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The Pentagon Papers

Gravel Edition
Volume 1
Chapter I, "Background to the Crisis, 19!"#!," pp$ 1"#%$
&Boston' Beacon Press, 19(1)
"The contents of this volume are drawn from the official record of the U.S. Senate
Subcommittee on Public Buildings and Grounds. No copyright is claimed in the tet of
this official Government document."
Summary
I*+,C-I*. I* /$0$ 1.2TI3E P,4IC5, 191"19#
Significant misunderstanding has developed concerning U.S. policy towards !ndochina in
the decade of "orld "ar !! and its aftermath. # number of historians have held that anti$
colonialism governed U.S. policy and actions up until %&'() when containment of
communism supervened. *or eample) Bernard *all +e.g. in his %&,- postmortem boo.)
/ast 0eflections on a "ar1 categori2ed #merican policy toward !ndochina in si periods3
"+%1 #nti$4ichy) %&5($%&5'6 +71 Pro$4iet 8inh) %&5'$%&5,6 +91 Non$involvement) %&5,$
:une %&'(6 +51 Pro$*rench) %&'($:uly %&'56 +'1 Non$military involvement) %&'5$
November %&,%6 +,1 ;irect and full involvement) %&,%$ ." <ommenting that the first four
periods are those "least .nown even to the specialist)" *all developed the thesis that
President 0oosevelt was determined "to eliminate the *rench from !ndochina at all costs)"
and had pressured the #llies to establish an international trusteeship to administer
!ndochina until the nations there were ready to assume full independence. This obdurate
anti$colonialism) in *all=s view) led to cold refusal of #merican aid for *rench resistance
fighters) and to a policy of promoting >o <hi 8inh and the 4iet 8inh as the alternative
to restoring the *rench bonds. But) the argument goes) 0oosevelt died) and principle
faded6 by late %&5,) anti$colonialism mutated into neutrality. #ccording to *all3 ""hether
this was due to a deliberate policy in "ashington or) conversely) to an absence of policy)
is not ?uite clear. . . . The United States) preoccupied in @urope) ceased to be a diplomatic
factor in !ndochina until the outbrea. of the Aorean "ar." !n %&'() anti$communism
asserted itself) and in a remar.able volte$face) the United States threw its economic and
military resources behind *rance in its war against the 4iet 8inh. Bther commentators)
conversely$prominent among them) the historians of the 4iet 8inh$have described U.S.
policy as consistently condoning and assisting the reimposition of *rench colonial power
in !ndochina) with a concomitant disregard for the nationalist aspirations of the
4ietnamese.
Neither interpretation s?uares with the record6 the United States was less concerned over
!ndochina) and less purposeful than either assumes. #mbivalence characteri2ed U.S.
policy during "orld "ar %%) and was the root of much subse?uent misunderstanding. Bn
the one hand) the U.S. repeatedly reassured the *rench that its colonial possessions would
be returned to it after the war. Bn the other band) the U.S. broadly committed itself in the
#tlantic <harter to support national self$determination) and President 0oosevelt
personally and vehemently advocated independence for !ndochina. *.;.0. regarded
!ndochina as a flagrant eample of onerous colonialism which should be turned over to a
trusteeship rather than returned to *rance. The President discussed this proposal with the
#llies at the <airo) Teheran) and Calta <onferences and received the endorsement of
<hiang Aai$she. and Stalin6 Prime 8inister <hurchill demurred. #t one point) *all
reports) the President offered General de Gaulle *ilipino advisers to help *rance establish
a "more progressive policy in !ndochina"$$which offer the General received in "Pensive
Silence."
Ultimately) U.S. Policy was governed neither by the principle s of the #tlantic <harter)
nor by the President=s anti$colonialism but by the dictates of military strategy and by
British intransigence on the colonial issue. The United States) concentrating its forces
against :apan) accepted British military primacy in Southeast #sia) and divided !ndochina
at %,th parallel between the British and the <hinese for the purposes of occupation. . U.S.
commanders serving with the British and <hinese) while instructed to avoid ostensible
alignment with the *rench) were permitted to conduct operations in !ndochina which did
not detract from the campaign against :apan. <onsistent with *.;.0.=s guidance) U.S. did
provide modest aid to *rench$$and 4iet 8inh$$resistance forces in 4ietnam after 8arch)
%&5') but refused to provide shipping to move *ree *rench troops there. Pressed by both
the British and the *rench for clarification U.S. intentions regarding the political status of
!ndochina) *.;.0$ maintained that "it is a matter for postwar."
The President=s trusteeship concept foundered as early as 8arch %&59) when the U.S.
discovered that the British) concerned over possible preDudice to <ommonwealth policy)
proved to be unwilling to Doin in any declaration on trusteeships) and indeed any
statement endorsing national independence which went beyond the #tlantic <harter=s
vague "respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which
they will live." So sensitive were the British on this point that the ;umbarton Ba.s
<onference of %&55) at which the blueprint for the postwar international system was
negotiated) s.irted the colonial issue) and avoided trusteeships altogether. #t each .ey
decisional point at which the President could have influenced the course of events toward
trusteeship$$in relations with the U.A.) in casting the United Nations <harter) in
instructions to allied commanders$$he declined to do so6 hence) despite his lip service to
trusteeship and anti$colonialism) *.;.0. in fact assigned to !ndochina a status correlative
to Burma) 8alaya) Singapore and !ndonesia3 free territory to be recon?uered and returned
to its former owners. Non$intervention by the U.S. on behalf of the 4ietnamese was
tantamount to acceptance of the *rench return. Bn #pril 9) %&5') with President
0oosevelt=s approval) Secretary of State Stettinius issued a statement that) as a result of
the Calta tal.s) the U.S. would loo. to trusteeship as a postwar arrangement only for
"territories ta.en from the enemy)" and for "territories as might voluntarily be placed
under trusteeship." By contet) and by the Secretary of State=s subse?uent interpretation)
!ndochina fell into the latter category. Trusteeship status for !ndochina became) then) a
matter for *rench determination.
Shortly following President Truman=s entry into office) the U.S. assured *rance that it had
never ?uestioned) "even by implication) *rench sovereignty over !ndo$<hina." The U.S.
policy was to press *rance for progressive measures in !ndochina) but to epect *rance to
decide when its peoples would be ready for independence6 "such decisions would
preclude the establishment of a trusteeship in !ndochina ecept with the consent of the
*rench Government." These guidelines) established by :une) %&5'$$before the end of the
warEremained fundamental to U.S. policy.
"ith British cooperation) *rench military forces were reestablished in South 4ietnam in
September) %&5'. The U.S. epressed dismay at the outbrea. of guerrilla warfare which
followed) and pointed out that while it had no intention of opposing the reestablishment
of *rench control) "it is not the policy of this government to assist the *rench to
reestablish their control over !ndochina by force) and the willingness of the U.S. to see
*rench control reestablished assumes that FtheG *rench claim to have the support of the
population in !ndochina is borne out by future events." Through the fall and winter of
%&5'$%&5,) the U.S. received a series of re?uests from >o <hi 8inh for intervention in
4ietnam6 these were) on the record) unanswered. >owever) the U.S. steadfastly refused to
assist the *rench military effort) e.g.) forbidding #merican flag vessels to carry troops or
war materiel to 4ietnam. Bn 8arch ,) %&5,) the *rench and >o signed an #ccord in
which >o acceded to *rench reentry into North 4ietnam in return for recognition of the
;04 as a "*ree State)" part of the *rench Union. #s of #pril %&5,) allied occupation of
!ndochina was officially terminated) and the U.S. ac.nowledged to *rance that all of
!ndochina had reverted to *rench control. Thereafter) the problems of U.S. policy toward
4ietnam were dealt with in the contet of the U.S. relationship with *rance.
/$0$ *E/T2.4IT5 I* T-E 62.*C,"VIET 3I*- 1.2, 197"199
!n late %&5,) the *ranco$4iet 8inh "ar began in earnest. # chart +pp. 9- ff1 summari2es
the principal events in the relations between *rance and 4ietnam) %&5,$%&5&) describing
the milestones along the route by which *rance) on the one hand) failed to reach any
lasting accommodation with >o <hi 8inh) and) on the other hand) erected the "Bao ;ai
solution" in its stead. The U.S. during these years continued to regard the conflict as
fundamentally a matter for *rench resolution. The U.S. in its representations to *rance
deplored the prospect of protracted war) and urged meaningful concessions to
4ietnamese nationalism. >owever) the U.S.) deterred by the history of >o=s communist
affiliation) always stopped short of endorsing >o <hi 8inh or the 4iet 8inh.
#ccordingly) U.S. policy gravitated with that of *rance toward the Bao ;ai solution. #t
no point was the U.S. prepared to adopt an openly interventionist course. To have done so
would have clashed with the epressed British view that !ndochina was an eclusively
*rench concern) and played into the hands of *rance=s etremist political parties of both
the 0ight and the /eft. The U.S. was particularly apprehensive lest by intervening it
strengthen the political position of *rench <ommunists. Beginning in %&5, and %&5-)
*rance and Britain were moving toward an anti$Soviet alliance in @urope and the U.S.
was reluctant to press a potentially divisive policy. The U.S. Fwords illegibleG 4ietnamese
nationalism relatively insignificant compared with @uropean economic recovery and
collective security from communist domination.
!t is not as though the U.S. was not prepared to act in circumstances such as these. *or
eample) in the %&5'$%&5, dispute over ;utch possessions in !ndonesia) the U.S. actively
intervened against its ;utch ally. !n this case) however) the intervention was in concert
with the U.A. +which steadfastly refused similar action in !ndochina1 and against the
Netherlands) a much less significant ally in @urope than *rance. !n wider company and at
proDected lower cost) the U.S. could and did show a determination to act against
colonialism.
The resultant U.S. policy has most often been termed "neutrality." !t was) however) also
consistent with the policy of deferring to *rench volition announced by President
0oosevelt=s Secretary of State on 9 #pril %&5'. !t was a policy characteri2ed by the same
indecision that had mar.ed U.S. wartime policy. 8oreover) at the time) !ndochina
appeared to many to be one region in the troubled postwar world in which the U.S. might
enDoy the luury of abstention.
!n *ebruary) %&5-) early in the war) the U.S. #mbassador in Paris was instructed to
reassure Premier 0amadier of the "very friendliest feelings" of the U.S. toward *rance
and its interest in supporting *rance in recovering its economic) political and military
strength3
!n spite any misunderstanding which might have arisen in minds *rench in regard to our
position concerning !ndochina they must appreciate that we have fully recogni2ed
*rance=s sovereign position in that area and we do not wish to have it appear that we are
in any way endeavoring undermine that position) and *rench should .now it is our desire
to be helpful and we stand ready assist any appropriate way we can to find solution for
!ndochinese problem. #t same time we cannot shut our eyes to fact that there are two
sides this problem and that our reports indicate both a lac. *rench understanding of other
side +more in Saigon than in Paris1 and continued eistence dangerously Butmoded
colonial outloo. and methods in area. *urthermore) there is no escape from fact that trend
of times is to effect that colonial empires in H!H <entury sense are rapidly becoming
thing of past. #ction Brit in !ndia and Burma and ;utch in !ndonesia are outstanding
eamples this trend) and *rench themselves too. cogni2ance of it both in new
<onstitution and in their agreements with 4ietnam. Bn other hand we do not lose sight
fact that >o <hi 8inh has direct <ommunist connections and it should be obvious that
we are not interested in seeing colonial empire administrations supplanted by philosophy
and political organi2ations emanating from and controlled by Aremlin. . . .
*ran.ly we have no solution of problem to suggest. !t is basically matter for two parties
to wor. out themselves and from your reports and those from !ndochina we are led to feel
that both parties have endeavored to .eep door open to some sort of settlement. "e
appreciate fact that 4ietnam started present fighting in !ndochina on ;ecember %& and
that this action has made it more difficult for *rench to adopt a position of generosity and
conciliation. Nevertheless we hope that *rench will find it possible to be more than
generous in trying to find a solution.
The U.S. aniously followed the vacillations of *rance=s policy toward Bao ;ai)
ehorting the *rench to translate the successive "agreements" they contracted with him
into an effective nationalist alternative to >o <hi 8inh and the 4iet 8inh. !ncreasingly)
the U.S. sensed that *rench unwillingness to concede political power to 4ietnamese
heightened the possibility of the *ranco$4iet 8inh conflict being transformed into a
struggle with Soviet imperialism. U.S. diplomats were instructed to "apply such
persuasion andIor pressure as is best calculated FtoG produce desired result Fof *rance=sG
une?uivocally and promptly approving the principle of 4iet independence." *rance was
notified that the U.S. was willing to etend financial aid to a 4ietnamese government not
a *rench puppet) "but could not give consideration of altering its present policy in this
regard unless real progress FisG made in reaching non$<ommunist solution in !ndochina
based on cooperation of true nationalists of that country."
#s of %&5J) however) the U.S. remained uncertain that >o and the 4iet 8inh were in
league with the Aremlin. # State ;epartment appraisal of >o <hi 8inh in :uly %&5J)
indicated that3
%. ;epts info indicates that >o <hi 8inh is <ommunist. >is long and well$.nown record
in <omintern during twenties and thirties) continuous support by *rench <ommunist
newspaper >umanite since %&5') praise given him by 0adio 8oscow +which for past si
months has been devoting increasing attention to !ndochina1 and fact he has been called
"leading communist" by recent 0ussian publications as well as ;aily "or.er ma.es any
other conclusion appear to be wishful thin.ing.
7. ;ept has no evidence of direct lin. between >o and 8oscow but assumes it eists) nor
is it able evaluate amount pressure or guidance 8oscow eerting. "e have impression
>o must be given or is retaining large degree latitude. ;ept considers that USS0
accomplishing its immediate aims in !ndochina by +a1 pinning down large numbers of
*rench troops) +b1 causing steady drain upon *rench economy thereby tending retard
recovery and dissipate @<# assistance to *rance) and +c1 denying to world generally
surpluses which !ndochina normally has available thus perpetuating conditions of
disorder and shortages which favorable to growth cornmunism. *urthermore) >o seems
?uite capable of retaining and even strengthening his grip on !ndochina with no outside
assistance other than continuing procession of *rench puppet govts.
!n the fall of %&5J) the Bffice of !ntelligence 0esearch in the ;epartment of State
conducted a survey of communist influence in Southeast #sia. @vidence of Aremlin$
directed conspiracy was found in virtually all countries ecept 4ietnam3
Since ;ecember %&) %&5,) there have been continuous conflicts between *rench forces
and the nationalist government of 4ietnam. This government is a coalition in which
avowed communists hold influential positions. #lthough the *rench admit the influence
of this government) they have consistently refused to deal with its leader) >o <hi 8inh)
on the grounds that he is a communist.
To date the 4ietnam press and radio have not adopted an anti$#merican position. !t is
rather the *rench colonial press that has been strongly anti$#merican and has freely
accused the U.S. of imperialism in !ndochina to the point of approimating the official
8oscow position. #lthough the 4ietnam radio has been closely watched for a new
position toward the U.S.) no change has appeared so far. Nor does there seem to have
been any split within the coalition government of 4ietnam. . . .
@valuation. !f there is a 8oscow directed conspiracy in Southeast #sia) !ndochina is an
anomaly so far. Possible eplanations are3
%. No rigid directives have been issued by 8oscow
7. The 4ietnam government considers that it has no rightist elements that must be purged.
9. The 4ietnam <ommunists are not subservient to the foreign policies pursued by
8oscow.
5. # special dispensation for the 4ietnam government has been arranged in 8oscow.
Bf these possibilities) the first and fourth seem most li.ely.
,2IGI*0 ,6 /$0$ I*V,4VE3E*T I* VIET*.3
The collapse of the <hinese Nationalist government in %&5& sharpened #merican
apprehensions over communist epansion in the *ar @ast) and hastened U.S. measures to
counter the threat posed by 8ao=s <hina. The U.S. sought to create and employ policy
instruments similar to those it was bringing into play against the Soviets in @urope3
collective security organi2ations) economic aid) and military assistance. *or eample)
<ongress) in the opening paragraphs of the law it passed in %&5& to establish the first
comprehensive military assistance program) epressed itself "as favoring the creation by
the free countries and the free peoples of the *ar @ast of a Doint organi2ation) consistent
with the <harter of the United Nations) to establish a program of self$help and mutual
cooperation designed to develop their economic and social well$being) to safeguard basic
rights and liberties) and to protect their security and independence.." But) the negotiating
of such an organi2ation among the disparate powers and political entities of the *ar @ast
was inherently more comple a matter than the North #tlantic Treaty nations had
successfully faced. The U.S. decided that the impetus for collective security in #sia
should come from the #sians) but by late %&5&) it also recogni2ed that action was
necessary in !ndochina. Thus) in the closing months of %&5&) the course of U.S. policy
was set to bloc. further communist epansion in #sia3 by collective security if the #sians
were forthcoming6 by collaboration with maDor @uropean allies and commonwealth
nations) if possible6 but bilaterally if necessary. Bn that policy course lay the Aorean "ar
of %&'($%&'9) the forming of the Southeast #sia Treaty Brgani2ation of %&'5) and the
progressively deepening U.S. involvement in 4ietnam.
:anuary and *ebruary) %&'() were pivotal months. The *rench too. the first concrete
steps toward transferring public administration to Bao ;ai=s State of 4ietnam. >o <hi
8inh denied the legitimacy of the latter) proclaiming the ;04 as the "only legal
government of the 4ietnam people)" and was formally recogni2ed by Pe.ing and
8oscow. Bn 7& :anuary %&'() the *rench Nation) #ssembly approved legislation
granting autonomy to the State of 4ietnam. (n *ebruary %) %&'() Secretary of State
#cheson made the following public statement3
The recognition by the Aremlin of >o <hi 8inh=s communist movement in !ndochina
comes as a surprise. The Soviet ac.nowledgment of this movement should remove any
illusions as to the "nationalist" nature of >o <hi 8inh=s aims and reveals >o in his true
colors as the mortal enemy of native independence in !ndochina.
#lthough timed in an effort to cloud the transfer of sovereignty *rance to the legal
Governments of /aos) <ambodia and 4ietnam) we have every reason to believe that
those legal governments will proceed in their development toward stable governments
representing the true nationalist sentiments of more than 7( million peoples of !ndochina.
*rench action in transferring sovereignty to 4ietnam) /aos and <ambodia has been in
process for some time. *ollowing *rench ratification) which is epected within a few
days) the way will be open for recognition of these local governments by the countries of
the world whose policies support the development of genuine national independence in
former colonial areas. . . .
*ormal *rench ratification of 4ietnamese independence was announced 5 *ebruary %&'(6
on the same date) President Truman approved U.S. recognition for Bao ;ai. *rench
re?uests for aid in !ndochina followed within a few wee.s. Bn 8ay J) %&'() the
Secretary of State announced that3
The United States Government convinced that neither national independence nor
democratic evolution eist in any area dominated by Soviet imperialism) considers the
situation to be such as to warrant its according economic aid and military e?uipment to
the #ssociated State of !ndochina and to *rance in order to assist them in restoring
stability and permitting these states to pursue their peaceful and democratic development.
The U.S. thereafter was deeply involved in the developing war. But it cannot be said that
the etension of aid was a volte$face of U.S. policy precipitated solely by the events of
%&'(. !t appears rather as the denouement of a cohesive progression of U.S. policy
decisions stemming from the %&5' determination that *rance should decide the political
future of 4ietnamese nationalism. Neither the modest B.S.S. aid to the 4iet 8inh in
%&5') nor the U.S. refusal to abet *rench recourse to arms the same year) signaled U.S.
bac.ing of >o <hi 8inh. To the contrary) the U.S. was very wary of >o) apprehensive
lest Paris= imperialism be succeeded by control from 8oscow. Uncertainty characteri2ed
the U.S. attitude toward >o through %&5J) but the U.S. incessantly pressured *rance to
accommodate "genuine" 4ietnamese nationalism and independence. !n early %&'() both
the apparent fruition of the Bao ;ai solution) and the patent alignment of the ;04 with
the USS0 and <ommunist <hina) impelled the U.S. to more direct intervention in
4ietnam.
(End of Summary)
1$ I*+,C-I*. I* /$0$ 1.2TI3E P,4IC5, 191"19#
!n the interval between the fall of *rance in %&5() and the Pearl >arbor attac. in
;ecember) %&5%) the United States watched with increasing apprehension the flu of
:apanese military power into !ndochina. #t first the United States urged 4ichy to refuse
:apanese re?uests for authori2ation to use bases there) but was unable to offer more than
vague assurances of assistance) such as a State ;epartment statement to the *rench
#mbassador on , #ugust %&5( that3
"e have been doing and are doing everything possible within the framewor. of our
established policies to .eep the situation in the *ar @ast stabili2ed6 that we have been
progressively ta.ing various steps) the effect of which has been to eert economic
pressure on :apan6 that our *leet is now based on >awaii) and that the course which we
have been following) as indicated above) gives a clear indication of our intentions and
activities for the future.
The *rench #mbassador replied that3
!n his opinion the phrase "within the framewor. of our established policies." when
associated with the apparent reluctance of the #merican Government to consider the use
of military force in the *ar @ast at this particular time) to mean that the United States
would not use military or naval force in support of any position which might be ta.en to
resist the :apanese attempted aggression on !ndochina. The #mbassador FfearedG that the
*rench Government would) under the indicated pressure of the :apanese Government) be
forced to accede . . .
The fears of the *rench #mbassador were reali2ed. !n %&5%) however) :apan went beyond
the use of bases to demands for a presence in !ndochina tantamount to occupation.
President 0oosevelt himself epressed the heightening U.S. alarm to the :apanese
#mbassador) in a conversation recorded by #cting Secretary of State "elles as follows3
The President then went on to say that this new move by :apan in !ndochina created an
eceedingly serious problem for the United States . . . the cost of any military occupation
is tremendous and the occupation itself is not conducive to the production by civilians in
occupied countries of food supplies and new materials of the character re?uired by :apan.
>ad :apan underta.en to obtain the supplies she re?uired from !ndochina in a peaceful
way) she not only would have obtained larger ?uantities of such supplies) but would have
obtained them with complete security and without the draining epense of a military
occupation. *urthermore) from the military standpoint) the President said) surely the
:apanese Government could not have in reality the slightest belief that <hina) Great
Britain) the Netherlands or the United States had any territorial designs on !ndochina nor
were in the slightest degree providing any real threats of aggression against :apan. This
Government) conse?uently) could only assume that the occupation of !ndochina was
being underta.en by :apan for the purpose of further offense and this created a situation
which necessarily must give the United States the most serious dis?uiet . . .
. . . The President stated that if the :apanese Government would refrain from occupying
!ndochina with its military and naval forces) or) had such steps actually been commenced)
if the :apanese Government would withdraw such forces) the President could assure the
:apanese Government that he would do everything within his power to obtain from the
Governments of <hina) Great Britain) the Netherlands) and of course the United States
itself a binding and solemn declaration) provided :apan would underta.e the same
commitment) to regard !ndochina as a neutrali2ed country in the same way in which
Swit2erland had up to now been regarded by the powers as a neutrali2ed country. >e
stated that this would imply that none of the powers concerned would underta.e any
military act of aggression against !ndochina and would remain in control of the territory
and would not be confronted with attempts to dislodge them on the part of de Gaullist or
*ree *rench agents or forces.
The same date) Secretary of State <ordell >ull instructed Sumner "elles to see the
:apanese #mbassador) and
8a.e clear the fact that the occupation of !ndochina by :apan possibly means one further
important step to sei2ing control of the South Sea area) including trade routes of supreme
importance to the United States controlling such products as rubber) tin and other
commodities. This was of vital concern to the United States. The Secretary said that if we
did not bring out this point our people will not understand the significance of this
movement into !ndochina. The Secretary mentioned another point to be stressed3 there is
no theory on which !ndochina could be flooded with armed forces) aircraft) et cetera) for
the defense of :apan. The only alternative is that this venture into !ndochina has a close
relation to the South Sea area and its value for offense against that area.
!n a press statement of 7 #ugust %&5%) #cting Secretary of State "elles deplored :apan=s
"epansionist aims" and impugned 4ichy3
Under these circumstances) this Government is impelled to ?uestion whether the *rench
Government at 4ichy in fact proposes to maintain its declared policy to preserve for the
*rench people the territories both at home and abroad which have long been under *rench
sovereignty.
This Government) mindful of its traditional friendship for *rance) has deeply
sympathi2ed with the desire of the *rench people to maintain their territories and to
preserve them intact. !n its relations with the *rench Government at 4ichy and with$the
local *rench authorities in *rench territories) the United States will be governed by the
manifest effectiveness with which those authorities endeavor to protect these territories
from domination and control by those powers which are see.ing to etend their rule by
force and con?uest) or by the threat thereof.
Bn the eve of Pearl >arbor) as part of the U.S. attempt to obtain :apanese consent to a
non$aggression pact) the U.S. again proposed neutrali2ation of !ndochina in return for
:apanese withdrawal. The events of - ;ecember %&5% put the ?uestion of the future of
!ndochina in the wholly different contet of U.S. strategy for fighting "orld "ar %%.
.$ 2,,0EVE4T80 T2/0TEE0-IP C,*CEPT
U.S. policy toward !ndochina during "orld "ar %% was ambivalent. Bn the one hand) the
U.S. appeared to support *ree *rench claims to all of *rance=s overseas dominions. The
U.S. early in the war repeatedly epressed or implied to the *rench an intention to restore
to *rance its overseas empire after the war. These U.S. commitments included the #ugust
7) %&5%) official statement on the *ranco$:apanese agreement6 a ;ecember) %&5%)
Presidential letter to P,tain6 a 8arch 7) %&57) statement on New <aledonia6 a note to the
*rench #mbassador of #pril %9) %&576 Presidential statements and messages at the time
of the North #frica invasion6 the <lar.$;arlan #greement of November 77) %&576 and a
letter of the same month from the President=s Personal 0epresentative to General >enri
Giraud) which included the following reassurance3
. . . The restoration of *rance to full independence) in all the greatness and vastness which
it possessed before the war in @urope as well as overseas) is one of the war aims of the
United Nations. !t is thoroughly understood that *rench sovereignty will be re$established
as soon as possible throughout all the territory) metropolitan or colonial) over which flew
the *rench flag in %&9&.
Bn the other hand) in the #tlantic <harter and other pronouncements the U.S. proclaimed
support for national self$determination and independence. 8oreover) the President of the
United States) especially distressed at the 4ichy "sell$out" to :apan in !ndochina) often
cited *rench rule there as a flagrant eample of onerous and eploitative colonialism) and
tal.ed of his determination to turn !ndochina over to an international trusteeship after the
war. !n early %&55) /ord >alifa) the British #mbassador in "ashin$ton) called on
Secretary of State >ull to in?uire whether the President=s "rather definite" statements
"that !ndochina should be ta.en away from the *rench and put under an international
trusteeship"$made to "Tur.s) @gyptians and perhaps others" during his trip to <airo and
Teheran$represented "final conclusions in view of the fact that they would soon get bac.
to the *rench +The *rench mar.ed well the President=s views$in fact as *rance withdrew
from 4ietnam in %&',) its *oreign 8inister recalled 0oosevelt=s assuring the Sultan of
8orocco that his sympathies lay with colonial peoples struggling for independence. /ord
>alifa later recorded that3
The President was one of the people who used conversation as others of us use a first
draft on paper . . . a method of trying out an idea. !f it does not go well) you can modify it
or drop it as you will. Nobody thin.s anything of it if you do this with a paper draft6 but if
you do it with conversation) people say that you have changed your mind) that "you never
.new where you have him)" and so on.
But in response to a memorandum from Secretary of State >ull putting the ?uestion of
!ndochina to *.;.0.) and reminding the President of the numerous U.S. commitments to
restoration of the *rench empire) 0oosevelt replied +on :anuary 75) %&551) that3
! saw >alifa last wee. and told him ?uite fran.ly that it was perfectly true that ! had) for
over a year) epressed the opinion that !ndo$<hina should not go bac. to *rance but that
it should be administered by an international trusteeship. *rance has had the country$
thirty million inhabitants for nearly one hundred years) and the people are worse off than
they were at the beginning.
#s a matter of interest) ! am wholeheartedly supported in this view by Generalissimo
<hiang Aai$she. and by 8arshal Stalin. ! see no reason to play in with the British
*oreign Bffice in this matter. The only reason they seem to oppose it is that they fear the
effect it would have on their own possessions and those of the ;utch. They have never
li.ed the idea of trusteeship because it is) in some instances) aimed at future
independence. This is true in the case of !ndo$<hina.
@ach case must) of course) stand on its own feet) but the case of !ndo<hina is perfectly
clear. *rance has mil.ed it for one hundred years. The people of !ndo$<hina are entitled
to something better than that.
1. Military Strategy Pre-eminent
Throughout the year %&55) the President held to his views) and consistent with them)
proscribed U.S. aid to resistance groups$including *rench groups$in !ndochina. But the
war in the #sian theaters moved rapidly) and the center of gravity of the #merican effort
began to shift northward toward :apan. The ?uestion of U.S. strategy in Southeast #sia
then came to the fore. #t the Second Kuebec <onference +September) %&551) the U.S.
refused British offers of naval assistance against :apan because #dmiral Aing believed
"the best occupation for any available British forces would be to re$ta.e Singapore) and
to assist the ;utch in recovering the @ast !ndies)" and because he suspected that the offer
%% was perhaps not unconnected with a desire for United States help in clearing the
:apanese out of the 8alay States and Netherlands @ast !ndies." #dmiral Aing=s suspicions
were not well$founded) at least insofar as <hurchill=s strategic thought was concerned.
The Prime 8inister was evidently as unwilling to invite an active #merican role in the
liberation of Southeast #sia as the U.S. was to underta.e same6 as early as *ebruary)
%&55) <hurchill wrote that3
# decision to act as a subsidiary force under the #mericans in the Pacific raises difficult
political ?uestions about the future of our 8alayan possessions. !f the :apanese should
withdraw from them or ma.e peace as the result of the main #merican thrust) the United
States Government would after the victory feel greatly strengthened in its view that all
possessions in the @ast !ndian #rchipelago should be placed under some international
body upon which the United States would eercise a decisive concern.
The future of <ommonwealth territories in Southeast #sia stimulated intense British
interest in #merican intentions for *rench colonies there. !n November and ;ecember of
%&55) the British epressed to the United States) both in /ondon and in "ashington) their
concern "that the United States apparently has not yet determined upon its policy toward
!ndochina." The head of the *ar @astern ;epartment in the British *oreign Bffice told the
U.S. #mbassador that3
!t would be difficult to deny *rench participation in the liberation of !ndochina in light of
the increasing strength of the *rench Government in world affairs) and that) unless a
policy to be followed toward !ndochina is mutually agreed between our two
governments) circumstances may arise at any moment which will place our two
governments in a very aw.ward situation.
President 0oosevelt) however) refused to define his position further) notifying Secretary
of State Stettinius on :anuary %) %&5'3
! still do not want to get mied up in any !ndo$<hina decision. !t is a matter for postwar.$$
. . . ! do not want to get mied up in any military effort toward the liberation of !ndo$
<hina from the :apanese.$$Cou can tell >alifa that ! made this very clear to 8r.
<hurchill. *rom both the military and civil point of view) action at this time is premature.
>owever) the U.S. :oint <hiefs of Staff were concurrently planning the removal of
#merican armed forces from Southeast #sia. !n response to approaches from *rench and
;utch officials re?uesting aid in epelling :apan from their former colonial territories) the
U.S. informed them that3
#ll our available forces were committed to fighting the :apanese elsewhere in the Pacific)
and !ndochina and the @ast !ndies were therefore not included within the sphere of
interest of the #merican <hiefs of Staff.
#merican willingness to forego further operations in Southeast #sia led to a directive to
#dmiral /ord 8ountbatten) Supreme <ommander in that theater) to liberate 8alaya
without U.S. assistance. #fter the Calta <onference +*ebruary) %&5'1) U.S. commanders
in the Pacific were informed that the U.S. planned to turn over to the British
responsibility for operations in the Netherlands @ast !ndies and New Guinea. The
President) however) agreed to permit such U.S. military operations in !ndochina as
avoided "alignments with the *rench)" and detraction from the U.S. military campaign
against :apan. The latter stricture precluded) in the U.S. view) the U.S. cooperation with
the *rench at 8ountbatten=s head?uarters) or the furnishing of ships to carry *ree *rench
forces to !ndochina to underta.e its liberation. This U.S. position came under particularly
severe *rench criticism after %% 8arch %&5') when the :apanese overturned the 4ichy
regime in 4ietnam) and prompted the @mperor Bao ;ai to declare 4ietnam unified and
independent of *rance under :apanese protection. Bn %, 8arch %&5') a protest from
General de Gaulle led to the following echange between the Secretary of State and the
President3
;@P#0T8@NT B* ST#T@
"ashington
8arch %,) %&5'
8@8B0#N;U8 *B0 T>@ P0@S!;@NT
SubDect3 !ndo$<hina.
<ommunications have been received from the Provisional Government of the *rench
0epublic as.ing for3
+%1#ssistance for the resistance groups now fighting the :apanese in !ndo$<hina.
+71 <onclusion of a civil affairs agreement covering possible future operations in !ndo$
<hina.
These memoranda have been referred to the :oint <hiefs of Staff in order to obtain their
views concerning the military aspects of the problems) and ! shall communicate with you
further on the subDect upon receipt of the :oint <hiefs= reply.
#ttached herewith is the tet of a recent telegram from #mbassador <affery describing
his conversation with General de Gaulle on the subDect of !ndo$<hina. *rom this telegram
and de Gaulle=s speech of 8arch %5) it appears that this Government may be made to
appear responsible for the wea.ness of the resistance to :apan in !ndo$<hina. The British
may li.ewise be epected to encourage this view. !t seems to me that without preDudicing
in any way our position regarding the future of !ndo$<hina we can combat this trend by
ma.ing public Fmaterial illegibleG a suggested statement) subDect to your approval) by the
State ;epartment.
IsI @. 0. Stettinius) :r.
@nclosures3
%. Proposed Statement.
7. <opy of telegram from #mbassador <affery Fnot included hereG
The Pentagon Papers
Gravel @dition
4olume %
<hapter !) "Bac.ground to the <risis) %&5($'("
+Boston3 Beacon Press) %&-%1
Section 7) pp. %7$7&
F@nclosure %G
P0BPBS@; ST#T@8@NT
The action of the :apanese Government in tearing away the veil with which it for so long
attempted to cloa. its domination of !ndo$<hina is a direct conse?uence of the ever$
mounting pressure which our arms are applying to the :apanese @mpire. !t is a lin. in the
chain of events which began so disastrously in the summer of %&5% with the *ranco$
:apanese agreement for the "common defense" of !ndo$<hina. !t is clear that this latest
step in the :apanese program will in the long run prove to be of no avail.
The Provisional Government of the *rench 0epublic has re?uested armed assistance for
those who are resisting the :apanese forces in !ndo$<hina. !n accordance with its constant
desire to aid all those who are willing to ta.e up arms against our common enemies) this
Government will do all it can to be of assistance in the present situation) consistent with
plans to which it is already committed and with the operations now ta.ing place in the
Pacific. !t goes without saying that all this country=s available resources are being devoted
to the defeat of our enemies and they will continue to be employed in the manner best
calculated to hasten their downfall.
F0esponseG
T>@ ">!T@ >BUS@
"ashington
8arch %-) %&5'
8@8B0#N;U8 *B0
The Secretary of State
By direction of the President) there is returned herewith Secretary of State 8emorandum
of %, 8arch) subDect !ndo$<hina) which includes a proposed statement on the :apanese
action in !ndo$<hina.
The President is of the opinion that it is inadvisable at the present time to issue the
proposed statement
IsI "illiam ;. /eahy
The *rench were also actively pressuring the President and his .ey advisors through
military channels. #dmiral /eahy reported that) following Calta3
The *rench representatives in "ashington resumed their fre?uent calls to my office after
our return from the <rimea. They labeled most of their re?uests "urgent." They wanted to
participate in the combined intelligence group then studying German industrial and
scientific secrets6 to echange information between the #merican command in <hina and
the *rench forces in !ndo$<hina6 and to get agreement in principle to utili2ing the *rench
naval and military forces in the war against :apan +the latter would assist in returning
!ndo$<hina to *rench control and give *rance a right to participate in lend$lease
assistance after the defeat of Germany.1
8ost of the time ! could only tell them that ! had no useful information as to when and
where we might ma.e use of *rench assistance in the Pacific.
>owever) we did attempt to give a helping hand to the *rench resistance groups in !ndo$
<hina. 4ice #dmiral *enard called me on 8arch %J to say that planes from our %5th #ir
*orce in <hina were loaded with relief supplies for the undergrounders but could not start
without authority from "ashington. ! immediately contacted General >andy and told him
of the President=s agreement that #merican aid to the !ndo$<hina resistance groups might
be given provided it involved no interference with our operations against :apan.
7. Failure of the Trusteeship Proposal
!n the meantime) the President=s concept of postwar trusteeship status for dependent
territories as an intermediate step toward autonomy had undergone study by several
interdepartmental and international groups) but had fared poorly. !n deference to British
sensibilities) the United States had originally sought only a declaration from the colonial
powers setting forth their intention to liberate their dependencies and to provide tutelage
in self$government for subDect peoples. Such a declaration would have been consistent
with the #tlantic <harter of %&5% in which the U.S. and the U.A. Dointly agreed that)
among the "common principles . . . on which they base their hopes for a better future for
the world)" it was their policy that3
. . . they respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which
they will live6 and they wish to see sovereign rights and self$government restored to those
who have been forcibly deprived of them. . . .
!n November) %&57) Secretary >ull submitted to the President a proposed draft US$UA
declaration entitled "The #tlantic <harter and National !ndependence)" which the
President approved. Before this draft could be broached to the British) however) they
submitted a counter$proposal) a statement emphasi2ing the responsibility of "parent"
powers for developing native self$government) and avoiding endorsement of trusteeships.
Subse?uent #nglo$#merican discussions in 8arch %&59 addressed both drafts) but
foundered on *oreign Secretary @den=s opposition. Secretary >ull reported in his
memoirs that @den could not believe that the word "independence" would be interpreted
to the satisfaction of all governments3
. . . the *oreign Secretary said that) to be perfectly fran.) he had to say that he did not li.e
our draft very much. >e said it was the word "independence" that troubled him) he had to
thin. of the British @mpire system) which was built on the basis of ;ominion and
colonial status.
>e pointed out that under the British @mpire system there were varying degrees of self$
government) running from the ;ominions through the colonial establishments which had
in some cases) li.e 8alta) completely self$government) to bac.ward areas that were never
li.ely to have their own government. >e added that #ustralia and New Lealand also had
colonial possessions that they would be unwilling to remove from their supervisory
Durisdiction.
U.S. inability to wor. out a common policy with the U.A. also precluded meaningful
discussion) let alone agreement) on the colonial issue at the ;umbarton Ba.s
<onversations in %&55. Through 8arch) %&5') the issue was further occluded by debates
within the U.S. Government over the postwar status of Pacific islands captured from the
:apanese3 in general) the "ar and Navy ;epartments advocated their retention under U.S.
control as military bases) while State and other departments advocated an international
trusteeship.
3. Deision on !ndohina "eft to Frane
Secretary of State Stettinius) with the approval of President 0oosevelt) issued a statement
on #pril 9) %&5') declaring that) as a result of international discussions at Calta on the
concept of trusteeship) the United States felt that the postwar trusteeship structure3
. . . . should be designed to permit the placing under it of the territories mandated after the
last war) and such territories ta.en from the enemy in thi war as might be agreed upon at
a later date) and also such other territories as might be voluntarily placed under
trusteeship.
!ndochina thus seemed relegated to *rench volition.
Nonetheless) as of President 0ooseveltMs death on. #pril %7) %&5') U.S. policy toward the
colonial possessions Bf its allies) and toward !ndochina in particular) was in disarray3
$$The British remained apprehensive that there might be a continued U.S. search for a
trusteeship formula which might impinge on the <ommonwealth.
$$ The *rench were restive over continued U.S. refusal to provide strategic transport for
their forces) resentful over the paucity of U.S. support for *rench forces in !ndochina) and
deeply suspicious that the United StatesEpossibly in concert with the <hineseEintended
to bloc. their regaining control of 4ietnam) /aos) and <ambodia.
B$ T2/3.* .*+ T-E ,CC/P.TI,* ,6 I*+,C-I*., 19#
"ithin a month of President Truman=s entry into office) the *rench raised the subDect of
!ndochina at the United Nations <onference at San *rancisco) Secretary of State
Stettinius reported the following conversation to "ashington3
...!ndo$<hina came up in a recent <onversation ! had with Bidault and Bonnet. The latter
remar.ed that the *rench Government interprets FUnder Secretary of StateG "elles)
statement of %&57 concerning the restoration of *rench sovereignty over the *rench
@mpire as including !ndo$<hina) the press continues to imply that a special status will be
reserved for this colonial area. !t was made ?uite clear to Bidault that the record is
entirely innocent of any official statement of this government ?uestioning) even by
implication) *rench sovereignty over !ndo$<hina. <ertain elements of #merican public
opinion) however) condemned *rench governmental policies and practices in !ndo$<hina.
Bidault seemed relieved and has no doubt cabled Paris that he received renewed
assurances of our recognition of *rench sovereignty over that area.
!n early :une %&5') the ;epartment of State instructed the United States #mbassador to
<hina on the deliberations in progress within the U.S. Government and its discussions
with allies on U.S. policy toward !ndochina. >e was informed that at San *rancisco3
...the #merican delegation has insisted upon the necessity of providing for a progressive
measure of self$government for all dependent peoples loo.ing toward their eventual
independence or incorporation in some form of federation according to circumstances
and the ability of the peoples to assume these responsibilities. Such decisions would
preclude the establishment of a trusteeship in !ndochina ecept with the consent of the
*rench Government. The latter seems unli.ely. Nevertheless) it is the PresidentMs
intention at some appropriate time to as. that the *rench Government give some positive
indication of its intention in regard to the establishment of civil liberties and increasing
measures of self$government in !ndochina before formulating further declarations of
policy in this respect.
The United Nations <harter +:une 7,) %&5'1 contained a ";eclaration 0egarding Non$
Self$Governing Territories"3
#rtile $3
8embers of the United Nations which have or assume responsibilities for the
administration of territories whose peoples have not yet attained a full measure of self$
government recogni2e the principle that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories
are paramount) and accept as a sacred trust the obligation to promote to the utmost)
within the system of international peace and security established by the present <harter)
the well$being of the inhabitants of these territories) and) to this end3
a. to ensure) with due respect for the culture of the peoples concerned) their political)
economic) social) and educational advancement) their Dust treatment) and their protection
against abuses6
b. to develop self$government) to ta.e due account of the political aspirations of the
peoples) and to assist them in the progressive development of their free political
institutions) according to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples and
their varying stages of advancement6 . . .
#gain) however) military considerations governed U.S. policy in !ndochina. President
Truman replied to General de Gaulle=s repeated offers for aid in !ndochina with
statements to the effect that it was his policy to leave such matters to his military
commanders. #t the Potsdam <onference +:uly) %&5'1) the <ombined <hiefs of Staff
decided that !ndochina south of latitude %,= North was to be included in the Southeast
#sia <ommand under #dmiral 8ountbatten. Based on this decision) instructions were
issued that :apanese forces located north of that line would surrender to Generalissimo
<hiang Aai$she.) and those to the south to #dmiral /ord 8ountbatten6 pursuant to these
instructions) <hinese forces entered Ton.in in September) %&5') while a small British
tas. force landed at Saigon. Political difficulties materiali2ed almost immediately) for
while the <hinese were prepared to accept the 4ietnamese government they found in
power in >anoi) the British refused to do li.ewise in Saigon) and deferred to the *rench
there from the outset.
There is no evidence that serious concern developed in "ashington at the swiftly
unfolding events in !ndochina. !n mid$#ugust) 4ietnamese resistance forces of the 4iet
8inh) under >o <hi 8inh) had sei2ed power in >anoi and shortly thereafter demanded
and received the abdication of the :apanese puppet) @mperor Bao ;ai. Bn 4$: ;ay)
September 7nd) >o <hi 8inh had proclaimed in >anoi the establishment of the
;emocratic 0epublic of 4ietnam +;041. The ;04 ruled as the only civil government in
all of 4ietnam for a period of about 7( days. Bn 79 September %&5') with the .nowledge
of the British <ommander in Saigon) *rench forces overthrew the local ;04
government) and declared *rench authority restored in <ochinchina. Guerrilla war beoan
around Saigon. #lthough #merican BSS representatives were present in both >anoi and
Saigon and ostensibly supported the 4iet 8inh) the United States too. no official
position regarding either the ;04) or the *rench and British actions in South 4ietnam. !n
Bctober) %&5') the United States stated its policy in the following terms3
US has no thought of opposing the reestablishment of *rench control in !ndochina and no
official statement bv US GB4T has ?uestioned even by implication *rench sovereignty
over !ndochina. >owever) it is not the policy of this GB4T to assist the *rench to
reestablish their control over !ndochina by force and the willingness of the US to see
*rench control reestablished assumes that *rench claim to have the support of the
population of !ndochina is borne out by future events.
*rench statements to the U.S. loo.ed for an early end to the hostilities) and spo.e
reassuringly of reforms and liberality. !n November) :ean <hauvel) Secretary$General to
the *rench 8inister for *oreign #ffairs) told the U.S. #mbassador that3
"hen the trouble with the #nnamites bro.e out de Gaulle had been urged by the *rench
8ission in !ndia to ma.e some sort of policy statement announcing *rance=s intention to
adopt a far$reaching progressive policy designed to give the native population much
greater authority) responsibility and representation in govt. ;e Gaulle considered the idea
but reDected it because in the state of disorder prevailing in !ndochina he believed that no
such policy could be implemented pending restoration of *rench authority and would
therefore Dust be considered by everyone as "merely more fine words." *urthermore de
Gaulle and the *oreign 8inister believe that the present situation is still so confused and
they have so little information really reliable on the overall !ndochina picture that such
plans and thoughts as they held heretofore may have to be very thoroughly revised in the
light of recent developments.
;espite the fact that the *rench do not feel that they can as yet ma.e any general
statements outlining specific future plans for !ndochina) <hanvel says that they hope
"very soon" to put into operation in certain areas programs including local elections
which will be designed to grant much greater authority and greater voice in affairs to the
natives. This he said would be a much better indication of the sincerity of *rench
intentions than any policy statement. . . . The *rench hope soon to negotiate an agreement
with Fthe Aing of <ambodiaG which will result in the granting of much greater
responsibility and authority to the <ambodians. >e mentioned specifically that there
would be many more natives integrated into the local administrative services and it was
also hoped that local elections could soon be held. The *rench he said intend to follow
the same procedure in /aos when the situation permits and eventually also in #nnam and
Ton.in. "hen order is restored throughout !ndochina and agreements have been reached
with the individual states <hauvel said the *rench intend to embody the results of these
separate agreements into a general program for all of !ndochina.
*rom the autumn of %&5' through the autumn of %&5,) the United States received a series
of communications from >o <hi 8inh depicting calamitous conditions in 4ietnam)
invo.ing the principles proclaimed in the #tlantic <harter and in the <harter of the
United Nations) and pleading for U.S. recognition of the independence of the ;04) or$$
as a last resort$$trusteeship for 4ietnam under the United Nations. But while the U.S.
too. no action on >o=s re?uests) it was also unwilling to aid the *rench. Bn :anuary %')
%&5,) the Secretary of "ar was advised by the ;epartment of State that it was contrary to
U.S. policy to "employ #merican flag vessels or aircraft to transport troops of any
nationality to or from the Netherlands @ast !ndies or *rench !ndochina) nor to permit use
of such craft to carry arms) ammunition or military e?uipment to these areas." >owever)
the British arranged for the transport of additional *rench troops to !ndochina) bilaterally
agreed with the *rench for the latter to assume British occupation responsibilities) and
signed a pact on & Bctober) %&5') giving "full recognition to *rench rights" in !ndochina.
*rench troops began arriving in Saigon that month) and subse?uently the British turned
over to them some J(( U.S. /end$/ease Deeps and truc.s. President Truman approved the
latter transaction on the grounds that removing the e?uipment would be impracticable.
The fighting between the *rench and the 4ietnamese which began in South 4ietnam with
the 79 September) %&5') *rench oup d%etat& spread from Saigon throughout
<ochinchina) and to southern #nnam. By the end of :anuary) %&5,) it was wholly a
*rench affair) for by that time the British withdrawal was complete6 on 5 8arch) %&5,)
#dmiral /ord 8ountbatten deactivated !ndochina as territory under the #llied Southeast
#sia <ommand) thereby transferring all control to *rench authorities. *rom *rench
head?uarters) via 0adio Saigon) came announcements that a military "mopping$up"
campaign was in progress) but pacification was virtually complete6 but these reports of
success were typically interspersed with such items as the following3
7( 8arch %&5,3
0ebel bands are still +wrea.ing destruction1 in the areas south of Saigon. These bands are
?uite large) some numbering as many as %)((( men. <oncentrations of these bands are to
be found . . . in the villages. Some have turned north in an attempt to disrupt
+communications1 in the <amau Peninsula) northeast of Batri and in the general area
south of +Nha Trang1. !n the area south of <holon and in the north of the Plaine des :enes
region) several bands have ta.en refuge. . . .
7% 8arch %&5,3
The following communi?ue was issued by the >igh <ommissioner for !ndochina this
morning3 "0ebel activities have increased in the Bien >oa area) on both ban.s of the river
;ong Nai. # *rench convoy has been attac.ed on the road between Bien >oa and Tan
Uyen where a land mine had been laid by the rebels.
"!n the +Baclo1 area) northwest of Saigon) a number of pirates have been captured in the
course of a clean$up raid. #mong the captured men are five :apanese deserters. The dead
bodies of three :apanese) including an officer) have been found at the point where the
operation was carried out.
"# *rench detachment was ambushed at +San :ay1) south #nnam. The detachment)
nevertheless) succeeded in carrying out its mission. Several aggressions by rebel parties
are reported along the coastal road."
4iolence abated in South 4ietnam somewhat as *ranco$;04 negotiations proceeded in
spring) %&5,) but in the meantime) *rench forces moved into further confrontation with
4ietnamese "rebels" in Ton.in. !n *ebruary) %&5,) a *rench tas. force prepared to force
landings at >aiphong) but was forestalled by diplomatic maneuver. # *ranco$<hinese
agreement of 7J *ebruary %&5, provided that the <hinese would turn over their
responsibilities in northern !ndochina to the *rench on 9% 8arch %&5,.
Bn 8arch ,) %&5,) a *rench$;04 accord was reached in the following terms3
%. The *rench Government recogni2es the 4ietnamese 0epublic as a *ree State having its
own Government) its own Parliament) its own #rmy and its own *inances) forming part
of the !ndochinese *ederation and ofthe *rench Union. !n that which concerns the
reuniting of the three "#nnamite 0egions" F<ochinchina) #nnam) Ton.inG the *rench
Government pledges itself to ratify the decisions ta.en by the populations consulted by
referendum.
7. The 4ietnamese Government declares itself ready to welcome amicably the *rench
#rmy when) conforming to international agreements) it relieves the <hinese Troops. #
Supplementary #ccord) attached to the present Preliminary #greement) will establish the
means by which the relief operations will be carried out.
9. The stipulations formulated above will immediately enter into force. !mmediately after
the echange of signatures) each of the >igh <ontracting Parties will ta.e all measures
necessary to stop hostilities in the field) to maintain the troops in their respective
positions) and to create the favorable atmosphere necessary to the immediate opening of
friendly and sincere negotiations. These negotiations will deal particularly with3
a. diplomatic relations of 4iet$nam with *oreign States
b. the future law of !ndochina
c. *rench interests) economic and cultural) in 4iet$nam.
>anoi) Saigon or Paris may be chosen as the seat of the conference.
;BN@ #T >#NB!) the ,th of 8arch %&5,
Signed3 Sainteny
Signed3 >o <hi 8inh and 4u >ong Ahanh
*rench forces ?uic.ly eercise their prerogative) occupying >anoi on %J 8arch %&5,)
and negotiations opened in ;afat in #pril.
>ence) as of #pril %() %&5,) allied occupation in !ndochina was officially over) and
*rench forces were positioned in all of 4ietnam=s maDor cities6 the problems of U.S.
policv toward 4ietnam then shifted from the contet of wartime strategy to the arena of
the U.S. relationship with *rance.
II$ /$0$ *E/T2.4IT5 I* T-E 62.*C,"VIET 3I*- 1.2, 197"199
.$ 6.I4/2E0 ,6 *EG,TI.TE+ 0ETT4E3E*T
The return of the *rench to Ton.in in 8arch) %&5,) created an eplosive situation. North
4ietnam) a traditionally rice$deficit area) had eperienced an etraordinarily bad harvest
in %&5'. Severe famine was scarcely helped by the concentration of armies in the 0ed
0iver ;elta$4ietnamese irregular forces) the most numerous belonging to the 4iet 8inh6
some %'()((( <hinese6 and then the *rench @peditionary <orps. The people were not
only hungry) but politically restive6 the popular= appetite for national independence had
been thoroughly whetted by the 4iet 8inh and the formation of $the ;04. "hile feeling
against all foreign occupiers ran high) the *rench remained the primary target of enmity.
But the 8arch , #ccord deferred a rec.oning) serving to mollify etremists in Ton.in)
and to dampen guerrilla operations in South 4ietnam. The accord in any event
underwrote peaceful cooperation between *rance and the ;04 in North 4ietnam for
eight months.
Cet the 8arch , #ccord constituted an admission of defeat for >o <hi 8inh) because his
policy had been directed toward internationali2ing the !ndochina problem. >o made
repeated overtures to the United States) to the United Nations) and to <hina) the USS0)
and the U.A. >is letters presented elo?uent appeals for U.S. or U.N. intervention in
4ietnam on the grounds of the principles embodied in the #tlantic <harter) the U.N.
<harter) and on humanitarian grounds. The last such to be forwarded to the U.S. prior to
the #ccord of , 8arch %&5,) is summari2ed in the following telegram from an #merican
diplomat in >anoi) received in "ashington 7- *ebruary %&5,3
>o <hi 8inh handed me 7 letters addressed to President of US#) <hina) 0ussia) and
Britain identical copies of which were stated to have been forwarded to other
governments named. !n 7 letters to >o <hi 8inh re?uest FsicG US# as one of United
Nations to support idea of #nnamese independence according to Philippines FsicG
eample) to eamine the case of the #nnamese) and to ta.e steps necessary to
maintenance of world peace which is being endangered by *rench efforts to recon?uer
!ndochina. >e asserts that #nnamese will fi = ght until United Nations interfere in support
of #nnamese independence. The petition addressed to maDor United Nations contains3
#. 0eview of *rench relations with :apanese where *rench !ndochina allegedly aided
:aps3
B. Statement of establishment on 7 September %&5' of P@N" FsicG ;emocratic 0epublic
of 4iet 8inh3
<. Summary of *rench con?uest of <ochin <hina begun 79 Sept %&5' and still
incomplete3
;. Butline of accomplishments of #nnamese Government in Ton.in including popular
elections) abolition of undesirable taes) epansion of education and resumption as far as
possible of normal economic activities3
@. 0e?uest to 5 powers3 +%1 To intervene and stop the war in !ndochina in order to
mediate fair settlement and +71 to bring the !ndochinese issue before the United Nations
organi2ation. The petition ends with statement that #nnamese as. for full independence
in fact and that in interim while awaiting UNB decision the #nnamese will continue to
fight the reestablishment of *rench imperialism. /etters and petition will be transmitted
to ;epartment soonest.
There is no record that the U.S. encouraged >o <hi 8inh thus to submit his cause to the
U.S.) beyond the B.S.S. support he received during and immediately after "orld "ar !!6
nor does the record reflect that the U.S. responded affirmatively to >o=s petitions. 0ather)
the U.S. Government appears to have adhered uniformly to a policy of loo.ing to the
*rench rather than to 4ietnamese Nationalists for constructive steps toward 4ietnamese
independence. Bn ' ;ecember) %&5,) after the November incidents) but before the
fighting bro.e out in earnest) State instructed the U.S. diplomatic representative in >anoi
as follows3
#ssume you will see >o in >anoi and offer following summary our present thin.ing as
guide.
Aeep in mind >o=s clear record as agent international communism) absence evidence
recantation 8oscow affiliations) confused political situation *rance and support >o
receiving *rench <ommunist Party. /east desirable eventuality would be establishment
<ommunist$dominated 8oscow$oriented state !ndochina in view ;@PT) which most
interested !N*B strength non$communist elements 4ietnam. 0eport fully) repeating or
re?uesting ;@PT repeat Paris.
0ecent occurrences Ton.in cause deep concern. <onsider 8arch , accord and modus
vivendi as result peaceful negotiation provide basis settlement outstanding ?uestions
between *rance and 4ietnam and impose responsibility both sides not preDudice future)
particularly forthcoming *ontainebleau <onference) by resort force. Unsettled situation
such as pertains certain to offer provocations both sides) but for this reason conciliatory
patient attitude especially necessary. !ntransigence either side and disposition eploit
incidents can only retard economic rehabilitation !ndochina and cause indefinite
postponement conditions cooperation *rance and 4ietnam which both agree essential.
!f >o ta.es stand non$implementation promise by *rench of <ochinchina referendum
relieves 4ietnam responsibility compliance with agreements) you might if you consider
advisable raise ?uestion whether he believes referendum after such long disorder could
produce worthwhile result and whether he considers compromise on status <ochinchina
could possibly be reached through negotiation.
8ay say #merican people have welcomed attainments !ndochinese in efforts reali2e
praiseworthy aspirations greater autonomy in framewor. democratic institutions and it
would be regrettable should this interest and sympathy be imperilled by any tendency
4ietnam administration force issues by intransigence and violence.
8ay inform >o FU.S. #mbassador ParisG discussing situation *rench similar fran.ness.
*or your !N*B) F*oreign BfficeG in ;@< 9 conversation stated +%1 no ?uestion recon?uest
!ndochina as such would be counter *rench public opinion and probably beyond *rench
military resources) +71 *rench will continue base policy 8arch , accord and modus
vivendi and ma.e every effort apply them through negotiation) 4ietnam +91 *rench
would resort forceful measures only on restricted scale in case flagrant violation
agreements 4ietnam) +51 dM#rgenlieu=s usefulness impaired by outspo.en disli.e
4ietnam officials and replacement perhaps desirable) +'1 *rench <ommunists
embarrassed in pose as guardian *rench international interests by barrage telegraphic
appeals from 4ietnam. F#mbassadorG will epress gratification this statement *rench
policy with observation implementation such policy should go far obviate any danger that
+%1 4ietnamese irreconcilables and etremists might be in position ma.e capital of
situation +71 4ietnamese might be turned irrevocably against "est and toward ideologies
and affiliations hostile democracies which could result perpetual foment !ndochina with
conse?uences all Southeast #sia.
#void impression US Govt ma.ing formal intervention this Duncture. Publicity any .ind
would be unfortunate.
Paris be guided foregoing.
#cheson) #cting.
*or a while) the *rench seemed genuinely interested in pursuing a policy based on the
8arch , #ccord and the modus 'i'endi& and in avoiding a test of arms with the ;04. !f
there were contrary utterances from some) such as #dmiral d=#rgenlieu) the >igh
<ommissioner Bf !ndo$<hina)$$who recorded his "ama2ement that *rance has such a fine
epeditionary corps in !ndochina and yet its leaders prefer to negotiate rather than to
fight..."$$there were many such as General /eclerc) who had led *rench forces into >anoi
on %J 8arch %&5,) and promptly called on >o <hi 8inh) announcing every intention of
honoring the 8arch , #ccord. "#t the present time)" he said) "there is no ?uestion of
imposing ourselves by force on masses who desire evolution and innovation." The *rench
Socialist Party$$the dominant political party in *rance$$consistently advocated
conciliation during %&5,. !n ;ecember) %&5,) even after the armed incidents in
November between *rench and ;04 armed forces in North 4ietnam) /eon Blum$$who
had become Premier of *rance) at the head of an all$Socialist <abinet$$wrote that *rance
had no alternative save to grant the 4ietnamese independence3
There is one way and only one of preserving in !ndochina the prestige of our civili2ation)
our political and spiritual influence) and also those of our material interests which are
legitimate3 it is sincere agreement Fwith 4iet NamG on the basis of independence. . . . $
The <ommunists) the other maDor /eftist party in *rance) were also vocally conciliatory6
but) epectant of controlling the government) if not alone at least as part of a coalition)
they tended to be more careful than the Socialists of their ability to sway nationalist
sentiment. !n :uly of %&5,) "()umanit*& the <ommunist newspaper) had emphasi2ed that
the Party did not wish *rance to be reduced to "its own small metropolitan territory)" but
warned that such would be the conse?uence if the colonial peoples turned against *rance3
#re we) after having lost Syria and /ebanon yesterday) to lose !ndochina tomorrow)
North #frica the day afterN
!n the National #ssembly in September) %&5,) a <ommunist deputy had declared that3
The <ommunists are as much as the net person for the greatness of the country. But . . .
they have never ceased to affirm that the *rench Union . . . can only be founded on the
confident) fraternal) and above all) democratic collaboration of all the peoples and races
who compose it. . . .
>owever) >o <hi 8inh was unable to capitali2e upon this connection with the *rench
/eft +>o had been one of the founding members of the *rench <ommunist Party in the
early %&7(=s1 to turn the epressed convictions of either the Socialists or the <ommunists
to the advantage of the ;04. The <ommunists were not prepared to press the case for the
4ietnamese at the cost of votes in *rance. The Socialists in power paid only lip service to
conciliation) and allowed the more militant colonialists) especially those in 4ietnam) to
set *rance=s policy in !ndochina6 thus) #dmiral d=#rgenlieu) not General /eclerc) spo.e
for the *rench Government.
!n mid$;ecember) %&5,) as soon as Blum too. office) >o sent him a telegram with
proposals for easing tension in 4ietnam) but the message did not reach Paris until
;ecember 7,. By that time the flashpoint had been passed. !n >anoi) on %& ;ecember
%&5,) 4ietnamese troops) after several days of mounting animosity punctuated with
violence) cut off the city=s water and electricity) and attac.ed *rench posts using small
arms) mortar and artillery. The issue of who was the aggressor has never been resolved.
The fighting flared across North 4ietnam) and two days later) the guerrilla war in South
4ietnam ?uic.ened pace. The *rench responded to the initial attac.s with an occasional
savagery which rendered increasingly remote restoration of status +uo ante.
Bn 79 ;ecember %&5,) Premier /eon Blum addressed the National #ssembly on the
!ndochina crisis. >is speech was characteristically principled) and characteristically
ambiguous3 he tal.ed peace) but endorsed militant *rench officials in 4ietnam. #lthough
he declared that "the old colonial system founded on con?uest and maintained by
constraint) which tended toward eploitation of con?uered lands and peoples is finished
today)" he also stated that3
"e have been obliged to deal with violence. The men who are fighting out there) the
*rench soldiers and the friendly populations) may count unreservedly on the vigilance
and resolution of the government.
!t was our common tas. to try everything to spare the blood of our children$and also the
blood that is not ours) but which is blood all the same) that of a people whose right to
political liberty we recogni2ed ten months ago) and who should .eep their place in the
union of peoples federated around *rance. . . .
Before all) order must be reestablished) peaceful order which is necessarily the basis for
the eecution of contracts.
Premier Blum was succeeded within a wee. of his speech by the first government of the
*ourth 0epublic under Paul 0amadier. *rance sent three emissaries to 4ietnam at this
Duncture3 #dmiral d=#rgenlieu) General /eclerc) and the Socialist 8inister of Bverseas
*rance) 8arius 8outet. #dmiral d=#rgenlieu became the >igh <ommissioner of
!ndochina) and accused the 4ietnamese of brea.ing faith with *rance. >e stated
emphatically that *rance intended to preserve in !ndochina3
. . . the maintenance and development of its present influence and of its economic
interests) the protection of ethnic minorities with which it is entrusted) the care of
assuring the security of strategic bases within the framewor. of defense of the *ederation
and the *rench Union. . . .
*rance does not intend in the present state of evolution of the !ndochinese people to give
them unconditional and total independence) which would only be a fiction gravely
preDudicial to the interests of the two parties.
The other two representatives of *rance were dispatched on fact$finding missions. Their
reports contained diametrically opposing policy recommendations. General /eclerc
wrote3
!n %&5- *rance will no longer put down by force a grouping of 75)((()((( inhabitants
which is assuming unity and in which there eists a enophobic and perhaps a national
ideal. . . .
The capital problem from now on is political. !t is a ?uestion of coming to terms with an
awa.ening enophobic nationalism) channeling it in order to safeguard) at least in part)
the rights of *rance.
The General had been sent to eamine the military situation) and returned recommending
a political solution. The Socialist 8arius 8outet had been sent to in?uire into the
political prospects) and returned with the conclusion that only a military solution was
promising. /i.e #dmiral d=#rgenlieu) 8outet believed that there could be no negotiations
with >o <hi 8inh. >e wrote of the "cruel disillusionment of agreements that could not
be put into effect...)" and he declared that3
"e can no longer spea. of a free agreement between *rance and 4ietnam. . . .
Before any negotiations today) it is necessary to have a military decision. ! am sorry) but
one cannot commit such madness as the 4ietnamese have done with impunity.
!t was the politician=s ideas) rather than the general=s) which prevailed in Paris. Premier
0amadier$himself a Socialist$spo.e of peace in 4ietnam) and announced that his
government favored independence and unity for 4ietnam3
!ndependence within the *rench Union FandG union of the three #nnamese countries) if
the #nnamese people desire it.
#t the same time) however) his government permitted #dmiral d=#rgenlieli to launch a
military campaign of maDor proportions and punitive intent.
4ery early in the war) the *rench raised the spectre of <ommunist conspiracy in 4ietnam.
#dmiral d=#rgenlieu in Saigon called for an internationally concerted policy to array the
"estern powers against the epansion of communism in #sia) beginning with 4ietnam.
!n the National #ssembly debated in 8arch) %&5-) a 0ightist deputy introduced the
charge that the violence in 4ietnam had been directed from 8oscow3
Nationalism in !ndochina is a means) the end is Soviet imperialism.
Neither the government nor the people of *rance heeded General /eclerc=s statement of
:anuary) %&5-3
#nti$communism will be a useless tool as long as the problem of nationalism remains
unsolved.
>o <hi 8inh) for his part) issued repeated appeals to *rance for peace) even offering to
withdraw personally3
"hen *rance recogni2es the independence and unity of 4ietnam) we will retire to our
village) for we are not ambitious for power or honor.
!n *ebruary) %&5-) the *rench offered terms to >o tantamount to unconditional surrender.
>o flatly reDected these) as.ing the *rench representative) "!f you were in my place)
would you accept themN . . . !n the *rench Union there is no place for cowards. !f !
accepted their conditions ! should be one." Bn ! 8arch %&5-) >o appealed again to the
*rench government and the *rench people3
Bnce again) we declare solemnly that the 4ietnamese people desire only unity and
independence in the *rench Union) and we pledge ourselves to respect *rench economic
and cultural interests. . . . !f *rance would but say the word to cease hostility
immediately) so many lives and so much property would be saved and friendship and
confidence would be regained.
But the *rench displayed little interest in negotiations. Premier 0amadier stated in 8arch)
%&5-) that3
"e must protect the life and possessions of *renchmen) of foreigners) of our !ndochinese
friends who have confidence in *rench liberty. !t is necessary that we disengage our
garrisons) re$establish essential communications) assure the safety of populations which
have ta.en refuge with us. That we have done.
0amadier and his ministers spo.e repeatedly in the spring of %&5- of an imminent end to
the "military phase" of the crisis) and of the beginning of a "constructive phase)" in which
presumably economic and political assistance would supplant the military instrument6 but
in what was to become a pattern of epectation and frustration) the *ourth 0epublic
discovered that its military forces were incapable of controlling even the principal lines
of communication in 4ietnam) and that the military solution severely taed the full
resources of the *rench Union. !n 8arch) %&5- an additional division of troops for the
*rench @peditionary <orps) dispatched to 4ietnam per General /eclerc=s
recommendation) had to be diverted en route to ?uell an insurgency in 8adagascar.
By the summer of %&5-) the *rench Government was aware that the situation in
!ndochina was at an impasse. >aving failed in its attempt to force a military decision) it
turned to a political solution) as suggested by General /eclerc. But again the ideas of
#dmiral d=#rgenlieu weighed heavily. !n :anuary) %&5-) d=#rgenlieu wrote that3
!f we eamine the problem basically) we are led to in?uire whether the political form
un?uestionably capable of benefiting from the political prestige of legitimacy is not the
traditional monarchic institution) the very one that eisted before the :apanese
surrender. . . . The return of the @mperor FBao ;ail would probably reassure all those
who) having opposed the 4iet 8inh) fear they will be accused of treason.
!t was with Bao ;ai) not >o <hi 8inh) that the *rench elected to negotiate for a political
settlement with 4ietnamese Nationalists.
*rench emissaries approached Bao ;ai with terms not unli.e those >o <hi 8inh had
negotiated on , 8arch %&5,3 unity and independence within the *rench Union) provided
Bao ;ai formed a government which would furnish a clear alternative to >o <hi 8inh=s
;04. "ith *rench encouragement) a group of 4ietnamese Nationalists formed a political
party advocating the installation of Bao ;ai at the head of a non$4iet 8inh 4ietnamese
regime. Bao ;ai was at first evasive and s.eptical) but was eventually convinced that the
*rench situation in !ndochina was sufficiently desperate that they would have to honor
commitments they made to him. Bao ;ai also seems to have believed that he could attract
#merican support and material aid$a view which may have stemmed in part from a %&5-
/ife maga2ine article by "illiam <. Bullitt) the influential former U.S. #mbassador to
*rance) endorsing Bao ;ai as a solution to *rance=s dilemma.
*rance then proceeded to contract with Bao ;ai a series of agreements) each of which
ostensibly brought Bao ;ai closer to genuine autonomy for 4ietnam. !t was not)
however) until *ebruary) %&'() that the *rench National #ssembly acceded to political
independence and unification for 4ietnam. <hronicled below are the principal steps by
which *rance failed on the one hand to reach an accommodation with >o <hi 8inh) and
on the other hand erected the "Bao ;ai solution" in its stead.
B$ /$0$ P,4IC5 T,1.2+ T-E C,*64ICT, 19("199
The U.S. manifested increasing concern over the conflict in !ndochina) but through %&5&
#merican policy continued to regard the war as fundamentally a matter for *rench
resolution. !t is clear on the record that #merican policyma.ers of the day perceived the
vacuity of *rench policies in %&5, and %&5-. The U.S.) in its representations to *rance)
consistently deplored the prospect of protracted war in 4ietnam) and urged meaningful
concessions to 4ietnamese nationalism. >owever) the United States always stopped short
of endorsing >o <hi 8inh) deterred by >o=s history of communist affiliation.
#ccordinglv) U.S. policy gravitated with that of *rance toward the Bao ;ai solution. #t
no point was the U.S. prepared to adopt an openly interventionist course. To have done so
would have clashed with the epressed British view that !ndochina was an eclusively
*rench concern) and played into the hands of *rance=s etremist political parties of both
the 0ight and the /eft. The U.S. was particularly apprehensive lest by intervening it
strengthen the political position of *rench <ommunists. 8oreover) in %&5, and %&5-)
*rance and Britain were moving toward an anti$Soviet alliance in @urope) and the U.S.
was reluctant to press a potentially divisive policy. <ompared with @uropean recovery)
and escape from communist domination) the U.S. considered the fate of 4ietnamese
nationalism relatively insignificant. *urther) the dispute in %&5, and %&5' over the ;utch
possession in !ndonesia had furnished a precedent3 there the U.S. had moved cautiously)
and only after long delays) to internationali2e the conflict. @tensive #merican and
British investments in !ndonesia) moreover) afforded common ground for intervention.
No similar rationale or commonality eisted for intervention in !ndochina) since
!ndochina was almost eclusively a *rench economic preserve) and a political morass
which the U.A. was manifestly interested in avoiding.
The Pentagon Papers
Gravel @dition
4olume %
<hapter !) "Bac.ground to the <risis) %&5($'("
+Boston3 Beacon Press) %&-%1
Section 9) pp. 7&$57
The resultant U.S. policy has most often been termed "neutrality." !t was) however) also
consistent with the policy of deferring to *rench volition announced by President
0oosevelt=s Secretary of State on 9 #pril 1,-.. !t was a policy characteri2ed by the same
indecision that had mar.ed U.S. wartime policy. !t was) moreover) a policy formulated
with an undertone of indifference3 at the time) !ndochina appeared to be one region in
which the U.S. might enDoy the luury of abstention.
"hen open warfare bro.e out between the ;04 and *rance in ;ecember) %&5,) :ohn
<arter 4incent) ;irector of the Bffice of *ar @astern #ffairs) in a memorandum to Under
Secretary #cheson of 79 ;ecember %&5,) recommended that the latter call in the *rench
#mbassador to highlight inherent dangers. The memorandum included this acute
analysis3
#lthough the *rench in !ndochina have made far$reaching paper$concessions to the
4ietnamese desire for autonomy) *rench actions on the scene have been directed toward
whittling down the powers and the territorial etent of the 4ietnam "free state." This
process the 4ietnamese have continued to resist. #t the same time) the *rench themselves
admit that they lac. the military strength to recon?uer the country. !n brief) with
inade?uate forces) with public opinion sharply at odds) with a government rendered
largely ineffective through internal division) the *rench have tried to accomplish in
!ndochina what a strong and united Britain has found it unwise to attempt in Burma.
Given the present elements in the situation) guerrilla warfare may continue indefinitely.
Secretary #cheson acted on 8r. 4incent=s suggestion) and epressed to the #mbassador
views summari2ed as follows3
"e had anticipated such a situation developing in November and events have confirmed
our fears. "hile we have no wish to offer to mediate under present conditions we do
want the *rench GB4T to .now that we are ready and willing to do anything which it
might consider helpful in the circumstances. "e have been gratified to learn. of 8outet=s
mission and have confidence in his moderation and broad viewpoint. "e believe
however that the situation is highly inflammatory and if present unsettled conditions
continue) there is a possibility that other powers might attempt to bring the matter up
before the Security <ouncil. !f this happens) as in the case of !ndonesia) the ?uestion will
arise whether the matter is one of purely *rench internal concern or a situation li.ely to
disturb the peace. Bther powers might li.ewise attempt some form the <hinese press. "e
would be point of view it seems important possible. 8r. #cheson added that attempt to
recon?uer the country that the British had found unwise of intervention as has been
suggested in opposed to such steps) but from every that the ?uestion be settled as soon as
he wondered whether the *rench would through military force which was a step to
attempt in Burma.
Bn J :anuary) %&5-) the ;epartment of State instructed the #merican #mbassador in
Paris that the U.S. would approve sale of arms and armaments to *rance "ecept in cases
which appear to relate to !ndochina." Bn the same date) J :anuary %&5-) the *rench
conveyed to the ;epartment of State a message that3
. . . the *rench Government appreciated the understanding attitude that 8r. #cheson had
shown in discussing the problem of !ndochina6 that it had ta.en note of 8r. #cheson=s
offer of "good offices" and appreciated the spirit in which the offer was made6 and that
the *rench Government did not feel that it could avail itself of our offer but must
continue to handle the situation single$handedly along the lines stated by 8outet. FThe
emissaryG went on to say that the principal obDective of the *rench military was to restore
order and reopen communications. >e said that after this was done the *rench
Government would be prepared to discuss matters with the 4ietnamese. >e said that the
*rench Government had every intention of living up to the agreement of last 8arch , and
the modus 'i'endi of September %') once order was restored. F>e wasG as.ed . . . whether
he thought the *rench military could restore order within any foreseeable future time. >e
seemed to thin.) without much evidence of conviction) that they could.
There then ensued an interesting echange between the U.S. official and the *rench
representative in which the *renchman s.etched a claim of #merican culpability for the
war3
Spea.ing personally) ! told him that ! thought there was one flaw in the *rench approach
to the problem worth mentioning. ! had in mind an apparent assumption by the *rench
that there was an e?uality of responsibility as between the *rench and the 4ietnamese. !
said that this did not seem to me to be the case6 that the responsibility of *rance as a
world power to achieve a solution of the problem was far greater than that of the
4ietnamese6 and that the situation was not one which could be locali2ed as a purely
*rench$4ietnamese one but might affect adversely conditions throughout Southeast #sia.
FThe emissaryG ?uic.ly substituted the word "authority" for "responsibility" and said that
the *rench were now faced with the problem of reasserting their authority and that we
must share the responsibility for their delay in doing so because we had not acceded to
*rench re?uests in the autumn of %&5' for material assistance.
@arly in *ebruary) the U.S. #mbassador in Paris was instructed to reassure Premier
0amadier of the "very friendliest feelings" of the U.S. toward *rance and its interest in
supporting *rance=s recovering economic) political and military strength3
!n spite any misunderstanding which might have arisen in minds *rench in regard to our
position concerning !ndochina they must appreciate that we have fully recogni2ed
*rance=s sovereign position in that area and we do not wish to have it appear that we are
in any way endeavoring undermine that position) and *rench should .now it is our desire
to be helpful and we stand ready assist any appropriate way we can to find solution for
!ndochinese problem. #t same time we cannot shut our eyes to fact that there are two
sides this problem and that our reports indicate both a lac. *rench under$standing of
other side +more in Saigon than in Paris1 and continued eistence dangerously outmoded
colonial outloo. and methods in area. *urthermore) there is no escape from fact that trend
of times is to effect that colonial empires in H!H <entury sense are rapidly becoming
thing of past. #ction Brit in !ndia and Burma and ;utch. in !ndonesia are outstanding
eamples this trend) and *rench themselves too. cogni2ance of it both in new
<onstitution and in their agreements with 4ietnam. Bn other hand we do not lose sight
fact that >o <hi 8inh has direct <ommunist connections and it should be obvious that
we are not interested in seeing colonial empire administrations supplanted by philosophy
and political organi2ations emanating from and controlled by Aremlin.
*ran.ly we have no solution of problem to suggest. !t is basically matter for two parties
to wor. out themselves and from your reports and those from !ndochina we are led to feel
that both parties have endeavored to .eep door open to a settlement. "e appreciate fact
that 4ietnam started present fighting in !ndochina on ;ecember %& and that this action
has made it more difficult for *rench to adopt a position of generosity and conciliation.
Nevertheless we hope that *rench will find it possible to be more than generous in trying
to find a solution.
Thus) the U.S. chose to remain outside the conflict6 the announced U.S. position was) in
the words of Secretary of State George <. 8arshall) to hope that "a pacific basis of
adDustment of the difficulties could be found." @vents conspired against this hope)
however) and as the fighting continued) the prospect of a 8oscow$controlled state in
4ietnam continued to draw the U.S. nearer to involvement. Bn %9 8ay %&5-) the
;epartment of State furnished the following guidance to U.S. diplomats in Paris) Saigon)
and >anoi3
Aey our position is our awareness that in respect developments affecting position
"estern democratic powers in southern #sia) we essentially in same boat as *rench) also
as British and ;utch. "e cannot conceive setbac.s to long$range interests *rance which
would not also be setbac.s our own. <onversely we should regard close association
*rance and members *rench Union as not only to advantage peoples concerned) but
indirectly our own.
!n our view) southern #sia in critical phase its history with seven new nations in process
achieving or struggling independence or autonomy. These nations include ?uarter
inhabitants world and their future course) owing sheer weight populations) resources they
command) and strategic location) will be momentous factor world stability. *ollowing
relaation @uropean controls) internal racial) religious) and national differences could
plunge new nations into violent discord) or already apparent anti$"estern Pan$#siatic
tendencies could become dominant political force) or <ommunists could capture control.
"e consider as best safeguard against these eventualities a continued close association
between newly$autonomous peoples and powers which have long been responsible their
welfare. !n particular we recogni2e 4ietnamese will for indefinite period re?uire *rench
material and technical assistance and enlightened political guidance which can be
provided only by nation steeped li.e *rance in democratic tradition and confirmed in
respect human liberties and worth individual.
"e e?ually convinced) however) such association must be. voluntary to be lasting and
achieve results) and that protraction present situation !ndochina can only destroy basic
voluntary cooperation) leave legacy permanent bitterness) and irrevocably alienate
4ietnamese from *rance and those values represented by *rance and other "estern
democracies.
"hile fully appreciating difficulties *rench position this conflict) we feel there is danger
in any arrangement which might provide 4ietnamese opportunity compare unfavorably
their own position and that of other peoples southern #sia who have made tremendous.
strides toward autonomy since war.
"hile we are still ready and willing do anything we can which might be considered
helpful) *rench will understand we not attempting come forward with any solution our
own or intervene in situation. >owever) they will also understand we inescapably
concerned with situation *ar @ast generally) upon which developments !ndochina li.ely
have profound effect.
*or your !N*B) evidence that *rench <ommunists are being directed accelerate their
agitation *rench colonies even etent lose much popular support *rance +U0T@/ %-%&
#pr 7'1 may be indication Aremlin prepared sacrifice temporary gains with 5( million
*rench to long range colonial strategy with ,(( million dependent people) which lends
great urgency foregoing views ;@PT much concerned lest *rench efforts find KUBT@
true representatives 4ietnam UNKUBT@ with whom negotiate result creation impotent
puppet GB4T along lines <ochinchina regime) or that restoration Baodai FsicG may be
attempted) implying democracies reduced resort monarchy as weapon against
<ommunism. Cou may refer these further views if nature your conversations *rench
appears warrant.
The U.S. position may have influenced the *rench to revise the first >a /ong Bay
#greement +;ecember) %&5-1 and when the second agreement was signed in :une) %&5J)
the U.S. promptly instructed the U.S. #mbassador to "apply such persuasion andIor
pressure as is best calculated FtoG produce desired result" of *rance=s "une?uivocally and
promptly approving the principle of 4iet independence." #gain) however) the
#mbassador was instructed to avoid ostensible intervention while ma.ing it clear that the
U.S. foresaw *rance=s losing !ndochina if it persisted to ignore #merican advice. These
instructions were repeated at the end of #ugust) %&5J) with the assertion that the
;epartment of State "believes nothing should be left undone which will strengthen truly
nationalist groups in !ndochina and induce present supporters of the 4iet 8inh to come to
the side of that group."
The first suggestions that the U.S. became tangibly involved in 4ietnam appear in a
reported conversation of the U.S. #mbassador with the *rench *oreign Bffice in
September) %&5J. The U.S. #mbassador again urged on *rance legislation or other
definite action to move toward the unification of 4ietnam) and the immediate negotiation
of concrete steps toward autonomy as envisaged by the >a /ong Bay #greement. >e
then told the *rench representative that3
US is fully appreciative difficulties which face *rench Government in !ndochina at this
time and reminds him that US had already indicated its willingness) if *rench
Government so desired) to give public indication its approval of concrete steps by *rench
Government to come to grips with basic. political problem of !ndochina. ! informed him
that US also willing under similar circumstances to consider assisting *rench
Government with respect to matter of financial aid for !ndochina through @<# but could
not give consideration to altering its present policy in this regard unless real progress
made in reaching non$<ommunist solution in !ndochina based on cooperation of true
nationalists of that country.
#s negotiations proceeded with Bao ;ai preliminary to the @lysee #greement) the
;epartment of State instructed the #merican #mbassador in Paris) on %- :anuary %&5&)
that3
"hile the ;epartment is desirous of the *rench coming to terms with Bao ;ai or any
truly nationalist group which has a reasonable chance of winning over the preponderance
of 4ietnamese) we cannot at this time irretrievably commit the U.S. to support of a native
government which by failing to develop appeal among 4ietnamese might become
virtually a puppet government separated from the people and eisting only by the
presence of *rench military forces.
*ollowing the @lysee #greement) the U.S. was better disposed toward providing aid in
!ndochina. Bn %( 8ay %&5&) the #merican <onsul in Saigon was informed that the U.S.
desired the "Ba, ;ai eperiment" to succeed) since there appeared to be no other
alternative3
#t the proper time and under the proper circumstances) the ;epartment will be prepared
to do its part by etending recognition to the Bao ;ai government and by epressing the
possibility of complying with any re?uest by such a government for U.S. arms and
economic assistance. !t must be understood) however) that an aid program of this nature
would re?uire <ongressional approval. Since the U.S. could) however) scarcely afford
bac.ing a government which would have the color and be li.ely to suffer the fate of a
puppet regime) it m5st be clear that *rance will offer all necessary concessions to ma.e
the Bao ;ai solution attractive to the nationalists. This is a step of which the *rench
themselves must see the urgency and necessity in view of the possibly short time
remaining before <ommunist successes in <hina are felt in !ndochina. 8oreover) the Bao
;ai government must through its own efforts demonstrate the capacity to organi2e and
conduct affairs wisely so as to insure the maimum opportunity for obtaining re?uisite
popular support.
