Probable Developments," 
December 29, I95O (SECRET). 

6. NIE-355 "Probable Developments in Indochina during the Remainder of 
1951," August 7, 1951 (SECRET). 

7. NIE-35/l, "Probable Developments in Indochina through Mid-1952," 
March 3, 1952 (SECRET). 

8. NSC 12k/2. 

9. "ibid.. 

10. John Foster Dulles, War or Peace (New York, I95O ), p. 231; Melvin Gurtov, 
The First Vietnam Crisis (New York, Columbia Univ. Press, 1967), PP* 25-26. 

11. U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Report of the Special. 
Study Mission to Pakistan, India, Thailand, and Indochina, pursuant to 

H. Res. 113, H. Rpt. No. Ifl2, 83d long., 1st Sess., May 6, 1953, P- 53, 
as quoted, in Gurtov, op.cit., p. 26. 

12. Speech before the American Legion, St. Louis, Missouri, September 2, 1953 • 

13. Memorandum to Secretary of State from Asst Secy for Far East, Mr. Walter 
E. Robertson, April 28, 1953 (SECRET); AmEmbassy Paris telegram to 
Dept. State, No. 5766, May 3, 1953 (SECRET). 

Ik. Historical Office, State Dept., Research Project No. 35I+, Summary, 
pp. 8-9* 

15. Memorandum of Conversation, Acting Secretary Walter Bedell Smith and 
Minister Doridau, French Embassy, August 8, 1953 (SECRET). 

16. NSC 5^05, "United. States Objectives and. Courses of Action with Respect 
. to Southeast Asia," January 16, 195^ (TOP SECRET) . 

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Among the more frequently cited misapprehensions concerning U.S. 
policy in Vietnam is the view that the Eisenhower Administration flatly 
rejected intervention in the First Indochina War. The record shows 
plainly that the U.S. did seriously consider intervention, and advo- 
cated it to the U.K. and other allies. With the intensification of the 
French- Viet Minh war and the deterioration of the French military posi- 
tion, the United States was forced to take a position on: first, a 
possible U.S. military intervention in order to avert a Viet Minh victory; 
second, the increasingly likely contingency of negotiations between Paris 
and Ho Chi Minh to end the war through a political settlement. In order 
to avoid a French sell-out, and as an alternative to unilateral U.S. 
intervention, the U.S. proposed in 195^- to broaden the war by involving 
a number of allies in a collective defense effort through "united action." 

The U.S. Government internal debate on the question of intervention 
centered essentially on the desirability and feasibility of U.S. military 
action. Indochina ! s importance to U.S. security interests in the Far 
East was taken for granted. The Eisenhower Administration followed in 
general terms the rationale for American interest in Indochina that was 
expressed by the Truman Administration. With respect to intervention, 
the Truman Administration's NSC 12k of February 1952 recognized that the 
U.S. might be forced to take some military action in order to prevent 
the subversion of Southeast Asia. In late 1953 - early 195^j as the fall 
of Indochina seemed imminent, the question of intervention came to the 
fore. The Defense Department pressed for a determination by highest 
authority of the size and nature of the forces the U.S. was willing to 
commit in Indochina. Some in DOD questioned the then operating assump- 
tion that U.S. air and naval forces would suffice as aid for the French. 
The Army was particularly conc-erned about contingency planning that 
assumed that U.S. air and naval action alone could bring military victory, 
and argued for realistic estimates of requisite land forces, including 
the degree of mobilization that would be necessary. The State Department 
thought that Indochina was so critical from a foreign policy viewpoint 
that intervention might be necessary. But DOD and the JCS, estimating 
that air-naval action alone could not stem the surging Viet Minh, recom- 
mended that rather than intervening directly, the U.S. should concentrate 
on urging Paris to train an expanded indigenous army, and should exert 
all possible pressures — in Europe as well as in Asia — to motivate 
the French to fight hard for a military victory. Many in the U.S. Govern- 
ment (the Ridgway Report stands out in this group) were wary that U.S. 
intervention might provoke Chinese Communist intervention. In the latter 
case, even a considerable U.So. deployment of ground forces would not be 
able to stem the tide in Indochina. A number of special high-level 
studies were unable to bridge the evident disparity between those who 

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held that vital U.S. interests were at stake in Indochina, and those 
who were unwilling to make a firm decision to intervene with U.S. 
ground forces to assure those interests. Consequently, when the French 
began pressing for UoS. intervention at Dien Bien Phu, the Eisenhower 
Administration took the position that the U.S. would not intervene uni- 
laterally, but only in concert with a number of European and Far Eastern 
allies as part of a combined force. (Tab l) 

This "united action" proposal, announced publicly by Secretary 
Dulles on March 29, 195^ was also designed to offer the French an 
alternative to surrender at the negotiating table. Negotiations for 
a political settlement of the Franco-Viet Minh war, however, were assured 
when the Big Four Foreign Ministers meeting in February at Berlin placed 
Indochina on the agenda of the impending Geneva Conference. Foreign 
Minister Bidault insisted upon this, over U.S. objections, because of 
the mounting pressure in France for an end to the seemingly interminable 
and costly war. The "peace faction" in Paris became stronger in propor- 
tion to the "peace feelers" let out by Ho Chi Minh, and the lack of 
French success on the battlefield. U.S. policy was to steer the French 
away from negotiations because of the fear that Indochina would thereby 
be handed over to the communist "empire." 

Secretary Dulles envisaged a ten-nation collective defense force 
to take "united action" to prevent a French defeat — if necessary 
before the Geneva Conference. Dulles and Admiral Radford were, at first, 
inclined towards an early unilateral intervention at Dien Bien Phu, as 
requested by the French (the so-called "Operation Vulture"). But Con- 
gressional leaders indicated they would not support U.S C military action 
without active allied participation, and President Eisenhower decided that 
he would not intervene without Congressional approval. In addition to 
allied participation, Congressional approval was deemed dependent upon 
a public declaration by France that it was speeding up the timetable for 
independence for the Associated States. 

The U.S. was unable to gather much support for "united action" 
except in Thailand and the Philippines. The British response was one 
of hesitation in general, and flat opposition to undertaking military 
action before the Geneva Conference. Eden feared that it would lead to 
an expansion of the war with a high risk of Chinese intervention. More- 
over, the British questioned both the U.S. domino principle, and the 
belief that Indochina would be totally lost at Dien Bien Phu and through 
negotiations at Geneva. As for the French, they were less interested in 
"united action" than in immediate U.S. military assistance at Dien Bien 
Phu. Paris feared that united action would lead to the international- 
ization of the war, and take control out of its hands. In addition, it 
would impede or delay the very negotiations leading towards a settlement 
which the French increasingly desired. But repeated French requests for 
direct U.S„ intervention during the final agony of Dien Bien Phu failed 
to alter President Eisenhower's conviction that it would be an error for 
the U.S. to act alone. 


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Following the fall of Dien Bien Phu during the Geneva Conference, 
the "domino theory" underwent a reappraisal. On a May 11 press conference, 
Secretary Dulles observed that "Southeast Asia could be secured even with- 
out, perhaps, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia." In a further remark that was 
deleted from the official transcript, Dulles said that Laos and Cambodia 
were "important but by no means essential" because they were poor countries 
with meager populations. (Tab 2) 


II. B. Tab 1 - The Interagency Debate over U.S. Intervention in Indochina 
Tab 2 - The Attempt to Organize "United Action" 



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1. The General Policy Context . . • o » . • ...«••••• o B- 5 

a. ' The Final Truman Program (NSC 12k) . . • .... • o . B- 5 

"b. Eisenhower Administration's "Basic National 

Security Policy" o . . , « • . • o • • • B ~ 5 

2 . The Question of Intervention with Ground Forces B-5 

a. The Problem is Presented . » . • « . <,..<>... B-5 

"b . NSC : State and Defense Views . o . . , . ...•♦.. . B-6 

c. The JCS View. . . . . *..... B ""7 

d. Formation of Special Working Group on Indochina • • • B-7 

e. Erskine Report , Part I: Motivate the French * B "8 

f . The Erskine Report, Part II: Intervention Only 

After Geneva? ....••.......•.•#.*..•. B " 8 

g. NSC 177 Annex Raises Intervention Question Anew......... B "9 

h. Army Questions Feasibility of Air-Naval Intervention 

and Outlines Ground Forces Requirements B ~10 

i. Defense-JCS "Solution": Rectify French Deficiencies B-ll 

3. The New Approach: "United Action" ........ B-ll 

a. Presidential Decision to Support Only "United Action"... B-12 

b. Rejection of Unilateral Intervention • ....<> . . . . . B-13 

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lo The General Policy Context 

The debate over the wisdom and manner of American intervention 
in Indochina was "based primarily on the desirability of military involve- 
ment, not on questions concerning Indochina 1 s value to United States 
security interests in the Far East. The Eisenhower Administration was 
in general agreement with the rationale for American interest in Indo- 
china expressed "by the Truman Administration. The United States Govern- 
ment first came to full grips with the question of intervention in late 
1953 — early 195^ as the fall of Indochina seemed to become imminent, 

a. The Final Truman Program (NS C 12 k) 

NSC 12k (February, I952) considered imperative the prevention 
of a Communist take-over in Indochina. It recognized that even in the 
absence of "identifiable aggression" by Communist China, the U.S. might 
be forced to take some action in order to prevent the subversion of South- 
east Asia. In case of overt Chinese intervention, NSC 12k recommended: 
(l) naval, air and logistical support of French Union forces; (2) naval 
blockade of Communist China; (3) attacks by land and carrier-based aircraft 
on military targets in Mainland China. It stopped short of recommending 
the commitment of U.S. ground forces in Indochina* l/ 

b . Eisenhower Administration's "Basic National Security Policy " 

NSC 162/2, adopted in October, 1953, ten months after the 
Republican Administration took office, was the basic document of the 
"New Look." After commenting on U.S. and Soviet defense capabilities, 
the prospect of nuclear parity and the need to balance domestic economic 
policy with military expenditures, it urged a military posture based on 
the ability "to inflict massive retaliatory damage" on the enemy. Indo- 
china was listed as an area of "strategic importance" to the U & S. An 
attack on such important areas "probably would compel the United States 
to react with military force either locally at the point of attack or 
generally against the military power of the aggressor." The use of 
tactical nuclear weapons in conventional war situations was recommended, 
but they were not specifically suggested for use in Indochina. 2/ 

