The Grand Alliance and the Future of French Indochina


Memorandum by the Assistant to the President’s Naval Aide (George M. Elsey) (c. July 1, 1945) |
The Ambassador in China (Patrick J. Hurley), Temporarily in Iran, to the Secretary of State (April 14, 1945) |
The Ambassador in China (Hurley) to the Secretary of State (January 31, 1945) |
The French Embassy in China to the American Embassy in China (January 20, 1945) |
The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in France (Jefferson Caffery) (May 9, 1945) |
Excerpts from Department of State Policy Paper – An Estimate of Conditions in Asia and the Pacific at the Close of the War in the Far East and the Objectives and Policies of the United States (June 22, 1945) |
Excerpts from Memorandum of a Conversation (with President Roosevelt), by the Advisor on Caribbean Affairs (Charles Taussig) (March 15, 1945) |
Excerpts from the Ambassador in France (Caffery) to the Secretary of State (August 16, 1945)

Memorandum by the Assistant to the President’s Naval Aide (George M. Elsey), c. July 1, 1945

Top Secret
July 1, 1945

INDO-CHINAIndo-China first became a subject in Presidential messages in November 1944. General Wedemeyer, Commanding General of U.S. Forces in China, on 15 November reported that British, Dutch and French interests were making an intensive effort to ensure recovery of their prewar political and economic positions in the Far East. One example of this effort was the establishment of a French military mission in India which was preparing to infiltrate into Indo-China. For his guidance, Wedemeyer asked for U.S. policy regarding Indo-China which, by his decision of the Combined Chiefs of Staff, is in the Chinese Theater.

President Roosevelt instructed Ambassador Hurley the next day to inform Wedemeyer that “United States policy with regard to French Indo-China cannot be formulated until after consultation with Allies at a forthcoming Combined Staff conference.”

The President also asked Hurley to keep him posted on British, French and Dutch activities in southeastern Asia. Hurley had no information on Indo-China to pass to the President at the time, but on 26 November he sent a short diatribe against the policies of our three Allies, which, he said, were directed to the “repossession of their colonial empires and the reestablishment therein of imperial government.” On New Year’s Day 1945, Hurley sent the President a long and unfavorable analysis of British, Dutch and French policies with respect to China but he still had no information regarding Indo-China.

Nor did the Joint Chiefs of Staff know what our Allies proposed to do there. On 21 November, [1944,] by direction of the President, they had informed the Commanding Generals of U.S. Forces in India, Burma, and China that : “This Government has made no final decisions on the future of Indo-China, and it expects to be consulted in advance with regard to any arrangements applicable to the future of southeast Asia.” The Joint Chiefs were not consulted by the British or the French, however, and when President Roosevelt arrived at Yalta he had no official information on their intentions with respect to Indo-China except that de Gaulle had spoken in a general way about sending French troops there.

On 8 February, while explaining his views on trusteeships, President Roosevelt told Stalin he had in mind a trusteeship for Indo-China. He said the British did not approve and wanted to give it back to the French because they feared that the implications of a trusteeship might affect Burma. He added that the French had done nothing to improve the natives since obtaining the colony. When President Roosevelt said that de Gaulle had asked for ships to transport French forces to Indo-China, Stalin asked where de Gaulle would get the troops. The President replied that de Gaulle had said he would find the troops when the President found the ships; so far there were no ships.

In March, Wedemeyer and Hurley were both in Washington. President Roosevelt told Wedemeyer that he must watch carefully to prevent British and French political activities in the area and that he should give only such support to the British and French as would be required in direct operations against the Japanese.

On 24 March, President Roosevelt and Hurley had a long discussion on Indo-China. Hurley reported this conversation to President Truman on 28 [29] May as follows:

“In my last conference with President Roosevelt, I informed him fully on the Indo-China situation. I told him that the French, British and Dutch were cooperating to prevent the establishment of a United Nations trusteeship for Indo-China. The imperialist leaders believe that such a trusteeship would be a bad precedent for the other imperialist areas in southeast Asia. I told the President also that the British would attempt, with the use of our Lend-Lease supplies and if possibly our manpower, to occupy Indo-China and reestablish their former imperial control. I suggested to the President that for my own guidance and in order to clarify Wedemeyer’s position I thought we should have a written directive on Indo-China. The President said that in the coming San Francisco Conference there would be set up a United Nations Trusteeship that would make effective the right of colonial people to choose the form of government under which they will live as soon as in the opinion of the United Nations they are qualified for independence.”