But "anti$communism" initially proved to be no better guideline for the formulation of
#merican policy in !ndochina than it had been for the *rench. !ndeed) early U.S. attempts
to discern the nature and etent of communist influence in 4ietnam devolved to the
seeming parado that if >o <hi 8inh were communist) he seemed to have no visible ties
with 8oscow. *or eample) a State ;epartment appraisal of >o <hi 8inh provided to the
U.S. #mbassador in <hina in :uly) %&5J) was admittedly speculative3
%. ;epts info indicates that >o <hi 8inh is <ommunist. >is long and well$.nown record
in <omintern during twenties and thirties) continuous support by *rench <ommunist
newspaper )umanite since %&5') praise given him by 0adio 8oscow +which for past si
months has been devoting increasing attention to !ndochina1 and fact he has been called
"leading communist= by recent 0ussian publications as well as Daily /or0er ma.es any
other conclusion appear to be wishful thin.ing.
7. ;ept has no evidence of direct lin. between >o and 8oscow but assumes it eists) nor
is it able evaluate amount pressure or guidance 8oscow eerting. "e have impression
>o must be given or is retaining large degree latitude. ;ept considers that USS0
accomplishing its immediate aims in !ndochina by +a1 pinning down large numbers of
*rench troops) +b1 causing steady drain upon *rench economy thereby tending retard
recovery and dissipate @<#. assistance to *rance) and +c1 denying to world generally
surpluses which !ndochina normally has available thus perpetuating conditions of
disorder and shortages which favorable to growth communism. *urthermore) >o seems
?uite capable of retaining and even strengthening his grip on !ndochina with no outside
assistance other than continuing procession of *rench puppet govts.
!n the fall of %&5J) the Bffice of !ntelligence 0esearch in the ;epartment of State
conducted a survey of communist influence in Southeast #sia. @vidence of Aremlin$
directed conspiracy was found in virtually all countries ecept 4ietnam3
Since ;ecember %&) %&5,) there have been continuous conflicts between *rench forces
and the nationalist government of 4ietnam. This government !s a coalition in which
avowed communists hold influential positions. #lthough the *rench admit the influence
of this government) they have consistently refused to deal with its leader) >o <hi 8inh)
on the grounds that he is a communist.
To date the 4ietnam press and radio have not adopted an anti$#merican position. !t is
rather the *rench colonial press that has been strongly anti$#merican and has freely
accused the U.S. of imperialism in !ndochina to the point of approimating the official
8oscow position. #lthough the 4ietnam radio has been closely watched for a new
position toward the U.S.) no change has appeared so far. Nor does there seem to have
been any split within the coalition government of 4ietnam.
E'aluation. !f there is a 8oscow$directed conspiracy in Southeast #sia) !ndochina is an
anomaly so far. Possible eplanations. are3
No rigid directives have been issued by 8oscow.
The 4ietnam government considers that it has no rightest elements that must be purged.
The 4ietnam <ommunists are not subservient to the foreign policies pursued by 8oscow
# special dispensation for the 4ietnam government has been arranged in 8oscow.
Bf these possibilities) the first and fourth seem most li.ely.
III$ ,2IGI*0 ,6 T-E /$0$ I*V,4VE3E*T I* VIET*.3
.$ T-E P,4IC5 C,*TE9T
@vents in <hina of %&5J and %&5& brought the United States to a new awareness of the
vigor of communism in #sia) and to a sense of urgency over its containment. U.S. policy
instruments developed to meet une?uivocal communist challenges in @urope were
applied to the problem of the *ar @ast. <oncurrent with the development of N#TB) a
U.S. search began for collective security in #sia6 economic and military assistance
programs were inaugurated6 and the Truman ;octrine ac?uired wholly new dimensions
by etension into regions where the @uropean empires were being dismantled. !n 8arch)
%&5-) President Truman had set forth the following policy guidelines3
! believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are
resisting attempted subDugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures. ! believe we
must assist free peoples to wor. out their own destinies in their own way.
The President went on to underscore the U.S. determination to commit its resources to
contain communism. "hile he clearly subordinated military aid to economic and political
means) he did assert the U.S. intent to assist in maintaining security3
To insure the peaceful development of nations) free from coercion) the United States has
ta.en a leading part in establishing the United Nations. The United Nations is designed to
ma.e possible freedom and independence for all its members. "e shall not reali2e our
obDectives) however) unless we are willing to help free peoples to maintain their free
institutions and their national integrity against aggressive movements that see. to impose
upon them totalitarian regimes.
!n the year %&5-) while U.S. military assistance began to flow into Greece to ward off
subversive aggression) the U.S. inaugurated the @uropean 0ecovery Plan +@0P1. @0P
was aimed at economic recovery in "estern @urope) especially in countries such as
*rance and !taly where post$war depression was fostering mar.ed leftward political
trends. !n one of the high level appraisals of the situation that the U.S. had to counter in
%&5-) the >arriman <ommittee on *oreign #id has concluded that3
The interest of the United States in @urope . . . cannot be measured simply in economic
terms. !t is also strategic and political. "e all .now that we are faced in the world today
with two conflicting ideologies. .
Bur position in the world has been based for at least a century on the eistence in @urope
of a number of strong states committed by tradition and inclination to the democratic
concept. .
The fall of the <2echoslova.ian Government in *ebruary %&5J brought about the
Brussels Pact) a "estern @uropean collective defense and economic collaboration
arrangement. The bloc.ade of Berlin) which began on % #pril %&5J) accelerated U.S.
movement toward membership in the alliance. Bn :une %%) %&5J the U.S. Senate adopted
a resolution advising the @ecutive to underta.e the3
Progressive development of regional and other collective arrangements for individual and
collective self$defense in accordance with the purposes) principles) and provisions of the
<harter Fof the UNG) association of the United States) by constitutional process) with such
regional and other collective arrangements as are based on continuous and effective self$
help and mutual aid) and as affect its national security.
That same month) <ongress passed the @conomic <ooperation #ct) and in :uly) %&5J)
opened negotiations for a North #tlantic #lliance. The North #tlantic Treaty was signed
in #pril) %&5&) and entered into force in #ugust of that year.
!n the same omnibus foreign assistance legislation which had authori2ed @<# in :une)
%&5J) <ongress had provided for a <hina #id. Program. This measure met almost
immediate failure) for 8ao=s armies spread unchec.ed over the <hina mainland) and by
mid$%&5& the position of the nationalists there was untenable. The "failure" of U.S. aid$
which was termed such by <ongressional critics$no less than the urgent situation in
@urope and the eploding of the first Soviet nuclear device in September) %&5&) figured
in <ongressional action on military assistance legislation.
Bn Bctober ,) %&5&) <ongress passed the 8utual ;efense #ssistance Program +8;#P1
through which U.S. arms) military e?uipment and training assistance might be provided
world$wide for collective defense. !n the first appropriations under 8;#P) N#TB
countries received -,O of the total) and Greece. and Tur.ey +not yet N#TB members1)
%,O. But Aorea and the Philippines received modest aid) and the legislators clearly
intended the law to underwrite subse?uent appropriations for collective security in #sia.
The opening paragraph of the law not only supported N#TB) but foreshadowed the
Southeast #sia <ollective ;efense Treaty3
#n #ct to Promote the *oreign Policy and Provide for the ;efense and General "elfare
of the United States by *urnishing 8ilitary #ssistance to *oreign Nations) #pproved
Bctober ,) %&5&.
Be it enacted by the Senate and >ouse of 0epresentatives of the United States of #merica
in <ongress assembled) That this #ct may be cited as the "8utual ;efense #ssistance
#ct of %&5&."
*!N;!NGS #N; ;@</#0#T!BN B* PB/!<C
The <ongress of the United States reaffirms the policy of the United States to achieve
international peace and security through the United Nations so that armed force shall not
be used ecept in the common interest. The <ongress hereby finds that the efforts of the
United States and other countries to promote peace and security in furtherance of the
purposes of the <harter of the United Nations re?uire additional measures of support
based upon the principle of continuous and effective self$help and mutual aid. These
measures include the furnishing of military assistance essential to enable the United
States and other nations dedicated to the purposes and principles of the United Nations
<harter to participate effectively in arrangements for individual and collective self$
defense in support of those purposes and principles. !n furnishing such military
assistance) it remains the policy of the United States to continue to eert maimum
efforts to obtain agreements to provide the United Nations with armed forces as
contemplated in the <harter and agreements to achieve universal control of weapons of
mass destruction and universal regulation and reduction of armaments) including armed
forces) under ade?uate safeguards to protect complying nations against violation and
evasion.
The <ongress hereby epresses itself as favoring the creation by the free countries and
the free peoples of the *ar @ast of a Doint organi2ation) consistent with the <harter of the
United Nations) to establish a program self$help and mutual cooperation designed to
develop their economic and social welt$being) to safeguard basic rights and liberties and
to protect their security and independence.
The <ongress recogni2es that economic recovery is essential to international peace and
security and must be given clear priority. The <ongress also recogni2es that the increased
confidence of free peoples in their ability to resist direct or indirect aggression and to
maintain internal security will advance such recovery and support political stability.
"hile <ongress was deliberating on 8;#P) the staff of the National Security <ouncil) at
the re?uest of the Secretary of ;efense) had been reeamining U.S. policy toward #sia.
!n :une) %&5&) the Secretary had noted that he was3
. . . increasingly concerned at the . . . advance of communism in large areas of the world
and particularly the successes of communism in <hina.
# maDor obDective of United States policy) as ! understand it) is to contain communism in
order to reduce its threat to our security. Bur actions in #sia should be part of a carefully
considered and comprehensive plan to further that obDective.
The NS< study responding to the Secretary=s re?uest is remar.able for the rarity of its
specific references to !ndochina. The staff study focused) rather) on generalities
concerning the conflict between the interests of @uropean metropoles and the aspirations
of subDect #sian peoples for independence. The following etract is from the section of
the study dealing with Southeast #sia3
The current conflict between colonialism and native independence is the most important
political factor in southeast #sia. This conflict results not only from the decay of
@uropean imperial power in the area but also from a widening political consciousness and
the rise of militant nationalism among the subDect peoples. "ith the eception of
Thailand and the Philippines) the southeast #sia countries do not possess leaders
practiced in the eercise of responsible power. The ?uestion of whether a colonial
country is fit to govern itself) however) is not always relevant in practical politics. The
real issue would seem to be whether the colonial country is able and determined to ma.e
continued foreign rule an overall losing proposition for the metropolitan power. !f it is)
independence for the colonial country is the only practical solution) even though
misgovernment eventuates. # solution of the conse?uent problem of instability) if it
arises) must be sought on a non$imperialist plane. !n any event) colonial$nationalist
conflict provides a fertile field for subversive communist activities) and it is now clear
that southeast #sia is the target of a coordinated offensive directed by the Aremlin. !n
see.ing to gain control of southeast #sia) the Aremlin is motivated in part by a desire to
ac?uire southeast #sia=s resources and communication lines) and to deny them to us. But
the political gains which would accrue to the USS0 from communist capture of southeast
#sia are e?ually significant. The etension of communist authority in <hina represents a
grievous political defeat for us6 if southeast #sia also is swept by communism we shall
have suffered a maDor political rout the repercussions of which will be felt throughout the
rest of the world) especially in the 8iddle @ast and in a then critically eposed #ustralia.
The United States should continue to use its influence loo.ing toward resolving the
colonial nationalist conflict in such a way as to satisfy the fundamental demands of the
nationalist$colonial conflict) lay the basis for political stability and resistance to
communism) and avoid wea.ening the colonial powers who are our western allies.
>owever) it must be remembered that the long colonial tradition in #sia has left the
peoples of that area suspicious of "estern influence. "e must approach the problem
from the #siatic point of view in so far as possible and should refrain from ta.ing the
lead in movements which must of necessity be of #sian origin. !t will therefore be to our
interest wherever possible to encourage the peoples of !ndia) Pa.istan) the Philippines
and other #sian states to ta.e the leadership in meeting the common problems of the area.
!t would be to the interest of the United States to ma.e use of the s.ills) .nowledge and
long eperience of our @uropean friends and) to whatever etent may be possible) enlist
their cooperation in measures designed to chec. the spread of USS0 influence in #sia. !f
members of the British <ommonwealth) particularly !ndia) Pa.istan) #ustralia and New
Lealand) can be persuaded to Doin with the United Aingdom and the United States in
carrying out constructive measures of economic) political and cultural cooperation) the
results will certainly be in our interest. Not only will the United States be able thus to
relieve itself of part of the burden) but the cooperation of the white nations of the
<ommonwealth will arrest any potential dangers of the growth of a white$colored
polari2ation.
Bn ;ecember 9() %&5&) the National Security <ouncil met with President Truman
presiding) discussed the NS< staff study) and approved the following conclusions3
#s the basis for reali2ation of its obDectives) the United States should pursue a policy
toward #sia containing the following components3
a. The United States should ma.e .nown its sympathy with the efforts of #sian leaders to
form regional associations of non$<ommunist states of the various #sian areas) and if in
due course associations eventuate) the United States should be prepared) if invited) to
assist such associations to fulfill their purposes under conditions which would be to our
interest. The following principles should guide our actions in this respect3
#ny association formed must be the result of a genuine desire on the part of the
participating nations to cooperate for mutual benefit in solving the political) economic)
social and cultural problems of the area.
The United States must not ta.e such an active part in the early stages of the formation of
such an association that it will be subDect to the charge of using the #siatic nations to
further United States ambitions.
The association) if it is to be a constructive force) must operate on the basis of mutual aid
and self$help in all fields so that a true partnership may eist based on e?ual rights and
e?ual obligations.
United States participation Fwords illegibleG association formed will be in accord with
<hapter 4!!! of the <harter of the United Nations dealing with regional arrangements.
b. The United States should act to develop and strengthen the security of the area from
<ommunist eternal aggression or internal subversion. These steps should ta.e into
account any benefits to the security of #sia which may flow from the development of one
or more regional groupings. The United States on its own initiative should now
!mprove the United States position with respect to :apan) the 0yu.yus and the
Philippines.
Scrutini2e closely the development of threats from <ommunist aggression) direct or
indirect) and be prepared to help within our means to meet such threats by providing
political) economic) and military assistance and advice where clearly needed to
supplement the resistance of the other governments in and out of the area which are more
directly concerned.
;evelop cooperative measures through multilateral or bilateral arrangements to combat
<ommunist internal subversion.
#ppraise the desirability and the means of developing in #sia some form of collective
security arrangements) bearing in mind the following considerations3
The reluctance of !ndia at this time to Doin in any anti$<ommunist security pact and the
influence this will have among the other nations of #sia.
The necessity of assuming that any collective security arrangements which might be
developed be based on the principle of mutual aid and on a demonstrated desire and
ability to share in the burden by all the participating states.
The necessity of assuring that any such security arrangements would be consonant with
the purposes of any regional association which may be formed in accordance with
paragraph 9$a above.
The necessity of assuring that any such security arrangement would be in conformity
with the provisions of #rticle '% of the <harter relating to individual and collective self$
defense.
c. The United States should encourage the creation of an atmosphere favorable to
economic recovery and development in non$<ommunist #sia) and to the revival of
Fwords illegibleG non$discriminatory lines. The policy of the United States should be
adapted to promote) where possible) economic conditions that will contribute to political
stability in friendly countries of #sia) but the United States should carefully avoid
assuming responsibility for the economic welfare and development of that continent. .
h. The United States should continue to use its influence in #sia toward resolving the
colonial$nationalist conflict in such a way as to satisfy the fundamental demands of the
nationalist movement while at the same time minimi2ing the strain on the colonial
powers who are our "estern allies. Particular attention should be given to the problem of
*rench !ndo$<hina. and action should be ta.en to bring home to the *rench the urgency
of removing the barriers to the obtaining by Bao ;ai or other non$<ommunist nationalist
leaders of the support of a substantial proportion of the 4ietnamese. . .
i. #ctive consideration should be given to means by which all members of the British
<ommonwealth may be induced to play a more active role in collaboration with the
United States in #sia. Similar collaboration should be obtained to the etent possible
from other non$<ommunist nations having interests in #sia.
D. 0ecogni2ing that the non$<ommunist governments of South #sia already constitute a
bulwar. against <ommunist epansion in #sia) the United States should eploit every
opportunity to increase the present "estern orientation of the area and to assist) within
our capabilities) its governments in their efforts to meet the minimum aspirations of their
people and to maintain internal security.
Thus) in the closing months of %&5&) the course of U.S. policy was set to. bloc. further
communist epansion in #sia3 by collective security if the #sians were forthcoming) by
collaboration with maDor @uropean allies and commonwealth nations) if possible) but
bilaterally if necessary. Bn that policy course lay the Aorean "ar of %&'oP%&'9) the
forming of the Southeast #sia Treaty Brgani2ation of %&'5) and the progressively
deepening U.S. involvement in 4ietnam.
B$ T-E /$0$ E*TE20 T-E 1.2
Bn ;ecember 9() %&5&) the *rench signed over ten separate implementing agreements
relating to the transfer of internal administration in 4ietnam to Bao ;ai=s State of
4ietnam) in accordance with the @lysee #greement of 8arch J) %&5&. By :anuary) %&'()
8ao=s legions had reached 4ietnam=s northern frontier) and North 4ietnam was moving
into the Sino$Soviet orbit. # ;epartment of State statement enunciated U.S. policy as of
7( :anuary %&'(3
;@PT still hopeful Bao ;ai will succeed in gaining increasing popular support at >o=s
epense and our policy remains essentially the same6 to encourage him and to urge *0
toward further concessions.
The start made by Bao ;ai) the ?ualities ehibited by him) and his initial reception seem
to have been better than we might have anticipated) even discounting optimism of *0
sources. Transfer of power apparently well received. *0 success in disarming and
interning fleeing <>! Nationalists without serious intervention to the present by <8!
<B88!@S also encouraging.
>owever) more recently) mar.ed opposition has been encountered which demonstrates at
least that Bao ;ai=s popular support has not yet widened. !ncreased 4iet 8inh 8!/
activity is dis?uieting. This </; be special effort by >o) timed to coincide with transfer
of power and the arrival of <>! <B88!@S armies on frontier) and to precede Bang.o.
<onference) or </; be evidence of increasing strength reinforced by hopes of <0%
<B88!@ support) direct or indirect.
;@PT has as yet no .nowledge of negotiations between >o and 8ao groups although
radio intercept of New <hina News #gency release of :#N %- indicates that >o has
messaged the "GB4TS of the world" that "the GB4T of the ;emocratic 0epublic of
4ietnam is the only legal GB4T of the 4ietnam people" and is "ready to establish ;!P/
relations with any GB4T which "/; be willing to cooperate with her on the basis of
e?uality and mutual respect of national sovereignty and territory so as to defend world
peace and democracy." >o=s radio ma.ing similar professions. .
Nature and timing of recognition of Bao ;ai now under consideration here and with other
GB4TS. .
*irst the <hinese <ommunists) and then the Soviets recogni2ed the ;04. Bn 7& :anuary
1,.1& the *rench National #ssembly approved legislation granting autonomy to the State
of 4ietnam. Bn *ebruary %) %&'() Secretary of State #cheson made the following public
statement3
The recognition by the Aremlin of >o <hi 8inh=s communist movement in !ndochina
comes as a surprise. The Soviet ac.nowledgment of this movement should remove any
illusions as to the "nationalist" nature of >o <hi 8inhMs aims and reveals >o in his true
colors as the mortal enemy of native independence in !ndochina.
#lthough timed in an effort to cloud the transfer of sovereignty by *rance to the legal
Governments of /aos) <ambodia) and. 4ietnam) we have every reasonable Fwords
illegibleG governments will proceed in their development toward stable governments
representing the true nationalist sentiments of more than 7( million peoples of !ndochina.
*rench action in transferring sovereignty to 4ietnam) /aos and <ambodia has been in
process for some time. *ollowing *rench ratification) which is epected within a few
days) the way will be open for recognition of these legal governments by the countries of
the world. whose policies support the development of genuine national independence in
former colonial areas. #mbassador :essup has already epressed to @mperor Bao ;ai our
best wishes for prosperity and stability in 4ietnam) and the hope that closer relationship
will be established between 4ietnam and the United States.
*ormal *rench ratification of 4ietnamese independence was announced on 7 *ebruary
%&'() President Truman approved U.S. recognition for Bao ;ai the same date) and on 5
*ebruary) the #merican <onsul General in Saigon was instructed to deliver the following
message to Bao ;ai3
Cour !mperial 8aDesty3
! have Cour 8aDesty=s letter in which ! am informed of the signing of the agreements of
8arch J) 1,-, between Cour 8aDesty) on behalf of 4ietnam) and the President of the
*rench 0epublic) on behalf of *rance. 8y Government has also been informed of the
ratification on *ebruary 7) %&'( by the *rench Government of the agreements of 8arch
J) %&5&6
Since these acts establish the 0epublic of 4ietnam as an independent State within the
*rench Union) ! ta.e this opportunity to congratulate Cour 8aDesty and the people of
4ietnam on this happy occasion.
The Government of the United States of #merica is pleased to welcome the 0epublic of
4ietnam into the community of peace$loving nations of the world and to etend
diplomatic recognition to the Government of the 0epublic of 4ietnam. ! loo. forward to
an early echange of diplomatic representatives between our two countries.
0ecognition of Bao ;ai was followed swiftly by *rench re?uests for U.S. aid. Bn 8ay J)
%&'() Secretary of State #cheson released the following statement in Paris3
The F*renchG *oreign 8inister and ! have Dust had an echange of views on the situation
in !ndochina and are in general agreement both as to the urgency of the situation in that
area and as to the necessity for remedial action. "e have noted the fact that the problem
of meeting the threat to the security of 4iet Nam) <ambodia) and /aos which now enDoy
independence within the *rench Union. is primarily the responsibility of *rance and the
Governments and peoples of !ndochina. The United States recogni2es that the solution of
the. !ndochina problem depends both upon the restoration of security and upon the
development of genuine nationalism and that United States assistance can and should
contribute to these maDor obDectives.
The United States Government) convinced that neither national independence nor
democratic evolution eist in any area dominated by Soviet imperialism) considers the
situation to be such as to warrant its according economic aid and military e?uipment to
the #ssociated States of !ndochina and to *rance in order to assist them in restoring
stability and permitting these states to pursue their peaceful and democratic development.
The Pentagon Papers
Gravel @dition
4olume %
<hapter !) "Bac.ground to the <risis) %&5($'("
+Boston3 Beacon Press) %&-%1
Section 5) pp. 57$'7
Bn 8ay %%) %&'() the #cting Secretary of State made the following statement3
# special survey mission) headed by 0. #llen Griffin) has Dust returned from Southeast
#sia and reported on economic and technical assistance needed in that area. !ts over$all
recommendations for the area are modest and total in the neighborhood of Q,( million.
The ;epartment is wor.ing on plans to implement that program at once.
Secretary #cheson on 8onday in Paris cited the urgency of the situation applying in the
associated states of 4iet Nam) /aos and <ambodia. The ;epartment is wor.ing Dointly
with @<# to implement the economic and technical assistance recommendations for
!ndochina as well as the other states of Southeast #sia and anticipates that this program
will get underway in the immediate future.
8ilitary assistance for Southeast #sia is being wor.ed out by the ;epartment of ;efense
in cooperation with the ;epartment of State) and the details will not be made public for
security reasons.
8ilitary assistance needs will be met from the President=s emergency fund of Q-' million
provided under 8;#P for the general area of <hina.
@conomic assistance needs will be met from the @<# <hina #id funds) part of which
both >ouses of <ongress have indicated will be made available for the general area of
<hina. *inal legislative action is still pending on this authori2ation but is epected to be
completed within the net wee..
The United States thereafter was directly involved in the developing tragedy in 4ietnam.
IV$ T-E C-.2.CTE2 .*+ P,1E2 ,6 T-E VIET 3I*- "" . 0/33.25
Bne of the recurrent themes of criticism of U.S. policy in 4ietnam has been that from the
end of "orld "ar !! on) there was a failure to recogni2e that the 4iet 8inh was the
principal vehicle for 4ietnamese nationalism and that it) !n fact) was in control of and
effectively governing all of 4ietnam. @vidence on issues li.e popularity and control is
always somewh5t suspect $$ especially when dealing with an eotic country li.e 4ietnam
at a time when what #mericans .new about it was largely dependent on *rench sources.
Nonetheless) some generali2ations can be made and supported.
*irst) the 4iet 8inh was the main repository of 4ietnamese nationalism and anti$*rench
colonialism. There were other such groups promoting 4iet independence but none were
competitive on a country$wide scale. !t is also true that the disciplined). well$organi2ed)
and well$led !ndochinese <ommunist Party was the controlling element in the 4iet 8inh.
The !<P was not) however) in the numerical maDority either in total membership or in
leadership posts held. This gap between control and numbers can be eplained by two
factors3 +a1 !<P strategy was to unify nationalist elements to achieve the immediate
obDective of independence6 and +b1 the other components of the 4iet 8inh were si2able
enough to fractionali2e the whole movement. !n other words) from "orld "ar !! on) the
!<P was strong enough td lead) but not to dominate 4ietnamese nationalism.
Second) the 4iet 8inh was sufficiently popular and effective to turn itself into a
4ietnam$wide government that could have etended its authority throughout the country
after "orld "ar !! $$ ecept for the obstacle of reasserted *rench power) and) to a lesser
degree) of indigenous political opp,sition in <ochinchina. The 4iet 8inh was always
more powerful in Ton.in and #nnam than in South 4ietnam. >owever) it seems li.ely
that in the absence of the *rench) the 4iet 8inh through its governmental creation) the
;04) would have overridden indigenous tribal) religious). and other opposition in short
order.
4ietnamese nationalism developed three types of political parties or movements3
2eform parties. Narrowly based among the small educated 4ietnamese elite) these parties
made little pretense at representing the masses of the peasantry ecept in the ancient
mandarinal sense of paternal leadership. !n general) they advocated reform of the
relationship between *rance and 4ietnam to establish an independent and united nati,n)
but would neither sever beneficial bonds with the metropole) nor alter drastically the
4ietnamese social structure. 8embers included many men of impeccable repute and
undoubted nationalist convictions $ among them Ngo6 ;inh ;iem$but also a number of
.nown opportunist and corrupt 4ietnamese. The reformist parties were further
discredited by collaboration with the :apanese during "orld "ar !!. These parties formed
the basis for the "Bao ;ai solution" to which *rance and the U.S. gravitated in the late
%&5(=s.
Theorati parties. !n <ochinchina and almost eclusively there during the %&9(=s there
emerged religious sects commanding firm loyalties of hundreds of thousands of peasants.
Two of these $$ the <ao ;ai and the >oa >ao R aspired to temporal as well as spiritual
power) fielded armed $ forces) and formed local governments. They opposed both *rench
political and cultural hegemony) and domination by other 4ietnamese parties. Some
elements collaborated openly with the :apanese during %&5($%&5'. Because these parties
were of local and religious character) any parallel with other 4iet political organi2ations
would be ineact. These movements account in
%
arge measure for the distinctive
character of South 4ietnamese nationalism as compared with that of #nnam or Ton.in.
2e'olutionary parties. The numerous remaining 4ietnamese political parties fall into the
revolutionary category3 they advocated 4ietnam=s independence from *rance and some
degree of radical reorgani2ation of the 4iet polity. Their political coloration ranged from
the deep red of the Saigon$centered Trots.yites +who advocated anti$imperialist $
revolution throughout the world) and within 4ietnam) epropriation for the wor.ers and
peasants1 through the less violent hues of communism and Auomintang$styled
nationalism) to the indistinct) .eclectic nationalism of the Binh Huyen criminal fraternity
+another Saigon phenomenon1.
Bnly two of these movements developed a 4ietnam$wide influence3 the !ndochinese
<ommunist Party +!<P1 and the 4ietnam Nationalist Party +4NK;;1. Both these parties
were troubled throughout their history by factionalism) and by repented +*rench police1
purges. Both aspired to politici2ing the peasants6 neither wholly succeeded.. Bf the two)
the !<P consistently demonstrated the greater resiliency and popularity) attributable to
superior conspiratorial doctrine and techni?ue) and to more coherent and astute
leadership. Both the !<P and the 4NK;; figured in peasant uprisings in %&9Bl&9l) and
l&5Bl&5l. @ach played a role in the 4ietnamese resistance against the 4ichy *rench and
the :apanese during "orld "ar !!3 the !<P as the nucleus of the 4iet 8inh) and the
4NK;; as the principal component of the <hinese Nationalist$sponsored ;ong 8inh
$>oi.
The 4iet 8inh $4iet 3am Do "ap Dong Minh )oi& /eague for the !ndependence of
4ietnam $ came into being in 8ay) %&5%) at the Jth Plenum of the !ndochinese
<ommunist Party) held in South <hina. !t was formed as a "united front" organi2ation
initially composed of the !<P) 0evolutionary Couth /eague) the New 4ietnam Party) and
factions of the 4ietnam Nationalist Party +4NK;;1. 8embership was held open to any
other individuals or groups willing to Doin in struggling for "national liberation." The
announced program of the 4iet 8inh called for a wide range of social and political
reforms designed mainly to appeal the 4iet patriotism. @mphasis was placed on an anti$
:apanese crusade and preparation .for "an insurrection by the organi2ation of the people
into self$defense corps)" not on communist cant.
Though a Auomintang general originally sponsored the 4iet 8inh) >o soon became
suspect) and in %&57 was Dailed by the <hinese. "hile he was in prison) probably. to
offset the 4iet 8ine=s growing appeal) and to assure tighter <hinese control of the
4ietnamese) the A8T fostered a rival 4iet "popular. front)" the 4ietnam 0evolutionary
/eague +;ong 8inh >oi1) which was based on the 4NK;;1) the Great 4ietnam
Nationalist Party +;ai 4iet1) and a number of smaller groups) but was supposed to
include the 4iet 8inh. !n fact) however) the ;ong 8inh >oi never ac?uired more than a
nominal control over the 4iet 8inh. !n %&59) >o was released from prison and put in
charge of the ;ong 8inh >oi$$a status apparently conditioned on his accepting overall
<hinese guidance and providing the allies with intelligence. But. as the war progressed)
>o and the 4iet 8inh drew apart from the ;ong 8inh >oi) and the latter never
succeeded in ac?uiring apparatus within 4ietnam comparable to the 4iet 8inh=s.
;uring the war) some 4ietnamese political parties collaborated with the :apanese or the
4ichy *rench. These were put at a disadvantage during and after the war in competition
with the !<P) the 4iet 8inh) or the ;ong 8inh >oi$$all of which developed an aura of
unwavering faith to resistance against all foreign domination But only the !<P and the
4iet 8inh established their reputations by etensive wartime operations among the
people of 4ietnam. !n <ochinchina) up until surfacing in #pril %&5') the !<P continued
to operate largely underground and without much regard for the 4iet 8inh mantle6 in
#nnam and Ton.in) however) all !<P underta.ings were given 4iet 8inh identity.
Throughout 4ietnam) the !<P initiated patient political action3 the dissemination of
propaganda) the training of cadres) the establishment of a networ. of cells down to
hamlet level. The !<P was during the war the hard core of the 4iet 8inh) but the bul. of
the 4iet 8inh membership were no doubt ?uite unaware of that fact3 they served the 4iet
8inh out of a patriotic fervor.
The #merican B.S.S. during "orld "ar !! dealt with the 4iet 8inh as the sole efficient
resistance apparatus within 4ietnam) depending upon it for reliable intelligence) and for
aid in assisting downed allied pilots. >owever) the 4iet 8inh itself assigned priority to
political tas.s ahead of these military missions. The first permanent 4iet 8inh bases
were established in %&57$59 in the mountains north of >anoi. Bnly after its political
networ. was well established did it field its first guerrilla forces) in September %&59. The
first units of the 4iet 8inh /iberation #rmy came into being on ;ecember 75 of that
year) but there is no evidence of large scale) concerted guerrilla operations until after
8arch %&5'.
#t the end of %&55) the 4iet 8inh claimed a total membership of '(()((() of which
7(()((( were in Ton.in) %'()((( in #nnam) and %'()((( in <ochinchina. The 4iet 8inh
political and military structure was significantly further developed in North 4ietnam. !n
8ay %&5'& a 4iet 8inh "liberated 2one" was established near the <hinese border. #s the
war drew to a close the 4iet 8inh determined to preempt allied occupation) and to form a
government prior to their arrival. The 4iet 8inh ability to do so proved better in the
north than in the south. !n #ugust %&5') >o <hi 8inh=s forces sei2ed over from the
:apanese and Bao ;ai in North 4ietnam) forced the emperor to abdicate) and to cede his
powers to >o=s ;emocratic 0epublic of 4ietnam +;041. !n <ochinchina) however) the
4iet 8inh were able to gain only tenuous control of Saigon and its environs.
Nonetheless) when the allies arrived) the 4iet 8inh were the de fato government in both
North and South 4ietnam3 >o <hi 8inh and his ;04 in >anoi) and an !<P$dominated
"<ommittee of the South" in Saigon.
Bn %7 September %&5') the British landed a Gur.ha battalion and a company of *ree
*rench soldiers in Saigon. The British commander regarded the 4ietnamese government
with disdain because of its lac. of authority from the *rench and because of its inability
to ?uell civil disorder in South 4ietnam. Saigon police dashed with Trots.yites) and in
the rural areas) fighting bro.e out between 4iet 8inh troops and those of <ao ;ai and
>oa >oa. Spreading violence rendered futile further attempts to draw together the
4ietnamese factions) and prompted the *rench to importune the British commander to
permit them to step in to restore order. Bn the morning of 79 September) *rench troops
overthrew the 4ietnamese government after a tenure of only three wee.s. The official
British account termed the *rench method of eecuting the coup d=etat "unfortunate" in
that they "absolutely ensured that countermeasures would be ta.en by the F4ietnameseG
4ietnamese retaliation was ?uic. and violent3 over one hundred "esterners were slain in
the first few days) and others .idnapped6 on 7, September) the U.S. commander of the
B.S.S. in Saigon was .illed. Thus) the first !ndochina "ar began in <ochinchina in late
September) %&5'& and #merican blood was shed in its opening hours.
#t that Duncture) the !<P in <ochinchina was in a particularly vulnerable position. The
!<P had permitted the 4iet 8inh to pose as an arm of the #llies) and had supported
cooperation with the British and amnesty for the *rench. The Party had even underta.en)
through the <ommittee of the South) to repress the Trots.yites. But violence undermined
its advocacy of political moderation) of maintaining public order) and of negotiations
with the *rench. *urther) the !<P in Saigon was assured by *rench communists that they
would receive no assistance from Party brethren abroad. The *rench coup d=etat thrust
conflict upon the 4ietnamese of <ochinchina. The ?uestion before the communists was
how to respond6 the !<P leadership determined Fwords illegibleG and that to maintain
leadership of the nationalist movement in South 4ietnam they had to ma.e the 4iet 8inh
the most unbending foe of compromise with the *rench.
The situation in all of 4ietnam at the end of the war was confused $$ neither the *rench)
nor the 4iet 8inh) nor any other group eercised clear authority. "hile the 4iet 8inh
was far and away the single most powerful 4ietnamese organi2ation) and while it claimed
dominion over all 4ietnam) its authority was challenged in the North by the <hinese and
in the South by the British. The *rench position was patently more tenuous than that of
the 4iet 8inh until & Bctober %&5'. Bn that date) *rance and the UA concluded an
agreement whereby the British formally recogni2ed *rench civil administration in
!ndochina and ceded its occupation rights to *rance south of the %,th parallel. This
ceding of authority in the South did not) as a practical matter) ensure *rench rule. "ith
only 9')((( *rench soldiers in South 4ietnam) the 4iet 8inh and other parties were well
able to contest the *rench.
4iet 8inh authority in #nnam and Ton.in was less ambiguous) but by no means
unchallenged. !n the North) the salient political fact of life for the 4iet 8inh was the
presence of the <hinese Nationalist #rmy of Bccupation numbering '()((( men..
Through this presence) the <hinese were able to force the 4iet 8inh to accommodate
<hinese$4iet Nationalists within the ;04 and to defer to <hinese policy in other
respects.
The 4iet 8inh had to go further still in accommodating the wishes of the <hinese. !n
setting up the ;04 government of 7 September %&5') pro$<hinese) non$4iet 8inh
politicians were included) and the !<P too. only , of %, cabinet posts. Bn %% November
%&5') the 4iet 8inh leadership went even further) and formally dissolved the. !<P in the
interest of avoiding "misunderstandings." @ven this) however) was not sufficient.
<ompelled by opposition demands) >o agreed to schedule national elections for :anuary
of %&5, . The results of these elections were arranged beforehand with the maDor
opposition parties) and the #ssembly thus "elected" met on 7 8arch %&5,. This
#ssembly approved a new ;04 government) with the !<P holding only 7 of %7. cabinet
posts.
By then) *rance was ready to pose a stronger challenge. *rench reinforcements had
arrived in !ndochina) so that Paris could contemplate operations in North 4ietnam as well
as in <ochinchina. !n early %&5,) the <hinese turned over their occupation rights in the
North to *rance. *aced with increased *rench military power and <hinese withdrawal)
and denied succor from abroad) >o decided that he had no recourse save to negotiate with
the *rench. Bn , 8arch %&5,) >o signed an #ccord with the *rench providing for *rench
re$entry into 4ietnam for five years in return for recogni2ing the ;04 as a free state
within the *rench union.
This #ccord taed >oMs popularity to the utmost) and it too. all >o=s prestige to prevent
open rebellion. Bn 7- 8ay %&5,) >o countered these attac.s by merging the 4iet 8inh
into the /ien 4iet) a larger) more embracing "national front." #mity within the /ien 4iet)
however) lasted only as long as the <hinese remained in North 4ietnam. "hen they
withdrew a few wee.s later) in mid$:une) the 4iet 8inh) supported by *rench troops)
attac.ed the ;ong 8inh >oi and the 4NK;;) as "enemies of the peace)" effectively
suppressed organi2ed opposition) and asserted 4iet 8inh control throughout North
4ietnam.
But even this ascendancy proved transitory. >o <hi.8inh) though he tried hard) was
unable to negotiate any durable modus 'i'endi with the *rench in the summer and fall of
%&5,. !n the meantime) the ;04 and the 4iet 8inh were drawn more and more under the
control of the "8arists" of the former !<P. *or eample) during the sessions of the ;04
National #ssembly in November) nominal opposition members were whittled down to 7(
out of more than 9(( seats) and a few "8arists" dominated the proceedings.
Nonetheless) the ;04 government maintained at least a facade of coalition. Through
%&5&) !<P members remained in the minority) and nominally oppositionist 4NK;; and
;ong 8inh >oi politicians were consistently included.
#lthough the <ochinchina war continued throughout %&5,) with the 4iet 8inh assuming
a leading role in resistance) war in North 4ietnam did hot brea. out until ;ecember)
%&5,. # series of armed clashes in November were followed by a large scale fighting in
>anoi in late ;ecember. The ;04 government too. to the hills to assume the status of
shadow state. The 4iet 8inh transformed itself bac. into a semi$covert resistance
organi2ation and committed itself throughout the nation to the military defeat of the
*rench. ;uring the opening year of the war) %&5-) the 4iet 8inh too. steps to restore its
image as a popular) patriotic) anti$foreign movement) and again to play down the !<P role
in its leadership. The ;04 government was reorgani2ed and prominent communists
ecluded. #s the 4iet 8inh gathered strength over the years) however) these same leaders
reentered the ;04 government.
!n *ebruary %&'%) addressing the <ongress of the 4ietnamese <ommunist Party +/ao
;ong1) >o <hi 8inh stated that the <ommunist Party had formed and led the 4iet 8inh)
and founded and ruled the ;04. "hen the *rench colonialists reappeared in South
4ietnam and a Nationalist <hinese$sponsored government seemed in prospect in North
4ietnam) >o averred) the Party went underground) and entered into agreements with the
*rench3
/enin said that even if a compromise with bandits was advantageous to the revolution) he
would do it.
But >o=s eplanation notwithstanding) the 4iet 8inh was irrefutably nationalist) popular)
and patriotic. !t was also the most prominent and successful vehicle of 4iet nationalism
in the %&5(=s. To a degree it "as always non$communist. #vailable evidence indicates)
however) that from its inception) >o <hi 8inh and his lieutenants of the !ndochinese
<ommunist Party conceived its strategy) directed its operations) and channeled its
energies consistent with their own goals as they subse?uently claimed. "hether the non$
communist elements of the 4iet 8inh might have become dominant in different
circumstances must be relegated to speculation. !t seems clear that) as matters developed)
all of the non$communist nationalist movements$reformist) theocratic) or revolutionary$
were too locali2ed) too disunited) or too tainted with :apanese or Nationalist <hinese
associations to have competed successfully with the !<P for control of the 4iet 8inh.
#nd none could compete effectively with the 4iet 8inh in gaining a following among
4ietnam=s peasants.
FSupporting tet not availableG
V$ -, C-I 3I*-' .0I.* TIT,: . 0/33.25
#mong the more cogent criti?ues of U.S. policy toward 4ietnam is the contention that
the U.S. failed to recogni2e in >o <hi 8inh a potential #sian "Tito." This view holds that
>o has always been more concerned with 4ietnam=s independence and sovereign
viability than with following the interests and dictates of 8oscow and Pe.ing. "ith U.S.
support) the argument runs) >o would have adopted some form of neutrality in the @ast$
"est conflict and maintained the ;04 as a natural and durable bulwar. against <hinese
epansion southward. Thus) were it not for "U.S. communist blinders)" >o would have
served the larger purposes of #merican policy in #sia. Though the focus of in?uiry in
this study is the period immediately following "orld "ar !!) when it would have been
relatively easy to support an anti$:apanese) anti$colonial >o) it is often argued that the
U.S. neglected another opportunity after the Geneva <onference of %&'5$$and indeed)
that U.S. acceptance of >o) and a communist dominated 4ietnam) may be the only path
to peace in Southeast #sia today. The historical +%&5'$%&'51 argument has a persuasive
ring. !n the light of the present costs and repercussions of U.'. involvement in 4ietnam)
any prior way out can seem attractive !t is possible) however) that a dynamic and unified
communist 4ietnam under >o <hi 8inh could have been vigorously epansionist) thus
causing unanticipated difficult problems in some ways comparable to current ones.
8any authors have advanced one version or another of the "Tito" hypothesis. Some
develop the principal thesis that a different U.S. policy could have moved >o to non$
alignment and opposition to Pe.ing6 others stress the corollary that >o was forced into
dependence upon Pe.ing and 8oscow by #merican opposition or indifference. "hether
>o was a nationalist or a communist is not at issue6 all of the authors ?uoted seem to
accept that >o was a communist) and that a communist 4ietnam would probably have
eventuated under his leadership. 0ather) their arguments center on what they perceive to
be >o=s willingness to subordinate communist goals) forms) and international discipline
to attaining 4ietnam=s independence and unity. # few openly favor a communist 4ietnam
on the grounds that only a national communism led by >o would be sufficiently strong to
survive adDacent to <hina. They stress >o=s attempts in %&5' and %&5, to obtain "estern
bac.ing) and point out that antipathy to <hina is a pillar of 4iet nationalism. 8any
concede that the Tito analogy is not wholly appropriate. Unli.e Tito) >o came to power
after the war $ without the aid of another communist state. 8ore basically) there was no
analogy to be made until late %&5J) when the eperiment with Tito seemed li.e it would
wor.. Nonetheless) these authors point out that if the U.S. found it advantageous to set
aside its repugnance to Tito=s communism in the interest of stemming 0ussian epansion
in @urope) it should have been willing to accommodate >o <hi 8inh=s communism for
similar ends in #sia. This criti?ue generally ends with the accusation that the U.S.
purpose in Southeast #sia is simply and solely to stop communism.
#n eamination of >o <hi 8inh=s political development through %&'( may provide a
basis to narrow the range of speculation concerning >o and U.S. policy. *rom such a
review) it is evident that the man who in %&5' became President of the ;emocratic
0epublic of 4ietnam was a mature) etraordinarily dedicated revolutionary who had
undergone severe hardships serving the cause of 4ietnam=s freedom from *rance. *ifty$
five years of age in %&5') he had been a communist for twenty$five years) one of the
founding members of the *rench <ommunist Party) and a <omintern agent in #sia for
fifteen years before "orld "an !!. >e was originally of Nghe$#n) a province
traditionally a spawning ground of revolutionists6 of a father imprisoned by the *rench
for nationalist activism6 and of a >ue school .nown for radical nationalism among its
students. @iled from 4ietnam from %&%( to %&5() imprisoned in >ong Aong and in
<hina) deprived of home) family) fame) fortune and companionship outside the
<omintern=s conspiratorial circles) he apparently devoted himself selflessly all those years
to revolution in 4ietnam. 0uth *ischer) a well$.nown German former communist who
.new >o during this period) has written) "!t was >o <hi 8inh=s nationalism which
impressed us @uropean <ommunists born and bred in a rather grey .ind of abstract
internationalism."
*or >o) now bac. in #sia) "orld "ar !! opened new avenues to the attainment of his
lifelong goals. *rance discredited itself in 4ietnam through 4ichy=s collaboration with the
:apanese) and then in %&5' was toppled from power altogether by :apanese arms. !n the
meantime) >o had built the 4iet 8inh into the only 4ietnam$wide political organi2ation
capable of effective resistance to either the :apanese or the *rench. >o was the only
4ietnamese wartime leader with a national following) and he assured himself wider fealty
among the 4ietnamese people when in #ugust$September) %&5') he overthrew the
:apanese) obtained the abdication of Bao ;ai) established the ;04) and staged receptions
for in$coming allied occupation force in which the ;04 acted as the incumbent
4ietnamese government. *or a few wee.s in September %&5') 4ietnam was$$for the first
and only time in its modern history$$free of foreign domination) and united from north to
south under >o <hi 8inh.
>o became the focus of the nationalist fervor evo.ed by these and subse?uent events.
/eaders of the rival 4ietnamese Nationalist Party +4NK;;1 and the 0evolutionary
/eague +;ong 8inh >oi1) although admitted to the ;04 government) commanded no
grass$roots organi2ations) and since they were closely associated with the <hinese
Nationalists) shared in full measure in the anti$<hinese odium among the people of North
4ietnam. !n South 4ietnam) *rench intrigue) and 4ietnamese disunity precluded the
emergence of a competitor to >o. "hen *rance resorted to force to restore its control
over 4ietnam) >o again became the head of 4iet resistance) and the 4iet 8inh became
the primary nationalist protagonists. >ence) >o <hi 8inh) both on his own merits and out
of lac. of competition) became the personification of 4ietnamese nationalism.
>o) nonetheless) found himself) his movement) and his government under intense
pressure. *rom within the nation) the <hinese$bac.ed 4iet parties attac.ed communist
domination of his government. *or the sa.e of national unity) >o dissolved the
<ommunist Party) avoided communist cant) announced general elections) and assured the
contending factions representation in the government well out of proportion to their
popular support. @ternal pressures from *rance and from <hina proved more difficult.
The *rench capitali2ed on the relative wea.ness of the 4iet 8inh in South 4ietnam) and
the dissension among the 4ietnamese there to overthrow the ;04 government in Saigon)
and to force the 4iet 8inh to resort to guerrilla warfare. !n famine$wrac.ed North
4ietnam) <hinese hordes under booty$minded warlords descended on the ;04)
supplanting its local government with committees of their own sponsoring and
systematically looting. >o vainly sought aid abroad6 not even the Soviet Union proved
helpful. >o eventually +8arch) %&5,1 negotiated with the *rench) accepting a *rench
military presence in North 4ietnam for a period of five years in return for vague *rench
assurances to the ;04 as a "*ree State within the *rench Union." "hen >o was attac.ed
for this by the pro$<hinese elements within the ;04) he declared3
Cou foolsS ;on=t you reali2e what it means if the <hinese stayN ;on=t you remember your
historyN The last time the <hinese came) they stayed one thousand yearsS
The *rench are foreigners. They are wea.. <olonialism is dying out. Nothing will be able
to withstand world pressure for independence. They may stay for a while) but they will
have to go because the white man is finished in #sia. But if the <hinese stay now) they
will never leave.
#s for me) ! prefer to smell *rench shit for five years) rather than <hinese shit for the rest
of. my life.
The unresolved historic problem) of course) is to what etent >o=s nationalist goals over$
rode his communist convictions in these maneuvers. >o seemed to place the former
above the latter not solely as a matter of dissemblance) as he might have done in the
dissolution of the Party and the simultaneous formation of a "8arist #ssociation)" but
possibly as a result of doubts about communism as a political form suitable for 4ietnam.
Bao ;ai is reputed to have said that3 "! saw >o <hi 8inh suffer. >e was fighting a battle
within himself. >o had his own struggle. >e reali2ed communism was not best for his
country) but it was too late. Ultimately) he could not overcome his allegiance to
communism." ;uring negotiations for a modus 'i'endi with the *rench in Paris in
autumn) %&5,) >o appealed to the *rench to "save him from the etremists" within the
4iet 8inh by some meaningful concession to 4ietnamese independence) and he told the
U.S. #mbassador that he was not a communist. >e is reputed to have asserted at that time
that 4ietnam was not ready for communism) and described himself as a 8arist. !n reply
to a Dournalist=s in?uiry) >o claimed that he could remain neutral) "li.e Swit2erland" in
the developing world power struggle between communism and the "est. But these and
other such statements could have come either from a proper /eninist or a dedicated
nationalist. >o=s statements and actions after %&5&) and his eventual close alignment with
the Sino$Soviet Bloc) support the /eninist construction. But) then) U.S. insistence on >o=s
being a doctrinaire communist may have been a self$fulfilling prophesy.
There remains) however) the matter of >o=s direct appeals for U.S. intervention in
4ietnam) at which even a /eninist might have scrupled. These occurred +late %&5') early
%&5,1 Dust after *rance has reasserted itself militarily in South 4ietnam) while <hinese
Nationalist warlords were ensconced in >anoi) and before the , 8arch %&5, #ccord with
*rance. ;esperately) >o turned to the United States) among other powers) as.ing for
"immediate interference" in 4ietnam.
There were) at least) eight communications from >o to the President of the United States)
or to the Secretary of State) from Bctober) %&5') to *ebruary) %&5,. >o had conveyed
earlier) in #ugust and September) %&5') 'ia B.S.S. channels) proposals that 4ietnam be
accorded "the same status as the Philippines)" for an undetermined period of tutelage
preliminary to independence. "ith the outbrea. of hostilities in South 4ietnam)
September$Bctober %&5') he added formal re?uests for U.S. and U.N. intervention
against *rench aggression) citing the #tlantic <harter) the U.N. <harter) and a foreign
policy address of President Truman in Bctober) %&5') endorsing national self$
determination. >o=s last direct communication with the U.S. was in September6 %&5,)
when he visited the U.S. #mbassador in Paris to as. vaguely for U.S. assistance in
obtaining independence for 4ietnam within the *rench Union.
There is no record of U.S. reply to any of >o=s appeals for aid. @tant instructions to a
U.S. diplomat in contact with >o in ;ecember) %&5,) reveal U.S. preoccupation with his
.nown communist bac.ground) and apprehension that he might establish a "communist$
dominated) 8oscow$oriented state." Two months later) when the *ranco$4iet 8inh war
in North 4ietnam was underway) Secretary of State 8arshall emphasi2ed that "we do not
lose sight Fof theG fact that >o <hi 8inh has direct <ommunist connections and it should
be obvious that we are not interested in seeing colonial empire administrations supplanted
by philosophy and political organi2ations emanating from and controlled by the
Aremlin." !n 8ay) %&5&) Secretary of State #cheson admitted that as a "theoretical
possibility" the establishment of a "National <ommunist state on pattern Cugoslavia in
any area beyond reach Fof theG Soviet #rmy)" but pointed out that3
Kuestion whether >o as much nationalist as <ommie is irrelevant. #ll Stalinists in
colonial areas are nationalists. "ith achievement national aims +i.e.) independence1 their
obDective necessarily becomes subordination state to <ommie purposes and ruthless
etermination not only opposition groups but all elements suspected even. slightest
deviation.
"hen) in early %&'() >o=s ;04 lay within reach of 8ao=s <hinese #rmy) and >o had
openly embraced communism) Secretary #cheson declared that bloc recognition of the
;04 "should remove any illusion as to the nationalist character of >o <hi 8inh=s aims
and reveals >o in his true colors as the mortal enemy of native independence in
4ietnam."
But >o=s behavior in %&5&$%&'() however convincingly it endorsed U.S. policy at that
Duncture) does not necessarily eplain away his earlier eagerness for U.S. and U.N.
intervention $ in 4ietnam) nor otherwise gainsay the "Tito" hypothesis as applied to the
%&5'$%&5- period. Bf that period) it can be said that the U.S. offered >o only narrow
options. >e received no replies to his appeals. #fter %&5,) not only were >o=s direct
communications with the U.S. cut) but also the signals he received from the U.S. were
hardly encouraging. By the time the !ndochina war began in earnest in late %&5,) U.S.
military e?uipment had already been used by *rench forces against the 4ietnamese) and
the U.S. had arranged credit for *rance to purchase Q%,( million worth of vehicles and
miscellaneous industrial e?uipment for use in !ndochina. Secretary of State George <.
8arshall=s public comment on the outbrea. of war in :anuary) %&5-) was limited to a
hope that "a pacific basis for adDustment of the difficulties could be found)" and within
si months the 8arshall Plan threw even greater U.S. resources behind *rance.
The simple truth seems to be that the U.S. .new little of what was transpiring inside
4ietnam) and certainly cared less about 4ietnam than about *rance. Anowing little and
caring less meant that real problems and variety of choices were perceived but dimly. *or
eample) the U.S. could have as.ed itself$$";id we really have to support *rance in
Southeast #sia in order to support a non$communist *rance internally and in @uropeN"
#nother ?uestion we could have as.ed ourselves was$$"!f the U.S. choice in 4ietnam
really came down to either *rench colonialism or >o <hi 8inh) should >o automatically
be ecludedN" #gain) "!f the U.S. choice was to be *rance) did *rance have any real
chance of succeeding) and if so) at what costN"
@ven before "orld "ar !! was over) "ashington had placed the decision on >o=s fate in
the hands of *rance. !t can be argued) nonetheless) that the U.S. could have insisted that
Paris buy >o and provide !ndochinese independence without endangering the more basic
relationship between the U.S. and *rance in @urope. :ust as the U.S. came to recogni2e
the prime importance of @urope over any policy it pursued elsewhere) so the *rench
government would have soon reali2ed +if it had not already done so1 that nothing should
be done to impair seriously U.S. acceptance of common interests in @uropean recovery
and collective security. 8oreover) it was not as if there were not si2able segments of the
*rench community which would not have supported graceful U.S. attempts to etricate
*rance from !ndochina. !t may well be) however) that the "Tito hypothesis" assumes a
compliance from *rance of which *rance was demonstrably incapable. No *rench
government is li.ely to have survived a genuinely liberal policy toward >o in %&5' or
%&5,6 even *rench communists then favored redemption of control in !ndochina. *rom
=5, on) however) bloodshed hardened policy in *rance. #s before) the >o alternative was
never seriously contemplated.
*rench representations to the contrary notwithstanding) >o <hi 8inh possessed real
political strength among the people of 4ietnam6 "hile calling >o another George
"ashington may be stretching the point) there is no doubt about his being the only
popularly recogni2ed wartime leader of the 4ietnamese resistance) and the head of the
strongest and only 4ietnam$wide political movement. There can be no doubt either that
in a test by ballot only >o=s 4iet 8inh could have delivered votes at the hamlet level.
"ashington and Paris) however) did not focus on the fact of >o=s strength) only on the
conse?uences of his rule. Paris viewed >o as a threat to its regaining *rench economic)
cultural and political prerogatives in !ndochina. The U.S.) wary of >o=s .nown
communist bac.ground) was apprehensive that >o would lead 4ietnam into the Soviet)
and later <hinese) orbit. President @isenhower=s later remar. about >o=s winning a free
election in 4ietnam with an J(O vote shone through the dar.ness of our vision about
4ietnam6 but U.S. policy remained unillumined.
!n the last speculation) U.S. support for >o <hi 8inh would have involved perspicacity
and ris.. #s clear as national or independent or neutral communism may seem today) it
was a blurred vision in %&5'$%&5J. @ven with the benefit of seeing Tito successfully
assert his independence) it would have been hard for "ashington to ma.e the leap from
there to an analogy in #sia. 0ecourse to "national communism" in 4ietnam as an
eventual bulwar. against <hina) indeed) would have called for a perspicacity uni?ue in
U.S. history. The ris. was there) too. The reality of >o=s strength in 4ietnam could have
wor.ed seriously against U.S. interests as well as against <hinese <ommunist interests.
>o=s well$.nown leadership and drive) the iron discipline and effectiveness of the 4iet
8inh) the demonstrated fighting capability of his armies) a dynamic 4ietnamese people
under >o=s control) could have produced a dangerous period of 4ietnamese
epansionism. /aos and <ambodia would have been easy pic.ings for such a 4ietnam.
>o) in fact) always considered his leadership to etend to !ndochina as a whole) and his
party was originally called the !ndochinese <ommunist Party. Thailand) 8alaya)
Singapore) and even !ndonesia) could have been net. !t could have been the "domino
theory" with >o instead of 8ao. #nd) it could have been the dominoes with 8ao. This
may seem implausible) but it is only slightly less of a bad dream than what has happened
to 4ietnam since. The path of prudence rather than the path of ris. seemed the wiser
choice.
FSupporting tet not availableG
The Pentagon Papers
Gravel @dition
<hapter 7) "U.S. !nvolvement in the *ranco$4iet 8inh "ar) %&'($%&'5"
+Boston3 Beacon Press) %&-%1
Section %) pp. '9$-'
Fore4ord
This portion of the study treats U.S. policy towards the war in !ndochina from the U.S.
decision to recogni2e the 4ietnamese Nationalist regime of the @mperor Bao ;ai in
*ebruary) %&'() through the U.S. deliberations on military intervention in late %&'9 and
early %&'5.
Summary
!t has been argued that even as the U.S. began supporting the *rench in !ndochina) the
U.S. missed opportunities to bring peace) stability and independence to 4ietnam. The
issues arise from the belief on the part of some critics that +a1 the U.S. made no attempt to
see. out and support a democratic$nationalist alternative in 4ietnam6 and +b1 the U.S.
commanded) but did not use) leverage to move the *rench toward granting genuine
4ietnamese independence.
U.S. PB/!<C #N; T>@ B#B ;#! 0@G!8@
The record shows that through %&'9) the *rench pursued a policy which was based on
military victory and ecluded meaningful negotiations with >o <hi 8inh. The *rench
did) however) recogni2e the re?uirement for an alternative focus for 4ietnamese
nationalist aspirations) and from %&5- forward) advanced the TBao ;ai solution.U The
record shows that the U.S. was hesitant through %&5& to endorse the TBao ;ai solutionU
until 4ietnam was in fact unified and granted autonomy and did consistently support the
creation of a genuinely independent) noncommunist 4ietnamese government to supplant
*rench rule. Nonetheless) the fall of <hina and the deteriorating *rench military position
in !ndochina caused both *rance and the U.S. to press the TBao ;ai solution.U !n early
%&'() after *rench ratification of the @lysee #greement granting T4ietnamMs
independence)U the U.S. recogni2ed Bao ;ai and initiated military and economic aid)
even before transfer of governmental power actually occurred. Thereafter) the *rench
yielded control only pro forma) while the @mperor Bao ;ai adopted a retiring) passive
role) and turned his government over to discreditable politicians. The Bao ;ai regime
was neither popular nor efficient) and its army) dependent on *rench leadership) was
powerless. The impotence of the Bao ;ai regime) the lac. of any perceptible alternatives
+ecept for the communists1) the fact of continued *rench authority and control over the
G4N) the fact that the *rench alone seemed able to contain communism in !ndochinaE
all these constrained U.S. promptings for a democratic$nationalist government in
4ietnam.
/@4@0#G@3 *0#N<@ >#; 8B0@ T>#N T>@ UN!T@; ST#T@S
The U.S.$*rench ties in @urope +N#TB) 8arshall Plan) 8utual ;efense #ssistance
Program1 only marginally strengthened U.S. urgings that *rance ma.e concessions to
4ietnamese nationalism. #ny leverage from these sources was severely limited by the
broader considerations of U.S. policy for the containment of communism in @urope and
#sia. N#TB and the 8arshall Plan were of themselves Dudged to be essential to our
@uropean interests. To threaten *rance with economic and military sanctions in @urope in
order to have it alter its policy in !ndochina was) therefore) not plausible. Similarly) to
reduce the level of military assistance to the *rench effort in !ndochina would have been
counter$productive) since it would have led to a further deterioration in the *rench
military position there. !n other words) there was a basic incompatibility in the two
strands of U.S. policy3 +%1 "ashington wanted *rance to fight the anti$communist war
and win) preferably with U.S. guidance and advice6 and +71 "ashington epected the
*rench) when battlefield victory was assured) to magnanimously withdraw from
!ndochina. *or *rance) which was probably fighting more a colonial than an anti$
communist war) and which had to consider the effects of withdrawal on colonial holdings
in #lgeria) Tunisia and 8orocco) magnanimous withdrawal was not too li.ely.
*rance) having no such policy incompatibilities) could and did pursue a consistent course
with the stronger bargaining hand. Thus) the *rench were able to resist pressures from
"ashington and through the 8##G in Saigon to create a truly 4ietnamese army) to
grant the 4ietnamese more local autonomy and to wage the war more effectively. 8##G
was relegated to a supply function and its occasional admonitions to the *rench were
interpreted by them as interference in their internal affairs. @ven though by %&'5) the U.S.
was financing -JO of the costs of the war) the *rench retained full control of the
dispensation of military assistance and of the intelligence and planning aspects of the
military struggle. The epectation of *rench victory over the 4iet 8inh encouraged the
U.S. to "go along" with Paris until the conclusion of the war. 8oreover) the U.S. was
reluctant to antagoni2e the *rench because of the high priority given in "ashington=s
planning to *rench participation in the @uropean ;efense <ommunity. *rance) therefore)
had considerable leverage and) unless the U.S. supported Paris on its own terms) the
*rench could) and indeed did) threaten not to Doin the @;< and to stop fighting in
!ndochina.
P@0<@PT!BNS B* T>@ <B88UN!ST T>0@#T TB SBUT>@#ST #S!# #N; TB
B#S!< U.S. !NT@0@STS
#merican thin.ing and policy$ma.ing was dominated by the tendency to view
communism in monolithic terms. The 4iet 8inh was) therefore) seen as part of the
Southeast #sia manifestation of the world$wide communist epansionary movement.
*rench resistance to >o <hi 8inh) in turn) was thought to be a crucial lin. in the
containment of communism. This strategic perception of the communist threat was
supported by the espousal of the domino principle3 the loss of a single nation in Southeast
#sia to communism would ineorably 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 <hina) was at the root of U.S. policy. #lthough
elements of a domino$li.e theory could be found in NS< papers before the start of the
Aorean "ar) the <hinese intervention in Aorea was thought to be an ominous
confirmation of its validity. The possibility of a large$scale <hinese intervention in
!ndochina) similar to that in Aorea) was feared) especially after the armistice in Aorea.
The @isenhower #dministration followed the basic policy of its predecessor) but also
deepened the #merican commitment to containment in #sia. Secretary ;ulles pursued a
forthright) anti$communist policy and made it clear that he would not permit the "loss" of
!ndochina) in the manner the ;emocrats had allegedly allowed the "loss" of <hina. ;ulles
warned <hina not to intervene) and urged the *rench to drive toward a military victory.
;ulles was opposed to a cease$fire and tried to dissuade the *rench from negotiations
with the 4iet 8inh until they had mar.edly improved their bargaining position through
action on the battlefield. The NS< in early %&'5 was persuaded that a non$communist
coalition regime would eventually turn the country over to the 4iet 8inh. !n conse?uence
of this more militant policy) the U.S. Government tended to focus on the military rather
than the political aspects of the *rench$4iet 8inh struggle.
#mong the more fre?uently cited misapprehensions concerning U.S. policy in 4ietnam is
the view that the @isenhower #dministration flatly reDected intervention in the *irst
!ndochina "ar. The record shows plainly that the U.S. did seriously consider
intervention) and advocated it to the U.A. and other allies. "ith the intensification of the
*rench$4iet 8inh war and the deterioration of the *rench military position) the United
States was forced to ta.e a position on3 first) a possible U.S. military intervention in order
to avert a 4iet 8inh victory6 second) the increasingly li.ely contingency of negotiations
between Paris and >o <hi 8inh to end the war through a political settlement. !n order to
avoid a *rench sell$out) and as an alternative to unilateral U.S. intervention) the U.S.
proposed in %&'5 to broaden the war by involving a number of allies in a collective
defense effort through "united action."
T>@ !NT@0#G@N<C ;@B#T@ B4@0 U.S. !NT@04@NT!BN !N !N;B<>!N#
The U.S. Government internal debate on the ?uestion of intervention centered essentially
on the desirability and feasibility of U.S. military action. !ndochina=s importance to U.S.
security interests in the *ar @ast was ta.en for granted. The @isenhower #dministration
followed in general terms the rationale for #merican interest in !ndochina that was
epressed by the Truman #dministration. "ith respect to intervention) the Truman
#dministration=s NS< %75 of *ebruary %&'7 recogni2ed that the U.S. might be forced to
ta.e some military action in order to prevent the subversion of Southeast #sia. !n late
%&'9$early %&'5) as the fall of !ndochina seemed imminent) the ?uestion of intervention
came to the fore. The ;efense ;epartment pressed for a determination by highest
authority of the si2e and nature of the forces the U.S. was willing to commit in !ndochina.
Some in ;B; ?uestioned the then operating assumption that U.S. air and naval forces
would suffice as aid for the *rench. The #rmy was particularly concerned about
contingency planning that assumed that U.S. air and naval action alone could bring
military victory) and argued for realistic estimates of re?uisite land forces) including the
degree of mobili2ation that would be necessary. The State ;epartment thought that
!ndochina was so critical from a foreign policy viewpoint that intervention might be
necessary. But ;B; and the :<S) estimating that air$naval action alone could not stem
the surging 4iet 8inh) recommended that rather than intervening directly) the U.S.
should concentrate on urging Paris to train an epanded indigenous army) and should
eert all possible pressures$in @urope as well as in #sia$to motivate the *rench to fight
hard for a military victory. 8any in the U.S. Government +the 0idgway 0eport stands out
in this group1 were wary that U.S. intervention might provo.e <hinese <ommunist
intervention. !n the latter case) even a considerable U.S. deployment of ground forces
would not be able to stem the tide in !ndochina. # number of special high$level studies
were unable to bridge the evident disparity between those who held that vital U.S.
interests were at sta.e in !ndochina) and those who were unwilling to ma.e a firm
decision to intervene with U.S. ground forces to assure those interests. <onse?uently)
when the *rench began pressing for U.S. intervention at ;ien Bien Phu) the @isenhower
#dministration too. the position that the U.S. would not intervene unilaterally) but only
in concert with a number of @uropean and *ar @astern allies as part of a combined force.
T>@ #TT@8PT TB B0G#N!L@ "UN!T@; #<T!BN"
This "united action" proposal) announced publicly by Secretary ;ulles on 8arch 7&)
%&'5) was also designed to offer the *rench an alternative to surrender at the negotiating
table. Negotiations for a political settlement of the *ranco$4iet 8inh war) however) were
assured when the Big *our *oreign 8inisters meeting in *ebruary at Berlin placed
!ndochina on the agenda of the impending Geneva <onference. *oreign 8inister Bidault
insisted upon this) over U.S. obDections) because of the mounting pressure in *rance for
an end to the seemingly interminable and costly war. The "peace faction" in Paris became
stronger in proportion to the "peace feelers" let out by >o <hi 8inh) and the lac. of
*rench success on the battlefield. U.S. policy was to steer the *rench away from
negotiations because of the fear that !ndochina would thereby be handed over to the
communist "empire."
Secretary ;ulles envisaged a ten$nation collective defense force to ta.e "united action" to
prevent a *rench defeat$if necessary before the Geneva <onference. ;ulles and #dmiral
0adford were) at first) inclined towards an early unilateral intervention at ;ien Bien Phu)
as re?uested by the *rench +the so$called "Bperation 4ulture"1. But <ongressional
leaders indicated they would not support U.S. military action without active allied
participation) and President @isenhower decided that he would not intervene without
<ongressional approval. !n addition to allied participation) <ongressional approval was
deemed dependent upon a public declaration by *rance that it was speeding up the
timetable for independence for the #ssociated States.
The U.S. was unable to gather much support for "united action" ecept in Thailand and
the Philippines. The British response was one of hesitation in general) and flat opposition
to underta.ing military action before the Geneva <onference. @den feared that it would
lead to an epansion of the war with a high ris. of <hinese intervention. 8oreover) the
British ?uestioned both the U.S. domino principle) and the belief that !ndochina would be
totally lost at ;ien Bien Phu and through negotiations at Geneva. #s for the *rench) they
were less interested in "united action" than in immediate U.S. military assistance at ;ien
Bien Phu. Paris feared that united action would lead to the internationali2ation of the war)
and ta.e control out of its hands. !n addition) it would impede or delay the very
negotiations leading towards a settlement which the *rench increasingly desired. But
repeated *rench re?uests for direct U.S. intervention during the final agony of ;ien Bien
Phu failed to alter President @isenhower=s conviction that it would be an error for the U.S.
to act alone.
*ollowing the fall of ;ien Bien Phu during the Geneva <onference) the "domino theory"
underwent a reappraisal. Bn a 8ay %% press conference) Secretary ;ulles observed that
"Southeast #sia could be secured even without) perhaps) 4ietnam) /aos and <ambodia."
!n a further remar. that was deleted from the official transcript) ;ulles said that /aos and
<ambodia were "important but by no means essential" because they were poor countries
with meager populations.
(End of Summary)
!. U.S. PB/!<C #N; T>@ B#B ;#! 0@G!8@
#. T)E 5#6 D#! S6"7T!63
1. The Frenh Prediament
*rench perceptions of the conflict which bro.e out in ;ecember) %&5,) between their
forces in !ndochina and the 4iet 8inh forces of the ;emocratic 0epublic of 4ietnam
+;041 began to alternate between boundless optimism and unbridled gloom. !n 8ay)
%&5-) 8inister of "ar <oste$*loret announced in Paris that3 "There is no military
problem any longer in !ndochina . . . the success of *rench arms is complete." "ithin si
months) though ambitious armored) amphibious) and airborne drives had plunged into the
northern mountains and along the #nnam coast) 4iet 8inh sabotage and raids along lines
of communication had mounted steadily) and Paris had come to reali2e that *rance had
lost the military initiative. !n the meantime) the *rench launched political forays similarly
ambitious and e?ually unproductive. /eon Pignon) political adviser to the *rench
<ommander in !ndochina) and later >igh <ommissioner) wrote in :anuary) %&5-) that3
Bur obDective is clear3 to transpose to the field of 4ietnamese domestic politics the
?uarrel we have with the 4iet 8inh) and to involve ourselves as little as possible in the
campaigns and reprisals which ought to be the wor. of the native adversaries of that
party.
"ithin a month) an emissary Dourneyed into the Dungle to deliver to >o <hi 8inh=s
government demands tantamount to unconditional surrender. #bout the same time)
*rench representatives approached Bao ;ai) the former @mperor of #nnam) with
proposals that he underta.e to form a 4ietnamese government as an alternate to >o <hi
8inh=s. Being unable to force a military resolution) and having foreclosed meaningful
negotiations with >o) the *rench turned to Bao ;ai as their sole prospect for etrication
from the growing dilemma in 4ietnam.
8. The )a "ong 5ay #greement& 1,-9
Bao ;ai=s mandarinal court in >ue) #nnam) had been little more than an instrument of
*rench colonial policy) and$after the occupation by :apan$Bf :apanese policy. Bao ;ai
had become @mperor at the age of %7) in %&7') but did not actually ascend the throne
until %&97) after education in *rance. !n #ugust) %&5') when the 4iet 8inh arrived in
>ue) he abdicated in favor of >o=s ;emocratic 0epublic of 4ietnam) and accepted the
post of "Supreme #dviser" to the new state. !n %&5,) he left 4ietnam) and went to >ong
Aong. There) he found himself solicited not only by *rench representatives) but by the
;04) who sought him to act on their behalf with the *rench.
Bao ;ai attempted at first to maintain a central position between the two protagonists) but
was soon persuaded to decline the 4iet 8inh overtures by non$<ommunist nationalists.
# group of these) including members of the <ao ;ai) >oa >ao) ;ong 8inh >oi) ;ai 4et)
and the 4NK;; formed a National Union) and declared support for Bao ;ai. Bne
authority termed the National Union "a fragile coalition of discredited collaborators)
ambitious masters of intrigue) incompetent sectarians) and a smattering of honest leaders
without a following." #mong the latter were Ngo ;inh ;iem) who "for the first and only
time) Doined a. party of which he was not the founder)" and pledged to bac. the @mperor
so long as he pursued independence for 4ietnam. Now) having eliminated the 4iet 8inh
support option) Bao ;ai became more compliant in his discussions with the *rench) and
the *rench became correspondingly stiffer in their attitude toward the 4iet 8inh. Cet)
little came of the tal.s. Bn ;ecember -) %&5-) aboard a *rench warship in >a /ong Bay)
Bao ;ai signed an accord with the *rench) committing the *rench to 4ietnamese political
independence so minimally that it was promptly condemned not only by ;iem) but also
by more opportunistic colleagues in the National Union. Bao ;ai) in what might have
been a political withdrawal) removed himself from the developing intrigue) and fled to
@uropean pleasure centers for a four month Daunt which earned him the sobri?uet "night
club emperor."
The *rench) despite lac. of cooperation from their elusive 4ietnamese principal) sent
diplomats to pursue Bao ;ai and publici2ed their resolve "to carry on) outside the >o <hi
8inh Government) all activities and negotiations necessary for the restoration of peace
and freedom in the 4ietnamese countries"$$in effect) committing themselves to military
victory and Bao ;ai. *rench persistence eventually persuaded Bao ;ai to return to >ong
Aong) to endorse the formation of a 4ietnamese national government prior to
independence) and finally) to return to 4ietnam as the >ead of State. *rench negotiating
pressures on him and the National Union included both spurious "lea.s" of *ranco$4iet
8inh settlement tal.s) and further assurances of intentions to grant 4ietnamese
autonomy. Bn :une ') %&5J) Bao ;ai witnessed the signing of another Bay of >a /ong
#greement. Thereby) *rance publicly and "solemnly" recogni2ed the independence of
4ietnam$but specifically retained control over foreign relations and the #rmy) and
deferred transfer of other governmental functions to future negotiations6 no authority was
in fact transferred to the 4ietnamese. #gain Bao ;ai retired to @urope) while in >anoi
the *rench assembled a transparently impotent semblance of native government. #
second summer of war passed in %&5J without dispelling the military miasma over
!ndochina) and without ma.ing the "Bao ;ai solution" any less repugnant among
4ietnamese patriots. Bpposition to it began to mount among *rench /eftists. This
disenchantment) combined with a spreading acceptance of the strategic view that the
*ranco$4iet 8inh war was a .ey anti$<ommunist struggle) influenced *rench leaders to
liberali2e their approach to the "Bao ;ai solution."
3. Elysee #greement& 1,-,
Bn 8arch J) %&5&) after months of negotiations) *rench President #uriol) in an echange
of letters with Bao ;ai) reconfirmed independence for 4ietnam as an #ssociated State of
the *rench Union and detailed procedures for unifying 4ietnam and placing it under
4ietnamese administration. Nonetheless) in the @lysee #greement) *rance yielded control
of neither 4ietnam=s army nor its foreign relations) and again postponed arrangements for
virtually all other aspects of autonomy. >owever) Bao ;ai) apparently convinced that
*rance was now sufficiently desperate in !ndochina that it would have to honor the
#greements) declared that3
...#n era of reconstruction and renovation will open in 4ietnam. 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 Dustice) which is the condition and
guarantee of order . . . F! loo. forG the union of all 4ietnamese regardless of their political
and religious tendencies) and the generous support of *rance on which ! can count
>is public stance notwithstanding) Bao ;ai delayed his return to 4ietnam until a
<ochinchinese #ssembly had been elected +albeit in a farce of an election1) and did not
proceed to Saigon until the *rench #ssembly had approved <ochinchina=s Doining the rest
of 4ietnam. !n late :une) %&5&) 4ietnam was legally united under Bao ;ai) but the related
alteration of administrative functions was slow) and usually only pro forma6 no genuine
power or authority was turned over to the 4ietnamese. The State of 4ietnam became a
camouflage for continued *rench rule in !ndochina. #s Bao ;ai himself characteri2ed the
situation in %&'() ""hat they call a Bao ;ai solution turned out to be Dust a *rench
solution. . . . The situation in !ndochina is getting worse every day..."
-. 5ao Dai(s :o'ernments
The unsavory elements of the coalition supporting Bao ;ai dominated his regime. Ngo
;inh ;iem and a few other upright nationalists refused high government posts) and
withdrew their support from Bao ;ai when their epectations of autonomy were
disappointed. ;iem=s public statement critici2ed the probity of those who did accept
office3
The national aspirations of the 4ietnamese people will be satisfied only on the day when
our nation obtains the same political regime which !ndia and Pa.istan enDoy . . . ! believe
it is only Dust to reserve the best posts in the new 4ietnam for those who have deserved
best of the country6 ! spea. of those who resist .
>owever) far from loo.ing to the "resistance)" Bao ;ai chose his leaders from among
men with strong identification with *rance) often men of great and dubious wealth) or
with ties with the sub$worlds of *rench neo$mercantilism and 4iet vice. None
commanded a popular following. General Georges 0evers) <hief of Staff of the *rench
#rmy) who was sent to 4ietnam to appraise the situation in 8ay and :une) %&5&) wrote
that3
!f >o <hi 8inh has been able to hold off *rench intervention for so long) it is because the
4iet 8inh leader has surrounded himself with a group of men of incontestable worth . . .
FBao ;ai) by contrast) hadG a government composed of twenty representatives of phantom
parties) the best organi2ed of which would have difficulty in rallying twenty$five
adherents .
Bao ;ai himself did net to nothing to ma.e his government either more representative
or more efficient. >e divided his time among the pleasures of the resort towns of ;alat)
Nha Trang) and Banmethuout) and for all practical purposes) remained outside the
process of government.
#n #merican diplomat serving in 4ietnam at the time who .new Bao ;ai well)
characteri2ed him in these terms3
Bao ;ai) above all) was an intelligent man. !ntellectually) he could discuss the comple
details of the various agreements and of the whole involved
relationship with *rance as well as or better than anyone ! .new. But he was a man who
was crippled by his *rench upbringing. >is manner was too impassive. >e allowed
himself to be sold by the *rench on an erroneous instead of a valid evolutionary concept)
and this suited his own termperament. >e was too congenial) and he was almost
pathologically shy) which was one reason he always li.ed to wear dar. glasses. >e would
go through depressive cycles) and when he was depressed) he would dress himself in
4ietnamese clothes instead of @uropean ones) and would mince no words about the
*rench. >is policy) he said to me on one of these dour occasions) was one of
"grignotage)" or "nibbling)" and he was painfully aware of it. The *rench) of course) were
never happy that we #mericans had good relations with Bao ;ai) and they told him so.
Unfortunately) they also had some blac.mail on him) about his relationship with
gambling enterprises in Saigon and his love of the fleshpots.
"hatever his virtues) Bao ;ai was not a man who could earn the fealty of the
4ietnamese peasants. >e could not even hold the loyalty of honest nationalists) one of
whom) for eample) was ;r. Phan Kuang ;an$$a prominent and able non$<ommunist
leader and early supporter of the "solution)" and a personal friend of Bao ;ai$+;r. ;an
later was the opposition leader of the ;iem era1. ;r. ;an reported a touching
conversation with Bao ;ai=s mother in which she described her son at a loss to .now
whom to trust) and heartsic. at the atmosphere of hostility which surrounded him. Cet
;r. ;an resigned as Bao ;ai=s 8inister of !nformation over the @lysee #greement) and)
though he remained close to the @mperor) would not reassume public office for him. Bao
;ai himself furnished an apt description of his political philosophy which may eplain
why he failed to capture the hearts of either beleaguered farmers or serious political
leaders$$neither of whom could stomach "nibbling" when revolution was re?uired. Said
Bao ;ai3
To practice politics is li.e playing a game) and ! have always considered life a game.
.. The Pau 3egotiations& 1,.1
Cet Bao ;ai did wor. at pressing the *rench. *rench officials in fact complained to an
#merican writer that Bao ;ai spent too much of his time on such pursuits3
>e has concentrated too much on getting what he can from us instead of building up his
support among the people of the country . . . >istory will Dudge if he did right in putting
so much stress on that
*rom late :une) %&'() until the end of November) Bao ;ai stayed close to the series of
conferences in Pau) *rance) designed to arrange the transfer to the 4ietnamese 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
echange controls. "hile the *rench did eventually grant significant concessions to the
4ietnamese) /aotians) and <ambodians in each area discussed) they preserved "rights of
observation" and "intervention" in matters that "concerned the *rench Union as a whole."
!ndeed) the *rench assured themselves full access to government information) license to
participate in all government decisions) and little reduction in economic benefits.
Some *rench commentators viewed Pau as an unmitigated disaster and the assurance of
an early *rench demise in !ndochina. #s one writer put it3
By accepting the eventual restriction of trade within the *rench 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 eports and imports) we have given the
#ssociated 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.
But a contemporary 4ietnamese critic too. a ?uite different view3
#ll these conventions conserve in !ndochina a privileged position for *rench capital)
supported by the presence of a powerful fleet and army. @ven if no one tal.s any more of
an !ndochinese *ederation) it is still a federalism both administrative and economic
+8onetary Union) <ustoms Union) <ommunications Union) etc.1 which co$ordinates the
various activities of the three #ssociated States. *rance always eercises control through
the representatives she has in all the organs of planning or of federal surveillance) and
through what is in effect the right of veto) because the president or the secretary general
of these committees is always elected by Doint decision of the four governments and)
further) because most of the decisions of the committees are made by unanimous
agreement.
Bao ;ai=s delegates were) however) generally pleased with the outcome of Pau. >is
Prime 8inister) Tran 4an >uu declared as he signed the conventions that
"our independence is now perfect." But to the ordinary 4ietnamese) to honest *renchmen)
and to the #mericans) Tran 4an >uu was proved dramatically
wrong.
5. 7.S. P6"!;< T6/#2DS 5#6 D#!
1. =ualified #ppro'al& 1,-$-1,.1
The "Bao ;ai solution" depended on #merican support. ;uring the %&'( negotiations in
Pau) *rance) Bao ;ai=s Prime 8inister Tran 4an >uu was called bac. to !ndochina by a
series of *rench military reverses in Ton.in. Tran 4an >uu sei2ed the occasion to appeal
to the United States "as the leading democratic nation)" and hoped that the U.S. would3
...bring pressure to bear on *rance in order to achieve democratic freedom. "e want the
right to decide our own affairs for ourselves.
Tran demanded the @lysee #greement be superseded by genuine autonomy for 4ietnam3
!t is not necessary for young men to die so that a *rench engineer can be director of the
port of Saigon. 8any people are dying every day because 4iet Nam is not given
independence. !f we had independence the people would have no more reason to fight.
Tran=s addressing the U.S. thus was realistic) if not Dudicious) for the U.S. had already
become involved in !ndochina as one part of a troubled triangle with *rance and Bao
;ai=s regime. !ndeed) there had been an #merican role in the "Bao ;ai solution" from its
inception. :ust before the >a /ong Bay #greements) the *rench initiative had received
some support from a ;ecember) %&5-) /ife maga2ine article by "illiam <. Bullitt)
former U.S. #mbassador to *rance. Bullitt argued for a policy aimed at ending "the
saddest war" by winning the maDority of 4ietnamese nationalists away from >o <hi 8inh
and from the <ommunists through a movement built around Bao ;ai. Bullitt=s views
were widely accepted in *rance as a statement of U.S. policy) and a direct endorsement)
and promise of U.S. aid) for Bao ;ai. Bao ;ai) whether he accepted the Bullitt canard or
not) seemed to sense that the U.S. would inevitably be drawn into Southeast #sia) and
apparently epected #merican involvement to be accompanied by U.S. pressure on
*rance on behalf of 4ietnamese nationalism. But the U.S.) though it appreciated *rance=s
dilemma) was reluctant initially to endorse the Bao ;ai solution until it became a reality.
