NIE 63-54/CONSEQUENCES WITHIN INDOCHINA OF THE FALL OF DIEN BIEN PHU

Created: 4/30/1954

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COPY NO. 3 ASSISTANT DIRECTOR,ONE

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NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE

CONSEQUENCES WITHIN INDOCHINA OF THE FALL OF DIEN BIEN PHU

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The Intelligence Advisory Committee concurred in this estimate on The ABC and FBI abstained, the subject being outside of their jurisdiction.

The following member organizations of the IntelUgence Advisory Committee participated unth the CentralAgency in the preparation of this estimate: The intelligence organizations of the Departments of State, the Army, tha Navy, the Air Force, and The Joint Staff.

CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY

consequences within indochina of the fall of dien bien phu

the problem

To estimate the probable consequences within Indochina during the next two or three months of the fall of Dien Bien Phu within the near future.

scope

The consequences of the fall of Dien Bien Phu on the political situation in France, and the repercussions of major decisions in France or Geneva on the situation inare excluded from the scope of this estimate.

conclusions

The fall of Dien Bien Phu would have far-reaching and adverse repercussions, but it would not signal the immediate collapse of the French Union political and military situation in Indochina.onsequence of the fall of Dien Bien Phu, the morale of French Union forces wouldevererucial factor in the military situationwould be the reliability of native units, particularly the Vietnamese. There would almost certainly be increasedand the possibility cannot bethat the native components of French Union forces might disintegrate. However, we believe that suchwould be unlikely during thetwo or three months, and that for at least this period the major part of the native troops would probably remain loyal.

ssuming no suchhe fall of Dien Bien Phu would not in itself substantially alter the relative military capabilities of French Union and Viet Minh forces in Indochina during the next two or three months. The French stand at Dien Bicn Phu has produced certain compensatory military results. It has prevented an overrunning of Laos and has resulted in the inflicting of casualties upon the Viet Minh comparable into the total French force committed at Dien Bien Phu. The bulk of Viet Minh forces released by the fall of Dien Bien Phu would probably not be able to move, regroup, and re-equip in time to bein new major operations during the next two or three months, although some lightly equipped infantry battalions might be made available more rapidly for operations in the Delta region.

Although the Viet Minh have acapability to organizeand carry out sabotage and terrorist activities in the major cities of Indochina, we believe that French Union forces could maintain control in those cities.

The political consequences inof the fall of Dien Bien Phu would be considerably more adverse than the strictly military consequences and would increase tlie tempo of deterioration in the over-all French Union position inparticularly in Vietnam. There would probablyerious decline in the Vietnamese will to conUnue the war and to support the Vietnamese military programs. However, we believe thatcollapse of French and nativeauthority during the next two or three months would be prevented by the continued existence of organized French Union forces and the hope among Indochinese that the US might intervene in Indochina.

e believe that although the fall of Dien Bien Phu would not immediately lead to collapse of the French Unionin Indochina, it would accelerate the deterioration already evident in the French Union military and politicalthere. If this trend were notit could bringollapse of the French Union position during the latter halft should be emphasized that this estimate docs not consider the repercussion of major decisions in France or Geneva and elsewhere, which couldecisive effect on the situation in Indochina.

DISCUSSION

believe that the fall of Dien Bien Phu, if it occurred as assumed in the problem, would result from: (a) French capitulation; or (b) an overwhelming of the French either by assault or by gradual constriction of the French position.

If the French were to capitulate without further heavy lighting, the adverse military and political consequences would besimilar in kind, though possibly of greater intensity, to those accompanying the fall of the fortress through heavy fighting. Viet Minh losses In the event of capitulation would be less lhan those which would beduring further heavy fighting.

In any event, the Viet Minh would have suffered heavy losses in the prolonged fighting at Dien Bien Phu. Estimated Vict Minhin the fighting there to dateoughlyercent of this number have been killed or renderedineffective.ewunits have been sent as reinforcements, individual replacements for the most part have consisted of partially trained personnel.esult of the Dion Bien Phu operation, the effectiveness of the Viet Minh offensive striking force will be greatly reduced during the next two or three months.

rench Union casualties at Dien Bicn Phu to date have been. llie defeat of the force now at Dien Bien Phu would addhus bringing tlie total French Union losses tol least two-thirds of these troops areprofessional units from Algerian,and foreign legion forces. Moreover, six of the thirteen parachute battalions in the French Union forces in Indochina are al Dien Bicn Phu. The loss of these elite French Union troops would reduce the French Union offensive striking force by approximalely

quarter, thus markedly reducing over-all French Union capabilities for offensiveIn Indochina.

onsequence of the fall of Dlen Blen Phu, ihe morale of the French Union forces wouldevere blow. Their will to win would be diminished, largely becauseidespread belief that military victory was no longer possible. The loss of morale would probably not be sufficient to reduce theof the professional soldiers of the French Expeditionary force. However, afactor In the mililary situation thereafter would be the reliability of native units,lhc Vietnamese. There wouldcertainly be an increase in Vietnam desertions, and the possibility cannot bethat Ihe native components of French Union forces might disintegrate. However, we believe that such disintegration would beduring the ensuing two or three months, and that for at least this period the major part of the native troops would probablyloyal. Therefore, we estimate thai the impart upon the morale of the French Union forces would be severe, but not of such severity as to preclude their employment as anmilitary force during the next two or three months.