2. The Question of Intervention with Ground Forces 

a. The Problem is Presented 

In late 1953> the Army questioned prevalent assumptions that 
ground forces would not be required in Indochina if the area was as 
important to U.S. security interests as the NSC papers stated. The Army 
urged that the issue be faced squarely in order to provide the best 
possible preparation for whatever courses of action might be undertaken. 
The Plans Division of the Army General Staff pointed out that under current 

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programs the Army did not have the capability of providing divisional 
forces for operations in Indochina while maintaining its existing commit- 
ments in Europe and the Far East. Army also suggested a Tl reevaluation 
of the importance of Indochina and Southeast Asia in relation to the 
possible cost of saving it." 3/ 

With the deterioration of the French military situation in 
Indochina, the first serious attention came to be given to the manner and 
size of a UoS. intervention. The question to be faced was: how far was 
the U.S prepared to go in terms of force commitments to ensure that 
Indochina stayed out of Communist hands? The Defense Department, though 
not of a single mind on this question, pressed for an early determination 
of the forces the U.S. would be willing to dispatch in an emergency 
situation. The Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Robert Anderson, 

| proposed to Secretary of Defense Wilson on January 6, 195^-> that the 

UcS. decide immediately to employ combat forces in Indochina on the 
"reasonable assurance of strong indigenous support of our forces," 

| whether or not the French Government approved, h/ But Vice Admiral A. C. 

i Davis, Director of the Office of Foreign Military Affairs in OSD , wrote: 

,- ". . o Involvement of U.S. forces in the Indochina war 

should be avoided at all practical costs. If, then, National 
Policy determines no other alternative, the U.S. should not 
i be self-duped into believing the possibility of partial 

involvement -- such as T Naval and Air units only. f One cannot 
go over Niagara Falls in a barrel only slightly. " 

Admiral Davis then went on: 

"Comment: If it is determined desirable to introduce 
air and naval forces in combat in Indochina it is difficult 
to understand how involvement of ground forces could be avoided. 
Air strength sufficient to be of worth in such an effort would 
require bases in Indochina of considerable magnitude. Pro- 
tection of those bases and port facilities would certainly 
require U.S. ground force personnel, and the force once com- 
mitted would need ground combat units to support any threatened 
evacuation. It must be understood that there is no cheap way 
to fight a war, once committed. " 5/ 

b. NSC: State and Defense -Views 

The evident disparity between, on the one hand, our high 
strategic valuation of Indochina, and on the other, our unwillingness 
to reach a firm decision on the forces required to defend the area became 
the subject of the NSC ! s 179th meeting on January 8, 19 5 ^ At this 
meeting the Council discussed NSC 177 on Southeast Asia, 6/ but it decided 
not to take up the Special Annex to NSC 177 which laid out a series of 
choices which might face the United States if the French military position 
in Indochina continued to deteriorate • Nevertheless, the NSC at that time 
did some headway on the problem it had posed for itself* 

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According to summary notes taken of the meeting, j/ State 
and Defense were at considerable variance on what should be done in 
either of two contingencies: first, French abandonment of the struggle; 
second, a French demand for substantial U.S. forces (ground, sea, and 
air). The State view considered the French position so critical already 
as (in the rapporteur f s words) to "force the U.S. to decide now to utilize 
UoS. forces in the fighting in Southeast Asia." The Defense representa- 
tive refused to underwrite U.So involvement He reportedly stated that 
the French could win by the spring of 1955 given U.So aid and given, 
"improved French political relations with the Vietnamese. . • The commit- 
ment of U.S. forces in a T civil war 1 in Indochina will be an admission 
of the bankruptcy of our political policies re Southeast Asia and France 
and should be resorted to only in extremityo" He urged that every step 
be taken to avoid a direct American commitment o 

The Council meeting reached two important conclusions, both 
fully in keeping with the Defense position. First, it decided that a 
discussion of contingencies for U.So involvement missed the essential 
point that the French were capable of winning provided they gained native 
political and military cooperation. Second, NSC 177 was, as Defense 
suggested, inadequate in that the study failed to come to grips with the 
fact that eventual success in Indochina depended upon French ability to 
solve the problem of how to obtain Vietnamese support for the war effort. 

c. The JCS View 

The NSC meeting of January 8 still left open the question 
of U.S. action in the event troops were indisputably necessary to prevent 
the "loss" of Indochina. In this regard, the Joint Chiefs of Staff kept 
their options open. The Chiefs thought that the Navarre Plan was funda- 
mentally sound, but was being steadily undercut by the gulf separating 
the French from the Vietnamese, by General Navarre's failure to implement 
UoS. recommendations, and by hesitancy in Paris over the necessary 
political concessions to the Bao Dai government. Yet JCS refused either 
to rule out the use of U.So combat forces or to back unequivocally their 
employment . 8/ 

d. Formation of Special Working Group on Indochina 

Dissatisfaction with NSC 177 and the NSC's subsequent 
failure in NSC ^hO^ 2/ to resolve the ground force commitment issue led 
to the formation of a working group to evaluate the French military 
effort, to make recommendations concerning future UoSo contributions to 
it, and to devote attention to the various contingencies under which the 
U.S. might be called upon to intervene directly in the war. The working 
group, under the chairmanship of General G. B. Erskine (USMC, Reto), was 
composed of representatives from the Departments of State and Defense, 
the Joint Chiefs, and CIAo The group was responsible to NSC through 
General W. Bedell Smith, Under Secretary of State, who had been appointed 
by the Council to head the Special Committee on the U.So and Indochina. 

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e. The Erskine Report, Part I: Motivate the French 

The first section of Erskine T s two-part report, dated 
February 6, 195^> was based on the assumption that U.S. policy toward 
Indochina would not require resort to overt combat operations by U.So 
forces. Within that framework, the report adhered closely to the Defense 
Department position that the French, if properly motivated, could win in 
Indochina, but that their failure to carry through on needed reforms 
would require U.S. consideration of active involvement. The report 
noted that: 

"There is in Indo-China, or programmed for Indo- China. . . , 
a sufficient amount of equipment and supplies and a potential 
manpower pool sufficient eventually to defeat the Communists 
decisively if properly utilized and maintained and if the 
situation continues to permit this manpower to be converted 
into military effectiveness. Success will ultimately be 
dependent upon the inspiration of the local population to 
fight for their own freedom from Communist domination and 
the willingness of the French both to take the measures to 
stimulate that inspiration and to more fully utilize the 
native potential." 

The Erskine Report (Part I) recommended: (l) augmentation 
of the French air force, but not using American personnel; (2) additional 
U.So military assistance support of $124 million (supplementing FY 195^ 
cornmitments of $1,115 billion); (3) elevation of MAAG's status to that 
of Military Mission, with expanded personnel and advisory authority over 
training and planning; (h) assignment of additional U.S. personnel with 
the mission of acting as instructors and performing other key duties 
within the French forces; (5) Presidential letters to the Heads of State 
of the Associated States reaffirming our support of their independence 
and explaining our motivations in assisting them through the French; 
(6) an effort be undertaken to persuade Bao Dai to take a more active 
part in the ant i -Viet Minh struggle „ The report concluded that the 
prograjn of recommended changes could bring about victory over the Viet 
Minh if it received full French approval and barring Chinese intervention. 

f. The Erskine Report, Part II: Intervention Only After Geneva? 

The second part of the Erskine Report did not appear until 
March 17^ 195^> and unlike the first, was the responsibility only of the 
Defense Department and the Joint Chiefs, with the State Department position 
"reserved., 11 The report confirmed previous determinations that the loss 
of Indochina would be a major military and political setback for the 
United States. It recommended that prior to the start of the Geneva 
Conference, the U.S. should inform Britain and France that it was interested 
only in military victory in Indochina and would not associate ourselves with 
any settlement which falls short of that objective. It further recommended 
that in the event of an unsatisfactory outcome at Geneva, the UoS. should 

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pursue ways of continuing the struggle in concert with the Associated 
States, the United Kingdom, and other allies. The National Security 
Council was therefore requested to determine the extent of American 
willingness to commit combat forces to the region with or without % 
French cooperation .. But with the Dien Bien Phu siege just beginning, 
and the Geneva Conference six weeks away, the Lrskine Report suggested 
that the United States influence and. observe developments at the Geneva 
Conference before deciding on active involvement. 

g. NSC 177 Annex Raises Intervention Question Anew 

Following the second part of the Erskine Report, the 
President evidently decided that the Special Annex to NSC 177, which 
had been withdrawn in January 195^, should be redistributed for considera- 
tion by the Council's Planning Board. 10/ The Annex to NSC 177 posed 
the fundamental choice between (a) acceptance of the loss of Indochina, 
which would be f ollowed by UoS. efforts to prevent further deterioration 
of our security position in Southeast Asia, or (b) direct military action 
to save Indochina before the French and Vietnamese became committed to 
an unacceptable political settlement at Geneva. 

Among the alternative courses of action outlined in the 
Annex, two in particular — both geared to direct U.S. action prior to a 
Geneva settlement — were discussed. Under the first, based on French 
consent to continue fighting, the UoS. was urged to (l) seek a Franco- 
Vietnamese settlement of the independence issue, (2) insist upon a build- 
up of indigenous forces with U.S. advisory and material support, (3) demand 
the maintenance of French forces in the field at their then present .level, 
and (k) prepare to provide sufficient UoS. forces to make possible the 
success of a joint effort. Full internationalization of the war would 
be discussed with the French later, thereby discounting immediate action 
in concert with the British or Asian nations. 

The second alternative assumed a French pull-out. In such 
a case the United States could either accept the loss of Indochina, or 
adopt an active policy while France gradually withdrew its troops. Should 
we accept the latter course, our "most positive" step offering the 
greatest assurance of success" would be, NSC estimated, to join with . 
indigenous forces in combatting the Viet Minh until they were reduced 

"to the status of scattered guerrilla bands 
forces would be involved. 