The following State ;epartment messages indicate the U.S. position3
:uly %() %&5J +Paris 9,7% to State13
...*rance is faced with alternatives of une?uivocally and promptly approving principle
FofG 4iet independence within *rench union and FtheG union Fof theG three parts of
4ietnam or losing !ndochina.
:uly %5) %&5J +State 7,9- to Paris13
...Bnce FBay of >a /ongG #greement together with change in status FofG <ochinchina FisG
approved) ;epartment would be disposed FtoG consider lending its support to etent of
publicly approving *rench Government=s action as forward loo.ing step toward
settlement of troubled situation FinG !ndochina and toward reali2ation of aspirations
4ietnamese people. !t appears to ;epartment that above stated U.S. approval would
materially assist in strengthening hands of nationalists as opposed to communists in
!ndochina
#ugust 9() %&5J +State 99,J to Paris13
;epartment appreciates difficulties facing any *rench Government ta.ing decisive action
vis$a$vis !ndochina) but can only see steadily deteriorating situation unless Fthere isG more
positive approval FBay of >a /ongG #greement) enactment legislation or action
permitting change <ochinchina status) and immediate commencement formal
negotiations envisaged that #greement. ;epartment believes FthatG nothing should be left
undone which will strengthen truly nationalist groups FinG !ndochina and induce present
supporters Fof theG 4iet 8inh FtoG come to FtheG side FofG that group. No such inducement
possible unless that group can show concrete evidence FthatG *rench FareG prepared FtoG
implement promptly creation 4ietnamese free state Fwhich isG associated Fwith theG
*rench Union and with all attributes free state...
:anuary %-) %&5& +State %5' to Paris13
"hile ;epartment desirous *rench coming to terms with Bao ;ai or any truly nationalist
group which has reasonable chance winning over preponderance of 4ietnamese) we
cannot at this time irretrevably FsicG commit U.S. to support of native government which
by failing develop appeal among 4ietnamese might become virtually puppet government)
separated from people) and eisting only by presence *rench military forces...
The @lysee #greement too. place in 8arch) %&5&. #t this Duncture) the fall of <hina
obtruded) and the U.S. began to view the "Bao ;ai solution" with a greater sense of
urgency3
8ay %() %&5& +State -- to Saigon13
#ssumption . . . ;epartment desires FtheG success Bao ;ai eperiment entirely correct.
Since FthereG appears FtoG be no other alternative to FestablishedG <ommie pattern FinG
4ietnam) ;epartment considers no effort should be spared by *rance) other "estern
powers) and non$<ommie #sian nations to assure eperiment best chance succeeding.
#t proper time and under proper circumstances ;epartment will be prepared FtoG do its
part by etending recognition Fto theG Bao ;ai Government and by eploring FtheG
possibility of complying with any re?uest by such a Government for U.S. arms and
economic assistance. F!tG must be understood) however) FthatG aid program this nature
would re?uire <ongressional approval. Since U.S. could scarcely afford bac.ing FaG
government which would have color FofG) and be li.ely Fto suffer theG fate of) FaG puppet
regime) it must first be clear that *rance will offer all necessary concessions to ma.e Bao
;ai solution attractive to nationalists.
This is FaG step of which *rench themselves must see urgency FandG necessity FinG view
possibly short time remaining before <ommie successes FinG <hina are felt FinG
!ndochina. 8oreover) Bao ;ai Government must through own efforts demonstrate
capacity FtoG organi2e and conduct affairs wisely so as to ensure maimum opportunity of
obtaining re?uisite popular support) inasmuch as FanyG government created in !ndochina
analogous Fto theG Auomintang would be foredoomed failure.
#ssuming essential *rench concessions are forthcoming) best chance FofG success FforG
Bao ;ai would appear to be in persuading 4ietnamese nationalists3
+%1 their patriotic aims may be reali2ed promptly through *rench$ Bao ;ai agreement
+71 Bao ;ai government will be truly representative even to the etent of including
outstanding non$<ommie leaders now supporting >o) and
+91 Bao ;ai solution Fis theG only means FofG safeguarding 4ietnam from aggressive
designs Fof theG <ommie <hinese.
Through %&5&) the southward march of 8ao=s legions continued) and the 4iet 8inh were
obviously preparing to establish relations with them.
8. 2eognition& 1,.1
The @lysee #greements were eleven months old before the U.S. considered that *rance
had ta.en the concrete steps toward 4ietnamese autonomy which the U.S. had set as
conditions for recogni2ing Bao ;ai. !n late :anuary) %&'() events moved swiftly. >o <hi
8inh announced that his was the "only legal government of the 4ietnam people" and
indicated ;04 willingness to cooperate with any nation willing to recogni2e it on the
basis of "e?uality and mutual respect of national sovereignty and territory." 8ao
responded promptly with recognition) followed by Stalin. !n *rance there was an
acrimonious debate in the National #ssembly between leftist advocates of immediate
truce with the 4iet 8inh and government supporters of the @lysee #greement to proceed
with the Bao ;ai solution. 0enV Pleven) 8inister of National ;efense) declared that3
!t is necessary that the *rench people .now that at the present time the only true enemy of
peace in 4iet Nam is the <ommunist Party. Because members of the <ommunist Party
.now that peace in !ndochina will be established by the policy of independence that we
are following.
+"Peace with 4iet NamS Peace with 4iet NamS" shouted the <ommunists.1
:ean /etourneau arose to assert that3
!t is not at all a ?uestion of approving or disapproving a government6 we are very far
beyond the transitory life of a government in an affair of this gravity. !t is necessary that)
on the international level) the vote that ta.es place tonight reveals truly the maDor
importance that this event should have in the eyes of the entire world.
*rVdVric ;upont said3
The !ndochina war has always been a test of the *rench Union before international
<ommunism. But since the arrival of the <hinese <ommunists on the frontier of Ton.in)
!ndochina has become the frontier of "estern civili2ation and the war in !ndochina is
integrated into the cold war.
Premier Georges Bidault was the last spea.er3
The choice is simple. 8oreover there is no choice.
The National #ssembly vote on :anuary 7&) %&'() was 9&, to %&9. *rom the etreme left
there were cries of ";own with the warS" and Paul <oste$*loret replied3 "/ong live
peace." Bn *ebruary 7) %&'() *rance=s formal ratification of the independence of 4ietnam
was announced.
The U.S. assessment of the situation) and its action) is indicated in the following3
;@P#0T8@NT B* ST#T@
"ashington
*ebruary 7) %&'(
8@8B0#N;U8 *B0 T>@ P0@S!;@NT
SubDect3 U.S. 0ecognition of 4ietnam) /aos and <ambodia
%. The *rench #ssembly +/ower >ouse1 ratified on 7& :anuary by a large maDority +9&, $
%&91 the bill which) in effect) established 4ietnam) /aos and <ambodia as autonomous
states within the *rench Union. The opposition consisted of %J% <ommunist votes with
only %7 Doining in from other parties. The <ouncil of the 0epublic +Senate1 is epected to
pass the bills by the same approimate maDority on or about *ebruary 9. President
#uriol=s signature is epected to follow shortly thereafter.
7. The *rench legislative and political steps thus ta.en will transform areas which were
formerly governed as Protectorates or <olonies into states within the *rench Union) with
considerably more freedom than they enDoyed under their prior status. The *rench
Government has indicated that it hopes to grant greater degrees of independence to the
three states as the security position in !ndochina allows) and as the newly formed
governments become more able to administer the areas following withdrawal of the
*rench.
9. "ithin /aos and <ambodia there are no powerful movements directed against the
governments which are relatively stable. >owever) 4ietnam has been the battleground
since the end of "orld "ar !! of conflicting political parties and military forces. >o <hi
8inh) who under various aliases) has been a communist agent in various parts of the
world since %&7' and was able to ta.e over the anti$*rench nationalist movement in
%&5'. #fter failing to reach agreement with the *rench regarding the establishment of an
autonomous state of 4ietnam) he withdrew his forces to the Dungle and hill areas of
4ietnam and has harassed the *rench ever since. >is followers who are estimated at
approimately -')((( armed men) with probably the same number unarmed. >is
head?uarters are un.nown.
The *rench counter efforts have included) on the military side) the deployment of
approimately %9()((( troops) of whom the approimately '()((( are local natives
serving voluntarily) #frican colonials) and a hard core made up of *rench troops and
*oreign /egion units. >o <hi 8inh=s guerrilla tactics have been aimed at denying the
*rench control of 4ietnam. Bn 8arch J) %&5& the *rench President signed an agreement
with Bao ;ai as the >ead of State) granting independence within the *rench Union to the
Government of 4ietnam. Similar agreements were signed with the Aing of /aos and the
Aing of <ambodia.
0ecent developments have included <hinese <ommunist victories bringing those troops
to the !ndochina border6 recognition of >o <hi 8inh as the head of the legal Government
of 4ietnam by <ommunist <hina +%J :anuary1 and by Soviet 0ussia +9( :anuary1.
5. 0ecognition by the United States of the three legally constituted governments of
4ietnam) /aos= and <ambodia appears desirable and in accordance with United States
foreign policy for several reasons. #mong them are3 encouragement to national
aspirations under non$<ommunist leadership for peoples of colonial areas in Southeast
#sia6 the establishment of stable non$<ommunist governments in areas adDacent to
<ommunist <hina6 support to a friendly country which is also a signatory to the North
#tlantic Treaty6 and as a demonstration of displeasure with <ommunist tactics which are
obviously aimed at eventual domination of #sia) wor.ing under the guise of indigenous
nationalism.
SubDect to your approval) the ;epartment of State recommends that the United States of
#merica etend recognition to 4ietnam) /aos and <ambodia) following ratification by
the *rench Government.
+signed1 ;@#N #<>@SBN
#pproved
+signed1
>arry S. Truman
*ebruary 9) %&'(
3. 7.S. #id to !ndohina
Bn *ebruary %,) %&'() *rance re?uested U.S. military and economic assistance in
prosecuting the !ndochina "ar. The Secretary of ;efense in a 8emorandum for the
President on 8arch , stated that3
The choice confronting the United States is to support the legal governments in !ndochina
or to face the etension of <ommunism over the remainder of the continental area of
Southeast #sia and possibly westward...
The same month) the State ;epartment dispatched an aid survey mission under 0. #llen
Griffin to !ndochina +and to Burma) !ndonesia) Thailand) and 8alaya1. The Griffin
8ission proposed +inter alia1 aid for the Bao ;ai government) since the State of 4ietnam
was considered3
...not secure against internal subversion) political infiltration) or military aggression.
The obDective of each program is to assist as much as possible in building strength) and in
so doing . . . to assure the several peoples that support of their governments and
resistance to communist subversion will bring them direct and tangible benefits and well$
founded hope for an increase in living standards. #ccordingly) the programs are of two
main types3 +%1 technical and material aid to essential services and +71 economic
rehabilitation and development) 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 #sia . . . are to reinforce the non$
<ommunist national governments in that region by ?uic.ly strengthening and epanding
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 #sia.
!n a strategic assessment of Southeast #sia in #pril) %&'() the :<S recommended military
assistance for !ndochina) provided3
...that United States military aid not be granted unconditionally6 rather that it be carefully
controlled and that the aid program be integrated with political and economic programs . .
. F;oc. 9G
Bn 8ay %) %&'() President Truman approved Q%( million for urgently needed military
assistance items for !ndochina. The President=s decision was ta.en in the contet of the
successful amphibious invasion of Nationalist$defended >ainan by a <ommunist <hinese
army under General /in Piao$with obvious implications for !ndochina) and for Taiwan.
Bne wee. later) on 8ay J) the Secretary of State announced U.S. aid for "the #ssociated
States of !ndochina and to *rance in order to assist them in restoring stability and
permitting these states to pursue their peaceful and democratic development." Siteen
days later) Bao ;ai=s government and *rance were notified on 8ay 75 of the U.S.
intention to establish an economic aid mission to the #ssociated States. F;oc. ,G #s the
North Aorean #rmy moved southward on :une 7-) %&'() President Truman announced
that he had directed "acceleration in the furnishing of military assistance to the forces of
*rance and the #ssociated States in !ndochina . . ." F;oc. JG
The crucial issue presented by the #merican decision to provide aid to !ndochina was
who should be the recipient$BWo ;ai or *rance$and) hence) whose policies would U.S.
aid supportN
-. Frenh !ntransigene
"hile the U.S. was deliberating over whether to provide economic and military
assistance to !ndochina in early %&'() negotiations opened at Pau) *rance) among *rance
and the #ssociated States to set the timing and etent of granting autonomy. >ad these
tal.s led to genuine independence for Bao ;ai=s regime) the subse?uent U.S.$*rench
relationship would probably have been much less comple and significantly less acerbic.
#s it was) however) the Pau accords led to little more independence than had the >a /ong
Bay or @lysee #greements. 8oreover) *rance=s reluctance to yield political or economic
authority to Bao ;ai was reinforced by its proclivity to field strong$willed commanders)
suspicious of the U.S.) determined on a military victory) and scornful of the Bao ;ai
solution. General 8arcel <arpentier) <ommander in <hief when the *rench applied for
aid) was ?uoted in the 3e4 <or0 Times on 8arch &) %&'() as follows3
! will never agree to e?uipment being given directly to the 4ietnamese. !f this should be
done ! would resign within twenty$four hours. The 4ietnamese have no generals) no
colonels) no military organi2ation that could effectively utili2e the e?uipment. !t would be
wasted) and in <hina) the United States has had enough of that.
a. 1,.1-1,.1> De "attre and ?Dynamisme?
<arpentier=s successor) >igh <ommissioner$<ommander in <hief General :ean de /attre
de Tassigny) arrived in ;ecember) %&'() following the severe setbac. of the autumn. ;e
/attre electrified the discouraged *rench forces li.e General 0idgway later enheartened
U.S. forces in Aorea. ;e /attre saw himself as leading an anti$communist crusade. >e
calculated that he could win a decisive victory within fifteen months in 4ietnam) and
"save it from Pe.ing and 8oscow." >e deprecated the idea that the *rench were still
motivated by colonialism) and even told one U.S. newsman that *rance fought for the
"est alone3
"e have no more interest here . . . "e have abandoned all our colonial positions
completely. There is little rubber or coal or rice we can any longer obtain. #nd what does
it amount to compared to the blood of our sons we are losing and the three hundred and
fifty million francs we spend a day in !ndochinaN The wor. we are doing is for the
salvation of the 4ietnamese people. #nd the propaganda you #mericans ma.e that we
are still colonialists is doing us tremendous harm) all of us$the 4ietnamese) yourselves)
and us.
8oreover) ;e /attre was convinced that the 4ietnamese had to be brought into the fight.
!n a speech$$"# <all to 4ietnamese Couth"$$he declared3
This war) whether you li.e it or not) is the war of 4ietnam for 4ietnam. #nd *rance will
carry it on for you only if you carry it on with her...
<ertain people pretend that 4ietnam cannot be independent because it is part of the
*rench Union. Not trueS !n our universe) and especially in our world of today) there can
be no nations absolutely independent. There are only fruitful interdependencies and
harmful dependencies. . . . Coung men of 4ietnam) to whom ! feel as close as ! do to the
youth of my native land) the moment has come for you to defend your country.
Cet) General ;e /attre regarded U.S. policy vis$a$vis Bao ;ai with grave misgivings.
#mericans) he held) afflicted with "missionary 2eal)" were "fanning the fires of etreme
nationalism . . . *rench traditionalism is vital here. Cou cannot) you must not destroy it.
No one can simply ma.e a new nation overnight by giving out economic aid and arms
alone." #s adamantly as <arpentier) ;e /attre opposed direct U.S. aid for 4ietnamese
forces) and allowed the 4ietnamese military little real independence.
@dmund #. Gullion) U.S. 8inister <ounselor in Saigon from %&'( on) faulted ;e /attre
on his inability to stimulate in the 4ietnamese National #rmy either the elan vital or
dynamisme he communicated to the rest of the *rench @peditionary <orps3
...!t remained difficult to inculcate nationalist ardor in a native army whose officers and
non$corns were primarily white *renchmen . . . The 4ietnamese units that went into
action were rarely unsupported by the *rench. #merican contact with them was mainly
through the *rench) who retained eclusive responsibility for their training. "e felt we
needed much more documentation than we had to assess the army=s true potential. "e
needed battalion$by$battalion reports on the performance of the 4ietnamese 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 *rench
failure to create a really independent 4ietnamese #rmy that would fight in the way de
/attre meant was the absence) at ;ienbienphu) of any 4ietnamese fighting elements. !t
was a *rench show.
Gullion is not altogether correct with respect to ;ien Bien Phu6 nonetheless) statistics on
the ethnic composition of the defending garrison do reveal the nature of the problem. The
'th 4ietnamese Parachute Battalion was dropped to reinforce the garrison so that as of
8ay ,) %&'5) the troops at ;ien Bien Phu included3
:#22!S63 6F D!E3 5!E3 P)7
6ffiers 3;6(s EM(s Totals
4ietnamese %% 7-( ')%%& ')5J(
Total 9&9 %),,, %9)(7, %')%('
4iet O of
Total
7.J %,.7 9&.7 9,.7

Thus) the 4ietnamese comprised more than a third of the fighting forces +and nearly 5(O
of the enlisted troops16 but among the leaders) they provided one$sith of the non$
commissioned officers and less than 9O of the officers.
The paucity of 4iet officers at ;ien Bien Phu reflected the general condition of the
National #rmy3 as of %&'9) there were 7),(( native officers) of whom only a handful held
ran. above maDor) compared to -)((( *rench officers in a force of %'()((( 4ietnamese
troops.
@. 1,.1-1,.3> "etourneau and ?Ditatorship?
;e /attre=s successor as >igh <ommissioner) :ean /etourneau) was also the *rench
<abinet 8inister for the #ssociated States. /etourneau was sent to !ndochina to assume
the same power and privilege in the "independent" State of 4ietnam that any of *rance=s
Governor Generals had ever eercised from Saigon=s Norodom Palace. !n 8ay) %&'9) a
*rench Parliamentary 8ission of !n?uiry accused the 8inister$>igh <ommissioner of
"veritable dictatorship) without limitation or control"3
The artificial life of Saigon) the temptations of power without control) the security of a
Dudgment which disdains realities) have isolated the 8inister and his entourage and have
made them insensible to the daily tragedy of the war...
!t 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. !n Saigon our representatives have
allowed themselves to be inveigled into the tempting game of power and intrigue.
!nstead of seeing the most important things and acting on them) instead of ma.ing on the
spot investigations) of loo.ing 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 cli?ue has allowed itself the
luury of administering a la francaise and of reigning over a country where revolution is
smouldering...
The press has not the right of criticism. To tell the truth) it has become official) and the
principal newspaper in Saigon is at the disposition of the >igh <ommissariat. /etters are
censored. Propaganda seems to be issued Dust to defend the >igh <ommissariat. Such a
regime cannot last) unless we are to appear as people who are determined not to .eep
their promises.
The Parliamentary 8ission described Saigon3 "where gambling) depravity) love of money
and of power finish by corrupting the morale and destroying willpower . . ."6 and the
4ietnamese government3 "The 8inisters Fof the Bao ;ai regimeG appear in the eyes of
their compatriots to be *rench officials . . ." The report did not hesitate to blame the
*rench for 4ietnamese corruption3
!t is grave that after eight years of laisser-aller and of anarchy) the presence in !ndochina
of a resident 8inister 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 commercial
transactions. @ven 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.
<ommenting on this report) an influential *rench editor blamed the "natural tendency of
the military proconsulate to perpetuate itself" and "certain *rench political groups who
have found in the war a principal source of their revenues...through echange operations)
supplies to the epeditionary corps and war damages . . . >e concluded that3
The generally accepted theory is that the prolongation of the war in !ndochina is a fatality
imposed by events) one of those dramas in history which has no solution. The theory of
the s.eptics is that the impotence or the errors of the men responsible for our policy in
!ndochina have prevented us from finding a way out of this catastrophic enterprise. The
truth is that the facts now .nown seem to add up to a lucid plan wor.ed out step by step
to eliminate any possibility of negotiation in !ndochina in order to assure the prolongation
without limit of the hostilities and of the military occupation.
.. 5ao Dai& #ttentiste
;espite U.S. recognition of the grave imperfections of the *rench administration in
4ietnam) the U.S. was constrained to deal with the !ndochina situation through *rance
both by the overriding importance of its @uropean policy and by the impotence and
ineptitude of the Bao ;ai regime. The U.S. attempted to persuade Bao ;ai to eercise
more vigorous leadership) but the @mperor chose differently. *or eample) immediately
after the Pau negotiations) the ;epartment of State sent these instructions to @dmund
Gullion3
BUTGB!NG T@/@G0#8
;@P#0T8@NT B* ST#T@
B<T %J %&'(
P2!62!T<
#8/@G#T!BN
S#!GBN
9J5
;@PT wishes to have *B/ 8SG delivered to Bao ;ai personally by 8!N !88@; after
<hief of State=s arrival in Saigon. !t S>/; be delivered informally
without submission written tet with sufficient emphasis to leave no doubt in @mperor=s
mind that it represents ;@PTS studied opinion in matter now receiving
#TTN highest auths US GB4T. Begin 8SG3
Bao ;ai will arrive in Saigon at moment when 4ietnam 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 4ietnam has so recently separated herself.
The US GB4T is at present moment ta.ing steps to increase the #8T of aid to *0 Union
and #SSB< States in their effort to defend the territorial integrity of !< and prevent the
incorporation of the #SSB< States within the <B88!@$dominated bloc of slave states
but even the resources of US are strained by our present UN commitments in Aorea) the
need for aid in the defense of "estern @urope and our own rearmament program. "e
sometimes find it impossible to furnish aid as we "/; wish in a given #8T at a given
time and in a given place.
/eadership of 4ietnam GB4T during this crucial period is a factor of preponderant
importance in deciding ultimate outcome. GB4T must display unusually aggressive
leadership and courage before a discouraged people) distraught and floundering in the
wa.e of years of civil war. /esser considerations concern$
ing the modalities of relations between the States of the *0 Union and the 0@P of *0
must) for instance) be at least temporarily laid aside in face of serious threat to very
eistence of 4ietnam as autonomous state) within *0 Union or otherwise.
"e are aware +as in Bao ;ai1 that present 4ietnamese GB4T is so lin.ed with person of
<hief of State that leadership and eample provided by latter ta.es on etraordinary
importance in determining degree of efficiency in functioning of GB4T. Through
circumstances of absence in *0 of Bao ;ai and other 4ietnamese leaders for prolonged
period) opportunity for progress in assumption of responsibilities from *0 and etension
authority and influence of GB4T with people was neglected. 8any people) including
great number #8@0S) have been unable understand reasons for @mperor=s GT@
prolonged holiday UNKT@ on 0iviera and have misinterpreted it as an indication of lac.
of patriotic attachment to his role of <hief of State. ;@PT is at least of opinion that his
absence did not enhance the authority and prestige of his GB4T at home.
Therefore) ;@PT considers it imperative Bao ;ai give 4ietnamese people evidence his
determination personally ta.e up reins of state and lead his country into !88@; and
energetic opposition <B88!@ menace. Specifically he S>/; embar. upon !88@;
program of visits to all parts 4ietnam ma.ing numerous speeches and public appearances
in the process. <hief of State S>/; declare his determination plunge into Dob of rallying
people to support of GB4T and opposition to 48 !88@; upon arrival Saigon. >e
S>/; announce US) *0 support for formation N#T/ armies and his own intention
assume role <ommander in <hief. >e S>/; ta.e full advantage of *0 official
declaration of intention to form N#T/ armies +confirmed yesterday by 8!N #SS< States
/etourneau1 and set up precise plan for such formation !88@;.
*inally) it S>/; be tactfully suggested that any further display procrastination in facing
realities in the form prolonged periods of seclusion at ;alat or otherwise "/; confirm
impressions of those not as convinced of @mperor=s seriousness of purpose as ;@PT and
/@G are and raise ?uestions of the wisdom of continuing to support a 4ietnamese GB4T
which proves itself incapable of eercising the autonomy ac?uired by it at such a high
price. @nd of 8SG.
@ndeavor obtain private interview soonest possible after arrival for ;@PT regards timing
as of prime importance. Simultaneously or !88@; *B/ inform /etourneau and Pignon
of action. Saigon advise Paris in advance to synchroni2e informing *BNB**
#<>@SBN
"hatever Bao ;ai=s response$$probably polite and obscure$$he did not act on the U.S.
advice. >e subse?uently told ;r. Phan Kuang ;an) aboard his imperial yacht) that his
successive governments had been of little use) and added that it would be dangerous to
epand the 4ietnamese #rmy because it might defect en masse and go to the 4iet 8inh3
! could not inspire the troops with the necessary enthusiasm and fighting spirit) nor could
Prime 8inister >uu . . . @ven if we had an able man) the present political conditions
would ma.e it impossible for him to convince the people and the troops that they have
something worth while to fight for...
;r. ;an agreed that the effectiveness of the National #rmy was a central issue6 he
pointed out that there were but three 4iet generals) non of whom had ever held
operational command) and neither they nor the 7( colonels or lieutenant colonels could
eercise initiative of any sort. ;r. ;an held that3 "The 4ietnamese #rmy is without
responsible 4ietnamese leaders) without ideology) without obDective) without enthusiasm)
without fighting spirit) and without popular bac.ing." But it was very clear that Bao ;ai
did not propose to alter the conditions of his army ecept by the long) slow process of
"nibbling" at *rench military prerogative. Bn other vital issues Bao ;ai was no more
aggressive. *or all practical purposes) the @mperor) in his own fashion) li.e ;r. ;an and
Ngo ;inh ;iem) assumed the posture of the attentiste$$a spectator as the *rench and
#mericans tested their strength against each other) and against the 4iet 8inh.
A. The #merian Prediament
#mong the #merican leaders who understood the vacuity of the Bao ;ai solution) and
recogni2ed the pitfalls in *rench intransigence on genuine independence was the then
Senator :ohn *. Aennedy. Aennedy visited 4ietnam in %&'% and evidently weighed
Gullion=s views heavily. !n November) %&'%) Aennedy declared that3
!n !ndochina we have allied ourselves to the desperate effort of the *rench regime to hang
on to the remnants of an empire. There is no broad general support of the native 4ietnam
Government among the people of that area.
!n a speech to the U.S. Senate in :une) %&'9) he pointed out that3
Genuine independence as we understand it is lac.ing in !ndochina local government is
circumscribed in its functions . . . the government of 4ietnam) the state which is of the
greatest importance in this area) lac.s popular support) that the degree of military) civil)
political) and economic control maintained by the *rench goes well beyond what is
necessary to fight a war . . . !t is because we want the war to be brought to a successful
conclusion that we should insist on genuine independence . . . 0egardless of our united
effort) it is a truism that the war can never be successful unless large numbers of the
people of 4ietnam are won over from their sullen neutrality and open hostility to it and
fully support its successful conclusion
...! strongly believe that the *rench cannot succeed in !ndochina without giving
concessions necessary to ma.e the native army a reliable and crusading force.
/ater) Aennedy critici2ed the *rench3
@very year we are given three sets of assurances3 first) that the independence of the
#ssociated States is now complete6 second) that the independence of the #ssociated
States will soon be completed under steps "now" being ta.en6 and third) that military
victory for the *rench Union forces is assured) or is Dust around the corner.
#nother #merican .nowledgeable concerning the U.S.$*rench difficulties and with the
Bao ;ai solution was 0obert Blum) who headed the economic aid program etended to
the Bao ;ai regime in %&'(. General ;e /attre viewed U.S. economic aid as especially
pernicious) and told Blum that3 "8r. Blum) you are the most dangerous man in
!ndochina." ;e /attre resented the #merican intrusion. "#s a student of history) ! can
understand it) but as a *renchman ! don=t li.e it." !n %&'7) Blum analy2ed the Bao ;ai$
*rench$#merican triangle as follows3
The attitude of the *rench is difficult to define. Bn the one hand are the repeated official
affirmations that *rance has no selfish interests in !ndochina and desires only to promote
the independence of the #ssociated States and be relieved of the terrible drain of *rance=s
resources. Bn the other hand are the numerous eamples of the deliberate continuation of
*rench controls) the interference in maDor policy matters) the profiteering and the constant
bic.ering and ill$feeling over the transfer of powers and the issues of independence . . .
There is un?uestionably a contradiction in *rench 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 *rench pride and defending interests in the process.
This distinction is typified by the sharp difference between the attitude toward General de
/attre in !ndochina) where he is heralded as the political genius and military savior . . .
and in *rance) where he is suspected as a person who for personal glory is drawing off
*rance=s resources on a perilous adventure...
!t is difficult to measure what have been the results of almost two years of active
#merican participation in the affairs of !ndochina. #lthough we embar.ed upon a course
of uneasy association with the "colonialist"$tainted but indispensable *rench) on the one
hand) and the indigenous) wea. and divided 4ietnamese) on the other hand) we have not
been able fully to reconcile these two allies in the interest of a single$minded fight against
<ommunism. Bf the purposes which we hoped to serve by our actions in !ndochina) the
one that has been most successful has been the strengthening of the *rench military
position. Bn the other hand) the 4ietnamese) 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 #merica is not omnipotent and not prepared to ma.e
an undiluted effort to support their point of view . . . Bur direct influence on political and
economic matters has not been great. "e 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 *rench continue to have primary
responsibility) and to give little) if any) advice.
Blum concluded that3
The situation in !ndochina is not satisfactory and shows no substantial prospect of
improving) that no decisive military victory can be achieved) that the Bao ;ai
government gives little promise of developing competence and winning the loyalty of the
population . . . and that the attainment of #merican obDectives is remote.
Shortly before his death in %&,') Blum held that a clash of *rench and U.S. interests was
inevitable3
"e wanted to strengthen the ability of the *rench to protect the area against <ommunist
infiltration and invasion) and we wanted to capture the nationalist movement from the
<ommunists by encouraging the national aspirations of the local populations and
increasing popular support of their governments. "e .new that the *rench were
unpopular) that the war that had been going on since %&5, was not only a nationalist
revolt against them but was an eample of the awa.ening self$consciousness of the
peoples of #sia who were trying to brea. loose from domination by the "estern world.
"e recogni2ed right away that two$pronged policy was beset with great difficulties.
Because of the prevailing anti$*rench feeling) we .new that any bolstering by us of the
*rench position would be resented by the local people. #nd because of the traditional
*rench position) and *rench sensitivity at seeing any increase of #merican influence) we
.now they would loo. with suspicion upon the development of direct #merican relations
with local administrations and peoples. Nevertheless) we were determined that our aid
program would not be used as a means of forcing co$ordination upon unwilling
governments) and we were e?ually 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 be less readily understood. Burs was a political
program that wor.ed with the people and it would obviously have lost most of its
effectiveness if it had been reduced to a role of *rench$protected anonymity . . . FThe
program wasG greatly handicapped and its beneficial psychological results were largely
negated because the United States at the same time was pursuing a program of FmilitaryG
support to the *rench . . . on balance) we came to be loo.ed upon more as a supporter of
colonialism than as a friend of the new nation.
!n %&,') @dmund Gullion) who was also very close to the Bao ;ai problem) too. this
retrospect3
"e really should have pushed the *rench right after the @lysee agreements of 8arch)
%&5&. "e did not consider the echange of letters carefully enough at the time. !t was
understandable. "e 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 Aorea) and since
the *rench were in trouble in !ndochina) we pulled our punches . . . The *rench could
have said une?uivocally) as we did with regard to the Philippines) that in such$and$such a
number of years 4ietnam would be totally free) and that it could thereupon Doin the
*rench Union or stay out) as it desired . . . #n 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 #ssociated States
together) to get them to agree among each other) and with *rance) separately and
collectively. The *rench) in arguing against any .ind of bilateral agreements) claimed that
their attempt at federation in !ndochina was li.e our effort to build some sort of federated
system in @urope. But their involvement and interest in !ndochina was obviously
different) and they used the formula they devised to avoid any real agreement on
4ietnam. The problem grew more comple as the military and political aspects of the
situation became unavoidably tied together) and the Aorean "ar) of course) complicated
it further. *rom the outset) the *rench sought to regard the war in Aorea and the war in
!ndochina as related parts of one big fight against <ommunism) but it wasn=t that simple.
#ctually) what the Aorean "ar did do was ma.e it more difficult for us to urge an
evolutionary settlement in 4ietnam. By %&'%) 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 @.;.<. formula in @urope was
being reDected by the *rench) Dust as in %&,' they were reDecting the North #tlantic Treaty
Brgani2ation concept. Bur degree of leverage was being drastically reduced.
>ad Bao ;ai been willing or capable of more effective leadership) the U.S. role in the
war might not have fallen into what @dmund Gullion called the "pattern of prediction and
disappointment"3
!t can be timed almost to the month to coincide with the rainy season and the campaign
season. Thus) in 8ay or :une) we usually get *rench estimates of success in the coming
campaign season) based partly on an assessment of losses the 4ietminh 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 e?ually
disappointing6 by Bctober) *rench Union troops are found bottled up in mountain defiles
far from their bases . . . There are rumblings about late or lac.ing #merican aid and lac.
of #merican understanding. Some time around the first of the new year) special high$
level United States$*rench conferences are called. "e as. some ?uestions about the
military situation but only a few about the political situation. There is widespread
speculation that the *rench may pull out of !ndochina if we press them for eplanations
of their political and economic program. "e promise the *rench more aid. The *rench
ma.e a stand3 they claim great casualties inflicted on the enemy. They give us new
estimates for the following campaign season$and the round begins once more.
!n that blea. pattern) Bao ;ai played only a passive role6 the "Bao ;ai solution"
ultimately solved nothing. The outcome rested rather on *rance=s military struggle with
the 4iet 8inh) and its contest of leverage with the United States.
The Pentagon Papers
Gravel @dition
4olume %) <hapter 7) "U.S. !nvolvement in the *ranco$4iet 8inh "ar) %&'($%&'5"
+Boston3 Beacon Press) %&-%1
Section 7) pp. -'$%(-
!!. /@4@0#G@3 *0#N<@ >#; 8B0@ T>#N T>@ UN!T@; ST#T@S
!t is sometimes asserted that *rance could not have continued the war in !ndochina
without #merican aid) but that the United States failed to use its considerable leverage on
the *rench to force them to ta.e more positive steps towards granting complete
independence to the #ssociated States. #n eamination of *ranco$#merican relations
between %&'($%&'5 suggests) however) that #merican leverage was severely limited and
that) given the primacy accorded in U.S. policy to the containment of communism in
Southeast #sia) *rench leverage on the United States was the stronger of the two.
#. #8@0!<#N /@4@0#G@ BN *0#N<@
%. N#TB and 8arshall Plan
!n the first postwar decade) *rance was relatively wea. and depended upon the United
States through N#TB and the 8arshall Plan for its military security
and economic revival. But neither N#TB nor the 8arshall Plan offered usable fulcrums
for influencing *rench policy on !ndochina. Both were Dudged by the U.S. Government
and public to be strongly in the #merican national interest at a time when the Soviet
threat to "estern @urope) either through overt aggression or internal subversion) was
clearly recogni2able. # communist ta.e$over in *rance was a real possibility. +The
*rench <ommunist Party was the largest political party in the nation) and) at the time)
?uite militant in character.1 Thus) an #merican threat to withdraw military and economic
support to metropolitan *rance if it did not alter its policies in !ndochina was not
plausible. To threaten *rance with sanctions in N#TB or through the 8arshall Plan
would have Deopardi2ed a U.S. interest in @urope more important than any in !ndochina.
7. 8ilitary #ssistance Program
The chief remaining source of influence was the military assistance program to the
*rench in !ndochina. #nnounced by President Truman on 8ay J) %&'() in response to an
urgent *rench re?uest of *ebruary %,) %&'() for military and economic assistance) the
purpose of the aid was to help the *rench in the prosecution of the war against the 4iet
8inh. The #merican #mbassador in Paris was called to the Kuay d=Brsay) following a
determination by the *rench Government that "it should set forth to the United States
Government fully and fran.ly the etreme gravity of the situation in !ndochina from
*rench point of view as a result of recent developments and the epectation that at least
increased military aid will be furnished to >o <hi 8inh from <ommunist <hina." >e was
told3
...that the effort in !ndochina was such a drain on *rance that a long$term program of
assistance was necessary and it was only from the United States that it could come.
Btherwise . . . it was very li.ely that *rance might be forced to reconsider her entire
policy with the possible view to cutting her losses and withdrawing from !ndochina . . .
loo.ing into the future it was obvious . . . that *rance could not continue indefinitely to
bear this burden alone if the epected developments in regard to increased assistance to
>o <hi 8inh came about...
#lthough the decision to etend aid to the *rench military effort in !ndochina was ta.en
before the outbrea. of the Aorean "ar) it clearly was heavily influenced by the fall of
Nationalist <hina and the arrival of <ommunist <hinese troops on the !ndochina border
in ;ecember) %&5&. The >o <hi 8inh regime was recogni2ed as the legal government of
4ietnam by the <hinese <ommunists on :anuary %J) %&'() and twelve days later the
Soviet Government similarly announced its recognition. The NS< was thereupon as.ed
"to underta.e a determination of all practicable United States measures to protect its
security in !ndochina and to prevent the epansion of communist aggression. in that
area." !n NS< ,5 +*ebruary 7-) %&'(1 it concluded that3
!t is important to United States security interests that all practicable measures be ta.en to
prevent further communist epansion in Southeast #sia. !ndochina is a .ey area of
Southeast #sia and is under immediate threat.
The neighboring countries of Thailand and Burma could be epected to fall under
<ommunist domination if !ndochina were controlled by a
<ommunist$dominated government. The balance of Southeast #sia would then be in
grave ha2ard. F;oc. %G
The :oint <hiefs of Staff) referring on #pril ') %&'() to intelligence estimates indicating
that the situation in Southeast #sia had deteriorated) noted that "without United States
assistance) this deterioration will be accelerated." Therefore) the rationale for the decision
to aid the *rench was to avert !ndochina=s sliding into the communist camp) rather than
aid for *rance as a colonial power or a fellow N#TB ally.
U.S. assistance) which began modestly with Q%( million in %&'() reached Q%)(,9 million
in fiscal year %&'5) at which time it accounted for -JO of the cost of the *rench war
burden. The maDor portion of the increase came in the last year of the war) following the
presentation in %&'9 of the Navarre Plan) which called for the enlargement of *ranco$
4ietnamese forces and a dynamic strategy to recapture the initiative and pave the way for
victory by %&''. The optimistic endorsement of the Navarre Plan by /t. General :ohn ".
B=;aniel) head of the 8##G in !ndochina) as being capable of turning the tide and
leading to a decisive victory over the 4iet 8inh contributed to "ashington=s agreement
to substantially raise the level of assistance. But e?ually important) the Navarre Plan) by
being a concrete proposal which held out the promise of ending the long war) put *rance
in a position to pressure the United States for more funds to underwrite the training and
e?uipping of nine additional *rench battalions and a number of new 4ietnamese units.
9. U.S. Supports !ndependence for #ssociated States
Throughout the period of assistance to the *rench military effort) #merican policy
ma.ers .ept in mind the necessity of encouraging the *rench to grant the #ssociated
States full independence and to ta.e practical measures in this direction) such as the
training of 4ietnamese officers and civil servants. Such active persuasion was delicate
and difficult because of the high sensitivity of the *rench to any "interference" in their
"internal" affairs.
# reading of the NS< memorandum and the *rance$#merican diplomatic dialogue of the
time indicates that "ashington .ept its eyes on the ultimate goal of the de$coloniali2ation
of !ndochina. !ndeed) it was uncomfortable in finding itself$forced by the greater
necessity of resisting 4iet 8inh communism$in the same bed as the *rench. #merican
pressure may well have helped account for the public declaration of Premier :oseph
/aniel of :uly 9) %&'9) that the independence and sovereignty of the #ssociated States
would be "perfected" by transferring to them various functions which had remained under
*rench control) even though no final date was set for complete independence. #t an NS<
meeting on #ugust ,) %&'9 President @isenhower stated that assistance to the *rench
would be determined by three conditions3
+%1 # public *rench commitment to "a program which will insure the support and
cooperation of the native !ndochina"6
+71 # *rench invitation for "close FU.S.G military advice"6
+91 0enewed assurances on the passage of the @;<.
<onsistent with these) "ashington=s decision of September &) %&'9) to grant Q9J' million
towards implementation of the Navarre Plan was made dependent upon a number of
conditions. The #merican #mbassador was instructed to inform Prime 8inister /aniel
and *oreign 8inister Bidault that the United States Government would epect *rance to3
. . continue pursue policy of perfecting independence of #ssociated States in conformity
with :uly 9 declaration6
facilitate echange information with #merican military authorities and ta.e into account
their views in developing and carrying out *rench military plans !ndochina6
assure that no basic or permanent alteration of plans and programs for N#TB forces will
be made as result of additional effort !ndochina...
-. "imitation on #merian "e'erage
The United States attempted to use its military assistance program to gain leverage over
*rench policies) but was severely constrained in what it could do. The U.S. military
mission +8##G1 in Saigon was small and limited by the *rench in its functions to a
supply$support group. #llocation of all U.S. aid to the #ssociated States had to be made)
by agreement) solely through the *rench. Thus) 8##G was not allowed to control the
dispensing of supplies once they arrived in 4ietnam. 8##G officers were not given the
necessary freedom to develop intelligence information on the course of the war6
information supplied by the *rench was limited) and often unreliable or deliberately
misleading. The *rench resisted repeated U.S. admonitions that the native armies of the
#ssociated States be built up and conse?uently they did not create a true national
4ietnamese army. "ith some minor eceptions) the *rench ecluded #merican advisors
from participating in the training for the use of the materials being furnished by the U.S.
General Navarre viewed any function of 8##G in Saigon beyond boo..eeping to be an
intrusion upon internal *rench affairs. @ven though it would have been difficult beyond
%&'7 to continue the war without #merican aid) the *rench never permitted participation
by U.S. officials in strategic planning or policy ma.ing. 8oreover) the *rench suspected
the economic aid mission of being over$sympathetic to 4ienamese nationalism. The
director of the economic aid program) 0obert Blum) and the ;<8 of the #merican
@mbassy) @dmund Gullion) were subDected to *rench criticisms of their pro$4ietnamese
views) although the #merican #mbassador) ;onald >eath) remained staunchly pro$
*rench. Thus) *rench officials insisted that #merican 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 *rench)
economically as well as politically) in !ndochina.
5. F2E3;) "EBE2#:E 63 T)E 73!TED ST#TES
*rench leverage over the United States was made possible by the conviction) apparently
firmly held in "ashington) that the maintenance of a non$<ommunist !ndochina was vital
to "estern$and specifically #merican$interests.
1. Primarily !t /as Frane(s /ar
The most fundamental fact was that the *rench were carrying on a war which the United
States considered) rightly or wrongly) to be essential. Thus) the *rench were always able
to threaten simply to end the war by pulling out of !ndochina. By the early %&'(=s) with
the *rench nation tired of the "!a sale guerre)" this would not have been an unpopular
decision within *rance. Paris was thereby able to hint$which it did$that if U.S. assistance
was not forthcoming) it would simply withdraw from !ndochina) leaving to the United
States alone the tas. of the containment of communism in Southeast #sia. "hen the
/aniel Government re?uested in the fall of %&'9 a massive increase in #merican
assistance) the State ;epartment representative at an NS< meeting asserted that "if this
*rench Government) which proposes reinforcing !ndochina with our aid) is not supported
by us at this time) it may be the last such government prepared to ma.e a real effort to
win in !ndochina." !n effect) then) because of the overriding importance given by
"ashington to holding the communist line in !ndochina) the *rench in being able to
threaten to withdraw possessed an important instrument of blac.mail.
The upshot of this was that U.S. leverage was ?uite minimal. Since the *rench were) in a
way) fighting a U.S. battle as well as their own to prevent communist control of
!ndochina) any ham$fisted U.S. pressure was bound to wea.en the *rench resolve and
capability. <onse?uently) the leverage which the U.S. attained through its aid could be
used for little more than to urge greater efficiency and determination on *rance. !n other
words) "ashington could move Paris to formulate a Navarre type plan) but could not
influence the way *rance conducted the war) nor could it move *rance on political issues
in dispute.
8. ECpetation of Frenh Suess
The temptation to "go along" with the *rench until the 4iet 8inh was defeated was all
the more attractive because of the epectation of victory which pervaded official
"ashington. Before ;ien Bien Phu) General B=;aniel consistently reported that victory
was within reach if the United States continued its support. !n November) %&'9) General
B=;aniel submitted a progress report on the Navarre Plan which summari2ed what the
*rench had been doing and what remained to be accomplished. The report said that
*rench Union forces held the initiative and would begin offensives in mid$:anuary) %&'5
in the 8e.ong ;elta and in the region between <ape 4arella and ;a Nang. 8eanwhile) a
relatively small force would attempt to .eep the 4iet 8inh off balance in the Ton.in
;elta until Bctober) %&'5) when the *rench would begin a maDor offensive North of the
%&th parallel. The report concluded by assessing that the Navarre Plan was basically
sound and should be supported since it would bring a decisive victory.
B=;aniel=s optimism was not duplicated by other observers. <!N<P#<) 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 4ietnamese were
able to capture villages and until psychological warfare operations could be underta.en to
win over the people. The #rmy attachV in Saigon was even less sanguine. >e flatly stated
that the *rench) after si 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 attachV=s views were)
moreover) concurred in by the #ssistant <hief of Staff for !ntelligence) who observed that
other high U.S. military officers in !ndochina agreed with the attachV and found
B=;aniel=s report unwarrantedly optimistic.
3. #merian Poliy in Europe> The ED;
#n important source of *rench leverage was to be found outside of *ar @astern affairs. #
primary obDective of #merican foreign policy in %&'9$%&'5 was the creation of a
@uropean ;efense <ommunity +@.;.<.1. The purpose of the @;< was to "envelope" a
new "est German #rmy into an integrated si nation army which would go a long way
towards providing for the defense of "estern @urope. "ashington officials epected that
the @;< would permit a reduction +but not complete elimination1 of #merican ground
forces in @urope. The membership of *rance in the @;<$as a counter$weight to the
proposed re$arming of Germany$was essential to its adoption by the five other @uropean
nations. Because of the high priority given to @;< in #merican planning) there was a
strong reluctance to antagoni2e the *rench in !ndochina. This was reinforced by
.nowledge that the *rench placed a far lower priority on @;<) in part because of the
traditional *rench fear of an armed Germany) in part because the *rench estimate of
Soviet intentions in "estern @urope differed from that of the United States in that it
placed a low probability on a direct Soviet intervention.
#pparently unnoticed at the time was an implicit contradiction in the #merican policy of
pushing the *rench simultaneously on both adopting the @;< and on ma.ing a greater
effort in !ndochina. The latter re?uired increased *rench forces in the *ar @ast. But the
*rench National #ssembly would not adopt the @;< unless) at a minimum) it was
assured that *rench forces in @urope would be on parity with those of Germany. Thus)
the *rench argued that the possible coming into effect of the @;< prevented them from
putting larger forces into !ndochina. #fter the loss of North 4ietnam and the *rench
reDection of @;<) the <hairman of an !nterdepartmental "or.ing Group set up to
formulate a new #merican policy on !ndochina 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."
-. Frenh Desire for 3egotiations
*rench leverage was also demonstrated by their ability to have the !ndochina problem
placed on the agenda for the Geneva <onference at the time of the Kuadripartite *oreign
8inister=s meeting in *ebruary %&'5 in Berlin. The Geneva <onference had been called
to wor. out a political settlement for the Aorean "ar. ;ulles did not wish to negotiate on
!ndochina until there was a mar.ed improvement in the military situation of the *rench
and they could negotiate from a position of far greater strength. But the /aniel
Government was under mounting pressure from *rench public opinion to end the
!ndochinese war. #t Berlin the *rench delegation insisted) despite #merican obDections)
that !ndochina be inscribed on the Geneva agenda. *oreign 8inister Bidault reportedly
warned that if the United States did not ac?uiesce on this point) @;< would doubtlessly
be scuttled.
;ulles did succeed in opposing Soviet efforts to gain for <ommunist <hina the status of a
sponsoring power at Geneva and forced the acceptance in the Berlin communi?uV of a
statement that no diplomatic recognition would be implied in the <hinese invitation to the
conference. !n return for this concession) however) the *rench were able to give highly
visible evidence of their interest in ending the war soon through negotiations. !ronically)
this had a double$edged effect3 in Paris the "peace faction" was mollified6 but in >anoi
plans were made to step up the intensity of the war so as to ma.e a show of strength prior
to the beginning of the Geneva <onference. Thus) the coming battle Kf ;ien Bien Phu
came to have a crucial significance in large measure because of the very inclusion of the
!ndochina item for the Geneva <onference. #s @llen >ammer has written3
This was the last opportunity before the Geneva <onference for the 4iet 8inh to show its
military strength) its determination to fight until victory. #nd 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 <ommunist allies that the 4iet 8inh by its
own efforts had earned a seat at the conference table and the right to a voice in its own
future. *or the *rench . . . upon the outcome of the battle depended much of the spirit in
which they would send their representatives to Geneva.
'. <onclusion3 !ncompatibility of #merican and *rench BbDectives
!n summary) one must ta.e notice of the parado of U.S. policy vis$X$vis the *rench with
respect to !ndochina) %&'($%&'5. #merican interests and obDectives were basically
different from those of the *rench. The United States was concerned with the
containment of communism and restricting the spread of <hinese influence in Southeast
#sia. The immediate U.S. obDective was supporting a domino. *rance) on the other hand)
was fighting primarily a colonial war designed to maintain the *rench presence in
Southeast #sia and avoid the crumbling of the *rench Union. ;espite occasional pledges
to the "perfectionment" of independence for the #ssociated States$$pledges which were
usually given under circumstances which were forcing *rance to "Dustify" the war) in part
to receive further #merican assistance$$*rance was not fighting a long and costly war in
order to thereafter completely pull out.
The fact that the #merican and *rench means$pushing for military victory$$converged in
%&'($%&'5 obscured the fact that the ends of the two nations were inherently
incompatible. This further led to a basic incompatibility in the two strands of #merican
policy3 +%1 "ashington wanted *rance to fight the war and win) preferably .with
#merican guidance and advice6 and +71 having achieved success at great cost in what the
*rench viewed at least initially as more a "colonial" than "anti$communist" war)
"ashington epected the *rench to withdraw magnanimously. +# *renchman might have
as.ed how *rance) even if it wished to) could have left !ndochina without creating similar
pressures for withdrawal from #lgeria) Tunisia) and 8orocco) where over one million
*renchmen lived.1 !n this inherent inconsistency can be found much of the eplanation
for the lac. of #merican leverage over *rance during the pre$Geneva years.
!!!. P@0<@PT!BNS B* T>@ <B88UN!ST T>0@#T TB SBUT>@#ST #S!# #N;
TB B#S!< U.S. !NT@0@STS
Three maDor perceptions dominated U.S. thin.ing and policy$ma.ing on !ndochina during
the years %&'($%&'5. The first was the growing importance of #sia in world politics. The
process of devotion from colonial empires to independent states) it was thought) would
create power vacuums and conditions of instability which would ma.e #sia susceptible
to becoming a battleground in the growing @ast$"est 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 etensive influence then
eerted by the Soviet Union over other communist nations) and the communist parties in
non$communist states. 8oreover) the "est) and especially the U.S.) was challenged by
the epansionist policies openly proclaimed by leaders of virtually all the communist
movements. Third) the attempt of the patently <ommunist >o <hi 8inh regime to evict
the *rench from !ndochina was seen as part of the Southeast #sian manifestation of the
communist world$wide aggressive intent. The resistance of *rance to >o) therefore) was
seen as a crucial stand on the line along which the "est would contain communism.
#. ?D6M!36 P2!3;!P"E? 5EF62E D62E#
These three perceptions help eplain the widely held assumption in official "ashington
that if !ndochina was "lost" to communism) the remaining nations of Southeast #sia
would ineorably succumb to communist infiltration and be ta.en over in a chain
reaction. This strategic conception of the communist threat to Southeast #sia pre$dated
the outbrea. in :une %&'( of the Aorean "ar. !t probably had its period of gestation at
the time of the Nationalist withdrawal from mainland <hina. NS< 5JI% was the .ey
document in framing this conception. ;rawn up in :une %&5&) after Secretary of ;efense
/ouis :ohnson had epressed concern at the course of events in #sia and had suggested a
widening of the previous country$by$country memorandum approach to a regional plan)
NS< 5JI% included the statements that "the etension of communist authority in <hina
represents a grievous political defeat for us . . . !f Southeast #sia is also swept by
communism) we shall have suffered a maDor political rout the repercussions of which will
be felt throughout the rest of the world) especially in the 8iddle @ast and in a then
critically eposed #ustralia."
!t was 0ussia rather than <hina that was seen in %&5& as being the principal source of the
communist threat in #sia. #lthough it was conceded that in the course of time <hina +or
:apan or !ndia1 may attempt to dominate #sia3
now and for the foreseeable future it is the USS0 which threatens to dominate #sia
through the complementary instruments of communist conspiracy and diplomatic
pressure supported by military strength. *or the foreseeable future) therefore) our
immediate obDective must be to contain and where feasible to reduce the power and
influence of the USS0 in #sia to such a degree that the Soviet Union is not capable of
threatening the security of the United States from that area and that the Soviet Union
would encounter serious obstacles should it attempt to threaten the peace) national
independence or stability of the #siatic nations.
NS< 5JI% also recogni2ed that "the colonial$nationalist conflict provides a fertile field for
subversive communist movements) and it is now clear that Southeast #sia is the target for
a coordinated offensive directed by the Aremlin."
#t this time) the NS< believed that the United States) as a "estern power in any area
where the bul. of the population had long been suspicious of "estern influence) should
insofar as possible refrain from ta.ing any lead in Southeast #sia. The United States
should instead "encourage the peoples of !ndia) Pa.istan) the Philippines and other #sian
states to ta.e the leadership in meeting the common problems of the area)" recogni2ing
"that the non$communist governments of South #sia already constitute a bulwar. against
communist epansion in #sia." NS< 5JI7 pointed out that particular attention should be
given to the problem of !ndochina where "action should be ta.en to bring home to the
*rench the urgency of removing the barriers to the obtaining by Bao ;ai or other non$
communist nationalist leaders of the support of a substantial proportion of the
4ietnamese."
5. !MP62T#3;E 6F !3D6;)!3#
!ndochina was of special importance because it was the only area adDacent to <hina
which contained a large @uropean army which was in armed conflict with communist
forces. The <hinese <ommunists were believed to be furnishing the 4iet 8inh with
substantial material assistance. Bfficial *rench sources reported that there were some
<hinese troops in Ton.in) as well as large numbers ready for action against the *rench on
the <hinese side of the border. The first NS< memorandum dealing solely with !ndochina
+NS< ,51 F;oc. %G was adopted as policy on *ebruary 7-) %&'(. This paper too. note of
<hinese assistance to the 4iet 8inh and estimated that it was doubtful that the *rench
@peditionary forces) combined with !ndochinese troops) could successfully contain >o
<hi 8inh=s forces should they be strengthened by either <hinese troops crossing the
border) or by communist$supplied arms and material in ?uantity.
NS< ,5$written) it should be noted) by the Truman #dministration and before the
outbrea. of the Aorean "ar$observed that "the threat of <ommunist aggression against
!ndochina is only one phase of anticipated communist plans to sei2e all of Southeast
#sia." !t concluded with a statement of what came to be .nown as the "domino
principle"3
!t is important to United States security interests that all practicable measures be ta.en to
prevent further communist epansion in Southeast #sia. !ndochina is a .ey area of
Southeast #sia and is under immediate threat.
The neighboring countries of Thailand and Burma could be epected to fall under
<ommunist domination if !ndochina were controlled by a <ommunist$dominated
government. The balance of Southeast #sia would then be in grave ha2ard.
;. !MP#;T 6F ST#2T 6F D62E#3 /#2
The outbrea. of the Aorean "ar) and the #merican decision to resist North Aorean
aggression) sharpened overnight our thoughts and actions with respect to Southeast #sia.
The #merican military response symboli2ed in the most concrete manner possible the
basic belief that holding the line in Southeast #sia was essential to #merican security
interests. The *rench struggle in !ndochina came far more than before to be seen as an
integral part of the containment of communism in that region of the world. #ccordingly)
the United States intensified and enlarged its programs of aid in !ndochina. 8ilitary aid
shipments to !ndochina ac?uired in %&'% the second highest priority) Dust behind the
Aorean war program.
# conse?uence of the Aorean "ar) and particularly the <hinese intervention) was that
<hina replaced the Soviet Union as the principal source of the perceived communist
threat in Southeast #sia. This was made eplicit in NS< %75I7 +:une %&'71 F;oc. %9G
which stated that "the danger of an overt military attac. against Southeast #sia is
inherent in the eistence of a hostile and aggressive <ommunist <hina."
The "domino principle" in its purest form was written into the "General <onsiderations"
section of NS< %75I7. !t lin.ed the loss of any single state of Southeast #sia to the
stability of @urope and the security of the United States3
7. <ommunist domination) by whatever means) of all Southeast #sia 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 #sia to communist control as a
conse?uence of overt or covert <hinese <ommunist aggression would have critical
psychological) political and economic conse?uences. !n 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. *urthermore) an alignment with communism of the rest of Southeast #sia and
!ndia) and in the longer term) of the 8iddle @ast +with the probable eceptions of at least
Pa.istan and Tur.ey1 would in all probability progressively follow. Such widespread
alignment would endanger the stability and security of @urope.
b. <ommunist control of all of Southeast #sia would render the U.S. position in the
Pacific offshore island chain precarious and would seriously Deopardi2e fundamental U.S.
security interests in the *ar @ast.
c. Southeast #sia) especially 8alaya and !ndonesia) is the principal world source of
natural rubber and tin) and a producer of petroleum and other strategically important
commodities. The rice eports of Burma and Thailand are critically important to 8alaya)
<eylon and >ong Aong and are of considerable significance to :apan and !ndia) all
important areas of free #sia.
d. The loss of Southeast #sia) especially of 8alaya and !ndonesia) could result in such
economic and political pressures in :apan as to ma.e it etremely difficult to prevent
:apan=s eventual accommodation to communism.
The possibility of a large$scale <hinese intervention in !ndochina) similar to the <hinese
intervention in Aorea) came to dominate the thin.ing of #merican policy$ma.ers after
the start of the Aorean "ar. Such an intervention would not have been surprising given
the larger numbers of <hinese troops massed along the Ton.in border and the material
assistance being given to the 4iet 8inh. The N!@ of ;ecember %&'( considered direct
<hinese intervention to be "impending." The following year it was estimated that after an
armistice in Aorea the <hinese would be capable of intervention in considerable strength)
but would be inhibited from acting overtly by a number of factors) including the ris. of
#merican retaliation and the disadvantages attendant upon involvement in another
protracted campaign. By early %&'7) as the *rench position showed signs of deterioration)
intelligence authorities believed that the <hinese would be content to continue aiding the
4iet 8inh without underta.ing direct involvement +ecept for material aid1 unless
provo.ed into it. Thus) the intelligence community) after estimating a high ris. of
<hinese intervention at the start of the Aorean "ar) gradually reduced its estimate of
!ndochina being broadened into a wider war as the 4iet 8inh showed signs of doing well
enough on their own.
Nevertheless) the NS< undertoo. in %&'7 to list a course of action for the "resolute
defense" of !ndochina in case of a large$scale <hinese intervention. !t included the
provision of air and naval forces6 the interdiction of <hinese communication lines)
including those in <hina proper6 and a naval bloc.ade of the <hina coast. !f these
"minimum courses of action" did not prove to be sufficient) the U.S. should ta.e air and
naval action "against all suitable military targets in <hina)" when possible in conDunction
with British and *rench forces.
!n prescribing these recommended actions) the NS< focused on the less li.ely
contingency of a <hinese intervention rather than the more li.ely contingency of the
continued deterioration of the *rench position in !ndochina itself. !t did so despite the fact
that NS< %75I7 conceded that the "primary threat" was the situation in !ndochina itself
+increasing subversive efforts by indigenous communist forces) increased guerrilla
activity) and increased 4iet 8inh civil control over population and territory1. #pparently)
the NS< wanted to ma.e clear that direct U.S. involvement in !ndochina was to be
limited to dealing with direct <hinese involvement. !n the absence of this contingency)
however) and to meet the eisting situation in :ndochina) the NS< recommended that the
United States increase its level of aid to *rench Union forces but "without relieving the
*rench authorities of their basic military responsibility for the defense of the #ssociated
States."
D. 2EP75"!;#3 #DM!3!ST2#T!63 #3D F#2 E#ST
Two events in %&'9 served to deepen the #merican commitment in !ndochina. The first
was the arrival of a 0epublican #dministration following a long period in which the
G.B.P. had persistently accused the Truman #dministration of being responsible for the
"loss" of <hina to communism. The writings and speeches of :ohn *oster ;ulles before
the election left no doubt that he regarded Southeast #sia as a .ey region in the conflict
with communist "imperialism)" and that it was important to draw the line of containment
north of the 0ice Bowl of #sia$$the !ndochina peninsula. !n his first State of the Union
8essage on *ebruary 9) %&'9) President @isenhower promised a "new) positive foreign
policy." >e went on to lin. the communist aggression in Aorea and 8alaya with
!ndochina. ;ulles subse?uently spo.e of Aorea and !ndochina as two flan.s) with the
principal enemy$$0ed <hina$$in the center. # special study mission headed by
0epresentative "alter :udd) a recogni2ed 0epublican spo.esman on #sia) surveyed the
*ar @ast and reported on its view of the high sta.es involved3
The area of !ndochina is immensely wealthy in rice) rubber) coal) and iron ore. !ts
position ma.es it a strategic .ey to the rest of Southeast #sia. !f !ndochina should fall)
Thailand and Burma would be in etreme danger) 8alaya) Singapore and even !ndonesia
would become more vulnerable to the <ommunist power drive. . . . <ommunism would
then be in an eceptional position to complete its perversion of the political and social
revolution that is spreading through #sia. . . . The <ommunists must be prevented from
achieving their obDectives in !ndochina.
The 0epublican #dministration clearly intended to prevent the loss of !ndochina by
ta.ing a more forthright) anti$communist stand.
E. !MP#;T 6F D62E#3 #2M!ST!;E
Second) the armistice in Aorea created apprehension that the <hinese <ommunists would
now turn their attention to !ndochina. President @isenhower warned in a speech on #pril
%,) %&'9) that any armistice in Aorea that merely released armed forces to pursue an
attac. elsewhere would be a fraud. Secretary ;ulles continued this theme afer the Aorean
armistice in a speech on September 7) %&'9) on the war in !ndochina. #fter noting that "a
single <ommunist aggressive front etends from Aorea on the north to !ndochina in the
south" he said3
<ommunist <hina has been and now is training) e?uipping and supplying the <ommunist
forces in !ndochina. There is the ris. that) as in Aorea) 0ed <hina might send its own
#rmy into !ndochina. The <hinese <ommunist regime should reali2e that such a second
aggression could not
occur without grave conse?uences which might not be confined to !ndochina. ! say this
soberly . . . in the hope of preventing another aggressor miscalculation.
Underlying these warnings to <hina was the belief that the difference between success or
failure in avoiding a ta.eover of all 4ietnam by >o <hi 8inh probably depended upon
the etent of <hinese assistance or direct participation. Signaling a warning to <hina was
probably designed to deter further <hinese involvement. !mplicit in the signals was the
threat that if <hina came into the war) the United States would be forced to follow suit)
preferably with allies but) if necessary) alone. *urthermore) the @isenhower
#dministration implied that in .eeping with its policy of massive retaliation the United
States would administer a punishing nuclear blow to <hina without necessarily involving
its land forces in an #sian war.
F. DEEPE3!3: 6F 7.S. ;6MM!TME3T T6 ;63T#!3ME3T
!n addition to the new mood in "ashington created by the strategic perceptions of a new
#dministration and the Aorean armistice) the 4iet 8inh invasion of /aos in the spring of
%&'9 and the deepening war weariness in *rance served to strengthen those who favored
a more assertive policy in !ndochina. The United States rushed supplies to /aos and
Thailand in 8ay %&'9 and provided si <$i %&=s with civilian crews for the airlift into
/aos. !t increased substantially the volume and tempo of #merican military assistance to
*rench Union forces. *or fiscal year %&'5) Q5,( million in military assistance was
planned. <ongress only appropriated Q5(( million) but following the presentation by the
*rench of the Navarre Plan an additional Q9J' million was decided upon by the NS<. No
obDection was raised when *rance as.ed our views in #ugust) %&'9) on the transfer of its
battalion in Aorea to !ndochina and subse?uently too. this action. The Navarre Plan) by
offering a format for victory which promised success without the direct involvement of
#merican military forces) tended) because of its very attractiveness) to have the effect of
enlarging our commitment to assist the *rench towards achieving a military solution.
!n the last NS< paper approved before the !ndochina situation was totally transformed by
the *rench defeat at ;ien Bien Phu and the Geneva <onference) the "successful defense
of Ton.in" was said to be the ".eystone of the defense of mainland Southeast #sia ecept
possibly 8alaya." NS< '5(' F;oc. 7(G too. some) but probably not sufficient) account of
the deterioration in the *rench position which had occurred since NS< %75I7 was
approved eighteen months earlier. !t) 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 #sia and !ndonesia." The document also noted that3
!n the conflict in !ndochina) the <ommunists and non$<ommunists worlds clearly
confront one another in the field of battle3 The loss of the struggle in !ndochina) in
addition to its impact in Southeast #sia and South #sia) would therefore have the most
serious repercussions on U.S. and free world interests in @urope and elsewhere.
The subDect of possible negotiations was broached in NS< '5(') following the
observation that political pressures in *rance may impel the *rench Government to see. a
negotiated rather than a military settlement. !t was noted +before ;ien Bien Phu1 that if
the Navarre Plan failed or appeared doomed to failure) the *rench might see. to negotiate
simply for the best possible terms) irrespective of whether these offered any assurance of
preserving a non$communist !ndochina.
!n this regard the NS< decided the U.S. should employ every feasible means to influence
the *rench Government against concluding the struggle on terms "inconsistent" with the
basic U.S. obDectives. The *rench should be told that3 +%1 in the absence of a mar.ed
improvement in the military situation) there was no basis for negotiation on acceptable
terms6 +71 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
*ranco$4ietnamese military position in !ndochina6 +91 a nominally non-ommunist
oalition regime 4ould e'entually turn the ountry o'er to )o ;hi Minh 4ith no
opportunity for the replaement of the Frenh @y the 7nited States or the 7nited
Dingdom. F@mphasis #ddedG
:. ;63;"7S!63
!n conclusion) two comments can be made3
a. "ith the growing perception of a <hinese threat to !ndochina) and) therefore) to all of
Southeast #sia) the U.S. Government tended to concentrate on the military rather than the
political aspects of the *rench$4iet 8inh struggle. !n conse?uence) #merican attention
focused on +%1 deterring eternal intervention from <hina) and +71 assisting the *rench 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 #ssociated States was almost inadvertently given lower priority. The
United States was reluctant to press the *rench too strongly on ta.ing measures to foster
4ietnam nationalism because of its overriding interest in halting the potential sweep of
communism through Southeast #sia. 8oreover) it was easier to develop a policy for
dealing with the eternal 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 4iet 8inh.
b. The "domino theory" and the assumptions behind it were never ?uestioned. The
homogeneity of the nations of Southeast #sia was ta.en as a given) as was the lin.age in
their ability to remain democratic) or at an acceptable minimum) non$communist) nations.
Undoubtedly) in the first decade of the cold war thcre eisted an unfortunate stereotype of
a monolithic communist epansionary bloc. !t was reinforced by a somewhat emotional
approach on the part of many #mericans to communism in <hina and #sia. This
"syndrome" was) in part) the result of the "fall" of <hina) which some felt could have
been averted) and a few hoped would still be reversed.
#ccordingly) not sufficient cogni2ance was ta.en of the individuality of the states of
Southeast #sia and the separateness of their societies. Probably there was some lac. of
.nowledge in depth on the part of "ashington policy$ma.ers about the area. No one
before "orld "ar !! had epected that the United States would be called upon to ta.e a
position of leadership in these remote colonial territories of our @uropean allies. !n
hindsight) these shortcomings may have led to the fallacious belief that a neutralist or
communist !ndochina would inevitably draw the other states of #sia into the communist
bloc or into neutralism. But the "fallacy" was neither evident then) nor is it demonstrable
now in retrospect.
!4. T>@ !NT@0#G@N<C ;@B#T@ B4@0 U.S. !NT@04@NT!BN !N !N;B<>!N#
#. T)E :E3E2#" P6"!;< ;63TEET
The debate over the wisdom and manner of #merican intervention in !ndochina was
based primarily on the desirability of military involvement) not on ?uestions concerning
!ndochina=s value to United States security interests in the *ar @ast. The @isenhower
#dministration was in general agreement with the rationale for #merican interest in
!ndochina epressed by the Truman #dministration. The United States Government first
came to full grips with the ?uestion of intervention in late %&'9$early %&'5 as the fall of
!ndochina seemed to become imminent.
1. The Final Truman Program (3S; 18-)
NS< %75 +*ebruary) %&'71 considered imperative the prevention of a <ommunist ta.e$
over in !ndochina. !t recogni2ed that even in the absence of "identifiable aggression" by
<ommunist <hina) the U.S. might be forced to ta.e some action in order to prevent the
subversion of Southeast #sia. !n case of overt <hinese intervention) NS< %75
recommended3 +%1 naval) air and logistical support of *rench Union forces6 +71 naval
bloc.ade of <ommunist <hina6 +91 attac.s by land and carrier$based aircraft on military
targets in 8ainland <hina. !t stopped short of recommending the commitment of U.S.
ground forces in !ndochina.
8. Eisenho4er #dministration(s ?5asi 3ational Seurity Poliy?
NS< %,7I7 F;oc. %JG) adopted in Bctober) %&'9) ten months after the 0epublican
#dministration too. office) was the basic document of the "New /oo.." #fter
commenting on U.S. and Soviet defense capabilities) the prospect of nuclear parity and
the need to balance domestic economic policy with military ependitures) it urged a
military posture based on the ability "to inflict massive retaliatory damage" on the enemy.
!ndochina was listed as an area of "strategic importance" to the U.S. #n attac. on such
important areas "probably would compel the United States to react with military force
either locally at the point of attac. 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 !ndochina.
5. T)E =7EST!63 6F !3TE2BE3T!63 /!T) :2673D F62;ES
1. The Pro@lem !s Presented
!n late %&'9) the #rmy ?uestioned prevalent assumptions that ground forces would not be
re?uired in !ndochina if the area was as important to U.S. security interests as the NS<
papers stated. The #rmy urged that the issue be faced s?uarely in order to provide the
best possible preparation for whatever courses
of action might be underta.en. The Plans ;ivision of the #rmy General Staff pointed out
that under current programs the #rmy did not have the capability of providing divisional
forces for operations in !ndochina while maintaining its eisting commitments in @urope
and the *ar @ast. #rmy also suggested a "reevaluation of the importance of !ndochina and
Southeast #sia in relation to the possible cost of saving it."
"ith the deterioration of the *rench military situation in !ndochina) the first serious
attention came to be given to the manner and si2e of a U.S. intervention. The ?uestion to
be faced was3 how far was the U.S. prepared to go in terms of force commitments to
ensure that !ndochina stayed out of <ommunist handsN The ;efense ;epartment) though
not of a single mind on this ?uestion) pressed for an early determination of the forces the
U.S. would be willing to dispatch in an emergency situation. The <hief of Naval
Bperations) #dmiral 0obert #nderson) proposed to Secretary of ;efense "ilson on
:anuary ,) %&'5) that the U.S. decide immediately to employ combat forces in !ndochina
on the "reasonable assurance of strong indigenous support of our forces)" whether or not
the *rench Government approved. But 4ice #dmiral #. <. ;avis) ;irector of the Bffice
of *oreign 8ilitary #ffairs in BS;) wrote3
...!nvolvement of U.S. forces in the !ndochina war should be avoided at all practical
costs. !f) then) National Policy determines no other alternative) the U.S. should not be
self$duped into believing the possibility of partial involvement$$such as "Naval and #ir
units only." Bne cannot go over Niagara *alls in a barrel only slightly.
#dmiral ;avis then went on3
<omment3 !f it is determined desirable to introduce air and naval forces in combat in
!ndochina it is difficult to understand how involvement of ground forces could be
avoided. #ir strength sufficient to be of worth in such an effort would re?uire bases in
!ndochina of considerable magnitude. Protection of those bases and port facilities would
certainly re?uire U.S. ground force personnel) and the force once committed would need
ground combat units to support any threatened evacuation. !t must be understood that
there is no cheap way to fight a war) once committed.
8. 3S;> State and Defense Bie4s
The evident disparity between) on the one hand) our high strategic valuation of !ndochina)
and on the other) our unwillingness to reach a firm decision on the forces re?uired to
defend the area became the subDect of the NS<=s %-&th meeting on :anuary J) %&'5. #t
this meeting the <ouncil discussed NS< %-- on Southeast #sia) but it decided not to ta.e
up the Special #nne to NS< %-- which laid out a series of choices which might face the
United States if the *rench military position in !ndochina continued to deteriorate.
Nevertheless) the NS< at that time did ma.e some headway on the problem it had posed
for itself.
#ccording to summary notes ta.en of the meeting) State and ;efense were at
considerable variance on what should be done in either of two contingencies3
first) *rench abandonment of the struggle6 second) a *rench demand for substantial U.S.
forces +ground) sea) and air1. The State view considered the *rench position so critical
already as +in the rapporteur=s words1 to "force the U.S. to decide now to utili2e U.S.
forces in the fighting in Southeast #sia." The ;efense
representative refused to underwrite U.S. involvement. >e reportedly stated that the
*rench could win by the spring of %&'' given U.S. aid and given "improved *rench
political relations with the 4ietnamese . . . The commitment of U.S. forces in a =civil war=
in !ndochina will be an admission of the ban.ruptcy of our political policies re Southeast
#sia and *rance and should be resorted to only in etremity." >e urged that every step be
ta.en to avoid a direct #merican commitment.
The <ouncil meeting reached two important conclusions) both fully in .eeping with the
;efense position. *irst) it decided that a discussion of contingencies for U.S. involvement
missed the essential point that the *rench were capable of winning provided they gained
native political and military cooperation. Second) NS< %-- was) as ;efense suggested)
inade?uate in that the study failed to come to grips with the fact that eventual success in
!ndochina depended upon *rench ability to solve the problem of how to obtain
4ietnamese support for the war effort.
3. The F;S Bie4
The NS< meeting of :anuary J still left open the ?uestion of U.S. action in the event
troops were indisputably necessary to prevent the "loss" of !ndochina. !n this regard) the
:oint <hiefs of Staff .ept their options open. The <hiefs thought that the Navarre Plan
was fundamentally sound) but was being steadily undercut by the gulf separating the
*rench from the 4ietnamese) by General Navarre=s failure to implement U.S.
recommendations) and by hesitancy in Paris over the necessary political concessions to
the Bao ;ai government. Cet :<S refused either to rule out the use of U.S. combat forces
or to bac. une?uivocally their employment.
-. Formation of Speial /or0ing :roup on !ndohina
;issatisfaction with NS< %-- and the NS<=s subse?uent failure in NS< '5(' to resolve
the ground force commitment issue led to the formation of a wor.ing group to evaluate
the *rench military effort) to ma.e recommendations concerning future U.S.
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 wor.ing group) under the
chairmanship of General G. B. @rs.ine +US8<) 0et.1) was composed of representatives
from the ;epartments of State and ;efense) the :oint <hiefs) and <!#. The group was
responsible to NS< through General ". Bedell Smith) Under Secretary of State) who had
been appointed by the <ouncil to head the Special <ommittee on the U.S. and !ndochina.
.. The Ers0ine 2eport& Part !> Moti'ate the Frenh
The first section of @rs.ine=s two$part report) dated *ebruary ,) %&'5) was based on the
assumption that U.S. policy toward !ndochina would not re?uire resort to overt combat
operations by U.S. forces. "ithin that framewor.) the report adhered closely to the
;efense ;epartment position that the *rench) if properly motivated) could win in
!ndochina) but that their failure to carry through on needed reforms would re?uire U.S.
consideration of active involvement. The report noted that3
There is in !ndo$<hina) or programmed for !ndo$<hina . . . ) a sufficient amount of
e?uipment and supplies and a potential manpower pooi sufficient eventually to defeat the
<ommunists decisively if properly utili2ed 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 <ommunist domination and the willingness of the *rench both to ta.e the
measures to stimulate that inspiration and to more fully utili2e the native potential.
The @rs.ine 0eport +Part !1 recommended3 +%1 augmentation of the *rench air force) but
not using #merican personnel6 +71 additional U.S. military assistance support of Q%75
million +supplementing *C %&'5 commitments of Q%.%%' billion16 +91 elevation of
8##G=s status to that of 8ilitary 8ission) with epanded personnel and advisory
authority over training and planning6 +51 assignment of additional U.S. personnel with the
mission of acting as instructors and performing other .ey duties within the *rench forces6
+'1 Presidential letters to the >eads of State of the #ssociated States reaffirming our
support of their independence and eplaining our motivations in assisting them through
the *rench6 +,1 an effort be underta.en to persuade Bao ;ai to ta.e a more active part in
the anti$4iet 8inh struggle. The report concluded that the program of recommended
changes could bring about victory over the 4iet 8inh if it received full *rench approval
and barring <hinese intervention.
A. The Ers0ine 2eport& Part !!> !nter'ention 6nly #fter :ene'aG
The second part of the @rs.ine 0eport F;oc. 75G did not appear until 8arch %-) %&'5) and
unli.e the first) was the responsibility only of the ;efense ;epartment and the :oint
<hiefs) with the State ;epartment position "reserved." The report confirmed previous
determinations that the loss of !ndochina would be a maDor military and political setbac.
for the United States. !t recommended that prior to the start of the Geneva <onference)
the U.S. should inform Britain and *rance that it was interested only in military victory in
!ndochina and would not associate ourselves with any settlement which falls short of that
obDective. !t further recommended that in the event of an unsatisfactory outcome at
Geneva) the U.S. should pursue ways of continuing the struggle in concert with the
#ssociated States) the United Aingdom) and other allies. The National Security <ouncil
was therefore re?uested to determine the etent of #merican willingness to commit
combat forces to the region with or without *rench cooperation. But with the ;ien Bien
Phu siege Dust beginning) and the Geneva <onference si wee.s away) the @rs.ine 0eport
suggested that the United States influence and observe developments at the Geneva
<onference before deciding on active involvement.
$. 3S; 1$$ #nneC 2aises !nter'ention =uestion #ne4
*ollowing the second part of the @rs.ine 0eport) the President evidently decided that the
Special #nne to NS< %--) which had been withdrawn in :anuary %&'5) should be
redistributed for consideration by the <ouncil=s Planning Board. The #nne to NS< %--
posed the fundamental choice between +a1 acceptance of the loss of !ndochina) which
would be followed by U.S. efforts to prevent further deterioration of our security position
in Southeast #sia) or +b1 direct military action to save !ndochina before the *rench and
4ietnamese became committed to an unacceptable political settlement at Geneva.
#mong the alternative courses of action outlined in the #nne) two in particular$both
geared to direct U.S. action prior to a Geneva settlement$were discussed. Under the first)
based on *rench consent to continue fighting) the U.S. was urged to +%1 see. a *ranco$
4ietnamese settlement of the independence issue) +71 insist upon a build$up of indigenous
forces with U.S. advisory and material support) +91 demand the maintenance of *rench
forces in the field at their then present level) and +51 prepare to provide sufficient U.S.
forces to ma.e possible the success of a Doint effort. *ull internationali2ation of the war
would be discussed with the *rench later) thereby discounting immediate action in
concert with the British or #sian nations.
The second alternative assumed a *rench pull$out. !n such a case the United States could
either accept the loss of !ndochina) or adopt an active policy while *rance gradually
withdrew its troops. Should we accept the latter course) our "most positive" step offering
"the greatest assurance of success" would be) NS< estimated) to Doin with indigenous
forces in combatting the 4iet 8inh until they were reduced "to the status of scattered
guerrilla bands." U.S. land) sea) and air forces would be involved.
The #nne was based upon assumptions that U.S. involvement against the 4iet 8inh
would not provo.e massive <hinese intervention) would not lead to direct Soviet
involvement) and that there would be no resumption of hostilities in Aorea. !t
ac.nowledged that any change in these assumptions would seriously Deopardi2e the
success of the alternatives proposed. !n particular) it noted that U.S. participation
heightened the ris. of <hinese intervention) and <hinese entry would alter radically both
the immediate military situation and U.S. force re?uirements.
9. #rmy =uestions Feasi@ility of #ir-3a'al inter'ention and 6utlines :round Fores
2e+uirements
The principal result of the discussions on the NS< %-- Special #nne was to bring into
the open the issue of the costs in manpower and materiel of a U.S. involvement. The
#rmy was critical of contingency planning that was based on the assumption that U.S. air
and naval forces could be used in !ndochina without the commitment of ground combat
forces. General 8atthew B. 0idgway) #rmy <hief of Staff) later wrote in his 8emoirs
that he was ?uite disturbed at tal. in high government circles about employing air$naval
power alone in !ndochina. #n #rmy position paper F;oc. 9%G submitted to the NS< in the
first wee. of #pril) %&'5) argued as follows3
%. U.S. intervention with combat forces in !ndochina is not militarily desirable...
7. # victory in !ndochina cannot be assured by U.S. intervention with air and naval forces
alone.
9. The use of atomic weapons in !ndochina would not reduce the number of ground
forces re?uired to achieve a victory in !ndochina.
5. Seven U.S. divisions or their e?uivalent) with appropriate naval and air support) would
be re?uired to win a victory in !ndochina if the *rench withdraw and the <hinese
<ommunists do not intervene. >owever) U.S. intervention plans cannot be based on the
assumption that the <hinese <ommunists will not intervene.
'. The e?uivalent of %7 U.S. divisions would be re?uired to win a victory in !ndochina) if
the *rench withdraw and the <hinese <ommunists intervene.
,. The e?uivalent of - U.S. divisions would be re?uired to win a victory in !ndochina if
the *rench remain and the <hinese <ommunists intervene.
-. 0e?uirements for air and naval support for ground force operations are3
a. *ive hundred fighter$bomber sorties per day eclusive of interdiction and counter$air
operations.
b. #n airlift capability of a one division drop.
c. # division amphibious lift.
J. Two U.S. divisions can be placed in !ndochina in 9( days) and an additional '
divisions in the following %7( days. This could be accomplished without reducing U.S.
ground strength in the *ar @ast to an unacceptable degree) but the U.S. ability to meet its
N#TB commitment would be seriously affected for a considerable period. The amount of
time re?uired to place %7 divisions in !ndochina would depend upon the industrial and
personnel mobili2ation measures ta.en by the government .
,. Defense-F;S ?Solution?> 2etify Frenh Defiienies
*aced with estimates that U.S. air$naval action could not turn the tide) and that U.S.
ground forces of appropriate si2e would impinge upon other commitments) ;o; and the
:<S too. the position that an alternative military solution eisted within the reach of the
*rench which re?uired no U.S. intervention. ;o; argued that the three reasons for
*rance=s deteriorating position were +%1 lac. of the will to win6 +71 reluctance to meet
!ndochinese demands for true independence6 +91 refusal to train indigenous personnel for
military leadership. ;efense believed that premature U.S. involvement would therefore
beg the basic ?uestion of whether the U.S. was prepared to apply the strongest pressure
on *rance) primarily in the @uropean contet) to attempt to force the *rench in Paris and
in !ndochina to ta.e appropriate measures to rectify these deficiencies. Bnly if these
measures were forthcoming) ;o; held) should the U.S. seriously consider committing
ground forces in defense of the interests of *rance and the #ssociated States. The net
effect of the ;efense$:<S position was to challenge the notion that a ?uic. U.S. military
action in !ndochina would be either feasible or necessary.
;. T)E 3E/ #PP26#;)> ?73!TED #;T!63?
#t this Duncture the @isenhower #dministration began giving serious consideration to
broadening any #merican military intervention in !ndochina by ma.ing it part of a
collective venture along with its @uropean and #sian allies. Secretary of State ;ulles in a
speech on 8arch 7& warned the public of the alarming situation in !ndochina and called
for "united action"$$without defining it further$$in these words3
Under the conditions of today) the imposition on Southeast #sia of the political system of
<ommunist 0ussia and its <hinese <ommunist 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 ris.s. But these ris.s are far less than those that will face us a few years from now
if we dare not be resolute today.
Under Secretary of State ". Bedell Smith=s Special <ommittee on the U.S. and
!ndochina) to which the @rs.ine wor.ing group had reported) issued a study on #pril 7.