While Wedemeyer and Hurley were in Washington, Churchill wired that he understood there had been occasional difficulties between Wedemeyer and Lord [Louis] Mountbatten, British Commander of the Southeast Asia Theater, about activities in Indo-China, and he proposed that he and President Roosevelt direct the Combined Chiefs of Staff to make arrangement for “full and frank exchange of intentions, plans and intelligence between Wedemeyer and Mountbatten as regards all matters of mutual concerns.”

The President replied on 22 March that he understood both commanders were independently conducting air operations and intelligence missions in Indo-China. This was wasteful and apt to produce dangerous confusion, and President Roosevelt suggested a solution:

“It seems to me the best solution at present is for you and me to agree that all Anglo-American-Chinese military operations in Indo-China, regardless of their nature, be coordinated by General Wedemeyer as Chief of Staff to the Generalissimo… If you agree to this proposal, I suggest that you direct Mountbatten to coordinate his activities in Indo-China with Wedemeyer.”

Churchill did not reply to the President’s suggestion until 11 April, after Wedemeyer had stopped at Mountbatten’s headquarters on his return to China from Washington. The two theater commanders had discussed operations in Indo-China. Wedemeyer was guided by President Roosevelt’s verbal directive to support only British and French operations directed against the Japanese, and he left Mount-batten’s headquarters believing he had reached an agreement whereby the British Commander would not carry out operations in Indo-China until they had been approved by him.

Mountbatten had another understanding of the agreement, however, and the British conception of it was voiced by Churchill to President Roosevelt on 11 April. It was apparent that political motives inspired British operations in Indo-China, as the Prime Minister wrote:

“Now that the Japanese have taken over Indo-China and that substantial resistance is being offered by French patriots, it is essential not only that we should support the French by all the means in our power, but also that we should associate them with our operations into their country. It would look very bad in history if we failed to support isolated French forces in their resistance to the Japanese to the best of our ability, or, if we excluded the French from participation in our councils as regards Indo-China.”

It was also apparent that the British did not consider the Wedemeyer-Mountbatten agreement as calling for anything more than an interchange of information, for Churchill quoted his proposed directive to Mountbatten as follows:

“You may conduct for whatsoever base appears most suitable the minimum pre-occupational activities in Indo-China, which local emergence and the advance of your forces require. It is essential, however, that you should keep General Wedemeyer… continually informed of your operations…”

President Truman answered Churchill’s message on 14 April. He did not make an issue with Churchill, but he carefully stated the American understanding of the Wedemeyer-Mountbatten agreement, as follows:

“General Wedemeyer reports that his conference with Admiral Mountbatten resulted in an agreement that the latter would notify Wedemeyer when he desired to conduct an operation in Indo-China and that the operation would not be conducted until approval was given by the Generalissimo. Wedemeyer’s understanding is that the procedure will be for Mountbatten to notify General Carton De Wiart, who would inform Wedemeyer in his capacity as chief of staff to the Generalissimo. If the proposed operation from SEAC could not be integrated with China Theater plans, then Mountbatten agreed he would not undertake it.”

Following different policies and without an understanding on operations in Indo-China, Wedemeyer and Mountbatten came into open disagreement in May. Mountbatten informed Wedemeyer he intended to fly 26 sorties into Indo-China in support of French guerrilla groups.

Wedemeyer asked for more information because, he said, the French Government had placed all French guerrilla groups in Indo-China under the Generalissimo (Wedemeyer is Chiang’s Chief of Staff) and not under Mountbatten. He asked the specific question, “What arrangements have been made to insure that the equipment furnished guerrilla units is employed against the Japanese?”

Mountbatten did not answer this question, and after a quick exchange of messages in which he gave Wedemeyer neither the numbers nor the locations of the guerrilla units which he intended to supply, Mountbatten abruptly ordered his planes to carry out the sorties without waiting for the consent or approval of Wedemeyer or Chiang Kai-shek. Wedemeyer on 25 May protested vigorously:

“It had never occurred to me that you would presume that you have authority to operate in an area contiguous to your own without cognizance and full authority of the Commander of that area. Your decision to conduct these operations without the Generalissimo’s approval is a direct violation of the intent of our respective directives.”