U.S. land, sea, and air 


The Annex was based upon assumptions that U.S. involvement 
against the Viet Minh would not provoke massive Chinese intervention, 
would not lead to direct Soviet involvement, and that there would be no 
resumption of hostilities in Korea. It acknowledged that any change in 
these assumptions would seriously jeopardize the success of the alterna- 
tives proposed. In particular, it noted that UoS. participation heightened 
the risk of Chinese intervention, ajid Chinese entry would alter radically 
both the immediate military situation and U.S. force requirements. 


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k # Army Questions Feasibility of Air-Naval Intervention and 
Outlines Ground Forces Requirement s 

The principal result of the discussions on the NSC 177 
Special Annex was to "bring into the open the issue of the costs in manpower 
and materiel of a U.S. involvement. The Army was critical of contingency 
planning that was "based on the assumption that U.S. air and naval forces 
could be used in Indochina without the commitment of ground combat forces. 
General Matthew B. Ridgway, Army Chief of Staff , later wrote in his 
Memoirs that he was quite disturbed at talk in high government circles 
about employing air-naval power alone in Indochina. An Army position 
paper submitted to the NSC in the first week of April, 195^-> argued as 

"l. U.S. intervention with combat forces in Indochina is 
not militarily desirable... 

"2. A victory in Indochina cannot be assured by U.S. inter- 
vention with air and naval forces alone. . . • 

"3« The use of atomic weapons in Indochina would not 
reduce the number of ground forces required to achieve a 
victory in Indochina. 

"k. Seven U.S. divisions or their equivalent, with 
appropriate naval and air support, would be required to win 
a victory in Indochina if the French withdraw and the Chinese 
Communists do not intervene. However, U.S. intervention 
| plans cannot be based on the assumption that the Chinese 

Communists will not intervene. 

"5. The equivalent of 12 U.S. divisions would be 
required to win a victory in Indochina, if the French with- 
draw and the Chinese Communists intervene. 

"6. The equiyalent of 7 U.S. divisions would be required 
to win a victory in Indochina if the French remain and the 
Chinese Communists intervene. 

"7. Requirements for air and naval support for ground 
force operations are: 

a. Five hundred fighter-bomber sorties per day 
exclusive of interdiction and counter-air operations. 

b. An airlift capability of a one division drop. 

c. A division amphibious lift. 

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"8. Two U.S. divisions can be placed in Indochina in 
30 days, and an additional 5 divisions in the following 120 
days. This could "be accomplished without reducing U„S. 
ground strength in the Far East to an unacceptable degree, 
but the U.S. ability to meet its NATO commitment would be 
seriously affected for a considerable period. The amount 
of time required to place 12 divisions in Indochina would 
depend upon the industrial and personnel mobilization 
measures taken by the government. . o " 11/ 

i. Defense- JCS "Solution": Rectify French Deficiencies 

Faced with estimates that U.So air-naval action could not 
turn the tide, and that U.S. ground forces of appropriate size would 
impinge upon other commitments, DoD and the JCS took the position that 
an alternative military solution existed within the reach of the French 
which required no U.S intervention. DoD argued that the three reasons 
for France T s deteriorating position were (l) lack of the will to win; 

(2) reluctance to meet Indochinese demands for true independence; 

(3) refusal to train indigenous personnel for military leadership. 
Defense believed that premature U.So involvement would therefore beg 
the basic question of whether the U.S. was prepared to apply the 
strongest pressure on France, primarily in the European context, to 
attempt to force the French in Paris and in Indochina to take appropriate 
measures to rectify these deficiencies. Only if these measures were 
forthcoming, DoD held, should the U.S. seriously consider committing 
ground forces in defense of the interests of France and the Associated 
States. The net effect of the Defense- JCS position was to challenge 

the notion that a quick U.S. military action in Indochina would be 
either feasible or necessary. 

3. The New Approach: "United Action" 

At this juncture the Eisenhower Administration began giving 
serious consideration to broadening any American military intervention 
in Indochina by making it part of a collective venture along with its 
European and Asian allies. Secretary of State Dulles in a speech on 
March 29 warned the public of the alarming situation in Indochina and 
called for "united action" -- without defining it further --in these 
words : 

"Under the conditions of today, the imposition on 
Southeast Asia of the political system of Communist Russia 
and its Chinese Communist ally, by whatever means, would 
be a grave threat to the whole free community. The United 
States feels that the possibility should not be passively 
accepted but should be met by united action. This might 
involve serious risks • But these risks are far less than 
those that will face us a few years from now if we dare 
not be resolute today." 12/ 

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Under Secretary of State W„ Bedell Smith's Special Committee 
on the U.S. and Indochina, to which the Erskine working group had 
reported, issued a study on April 2 This report went "beyond the question 
of holding Indochina and agreed that whatever that area's fate, the U.S. • 
should begin developing a system of mutual defense for Southeast Asia. 
For the short term, the Smith Committee favored American sponsorship of 
a mutual defense treaty directed against Communist aggression in Indo- 
china and Thailand. In the long run, it recommended promotion of a 
"regional and Asian mutual defense arrangement subscribed and under- 
written by the major European powers with interests in the Pacific." 13/ 

The State Department's thinking in early April 195**- "was not 
greatly at variance from that of Defense and the Smith Committee. 
Perhaps more so than Defense, State was concerned about the Chinese 
reaction to a U.S. military intervention. It urged caution and sug- 
gested that in any type of "united action" the U.S. make clear to both 
the Chinese and the allies that the intervention would not be aimed at 
the overthrow or destruction of the Peking regime. State recommended: 
(l) no U.S. military intervention for the moment, nor should it be 
promised to the French; (2) planning for military intervention continue; 
(3) discussions with potential allies on possibility of forming a 
regional grouping in the event of an unacceptable settlement at Genevao ihj 

a. Presidential Decision to Support Only "United Action" 

Meanwhile, the President decided, following a meeting of 
Secretary Dulles and Admiral Radford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, with 
Congressional leaders on April 3> that the U.S. would not undertake a 
•unilateral intervention. Any U.S. military involvement in Indochina 
would be contingent upon (l) formation of a coalition force with U.S. 
allies to pursue "united action"; (2) declaration of French intent to 
accelerate independence of Associated States; (3) Congressional approval 
of U.S. involvement (which was thought to be dependent upon (l) and (2)). 

These policy guidelines undoubtedly influenced the NSC which, 
at a meeting on April 6, developed the somewhat incompatible objectives 
that the U.S. (a) "intervene if necessary to avoid the loss of Indochina, 
but advocate that no steps be left untaken to get the French to achieve 
a successful conclusion of the war on their own" and (b) support as the 
best alternative to U.S. intervention a regional grouping with maximum 
Asian participation. 15/ 

The President accepted the NSC recommendations but decided 
that henceforth the Administration's primary efforts would be devoted 
toward: (l) organizing regional collective defense against Communist 
expansion; (2) gaining British support for U.S. objectives in Southeast 
Asia; (3) pressing France to accelerate its timetable for Indochinese 
independence. The President would seek Congressional approval for U.S. 
participation in a regional, arrangement, if it could be put together, 
and meanwhile contingency planning for mobilization would commence. 16/ 

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b. R ejection of Unilateral Intervention 

Thus, as the curtain began to fall on the French effort 
at Dien Bien Phu, and the question of what the U S. would do became 
critical^ the U S. Government backed away from unilateral intervention. 
The Defense Department was reluctant to intervene following the Army's 
presentation of the view that air-naval action alone would not do the job 
and ground forces would be needed. The very recent experience of the 
Korean War mitigated strongly against another American involvement in an 
Asian land war. Furthermore , the President was not willing to enter into 
such a venture unless it was cloaked with Congressional approvalo Such 
approval, in turn, depended upon the participation of the allies. Hence, 
Secretary Dulles undertook the task of persuading Britain, France and 
the Asian allies to participate in a coalition for "united action" in 


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■ \ 

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1. NSC 12^, A Report to the National Security Council on U.S. Objectives 
and Courses of Action with Respect to Communist Aggression in South- 
east Asia, February 13, 1952 (TOP SECRET). 

2. A Report to the National Security Council by the Executive Secretary 
on Basic National Security Policy (NSC 162/2), October 30, 1953 
(TOP SECRET - SENSITIVE ) The Report was adopted October 29, 1953, 
at the l68th Council meeting. 

3. Memorandum from Col. George W. Coolidge (GS, Acting Chief, Plans 
Division) to Defense Member, NSC Planning Board (att: Col Bonesteel), 
December 8, 1953 (TOP SECRET). 

k. Anderson to Wilson, January 6, I95U (TOP SECRET) • 

5. Davis letter to Bonesteel, January 5, 195^ (TOP SECRET). 

6. NSC Planning Board, A Report to the National Security Council on 
U.So Objectives and Courses of Action with Respect to Southeast 
Asia (NSC 177), December 30, 1953 (TOP SECRET). 

7. Summary and Comments of the 179th NSC meeting, January 8, 195^ • 

8. See memorandum from Lto Gen. F. F. Everest (USAF), for the JCS, to 
the Secretary of Defense, January 15, 195^ (TOP SECRET); also, the 
comments of Radford as reported in a memorandum from Capt. G. Wo 
Anderson, Jr. (USN) to Lto Gen. Jean Valluy, French Military Mission 
to the U.S., January 30, 195^ (TOP SECRET). 

9. United States Objectives and Courses of Action with Respect to 
Southeast Asia (NSC 5^05), January 16, 195 ] 4 (TOP SECRET), NSC 5^05 
differs from NSC 177 in only two respects: a paragraph on the U.S. 
response to a Chinese move into Thailand, and a deleted reference 
in the earlier paper to France's decline as a world power, with 
repercussions on her position in Europe and North Africa, if Indo- 
china should be lost. 