This report went beyond the ?uestion of holding !ndochina and agreed that whatever that
area=s fate) the U.S. should begin developing a system of mutual defense for Southeast
#sia. *or the short term) the Smith <ommittee favored #merican sponsorship of a mutual
defense treaty directed against <ommunist aggression in !ndochina and Thailand. !n the
long run) it recommended promotion of a "regional and #sian mutual defense
arrangement subscribed and underwritten by the maDor @uropean powers with interests in
the Pacific."
The State ;epartment=s thin.ing in early #pril %&'5 was not greatly at variance from that
of ;efense and the Smith <ommittee. Perhaps more so than ;efense) State was
concerned about the <hinese reaction to a U.S. military intervention. !t urged caution and
suggested that in any type of "united action" the U.S. ma.e clear to both the <hinese and
the allies that the intervention would not be aimed at the overthrow or destruction of the
Pe.ing regime. State recommended3 +%1 no U.S. military intervention for the moment) nor
should it be promised to the *rench6 +71 planning for military intervention continue6 +91
discussions with potential allies on possibility of forming a regional grouping in the event
of an unacceptable settlement at Geneva.
1. Presidential Deision to Support 6nly ?7nited #tion?
8eanwhile) the President decided) following a meeting of Secretary ;uiles and #dmiral
0adford) <hairman of the :oint <hiefs) with <ongressional leaders on #pril 9) that the
U.S. would not underta.e a unilateral intervention. #ny U.S. military involvement in
!ndochina would be contingent upon +%1 formation of a coalition force with U.S. allies to
pursue "united action"6 +71 declaration of *rench intent to accelerate independence of
#ssociated States6 +91 <ongressional approval of U.S. involvement +which was throught
to be dependent upon +%1 and +711.
These policy guidelines undoubtedly influenced the NS< which) at a meeting on #pril ,)
developed the somewhat incompatible obDectives that the U.S. +a1 "intervene if necessary
to avoid the loss of !ndochina) but advocate that no steps be left unta.en to get the *rench
to achieve a successful conclusion of the war on their own" and +b1 support as the best
alternative to U.S. intervention a regional grouping with maimum #sian participation.
The President accepted the NS< recommendations but decided that henceforth the
#dministration=s primary efforts would be devoted toward3 +%1 organi2ing regional
collective defense against <ommunist epansion6 +71 gaining British support for U.S.
obDectives in Southeast #sia6 +91 pressing *rance to accelerate its timetable for
!ndochinese independence. The President would see. <ongressional approval for U.S.
participation in a regional arrangement) if it could be put together) and meanwhile
contingency planning for mobili2ation would commence.
8. 2eHetion of 7nilateral !nter'ention
Thus) as the curtain began to fall on the *rench effort at ;ien Bien Phu) and the ?uestion
of what the U.S. would do became critical) the U.S. Government bac.ed away from
unilateral intervention. The ;efense ;epartment was reluctant to intervene following the
#rmy=s presentation of the view that air$naval action alone would not do the Dob and
ground forces would be needed. The very recent eperience of the Aorean "ar mitigated
strongly against another #merican involvement in an #sian land war. *urthermore) the
President was not willing to enter into such a venture unless it was cloa.ed with
<ongressional approval. Such approval) in turn) depended upon the participation of the
allies. >ence) Secretary ;ulles undertoo. the tas. of persuading Britain) *rance and the
#sian allies to participate in a coalition for "united action" in !ndochina.
4. T>@ #TT@8PT TB B0G#N!L@ "UN!T@; #<T!BN"
#. T)E 5E2"!3 ;63FE2E3;E 6F 1,.-
Negotiations for a political settlement of the *rench$4iet 8inh war were practically
assured when it was decided at the Big *our meeting in Berlin in *ebruary %&'5 that the
!ndochina ?uestion would be added to the agenda of an upcoming international
conference at Geneva which was to discuss primarily a settlement of the Aorean "ar.
The period between the Berlin and Geneva conferences +i.e.) between *ebruary and 8ay
%&'51 unepectedly witnessed a denouement of the !ndochina drama with the siege and
fall of ;ien Bien Phu) 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."
1. Biet Minh Strategy and Frenh #ttitudes
The half$year before the Berlin *oreign 8inisters conference of *ebruary %&'5 saw both
a mar.ed step up of 4iet 8inh military activity and the presentation of a peace feeler
from >o <hi 8inh. The 4ietnam Peoples #rmy +4P#1 began to change its strategy
against the *rench from guerrilla activities to conventional battle deployments. This was
accompanied by an increase in the amount of <hinese military assistance) no doubt
facilitated by the end of armed conflict in Aorea. Thus) the 4iet 8inh appeared to be
showing a newly found strength and confidence) although at the time the *rench refused
to recogni2e this either publicly or to themselves.
8eanwhile) >o <hi 8inh put out a peace feeler in late November %&'9 in reply to a
?uestionnaire submitted by a correspondent for the Swedish newspaper ECpressen. The
one pre$condition set by >o for negotiations was *rench recognition of 4ietnamese
independence. !n subse?uent wee.s) the peace feeler was repeated on several occasions)
but each time it failed to indicate the place at which tal.s might be held) nor did it
propose a scope for the tal.s.
Nothing resulted directly from these peace feelers) but indirectly they added to the
mounting public and political sentiment in *rance for an end to the seemmgly
interminable and costly war. The armistice agreement negotiated at PanmunDom in :uly
%&'9 served as an eample which many *renchmen hoped could be followed in the
negotiation of a cease$fire with the ;0y. # widespread disenchantment with the
!ndochina war pervaded *rance. This was reflected in public statements by Prime
8inister /aniel that Paris would be satisfied with an "honorable solution" to the war.
The *rench then adopted a policy toward the war of ".eep fighting$see. tal.ing." There
was an increase in *rench military activity and confidence stimulated by the Navarre
Plan) but this was offset by a growth in the si2e and influence of the peace faction in
*rance) as indicated by the "dovish" votes of the National #ssembly favoring an early
settlement of the protracted war. Premier /aniel and *rench officials told the U.S.
@mbassy that they considered the >o <hi 8inh offer pure propaganda) but said also that
>o=s move had produced the intended impact on public and military circles in *rance and
!ndochina. /aniel mentioned that President 4incent #uriol had become so ecited by
>o=s proposal that he told /aniel "to consult representatives of three #ssociated States
immediately with view to see.ing earliest possible opening of negotiations with
representatives of >o <hi 8inh. /aniel had flatly refused . . ." But #merican officials
were s.eptical. The U.S. @mbassy reported that a /aniel speech of November 75) %&'9)
"left considerable latitude for negotiations)" and that >o=s offers had increased the
pressure for a settlement.
8. Early 7.S. 6pposition to 3egotiations
The consistent U.S. policy was to attempt to steer the *rench clear of the negotiating
table pending substantial military gains on the battlefield. !n bilateral U.S.$*rench tal.s in
:uly) %&'9) while the Aorean armistice was being discussed at PanmunDom) *oreign
8inister Bidault told Secretary ;ulles that parallel tal.s should be pursued on !ndochina.
Bidault eplained that the *rench public would never understand why negotiations were
fit and honorable for Aorea but were not for !ndochina. # cease$fire in Aorea) with
nothing similar in prospect for !ndochina) would ma.e his government=s position
"absolutely impossible."
Secretary ;ulles in reply stressed that "negotiations with no other alternative usually end
in capitulation." !n the Aorean case) ;ulles said) the alternative was the U.S. threat of
"other and unpleasant measures" which the <ommunists reali2ed we possessed. >e urged
the *rench to adopt the Navarre Plan) not only for military reasons) but because it would
improve the *rench negotiating position. ;ulles made it clear that the U.S. felt it was
inadvisable to have the !ndochina war inscribed on the agenda of a post$armistice
political conference on Aorea. The U.S. position at this time foreclosed negotiating on
!ndochina until after a <hinese decision to eliminate or cut down aid to the 4iet 8inh. !n
general) the U.S. sought to convince the *rench that military victory was the only
guarantee of diplomatic success.
;ulles wished the *rench to continue the war because of his deep conviction that
!ndochina was a principal lin. in the line of the containment of <ommunism. !n addition)
"ashington was undoubtedly influenced by optimistic reports on the progress of the war.
General B=;aniel reported from Saigon that a *rench victory was li.ely if U.S. material
support was forthcoming. Bn *ebruary ,) %&'5) it was announced that forty B$7,
bombers and 7(( U.S. technicians to service them would be sent to !ndochina. #dmiral
0adford told a >ouse *oreign 0elations Subcommittee) a month before the siege of ;ien
Bien Phu began +8arch) %&'51) 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."
#t the Berlin Kuadripartite *oreign 8inisters meeting in *ebruary) however) Secretary
;ulles was forced to give in on the *rench demand that !ndochina be placed on the
Geneva agenda. Bidault pressured the U.S. by threatening to scuttle the proDect for the
@uropean ;efense <ommunity which then was at the top ofo U.S. priorities. ;ulles could
not bloc. Paris= determination to discuss !ndochina at Geneva for it was) in the last
analysis) *rance=s war. >e must have reali2ed that the /aniel 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 <ommunist
<hina the status of a sponsoring power) and successfully held out) furthermore) for the
inclusion in the Berlin communi?uV of a statement that no diplomatic recognition) not
already accorded) would be implied either in the invitation to) or the holding of) the
Geneva <onference.
5. T)E E"< M!SS!63 (M#2;) 81-8-)
1. Dien 5ien Phu 5egins
Bn 8arch %9) %&'5) the 4P#) under the direct command of General Giap) began its
assault upon ;ien Bien Phu. This fortress in Northern 4ietnam was to ta.e on a political
and psychological importance far out of proportion to its actual strategic value because of
the upcoming Geneva <onference. The 4iet 8inh correctly foresaw that a show of
decisive force) not to mention a victory) would mar.edly strengthen their hand at the
conference. *urther) a defeat of the *rench Union forces would sap the will of the *rench
nation to continue the struggle. The 4iet 8inh were greatly helped by a substantial
increase in the level of <hinese military aid including artillery and radar. #s the battle
developed) the optimism which had pervaded "ashington statements) public and private)
on the war was replaced with the conviction that unless new steps were ta.en to deal with
<hinese aid) the *rench were bound to go under.
General Paul @ly) *rench <hief of Staff) arrived in "ashington on 8arch 7( to confer
with U.S. officials on the war situation. @ly=s principal aims were to obtain #merican
assurance of air intervention in the event of <hinese aerial attac.) and to obtain further
U.S. material assistance) especially B$7, bombers. ;ulles told @ly that he could not then
answer regarding U.S. response to <hinese air intervention. @ly subse?uently contended
in his 8Vmoires that he received a promise from #dmiral 0adford) <hairman of the :oint
<hiefs of Staff) to push for prompt #merican approval of interdiction should the
contingency arise. #s to the supply of bombers) twenty$five additional B$7,=s were
promised.
8. 6peration Bulture (Bautour)
#ccording to subse?uent *rench reports) General @ly was as.ed to stay 75 hours longer
than planned in "ashington) during which time #dmiral 0adford made an informal but
maDor proposal to him. 0adford is said to have suggested a nighttime raid against the
perimeter of ;ien Bien Phu by aircraft of the U.S. #ir *orce and U.S. Navy. The plan)
named Bperation 4ulture) called for about sity B$7&=s to ta.e off from <lar. *ield near
8anila) under escort of %'( fighters of the U.S. Seventh *leet) to conduct a massive
stri.e against 4P# positions on the perimeter of ;ien Bien Phu.
Bperation 4ulture) according to *rench sources) was conceived by a Doint #merican$
*rench military staff in Saigon. !t is admitted to have been an informal proposal which
had not as yet received full U.S. Government bac.ing as policy. No record of Bperation
4ulture has been found in files eamined. !n an interview in %&,') #dmiral 0adford
stated that no plans for "Bperation 4ulture" eisted) since planning to aid ;ien Bien Phu
by an air stri.e never proceeded beyond the conceptual stage. Nevertheless) such an
operation probably was the subDect of informal discussions both in 4ietnam) and between
0adford and @ly.
;. ?73!TED #;T!63? #S #3 #"TE23#T!BE T6 E!T)E2 3E:6T!#T!63S 62 T6
73!"#TE2#" 7.S. !3TE2BE3T!63
1. Formulation of 7.S. Poliy
By late 8arch the internal debate within the @isenhower #dministration had reached the
point where it was recogni2ed that3 +a1 unilateral U.S. intervention in the !ndochina "ar
would not be effective without ground forces6 +b1 the involvement of U.S. ground forces
was logistically and politically undesirable6 +c1 preferably) "free world" intervention in
!ndochina to save the area from communism would ta.e the form of a collective
operation by allied forces. This was the import of the NS< deliberations) the 0idgway
0eport) the 0eport of Under Secretary of State ". Bedell Smith=s Special <ommittee on
the U.S. and !ndochina) and President @isenhower=s general train of thought.
#ccordingly) Secretary ;ulles in his discussions with General @ly went beyond the
?uestion of immediate assistance to the *rench garrison at ;ien Bien Phu and broached
the possible establishment of a regional defense arrangement for Southeast #sia.
This proposal was given public eposure in Secretary ;ulles= speech of 8arch 7& before
the Bverseas Press <lub. ;ulles described the importance of resisting communist
aggression in !ndochina in these words3
!f the <ommunist forces were to win uncontested control over !ndo$<hina or any
substantial part thereof) they would surely resume the same pattern of aggression against
the other free peoples in that area.
The propagandists of 0ed <hina and of Soviet 0ussia ma.e it perfectly apparent that the
purpose is to dominate all of Southeast #sia.
Now Southeast #sia is an important part of the world. !t is the so$called "rice bowl" . . . !t
is an area that is rich in many raw materials...
#nd in addition to these tremendous economic values) the area has great strategic value . .
. <ommunist control of Southeast #sia would carry a grave threat to the Philippines)
#ustralia and New Lealand . . . The entire western Pacific area) including the so$called
"offshore island chain)" would be strategically endangered.
>e then went on call for "united action)" and after noting <hinese assistance to the 4iet
8inh) 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."
!n the following wee.s the aim of U.S. diplomacy was to escure allied agreement to a
collective defense pact consisting of ten nations3 the U.S.) *rance) Britain) #ustralia) New
Lealand) Philippines) Thailand) and the three #ssociated States. Secretary ;ulles
presented his proposal in discussions with British #mbassador Sir 0oger 8a.ins and
*rench #mbassador >enri Bonnet. President @isenhower addressed a personal message
to Prime 8inister <hurchill eplaining the proposed coalition. The President noted that3
Geneva is less than four wee.s away. There the possibility of the <ommunists driving a
wedge between us will) given the state of mind in *rance)
be infinitely greater than at Berlin. ! can understand the very natural desire of the *rench
to see. an end to this war which has been bleeding them for eight years. But our
painsta.ing search for a way out of the impasse has reluctantly forced us to the
conclusion that there is no negotiated solution of the !ndochina problem which in its
essence would not be either a face$saving device to cover a *rench surrender or a face$
saving device to cover a <ommunist 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 alternative.
President @isenhower went on to outline the need for a coalition willing to fight the
<ommunists) if this proved necessary. >e concluded with a historical ?uestion certain to
appeal to <hurchill3
!f ! may refer again to history6 we failed to halt >irohito) 8ussolini and >itler by not
acting in unit and in time. That mar.ed the beginning of many years of star. tragedy and
desperate peril. 8ay it not be that our nations have learned something from that lessonN .
!n these discussions the United States sought generally to stiffen the will of the free
nations in the !ndochina crisis. !t emphasi2ed both the avowed intention of *rance to
grant real independence to the #ssociated States) and the condition accepted by the
*rench at Berlin for the United States= agreeing to discuss !ndochina at Geneva. That
condition was that *rance would not agree to any arrangement which would directly or
indirectly result in the turnover of !ndochina to the <ommunists. The United States
sought solid support for this position) especially from the United Aingdom) #ustralia) and
New Lealand. #lthough the possibility was held out of future involvement of the United
Nations in the !ndochina problem) there was no thought of immediate UN
action.
8. !nitial #llied 2eation to ?7nited #tion?
Thailand and the Philippines gave a favorable response to the call for united action. The
British response was one of caution and hesitancy. <hurchill accepted @isenhower=s
suggestion that Secretary ;ulles go to /ondon for further tal.s) but the British saw
dangers in pressing for a defensive coalition before the Geneva conference. @den was
determined not to be "hustled into inDudicious military decisions." #s @den later wrote3
! welcomed the #merican proposal for the organi2ation of collective defence in South$
@ast #sia) since this would contribute to the security of 8alaya and >ong Aong and
would remove the anomaly of our eclusion from the #.N.L.U.S. Pact) to which the
United States) #ustralia and New Lealand were party. But ! felt that to form and proclaim
a defensive coalition) before we went to the conference table) would be unli.ely to help
us militarily and would harm us politically) by frightening off important potential allies.
By the beginning of 8ay) the rains would be starting in !ndo$<hina and etensive
campaigning by either side would be impossible for several months. Since the complete
collapse of the *rench military effort before then was improbable) ! did not thin. that
concern for the immediate military situation should be the guiding factor in our policy.
3. Frenh ;all for 7.S. !nter'ention at Dien 5ien Phu (#pril --.)
The *rench response to the proposal for united action was overta.en by military events at
;ien Bien Phu. *oreign 8inister Bidault contended on #pril ' that the time for a
coalition approach had passed and that the fate of ;ien Bien Phu would be decided in the
net ten days. The previous day #mbassador ;ouglas ;illon was called to an emergency
Sunday cabinet meeting and was informed by Bidault) in the company of /aniel) that
"immediate armed intervention of U.S. carrier aircraft at ;ien Bien Phu is now necessary
to save the situation." Bidault) reporting Navarre=s desperate state in the field and the
etent of <hinese intervention in support of General Giap=s forces) as.ed the #mbassador
point$blan. for U.S. action) saying that "the fate of Southeast #sia now rested on ;ien
Bien Phu)" and that "Geneva would be won or lost depending on outcome" of the battle.
The United States was now being called upon to act ?uic.ly and unilaterally to save a
local situation) rather than) as ;ulles desired) in concert with #sian and "estern #llies.
-. 7.S. Deision 3ot to !nter'ene 7nilaterally
!n the first wee. of #pril it became clear that the ?uestion of U.S. intervention was now
crucial. *ighting at ;ien Bien Phu reached maDor proportions as <hinese$supplied
artillery pounded the *rench and drove them bac.wards. "ithout an early intervention by
an eternal power) or group of powers) the *rench position at ;ien Bien Phu was li.ely to
be overrun. !n anticipation of the *rench re?uest for intervention) the @isenhower
#dministration decided to consult with <ongressional leaders. The President appears to
have thought that <ongressional support was vital for whatever active role the U.S. might
now ta.e in !ndochina.
#vailable Government documents do not provide details of the two meetings to be
described below. >owever) on the basis of seemingly reliable published sources) it
appears that on #pril 9 Secretary ;ulles and #dmiral 0adford met with eight
<ongressmen +three 0epublicans and five ;emocrats1 at the State ;epartment. 0adford
apparently outlined a plan for an air stri.e on the 4ietnam People=s #rmy +4P#1 at ;ien
Bien Phu using 7(( planes from the aircraft carriers @sse and Boer) stationed on
maneuvers in the South <hina Sea. #n unsuccessful air stri.e might need to be followed
by a second air stri.e) but ground forces were not envisaged at this stage. !t 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 ;ien Bien Phu or elsewhere in !ndochina. !n the event of a
massive <hinese troop intervention) however) it is ?uite possible that the U.S. would have
retaliated with strategic nuclear weapons against targets in <hina.
The <ongressional leaders raised ?uestions about the amount of allied support for such an
action) about the position of the other :oint <hiefs) about the need for ground forces if a
second air stri.e also failed) and about the danger of a mammoth <hinese intervention
which could transform !ndochina into another Aorean$type war. 0adford apparently was
forced to admit that he was the only one of the :oint <hiefs who favored the intervention
plan. ;ulles conceded that the allies had not as yet been consulted. !n conse?uence)
;ulles) who had been thin.ing of a Doint <ongressional resolution authori2ing
Presidential use of U.S. air$naval power in !ndochina +which it is alleged he had ready in
his poc.et1 left the meeting without the vital support he needed. The <ongressional
leaders laid down three conditions necessary for their support3 +a1 formation of an allied
"coalition"$type force6 +b1 a *rench declaration indicating an intent to accelerate
independence for the #ssociated States6 +c1 *rench agreement to continue their
@peditionary <orps in !ndochina. Thus <ongressional opposition put the bra.e on a
possible unilateral U.S. intervention. #ccording to a subse?uent State ;epartment
Summary3
!t 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 #sia) and
that if such cooperation could be assured) it was probable that the U.S. <ongress would
authori2e U.S. participation in such "United #ction."
The following day) #pril 5) ;ulles and 0adford met with the President at the "hite
>ouse. The President reached the decision to intervene only upon the satisfaction of the
three conditions necessary for the U.S. "to commit belligerent acts" in !ndochina. There
would have to be a coalition "with active British <ommonwealth participation"6 a "full
political understanding with *rance and other countries)" and <ongressional approval.
President @isenhower clearly did not want the U.S. to intervene alone. >e also was very
concerned with having broad <ongressional support for any step which might involve the
U.S. in a war. #s Sherman #dams later observed3
>aving avoided one total war with 0ed <hina the year before in Aorea when he had
United Nations support) he F@isenhowerG was in no mood to provo.e another one in !ndo$
<hina by going it alone in a military action without the British and other "estern #llies.
>e was also determined not to become involved militarily in any foreign conflict without
the approval of <ongress. >e had had trouble enough convincing some Senators that it
was even necessary to send small groups of noncombatant #ir *orce technicians to !ndo$
<hina.
.. 5ritish 6ppose ?7nited #tion?
*rom #pril %% to %5) Secretary ;ulles visited /ondon and Paris to attempt to obtain
British and *rench commitments to support his proposal for "United #ction." #ccording
to President @isenhower) ;ulles felt that he had been given assurance of <ongressional
support for "United #ction" if the allies approved his plan.
;ulles found the British opposed to any type of collective military action prior to the
Geneva <onference. ;ulles eplained) according to @den=s account) that the U.S. had
concluded that the *rench could no longer deal with the situation in !ndochina) militarily
or politically) alone. !f the *rench position in !ndochina collapsed) the conse?uences in
the rest of Southeast #sia would be grave. U.S. air and naval forces were ready to
intervene and some aircraft carriers had already been moved from 8anila to the
!ndochina coast. Bn reflection) said ;ulles) 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 #sia defense organi2ation. This in itself would deter <hina from
further interference in !ndochina and would strengthen the western position at Geneva by
giving evidence of solidarity.
@den was not convinced. >e drew a distinction between the long term issue of collective
security in Southeast #sia$$which might well be guaranteed by treaty after Geneva$$and
the more immediate ?uestion of "united action" in !ndochina. >e was opposed to any
military action or warning announcement before Geneva. The British were willing to
provide the *rench with full diplomatic support at Geneva) either as a guarantor of the
final settlement or as a participant in multilateral tal.s if a settlement failed to
materiali2e. !n the latter case) the British were prepared to discuss a collective defense
formula that would comprehend any non$<ommunist portion of !ndochina 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 <onference was founded on serious doubts about the true import of united
action. #s ;ulles correctly Dudged) 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 ris. of <hinese intervention and possibility further epansion of war." @den
charged that action prior to the <onference would not only destroy chances for a peaceful
settlement) but would critically raise the ris. of a wider war. #merican planning admitted
the strong possibility of direct <hinese intervention) and his own intelligence staff had
concluded that "estern involvement would bring on the <hinese by land and air once the
4iet 8inh effort became "seriously endangered."
Thus) while ;ulles was angered at the way he felt the British were writing off !ndochina)
@den was highly pessimistic about ;ulles= militancy in an area of uncertain value for
which the United States had ambiguous) high$ris. plans. There was considerable
difference) in @den=s mind) between warnings to <ommunist <hina against direct
intervention before the fact +which the British went along with in mid$%&'91 and united
action) which would) despite any allied assurances to Pe.ing) be interpreted by the
<hinese as provocatory.
British suspicions) furthermore) were an etension of the belief that !ndochina need not
be entirely lost at Geneva in the absence of united action. /ondon was apparently pu22led
by #merican tal. of the "loss" of !ndochina) for to %( ;owning Street) "*rench cannot
lose the war between now F#pril %&'5G and the coming of the rainy season however
badly they may conduct it." F;oc. 9'G "hile ;ulles .ept telling the British that only
united action through the formation of a coalition could ensure against a complete
<ommunist diplomatic triumph at Geneva) @den was e?ually convinced that the best way
to assure continuation of the war would be united action) and that the *rench) even after
;ien Bien Phu) were still strong enough to prevent the <ommunists from gaining all
!ndochina.
@ven before ;ulles= #pril flight to /ondon to sound out the British on united action) the
<hurchill government was closely ?uestioning #merican evaluations of !ndochina. !n an
#pril % cable) for instance) ;ulles vented his disturbance at Britain=s refusal to accept the
view that the loss of !ndochina would ultimately affect their security interests in 8alaya)
#ustralia) and New Lealand. This was indeed the case) as ;ulles discovered for himself
once he tal.ed to @den in /ondon and later at Geneva. @den steadfastly refused to buy
;ulles= analogy between !ndochina and 8alaya) retorting that the situation in 8alaya was
"well in hand" while that in !ndochina was clearly not. #dmiral 0adford concluded in late
#pril from tal.s with the British chiefs of staff that the U.A. policy seemed "to be on a
very narrow basis strictly in terms of local U.A. interest without regard to other areas of
the *ar @ast such as :apan."
The British simply could not accept the domino principle even as they admitted Southeast
#sia=s security value to the free world. By the opening of the Geneva <onference) the
U.S.$U.A. relations had reached a low point3 ;ulles was insisting that the British were the
maDor roadbloc. to implementation of united action) while @den was clinging to the
notion that a negotiated settlement leading to partition would be the best outcome of an
impossibly comple politico$military situation in !ndochina.
A. Frenh 6ppose ?7nited #tion?
Secretary ;ulles fared little better in selling "united action" in Paris than he did in
/ondon) but for somewhat different reasons. The *rench were see.ing a ?uic. action to
avoid an imminent military defeat at ;ien Bien Phu. ;ulles) however) refused to be torn
from a collective allied approach to the !ndochina "ar. The *rench feared that a coalition
arrangement would lead to an internationali2ation of the war and ta.e control of it out of
their hands. They) therefore) only desired local assistance at ;ien Bien Phu along the
lines of Bperation 4ulture.
*urthermore) another obDection to "united action" from the *rench viewpoint was that it
would only delay or impede the very negotiations leading towards a settlement which the
*rench increasingly desired. The U.S. obDective was to .eep alive the *rench
determination to continue the war. ;uties feared that the *rench would use Geneva to
find a face$saving formula for a *rench surrender. Premier /aniel reaffirmed to ;ulles in
Paris that his government would ta.e no action which directly or indirectly turned
!ndochina over to the <ommunists. But he also called attention to the increasing desire on
the part of many in *rance to get out of !ndochina at any cost. The *rench stressed that it
was necessary to await the results of the Geneva <onference and that they could not give
the impression in advance that they believed Geneva would fail.
$. #@orted /or0ing :roup on ;olleti'e Defense in Southeast #sia (#pril 81)
!mmediately upon returning to "ashington on #pril %' Secretary ;ulles invited
representatives of the United Aingdom) *rance) the #ssociated States) #ustralia) New
Lealand) the Philippines) and Thailand to attend a meeting on the 7(th to set up an ad hoc
defense group for the Southeast #sia region. The delegates were to wor. on a draft for a
future organi2ation. The Secretary had been under the impression from his tal. in /ondon
with @den that the U.A.) while reDecting immediate "united action" in !ndochina) would
have no obDection to such a preliminary meeting.
Bn #pril %J) Dust two days before the scheduled meeting) the British #mbassador
informed ;ulles that there would be no British participation. The reasons3
no understanding on the part of the British *oreign Secretary that the wor.ing group
would go forward at once) and no agreement concerning membership. The ;epartment
epressed ama2ement) but in view of the British attitude the #pril 7( meeting was
transformed into a general briefing for the nations comprising the allied side at the
Geneva <onference. !n a later eplanation of the shift in British attitude) *oreign
Secretary @den said that in agreeing to informal wor.ing group tal.s he had overloo.ed
the pending <olombo <onference 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 <olombo discussions. !t is now clear that the British were restrained
by !ndia and by a fear that British attendance at the meeting would be construed as assent
to "united action." 8oreover) /ondon could not have been reassured by a "trial balloon"
speech of 4ice President Nion on #pril %- in which he suggested that the U.S. might
have to "ta.e the ris. by putting our boys in" in order to avoid "further <ommunist
epansion in #sia and !ndochina."
9. ;ontinued Frenh Prodding for 7.S. !nter'ention (#pril 81-8.)
!n preparation for the !ndochina phase of the Geneva <onference) tripartite discussions
+U.S.) U.A.) *rance1 too. place in Paris in mid$#pril. !n these discussions) the *rench
contended that a successful Geneva settlement was dependent on a favorable outcome of
the battle at ;ien Bien Phu and that their participation in a Southeast #sian coalition
might not be possible if ;ien Bien Phu fell. There could be no guarantee what position
*rance would ta.e in the event of a collapse at ;ien Bien Phu. The *rench argued that
only large$scale United States air and naval intervention could retrieve the situation in
!ndochina. They made no formal re?uest for intervention in the tripartite discussions) but
on several occasions suggested or implied to the #mericans that such action was
necessary.
Bn #pril 7%) 8arc :ac?uet) *rench Secretary of State for the #ssociated States) told the
#merican #mbassador to !ndochina) ;onald >eath) then in Paris) that no *rench military
authority still believed a victory was possible in !ndochina without United States air and
naval intervention) and that such action should be indicated after the impending failure of
the !ndochina phase of the Geneva <onference.
Bn #pril 77) *oreign 8inister Bidault) with General @ly) suggested to Secretary ;ulles
that there should be emergency consultation between General Navarre and #merican
military commanders in !ndochina. The *oreign 8inister indicated that) although he had
been opposed to internationali2ing the war) he would now favor it with United States
participation if that would save ;ien Bien Phu.
Bn #pril 79 the *rench Under Secretary of State) #ndrV Bougenot) in the presence of
Premier /aniel) suggested to ;ouglas 8ac#rthur !!) <ounselor of the ;epartment of
State) that the United States could commit its naval aircraft to the battle at ;ien Bien Phu
without ris.ing #merican prestige or committing an act of belligerency by placing such
aircraft) painted with *rench insignia and construed as part of the *rench *oreign /egion)
under nominal *rench command for an isolated action consisting of air stri.es lasting two
or three days.
Bn the same day *oreign 8inister Bidault showed the Secretary a message from General
Navarre in which the *rench commander said that the situation at ;ien Bien Phu was
desperate and that he believed that the only alternatives were +%1 Bperation 4#UTBU0)
massive B$7& bombing +which Secretary ;ulles understood would be a United States
operation from bases outside !ndochina1) or +71 a *rench Union re?uest for a cease$fire
+which the Secretary assumed would be at ;ien Bien Phu only) but which General
Navarre) as it turned out) meant should apply to all of !ndochina1.
D. F!3#" 7.S. P6S!T!63 5EF62E :E3EB#
1. EChanges 4ith the Frenh
The #merican response to these various suggestions was to reiterate to the *rench the
necessary preconditions for #merican intervention3 +%1 complete independence for the
#ssociated States6 +71 <ongressional authori2ation6 +91 a coalition that would include the
United Aingdom. !n relation to the need for a coalition) Secretary ;ulles in Paris and
Under Secretary ". Bedell Smith in "ashington suggested to *rench officials that
*rance) in the same way as it had as.ed for #merican air intervention in !ndochina)
should appeal for British intervention there.
Before leaving Paris for Geneva) Secretary ;ulles gave *oreign 8inister Bidault a letter
replying to General Navarre=s suggestion that United States air intervention at ;ien Bien
Phu was the sole alternative to a cease$fire. !n this letter) the Secretary stated again the
necessary preconditions for United States intervention) and contended that if ;ien Bien
Phu fell there was no reason that this should ma.e it necessary to plead for a cease$fire.
The *rench *oreign 8inister) in a letter limited to the military conse?uences of United
States intervention) replied that in the opinion of *rench military eperts "a massive
intervention of #merican aviation would still be able to save the garrison."
8. EChanges 4ith the 7.D.
!n the discussions with the British) meanwhile) the United States had tried both to induce
the United Aingdom to participate in a Doint #nglo$#merican air and naval intervention
at ;ien Bien Phu and to persuade the United Aingdom that the prompt organi2ation of a
collective defense in Southeast #sia was necessary to bolster the *rench in !ndochina.
But the British indicated that they would ma.e no commitment to intervene militarily in
!ndochina and wished to postpone conversations on collective defense arrangements until
after the Geneva <onference. *oreign Secretary @den told Secretary ;ulles on #pril 75
that the British did not want at this Duncture to intervene in the !ndochina "ar.
!mmediately afterward @den returned to /ondon for a special <abinet meeting on the
!ndochina crisis which was held on #pril 7'. Prime 8inister <hurchill reported to the
>ouse of <ommons two days later that the British Government was "not prepared to give
any underta.ings about United Aingdom military action in !ndochina in advance of the
results of Geneva)" and had "not entered into any new political or military commitments."
Before addressing the <ommons) <hurchill had reDected a plea from *rench #mbassador
0enV 8assigli) made on behalf of Premier /aniel) for a statement that Great Britain
would Doin the United States and *rance in defense of ;ien Bien Phu.
The United Aingdom was willing) however) to participate in early military discussions to
consider measures which might be ta.en in Southeast #sia if !ndochina were lost. #long
these lines) *oreign Secretary @den and Secretary ;ulles had discussed tentatively on
#pril 77 the possibility of a secret military appraisal$$by the United States) the United
Aingdom) #ustralia) New Lealand) and Thailand$$of what could be done to bolster
Thailand in the event of a *rench collapse in !ndochina. The *oreign Secretary had
returned to this proposition in another conversation with Secretary ;ulles the net day.
Bn #pril 9() indicating that the British were prepared to defend the area outside
!ndochina) and possibly the free part of a partitioned !ndochina) @den proposed to
Secretary ;ulles "an immediate and secret Doint eamination of the political and military
problems in creating a collective defense for Southeast #sia) namely3 +a1 nature and
purpose6 +b1 membership6 +c1 commitments." >e added that this eamination should also
cover immediate measures to strengthen Thailand.
Secretary ;ulles raised the ?uestion of early military tal.s that might strengthen the
*rench position at the Geneva <onference at a meeting in Geneva on 8ay 7 with the
*oreign 8inisters of #ustralia and New Lealand) partners of the United States in the
#NLUS organi2ation. The three agreed at this meeting that there should be five$power
military tal.s in "ashington among the #NLUS powers) the United Aingdom) and
*rance) with the possible participation of Thailand.
3. The /ashington Bie4point
!n "ashington in the meantime) the President on #pril 7,) the opening date of the
Geneva <onference) told a group of 0epublican leaders that it would be a "tragic error"
for the United States to intervene unilaterally as a partner of *rance in the !ndochina
struggle. Two days later) in a discussion with Under Secretary ". Bedell Smith)
Presidential #ssistant 0obert <utler) and #dmiral 0adford +who had Dust been to /ondon
and had tal.ed with the British <hiefs of Staff and Prime 8inister <hurchill1) the
President epressed disappointment over the British attitude of refraining from active
participation in discussions on a Southeast #sian collective security arrangement before
the end of the Geneva <onference. President @isenhower) in this discussion) reiterated his
firm decision that there would be no United States military intervention in !ndochina by
eecutive action. >e urged his aides to provide help to the *rench in repairing three
airfields in !ndochina but to avoid any undue ris. of involving the United States in
combat operations.
The feasibility of #merican intervention at ;ien Bien Phu was finally removed with the
fall of that fortress on 8ay -. President @isenhower sent messages to the President of
*rance) 0enV <oty) and to the <hief of State of 4ietnam) Bao ;ai) praising the defenders
of ;ien Bien Phu and stressing the determination of the free world to remain "faithful to
the causes for which they fought."
E. 2E#PP2#!S#" 6F D6M!36 T)E62< #FTE2 D!E3 5!E3 P)7
The fall of ;ien Bien Phu) and the failure to organi2e an intervention through "united
action" prior to the opening of the Geneva <onference in late #pril) %&'5) led to a
reappraisal of the "domino theory" which had been at the center of U.S. policy in
Southeast #sia since the late %&5(=s. The loss of Ton.in) or 4ietnam) or perhaps even all
of !ndochina) was no longer considered to lead ineorably to the loss to <ommunism of
all of Southeast #sia.
#ccordingly) Secretary ;ulles in a press conference on 8ay %% +four days after the
*rench surrender at ;ien Bien Phu1 observed that "Southeast #sia could be secured even
without perhaps 4ietnam) /aos and <ambodia." >e went on to note that although he
would not want to underestimate 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 consider the whole situation
hopeless and we would give up in despair . . ." !n a remar. at the press conference that
was later deleted from the official transcript) ;ulles said that /aos and <ambodia were
"important but by no means essential" because they were poor countries with meager
populations.
/ater) as the U.S. became reconciled to a political settlement at Geneva which would
yield northern 4ietnam to the >o <hi 8inh regime) the concept of "united action" was
given a new twist. !t now was transformed into an attempt to organi2e a long$range
collective defense alliance which would offset the setbac. in !ndochina and prevent
further losses. That long$feared setbac. was now perceived to be less serious than had
once been envisaged. The loss of Ton.in was no longer seen as leading necessarily to a
<ommunist ta.e$over of other territory between <hina and the #merican shore.
@ventually) in S@#TB) the U.S. sought to create an alliance which would be strong
enough to withstand the fall of one such domino.
The Pentagon Papers
Gravel @dition
4olume %) <hapter 9) "The Geneva <onference) 8ay$:uly) %&'5"
+Boston3 Beacon Press) %&-%1
Section %) pp. %(J$%5,
!. B#<AG0BUN; TB T>@ <BN*@0@N<@
Bn *ebruary %J) %&'5) a Doint communi?uV from Berlin issued by the United States)
Great Britain) the Soviet Union) and *rance announced that in late #pril the Big *our and
other parties concerned would meet at Geneva to see. a peaceful solution of the eight$
year$old war in !ndochina. Between those dates) the "estern allies engaged in a series of
discussions centered around #merican proposals for direct intervention) while the
<ommunist side$the USS0) <ommunist <hina +<P01) and the 4iet 8inh$wor.ed to
ensure that they would enter the forthcoming Geneva <onference ftom a position of
strength.
The @isenhower #dministration found as much difficulty in persuading *rance and Great
Britain that fundamental changes in the war were necessary before the start of the
conference as in accepting the notion of a negotiated solution in !ndochina. The troubles
with *rance had begun in mid$%&'9 when the U.S. Government gave its conditional
approval to the Navarre Plan) which provided for radically new *rench field tactics and a
buildup of the 4ietnamese National #rmy +4N#1. #merican hopes that assistance in
money and war materiel would elicit a *rench commitment to a program to attract native
!ndochinese into close military and political collaboration with the colonial governments)
especially in 4ietnam) were not fulfilled. Nor was *rance hospitable to #merican
suggestions for greater involvement of the 8ilitary #dvisory #ssistance Group +8##G1
in *rench planning. #s was to be the case almost throughout the !ndochina crisis) *rance
capitali2ed on #merican fears of National #ssembly reDection of the @uropean ;efense
<ommunity +@;<1 treaty and of a *rench pull$out from !ndochina to gain U.S. aid
without having to ma.e commensurate concessions on 4ietnamese independence or
tactical planning. #merican attempts to tie aid to such concessions were never followed
through) and whatever leverage on *rench policy$ma.ing in !ndochina the United States
possessed was left largely uneploited.
*or the most part) *rance=s reDection of #merican conditions and suggestions was based
on the /aniel government=s conviction) implemented 2ealously by *rench civil and
military authorities in !ndochina) that the United States would be intruding in *rance=s
domain. # policy of systematic restrictions on #merican officials in the field prevented
the United States from ma.ing independent evaluations of the war=s progress) with the
result that the Government was for many months badly informed and unwarrantedly
optimistic about the *rench Union army=s chances against the 4iet 8inh. !n late 8arch
and #pril %&'5) when it became clear to "ashington that the Navarre Plan had failed and
that +in Secretary of State ;ulles= words1 "united action" was necessary to prevent
!ndochina from falling to the <ommunists) the *rench revealed that their distrust of
#merican "interference" etended to any plans for overt #merican air$naval involvement.
The /aniel government was perfectly amenable to locali2ed #merican intervention at
;ienbienphu to save the besieged *rench army from disaster6 but it stood firmly opposed
to ;ulles= concept of collective +"estern$#sian1 defense in a security organi2ation that
would) if necessary) intervene to prevent the "loss" of !ndochina. *rance=s re?uests for
assistance at ;ienbienphu were entirely consistent with long$standing policy in Paris that
loo.ed to a negotiated settlement of the war on "honorable" terms at the same time as it
hoped to be in the best possible military position at the time negotiations began.
Bpposition to "united action" was no less stubborn in /ondon. The British) li.e the
*rench) were suspicious of #merican intentions in calling for that alternative) though for
different reasons. To the <hurchill government) the United States) even while
proclaiming a strong desire to avoid open conflict with <ommunist <hina) was tending
precisely in that direction by insisting on the formation of a collective security pact prior
to the start of the Geneva <onference. @isenhower=s letter to <hurchill on #pril 5) %&'5)
could only have reinforced those suspicions) for the President described united action as
an attempt to ma.e <hina stop supporting the 4iet 8inh rather than face the prospect of
large$scale allied involvement in 4ietnam. #lthough the British were not as.ed to ma.e
substantial ground troop commitments to a united action) they felt that their approval
would ultimately condone a widening of the war that would ris. bringing in the <hinese
who) the British argued) could not possibly be epected to cease assistance they had been
providing since %&'(. /ondon therefore told ;ulles it would not approve united action
and preferred to await the outcome of the negotiations before deciding whether the
!ndochina situation warranted resort to military alternatives. The British were perfectly
willing to tal. about regional defense in the *ar @ast) but only after the results were in on
the negotiations. Until then) they said) they would limit themselves to providing full
diplomatic support to the *rench in search of a peaceful solution.
;ifferences among the allies were therefore acute as the conference opened. The *rench
had cleverly eploited the #merican assistance program without having brought in the
#mericans in full force) yet had also been unable to save ;ienbienphu from being
overrun on 8ay -. The British were felt in "ashington to have been the primary obstacle
to united action6 they were accused of having been so blinded by their own self$interest in
other areas of Southeast #sia that they failed to appreciate the vast strategic importance
to the *ree "orld of saving !ndochina.
<ontrasting <ommunist unity on the eve of the conference was more a matter of Sino$
Soviet agreement on the desirability of negotiations than of complete accord among the
three parties. !n the aftermath of Stalin=s death) Soviet foreign policy under 8alen.ov had
altered considerably. ;omestic priorities no doubt influenced the regime=s proclaimed
hopes for a reduction in international tension. Pe.ing) more intimately involved in the
4iet 8inh cause) stepped up its assistance to General Giap=s forces between *ebruary and
#pril %&'5) but also agreed with 8oscow on the desirability of convening an
international conference) which <hina would attend) to end the fighting. The limited
available evidence suggests that the ;emocratic 0epublic of 4ietnam +;041 alone
among the three <ommunist parties considered the call for negotiations premature and
urged that they be preceded by intensified military efforts. >o=s much$publici2ed offer in
late November %&'9 to tal. with the *rench was intended more to influence *rench
domestic and official opinion and to demorali2e *ranco$4ietnamese troops than to evince
sincere interest in arriving at an e?uitable settlement. !n ensuing months) ;04 broadcasts
showed a far greater interest in first achieving a clear$cut military victory in the Ton.in
;elta and parts of /aos than in engaging in discussions while *rench forces remained
scattered throughout !ndochina.
These developments) in very broad outline) provided the bac.drop to the Geneva
<onference. Strength and wea.ness seemed to be the respective characteristics of the
<ommunist and "estern positions. Cet these terms are) as we shall see) not entirely
accurate) for the interaction between and within the two sides was to ma.e clear that the
Geneva <onference would not be the setting for a victor=s peace.
!!. T>@ <BN;U<T #N; ST0U<TU0@ B* ;!P/B8#<C
Bne of the first agreements reached at the Geneva <onference occurred in the course of a
conversation between 4. 8. 8olotov and #nthony @den on 8ay ') when the Soviet
foreign minister endorsed the foreign secretary=s assertion that this negotiation was the
most difficult he had ever encountered.Y !ndeed) it seems at first glance somewhat
paradoical that the !ndochina phase of the Geneva <onference +8ay J$:uly 7%1 should
have resulted in a settlement within less than a do2en wee.s) given the unusual
difficulties facing the negotiators on both sides. +See Table %1 Aey issues were postponed
until the eleventh hour while debate wore endlessly on over relatively insignificant
matters6 contact among the delegations was limited by ideological proDudices and
political antagonisms) forcing some delegates to act as mediators no less than as
representatives of national interests6 and maDor agreements were reached outside the
special framewor. for discussions that the conferees had ta.en a month to build.
Y # valuable source is #nthony @den) 8emoirs3 *ull <ircle) >oughton$8ifflin) Boston)
%&,(.
T#B/@ %
<>!@* N@GBT!#TB0S #T T>@ G@N@4# <BN*@0@N<@ BN !N;B<>!N#
United Aingdom
#nthony @den
United States
General "alter Bedell Smith
U. #leis :ohnson
<hinese People=s 0epublic
<hou @n$lai
<hang "en$t=ien
/i A=e$nung
4iet 8inh
Pham 4an ;ong
/aos
Phoui Sanani.one
USS0
4yacheslav 8olotov
*rance
Georges Bidault
:ean <hauvel
Pierre 8endZs$*rance
4ietnam
;ac Ahe
Tran 4an ;o
<ambodia
Tep Phan
Sam Sary
#. T>@ 0@P0@S@NT#T!BN KU@ST!BN
The first maDor roadbloc. in the negotiations was the <ommunist claims concerning the
representation of parties not present at the conference. Since the conference had already
begun when these claims were forwarded) the chances of epanding the list of invited
parties were very limited. Nevertheless) through fourteen restricted and seven plenary
sessions)Y bitter controversy raged over <ommunist insistence that the 4iet 8inh$led
*ree <ambodian +Ahmer !ssara.1 and *ree /aotian +Pathet /ao1 forces were entitled to
be seated beside representatives of the 0oyal Governments of <ambodia and /aos. Not
until :une %,) when Premier <hou @n$lai) <hina=s foreign minister and chief delegate)
indicated to @den that 4iet 8inh forces would be withdrawn from <ambodia and /aos)
was the debate resolved and the way opened for serious efforts to bring about cease$fires
throughout !ndochina.
The time$consuming echanges over the authenticity of <ommunist "resistance forces" in
/aos and <ambodia were) interestingly enough) not duplicated when it came to
determining the status of the ;04. The Berlin <onference final communi?uV had
specified that the !ndochina deliberations would be attended by the United States) Great
Britain) <ommunist <hina) the Soviet Union) *rance) "and other states concerned."
!nvitations to the participants would) it was further agreed) be issued only by the Berlin
conferees) i.e.) by the Big *our but not by Pe.ing. Cet) as 8olotov admitted at the first
plenary session +8ay J1) Pe.ing as well as 8oscow invited the ;0y) a move vigorously
assailed by *rance and the United States. F;oc. 5'G No attempt was made) however) to
bloc. the ;04=s participation. ;espite the antagonism of the 4ietnamese government
nominally headed by Bao ;ai) +Bao ;ai=s consistent position) supported by Ngo ;inh
;iem when he too. over the premiership on :une %J) was that his was the only legitimate
government in 4ietnam) while the 4iet 8inh were not political competitors but merely
armed rebels.1 the ;04 was generally considered one of the principal combatants whose
consent to a cease$fire) being indispensable) re?uired its participation. 8oreover) the
Soviet Union indicated to the *rench that it would not accept the presence of delegates
from the #ssociated States of !ndochina +4ietnam) <ambodia) and /aos1 unless the ;04
was admitted to the conference. By the time of ;ienbienphu=s fall +8ay -1) all parties
were agreed that there would be nine delegations +though not States1 discussing
!ndochina6 and on 8ay J the first session got underway.
Y !n all) the Geneva <onference comprised eight plenary and twenty$two restricted
sessions. These were ?uite apart from the *ranco$4iet 8inh military command
conferences held after :une 7) as well as from 4iet 8inh military staff tal.s with /aotian
and <ambodian representatives that begain in late :une. *inally) during the latter half of
the conference) *rench and 4iet 8inh delegation heads met secretly in so$called
"underground" negotiations) the results of which were closely held) at least by the *rench.
B. T>@ <B88UN!<#T!BN G#PS
Nine delegations seated at a roundtable to echange views) about every second day)
obscured the fact that true bargaining was not ta.ing place. Proposals were) of course)
tabled and debated6 but actual give$and$ta.e was reserved for private discussions) usually
in the absence of the pro$"estern !ndochinese parties. @ven then) the Geneva tal.s on
!ndochina were hardly dominated by Big Power cabais6 political and ideological
differences were so intense) particularly between the #merican and <hinese
representatives) that diplomacy had to be conducted circuitously) with @den and 8olotov
fre?uently acting as mediators and messengers for delegates unwilling to be found
together. +#s one eample of the #merican attitude) ;uties told reporters Dust prior to the
first session that the only way he could possibly meet with <hou @n$lai was if their cars
collided.1
#nthony @den) whose persistence in the face of adverse developments throughout the
conference was rewarded in the end) has provided this description of personal tribulation3
! was conscious that time was not on our side. Since neither the #mericans nor the
*rench had established any contacts with the <ommunist representatives Fin mid$:uneG) !
had been compelled to adopt the rote of intermediary between the "estern powers and
the <ommunists. 8y activities in this respect were open to every .ind of
misrepresentation. ! was concerned about their effect on #nglo$#merican relations. Bn
the other hand) ! was encouraged by the close accord maintained throughout the
conference between ourselves and the other members of the <ommonwealth) including
those) li.e 8r. Nehru) who were not represented at Geneva. They sent me messages of
than.s and encouragement. ! needed them) for ! began to feet that we should never ma.e
effective headway. ! had never .nown a conference of this .ind. The parties would not
ma.e direct contact and we were in constant danger of one or another bac.ing out of the
door.
Not until the latter half of :une did high$ran.ing *rench and 4iet 8inh delegates meet
face$to$face) did 4iet 8inh military officials confer with <ambodian and /aotian
representatives) and did *rench and <hinese heads$of$delegation privately echange
views. <ommunist and non$<ommunist 4ietnamese) meanwhile) refused to tal. to one
another until :uly) when finally Tran 4an ;o and Pham 4an ;ong were persuaded to
have private discussions. 8ost importantly) the #merican delegation +US;@/1) under
strict instructions to avoid contact with the <hinese) had to rely on second$hand
information provided by the British) *rench) and Soviet representatives) a procedure that
was repeated with respect to the 4iet 8inh.
The problem of contact was no more acutely felt than by the delegation of the State of
4ietnam. #lthough finally granted complete independence by *rance under treaties
initialed in Paris #pril 7J and approved by both governments :une 5) 4ietnam did not
gain the concurrent power to negotiate its own fate. The *rench) clearly anious lest the
4ietnamese upset the delicate state of private tal.s with the 4iet 8inh) avoided Bao ;ai=s
representatives whenever possible and sought to eploit close 4ietnamese$#merican
relations in informing the 4ietnamese only after agreements had been reached. ;uring
:une) for instance) :ean <hauvel) head of the *rench delegation) on several occasions
approached the #mericans with information on the "underground" negotiations with the
4iet 8inh and with the hope that) once partition had been fied) the United States would
"sell" that solution to Saigon. F;oc. ,(G !n the same month) <hauvel) evincing complete
understanding of #merican determination to avoid approving or ac?uiescing in a partition
settlement) nevertheless as.ed if the United States would soften 4ietnamese opposition to
it by indicating it was the best solution obtainable. <hauvel described ;iem and his
predecessor) Buu /oc) as difficult) unrealistic) and unreasonable on the subDect. F;oc. ,,G
!n an aide$memoire delivered to ;uties and @den on :une 7, by >enri Bonnet) the *rench
ambassador to "ashington) Paris urged "ashington not to encourage an adverse
4ietnamese reaction to partition. The United States was also as.ed "to intervene with the
4ietnamese to counsel upon them wisdom and self$control and to dissuade them from
refusing an agreement which) if it is reached) is dictated not by the spirit of abandoning
them) but on the contrary by the desire to save in !ndochina all that can possibly be saved)
and to give the 4ietnamese state) under peaceful conditions) opportunities which have not
always been possible heretofore because of the war." To these approaches) the United
States consistently reacted negatively in the undoubtedly correct belief that the *rench
were merely attempting to identify the United States in 4ietnamese eyes with the
partition concept. By refusing to act as intermediaries for the *rench) the #merican
delegation .ept free of association with a "*rench solution" to the 4ietnam problem.
*rench aloofness from the 4ietnamese continued into :uly. ;espite #merican re?uests of
the *rench delegation that the 4ietnamese be .ept informed of developments) the *rench
demurred. <hauvel informed U. #leis :ohnson) chief deputy to the head of the US;@/)
General "aiter Bedell Smith) that "he was handling this Fliaison with the 4ietnameseG
through members of his staff and was avoiding direct contact with 4ietnamese in order
not to have to answer their ?uestions." "hen Bffroy) another member of the *rench
delegation) suggested that the United States placate the 4ietnamese with assurance of
*ree "orld political) economic) and military support after the settlement) :ohnson replied
that this was a matter for the *rench to handle. Not until late in the <onference did the
4ietnamese government become aware of the strong possibility that partition would
become part of the settlement6 on this and other developments) as we shall see) the
4ietnamese were .ept in the dar.) a circumstance that was to solidify 4ietnamese
hostility to and dissociation from the final terms.
But the 4ietnamese loyal to Bao ;ai were not alone in being denied important
information) although they suffered worst from it. The United States delegation itself
several times suspected that it was not receiving all the news the *rench were in a
position to provide. The fault) however) lay as much with the ambiguous status under
which the delegation operated as with the *rench who were to act as messengers. Bn the
one hand) the #mericans wanted to use their influence to ensure that the *rench not sell
out "estern interests for the sa.e of a ?uic. settlement6 on the other) they were
determined not to become so involved in the bargaining process as to lin. the
#dministration to the final terms. The resolution of these apparently conflicting aims was
offered by ;uties on the eve of the conference in a bac.ground briefing to newsmen at
Geneva. >e said that primary responsibility for decisions ta.en at the conference
belonged to the *rench and 4ietnamese on one side) and to the 4iet 8inh on the other.
The United States "would be inclined not to try to interpose FitsG veto in any sense as
against what they might want to do." #s to whether this attitude applied e?ually to
substantive provisions of any settlement) the Secretary indicated that the United States
would) if necessary) refuse to ac.nowledge results contrary to #merican "interests"3
! would thin. that Fnonapplication of a vetoG would be true up to the point at least where
we felt that the issues involved had a pretty demonstrable interest to the United States
itself. The United States does have pretty considerable interests in the "estern Pacific)
and there are some solutions there which we would regard as so disadvantageous that we
would see. to prevent them. #nd if we failed in that respect) we would probably want to
disassociate ourselves from it Fthe final settlementG.
Thus) the United States would apply the tactic of "disassociation" should its influence not
be sufficient to ma.e the final terms compatible with #merican "interests." Cet the
*rench) against whom the tactic was primarily directed) were probably +and ?uite
naturally1 averse to .eeping their #merican colleagues so well informed of developments
in the tal.s with the 4iet 8inh that the United States would have occasion to resort to
"disassociation." Throughout the conference) in fact) the *rench aimed at eploiting the
#merican presence for the strength they believed it provided their negotiators) and this
policy meant pressuring "ashington to retain a high$ran.ing delegation at the conference
right up to the moment of the settlement.
"hatever the rationale for *rench behavior) the US;@/ complained to "ashington that
it was not being .ept fully informed of developments in the "underground" *ranco$4iet
8inh tal.s. The change in government in Paris during :une from /aniel to Pierre
8endZs$*rance helped matters somewhat. But though it was conceded that 8endZs$
*rance=s representatives had done better than their predecessors in .eeping the United
States apprised) the United States still felt) as ;ulles put it) that while Paris was not
willfully concealing information) there remained a "certain lac. of any intimacy..." F;oc.
,'G
The British also felt loc.ed out of news that vitally affected them. Particularly during
8ay) when "ashington and Paris were fre?uently in touch about possible military
intervention) the British were highly disturbed to find newspapers their best source of
information on the intentions of their foremost allies. Since /ondon was no longer
considered essential to "united action" +see Section !41) the #mericans and the *rench
had evidently agreed that their negotiations should be .ept under wraps until such time as
a decision was made. Bnly after @den confronted Under Secretary Smith with the
newspaper stories +which may have been deliberate "lea.s" to influence the Geneva
deliberations1 did ;ulles direct that the British) #ustralian) and New Lealand
ambassadors be informed "in general terms" regarding U.S.$*rench tal.s. ;iplomay
among the "estern Big Three clearly reflected the rifts that had developed in the alliance
over intervention before the ;ienbienphu disaster6 as a result) secrecy and bilateral
discussions tended to be the rule) thereby complicating the already mammoth tas. of
presenting a united "estern front against the <ommunist negotiators.
Thus far we have been dealing with diplomacy as it was conducted by the non$
<ommunist delegations. "hat of the <ommunistsN The available documentation limits
the comments we may ma.e) but still permits some remar.s) both definite and
speculative. *irst) the <hinese) Soviet) and 4iet 8inh delegations were in constant touch)
as reported by their news agencies. 8oreover) <hou @n$lai was able to ma.e three
stopovers in 8oscow during the conference that very li.ely heightened Sino$Soviet
coordination. *inally) during a recess for heads of delegation) <hou and >o <hi 8inh
held a three$day meeting in early :uly that may have provided the turning point in the
4iet 8inh=s more conciliatory attitude thereafter. !n brief) the <ommunists apparently
were not plagued by the .inds of communication problems that hampered the #mericans)
British) and 4ietnamese.
#s will be argued in greater detail subse?uently) the fre?uent meetings of the <ommunist
delegations did not result in a uniformity of views. The <hinese and Soviets evidently
wor.ed independent of the 4iet 8inh whenever their separate interests dictated the need
for advancement of progress in the negotiations. #t times when the 4iet 8inh were
intransigent) <hou and 8olotov fre?uently too. the initiative to brea. log Dams that
threatened to plunge the conference into irresolvable deadloc.. 8uch li.e @den) <hou
and 8olotov sometimes found themselves playing the role of mediator) a role which
they) and particularly <hou) relished for what *red !.lV has called the "side$effects" of
negotiations$benefits deriving from) but incidental to) negotiations) such as enhanced
prestige. !n the end) the 4iet 8inh advantage of close rapport with 8oscow and Pe.ing
did not prevent the 4iet 8inh from sharing with their non$<ommunist compatriots the
ignominious distinction of having been undercut by allies.
!!!. T>@ ;@4@/BP8@NT B* B#0G#!N!NG PBS!T!BNS
#. T)E 73!TED ST#TES #3D T)E 3E:6T!#T!63S
!n underwriting the Navarre Plan and proceeding with utmost caution in urging *rance to
improve its relationship with the non$<ommunist 4ietnamese nationalists) the United
States hoped to influence Paris to postpone a commitment to negotiations until *rench
forces were at least on the threshold of military victory. "hile aware of the strong
pressures on the /aniel government from the National #ssembly and the *rench public
for a peaceful settlement) the United States) clearly influenced by the eperience at
PanmunDom) sought to persuade the premier not to let the clamor for peace drive him to
the bargaining table. #s late as ;ecember %&'9 /aniel agreed that "ashington=s aversion
to premature negotiations was well$advised6 but two months later) at Berlin) his
government Doined with the Soviet Union in calling for an international conference to end
the !ndochina conflict. The *rench government found it could no longer ignore anti$war
sentiment at home without Deopardi2ing its survival) while the #mericans) however
strongly opposed to bringing the war to the conference table with victory nowhere in
sight and with <ommunist <hina as a negotiating opponent) felt compelled to approve the
Berlin decision if only to blunt the *rench threat of scuttling @;<.
*orced to go along with *rench preference for negotiating with the <ommunists) the
United States remained unalterably pessimistic about the probable results. This attitude
was first set out fully by the :oint <hiefs of Staff in 8arch %&'5. F;oc. 79G The <hiefs
eamined the alternatives to military victory and found them all infeasible or
unacceptable to the United States. # ceasefire prior to a political settlement) the :<S
paper states) "would) in all probability) lead to a political stalemate attended by a
concurrent and irretrievable deterioration of the *ranco$4ietnamese military position." #
coalition government would lead to <ommunist control by .eeping any outside assistance
from preventing a sei2ure of power from within. Partition) on the other hand) would mean
recogni2ing <ommunist success by force of arms) ceding the .ey Ton.in ;elta to the
communists) and) even if confined to only one of the three !ndochinese states)
undercutting our containment policy in #sia.
The <hiefs also commented at some length on the difficult ?uestion of elections in
4ietnam. They too. the position that even if elections could be held along democratic
lines +which they doubted1) a <ommunist victory would almost certainly result because
of <ommunist territorial control) popular support) and superior tactics3
Such factors as the prevalence of illiteracy) the lac. of suitable educational media) and
the absence of ade?uate communications in the outlying areas would render the holding
of a truly representative plebiscite of doubtful feasibility. The <ommunists) by virtue of
their superior capability in the field of propaganda) could readily pervert the issue as
being a choice between national independence and *rench <olonial rule. *urthermore) it
would be militarily infeasible to prevent widespread intimidation of voters by <ommunist
partisans. "hile it is obviously impossible to ma.e a dependable forecast as to the
outcome of a free election) current intelligence leads the :oint <hiefs to the belief that a
settlement based upon free elections would be attended by almost certain loss of the
#ssociated States to <ommunist control.
The :<S views) together with the recommendation that the United States not associate
itself with any settlement that "would fail to provide reasonably ade?uate assurance of the
future political and territorial integrity of !ndochina . . .)" were approved by the Secretary
of ;efense on 8arch 79.
The :<S position reflected Government policy) for in the remaining months before the
<onference the United States privately stood opposed to any course of action other than
full prosecution of the war. ;ulles) spea.ing with *rench #mbassador >enri Bonnet on
#pril 9) reasoned thaf a negotiated settlement would lead only to face$saving formulae
for either a *rench or a 4iet 8inh surrender. The Secretary termed a division of
!ndochina "impractical" and a coalition government the "beginning of disaster"6 neither
arrangement could prevent a *rench surrender. F;oc. 7-G The President himself echoed
this either$or approach. "riting to <hurchill #pril 5) @isenhower proposed3 "There is no
negotiated solution of the !ndochina problem which in essence would not be either a face$
saving device to cover a *rench surrender or a face$saving device to cover a <ommunist
retirement." #nd) as already observed) it was precisely to bring about the latter$<hina=s
"discreet disengagement" from support of the 4iet 8inh$that the President wanted British
cooperation in united action.
<oncomitantly) the United States was concerned that a disaster at ;ienbienphu would
propel the *rench into acceptance of an immediate) unsupervised cease$fire even before
the conference was to begin. ;ulles obtained assurances from Bidault that the *rench
would not agree to such a cease$fire. But the Secretary found the British less infleible)
with @den doubting the #merican view that a sudden cease$fire would lead either to a
massacre of the *rench by the native people or to large$scale infiltration of *rench$held
terrain by 4iet 8inh forces. F;oc. 9-G
Thus assured by the *rench but mindful of both *rench and British preference for trying
to bargain with the <ommunists. before resorting to further military steps) "ashington) in
late #pril and early 8ay) sought to develop guidelines for the #merican delegation. The
National Security <ouncil) less than a wee. before the opening conference session)
carefully eamined #merican alternatives. ;isturbed by what it regarded as peace$at$any$
price thin.ing in Paris) the NS< urged the President to decide not to Doin the Geneva
deliberations without assurance from *rance that it was not preparing to negotiate the
surrender of !ndochina. #gain) the Aorean eample was foremost3 <ommunist tactics at
Geneva) the NS< forecast) would li.ely resemble those at PanmunDom6 a cease$fire might
be announced that the <ommunists would not comply with for lac. of effective
supervision6 the *rench would wilt before the <ommunists= predictable dilatory tactics
and end by accepting almost any terms.
The NS< therefore decided that the *rench had to be pressured into adopting a strong
posture in the face of probable <ommunist intransigence. The President was urged to
inform Paris that *rench ac?uiescence in a <ommunist ta.eover of !ndochina would bear
not only on *rance=s future position in the *ar @ast) but also on its status as one of the Big
Three6 that abandonment of !ndochina would grievously affect both *rance=s position in
North #frica and *ranco$U.S. relations in that region6 that U.S. aid to *rance would
automatically cease upon Paris= conclusion of an unsatisfactory settlement6 and) finally)
that <ommunist domination of !ndochina would be of such serious strategic harm to U.S.
interests as to produce "conse?uences in @urope as well as elsewhere FwithoutG apparent
limitation." !n addition) the NS< recomended that the United States determine
immediately whether the #ssociated States should be approached with a view to
continuing the anti$4iet 8inh struggle in some other form) including unilateral #merican
involvement "if necessary." The NS< clearly viewed the !ndochina situation with
etreme aniety) and its action program amounted to unprecedented proposals to threaten
*rance with the serious repercussions of a sell$out in Southeast #sia.
Pessimism over the prospects for any meaningful progress in tal.s with the <ommunists
was shared by Secretary ;ulles. !n a bac.ground briefing for newsmen at Geneva) ;ulles
gave the first official indication for public consumption that the United States would
dissociate itself from any settlement rather than be party to unacceptable terms. #s to the
acceptability of partition) the Secretary) in views that would change later) said he did not
see how partition could be arranged with the fighting not confined to any single area. >e
as much as ruled out a territorial division when he commented that the United States
would only agree to an arrangement in which all the 4iet 8inh troops would be placed in
a small regroupment area out of harm=s way. But that arrangement "might not be
acceptable to them)" ;ulles said coyly.
#merican opinions on the li.ely ramifications of a settlement were also made .nown) and
with greater precision) in private. Bn 8ay -) for instance) /ivingston 8erchant of the
State ;epartment presented the #merican view to the 8inisters of New Lealand and
#ustralia. Predicting that the *rench would finally settle for part of 4ietnam and manage
to salvage <ambodia and /aos) 8erchant said the United States could not accept such a
surrender of territory. "hile we could not prevent the *rench from ma.ing concessions)
neither did we have to associate ourselves with the results. Thus) both publicly and
privately) #dministration leaders indicated at the outset of the conference that the United
States would divorce itself from any settlement that resulted in less than a complete
*rench$4ietnamese victory.
The first test of U.S. policy came 8ay ' when the *rench informed "ashington of the
proposals they intended to ma.e in the opening round of the Geneva tal.s on 8ay J. The
proposals included a separation of the "civil war" in 4ietnam from the <ommunist
aggressions in <ambodia and /aos6 a cease$fire) supervised by a well$staffed
international authority +but not the UN1 and followed by political discussions leading to
free elections6 the regrouping of regular forces of the belligerents into defined 2ones +as
/aniel had proposed in a speech on 8arch '1 upon signature of a cease$fire agreement6
the disarming of all irregular forces +i.e.) the 4iet 8inh guerrillas16 and a guarantee of the
agreements by "the States participating in the Geneva <onference."
The :<S were first to react to the *rench plan. The <hiefs strongly felt that even if the
<ommunists unepectedly agreed to it) the li.ely outcomes would still be either rapid
*rench capitulation in the wa.e of the cease$fire or virtual *rench surrender in the course
of protracted political discussions. Bnce more) the <hiefs fell bac. on the Aorean
eperience) which they said demonstrated the certainty that the <ommunists would
violate any armistice controls) including those supervised by an international body. #n
agreement to refrain from new military activities during armistice negotiations would be
a strong obstacle to <ommunist violations6 but the <ommunists) the :<S concluded)
would never agree to such an arrangement. Bn the contrary) they were far more li.ely to
intensify military operations so as to enhance their bargaining position) precisely at the
time the *rench would see. to reduce operations to avoid ta.ing casualties. The <hiefs
therefore urged that the United States not get trapped into bac.ing a *rench armistice
proposal that the <ommunists) by voicing approval) could use to bind us to a cease$fire
while they themselves ignored it. The only way to get satisfactory results was through
military success) and since the Navarre Plan was no longer tenable) the net best
alternative was not to associate the United States with any cease$fire in advance of a
satisfactory political settlement. The first step) the <hiefs believed) should be the
conclusion of a settlement that would "reasonably assure the political and territorial
integrity of the #ssociated States . . . "6 only thereafter should a cease$fire be entertained.
#s previously) the :oint <hiefs= position became U.S. policy with only minor
emendations. The President) reviewing the <hiefs= paper) agreed that the Government
could not bac. the *rench proposal with its call for a supervised cease$fire that the
<ommunists would never respect. @isenhower further concurred with the <hiefs=
insistence on priority to a political settlement) with the stipulation that *rench forces
continue fighting while negotiations were in progress. >e added that the United States
would continue aiding the *rench during that period and would) in addition) wor. toward
a coalition "for the purpose of preventing further epansion of <ommunist power in
Southeast #sia."
These statements of position paved the way for a National Security <ouncil meeting on
8ay J) which set forth the guidelines of U.S. policy on negotiations for the delegation at
Geneva. The decision ta.en at the meeting simply underscored what the President and the
<hiefs had already stated3
The United States will not associate itself with any proposal from any source directed
toward a cease$fire in advance of an acceptable armistice agreement) including
international controls. The United States could concur in the initiation of negotiations for
such an armistice agreement. ;uring the course of such negotiations) the *rench and the
#ssociated States should continue to oppose the forces of the 4iet 8inh with all the
means at their disposal. !n the meantime) as a means of strengthening the hands of the
*rench and the #ssociated States during the course of such negotiations) the United
States will continue its program of aid and its efforts to organi2e and promptly activate a
Southeast #sian regional grouping for the purpose of preventing further epansion of
<ommunist power in Southeast #sia.
5. T)E ;6MM73!ST P26P6S#"S
Bfficial #merican perspectives on the li.ely pattern of the Geneva negotiations were
confirmed when the 4iet 8inh forwarded their first proposal "pac.age" at the second
plenary session on 8ay %(. Pham 4an ;ong) then the ;04=s vice$minister for foreign
affairs and already a seasoned negotiator with the *rench) introduced his case with the
argument that the 4iet 8inh were the "stronger" force in "more than three$fourths of the
country." >e went on to describe the successful administration of this territory by his
government) which he said "represents the will of the entire 4ietnamese nation The
opposition) the Bao ;ai regime) characteri2ed as "the government of the temporarily
occupied 2one)" did not enDoy popular support and was merely the tool of the *rench.
Pham 4an ;ong did not) however) demand that *rance concede control of all 4ietnam to
the ;0C. !nstead) ;ong urged that *rance recogni2e "the sovereignty and independence
of 4ietnam throughout the territory of 4ietnam)" a statement which amounted to a
reDection of the *ranco$4ietnamese treaties approved #pril 7J in Paris by /aniel and
Premier Nguyen Trung 4inh. The main points of ;ong=s proposal for a cease$fire and
political settlement in 4ietnam were as follows3
+%1 <onclusion of an agreement on the withdrawal of all "foreign" +i.e.) *rench1 troops
from the #ssociated States) to be preceded by the relocation of those troops to
regroupment areas
+71 <onvening of advisory conferences) to be composed of representatives of the
"governments of both sides)" in each country of !ndochina) with the obDective of holding
general elections leading to the establishment of unified governments
+91 Supervision of elections by local commissions
+51 Prior to the establishment of unified governments) the carrying out by the opposing
parties of "the administrative functions in the districts which will be FtemporarilyG under
their administration . .
+'1 <ease$fire in all !ndochina supervised by mied commissions composed of the
belligerents) the ease-fire to ta0e effet upon implementation of all other measures. No
new forces or military e?uipment to be introduced into !ndochina during the armistice
To placate the *rench) ;ong asserted the ;04=s readiness "to eamine the ?uestion of the
entry of the ;emocratic 0epublic of 4ietnam into the *rench Union..."
The meaning of ;ong=s proposal was clear. # political settlement would precede a
military agreement to a cease$fire rather than the reverse) which the *rench preferred.
Somewhat ironically) the 4iet 8inh position was in line with the #merican preference
for giving priority to a political settlement6 but the 4iet 8inh in effect proposed to stop
fighting only when *rench troops had left 4ietnam and a political process favorable to
the <ommunists had been set up. By first getting rid of the *rench) and then substituting
all$4ietnamese consultations for strict control and supervision of the cease$fire) the
regroupment) and the general elections) the 4iet 8inh could legitimately epect a ?uic.
ta.eover of power from the relatively wea. 4ietnamese National #rmy) by then bereft of
its *rench command structure. #s ;ong well .new) the relocation of *rench forces in the
Ton.in ;elta to a tighter perimeter was having) and would continue to have) maDor
repercussions on 4N# morale. Bnce the *rench could be persuaded to withdraw) the
4N# would undoubtedly collapse under 4iet 8inh military pressure. 8oreover)
inasmuch as ;ong=s plan made no allowance for the disarming) much less the regrouping)
of indigenous forces on either side) the 4iet 8inh would be militarily in a virtually
unassailable position to control any general election that might be held. ;ong=s proposal)
then) amounted to a re?uest that the *rench abandon 4ietnam to a certain fate.
!n the same speech) ;ong made clear that the ;04=s concern etended beyond 4ietnam
to <ambodia and /aos. By %&'5) 4iet 8inh coordination with the Pathet /ao and *ree
Ahmer "resistance forces" had been going on for at least three years) or since the formal
announcement on 8arch %%) %&'%) of formation of a 4iet 8inh$*ree Ahmer$Pathet /ao
"National United *ront." 4iet 8inh soldiers and cadres were active participants in the
fighting there) where they provided the hard core of the "resistance." !n addition) forces
under General 4o Nguyen Giap had invaded /aos in #pril and ;ecember %&'9) and
<ambodia in #pril %&'5 +a move which prompted a formal protest by the 0oyal Ahmer
Government to the Secretary General of the UN on #pril 791. 4iet 8inh battalions were
still active in both countries during 8ay and :une) with greater priority given operations
in /aos. Thus) ;ong=s proposals on a settlement in /aos and <ambodia reflected not
simply the ;04=s assumption of the role of spo.esman for the unrepresented *ree Ahmer
and Pathet /ao movements) but also direct 4iet 8inh interests in those neighboring
.ingdoms.
;ong argued that the Pathet /ao and *ree Ahmer forces enDoyed widespread popular
support and controlled most of the territory of their respective countries. "ith
considerable distortion of history +subse?uently corrected by the /aotian and <ambodian
delegates1) ;ong sought to demonstrate that the Pathet /ao and *ree Ahmer were de
facto governments carrying out "democratic reforms" in the areas their armies had
"liberated." *rance was therefore advised to recogni2e the "sovereignty and
independence" of those movements no less than of the ;0C. *rench forces alone were to
withdraw from <ambodia and /aos6 the Pathet /ao and *ree Ahmer were not "foreign"
troops. The same election procedure offered for 4ietnam) without neutral or international
supervision) would) ;ong proposed) ta.e place in <ambodia and /aos) thereby granting
the Pathet /ao and *ree Ahmer a status e?ual to that of the lawful governments. #nd
during the electoral process) ;ong insisted on "conditions securing freedom of activity
for patriotic parties) groups) and social organi2ations..." agreement to which would have
permitted various <ommunist fronts to function with impunity. The inclusion of the
Pathet /ao and *ree Ahmer in the ;04=s settlement plan$in particular) the demand that
they merited political and territorial recognition$very ?uic.ly brought the conference to a
standstill and) much later) compelled the Soviets and <hinese to wor. against 4iet 8inh
ambitions.
;. T)E #ME2!;#3 2E#;T!63
Pham 4an ;ong=s opening gambit was clearly anathema to the "estern delegations.
<ertainly) from the #merican standpoint) his proposals met none of the criteria for
acceptability outlined by the National Security <ouncil on 8ay J. Smith said as much at
Geneva when he spo.e on 8ay %( and again at the third plenary session 8ay %7.
#ccordingly) Smith did not wholeheartedly embrace Bidault=s proposals) for despite
giving a general endorsement of the *rench plan) he departed from it at two important
Dunctures. *irst) he declined to commit the United States in advance to a guarantee of the
settlement despite Bidault=s call for all the participants to ma.e such a guarantee6 second)
he proposed that national elections in 4ietnam be supervised specifically by an
international commission "under United Nations auspices." #s his speeches made clear)
the United States believed the UN should have two separate functions$overseeing not
only the cease$fire but the elections as well. Both these points in Smith=s remar.s were to
remain cardinal elements of #merican policy throughout the negotiations despite *rench
+and <ommunist1 efforts to induce their alteration.
@ntirely in .eeping with Smith=s position at the conference) as well as with the tenor of
the 4iet 8inh proposals) Secretary ;ulles) on 8ay %7) sent Smith instructions intended
to ma.e the United States an influential) but unentangled and unobligated) participant. #s
;ulles phrased it) the United States was to be "an interested nation which) however) is
neither a belligerent nor a principal in the negotiation." !ts primary aim would be to3
help the nations of that area F!ndochinaG peacefully to enDoy territorial integrity and
politial independene under sta@le and free go'ernments with the opportunity to epand
their economies) to reali2e their legitimate national aspirations) and to develop security
through individual and collective defense against aggression) from within and without.
This implies that these people should not @e amalgamated into the <ommunist bloc of
imperialistic dictatorship.
#ccordingly) Smith was told) the United States should not give its approval to any
settlement or cease$fire "which would have the effect of su@'erting the eisting lawful
governments of the three aforementioned states or of permanently impairing their
territorial integrity or of placing in Deopardy the forces of the *rench Union of !ndochina)
or which otherwise contravened the principles stated . . . above." F;oc. 5-G
The NS< decision of 8ay J) Smith=s comments at the second and third plenary sessions)
and ;ulles= instructions on 8ay %7 reveal the rigidity of the #merican position on a
Geneva settlement. The United States would not associate itself with any arrangement
that failed to provide ade?uately for an internationally supervised cease$fire and national
elections) that resulted in the partitioning of any of the #ssociated States) or that
compromised the independence and territorial integrity of those States in any way. !t
would not interfere with *rench efforts to reach an agreement) but neither would it
guarantee or other wise be placed in the position of seeming to support it if contrary to
policy. Bedell Smith was left free) in fact) to withdraw from the conference or to restrict
the #merican role to that of observer. F;oc. 5-G The rationale for this approach was clear
enough3 the United States) foreseeing inevitable protraction of negotiations by the
<ommunists in the manner of Aorea) would not be party to a *rench cession of territory
that would be the end result of the <ommunists= waiting game already begun by Pham
4an ;ong. 0ather than passively accept that result) the United States would withdraw
from active involvement in the proceedings) thereby leaving it with at least the freedom
to ta.e steps to recapture the initiative +as by rolling bac. the 4iet 8inh at some future
date1 and the moral purity of having refused to condone the enslavement of more people
behind the !ron <urtain. #merican policy toward negotiations at Geneva was therefore in
perfect harmony with the @isenhower$;ulles global approach to dealing with the
<ommunist bloc.
Gloomy #merican conclusions about the conference) and no doubt the etravagant
opening <ommunist demands) were intimately connected with events on the battlefield.
#fter the debacle at ;ienbienphu on 8ay -) the *rench gradually shifted their forces
from /aos and <ambodia into the Ton.in ;elta) leaving behind wea. /aotian and
<ambodian national armies to cope with veteran 4iet 8inh battalions. #s the *rench
sought to consolidate in northern 4ietnam) the 4iet 8inh pressed the attac.) moving
several battalions eastward from ;ienbienphu. U.S. #rmy intelligence reported in late
8ay) on the basis of *rench evaluations) that the 4iet 8inh were redeploying much faster
than anticipated) to the point where of 9')((( troops originally in northwestern Ton.in
only 7)((( remained. #t the same time) two 4iet 8inh battalions stayed behind in
<ambodia and another ten in /aos6 and in both those countries) #merican intelligence
concluded that the 4iet 8inh position was so strong as to Deopardi2e the political no less
than the military stability of the royal governments.
To thwart the <ommunist military threat in 4ietnam) the *rench chief of staff) General
Paul @ly) told General :. >. Trapnell) the 8##G chief +on 8ay 9(1) that *rench forces
were forming a new defensive perimeter along the >anoi>aiphong ais6 but @ly made no
effort to hide the touch$and$go nature of *rench defensive capabilities during the rainy
season already underway. This precarious situation was confirmed by General 4alluy of
the *rench command staff. !n a report in early :une to U.S.) British) #ustralian) and New
Lealand chiefs of staff assembled in "ashington) 4alluy held that the ;elta was in
danger of falling to the <ommunists) that neither *renchmen nor 4ietnamese would fight
on in the south in that eventuality) and that only prompt allied intervention could save the
situation. F;oc. '9G #merican assessments merely echoed those provided by the *rench.
# National !ntelligence @stimate published :une %' determined that *rench Union forces)
despite a numerical advantage) faced defections on a mounting scale that could become
very large if the 4iet 8inh scored maDor victories or if the *rench were believed +and
4ietnamese suspicions were rife on this score in >anoi and Saigon1 about to abandon
>anoi and portions of the ;elta. !n sum) the tenor of intelligence reports by *rench and
#merican sources during this period +from early 8ay through mid$:une1 was that the
4iet 8inh armies were solidly entrenched in portions of <ambodia and /aos) were
preparing for further advances in the Ton.in ;elta) and) if the war were to continue
beyond the rainy season) had the capability to destroy positions then being fortified by
*rench Union forces throughout northern 4ietnam.
The upshot of this military deterioration throughout much of !ndochina was to reinforce
the #merican conviction that the <ommunists) while ma.ing proposals at Geneva they
.new would be unacceptable to the "est) would drive hard for important battlefield gains
that would thoroughly demorali2e *rench Union troops and set the stage for their
withdrawal southward) perhaps precipitating a general crisis of confidence in !ndochina
and a 4iet 8inh ta.eover by default. 8ore clearly than earlier in the year) #merican
officials now saw Dust how desperate the *rench really were) in part because *rench field
commanders were being far more sincere about and open with information on the actual
military situation. But the thic.ening gloom in !ndochina no less than at Geneva did not
give way to counsels of despair in "ashington. The Government concluded not that the
goals it had set for a settlement were unrealistic) but rather that the only way to attain
them) as the President and the :<S had been saying) was through decisive military victory
in conformity with the original united action proposal of 8arch 7&. "hile therefore
maintaining its delegation at Geneva throughout the indecisive sessions of 8ay and :une)
the United States once again alerted *rance to the possibility of a military alternative to
defeat under the pressure of <ommunist tal.$fight tactics.

!4. T>@ UN!T@; ST#T@S #T G@N@4#3 T>@ ST#G@ B* *B0<@ #N;
;!P/B8#<C) 8#C TB 8!;$:UN@
!n .eeping open the option of united action) the #dministration) no less during 8ay and
the first half of :une than in #pril) carefully made direct involvement conditional on a
range of *rench concessions and promises. This second go$=round on united action was
not designed to ma.e further negotiations at Geneva impossible6 rather) it was intended to
provide an alternative to which the *rench might turn once they) and hopefully the British
as well) conceded that negotiations were a wasteful eercise.
The issue of united action arose again in early 8ay when Premier /aniel) in a tal. with
#mbassador ;illon) epressed the view that the <hinese were the real masters of the
negotiations at Geneva. This being the case) /aniel reasoned) the <hinese would probably
see. to drag out the tal.s over any number of peripheral issues while the 4iet 8inh
pushed on for a military decision. The *rench position in the field) with a maDor
redeployment on the order of %' battalions to the Ton.in ;elta probably very soon)
would be desperate) /aniel said) unless the United States decided to give its active
military cooperation. !n the interim) the premier re?uested that an #merican general be
dispatched to Paris to assist in military planning.