Wedemeyer informed the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the circumstances, as he saw them, of his misunderstanding with Mountbatten. He reported his conclusions:

“I have not sufficient information available to coordinate or evaluate the operations Mountbatten is now undertaking and I cannot carry out the explicit instructions of the President… If lend-lease materials are being made available by United States to British in support of French Indo-China operations, I believe that these materials should be turned over . [to the China Theater] so that our country at least gets credit for such support and further so that I can carry out my directive in screening the nature of operations in the area.”

Ambassador Hurley summarized his own view of the conflict in British and American policies which underlay the Wedemeyer Mountbatten dispute in a long message to President Truman on 28 [29] May:

“I had been definitely directed verbally by President Roosevelt in regard to his policy in Indo-China,” he wrote, “but we in this theater have never received a written directive on the political policy of the United States in Indo-China.

“It is in this situation we find ourselves when Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Supreme British Commander in Southeast Asia, informed Wedemeyer by cable that he is flying British sorties into Indo-China, which is not in his theater, without the consent of the Theater Commander, the Generalissimo, and without the consent or co-operation of General Wedemeyer. This military phase of the situation is being submitted to the Joint Chiefs of Staff by Wedemeyer. Lord Louis is using American lend-lease supplies and other American resources to invade Indo-China to defeat what we believe to be the American policy and to reestablish French imperialism.

“Attention is called to the fact that Lord Louis very recently requested General Sultan, United States India-Burma Commander, for a large increase in lend-lease supplies that will enable him to de-feat the Roosevelt policy in Indo-China and reestablish imperialism in that area. If you, sir, are opposed to Lord Louis’ political objectives in Indo-China, 1 suggest that our Government stop giving him lend-lease supplies and deny him the use of American Air Forces and other American resources.

“The move of the imperialistic powers to use American resources to enable them to move with force into Indo-China is not for the purpose of participating in the main battle against Japan. Such a move would have two political objectives: (1) The reestablishment of imperialism in Indo-China and (2) The placing of British forces in a position where they could occupy Hong Kong and prevent the return of Hong Kong to China.

“It would clarify the situation in Asia for all of us if we could be given: (1) A definite Indo-China policy, and (2) A definite policy on Hong Kong or if we could be directed to follow the Roosevelt policy in both areas.”

On 31 May, in a personal message to General Marshall, Wedemeyer endorsed Hurley’s interpretation of British intentions in the Far East. He reported that his information pointed to an increase of British political and economic operations in Indo-China for the purpose of recovering British pre-war prestige and economic preferment in Southeast Asia; and that it was probable the British would propose, at the next Big Three meeting, extending the boundaries of Mountbatten’s command to include all former British, French and Dutch colonial possessions.

There have been no Presidential messages on Indo-China within the past month. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have taken no action on inter-theater disputes in Asia, pending a meeting of the Combined Chiefs; Churchill has maintained a careful silence; and President Truman has told Hurley that this question will probably be discussed at the forthcoming Berlin Conference.

G.M. Elsey


The Ambassador in China (Patrick J. Hurley), Temporarily in Iran, to the Secretary of State

April 14, 1945.

Shocked by news death of President. As you know I am on a special mission directed by President Roosevelt to confer with Churchill and Eden in London and Stalin and Molotov in Moscow. During your absence and the absence of Under Secretary Grew, I was fully briefed by Assistant Secretary Dunn on all questions pertaining to Asiatic problems that might arise in the informal conversations to be held with the above-named officials.

It was the President’s suggestion that I undertake to obtain cooperation from the British and Soviet Governments for the American policy to support the National Government of China; to unite the military forces of China to bring the war with Japan to a speedy end and to support all reasonable efforts of Chinese leaders for the purpose of creating a free, united, democratic China. I had not intended to report on the mission to London and Moscow until after my conversations in Moscow had been concluded. It was my intention then to report the facts and conclusions in detail directly to the President and the Secretary of State. However the turn of events has made it essential that I give you this brief summary of the situation to date.

Had full and informal conferences with Churchill and Eden and the General Staff in London. Churchill and Eden have agreed to support American efforts for the unification of all military forces in China. They have also agreed that they will support America’s position in lending aid toward the establishment of free, united, democratic government in China. The discussions with the Staff pertained to the situation in India and Burma and problems connected with Thailand and Indo-China and the withdrawal of certain American resources to meet drastic situation in China and a justification for what America had done in that connection.

