The Pentagon Papers
Gravel Edition
Volume 1
Document 56, Telegram from Ambassador Dillon to Secretary of State Dulles, 14 June 1954, pp. 522-23.


FROM: Paris

TO: Secretary of State

NO: 4841, June 14, 5 p.m.

SENT DEPARTMENT 4841; REPEATED INFORMATION GENEVA 393.

DEPARTMENT EYES ONLY SECRETARY GENEVA EYES ONLY UNDER SECRETARY

1. In all probability one of first acts of any new French Government will be request precise statement immediate and future US intentions regarding military intervention Indochina.

2. During past week, I have gathered the very definite impression that because of (A) our reluctance to send ground forces to Indochina; (B) deterioration of military and political situation in Indochina during last month; (C) extreme reluctance, if not refusal, of ANZUS partners to consider joining US in any military intervention in Delta area, the chances of US responding favorably to French request for military assistance even after they have met all conditions are approximately nil.

3. Hardening of Communist position in Geneva as indicated by Molotov and Chou En-lai last week would seem to indicate that Communists no longer fear possibility of US military intervention in Indochina provided there is no overt Chinese attack. It would seem, therefore, that Viet Minh and Chinese will not accept any armistice which does not clearly pave the way for Communist takeover in Indochina.

4. Lacking the possibility of US military support, it would seem to be only a question of time, weeks or a few months at very most, before French are forced to accept Viet Minh terms. In the meantime, there is the constant risk of an all-out assault on the Delta which could lead to a serious French reverse, if not total annihilation of expeditionary corps in Tonkin.

I have continually pointed out that such a reverse might have a disastrous effect on French public opinion. Today I am more certain than ever that such would be the case. Rightly or wrongly, US would be blamed by French public opinion for having built up French hopes of intervention and then for having failed in the crisis. The result could well be a neutralist government in France that would reduce French military commitments to NATO and would, at the same time, be completely intransigeant on question of German rearmament. Such a government would also, in all probability, make a strong effort to strengthen relations with the Soviet Union and to recreate the wartime Franco-USSR alliance in order to prevent German rearmament.

From this distance, I cannot judge what the effect of such French actions would be on American public opinion and particularly on our Congress, but I suspect that it might lead to an irresistible demand for the recall of some, if not all, of our troops from Europe, which, in effect, would mean the end of the North Atlantic Alliance followed eventually by the isolation of the Western Hemisphere.

5. In view of these very serious and grave dangers which we will run if we allow the French to be defeated militarily in the Delta, and if my assumption in paragraph 2 above is correct, I recommend that you give serious consideration to promptly informing the French that because of either (A) the deterioration of the military situation in Indochina or (B) the reluctance of the ANZUS powers to take action, or both, the President is no longer prepared to request military intervention from the Congress even if the French should now fully meet our conditions. While such action on our part would hasten what now appears to be the inevitable loss of Vietnam and might cause a certain additional temporary loss of face for the US, it would put the French on notice that they should promptly accept the Viet Minh armistice terms and thus would save the French Expeditionary Corps from possible military disaster. In the event of a withdrawal from Indochina under such circumstances, I would not forsee any serious or long term repercussions on France's position in the North Atlantic Alliance. If we allow the French to continue to fight in the false hope that in the event of a crisis in the Delta, they may get US military assistance, the best we can hope for is to delay the Communist conquest of Vietnam by a few months, while we risk the very existence of the North Atlantic Alliance.

From my viewpoint here in Paris, the possibility of a few months delay in the Communist takeover of Indochina does not seem at all commensurate with the risk of the possible collapse of the defense of Western Europe.

6. While I have several times made it clear, both to Laniel and Maurice Schumann, that, as indicated in paragraph 8 of your TEDUL 185 from San Francisco, our decision would have to be made in the light of "conditions at the time"; this is not at all clear to French public opinion and is not even very clear to Schumann himself, as he has no means of knowing how we will judge "the conditions at the time". Therefore, what I am in effect recommending is that we adopt your suggestion contained in paragraph 8 of TEDUL 185 of putting a time limit on our intervention offer with the additional proviso that I would suggest that the time limit be now.

DILLON


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