26. Telegram From the Secretary of State to the Embassy in France1

2629. Achilles from Secretary. Following General Collins’ return to Washington today, we have been discussing various problems in Viet-Nam.

I feel that the first matter requiring decision is to resolve our present outstanding differences with the French regarding the memorandum of understanding signed by Generals Collins and Ely on December 13 and the revision submitted to us by the French on January 7. To settle this point, I want you to see Mendès-France as soon as possible and give him this personal message from me: (I leave to your judgment best way notify Faure to ensure he does not feel by-passed. [Page 59] I feel importance this matter requires approach to Prime Minister.2)

“Dear Mr. President: I have been concerned over our differences with respect to the issues covered in the memorandum of understanding signed by Generals Ely and Collins on December 13 and by the subsequent proposed revision of that memorandum drawn up by your government.

General Collins and I talked this matter over this afternoon and we reached agreement on the following actions which I hope you will find acceptable and will adopt finally to settle this matter.

There are two fundamental points of difference between the agreement between Generals Ely and Collins and the revised text proposed by your Government, one, in regard to the autonomy of the Vietnamese Army, to be accomplished by July 1, 1955, and two, the conditions under which the US MAAG will carry out training functions with respect to the Vietnamese Army.

I suggest that the first point be taken care of by a letter from General Ely to the Prime Minister of Viet-Nam which would state that by July 1, 1955 the Vietnamese National Army will be completely autonomous, specifically that all units of that Army will be staffed and commanded by Vietnamese officers.

This is a matter to be agreed to between France and Viet-Nam but it is also a prerequisite to American financial support of the Vietnamese Army and to American assistance in training that Army.

The second point could in our view be resolved by means of a letter from General Ely to General Collins which would specify that ‘It is agreed that United States personnel will be assigned, together with French personnel, as advisers to and instructors of the Vietnamese armed forces. All US and French advisory and training personnel assigned or detached to the Vietnamese armed forces will be under the direction of the Chief MAAG acting under the general authority of General Ely. As the efficiency of the Vietnamese armed forces increases, the number of US and French advisers and trainers will be decreased’. These suggested texts do not in anyway derogate from General Ely’s present authority.

If those two points were satisfactorily resolved, I believe we would both be in positions to move ahead rapidly on an agreed basis, in Viet-Nam.

Since the questions of autonomy of the Vietnamese Army and the role of the United States MAAG with respect to training responsibilities could be settled by this means, there would appear to no longer be the necessity of an agreed memorandum of understanding, such as Generals Collins and Ely drafted, or along the lines proposed in your subsequent proposed revision and we would be agreeable to having these letters take the place of the memorandum of understanding.

I hope you will agree with me that this suggestion will permit us to end an argument which seems to me increasingly sterile. I also am [Page 60] sure that you understand that agreement on these two open matters is a prerequisite to the United States making the massive investment to preserve South Vietnam in freedom which is our purpose. Given our common aims and the continued close and cordial cooperation which has marked the relations between General Ely and General Collins in the field I have a growing conviction that we will succeed. With kind personal regards. Foster Dulles.”

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751G.5/1–2455. Top Secret; Priority. Drafted by Merchant and Hoey and cleared with Robertson, Collins (in draft), and Dulles, who added the closing phrase “with kind personal regards” and signed it. Repeated for information to Saigon.
  2. According to telegram 3135 from Paris, January 25, Achilles was unable to see Mendès-France who was tied up in the Senate on January 25, but the Chargé received assurances that the message would be delivered to the French Prime Minister that evening. Foreign Minister Faure was also given a copy. (Ibid., 751G.5/1–2555)