/aniel=s views failed to ma.e an impression in "ashington. #lthough the #dministration
agreed to dispatch a general +Trapnell1) ;ulles proposed) and @isenhower accepted) a
series of "indispensable" conditions to #merican involvement that would have to be met
by Paris. @ven after those conditions were met) #merican intervention would not follow
automatically6 /aniel would have to re?uest further U.S.$*rench consultations. The
conditions were3 +!n forwarding these conditions to the @mbassy for transmittal to the
*rench) ;ulles noted that a prompt) favorable decision would be premature inasmuch as
it might internationali2e the war in a way offensive to the British) leaving the *rench with
the difficult choice of internationali2ation or capitulation.1
+%1 *ormal re?uests for U.S. involvement from *rance and the #ssociated States
+71 #n immediate) favorable response to those invitations from Thailand) the Philippines)
#ustralia) and New Lealand) as well as the assurance that Britain "would either
participate or be ac?uiescent"
+91 Presentation of "some aspect of matter" to the UN by one of the involved #sian states
+51 # *rench guarantee of complete independence to the #ssociated States) "including
un?ualified option to withdraw from *rench Union at any time
+'1 # *rench underta.ing not to withdraw the @peditionary <orps from !ndochina
during the period of united action in order to ensure that the United States would be
providing air and sea) but not combat$troop) support
+,1 *ranco$#merican agreement on the training of native forces and a new command
structure during united action +#dmiral 0adford was reported to be thin.ing in terms of a
*rench supreme command with a U.S. air command1
+-1 *ull endorsement by the *rench cabinet and #ssembly of these conditions to ensure a
firm *rench commitment even in the event of a change in government in Paris
!t was further agreed that in the ourse of united action) the United States would pursue
efforts to broaden the coalition and to formali2e it as a regional defense pact.
;uring the same conference in which the conditions were drawn up) top #merican
officials went deeper into them. @isenhower was insistent on collective action) but
recogni2ed that the British might not commit themselves initially and that the
#ustralians) facing a general election later in 8ay) could only give "evidence" of their
willingness to participate. # second maDor problem was !ndochinese independence.
;ulles posed the #merican dilemma on this score3 on the one hand) the United States had
to avoid giving #sians reason to believe we were intervening on behalf of colonialism6 on
the other) the #ssociated States lac.ed the administrative personnel and leadership
necessary to carrying on alone. "!n a sense)" said ;ulles) "if the #ssociated States were
turned loose) it would be li.e putting a baby in a cage of hungry lions. The baby would
rapidly be devoured." >is solution was that the #ssociated States be granted +evidently)
orally1 the right to withdraw from the *rench Union after passage of a suitable time
period) perhaps five or ten years.
# final point concerned @ecutive$<ongressional relations once a *rench re?uest) bac.ed
by Parliamentary assent) reached "ashington. The President felt he should appear before
a Doint session of <ongress and see. a <ongressional resolution to use the armed forces in
!ndo$<hina Fwords missingG act on the formal invitation of *rance and the #ssociated
States) and with the cooperation of friends and allies in the region. #t @isenhower=s
re?uest) ;ulles directed that the State ;epartment begin wor.ing up a first draft of a
Presidential message.
The #merican response to /aniel=s re?uests set the stage for an etended series of
discussions over the ensuing five wee.s. !n Paris) ;illon communicated the #merican
conditions to /aniel and 8aurice Schumann) the ;eputy 8inister for *oreign #ffairs6 in
a tal. with the #mbassador 8ay %5) they accepted the conditions) but with important
reservations. *irst) /aniel indicated his dismay at the #merican insistence on the right of
the #ssociated States to withdraw from the *rench Union. The premier predicted that the
*rench public would never accept this condition inasmuch as the #ssociated States had
themselves never made it and since even the 4iet 8inh envisioned Doining the Union.
The obvious #merican reluctance to go beyond air and naval forces also disturbed the
premier. >e re?uested that the United States additionally provide artillery forces and a
to.en contingent of ground troops. But he indicated pleasure that UA participation was
no longer a prere?uisite to #merican involvement.
/aniel=s ?ualified approval of the preconditions was accompanied by a re?uest for a
response to two other ?uestions3 could the United States in some way guarantee the
borders and independence of /aos and <ambodia following a *rench withdrawal from
those countriesN <ould the United States provide written assurance of prompt air
intervention to meet a possible <hinese <ommunist air attac. on *rench forces in the
Ton.in ;eltaN
The #merican response to /aniel=s demurrers and re?uests was for the most part
negative. Bn the *rench$#ssociated States relationship) which #mbassador ;illon had
said was the chief barrier to a *rench re?uest for intervention)Y ;ulles replied +through
;illon1 that the United States might have some fleibility on the matter)
Y ;illon commented3 "! am certain that unless we can find some way to get around this
re?uirement Fthat the 4ietnamese have the option of leaving the *rench UnionG) *rench
will never as. for outside assistance."
;illon proposed that the real obDection among #sians to the position of the #ssociated
States rested not on the "purely Duridical" problem of the right to leave the Union) but on
!ndochina=s lac. of powerful national armies. The #mbassador recommended that
#merican training and e?uipping of the 4N#) coupled with a *rench statement of
intention to withdraw the @peditionary <orps after the establishment of peace and a
national army) would significantly dampen #sian antagonism to the Bao ;ai regime. !t is
difficult to understand why ;illon assumed #sians would significantly change their
attitude toward *rench !ndochina when) even with an #merican ta.eover of the training
and e?uipping of the 4N#) *rench forces would still be on 4ietnamese territory for a
lengthy period.
but had to remain adamant on complete independence if it ever hoped to gain Thai and
*ilipino support. Net) on the ?uestion of the etent of #merican involvement) the
Government was more fleible3 !t would not eclude antiaircraft "and limited U.S.
ground forces for protection of bases which might be used by U.S. naval and air forces."
#s to /aniel=s ?uestions) "ashington answered that it saw no way) in view of the military
and legal impracticalities) to guarantee the security of /aos and <ambodia6 the alternative
was that /aos and <ambodia Doin with Thailand in re?uesting the stationing of a UN
Peace Bbservation <ommission +PB<1 on their territories. The possibility of <hinese
8!G intervention) considered etremely remote by the ;efense ;epartment) ruled out the
need for a written commitment. The *rench were to be assured) however) that a collective
defense arrangement would include protection against that contingency) and that prior to
the formation of the organi2ation) <hinese air involvement would prompt a Presidential
re?uest for <ongressional authori2ation to respond with U.S. aircraft.
#lthough the setting up of several preconditions to involvement and the ?ualifications of
the *rench reply by no means made intervention an immediate possibility) the
#dministration moved ahead on contingency planning. The State ;epartment=s Bureau of
*ar @astern #ffairs too. the lead by producing a hypothetical timetable based on the
assumption of U.S.$*rench agreement in principle to the proposed conditions by 8ay 7%.
*@# also outlined a full slate of urgent priority studies) including U.S. strategy under
differing circumstances of <hinese involvement in the war. By 8ay 75) *@# had
forwarded a contingency study from the Bperations Planning Board that proposed)
among other things) public and private communications to Pe.ing to prevent) or at least
reduce the effectiveness of) direct <hinese intervention.
The initiation of planning for intervention etended to more far$ranging discussions of
the purposes) re?uirements) and ma.e$up of a Southeast #sia collective defense
organi2ation. The framewor. of the discussions evidenced the Government=s intention
that united action be underta.en only after the Geneva <onference had reached a
stalemate or) far less li.ely) a settlement. Three regional formulations were envisaged3 the
first would be designed for direct action) probably +it was felt1 without British
participation) either to defeat the 4iet 8inh or to prevent them from gaining control of
!ndochina6 the second) formed after a settlement) would comprise the present S@#TB
members and functions) in particular active assistance to the participating #sian states
resisting eternal attac. or "<ommunist insurrection"6 the third would have have a broad
#sian membership) but would be functionally limited to social and economic
cooperation.
#n important input to contingency planning on intervention came from the :oint <hiefs
of Staff. Bn 8ay 7() the :<S sent a memorandum to the Secretary of ;efense entitled
"U.S. 8ilitary Participation in !ndochina." !n the paper) the <hiefs re?uested formulation
of a ;efense ;epartment position on the si2e of any #merican contributions and the
nature of the command structure once united action began. They noted the "limited
availability of U.S. forces for military action in !ndochina" and the "current numerical
advantage of the *rench Union forces over the enemy) i.e.) approimately ' to 9."
Pointing out the disadvantages of either stationing large numbers of U.S. troops in
!ndochina or of basing U.S. aircraft on !ndochina=s limited facilities) the <hiefs
considered "the current greatest need" to be an epanded) intensified training program for
indigenous troops. They observed) moreover) that they were guided in their comments by
the li.ely reaction of the <P0 to U.S. involvement) as well as by the prescription3
"#tomic weapons will be used whenever it is to our military advantage."
!n view of these problems and prospects) the :<S urged the limitation of United States
involvement to strategic planning and the training of indigenous forces through an
increase in 8##G from less than %'( to 77'( men. !ts force commitment should be
restricted) they advised) primarily to air$naval support directed from outside !ndochina6
even here) the <hiefs cautioned against ma.ing a "substantial" air force commitment. The
<hiefs were also mindful of the <hinese. Since 4iet 8inh supplies came mainly from
<hina) "the destruction or neutrali2ation of those outside sources supporting the 4iet
8inh would materially reduce the *rench military problems in !ndochina."
The <hiefs were simply ta.ing their traditional position that any maDor U.S. force
commitment in the *ar @ast should be reserved for a war against <hina in the event the
President decided that such a conflict was necessary for the preservation of vital
#merican interests. 0ecogni2ing the limitations of the "New /oo." defense establishment
for large$scale involvement in "brushfire" wars) the <hiefs were etremely hesitant) as
had consistently been the case during the !ndochina crisis) to favor action along the
periphery of <hina when the strategic advantages of #merican power lay in decisive
direct blows against the maDor enemy. Thus) the :<S closed their memorandum with the
admonition that air$naval commitments beyond those specified3
will involve maldeployment of forces and reduce readiness to meet probable <hinese
<ommunist reaction elsewhere in the *ar @ast. *rom the point of view of the United
States) with reference to the *ar @ast as a whole) !ndochina is devoid of decisive military
obDectives and the allocation of more than to.en U.S. armed forces to that area would be
a serious diversion of limited U.S. capabilities.Y
Y These conclusions were su@se+uently confirmed when) at the direction of General
8atthew B. 0idgway) #rmy <hief of Staff) a technical team of seven officers
representing the @ngineer) Transportation) and Signal <orps went to !ndochina on a
covert mission to determine military and military$related resources available there in the
event U.S. intervention were implemented. The team spent the period 8ay 9%$:une 77 in
the field. Their conclusions were) in brief) that !ndochina was devoid of the logistical)
geographic) and related resources necessary to a substantial #merican ground effort. The
group=s findings are in a report from <ol. ;avid ". >eiman) its leader) to 0idgway) :uly
%7) %&'5.
The <hiefs= conclusions were disputed) however) by @verett ;rumright of State +*@#1 +in
a memorandum to 8ac#rthur) 8ay 75) %&'51. >e argued that if) as everyone agreed)
!ndochina was vital to #merican security) the United States should not consider more
than a to.en group troop commitment to be a serious diversion of our capabilities. "hile
not arguing for a substantial troop commitment) ;rumright suggested that the United
States plan for that eventuality rather than count on defense with atomic weapons or non$
nuclear stri.es on <hinese territory. Somehow) however) ;rumright=s concern about the
<hinese did not etend to the consideration that a massive troop commitment) which he
stated elsewhere in the memorandum might prove necessary should to.en forces fail to
do the Dob) also ris.ed bringing in the <hinese.
The :<S evidently also decided to call a meeting of military representatives from the
United States) *rance) the UA) #ustralia) and New Lealand. #t first) the <hiefs suggested
the downgrading of the representatives to below chief$of$staff level6 but apparently on the
strong protest of Under Secretary Smith at Geneva) and of the British too) the <hiefs
ac?uiesced in a meeting at chief$of$staff level. But prior to the meeting) which began the
first wee. of :une) important developments occurred in the U.S.$*rance discussions of
intervention.
The tic.lish problem of bringing *rance to concede the critical importance of granting
full independence to the #ssociated States occupied center stage once more. Bn 8ay 7-)
the State ;epartment) ac.nowledging *rance=s hesitancy to go too far on this score) still
insisted on certain "minimum measures)" the most important of which was that *rance)
during or immediately after formal approval of the #pril 7J draft treaties) announce its
willingness to withdraw all its forces from !ndochina unless invited by the governments
of the #ssociated States to maintain them or to establish bases. +The United States) the
;epartment added) would be prepared to ma.e a similar declaration if it committed
forces.1 Beyond that step) the *rench were also as.ed to permit !ndochinese participation
in the programming of economic aid and their direct receipt of all military aid) to find
ways to broaden participation of the 4ietnamese defense ministry and armed forces in
national defense) and to push for the establishment of "representative and authentic
nationalist governments" at the earliest possible date.
Transmitting these new proposals to the *rench) ;illon +incorrectly as it turned out1
found them so well received that he reported on 8ay 7&) following a conversation with
/aniel) that the two partners "had now reached accord in principle on political side."
/aniel) he cabled ;ulles) urged immediate military tal.s to complete arrangements on
training of the 4ietnamese) a new command structure) and war plans. !nasmuch as @ly
and General :ohn ". B=;aniel in !ndochina had reached general agreement on #merican
assumption of responsibility for training the 4N#) F;oc. '7G the way was apparently
cleared for bilateral military tal.s in "ashington to ta.e place simultaneously with) and
therefore disguised by) the five$power staff negotiations.
;illon=s optimistic assessment proved premature) however) on several grounds. "hen he
reported 8ay 7J on tal.s with Schumann) he had added Schumann=s and ;efense
8inister 0enV Pleven=s concern about <hinese air intervention) which they felt would be
so damaging as to warrant a deterrent action in the form of a Presidential re?uest to the
<ongress for discretionary authority to defend the ;elta in case of <<#* attac.. The
*rench wanted a virtually instantaneous U.S. response) one that would be assured by a
Presidential re?uest before rather than after overt <hinese aerial intervention. The State
;epartment=s retort was that the *rench first had to satisfy the previously reported
conditions before any such move by the President could be considered.
;illon was no less disappointed by "ashington=s reply than the *rench. >e cabled bac.
that there apparantly was an "etremely serious misunderstanding between U.S. and
*rench"3
*rench draw sharp distinction between +%1 U.S. intervention in present circumstances
with 4iet 8inh bolstered by <hinese <ommunist materiel) technicians and possibly
scattered troops and +71 U.S. reaction against full$scale air attac. mounted from
<ommunist <hinese bases.
;illon said that) for the *rench) "ashington=s preconditions applied in the first ase @ut
not the seond) wherein only <ongressional authori2ation was understood to stand in the
way of direct #merican action. @ly) the #mbassador reported) had all along believed he
had 0adford=s personal assurance of an #merican countermove against <hinese air attac.
in the ;elta. Now) the *rench wanted to .now if they could count on instant U.S.
interdiction of a <<#* stri.e. The #mbassador closed by reminding the ;epartment of
the incalculable harm to N#TB) to the whole U.S. role in "estern @urope) and to the
U.S. position against the <ommunists= world strategy if a <hinese attac. was not met.
;espite ;illon=s protestations the ;epartment stuc. by its initial position of 8ay %')
namely) that <hinese air attac. was unli.ely and that the United States would meet that
problem when it arose. <learly) the #dministration was unwilling to ma.e any advance
commitments which the *rench could sei2e upon for political advantage at Geneva
without having to give a +uid pro +uo in their !ndochina policy. @isenhower affirmed this
view and went beyond it3 The onditions for united ation& he said& applied e+ually to
;hinese diret and indiret in'ol'ement in !ndohina. The 7nited States 4ould ma0e no
unilateral ommitment against any ontingeny& inluding o'ert& unpro'o0ed ;hinese
aggression& 4ithout firm& @road allied support. Y
Y @isenhower=s unwavering attitude toward action in #sia only in concert with allies put
him at odds with ;ulles) who was prepared to act unilaterally in cases of overt
aggression. "hen the issue of possible <P0 air intervention came before the President)
he is reported to have reacted sharply. @vidently supposing that conflict in the air would
mean a Sino$#merican war) the President
said the United States would not intervene in <hina on any basis ecept united action. >e
would not be responsible for going into <hina alone unless a Doint <ongressional
resolution ordered him to do so. The United States should in no event underta.e alone to
support *rench colonialism. Unilateral action by the United States in cases of this .ind
would destroy us. !f we intervened alone in this case we would be epected to intervene
alone in other parts of the world. >e made very plain that the need for united action as a
condition of U.S. intervention was not related merely to the regional grouping for the
defense of Southeast #sia but was also a necessity for U.S. intervention in response to
<hinese communist overt aggression.
See memorandum of conversation between @isenhower and 0obert <utler) the President=s
special assistant) :une %) %&'5.
The rationale for the President=s difference of view with his Secretary was laid out more
fully the net day. @isenhower said that since direct <hinese aggression would force him
to go all the way with naval and air power +including "new weapons"1 in reply. he would
need to have much more than <ongressional authori2ation. Thai) *ilipino) *rench) and
!ndochinese support would be important but not sufficient6 other nations) such as
#ustralia) would have to give their approval) for otherwise he could not be certain the
public would bac. a war against <hina. +8emorandum of conversation in the President=s
office) :une 7) %&'5) involving also ;ulles) #nderson) 0adford) 8ac#rthur) and <utler.1
#t its 7((th meeting on :une 9) the NS< received) considered) and agreed upon the
President=s views.
There were other obstacles to U.S$*rench agreement) as brought into the open with a
memorandum to the President from *oreign 8inister Georges Bidault on :une %. Bne
was the ?uestion of timing involved in #merican insistence on *rench #ssembly
approval of a government re?uest for U.S. intervention. The *rench cabinet considered
that to present a program of allied involvement to the #ssembly ecept under the
circumstance of "a complete failure of the Geneva <onference" attributable to the
<ommunists "would be literally to wish to overthrow the t*renchG Government." #
second area of continuing disagreement concerned the maintenance of *rench forces in
the field and the nature of a U.S. commitment. The *rench held that the United States
could bypass <ongress by committing perhaps one division of 8arines without a
declaration of war. #lthough assured by "ashington that the 8arines would not be
ecluded from a U.S. air$naval commitment) the *rench were not satisfied. !n his
memorandum) Bidault as.ed that the United States ta.e account of *rance=s defense
obligations elsewhere) an indirect way of as.ing that "ashington go beyond a to.en
ground$troop commitment. <onfronted by a war$weary Parliament on one side and
opponents of @;< on the other) Bidault doubtless believed that the retention of *rench
soldiers in !ndochina without relief from #merican G!s was neither militarily nor
politically acceptable.
# final but by no means negligible *rench obDection to the #merican proposals
concerned the independence issue. *ar from having been settled) as ;illon supposed) the
*rench were still unhappy about #merican pressure for concessions even after the State
;epartment=s 8ay 7- revisions. The *rench were particularly disturbed +as Bidault
implied1 at the notion that the #ssociated States could leave the Union at any time) even
while *rench fighting men were in the field on !ndochina=s behalf. "Such a formula)"
Bidault wrote) "is unacceptable to the *rench Government) first because it is
incompatible with the *rench <onstitution) and also because it would be etremely
difficult to eplain to *rench opinion that the forces of the *rench Union were continuing
the war in !ndochina for the benefit of States that might at any moment leave the Union."
*rance was perfectly willing) Bidault remar.ed) to sign new treaties of association with
the three !ndochinese States) to allow them a larger voice in defense matters) and to wor.
with them toward formation of truly national governments6 but) to Dudge from his
commentary) Paris would not go the whole route by committing itself in advance to
!ndochina=s full freedom of action in the *rench Union. #nd while this and other issues
remained unresolved) as ;ulles observed :une 5) /aniel=s reported belief that the United
States and *rance were politically agreed was a "serious overstatement."
By early :une the unsettled issues separating the United States from *rance began to lose
their relevance to the war. @ven if they could be resolved) it was ?uestionable whether
#merican involvement could any longer be useful) much less decisive. Bn the matter of
training the 4N#) for instance) the United States was no longer certain that time would
permit its training methods to ta.e effect even if the *rench promptly removed
themselves from responsibility in that area. The State ;epartment now held that the
4ietnam situation had deteriorated "to point where any commitment at this time to send
over U.S. instructors in near future might epose us to being faced with situation in
which it would be contrary to our interests to have to fulfill such commitment. Bur
position accordingly is that we do not wish to consider U.S. training mission or program
separately from over$all operational plan on assumption conditions fulfilled for U.S.
participation war !ndochina." 8orale of the *ranco$4ietnamese forces) moreover) had
dropped sharply) the whole Ton.in ;elta was endangered) and the political situation in
Saigon was reported to be dangerously unstable. *aced with this uniformly blac. picture)
the #dministration determined that the grave but still retrievable military situation
prevailing at the time united action was proposed and pursued had) in :une) altered
radically) to the point where united action might have to be withdrawn from consideration
by the *rench.
By mid$:une #merican diplomacy was therefore in an unenviable position. #t Geneva)
very little progress had been made of a .ind that could lead any of the #llies to epect a
satisfactory outcome. Cet the alternative which the United States had reopened no longer
seemed viable either. #s ;ulles told Smith) any "final agreement" with the *rench would
be "?uite impossible)" for Paris was moving farther than ever from a determination that
united action was necessary. "They want) and in effect have) an option on our
intervention)" ;ulles wrote) "but they do not want to eercise it and the date of epiry of
our option is fast running out." F;oc. '-G *rom Paris) in fact) #mbassador ;illon urged
the Secretary that "the time limit be now" on U.S. intervention. F;oc. ',G #nd ;ulles was
fast concluding that ;illon was correct.
!n view of *rance=s feeling that) because of strong #ssembly pressure for a settlement) no
re?uest could be made of the United States until every effort to reach agreement at
Geneva had been ehausted) ;ulles in effect decided) on :une %') that united action was
no longer tenable. !n a conversation with Bonnet) in which the *rench #mbassador read a
message from Bidault which indicated that the *rench no longer considered the United
States bound to intervene on satisfaction of the seven conditions) the Secretary put forth
the difficulty of the #merican position. >e stated that the United States stood willing to
respond to a *rench re?uest under the conditions of 8ay %%) but that time and
circumstance might ma.e future intervention "impracticable or so burdensome as to be
out of proportion to the results obtainable." "hile this offer would be unsatisfactory to
Bidault) especially in his dealings with the <ommunists at Geneva) ;ulles "could not
conceive that it would be epected that the United States would give a third power the
option to put it into war at times and under conditions wholly of the other=s choosing."
"ith this) united action was shelved) and it never appeared again in the form and with the
purpose originally proposed.
#s a brea. with *rance on united action became li.ely) #merican interest focused on a
collective defense arrangement after a Geneva settlement with British participation. The
*rench and British roles in U.S. planning were in effect reversed6 Paris) it was felt) could
no longer be counted on as an active participant in regional security. #s their delegate to
Geneva) :ean <hauvel) told Smith) Bidault was still hopeful of getting "something" from
the conference. F;oc. '5G Bn the other hand) @den told Smith on :une & of his etreme
pessimism over the course of the negotiations. @den believed a recess in the tal.s was
li.ely within a few days +it came) in fact) ten days later1) and proposed that the
<ambodian and /aotian cases be brought before the United Nations immediately after the
end of the conference) even if *rance opposed the move. Smith drew from the
conversation the strong impression that @den believed negotiations to have failed and
would now follow the #merican lead on a coalition to guarantee <ambodia and /aos
"under umbrella of some UN action" +Smith=s words1. F;oc. '5G ;ays later) ;ulles
li.ewise anticipated a British shift when he observed sardonically that events at Geneva
had probably "been such as to satisfy the British insistence that they did riot want to
discuss collective action until either Geneva was over or at least the results of Geneva
were .nown. ! would assume)" ;ulles went on) "that the departure of @den Ffrom
GenevaG would be evidence that there was no ade?uate reason for further delaying
collective tal.s on Southeast #sia defense." But whether the United States and Great
Britain would see eye$to$eye on their post$settlement security obligations in the region)
and whether Doint diplomatic initiatives to influence the nature of the settlement could be
decided upon) remained outstanding ?uestions.
The rebirth and demise of united action was a rare case of history repeated almost
immediately after it had been made. The United States) having failed to interest Britain
and *rance in united action prior to the start of the Geneva <onference) refused to be
relegated to an uninfluential role and determined instead to plunge ahead without British
participation. But the conditions for intervention which had been given the *rench before
the fall of ;ienbienphu were now stiffened) most importantly by a greater detailing of the
process the *rench government would have to go through before the United States would
consider direct involvement.
@ven while the *rench pondered the conditions) urged their refinement and redefinition to
suit *rench policies) and insisted in the end that they saw no political obstacles separating
the United States and *rance) "ashington anticipated that the *rench were very unli.ely
to forward a re?uest for U.S. involvement. >aving learned something of *rench
government priorities from the futile diplomatic bargaining in #pril) ;epartment of State
representatives in Paris and "ashington saw that what the *rench wanted above all was
not the military advantages of active U.S. intervention but the political benefits that might
be derived from bringing into the open the fact that the two allies were negotiating
#merican participation in the fighting. Thus) ;illon correctly assessed in mid$8ay that
*rench in?uiries about #merican conditions for intervention represented a "wish to use
possibility of our intervention primarily to strengthen their hand at Geneva." The *rench
hoped they would not have to call on the United States for direct support6 they did hope
the <ommunists would sense the dangers of proposing unacceptable terms for a
settlement. ;illon=s sensitivity to the *rench position was proven accurate by Bidault=s
memorandum to the President3 *rance would) in reality) only call on the United States if
an "honorable" settlement could clearly not be obtained at Geneva) for only under that
circumstance could the National #ssembly be persuaded that the /aniel government had
done everything possible to achieve peace.
0ecognition of the game the *rench were playing did not .eep the United States from
posing intervention as an alternative for them6 but by adhering tenaciously to the seven
conditions) it ruled out either precipitous #merican action or an open$ended commitment
to be accepted or reDected by Paris. The State ;epartment) guided on the military side by
strong :<S obDections to promising the *rench #merican combat troops in advance of a
new and satisfactory command structure and strategic plan) became increasingly
distraught with and suspicious of *rench motivations. ""e cannot grant *rench an
indefinite option on us without regard to intervening deterioration" of the military
situation) ;ulles wrote on :une J. #s much as the #dministration wanted to avoid a sell$
out at Geneva) it was aware that events in !ndochina might preclude effective U.S. action
even if the *rench suddenly decided they wanted #merican support. Put another way) one
of the primary differences between #merican diplomacy before and after the fall of
;ienbienphu was its ability to proDect ahead$to weigh the factors of time and
circumstance against the distasteful possibility that 4ietnam) by *rench default at the
negotiating table or defeat on the battlefield) might be lost. #s the scales tipped against
united action) #merican security planning began to focus on the future possibilities of
collective defense in Southeast #sia) while the pattern of diplomacy shifted from
disenchantment with the Geneva <onference to attempts to bring about the best possible
settlement terms.
4. T>@ 8#:B0 !SSU@S #T T>@ <BN*@0@N<@) 8#C$:UN@
"ashington=s sense that the conference had essentially gotten nowhere$a view which
Smith and ;ulles believed was shared by @den) as already noted$was not entirely
accurate6 nor was it precisely the thin.ing of other delegations. *ollowing the initial
*rench and 4iet 8inh proposals of 8ay J and %() respectively) some progress had in fact
been made) although certainly not of an order that could have led any of the chief
negotiators to epect a ?uic. settlement. #s the conference moved ahead) three maDor
areas of contention emerged3 the separation of belligerent forces) the establishment of a
framewor. for political settlements in the three !ndochinese states) and provision for
effective control and supervision of the cease$fire.
#. S@P#0#T!BN B* T>@ B@//!G@0@NTS
The ?uestion how best to disentangle the opposing armies was most acute in 4ietnam)
but was also hotly debated as it applied to <ambodia and /aos. !n 4ietnam) 4iet 8inh
forces were concentrated in the Ton.in ;elta) though large numbers had long been active
in #nnam +central 4ietnam1 and <ochinchina +the south1. The original *rench and 4iet
8inh proposals sought to ta.e account of this situation by dismissing +although for
separate reasons1 the concept of single regroupment areas and forwarding instead the idea
of perhaps several concentration points to facilitate a cease$fire. To this point) the
4ietnamese delegation was in agreement3 regroupment of the belligerents should in no
way have the effect of dividing the country into ma.eshift military 2ones that could have
lasting political implications.
!t was an entirely different matter where the regroupment areas should be located6
whether "foreign" +i.e.) *rench1 troops should be withdrawn) and if so) from what areas
and during what period6 whether irregular troops +i.e.) 4iet 8inh guerrillas1 should be
disarmed and disbanded) and if so) whether they and their comrades in the regular forces
should be integrated +as the Bao ;ai delegation proposed1 into the 4N#6 and) of crucial
importance) whether a cease$fire should be dependent upon success in the regroupment
process or) as Pham 4an ;ong proposed) upon an overall political settlement.
This last ?uestion was tac.led first by the negotiators. Bn @den=s initiative) the
conference had moved in mid$8ay from plenary to restricted sessions) where fewer
delegates were present) no verbatim record was systematically .ept) and the press was
barred. @den=s epectation that the opportunities for greater intimacy among the delegates
would enhance the possibility of ma.ing some headway was partially fulfilled. #t the
first restricted session on 8ay %-) 8olotov responded to Bidault=s implication that one
cause of continuing irresolution in the negotiations was the 4iet 8inh=s insistence on
coupling a military with a political settlement) whereas the *rench proposal had been
geared to dealing only with the military portion before going on to discuss the political
side. The Soviet delegate argued that while military and political matters were obviously
closely lin.ed) the conference might do best to address the military settlement first) since
it was a point common to the *rench and 4iet 8inh proposals. ;ong obDected that
military and political matters were so closely .nit that they could not be separated6
however) he agreed +although) we may surmise) with some reluctance1 that the two
problems could be dealt with in that order.
"ith a basic procedural obstacle removed) it was finally agreed that a cease$fire should
have priority in the conference=s order of business.Y Toward that goal) the
Y Bn 8ay 7() <hou @n$lai told @den that military and political matters should indeed be
dealt with separately) and that priority should be given to the attainment of a cease$fire.
+Smith tel. S@<TB 7,- from Geneva) 8ay 7() %&'5.1 The <ommunists were ?uic. to
point out thereafter) though) that a political settlement should not be dropped from
consideration. !n fact) at the fifth restricted session) 8olotov returned to the issue of
military versus political settlements by proposing that they be considered at alternate
meetings. The "estern side held fast to concentrating on the cease$fire and turning to
political matters only when agreement had been reached on the military side6 this position
was tacitly adopted.
problem of regroupment and disarmament of certain forces was ta.en up. #t the fifth
restricted session on 8ay 75) *oreign 8inister Bidault proposed) among other things)
that a distinction be admitted between "regular" and "irregular" forces. 0egular troops) he
said) included all permanently organi2ed forces) which for the 4iet 8inh meant regional
as well as regular units. These) he suggested) should be regrouped into demilitari2ed
2ones) whereas loosely organi2ed irregulars should be disarmed under some form of
control. Pham 4an ;ong) in his reply) agreed on the urgency of a cease$fire and on the
importance of disarming irregulars6 but) in contrast to Bidault=s proposal) ;ong asserted
that inasmuch as each side would have responsibility for all forces in areas under its
control after the cease$fire) disarmament would ta.e place naturally. ;ong implicitly
reDected the idea of controlled disarmament) therefore) by placing the problem in the post$
rather than pre$cease$fire period.
The issues of regroupment and disarmament might have brought the conference to a
standstill had not Pham 4an ;ong) at the sith restricted session +8ay 7'1) suddenly
reversed his position on regroupment and proposed what amounted to the partitioning of
!ndochina. *ollowing only moments after the 4ietnamese delegate) Nguyen Kuoc ;inh)
had offered a plan based on the maintenance of his country=s territorial integrity)Y ;ong
suggested that in the course of the regroupment) specific
Y The G4N=s position called for the disbandment and disarming of 4iet 8inh forces and
their later integration into a national army under international control6 international
supervision of elections to be conducted by the Bao ;ai government at an unspecified
future date6 and recognition of the integrity of the 4ietnamese state. The G4N also
insisted that the withdrawal of foreign forces come after all other issues had been
resolved.
territorial Durisdictions be established such that each side would have complete economic
and administrative) no less than military) control. So as not to be misunderstood) ;ong
further urged that a temporary line of demarcation be drawn that would be
topographically suitable and appropriate for transportation and communication within
each 2one thus created. The #merican delegate) General Smith) immediately dismissed
;ong=s proposal and advised that the conferees return to discussion of the original cease$
fire issues. But) as was to become clear very soon) ;ong=s new move struc. a responsive
chord among the *rench even as it confirmed to the Bao ;ai delegation its worst fears.
"hat had prompted ;ong to introduce a partition arrangement when) at previous
sessions) the 4iet 8inh had pushed repeatedly for a settlement procedure that would
facilitate their consolidation of control over the entire countryN "hat evidence we have is
circumstantial) but it suggests that the 4iet 8inh delegation may have come under Sino$
Soviet pressure to produce an alternative to cease$fire proposals that were consistently
being reDected by the "est. The partition alternative) specifically at the %,th parallel) had
been intimated to #merican officials as early as 8arch 5 by a member of the Soviet
@mbassy in /ondon) apparently out of awareness of *ranco$#merican obDections to a
coalition arrangement for 4ietnam. Bn the opening day of the conference) moreover)
Soviet officials had again approached #merican officials on the subDect) this time at
Geneva) averring that the establishment of a buffer state to <hina=s south would be
sufficient satisfaction of <hina=s security needs. "hile these events do not demonstrate
that ;ong=s partition proposal Y was the direct outgrowth of Sino$Soviet disposition
toward a territorial division) they do reveal that
Y The ;04) it should be added) refused to call its proposal one for partition. #s the
official newspaper) Nhan ;an +The People1 put it) the proposal amounted merely to
"2onal readDustment" necessary to achieving a cease$fire. The readDustment "is only a
stage in preparation for free general elections with a view toward the reali2ation of
national unity." 4ietnam News #gency +4N#1 broadcast in @nglish to Southeast #sia)
:une -) %&'5.
partition was a solution) albeit temporary) which 8oscow) at least) early found agreeable.
"hatever lay behind ;ong=s gambit) the *rench were put in the position of being
challenged on their prior commitments to the 4ietnamese. #t the time the conference
began) Bao ;ai=s government) perhaps mindful of past instances of partition$type
solutions in Aorea and Germany) and almost certainly suspicious of ultimate *rench
intentions in the face of 4iet 8inh territorial demands) urged Paris to provide written
assurance it would neither see. nor accept a division of 4ietnam at Geneva. To ma.e his
own position perfectly clear) Bao ;ai) through his representatives in the *rench capital)
issued a communi?ue +in the name of the G4N cabinet1 which too. note of various plans
in the air for partition. The communi?ue stated that partition "would be in defiance of
4ietnamese national sentiment which has asserted itself with so much strength for the
unity as well as for the independence of the country. Neither the <hief of State nor the
national government of 4ietnam admits that the unity of the country can be severed
legally...." The cabinet warned that an agreement compromising that unity would never
receive 4ietnam=s approval3
...neither the <hief of State) nor the 4ietnamese Government will consider themselves
FsicG as bound by decisions running counter to the interests) i.e.) independence and unity)
of their country that would) at the same time) violate the rights of the peoples and offer a
reward to aggression in opposition to the principles of the <harter of the United Nations
and democratic ideals.
!n response to this clear$cut statement) the *rench came forward with both oral and
written promises. Bn 8ay 9) 8aurice ;eDean) the <ommissioner General for !ndochina)
said in Saigon3
The *rench Government does not intend to see. a settlement of the !ndochina problem on
the basis of a partition of 4ietnamese territory. .
*ormal assurances were given on this subDect last #pril 7' by the *rench minister for
foreign affairs to the minister for foreign affairs of 4ietnam) and they were confirmed to
him on 8ay %.
"ritten assurance came from Bidault on 8ay , when he wrote Bao ;ai that the tas. of
the *rench government was to establish peace in !ndochina) not "to see. here Fat GenevaG
a definitive political solution." Therefore) the *rench goal would be) said Bidault) to
obtain a cease$fire with guarantees for the #ssociated States) hopefully with general
elections in the future. Bidault continued3
#s of now) ! am however in a position to confirm to Cour 8aDesty that nothing would be
more contrary to the intentions of the *rench government than to prepare for the
establishment) at the epense of the unity of 4ietnam) two States having each an
international calling +vocation1.
Bidault=s support of 4ietnam=s opposition to partition) which he repeated privately before
@den and Smith at Geneva) collapsed once the new government of Pierre 8endZs$*rance
too. over in mid$:une. 8endZs$*rance) .eenly aware of the tenor of *rench public
opinion) was far more disposed than the /aniel$Bidault administration to ma.ing every
effort toward achieving a reasonable settlement. "hile by no means prepared for a sell$
out) 8endZs$*rance ?uic.ly foresaw that agreement with the 4iet 8inh was unli.ely
unless he accepted the concept of partition. >is delegate at Geneva) who remained
<hauvel) and the new <ommissioner General for !ndochina) General @ly) reached the
same conclusion. #t a high$level meeting in Paris on :une 75) the new government
thoroughly revised the *rench negotiating position. The obDectives for subse?uent tal.s) it
was decided) would be3 +%1 the regroupment of forces of both sides) and their separation
by a line about at the %Jth parallel6Y +71 the establishment of enclaves under neutral
control in the two 2ones) one for the *rench in the area of the <atholic bishoprics at Phat
;iem and
Y *rench insistence on the %Jth parallel originated in the recommendation of General
Navarre) who was as.ed several ?uestions by the *rench delegation at Geneva regarding
the li.ely impact of the then$eisting military situation on the *rench negotiatory
position. Navarre=s responses were sent #pril 7%. Bn the demarcation line) Navarre said
that the %Jth parallel would leave "us" the ancient political capital of >ue as well as
Tourane +;a Nang1) and permit the retention of militarily valuable terrain. +See General
@ly=s 8Vmoires3 l(!ndohine dans la Tourmente FParis3 Plon) %&,5%) p. %%7) and
/acouture and ;evillers) "a fin d(une guerre& p. %7,.1 Thus) the choice of the %Jth
parallel was based on military considerations) and apparently assumed a continuing
*rench role in southern 4ietnam after partition.
Bui <hu) one for the 4iet 8inh at an area to be determined6 +91 the maintenance of
>aiphong in *rench hands in order to assist in the regroupment. The meeting also
decided that) for the purpose of psychological pressure on the 4iet 8inh if not military
preparedness for future contingencies) *rance should brea. with past practice and
announce plans to send a contingent of conscripts +later determined as two divisions1 to
!ndochina. Thus) by late :une) the *rench had come around to acceptance of the need to
eplore a territorial settlement without) as we have already observed) informing the
4ietnamese that Bidault=s and ;eDean=s assurances had been superseded. Bn :une 7,)
Paris formally notified "ashington and /ondon that <hauvel would soon begin direct
tal.s with Pham 4an ;ong on a partition arrangement that would provide the G4N with
the firmest possible territorial base. F;oc. ,,G
"hile ground had been bro.en on the cease$fire for 4ietnam) debate continued on /aos
and <ambodia. Prior to and after ;ong=s proposal of 8ay 7') the delegates argued bac.
and forth without progress over the relationship between the conflict in 4ietnam and that
in <ambodia and /aos. The Ahmer and /aotian delegates insisted they represented free
and independent governments which were being challenged by a handful of indigenous
renegades assisted by the invading 4iet 8inh. Thus) the delegates reasoned) their
situations were ?uite different from the "civil war" in 4ietnam) and therefore cease$fires
could readily be established in /aos and <ambodia by the simple epedient of removing
the aggressors. These delegates saw no reason$$and they received solid support from the
#merican) *rench and British representatives$$for acceding to the 4iet 8inh demand that
cease$fires in their two countries be contingent upon) and hence forced to occur
simultaneously with) one in 4ietnam.
The <ommunists= retorts left little room for compromise. Pham 4an ;ong held) as
before) that he spo.e for "governments" which were being refused admission to the
conference. The Pathet /ao and the *ree Ahmer were separate) genuine "national
liberation movements" whose sta.e in their respective countries) ;ong implied) would
have to be ac.nowledged before a cease$fire could be arranged anywhere in !ndochina.
8olotov buttressed this argument with the claim that /aos and <ambodia were no more
"independent" than 4ietnam. Using a common negotiating tactic) he ecerpted from a
public statement by ;ulles to point out how *rance was still being urged by the United
States in 8ay to grant real independence to all three !ndochinese states) not Dust 4ietnam.
8olotov=s only retreat was on the etent of Pathet /ao and *ree Ahmer terntonal control.
>e admitted that while the 4iet 8inh were dominant in 4ietnam) the Ahmer$/aotian
resistance movements controlled some lesser amount of territory.
*or a while it seemed that the conference would become inetricably bogged down on the
?uestion whether the Pathet /ao and *ree Ahmer were creatures of the 4iet 8inh or
genuine nationalist forces. <ertainly the 4iet 8inh delegation remained steadfast. #t the
fourth restricted session +8ay 7%1) Pham 4an ;ong made his implication of the previous
sessions clearer when he said he had always understood the *rench cease$fire proposal to
have applied to all !ndochina +an outright fabrication1 inasmuch as the problems in the
three states were different only in degree) not in nature. !f <ambodia and /aos were
detached from 4ietnam in the discussions) ;ong said) the cease$fire issue would be
attac.ed in the wrong way and a satisfactory solution would not be reached. The warning
of no cease$fire settlement for <ambodia and /aos without one for 4ietnam was clear.
These last remar.s by ;ong) however) were no longer wholly in accord with what the
<hinese were privately indicating. <hou @n$lai) in the same conversation with @den on
8ay 7( in which <hou had agreed to separate military from political matters) also
admitted that political settlements might be different for the three !ndochinese states.
<hou thus moved one step closer to the "estern position) which held that the /aotian and
<ambodian cases were substantially different from that in 4ietnam and hence should be
decided separately. The concession) however small) paved the way for agreement to
@den=s proposal on 8ay 7' that the problem of a cease$fire in 4ietnam be dealt with
separately and directly by having the 4iet 8inh and *rench military commands meet in
Geneva and on the spot in 4ietnam +later determined as Trung Gia1 to discuss technical
aspects of the regroupment. The military staffs would report their findings to the
conferees. Bn :une 7 formal agreement was reached between the commands to begin
wor.6 but it was not until :une %() apparently) that the 4iet 8inh actually consented that
their secret tal.s with the *rench) li.e the discussions of the military commands) should
be concerned only with 4ietnam to the eclusion of /aotian and <ambodian problems.
Thus) it would seem that the 4iet 8inh position on the indivisibility of the three
!ndochinese states for purposes of a settlement was undercut by the <hinese +doubtless
with Soviet support16 yet for about three wee.s following <hou=s tal. with @den) the 4iet
8inh had privately refused to deal with the *rench on 4ietnam alone.
5. P6"!T!;#" SETT"EME3TS
<ommunist agreement to treat /aos and <ambodia separately as well as to consider a
territorial division did not) however) signal imminent progress on the substance of
military or political settlements for those countries any more than for 4ietnam. Several
additional plenary and restricted sessions made no headway at all during late 8ay and the
first wee.s of :une. @den=s disappointment led him to state to his fellow delegates3
!n respect . . . to the arrangements for supervision and to the future of /aos and
<ambodia) the divergencies are at present wide and deep. Unless we can narrow them
now without further delay) we shall have failed in our tas.. "e have ehausted every
epedient procedure which we could devise to assist us in our wor.. "e all .now now
what the differences are. "e have no choice but to resolve them or to admit our failure.
*or our part) the United Aingdom ;elegation is still willing to attempt to resolve them
here or in restricted session or by any other method which our colleagues may prefer.
But) gentlemen) if the positions remain as they are today) ! thin. it is our clear$cut duty to
say so to the world and to admit that we have failed.
;ays later) his pessimism ran even deeper as the conference indeed seemed close to a
brea.down. The #mericans did not help matters) either3 "Bedell Smith)" @den has since
divulged) "showed me a telegram from President @isenhower advising him to do
everything in his power to bring the conference to an end as rapidly as possible) on the
grounds that the <ommunists were only spinning things out to suit their own military
purposes."
*or reasons which will be speculated on subse?uently) the Soviets and <hinese were not
prepared to admit that the conference had failed and were willing to forestall that
prospect by ma.ing concessions sufficient to Dustify its continuation. "hile the
#mericans may have wished to see a brea.down) @den was not yet convinced that was
inevitable. #gain) his patience was rewarded. Bn :une %,) <hou told the foreign secretary
that the <ambodian resistance forces were small) ma.ing a political settlement with the
0oyal Government "easily" obtainable. !n /aos) where those forces were larger)
regroupment areas along the border with 4ietnam +in Sam Neua and Phong Saly
provinces1 would be re?uired) <hou thought. #s.ed by @den whether there might not be
difficulty in gaining 4iet 8inh agreement to the withdrawal of their troops from the two
countries) <hou replied it would "not be difficult" in the contet of a withdrawal of all
foreign forces. The <P0 would even be willing to consider the royal governments as
heading independent states that could maintain their ties to the *rench Union) provided
no #merican bases were established in their territories. <hina=s preeminent concern) @den
deduced) was that the United States might use /aos and <ambodia as Dump$off points for
an attac. on the mainland.
*rom the conversation) @den "received a strong impression that he F<houl wanted a
settlement and ! accordingly urged Georges Bidault to have a tal. with him and to discuss
this new offer." Bn the net day +:une %-1) Bidault met with <hou for the first time) as
well as with 8olotov) and reported the <ommunists= great concern over a brea.$up of the
conference. Two days later a *rench redraft of a <hinese proposal to broaden the military
staff conferences to include separate tal.s on /aos and <ambodia was accepted.
This first maDor brea.through in the negotiations) with the <hinese ma.ing an overture
that evidently had full Soviet bac.ing)Y seems not to have had 4iet 8inh
Y "hen 8olotov met with Smith on :une %&) the Soviet representative said he saw the
possibility of agreement on /aos and <ambodia so long as neither side +i.e.) the *rench
and 4iet 8inh1 "adopted one$sided views or put forward etreme pretensions." 8olotov
said about '( percent of /aotian territory was not controlled by the royal government
+putting the Pathet /ao case in the negative1) with a much smaller movement in
<ambodia. The tone of Smith=s report on this conversation suggests that 8olotov saw no
obstacles to 4iet 8inh withdrawal of its "volunteers." Smith tel. ;U/T@ 7(7 from
Geneva) :une %&) %&'5.
approval. #t the same time as the <hinese were saying) for eample in a New <hina
News #gency +N<N#1 broadcast of :une %-) that all three <ommunist delegations had
"all along maintained that the conditions in each of the three !ndochinese countries are
not eactly ali.e)" and hence that "conditions peculiar to each of these countries should
be ta.en into consideration)" the 4iet 8inh were claiming that "the indivisibility of the
three ?uestions of 4ietnam) Ahmer) and Pathet /ao" was one of several "fundamental
?uestions" which the conference had failed to resolve. !n fact) of course) that ?uestion had
been resolved6 yet the 4iet 8inh continued to proclaim the close unity of the 4iet 8inh)
Pathet /ao) and *ree Ahmer under the banner of their tri$national united front alliance
formed in %&'%. No doubt the 4iet 8inh were see.ing to assure their cadres and soldiers
in <ambodia and /aos that Pham 4an ;ong would not bargain away their fate at the
conference table) but it may also be that the broadcasts were meant to imply 4iet 8inh
eceptions to obDectionable Sino$Soviet concessions.
Those concessions) first on the separability of /aos and <ambodia from 4ietnam and
subse?uently on 4iet 8inh involvement there) compelled the ;04 delegation to ta.e a
new tac.. Bn the former ?uestions 4iet 8inh representatives indicated on :une %, during
"underground" discussions with the *rench that insofar as 4ietnam was concerned) their
minimum terms were absolute control of the Ton.in ;elta) including >anoi and
>aiphong. "hile the *rench were reluctant to yield both cities) which they still
controlled) a bargaining point had been established inasmuch as the 4iet 8inh were now
willing to discuss specific geographic obDectives. Bn the second ?uestion) the 4iet 8inh)
apparently responding to <hou @n$lai=s "offer" of their withdrawal from <ambodia and
/aos) indicated fleibility at least toward the latter country. # /aotian delegate reported
:une 79) following a meeting with Pham 4an ;ong in the garden of the <hinese
delegation=s villa) that the 4iet 8inh were in apparent accord on the withdrawal of their
"volunteers" and even on /aos= retention of *rench treaty bases. The 4iet 8inh=s
principal demand was that *rench military personel in /aos be reduced to a minimum.
/ess clearly) ;ong alluded to the creation in /aos of a government of "national union)"
Pathet /ao participation in %&'' elections for the national assembly) and a "temporary
arrangement" governing areas dominated by Pathet /ao military forces. But these latter
points were interpreted as being suggestive6 ;ong had come around to the "estern view
shared +now by the Soviets and <hinese1 that the Pathet /ao not be accorded either
military or political weight e?ual to that of the royal government. /ater in the conference)
;ong would ma.e a similar retreat on <ambodia.
<. <BNT0B/ #N; SUP@04!S!BN
Painsta.ingly slow progress toward cease$fires and political settlements for the
!ndochinese states also characteri2ed the wor. of devising supervisory organs to oversee
the implementation and preservation of the cease$fire. Cet here again) the <ommunist
side was not so intransigent as to ma.e agreement impossible.
Three separate but interrelated issues dominated the discussions of control and
supervision at this stage of the conference and afterward. *irst) there was sharp
disagreement over the structure of the supervisory organ3 Should it consist solely of Doint
commissions composed of the belligerents) or should it have superimposed above an
international authority possessing decisionma.ing powerN Second) the composition of
any supervisory organ other than the Doint commissions was also hotly disputed3 Given
agreement to have "neutral" nations observe the truce) which nations might be considered
"neutral"N *inally) if it were agreed that there should be a neutral control body) how
would it discharge its dutiesN
!n the original 4iet 8inh proposals) implementation of the cease$fire was left to Doint
indigenous commissions) with no provision for higher) international supervision.
4ehement *rench obDections led to a second line of defense from the <ommunist side. #t
the fourth plenary session +8ay %51) 8olotov suggested the setting up of a Neutral
Nations Supervisory <ommission +NNS<1 such as eisted in Aorea) and said he did not
foresee any insurmountable problem in reaching agreement on its membership. But
8olotov=s revision left much to be determined and) from the "estern standpoint) much to
be desired too. Serious debate on the control and supervision problem did not get
underway until early :une. #t that time) 8olotov epressly reDected the #merican plan)
supported by the !ndochinese delegations and Great Britain) to have the United Nations
supervise a cease$fire. >e argued that the UN had nothing to do with the Geneva
<onference) especially as most of the conferees were not UN members. 0eturning to his
plan for an NNS<) 8olotov reiterated his view that <ommunist countries could be as
neutral as capitalist countries6 hence) he said) the problem was simply one of choosing
which countries should comprise the supervisory organ) and suggested that the yardstic.
be those having diplomatic and political relations with both *rance and the 4iet 8inh. #s
to that body=s relationship to the Doint commissions) 8olotov shied away from the
"estern proposal to ma.e them subordinate to the neutral commission. "!t would be in
the interest of our wor. to recogni2e)" 8olotov said) "that these commissions should act
in coordination and in agreement between each other) but should not be subordinate to
each other." No such hierarchical relationship had eisted in Aorea) so why one in
!ndochinaN *inally) the foreign minister saw no reason why an NNS< could not reach
decisions by unanimous vote on "important" ?uestions. ;isputes among or within the
commissions) 8olotov concluded) would be referred to the states guaranteeing the
settlement) which would) if necessary) ta.e "collective measures" to resolve them.
The "estern position was stated succinctly by Bidault. #gain insisting on having "an
authority remote from the heat of the fighting and which would have a final word to say
in disputes)" Bidault said the neutral control commission should have absolute
responsibility for the armistice. !t would have such functions as regrouping the regular
forces) supervising any demilitari2ed 2ones) conducting the echange of prisoners) and
implementing measures for the non$introduction of war materiel into !ndochina. "hile
the Doint commission would have an important role to play in these control processes)
such as in wor.ing out agreement for the safe passage of opposing armies from one 2one
to another or for PB" echange) its functions would have to be subordinate to the
undisputed authority of a neutral mechanism. Bidault did not specify which nations fitted
his definition of "neutrality" and whether they would decide by maDority or unanimous
vote. These omissions were corrected by @den a few days later when he suggested the
<olombo Powers +!ndia) Pa.istan) <eylon) Burma) and !ndonesia1) which he argued were
all #sian) had all been actively discussing !ndochina outside the conference) were five in
number and hence impervious to obstruction by a two$to$two vote +as on the NNS<1 or
re?uirement for unanimity) and were truly impartial.
The basis for agreement on the vital ?uestion of supervising a cease$fire seemed at this
stage noneistent. The <ommunists had revised their position by admitting the feasibility
of a neutral nations= control organ in addition to Doint commissions of the belligerents.
But they clearly hoped to duplicate in !ndochina the ineffective machinery they had
foisted on the United Nations command at PanmunDom) one in which effective
peace.eeping action was basically proscribed by the built$in veto of a four$power
authority evenly divided among <ommunist and non$<ommunist representatives. The
"est) on the other hand) absolutely refused to eperiment again with an NNS<6 a neutral
organ was vital) but it could not include <ommunist representatives) who did not .now
the meaning of neutrality. !f the United Nations was not acceptable to the <ommunists)
the <olombo Powers should be.
>owever remote these positions) various .inds of trade$offs must have been apparent to
the negotiators. ;espite differing standards of "neutrality" and "impartiality)" for
instance) compromise on the membership problem seemed possible. The real dilemma
was the authority of a neutral body. Unless superior to the Doint commissions) it would
never be able to resolve disputes) and unless it had the power to enforce its own
decisions) it would never be more than an advisory organ. "hether some new formula
could be found somewhere between the <ommunists= insistence on parallel authority and
the "est=s preference for a hierarchical arrangement remained to be seen.
Bn :une %& the Aorea phase of the conference ended without reaching a political
settlement. The conferees at that point agreed to a prolonged recess by the delegation
leaders on the understanding that the military committees would continue to meet at
Geneva and in the field. @den wrote to the #sian <ornmonwealth prime ministers that "if
the wor. of the committees is sufficiently advanced) the >eads of ;elegations will come
bac.." Until that time) the wor. of the conference would go on in restricted session.
<hauvel and Pham 4an ;ong remained at their posts6 8olotov returned to 8oscow6
<hou @n$lai) en route to Pe.ing) made important stopovers in New ;elhi) 0angoon) and
Nanning that were to have important bearing on the conference. Smith remained in
Geneva) but turned the delegation over to :ohnson. !t was ?uestionable whether the
Under Secretary would ta.e over again6 gloom was so thic. in "ashington over the
perceived lac. of progress in the tal.s and the conviction = that the new 8endZs$*rance
government would reach a settlement as soon as the conference reconvened) that ;ulles
cabled Smith3 "Bur thin.ing at present is that our role at Geneva should soon be restricted
to that of observer. . . ." F;oc. ,'G #s for @den) he prepared to accompany <hurchill on a
trip to "ashington for tal.s relating to the conference and prospects for a Southeast #sia
defense pact.
4!. T>@ #NG/B$#8@0!<#N 0#PP0B<>@8@NT
"ith its preconceptions of <ommunist negotiating strategy confirmed by the harshness of
the first 4iet 8inh proposals) which "ashington did not regard as significantly watered
down by subse?uent Sino$Soviet alterations) and with its military alternatives no longer
considered relevant to the war) the United States began to move in the direction of
becoming an influential actor at the negotiations. This move was not dictated by a sudden
conviction that "estern capacity for inducing concessions from the <ommunist side had
increased6 nor was the shift premised on the hope that we might be able to drive a wedge
between the 4iet 8inh and their Soviet and <hinese friends. 0ather) "ashington
believed that inasmuch as a settlement was certain to come about) and even though there
was near$e?ual certainty it could not support the final terms) basic #merican and "estern
interests in Southeast #sia might still be preserved if *rance could be persuaded to
toughen its stand. "ere concessions still not forthcoming$$were the <ommunists) in other
words) to stiffen in response to *rench firmness$$the #llies would be able to consult on
their net moves with the confidence every reasonable effort to reestablish peace had
been attempted.
#s already observed) the #merican decision to play a more decisive role at the
conference depended on gaining British support. The changing war situation now made
alignment with the British necessary for future regional defense) especially as
"ashington was informed of the probability that a partition settlement +which /ondon
had foreseen months before1 would place all !ndochina in or within reach of <ommunist
hands. The ?uestions remained how much territory the <ommunists could be granted
without compromising non$<ommunist !ndochina=s security) what measures were needed
to guarantee that security) and what other military and political principles were vital to
any settlement which the *rench would also be willing to adopt in the negotiations. "hen
the chief ministers of the United States and Great Britain met in "ashington in late :une)
these were the issues they had to confront.
The British and #merican representatives$@den) <hurchill) ;ulles) and @isenhower$
brought to the tal.s positions on partition and regional security that) for all the
differences) left considerable room for a harmoni2ation of viewpoints. The UA) as the
#mericans well .new) was never convinced either that !ndochina=s security was
inetricably lin.ed to the security of all #sia) or that the *ranco$4iet 8inh war would
ever bring into ?uestion the surrender of all !ndochina to the <ommunists. /ondon
considered partition a feasible solution) but was already loo.ing beyond that to some
more basic @ast$"est understanding that would have the effect of producing a laisse2$
faire coeistence between the <ommunist and "estern powers in the region. #s @den
recalled his thin.ing at the time) the best way of .eeping <ommunism out of Southeast
#sia while still providing the necessary security within which free societies might evolve
was to build a belt of neutral states assisted by the "est. The <ommunists might not see
any advantage to this arrangement) he admitted. But3
!f we could bring about a situation where the <ommunists believed that there was a
balance of advantage to them in arranging a girdle of neutral states) we might have the
ingredients of a settlement.
Bnce the settlement was achieved) a system for guaranteeing the security of the neutral
states thus formed would be re?uired) @den held. <ollective defense) of the .ind that
would ensure action without unanimity among the contracting parties$$a system "of the
/ocarno type"$$seemed most reasonable to him. These points) in broad outline) were
those presented by him and <hurchill.
The United States had from the beginning dismissed the viability of a partition solution.
;ulles= public position in his maDor speech of 8arch 7& that <ommunist control even of
part of !ndochina would merely be the prelude to total domination was fully supported in
private by both State and ;efense. Nevertheiess) the Government early recogni2ed the
possibility that partition) however distasteful) might be agreed to among the *rench and
<ommunist negotiators. #s a result) on 8ay ') the ;efense ;epartment drew up a
settlement plan that included provision for a territorial division. #s little of 4ietnam as
possible should be yielded) ;efense argued) with the demarcation line fied in the north
and "defined by some defensible geographic boundary +i.e.) the 0ed or Blac. 0ivers) or
the #nnamite 8ountains1 !n accord with the *rench position that evolved from the
meeting of 8endZs$*rance=s cabinet on :une 75) ;efense urged provision for a
4ietnamese enclave in the >anoi$>aiphong area
or) alternatively) internationali2ation of the port facilities there. *airly well convinced)
however) that partition would be fragile) ;efense also called for "sanctions" against any
form of <ommunist aggression in /aos) <ambodia) or Thailand) and for allied agreement
to united action in the event the <ommunists violated a cease$fire by conducting
subversive activities in the non$<ommunist area of 4ietnam.
The ;efense proposal amounted to containing the <ommunist forces above the 7(th
parallel while denying them sovereign access to the sea. This position went much further
than that of the *rench) who also favored a demarcation line geared to military
re?uirements but were willing to settle on roughly the %Jth parallel. 8oreover) when the
five$power military staff conference met in "ashington in early :une) it reported +on the
&th1 that a line midway between the %-th and %Jth parallels +from Tha.he. in /aos
westward to ;ong >oi on the north 4ietnam seacoast1 would be defensible in the event
partition came about. F;oc. ,%G Undercutting the ;efense plan still further was the
*rench disposition to yield on an enclave in the >anoi$>aiphong area were the 4iet 8inh
to press for their own enclave in southern 4ietnam. #s <hauvel told U. #leis :ohnson)
should the choice come to a trade$off of enclaves or a straight territorial division) the
*rench preferred the latter. F;oc. ,7G Thus) by mid$:une) a combination of circumstances
made it evident to the #dministration that some more fleible position on the location of
the partition line would have to be) and could be) adopted.
#merican acceptance of partition as a wor.able arrangement put "ashington and /ondon
on even terms. Similarly) on the matter of an overall security "umbrella" for Southeast
#sia) the two allies also found common ground. "hile the United States found "/ocarno"
an unfortunate term) the Government did not dispute the need to establish a vigorous
defense mechanism capable of acting despite obDections by one or more members. !t will
be recalled that the NS< Planning Board) on 8ay %&) had outlined three possible regional
groupings dependent upon the nature and timing of a settlement at Geneva. Now) in late
:une) circumstances dictated the advisability of concentrating on the "Group 7" formula)
in which the UA) the United States) Pa.istan) Thailand) the Philippines) #ustralia) and
New Lealand would participate but not *rance +unless it was decided that the pact would
apply to !ndochina1. The concerned states would echange information) act as a united
front against <ommunism) provide actual assistance to #sian members against eternal
attac. or "<ommunist insurrection)" and ma.e use of #sian facilities andIor forces in
their defense assistance program.
#merican planning for what was to become S@#TB evinced concern) however) about the
commitment of #merican forces in cases of <ommunist infiltration and subversion. #s
the Planning Board=s paper notes) the role of the United States and other countries should
be limited to support of the country re?uesting assistance6 #sian member nations would
be epected to "contribute facilities and) if possible) at least to.en military contingents."
The Board=s paper did not represent a final policy statement6 but it did reflect #merican
reluctance) particularly on the part of the President and the :oint <hiefs) to have
#merican forces drawn into the .ind of local conflict the #dministration had steered
clear of in 4ietnam. Bn this ?uestion of limiting the "estern commitment) the British) to
Dudge from their hostility toward involvement against the 4iet 8inh) were also in general
agreement.
#side from partition and regional security) a basis also eisted for agreement to assisting
the *rench in their diplomatic wor. by the device of some carefully worded warning to
the <ommunists. The British) before as well as after ;ienbienphu) were firmly against
issuing threats to the <ommunists that involved military conse?uences. "hen united
action had first been broached) /ondon reDected raising the threat of a naval bloc.ade and
carrying it out if the <hinese continued to assist the 4iet 8inh. #gain) when united
action came up in private U.S.$*rench discussions during 8ay) the British saw no useful
purpose in see.ing to influence discussions at Geneva by ma.ing it .nown to the
<ommunists that united action would follow a brea.down in negotiations. The situation
was different now. !nstead of threatening direct military action) /ondon and "ashington
apparently agreed) the "est could profit from an open$ended warning tied to a lac. of
progress at Geneva. "hen @den addressed the >ouse of <ommons on :une 79 prior to
emplaning for "ashington) he said3 "!t should be clear to all that the hopes of agreement
Fat GenevaG would be Deopardi2ed if active military operations in !ndochina were to be
intensified while negotiations for an armistice are proceeding at Geneva. !f this reminder
is needed) ! hope that it may be heeded." @den was specifically thin.ing of a renewed
4iet 8inh offensive in the ;elta) but was not saying what might happen once
negotiations were placed in Deopardy.
This type of warning was sounded again at the conclusion of the #nglo$#merican tal.s)
and encouragement for it came from Paris. !n the same aidememoire of :une 7, in which
the *rench Government had re?uested that the United States counsel Saigon against a
violent reaction to partition) "ashington was also urged to Doin with /ondon in a
declaration. The declaration would "state in some fashion or other that) if it is not
possible to reach a reasonable settlement at the Geneva <onference) a serious aggravation
of international relations would result F;oc. ,,G The *rench suggestion was acted upon.
@isenhower and <hurchill issued a statement on :une 7& that "if at Geneva the *rench
Government is confronted with demands which prevent an acceptable agreement
regarding !ndochina) the international situation will be seriously aggravated." !n
retrospect) the statement may have had an important bearing on the <ommunists=
negotiating position$$a point to which we shall return subse?uently.
The Doint statement referred to "an acceptable agreement)" and indeed the ramifications of
that phrase constituted the main subDect of the U.S.$UA tal.s. !n an unpublici2ed
agreement) the two governments concurred on a common set of principles which) if
wor.ed into the settlement terms) would enable both to "respect" the armistice. These
principles) .nown subse?uently as the Seven Points) were communicated to the *rench.
#s reported by @den) they were3
+%1 Preservation of the integrity and independence of /aos and <ambodia) and assurance
of 4iet 8inh withdrawal from those countries
+71 Preservation of at least the southern half of 4ietnam) and if possible an enclave in the
;elta) with the line of demarcation no further south than one running generally west from
;ong >oi
+91 No restrictions on /aos) <ambodia) or retained 4ietnam "materially impairing their
capacity to maintain stable non$<ommunist regimes6 and especially restrictions impairing
their right to maintain ade?uate forces for internal security) to import arms and to employ
foreign advisers"
+51 No "political provisions which would ris. loss of the retained area to <ommunist
control"
+'1 No provision that would "eclude the possibility of the ultimate reunification of
4ietnam by peaceful means"
+,1 Provision for "the peaceful and humane transfer) under international supervision) of
those people desiring to be moved from one 2one to another of 4ietnam"
+-1 Provision for "effective machinery for international supervision of the agreement."
The Seven Points represented something of an #merican diplomatic victory when viewed
in the contet of the changed #dministration position on partition. "hile any loss of
territory to the <ommunists predetermined the official #merican attitude toward the
settlement$$@den was told the United States would almost certainly be unable to
guarantee it$$the terms agreed upon with the British were sufficiently hard that) if pushed
through by the *rench) they would bring about a tolerable arrangement for !ndochina.
The stic.ing point for "ashington lay not in the terms but in the unli.elihood that the
British) any more than the *rench) would actually stand by them against the <ommunists.
Thus) ;ulles wrote3 ". . . we have the distinct impression that the British loo. upon this
Fmemorandum of the Seven PointsG merely as an optimum solution and that they would
not encourage the *rench to hold out for a solution as good as this." The Secretary
observed that the British) during the tal.s) were unhappy about finding "ashington ready
only to "respect" the final terms reached at Geneva. They had preferred a stronger word)
yet they "wanted to epress these - points merely as a =hope= without any indication of
firmuess on our part." The United States) ?uite aside from what was said in the Seven
Points) "would not want to be associated in any way with a settlement which fell
materially short of the - point memorandum." F;oc. -(G Thus) the seven points) while
having finally bound the United States and Great Britain to a common position on the
conference) did not allay "ashington=s aniety over British and *rench readiness to
conclude a less$than$satisfactory settlement. The possibility of a unilateral #merican
withdrawal from the conference was still being "given consideration)" ;ulles reported)
even as the Seven Points were agreed upon.
;espite reservations about our #llies= adherence to the Seven Points) the United States
still hoped to get *rench approval of them. Bn :uly ,) ;illon telegraphed the *rench
reaction as given him by Parodi) the secretary$general of the cabinet. "ith the eception
of Point ') denoting national elections) the *rench were in agreement. They were
confused about an apparent conflict between the elections provision and Point 5) under
which political provisions) which would include elections) were not to ris. loss of
retained 4ietnam. !n addition) they) too) felt #merican agreement merely to "respect" any
agreement was too wea. a term) and re?uested clarification of its meaning.
;ulles responded the net day +:uly -1 to both matters. Points 5 and ' were not in
conflict) he said. !t was ?uite possible that an agreement in line with the Seven Points
might still not prevent !ndochina from going <ommunist. The important thing) therefore)
was to arrange for national elections in a way that would give the South 4ietnamese a
liberal breathing spell3
since undoubtedly true that elections might eventually mean unification 4ietnam under
>o <hi 8inh this ma.es it all more important they should be only held as long after
cease$fire agreement as possible and in conditions free from intimidation to give
democratic elements Fin South 4ietnamG best chance. "e believe important that no date
should be set now and especially that no conditions should be accepted by *rench which
would have direct or indirect effect of preventing effective international supervision of
agreement ensuring political as well as military guarantees.
#nd so far as "respect" of that agreement was concerned) the United States and Britain
meant they "would not oppose a settlement which conformed to Seven Points. . . . !t does
not of course mean we would guarantee such settlement or that we would necessarily
support it publicly. "e consider =respect= as strong a word as we can possibly employ in
the circumstances. . . . =0espect= would also mean that we would not see. directly or
indirectly to upset settlement by force." Y
Y ;ulles to #merican @mbassy) Paris) tel. No. --) :uly -. %&'5 +Secret1. F;oc. ,5G
0egarding the U.S. view of a >o <hi 8inh electoral victory) we not only have the well$
.nown comment of @isenhower that >o) at least in early %&'5) would have garnered J(
percent of the vote. +See Mandate for ;hange FGarden <ity) New Cor.3 ;oubledayG) pp.
99-$9J.1 !n addition) there is a ;epartment of State memorandum of conversation of 8ay
9%) %&'5) in which /ivingston 8erchant reportedly "recogni2ed the possibility that in
4iet Nam >o might win a plebiscite) if held today."
;ulles= clarification of the #merican position on elections in 4ietnam) together with his
delimitation of the nation=s obligation towards a settlement) did not satisfy the *rench
completely but served the important purpose of enlightening them as to #merican
intentions. Placed beside the discussions with @den and <hurchill) the thrust of #merican
diplomacy at this time clearly was to leave no ?uestion in the minds of our allies as to
what we considered the elements in a reasonable !ndochina settlement and what we
would li.ely do once a settlement were achieved.
The Pentagon Papers
Gravel @dition
4olume %) <hapter 9) "The Geneva <onference) 8ay$:uly) %&'5"
+Boston3 Beacon Press) %&-%1
Section 7) pp. %5,$%-J
4!!. TB"#0; # S@TT/@8@NT3 T>@ /#ST T>!0TC ;#CS
#. T)E 5#2:#!3!3: ;63T!37ES
"hile the *rench and British pondered the implications of the Seven Points) bargaining
continued behind the scenes against a bac.ground of further military advance by the 4iet
8inh. #t about the same time the 4iet 8inh made their first specific partition proposal)
their forces in the field completed their deployment from the ;ienbienphu area. By mid$
:une) according to #merican intelligence) the 4iet 8inh were believed prepared for a
massive attac. in the ;elta. #nother report spo.e of their renewed attention to southern
#nnam and of an apparent buildup of military strength there. Not surprisingly in light of
these developments) the 4iet 8inh) in late :une) responded to the *rench proposal of a
division at the %Jth parallel with a plan for a line in southern #nnam running northwest
from the %9th to the %5th parallel) i.e.) from Tuy >oa on the coast through Plei.u to the
<ambodian border. 8oreover) in secret tal.s with the *rench) the 4iet 8inh=s vice$
minister for national defense) Ta Kuang Buu) also insisted on *rench withdrawal from the
;elta within two months of a cease$fire) in contrast to *rench demands for a four$month
interval. F;oc. ,&G #s suggested by /acouture and ;evillers) the 4iet 8inh may have
been see.ing to capitali2e not only on their improved military position in the ;elta)
where *rench Union forces were still in retreat) but also on 8endZs$*rance=s reputation
as a man of peace obviously desirous of a settlement.
This resurgence of 4iet 8inh toughness on terms for a cessation of hostilities applied
also to /aos and <ambodia. !n the military staff conferences that had begun separately on
those two countries in late :une) no progress was made. The 4iet 8inh indicated) in the
/aotian case) that they had already withdrawn6 if forces opposing the royal government
remained +as in fact some %')((( did1) negotiations with the resistance groups would
have to be underta.en. Thus) despite <hou @n$lai=s claim that 4iet 8inh withdrawal from
/aos and <ambodia could easily be accomplished) the 4iet 8inh were hardly ready to
move out unless they received substantial guarantees +such as a permanent regroupment
area1) which the royal governments refused to give.
"hether because of or in spite of 4iet 8inh intransigence) the <hinese forcefully made
.nown their earnest desire to .eep the conference moving. !n an important encounter at
Bern on :une 79) <hou @n$lai several times emphasi2ed to 8endZs$*rance that the main
thing was a cease$fire) on which he hoped progress could be made before all the heads of
delegation returned to Geneva. 0egarding /aos and <ambodia) <hou thought
regroupment areas for the insurgents would be necessary) but reiterated that national
unity was the affair of the royal governments6 he hoped the resistance elements might
find a place in the national life of their respective countries. <hou told the *rench
premier) as he had told @den previously) that no #merican bases could be permitted in
those countries6 yet <hou spo.e sympathetically of the *rench Union. Turning finally to
the 4iet 8inh) <hou urged that direct contact be established between them and the
4ietnamese. >e promised that for his part) he would see that the 4iet 8inh were
thoroughly prepared for serious discussions on a military settlement. <learly) the <hinese
were far more interested in moving forward toward a cease$fire than were their 4iet 8inh
counterparts.
@ven though the 4iet 8inh were ma.ing demands that the *rench) <ambodians) and
/aotians could not accept) the debate was narrowing to specifics. The ?uestion when
national elections in 4ietnam should be held is illustrative. The 4iet 8inh did not budge
from their insistence that elections occur si months after the cease$fire. But the *rench)
attempting to ma.e some headway in the tal.s) retreated from insistence on setting no
date +a position the 4ietnamese had supported1 and offered to hold elections %J months
after completion of the regroupment process) or between 77 and 79 months after the
cessation of hostilities. F;oc. ,&G The *rench now admitted that while they still loo.ed
forward to retaining >aiphong and the <atholic bishoprics as long as possible) perhaps in
some neutral environment) total withdrawal from the north would probably be necessary
to avoid cutting up 4ietnam into enclaves. F;oc. ,,G But partition in any manner faced
the *rench with hostile 4ietnamese) and it was for this reason that <hauvel not only
suggested #merican intervention to induce 4ietnamese self$control) but also received
Pham 4an ;ong=s approval) in a conversation :uly ,) to having the military commands
rather than governments sign the final armistice so as to avoid having to win 4ietnamese
consent. #s Ngo ;inh ;iem) who became prime minister :une %J) suspected) the *rench
were prepared to pull out of Ton.in as part of the cease$fire arrangements.
Bn the matter of control and supervision) the debate also became more focused even as
the gulf between opposing views remained wide. The chief points of contention were) as
before) the composition and authority of the neutral supervisory body6 but the outlines of
an acceptable arrangement were beginning to form. Thus) on composition) the
<ommunist delegations) in early :uly) began spea.ing in terms of an odd$numbered
+three or five1 neutral commission chaired by !ndia) with pro$<ommunist and pro$
"estern governments e?ually sharing the remaining two or four places. Second) on the
powers of that body) dispute persisted as to whether it would have separate but parallel
authority with the Doint commissions or supreme authority6 whether and on what
?uestions it would ma.e Dudgments by unanimous vote6 and whether it would +as the
*rench proposed1 be empowered to issue maDority and minority reports in case of
disagreement. These were all fundamental issues) but the important point is that the
<ommunist side refused to consider them irremovable obstacles to agreement. #s
8olotov=s understudy) Au2netsov +the deputy foreign minister1) put it) the Soviet and
*rench proposals on control and supervision revealed "rapprochement in the points of
view on certain ?uestions. !t is true with respect to the relationships between the mied
commission and the international supervisory commission. This rapprochement eists
also in regard to the ?uestion of the eamination of the functions and duties of the
commission..." !n fact) a "rapprochement" did not eist6 but the Soviets) interestingly)
persisted in their optimism that a solution could be found.
5. ;)!3ESE DiP"6M#;<
"hile the negotiations went on among the second$string diplomats) a different .ind of
diplomacy was being carried on elsewhere. <hou @n$lai) en route to Pe.ing) advanced
<ommunist <hina=s effort) actually begun in late %&'7) to woo its #sian neighbors with
tal. of peaceful coeistence. This diplomatic offensive) which was to have an important
bearing on the outcome at Geneva) had borne its first fruit in #pril %&'5) when <hou
reached agreement with Nehru over Tibet. #t that time) the <hinese first introduced the
"five principles" they vowed to follow in their relations with other nations. The five
principles are3 mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty) nonaggression)
noninterference in internal affairs) e?uality and mutual benefit) and peaceful coeistence.
<hou=s first stopover was in New ;elhi) the scene of his initial success. Bn :une 7J he
and Nehru reaffirmed the five principles and epressed the hope that a peaceful
settlement in !ndochina would be concluded in conformity with them. Similar sentiments
appeared in a Doint statement from 0angoon) scene of tal.s with Prime 8inister U Nu.
Promises were echanged) moreover) for the maintenance of close contact between <hina
and Burma) and support was voiced for the right of countries having different social
systems to coeist without interference from outside. "0evolution cannot be eported)"
the Doint statement proclaimed6 "at the same time outside interference with the common
will epressed by the people of any nation should not be permitted."
Pe.ing made full use of these diplomatic achievements by contrasting them with the
#merican policy of ruthless epansionism) which Pe.ing said was carried out by
"ashington under the label of opposing <ommunism. Pe.ing proclaimed that the era of
colonialism which the United States was see.ing to perpetuate in !ndochina had come to
an end. "# new era has dawned in which #sian countries can coeist peacefully and
establish friendly relations on the basis of respect for each other=s territorial integrity and
sovereignty and mutual nonaggression)" said Fen-min Hih-pao. #nother newspaper)
Duang-ming Hih-pao) offered similar testimony to the inspirational effect of the Sino$
!ndian and Sino$Burmese agreements) considering them to conform to the interests of all
#sian peoples. The daily castigated the #merican "policy of strength" as being totally
incompatible with the five principles. <learly) <hina was eploiting its gains through
diplomacy not simply to ac?uire #sian support +and thus detract from pro$"esternism in
the region1) but more broadly to muster recognition for <hina as the leading #sian power
in the fight against "imperialism" and "colonialism."
<hou=s diplomatic efforts too. a different turn) it seems) when he met with >o <hi 8inh
at Nanning) on the Sino$4ietnamese frontier) from :uly 9$'. #lthough the final
communi?ue merely stated that the two leaders "had a full echange of views on the
Geneva <onference with respect to the ?uestion of the restoration of peace in !ndochina
and related ?uestions)" it subse?uently appeared that much more may have ta.en place.
#ccording to observers in >ong Aong) <hou pressed for the meeting out of fear that the
4iet 8inh might engage in intensified military action that would destroy chances for an
armistice and upset <hina=s budding role as an #sian peacema.er. <onceivably) <hou
sought to persuade >o that his territorial gains were about as much as he could epect at
that Duncture without ris.ing an end to negotiations and renewed #merican attempts to
forge a military alliance for intervention. To Dudge from the 4iet 8inh reaction to the
tal.s) >o was not completely satisfied with <hou=s proposed tactics.
8omentarily leaving aside <hou=s motivations) it is vital to note the impact of the tal.s
on the Geneva negotiations. Bn :uly &) <hauvel dined with /i A=enung and <hang "en$
t=ien) a vice$minister for foreign affairs and <P0 ambassador to the Soviet Union.
<hauvel opened the conversation$$as he later recounted to :ohnson$$by complaining that
discussions with the 4iet 8inh were not going well) that 4iet 8inh demands were
eorbitant and well beyond <hou @n$lai=s stated position. The <hinese delegates evinced
surprise but said nothing in direct reply. >owever) <hang did report that <hou had had a
"very good meeting" with >o <hi 8inh) the results of which "would be helpful to
*rench." <hauvel received the impression$$one which seems) in retrospect) to have been
accurate$$that the 4iet 8inh had been given a free hand by the Soviets and <hinese up to
the point where their demands were unacceptable to the *rench) at which time the Soviets
andIor <hinese felt compelled to intervene. F;oc. ,,G !f such was the case) <hou=s tal.
with >o) coming after 8endZs$*rance and his negotiators showed no sign of being more
compromising than their predecessors) /aniel and Bidault) may have been intended to
inform the 4iet 8inh that the "point" had been reached and that they had to soften their
demands if a settlement were ever to be attained.
;. T)E F2#3;6-#ME2!;#3 73DE2ST#3D!3:
Precisely how <hou=s stopover in Nanning would be "helpful" to the *rench did not
become apparent until four days after <hauvel=s conversation with /i and <hang. By that
time) the *rench had been engaged in intensive conversations with the #mericans) the
aim of which was to convince "ashington that the United States) to be truly influential at
the conference$to reali2e) in other words) a settlement in line with the Seven Points$had to
bac. the *rench with a high$level representative in Geneva. Unless the United States did
more than offer its views from afar on an acceptable settlement) 8endZs$*rance argued)
*rance could not be epected to present a strong front when 8olotov and <hou resumed
their places. #s though to prove his determination to stand fast against <ommunist
demands) 8endZs$*rance told #mbassador ;illon in Paris that if a cease$fire was not
agreed to by :uly 7() the premier would approve the dispatch of conscripts to !ndochina
and would introduce a law into Parliament to that effect on :uly 7%. >is government
would not resign until that law passed6 the ships would be prepared to transport the
conscripts to !ndochina beginning :uly 7'. [;oc. ,7G
;espite 8endZs$*rance=s willingness to establish a deadline and) for the first time in the
history of *rench involvement in !ndochina) to conscript soldiers for service there)
"ashington remained opposed to upgrading its Geneva delegation. Sensitive as much to
any proposal that might implicate the United States in the final settlement terms as to
8endZs$*rance=s difficulties at the conference table) ;ulles believed the *rench would
end by accepting a settlement unsatisfactory to the United States whether or not the
US;@/ were upgraded. #s he eplained to ;illon) were he +the Secretary1 or Smith to
return to Geneva only to find the *rench compelled to negotiate an unacceptable
agreement anyway) the United States would be re?uired to dissociate itself in a manner
"which would be deeply resented by the *rench as an effort on our part to bloc. at the
last minute a peace which they ardently desire)" with possible "irreparable inDury to
*ranco$#merican relations The least embarrassing alternative) ;ulles felt) was to avoid
the probability of having to ma.e a "spectacular disassociation" by staying away from the
conference altogether. F;oc. ,'G
"hen ;ulles= position was reported to 8endZs$*rance) the premier said he understood
the #mericans= reluctance but considered it misplaced. The #merican fear of in some way
becoming committed to the settlement) he said) was precisely his dilemma) for he had no
idea what the <ommunists would propose in the crucial days ahead. The *rench
negotiating position was the Seven Points) he went on) and would not deviate
substantially from them. "ith great feeling) 8endZs$*rance told a member of the
#merican @mbassy that the presence of ;ulles or Smith was "absolutely essential and
necessary"6 without either of them) the <ommunists would sense and see. to capitali2e
on a lac. of unity in the allied camp. "8endZs indicated that our high$level presence at
Geneva had di rect bearing on where <ommunists would insist on placing line of
demarcation or partition in 4ietnam."
These arguments did not prove convincing to "ashington. Bn :uly %() ;ulles wrote
8endZs$*rance a personal message reiterating that his or General Smith=s presence would
serve no useful purpose. #nd ;ulles again raised doubts that *rance) Britain) and the
United States were really agreed on a single negotiating position3
"hat now concerns us is that we are very doubtful as to whether there is a united front in
relation to !ndochina) and we do not believe that the mere fact that the high
representatives of the three nations physically reappear together at Geneva will serve as a
substitute for a clear agreement on a Doint position which includes agreement as to what
will happen if that position is not accepted by the <ommunists. "e fear that unless there
is the reality of such a united front) the events at Geneva will epose differences under
conditions which will only serve to accentuate them with conse?uent strain upon the
relations between our two countries greater than if the US does not reappear at Geneva) in
the person of General Smith or myself. F;oc. ,-G
The Secretary ?uestioned whether the Seven Points truly represented a common
"minimum acceptable solution" which the three #llies were willing to fight for in the
event the <ommunists reDected them. <harging that the Seven Points were actually
"merely an optimum solution" for Paris no less than for /ondon) ;ulles sought to
demonstrate that the *rench were already moving away from the Seven Points. >e cited
apparent *rench willingness to permit <ommunist forces to remain in northern /aos) to
accept a demarcation line "considerably south of ;onghoi)" to neutrali2e and demilitari2e
/aos and <ambodia) and to permit "elections so early and so ill$prepared and ill$
supervised as to ris. the loss of the entire area to <ommunism" as evidences of a
"whittling$away process" which) cumulatively) could destroy the intent of the Seven
Points. F;oc. ,-G Un?uestionably) the Secretary=s firm opposition to restoring to the
#merican delegation its high ran. was grounded in intense suspicion of an ultimate
*rench sell$out) yet suspicion based on apparent misinformation concerning both the
actual *rench position and the degree of *rench willingness to stand firm.
Thus believing that the *rench had already gone far toward deflating some of the maDor
provisions of the U.S.$UA memorandum) ;ulles reiterated the #dministration=s position
that it had the right "not to endorse a solution which would seem to us to impair seriously
certain principles which the US believes must) as far as it is concerned) be .ept
unimpaired) if our own struggle against <ommunism is to be successfully pursued."
