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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 1395


PRELUDE TO THE GENEVA CONFERENCE
and lead rapidly to disaster. In France he was afraid that the loss of
Dien Bien Phu would strengthen the hands of those who wished to end
the war at all costs and he believes that his government which is the
symbol in France of the continuation of the war will probably be over-
thrown. Laniel said it was for this reason that he had made the request
for US military assistance.
  "In answer I told him that we felt deeply moved by the gallant fight
that was being waged at Dien Bien Phu and that we had shown our
feelings by doing everything in our power to help in the battle short of
direct acts of belligerency. I told Laniel that I was sure that he
realized that under our Constitution the President did not have the
authority to authorize acts of belligerency without the approval of
the Congress except in the case of an attack on the US. Action in
Indochina would definitely require Congressional approval. I told him
that the US Government was prepared to seek this approval if desired
by the French Government on two conditions. First, that the United
Kingdom which had real interests in the area would agree to join us in
the military defense of Indochina and secondly, that the Indochina
States had achieved real and complete independence. I further said
that from what I had heard since I had been in Paris the second condi-
tion regarding the independence of the Associated States seemed to
have been substantially met and should present no difficulty. I told him
that I could not foretell the attitude of the UK but that we were pre-
pared to do everything in our power to make them see the seriousness
of the situation and the necessity of joining in the defense of Indo-
china. I further told him that I fully realized the heavy load on French
and Vietnamese morale that would be caused by the fall of Dien Bien
Phu and said that I had hoped that this could be countered by the
formation of an alliance that would bring to France's aid within the
next few weeks the military forces of the US and the UK. For this to
come to pass however, it would be necessary for France to hold firm
in the coming weeks. I then told him that as a-friend of France I would
like to make one rather delicate comment. There were many peoole in
the world who felt that the tremendous loss suffered by France in the
first world war had been a mortal blow from which France had not
recovered and that France has shown by her tragic experience in the
second world war that she could no longer be counted among the
great powers. The French reaction to the fall of Dien Bien Phu would
have a tremendous influence on world opinion. I hoped that by stand-
ing firm France would show that she still had the spirit of a great
power.
  "Maurice Schumann then said that he understood from Bidault that
Eden might not P.o directly to Geneva but would return to London to
discuss the situation with the British Government. I told him that that
was not quite my understanding. I felt that, Eden was undetermined in
his own mind but that if he received a request such as we had received
from Laniel or from Bidault I believed he would then return to London
to takpe it up with his government. If the French desired help from US
and UK I felt it was important that he aet this message to Eden.
Laniel said that be would do so immediately and he asked Schumann
to make the necessary arrangements. The way the conversation devel-
oped I did not feel that it was appropriate to leave the President's
letter with Laniel. It is my recommendation that this letter be redraf ted
1395


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