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from issue no. 06 - 2005

Some pages from Ambassador D’Orlandi’s diary

Bombs on Hanoi to block dialogue

Some pages from Ambassador D’Orlandi’s diary

Italian ambassador Giovanni D’Orlandi, on the left 
of the photo, with US ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge

Italian ambassador Giovanni D’Orlandi, on the left of the photo, with US ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge

27 JUNE 1966 (Monday)
Lewandowsky came to see me at 11. He is back from Hanoi and knows that I have come from Phnom Penh. He gives me the impression that he has come for an exchange of ideas. So I begin by talking to him about my journey to Cambodia and of my long discussion with the Head of State there. I conclude by saying that Sihanouk considers any move whatsoever to bring the belligerents to the negotiating table no longer relevant. To my great surprise Lewandowsky tells me that he is not in fact of this opinion and that his journey to Hanoi allowed him to ascertain the receptiveness of the North Vietnamese to a possible understanding with the Americans. The tone and precision of the terms used left no doubt. My heart is in my mouth with emotion. I ask him: «Are you the bearer of a proposal?» He answers yes. At this point I ask him if I may take notes of what he is going to tell me. Here they are: «The Hanoi government is ready to make substantial concessions to reach a political compromise with the Washington government so as to bring back peace to Vietnam. President Johnson is aware of this willingness of Hanoi to negotiate, but up to now his reaction has been negative or counterproductive. In fact the US government has taken the initiative through the Canadian ambassador Ronning who went to Hanoi, to propose suspension of the bombing of North Vietnam only if Hanoi ceases infiltrations into South Vietnam, as well as accepting an exchange of prisoners. The North Vietnamese government considered Ronning’s proposals as equivalent to a request for surrender and obviously rejected them. Hanoi was expecting to receive more reasonable proposals and especially of political amplitude for an eventual global settlement of the Vietnamese conflict. Not therefore discussion about the sending of packages to prisoners or the exchange of same, but dialogue about peace arrangements for the area.
Hanoi demands the most absolute secrecy and would not hesitate to deny everything should these, its proposals, not be previously accepted in broad outline and should any indiscretion occur.
The acceptance, meaning by the American government, in broad outline would signal the beginning of contacts and negotiation on condition that the participation of the National Liberation Front is assured and the suspension by the US of the bombing of North Vietnam. In order to facilitate the discussions of the “global” solution of the Vietnamese problem, the Hanoi government will not request the immediate reunification of Vietnam; it will not try to impose a socialist regime on South Vietnam nor will it seek a change in the foreign relations between South Vietnam and the West. Finally, though asking for the withdrawal of US troops from South Vietnam, the Hanoi government is ready to discuss a reasonable calendar». At this point, I asked Lewandowsky if I could reread my notes for him, which I did without having to make any modification to them. Then the most impassioned dialogue of my life took place. First a question: why are these proposals being made through Italy, in turn through the offices of Poland, when Hanoi could do so through a single intermediary, Sainteny, who is a great expert on the subject? Hanoi believes that the US government does not want to negotiate through the French. Why did it not speak directly to Cabot Lodge? Because it believes that Johnson makes his own decisions giving little weight to the counsels of my friend, because of which Minister Fanfani must present the proposal directly to Washington and at the highest level possible. I propose to him my need to talk to Cabot Lodge as soon as my first telegrams have reached Fanfani. He agrees. Insisting on the need for maximum secrecy, Lewandowsky declares himself ready to go, as soon as useful, to Hanoi and, for the preliminary meetings, to any city in the area. Moving on to examine the actual situation of the conflict, Lewandowsky tells me that the plan of the American military (in this moment being followed by their government) is to cause Vietcong resistance to collapse by intensification of the bombing of North Vietnam. He adds that these are pious illusions and that this could be the last chance for Washington to negotiate on the basis of such reasonable proposals. The Polish government is aware of this step of Lewandowsky’s, but if this attempt should fail Lewandowsky would ask to leave Saigon and be posted elsewhere. Before leaving, Lewandowsky insists on the need of formulating the preliminary encounters and the first negotiations in a general and global way, and not fragmentarily as, according to him, the Americans have a tendency to do. If possible, to avoid an enormous effort for the meager result of the exchange of packages and correspondence for the prisoners. I drew up dispatches for Rome and it was 4 when I ate. No siesta today: besides I’m still so excited that I will have difficulty getting to sleep soon.