Perhaps see.ing to rationali2e the impact of his reDection) ;ulles wrote in closing that the
#merican decision might actually assist the *rench3 "!f our conduct creates a certain
uncertainty in the minds of the <ommunists) this might strengthen your hand more than
our presence at Geneva F;oc. ,-G 8endZs$*raiice had been rebuffed) however) and while
;ulles left the door slightly aDar for his or Smith=s return if "circumstances" should
change) it seemed more probable that *rance would have to wor. for a settlement with
only the British along side.
The ;ulles$8endZs$*rance echanges were essentially an eercise in credibility) with the
*rench premier desperately see.ing to persuade the Secretary that Paris really did support
and really would abide by the Seven Points. "hen 8endes$*rance read ;ulles= letter) he
protested that *rance would accept nothing unacceptable to the United States) and went
so far as to say that ;ulles= presence at the conference would give him a veto power) in
effect) on the decisions ta.en. Beyond that) 8endZs$*rance warned of the catastrophic
impact of an #merican withdrawal on the #merican position in @urope no less than in the
*ar @ast6 withdrawal) he said) was sure to be interpreted as a step toward isolationism.
#s.ed what alternative his government had in mind if the conference failed even with an
#merican high$level presence) 8endZs$*rance replied there would have to be full
internationali2ation of the war.Y
Y ;illon from Paris priority tel. No. %95) :uly %%) %&'5. F;oc. ,JG The same day)
8endZs$*rance had told ;illon again of *rance=s intention to send conscripts) with
parliamentary approval) by :uly 7') with two divisions ready for action by about
September %'. The premier said that while he could not predict how the #ssembly would
react) he personally saw the need for direct #merican involvement in the war once
negotiations bro.e down and the conscripts were sent. ;illon from Paris priority tel. No.
%99) :uly %%) %&'5.
8endZs$*rance=s persistence was sufficiently persuasive to move ;ulles) on :uly %9) to
fly to Paris to document the premier=s support of the Seven Points. Bn the %5th) the
Secretary and the premier signed a memorandum which duplicated that agreed to by the
United States and Great Britain. !n addition) a position paper was drawn up the same day
reiterating that the United States was at the conference as "a friendly nation" whose role
was subordinate to that of the primary non$<ommunist parties) the #ssociated States and
*rance. The Seven Points were described) as they had been some two wee.s earlier) as
those acceptable to the "primarily interested nations" and which the United States could
"respect." >owever) should terms ultimately be concluded which differed mar.edly from
the Seven Points) *rance agreed that the United States would neither be as.ed nor
epected to accept them) and "may publicly disassociate itself from such differing terms"
by a unilateral or multilateral statement.
Bne of ;ulles= obDections had been that a true united front did not eist so long as
agreement was lac.ing on allied action in the event of no settlement. Bn this point) too)
the *rench were persuaded to adopt the #merican position. !n the event of a settlement) it
was agreed in the position paper that the United States would "see.) with other interested
nations) a collective defense association designed to preserve) against direct and indirect
aggression) the integrity of the non$<ommunist areas of Southeast #sia Should no
settlement be forthcoming) U.S.$*rance consultations would ta.e place6 but these would
not preclude the United States from bringing "the matter" before the UN as a threat to the
peace. Previous obstacles to *rench obDections to UN involvement were noneistent) for
*rance reaffirmed in the position paper its commitment under the :une 5 treaty of
independence with 4ietnam that Saigon) as well as 4ientiane and Phnom Penh) was an
"e?ual and voluntary" partner in the *rench Union) and hence no longer subDect in its
foreign policy to *rench di0tat.
Bn all but one matter) now) the United States and *rance were in complete accord on a
negotiating strategy. That matter was) of course) the #merican delegation. 8endZs$
*rance had formally subscribed to the Seven Points and had agreed to #merican plans for
dealing with the aftermath of the conference6 yet he had gained nothing for the *rench
delegation. "riting to the Secretary) the premier pointed out again3
!n effect) ! have every reason to thin. that your absence would be precisely interpreted as
demonstrating) before the fact) that you disapproved of the conference and of everything
which might be accomplished. Not only would those who are against us find therein the
confirmation of the ill will which they attribute to your government concerning the
reestablishment of peace in !ndochina6 but many others would read in it a sure sign of a
division of the western powers. F;oc. -(G
Bnce more) 8endZs$*rance was putting forth the view that a high$level #merican
representation at the conference would do more to ensure a settlement in conformity with
the Seven Points than private U.S.$*rench agreement to them.
*or reasons not entirely clear) but perhaps the conse?uence of @isenhower=s personal
intervention) 8endZs$*rance=s appeal was now favorably received in "ashington. ;ulles
was able to inform the premier on :uly %53 "!n the light of what you say and after
consultation with President @isenhower) ! am glad to be able to inform you that the
President and ! are as.ing the Under Secretary of State) General "alter Bedell Smith) to
prepare to return at his earliest convenience to Geneva to share in the wor. of the
conference on the basis of the understanding which we have arrived at." F;oc. -(G *or the
first time since late %&'9) the United States and *rance were solidly Doined in a common
front on !ndochina policy.
!n accordance with the understandings reached with *rance) Smith was sent new
instructions on :uly %, based upon the Seven Points. #fter reiterating the passive formal
role the United States was to play at the conference) ;ulles informed his Under Secretary
he was to issue a unilateral +or) if possible) multilateral1 statement should a settlement be
reached that "conforms substantially" to the Seven Points. "The United States will not)
however) become cosignatory with the <ommunists in any ;eclaration)" ;ulles wrote
with reference to the procedure then being discussed at Geneva of drafting military
accords and a final declaration on a political settlement. Nor should the United States)
Smith=s instructions went on) be put in a position where it could be held responsible for
guaranteeing the results of the conference. Smith=s efforts should be directed) ;ulles
summed up) toward forwarding ideas to the "active negotiators)" *rance) <ambodia)
/aos) and 4ietnam.
This last point of guidance referred to the possibility of a brea.down in the negotiations.
Should no settlement be reached) the United States delegation was
to avoid permitting the *rench to believe that outcome was the result of #merican advice
or pressure) and that in some way the United States was morally obligated to intervene
militarily in !ndochina. The United States) ;ulles wrote) was "not prepared at the present
time to give any commitment that it will intervene in the war if the Geneva <onference
fails..." "hile this stricture almost certainly reflected the President=s and the :oint <hiefs=
etreme reluctance to become committed) in advance) to a war already past the point of
return) it was also doubtless a reaction to 8endZs$*rance=s intimations to ;illon of
*rench willingness to reconsider active #merican involvement if the conference failed.
"ith *rench and British adherence to the Seven Points promised by written agreement)
the United States had gone about as far as it could toward ensuring an acceptable
settlement without becoming tied to it. The #dministration still apparently believed that
the final terms would violate the Seven Points in several significant respects6Y but by
ma.ing clear in advance that any settlement would be met with a unilateral #merican
declaration rather than Bedell Smith=s signature) the United
Y Thus) on :uly %' +one day after the *ranco$#merican agreements1) the National
Security <ouncil) after being briefed on the Geneva situation) decided that the li.ely
settlement would go against the Seven Points. The NS< was told the <ommunists would3
+%1 see. partition of 4ietnam somewhere between the %5th and %Jth parallels6 +71 demand
control of some part of /aos) neutrali2ation of the remainder) and agreement on the
formation of a coalition government6 +91 as. neutrali2ation of <ambodia and some form
of recognition for the *ree Ahmer movement. "ere the <ommunists to accept the ;ong
>oi line for 4ietnam) they would then demand an enclave in southern 4ietnam plus part
of /aos) or simply etend the ;ong >oi line through /aos.
States had at least guaranteed its retention of a moral advantage) useful particularly in
placating domestic public opinion. !n the event of an unsatisfactory settlement)
"ashington would be in a position to say that it had stood steadfastly by principle only to
be undercut by "soft" #llies and <ommunist territorial ambitions.
;. T>@ *!N#/ "@@A B* B#0G#!N!NG
Prior to Smith=s return) positions had tended to harden rather than change at Geneva)
although the 4iet 8inh had yielded a trifle on partition. <hang "en$t=ien=s encouraging
remar. to <hauvel of :uly & had been fulfilled four days later) as already indicated. The
final signal was <hou=s comment to 8endZs*rance on the %9th that both sides) *rench
and 4iet 8inh) had to ma.e concessions on the demarcation problem) but that this "does
not signify that each must ta.e the same number of steps." That same day) Pham 4an
;ong told the *rench premier the 4iet 8inh were willing to settle on the %,th parallel.
;ong=s territorial concession meant little to the *rench) however) and) as the negotiations
continued) it became plain that the 4iet 8inh were not concerned about 8endZs$*rance=s
:uly 7( deadline. Cet the <hinese remained optimistic) at least publicly. :en$min Dih$pao=s
Geneva reporter) for instance) wrote :uly %7 that while no solution had yet been wor.ed
out on the control and supervision problem) "there seems no reason why agreement
cannot be reached." #s for defining the regroupment areas) the correspondent asserted
that "speedy agreement would seem probable after the return of the *oreign 8inisters of
the Big Powers..." So long as all parties were "sincere)" he wrote) agreement would
indeed come about.
The minuscule progress made on settling the 4ietnam problem loomed large in
comparison with the seemingly unbrea.able log Dam that had developed over /aos and
<ambodia. Since the maDor <ommunist concessions of mid$:une) which had at least
paved the way for separating /aos and <ambodia from 4ietnam for discussion purposes)
virtually nothing had been accomplished toward cease$fires. ;ebate on /aos and
<ambodia occupied the spotlight again on :uly & when) from the remar.s of the <hinese
delegate +/i A=e$nung1) it ?uic.ly became apparent that for all their willingness to discuss
the withdrawal of 4iet 8inh troops) the <hinese remained greatly concerned about
possible /aotian and <ambodian rearmament and alignment. Simply put) the <hinese
were negotiating for their own security) not for 4iet 8inh territorial advantage.
#s <hou had pointed out to @den in :une) the <P0=s maDor concern was that <ambodia
and /aos might) after a settlement) be left free to negotiate for a permanent #merican
military presence. !n his presentation) therefore) /i A=e$nung insisted that the two
countries not be permitted to ac?uire fresh troops) military personnel) arms) and
ammunition ecept as might be strictly re?uired for self$defense6 nor should they) he
held) allow foreign military bases to be established. /i formali2ed <hou=s passing remar.
to @den that <hina was not much disturbed by *rench Union +as opposed to #merican1
technicians. /i allowed that *rench military personnel to assist the training of the /aotian
and <ambodian armies was a matter that "can be studied."
The <ambodian case) presented by *oreign 8inister Sam Sary) revealed a stubborn
independence that was to assist the country greatly in the closing days of the conference.
Sam Sary said that foreign bases would indeed not be authori2ed on Ahmer soil "only as
far as there is no menace against <ambodia. . . . !f our security is imperiled) <ambodia
will .eep its legitimate right to defend itself by all means." #s for foreign instructors and
technicians) his government wished to retain those *renchmen then in <ambodia6 he was
pleased to note /i A=e$nung=s apparent acceptance of this arrangement. *inally) with
regard to the importation of arms) Sam Sary differentiated between a limitation on
?uantity +which his government accepted1 and on ?uality +which his government wished
to have a free hand in determining1.
"hile the <hinese publicly castigated the <ambodians for wor.ing with the #mericans to
threaten "the security of <ambodia=s neighboring countries under the pretet of self$
defense)" the #mericans gave the <ambodians encouragement. !n "ashington) Phnom
Penh=s ambassador) Nong Aimny) met with ;ulles on :uly %(. Nong Aimny said his
Government would oppose the neutrali2ation and demilitari2ation of the country6 ;ulles
replied that hopefully <ambodia would become a member of the collective security
arrangement envisaged in #merican$British plans. <ambodia) the Secretary said)
possessed a .ind of independence superior to that in 4ietnam and /aos) and as such
should indeed oppose <ommunist plans to neutrali2e and demilitari2e her. #s an
independent state) <ambodia was entitled to see. outside military and economic
assistance.
The /aotian delegation was also eperiencing difficulties) though with the 4iet 8inh
rather than the <hinese. The 4iet 8inh negotiators) in the military command
conferences) insisted on ma.ing etraneous demands concerning the Pathet /ao. The
/aotians were concerned not so much with the demands as with the possibility of a
private *rench deal with the 4iet 8inh that would subvert the /aotian position. #
member of the royal government=s delegation went to :ohnson to be assured that a
behind$the$scenes deal would not occur. The delegate said /aos hoped to be covered by
and to participate in a Southeast #sia collective security pact. :ohnson did not guarantee
that this arrangement could be wor.ed out6 but as the conference drew to a close) as we
shall see) the United States made it clear to the <ambodians and /aotians that their
security would in some fashion be ta.en care of under the S@#TB treaty.
!rresolution over <ambodia and /aos) a continuing wide gap between *rench and 4iet
8inh positions on the partition line) and no progress on the control and supervision
dilemma were the highlights of the generally dismal scene that greeted General Smith on
his return :uly %, to the negotiating wars. Smith apparently too. heart) however) in the
steadfastness of 8endZs$*rance) although the Under Secretary also observed that the
<ommunists had reacted to this by themselves becoming unmoving. Smith attributed
<ommunist intransigence to the probability that "8endZs$*rance has been a great
disappointment to the <ommunists both as regards the relatively firm position he has
ta.en on !ndochina and his attitude toward @;<. They may therefore wish to force him
out of the government by ma.ing settlement here impossible."
#ctually) what had disturbed the <ommunists most was not so much 8endZs*rance=s
firmness as Smith=s return. That became clear following a private meeting re?uested by a
member of the <P0 delegation) >uang >ua) with Seymour Topping) the 3e4 <or0 Times
correspondent at Geneva. Topping) as the <hinese must have epected) reported the
conversation to the #merican delegation. >e said >uang >ua) spea.ing in deadly earnest
and without propagandistic overtones) had interpreted Smith=s return as an #merican
attempt to prevent a settlement. !ndeed) according to >uang >ua) the Paris tal.s between
;ulles and 8endZs$*rance on :uly %9 and %5 had been primarily responsible for 8endZs$
*rance=s stubbornness6 the *rench premier had obviously concluded a deal with the
United States in which he agreed to raise the price for a settlement. F;oc. -JG
Bvert <hinese statements in this period lent credence to Topping=s report. *irst) Pe.ing
was far from convinced that continued discussions on the restoration of peace in
!ndochina removed the possibility of dramatic new military moves by the United States.
"ashington was accused) as before the conference) of desiring to intervene in !ndochina
so as to etend the war there into "a new military venture on <hina=s southern borders. !n
support of this contention) Pe.ing cited such provocative moves as trips during #pril and
:une by General :ames #. 4an *leet +"the notorious butcher of the Aorean "ar"1 to
Aorea) :apan) and Taiwan) for the purpose of establishing a North Pacific military
alliance6 #merican intentions of concluding a mutual defense treaty with Taiwan as the
first step in <hiang Aai$she.=s invasion plans6 #merican efforts) through the five$power
and later @isenhower$<hurchill tal.s) to create a Southeast #sia alliance for a military
thrust into !ndochina6 and stepped$up U.S. military assistance) including training) for the
Thai armed forces.
Second) Pe.ing was clearly disturbed that the *rench were still heeding #merican advice
when the path to a settlement lay before them. !n a People=s ;aily editorial of :uly %5) for
instance) the *rench people and National #ssembly were said to be strongly desirous of
peace. Thus3 "# policy running counter to *rench interests cannot wor.. *rance is a
maDor world power. She should have her own independent and honorable path. This
means following an independent foreign policy consistent with *rench national interests
and the interests of world peace." The #merican alternative$$a Southeast #sia coalition
with *rench participation$$should be reDected) the editorial intoned) and a settlement
conforming to the five principles achieved instead. !n .eeping with its line of previous
months) Pe.ing was attempting to demonstrate$$for #sian no less than for *rench ears$$
that it had a .een interest in resolving the !ndochina problem rather than seeing the
conference give way to new #merican military pressures and a possibly wider war.
*inally) Pe.ing paid considerable attention to ;ut!es= stay in Paris and to his dispatch of
Smith to Geneva. ;uties= sudden trip to the *rench capital was said to reveal #merican
determination to obstruct progress in the negotiations by pressuring 8endZs$*rance not
to grasp the settlement that lay Dust around the corner. ;uties originally had no intention
of upgrading the #merican delegation) according to Pe.ing. "But Bedell Smith had to be
sent bac. to Geneva because of strong criticism in the "estern press) and "ashington
was fearful lest agreement could be reached ?uic.ly despite #merican boycotting of the
conference." Cet <hina=s optimism over a settlement did not diminish3 "<hinese
delegation circles)" N<N# reported) "see no reason whatsoever why the Geneva
<onference should play up to the U.S. policy and ma.e no efforts towards achieving an
agreement which is acceptable and satisfactory to all parties concerned and which is
honorable for the two belligerent sides." !f Smith=s return) then) was viewed from Pe.ing
as a challenge to its diplomatic ingenuity) the <hinese +and) we may surmise) the Soviets1
were prepared to accept it.
!n doing so) however) the <hinese evidently were not about to sacrifice in those areas of
dispute where they had a special interest) namely) /aos and <ambodia. Bn :uly %5) <hou
called on Nong Aimny to state <hina=s position. The premier said first that) in accord
with his recent tal.s with Nehru) U Nu) and >o <hi 8inh) he could report a unanimous
desire for peace in !ndochina) for the unity of each of the three #ssociated States) and for
their futBre cordial relationship with the <olombo Powers. <hou then as.ed about the
status of <ambodian tal.s with the 4iet 8inh. "hen Nong Aimny replied that Pham 4an
;ong) in two recent get$togethers) had insisted on interDecting political problems into
discussions of a military settlement$$as by re?uesting <ambodia=s retention of certain
provincial officials appointed by the *ree Ahmers) and by suggesting the royal
government=s preservation of a *ree Ahmer youth movement$$<hou is said to have
laughed off these claims and to have replied that these were indeed matters for <ambodia
to handle by herself.
<hou had his own views on what <ambodia should and should not do6 however) Ahmer
sovereignty should not mean discrimination against the resistance elements) the
establishment of foreign military bases in <ambodia) /aos) and 4ietnam) or the
conclusion of military alliances with other states. <hou was less adamant only on the
subDect of <ambodia=s importation of arms and military personnel6 when Nong Aimny
flatly stated that Phnom Penh would absolutely reDect any limitations inasmuch as these
would be incompatible with <ambodian sovereignty) <hou did not contradict him.
!nstead) he promised to study the matter further and as.ed to .now precisely what
?uantities of arms and personnel the royal government had in mind. /ater on) he became
a bit more fleible by saying that a prohibition on arms and personnel should apply only
to the armistice period) not permanently. Bnly in 4ietnam) <hou said) would there be a
flat proscription against military e?uipment and troops.
<hou and Nong Aimny met again three days later) on :uly %-. Bn this occasion) <hou
was obviously less conciliatory +as Nong Aimny reported1) stating <hina=s position more
in terms of demands than suggestions. >e urged the <ambodian government to
incorporate resistance elements into the army) police) and civil service. But he reserved
his emphasis for <ambodia=s future security position. !n a thinly$veiled warning) <hou
said that should <ambodia Doin the pact) permit foreign bases on its territory) or accept
#merican military instructors) "the conse?uences would be very serious and would
aggravate the situation with unfortunate conse?uences for <ambodian independence and
territorial integrity" +Smith=s paraphrase1. <ambodia could have *rench or British
instructors) <hou said. But his three$fold limitation) obviously directed at assuring against
future <ambodia$U.S. defense ties) remained$and) he added) it applied to /aos and
4ietnam as well.
The <hinese were clearly out to get from the conference what they could) without
0ussian assistance) before a settlement was concluded. <hou did not stop at warning
Nong Aimny) either. Bn :uly %- he too. his case to @den) telling the foreign secretary
that while the <P0 stood ready to Doin in guaranteeing the freedom and independence of
all three !ndochinese states) membership in a Southeast #sia pact would change
everything. @vidently intent on removing what he may have sensed was a possible last$
minute obstacle) @den implied that he .new of no proposal for including the United
States in the pact) although he did not deny #merican interest in forming a defense
organi2ation for Southeast #sia. <hou said he had no obDections to #NLUS +it was
directed against :apan) he thought1) but he went into a lengthy discourse on the danger to
<hina of having foreign bases in !ndochina.
@den=s assurances evidently did not Fwords illegibleG <hou deeply. Bn :uly %J <hou met
with the /aotian foreign minister and presented "unofficial" but etravagant demands
which the latter found totally unacceptable. /aos was willing to provide the resistance
elements with Fwords illegibleG 2ones in the northern provinces of Phong Saly and Sam
Neua6 <hou proposed) additionally) portions of /uang Prabang and Hien Ahouang
provinces. The royal government was further willing to concede the insurgents freedom
of movement in those 2ones) but <hou demanded administration by Doint royal$insurgent
committees and a supervisory Doint committee in 4ientiane until the general elections of
#ugust %&''. *inally) where the /aotians thought the issue of *rench Union bases had
been resolved in their favor) <hou now said the bases should be completely eliminated
even though established by *ranco$/aotian treaty.
<hou=s obsession with foreign military bases and related issues led to an effort to ma.e a
settlement contingent upon "estern acceptance of <hinese neutrali2ation plans. #
<hinese informant +probably >uang >ua1 told Seymour Topping that "estern
willingness to bar foreign military bases from !ndochina and to deny the #ssociated
States admission to any military blocs would assure agreement by :uly 7(. 8ore than
that) the informant said) the United States had also to subscribe to and guarantee the final
settlement) evidently in the belief that #merica=s signature would ma.e !ndochinese
participation in S@#TB illegal. F;oc. -5G # more direct statement was made by N<N#=s
"special correspondent" in Geneva) who drew a harsh characteri2ation of a cease$fire
agreement that left the door open to !ndochinese involvement in a military alliance3
!f efforts are made at the same time negotiations for peace are ta.ing place to drag the
three !ndochinese countries into an aggressive military bloc whose purpose is to unleash
war) then the cease$fire would mean nothing other than a respite for adDusting battle lines
and dispositions of strength in order to start the fighting again on an even larger scale. !n
such circumstances) the armistice agreement would become no more than a scrap of
paper.
"hether the <hinese seriously believed that the United States would sign the accords in
order to achieve a settlement) or that /aos and <ambodia Fwords missingG But of the
Southeast #sia collective defense is at best debatable. There seems little doubt) however)
that Pe.ing sincerely considered a written prohibition on
o the accords against !ndochinese alliances or foreign bases as a maDor step toward the
neutrali2ation of Southeast #sia and the area=s eventual dissociation from the #merican
defense system.
General Smith felt that Topping=s report dovetailed with growing <ommunist
intransigence in the past few days) particularly on the part of 8olotov. >e believed that
8olotov) who had urgently re?uested a restricted session for the %Jth) would li.ewise
raise the ?uestion of eplicit #merican ac?uiescence in a final settlement. F;oc. -5G
"hen the meeting came) however) 8olotov did not reiterate >uang >ua=s implication
that #merican failure to sign the accords might scuttle the conference. Perhaps aware that
a warning of that .ind would not wor.) 8olotov instead limited himself to tal.ing of the
conference=s achievements to date. >e complimented those who had been engaged in
private negotiations) and went so far as to voice confidence that a settlement of
outstanding problems relating to /aos and <ambodia could be achieved. >e closed by
pointing out that two drafts were before the conference relating to the cessation of
hostilities in 4ietnam and /aos) two on <ambodia) and two on a final declaration dealing
with political matters. That ended 8olotov=s contribution) leaving the #mericans) and
probably others) wondering why the Soviet foreign minister had hastily summoned the
meeting. F;oc. -,G
E. #:2EEME3T
!f 8olotov=s refusal at the :uly %J restricted session to warn the conference of failure
signaled renewed <ommunist efforts toward agreement) his subse?uent actions proved
the point. Between :uly %J and 7%) the conferees were able to iron out their differences
sufficiently to produce agreements now commonly referred to as the Geneva "accords."
!n fact) the accords consist of military agreements for 4ietnam) <ambodia) and /aos to
fulfill the conference=s primary tas. of restoring peace to !ndochina) and a *inal
;eclaration designed to establish the conditions for future political settlements
throughout !ndochina. The nature of the eleventh$hour compromises reached) and a broad
outline of the settlement) are treated below.
Bietnam
The Geneva accords temporarily established two 2ones of 4ietnam separated by a line
running roughly along the %-th parallel and further divided by a demilitari2ed 2one.
#greement to the demarcation line was apparently the wor. of 8olotov) who gained
*rench acceptance of the %-th parallel when he found the *rench flatly opposed to the
%,th) a late 4iet 8inh compromise perhaps prompted by 8olotov himself. F;oc. -7G
Precisely what motivated 8olotov to ma.e his proposal is not clear. Speculatively) he
may simply have traded considerable territorial advantage which the 4iet 8inh enDoyed
for a specific election date he) <hou) and Pham 4an ;ong wanted from the outset. The
"estern negotiators certainly recogni2ed the trade$off possibility3 @den considered a line
between the %-th and %Jth parallels worth echanging for a mutually acceptable position
on elections6 and 8endZs$*rance observed in a conversation with 8ob$toy that the
election and demarcation ?uestions might be lin.ed in the sense that each side could yield
on one of the ?uestions. [;oc. -7G
"hether or not a trade$off actually too. place) the fact remains that the *rench came off
much better in the matter of partition than on elections) which they had
insisted not be given a specific date. Bn :uly %,) 8olotov had proposed holding elections
in %&'') with the eact date to be decided between 4ietnamese and 4iet 8inh authorities.
F;oc. -7G The <hinese were more fleible. !n a tal. with a member of the British
delegation) /i A=e$nung argued for a specific date) but said his government was willing to
set it within two or three years of the ceasefire. F;oc. -,G The compromise formula was
reportedly wor.ed out by 8olotov) who) at a meeting :uly %& attended also by @den)
8endZs$*rance) <hou) and ;ong) drew the line at two years. !t was agreed in the *inal
;eclaration that the 4ietnamese of the two 2ones would consult together in :uly %&'' and
reunify 4ietnam by national plebiscite one year later. !mportantly for the 4iet 8inh) the
demarcation line was said to be "provisional and should not in any way be interpreted as
constituting a political or territorial boundary." 0epresentatives of the member states on
the !<< would act as a commission to supervise the national elections) which were to be
freely conducted by secret ballot. #s shall be pointed out later) however) the evident
intention of all the conferees +including the United States and the Government of South
4ietnam1 to see 4ietnam reunified was to a large etent undercut by the nature of the
military and political settlements.
The military accords on 4ietnam also stipulated that the :oint <ommission) which was to
ta.e over the wor. of the military commission that had met at Trung Gia) would have
general responsibility for wor.ing out the disengagement of forces and implementation of
the cease$fire. *rench Union soldiers were to be removed from North 4ietnam in stages
within 9(( days +article %'1) a lengthy period in .eeping with *rench demands.
Thereafter) the introduction into the two 2ones of fresh arms) e?uipment) and personnel
was prohibited with the eception of normal troop rotation and replacement of damaged
or destroyed materiel +articles %, and %-1. The establishment of new military bases in
4ietnam) and the adherence of either 2one to military alliances) were also proscribed
under articles %J and %&.
The membership and powers of the !nternational <ontrol <ommission were finally
resolved +<hapter 4! of the accords1. #pparently through <hou @n$lai=s efforts)
agreement was reached that !ndia) Poland) and <anada should be the member states of the
!<<. The !<< was empowered to form fied and mobile inspection teams and to have
full freedom of movement in both 2ones of 4ietnam. !n the performance of these tas.s)
the !<< was to epect complete cooperation from local civil and military officials. !ts
functions etended to control of the movement of armed forces and the release of
prisoners of war) and to supervision of the demarcation line) frontiers) ports) and airfields.
/ess clearly decided was the delicate ?uestion of the !<<=s relationship to the :oint
<ommission. Generally) the plan adopted was close to that originally submitted by the
*rench in early :uly) wherein the !<<=s supremacy was tacitly admitted. The !<< was to
be informed by the :oint <ommission of disputes arising out of differences of
interpretation) either of a provision or of fact) that the :oint <ommission could not
resolve. The !<< would then +article 5(1 have the power of recommendation6 but) ?uite
aside from the limited effectiveness of a recommendation) there remained the problem of
maDority or unanimous voting by the !<< in reaching agreement to recommend. Under
article 57) the rule of unanimity was to apply to "?uestions concerning violations) or
threats of violations) which might lead to a resumption of hostilities)" namely) a refusal to
regroup is provided in the accords) or an armed violation by one party of the territory of
the other. The "est) which had pushed hard for maDority rule) had to settle for its
application to those less volatile ?uestions that would not be considered threats to the
peace. *urthermore) under article 59) recognition was ta.en of possible splits among the
three members by providing for maDority and minority reports6 but these) li.e !<<
decisions) could be no more than suggestive) and as such wholly dependent upon the
cooperativeness of the conference members who had created it.
;am@odia and "aos
!n conflict with the wishes of the <ambodian and /aotian delegations) cease$fires in their
countries occurred simultaneously with the cessation of hostilities in 4ietnam.
Nevertheless) in most other respects) their persistence was largely responsible for
settlements highly favorable to their respective interests.
!n the first place) the #greement on the <essation of >ostilities in <ambodia called for
the removal of nonnative *ree Ahmer troops) whether <ommunist 4ietnamese or
<ambodians) ninety days from the cease$fire date +:uly 7(1. +*rench Union units) but not
instructors) were also scheduled for departure.1 #s the <ambodian delegation had
promised) those insurgents still in the country would be guaranteed the right to reDoin the
national community and to participate) as electors or candidates) in elections scheduled
under the constitution for %&''6 but the agreement assured their demobili2ation within
one month of the cease$fire. Separate Doint and international supervisory commissions for
<ambodia were established) as Phnom Penh had demanded. *inally) a declaration issued
:uly 7% by the <ambodian delegation was incorporated into the accord proclaiming) in
effect) Phnom Penh=s inherent right of self$defense. The royal government vowed not to
enter into military alliances "not in conformity with the principles of the <harter of the
United Nations"6 nor) so long as its security was not threatened) would <ambodia permit
the establishment of foreign military bases. #s for war materiel and military personnel)
the delegation made clear that these would not be solicited during the period :uly 7()
%&'5) to the election date in %&'' "ecept for the purpose of the effective defence of the
territory." Thus) after the elections) <ambodia proclaimed itself free to ta.e any steps it
considered necessary for its security) whether or not such steps were absolutely necessary
for self$defense.
<ambodia=s ac?uisition of considerable latitude was entirely in .eeping with the royal
government=s epressed insistence on not being either neutrali2ed or demilitari2ed. Bn
this point) the <ambodians received indirect assurance from the United States that their
security would in some way be covered by the Southeast #sian pact despite their
unilateral declaration. Toward the end of the conference) Philip Bonsal of the State
;epartment and the #merican delegation) told Sam Sary that he +Bonsal1 "was confident
U.S. and other interested countries loo.ed forward to discussing with <ambodian
government" the security problem upon implementation of a cease$fire. "hen Sam Sary
called a few days later on Smith in the company of Nong Aimny) the Under Secretary
recommended that Phnom Penh) at the conference) state its intention not to have foreign
bases on its territory and not to enter into military alliances. #t the same time) though)
<ambodia would be free to import arms and to employ *rench military instructors and
technicians. <ambodia might not be able to Doin S@#TB under this arrangement) Smith
said) but it could still benefit from it. Smith3
assured the <ambodian *oreign 8inister that) in our view) any aggression overt or covert
against <ambodian territory would bring pact into operation even though <ambodia not a
member. ! too. position that *rench Union membership afforded <ambodia ade?uate
desirable means of securing through *rance necessary arms some of which would be
#merican as well as necessary instructors and technicians some of which might well be
#merican trained.
Nong Aimny replied that <ambodia relied heavily on the United States for protection
against future aggression. The way was thus cleared for the subse?uent inclusion of
<ambodia in the Protocol to the S@#TB treaty.
The cease$fire agreement on /aos followed lines similar to those drawn for <ambodia. #
separate Doint commission was set up to supervise the withdrawal of Pathet /ao units)
although provision was made for their prior regroupment in the provinces of Phong Saly
and Sam Neua.Y #lthough /aos was prohibited from see.ing to
Y The /aotian delegation also issued a declaration averring the government=s willingness
to integrate former insurgents into the national community without reprisal. @lections in
/aos were scheduled for September %&'') and former Pathet /ao were promised the right
to participate in the balloting as electors or candidates.
augment its military establishment) the royal government was specifically permitted a
maimum of %)'(( *rench training instructors. 8oreover) the prohibition against the
establishment of foreign military bases on /aotian territory did not apply to two *rench
bases in operation under a %&5& treaty) and employing 9)'(( *renchmen. /aos) li.e
<ambodia) was allowed to import arms and other military e?uipment essential for self$
defense6 but 4ientiane also issued a unilateral declaration on :uly 7% ma.ing clear) in
terms that nearly duplicated those used in <ambodia=s declaration) that its refrainment
from alliances and foreign military bases was limited to situations in which /aotian
security was not threatened. !n view of 4ientiane=s epressed hope for #merican
protection) its delegates had succeeded admirably in getting a settlement containing terms
that restricted) but did not eliminate) /aotian control over their security re?uirements.
F. D!SSE3T!3: B!E/S> T)E #ME2!;#3 #3D B!ET3#MESE P6S!T!63S
No delegate at the final plenary session on !ndochina :uly 7% should have been surprised
when Under Secretary Smith issued a unilateral statement of the #merican position. The
United States had fre?uently indicated) publicly and privately) directly and indirectly) that
it would not be cosignatory with the <ommunist powers to any agreement and that) at
best) it would agree only to "respect" the final settlement. #t the restricted session of :uly
%J) Smith had) moreover) indicated the points which were to become basic features of his
final statement. ;espite the fact that the accords were in line with the Seven Points in
nearly every particular) it would have been presumptuous of any delegation to believe
that the United States) given the implacable hostility of #dministration leaders to
<ommunist <hina and to any agreement that would imply #merican approval of a
territorial cession to the <ommunists) would formally sign the Geneva accords.
Bedell Smith) revealing a considerably more pliant approach to dealing with the
<ommunist world) was able to eact from "ashington agreement to partial #merican
acceptance of the *inal ;eclaration. Bn :uly %& he had been approached by 8endZs$
*rance) who from the beginning had sought to identify the United States as closely as
possible with the final terms) with the proposal that "ashington not simply respect any
military agreements reached) but in addition ta.e note of them and the political
statements that comprised the first nine paragraphs of the proposed conference
declaration. 8endZs$*rance indicated the *rench would be sharply disappointed if the
United States could not at least ta.e note of those portions of the declaration. Smith)
apparently swayed by the premier=s views) recommended to "ashington that his
instructions be amended to provide for ta.ing note in the event the *inal ;eclaration was
substantially as the *rench had indicated. F;oc. J(G ;ulles gave his approval) demurring
only on the second part of paragraph & +in the final version) paragraph %91) which the
Secretary said "seems to imply a multilateral engagement with <ommunists which would
be inconsistent with our basic approach and which subse?uently might enable
<ommunist <hina to charge us with alleged violations of agreement to which it might
claim both governments became parties." F;oc. J%G "hen Smith) therefore) issued his
unilateral statement) note was ta.en only of the first twelve paragraphs of the *inal
;eclaration6 but this was much more than had been called for in his revised instructions
of :uly %,.
!n line with his instructions) Smith declared on behalf of the Government that the United
States would "refrain from the threat or the use of force to disturb" the accords.
8oreover) the United States "would view any renewal of the aggression in violation of
the aforesaid agreements with grave concern and as seriously threatening international
peace and security." *inally) Smith reiterated a U.S. policy declaration of :une 7&) made
during the visit of @den and <hurchill) that registered "ashington=s support of UN
supervision of free elections to reunify countries "now divided against their will Smith
mentioned on this point that the United States could not associate itself with any
arrangement that would hinder "its traditional position that peoples are entitled to
determine their own future..."
Smith=s caution against "any renewal of aggression" deserves additional comment
inasmuch as it was cited by President Aennedy +in a letter to President Ngo ;inh ;iem
on ;ecember %5) %&,%1 as the basis for the #merican commitment to South 4ietnam=s
defense. 4iewed in the contet of the conference) the statement does not seem to have
been intended as an open$ended #merican commitment to South 4ietnam against
possible aggression from the North. 0ather) the #dministration apparently intended the
statement as a warning to the 4iet 8inh that should they) within the two$year interval
before general elections) "renew" what "ashington and Saigon regarded as their
"aggression" since %&5,) the United States would be gravely concerned. Smith=s
statement) in short) seems to have been limited to the period :uly %&'5 to :uly %&',.
That part of Smith=s unilateral statement dealing with United Nations supervision of
elections is also noteworthy. <oming in the wa.e of ;ulles= epressed concern over
provision in the accords for !<< supervision) F;oc. J%G Smith=s reference to the UN may
have forecast #merican unwillingness to bac. an electoral process not supervised by the
Brgani2ation. !nasmuch as the United States delegation had consistently pushed at
Geneva for United Nations rather than any other form of international machinery) Smith
may have meant to give an advance signal of #merican displeasure with free 4ietnamese
elections that the UN would be prevented from overseeing.
#merican ?ualifications to the Geneva accords paled beside those made by the South
4ietnam delegation. >owever naively) the "South" 4ietnamese refused to accept a
divided country and believed) to the end of the conference) that the *rench had bra2enly
and illegally sold out 4ietnamese interests. 4ietnam=s anger at *rench manipulation of its
political future was reflected in a note handed to the *rench delegation on :uly %- by
Nguyen >uu <hau. F;oc. -9G The note maintained that not until the day before +an
eaggeration by about three wee.s) it would appear1 did 4ietnam learn that at the very
time the *rench >igh <ommand had ordered the evacuation of troops from important
areas in the Ton.in ;elta) the *rench had also "accepted abandoning to the 4iet 8inh all
of that part situated north of the eighteenth parallel and that the delegation of the 4iet
8inh might claim an even more advantageous demarcation line." The 4ietnamese
delegation protested against having been left "in complete ignorance" of *rench
proposals) which were said not to "ta.e any account of the unanimous will for national
unity of the 4ietnamese people."
"hile it may have been absurd for the 4ietnamese to believe that partition was avoidable
given 4iet 8inh strength) their rationale for .eeping the country united was) as matters
developed) eminently clear$sighted. !n speeches during :une and :uly) their leaders had
warned that partition would be merely a temporary interlude before the renewal of
fighting. "hen the 4iet 8inh first proposed a temporary division of territory) the
;efense 8inister) Phan >uy Kuat) said in Saigon on :une 7 that partition would "ris.
reviving the drama of the struggle between the North and the South." ;iem) in his
investiture speech of early :uly) warned against a cease$fire that would mean partition)
for that arrangement "can only be the preparation for another more deadly war..." #nd
General Nguyen 4an >inh) head of the 4ietnamese National #rmy) declared3
To reali2e a cease$fire by partition of 4ietnamese territory can be only a temporary
measure to stop the bloodshed but not to end the war. #nd it is possible that we shall
have to face a cold war as in Aorea where both sides= troops have their fingers on the
triggers of their guns all the time) and people are thin.ing only of recovering what has
been given up under the pressure of the circumstances.
#lthough their struggle against partition) which reached a clima in the aftermath of the
signing of the accords with huge rallies in the maDor cities) proved futile) the 4ietnamese
early gave notice that they would accept neither partition nor a fied date for national
elections. "e need only recall the statements by Bao ;ai=s cabinet in Paris on the eve of
the conference to find evidence of 4ietnam=s early determination that it would not be
party to a sell$out of its own territory. "hen partition became certain in :uly with the
circulation of draft final declarations) the 4ietnamese delegation became more vocal. #t
the final plenary session) Tran 4an ;o said3 ". . . the Government of the State of
4ietNam wishes the <onference to ta.e note of the fact that it reserves its full freedom of
action in order to safeguard the sacred right of the 4ietnamese people to its territorial
unity) national independence) and freedom." "hen as.ed to consent to the military
accords and the *inal ;eclaration) ;o re?uested insertion of the following tet into the
;eclaration3
The conference ta.es note of the ;eclaration of the Government of the State of 4iet$Nam
underta.ing3
to ma.e and support every effort to reestablish a real and lasting peace in 4iet$Nam6
not to use force to resist the procedures for carrying the ceasefire into effect) in spite of
the obDections and reservations that the State of 4iet$Nam has epressed) especially in its
final statement.
The re?uest was denied.
#s for elections) the 4ietnamese believed that the war situation compelled the
postponement of elections until the country had achieved a measure of internal stability.
#s early as 8ay) ;iem indicated his opposition to elections for a National #ssembly)
much less to national elections for the presidency. !n its note to the *rench delegation)
moreover) the 4ietnamese asserted that a cease$fire without disarmament was
incompatible with elections6 the regroupment of the armed forces of the belligerents into
separate 2ones was said to compromise their freedom in advance. !n 4ietnam=s view)
elections could only be considered after security and peace had been established) thereby
ecluding a set time interval of two years. F;oc. -9G
>aving ta.en these positions) the 4ietnamese could hardly adhere to the *inal
;eclaration. #t the same time) they protested against the "hasty conclusion of the
#rmistice #greement by the *rench and 4ietminh >igh <ommanders only . . ." +as Tran
4an ;o put it at the :uly 7% session1. !nasmuch as the military accords) by
prearrangement) were signed by *rench and 4iet 8inh commanders precisely to avoid
see.ing 4ietnamese consent) there was nothing Saigon could do but protest.
Nevertheless) by having protested) they were asserting that the treaties with *rance of
:une 5 had indeed made 4ietnam a sovereign state) that the interests of non$<ommunist
4ietnamese were deeply involved in the settlement) and that *rance=s by$passing of the
Bao ;ai government only made the settlement possible) not legal. ;espite article 7- of
the agreement on 4ietnam) which bound "successors" +such as 4ietnam1 to the
signatories to respect and enforce the agreement) 4ietnam was in a legally persuasive
position to argue that *rance could not assume liabilities in its behalf) least of all to the
political provisions contained in the *inal ;eclaration) which was an unsigned document.
Y
Y #rticle 7-) which is fre?uently cited to demonstrate that 4ietnam was bound to abide
by the accords) and particularly the elections provision) refers to "signatories of the
present FmilitaryG #greement..." >ence) the article would seem not to obligate *rance=s
"successor" with respect to any provisions of the *inal ;eclaration) a document to which
South 4ietnam did not adhere.
:. S7MM#2<
Throughout the rapid series of compromises in the last thirty days of the Geneva
<onference) #merican diplomacy revealed a constancy of purpose fully in line with the
@isenhower #dministration=s global foreign policy. Based largely on the unfortunate
eperiences at PanmunDom) the #dministration could not reconcile itself to the notion
that Sino$Soviet negotiating tactics in the post$Stalin period of peaceful coeistence had
changed. <onse?uently) even as the reali2ation dawned that the <ommunists could not be
epelled from !ndochina and that some compromise with them by *rance was inevitable)
the #dministration stuc. fast to the position that the United States delegation to the
conference would only assist) but not ta.e an active part) in bringing about an acceptable
settlement. *rom :une on) the delegation was under instructions to remain clear of any
involvement in the negotiations such as might implicate or commit the United States to
the final terms reached) yet simultaneously was to maintain an influential role in ma.ing
the best of difficult circumstances. British and *rench agreement to the Seven Points
proved a diplomatic victory) not because their acceptance of them assured a reasonable
settlement but because) ?uite contrary to #merican epectations) they returned to Geneva
prepared to hold the line against eorbitant <ommunist demands. #llied agreement to
future discussions of a regional defense system for Southeast #sia was really a hedge
against a *rench sell$out at Geneva6 in the event 4ietnam) and parts of <ambodia and
/aos) were ceded to the <ommunist insurgents) the United States would at least have
#nglo$*rench consent to protect the security of what remained of !ndochina and its
neighbors.
The Seven Points represented principles) not #merican obDectives. They constituted not a
statement of goals to be achieved by the United States) but of principles to be adopted by
the British and *rench negotiators toward concluding a satisfactory settlement. !n this
manner) the #dministration could preserve its dignity before anticipated 4ietnamese
outrage at partition and domestic displeasure at further <ommunist inroads in the *ar
@ast without losing its ability to influence the terms. Under Secretary Smith=s final
statement ta.ing note of the agreements and vowing not to disturb them thus culminated a
careful policy that reDected an #merican commitment to the accords such as might
identify the #dministration with a cession of territory and people to the <ommunist bloc.
The Geneva <onference left much wor. undone) especially on a political settlement for
4ietnam. The State of 4ietnam) li.e the United States) had refused to adhere to the *inal
;eclaration and was not signatory to the military accord that partitioned the country. !n
the net section) the focus is therefore on the practical effect of the Geneva accords) the
epectations of the conferees concerning them) and the etent to which the maDor powers)
in reaching a settlement) achieved the obDectives they had set for themselves.
4!!!. T>@ 8@#N!NG B* G@N@4#
8uch of the controversy surrounding the #merican involvement in 4ietnam relates to the
post$Geneva period) in particular to the two$year interval before national elections were
to bring about 4ietnam=s reunification. To address the ?uestion whether the United States
instigated or colluded with the Government of 4ietnam to defy the *inal ;eclaration=s
stipulation for national elections would broaden this paper beyond its intended scope.
"hat is relevant) however) are the documented or presumed epectations and obDectives
of the maDor participants concerning 4ietnam) as well as <ambodia and /aos) at the time
the conference closed. >ow had the accords met the aims of the participants) and to what
etent were obDectives intertwined with) or perhaps divorced from) epectationsN To
anticipate) the present argument over the failure to hold elections in :uly %&', overloo.s
the relative unimportance of them) for a variety of reasons) to the five maDor powers at the
Geneva <onference6 their obDectives only secondarily too. into account the epectations
of the 4ietnamese) north and south.
#n assessment of the hopes and goals of the Geneva conferees in the immediate
aftermath of the conference should) in the first place) be differentiated from the practical
effect of the accords they drew up. The distinction not often made) yet highly important
to an understanding of the conference and its achievements) is between the intent of the
parties regarding 4ietnam and the seemingly contradictory conse?uences of their
agreement.
#. T)E P2#;T!;#" 3#T72E 6F T)E #;;62DS
"ith the eception of South 4ietnam) every nation represented at the conference came to
believe that partition was the only way to separate the combatants) settle the widely
disparate military and political demands of the *rench and 4iet 8inh) and conclude an
armistice. !t might further be argued +although the evidence available does not actually
permit a definitive statement one way or the other1 that these eight delegations intended
the partition line to be temporary inasmuch as they all desired 4ietnamese elections in
%&',. But what needs to be pointed out is that the accords themselves did not further that
intent. By creating two regimes responsible for "civil administration" +article %5$a of the
4ietnam armistice agreement1) by providing for the regroupment of forces to two 2ones
and for the movement of persons to the 2one of their choice) and by putting off national
elections for two years) the conferees had actually made a future political settlement for
4ietnam etremely unli.ely. <ertainly) the separation of 4ietnam at the %-th parallel was
designed to facilitate the armistice) not to create political subdivisions6 but its unintended
effect was to allow time for the development of two go'ernments) headed by totally
divergent personalities and committed to antithetical political philosophies) foreign
policies) and socio$economic systems. Thus) the call for elections in the *inal ;eclaration
had as little chance of implementation in 4ietnam as previously in Aorea and Germany) a
point brought home by 4ietnamese officials and reinforced by the failure of the same
Geneva conferees to agree on a political settlement in Aorea. "@lections)" 4ictor Bator
has commented "can) indeed) decide secondary problems of coeistence in circumstances
where some measurable minimum basis for political agreement eists. But they are
incapable of acceptance by two opposing states) or parts of a state) when diametrically
opposite philosophies are involved." !f the intent of the Geneva accords was subverted)
the subverters were the conferees themselves) who aspired to an ideal political settlement
incompatible with the physical and psychological dismemberment of 4ietnam on :uly 7%)
%&'5.
5. 65FE;T!BES 6F T)E P#2T!;!P#3TS> T)E ;6MM73!ST S!DE
"hether or not one accepts the view offered here that the central political provision of
the *inal ;eclaration was decisively undercut by provisions of the military accords and
the ;eclaration itself) an eamination of the obDectives of the Soviet Union and
<ommunist <hina can go far toward determining) albeit by surmisal) the importance they)
as distinct from the ;04) attached to 4ietnamese unity. *or it is the conclusion here that
4ietnamese unity) whether achieved by free elections or the disintegration of South
4ietnam) was not a priority obDective of 8oscow or Pe.ing even though both powers
may well have anticipated an all$<ommunist 4ietnam by :uly %&',. !f this is so) we may
as.) what were the primary aims of 8oscow and Pe.ing in supporting a settlementN "hy
did the <ommunists apparently strive for a settlement) and why did 8olotov in particular)
who was not personally identified in "estern eyes at the time as a vigorous proponent of
dVtente) play such a .ey role in .eeping the conference from the brin. of failureN
#lthough it would appear that) on the maDor issues at least) the Soviet Union coordinated
its actions with <ommunist <hina) the two <ommunist powers were clearly pursuing
separate national interests in wor.ing toward a settlement of the war. The reconciliation
of those interests seems to have been achieved not so much through Soviet ability +which
did eist1 to compel <hinese ac?uiescence as through a common desire for a settlement.
So'iet 6@Heti'es at the ;onferene
!n retrospect) the Soviet Union seems to have had four maDor obDectives at the
conference3 +%1 to avert a maDor war crisis over !ndochina that would stimulate "estern
unity) enable the United States to gain support it previously lac.ed for "united action)"
and conceivably force 8oscow into a commitment to defend the <hinese6 +71 to reduce
the prospects for successful passage of @;< in the *rench National #ssembly6 +91 to
heighten the prestige of the Soviet Union as a world peacema.er6 +51 to bolster the
prestige of <ommunist <hina) probably more as an adDunct to the Soviet drive for
leadership of the "peaceful coeistence" movement than as a means of supporting any
<hinese claim to unrivaled leadership in #sia.
Bn the first point) the Soviets were surely aware that the United States) under certain
conditions) was prepared to consider active involvement in the war. "hile united action
was a dead issue in "ashington by mid$:une) the Soviets +and the <hinese as well1 could
not have .nown this. 8oreover) newspaper reports of the time added both credence and
uncertainty to #merican military plans. !n the course of private discussions at Geneva)
8olotov indicated his concern that a brea.down of the conference might lead to
continued fighting right up to the point of "orld "ar !!!. The *rench and British did
nothing to dispel those fears. <hauvel) for instance) told the 0ussian delegate) Au2netsov)
that *rance=s proposed division of 4ietnam at the %Jth parallel would be more acceptable
to the other conferees than the unreasonable 4iet 8inh demand for the %9th parallel) and
that a settlement along the *rench line would thereby avert the ris. of an
internationali2ation of the conflict. #nd 8endZs$*rance vowed to bac. his call for
conscripts by informing 8olotov he "did not intend Geneva would turn into a
PanmunDom."
The possibility of renewed fighting leading to a wider war was particularly influential on
the Soviets) it would seem) as a conse?uence of 8oscow=s inner debate during %&'9 and
%&'5 over #merican strategic intentions and their meaning for the Soviet defense system.
The views of the so$called Ahrushchev wing apparently won out in the spring of %&'53
The United States was considered fully capable of initiating a nuclear echange and a
new world war. *ree$wheeling discussion in the "estern press on the foreign policy
implications of @isenhower=s "New /oo." and ;ulles= "massive retaliation" speech of
:anuary %7) %&'5) was closely followed by the Soviets) who may have been persuaded in
their pessimistic assumptions regarding #merican strategy by the very ambiguity of
#merican "reliance" on nuclear weapons to combat <ommunist aggression. !n fact) it can
be argued that even though the United States and its allies went to the conference table
from a position of diplomatic wea.ness) their hands were considerably strengthened
because of Soviet uncertainty over what the "est might do in the event the conference
failed. !nasmuch as Soviet analyses by no means ecluded #merican rec.lessness with
nuclear weapons) 8oscow might have been highly reluctant to press too vigorously for
the "est=s acceptance of eorbitant 4iet 8inh demands. Soviet awareness that the United
States had seriously considered active involvement in !ndochina prior to the fall of
;ienbienphu may therefore have been a significant lever for the "est in the Geneva
negotiations. >ad the opposite perception been true$had the Soviets) that is) been
confident that the #merican #dministration would be highly sober) conservative) and
cautious in responding to war situations$8olotov might have been instructed to play a far
more audacious game while the 4iet 8inh intensified their military operations. ;ulles=
reputation as a militant anti$<ommunist with tremendous influence on @isenhower
probably served the "estern cause well at Geneva.
#s a result) to conclude on this point) one of the Soviets= principal aims at the conference
was to diminish the possibility of #merican unilateral or multilateral intervention in the
li.ely belief that intervention would have built up tremendous pressure on 8oscow to
ma.e new commitments in Southeast #sia. "hile this
outloo. did not prevent the Soviets from at first see.ing to capitali2e on the change in
government in Paris from /aniel to 8endZs$*rance) it did wor. in the general direction
of a reasonable settlement that would be honorable for the *rench and still valuable to the
4iet 8inh. The 0ussians evidently believed that so long as the *rench +and the British1
were .ept interested in a settlement) the #mericans would be hard$pressed to disregard
their allies and intervene.
That 8oscow may have been anious about a wider war does not) however) address the
inenti'es it may have had in concluding the cease$fire. >ere) the @uropean ;efense
<ommunity treaty must have been uppermost in 8olotov=s mind. No evidence has been
found to support the contention that 8olotov eplicitly baited 8endZs$*rance with a
lenient !ndochina settlement in return for #ssembly reDection of @;<. But 8olotov need
not have been that obtrusive. Throughout %&'9 and into %&'5) Soviet propaganda was
dominated by comments on @;< and the danger of a rearmed Germany. !t was certainly
in Soviet interests to pressure the 4iet 8inh for concessions to the *rench) since removal
of the *rench command from !ndochina would restore *rench force levels on the
<ontinent and thereby probably offset their need for an @;<. Soviet interests thus
dictated the sacrifice of 4iet 8inh goals if necessary to prevent German remilitari2ation.
Given 8oscow=s belated attention to the !ndochina war) it appears that the consolidation
of 4iet 8inh gains short of complete reunification of 4ietnam was more than sufficient
to Dustify termination of the struggle in Soviet eyes$$and this perception) it might be
added) dovetailed with what seems to have been the <hinese outloo..
Thirdly) the worldwide Soviet peace offensive which gained priority in the aftermath of
Stalin=s death could be given added impetus through vigorous Soviet support of an
!ndochina settlement. This point) in fact) was the theme of 8olotov=s closing remar.s to
the conference on :uly 7%. >e called the accords "a maDor victory for the forces of peace
and a maDor step towards a reduction of international tensions." <onsidering that the
conference had demonstrated the value of international negotiations to settle dangerous
disputes) 8olotov said3 "The results of the Geneva <onference have confirmed the
rightness of the principle which is fundamental to the whole foreign policy of the Soviet
Union) namely) that there are no issues in the contemporary international situation which
cannot be solved and settled through negotiations and by agreements designed to
consolidate peace." #t a time when the United States was alleged to be Deopardi2ing
world peace with its "policy of strength)" the Soviet Union could lay claim to sparing no
effort in the struggle for ways to avoid a nuclear holocaust.
!n this light) <ommunist <hina was important to the USS0 as a partner in the peace
offensive. "hile 8oscow could not have wished to see <hina so gain in prestige as to
rival the Soviet Union in #sia or elsewhere) the 0ussians do seem) in %&'5) to have
considered a gain in <hinese influence highly desirable if only because the United States
would be bound to suffer a corresponding loss. #s 8olotov phrased it on :uly 7%3
...the Geneva <onference indicated the great positive importance that the participation of
the People=s 0epublic of <hina has in the settlement of urgent international problems.
The course of wor. at this <onference has shown that any artificial obstacles on the road
to <hina=s participation in the settlement of international affairs) which are still being put
up by aggressive circles of some countries) are being swept away by life itself.
Noteworthy is 8olotov=s omission of the additional claim made at the time by Pe.ing
that <hina=s participation was absolutely essential to the solution of #sian
problems. "hile the Soviet foreign minister was perhaps thin.ing in terms of <P0
admission to the United Nations) the <hinese apparently were loo.ing beyond the UN to
the .ind of full$scale diplomatic effort that would earn them #sia=s respect as founders of
what was later termed the "Bandung spirit." Nor did 8olotov assert that <hina=s wor. at
the conference had earned it a status e?uivalent to one of the maDor powers. The Soviets
were willing to admit that Pe.ing had gained a new importance as a result of the
conference) but they refused to go as far as the <hinese in asserting <hina=s first$ran.
status either in #sia or worldwide.
The Soviets) then) had much to gain from an honorable settlement of the !ndochina war
and much to ris. in permitting the tal.s to drag on inconclusively. The 4iet 8inh had
proven their strength as a national liberation movement and had been amply rewarded
with a firm territorial base assured by international agreement. "ith overriding interests
in "estern @urope) 8oscow no doubt found great appeal in giving the *rench a face$
saving "out" from !ndochina. That @;< was eventually defeated in the National
#ssembly +in #ugust1 was testimony not to the cleverness of any Soviet "deal" with
8endZs$*rance) but simply to a low$cost Soviet diplomatic gamble that paid off
handsomely.
;hinese 6@Heti'es
*or Pe.ing) a negotiated settlement of the !ndochina war represented an important
opportunity to propel <hina forward as a maDor #sian power whose voice in #sian
councils could not be ignored. "hen the Berlin <onference decided in *ebruary %&'5 to
hold an international conference on !ndochina) the <hinese applauded the move and
prophesied then that the People=s 0epublic) as an invitee) would thereby gain recognition
of its maDor role in #sian affairs. "ith the Geneva <onference coming at a time of
vigorous <hinese diplomatic activity in !ndia and Burma) Pe.ing probably considered a
settlement short of a complete 4iet 8inh victory acceptable) since it would prove <hina=s
sincere commitment to peace. >ad the <P0 spurred the 4iet 8inh on) it not only would
have been in conflict with the Soviets) whose aid was vital to <hina=s economic recovery
plans) but would also have lost considerable ground in the support <hou @n$lai=s travels
had earned. The war in !ndochina had become) for <hina) a demonstration test of its
sincerity in promoting peaceful coeistence. *rom the tactical standpoint) devotion to
peaceful coeistence may also have been seen as reducing the prospects of widespread
#sian support of) or participation in) the #merican plan for a regional alliance. "ith the
conference ended) <hina was in a position to offer #sian nations an alternative to alliance
with the United States$the concept of "collective peace and security)" sustained by mutual
agreement to foster the five principles.
The motive force behind <hina=s drive for #sian leadership during the period of the
Geneva <onference was the theme that negotiated solutions were possible for all
outstanding world problems. By the time of Geneva) Pe.ing had already been party to the
armistice in Aorea) to agreement with !ndia over Tibet) and to statements of mutual
respect issued bilaterally with !ndia and Burma. 8oreover) <hina had Doined with
8oscow in supporting negotiations of the !ndochina war as early as September %&'9)
while the Sino$!ndian and Sino$Burmese statements also contained calls for an early
settlement. The maDor role played by <hou @n$/ai at Geneva therefore not simply
affirmed <hina=s interest in peace) but as importantly established <hina=s reputation as a
fleible bargainer willing to negotiate disputes and ma.e concessions to resolve them.
!ndeed) once the conference ended) Pe.ing declared that the conference had proved that
negotiations could resolve such other @ast$"est problems as a final Aorea settlement)
arms control) nuclear weapons proliferation) German unification) and @uropean security.
0elatedly) <hina urged that the Geneva <onference was a benchmar. in the rise of the
People=s 0epublic to new prominence on the international scene. "The great significance
of the convening of the Geneva <onference)" the People(s Daily proclaimed before its
close) "lies in the fact that the <hinese People=s 0epublic is participating in the settlement
of #sian ?uestions as one of the Great Powers) thus putting an end to the era when the
#sian peoples were denied their say in their own problems." <hina stood not only for a
resurgent) decoloniali2ed #sia) but also as a Great Power. #s stated by the authoritative
/orld ;ulture>
The contributions of the <P0 at the Geneva <onference to the search for peace) and its
efforts to establish collective security in #sia) have received the universal recognition and
trust of the world=s peace$loving peoples and nations. Because of this) the position of the
<P0 as one of the world=s great nations has been even more affirmed and its international
prestige greatly elevated. The <hinese people feel etraordinary glory because of this.
The fact that <hina had) in !ndochina and as was not the case in Aorea) been invited to
Doin with the Big *our in discussing measures for the restoration of peace was considered
by Pe.ing to have given the <P0 still more international authority.
#ugmentation of <hinese prestige in #sia and throughout the world was a benefit due to
the conference6 but it does not fully eplain why <hina apparently pressed for a
settlement when she did rather than prolong the tal.s until better terms were available.
>aving negotiated at PanmunDom for two years) why did she ta.e less than three months
to conclude a cease$fire in !ndochinaN There seem to have been three reasons for <hina=s
reluctance to engage in etended discussions3 +%1 agreement with the Soviets that the
United States could intervene to spar. a wider war6 +71 consideration that /aos and
<ambodia had been effectively neutrali2ed6 +91 satisfaction that a communist state had
been established on <hina=s southern flan..
!n the first place) Pe.ing was convinced) to Dudge from its published comments on the
war) that influential men in "ashington) including Secretary ;ulles and the :oint <hiefs
of Staff) were ?uite prepared to move directly against <hina if circumstances permitted.
"ashington=s warnings to Pe.ing in %&'9 left room for the continuation of <hinese aid to
the 4iet 8inh) but Pe.ing could never be certain when that aid might become the pretet
for active #merican intervention. By %&'5) moreover) the <hinese had evinced greater
concern than before over the military effectiveness of nuclear weapons. >aving been
through a costly war in Aorea) and having decided as early as the fall of %&'7 to give
priority to "socialist reconstruction" at home) Pe.ing had nothing to gain from provo.ing
the United States. "ere the 4iet 8inh encouraged to strive for the maimum territorial
advantage) the United States$Pe.ing may have calculated$might withdraw from the
conference and change the nature of the war. Bnce those events occurred) the <hinese
advocacy of peace through diplomacy would have been irreparably undercut.
Pe.ing) moreover) was made clearly aware of the dangers inherent in continued fighting.
#t the conference) @den used the implied threat of #merican involvement against <hou
in much the same way as <hauvel had used it against Au2netsov. ;uring late 8ay) for
eample) @den warned <hou "again" of the dangers in the !ndochina situation6
unpredictable and serious results could come about. "hen <hou said he was counting on
Britain to prevent these from happening) the foreign secretary replied <hou was
mista.en) since Britain would stand by the United States in a showdown. *urthermore)
with the @isenhower$<hurchill warning of :une 7J that unacceptable demands made
against *rance would "seriously aggravate" the international situation) with ;ulles=
perceived pressure on 8endZs$*rance at the Paris meeting of mid$:uly) and with the
return of Smith to the conference table) the <hinese were given unmista.able signs that
"estern unity had finally been achieved and some .ind of coordination wor.ed out on
the settlement. #t that Duncture) the outstanding issue for Pe.ing was not how much
territory the ;04 would ultimately obtain) but how far <ambodia and /aos could be
pressed before the :uly 7( deadline passed.
By the deadline) as we have seen) <hou @n$lai=s hardened attitude in conversations with
the <ambodian and /aotian delegates had not swayed them from their hope of eventual
security coverage by the United States. *rom <hina=s standpoint) however) the vital
agreement had been secured3 None of the !ndochinese states was permitted to Doin a
military alliance or to allow the establishment of foreign military bases on their soil.
"hether the <hinese recogni2ed the alternative for the three states of obtaining protection
through a device such as the S@#TB Protocol is not .nown. "hen the accords were
signed) Pe.ing greeted them with the remar. that the restrictions upon !ndochina=s
military ties to the "est had dealt a severe blow to #merican regional security ambitions.
So long as the United States was not permitted to establish bases in the three countries
and to introduce military personnel there) <hina=s security re?uirements were fulfilled
even though) in their internal political ma.e$up) the three states might ta.e a strong anti$
<ommunist line. !t was perhaps because the <P0 had emerged with these advantages that
a <hinese Dournalist confided on :uly 793 ""e have won the first campaign for the
neutrali2ation of all Southeast #sia."
The supposed "neutrali2ation" of <ambodia and /aos was coupled with the securance of
a solid territory for the ;04 along <hina=s southern frontier. *urther territorial gains by
the 4iet 8inh would augment ;04 resources) but would not significantly enhance
<hina=s security. "ith agreement by the conference to stabili2e the military assets of both
2ones of 4ietnam and to forbid their military alignment with other nations) <hina could
feel some confidence that a divided 4ietnam would not present an immediate threat.
Thus) the agreements on <ambodia and /aos complemented the 4ietnam accord in
bolstering <hina=s security from the south even as it also meant a sacrifice of the 4iet
8inh=s capability for overrunning all 4ietnam.
The argument here is) in summary) that the Soviet Union and <ommunist <hina were less
concerned with the specific terms of the settlement than with attaining it once their basic
obDectives had been achieved. # settlement along lines that would satisfy the 4iet 8inh
need for territory) give *rance the satisfaction that it had not sold out) go far toward
fulfilling <hinese security re?uirements and political ambitions in Southeast #sia) and
reduce the possibility of a precipitate #merican withdrawal from the conference was) to
8oscow and Pe.ing) acceptable and even desirable. They saw advantages to themselves
in an early e?uitable agreement that clearly conflicted with 4iet 8inh terms) but not with
their own obDectives.
Precisely how <hou and 8olotov reasoned with >o <hi 8inh$by threat) persuasion) or a
combination of the two$will li.ely never be .nown6 but it seems reasonable to suppose
that) given the precarious political situation in South 4ietnam) the multitude of armed
sects and other groups hostile to the Saigon government) the continued eacerbating
presence of the *rench) and the economic and social vulnerabilities of a society wrac.ed
by war) Pe.ing and 8oscow could argue convincingly that South 4ietnam would never
cohere sufficiently to pose a viable alternative to the ;04. !t may thus have been the
<ommunists= epectation that the ;04 would as li.ely assume control of the entire
country by default as by an election victory in %&',. The <hinese) to be sure) accepted
the notion that the Geneva accords had) temporarily at least) created two 4ietnamese
governments rather than simply divided the country administratively. F;oc. ,5G But it is
improbable that either they or the Soviets anticipated that even an #merican$supported
South 4ietnam could survive. Put another way) the possibility of a prospering) anti$
<ommunist South 4ietnam may simply not have been a serious) and certainly was not an
immediate) concern for either <ommunist power. The Geneva <onference had created
*rench goodwill for 8oscow and added security for Pe.ing6 what might happen in South
4ietnam may) in %&'5) have seemed inconse?uential.
Biet Minh 6@Heti'es
The 4iet 8inh did not emerge as "losers" in the negotiations. They received the territorial
benefits of the settlement without having to cede the *rench or any neutral body control
of enclaves in northern 4ietnam. =!n addition) the ;04 was promised an opportunity
within two years to gain full control of the country through a ballot bo victory) although
it appears that 4iet 8inh leaders put more stoc. in a collapse of the southern regime
before the election date as the path to complete control of the country. !n /aos) the Pathet
/ao had not been disarmed immediately6 instead) they were permitted to regroup over a
wide epanse of terrain that would ma.e disarmament difficult to accomplish. #nd in
both /aos and <ambodia) the resistance elements were to be accorded full political rights
to participate) as individuals) in the %&'' elections.
!n their public commentaries on the Geneva accords) 4iet 8inh leaders displayed full
satisfaction. 8ilitary victories had gained political recognition) they said) than.s to the
support rendered by the Soviet and <hinese delegations. 4ietnam=s independence and
territorial integrity were admitted by Paris) >o <hi 8inh proclaimed. 8oreover) the
regroupment to two 2ones in 4ietnam was) as he put it) "a temporary action) a transitional
step in the reali2ation of a cease$fire) toward restoring peace and attaining the unification
of our country by means of general elections." No "administrative partition" was
intended6 nor would the "2onal arrangements" be permitted to interfere with 4ietnam=s
future unification3
North) <entral and South 4iet Nam are territories of ours. Bur country will certainly be
unified) our entire people will surely be liberated. Bur compatriots in the South were the
first to wage the war of 0esistance. They possess a high political consciousness. ! am
confident that they will place national interests above local interests) permanent interests
above temporary interests) and Doin their efforts with the entire people in strengthening
peace) achieving unity) independence and democracy all over the country . . . . our
people) armymen and cadres from North to South must unite closely. They must be at one
in thought and deed.
#nd Ton ;uc Thang vowed3 "The 4ietnam State will undoubtedly be unified through
general elections."
;espite these protestations of satisfaction and confidence) Tillman ;urdin=s report from
Geneva that members of the 4iet 8inh delegation were sharply disappointed by the
results and veed at pressure applied by their <hinese and 0ussian comrades seems on
the mar.. The 4iet 8inh command evidently believed$$and no *rench authority on the
spot doubted this$$that they could eliminate the *rench from Ton.in with one maDor
offensive and proceed from there against a wea.ened) demorali2ed *ranco$4ietnamese
army in #nnam. Surely >o <hi 8inh must have considered the possibility of #merican
intervention$$although this concern does not emerge as clearly from 4iet 8inh public
commentaries as it does from the official 8oscow and Pe.ing organs. But the 4iet 8inh
loo.ed to the Aorea eperience as having demonstrated that fighting and tal.ing
simultaneously was) as put by a mid$8ay 4N# broadcast) a tactic they could pursue for
two years +li.e the <hinese during the PanmunDom tal.s1 in order to maimi2e territorial
gains. "hether the 4iet 8inh ultimately envisaged the con?uest of all 4ietnam before
reaching agreement with the *rench to cease fire is debatable6 at the least) they) li.e the
*rench) probably regarded maimum control of population and territory as insurance
against future elections. Thus) to the 4iet 8inh) a settlement at the %-th parallel could
only have been regarded as a tactical blunder in violation of the guerrilla war theory and
practice they had mastered.
*orfeiture of considerable territory in 4ietnam was undoubtedly not the only ground for
the 4iet 8inh=s displeasure. Their fre?uent pronouncements on the "indivisibility" of the
4iet 8inh) *ree Ahmer) and Pathet /ao were largely ignored by <hou and 8olotov)
whose agreement on /aos and <ambodia seems to have given priority to <hinese
interests. #ccount had been ta.en) as <hou insisted) of the desirability of integrating the
resistance forces into the national Ahmer and /aotian communities) but those forces were
eventually to be disarmed and disbanded) or withdrawn. <onceivably) the 4iet 8inh
leaders never intended to leave /aos) or were assured by the <hinese and Soviets that the
agreements reached regarding the Pathet /ao were not meant to eclude future North
4ietnamese support. Nevertheless) any future 4iet 8inh contacts with the rebels would
be a clear violation of the Geneva accords and provide the occasion for intensified
/aotian ties to the "est.
The 4iet 8inh also yielded ground on national elections. Their hopes for an all$
4ietnamese political settlement soon after the cease$fire were ?uashed by the Soviets and
<hinese) who were disposed to accept a longer waiting period. *urthermore) the political
settlement itself was not given the priority the 4iet 8inh had originally demanded6 it
would be achieved) as phrased in the *inal ;eclaration) "in the near future)" as the result
of rather than as the precondition to) a military +cease$fire1 settlement. *inally) when the
time for a political settlement was at hand) the ;eclaration specified that an international
body would supervise it rather than the 4iet 8inh and "South" 4ietnamese alone. The
overriding interests of the Soviets and <hinese had ta.en the heart out of the initial 4iet
8inh proposals of 8ay %( and) in addition) had considerably undercut their "fallbac."
positions epressed in late 8ay and :une. :ean <hauvel was apparently correct when he
perceived) after private tal.s with the <hinese) that the 4iet 8inh were really on the end
of a string being manipulated from 8oscow and Pe.ing. "hen they moved forward too
?uic.ly) <hou and 8olotov were always at hand to pull them bac. to a more
accommodating position. Briefly put) the 4iet 8inh very li.ely felt they had been
compelled to give away much of what they had earned even as they ac?uired the
attributes of sovereignty for which they had fought.
;. 65FE;T!BES 6F T)E P#2T!;!P#3TS> T)E /ESTE23 5!: T)2EE
The 5ritish
*or Great Britain) the accords signalled the end of a war that more than once threatened
to involve the United States and ris. a regional conflagration. >ad the point of direct
#merican intervention been reached) the <hurchill government would have been faced
with an etraordinarily difficult decision3 whether to Doin with an old ally in a war
venture that Britain considered politically wrong and militarily foolish) or to brea. with
"ashington and thereby throw into ?uestion the #nglo$#merican alliance. Britain=s
consistent advice to delay irreversible military steps) including formation of a Southeast
#sia defense organi2ation) until the <ommunists had been given an opportunity to ma.e
good on their proclaimed devotion to a peaceful solution over !ndochina had been
grudgingly accepted by the United States6 the choice of following or ignoring #merican
leadership was averted.
# diplomatic untangling of the !ndochina problem) as Britain=s first hope) also became in
large measure its responsibility. !f the allies were not to be pressed into a military
response) it was as much up to @den as to Bidault +and) later) 8endZs$*rance1) to
establish the grounds for a settlement. #lthough final agreement at the conference
re?uired Soviet and <hinese preparedness to offer e?uitable terms) @den=s own
contributions cannot be eaggerated. "or.ing closely with 8olotov and <hou) @den
apparently earned their respect as a forthright) fleible) but firm negotiator. That the
accords were drawn up testified to @den=s persistence. They were a triumph of British
diplomacy to the etent that the <hinese and Soviets) in press commentaries immediately
following the close of the <onference) accorded the UA delegation the unusual accolade
of having) along with their delegations) rendered the most important services in the
agoni2ing process of reaching agreement.
#t the same time as the British successfully pushed through a settlement by diplomatic
rather than military means) they also reserved the right to Doin with the United States in a
regional security arrangement immediately after the conference. #s @den had told <hou)
the formation of a S@#TB would not be put off) even though the #ssociated States would
not become members. British membership in S@#TB represented another significant
diplomatic victory. They had on several occasions informed the United States that a
Southeast #sia pact formed in advance of or during the Geneva deliberations might be
interpreted as provocatory by the <hinese and reduce) if not eliminate) chances for a
settlement. The British never opposed the concept of S@#TB) but they cautioned against
poor timing. S@#TB=s establishment in September %&'5 was thus doubly welcomed by
/ondon3 !t satisfied Britain=s conviction that a much$needed regional organi2ation should
be formed to preserve what remained of !ndochina) not to ta.e action to recover it all
from the 4iet 8inh.
Britain=s opposition to forming S@#TB before or during the conference so as) in part) not
to provo.e the <hinese fitted with /ondon=s aspirations for better Sino$British relations.
Kuite unli.e the dominant voices in "ashington) <hurchill and @den were amenable to
attempting to achieve some .ind of wor.ing relationship with Pe.ing) particularly in
view of the ongoing guerrilla war in 8alaya. The conference) as @den noted in his :une
79 speech to the <ommons) had resulted in an improvement of Sino$British relations)
demonstrated by Pe.ing=s agreement on :une %-) after four years of silence) to echange
charges d=affaires. !n the remaining month of the conference) moreover) British youth
delegations traveled to <hina) and there were hopeful comments from both countries on
the possibilities for stepped up trade and the echange of cultural delegations. Thus) in
sharp contrast to the United States) Great Britain fully eploited this period of harmony
through diplomacy to change) rather than preserve) its pattern of contact with Pe.ing.
The Frenh
*rance probably had as much cause for satisfaction with the outcome at Geneva as any
other party to the conference. Paris had etricated itself from la sale guerre with honor)
yet had also retained a foothold in South 4ietnam and a close relationship with <ambodia
and /aos. The *rench Union lost much of its strength) but not all of its appeal) in
!ndochina. #t least in mid$%&'5) it appeared that *rench cultural and economic interests
in all three former colonies would be substantially preserved6 and even the ;04 had
indicated) at the close as well as at the beginning of the negotiations) that it aspired to
membership in the Union. *rench military power would have to be surrendered) of
course6Y but *rench influence could +and did1 remain in all three countries.
Y @ven as most *rench troops were withdrawn) a *rench military presence remained for
some time. The last troops did not leave 4ietnam until *ebruary %&', while) under the
military accords) *rench instructors remained in /aos and <ambodia and two bases
continued to function in /aos.
"hile the British were ready to Doin with the United States and other interested nations in
S@#TB) the *rench clearly intended) as evidenced by their concern over the location of
the demarcation line) that South 4ietnam have a defensible territory within which to
establish a stable regime competitive with the ;04. Y Y #s already
YY *rench interest was not confined to South 4ietnam after :uly 7%) %&'5. Soon
thereafter) Paris dispatched :ean Sainteny) its former chief negotiator with the 4iet 8inh
at *ontainebleau and ;alat in %&5,) to >anoi to represent *rench interests without
conferring recognition on the ;0C. *rance recogni2ed only one 4ietnam but in fact dealt
with two.
observed) Paris was not motivated by altruism alone6 a substantial territorial base was as
much for the preservation of *rench economic holdings in the South as for the future
security of the Saigon government. To Dudge from the *rench attitude) the Paris
government) no less than the #merican administration) loo.ed forward to participating
fully in the consolidation and rehabilitation of the G4N at least in the two years before
nationwide elections.
The #merians
The United States viewed the conference results with mied emotions. Bn the one hand)
the terms of the settlement conformed surprisingly well to those the #dministration had
agreed with the *rench and British would be acceptable. @ven as the #dministration
could not do more than agree to "respect" and "ta.e note" of the Geneva accords) it had to
concede that they represented a reasonable outcome given the chaotic state of #llied
relations before the conference) the reDection by *rance of a possible military alternative)
and the undeniable military superiority of the 4iet 8inh beyond as well as within
4ietnam. Bn the other hand) the settlement) viewed through the special lenses of the
@isenhower$;ulles #dministration) also contained the elements of defeat. Part of the *ree
"orld=s "assets" in the *ar @ast had been "lost" to the Sino$Soviet bloc +much as <hina
had been "lost" to 8ao Tse$tung=s forces16 our allies had begged off when offered a
chance to deal with the <ommunists by force of arms and) later) by an #sian$"estern
anti$<ommunist alliance ready for action6 and the United States had been compelled to
attend an international conference which not only confirmed to the <ommunists by
diplomacy what they had gained by force) but also enhanced their image elsewhere in
#sia and worldwide as standard$bearers of peace.
The view that Geneva had come out better than could have been epected was the one
offered publicly. The President) at a :uly 7% news conference) declined to critici2e the
accords. >e said they contained "features which we do not li.e) but a great deal depends
on how they wor. in practice." >e announced the Government=s intention to establish
permanent missions in /aos and <ambodia) and said the United States was actively
"pursuing discussions with other free nations with a view to the rapid organi2ation of a
collective defense in Southeast #sia in order to prevent further direct or indirect
<ommunist aggression in that general area."
Under Secretary Smith li.ewise was very guarded in remar.s two days later. ;enying
that Geneva was another "8unich)" Smith said3 "! am . . . convinced that the results are
the best that we could possibly have obtained in the circumstances)" adding that
"diplomacy has rarely been able to gain at the conference table what cannot be gained or
held on the battlefield." "hen ;ulles spo.e +also on :uly 791) he was much less
interested in the past than in the future. 0eferring to "the loss in Northern 4ietnam)" the
Secretary epressed the hope that much would be learned from the eperience toward
preventing further <ommunist inroads in #sia. Two lessons could be culled) he observed.
*irst) popular support was essential against <ommunist subversion6 "the people should
feel that they are defending their own national institutions." Second) collective defense
should precede rather than come during the aggression$a pointed criticism of British
policy during the crisis. # collective security system now in Southeast #sia) he
concluded) would chec. both outright aggression and subversion.
# point$by$point comparison of the Seven Points with the provisions of the accords
indicates that ?uite apart from what had happened to #merican interests in Southeast
#sia as a conse?uence of the conference) #merican diplomacy had) on balance)
succeeded3
+%1 The integrity and independence of /aos and <ambodia were preserved) and 4iet
8inh forces were to be withdrawn or disarmed and disbanded.
+71 Southern 4ietnam was retained) although without an enclave in the North and with
the partition line somewhat south of ;ong >oi.
+91 /aos) <ambodia) and "retained" 4ietnam were not prevented from forming "non$
<ommunist regimes" +in the case of 4ietnam) within the two$year preelection period16
nor were they epressly forbidden "to maintain ade?uate forces for internal security."
4ietnam=s right to import arms and other war materiel was) however) restricted to piece$
by$piece replacement) and its employment of foreign advisers to the number in the
country at the war=s close.
+5$'1 0ecalling ;ulles= interpretation of :uly - that elections should "be only held as long
after cease$fire agreement as possible and in conditions free from intimidation to give
democratic elements best chance)" the accords did not "contain political provisions which
would ris. loss of the retained area to <ommunist control"6 nor did they "eclude the
possibility of the ultimate reunification of 4ietnam by peaceful means." #lthough ;ulles
and 8endZs$*rance preferred that no date be set for the elections) the compromise two$
year hiatus gave the #mericans) the *rench) and the South 4ietnamese a considerable
breathing spell. The first priority) therefore) was to "give democratic elements best
chance"6 as was subse?uently determined by "ashington) this meant providing South
4ietnam with economic assistance and political support. @lections) as ;ulles indicated
then) and as the B<B concurred in #ugust) were agreeable to the United States6 but they
were two years away) and the immediate& primary tas0 was "to maintain a friendly non$
<ommunist South 4ietnam..." Thus) the corollary obDective +stated by the NS< in #ugust
and approved by the President1 "to prevent a <ommunist victory through all$4ietnam
elections" did not connote #merican intention to subvert the accords6 read in contet) the
phrase meant that #merican influence would aim at assuring that the <ommunists not
gain an electoral victory through deceitful) undemocratic methods in violation of the
*inal ;eclaration=s stipulation that they be "free."
+,1 The accords epressly provided for the transfer of individuals desiring to move from
one 2one to another.
+-1 The accords did seem) at the time) to have basically fulfilled the precondition of
providing "effective machinery for international supervision of the agreement." #lthough
the machinery would be the !<<=s rather than the UN=s) Under Secretary Smith noted that
the !<< would have a veto power on important ?uestions +referring) evidently) to the
unanimity rule16 would be composed of one genuine neutral +!ndia1 and one pro$"estern
government +<anada16 and would be permitted full freedom of movement into
demilitari2ed 2ones and frontier and coastal areas. Smith gave this assessment3
Ta.ing everything into consideration) ! strongly feel this Fthe control and supervision
arrangementG is satisfactory and much better than we were able to obtain in Aorea.
*rench feel) and @den and ! agree) that with such composition built$in veto will wor. to
our advantage. This setup is best *rench or anybody else could get) and ! feel it is within
spirit of point -. F;oc. -&G
;espite the overall concordance of maDor provisions of the accords with the Seven Points)
the fact that another piece of territory had been formally ceded to the <ommunists
obviously weighed heavily on the #dministration. "hen) in #ugust) papers were drawn
up for the National Security <ouncil) the Geneva <onference was evaluated as a maDor
defeat for United States diplomacy and a potential disaster for United States security
interests in the *ar @ast. The Bperations <ontrol Board) in its progress report on the then$
current NS< paper '5(') stated that the *inal ;eclaration of the conference "completed a
maDor forward stride of communism which may lead to the loss of Southeast #sia. !t
therefore recorded a drastic defeat of .ey policies in NS< '5(' and a serious loss for the
free world) the psychological and political effects of which will be felt throughout the *ar
@ast and around the globe." !n a separate report) the NS< was somewhat more specific
concerning the etent of the damage) but no less restrained. The <ommunists had
ac?uired "an advance salient" in 4ietnam for use in military and nonmilitary ways6 the
United States had lost prestige as a leader in #sia capable of stemming <ommunist
epansion6 the <ommunist peace line had gained at #merica=s epense6 and <ommunist
military and political prestige had been enhanced as the result of their proven ability to
eploit unstable situations in Southeast #sian countries without resort to armed attac..
