James G. Hershberg promotes his book "Marigold: The Lost Chance for Peace in Vietnam
", (Stanford University Press/Wilson Center Press, January 2012) in authorized "National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 369
The briefing by itself is sufficiently detailed and fascinating to read. It incorporates 15 original documents of that time, in Polish and Italian, translated into English: memoranda, diaries, cables, analyses, and messages. It describes attempts of a young Polish diplomat (35 years old at that time), Janusz Jacek Lewandowski, Poland's ICC commissioner and Giovanni D'Orlandi, Italian ambassador to Saigon, to broker secret peace talks between North Vietnamese and USA.
Their efforts were later supported by Henry Cabot Lodge, the American ambassador to Saigon. Notwithstanding the political barriers the tripartite secret talks between Lewandowski, D'Orlandi and Cabot were unusually friendly and frank. Obviously, they were supervised and authorized by their superiors in Warsaw, Rome and Washington - with the blessing of Mr. Brezhnev of Soviet Union.
The book itself contains many more details, references and documents, including 50 hours of interview with Janusz Lewandowski, recorded few years ago in a café in Warsaw.
At one point the clandestine diplomacy verged on a breakthrough, with the apparent mutual agreement to hold an unprecedented meeting between US and North Vietnamese ambassadors in Warsaw to confirm Washington's adherence to a ten-point formula for a settlement. "I thought I had done something worthwhile in my life," recalled the American ambassador in Saigon at the time, Henry Cabot Lodge, of that moment of seeming success with his diplomatic partners from Poland and Italy. "We had a drink on it." A date was even tentatively set for the enemy ambassadors to meet: December 6, 1966.
But the enemies' ambassadors to Poland, closeted in Warsaw, never met -
due, the Poles said, to the U.S. bombing of Hanoi, the first such strikes around the North Vietnamese capital in more than five months—and then collapsed, for reasons which were disputed in acrimonious private US-Polish exchanges at the time.
For years the communist Poles were accused by Americans of fabricating their claim that their peace effort had been authorized by Hanoi. American press, Lyndon Johnson, Dean Rusk, Walt Rostow, William Bundy, Averell Harriman, Robert McNamara and even Henry Cabot Lodge
loyally parroted the party line (despite private doubts in some cases) that it was all a phony, a Polish "scam" or "sham" or "fraud" or "shell-game" or even a KGB disinformation plot.
The "Lewandowski Affair" remained mystery until recent times, when Polish secret archives became open to public. Apparently Americans' suspicions were unjustified and unfair, as the book and its briefing clearly demonstrate.
The peace talks succeeded seven years later, after 52,000 more Americans had died, along with millions of Vietnamese on both sides of the 17th Parallel.