10. The Annex was recirculated on March 29, 195*+ • 

11. Army Position on NSC Action No. I07UA, undated (early April 195^)* 

12. Department of State Press Release No. 165, March 29, I95U. 

13. Draft: Special Committee Report on Southeast Asia - Part II, April 2, 
195^ (TOP SECRET) o 

ik. See the undated State Department position paper apparently written 
between April 2 and 5> just prior to the French request made through 

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Dillon for direct U.S. air intervention at Dien Bien Phu. The State 
paper , with minor changes, became NSC Action No. 107^A, April 5> 
1954 (TOP SECRET ). J 

15 o Summary and Content of 192nd NSC Meeting, April 6, 195 1 ! (TOP SECRET). 

16. Secretary Wilson memorandum to the JCS and the Army, Navy, and Air 
Force Secretaries, April 15, 195 1 ! (TOP SECRET). 


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1. The Berlin Conference of 19 5^. • B-17 

a. Viet Minh Strategy and French Attitudes B-17 

"bo Early U.S. Opposition to Negotiations <, <, B-l8 

2. The Ely Mission (March 20 - 2k) . . . B-19 

a. Dien Bien Phu Begins B-19 

bo Operation Vulture (Vautour ) . . . « B-19 

3 • "Uni ted Action" as an Alternative to Either Negotiations or 

to Unilateral U.S. Intervention B-20 

a. Formulation of U.S. Policy B-20 

b. Initial Allied Reaction to "United Action" o . B-22 

c. French Call for U.S. Intervention at Dien Bien Phu 

" (April k - 5) ■ .. B-22 

d. U.S. Decision Not to Intervene Unilaterally B-23 

e. British Oppose "United Action" B-2U 

f . French Oppose "United Action" B " 26 

g. Aborted Working Croup on Collective Defense in Southeast 
Asia (April 20) B ~ 2 7 

h. Continued French Prodding for U.S. Intervention 

(April 21 - 25) o.; B " 2 7 


ko F inal U.S. Position Before Geneva . . . . o ■ B-28 

a. Exchanges with the French B-28 

b. Exchanges with the U.K • B-29 

c . The Washington Viewpoint » B-3'0 

5 • Reap praisal of Domino Theory After Dien Bien Fn u B-30 

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1. The Berlin Conference of 195^ 

Negotiations for a political settlement of the French-Viet Minh 
war were practically assured when it was decided at the Big Four meeting 
in Berlin in February 195^ that the Indochina question would be added to 
the agenda of an upcoming international conference at Geneva which was to 
discuss primarily a settlement of the Korean War. The period between the 
Berlin and Geneva conferences (i.e.j between February and May 195*0 
unexpectedly witnessed a denouement of the Indochina drama with the siege 
and fall of Dien Bien Riu, the U S decision not to intervene, and the 
unsuccessful U.S. attempt to rally its allies together in order to form 
a collective force in pursuance of "united action." 

a. Viet Minh Strategy and French Attitudes 

The half-year before the Berlin Foreign Ministers conference 
of February I95U saw both a marked step up of Viet Minh military activity 
and the presentation of a peace feeler from Ho Chi Minh. The Vietnam 
Peoples Army (VPA) began to change its strategy against the French from 
guerrilla activities to conventional battle deployments. This was accom- 
panied by an increase in the amount of Chinese military assistance, no 
doubt facilitated by the end of armed conflict in Korea. Thus, the Viet 
Minh appeared to be showing a newly found strength and confidence, although 
at the time the French refused to recognize this either publicly or to 

Meanwhile, Ho Chi Minh put out a peace feeler in late 
November 1953 in reply to a questionnaire submitted by a correspondent 
for the Swedish newspaper Expressen . The one pre-condition set by Ho for 
negotiations was French recognition of Vietnamese independence * In subse- 
quent weeks, the peace feeler was repeated on several occasions, but each 
time it failed to indicate the place at which talks might be held, nor did 
it propose a scope for the talks, l/ 


Nothing resulted directly from these peace feelers, but 
indirectly they added to the mounting public and political sentiment in 
France for an end to the seemingly interminable and costly war. The 
armistice agreement negotiated at Paninunjom in July 1953 served as an 
example which many Frenchmen hoped could be followed in the negotiation 
of a cease-fire with the DRV. A widespread disenchantment with the 
Indochina war pervaded France. This was reflected in public statements 
by Prime Minister Laniel that Paris would be satisfied with an "honorable 
solution" to the war. 


The French then adopted a policy toward the war of "keep 
fighting -- seek talking. " There was an increase in French military 
activity and confidence stimulated by the Navarre Plan, but this was 
offset by a growth in the size and influence of the peace faction in 

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France, as indicated "by the "dovish" votes of the National Assembly 
favoring an early settlement of the protracted war., Premier Laniel and 
French officials told the U.S. Embassy that they considered the Ho Chi 
Minh offer pure propaganda, but said also that Ho f s move had produced the 
intended impact on public and military circles in France and Indochina. 
Laniel mentioned that President Vincent Auriol had become so excited by 
Ho T s proposal that he told Laniel "to consult representatives of three 
Associated States immediately with view to seeking earliest possible 
opening of negotiations with representatives of Ho Chi Minh. Laniel had 
flatly refusedo . . " But American officials were skeptical. The U.S. 
Embassy reported that a Laniel speech of November 2k, 1953, "left con- 
siderable latitude for negotiations," and that Ho T s offers had increased 
the pressure for a settlement . 2/ 

b. Early U.S. Opposition to Negotiati ons 

The consistent U.S. policy was to attempt to steer the French 
clear of the negotiating table pending substantial military gains on the 
battlefield. In bilateral U.S. -French talks in July, 1953, while the 
Korean armistice was being discussed at Panmunjom, Foreign Minister Bidault 
told Secretary Dulles that parallel talks should be pursued on Indochina. 
Bidault explained that the French public would never understand why 
negotiations were fit and honorable for Korea but were not for Indochina. 
A cease-fire in Korea, with nothing similar in prospect for Indochina, 
would make his governments position "absolutely impossible." 

Secretary Dulles in reply stressed that "negotiations with 
no other alternative usually end in capitulation.," In the Korean case, 
Dulles said, the alternative was the U.S. threat of "other and unpleasant 
measures" which the Communists realized we possessed. He urged the French 
to adopt the Navarre Plan, not only for military reasons, but because it 
would improve the French negotiating position. Dulles made it clear that 
the U.S. felt it was inadvisable to have the Indochina war inscribed on. 
the agenda of a post-armistice political conference on Korea. 3/ The U.S. 
position at this time foreclosed negotiating on Indochina until after a 
Chinese decision to eliminate or cut down aid to the Viet Minh. hj In 
general, the UoSo sought to convince the French that military victory was • 
the only guarantee of diplomatic success. 

Dulles wished the French to continue the war because of his 
deep conviction that Indochina was a principal link in the line of the 
containment of Communism. In addition, Washington was undoubtedly 
• influenced by optimistic reports on the progress of the war. General 
f Daniel reported from Saigon that a French victory was likely -if UoS. 
material support was forthcoming. On February 6, 195*+ > it was announced 
that forty B-26 bombers and 200 UoS. technicians to service them would 
be sent to Indochina. Admiral Radford told a House Foreign Relations Sub- 
committee, a month before the siege of Dien Bien Pnu began (March, 195*+ )* 
that the Navarre Plan was "a broad strategic concept which within a few 
months should insure a favorable turn in the course of the war " 5/ 

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At the Berlin Quadripartite Foreign Ministers meeting in 
February, however. Secretary Dulles was forced to give in on the French 
demand that Indochina be placed on the Geneva agenda. Bidault pressured 
the U.S. by threatening to scuttle the project for the European Defense 
Community which then was at the top of U.S. priorities. Dulles could not 
block Paris' determination to discuss Indochina at Geneva for it was, in 
the last analysis, France's war. He must have realized that the Laniel 
Government could not completely avoid negotiations without alienating 
itself from popular opinion and bringing about its downfall at the hands 
of the anti-war opposition parties. 

The United States successfully opposed Soviet efforts at 
Berlin to gain for Communist China the status of a sponsoring power, 
and successfully held out, furthermore, for the inclusion in the Berlin 
communique of a statement that no diplomatic recognition, not already 
accorded, would be implied either in the invitation to, or the holding of, 
the Geneva Conference. 6/ 

2. The Ely Mission (March 20 ~ 2lQ 

a - Di en Bien Phu Beg ins 

On March 13, 195^4-, the VPA, under the direct command of 
General Giap, began its assault upon Dien Bien Fnu. This fortress in 
Northern Vietnam was to take on a political and psychological importance 
far out of proportion to its actual strategic value because of the upcoming 
Geneva Conference. The Viet Mirih correctly foresaw that a show of decisive 
force, not to mention a victory, would markedly strengthen their hand at 
the conference. Further, a defeat of the French Union forces would sap 
the will of the French nation to continue the struggle* The Viet Minh 
were greatly helped by a substantial increase in the level of Chinese 
military aid including artillery and radar, jj As the battle developed, 
the optimism which had pervaded Washington statements, public and private, 
on the war was replaced with the conviction that unless new steps were 
taken to deal with Chinese aid, the French were bound to go under. 

General Paul Ely, French Chief of Staff, arrived in Washington 
on March 20 to confer with UoS. officials on the war situation. Ely's 
principal aims were to obtain American assurance of air intervention in 
the event of Chinese aerial attack, and to obtain further U.S. material 
assistance, especially B~26 bombers. - Dulles told Ely that he could not 
then answer regarding U.So response to Chinese air intervention. 8/ 
Ely subsequently contended in his M&noires that he received a promise 
from Admiral Radford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to push for 
prompt American approval of interdiction should the contingency arise. 2/ 
As to the supply of bombers, twenty- five additional B-26's were promised. 