The conclusion that emerges from the obvious contrast between the public and private
comments of #dministration officials and organs is that where #merican diplomacy fell
down was not at the conference but during the !ndochina crisis as a whole. Nearly al: the
revised #merican negotiatory priniples had emerged unscathed6 but #merican
o@Heti'es in !ndochina$$the elimination of the 4iet 8inh threat) preservation of the
strategically vital Ton.in ;elta) and obstruction of <ommunist political and military
epansionist policies in the region +all of which were enumerated in NS< '5('$$had still
been defeated. The United States had admirably maneuvered at Geneva in its self$limited
role of interested party6 but the #dministration) convinced that any attrition of what had
been regarded as "*ree "orld" territory and resources was inimical to #merican global
interests) could only view the settlement as the acceptance of terms from the <ommunist
victors. The tas. in 4ietpam in the two years ahead was therefore to wor. with what had
been "retained" in the hope) by no means great) that the ;iem government could pull the
country up by its bootstraps in time to present a meaningful alternative to >o <hi 8inh=s
;04.
The Pentagon Papers
Gravel @dition
4olume %) <hapter 9) "The Geneva <onference) 8ay$:uly) %&'5"
+Boston3 Beacon Press) %&-%1
Section %) pp. %(J$%5,
!. B#<AG0BUN; TB T>@ <BN*@0@N<@
Bn *ebruary %J) %&'5) a Doint communi?uV from Berlin issued by the United States)
Great Britain) the Soviet Union) and *rance announced that in late #pril the Big *our and
other parties concerned would meet at Geneva to see. a peaceful solution of the eight$
year$old war in !ndochina. Between those dates) the "estern allies engaged in a series of
discussions centered around #merican proposals for direct intervention) while the
<ommunist side$the USS0) <ommunist <hina +<P01) and the 4iet 8inh$wor.ed to
ensure that they would enter the forthcoming Geneva <onference ftom a position of
strength.
The @isenhower #dministration found as much difficulty in persuading *rance and Great
Britain that fundamental changes in the war were necessary before the start of the
conference as in accepting the notion of a negotiated solution in !ndochina. The troubles
with *rance had begun in mid$%&'9 when the U.S. Government gave its conditional
approval to the Navarre Plan) which provided for radically new *rench field tactics and a
buildup of the 4ietnamese National #rmy +4N#1. #merican hopes that assistance in
money and war materiel would elicit a *rench commitment to a program to attract native
!ndochinese into close military and political collaboration with the colonial governments)
especially in 4ietnam) were not fulfilled. Nor was *rance hospitable to #merican
suggestions for greater involvement of the 8ilitary #dvisory #ssistance Group +8##G1
in *rench planning. #s was to be the case almost throughout the !ndochina crisis) *rance
capitali2ed on #merican fears of National #ssembly reDection of the @uropean ;efense
<ommunity +@;<1 treaty and of a *rench pull$out from !ndochina to gain U.S. aid
without having to ma.e commensurate concessions on 4ietnamese independence or
tactical planning. #merican attempts to tie aid to such concessions were never followed
through) and whatever leverage on *rench policy$ma.ing in !ndochina the United States
possessed was left largely uneploited.
*or the most part) *rance=s reDection of #merican conditions and suggestions was based
on the /aniel government=s conviction) implemented 2ealously by *rench civil and
military authorities in !ndochina) that the United States would be intruding in *rance=s
domain. # policy of systematic restrictions on #merican officials in the field prevented
the United States from ma.ing independent evaluations of the war=s progress) with the
result that the Government was for many months badly informed and unwarrantedly
optimistic about the *rench Union army=s chances against the 4iet 8inh. !n late 8arch
and #pril %&'5) when it became clear to "ashington that the Navarre Plan had failed and
that +in Secretary of State ;ulles= words1 "united action" was necessary to prevent
!ndochina from falling to the <ommunists) the *rench revealed that their distrust of
#merican "interference" etended to any plans for overt #merican air$naval involvement.
The /aniel government was perfectly amenable to locali2ed #merican intervention at
;ienbienphu to save the besieged *rench army from disaster6 but it stood firmly opposed
to ;ulles= concept of collective +"estern$#sian1 defense in a security organi2ation that
would) if necessary) intervene to prevent the "loss" of !ndochina. *rance=s re?uests for
assistance at ;ienbienphu were entirely consistent with long$standing policy in Paris that
loo.ed to a negotiated settlement of the war on "honorable" terms at the same time as it
hoped to be in the best possible military position at the time negotiations began.
Bpposition to "united action" was no less stubborn in /ondon. The British) li.e the
*rench) were suspicious of #merican intentions in calling for that alternative) though for
different reasons. To the <hurchill government) the United States) even while
proclaiming a strong desire to avoid open conflict with <ommunist <hina) was tending
precisely in that direction by insisting on the formation of a collective security pact prior
to the start of the Geneva <onference. @isenhower=s letter to <hurchill on #pril 5) %&'5)
could only have reinforced those suspicions) for the President described united action as
an attempt to ma.e <hina stop supporting the 4iet 8inh rather than face the prospect of
large$scale allied involvement in 4ietnam. #lthough the British were not as.ed to ma.e
substantial ground troop commitments to a united action) they felt that their approval
would ultimately condone a widening of the war that would ris. bringing in the <hinese
who) the British argued) could not possibly be epected to cease assistance they had been
providing since %&'(. /ondon therefore told ;ulles it would not approve united action
and preferred to await the outcome of the negotiations before deciding whether the
!ndochina situation warranted resort to military alternatives. The British were perfectly
willing to tal. about regional defense in the *ar @ast) but only after the results were in on
the negotiations. Until then) they said) they would limit themselves to providing full
diplomatic support to the *rench in search of a peaceful solution.
;ifferences among the allies were therefore acute as the conference opened. The *rench
had cleverly eploited the #merican assistance program without having brought in the
#mericans in full force) yet had also been unable to save ;ienbienphu from being
overrun on 8ay -. The British were felt in "ashington to have been the primary obstacle
to united action6 they were accused of having been so blinded by their own self$interest in
other areas of Southeast #sia that they failed to appreciate the vast strategic importance
to the *ree "orld of saving !ndochina.
<ontrasting <ommunist unity on the eve of the conference was more a matter of Sino$
Soviet agreement on the desirability of negotiations than of complete accord among the
three parties. !n the aftermath of Stalin=s death) Soviet foreign policy under 8alen.ov had
altered considerably. ;omestic priorities no doubt influenced the regime=s proclaimed
hopes for a reduction in international tension. Pe.ing) more intimately involved in the
4iet 8inh cause) stepped up its assistance to General Giap=s forces between *ebruary and
#pril %&'5) but also agreed with 8oscow on the desirability of convening an
international conference) which <hina would attend) to end the fighting. The limited
available evidence suggests that the ;emocratic 0epublic of 4ietnam +;041 alone
among the three <ommunist parties considered the call for negotiations premature and
urged that they be preceded by intensified military efforts. >o=s much$publici2ed offer in
late November %&'9 to tal. with the *rench was intended more to influence *rench
domestic and official opinion and to demorali2e *ranco$4ietnamese troops than to evince
sincere interest in arriving at an e?uitable settlement. !n ensuing months) ;04 broadcasts
showed a far greater interest in first achieving a clear$cut military victory in the Ton.in
;elta and parts of /aos than in engaging in discussions while *rench forces remained
scattered throughout !ndochina.
These developments) in very broad outline) provided the bac.drop to the Geneva
<onference. Strength and wea.ness seemed to be the respective characteristics of the
<ommunist and "estern positions. Cet these terms are) as we shall see) not entirely
accurate) for the interaction between and within the two sides was to ma.e clear that the
Geneva <onference would not be the setting for a victor=s peace.
!!. T>@ <BN;U<T #N; ST0U<TU0@ B* ;!P/B8#<C
Bne of the first agreements reached at the Geneva <onference occurred in the course of a
conversation between 4. 8. 8olotov and #nthony @den on 8ay ') when the Soviet
foreign minister endorsed the foreign secretary=s assertion that this negotiation was the
most difficult he had ever encountered.Y !ndeed) it seems at first glance somewhat
paradoical that the !ndochina phase of the Geneva <onference +8ay J$:uly 7%1 should
have resulted in a settlement within less than a do2en wee.s) given the unusual
difficulties facing the negotiators on both sides. +See Table %1 Aey issues were postponed
until the eleventh hour while debate wore endlessly on over relatively insignificant
matters6 contact among the delegations was limited by ideological proDudices and
political antagonisms) forcing some delegates to act as mediators no less than as
representatives of national interests6 and maDor agreements were reached outside the
special framewor. for discussions that the conferees had ta.en a month to build.
Y # valuable source is #nthony @den) 8emoirs3 *ull <ircle) >oughton$8ifflin) Boston)
%&,(.
T#B/@ %
<>!@* N@GBT!#TB0S #T T>@ G@N@4# <BN*@0@N<@ BN !N;B<>!N#
United Aingdom
#nthony @den
United States
General "alter Bedell Smith
U. #leis :ohnson
<hinese People=s 0epublic
<hou @n$lai
<hang "en$t=ien
/i A=e$nung
4iet 8inh
Pham 4an ;ong
/aos
Phoui Sanani.one
USS0
4yacheslav 8olotov
*rance
Georges Bidault
:ean <hauvel
Pierre 8endZs$*rance
4ietnam
;ac Ahe
Tran 4an ;o
<ambodia
Tep Phan
Sam Sary
#. T>@ 0@P0@S@NT#T!BN KU@ST!BN
The first maDor roadbloc. in the negotiations was the <ommunist claims concerning the
representation of parties not present at the conference. Since the conference had already
begun when these claims were forwarded) the chances of epanding the list of invited
parties were very limited. Nevertheless) through fourteen restricted and seven plenary
sessions)Y bitter controversy raged over <ommunist insistence that the 4iet 8inh$led
*ree <ambodian +Ahmer !ssara.1 and *ree /aotian +Pathet /ao1 forces were entitled to
be seated beside representatives of the 0oyal Governments of <ambodia and /aos. Not
until :une %,) when Premier <hou @n$lai) <hina=s foreign minister and chief delegate)
indicated to @den that 4iet 8inh forces would be withdrawn from <ambodia and /aos)
was the debate resolved and the way opened for serious efforts to bring about cease$fires
throughout !ndochina.
The time$consuming echanges over the authenticity of <ommunist "resistance forces" in
/aos and <ambodia were) interestingly enough) not duplicated when it came to
determining the status of the ;04. The Berlin <onference final communi?uV had
specified that the !ndochina deliberations would be attended by the United States) Great
Britain) <ommunist <hina) the Soviet Union) *rance) "and other states concerned."
!nvitations to the participants would) it was further agreed) be issued only by the Berlin
conferees) i.e.) by the Big *our but not by Pe.ing. Cet) as 8olotov admitted at the first
plenary session +8ay J1) Pe.ing as well as 8oscow invited the ;0y) a move vigorously
assailed by *rance and the United States. F;oc. 5'G No attempt was made) however) to
bloc. the ;04=s participation. ;espite the antagonism of the 4ietnamese government
nominally headed by Bao ;ai) +Bao ;ai=s consistent position) supported by Ngo ;inh
;iem when he too. over the premiership on :une %J) was that his was the only legitimate
government in 4ietnam) while the 4iet 8inh were not political competitors but merely
armed rebels.1 the ;04 was generally considered one of the principal combatants whose
consent to a cease$fire) being indispensable) re?uired its participation. 8oreover) the
Soviet Union indicated to the *rench that it would not accept the presence of delegates
from the #ssociated States of !ndochina +4ietnam) <ambodia) and /aos1 unless the ;04
was admitted to the conference. By the time of ;ienbienphu=s fall +8ay -1) all parties
were agreed that there would be nine delegations +though not States1 discussing
!ndochina6 and on 8ay J the first session got underway.
Y !n all) the Geneva <onference comprised eight plenary and twenty$two restricted
sessions. These were ?uite apart from the *ranco$4iet 8inh military command
conferences held after :une 7) as well as from 4iet 8inh military staff tal.s with /aotian
and <ambodian representatives that begain in late :une. *inally) during the latter half of
the conference) *rench and 4iet 8inh delegation heads met secretly in so$called
"underground" negotiations) the results of which were closely held) at least by the *rench.
B. T>@ <B88UN!<#T!BN G#PS
Nine delegations seated at a roundtable to echange views) about every second day)
obscured the fact that true bargaining was not ta.ing place. Proposals were) of course)
tabled and debated6 but actual give$and$ta.e was reserved for private discussions) usually
in the absence of the pro$"estern !ndochinese parties. @ven then) the Geneva tal.s on
!ndochina were hardly dominated by Big Power cabais6 political and ideological
differences were so intense) particularly between the #merican and <hinese
representatives) that diplomacy had to be conducted circuitously) with @den and 8olotov
fre?uently acting as mediators and messengers for delegates unwilling to be found
together. +#s one eample of the #merican attitude) ;uties told reporters Dust prior to the
first session that the only way he could possibly meet with <hou @n$lai was if their cars
collided.1
#nthony @den) whose persistence in the face of adverse developments throughout the
conference was rewarded in the end) has provided this description of personal tribulation3
! was conscious that time was not on our side. Since neither the #mericans nor the
*rench had established any contacts with the <ommunist representatives Fin mid$:uneG) !
had been compelled to adopt the rote of intermediary between the "estern powers and
the <ommunists. 8y activities in this respect were open to every .ind of
misrepresentation. ! was concerned about their effect on #nglo$#merican relations. Bn
the other hand) ! was encouraged by the close accord maintained throughout the
conference between ourselves and the other members of the <ommonwealth) including
those) li.e 8r. Nehru) who were not represented at Geneva. They sent me messages of
than.s and encouragement. ! needed them) for ! began to feet that we should never ma.e
effective headway. ! had never .nown a conference of this .ind. The parties would not
ma.e direct contact and we were in constant danger of one or another bac.ing out of the
door.
Not until the latter half of :une did high$ran.ing *rench and 4iet 8inh delegates meet
face$to$face) did 4iet 8inh military officials confer with <ambodian and /aotian
representatives) and did *rench and <hinese heads$of$delegation privately echange
views. <ommunist and non$<ommunist 4ietnamese) meanwhile) refused to tal. to one
another until :uly) when finally Tran 4an ;o and Pham 4an ;ong were persuaded to
have private discussions. 8ost importantly) the #merican delegation +US;@/1) under
strict instructions to avoid contact with the <hinese) had to rely on second$hand
information provided by the British) *rench) and Soviet representatives) a procedure that
was repeated with respect to the 4iet 8inh.
The problem of contact was no more acutely felt than by the delegation of the State of
4ietnam. #lthough finally granted complete independence by *rance under treaties
initialed in Paris #pril 7J and approved by both governments :une 5) 4ietnam did not
gain the concurrent power to negotiate its own fate. The *rench) clearly anious lest the
4ietnamese upset the delicate state of private tal.s with the 4iet 8inh) avoided Bao ;ai=s
representatives whenever possible and sought to eploit close 4ietnamese$#merican
relations in informing the 4ietnamese only after agreements had been reached. ;uring
:une) for instance) :ean <hauvel) head of the *rench delegation) on several occasions
approached the #mericans with information on the "underground" negotiations with the
4iet 8inh and with the hope that) once partition had been fied) the United States would
"sell" that solution to Saigon. F;oc. ,(G !n the same month) <hauvel) evincing complete
understanding of #merican determination to avoid approving or ac?uiescing in a partition
settlement) nevertheless as.ed if the United States would soften 4ietnamese opposition to
it by indicating it was the best solution obtainable. <hauvel described ;iem and his
predecessor) Buu /oc) as difficult) unrealistic) and unreasonable on the subDect. F;oc. ,,G
!n an aide$memoire delivered to ;uties and @den on :une 7, by >enri Bonnet) the *rench
ambassador to "ashington) Paris urged "ashington not to encourage an adverse
4ietnamese reaction to partition. The United States was also as.ed "to intervene with the
4ietnamese to counsel upon them wisdom and self$control and to dissuade them from
refusing an agreement which) if it is reached) is dictated not by the spirit of abandoning
them) but on the contrary by the desire to save in !ndochina all that can possibly be saved)
and to give the 4ietnamese state) under peaceful conditions) opportunities which have not
always been possible heretofore because of the war." To these approaches) the United
States consistently reacted negatively in the undoubtedly correct belief that the *rench
were merely attempting to identify the United States in 4ietnamese eyes with the
partition concept. By refusing to act as intermediaries for the *rench) the #merican
delegation .ept free of association with a "*rench solution" to the 4ietnam problem.
*rench aloofness from the 4ietnamese continued into :uly. ;espite #merican re?uests of
the *rench delegation that the 4ietnamese be .ept informed of developments) the *rench
demurred. <hauvel informed U. #leis :ohnson) chief deputy to the head of the US;@/)
General "aiter Bedell Smith) that "he was handling this Fliaison with the 4ietnameseG
through members of his staff and was avoiding direct contact with 4ietnamese in order
not to have to answer their ?uestions." "hen Bffroy) another member of the *rench
delegation) suggested that the United States placate the 4ietnamese with assurance of
*ree "orld political) economic) and military support after the settlement) :ohnson replied
that this was a matter for the *rench to handle. Not until late in the <onference did the
4ietnamese government become aware of the strong possibility that partition would
become part of the settlement6 on this and other developments) as we shall see) the
4ietnamese were .ept in the dar.) a circumstance that was to solidify 4ietnamese
hostility to and dissociation from the final terms.
But the 4ietnamese loyal to Bao ;ai were not alone in being denied important
information) although they suffered worst from it. The United States delegation itself
several times suspected that it was not receiving all the news the *rench were in a
position to provide. The fault) however) lay as much with the ambiguous status under
which the delegation operated as with the *rench who were to act as messengers. Bn the
one hand) the #mericans wanted to use their influence to ensure that the *rench not sell
out "estern interests for the sa.e of a ?uic. settlement6 on the other) they were
determined not to become so involved in the bargaining process as to lin. the
#dministration to the final terms. The resolution of these apparently conflicting aims was
offered by ;uties on the eve of the conference in a bac.ground briefing to newsmen at
Geneva. >e said that primary responsibility for decisions ta.en at the conference
belonged to the *rench and 4ietnamese on one side) and to the 4iet 8inh on the other.
The United States "would be inclined not to try to interpose FitsG veto in any sense as
against what they might want to do." #s to whether this attitude applied e?ually to
substantive provisions of any settlement) the Secretary indicated that the United States
would) if necessary) refuse to ac.nowledge results contrary to #merican "interests"3
! would thin. that Fnonapplication of a vetoG would be true up to the point at least where
we felt that the issues involved had a pretty demonstrable interest to the United States
itself. The United States does have pretty considerable interests in the "estern Pacific)
and there are some solutions there which we would regard as so disadvantageous that we
would see. to prevent them. #nd if we failed in that respect) we would probably want to
disassociate ourselves from it Fthe final settlementG.
Thus) the United States would apply the tactic of "disassociation" should its influence not
be sufficient to ma.e the final terms compatible with #merican "interests." Cet the
*rench) against whom the tactic was primarily directed) were probably +and ?uite
naturally1 averse to .eeping their #merican colleagues so well informed of developments
in the tal.s with the 4iet 8inh that the United States would have occasion to resort to
"disassociation." Throughout the conference) in fact) the *rench aimed at eploiting the
#merican presence for the strength they believed it provided their negotiators) and this
policy meant pressuring "ashington to retain a high$ran.ing delegation at the conference
right up to the moment of the settlement.
"hatever the rationale for *rench behavior) the US;@/ complained to "ashington that
it was not being .ept fully informed of developments in the "underground" *ranco$4iet
8inh tal.s. The change in government in Paris during :une from /aniel to Pierre
8endZs$*rance helped matters somewhat. But though it was conceded that 8endZs$
*rance=s representatives had done better than their predecessors in .eeping the United
States apprised) the United States still felt) as ;ulles put it) that while Paris was not
willfully concealing information) there remained a "certain lac. of any intimacy..." F;oc.
,'G
The British also felt loc.ed out of news that vitally affected them. Particularly during
8ay) when "ashington and Paris were fre?uently in touch about possible military
intervention) the British were highly disturbed to find newspapers their best source of
information on the intentions of their foremost allies. Since /ondon was no longer
considered essential to "united action" +see Section !41) the #mericans and the *rench
had evidently agreed that their negotiations should be .ept under wraps until such time as
a decision was made. Bnly after @den confronted Under Secretary Smith with the
newspaper stories +which may have been deliberate "lea.s" to influence the Geneva
deliberations1 did ;ulles direct that the British) #ustralian) and New Lealand
ambassadors be informed "in general terms" regarding U.S.$*rench tal.s. ;iplomay
among the "estern Big Three clearly reflected the rifts that had developed in the alliance
over intervention before the ;ienbienphu disaster6 as a result) secrecy and bilateral
discussions tended to be the rule) thereby complicating the already mammoth tas. of
presenting a united "estern front against the <ommunist negotiators.
Thus far we have been dealing with diplomacy as it was conducted by the non$
<ommunist delegations. "hat of the <ommunistsN The available documentation limits
the comments we may ma.e) but still permits some remar.s) both definite and
speculative. *irst) the <hinese) Soviet) and 4iet 8inh delegations were in constant touch)
as reported by their news agencies. 8oreover) <hou @n$lai was able to ma.e three
stopovers in 8oscow during the conference that very li.ely heightened Sino$Soviet
coordination. *inally) during a recess for heads of delegation) <hou and >o <hi 8inh
held a three$day meeting in early :uly that may have provided the turning point in the
4iet 8inh=s more conciliatory attitude thereafter. !n brief) the <ommunists apparently
were not plagued by the .inds of communication problems that hampered the #mericans)
British) and 4ietnamese.
#s will be argued in greater detail subse?uently) the fre?uent meetings of the <ommunist
delegations did not result in a uniformity of views. The <hinese and Soviets evidently
wor.ed independent of the 4iet 8inh whenever their separate interests dictated the need
for advancement of progress in the negotiations. #t times when the 4iet 8inh were
intransigent) <hou and 8olotov fre?uently too. the initiative to brea. log Dams that
threatened to plunge the conference into irresolvable deadloc.. 8uch li.e @den) <hou
and 8olotov sometimes found themselves playing the role of mediator) a role which
they) and particularly <hou) relished for what *red !.lV has called the "side$effects" of
negotiations$benefits deriving from) but incidental to) negotiations) such as enhanced
prestige. !n the end) the 4iet 8inh advantage of close rapport with 8oscow and Pe.ing
did not prevent the 4iet 8inh from sharing with their non$<ommunist compatriots the
ignominious distinction of having been undercut by allies.
!!!. T>@ ;@4@/BP8@NT B* B#0G#!N!NG PBS!T!BNS
#. T)E 73!TED ST#TES #3D T)E 3E:6T!#T!63S
!n underwriting the Navarre Plan and proceeding with utmost caution in urging *rance to
improve its relationship with the non$<ommunist 4ietnamese nationalists) the United
States hoped to influence Paris to postpone a commitment to negotiations until *rench
forces were at least on the threshold of military victory. "hile aware of the strong
pressures on the /aniel government from the National #ssembly and the *rench public
for a peaceful settlement) the United States) clearly influenced by the eperience at
PanmunDom) sought to persuade the premier not to let the clamor for peace drive him to
the bargaining table. #s late as ;ecember %&'9 /aniel agreed that "ashington=s aversion
to premature negotiations was well$advised6 but two months later) at Berlin) his
government Doined with the Soviet Union in calling for an international conference to end
the !ndochina conflict. The *rench government found it could no longer ignore anti$war
sentiment at home without Deopardi2ing its survival) while the #mericans) however
strongly opposed to bringing the war to the conference table with victory nowhere in
sight and with <ommunist <hina as a negotiating opponent) felt compelled to approve the
Berlin decision if only to blunt the *rench threat of scuttling @;<.
*orced to go along with *rench preference for negotiating with the <ommunists) the
United States remained unalterably pessimistic about the probable results. This attitude
was first set out fully by the :oint <hiefs of Staff in 8arch %&'5. F;oc. 79G The <hiefs
eamined the alternatives to military victory and found them all infeasible or
unacceptable to the United States. # ceasefire prior to a political settlement) the :<S
paper states) "would) in all probability) lead to a political stalemate attended by a
concurrent and irretrievable deterioration of the *ranco$4ietnamese military position." #
coalition government would lead to <ommunist control by .eeping any outside assistance
from preventing a sei2ure of power from within. Partition) on the other hand) would mean
recogni2ing <ommunist success by force of arms) ceding the .ey Ton.in ;elta to the
communists) and) even if confined to only one of the three !ndochinese states)
undercutting our containment policy in #sia.
The <hiefs also commented at some length on the difficult ?uestion of elections in
4ietnam. They too. the position that even if elections could be held along democratic
lines +which they doubted1) a <ommunist victory would almost certainly result because
of <ommunist territorial control) popular support) and superior tactics3
Such factors as the prevalence of illiteracy) the lac. of suitable educational media) and
the absence of ade?uate communications in the outlying areas would render the holding
of a truly representative plebiscite of doubtful feasibility. The <ommunists) by virtue of
their superior capability in the field of propaganda) could readily pervert the issue as
being a choice between national independence and *rench <olonial rule. *urthermore) it
would be militarily infeasible to prevent widespread intimidation of voters by <ommunist
partisans. "hile it is obviously impossible to ma.e a dependable forecast as to the
outcome of a free election) current intelligence leads the :oint <hiefs to the belief that a
settlement based upon free elections would be attended by almost certain loss of the
#ssociated States to <ommunist control.
The :<S views) together with the recommendation that the United States not associate
itself with any settlement that "would fail to provide reasonably ade?uate assurance of the
future political and territorial integrity of !ndochina . . .)" were approved by the Secretary
of ;efense on 8arch 79.
The :<S position reflected Government policy) for in the remaining months before the
<onference the United States privately stood opposed to any course of action other than
full prosecution of the war. ;ulles) spea.ing with *rench #mbassador >enri Bonnet on
#pril 9) reasoned thaf a negotiated settlement would lead only to face$saving formulae
for either a *rench or a 4iet 8inh surrender. The Secretary termed a division of
!ndochina "impractical" and a coalition government the "beginning of disaster"6 neither
arrangement could prevent a *rench surrender. F;oc. 7-G The President himself echoed
this either$or approach. "riting to <hurchill #pril 5) @isenhower proposed3 "There is no
negotiated solution of the !ndochina problem which in essence would not be either a face$
saving device to cover a *rench surrender or a face$saving device to cover a <ommunist
retirement." #nd) as already observed) it was precisely to bring about the latter$<hina=s
"discreet disengagement" from support of the 4iet 8inh$that the President wanted British
cooperation in united action.
<oncomitantly) the United States was concerned that a disaster at ;ienbienphu would
propel the *rench into acceptance of an immediate) unsupervised cease$fire even before
the conference was to begin. ;ulles obtained assurances from Bidault that the *rench
would not agree to such a cease$fire. But the Secretary found the British less infleible)
with @den doubting the #merican view that a sudden cease$fire would lead either to a
massacre of the *rench by the native people or to large$scale infiltration of *rench$held
terrain by 4iet 8inh forces. F;oc. 9-G
Thus assured by the *rench but mindful of both *rench and British preference for trying
to bargain with the <ommunists. before resorting to further military steps) "ashington) in
late #pril and early 8ay) sought to develop guidelines for the #merican delegation. The
National Security <ouncil) less than a wee. before the opening conference session)
carefully eamined #merican alternatives. ;isturbed by what it regarded as peace$at$any$
price thin.ing in Paris) the NS< urged the President to decide not to Doin the Geneva
deliberations without assurance from *rance that it was not preparing to negotiate the
surrender of !ndochina. #gain) the Aorean eample was foremost3 <ommunist tactics at
Geneva) the NS< forecast) would li.ely resemble those at PanmunDom6 a cease$fire might
be announced that the <ommunists would not comply with for lac. of effective
supervision6 the *rench would wilt before the <ommunists= predictable dilatory tactics
and end by accepting almost any terms.
The NS< therefore decided that the *rench had to be pressured into adopting a strong
posture in the face of probable <ommunist intransigence. The President was urged to
inform Paris that *rench ac?uiescence in a <ommunist ta.eover of !ndochina would bear
not only on *rance=s future position in the *ar @ast) but also on its status as one of the Big
Three6 that abandonment of !ndochina would grievously affect both *rance=s position in
North #frica and *ranco$U.S. relations in that region6 that U.S. aid to *rance would
automatically cease upon Paris= conclusion of an unsatisfactory settlement6 and) finally)
that <ommunist domination of !ndochina would be of such serious strategic harm to U.S.
interests as to produce "conse?uences in @urope as well as elsewhere FwithoutG apparent
limitation." !n addition) the NS< recomended that the United States determine
immediately whether the #ssociated States should be approached with a view to
continuing the anti$4iet 8inh struggle in some other form) including unilateral #merican
involvement "if necessary." The NS< clearly viewed the !ndochina situation with
etreme aniety) and its action program amounted to unprecedented proposals to threaten
*rance with the serious repercussions of a sell$out in Southeast #sia.
Pessimism over the prospects for any meaningful progress in tal.s with the <ommunists
was shared by Secretary ;ulles. !n a bac.ground briefing for newsmen at Geneva) ;ulles
gave the first official indication for public consumption that the United States would
dissociate itself from any settlement rather than be party to unacceptable terms. #s to the
acceptability of partition) the Secretary) in views that would change later) said he did not
see how partition could be arranged with the fighting not confined to any single area. >e
as much as ruled out a territorial division when he commented that the United States
would only agree to an arrangement in which all the 4iet 8inh troops would be placed in
a small regroupment area out of harm=s way. But that arrangement "might not be
acceptable to them)" ;ulles said coyly.
#merican opinions on the li.ely ramifications of a settlement were also made .nown) and
with greater precision) in private. Bn 8ay -) for instance) /ivingston 8erchant of the
State ;epartment presented the #merican view to the 8inisters of New Lealand and
#ustralia. Predicting that the *rench would finally settle for part of 4ietnam and manage
to salvage <ambodia and /aos) 8erchant said the United States could not accept such a
surrender of territory. "hile we could not prevent the *rench from ma.ing concessions)
neither did we have to associate ourselves with the results. Thus) both publicly and
privately) #dministration leaders indicated at the outset of the conference that the United
States would divorce itself from any settlement that resulted in less than a complete
*rench$4ietnamese victory.
The first test of U.S. policy came 8ay ' when the *rench informed "ashington of the
proposals they intended to ma.e in the opening round of the Geneva tal.s on 8ay J. The
proposals included a separation of the "civil war" in 4ietnam from the <ommunist
aggressions in <ambodia and /aos6 a cease$fire) supervised by a well$staffed
international authority +but not the UN1 and followed by political discussions leading to
free elections6 the regrouping of regular forces of the belligerents into defined 2ones +as
/aniel had proposed in a speech on 8arch '1 upon signature of a cease$fire agreement6
the disarming of all irregular forces +i.e.) the 4iet 8inh guerrillas16 and a guarantee of the
agreements by "the States participating in the Geneva <onference."
The :<S were first to react to the *rench plan. The <hiefs strongly felt that even if the
<ommunists unepectedly agreed to it) the li.ely outcomes would still be either rapid
*rench capitulation in the wa.e of the cease$fire or virtual *rench surrender in the course
of protracted political discussions. Bnce more) the <hiefs fell bac. on the Aorean
eperience) which they said demonstrated the certainty that the <ommunists would
violate any armistice controls) including those supervised by an international body. #n
agreement to refrain from new military activities during armistice negotiations would be
a strong obstacle to <ommunist violations6 but the <ommunists) the :<S concluded)
would never agree to such an arrangement. Bn the contrary) they were far more li.ely to
intensify military operations so as to enhance their bargaining position) precisely at the
time the *rench would see. to reduce operations to avoid ta.ing casualties. The <hiefs
therefore urged that the United States not get trapped into bac.ing a *rench armistice
proposal that the <ommunists) by voicing approval) could use to bind us to a cease$fire
while they themselves ignored it. The only way to get satisfactory results was through
military success) and since the Navarre Plan was no longer tenable) the net best
alternative was not to associate the United States with any cease$fire in advance of a
satisfactory political settlement. The first step) the <hiefs believed) should be the
conclusion of a settlement that would "reasonably assure the political and territorial
integrity of the #ssociated States . . . "6 only thereafter should a cease$fire be entertained.
#s previously) the :oint <hiefs= position became U.S. policy with only minor
emendations. The President) reviewing the <hiefs= paper) agreed that the Government
could not bac. the *rench proposal with its call for a supervised cease$fire that the
<ommunists would never respect. @isenhower further concurred with the <hiefs=
insistence on priority to a political settlement) with the stipulation that *rench forces
continue fighting while negotiations were in progress. >e added that the United States
would continue aiding the *rench during that period and would) in addition) wor. toward
a coalition "for the purpose of preventing further epansion of <ommunist power in
Southeast #sia."
These statements of position paved the way for a National Security <ouncil meeting on
8ay J) which set forth the guidelines of U.S. policy on negotiations for the delegation at
Geneva. The decision ta.en at the meeting simply underscored what the President and the
<hiefs had already stated3
The United States will not associate itself with any proposal from any source directed
toward a cease$fire in advance of an acceptable armistice agreement) including
international controls. The United States could concur in the initiation of negotiations for
such an armistice agreement. ;uring the course of such negotiations) the *rench and the
#ssociated States should continue to oppose the forces of the 4iet 8inh with all the
means at their disposal. !n the meantime) as a means of strengthening the hands of the
*rench and the #ssociated States during the course of such negotiations) the United
States will continue its program of aid and its efforts to organi2e and promptly activate a
Southeast #sian regional grouping for the purpose of preventing further epansion of
<ommunist power in Southeast #sia.
5. T)E ;6MM73!ST P26P6S#"S
Bfficial #merican perspectives on the li.ely pattern of the Geneva negotiations were
confirmed when the 4iet 8inh forwarded their first proposal "pac.age" at the second
plenary session on 8ay %(. Pham 4an ;ong) then the ;04=s vice$minister for foreign
affairs and already a seasoned negotiator with the *rench) introduced his case with the
argument that the 4iet 8inh were the "stronger" force in "more than three$fourths of the
country." >e went on to describe the successful administration of this territory by his
government) which he said "represents the will of the entire 4ietnamese nation The
opposition) the Bao ;ai regime) characteri2ed as "the government of the temporarily
occupied 2one)" did not enDoy popular support and was merely the tool of the *rench.
Pham 4an ;ong did not) however) demand that *rance concede control of all 4ietnam to
the ;0C. !nstead) ;ong urged that *rance recogni2e "the sovereignty and independence
of 4ietnam throughout the territory of 4ietnam)" a statement which amounted to a
reDection of the *ranco$4ietnamese treaties approved #pril 7J in Paris by /aniel and
Premier Nguyen Trung 4inh. The main points of ;ong=s proposal for a cease$fire and
political settlement in 4ietnam were as follows3
+%1 <onclusion of an agreement on the withdrawal of all "foreign" +i.e.) *rench1 troops
from the #ssociated States) to be preceded by the relocation of those troops to
regroupment areas
+71 <onvening of advisory conferences) to be composed of representatives of the
"governments of both sides)" in each country of !ndochina) with the obDective of holding
general elections leading to the establishment of unified governments
+91 Supervision of elections by local commissions
+51 Prior to the establishment of unified governments) the carrying out by the opposing
parties of "the administrative functions in the districts which will be FtemporarilyG under
their administration . .
+'1 <ease$fire in all !ndochina supervised by mied commissions composed of the
belligerents) the ease-fire to ta0e effet upon implementation of all other measures. No
new forces or military e?uipment to be introduced into !ndochina during the armistice
To placate the *rench) ;ong asserted the ;04=s readiness "to eamine the ?uestion of the
entry of the ;emocratic 0epublic of 4ietnam into the *rench Union..."
The meaning of ;ong=s proposal was clear. # political settlement would precede a
military agreement to a cease$fire rather than the reverse) which the *rench preferred.
Somewhat ironically) the 4iet 8inh position was in line with the #merican preference
for giving priority to a political settlement6 but the 4iet 8inh in effect proposed to stop
fighting only when *rench troops had left 4ietnam and a political process favorable to
the <ommunists had been set up. By first getting rid of the *rench) and then substituting
all$4ietnamese consultations for strict control and supervision of the cease$fire) the
regroupment) and the general elections) the 4iet 8inh could legitimately epect a ?uic.
ta.eover of power from the relatively wea. 4ietnamese National #rmy) by then bereft of
its *rench command structure. #s ;ong well .new) the relocation of *rench forces in the
Ton.in ;elta to a tighter perimeter was having) and would continue to have) maDor
repercussions on 4N# morale. Bnce the *rench could be persuaded to withdraw) the
4N# would undoubtedly collapse under 4iet 8inh military pressure. 8oreover)
inasmuch as ;ong=s plan made no allowance for the disarming) much less the regrouping)
of indigenous forces on either side) the 4iet 8inh would be militarily in a virtually
unassailable position to control any general election that might be held. ;ong=s proposal)
then) amounted to a re?uest that the *rench abandon 4ietnam to a certain fate.
!n the same speech) ;ong made clear that the ;04=s concern etended beyond 4ietnam
to <ambodia and /aos. By %&'5) 4iet 8inh coordination with the Pathet /ao and *ree
Ahmer "resistance forces" had been going on for at least three years) or since the formal
announcement on 8arch %%) %&'%) of formation of a 4iet 8inh$*ree Ahmer$Pathet /ao
"National United *ront." 4iet 8inh soldiers and cadres were active participants in the
fighting there) where they provided the hard core of the "resistance." !n addition) forces
under General 4o Nguyen Giap had invaded /aos in #pril and ;ecember %&'9) and
<ambodia in #pril %&'5 +a move which prompted a formal protest by the 0oyal Ahmer
Government to the Secretary General of the UN on #pril 791. 4iet 8inh battalions were
still active in both countries during 8ay and :une) with greater priority given operations
in /aos. Thus) ;ong=s proposals on a settlement in /aos and <ambodia reflected not
simply the ;04=s assumption of the role of spo.esman for the unrepresented *ree Ahmer
and Pathet /ao movements) but also direct 4iet 8inh interests in those neighboring
.ingdoms.
;ong argued that the Pathet /ao and *ree Ahmer forces enDoyed widespread popular
support and controlled most of the territory of their respective countries. "ith
considerable distortion of history +subse?uently corrected by the /aotian and <ambodian
delegates1) ;ong sought to demonstrate that the Pathet /ao and *ree Ahmer were de
facto governments carrying out "democratic reforms" in the areas their armies had
"liberated." *rance was therefore advised to recogni2e the "sovereignty and
independence" of those movements no less than of the ;0C. *rench forces alone were to
withdraw from <ambodia and /aos6 the Pathet /ao and *ree Ahmer were not "foreign"
troops. The same election procedure offered for 4ietnam) without neutral or international
supervision) would) ;ong proposed) ta.e place in <ambodia and /aos) thereby granting
the Pathet /ao and *ree Ahmer a status e?ual to that of the lawful governments. #nd
during the electoral process) ;ong insisted on "conditions securing freedom of activity
for patriotic parties) groups) and social organi2ations..." agreement to which would have
permitted various <ommunist fronts to function with impunity. The inclusion of the
Pathet /ao and *ree Ahmer in the ;04=s settlement plan$in particular) the demand that
they merited political and territorial recognition$very ?uic.ly brought the conference to a
standstill and) much later) compelled the Soviets and <hinese to wor. against 4iet 8inh
ambitions.
;. T)E #ME2!;#3 2E#;T!63
Pham 4an ;ong=s opening gambit was clearly anathema to the "estern delegations.
<ertainly) from the #merican standpoint) his proposals met none of the criteria for
acceptability outlined by the National Security <ouncil on 8ay J. Smith said as much at
Geneva when he spo.e on 8ay %( and again at the third plenary session 8ay %7.
#ccordingly) Smith did not wholeheartedly embrace Bidault=s proposals) for despite
giving a general endorsement of the *rench plan) he departed from it at two important
Dunctures. *irst) he declined to commit the United States in advance to a guarantee of the
settlement despite Bidault=s call for all the participants to ma.e such a guarantee6 second)
he proposed that national elections in 4ietnam be supervised specifically by an
international commission "under United Nations auspices." #s his speeches made clear)
the United States believed the UN should have two separate functions$overseeing not
only the cease$fire but the elections as well. Both these points in Smith=s remar.s were to
remain cardinal elements of #merican policy throughout the negotiations despite *rench
+and <ommunist1 efforts to induce their alteration.
@ntirely in .eeping with Smith=s position at the conference) as well as with the tenor of
the 4iet 8inh proposals) Secretary ;ulles) on 8ay %7) sent Smith instructions intended
to ma.e the United States an influential) but unentangled and unobligated) participant. #s
;ulles phrased it) the United States was to be "an interested nation which) however) is
neither a belligerent nor a principal in the negotiation." !ts primary aim would be to3
help the nations of that area F!ndochinaG peacefully to enDoy territorial integrity and
politial independene under sta@le and free go'ernments with the opportunity to epand
their economies) to reali2e their legitimate national aspirations) and to develop security
through individual and collective defense against aggression) from within and without.
This implies that these people should not @e amalgamated into the <ommunist bloc of
imperialistic dictatorship.
#ccordingly) Smith was told) the United States should not give its approval to any
settlement or cease$fire "which would have the effect of su@'erting the eisting lawful
governments of the three aforementioned states or of permanently impairing their
territorial integrity or of placing in Deopardy the forces of the *rench Union of !ndochina)
or which otherwise contravened the principles stated . . . above." F;oc. 5-G
The NS< decision of 8ay J) Smith=s comments at the second and third plenary sessions)
and ;ulles= instructions on 8ay %7 reveal the rigidity of the #merican position on a
Geneva settlement. The United States would not associate itself with any arrangement
that failed to provide ade?uately for an internationally supervised cease$fire and national
elections) that resulted in the partitioning of any of the #ssociated States) or that
compromised the independence and territorial integrity of those States in any way. !t
would not interfere with *rench efforts to reach an agreement) but neither would it
guarantee or other wise be placed in the position of seeming to support it if contrary to
policy. Bedell Smith was left free) in fact) to withdraw from the conference or to restrict
the #merican role to that of observer. F;oc. 5-G The rationale for this approach was clear
enough3 the United States) foreseeing inevitable protraction of negotiations by the
<ommunists in the manner of Aorea) would not be party to a *rench cession of territory
that would be the end result of the <ommunists= waiting game already begun by Pham
4an ;ong. 0ather than passively accept that result) the United States would withdraw
from active involvement in the proceedings) thereby leaving it with at least the freedom
to ta.e steps to recapture the initiative +as by rolling bac. the 4iet 8inh at some future
date1 and the moral purity of having refused to condone the enslavement of more people
behind the !ron <urtain. #merican policy toward negotiations at Geneva was therefore in
perfect harmony with the @isenhower$;ulles global approach to dealing with the
<ommunist bloc.
Gloomy #merican conclusions about the conference) and no doubt the etravagant
opening <ommunist demands) were intimately connected with events on the battlefield.
#fter the debacle at ;ienbienphu on 8ay -) the *rench gradually shifted their forces
from /aos and <ambodia into the Ton.in ;elta) leaving behind wea. /aotian and
<ambodian national armies to cope with veteran 4iet 8inh battalions. #s the *rench
sought to consolidate in northern 4ietnam) the 4iet 8inh pressed the attac.) moving
several battalions eastward from ;ienbienphu. U.S. #rmy intelligence reported in late
8ay) on the basis of *rench evaluations) that the 4iet 8inh were redeploying much faster
than anticipated) to the point where of 9')((( troops originally in northwestern Ton.in
only 7)((( remained. #t the same time) two 4iet 8inh battalions stayed behind in
<ambodia and another ten in /aos6 and in both those countries) #merican intelligence
concluded that the 4iet 8inh position was so strong as to Deopardi2e the political no less
than the military stability of the royal governments.
To thwart the <ommunist military threat in 4ietnam) the *rench chief of staff) General
Paul @ly) told General :. >. Trapnell) the 8##G chief +on 8ay 9(1) that *rench forces
were forming a new defensive perimeter along the >anoi>aiphong ais6 but @ly made no
effort to hide the touch$and$go nature of *rench defensive capabilities during the rainy
season already underway. This precarious situation was confirmed by General 4alluy of
the *rench command staff. !n a report in early :une to U.S.) British) #ustralian) and New
Lealand chiefs of staff assembled in "ashington) 4alluy held that the ;elta was in
danger of falling to the <ommunists) that neither *renchmen nor 4ietnamese would fight
on in the south in that eventuality) and that only prompt allied intervention could save the
situation. F;oc. '9G #merican assessments merely echoed those provided by the *rench.
# National !ntelligence @stimate published :une %' determined that *rench Union forces)
despite a numerical advantage) faced defections on a mounting scale that could become
very large if the 4iet 8inh scored maDor victories or if the *rench were believed +and
4ietnamese suspicions were rife on this score in >anoi and Saigon1 about to abandon
>anoi and portions of the ;elta. !n sum) the tenor of intelligence reports by *rench and
#merican sources during this period +from early 8ay through mid$:une1 was that the
4iet 8inh armies were solidly entrenched in portions of <ambodia and /aos) were
preparing for further advances in the Ton.in ;elta) and) if the war were to continue
beyond the rainy season) had the capability to destroy positions then being fortified by
*rench Union forces throughout northern 4ietnam.
The upshot of this military deterioration throughout much of !ndochina was to reinforce
the #merican conviction that the <ommunists) while ma.ing proposals at Geneva they
.new would be unacceptable to the "est) would drive hard for important battlefield gains
that would thoroughly demorali2e *rench Union troops and set the stage for their
withdrawal southward) perhaps precipitating a general crisis of confidence in !ndochina
and a 4iet 8inh ta.eover by default. 8ore clearly than earlier in the year) #merican
officials now saw Dust how desperate the *rench really were) in part because *rench field
commanders were being far more sincere about and open with information on the actual
military situation. But the thic.ening gloom in !ndochina no less than at Geneva did not
give way to counsels of despair in "ashington. The Government concluded not that the
goals it had set for a settlement were unrealistic) but rather that the only way to attain
them) as the President and the :<S had been saying) was through decisive military victory
in conformity with the original united action proposal of 8arch 7&. "hile therefore
maintaining its delegation at Geneva throughout the indecisive sessions of 8ay and :une)
the United States once again alerted *rance to the possibility of a military alternative to
defeat under the pressure of <ommunist tal.$fight tactics.

!4. T>@ UN!T@; ST#T@S #T G@N@4#3 T>@ ST#G@ B* *B0<@ #N;
;!P/B8#<C) 8#C TB 8!;$:UN@
!n .eeping open the option of united action) the #dministration) no less during 8ay and
the first half of :une than in #pril) carefully made direct involvement conditional on a
range of *rench concessions and promises. This second go$=round on united action was
not designed to ma.e further negotiations at Geneva impossible6 rather) it was intended to
provide an alternative to which the *rench might turn once they) and hopefully the British
as well) conceded that negotiations were a wasteful eercise.
The issue of united action arose again in early 8ay when Premier /aniel) in a tal. with
#mbassador ;illon) epressed the view that the <hinese were the real masters of the
negotiations at Geneva. This being the case) /aniel reasoned) the <hinese would probably
see. to drag out the tal.s over any number of peripheral issues while the 4iet 8inh
pushed on for a military decision. The *rench position in the field) with a maDor
redeployment on the order of %' battalions to the Ton.in ;elta probably very soon)
would be desperate) /aniel said) unless the United States decided to give its active
military cooperation. !n the interim) the premier re?uested that an #merican general be
dispatched to Paris to assist in military planning.
/aniel=s views failed to ma.e an impression in "ashington. #lthough the #dministration
agreed to dispatch a general +Trapnell1) ;ulles proposed) and @isenhower accepted) a
series of "indispensable" conditions to #merican involvement that would have to be met
by Paris. @ven after those conditions were met) #merican intervention would not follow
automatically6 /aniel would have to re?uest further U.S.$*rench consultations. The
conditions were3 +!n forwarding these conditions to the @mbassy for transmittal to the
*rench) ;ulles noted that a prompt) favorable decision would be premature inasmuch as
it might internationali2e the war in a way offensive to the British) leaving the *rench with
the difficult choice of internationali2ation or capitulation.1
+%1 *ormal re?uests for U.S. involvement from *rance and the #ssociated States
+71 #n immediate) favorable response to those invitations from Thailand) the Philippines)
#ustralia) and New Lealand) as well as the assurance that Britain "would either
participate or be ac?uiescent"
+91 Presentation of "some aspect of matter" to the UN by one of the involved #sian states
+51 # *rench guarantee of complete independence to the #ssociated States) "including
un?ualified option to withdraw from *rench Union at any time
+'1 # *rench underta.ing not to withdraw the @peditionary <orps from !ndochina
during the period of united action in order to ensure that the United States would be
providing air and sea) but not combat$troop) support
+,1 *ranco$#merican agreement on the training of native forces and a new command
structure during united action +#dmiral 0adford was reported to be thin.ing in terms of a
*rench supreme command with a U.S. air command1
+-1 *ull endorsement by the *rench cabinet and #ssembly of these conditions to ensure a
firm *rench commitment even in the event of a change in government in Paris
!t was further agreed that in the ourse of united action) the United States would pursue
efforts to broaden the coalition and to formali2e it as a regional defense pact.
;uring the same conference in which the conditions were drawn up) top #merican
officials went deeper into them. @isenhower was insistent on collective action) but
recogni2ed that the British might not commit themselves initially and that the
#ustralians) facing a general election later in 8ay) could only give "evidence" of their
willingness to participate. # second maDor problem was !ndochinese independence.
;ulles posed the #merican dilemma on this score3 on the one hand) the United States had
to avoid giving #sians reason to believe we were intervening on behalf of colonialism6 on
the other) the #ssociated States lac.ed the administrative personnel and leadership
necessary to carrying on alone. "!n a sense)" said ;ulles) "if the #ssociated States were
turned loose) it would be li.e putting a baby in a cage of hungry lions. The baby would
rapidly be devoured." >is solution was that the #ssociated States be granted +evidently)
orally1 the right to withdraw from the *rench Union after passage of a suitable time
period) perhaps five or ten years.
# final point concerned @ecutive$<ongressional relations once a *rench re?uest) bac.ed
by Parliamentary assent) reached "ashington. The President felt he should appear before
a Doint session of <ongress and see. a <ongressional resolution to use the armed forces in
!ndo$<hina Fwords missingG act on the formal invitation of *rance and the #ssociated
States) and with the cooperation of friends and allies in the region. #t @isenhower=s
re?uest) ;ulles directed that the State ;epartment begin wor.ing up a first draft of a
Presidential message.
The #merican response to /aniel=s re?uests set the stage for an etended series of
discussions over the ensuing five wee.s. !n Paris) ;illon communicated the #merican
conditions to /aniel and 8aurice Schumann) the ;eputy 8inister for *oreign #ffairs6 in
a tal. with the #mbassador 8ay %5) they accepted the conditions) but with important
reservations. *irst) /aniel indicated his dismay at the #merican insistence on the right of
the #ssociated States to withdraw from the *rench Union. The premier predicted that the
*rench public would never accept this condition inasmuch as the #ssociated States had
themselves never made it and since even the 4iet 8inh envisioned Doining the Union.
The obvious #merican reluctance to go beyond air and naval forces also disturbed the
premier. >e re?uested that the United States additionally provide artillery forces and a
to.en contingent of ground troops. But he indicated pleasure that UA participation was
no longer a prere?uisite to #merican involvement.
/aniel=s ?ualified approval of the preconditions was accompanied by a re?uest for a
response to two other ?uestions3 could the United States in some way guarantee the
borders and independence of /aos and <ambodia following a *rench withdrawal from
those countriesN <ould the United States provide written assurance of prompt air
intervention to meet a possible <hinese <ommunist air attac. on *rench forces in the
Ton.in ;eltaN
The #merican response to /aniel=s demurrers and re?uests was for the most part
negative. Bn the *rench$#ssociated States relationship) which #mbassador ;illon had
said was the chief barrier to a *rench re?uest for intervention)Y ;ulles replied +through
;illon1 that the United States might have some fleibility on the matter)
Y ;illon commented3 "! am certain that unless we can find some way to get around this
re?uirement Fthat the 4ietnamese have the option of leaving the *rench UnionG) *rench
will never as. for outside assistance."
;illon proposed that the real obDection among #sians to the position of the #ssociated
States rested not on the "purely Duridical" problem of the right to leave the Union) but on
!ndochina=s lac. of powerful national armies. The #mbassador recommended that
#merican training and e?uipping of the 4N#) coupled with a *rench statement of
intention to withdraw the @peditionary <orps after the establishment of peace and a
national army) would significantly dampen #sian antagonism to the Bao ;ai regime. !t is
difficult to understand why ;illon assumed #sians would significantly change their
attitude toward *rench !ndochina when) even with an #merican ta.eover of the training
and e?uipping of the 4N#) *rench forces would still be on 4ietnamese territory for a
lengthy period.
but had to remain adamant on complete independence if it ever hoped to gain Thai and
*ilipino support. Net) on the ?uestion of the etent of #merican involvement) the
Government was more fleible3 !t would not eclude antiaircraft "and limited U.S.
ground forces for protection of bases which might be used by U.S. naval and air forces."
#s to /aniel=s ?uestions) "ashington answered that it saw no way) in view of the military
and legal impracticalities) to guarantee the security of /aos and <ambodia6 the alternative
was that /aos and <ambodia Doin with Thailand in re?uesting the stationing of a UN
Peace Bbservation <ommission +PB<1 on their territories. The possibility of <hinese
8!G intervention) considered etremely remote by the ;efense ;epartment) ruled out the
need for a written commitment. The *rench were to be assured) however) that a collective
defense arrangement would include protection against that contingency) and that prior to
the formation of the organi2ation) <hinese air involvement would prompt a Presidential
re?uest for <ongressional authori2ation to respond with U.S. aircraft.
#lthough the setting up of several preconditions to involvement and the ?ualifications of
the *rench reply by no means made intervention an immediate possibility) the
#dministration moved ahead on contingency planning. The State ;epartment=s Bureau of
*ar @astern #ffairs too. the lead by producing a hypothetical timetable based on the
assumption of U.S.$*rench agreement in principle to the proposed conditions by 8ay 7%.
*@# also outlined a full slate of urgent priority studies) including U.S. strategy under
differing circumstances of <hinese involvement in the war. By 8ay 75) *@# had
forwarded a contingency study from the Bperations Planning Board that proposed)
among other things) public and private communications to Pe.ing to prevent) or at least
reduce the effectiveness of) direct <hinese intervention.
The initiation of planning for intervention etended to more far$ranging discussions of
the purposes) re?uirements) and ma.e$up of a Southeast #sia collective defense
organi2ation. The framewor. of the discussions evidenced the Government=s intention
that united action be underta.en only after the Geneva <onference had reached a
stalemate or) far less li.ely) a settlement. Three regional formulations were envisaged3 the
first would be designed for direct action) probably +it was felt1 without British
participation) either to defeat the 4iet 8inh or to prevent them from gaining control of
!ndochina6 the second) formed after a settlement) would comprise the present S@#TB
members and functions) in particular active assistance to the participating #sian states
resisting eternal attac. or "<ommunist insurrection"6 the third would have have a broad
#sian membership) but would be functionally limited to social and economic
cooperation.
#n important input to contingency planning on intervention came from the :oint <hiefs
of Staff. Bn 8ay 7() the :<S sent a memorandum to the Secretary of ;efense entitled
"U.S. 8ilitary Participation in !ndochina." !n the paper) the <hiefs re?uested formulation
of a ;efense ;epartment position on the si2e of any #merican contributions and the
nature of the command structure once united action began. They noted the "limited
availability of U.S. forces for military action in !ndochina" and the "current numerical
advantage of the *rench Union forces over the enemy) i.e.) approimately ' to 9."
Pointing out the disadvantages of either stationing large numbers of U.S. troops in
!ndochina or of basing U.S. aircraft on !ndochina=s limited facilities) the <hiefs
considered "the current greatest need" to be an epanded) intensified training program for
indigenous troops. They observed) moreover) that they were guided in their comments by
the li.ely reaction of the <P0 to U.S. involvement) as well as by the prescription3
"#tomic weapons will be used whenever it is to our military advantage."
!n view of these problems and prospects) the :<S urged the limitation of United States
involvement to strategic planning and the training of indigenous forces through an
increase in 8##G from less than %'( to 77'( men. !ts force commitment should be
restricted) they advised) primarily to air$naval support directed from outside !ndochina6
even here) the <hiefs cautioned against ma.ing a "substantial" air force commitment. The
<hiefs were also mindful of the <hinese. Since 4iet 8inh supplies came mainly from
<hina) "the destruction or neutrali2ation of those outside sources supporting the 4iet
8inh would materially reduce the *rench military problems in !ndochina."
The <hiefs were simply ta.ing their traditional position that any maDor U.S. force
commitment in the *ar @ast should be reserved for a war against <hina in the event the
President decided that such a conflict was necessary for the preservation of vital
#merican interests. 0ecogni2ing the limitations of the "New /oo." defense establishment
for large$scale involvement in "brushfire" wars) the <hiefs were etremely hesitant) as
had consistently been the case during the !ndochina crisis) to favor action along the
periphery of <hina when the strategic advantages of #merican power lay in decisive
direct blows against the maDor enemy. Thus) the :<S closed their memorandum with the
admonition that air$naval commitments beyond those specified3
will involve maldeployment of forces and reduce readiness to meet probable <hinese
<ommunist reaction elsewhere in the *ar @ast. *rom the point of view of the United
States) with reference to the *ar @ast as a whole) !ndochina is devoid of decisive military
obDectives and the allocation of more than to.en U.S. armed forces to that area would be
a serious diversion of limited U.S. capabilities.Y
Y These conclusions were su@se+uently confirmed when) at the direction of General
8atthew B. 0idgway) #rmy <hief of Staff) a technical team of seven officers
representing the @ngineer) Transportation) and Signal <orps went to !ndochina on a
covert mission to determine military and military$related resources available there in the
event U.S. intervention were implemented. The team spent the period 8ay 9%$:une 77 in
the field. Their conclusions were) in brief) that !ndochina was devoid of the logistical)
geographic) and related resources necessary to a substantial #merican ground effort. The
group=s findings are in a report from <ol. ;avid ". >eiman) its leader) to 0idgway) :uly
%7) %&'5.
The <hiefs= conclusions were disputed) however) by @verett ;rumright of State +*@#1 +in
a memorandum to 8ac#rthur) 8ay 75) %&'51. >e argued that if) as everyone agreed)
!ndochina was vital to #merican security) the United States should not consider more
than a to.en group troop commitment to be a serious diversion of our capabilities. "hile
not arguing for a substantial troop commitment) ;rumright suggested that the United
States plan for that eventuality rather than count on defense with atomic weapons or non$
nuclear stri.es on <hinese territory. Somehow) however) ;rumright=s concern about the
<hinese did not etend to the consideration that a massive troop commitment) which he
stated elsewhere in the memorandum might prove necessary should to.en forces fail to
do the Dob) also ris.ed bringing in the <hinese.
The :<S evidently also decided to call a meeting of military representatives from the
United States) *rance) the UA) #ustralia) and New Lealand. #t first) the <hiefs suggested
the downgrading of the representatives to below chief$of$staff level6 but apparently on the
strong protest of Under Secretary Smith at Geneva) and of the British too) the <hiefs
ac?uiesced in a meeting at chief$of$staff level. But prior to the meeting) which began the
first wee. of :une) important developments occurred in the U.S.$*rance discussions of
intervention.
The tic.lish problem of bringing *rance to concede the critical importance of granting
full independence to the #ssociated States occupied center stage once more. Bn 8ay 7-)
the State ;epartment) ac.nowledging *rance=s hesitancy to go too far on this score) still
insisted on certain "minimum measures)" the most important of which was that *rance)
during or immediately after formal approval of the #pril 7J draft treaties) announce its
willingness to withdraw all its forces from !ndochina unless invited by the governments
of the #ssociated States to maintain them or to establish bases. +The United States) the
;epartment added) would be prepared to ma.e a similar declaration if it committed
forces.1 Beyond that step) the *rench were also as.ed to permit !ndochinese participation
in the programming of economic aid and their direct receipt of all military aid) to find
ways to broaden participation of the 4ietnamese defense ministry and armed forces in
national defense) and to push for the establishment of "representative and authentic
nationalist governments" at the earliest possible date.
Transmitting these new proposals to the *rench) ;illon +incorrectly as it turned out1
found them so well received that he reported on 8ay 7&) following a conversation with
/aniel) that the two partners "had now reached accord in principle on political side."
/aniel) he cabled ;ulles) urged immediate military tal.s to complete arrangements on
training of the 4ietnamese) a new command structure) and war plans. !nasmuch as @ly
and General :ohn ". B=;aniel in !ndochina had reached general agreement on #merican
assumption of responsibility for training the 4N#) F;oc. '7G the way was apparently
cleared for bilateral military tal.s in "ashington to ta.e place simultaneously with) and
therefore disguised by) the five$power staff negotiations.
;illon=s optimistic assessment proved premature) however) on several grounds. "hen he
reported 8ay 7J on tal.s with Schumann) he had added Schumann=s and ;efense
8inister 0enV Pleven=s concern about <hinese air intervention) which they felt would be
so damaging as to warrant a deterrent action in the form of a Presidential re?uest to the
<ongress for discretionary authority to defend the ;elta in case of <<#* attac.. The
*rench wanted a virtually instantaneous U.S. response) one that would be assured by a
Presidential re?uest before rather than after overt <hinese aerial intervention. The State
;epartment=s retort was that the *rench first had to satisfy the previously reported
conditions before any such move by the President could be considered.
;illon was no less disappointed by "ashington=s reply than the *rench. >e cabled bac.
that there apparantly was an "etremely serious misunderstanding between U.S. and
*rench"3
*rench draw sharp distinction between +%1 U.S. intervention in present circumstances
with 4iet 8inh bolstered by <hinese <ommunist materiel) technicians and possibly
scattered troops and +71 U.S. reaction against full$scale air attac. mounted from
<ommunist <hinese bases.
;illon said that) for the *rench) "ashington=s preconditions applied in the first ase @ut
not the seond) wherein only <ongressional authori2ation was understood to stand in the
way of direct #merican action. @ly) the #mbassador reported) had all along believed he
had 0adford=s personal assurance of an #merican countermove against <hinese air attac.
in the ;elta. Now) the *rench wanted to .now if they could count on instant U.S.
interdiction of a <<#* stri.e. The #mbassador closed by reminding the ;epartment of
the incalculable harm to N#TB) to the whole U.S. role in "estern @urope) and to the
U.S. position against the <ommunists= world strategy if a <hinese attac. was not met.
;espite ;illon=s protestations the ;epartment stuc. by its initial position of 8ay %')
namely) that <hinese air attac. was unli.ely and that the United States would meet that
problem when it arose. <learly) the #dministration was unwilling to ma.e any advance
commitments which the *rench could sei2e upon for political advantage at Geneva
without having to give a +uid pro +uo in their !ndochina policy. @isenhower affirmed this
view and went beyond it3 The onditions for united ation& he said& applied e+ually to
;hinese diret and indiret in'ol'ement in !ndohina. The 7nited States 4ould ma0e no
unilateral ommitment against any ontingeny& inluding o'ert& unpro'o0ed ;hinese
aggression& 4ithout firm& @road allied support. Y
Y @isenhower=s unwavering attitude toward action in #sia only in concert with allies put
him at odds with ;ulles) who was prepared to act unilaterally in cases of overt
aggression. "hen the issue of possible <P0 air intervention came before the President)
he is reported to have reacted sharply. @vidently supposing that conflict in the air would
mean a Sino$#merican war) the President
said the United States would not intervene in <hina on any basis ecept united action. >e
would not be responsible for going into <hina alone unless a Doint <ongressional
resolution ordered him to do so. The United States should in no event underta.e alone to
support *rench colonialism. Unilateral action by the United States in cases of this .ind
would destroy us. !f we intervened alone in this case we would be epected to intervene
alone in other parts of the world. >e made very plain that the need for united action as a
condition of U.S. intervention was not related merely to the regional grouping for the
defense of Southeast #sia but was also a necessity for U.S. intervention in response to
<hinese communist overt aggression.
See memorandum of conversation between @isenhower and 0obert <utler) the President=s
special assistant) :une %) %&'5.
The rationale for the President=s difference of view with his Secretary was laid out more
fully the net day. @isenhower said that since direct <hinese aggression would force him
to go all the way with naval and air power +including "new weapons"1 in reply. he would
need to have much more than <ongressional authori2ation. Thai) *ilipino) *rench) and
!ndochinese support would be important but not sufficient6 other nations) such as
#ustralia) would have to give their approval) for otherwise he could not be certain the
public would bac. a war against <hina. +8emorandum of conversation in the President=s
office) :une 7) %&'5) involving also ;ulles) #nderson) 0adford) 8ac#rthur) and <utler.1
#t its 7((th meeting on :une 9) the NS< received) considered) and agreed upon the
President=s views.
There were other obstacles to U.S$*rench agreement) as brought into the open with a
memorandum to the President from *oreign 8inister Georges Bidault on :une %. Bne
was the ?uestion of timing involved in #merican insistence on *rench #ssembly
approval of a government re?uest for U.S. intervention. The *rench cabinet considered
that to present a program of allied involvement to the #ssembly ecept under the
circumstance of "a complete failure of the Geneva <onference" attributable to the
<ommunists "would be literally to wish to overthrow the t*renchG Government." #
second area of continuing disagreement concerned the maintenance of *rench forces in
the field and the nature of a U.S. commitment. The *rench held that the United States
could bypass <ongress by committing perhaps one division of 8arines without a
declaration of war. #lthough assured by "ashington that the 8arines would not be
ecluded from a U.S. air$naval commitment) the *rench were not satisfied. !n his
memorandum) Bidault as.ed that the United States ta.e account of *rance=s defense
obligations elsewhere) an indirect way of as.ing that "ashington go beyond a to.en
ground$troop commitment. <onfronted by a war$weary Parliament on one side and
opponents of @;< on the other) Bidault doubtless believed that the retention of *rench
soldiers in !ndochina without relief from #merican G!s was neither militarily nor
politically acceptable.
# final but by no means negligible *rench obDection to the #merican proposals
concerned the independence issue. *ar from having been settled) as ;illon supposed) the
*rench were still unhappy about #merican pressure for concessions even after the State
;epartment=s 8ay 7- revisions. The *rench were particularly disturbed +as Bidault
implied1 at the notion that the #ssociated States could leave the Union at any time) even
while *rench fighting men were in the field on !ndochina=s behalf. "Such a formula)"
Bidault wrote) "is unacceptable to the *rench Government) first because it is
incompatible with the *rench <onstitution) and also because it would be etremely
difficult to eplain to *rench opinion that the forces of the *rench Union were continuing
the war in !ndochina for the benefit of States that might at any moment leave the Union."
*rance was perfectly willing) Bidault remar.ed) to sign new treaties of association with
the three !ndochinese States) to allow them a larger voice in defense matters) and to wor.
with them toward formation of truly national governments6 but) to Dudge from his
commentary) Paris would not go the whole route by committing itself in advance to
!ndochina=s full freedom of action in the *rench Union. #nd while this and other issues
remained unresolved) as ;ulles observed :une 5) /aniel=s reported belief that the United
States and *rance were politically agreed was a "serious overstatement."
By early :une the unsettled issues separating the United States from *rance began to lose
their relevance to the war. @ven if they could be resolved) it was ?uestionable whether
#merican involvement could any longer be useful) much less decisive. Bn the matter of
training the 4N#) for instance) the United States was no longer certain that time would
permit its training methods to ta.e effect even if the *rench promptly removed
themselves from responsibility in that area. The State ;epartment now held that the
4ietnam situation had deteriorated "to point where any commitment at this time to send
over U.S. instructors in near future might epose us to being faced with situation in
which it would be contrary to our interests to have to fulfill such commitment. Bur
position accordingly is that we do not wish to consider U.S. training mission or program
separately from over$all operational plan on assumption conditions fulfilled for U.S.
participation war !ndochina." 8orale of the *ranco$4ietnamese forces) moreover) had
dropped sharply) the whole Ton.in ;elta was endangered) and the political situation in
Saigon was reported to be dangerously unstable. *aced with this uniformly blac. picture)
the #dministration determined that the grave but still retrievable military situation
prevailing at the time united action was proposed and pursued had) in :une) altered
radically) to the point where united action might have to be withdrawn from consideration
by the *rench.
By mid$:une #merican diplomacy was therefore in an unenviable position. #t Geneva)
very little progress had been made of a .ind that could lead any of the #llies to epect a
satisfactory outcome. Cet the alternative which the United States had reopened no longer
seemed viable either. #s ;ulles told Smith) any "final agreement" with the *rench would
be "?uite impossible)" for Paris was moving farther than ever from a determination that
united action was necessary. "They want) and in effect have) an option on our
intervention)" ;ulles wrote) "but they do not want to eercise it and the date of epiry of
our option is fast running out." F;oc. '-G *rom Paris) in fact) #mbassador ;illon urged
the Secretary that "the time limit be now" on U.S. intervention. F;oc. ',G #nd ;ulles was
fast concluding that ;illon was correct.
!n view of *rance=s feeling that) because of strong #ssembly pressure for a settlement) no
re?uest could be made of the United States until every effort to reach agreement at
Geneva had been ehausted) ;ulles in effect decided) on :une %') that united action was
no longer tenable. !n a conversation with Bonnet) in which the *rench #mbassador read a
message from Bidault which indicated that the *rench no longer considered the United
States bound to intervene on satisfaction of the seven conditions) the Secretary put forth
the difficulty of the #merican position. >e stated that the United States stood willing to
respond to a *rench re?uest under the conditions of 8ay %%) but that time and
circumstance might ma.e future intervention "impracticable or so burdensome as to be
out of proportion to the results obtainable." "hile this offer would be unsatisfactory to
Bidault) especially in his dealings with the <ommunists at Geneva) ;ulles "could not
conceive that it would be epected that the United States would give a third power the
option to put it into war at times and under conditions wholly of the other=s choosing."
"ith this) united action was shelved) and it never appeared again in the form and with the
purpose originally proposed.
#s a brea. with *rance on united action became li.ely) #merican interest focused on a
collective defense arrangement after a Geneva settlement with British participation. The
*rench and British roles in U.S. planning were in effect reversed6 Paris) it was felt) could
no longer be counted on as an active participant in regional security. #s their delegate to
Geneva) :ean <hauvel) told Smith) Bidault was still hopeful of getting "something" from
the conference. F;oc. '5G Bn the other hand) @den told Smith on :une & of his etreme
pessimism over the course of the negotiations. @den believed a recess in the tal.s was
li.ely within a few days +it came) in fact) ten days later1) and proposed that the
<ambodian and /aotian cases be brought before the United Nations immediately after the
end of the conference) even if *rance opposed the move. Smith drew from the
conversation the strong impression that @den believed negotiations to have failed and
would now follow the #merican lead on a coalition to guarantee <ambodia and /aos
"under umbrella of some UN action" +Smith=s words1. F;oc. '5G ;ays later) ;ulles
li.ewise anticipated a British shift when he observed sardonically that events at Geneva
had probably "been such as to satisfy the British insistence that they did riot want to
discuss collective action until either Geneva was over or at least the results of Geneva
were .nown. ! would assume)" ;ulles went on) "that the departure of @den Ffrom
GenevaG would be evidence that there was no ade?uate reason for further delaying
collective tal.s on Southeast #sia defense." But whether the United States and Great
Britain would see eye$to$eye on their post$settlement security obligations in the region)
and whether Doint diplomatic initiatives to influence the nature of the settlement could be
decided upon) remained outstanding ?uestions.
The rebirth and demise of united action was a rare case of history repeated almost
immediately after it had been made. The United States) having failed to interest Britain
and *rance in united action prior to the start of the Geneva <onference) refused to be
relegated to an uninfluential role and determined instead to plunge ahead without British
participation. But the conditions for intervention which had been given the *rench before
the fall of ;ienbienphu were now stiffened) most importantly by a greater detailing of the
process the *rench government would have to go through before the United States would
consider direct involvement.
@ven while the *rench pondered the conditions) urged their refinement and redefinition to
suit *rench policies) and insisted in the end that they saw no political obstacles separating
the United States and *rance) "ashington anticipated that the *rench were very unli.ely
to forward a re?uest for U.S. involvement. >aving learned something of *rench
government priorities from the futile diplomatic bargaining in #pril) ;epartment of State
representatives in Paris and "ashington saw that what the *rench wanted above all was
not the military advantages of active U.S. intervention but the political benefits that might
be derived from bringing into the open the fact that the two allies were negotiating
#merican participation in the fighting. Thus) ;illon correctly assessed in mid$8ay that
*rench in?uiries about #merican conditions for intervention represented a "wish to use
possibility of our intervention primarily to strengthen their hand at Geneva." The *rench
hoped they would not have to call on the United States for direct support6 they did hope
the <ommunists would sense the dangers of proposing unacceptable terms for a
settlement. ;illon=s sensitivity to the *rench position was proven accurate by Bidault=s
memorandum to the President3 *rance would) in reality) only call on the United States if
an "honorable" settlement could clearly not be obtained at Geneva) for only under that
circumstance could the National #ssembly be persuaded that the /aniel government had
done everything possible to achieve peace.
0ecognition of the game the *rench were playing did not .eep the United States from
posing intervention as an alternative for them6 but by adhering tenaciously to the seven
conditions) it ruled out either precipitous #merican action or an open$ended commitment
to be accepted or reDected by Paris. The State ;epartment) guided on the military side by
strong :<S obDections to promising the *rench #merican combat troops in advance of a
new and satisfactory command structure and strategic plan) became increasingly
distraught with and suspicious of *rench motivations. ""e cannot grant *rench an
indefinite option on us without regard to intervening deterioration" of the military
situation) ;ulles wrote on :une J. #s much as the #dministration wanted to avoid a sell$
out at Geneva) it was aware that events in !ndochina might preclude effective U.S. action
even if the *rench suddenly decided they wanted #merican support. Put another way) one
of the primary differences between #merican diplomacy before and after the fall of
;ienbienphu was its ability to proDect ahead$to weigh the factors of time and
circumstance against the distasteful possibility that 4ietnam) by *rench default at the
negotiating table or defeat on the battlefield) might be lost. #s the scales tipped against
united action) #merican security planning began to focus on the future possibilities of
collective defense in Southeast #sia) while the pattern of diplomacy shifted from
disenchantment with the Geneva <onference to attempts to bring about the best possible
settlement terms.
4. T>@ 8#:B0 !SSU@S #T T>@ <BN*@0@N<@) 8#C$:UN@
"ashington=s sense that the conference had essentially gotten nowhere$a view which
Smith and ;ulles believed was shared by @den) as already noted$was not entirely
accurate6 nor was it precisely the thin.ing of other delegations. *ollowing the initial
*rench and 4iet 8inh proposals of 8ay J and %() respectively) some progress had in fact
been made) although certainly not of an order that could have led any of the chief
negotiators to epect a ?uic. settlement. #s the conference moved ahead) three maDor
areas of contention emerged3 the separation of belligerent forces) the establishment of a
framewor. for political settlements in the three !ndochinese states) and provision for
effective control and supervision of the cease$fire.
#. S@P#0#T!BN B* T>@ B@//!G@0@NTS
The ?uestion how best to disentangle the opposing armies was most acute in 4ietnam)
but was also hotly debated as it applied to <ambodia and /aos. !n 4ietnam) 4iet 8inh
forces were concentrated in the Ton.in ;elta) though large numbers had long been active
in #nnam +central 4ietnam1 and <ochinchina +the south1. The original *rench and 4iet
8inh proposals sought to ta.e account of this situation by dismissing +although for
separate reasons1 the concept of single regroupment areas and forwarding instead the idea
of perhaps several concentration points to facilitate a cease$fire. To this point) the
4ietnamese delegation was in agreement3 regroupment of the belligerents should in no
way have the effect of dividing the country into ma.eshift military 2ones that could have
lasting political implications.
!t was an entirely different matter where the regroupment areas should be located6
whether "foreign" +i.e.) *rench1 troops should be withdrawn) and if so) from what areas
and during what period6 whether irregular troops +i.e.) 4iet 8inh guerrillas1 should be
disarmed and disbanded) and if so) whether they and their comrades in the regular forces
should be integrated +as the Bao ;ai delegation proposed1 into the 4N#6 and) of crucial
importance) whether a cease$fire should be dependent upon success in the regroupment
process or) as Pham 4an ;ong proposed) upon an overall political settlement.
This last ?uestion was tac.led first by the negotiators. Bn @den=s initiative) the
conference had moved in mid$8ay from plenary to restricted sessions) where fewer
delegates were present) no verbatim record was systematically .ept) and the press was
barred. @den=s epectation that the opportunities for greater intimacy among the delegates
would enhance the possibility of ma.ing some headway was partially fulfilled. #t the
first restricted session on 8ay %-) 8olotov responded to Bidault=s implication that one
cause of continuing irresolution in the negotiations was the 4iet 8inh=s insistence on
coupling a military with a political settlement) whereas the *rench proposal had been
geared to dealing only with the military portion before going on to discuss the political
side. The Soviet delegate argued that while military and political matters were obviously
closely lin.ed) the conference might do best to address the military settlement first) since
it was a point common to the *rench and 4iet 8inh proposals. ;ong obDected that
military and political matters were so closely .nit that they could not be separated6
however) he agreed +although) we may surmise) with some reluctance1 that the two
problems could be dealt with in that order.
"ith a basic procedural obstacle removed) it was finally agreed that a cease$fire should
have priority in the conference=s order of business.Y Toward that goal) the
Y Bn 8ay 7() <hou @n$lai told @den that military and political matters should indeed be
dealt with separately) and that priority should be given to the attainment of a cease$fire.
+Smith tel. S@<TB 7,- from Geneva) 8ay 7() %&'5.1 The <ommunists were ?uic. to
point out thereafter) though) that a political settlement should not be dropped from
consideration. !n fact) at the fifth restricted session) 8olotov returned to the issue of
military versus political settlements by proposing that they be considered at alternate
meetings. The "estern side held fast to concentrating on the cease$fire and turning to
political matters only when agreement had been reached on the military side6 this position
was tacitly adopted.
problem of regroupment and disarmament of certain forces was ta.en up. #t the fifth
restricted session on 8ay 75) *oreign 8inister Bidault proposed) among other things)
that a distinction be admitted between "regular" and "irregular" forces. 0egular troops) he
said) included all permanently organi2ed forces) which for the 4iet 8inh meant regional
as well as regular units. These) he suggested) should be regrouped into demilitari2ed
2ones) whereas loosely organi2ed irregulars should be disarmed under some form of
control. Pham 4an ;ong) in his reply) agreed on the urgency of a cease$fire and on the
importance of disarming irregulars6 but) in contrast to Bidault=s proposal) ;ong asserted
that inasmuch as each side would have responsibility for all forces in areas under its
control after the cease$fire) disarmament would ta.e place naturally. ;ong implicitly
reDected the idea of controlled disarmament) therefore) by placing the problem in the post$
rather than pre$cease$fire period.
The issues of regroupment and disarmament might have brought the conference to a
standstill had not Pham 4an ;ong) at the sith restricted session +8ay 7'1) suddenly
reversed his position on regroupment and proposed what amounted to the partitioning of
!ndochina. *ollowing only moments after the 4ietnamese delegate) Nguyen Kuoc ;inh)
had offered a plan based on the maintenance of his country=s territorial integrity)Y ;ong
suggested that in the course of the regroupment) specific
Y The G4N=s position called for the disbandment and disarming of 4iet 8inh forces and
their later integration into a national army under international control6 international
supervision of elections to be conducted by the Bao ;ai government at an unspecified
future date6 and recognition of the integrity of the 4ietnamese state. The G4N also
insisted that the withdrawal of foreign forces come after all other issues had been
resolved.
territorial Durisdictions be established such that each side would have complete economic
and administrative) no less than military) control. So as not to be misunderstood) ;ong
further urged that a temporary line of demarcation be drawn that would be
topographically suitable and appropriate for transportation and communication within
each 2one thus created. The #merican delegate) General Smith) immediately dismissed
;ong=s proposal and advised that the conferees return to discussion of the original cease$
fire issues. But) as was to become clear very soon) ;ong=s new move struc. a responsive
chord among the *rench even as it confirmed to the Bao ;ai delegation its worst fears.
"hat had prompted ;ong to introduce a partition arrangement when) at previous
sessions) the 4iet 8inh had pushed repeatedly for a settlement procedure that would
facilitate their consolidation of control over the entire countryN "hat evidence we have is
circumstantial) but it suggests that the 4iet 8inh delegation may have come under Sino$
Soviet pressure to produce an alternative to cease$fire proposals that were consistently
being reDected by the "est. The partition alternative) specifically at the %,th parallel) had
been intimated to #merican officials as early as 8arch 5 by a member of the Soviet
@mbassy in /ondon) apparently out of awareness of *ranco$#merican obDections to a
coalition arrangement for 4ietnam. Bn the opening day of the conference) moreover)
Soviet officials had again approached #merican officials on the subDect) this time at
Geneva) averring that the establishment of a buffer state to <hina=s south would be
sufficient satisfaction of <hina=s security needs. "hile these events do not demonstrate
that ;ong=s partition proposal Y was the direct outgrowth of Sino$Soviet disposition
toward a territorial division) they do reveal that
Y The ;04) it should be added) refused to call its proposal one for partition. #s the
official newspaper) Nhan ;an +The People1 put it) the proposal amounted merely to
"2onal readDustment" necessary to achieving a cease$fire. The readDustment "is only a
stage in preparation for free general elections with a view toward the reali2ation of
national unity." 4ietnam News #gency +4N#1 broadcast in @nglish to Southeast #sia)
:une -) %&'5.
partition was a solution) albeit temporary) which 8oscow) at least) early found agreeable.
"hatever lay behind ;ong=s gambit) the *rench were put in the position of being
challenged on their prior commitments to the 4ietnamese. #t the time the conference
began) Bao ;ai=s government) perhaps mindful of past instances of partition$type
solutions in Aorea and Germany) and almost certainly suspicious of ultimate *rench
intentions in the face of 4iet 8inh territorial demands) urged Paris to provide written
assurance it would neither see. nor accept a division of 4ietnam at Geneva. To ma.e his
own position perfectly clear) Bao ;ai) through his representatives in the *rench capital)
issued a communi?ue +in the name of the G4N cabinet1 which too. note of various plans
in the air for partition. The communi?ue stated that partition "would be in defiance of
4ietnamese national sentiment which has asserted itself with so much strength for the
unity as well as for the independence of the country. Neither the <hief of State nor the
national government of 4ietnam admits that the unity of the country can be severed
legally...." The cabinet warned that an agreement compromising that unity would never
receive 4ietnam=s approval3
...neither the <hief of State) nor the 4ietnamese Government will consider themselves
FsicG as bound by decisions running counter to the interests) i.e.) independence and unity)
of their country that would) at the same time) violate the rights of the peoples and offer a
reward to aggression in opposition to the principles of the <harter of the United Nations
and democratic ideals.
!n response to this clear$cut statement) the *rench came forward with both oral and
written promises. Bn 8ay 9) 8aurice ;eDean) the <ommissioner General for !ndochina)
said in Saigon3
The *rench Government does not intend to see. a settlement of the !ndochina problem on
the basis of a partition of 4ietnamese territory. .
*ormal assurances were given on this subDect last #pril 7' by the *rench minister for
foreign affairs to the minister for foreign affairs of 4ietnam) and they were confirmed to
him on 8ay %.
"ritten assurance came from Bidault on 8ay , when he wrote Bao ;ai that the tas. of
the *rench government was to establish peace in !ndochina) not "to see. here Fat GenevaG
a definitive political solution." Therefore) the *rench goal would be) said Bidault) to
obtain a cease$fire with guarantees for the #ssociated States) hopefully with general
elections in the future. Bidault continued3
#s of now) ! am however in a position to confirm to Cour 8aDesty that nothing would be
more contrary to the intentions of the *rench government than to prepare for the
establishment) at the epense of the unity of 4ietnam) two States having each an
international calling +vocation1.
Bidault=s support of 4ietnam=s opposition to partition) which he repeated privately before
@den and Smith at Geneva) collapsed once the new government of Pierre 8endZs$*rance
too. over in mid$:une. 8endZs$*rance) .eenly aware of the tenor of *rench public
opinion) was far more disposed than the /aniel$Bidault administration to ma.ing every
effort toward achieving a reasonable settlement. "hile by no means prepared for a sell$
out) 8endZs$*rance ?uic.ly foresaw that agreement with the 4iet 8inh was unli.ely
unless he accepted the concept of partition. >is delegate at Geneva) who remained
<hauvel) and the new <ommissioner General for !ndochina) General @ly) reached the
same conclusion. #t a high$level meeting in Paris on :une 75) the new government
thoroughly revised the *rench negotiating position. The obDectives for subse?uent tal.s) it
was decided) would be3 +%1 the regroupment of forces of both sides) and their separation
by a line about at the %Jth parallel6Y +71 the establishment of enclaves under neutral
control in the two 2ones) one for the *rench in the area of the <atholic bishoprics at Phat
;iem and
Y *rench insistence on the %Jth parallel originated in the recommendation of General
Navarre) who was as.ed several ?uestions by the *rench delegation at Geneva regarding
the li.ely impact of the then$eisting military situation on the *rench negotiatory
position. Navarre=s responses were sent #pril 7%. Bn the demarcation line) Navarre said
that the %Jth parallel would leave "us" the ancient political capital of >ue as well as
Tourane +;a Nang1) and permit the retention of militarily valuable terrain. +See General
@ly=s 8Vmoires3 l(!ndohine dans la Tourmente FParis3 Plon) %&,5%) p. %%7) and
/acouture and ;evillers) "a fin d(une guerre& p. %7,.1 Thus) the choice of the %Jth
parallel was based on military considerations) and apparently assumed a continuing
*rench role in southern 4ietnam after partition.
