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United States Department of State / Foreign relations of the United States, 1952-1954. Indochina (in two parts)
(1952-1954)

Prelude to the Geneva Conference, January-April 1954: continued deterioration of the French military position; the siege of Dien Bien Phu; the question of United States intervention; the search for united action,   pp. 937-1409 ff. PDF (190.3 MB)


Page 937


PRELUDE TO THE GENEVA CONFERENCE, JANUARY-
   APRIL 1954: CONTINUED DETERIORATION OF THE
   FRENCH 'MILITARY POSITION; THE            SIEGE   OF DIEN
   BIEN PHU; THE QUESTION OF UNITED STATES INTER-
   VENTION; THE SEARCH FOR UNITED ACTION
 751G.00/1-354: Telegram
   The Ambassador at Saigon (Heath) to the Department of State
 SECRET   PRIORITY                SAIGON, January 3, 1954-9 a. m.
   1151. Repeated information Paris 351, Hanoi unnumbered. Depart-
ment pass Assistant Secretary Robertson and Admiral Radford at
Pearl Harbor. I spoke with Navarre shortly after my return from
Manila December 31. He expressed entire ,confidence in ultimate suc-
cess of his military plan, but admitted possibility of reverses in next
weeks to come. H-etbelieved he could hold Dien Bien Phu which avail-
able intelligence indicates will be attacked by Viet Minh but admitted
it was possible that Viet Minh might take-it, remarking that Commu-
nist China was now furnishing 37 mm. ack-ack which couldcause losses
to French planes which hitherto have been able to bomb and strafe
with impunity. Viet Minh now have been given tractors to move 105
cannon which could be moved up and placed on heights overlooking
approach to Dien Bien Phu. The 37 mm. ack-ack could hamper or
prevent French planes from putting such batteries out of commission.
  Navarre said loss of Dien Bien Phu-or even as many as 10 battalions
of his battle corps would not prevent his moving on to eventual victory.
Loss of 10 battalions in war of this size was not in itself important.
However, the effect in France of such losses and series of reverses
which might occur and even extend over several weeks or longer with-
out compensating victories would be serious and might even cause
some deterioration in morale of Franco-Vietnamese forces.
  The cutting, only temporarily he hoped, of land and water commu-
nications with Vientiane and introduction now of 37 mm. anti-aircraft
guns on Viet Minh Side made role and task of his aviation all-important
and very difficult. He, therefore, needed more planes (B-26 light
bombers), pilots and maintenance crews. He inquired whether 12
C-119s now on brief loan and flown by French pilots could be flown
by Americans on purely logistic missions to non-battle areas, thus
freeing French pilots for combat and transport tasks. His deputy
General Bodet was studying these questions and would consult with
us following day.
                                                      937


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