"b* Operation Vulture (Vautour ) 

According to subsequent French reports, General Ely was 
asked to stay 2k hours longer than planned in Washington, during which 
time Admiral Radford made an informal but major proposal to him. Radford 
is said to have suggested a nighttime raid against the perimeter of 

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Dien Bien Phu "by aircraft of the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy The plan, 
named Operation Vulture , called for about sixty B-29 T s to take off from 
Clark Field near Manila, under escort of 150 fighters of the U.S. Seventh 
Fleet, to conduct a massive strike against VPA positions on the perimeter 
of Dien Bien PhUo 10/ 

Operation Vulture, according to French sources, was con- 
ceived by a joint American-French military staff in Saigon. It is' 
admitted to have been an informal proposal which had not as yet received 
full U.S. Government backing as policy. No record of Operation Vulture 
has been found in files examined. In an interview in 1965^ Admiral 
Radford stated that no plans for "Operation Vulture 1 ' existed, since 
planning to aid Dien Bien Phu by an air strike never proceeded beyond the 
conceptual stage. 11/ Nevertheless, such an operation probably was the 
subject of informal discussions both in Vietnam, and between Radford 
and Ely. 

3 • "United Action" as an Alternative to Either Negotiations or to 
Unilateral U0S0 Intervention 

a o Formulation of U P S. Policy 

By late March the internal debate within the Eisenhower 
Administration had reached the point where It was recognized that: 
(a) unilateral U.S. intervention in the Indochina War would not be 
effective without ground forces; (b) the involvement of U0S0 ground forces 
was logistically and politically undesirable; (c) preferably, "free world" 
intervention in Indochina to save the area from communism would take 
the form of a collective operation by allied forces. This was the import ' 
of the NSC deliberations, the RIdgway Report, the Report of Under Secretary 
of State Wo Bedell Smith 1 s Special Committee on the U.So and Indochina, 
and President Eisenhower's general train of thought (see Tab l). 

Accordingly, Secretary Dulles in his discussions with General 
Ely went beyond the question of immediate assistance to the French garrison 
at Dien Bien Phu and broached the possible establishment of a regional 
defense arrangement for Southeast Asiao 

This proposal was given public exposure in Secretary Dulles 1 
speech of March 29 before the Overseas Press Club. Dulles described the 
importance of resisting communist aggression in Indochina in these words: 

"If the Communist forces were to win uncontested control over 
Indo-China or any substantial part thereof, they would surely 
resume the sime pattern of aggression against the other free 
peoples in that area. 

"The propagandists of Red China and of Soviet Russia 
make it perfectly apparent that the purpose is to dominate 
all of Southeast Asia« 

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"Now Southeast Asia is an important part of the -world. 
It is the so-called T rice "bowl 1 ... It is an area that is 
rich in many raw materials 


"And in addition to these tremendous economic values , 
the area has great strategic value . . . Communist control 
of Southeast Asia would carry a grave threat to the 
Philippines, Australia and New Zealand ... The entire western 
Pacific area, including the so-called 'offshore island chain, T 
would be strategically endangered. " 

He then went on call for "united action," and after noting Chinese 
assistance to the Viet Minh, prophesied that aggression would "lead to 
action in places by means of the free world's choosing, so that the 
aggression would surely cost more than it would gain." 12/ 

In the following weeks the aim of U.S. diplomacy was to secure allied 
I agreement to a collective defense pact consisting of ten nations: the 

U.S., France, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, Thailand, and 
the three Associated States. Secretary Dulles presented his proposal in 
discussions with British Ambassador Sir Roger Makins and French Ambassa- 
dor Henri Bonnet. President Eisenhower addressed a personal message to 
Prime Minister Churchill explaining the proposed coalition. The President 
noted that: 

"Geneva is less than four weeks away. There the possi- 
bility of the Communists driving a wedge between us will, 
given the state of mind in France, be infinitely greater than 
at Berlin. I can understand the very natural desire of the 
French to seek an end to this war which has been bleeding 
them for eight years. But our painstaking search for a way 
out of the impasse has reluctantly forced us to the conclusion 
that there is no negotiated solution of the Indochina problem 
which in its essence would not be either a face-saving device 
to cover a French surrender or a face-saving device to cover 
a Communist retirement. The first alternative is too serious 
in its broad strategic implications for us and for you to be 
acceptable. . . . 

"Somehow we must contrive to bring about the second al- 
' tentative." 

President Eisenhower went on to outline the need for a coalition willing 
to fight the Communists, if this proved necessary. He concluded with a 
historical question certain to appeal to Churchill: 

"If I may refer again to history; we failed to halt 
Hirohito, Mussolini and Hitler by not acting in unit and 
in time. That marked the beginning of many years of stark 
tragedy and desperate peril. May it not be that out nations 
have learned something from that lesson?..." 13/ 


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In these discussions the United States sought generally to stiffen 
the will of the free nations in the Indochina crisis. It emphasized 
both the avowed intention of France to grant real independence to the 
Associated States, and the condition accepted by the French at Berlin 
for the United States' agreeing to discuss Indochina at Geneva. That 
condition was that France would not agree to any arrangement which would 
directly or indirectly result in the turnover of Indochina to the Com- 
munists. The United States sought solid support for this position, 
especially from the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. Although 
the possibility was held out of future involvement of the United Nations 
in the Indochina problem, there was no thought of immediate UN action. 14/ 

b. Initial Allied Reaction to "United Action" 

Thailand and the Philippines gave a favorable response to 
the call for united action. The British response was one of caution and 
hesitancy. Churchill accepted Eisenhower's suggestion that Secretary 
Dulles go to London for further talks, but the British saw dangers in 
pressing for a defensive coalition before the Geneva conference. Eden 
was determined not to be "hustled into injudicious military decisions. 
As Eden later wrote: 

"I welcomed the American proposal for the organization 
of collective defence in South-East Asia, since this would 
contribute to the security of Malaya and Hong Kong and would 
remove the anomaly of our exclusion from the A.N. Z. U.S. Pact, 
to which the United States, Australia and New Zealand were 
party. But I felt that to form and proclaim a defensive 
coalition, before we went to the conference table, would be 
unlikely to help us militarily and would harm us politically, 
by frightening off important potential allies. By the 
beginning of May, the rains would be starting in Indo-China 
and extensive campaigning by either side would be impossible 
for several months. Since the complete collapse of the French 
military effort before then was improbable, I did not think 
that concern for the immediate military situation should be 
the guiding factor in our policy." 15/ 

c . French Call for U.S. Intervention at Dien Bien Phu (April U-5) 


The French response to the proposal for united action was 
overtaken by military events at Dien Bien Phu. Foreign Minister Bidault 
contended on April 5 that the time for a coalition approach had passed 
and that the fate of Dien Bien Phu would be decided in the next ten 
days. 16/ The previous day Ambassador Douglas Dillon was called to an 
emergency Sunday cabinet meeting and was informed by Bidault, in the com- 
pany of Laniel, that "immediate armed intervention of U e S. carrier aircraft 
at Dien Bien Phu is now necessary to save the situation." Bidault, report- 
ing Navarre's desperate state in the field and the extent of Chinese 

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intervention in support of General Giap's forces , asked the Ambassador 
point-blank for U.S. action, saying that "the fate of Southeast Asia 
now rested on Dien Bien Fnu, " and that "Geneva would be won or lost 
depending on outcome" of the battle. Yjj The United States was now 
being called upon to act quickly and unilaterally to save a local situ- ' 
ation, rather than, as Dulles desired, in concert with Asian and 
Western Allies. 

d. ' U.S. Decision Not to Intervene Unilaterally 

In the first week of April it became clear that the question 
of U.S. intervention was now crucial. Fighting at Dien Bien Phu reached 
major proportions as Chinese-supplied artillery pounded the French and 
drove them backwards. Without an early intervention by an external power, 
or group of powers, the French position at Dien Bien Phu was likely to be 
overrun. In anticipation of the French request for intervention, the 
Eisenhower Administration decided to consult with Congressional leaders. 
The President appears to have thought that Congressional support was vital 
for whatever active role the U.S. might now take in Indochina. 

Available Government documents do not provide details of the 
two meetings to be described below. However, .on the basis of seemingly 
reliable published sources, it appears that on April 3 Secretary Dulles 
and Admiral Radford met with eight Congressmen (three Republicans and 
five Democrats) at the State Department. 18/ Radford apparently outlined 
a plan for an air strike on the Vietnam People ! s Army (VPA) at Dien Bien 
Phu using 200 planes from the aircraft carriers Essex and Boxer , stationed 
on maneuvers in the South China Sea. An unsuccessful air strike might 
need to be followed by a second air strike, but ground forces were not 
envisaged at this stage It has been averred that there were atomic 
bombs on the aircraft carriers which could be delivered by the planes, 
but there is no indication that there was any serious consideration given 
to using nuclear weapons at Dien Bien Phu or elsewhere in Indochina. In 
the event of a massive Chinese troop intervention, however, it is quite 
possible that the U.S. would have retaliated with strategic nuclear 
weapons against targets in China. 

The Congressional leaders raised questions about the amount 
of allied support for such an action, about the position of the other 
Joint Chiefs, about the need for ground forces if a second air strike 
also failed, and about the danger of a mammoth Chinese intervention which 
could transform Indochina into another Korean-type war„ Radford apparently 
was forced to admit that he was the only one of the Joint Chiefs who 
favored the intervention plan. Dulles .conceded that the allies had not 
as yet been consulted. In consequence, Dulles, who had been thinking of 
a joint Congressional resolution authorizing Presidential use of U.S air- 
naval power in Indochina (which it is alleged he had ready in his pocket) 
left the meeting without the vital support he needed. The Congressional 
leaders laid down three conditions necessary for their support: (a) 
formation of an allied "coalition" -type force; (b) a French declaration 

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indicating an intent to accelerate independence for the Associated States; 
i (c) French agreement to continue their Expeditionary Corps in Indochina. 