1 DECEMBER 1966 (Thursday)
Lewandowsky came early this morning, he was radiant. We immediately shut ourselves into my office and I informed Cabot Lodge that the meeting would take place here at 5 this afternoon. Lewandowsky told me immediately that his visit to the North was fruitful beyond measure. He encountered great difficulties on every side. To begin with he had to disarm the mistrust of the Polish government and wring from them the consensus of staking everything on the tripartite attempt. Then a reunion of the North Vietnamese Presidium was necessary, which after a long and animated discussion consented to giving him a most secret mandate to pursue the tripartite negotiations. This is a real triumph, I could no longer object that this is a personal initiative born of the unrestrained fantasy of a Polish diplomat. Nor could it be objected that Lewandowsky represented only the thinking of the Prime Minister of Hanoi or of that Foreign Minister. Lewandowsky had outlined minutely for those governors the tripartite attempt and he tells me that not only were no objections presented against my participation, but that it was declared welcome.
The only condition imposed by Hanoi is absolute secrecy about the whole negotiation. In the case of indiscretion of whatever nature, whether accidental or willful, the Hanoi government would categorically deny everything, as would the Polish government also. So that everything doesn’t get scuppered and fail at such a good point, it’s necessary for us to reexamine from the beginning all the security measures taken up until now and that we mask the tripartite meetings even better. The first element will obviously be the speed with which we are able to conduct the operation. Cabot Lodge has already shown that he is capable of getting a response from Washington to his even most demanding questions. Lewandowsky finds himself in a less favorable situation regarding the speed of his communication with Warsaw and truly handicapped as far as that with Hanoi, where he must go in person each time. But today Lewandowsky is the bearer of broad proposals, so that the honor of response belongs to Cabot Lodge. On the 9th Rusk will be passing through Saigon for three days and will already be aware of Lewandowsky’s proposals and of Washington’s reactions. By the 14th then Rusk will meet Fanfani who, I am sure, will sweep away the last doubts. Before leaving, Lewandowsky tells me that if we succeed this evening or in the next meetings to lay down a basis for a negotiation, Hanoi wants to continue the negotiations directly with the United States. This disturbs me a lot and I immediately tell Lewandowsky explaining to him that, in my opinion, much more must be negotiated by the three of us before running the risk of a direct confrontation between US and North Vietnamese negotiators. Lewandowsky agrees with this, but says that at this moment such is the wish of Hanoi, and perhaps it could change in the coming days, seeing that Hanoi’s decision is not categorical and definitive. I immediately telephone Minister Fanfani telling him beforehand of a decisive telegram this evening after the tripartite meeting, letting him know that Lewandowsky has also become a valid interlocutor in the eyes of the Americans and telling him all the good I can about the Polish diplomat, who has given proof of acumen, intelligence, sensitivity, loyalty and, something that does not hurt, …luck.
Voices circulate in Saigon about Vatican initiatives for peace; the three truces fixed for Christmas, from 24 to 26 December, for New Year, from 31 December to 2 January, and for the Tet, from 8 to 12 February, lead this population, truly thirsting for peace, to dream and talk of a bridge that would go from 24 December to 12 February 1967. Something that makes American headquarters very nervous, conscious of the almost impossibility, if this truce comes about, of resuming the bombing against North Vietnam. Who knows why the Americans persist so obstinately in continuing the bombing when the infiltrations of the North Vetnamese instead of diminishing have quadrupled! […].

[After Lewandowsky has discussed positively the ten points of the agreement with Cabot Lodge].
Ambassador Lewandowsky adds that Moscow was (at the highest level) informed in detail and is waiting to know the developments of the negotiation. In a confidential manner, to me alone he added (after the meeting) that Gomulka and Rapacki believe that it must be done in a hurry and, though considering a direct Washington-Hanoi dialogue possible, they think the tripartite meetings would be much more useful. Lewandowsky concluded his response to Lodge saying that he will ask for some clarifications at our next meeting. Cabot Lodge expressed much thanks and said that the US government attributed the greatest importance to our meetings, that he would obtain the response requested in the shortest time possible and that coming to me on Friday (tomorrow) he would be able to arrange the tripartite meeting for Saturday. Cabot Lodge said he was in agreement about reinforcing the measures of secrecy. We agreed on some stratagems and, for my part, I said that my communications went directly to Minister Fanfani, deciphered by my colleague, chosen personally by him as head of the Codes service.
A bombing attack

A bombing attack

So by the day after tomorrow we will have the happy result!
May God assist us!

16 DECEMBER 1966 (Friday)
20th anniversary of the insurrection of Hanoi (16/12/1946). Many attacks. The news from the agency about yesterday’s very heavy bombing of Hanoi has caused lively feeling in all sectors of Saigon. My Vietnamese friends who know Hanoi well tried on the basis of the various news reports to identify the bombed quarters. They were categorical: it was the central quarters. The Chinese embassy had also supposedly been hit. The Americans have gone mad!

17 DECEMBER (Saturday)
This morning Lewandowsky came to see me and told me that on 15 December, Prime Minister Pham Van Dong, following the bombing of Hanoi, telegraphed Minister Rapacki that, in consequence of the new escalation of the war by the Americans, the situation must be considered changed. The telegram of Pham Van Dong goes on to underline that from the 2 to the 14 December Hanoi was subjected to heavy bombings and that in particular the one on the 13 was the most serious; this action decided by the United States, while tripartite talks are being held in Saigon (it seems to me worth noting that the message of the Prime Minister mentions us three) and following the talks between Minister Rapacki and the US ambassador in Warsaw, is to be defined as “cynical” and clarifies the real intentions of the United States. Therefore, Pham Van Dong concludes, we believe that, given these conditions, contact must be broken off. Minister Rapacki, in communicating the content of this telegram of Pham Van Dong to the US ambassador in Warsaw, added: 1) the United States well knew how promising the discussions in Saigon and Warsaw were, 2) just when those favorable prospects were about to become concrete, the US decided on further escalation of the war whose consequences they could not ignore; Rapacki had personally informed the United States at least six times. The bombing of Hanoi constituted a decisive element both for Hanoi as for Warsaw; by now no doubts can remain about the true intentions of the United States. Therefore the Polish government understands, approves and supports the position taken by Pham Van Dong. The entire responsibility for having annulled the prospects opened for negotiation falls on the United States.
Lewandowsky concludes bitterly by telling me that, now that the US government has succeeded in wrecking any possibility of negotiation, there will no longer be such intense bombing of North Vietnam and especially of Hanoi. I shall see him again at dinner at my house on Tuesday.

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