Later in the discussions with Churchill and Eden, questions pertaining to the reconquest of colonial and imperial territory with American men and lend-lease supplies and the question pertaining to Hongkong and other problems were interjected by the British. Nearly all questions pertaining to various phases of Asiatic policy were frankly discussed. Churchill definitely branded the American long range policy in regard to China as “the great American illusion”. He also disapproved America’s withdrawal of American resources in Burma and India for the stabilization of America’s military position in China. He said that the withdrawal of American resources from Burma and India might have a serious effect on the position of Mountbatten. I countered that America’s position in China was facing disaster and to prevent American failure in China, I considered it justifiable and essential to use as much of American resources as necessary for the purpose of maintaining American position in China which, with the Pacific operations, constitute the real battlefronts against Japan. When the subject was broached, I told Churchill I was not authorized to settle the matter of the use of American resources reconquest of colonial possessions in Southeast Asia. However, I expressed my own opinion that America should use all her resources for the defeat of Japan rather than dissipate them in the reconquest of colonial territory in the rear. Churchill disagreed most emphatically with my expressed stand. I replied that I felt Britain, France and the Netherlands had enough resources of their own to mop up the enemy in their own empires. The President briefed me regarding Hongkong and authorized me to discuss it if the question were introduced. Churchill flatly stated that he would fight for Hongkong to a finish. In fact he used the expression “Hongkong will be eliminated from the British Empire only over my dead body”. He then said that the British Empire would ask for nothing and would give up nothing and I replied by saying that President Roosevelt had given him the British Empire which, in my opinion, was lost up until the time we entered the war. I added we had given freely of the resources and the lives of America and that I felt that his statement that he would accept nothing and give nothing was logically and factually incorrect. I reminded him that he had already accepted much. I then pointed out that if the British decline to observe the principles of the Atlantic Charter and continue to hold Hongkong that Russia would possibly make demands in regard to areas in North China that would further complicate the situation and nullify most of the principles for which the leaders of the United Nations, especially Roosevelt, had stated that we were fighting.

I said that such a position would also be a complete nullification of the principles of the Atlantic Charter which was reaffirmed by Britain and the Soviet in the Iran Declaration. At this point Churchill stated that Britain is not bound by the principles of the Atlantic Charter at all. He then called for a copy of a speech he made in Parliament subsequent to the promulgation of the Atlantic Charter. I then called his attention to the fact that he reaffirmed the principles of the Atlantic Charter subsequent to his speech in Parliament when he signed the Iran Declaration. Notwithstanding all this he persisted that Britain is not bound by the principles of the Atlantic Charter. He sent to me by his secretary an excerpt from his address in Parliament which he had stated was the true position of Britain in regard to the Atlantic Charter.

Notwithstanding Churchill’s stubborn attitude the conversations were not at all unfriendly. At the end of the discussion Churchill reiterated his statement that he would support America’s policy in China for the unification of the Chinese armed forces and the creation of a free, united, democratic China. This of course was the chief objective of my discussions. Eden went even further than Churchill on this subject in saying that he would recall any British official or agent in China who opposed the American policy if I would supply him with the facts and the names of the persons concerned.

While the purpose of my mission was discussed fully in your absence with Assistant Secretary Dunn, the visits both to London and Moscow were clearly as the personal representative of the President rather than in my capacity as Ambassador to China. So upon hearing the news of the President’s death this morning, I considered turning back and not going to Moscow. After further deliberation, however, I have concluded that it would be appropriate for me to carry on unless I receive instructions to the contrary from you or from the President.

The Ambassador in China (Hurley) to the Secretary of State

No. 111
January 31, 1945
[Received February 10.]

Sir: Mr. Achilles Clarac, Counselor of the French Embassy, called on Counselor Atcheson on January 26, 1945 and handed him the enclosed “note” in French with English translation which he requested be forwarded to the American Government. The note appears to be self-explanatory. Mr. Atcheson made no comment to Mr. Clarac in regard to its contents.

I am forwarding the note without taking any other action pending instructions from the Department in regard to policy toward Indochina. So far as I am personally concerned, I have let the diplomatic representatives of the so-called imperialistic governments with interests in southeast Asia know that I am personally opposed to imperialism but that I am not making the policy of the United States on that subject. I have remarked to them that the United States is committed to the proposition that governments should derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. I have said that I personally adhere to the principles of the Atlantic Charter which provides that we shall “respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live”. I have commented that French imperialism and French monopolies in Indochina seem to me to be in conflict with these principles. However, I have emphasized, as indicated above, that I am personally not making the policy of my Government. I have accordingly suggested to the French that they should look to Washington and Paris and not to us here for clarification of America’s policy in regard to Indochina.