Bui <hu) one for the 4iet 8inh at an area to be determined6 +91 the maintenance of
>aiphong in *rench hands in order to assist in the regroupment. The meeting also
decided that) for the purpose of psychological pressure on the 4iet 8inh if not military
preparedness for future contingencies) *rance should brea. with past practice and
announce plans to send a contingent of conscripts +later determined as two divisions1 to
!ndochina. Thus) by late :une) the *rench had come around to acceptance of the need to
eplore a territorial settlement without) as we have already observed) informing the
4ietnamese that Bidault=s and ;eDean=s assurances had been superseded. Bn :une 7,)
Paris formally notified "ashington and /ondon that <hauvel would soon begin direct
tal.s with Pham 4an ;ong on a partition arrangement that would provide the G4N with
the firmest possible territorial base. F;oc. ,,G
"hile ground had been bro.en on the cease$fire for 4ietnam) debate continued on /aos
and <ambodia. Prior to and after ;ong=s proposal of 8ay 7') the delegates argued bac.
and forth without progress over the relationship between the conflict in 4ietnam and that
in <ambodia and /aos. The Ahmer and /aotian delegates insisted they represented free
and independent governments which were being challenged by a handful of indigenous
renegades assisted by the invading 4iet 8inh. Thus) the delegates reasoned) their
situations were ?uite different from the "civil war" in 4ietnam) and therefore cease$fires
could readily be established in /aos and <ambodia by the simple epedient of removing
the aggressors. These delegates saw no reason$$and they received solid support from the
#merican) *rench and British representatives$$for acceding to the 4iet 8inh demand that
cease$fires in their two countries be contingent upon) and hence forced to occur
simultaneously with) one in 4ietnam.
The <ommunists= retorts left little room for compromise. Pham 4an ;ong held) as
before) that he spo.e for "governments" which were being refused admission to the
conference. The Pathet /ao and the *ree Ahmer were separate) genuine "national
liberation movements" whose sta.e in their respective countries) ;ong implied) would
have to be ac.nowledged before a cease$fire could be arranged anywhere in !ndochina.
8olotov buttressed this argument with the claim that /aos and <ambodia were no more
"independent" than 4ietnam. Using a common negotiating tactic) he ecerpted from a
public statement by ;ulles to point out how *rance was still being urged by the United
States in 8ay to grant real independence to all three !ndochinese states) not Dust 4ietnam.
8olotov=s only retreat was on the etent of Pathet /ao and *ree Ahmer terntonal control.
>e admitted that while the 4iet 8inh were dominant in 4ietnam) the Ahmer$/aotian
resistance movements controlled some lesser amount of territory.
*or a while it seemed that the conference would become inetricably bogged down on the
?uestion whether the Pathet /ao and *ree Ahmer were creatures of the 4iet 8inh or
genuine nationalist forces. <ertainly the 4iet 8inh delegation remained steadfast. #t the
fourth restricted session +8ay 7%1) Pham 4an ;ong made his implication of the previous
sessions clearer when he said he had always understood the *rench cease$fire proposal to
have applied to all !ndochina +an outright fabrication1 inasmuch as the problems in the
three states were different only in degree) not in nature. !f <ambodia and /aos were
detached from 4ietnam in the discussions) ;ong said) the cease$fire issue would be
attac.ed in the wrong way and a satisfactory solution would not be reached. The warning
of no cease$fire settlement for <ambodia and /aos without one for 4ietnam was clear.
These last remar.s by ;ong) however) were no longer wholly in accord with what the
<hinese were privately indicating. <hou @n$lai) in the same conversation with @den on
8ay 7( in which <hou had agreed to separate military from political matters) also
admitted that political settlements might be different for the three !ndochinese states.
<hou thus moved one step closer to the "estern position) which held that the /aotian and
<ambodian cases were substantially different from that in 4ietnam and hence should be
decided separately. The concession) however small) paved the way for agreement to
@den=s proposal on 8ay 7' that the problem of a cease$fire in 4ietnam be dealt with
separately and directly by having the 4iet 8inh and *rench military commands meet in
Geneva and on the spot in 4ietnam +later determined as Trung Gia1 to discuss technical
aspects of the regroupment. The military staffs would report their findings to the
conferees. Bn :une 7 formal agreement was reached between the commands to begin
wor.6 but it was not until :une %() apparently) that the 4iet 8inh actually consented that
their secret tal.s with the *rench) li.e the discussions of the military commands) should
be concerned only with 4ietnam to the eclusion of /aotian and <ambodian problems.
Thus) it would seem that the 4iet 8inh position on the indivisibility of the three
!ndochinese states for purposes of a settlement was undercut by the <hinese +doubtless
with Soviet support16 yet for about three wee.s following <hou=s tal. with @den) the 4iet
8inh had privately refused to deal with the *rench on 4ietnam alone.
5. P6"!T!;#" SETT"EME3TS
<ommunist agreement to treat /aos and <ambodia separately as well as to consider a
territorial division did not) however) signal imminent progress on the substance of
military or political settlements for those countries any more than for 4ietnam. Several
additional plenary and restricted sessions made no headway at all during late 8ay and the
first wee.s of :une. @den=s disappointment led him to state to his fellow delegates3
!n respect . . . to the arrangements for supervision and to the future of /aos and
<ambodia) the divergencies are at present wide and deep. Unless we can narrow them
now without further delay) we shall have failed in our tas.. "e have ehausted every
epedient procedure which we could devise to assist us in our wor.. "e all .now now
what the differences are. "e have no choice but to resolve them or to admit our failure.
*or our part) the United Aingdom ;elegation is still willing to attempt to resolve them
here or in restricted session or by any other method which our colleagues may prefer.
But) gentlemen) if the positions remain as they are today) ! thin. it is our clear$cut duty to
say so to the world and to admit that we have failed.
;ays later) his pessimism ran even deeper as the conference indeed seemed close to a
brea.down. The #mericans did not help matters) either3 "Bedell Smith)" @den has since
divulged) "showed me a telegram from President @isenhower advising him to do
everything in his power to bring the conference to an end as rapidly as possible) on the
grounds that the <ommunists were only spinning things out to suit their own military
purposes."
*or reasons which will be speculated on subse?uently) the Soviets and <hinese were not
prepared to admit that the conference had failed and were willing to forestall that
prospect by ma.ing concessions sufficient to Dustify its continuation. "hile the
#mericans may have wished to see a brea.down) @den was not yet convinced that was
inevitable. #gain) his patience was rewarded. Bn :une %,) <hou told the foreign secretary
that the <ambodian resistance forces were small) ma.ing a political settlement with the
0oyal Government "easily" obtainable. !n /aos) where those forces were larger)
regroupment areas along the border with 4ietnam +in Sam Neua and Phong Saly
provinces1 would be re?uired) <hou thought. #s.ed by @den whether there might not be
difficulty in gaining 4iet 8inh agreement to the withdrawal of their troops from the two
countries) <hou replied it would "not be difficult" in the contet of a withdrawal of all
foreign forces. The <P0 would even be willing to consider the royal governments as
heading independent states that could maintain their ties to the *rench Union) provided
no #merican bases were established in their territories. <hina=s preeminent concern) @den
deduced) was that the United States might use /aos and <ambodia as Dump$off points for
an attac. on the mainland.
*rom the conversation) @den "received a strong impression that he F<houl wanted a
settlement and ! accordingly urged Georges Bidault to have a tal. with him and to discuss
this new offer." Bn the net day +:une %-1) Bidault met with <hou for the first time) as
well as with 8olotov) and reported the <ommunists= great concern over a brea.$up of the
conference. Two days later a *rench redraft of a <hinese proposal to broaden the military
staff conferences to include separate tal.s on /aos and <ambodia was accepted.
This first maDor brea.through in the negotiations) with the <hinese ma.ing an overture
that evidently had full Soviet bac.ing)Y seems not to have had 4iet 8inh
Y "hen 8olotov met with Smith on :une %&) the Soviet representative said he saw the
possibility of agreement on /aos and <ambodia so long as neither side +i.e.) the *rench
and 4iet 8inh1 "adopted one$sided views or put forward etreme pretensions." 8olotov
said about '( percent of /aotian territory was not controlled by the royal government
+putting the Pathet /ao case in the negative1) with a much smaller movement in
<ambodia. The tone of Smith=s report on this conversation suggests that 8olotov saw no
obstacles to 4iet 8inh withdrawal of its "volunteers." Smith tel. ;U/T@ 7(7 from
Geneva) :une %&) %&'5.
approval. #t the same time as the <hinese were saying) for eample in a New <hina
News #gency +N<N#1 broadcast of :une %-) that all three <ommunist delegations had
"all along maintained that the conditions in each of the three !ndochinese countries are
not eactly ali.e)" and hence that "conditions peculiar to each of these countries should
be ta.en into consideration)" the 4iet 8inh were claiming that "the indivisibility of the
three ?uestions of 4ietnam) Ahmer) and Pathet /ao" was one of several "fundamental
?uestions" which the conference had failed to resolve. !n fact) of course) that ?uestion had
been resolved6 yet the 4iet 8inh continued to proclaim the close unity of the 4iet 8inh)
Pathet /ao) and *ree Ahmer under the banner of their tri$national united front alliance
formed in %&'%. No doubt the 4iet 8inh were see.ing to assure their cadres and soldiers
in <ambodia and /aos that Pham 4an ;ong would not bargain away their fate at the
conference table) but it may also be that the broadcasts were meant to imply 4iet 8inh
eceptions to obDectionable Sino$Soviet concessions.
Those concessions) first on the separability of /aos and <ambodia from 4ietnam and
subse?uently on 4iet 8inh involvement there) compelled the ;04 delegation to ta.e a
new tac.. Bn the former ?uestions 4iet 8inh representatives indicated on :une %, during
"underground" discussions with the *rench that insofar as 4ietnam was concerned) their
minimum terms were absolute control of the Ton.in ;elta) including >anoi and
>aiphong. "hile the *rench were reluctant to yield both cities) which they still
controlled) a bargaining point had been established inasmuch as the 4iet 8inh were now
willing to discuss specific geographic obDectives. Bn the second ?uestion) the 4iet 8inh)
apparently responding to <hou @n$lai=s "offer" of their withdrawal from <ambodia and
/aos) indicated fleibility at least toward the latter country. # /aotian delegate reported
:une 79) following a meeting with Pham 4an ;ong in the garden of the <hinese
delegation=s villa) that the 4iet 8inh were in apparent accord on the withdrawal of their
"volunteers" and even on /aos= retention of *rench treaty bases. The 4iet 8inh=s
principal demand was that *rench military personel in /aos be reduced to a minimum.
/ess clearly) ;ong alluded to the creation in /aos of a government of "national union)"
Pathet /ao participation in %&'' elections for the national assembly) and a "temporary
arrangement" governing areas dominated by Pathet /ao military forces. But these latter
points were interpreted as being suggestive6 ;ong had come around to the "estern view
shared +now by the Soviets and <hinese1 that the Pathet /ao not be accorded either
military or political weight e?ual to that of the royal government. /ater in the conference)
;ong would ma.e a similar retreat on <ambodia.
<. <BNT0B/ #N; SUP@04!S!BN
Painsta.ingly slow progress toward cease$fires and political settlements for the
!ndochinese states also characteri2ed the wor. of devising supervisory organs to oversee
the implementation and preservation of the cease$fire. Cet here again) the <ommunist
side was not so intransigent as to ma.e agreement impossible.
Three separate but interrelated issues dominated the discussions of control and
supervision at this stage of the conference and afterward. *irst) there was sharp
disagreement over the structure of the supervisory organ3 Should it consist solely of Doint
commissions composed of the belligerents) or should it have superimposed above an
international authority possessing decisionma.ing powerN Second) the composition of
any supervisory organ other than the Doint commissions was also hotly disputed3 Given
agreement to have "neutral" nations observe the truce) which nations might be considered
"neutral"N *inally) if it were agreed that there should be a neutral control body) how
would it discharge its dutiesN
!n the original 4iet 8inh proposals) implementation of the cease$fire was left to Doint
indigenous commissions) with no provision for higher) international supervision.
4ehement *rench obDections led to a second line of defense from the <ommunist side. #t
the fourth plenary session +8ay %51) 8olotov suggested the setting up of a Neutral
Nations Supervisory <ommission +NNS<1 such as eisted in Aorea) and said he did not
foresee any insurmountable problem in reaching agreement on its membership. But
8olotov=s revision left much to be determined and) from the "estern standpoint) much to
be desired too. Serious debate on the control and supervision problem did not get
underway until early :une. #t that time) 8olotov epressly reDected the #merican plan)
supported by the !ndochinese delegations and Great Britain) to have the United Nations
supervise a cease$fire. >e argued that the UN had nothing to do with the Geneva
<onference) especially as most of the conferees were not UN members. 0eturning to his
plan for an NNS<) 8olotov reiterated his view that <ommunist countries could be as
neutral as capitalist countries6 hence) he said) the problem was simply one of choosing
which countries should comprise the supervisory organ) and suggested that the yardstic.
be those having diplomatic and political relations with both *rance and the 4iet 8inh. #s
to that body=s relationship to the Doint commissions) 8olotov shied away from the
"estern proposal to ma.e them subordinate to the neutral commission. "!t would be in
the interest of our wor. to recogni2e)" 8olotov said) "that these commissions should act
in coordination and in agreement between each other) but should not be subordinate to
each other." No such hierarchical relationship had eisted in Aorea) so why one in
!ndochinaN *inally) the foreign minister saw no reason why an NNS< could not reach
decisions by unanimous vote on "important" ?uestions. ;isputes among or within the
commissions) 8olotov concluded) would be referred to the states guaranteeing the
settlement) which would) if necessary) ta.e "collective measures" to resolve them.
The "estern position was stated succinctly by Bidault. #gain insisting on having "an
authority remote from the heat of the fighting and which would have a final word to say
in disputes)" Bidault said the neutral control commission should have absolute
responsibility for the armistice. !t would have such functions as regrouping the regular
forces) supervising any demilitari2ed 2ones) conducting the echange of prisoners) and
implementing measures for the non$introduction of war materiel into !ndochina. "hile
the Doint commission would have an important role to play in these control processes)
such as in wor.ing out agreement for the safe passage of opposing armies from one 2one
to another or for PB" echange) its functions would have to be subordinate to the
undisputed authority of a neutral mechanism. Bidault did not specify which nations fitted
his definition of "neutrality" and whether they would decide by maDority or unanimous
vote. These omissions were corrected by @den a few days later when he suggested the
<olombo Powers +!ndia) Pa.istan) <eylon) Burma) and !ndonesia1) which he argued were
all #sian) had all been actively discussing !ndochina outside the conference) were five in
number and hence impervious to obstruction by a two$to$two vote +as on the NNS<1 or
re?uirement for unanimity) and were truly impartial.
The basis for agreement on the vital ?uestion of supervising a cease$fire seemed at this
stage noneistent. The <ommunists had revised their position by admitting the feasibility
of a neutral nations= control organ in addition to Doint commissions of the belligerents.
But they clearly hoped to duplicate in !ndochina the ineffective machinery they had
foisted on the United Nations command at PanmunDom) one in which effective
peace.eeping action was basically proscribed by the built$in veto of a four$power
authority evenly divided among <ommunist and non$<ommunist representatives. The
"est) on the other hand) absolutely refused to eperiment again with an NNS<6 a neutral
organ was vital) but it could not include <ommunist representatives) who did not .now
the meaning of neutrality. !f the United Nations was not acceptable to the <ommunists)
the <olombo Powers should be.
>owever remote these positions) various .inds of trade$offs must have been apparent to
the negotiators. ;espite differing standards of "neutrality" and "impartiality)" for
instance) compromise on the membership problem seemed possible. The real dilemma
was the authority of a neutral body. Unless superior to the Doint commissions) it would
never be able to resolve disputes) and unless it had the power to enforce its own
decisions) it would never be more than an advisory organ. "hether some new formula
could be found somewhere between the <ommunists= insistence on parallel authority and
the "est=s preference for a hierarchical arrangement remained to be seen.
Bn :une %& the Aorea phase of the conference ended without reaching a political
settlement. The conferees at that point agreed to a prolonged recess by the delegation
leaders on the understanding that the military committees would continue to meet at
Geneva and in the field. @den wrote to the #sian <ornmonwealth prime ministers that "if
the wor. of the committees is sufficiently advanced) the >eads of ;elegations will come
bac.." Until that time) the wor. of the conference would go on in restricted session.
<hauvel and Pham 4an ;ong remained at their posts6 8olotov returned to 8oscow6
<hou @n$lai) en route to Pe.ing) made important stopovers in New ;elhi) 0angoon) and
Nanning that were to have important bearing on the conference. Smith remained in
Geneva) but turned the delegation over to :ohnson. !t was ?uestionable whether the
Under Secretary would ta.e over again6 gloom was so thic. in "ashington over the
perceived lac. of progress in the tal.s and the conviction = that the new 8endZs$*rance
government would reach a settlement as soon as the conference reconvened) that ;ulles
cabled Smith3 "Bur thin.ing at present is that our role at Geneva should soon be restricted
to that of observer. . . ." F;oc. ,'G #s for @den) he prepared to accompany <hurchill on a
trip to "ashington for tal.s relating to the conference and prospects for a Southeast #sia
defense pact.
4!. T>@ #NG/B$#8@0!<#N 0#PP0B<>@8@NT
"ith its preconceptions of <ommunist negotiating strategy confirmed by the harshness of
the first 4iet 8inh proposals) which "ashington did not regard as significantly watered
down by subse?uent Sino$Soviet alterations) and with its military alternatives no longer
considered relevant to the war) the United States began to move in the direction of
becoming an influential actor at the negotiations. This move was not dictated by a sudden
conviction that "estern capacity for inducing concessions from the <ommunist side had
increased6 nor was the shift premised on the hope that we might be able to drive a wedge
between the 4iet 8inh and their Soviet and <hinese friends. 0ather) "ashington
believed that inasmuch as a settlement was certain to come about) and even though there
was near$e?ual certainty it could not support the final terms) basic #merican and "estern
interests in Southeast #sia might still be preserved if *rance could be persuaded to
toughen its stand. "ere concessions still not forthcoming$$were the <ommunists) in other
words) to stiffen in response to *rench firmness$$the #llies would be able to consult on
their net moves with the confidence every reasonable effort to reestablish peace had
been attempted.
#s already observed) the #merican decision to play a more decisive role at the
conference depended on gaining British support. The changing war situation now made
alignment with the British necessary for future regional defense) especially as
"ashington was informed of the probability that a partition settlement +which /ondon
had foreseen months before1 would place all !ndochina in or within reach of <ommunist
hands. The ?uestions remained how much territory the <ommunists could be granted
without compromising non$<ommunist !ndochina=s security) what measures were needed
to guarantee that security) and what other military and political principles were vital to
any settlement which the *rench would also be willing to adopt in the negotiations. "hen
the chief ministers of the United States and Great Britain met in "ashington in late :une)
these were the issues they had to confront.
The British and #merican representatives$@den) <hurchill) ;ulles) and @isenhower$
brought to the tal.s positions on partition and regional security that) for all the
differences) left considerable room for a harmoni2ation of viewpoints. The UA) as the
#mericans well .new) was never convinced either that !ndochina=s security was
inetricably lin.ed to the security of all #sia) or that the *ranco$4iet 8inh war would
ever bring into ?uestion the surrender of all !ndochina to the <ommunists. /ondon
considered partition a feasible solution) but was already loo.ing beyond that to some
more basic @ast$"est understanding that would have the effect of producing a laisse2$
faire coeistence between the <ommunist and "estern powers in the region. #s @den
recalled his thin.ing at the time) the best way of .eeping <ommunism out of Southeast
#sia while still providing the necessary security within which free societies might evolve
was to build a belt of neutral states assisted by the "est. The <ommunists might not see
any advantage to this arrangement) he admitted. But3
!f we could bring about a situation where the <ommunists believed that there was a
balance of advantage to them in arranging a girdle of neutral states) we might have the
ingredients of a settlement.
Bnce the settlement was achieved) a system for guaranteeing the security of the neutral
states thus formed would be re?uired) @den held. <ollective defense) of the .ind that
would ensure action without unanimity among the contracting parties$$a system "of the
/ocarno type"$$seemed most reasonable to him. These points) in broad outline) were
those presented by him and <hurchill.
The United States had from the beginning dismissed the viability of a partition solution.
;ulles= public position in his maDor speech of 8arch 7& that <ommunist control even of
part of !ndochina would merely be the prelude to total domination was fully supported in
private by both State and ;efense. Nevertheiess) the Government early recogni2ed the
possibility that partition) however distasteful) might be agreed to among the *rench and
<ommunist negotiators. #s a result) on 8ay ') the ;efense ;epartment drew up a
settlement plan that included provision for a territorial division. #s little of 4ietnam as
possible should be yielded) ;efense argued) with the demarcation line fied in the north
and "defined by some defensible geographic boundary +i.e.) the 0ed or Blac. 0ivers) or
the #nnamite 8ountains1 !n accord with the *rench position that evolved from the
meeting of 8endZs$*rance=s cabinet on :une 75) ;efense urged provision for a
4ietnamese enclave in the >anoi$>aiphong area
or) alternatively) internationali2ation of the port facilities there. *airly well convinced)
however) that partition would be fragile) ;efense also called for "sanctions" against any
form of <ommunist aggression in /aos) <ambodia) or Thailand) and for allied agreement
to united action in the event the <ommunists violated a cease$fire by conducting
subversive activities in the non$<ommunist area of 4ietnam.
The ;efense proposal amounted to containing the <ommunist forces above the 7(th
parallel while denying them sovereign access to the sea. This position went much further
than that of the *rench) who also favored a demarcation line geared to military
re?uirements but were willing to settle on roughly the %Jth parallel. 8oreover) when the
five$power military staff conference met in "ashington in early :une) it reported +on the
&th1 that a line midway between the %-th and %Jth parallels +from Tha.he. in /aos
westward to ;ong >oi on the north 4ietnam seacoast1 would be defensible in the event
partition came about. F;oc. ,%G Undercutting the ;efense plan still further was the
*rench disposition to yield on an enclave in the >anoi$>aiphong area were the 4iet 8inh
to press for their own enclave in southern 4ietnam. #s <hauvel told U. #leis :ohnson)
should the choice come to a trade$off of enclaves or a straight territorial division) the
*rench preferred the latter. F;oc. ,7G Thus) by mid$:une) a combination of circumstances
made it evident to the #dministration that some more fleible position on the location of
the partition line would have to be) and could be) adopted.
#merican acceptance of partition as a wor.able arrangement put "ashington and /ondon
on even terms. Similarly) on the matter of an overall security "umbrella" for Southeast
#sia) the two allies also found common ground. "hile the United States found "/ocarno"
an unfortunate term) the Government did not dispute the need to establish a vigorous
defense mechanism capable of acting despite obDections by one or more members. !t will
be recalled that the NS< Planning Board) on 8ay %&) had outlined three possible regional
groupings dependent upon the nature and timing of a settlement at Geneva. Now) in late
:une) circumstances dictated the advisability of concentrating on the "Group 7" formula)
in which the UA) the United States) Pa.istan) Thailand) the Philippines) #ustralia) and
New Lealand would participate but not *rance +unless it was decided that the pact would
apply to !ndochina1. The concerned states would echange information) act as a united
front against <ommunism) provide actual assistance to #sian members against eternal
attac. or "<ommunist insurrection)" and ma.e use of #sian facilities andIor forces in
their defense assistance program.
#merican planning for what was to become S@#TB evinced concern) however) about the
commitment of #merican forces in cases of <ommunist infiltration and subversion. #s
the Planning Board=s paper notes) the role of the United States and other countries should
be limited to support of the country re?uesting assistance6 #sian member nations would
be epected to "contribute facilities and) if possible) at least to.en military contingents."
The Board=s paper did not represent a final policy statement6 but it did reflect #merican
reluctance) particularly on the part of the President and the :oint <hiefs) to have
#merican forces drawn into the .ind of local conflict the #dministration had steered
clear of in 4ietnam. Bn this ?uestion of limiting the "estern commitment) the British) to
Dudge from their hostility toward involvement against the 4iet 8inh) were also in general
agreement.
#side from partition and regional security) a basis also eisted for agreement to assisting
the *rench in their diplomatic wor. by the device of some carefully worded warning to
the <ommunists. The British) before as well as after ;ienbienphu) were firmly against
issuing threats to the <ommunists that involved military conse?uences. "hen united
action had first been broached) /ondon reDected raising the threat of a naval bloc.ade and
carrying it out if the <hinese continued to assist the 4iet 8inh. #gain) when united
action came up in private U.S.$*rench discussions during 8ay) the British saw no useful
purpose in see.ing to influence discussions at Geneva by ma.ing it .nown to the
<ommunists that united action would follow a brea.down in negotiations. The situation
was different now. !nstead of threatening direct military action) /ondon and "ashington
apparently agreed) the "est could profit from an open$ended warning tied to a lac. of
progress at Geneva. "hen @den addressed the >ouse of <ommons on :une 79 prior to
emplaning for "ashington) he said3 "!t should be clear to all that the hopes of agreement
Fat GenevaG would be Deopardi2ed if active military operations in !ndochina were to be
intensified while negotiations for an armistice are proceeding at Geneva. !f this reminder
is needed) ! hope that it may be heeded." @den was specifically thin.ing of a renewed
4iet 8inh offensive in the ;elta) but was not saying what might happen once
negotiations were placed in Deopardy.
This type of warning was sounded again at the conclusion of the #nglo$#merican tal.s)
and encouragement for it came from Paris. !n the same aidememoire of :une 7, in which
the *rench Government had re?uested that the United States counsel Saigon against a
violent reaction to partition) "ashington was also urged to Doin with /ondon in a
declaration. The declaration would "state in some fashion or other that) if it is not
possible to reach a reasonable settlement at the Geneva <onference) a serious aggravation
of international relations would result F;oc. ,,G The *rench suggestion was acted upon.
@isenhower and <hurchill issued a statement on :une 7& that "if at Geneva the *rench
Government is confronted with demands which prevent an acceptable agreement
regarding !ndochina) the international situation will be seriously aggravated." !n
retrospect) the statement may have had an important bearing on the <ommunists=
negotiating position$$a point to which we shall return subse?uently.
The Doint statement referred to "an acceptable agreement)" and indeed the ramifications of
that phrase constituted the main subDect of the U.S.$UA tal.s. !n an unpublici2ed
agreement) the two governments concurred on a common set of principles which) if
wor.ed into the settlement terms) would enable both to "respect" the armistice. These
principles) .nown subse?uently as the Seven Points) were communicated to the *rench.
#s reported by @den) they were3
+%1 Preservation of the integrity and independence of /aos and <ambodia) and assurance
of 4iet 8inh withdrawal from those countries
+71 Preservation of at least the southern half of 4ietnam) and if possible an enclave in the
;elta) with the line of demarcation no further south than one running generally west from
;ong >oi
+91 No restrictions on /aos) <ambodia) or retained 4ietnam "materially impairing their
capacity to maintain stable non$<ommunist regimes6 and especially restrictions impairing
their right to maintain ade?uate forces for internal security) to import arms and to employ
foreign advisers"
+51 No "political provisions which would ris. loss of the retained area to <ommunist
control"
+'1 No provision that would "eclude the possibility of the ultimate reunification of
4ietnam by peaceful means"
+,1 Provision for "the peaceful and humane transfer) under international supervision) of
those people desiring to be moved from one 2one to another of 4ietnam"
+-1 Provision for "effective machinery for international supervision of the agreement."
The Seven Points represented something of an #merican diplomatic victory when viewed
in the contet of the changed #dministration position on partition. "hile any loss of
territory to the <ommunists predetermined the official #merican attitude toward the
settlement$$@den was told the United States would almost certainly be unable to
guarantee it$$the terms agreed upon with the British were sufficiently hard that) if pushed
through by the *rench) they would bring about a tolerable arrangement for !ndochina.
The stic.ing point for "ashington lay not in the terms but in the unli.elihood that the
British) any more than the *rench) would actually stand by them against the <ommunists.
Thus) ;ulles wrote3 ". . . we have the distinct impression that the British loo. upon this
Fmemorandum of the Seven PointsG merely as an optimum solution and that they would
not encourage the *rench to hold out for a solution as good as this." The Secretary
observed that the British) during the tal.s) were unhappy about finding "ashington ready
only to "respect" the final terms reached at Geneva. They had preferred a stronger word)
yet they "wanted to epress these - points merely as a =hope= without any indication of
firmuess on our part." The United States) ?uite aside from what was said in the Seven
Points) "would not want to be associated in any way with a settlement which fell
materially short of the - point memorandum." F;oc. -(G Thus) the seven points) while
having finally bound the United States and Great Britain to a common position on the
conference) did not allay "ashington=s aniety over British and *rench readiness to
conclude a less$than$satisfactory settlement. The possibility of a unilateral #merican
withdrawal from the conference was still being "given consideration)" ;ulles reported)
even as the Seven Points were agreed upon.
;espite reservations about our #llies= adherence to the Seven Points) the United States
still hoped to get *rench approval of them. Bn :uly ,) ;illon telegraphed the *rench
reaction as given him by Parodi) the secretary$general of the cabinet. "ith the eception
of Point ') denoting national elections) the *rench were in agreement. They were
confused about an apparent conflict between the elections provision and Point 5) under
which political provisions) which would include elections) were not to ris. loss of
retained 4ietnam. !n addition) they) too) felt #merican agreement merely to "respect" any
agreement was too wea. a term) and re?uested clarification of its meaning.
;ulles responded the net day +:uly -1 to both matters. Points 5 and ' were not in
conflict) he said. !t was ?uite possible that an agreement in line with the Seven Points
might still not prevent !ndochina from going <ommunist. The important thing) therefore)
was to arrange for national elections in a way that would give the South 4ietnamese a
liberal breathing spell3
since undoubtedly true that elections might eventually mean unification 4ietnam under
>o <hi 8inh this ma.es it all more important they should be only held as long after
cease$fire agreement as possible and in conditions free from intimidation to give
democratic elements Fin South 4ietnamG best chance. "e believe important that no date
should be set now and especially that no conditions should be accepted by *rench which
would have direct or indirect effect of preventing effective international supervision of
agreement ensuring political as well as military guarantees.
#nd so far as "respect" of that agreement was concerned) the United States and Britain
meant they "would not oppose a settlement which conformed to Seven Points. . . . !t does
not of course mean we would guarantee such settlement or that we would necessarily
support it publicly. "e consider =respect= as strong a word as we can possibly employ in
the circumstances. . . . =0espect= would also mean that we would not see. directly or
indirectly to upset settlement by force." Y
Y ;ulles to #merican @mbassy) Paris) tel. No. --) :uly -. %&'5 +Secret1. F;oc. ,5G
0egarding the U.S. view of a >o <hi 8inh electoral victory) we not only have the well$
.nown comment of @isenhower that >o) at least in early %&'5) would have garnered J(
percent of the vote. +See Mandate for ;hange FGarden <ity) New Cor.3 ;oubledayG) pp.
99-$9J.1 !n addition) there is a ;epartment of State memorandum of conversation of 8ay
9%) %&'5) in which /ivingston 8erchant reportedly "recogni2ed the possibility that in
4iet Nam >o might win a plebiscite) if held today."
;ulles= clarification of the #merican position on elections in 4ietnam) together with his
delimitation of the nation=s obligation towards a settlement) did not satisfy the *rench
completely but served the important purpose of enlightening them as to #merican
intentions. Placed beside the discussions with @den and <hurchill) the thrust of #merican
diplomacy at this time clearly was to leave no ?uestion in the minds of our allies as to
what we considered the elements in a reasonable !ndochina settlement and what we
would li.ely do once a settlement were achieved.
The Pentagon Papers
Gravel @dition
4olume %) <hapter 9) "The Geneva <onference) 8ay$:uly) %&'5"
+Boston3 Beacon Press) %&-%1
Section 7) pp. %5,$%-J
4!!. TB"#0; # S@TT/@8@NT3 T>@ /#ST T>!0TC ;#CS
#. T)E 5#2:#!3!3: ;63T!37ES
"hile the *rench and British pondered the implications of the Seven Points) bargaining
continued behind the scenes against a bac.ground of further military advance by the 4iet
8inh. #t about the same time the 4iet 8inh made their first specific partition proposal)
their forces in the field completed their deployment from the ;ienbienphu area. By mid$
:une) according to #merican intelligence) the 4iet 8inh were believed prepared for a
massive attac. in the ;elta. #nother report spo.e of their renewed attention to southern
#nnam and of an apparent buildup of military strength there. Not surprisingly in light of
these developments) the 4iet 8inh) in late :une) responded to the *rench proposal of a
division at the %Jth parallel with a plan for a line in southern #nnam running northwest
from the %9th to the %5th parallel) i.e.) from Tuy >oa on the coast through Plei.u to the
<ambodian border. 8oreover) in secret tal.s with the *rench) the 4iet 8inh=s vice$
minister for national defense) Ta Kuang Buu) also insisted on *rench withdrawal from the
;elta within two months of a cease$fire) in contrast to *rench demands for a four$month
interval. F;oc. ,&G #s suggested by /acouture and ;evillers) the 4iet 8inh may have
been see.ing to capitali2e not only on their improved military position in the ;elta)
where *rench Union forces were still in retreat) but also on 8endZs$*rance=s reputation
as a man of peace obviously desirous of a settlement.
This resurgence of 4iet 8inh toughness on terms for a cessation of hostilities applied
also to /aos and <ambodia. !n the military staff conferences that had begun separately on
those two countries in late :une) no progress was made. The 4iet 8inh indicated) in the
/aotian case) that they had already withdrawn6 if forces opposing the royal government
remained +as in fact some %')((( did1) negotiations with the resistance groups would
have to be underta.en. Thus) despite <hou @n$lai=s claim that 4iet 8inh withdrawal from
/aos and <ambodia could easily be accomplished) the 4iet 8inh were hardly ready to
move out unless they received substantial guarantees +such as a permanent regroupment
area1) which the royal governments refused to give.
"hether because of or in spite of 4iet 8inh intransigence) the <hinese forcefully made
.nown their earnest desire to .eep the conference moving. !n an important encounter at
Bern on :une 79) <hou @n$lai several times emphasi2ed to 8endZs$*rance that the main
thing was a cease$fire) on which he hoped progress could be made before all the heads of
delegation returned to Geneva. 0egarding /aos and <ambodia) <hou thought
regroupment areas for the insurgents would be necessary) but reiterated that national
unity was the affair of the royal governments6 he hoped the resistance elements might
find a place in the national life of their respective countries. <hou told the *rench
premier) as he had told @den previously) that no #merican bases could be permitted in
those countries6 yet <hou spo.e sympathetically of the *rench Union. Turning finally to
the 4iet 8inh) <hou urged that direct contact be established between them and the
4ietnamese. >e promised that for his part) he would see that the 4iet 8inh were
thoroughly prepared for serious discussions on a military settlement. <learly) the <hinese
were far more interested in moving forward toward a cease$fire than were their 4iet 8inh
counterparts.
@ven though the 4iet 8inh were ma.ing demands that the *rench) <ambodians) and
/aotians could not accept) the debate was narrowing to specifics. The ?uestion when
national elections in 4ietnam should be held is illustrative. The 4iet 8inh did not budge
from their insistence that elections occur si months after the cease$fire. But the *rench)
attempting to ma.e some headway in the tal.s) retreated from insistence on setting no
date +a position the 4ietnamese had supported1 and offered to hold elections %J months
after completion of the regroupment process) or between 77 and 79 months after the
cessation of hostilities. F;oc. ,&G The *rench now admitted that while they still loo.ed
forward to retaining >aiphong and the <atholic bishoprics as long as possible) perhaps in
some neutral environment) total withdrawal from the north would probably be necessary
to avoid cutting up 4ietnam into enclaves. F;oc. ,,G But partition in any manner faced
the *rench with hostile 4ietnamese) and it was for this reason that <hauvel not only
suggested #merican intervention to induce 4ietnamese self$control) but also received
Pham 4an ;ong=s approval) in a conversation :uly ,) to having the military commands
rather than governments sign the final armistice so as to avoid having to win 4ietnamese
consent. #s Ngo ;inh ;iem) who became prime minister :une %J) suspected) the *rench
were prepared to pull out of Ton.in as part of the cease$fire arrangements.
Bn the matter of control and supervision) the debate also became more focused even as
the gulf between opposing views remained wide. The chief points of contention were) as
before) the composition and authority of the neutral supervisory body6 but the outlines of
an acceptable arrangement were beginning to form. Thus) on composition) the
<ommunist delegations) in early :uly) began spea.ing in terms of an odd$numbered
+three or five1 neutral commission chaired by !ndia) with pro$<ommunist and pro$
"estern governments e?ually sharing the remaining two or four places. Second) on the
powers of that body) dispute persisted as to whether it would have separate but parallel
authority with the Doint commissions or supreme authority6 whether and on what
?uestions it would ma.e Dudgments by unanimous vote6 and whether it would +as the
*rench proposed1 be empowered to issue maDority and minority reports in case of
disagreement. These were all fundamental issues) but the important point is that the
<ommunist side refused to consider them irremovable obstacles to agreement. #s
8olotov=s understudy) Au2netsov +the deputy foreign minister1) put it) the Soviet and
*rench proposals on control and supervision revealed "rapprochement in the points of
view on certain ?uestions. !t is true with respect to the relationships between the mied
commission and the international supervisory commission. This rapprochement eists
also in regard to the ?uestion of the eamination of the functions and duties of the
commission..." !n fact) a "rapprochement" did not eist6 but the Soviets) interestingly)
persisted in their optimism that a solution could be found.
5. ;)!3ESE DiP"6M#;<
"hile the negotiations went on among the second$string diplomats) a different .ind of
diplomacy was being carried on elsewhere. <hou @n$lai) en route to Pe.ing) advanced
<ommunist <hina=s effort) actually begun in late %&'7) to woo its #sian neighbors with
tal. of peaceful coeistence. This diplomatic offensive) which was to have an important
bearing on the outcome at Geneva) had borne its first fruit in #pril %&'5) when <hou
reached agreement with Nehru over Tibet. #t that time) the <hinese first introduced the
"five principles" they vowed to follow in their relations with other nations. The five
principles are3 mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty) nonaggression)
noninterference in internal affairs) e?uality and mutual benefit) and peaceful coeistence.
<hou=s first stopover was in New ;elhi) the scene of his initial success. Bn :une 7J he
and Nehru reaffirmed the five principles and epressed the hope that a peaceful
settlement in !ndochina would be concluded in conformity with them. Similar sentiments
appeared in a Doint statement from 0angoon) scene of tal.s with Prime 8inister U Nu.
Promises were echanged) moreover) for the maintenance of close contact between <hina
and Burma) and support was voiced for the right of countries having different social
systems to coeist without interference from outside. "0evolution cannot be eported)"
the Doint statement proclaimed6 "at the same time outside interference with the common
will epressed by the people of any nation should not be permitted."
Pe.ing made full use of these diplomatic achievements by contrasting them with the
#merican policy of ruthless epansionism) which Pe.ing said was carried out by
"ashington under the label of opposing <ommunism. Pe.ing proclaimed that the era of
colonialism which the United States was see.ing to perpetuate in !ndochina had come to
an end. "# new era has dawned in which #sian countries can coeist peacefully and
establish friendly relations on the basis of respect for each other=s territorial integrity and
sovereignty and mutual nonaggression)" said Fen-min Hih-pao. #nother newspaper)
Duang-ming Hih-pao) offered similar testimony to the inspirational effect of the Sino$
!ndian and Sino$Burmese agreements) considering them to conform to the interests of all
#sian peoples. The daily castigated the #merican "policy of strength" as being totally
incompatible with the five principles. <learly) <hina was eploiting its gains through
diplomacy not simply to ac?uire #sian support +and thus detract from pro$"esternism in
the region1) but more broadly to muster recognition for <hina as the leading #sian power
in the fight against "imperialism" and "colonialism."
<hou=s diplomatic efforts too. a different turn) it seems) when he met with >o <hi 8inh
at Nanning) on the Sino$4ietnamese frontier) from :uly 9$'. #lthough the final
communi?ue merely stated that the two leaders "had a full echange of views on the
Geneva <onference with respect to the ?uestion of the restoration of peace in !ndochina
and related ?uestions)" it subse?uently appeared that much more may have ta.en place.
#ccording to observers in >ong Aong) <hou pressed for the meeting out of fear that the
4iet 8inh might engage in intensified military action that would destroy chances for an
armistice and upset <hina=s budding role as an #sian peacema.er. <onceivably) <hou
sought to persuade >o that his territorial gains were about as much as he could epect at
that Duncture without ris.ing an end to negotiations and renewed #merican attempts to
forge a military alliance for intervention. To Dudge from the 4iet 8inh reaction to the
tal.s) >o was not completely satisfied with <hou=s proposed tactics.
8omentarily leaving aside <hou=s motivations) it is vital to note the impact of the tal.s
on the Geneva negotiations. Bn :uly &) <hauvel dined with /i A=enung and <hang "en$
t=ien) a vice$minister for foreign affairs and <P0 ambassador to the Soviet Union.
<hauvel opened the conversation$$as he later recounted to :ohnson$$by complaining that
discussions with the 4iet 8inh were not going well) that 4iet 8inh demands were
eorbitant and well beyond <hou @n$lai=s stated position. The <hinese delegates evinced
surprise but said nothing in direct reply. >owever) <hang did report that <hou had had a
"very good meeting" with >o <hi 8inh) the results of which "would be helpful to
*rench." <hauvel received the impression$$one which seems) in retrospect) to have been
accurate$$that the 4iet 8inh had been given a free hand by the Soviets and <hinese up to
the point where their demands were unacceptable to the *rench) at which time the Soviets
andIor <hinese felt compelled to intervene. F;oc. ,,G !f such was the case) <hou=s tal.
with >o) coming after 8endZs$*rance and his negotiators showed no sign of being more
compromising than their predecessors) /aniel and Bidault) may have been intended to
inform the 4iet 8inh that the "point" had been reached and that they had to soften their
demands if a settlement were ever to be attained.
;. T)E F2#3;6-#ME2!;#3 73DE2ST#3D!3:
Precisely how <hou=s stopover in Nanning would be "helpful" to the *rench did not
become apparent until four days after <hauvel=s conversation with /i and <hang. By that
time) the *rench had been engaged in intensive conversations with the #mericans) the
aim of which was to convince "ashington that the United States) to be truly influential at
the conference$to reali2e) in other words) a settlement in line with the Seven Points$had to
bac. the *rench with a high$level representative in Geneva. Unless the United States did
more than offer its views from afar on an acceptable settlement) 8endZs$*rance argued)
*rance could not be epected to present a strong front when 8olotov and <hou resumed
their places. #s though to prove his determination to stand fast against <ommunist
demands) 8endZs$*rance told #mbassador ;illon in Paris that if a cease$fire was not
agreed to by :uly 7() the premier would approve the dispatch of conscripts to !ndochina
and would introduce a law into Parliament to that effect on :uly 7%. >is government
would not resign until that law passed6 the ships would be prepared to transport the
conscripts to !ndochina beginning :uly 7'. [;oc. ,7G
;espite 8endZs$*rance=s willingness to establish a deadline and) for the first time in the
history of *rench involvement in !ndochina) to conscript soldiers for service there)
"ashington remained opposed to upgrading its Geneva delegation. Sensitive as much to
any proposal that might implicate the United States in the final settlement terms as to
8endZs$*rance=s difficulties at the conference table) ;ulles believed the *rench would
end by accepting a settlement unsatisfactory to the United States whether or not the
US;@/ were upgraded. #s he eplained to ;illon) were he +the Secretary1 or Smith to
return to Geneva only to find the *rench compelled to negotiate an unacceptable
agreement anyway) the United States would be re?uired to dissociate itself in a manner
"which would be deeply resented by the *rench as an effort on our part to bloc. at the
last minute a peace which they ardently desire)" with possible "irreparable inDury to
*ranco$#merican relations The least embarrassing alternative) ;ulles felt) was to avoid
the probability of having to ma.e a "spectacular disassociation" by staying away from the
conference altogether. F;oc. ,'G
"hen ;ulles= position was reported to 8endZs$*rance) the premier said he understood
the #mericans= reluctance but considered it misplaced. The #merican fear of in some way
becoming committed to the settlement) he said) was precisely his dilemma) for he had no
idea what the <ommunists would propose in the crucial days ahead. The *rench
negotiating position was the Seven Points) he went on) and would not deviate
substantially from them. "ith great feeling) 8endZs$*rance told a member of the
#merican @mbassy that the presence of ;ulles or Smith was "absolutely essential and
necessary"6 without either of them) the <ommunists would sense and see. to capitali2e
on a lac. of unity in the allied camp. "8endZs indicated that our high$level presence at
Geneva had di rect bearing on where <ommunists would insist on placing line of
demarcation or partition in 4ietnam."
These arguments did not prove convincing to "ashington. Bn :uly %() ;ulles wrote
8endZs$*rance a personal message reiterating that his or General Smith=s presence would
serve no useful purpose. #nd ;ulles again raised doubts that *rance) Britain) and the
United States were really agreed on a single negotiating position3
"hat now concerns us is that we are very doubtful as to whether there is a united front in
relation to !ndochina) and we do not believe that the mere fact that the high
representatives of the three nations physically reappear together at Geneva will serve as a
substitute for a clear agreement on a Doint position which includes agreement as to what
will happen if that position is not accepted by the <ommunists. "e fear that unless there
is the reality of such a united front) the events at Geneva will epose differences under
conditions which will only serve to accentuate them with conse?uent strain upon the
relations between our two countries greater than if the US does not reappear at Geneva) in
the person of General Smith or myself. F;oc. ,-G
The Secretary ?uestioned whether the Seven Points truly represented a common
"minimum acceptable solution" which the three #llies were willing to fight for in the
event the <ommunists reDected them. <harging that the Seven Points were actually
"merely an optimum solution" for Paris no less than for /ondon) ;ulles sought to
demonstrate that the *rench were already moving away from the Seven Points. >e cited
apparent *rench willingness to permit <ommunist forces to remain in northern /aos) to
accept a demarcation line "considerably south of ;onghoi)" to neutrali2e and demilitari2e
/aos and <ambodia) and to permit "elections so early and so ill$prepared and ill$
supervised as to ris. the loss of the entire area to <ommunism" as evidences of a
"whittling$away process" which) cumulatively) could destroy the intent of the Seven
Points. F;oc. ,-G Un?uestionably) the Secretary=s firm opposition to restoring to the
#merican delegation its high ran. was grounded in intense suspicion of an ultimate
*rench sell$out) yet suspicion based on apparent misinformation concerning both the
actual *rench position and the degree of *rench willingness to stand firm.
Thus believing that the *rench had already gone far toward deflating some of the maDor
provisions of the U.S.$UA memorandum) ;ulles reiterated the #dministration=s position
that it had the right "not to endorse a solution which would seem to us to impair seriously
certain principles which the US believes must) as far as it is concerned) be .ept
unimpaired) if our own struggle against <ommunism is to be successfully pursued."
Perhaps see.ing to rationali2e the impact of his reDection) ;ulles wrote in closing that the
#merican decision might actually assist the *rench3 "!f our conduct creates a certain
uncertainty in the minds of the <ommunists) this might strengthen your hand more than
our presence at Geneva F;oc. ,-G 8endZs$*raiice had been rebuffed) however) and while
;ulles left the door slightly aDar for his or Smith=s return if "circumstances" should
change) it seemed more probable that *rance would have to wor. for a settlement with
only the British along side.
The ;ulles$8endZs$*rance echanges were essentially an eercise in credibility) with the
*rench premier desperately see.ing to persuade the Secretary that Paris really did support
and really would abide by the Seven Points. "hen 8endes$*rance read ;ulles= letter) he
protested that *rance would accept nothing unacceptable to the United States) and went
so far as to say that ;ulles= presence at the conference would give him a veto power) in
effect) on the decisions ta.en. Beyond that) 8endZs$*rance warned of the catastrophic
impact of an #merican withdrawal on the #merican position in @urope no less than in the
*ar @ast6 withdrawal) he said) was sure to be interpreted as a step toward isolationism.
#s.ed what alternative his government had in mind if the conference failed even with an
#merican high$level presence) 8endZs$*rance replied there would have to be full
internationali2ation of the war.Y
Y ;illon from Paris priority tel. No. %95) :uly %%) %&'5. F;oc. ,JG The same day)
8endZs$*rance had told ;illon again of *rance=s intention to send conscripts) with
parliamentary approval) by :uly 7') with two divisions ready for action by about
September %'. The premier said that while he could not predict how the #ssembly would
react) he personally saw the need for direct #merican involvement in the war once
negotiations bro.e down and the conscripts were sent. ;illon from Paris priority tel. No.
%99) :uly %%) %&'5.
8endZs$*rance=s persistence was sufficiently persuasive to move ;ulles) on :uly %9) to
fly to Paris to document the premier=s support of the Seven Points. Bn the %5th) the
Secretary and the premier signed a memorandum which duplicated that agreed to by the
United States and Great Britain. !n addition) a position paper was drawn up the same day
reiterating that the United States was at the conference as "a friendly nation" whose role
was subordinate to that of the primary non$<ommunist parties) the #ssociated States and
*rance. The Seven Points were described) as they had been some two wee.s earlier) as
those acceptable to the "primarily interested nations" and which the United States could
"respect." >owever) should terms ultimately be concluded which differed mar.edly from
the Seven Points) *rance agreed that the United States would neither be as.ed nor
epected to accept them) and "may publicly disassociate itself from such differing terms"
by a unilateral or multilateral statement.
Bne of ;ulles= obDections had been that a true united front did not eist so long as
agreement was lac.ing on allied action in the event of no settlement. Bn this point) too)
the *rench were persuaded to adopt the #merican position. !n the event of a settlement) it
was agreed in the position paper that the United States would "see.) with other interested
nations) a collective defense association designed to preserve) against direct and indirect
aggression) the integrity of the non$<ommunist areas of Southeast #sia Should no
settlement be forthcoming) U.S.$*rance consultations would ta.e place6 but these would
not preclude the United States from bringing "the matter" before the UN as a threat to the
peace. Previous obstacles to *rench obDections to UN involvement were noneistent) for
*rance reaffirmed in the position paper its commitment under the :une 5 treaty of
independence with 4ietnam that Saigon) as well as 4ientiane and Phnom Penh) was an
"e?ual and voluntary" partner in the *rench Union) and hence no longer subDect in its
foreign policy to *rench di0tat.
Bn all but one matter) now) the United States and *rance were in complete accord on a
negotiating strategy. That matter was) of course) the #merican delegation. 8endZs$
*rance had formally subscribed to the Seven Points and had agreed to #merican plans for
dealing with the aftermath of the conference6 yet he had gained nothing for the *rench
delegation. "riting to the Secretary) the premier pointed out again3
!n effect) ! have every reason to thin. that your absence would be precisely interpreted as
demonstrating) before the fact) that you disapproved of the conference and of everything
which might be accomplished. Not only would those who are against us find therein the
confirmation of the ill will which they attribute to your government concerning the
reestablishment of peace in !ndochina6 but many others would read in it a sure sign of a
division of the western powers. F;oc. -(G
Bnce more) 8endZs$*rance was putting forth the view that a high$level #merican
representation at the conference would do more to ensure a settlement in conformity with
the Seven Points than private U.S.$*rench agreement to them.
*or reasons not entirely clear) but perhaps the conse?uence of @isenhower=s personal
intervention) 8endZs$*rance=s appeal was now favorably received in "ashington. ;ulles
was able to inform the premier on :uly %53 "!n the light of what you say and after
consultation with President @isenhower) ! am glad to be able to inform you that the
President and ! are as.ing the Under Secretary of State) General "alter Bedell Smith) to
prepare to return at his earliest convenience to Geneva to share in the wor. of the
conference on the basis of the understanding which we have arrived at." F;oc. -(G *or the
first time since late %&'9) the United States and *rance were solidly Doined in a common
front on !ndochina policy.
!n accordance with the understandings reached with *rance) Smith was sent new
instructions on :uly %, based upon the Seven Points. #fter reiterating the passive formal
role the United States was to play at the conference) ;ulles informed his Under Secretary
he was to issue a unilateral +or) if possible) multilateral1 statement should a settlement be
reached that "conforms substantially" to the Seven Points. "The United States will not)
however) become cosignatory with the <ommunists in any ;eclaration)" ;ulles wrote
with reference to the procedure then being discussed at Geneva of drafting military
accords and a final declaration on a political settlement. Nor should the United States)
Smith=s instructions went on) be put in a position where it could be held responsible for
guaranteeing the results of the conference. Smith=s efforts should be directed) ;ulles
summed up) toward forwarding ideas to the "active negotiators)" *rance) <ambodia)
/aos) and 4ietnam.
This last point of guidance referred to the possibility of a brea.down in the negotiations.
Should no settlement be reached) the United States delegation was
to avoid permitting the *rench to believe that outcome was the result of #merican advice
or pressure) and that in some way the United States was morally obligated to intervene
militarily in !ndochina. The United States) ;ulles wrote) was "not prepared at the present
time to give any commitment that it will intervene in the war if the Geneva <onference
fails..." "hile this stricture almost certainly reflected the President=s and the :oint <hiefs=
etreme reluctance to become committed) in advance) to a war already past the point of
return) it was also doubtless a reaction to 8endZs$*rance=s intimations to ;illon of
*rench willingness to reconsider active #merican involvement if the conference failed.
"ith *rench and British adherence to the Seven Points promised by written agreement)
the United States had gone about as far as it could toward ensuring an acceptable
settlement without becoming tied to it. The #dministration still apparently believed that
the final terms would violate the Seven Points in several significant respects6Y but by
ma.ing clear in advance that any settlement would be met with a unilateral #merican
declaration rather than Bedell Smith=s signature) the United
Y Thus) on :uly %' +one day after the *ranco$#merican agreements1) the National
Security <ouncil) after being briefed on the Geneva situation) decided that the li.ely
settlement would go against the Seven Points. The NS< was told the <ommunists would3
+%1 see. partition of 4ietnam somewhere between the %5th and %Jth parallels6 +71 demand
control of some part of /aos) neutrali2ation of the remainder) and agreement on the
formation of a coalition government6 +91 as. neutrali2ation of <ambodia and some form
of recognition for the *ree Ahmer movement. "ere the <ommunists to accept the ;ong
>oi line for 4ietnam) they would then demand an enclave in southern 4ietnam plus part
of /aos) or simply etend the ;ong >oi line through /aos.
States had at least guaranteed its retention of a moral advantage) useful particularly in
placating domestic public opinion. !n the event of an unsatisfactory settlement)
"ashington would be in a position to say that it had stood steadfastly by principle only to
be undercut by "soft" #llies and <ommunist territorial ambitions.
;. T>@ *!N#/ "@@A B* B#0G#!N!NG
Prior to Smith=s return) positions had tended to harden rather than change at Geneva)
although the 4iet 8inh had yielded a trifle on partition. <hang "en$t=ien=s encouraging
remar. to <hauvel of :uly & had been fulfilled four days later) as already indicated. The
final signal was <hou=s comment to 8endZs*rance on the %9th that both sides) *rench
and 4iet 8inh) had to ma.e concessions on the demarcation problem) but that this "does
not signify that each must ta.e the same number of steps." That same day) Pham 4an
;ong told the *rench premier the 4iet 8inh were willing to settle on the %,th parallel.
;ong=s territorial concession meant little to the *rench) however) and) as the negotiations
continued) it became plain that the 4iet 8inh were not concerned about 8endZs$*rance=s
:uly 7( deadline. Cet the <hinese remained optimistic) at least publicly. :en$min Dih$pao=s
Geneva reporter) for instance) wrote :uly %7 that while no solution had yet been wor.ed
out on the control and supervision problem) "there seems no reason why agreement
cannot be reached." #s for defining the regroupment areas) the correspondent asserted
that "speedy agreement would seem probable after the return of the *oreign 8inisters of
the Big Powers..." So long as all parties were "sincere)" he wrote) agreement would
indeed come about.
The minuscule progress made on settling the 4ietnam problem loomed large in
comparison with the seemingly unbrea.able log Dam that had developed over /aos and
<ambodia. Since the maDor <ommunist concessions of mid$:une) which had at least
paved the way for separating /aos and <ambodia from 4ietnam for discussion purposes)
virtually nothing had been accomplished toward cease$fires. ;ebate on /aos and
<ambodia occupied the spotlight again on :uly & when) from the remar.s of the <hinese
delegate +/i A=e$nung1) it ?uic.ly became apparent that for all their willingness to discuss
the withdrawal of 4iet 8inh troops) the <hinese remained greatly concerned about
possible /aotian and <ambodian rearmament and alignment. Simply put) the <hinese
were negotiating for their own security) not for 4iet 8inh territorial advantage.
#s <hou had pointed out to @den in :une) the <P0=s maDor concern was that <ambodia
and /aos might) after a settlement) be left free to negotiate for a permanent #merican
military presence. !n his presentation) therefore) /i A=e$nung insisted that the two
countries not be permitted to ac?uire fresh troops) military personnel) arms) and
ammunition ecept as might be strictly re?uired for self$defense6 nor should they) he
held) allow foreign military bases to be established. /i formali2ed <hou=s passing remar.
to @den that <hina was not much disturbed by *rench Union +as opposed to #merican1
technicians. /i allowed that *rench military personnel to assist the training of the /aotian
and <ambodian armies was a matter that "can be studied."
The <ambodian case) presented by *oreign 8inister Sam Sary) revealed a stubborn
independence that was to assist the country greatly in the closing days of the conference.
Sam Sary said that foreign bases would indeed not be authori2ed on Ahmer soil "only as
far as there is no menace against <ambodia. . . . !f our security is imperiled) <ambodia
will .eep its legitimate right to defend itself by all means." #s for foreign instructors and
technicians) his government wished to retain those *renchmen then in <ambodia6 he was
pleased to note /i A=e$nung=s apparent acceptance of this arrangement. *inally) with
regard to the importation of arms) Sam Sary differentiated between a limitation on
?uantity +which his government accepted1 and on ?uality +which his government wished
to have a free hand in determining1.
"hile the <hinese publicly castigated the <ambodians for wor.ing with the #mericans to
threaten "the security of <ambodia=s neighboring countries under the pretet of self$
defense)" the #mericans gave the <ambodians encouragement. !n "ashington) Phnom
Penh=s ambassador) Nong Aimny) met with ;ulles on :uly %(. Nong Aimny said his
Government would oppose the neutrali2ation and demilitari2ation of the country6 ;ulles
replied that hopefully <ambodia would become a member of the collective security
arrangement envisaged in #merican$British plans. <ambodia) the Secretary said)
possessed a .ind of independence superior to that in 4ietnam and /aos) and as such
should indeed oppose <ommunist plans to neutrali2e and demilitari2e her. #s an
independent state) <ambodia was entitled to see. outside military and economic
assistance.
The /aotian delegation was also eperiencing difficulties) though with the 4iet 8inh
rather than the <hinese. The 4iet 8inh negotiators) in the military command
conferences) insisted on ma.ing etraneous demands concerning the Pathet /ao. The
/aotians were concerned not so much with the demands as with the possibility of a
private *rench deal with the 4iet 8inh that would subvert the /aotian position. #
member of the royal government=s delegation went to :ohnson to be assured that a
behind$the$scenes deal would not occur. The delegate said /aos hoped to be covered by
and to participate in a Southeast #sia collective security pact. :ohnson did not guarantee
that this arrangement could be wor.ed out6 but as the conference drew to a close) as we
shall see) the United States made it clear to the <ambodians and /aotians that their
security would in some fashion be ta.en care of under the S@#TB treaty.
!rresolution over <ambodia and /aos) a continuing wide gap between *rench and 4iet
8inh positions on the partition line) and no progress on the control and supervision
dilemma were the highlights of the generally dismal scene that greeted General Smith on
his return :uly %, to the negotiating wars. Smith apparently too. heart) however) in the
steadfastness of 8endZs$*rance) although the Under Secretary also observed that the
<ommunists had reacted to this by themselves becoming unmoving. Smith attributed
<ommunist intransigence to the probability that "8endZs$*rance has been a great
disappointment to the <ommunists both as regards the relatively firm position he has
ta.en on !ndochina and his attitude toward @;<. They may therefore wish to force him
out of the government by ma.ing settlement here impossible."
#ctually) what had disturbed the <ommunists most was not so much 8endZs*rance=s
firmness as Smith=s return. That became clear following a private meeting re?uested by a
member of the <P0 delegation) >uang >ua) with Seymour Topping) the 3e4 <or0 Times
correspondent at Geneva. Topping) as the <hinese must have epected) reported the
conversation to the #merican delegation. >e said >uang >ua) spea.ing in deadly earnest
and without propagandistic overtones) had interpreted Smith=s return as an #merican
attempt to prevent a settlement. !ndeed) according to >uang >ua) the Paris tal.s between
;ulles and 8endZs$*rance on :uly %9 and %5 had been primarily responsible for 8endZs$
*rance=s stubbornness6 the *rench premier had obviously concluded a deal with the
United States in which he agreed to raise the price for a settlement. F;oc. -JG
Bvert <hinese statements in this period lent credence to Topping=s report. *irst) Pe.ing
was far from convinced that continued discussions on the restoration of peace in
!ndochina removed the possibility of dramatic new military moves by the United States.
"ashington was accused) as before the conference) of desiring to intervene in !ndochina
so as to etend the war there into "a new military venture on <hina=s southern borders. !n
support of this contention) Pe.ing cited such provocative moves as trips during #pril and
:une by General :ames #. 4an *leet +"the notorious butcher of the Aorean "ar"1 to
Aorea) :apan) and Taiwan) for the purpose of establishing a North Pacific military
alliance6 #merican intentions of concluding a mutual defense treaty with Taiwan as the
first step in <hiang Aai$she.=s invasion plans6 #merican efforts) through the five$power
and later @isenhower$<hurchill tal.s) to create a Southeast #sia alliance for a military
thrust into !ndochina6 and stepped$up U.S. military assistance) including training) for the
Thai armed forces.
Second) Pe.ing was clearly disturbed that the *rench were still heeding #merican advice
when the path to a settlement lay before them. !n a People=s ;aily editorial of :uly %5) for
instance) the *rench people and National #ssembly were said to be strongly desirous of
peace. Thus3 "# policy running counter to *rench interests cannot wor.. *rance is a
maDor world power. She should have her own independent and honorable path. This
means following an independent foreign policy consistent with *rench national interests
and the interests of world peace." The #merican alternative$$a Southeast #sia coalition
with *rench participation$$should be reDected) the editorial intoned) and a settlement
conforming to the five principles achieved instead. !n .eeping with its line of previous
months) Pe.ing was attempting to demonstrate$$for #sian no less than for *rench ears$$
that it had a .een interest in resolving the !ndochina problem rather than seeing the
conference give way to new #merican military pressures and a possibly wider war.
*inally) Pe.ing paid considerable attention to ;ut!es= stay in Paris and to his dispatch of
Smith to Geneva. ;uties= sudden trip to the *rench capital was said to reveal #merican
determination to obstruct progress in the negotiations by pressuring 8endZs$*rance not
to grasp the settlement that lay Dust around the corner. ;uties originally had no intention
of upgrading the #merican delegation) according to Pe.ing. "But Bedell Smith had to be
sent bac. to Geneva because of strong criticism in the "estern press) and "ashington
was fearful lest agreement could be reached ?uic.ly despite #merican boycotting of the
conference." Cet <hina=s optimism over a settlement did not diminish3 "<hinese
delegation circles)" N<N# reported) "see no reason whatsoever why the Geneva
<onference should play up to the U.S. policy and ma.e no efforts towards achieving an
agreement which is acceptable and satisfactory to all parties concerned and which is
honorable for the two belligerent sides." !f Smith=s return) then) was viewed from Pe.ing
as a challenge to its diplomatic ingenuity) the <hinese +and) we may surmise) the Soviets1
were prepared to accept it.
!n doing so) however) the <hinese evidently were not about to sacrifice in those areas of
dispute where they had a special interest) namely) /aos and <ambodia. Bn :uly %5) <hou
called on Nong Aimny to state <hina=s position. The premier said first that) in accord
with his recent tal.s with Nehru) U Nu) and >o <hi 8inh) he could report a unanimous
desire for peace in !ndochina) for the unity of each of the three #ssociated States) and for
their futBre cordial relationship with the <olombo Powers. <hou then as.ed about the
status of <ambodian tal.s with the 4iet 8inh. "hen Nong Aimny replied that Pham 4an
;ong) in two recent get$togethers) had insisted on interDecting political problems into
discussions of a military settlement$$as by re?uesting <ambodia=s retention of certain
provincial officials appointed by the *ree Ahmers) and by suggesting the royal
government=s preservation of a *ree Ahmer youth movement$$<hou is said to have
laughed off these claims and to have replied that these were indeed matters for <ambodia
to handle by herself.
<hou had his own views on what <ambodia should and should not do6 however) Ahmer
sovereignty should not mean discrimination against the resistance elements) the
establishment of foreign military bases in <ambodia) /aos) and 4ietnam) or the
conclusion of military alliances with other states. <hou was less adamant only on the
subDect of <ambodia=s importation of arms and military personnel6 when Nong Aimny
flatly stated that Phnom Penh would absolutely reDect any limitations inasmuch as these
would be incompatible with <ambodian sovereignty) <hou did not contradict him.
!nstead) he promised to study the matter further and as.ed to .now precisely what
?uantities of arms and personnel the royal government had in mind. /ater on) he became
a bit more fleible by saying that a prohibition on arms and personnel should apply only
to the armistice period) not permanently. Bnly in 4ietnam) <hou said) would there be a
flat proscription against military e?uipment and troops.
<hou and Nong Aimny met again three days later) on :uly %-. Bn this occasion) <hou
was obviously less conciliatory +as Nong Aimny reported1) stating <hina=s position more
in terms of demands than suggestions. >e urged the <ambodian government to
incorporate resistance elements into the army) police) and civil service. But he reserved
his emphasis for <ambodia=s future security position. !n a thinly$veiled warning) <hou
said that should <ambodia Doin the pact) permit foreign bases on its territory) or accept
#merican military instructors) "the conse?uences would be very serious and would
aggravate the situation with unfortunate conse?uences for <ambodian independence and
territorial integrity" +Smith=s paraphrase1. <ambodia could have *rench or British
instructors) <hou said. But his three$fold limitation) obviously directed at assuring against
future <ambodia$U.S. defense ties) remained$and) he added) it applied to /aos and
4ietnam as well.
The <hinese were clearly out to get from the conference what they could) without
0ussian assistance) before a settlement was concluded. <hou did not stop at warning
Nong Aimny) either. Bn :uly %- he too. his case to @den) telling the foreign secretary
that while the <P0 stood ready to Doin in guaranteeing the freedom and independence of
all three !ndochinese states) membership in a Southeast #sia pact would change
everything. @vidently intent on removing what he may have sensed was a possible last$
minute obstacle) @den implied that he .new of no proposal for including the United
States in the pact) although he did not deny #merican interest in forming a defense
organi2ation for Southeast #sia. <hou said he had no obDections to #NLUS +it was
directed against :apan) he thought1) but he went into a lengthy discourse on the danger to
<hina of having foreign bases in !ndochina.
@den=s assurances evidently did not Fwords illegibleG <hou deeply. Bn :uly %J <hou met
with the /aotian foreign minister and presented "unofficial" but etravagant demands
which the latter found totally unacceptable. /aos was willing to provide the resistance
elements with Fwords illegibleG 2ones in the northern provinces of Phong Saly and Sam
Neua6 <hou proposed) additionally) portions of /uang Prabang and Hien Ahouang
provinces. The royal government was further willing to concede the insurgents freedom
of movement in those 2ones) but <hou demanded administration by Doint royal$insurgent
committees and a supervisory Doint committee in 4ientiane until the general elections of
#ugust %&''. *inally) where the /aotians thought the issue of *rench Union bases had
been resolved in their favor) <hou now said the bases should be completely eliminated
even though established by *ranco$/aotian treaty.
<hou=s obsession with foreign military bases and related issues led to an effort to ma.e a
settlement contingent upon "estern acceptance of <hinese neutrali2ation plans. #
<hinese informant +probably >uang >ua1 told Seymour Topping that "estern
willingness to bar foreign military bases from !ndochina and to deny the #ssociated
States admission to any military blocs would assure agreement by :uly 7(. 8ore than
that) the informant said) the United States had also to subscribe to and guarantee the final
settlement) evidently in the belief that #merica=s signature would ma.e !ndochinese
participation in S@#TB illegal. F;oc. -5G # more direct statement was made by N<N#=s
"special correspondent" in Geneva) who drew a harsh characteri2ation of a cease$fire
agreement that left the door open to !ndochinese involvement in a military alliance3
!f efforts are made at the same time negotiations for peace are ta.ing place to drag the
three !ndochinese countries into an aggressive military bloc whose purpose is to unleash
war) then the cease$fire would mean nothing other than a respite for adDusting battle lines
and dispositions of strength in order to start the fighting again on an even larger scale. !n
such circumstances) the armistice agreement would become no more than a scrap of
paper.
"hether the <hinese seriously believed that the United States would sign the accords in
order to achieve a settlement) or that /aos and <ambodia Fwords missingG But of the
Southeast #sia collective defense is at best debatable. There seems little doubt) however)
that Pe.ing sincerely considered a written prohibition on
o the accords against !ndochinese alliances or foreign bases as a maDor step toward the
neutrali2ation of Southeast #sia and the area=s eventual dissociation from the #merican
defense system.
General Smith felt that Topping=s report dovetailed with growing <ommunist
intransigence in the past few days) particularly on the part of 8olotov. >e believed that
8olotov) who had urgently re?uested a restricted session for the %Jth) would li.ewise
raise the ?uestion of eplicit #merican ac?uiescence in a final settlement. F;oc. -5G
"hen the meeting came) however) 8olotov did not reiterate >uang >ua=s implication
that #merican failure to sign the accords might scuttle the conference. Perhaps aware that
a warning of that .ind would not wor.) 8olotov instead limited himself to tal.ing of the
conference=s achievements to date. >e complimented those who had been engaged in
private negotiations) and went so far as to voice confidence that a settlement of
outstanding problems relating to /aos and <ambodia could be achieved. >e closed by
pointing out that two drafts were before the conference relating to the cessation of
hostilities in 4ietnam and /aos) two on <ambodia) and two on a final declaration dealing
with political matters. That ended 8olotov=s contribution) leaving the #mericans) and
probably others) wondering why the Soviet foreign minister had hastily summoned the
meeting. F;oc. -,G
E. #:2EEME3T
!f 8olotov=s refusal at the :uly %J restricted session to warn the conference of failure
signaled renewed <ommunist efforts toward agreement) his subse?uent actions proved
the point. Between :uly %J and 7%) the conferees were able to iron out their differences
sufficiently to produce agreements now commonly referred to as the Geneva "accords."
!n fact) the accords consist of military agreements for 4ietnam) <ambodia) and /aos to
fulfill the conference=s primary tas. of restoring peace to !ndochina) and a *inal
;eclaration designed to establish the conditions for future political settlements
throughout !ndochina. The nature of the eleventh$hour compromises reached) and a broad
outline of the settlement) are treated below.
Bietnam
The Geneva accords temporarily established two 2ones of 4ietnam separated by a line
running roughly along the %-th parallel and further divided by a demilitari2ed 2one.
#greement to the demarcation line was apparently the wor. of 8olotov) who gained
*rench acceptance of the %-th parallel when he found the *rench flatly opposed to the
%,th) a late 4iet 8inh compromise perhaps prompted by 8olotov himself. F;oc. -7G
Precisely what motivated 8olotov to ma.e his proposal is not clear. Speculatively) he
may simply have traded considerable territorial advantage which the 4iet 8inh enDoyed
for a specific election date he) <hou) and Pham 4an ;ong wanted from the outset. The
"estern negotiators certainly recogni2ed the trade$off possibility3 @den considered a line
between the %-th and %Jth parallels worth echanging for a mutually acceptable position
on elections6 and 8endZs$*rance observed in a conversation with 8ob$toy that the
election and demarcation ?uestions might be lin.ed in the sense that each side could yield
on one of the ?uestions. [;oc. -7G
"hether or not a trade$off actually too. place) the fact remains that the *rench came off
much better in the matter of partition than on elections) which they had
insisted not be given a specific date. Bn :uly %,) 8olotov had proposed holding elections
in %&'') with the eact date to be decided between 4ietnamese and 4iet 8inh authorities.
F;oc. -7G The <hinese were more fleible. !n a tal. with a member of the British
delegation) /i A=e$nung argued for a specific date) but said his government was willing to
set it within two or three years of the ceasefire. F;oc. -,G The compromise formula was
reportedly wor.ed out by 8olotov) who) at a meeting :uly %& attended also by @den)
8endZs$*rance) <hou) and ;ong) drew the line at two years. !t was agreed in the *inal
;eclaration that the 4ietnamese of the two 2ones would consult together in :uly %&'' and
reunify 4ietnam by national plebiscite one year later. !mportantly for the 4iet 8inh) the
demarcation line was said to be "provisional and should not in any way be interpreted as
constituting a political or territorial boundary." 0epresentatives of the member states on
the !<< would act as a commission to supervise the national elections) which were to be
freely conducted by secret ballot. #s shall be pointed out later) however) the evident
intention of all the conferees +including the United States and the Government of South
4ietnam1 to see 4ietnam reunified was to a large etent undercut by the nature of the
military and political settlements.
The military accords on 4ietnam also stipulated that the :oint <ommission) which was to
ta.e over the wor. of the military commission that had met at Trung Gia) would have
general responsibility for wor.ing out the disengagement of forces and implementation of
the cease$fire. *rench Union soldiers were to be removed from North 4ietnam in stages
within 9(( days +article %'1) a lengthy period in .eeping with *rench demands.
Thereafter) the introduction into the two 2ones of fresh arms) e?uipment) and personnel
was prohibited with the eception of normal troop rotation and replacement of damaged
or destroyed materiel +articles %, and %-1. The establishment of new military bases in
4ietnam) and the adherence of either 2one to military alliances) were also proscribed
under articles %J and %&.
The membership and powers of the !nternational <ontrol <ommission were finally
resolved +<hapter 4! of the accords1. #pparently through <hou @n$lai=s efforts)
agreement was reached that !ndia) Poland) and <anada should be the member states of the
!<<. The !<< was empowered to form fied and mobile inspection teams and to have
full freedom of movement in both 2ones of 4ietnam. !n the performance of these tas.s)
the !<< was to epect complete cooperation from local civil and military officials. !ts
functions etended to control of the movement of armed forces and the release of
prisoners of war) and to supervision of the demarcation line) frontiers) ports) and airfields.
/ess clearly decided was the delicate ?uestion of the !<<=s relationship to the :oint
<ommission. Generally) the plan adopted was close to that originally submitted by the
*rench in early :uly) wherein the !<<=s supremacy was tacitly admitted. The !<< was to
be informed by the :oint <ommission of disputes arising out of differences of
interpretation) either of a provision or of fact) that the :oint <ommission could not
resolve. The !<< would then +article 5(1 have the power of recommendation6 but) ?uite
aside from the limited effectiveness of a recommendation) there remained the problem of
maDority or unanimous voting by the !<< in reaching agreement to recommend. Under
article 57) the rule of unanimity was to apply to "?uestions concerning violations) or
threats of violations) which might lead to a resumption of hostilities)" namely) a refusal to
regroup is provided in the accords) or an armed violation by one party of the territory of
the other. The "est) which had pushed hard for maDority rule) had to settle for its
application to those less volatile ?uestions that would not be considered threats to the
peace. *urthermore) under article 59) recognition was ta.en of possible splits among the
three members by providing for maDority and minority reports6 but these) li.e !<<
decisions) could be no more than suggestive) and as such wholly dependent upon the
cooperativeness of the conference members who had created it.
;am@odia and "aos
!n conflict with the wishes of the <ambodian and /aotian delegations) cease$fires in their
countries occurred simultaneously with the cessation of hostilities in 4ietnam.
Nevertheless) in most other respects) their persistence was largely responsible for
settlements highly favorable to their respective interests.
!n the first place) the #greement on the <essation of >ostilities in <ambodia called for
the removal of nonnative *ree Ahmer troops) whether <ommunist 4ietnamese or
<ambodians) ninety days from the cease$fire date +:uly 7(1. +*rench Union units) but not
instructors) were also scheduled for departure.1 #s the <ambodian delegation had
promised) those insurgents still in the country would be guaranteed the right to reDoin the
national community and to participate) as electors or candidates) in elections scheduled
under the constitution for %&''6 but the agreement assured their demobili2ation within
one month of the cease$fire. Separate Doint and international supervisory commissions for
<ambodia were established) as Phnom Penh had demanded. *inally) a declaration issued
:uly 7% by the <ambodian delegation was incorporated into the accord proclaiming) in
effect) Phnom Penh=s inherent right of self$defense. The royal government vowed not to
enter into military alliances "not in conformity with the principles of the <harter of the
United Nations"6 nor) so long as its security was not threatened) would <ambodia permit
the establishment of foreign military bases. #s for war materiel and military personnel)
the delegation made clear that these would not be solicited during the period :uly 7()
%&'5) to the election date in %&'' "ecept for the purpose of the effective defence of the
territory." Thus) after the elections) <ambodia proclaimed itself free to ta.e any steps it
considered necessary for its security) whether or not such steps were absolutely necessary
for self$defense.
<ambodia=s ac?uisition of considerable latitude was entirely in .eeping with the royal
government=s epressed insistence on not being either neutrali2ed or demilitari2ed. Bn
this point) the <ambodians received indirect assurance from the United States that their
security would in some way be covered by the Southeast #sian pact despite their
unilateral declaration. Toward the end of the conference) Philip Bonsal of the State
;epartment and the #merican delegation) told Sam Sary that he +Bonsal1 "was confident
U.S. and other interested countries loo.ed forward to discussing with <ambodian
government" the security problem upon implementation of a cease$fire. "hen Sam Sary
called a few days later on Smith in the company of Nong Aimny) the Under Secretary
recommended that Phnom Penh) at the conference) state its intention not to have foreign
bases on its territory and not to enter into military alliances. #t the same time) though)
<ambodia would be free to import arms and to employ *rench military instructors and
technicians. <ambodia might not be able to Doin S@#TB under this arrangement) Smith
said) but it could still benefit from it. Smith3
assured the <ambodian *oreign 8inister that) in our view) any aggression overt or covert
against <ambodian territory would bring pact into operation even though <ambodia not a
member. ! too. position that *rench Union membership afforded <ambodia ade?uate
desirable means of securing through *rance necessary arms some of which would be
#merican as well as necessary instructors and technicians some of which might well be
#merican trained.
Nong Aimny replied that <ambodia relied heavily on the United States for protection
against future aggression. The way was thus cleared for the subse?uent inclusion of
<ambodia in the Protocol to the S@#TB treaty.
The cease$fire agreement on /aos followed lines similar to those drawn for <ambodia. #
separate Doint commission was set up to supervise the withdrawal of Pathet /ao units)
although provision was made for their prior regroupment in the provinces of Phong Saly
and Sam Neua.Y #lthough /aos was prohibited from see.ing to
Y The /aotian delegation also issued a declaration averring the government=s willingness
to integrate former insurgents into the national community without reprisal. @lections in
/aos were scheduled for September %&'') and former Pathet /ao were promised the right
to participate in the balloting as electors or candidates.
augment its military establishment) the royal government was specifically permitted a
maimum of %)'(( *rench training instructors. 8oreover) the prohibition against the
establishment of foreign military bases on /aotian territory did not apply to two *rench
bases in operation under a %&5& treaty) and employing 9)'(( *renchmen. /aos) li.e
<ambodia) was allowed to import arms and other military e?uipment essential for self$
defense6 but 4ientiane also issued a unilateral declaration on :uly 7% ma.ing clear) in
terms that nearly duplicated those used in <ambodia=s declaration) that its refrainment
from alliances and foreign military bases was limited to situations in which /aotian
security was not threatened. !n view of 4ientiane=s epressed hope for #merican
protection) its delegates had succeeded admirably in getting a settlement containing terms
that restricted) but did not eliminate) /aotian control over their security re?uirements.
F. D!SSE3T!3: B!E/S> T)E #ME2!;#3 #3D B!ET3#MESE P6S!T!63S
No delegate at the final plenary session on !ndochina :uly 7% should have been surprised
when Under Secretary Smith issued a unilateral statement of the #merican position. The
United States had fre?uently indicated) publicly and privately) directly and indirectly) that
it would not be cosignatory with the <ommunist powers to any agreement and that) at
best) it would agree only to "respect" the final settlement. #t the restricted session of :uly
%J) Smith had) moreover) indicated the points which were to become basic features of his
final statement. ;espite the fact that the accords were in line with the Seven Points in
nearly every particular) it would have been presumptuous of any delegation to believe
that the United States) given the implacable hostility of #dministration leaders to
<ommunist <hina and to any agreement that would imply #merican approval of a
territorial cession to the <ommunists) would formally sign the Geneva accords.
Bedell Smith) revealing a considerably more pliant approach to dealing with the
<ommunist world) was able to eact from "ashington agreement to partial #merican
acceptance of the *inal ;eclaration. Bn :uly %& he had been approached by 8endZs$
*rance) who from the beginning had sought to identify the United States as closely as
possible with the final terms) with the proposal that "ashington not simply respect any
military agreements reached) but in addition ta.e note of them and the political
statements that comprised the first nine paragraphs of the proposed conference
declaration. 8endZs$*rance indicated the *rench would be sharply disappointed if the
United States could not at least ta.e note of those portions of the declaration. Smith)
apparently swayed by the premier=s views) recommended to "ashington that his
instructions be amended to provide for ta.ing note in the event the *inal ;eclaration was
substantially as the *rench had indicated. F;oc. J(G ;ulles gave his approval) demurring
only on the second part of paragraph & +in the final version) paragraph %91) which the
Secretary said "seems to imply a multilateral engagement with <ommunists which would
be inconsistent with our basic approach and which subse?uently might enable
<ommunist <hina to charge us with alleged violations of agreement to which it might
claim both governments became parties." F;oc. J%G "hen Smith) therefore) issued his
unilateral statement) note was ta.en only of the first twelve paragraphs of the *inal
;eclaration6 but this was much more than had been called for in his revised instructions
of :uly %,.
!n line with his instructions) Smith declared on behalf of the Government that the United
States would "refrain from the threat or the use of force to disturb" the accords.
8oreover) the United States "would view any renewal of the aggression in violation of
the aforesaid agreements with grave concern and as seriously threatening international
peace and security." *inally) Smith reiterated a U.S. policy declaration of :une 7&) made
during the visit of @den and <hurchill) that registered "ashington=s support of UN
supervision of free elections to reunify countries "now divided against their will Smith
mentioned on this point that the United States could not associate itself with any
arrangement that would hinder "its traditional position that peoples are entitled to
determine their own future..."
Smith=s caution against "any renewal of aggression" deserves additional comment
inasmuch as it was cited by President Aennedy +in a letter to President Ngo ;inh ;iem
on ;ecember %5) %&,%1 as the basis for the #merican commitment to South 4ietnam=s
defense. 4iewed in the contet of the conference) the statement does not seem to have
been intended as an open$ended #merican commitment to South 4ietnam against
possible aggression from the North. 0ather) the #dministration apparently intended the
statement as a warning to the 4iet 8inh that should they) within the two$year interval
before general elections) "renew" what "ashington and Saigon regarded as their
"aggression" since %&5,) the United States would be gravely concerned. Smith=s
statement) in short) seems to have been limited to the period :uly %&'5 to :uly %&',.
That part of Smith=s unilateral statement dealing with United Nations supervision of
elections is also noteworthy. <oming in the wa.e of ;ulles= epressed concern over
provision in the accords for !<< supervision) F;oc. J%G Smith=s reference to the UN may
have forecast #merican unwillingness to bac. an electoral process not supervised by the
Brgani2ation. !nasmuch as the United States delegation had consistently pushed at
Geneva for United Nations rather than any other form of international machinery) Smith
may have meant to give