The fall of Dlen Bien Phu would not in itself substantially alter the relative military capabilities of French Union and Viet Minh forces in Indochina during the next two or three months unless there were large-scale desertions from the French Union forces. The victorious Vict Minh troops al Dien Blen Phu would have suffered heavy casualties and their efficiency would be reduced. In order to bring these forces up to full strength, the Vict Minh would probably move them from Dlen Bien Phu lo Iheir main supply and training areas adjacent to the Red River delta. Prior to the rainy season, this redeployment would require at least three to four weeks. After the full onset of the rainy season, which Is unlikely before mid-May. the movement would taketwo and three months to complete. We therefore estimate that the bulk of the Viet Minh troops al Dien Blen Phu would not be available for major operations elsewhere in

Indochina during the next two or three months, although some lightly-equippedbattalions might be made available more rapidly for operations in the Delta

Although the over-all capabilities of the Viet Minh would be reducedonsequence of the losses inflicted upon their main striking force, Vict Minh forces elsewhere inwould have the capability during the rainy season to maintain and in someincrease military pressure against French Union forces. In the Red River delta, they could intensify efforts to sever landbetween Hanoi and Haiphong, ambush French detachments, attack villages, air bases, and other installations, and lay siege to Isolated French delta strong points. The scale of Viet Minh operations in the Delta, however, would be restricted by the adverse effects of heavy rains onThe Vict Minh could use their force concentrated in the Pleiku region In southern Annarn to launch fairly large-scale attacks against French forces engaged in the "Atlante" operation. They could also use units from this force for raiding operations in the Mekong River area or to reinforce the Viet Minh battalions now in Cambodia.operations in southern Annam, thevalley, and in Cambodia would beby the tenuous nature of resupply of ammunition and other military equipment for these units. The Viet Minh could at the same time organize demonstrations and carry out sabotage and terrorist activities in the major cities of Indochina. The Viet Minh capability in this regard is probably

French Union forces, assuming no major Vietnamese defections, would have theto maintain their present majorpositions in the Delta, and elsewhere, maintain control in the major cities, prevent the permanent severing of landbetween Hanoi and Haiphong, repulse Viet Minh attacks in southern Annam and the Mekong River area, and retain the area liberated in the "Atlante" operation. If the Viet Minh were toajor mililary

troop strengths and dispositions

FRENCHMINH

Regular and Light Bns . . . Regular and Regional Bns

MAJOR CONCENTRATIONS DELTA

Regularr. Ex. Force)ight0 semi-military

Regular Bnsegional0 semi-military

BIEN PHU

Regularr. Ex. Force)

Regularegional Bns

TONKIN (Less DB Phu Area)

egional Bns

NORTHERN LAOS

Regularr. Ex.ight Bns

Regularegional Bns

THAKHEK-SAVANNAKHET

Regularr. Ex.ight Bns

Regularegional Bns

VIETNAM

Regularr. Ex. Force)ight Bns

Regularegional Bns

CHINA

Regular Bnsr. Ex. Force)ight Bns

Regularegional Bns

LAOS and NORTHEASTERN CAMBODIA

Regular Bnsr. Ex. Force)

Bns

CAMBODIA

Regular Bnsr. Ex.ight Bns

These dispositions cover only Infantry units. The regional breakdown does not include the total number of Viet Minh and French bns.

SEC**ET

SEC

against Cambodia, the defense of Cambodia would require troops from other areas. French Union forces would retain the capability to launch limited offensivebefore the full onset of the rainy season, either in the Bed River delta region or on the coast of Annam.

he political consequences In Indochina of the fall of Dien Bicn Phu would bemore adverse than the strictlyconsequences, although the two areThe defeat would increase the tempo of deterioration in the over-all French Union position in Indochina, particularly in Vietnam. Ihc principal political consequences would be:ajor blow to French prestige among the Indochincse, and an increased conviction on their part that the French were unable to protect them against the Viol Minh;erious decline In French and Indo-Chinese will to continue the war, and ina further decline in popular support in Vietnam for Vietnamese military(c) exacerbation of French-Indo-chincsc relations, partlyesult ofIndochincse suspicions that the French will "sell out" to the Viet Minh;harp increase of "fense sitting" among politically conscious groups previouslyto support the Vietnam Government; andharp increase, particularly among Vietnamese, of covert aupport of the Viet Minh. However, wc believeeneral collapse of French and native governmental authority during the next two or three months would bo prevented by the continuedof organized French Union forces and the hope that the US might intervene in

The political effect in Laos would probably be similar to that of Vietnam. However, the Laotians would probablyreaterthan the Vietnamese lo stand by the French and to continue the war effort.

Tlie political effect on Cambodia would be exlrcmcly uncertain. The internal security of Cambodiaertain minimum stability might be maintained, but Cambodia'sto future Viet Minh pressure would

The Viet Minh would make every effort to make political capital of their victory at Dien Bien Phu. They would concentrate onthe sense of hopelessness in theStates, and would seek to convince the Indochincse that the triumph at Dien Bien Phu signalled their imminent "deliverance" from colonial rule by fellow countrymen. They would Intensify current efforts tothe status of the so-called "People's Governments"os and Cambodia.

We believe that although the fall of Dien Bicn Phu would not immediately lead toof the French Union position Init would accelerate the deterioration already evident in the French Union military and political position there. If this trend were not checked, it could bringollapse of the French Union position during the latter halft should bethat this estimate docs not consider the repercussion of major decisions in France or Geneva and elsewhere which arc likely toecisive effect on the situation in Indochina.

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