NO AMERICAN newsman was more active than Joseph W. Alsop in sounding alarm about the communist threat in Indochina. A newly-declassified document quotes Alsop as telling a French minister of state, "I intend to force the hand of the American government in this matter as the only means of saving the situation."

A cable from Paris dated Jan. 5, l954, said Marc Jacquet, minister for Indochina policy, was protesting what he labeled "an apparent distortion" of his remarks by Alsop in a column in The Washington Post the previous day, raising the possibility of sending American troops to avoid French withdrawal.

Jacquet complained to the U.S. embassy that the "unexpected suggestion that U.S. troops be sent to Indochina" came from Alsop, not him. Jacquet said he told Alsop that was "only one of many possibilities which might provide a solution to the Indochina impasse."

The embassy said Jacquet "quoted Alsop as saying that if U.S. troops were sent to Indochina, he 'wanted to take part in the campaign,' " and instead of seeking Jacquet's opinion, "Alsop inflicted his own." As a final thrust, Jacquet "described Alsop's French as poor and admitted the possibility that this may have been a contributing cause to his misrepresentation."

Alsop came off far better, however, in another document involving a talk with U.S. diplomat Philip W. Bonsal on Jan 22, l954: Bonsal reported: "He (Alsop) thinks that Dienbienphu will turn out to be a hopeless trap because the enemy will be able to cut off the French airlift. I hope and believe he is wrong."