Thus Congressional opposition put the brake on a possible unilateral U.S. 
intervention. 19/ According to a subsequent State Department Summary: 

ft It was the sense of the meeting that the U.S. should not 
intervene alone but should attempt to secure the cooperation of 
other free nations concerned in Southeast Asia, and that if such 
cooperation could be assured, it was probable that the U.S. Cong- 
ress would authorize U.S. participation in such 'United Action. '"20/ 

; * The following day, April U, Dulles and Radford met with the 

President at the White House. The President reached the decision to 
intervene only upon the satisfaction of the three conditions necessary 
j for the U.S. T, to commit belligerent acts" in Indochina. There would have • 

■ to be a coalition "with active British Commonwealth participation"; a 

"full political understanding with France and other countries," and 
Congressional approval. 21/ 

President Eisenhower cleanly did not want the U.S to inter- 
vene alone. He also was very concerned with having broad Congressional 
support for any step which might involve the U.S. in a war. As Sherman 
Adams later observed: 

"Having avoided one total war with Red China the year 
before in Korea when he had United Nat. ions support, he 
^/Eisenhower/ was in no mood to provoke another one in Indo- 
China by going it alone in a military action without the 
British and other Western Allies. He was also determined 
not to become involved militarily in any foreign conflict 
without the approval of Congress. He had had trouble 
enough convincing some Senators that it was even necessary 
to send small groups of noncombatant Air Force technicians 
to Indo-China." 22/ 

e. British Oppose "United Action" 


From April 11 to lU, Secretary Dulles visited London and Paris 
to attempt to obtain British and French commitments to support his pro- 
posal for "United Action." According to President Eisenhower, Dulles felt 
that he had been given assurance of Congressional support for "United 
Action" if the allies approved his plan. 23 / 

Dulles found the British opposed to any type of collective 
military action prior to the Geneva Conference. Dulles explained, accord- 
ing to Eden's account, that the U.S. had concluded that the French could 
no longer deal with the situation in Indochina, militarily or politically, 
alone. If the French position in Indochina collapsed, the consequences in 
the rest of Southeast Asia would be grave. U„S. air and naval forces were 

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ready to intervene and some aircraft carriers had already been moved 
from Manila to the Indochina coast. On reflection, said Dulles, he had 
thought that the U.S. should not act alone in this matter and that an 
ad hoc coalition might be formed which might develop later into a ' 
Southeast Asia defense organization. This in itself would deter China 
from further interference in Indochina and would strengthen the western 
position at Geneva by giving evidence of solidarity. 2k/ 

Eden was not convinced. He drew a distinction between the term issue of collective security in Southeast Asia — which might 
well be guaranteed by treaty after Geneva -- and the more immediate 
question of "united action" in Indochina. He was opposed to any military 
action or warning announcement before Geneva. The British were willing 
to provide the French with full diplomatac support at Geneva, either as 
a guarantor of the final settlement or as a participant in multilateral 
talks if a settlement failed to materialize. In the latter case, the 
British were prepared to discuss a collective defense formula that would 
comprehend any non-Communist portion of -Indochina formed as the result 
of the Geneva deliberations. But they would not, prior to Geneva, commit 
themselves to united action. 

Britain's distinction between 'the appropriateness of a united 
approach after, as opposed to before, the Conference was founded on 
serious doubts about the true import of united action. As Dulles cor- 
rectly judged, behind Britain's push for a settlement was the "fear that 
if fighting continues, we will in one way or another become involved, 
thereby enhancing risk of Chinese intervention and possibility further 
expansion of war." 25/ Eden charged that action prior to the Conference 
would not only destroy chances for a peaceful settlement, but would 
critically raise the risk of a wider war. American planning admitted 
the strong possibility of direct Chinese intervention, and his own intel- 
ligence staff had concluded that Western involvement would bring on the 
Chinese by land and air once the Viet Minli effort became "seriously 
endangeredo" 26/ 

Thus, while Dulles was angered at the way he felt the British 
were writing off Indochina, Eden was highly pessimistic about Dulles' 
militancy in an area of uncertain value for which the United States had 
ambiguous, high-risk plans. There was considerable difference, in Eden's 
mind, between warnings to Communist China against direct intervention 
before the fact (which the British went along with in mid- 1953) and 
united action, which would, despite any allied assurances to Peking, be 
interpreted by the Chinese as provocatory. 27/ 

British suspicions, furthermore, were an extension of the 
belief that Indochina need not be entirely lost at Geneva in the absence 
of united action. London was apparently puzzled by American talk of the 
"loss" of Indochina, for to 3.0 Downing Street, "French cannot lose the 
war between now /April 195^7 and the coming of the rainy season however 
badly they may conduct it." 28/ While Dulles kept telling the British 
that only united action through the formation of a coalition could ensure 

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against a complete Communist diplomatic triumph at Geneva, Eden was 
equally convinced that the "best way to assure continuation of the war 
would be united action, and that the French, even after Dien Bien Fhu, 
were still strong enough to prevent the Communists from gaining all 

Even before Dulles 1 April flight to London to sound out the 
British on united action, the Churchill government was closely questioning 
American evaluations of Indochina, In an April 1 cable, for instance, 
Dulles vented his disturbance at Britain's refusal to accept the view that 
the loss of Indochina would ultimately affect their security interests in 
Malaya, "Australia, and New Zealand. 29/ This was indeed the case, as 
Dulles discovered for himself once he talked to Eden in London and later 
at Geneva. Eden steadfastly refused to buy Dulles 1 analogy between Indo- 
china and Malaya, retorting that the situation in Malaya was "well in 
hand" while that in Indochina was clearly not. 30/ Admiral Radford, 
concluded in late April from talks with the British chiefs -of staff that 
j the U.K. po3_icy seemed "to be on a very narrow basis strictly in terms 

of local UoK. interest without regard to other areas of the Far East* 
such as Japan." 3-V 

The British simply could not accept the domino principle 
even as they admitted Southeast Asia's security value to the free world. 
By the opening of the Geneva Conference, the U.S. -U.K. . relations had 
reached a low point: Dulles was insisting that the British were the 
major roadblock to implementation of united action, while Eden was clinging 
to the notion that a negotiated settlement leading to partition would be 
i the best outcome of an impossibly complex politico-military situation in 


■ f . French Oppose "United Action" 

Secretary Dulles fared little better in selling "united 
action" in Paris than he did in London, but for somewhat different reasons. 
I The French were seeking a quick action to avoid an imminent military defeat 

at Dien Bien Phu. Dulles, however, refused to be torn from a collective 
allied approach to the Indochina War. The French feared that a coalition 
arrangement would lead to an internationalization of the war and take 
control of it out of their hands. They, therefore, only desired local 
assistance at Dien Bien Fhu along the lines of Operation Vulture. 

Furthermore, another objection to "united action" from the 
French viewpoint was that it would only delay or impede the very negotia- 
tions leading towards a settlement which the French increasingly desiredo 
The U.S. objective was to keep alive the French determination to continue 
the war. Dulles feared that the French would use Geneva to find a face- 
saving formula for a French surrender. Premier Laniel reaffirmed to Dulles 
in Paris that his government would take no action which directly or 
indirectly turned Indochina over to the Communists. But he also called 
attention to the increasing desire on the part of many in France to get 
out of Indochina at any cost. The French stressed that it was necessary 

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to await the results of the Geneva Conference and that they could not 
give the impression in advance that they "believed Geneva would fail. 32/ 

g . Aborted Working Group on Collective Defense in Southeast 
Asia ( April 20 ) 

Immediately upon returning to Washington on April 15 Secretary 
Dulles invited representatives of the United Kingdom, France, the Associated 
States, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, and Thailand to attend a 
meeting on the 20th to set up an ad hoc defense group for the Southeast 
Asia region , The delegates were to work on a draft for a future organiza- 
tion. The Secretary had been under the impression from his talk in London 
with Eden that the U„K. , while rejecting immediate "united action" in 
Indochina, would have no objection to such a preliminary meeting. 

On April 18, just two days before the scheduled meeting, the 
British Ambassador informed Dulles that there would be no British partici- 
pation. The reasons: no understanding on the part of the British Foreign 
Secretary that the working group would go forward at once, and no agree- 
ment concerning membership. The Department expressed amazement, but in 
view of the British attitude the April 20 meeting was transformed into a 
general briefing for the nations comprising the allied side at the Geneva 
Conference. In a later explanation of the shift in British attitude, 
Foreign Secretary Eden said that in agreeing to informal working group 
talks he had overlooked the pending Colombo Conference and that he felt 
that it would have been most undesirable to give any public indication of 
membership in a program for united action before the end of the Colombo 
discussions. 3,3/ It is now clear that the British were restrained by 
India and by a fear that British attendance at the meeting would be 
construed as assent to "united actiono" ^h/ Moreover, London could not 
have been reassured by a "trial balloon" speech of Vice President Nixon 
on April 17 in which he suggested that the U.So might have to "take the 
risk now by putting our boys in" in order to avoid "further Communist 
expansion in Asia and Indochina. " 35/ 

h. Continued French Prodding for U.S. Intervention (April 21-2;?) 

In preparation for the Indochina phase of the Geneva Conference, 
tripartite discussions (U.S., U.K., France) took place in Paris in mid- 
April. In these discussions, the French contended that a successful Geneva 
settlement was dependent on a favorable outcome of the battle at Dien Bien 
Phu and that their participation in a Southeast Asian coalition might not 
be possible if Dien Bien Phu fello There could be no guarantee what 
position France would take in the event of a collapse at Dien Bien Phu. 
The French argued that only large-scale United States air and naval inter- 
vention could retrieve the situation in Indochina. They made no formal 
request for intervention in the tripartite discussions, but on several 
occasions suggested or implied to the Americans that such action was 
necessary. 36/ 

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On April 21 , Marc Jacquet, French Secretary of State for the 
Associated States , told the American Ambassador to Indochina, Donald Heath, 
then in Paris, that no French military authority still believed a victory 
was possible in Indochina without United States air and naval intervention, 
and that such action should be indicated after the impending failure of 
the Indochina phase of the Geneva Conference o 37/ 

On April 22, Foreign Minister Bidault, with General Ely, sug- 
gested to Secretary Dulles that there should be emergency consultation 
between General Navarre and American military commanders in Indochina. 
The Foreign Minister indicated that, although he had been opposed to Inter- 
nationalizing the war, he would now favor it with United States participa- 
tion if that would save Dien Bien Fnu. 38/ 

On April 23 the French Under Secretary of State, Andr£ 
Bougenot, in the presence of Premier Laniel, suggested to Douglas MacArthur 
II, Counselor of the Department of State, that the United States could 
commit its naval aircraft to the battle at Dien Bien Ehu without risking 
American prestige or committing an act of belligerency by placing such 
aircraft, painted with French insignia and construed as part of the French 
Foreign Legion, under nominal French command for an isolated action con- 
sisting of air strikes lasting two or three days. 39/ 

