Saigon under the French in 1954

SR 7
Tell me a little about Saigon in 1954. What it looked like and what was hidden?
It was a marvelous city, delicious. Life was gay and crowded and all the famous place were at the high point of joy and enjoyment, when people didn't believe it's a defeat at that time. Or, there was war, a strong, hard war, but that was rather far away, in Tonkin, in Cambodia, in Laos, and so on.
And Saigon was marvelous. It is a very pretty city, you know, at that time, a very colonial pretty city, and it was so crowded and so many people and so many cars and so many dancing, and the taxi girl, Cho Lon, the Chinese city with the big Chinese, and the piasters and all the traffic, and all the Corsicans, and all the bars, and all the Vietnamese of all kind, those pretty Vietnamese girls, the Vietnamese gentlemen, only very well-informed people knew that things were bad and took precautions.
If you could try to speak a little more slowly.
Try it again.
Saigon at that time in '44 was a very nice city.
Cut. '54. Carry on.
Saigon in '54 was a very nice city, a very gay city, the people didn't seem to be anxious at all. People enjoyed life in Saigon to some degree. There was real no miserable people, no people dying of hunger, and so many people were rich.
And there was all the famous place: la Rue Catinat, l'Hotel Continental, Cho Lon, the Chinese city, and under that naturally all kind of traffic, corruption, but that looked normal; corruption and traffic were part of life, and nobody used to condemn it, it was on the contrary the source of the perfect and of the enjoyment.
But naturally the war was a war, was far away, in North Vietnam, in Laos, in Cambodia, and Dien Bien Phu was the beginning and Dien Bien Phu was a kind of bête quitte, double quitte, how do you say.
And naturally well informed people: the banker, the chief of the import-export, the businessman, the big Chinese knew things were bad and dangerous, and they took precaution, but you could not see it. What you see was a flow of life, a flow of enjoyment, all the life, all the traffic, all the noise of a very happy Far East.
Judy, could you understand?
Yes, I think so.
OK? Tell me a little about the Binh Xuyen, and include in this something about the Grande Monde and the you know, let's talk about their...what they did and how they became respectable.
I said to you that Saigon was a very gay city it was very orderly, it was very orderly because Mr. Bay Vien was the chief of the police. Mr. Bay Vien was the big chief of the Binh Xuyen and the Binh Xuyen was, were, gangsters at the beginning. Police by the gangster is a very good thing, thought Bao Dai, who appointed Mr. Bay Vien.
Because Mr. Bay Vien started very poorly as a poor gangster during the time of the French colonization. He went to Poulo Condore, a famous jail. He escaped. He joined the Viet Minh. But he disagreed with them.
The Viet Minh tried to assassinate him at that part he made a bargain with the French and the French agreed and Bao Dai came and Bao Dai is very diffident of honest people because he thinks that honest people are not to be trusted with. And he enjoyed and appreciated the capacity of Mr. Bay Vien who from gangster became general of the Vietnamese army and he gave him the monopolies, the monopole, of the Grand Monde.
The Grand Monde is an extraordinary thing one of the most biggest gambling places of the world. With all kinds of gamble and gamble for all kind of people. The rich, the poor, the peasants the beggars and so on. You can't imagine.
He has his private army, naturally, with his private army he controls the vice. But naturally, at the same time he kills the Viet Minh in Saigon. Also he was a very good chief of police.
One of the last things that Bao Dai did was appoint officially Bay Vien chief of police and Bay Vien organized everything. The prosperity of the commerce, and the well organization of the vice.
I remember that he created tremendous brothels of an extraordinary which was guarded by his soldiers and he...And it was this man, Bay Vien and his army which were the last support of the French and who fought against Ngo Dinh Diem and the Vietnamese army.
It was a time when South Vietnam was very dangerous. And mainly dominated by the Viet Minh. But the Viet Minh in South Vietnam were more nationalist than communist and at the time they had a chief who called Nguyen Binh and Nguyen Binh tried to take over Saigon by a theory and practice of terrorism very well organized.
And it was an extraordinary time. But in the end, Mr. Tam, the Tiger of Cai Lay the father of General Hinh, who created the Vietnamese army succeed to destroy those Viet Minh.
And since that time, Saigon was peaceful and South Vietnam was nearly peaceful because at that time the real battle was in the North, between the division of Giap and the French troops.