In connection with my opinion on this subject I refer also to the speeches made early in the war by Prime Minister Churchill, Secretary Hull and President Roosevelt which indicate clearly the principles of liberty for which we are fighting. These principles are also set out definitely in the Atlantic Charter.

[Here follows matter pertaining to China.]

Respectfully yours,

Patrick J. Hurley

The French Embassy in China to the American Embassy in China

January 20, 1945.

Note: The political position taken by the Provisional Government of the French Republic regarding Indochina is plain. A few sentences will be sufficient to make it clear.

First, France cannot admit any discussion about the principle of her establishment in Indochina. Her presence founded on agreements consistent with international law and based on the immense task carried out by her for the sake of the Indochinese population has never been disputed by any Power. The occupation of Indochina by the Japanese has not changed anything in that state of affairs. This occupation is nothing but a war incident similar to the invasion by the Japanese forces of Malaya, of the Netherlands East Indies and Burma. The activity of the underground movement, the formation of the expeditionary forces that we are ready to send to the Far East, reveal the energy with which France intends to take part in the liberation of those of her territories that have been momentarily torn away from her by the enemy.

This being clear, the French Government is prepared to consider with her allies all the measures that may be taken to insure security and peace for the future in the Pacific area; with respect to these measures she intends to play her part to which the importance of her interests in the Far East entitle her.

Furthermore, the French Government has already decided at the Brazzaville conference the principles of the policy she means to follow in her overseas possessions. Accordingly she will determine together with the populations concerned the status of Indochina on a basis that will secure for the Union a satisfactory autonomy within the frame of the French Empire. Besides, Indochina will be granted an economic regime that will enable her to profit widely by the advantages of international competition. These decisions, having no international character, come solely within the competence of the French Government. Thoroughly aware of the importance of the principles at stake in the present war, France will not shrink from her responsibilities.

For the time being, however, France’s concerns in the Far East are mainly military. As early as June 1943, the French Committee of National Liberation made it known to its allies that it considered that area as one where it would be extremely desirable for all the interested parties to establish thorough military collaboration. On the 4th of October 1943, it decided to form an expeditionary force that would take part in western Pacific operations and in the liberation of Indochina. At the same time the French Government established in Indochina a network of connections with the French and Indochinese underground. By this action, the efficacy of which has been proved by the role of the French Forces of the Interior in France, it will support the assault of the forces attacking from without and help them in their task in a way that can be decisive.

The French Government has informed Washington and London of all the measures it has taken in that respect. It has repeatedly asked that the expeditionary forces should be sent to the area and used to the best advantage; but the answer was that the decision belonged to President Roosevelt and the Combined Chiefs of Staff. They have not yet responded. Nevertheless, the French Government is prepared to have its expeditionary forces used in the American as well as in the British theatre of operations. Considering therefore the part France is entitled to play and ready to assume in the military operations in the Pacific, it would be useful that she be admitted to the Pacific War Council and particularly to the Sub-Committee responsible for the operations involving French Indochina.

The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in France (Jefferson Caffery)

May 9, 1945-noon

1949. Following telegram dated May 8 received from the Secretary at San Francisco, is repeated for your information.

“The subject of Indo-China came up in a recent conversation I had with Bidault and Bonnet. The latter remarked that although the French Government interprets Mr. Welles’ statement of 1942 concerning the restoration of French sovereignty over the French Empire as including Indo-China, the press continues to imply that a special status will be reserved for this colonial area. It was made quite clear to Bidault that the record is entirely innocent of any official statement of this government questioning, even by implication, French sovereignty over Indo-China. Certain elements of American public opinion, however, condemned French governmental policies and practices in Indo-China. Bidault seemed relieved and has no doubt cabled Paris that he received renewed assurances of our recognition of French sovereignty over that area.”


An Estimate of Conditions in Asia and the Pacific at the Close of the War in the Far East and the Objectives and Policies of the United States

June 22, 1945

A Policy Paper Prepared in the Department of State

I. Introduction

When V day comes in the Far East and the Pacific it will be the result in largest measure of the military might and the sacrifices of the United States. In return the American people ask for a reasonable assurance of peace and security in this great area and economic welfare. Peace and security, and economic welfare, however, depend on a number of conditions.

