The Pentagon Papers
Document 69, Telegram from Ambassador Dillon to Secretary of State Dulles on the French Position on the Negotiations, 2 July 1954, pp. 541-42.
TO: Secretary of State
NO: 32, July 2, 8 p.m.
SENT DEPARTMENT 32, REPEATED INFORMATION GENEVA 2, SAIGON 4.
Re DEPTELs 5 and 8.
I took up reference telegrams with Mendes this afternoon. Regarding present withdrawals in the delta Mendes said that these had been planned in May by the Laniel government and he had made no change in the original plan. The withdrawals represent a definite shortening of the French lines to protect Hanoi, Haiphong and the connecting road.
He said he had been much surprised to read in the papers that a State Department spokesman had said that the US had not had prior information regarding these withdrawals. He had assumed, he said, that Ely had fully informed O'Daniel of his plans. He then accordingly asked Ely this morning if that was not the case and Ely had told him that he had not informed O'Daniel. Mendes accordingly offered his apologies and said that he had instructed Ely in the future to keep O'Daniel fully informed on the spot.
Regarding withdrawals themselves he said they were necessary to ensure the safety of the French Expeditionary Corps. He said that the French had offered to take with them those members of the local population who desired protection and that the French forces had provided transportation for such people. He said he had not seen the latest figures but a fairly substantial number of people had availed themselves of this opportunity. On the other hand, there had been many who preferred to stay where they were.
In this connection he said that since Dien Bien Phu the Viet Minh had not conducted reprisals when they occupied new territory but had behaved very well toward the local population. He said that he realized that this might only be a temporary policy to facilitate negotiations at Geneva, but that for whatever it was worth, it was the fact. He then said that the withdrawals were not yet completed and showed me on a rough map where further withdrawals were scheduled. These include the Phu Ly area and a portion of the area to the west of Hanoi.
Regarding the right of population transfer as contained in paragraph 6 of DEPTEL 4853, Mendes said that he was thoroughly in accord that this would be a good thing from the French point of view. He said that it had been mentioned to the Viet Minh in Geneva and that they had made no answer either favorable or unfavorable. When I reiterated the importance that we attach to this subject, Mendes made a note of it and said that he was writing Chauvel tonight and would include in his letter of instruction a reference to this subject. I think it would be useful if Johnson would stress this subject in his next talk with Chauvel.
Mendes then said negotiations in Geneva had been at a standstill and that he had instructed Chauvel to go to Berne for two days to show that the French were in no greater hurry than the Viet Minh. He said that the Soviet representative at Geneva had told Chauvel not to worry about the slow pace of the negotiations as at conferences such as these everything was always settled in last few hours.
Regarding DEPTEL 8, use of word "withdrawal" was intended only to mean deployment agreed regroupment areas. Mendes said that the French on timing of election are holding out for 18 months after completion of regrouping which, he said, would mean 22 or 23 months after cease-fire. Viet Minh are asking for elections six months after cease-fire. Mendes expects the final result will be a compromise somewhere in between.
He then commented that Diem had made an unhelpful speech the other day in Saigon when he was quoted as having said that he was in favor of the elections within a year. Mendes thinks that this is too soon and not in the interests of Vietnam, and it runs counter to what the French were trying to obtain at Geneva.
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