On the same day Foreign Minister Bidault showed the Secretary 
a message from General Navarre in which the French commander said that the 
situation at Dien Bien Ehu was desperate and that he believed that the only- 
alternatives were (l) Operation VAUTOUK, massive B-29 bombing (which 
Secretary Dulles understood would be a United States operation from bases 
outside Indochina), or (2) a French Union request for a cease-fire (which 
the Secretary assumed would be at Dien Bien Phu only, but which General 
Navarre, as it turned out, meant should apply to all of Indochina). hOf 

k. Final U.So Position Before Geneva 

a ° Exchanges with the French 

The American response to these various suggestions was to 
reiterate to the French the necessary preconditions for American inter- 
vention: (l) complete independence for the Associated States; (2) Con- 
gressional authorization; (3) a coalition that would include the United 
Kingdom. J4I/ In relation to the need for a coalition, Secretary Dulles 
in Paris and Under Secretary ¥0 Bedell Smith in Washington suggested to 
French officials that France, in the same way as it had asked for American 
air intervention in Indochina, should appeal, for British intervention 
there. h2/ 


Before leaving Paris for Geneva, Secretary Dulles gave Foreign 
Minister Bidault a letter replying to General Navarre's suggestion that 
United States air intervention at Dien Bien Phu was the sole alternative 
to a cease-fire. In this letter, the Secretary stated again the necessary 

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preconditions for United States intervention, and contended that if 
Dien Bien Phu fell there was no reason that this should make it necessary 
to plead for a cease-fire. k$/ The French Foreign Minister, in a letter 
limited to the military consequences of United States intervention, 
replied that in the opinion of French military experts "a massive inter- 
vention of American aviation would still be able to save the garrison*" hk/ 

b. Exchanges with the UoK. 

In the discussions with the British, meanwhile, the United 
States had tried both to induce the United Kingdom to participate in a 
joint Anglo-American air and naval intervention at Dien Bien Pnu and to 
persuade the United Kingdom that the prompt organization of a collective 
defense in Southeast Asia was necessary to bolster the French in Indo- 
china o k 1 ?/ 

But the British indicated that they would make no commitment 
to intervene militarily in Indochina and wished to postpone conversations 
on collective defense arrangements until after the Geneva Conference. 
Foreign Secretary Eden told Secretary Dulles on April 2k that the British 
did not want at this juncture to intervene in the Indochina War. k6/ 
Immediately afterward Eden returned to London for. a special Cabinet meeting 
on the Indochina crisis which was held on April 25. Prime Minister Churchill 
reported to the House of Commons two days later that the British Government 
was "not prepared to give any undertakings about United Kingdom military 
action in Indochina in advance of the results of Geneva, TI and had "not 
entered into any new political or military commitments." ]V]J Before 
addressing the Commons, Churchill had rejected a plea from French Ambassador 
Ren£ Massigli, made on behalf of Premier Laniel, for a statement that Great 
Britain would join the United States and France in defense of Dien Bien 
Phu. kS/ 

The United Kingdom was willing, however, to participate in 
early military discussions to consider measures which might be taken in 
Southeast Asia if Indochina were lost. Along these lines , Foreign 
Secretary Eden and Secretary Dulles had discussed tentatively on April 22 
the possibility of a secret military appraisal — by the United States, 
the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Thailand -~ of what could 
be done to bolster Thailand in the event of a French collapse in Indochina. 
The Foreign Secretary had returned to this proposition in another con- 
versation with Secretary Dulles the next day. k^J 

On April 30, indicating that the British were prepared to 
defend the area outside Indochina, and possibly the free part of a parti- 
tioned Indochina, Eden proposed to Secretary Dulles "an immediate and 
secret joint examination of the political and military problems in creating 
a collective defense for Southeast Asia, namely: (a) nature and purpose; 
(b) membership; (c) commitments." He added that this examination should 
also cover immediate measures to strengthen Thailand. $0/ 


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Secretary Dulles raised the question of early military talks 
that might strengthen the French position at the Geneva Conference at a 
meeting in Geneva on May 2 with the Foreign Ministers of Australia and 
New Zealand^ partners of the United States in the ANZUS organization. 
The three agreed at this meeting that there should be five-power military 
talks in Washington among the MZUS powers , the United Kingdom, and 
France , with the possible participation of Thailand. 51/ 


The Washington Viewpoint 

In Washington in the meantime, the President on April 26, 
the opening date of the. Geneva Conference, told a group of Republican 
leaders that it would be a "tragic error" for the United States to intervene 
unilaterally as a partner of France in the Indochina struggle. 52/ Two 
days later, in a discussion with Under Secretary W. Bedell Smith, Presi- 
dential Assistant Robert Cutler, and Admiral Radford (who had just been 
to London and had talked with the British Chiefs of Staff and Prime 
Minister Churchill), 53/ the President expressed disappointment over the 
British attitude of refraining from active participation in discussions 
on a Southeast Asian collective security arrangement before the end of the 
Geneva Conference. President Eisenhower, in this discussion, reiterated 
his firm decision that there would be no United States military intervention 
in Indochina by executive action. He urged his aides to provide help to 
the French in repairing three airfields in Indochina but to avoid any undue 
risk of involving the United States in combat operations. $k/ 

The feasibility of American intervention at Dien Bien Phu 
was finally removed with the fall of that fortress on May 7. President 
Eisenhower sent messages to the President of France, Ren£ Coty, and to 
the Chief of State of Vietnam, Bao Dai, praising the defenders of Dien 
Bien Phu and stressing the determination of the free world to remain 
"faithful to the causes for which they fought o" 55/ 

5. Reappraisal of Domino Theory After Dien Bien Phu 

The fall of Dien Bien Phu, and the failure to organize an inter- 
vention through "united action" prior to the opening of the Geneva Con- 
ference in late April, 195^>> led to a reappraisal of the "domino theory" 
which had been at the center of U.S. policy in Southeast Asia since the 
late 19^-0 ! So The loss of Tonkin, or Vietnam, or perhaps even all of 
Indochina, was no longer considered to lead inexorably to the loss to 
Communism of all of Southeast Asia. 

Accordingly, Secretary Dulles in a press conference on May 11 
(four days after the French surrender at Dien Bien Phu) observed that 
"Southeast Asia could be secured even without perhaps Vietnam, Laos and 
Cambodia o " He went on to note that although he would not want to under- 
estimate the importance of these countries he would not want either to 
give the impression that "if events that we could not control, and which 
we do not anticipate, should lead to their being lost that we would 


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• o o 

consider the whole situation hopeless and we would give up in despair 
^6/ In a remark at the press conference that was later deleted from the 
official transcript , Dulles said that Laos and Cambodia were "important 
"but by no means essential" because they were poor countries with meager 
populations, ^jj 

Later, as the U.S. became reconciled to a political settlement 
at Geneva which would yield northern Vietnam to the Ho Chi Minh regime, 
the concept of "united action" was given a new twist. It now was trans- 
formed into an attempt to organize a long-range collective defense alliance 
which would offset the setback in Indochina and prevent further losses. 
That long-feared setback was now perceived to be less serious than had 
once been envisaged. The loss of Tonkin was no longer seen as leading 
necessarily to a Communist take-over of other territory between China and 
the American shore. Eventually, in SEATO, the U.So sought to create an 
alliance which would be strong enough to withstand the fall of one such 
domino . 


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1. Ho Chi Minh, Sele cted Works, Vol. Ill, (Hanoi: Foreign Languages 
Publishing House, 1961), pp. 4-08-9; Peter V e Curl, ed. Document s 
on American Foreign Relations 1953, (Hew York, 195*0 > P* 162; both 
as cited in Melvin Gurtov, The First Vietnam Crisis (New York: 
Columbia Univ. Press, 1967), pp. 18, 48, 171-2. 

2. Telegram from Theodore C. Achilles, deputy chief of mission, Paris, 
to Dulles No. 2110, November 30, 1953 (CONFIDENTIAL). 

3o Dulles telegram No. 180 to American Embassy - Paris, July 15, 1953 > 
(TOP SECRET) following bilateral talks of July 12. This position 
was reaffirmed in NSC 177 of December 30, 1953- 

k. See Dulles' September 2, 1953> address to the American Legion, in 
which he said: "We want peace in Indochina, as well as in Korea. 
The political conference about to be held relates in the first 
instance to Korea. But growing out of that conference could come, 
if Red China wants it, an end of aggression and restoration of peace 
in Indochina. The United States would welcome such a development." 
Cf. a French memorandum, undated, following tripartite (U.S. -U.K.- 
France) talks in Washington in July 1953* Here, it is urged that 
the Chinese representative to the Korean political conference 
be sounded out on China's intentions toward Indochina. China must 
be made to conclude "that her best interest is to cut down her 
support of the Viet Minh, in order to enjoy the benefits which she 
might expect to derive from a prolonged or final cessation of 
hostilities on the 38th parallel." (CONFIDENTIAL). 

5. New York Herald Tribune , February 19, 195^, p. 3> as quoted in 
Gurtov, op c cite , p. 76. 

6. Department of State, U.S. Poli cy on In dochina, 19^5 - May 8, 195^ , 
Research Project No. 370, July 1955, p". Ho 

7o According to the Defense Department, Chinese aid was constant at 

1000 tons a month from March 1953 to March 195^, with the exceptions 
of June 1953 (2200 tons) and March 1954 (2500 tons). See memorandum 
of Robert H. B. Wade (0ASD) to Brig. Gen. Bonesteel (0ASD, ISA), 
April 13, 195^ (SECRET). 

8. Dulles reminded Ely that once the U.S. committed any of its armed 
forces to the war, we would want to have a success, which in turn 
meant- "a greater degree of partnership than had prevailed up to 
present time, notably in relation to independence for Associated 
States and training of indigenous forces." Dulles priority telegram 
to American Embassy - Paris (eyes only for Ambassador Dillon) No. 
3277, March 23, 195>4 (TOP SECRET). 

