3. Telegram From the Special Representative in Vietnam (Collins) to the Department of State1

2554. References: (a) Paris telegram 422 Saigon, 2770 Department;2 (b) Paris telegram 427 Saigon, 2776 Department;3 (c) Deptel 26444 (paragraph 3).

Reference telegrams (a) and (b) reflect what I believe to be misunderstanding regarding ElyCollins memo of understanding. It was never my intention that memo of understanding itself would be submitted to Vietnamese Government. I made such statement to Ely in unequivocal terms, and it was my understanding that he agreed. Our intention was that memo would be strictly bilateral arrangement between us, and as such need not be shown to Vietnam Government. Last paragraph of understanding was included in attempt to avoid offending Vietnamese sensibilities should text of understanding become known, since in any case cooperation of Vietnam Government in program affecting its forces is essential to success.
Ely and I discussed problem of how best to approach Diem. We were in general accord that program for support and training of Vietnam forces should not be presented to him as fait accompli in form of prior US-French agreement, but as reasonable proposal that justified his support. Ely generally agreed with my suggestion that announcement of agreed program of US and French support for reorganization and training of Vietnam forces should come from Diem himself in manner designed to enable him to get credit for enlisting French and US aid in strengthening Vietnam Armed Forces.
It appears to me that French idea of redrafting understanding in form of French-US recommendations to be made to Vietnam Government suffers same objections as would presentation of understanding in its present form, since joint recommendations would have had to be agreed upon by France and US in advance of their submission to Vietnamese. Furthermore, force structure as contained in annex to understanding has already been made available to Vietnamese. I have discussed it with Minh as has General O’Daniel and MAAG, and Vietnamese General Staff has it under study.
As soon as we obtain French approval of minute of understanding on training, I intend to take up the substance of this matter [Page 10] directly with Diem after informing Ely suggestion mentioned in last sentence paragraph 2 above.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751G.5/1–355. Top Secret; Niact. Passed to the Department of Defense and repeated to Paris.
  2. Dated December 31, 1954; for text, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. xiii, Part 2, p. 2440.
  3. Not printed, but see ibid., p. 2441, footnote 4.
  4. Dated December 29, 1954; for text, see ibid., p. 2435.
  5. This and all other telegrams from Collins in Saigon were sent to Washington in the regular Department of State series over Kidder’s name.