7 May 1954, Washington DC, USA
A few hours ago, Dien Bien Phu has fallen. Its defense of fifty-seven days and nights will go down in history as one of the most heroic of all time. The defenders composed of French and native forces, inflicted staggering losses on the enemy. And the French soldiers showed that they have not lost either the will or the skill to fight even under the most terrible conditions. And it showed that Vietnam can produce soldiers who have the qualities needed to enable them to defend their country. An epic battle has ended. But great causes have before now been won out of lost battles. The Chinese communists have been supplying the forces of the Viet Minh rebels with munitions and trucks and anti-aircraft guns, radar, technical equipment and technical advisers. They have, however, stopped short of open armed intervention. And in this respect, they may have been deterred by the warnings which the United States has given that such open intervention would lead to grave consequences which might not be confined to Indochina. Accordingly, we are ready to take part with the other countries principally concerned in an examination of the possibility of establishing a collective defense within the framework of the Charter of the United Nations to seek the peace, security and freedom of Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific. And I feel that that unity of purpose still persists. And that such a tragic event as the fall of Dien Bien Phu will harden, and not weaken our purpose to stay united. Today the United States and the other countries immediately concerned are giving careful consideration to the establishment of a collective defense. Conversations are taking place among us. There are many problems; we must agree on just who will take part in the united defense effort and just what the different commitments will be.
An also I frankly recognize that difficulties have been encountered. But also I say that this was to be expected. Because the complexity of the problem is great, so great indeed that as I pointed out it was only possible in the last few months even to get started on this project. And under all the circumstances, I feel that very good progress is being made. And I feel confident that the outcome will be such that Communist aggression will not be able to gain in Southeast Asia the results that it seeks.
This common defense may involve serious commitments by us all. But free people will never remain free if they are not willing, if need be, to fight for their vital interests. Furthermore, vitals interests can no longer be protected merely by local defense. The key to successful defense, and the key to deterring attack is association with others for mutual defense. That is what the United States seeks in Southeast Asia.