One of these conditions is the right of all peoples to choose the form of Government under which they will live. The United States, therefore, has a definite interest that there should be a progressive enlargement of the political responsibilities, both as individuals and as groups of all the peoples of this region in order that they may be prepared and able to assume the responsibilities of natural freedom as well as to enjoy its rights. To this end we would wish to see in China and in other independent countries governments established on a broader basis of the population, and the elimination, so far as international security conditions and arrangements permit, of those conditions favoring foreign nationals which impair the sovereign rights of those countries; and in the dependent areas in this region we would wish to see the peoples given the opportunity to achieve a progressively larger measure of self-government.

During the past four hundred years the Western Powers–and more recently Japan–by war, threat of war, and exploitation of ignorance on the part of Oriental Governments, extended Western sovereignty, economic and political control, or exceptional semi-sovereignty rights over great areas of Asia and the Pacific–areas which produce a substantial part of the world’s supply of many critically important primary commodities and contain more than half of the human race.

In the past half century, however, the rising nationalism in Asia has led to a demand for freedom from this political and economic subjection, and the demand has increased in strength and in insistence, and has been intensified by Japanese propaganda during the present war. The fact that each Far Eastern people was suffering under disabilities maintained by the Western Powers provided the Far Eastern nations with a bond of kinship over and beyond common membership among the peoples of Asia.

Aside from the traditional American belief in the right of all peoples to independence, the largest possible measure of political freedom for the countries of Asia consistent with their ability to assume the responsibility thereof is probably necessary in order to achieve the chief objective of the United States in the Far East and the Pacific: continuing peace and security.

Another condition on which peace and security depend is cooperation among the peace-minded states of the world. One of the foremost policies of the United States is to maintain the unity of purpose and action of all the United Nations, especially of the leading powers. Two of these leading powers are Great Britain and France, each of which has dependencies in the Far East in which there is an insistent demand for a greater measure of self-government than the parent states have yet been willing to grant…

V. French Indochina

A. Estimate of Conditions at the End of the War

1. Political

At the end of the war, political conditions in Indochina, and especially in the north, will probably be particularly unstable. The Indochinese independence groups, which may have been working against the Japanese, will quite possibly oppose the restoration of French control. Independence sentiment in the area is believed to be increasingly strong. The Indochinese Independence League, representing some ten different native political groups, is thought to carry substantial influence with between one-quarter and one-half million persons. The serious 1930 insurrection, in which over 100,000 peasants actively participated, and similar insurrections which took place in the fall of 1940 indicate that the supporters of independence are neither apathetic nor supine and are willing to fight. It is believed that the French will encounter serious difficulty in overcoming this opposition and in reestablishing French control. What effect the Japanese declarations of independence for Annam, Cambodia, and Luang Prabang will have in the period immediately following the war cannot be estimated at this time, but clearly these declarations will make the French problem more difficult.

The French government recognizes that it will have very serious difficulties in reestablishing and maintaining its control in Indochina, and its several statements regarding the future of that country show an increasing trend toward autonomy for the French administration. Even the latest statement, however, shows little intention to give the Indochinese self-government. An increased measure of self-government would seem essential if the Indochinese are to be reconciled to continued French control.

2. Economic

Economically, Indochina has so far suffered least of all the countries involved in the war in the Far East. Bombing and fighting before the close of the war will probably, however, have resulted in the destruction of some of its railway system, key bridges, harbor installations, and the more important industrial and power plants. This will probably intensify already existing food shortages in the north and lack of consumer goods throughout the area.

Pre-war French policies involved economic exploitation of the colony for France. Indochina had to buy dear in the high, unprotected market of France and sell cheap in the unprotected markets of other nations. The French realize that this economic policy, which was very detrimental to Indochina, must be changed. They have pledged tariff autonomy and equality of tariff rates for other countries. There is no indication, however, that the French intend to pursue an open-door economic policy.

