This page from President Eisenhower's Memoires, Mandate for Change, page 372, shows that he believed Ho Chi Minh would have won any free election in Vietnam in 1954. This is certainly why the U.S. did not permit such an election, though the Geneva Convention of 1954 required it.
"Reviewing the entire episode in retrospect, I find that four questions merit consideration:
(1) Why, with the superiority in manpower and resources available, were the French unable to win?
(2) Why was the very considerable amount of material American aid not more effective in helping the French?
(3) Why, when the French were in difficulty and the interests of the Free World affected, at least indirectly, were the successive French governments unwilling to take logical and reasonable steps to bring United States' and other support to their assistance?
(4) What lessons or benefits, if any, accrued to the Free World as a result?
I am convinced that the French could not win the war because the internal political situation in Vietnam, weak and confused, badly weakened their military position. I have never talked or corresponded with a person knowledgeable in Indochinese affairs who did not agree that had elections been held as of the time of the fighting, possibly 80 per cent of the populations would have voted for the Communist Ho Chi Minh as their leader rather than Chief of State Bao Dai. Indeed, the lack of readership and drive on the part of Bao Dai was a factor in the feeling prevalent among Vietnamese that they had nothing to fight for. As one Frenchman said to me, 'What Vietnam needs is another Syngman Rhee, regardless of all the difficulties the presence of such a personality would entail.'
In the earlier stages of the conflict, the fighting was mostly conducted where rough terrain made it impossible to seek out the enemy and bring him to a pitched battle. Later, even when the battle lines became so located that the grouses mobiles could be effective, there still existed within the Red River Delta a condition in which the French could control even the main roads for only about two or three hours a day. The rest of the time all lines of communication were in the hands of the Vietminh. This meant that the mass of the population supported the enemy. With such a feeling prevalent, it was inevitable that the French should find it impossible to retain the loyalty of their Vietnamese troops." (emphasis added - GF)
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