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9. Paul Ely, M&noires: L T Indochina dans la Tourmente , (Paris: Plon, 
196k), p. 6k. 

10 • Ibid o , pp. 76-77> 82-83; Jean Laconture and Philippe Devillers, 
i La Fin d T une Guerr e ( Paris , 1960), p. 73; Joseph Laniel, Le Drame 

Indochinois : De Dien Eien Phu au Pari de Geneve , (Paris: Plon, 
1957 )> P- 88. Laniel writes of a raid by 300 Philippine-based 
fighter bombers o 

11. Melvin Gurtov, Th.e First Vietn am Crisis (New York: Columbia Univ. 
J^ress, 1967), pp. 79-80; 188; 217. 


12. John Foster Dulles, "The Threat of a Red Asia/' Department of 
State Bulletin , April 12, 1951+ . 

13 o Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mandate for Change, 1953-1956 (New York: 

Doubleday & Co., I963), pp 3I4-6-7. 


ik. Memorandum by Bonbright (EUR) of conversation among Dulles, 

Ambassador Spender (Australia) and Ambassador Munro (New Zealand), 
April hi memorandum by Bonbright of conversation between Dulles and 
Munro, April 6, 195 1 *-, TOP SECRET - as given in Department of State 
Research Project No. 370, op. cit . 3 p. 16. 

15. Anthony Eden, Full Circle (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., i960), 

p. 10U. 

16. Telegram 3729 from American Embassy, Paris, April 5, 195^ (TOP SECRET) 

17. Telegram 3710 from American Embassy, Paris, April 5, I95U (TOP SECRET) 

l8o The account of the April 3 meeting is taken primarily from Gurtov, 
op. cite , pp 9^*"96- Gurtov* s book draws heavily from Chalmers M. 
Roberts, "The Day We Didn T t Go to War," The Reporter , XI, September 
14, 195^ o Corroborative material is to be found in John Robinson 
Beal, John Foster Dulles , (New York, 1957 ), pp. 207-8; Eisenhower, 
Mandate for Change 5 pp. 3^-6-7 . 

19- Gurtov, ap. cit . , pp. 96~97° 

20. Deptel 689 to American Embassy,- London, August 3, I95I+ (TOP SECRET). 

21. Deptel 3 L l-82 to American Embassy, Paris, April 5, 195^ (TOP SECRET). 

22. Sherman Adams, Firsthand Report: The Story of the Eisen hower 
Administration, (New York: Harper and Bros., I961), p P 121. 

23. Eisenhower, op. cit . , p. 3^+7° 
2k. Eden, op.cit. , pp. 106~7* 

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I 25. Dulles "eyes only" telegram DULTE 9 from Geneva for Smithy Dillon, 

and Aldrich, April 26, 195^ (TOP SECRET). 

26. "View of British JTC /joint Intelligence Center/ on Indochina," 
April 16, 195 ] 4- (SECRET). JTC estimated that the Chinese could 
deploy about 128,000 men in three field armies to the Indochina 
frontier within twelve dayso In the air, the CCAE would probably 
provide "only minimum air support," JTC calculated, inasmuch as 
the Chinese would doubtless want to reserve their air power for 
defense of the mainland*, 

27. See Aldrich priority cable "eyes only" No. U382 from London to 
Dulles, April 6, I95U (TOP SECRET ). 

28. See Dulles "eyes only" cable NIACT 5177 and 3^78 (TOP SECRET), 
written after a conversation with the British Ambassador, Sir Roger 
Makins, on April 2, 195^ 

29. Dulles telegram No. 509O to American Embassy - London, April 1, 
195^ (TOP SECRET). 

30. Dulles "eyes only" telegram from Geneva DULTE 5 for Smith, April 25, 
195^ (TOP SECRET ). 

- 31. In U.S. Ambassador Aldrich T s "eyes only" telegrajn No. ^72 5 from 
London for Dulles, Smith, Wilson, and JCS, April 26, 195^ (TOP 

32. Memorandum by MacArthur of conversation with Prime Minister Laniel, 
in Paris, April 13; memorandum of conversation among Dulles, 
Ambassador Dillon, MacArthur, Lt. Colo Walter, Laniel, and Foreign 
Minister Bidault, in Paris, April Ik; memorandum by MacArthur of con- 
versation between Dulles and Bidault, April Ik; TOP SECRET, from 
Paris, telo 3888, April Ik, 195^ SECRET* In State Department 
Research Project No. 370, July, 1955- 

33 • Memorandum by Merchant (EUR) of conversations between Ambassador 

Makins and Smith (u) and between Makins and Dulles, April 18, 195^, 
SECRET; from Paris, tel. DULTE 3, April 22, I95U, TOP SECRET. In 
Department of State Research Project No. 370, July, 1955 • Here- 
after cited as "R.P. No 370." 

3k. Eden, op cit., pp. 109-111. 

35* Eisenhower, op. cit . , p. 353* 

36. From Paris, tels. DULTE 2, April 22, and DULTE 15, April 2k, ±9^k, 
TOP SECRET, R.P. ~No. 370. 

37o From Paris, tel. 3972, April 21, 195^, SECRET. R.P No. 370. 

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380 From Paris, telo DULTE 2, April 22, 195^, TOP SECRET. (See also from 
Saigon tel. 2096, April 23, 195^-, and tel. 2098, April 2k, 195k, both 
TOP SECRET.) From Saigon the Chief of the UoS. Military Assistance 
Advisory Group reported that the French Commander lacked the ability 
to wage war on a scale necessary to win, and he suggested that the 
United States assume operational and training control in southern 
Indochina. From Saigon, Army tel. MG 1122 A 220^00Z and tel. 2072, 
April 22, I95J4, SECRET and TOP SECRET, respectively o R. P. No. 370. 

39. Memorandum by MacArthur of conversation among Laniel, Vidal, Bougenot, 
and himself, in Paris, April 23, 195*+, TOP SECRET; from Paris, telo 
DULTE 9, April 26, I95U, TOP SECRET. R o P. No. 370. 

kO. From Paris, tels. DULTE 7 and 10, April 23; DULTE 15, April 2k 9 
195^, all TOP SECRETo R.P. No. 370. 

kl. From Paris, tels, DULTE 2, April 22; DULTE 7 and 10, April 23; DULTE 
17, April 2k u y memorandum by MacArthur of conversation among Laniel, 
Vidal, Bougenot, and himself, in Paris, April 23, 195^, all TOP SECRET 
RoP. No. 370. 


k2. From Paris, tel. DULTE 17, April 2k, ±95k, TOP SECRET; to Geneva, tel. 
TEDUL k, April 25, I95U, TOP SECRET. R.P. No. 370. 

1*3. From Paris, tel. DULTE 13, April 2^; to Paris, tel. TEDUL 8, April 2k, 
195^5 TOP SECRET. For comments on American policy by Secretary 
Dulles at a background meeting with correspondents in Geneva on April 
25, see from Geneva tel. SECTO 6, April 25, I95U, CONFIDENT IAL. 
RoP. No. 370. 

kko From Paris, tel. ^058, April 25; from Geneva, tel. DULTE 8, April 26, 
1954, TOP SECRET. RoP. No. 370. 

1*5. From Paris, tels. DULTE 3, April 22; DULTE 10, April 23, DULTE l8, 
April 2k, 195 1 !-, all TOP SECRET. R.P. No. 370. 

U6. From Paris, tel. DULTE 15, April 2k, ±9$k, TOP SECRET. R.P. No. 370. 

k7. From Paris, tel. DULTE 17, April 2k; from Geneva, telo DULTE 7, 

April 26, 195^, both TOP SECRETo House of Commons, Parliamentary 
Debates , Fifth Series, April 27, 195^, p. 1U56. R.P. No 370o 

1|S. From London, telo ^750, April 27, I95U, SECRET. R.Po No 370. 

I19. From Paris, tel. DULTE 10, April 23, I95U, TOP SECRET. Concerning 

the reactions of Under Secretary Smith and Secretary Dulles to Eden T s 
proposal, see Geneva, tel. TEDUL 2, April 2k, 195*S TOP SECRET, and 
from Geneva, telo DULTE 25, April 29, 195^, TOP SECRET. R.P. No. 370. 

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50. From. Geneva, tels. DULTE 7, April 26; DULTE 30, and DULTE 3^, 
April 30, 195I+, all TOP SECRETo Secretary Dulles told Mr. Eden that 
the initial nucleus in the proposed Southeast Asian defense plan 
should comprise Thailand, the Philippines, Australia, and New 
Zealand, as well as the United States, the United Kingdom, France, 
and the Associated States of Indochina (from Geneva, tel« DULTE 33? 
April 30, 195U, TOP SECRET) . R P. No 370. 

51. Memorandum "by McBride (WE) of conversation among Dulles, Smith (u), 
R. Go Casey (Australia), and To C Webb (New Zealand), in Geneva, 
May 2, 195 1 !-, SECRET; see also from Canberra, tel. 257, May 7> 195^ 
SECRET. R.Po No. 370. 

52. To Geneva, tele TEDUL 16, April 28, I95H (containing summary by 
Robert Cutler of the White House staff, of principal points made by 
the President), TOP SECRET. R o P No. 370. 

53. For an account of Admiral Radford 1 s conversations with British 
leaders in London, see from London, tel. J+725, April 26, 195^ > TOP 
SECRET; to Geneva, tel. JCS 960578, April 27, 195)4, TOP SECRET. 
R0P0 Noo 370. 

5U. To Geneva, tele TEDUL 16, April 28, 195^, TOP SECRET; memorandum by 
Cutler (White House staff) of conversation in the President's 
office among the President, General Smith (U), Admiral Radford, and 
himself, April 28, 1$^k y TOP SECRET. R.P. No. 370, 

55. From Geneva, tel. DULTE 2, April 25, 195^, TOP SECRET; from Paris, 
tel. ^266, May 7, 195^ CONFIDENTIAL; White House Press Releases 
(2), May 7, 195^. 

560 Department of State Press Release No„ k> May 11, 195^ • 

57. For the official conference transcript see Department of State 
Bulletin, XXX, No. 778, May 2k, 195k. 

B-36 TOP SECRET - Sensitive