B. International Relations

French policy toward Indochina will be dominated by the desire to reestablish control in order to reassert her prestige in the world as a great power. This purpose will be augmented by the potent influence of the Banque de l’Indochine and other economic interests. Many French appear to recognize that it may be necessary for them to make further concessions to Indochinese self-government and autonomy primarily to assure native support but also to avoid unfriendly United States opinion. Chief French reliance, however, will continue to be placed upon the United Kingdom, which is almost as anxious as the French to see that no pre-war colonial power suffers diminution of power or prestige. Friction between France and China over Indochina will probably continue. The Chinese government, at least tacitly, is supporting the Independence League and is thought by the French, despite the Generalissimo’s disclaimer of territorial ambitions, to desire to dominate, if not annex, northern Indochina. French economic policies interfered with all nations trading with China through its access to the sea at Haiphong. China particularly will look for a complete reversal of French policy in this request.

The Thai consider the territory acquired from Indochina in 1941 as theirs by legal and historic right, but they have indicated they will accept any border determined by an Anglo-American commission. The French consider the territory theirs and there will doubtless be border conflict unless a fair settlement is reached which eliminates causes for serious discontent.

C. United States Policy

The United States recognizes French sovereignty over Indochina. It is, however, the general policy of the United States to favor a policy which would allow colonial peoples an opportunity to prepare themselves for increased participation in their own government with eventual self-government as the goal.

Excerpts from Memorandum of a Conversation (with President Roosevelt), by the Adviser on Caribbean Affairs (Charles Taussig)


March 15, 1945.

The President opened the conversation with a reference to the Yalta Conference, saying that he had had a successful time. He then said, apparently referring to our last meeting at luncheon, “I liked Stanley” [Col. Oliver Stanley, British Secretary of State for the Colonies]. He thought that Stanley was more liberal on colonial policy than Churchill. He then asked me if Stanley was going to San Francisco. I said that I did not know. The President hoped he would. I told him that, although Stanley was hard-boiled, I felt there was a genuine streak of liberalism in him, and that under his leadership, the British would make some substantial changes in their whole colonial policy. I told the President of the £120,000,000 appropriation that Parliament has made for Colonial Development over the next ten years, and gave him some little detail of the debate in Parliament (February 7, 1945)…

The People of East Asia

The President said he was concerned about the brown people in the East. He said that there are 1,100,000,000 brown people. In many Eastern countries, they are ruled by a handful of whites and they resent it. Our goal must be to help them achieve independence–1,100,000,000 potential enemies are dangerous. He said he included the 450,000,000 Chinese in that. He then added, Churchill doesn’t understand this.

Indo-China and New Caledonia

The President said he thought we might have some difficulties with France in the matter of colonies. I said that I thought that was quite probable and it was also probable the British would use France as a “stalking horse”.

I asked the President if he had changed his ideas on French Indo-China as he had expressed them to us at the luncheon with Stanley. He said no he had not changed his ideas; that French Indo-China and New Caledonia should be taken from France and put under a trusteeship. The President hesitated a moment and then said–well if we can get the proper pledge from France to assume for herself the obligations of a trustee, then I would agree to France retaining these colonies with the proviso that independence was the ultimate goal. I asked the President if he would settle for self-government. He said no. I asked him if he would settle for dominion status. He said no–it must be independence. He said that is to be the policy and you can quote me in the State Department.

Charles Taussig

Excerpts from the Ambassador in France (Caffery) to the Secretary of State

August 16, 1945 – 1 p.m.
[Received August 16 – 1 p.m.]

4951. My 4875, Aug 11. As a result of informal and confidential conversations with a number of French Foreign Ministry officials, I submit the following as a general outline of the French Foreign Ministry views on certain topics which the French may bring up during de Gaulle’s visit…

2. Indochina: In addition to certain specific economic ideas for Indochina contained in my 4919, Aug. 14 the French are much concerned about Indochina particularly over possible Chinese designs. They say frankly that with the defeat of Japan special privileges in China including the French Concession in Shanghai are a thing of the past and that to maintain the French position in the Far East they must modify their former policy in Indochina. Generally speaking Chauvel and certain other officials believe that the best means of maintaining the French position in Indochina is to adopt a policy with respect to Indochina “which will have certain advantages for the US and Britain and which therefore will insure American and British interest in the future of Indochina.” As Chauvel put it “we should like eventually to operate Indochina in a general way as we operated the French Concession in Shanghai which was not only a lucrative business for us but which also was advantageous to the other occidental powers. Furthermore in the coming difficult period in the Far East Indochina will be the only real foothold on the Asiatic mainland for the occidental democracies (France, Great Britain and the US).” While the foregoing views appear still somewhat nebulous Chauvel said that Plevan shares them and is advocating such a policy to de Gaulle. is a project of the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University

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