Transfer of power to Diem and the Americans

SR 8
That's all.
Seventeen. Dix sept.
The question is, who chose Diem, and why?
The French and Bao Dai.
Start over again and say "The French and Bao Dai chose Diem" so we have the whole sentence.
The French and Bao Dai chose Diem. The French because the situation was very bad and they were disgusted of Bao Dai and they thought it would be better to have a man who did not like them but who promised to them that as long as the French would go on on the war against the Viet Minh Diem would be loyal to them.
Bao Dai called Diem to power because he knew the situation was become very bad. And he did not want the responsibility of it and he asked Diem to take it because he hated Diem. And it was a poison gift.
But the situation changed completely after the Geneva Agreement and after the French agreed to give to North Vietnam half of Vietnam. Diem considered that his pact with the French was broken. And Bao Dai was satisfied that Diem has to support the shame of the partition of Vietnam.
A partir—at that time there was practically a kind of war between Diem and the French. Diem thought that he did not need the French any more because the French practically were fed up with the Vietnamese war and he thought of the Americans...he had since thought of them long before, but...he saw this ambition in them.
And Bao Dai at that time thought of disgracing Diem to replace them in order to take the power after the shame of the partition. And it was a kind of internal fight in Saigon.
At the start Diem had no power. He was alone in his palace because Diem was a man of the nord, he was a mandarin. A mandarin, what we call. And he had no support in the population, and with nobody.
But, he had...but as the weeks passed, he had the support of the Americans. The Vietnamese army first wanted to oust him which would be very easy. Hinh, the chief of the Vietnamese army told me I have to send a section of twelve men and it will be finished with Diem.
But Paris did not give orders; Washington did not give orders. Things were becoming complicated. The American agents in Saigon were furiously. In Saigon the French agents, the functionaries, the civil servants, the military men fought against the Americans and Diem.
But naturally, in the end, the power of the American and of the dollar were too great. And overall the American said to the Vietnamese Army you know, according to the Geneva Agreement, there must be elections in South Vietnam and you know that with the French their election would be lost for South Vietnam. And you will be crushed by North Vietnam.
In that case, burned with Diem, and oust the French. And it was what happened. And the last supports of the French was as I said to you, the Binh Xuyen, the pirates.
Let's hear about this tension between the French and the Americans in Saigon.
You know, the relations between the French and the Americans in Vietnam during the French war have been always very complicated. At the start, it was the head of the CIA who supported Diem - pas Diem, Ho Chi Minh and brought it in power, power to Hanoi partly.
After that there was a period where the Americans lost the illusion about Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh but tried to find a third way, practically against the French their attitude changed completely after Communist China came to the frontier. And from this time they supported the French efficiently with material and power.
And General de Lattre went to the States, and I think it was General de Lattre who brought the attention of America upon Vietnam. And I think that for Americans Vietnam becomes important since that visit. And since last...on that way until the Battle of Dien Bien Phu.
And even after Dien Bien Phu, the Americans wanted the French to fight on. And it was only because the French at that time, the French army, and the French government and the French people and the...France...was fed up with Vietnam that the Americans decided to take power in South Vietnam. It was not the government, I don't think so.
It was not an abrupt decision, but things turned that way. And practically the real fight was local between the American agency, the American people, Colonel Lansdale, the CIA, all the American services who hated the French and the French...the French army, the French general, the civilian, the French military and civilian services, Ce Second Bureau who hated Americans.
What happened for a few months I can't describe to you, it is too complicated. But you can't imagine how complicated with all intrigue, assassination, confusion, power, blackmail that was extraordinary.
How much more film do we have?
Let's hear just how the French felt and why it hurt so much to leave.
Because the French were used to live in Saigon. You can't say that the French made a population as bias.
For instance, the French in Algeria, they were colonial people. But there were only a few thousand, if you like. But they are developed a kind of colonial way of life in which they were very happy. The same kind of life as, if you like, in Shanghai or in Hong Kong or other Asiatic cities.
The relations, personal, private relations between the French and the Vietnamese were not bad. The French had taken certain habits they loved the country, they loved the land, they loved the food. They loved the campagne. They loved the feeling of that country.
The French soldiers at the same time were loved to such degree the war Vietnam which is so full of brain, of calculation, of torture, it was a kind of strange game with death, against death, and so on. There was a kind of feeling, gambling game, all traffics, and so on.
Practically there was really a kind of love of that life as if that would be ousted of that by the Americans who thought that the French were colonialists and they had a moral right to put the French out. But there was a big difference. The Americans act by morality but they never liked really in a sensual way, if you like, Saigon, the food, the climate, the jungle, the vegetation, the war.
Cut. That's lovely, that's very nice.
Now, we want to take one shot...