Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Allison) to the Secretary of State1

top secret


  • Status of Indochina Problem

In the course of the Mayer talks full recognition of the interdependence of the fight in Korea and in Indochina was expressed. The French [Page 456] reasserted their resolve to pursue hostilities in Indochina with a view to “achieving success”. We stated our willingness to study French plans “so as to determine how and to what extent the U.S. may be able to contribute matériel and financial support to their achievement”.

The two governments also stated that in their view, should there be an armistice in Korea and “should the Chinese Communist regime take advantage of such an armistice to pursue aggressive war elsewhere in the Far East, such action would have the most serious consequences for the effort to bring about peace in the world and would conflict directly with the understanding on which any armistice in Korea would rest”.

M. Letourneau remained in Washington for two days after the departure of M. Mayer. M. Letourneau described to Defense, State and DMS officials the general Franco-Vietnamese strategic concept looking to the substantial defeat of the enemy in Indochina. M. Letourneau stressed in the most energetic terms the top secret nature of the plans and other data which he furnished.

Stated very briefly, the strategic concept involves over the next two years the training, arming, and equipping of 135,000 additional Vietnamese troops. These, organized in light battalions and officered entirely by Vietnamese, will be used in conjunction with Franco-Vietnamese units to clear up enemy centers of resistance in the south and central portions of Viet-Nam, thus releasing heavily armed Franco-Vietnamese regular units for service against the bulk of the regular organized enemy forces in the north. It is estimated that these latter forces will be brought to a decisive final battle during the first half of 1955.

The French estimate of the additional cost of raising and maintaining the additional Vietnamese troops needed for this strategic plan is, for calendar 1954 in the neighborhood of $233 million for pay, maintenance, food, clothing, matériel, etc., and $81 million for additional end-items from the U.S. For calendar 1955 the French estimate the additional cost at over $300 million for pay, maintenance, food, etc., and some $10 million for additional end-items from the U.S. (The present cost to the French and ourselves of the war in Indochina is estimated at well over $1.5 billion.)

The JCS have been requested by the Secretary of Defense to prepare a military evaluation of the French plan. It is expected that this will be ready on April 8. Meanwhile General Trapnell, Chief of MAAG/Saigon, although disappointed at the slowness and expense of the plan sees no alternative to its acceptance. Ambassador Heath has expressed [Page 457] a considered view that the program of expanding the Vietnamese national army as well as the military responsibilities of the Vietnamese Government is politically feasible and desirable. He has also endorsed other features of the plan.

So far as cost is concerned, it is believed that the French preliminary submissions should be and will be carefully screened and that there will be careful examination of the possibility of increasing the financial share of the war effort borne by the people of Viet-Nam.

  1. This memorandum was drafted by Philip W. Bonsal, Director of the Office of Philippine and Southeast Asian Affairs. A handwritten notation on the source text by Roderic L. O’Connor, Special Assistant to the Secretary of State, indicates that the paper was seen by the Secretary on Apr. 7.

    Allison was appointed Ambassador to Japan on Apr. 2. He was succeeded as Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs by Walter S. Robertson on Apr. 8.