751G.5/9–253

The Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Nash) to the Secretary of State

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Dear Mr. Secretary: Reference is made to a letter to you dated 24 April 19531 with which was forwarded a memorandum from the Joint Chiefs of Staff concerning the proposed French Strategic Plan (Letourneau–Allard) for the successful conclusion of the war in Indo-China. Certain weaknesses in the subject plan were listed in the Joint Chiefs of Staff memorandum such as an apparent lack of aggressiveness, inadequate organizational and tactical concepts, and a failure to give sufficient consideration to the development of indigenous leaders. The Joint Chiefs of Staff stated that although they believed the plan to be workable they considered that it could be improved considerably. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, therefore, recommended that as much pressure as was feasible should be placed on the French from the political point of view to obtain a clear-cut commitment to overcome at least to some extent the listed deficiencies.

The plan presented by the French Command[er] in Indo-China, General Navarre, to General John W. O’Daniel, appears to overcome most of the objections to the Letourneau–Allard plan. In brief the Navarre plan calls for: (a) taking the initiative immediately with local offensives, emphasizing guerrilla warfare, (b) initiating an offensive (utilizing the equivalent of three (3) divisions) in Tonkin by 15 September 1953, (c) recovering a maximum number of units from [Page 744]areas not directly involved in the war, (d) reorganizing battalions into regiments and regiments into divisions, with necessary supporting units and (e) developing the Armies of the Associated States and giving them greater leadership responsibility in the conduct of operations.

There is attached for your information a memorandum to the Secretary of Defense from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, dated 28 August 1953, which states that the present Navarre concept appears to correct the previously indicated weaknesses and from their viewpoint presents a marked improvement in French military thinking concerning operations in Indo-China. Of course, the actual success of the operations in Indo-China will be dependent upon the aggressiveness and skill with which the French and Vietnamese forces conduct their future operations. Accordingly, the Joint Chiefs of Staff believe, as does the Secretary of Defense, that the necessary support should be provided to permit full and vigorous implementation of the Navarre concept, conditioned upon continued implementation of French support, demonstration of French intent by actual performance in Indo-China, and continued French willingness to receive and act upon U.S. military advice. Further, the French should be urged at all levels to support and vigorously prosecute the Navarre concept to the maximum extent of their capabilities.

Sincerely yours,

Frank C. Nash

[Enclosure]

Memorandum by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense (Wilson)2

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Subject:

  • The Navarre Concept for Operations in Indochina.
1.
In a memorandum for you, dated 21 April 1953,3 subject: “Proposed French Strategic Plan for the Successful Conclusion of the War in Indochina,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff pointed out certain weaknesses in the LeTourneau–Allard plan, but felt that it was workable. During the visit of the U.S. Joint Military Mission to Indochina, Lieutenant General Navarre submitted in writing to Lieutenant General O’Daniel, Chief of the Mission, a paper entitled “Principles for [Page 745]the Conduct of the War in Indochina” appended hereto, which appears to correct these weaknesses and which presents a marked improvement in French military thinking concerning operations in Indochina.
2.
In his report Lieutenant General O’Daniel stated that, in his opinion, the new French command in Indochina will accomplish under the Navarre concept the decisive defeat of the Viet Minh by 1955 and that the addition of two or more French divisions from outside of Indochina would expedite this defeat. Additions other than in divisional organization would be in error since it is the divisional team, with its combat proven effectiveness, which is sorely needed in Indochina. Lieutenant General O’Daniel further reported that French military leaders were most cooperative with the mission, that several agreements were accomplished to improve the effectiveness of the proposed military operations, and that repeated invitations were extended to the U.S. mission to return in a few months to witness the progress the French will have made.
3.
Based on past performances by the French, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have reservations in predicting actual results which can be expected pending additional proof by demonstration of continued French support and by further French performance in Indochina. The Joint Chiefs of Staff are of the opinion that a basic requirement for military success in Indochina is one of creating a political climate in that country which will provide the incentive for natives to support the French and supply them with adequate intelligence which is vital to the successful conduct of operations in Indochina. If this is accomplished and if the Navarre concept is vigorously pursued militarily in Indochina and given wholehearted political support in France, it does offer a promise of military success sufficient to warrant appropriate additional U.S. aid required to assist. U.S. support of the Navarre concept should be based on needs of the French Union Forces in Indochina for additional equipment necessary to implement the organization of the “Battle Corps” envisaged by the Navarre concept and necessary support of the planned expansion of indigenous forces, such needs to be screened by the Military Assistance Advisory Group in Indochina. In addition, to improve the chances of success, this support should include continued close liaison and coordination with French military authorities together with friendly but firm encouragement and advice where indicated.
4.
In furtherance of the O’Daniel Mission the Joint Chiefs of Staff are receiving Progress Reports from Indochina. Information received from Indochina indicates the French are not pursuing agreements reached between General O’Daniel and General Navarre (including the Navarre concept) as vigorously as expected by General O’Daniel [Page 746]and as contemplated by him in his report. Progress reports state that (a) the French have “no plans for a general fall offensive beyond limited objective operations designed to keep the enemy off balance”, (b) reorganization into regiments and division-size units “is still in the planning stages”, (c) there is “no sense of urgency in the training of senior Vietnamese commanders and staff officers”, (d) the organization of a training command is awaiting the solution of “political problems” and (e) the “organization of the amphibious plan has not gone beyond the planning stages”.
5.
In light of the apparent slowness of the French in following up the Navarre concept and other agreements reached between General Navarre and General O’Daniel, the Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that additional U.S. support should be conditioned upon continued implementation of French support, demonstration of French intent by actual performance in Indochina, and continued French willingness to receive and act upon U.S. military advice. Further, the French should be urged at all levels to support and vigorously prosecute the Navarre concept to the maximum extent of their capabilities.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Arthur Radford

Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff

Appendix

Principles As Stated By General Navarre For The Conduct Of The War In Indochina

I.—
To retake the initiative immediately through the carrying out, beginning this summer, of local offensives and by pushing to the utmost commando and guerrilla actions.
II.—
To take the offensive in the north beginning September 15, in order to forestall the enemy attack. To conduct the battle which will take place during the fall and winter of 1953–1954 in an offensive manner by attacking the flanks and the rear of the enemy.
III.—
To recover from areas not directly involved in the battle a maximum number of units. To pacify these regions progressively.
IV.—
To build up progressively a battle corps by grouping battalions into regiments and regiments into divisions and by giving to the units thus created the necessary support (artillery, engineers, armor, communications) taking into account the very special character of the war in Indochina (the terrain, the enemy). To bring about a maximum of cooperation with the Air Force and the Navy.
V.—
To maintain a reserve of special type units (armor, commando, light battalions, etc.) for attachment to groups and divisions in accordance with requirements of terrain and mission.
VI.—
To continue the effort of instructing and organizing the Army of the Associated States so as to give them more and more participation as well as more and more autonomy in the conduct of operations.
  1. Ante, p. 493.
  2. This memorandum is a revision of a paper, same title, submitted to the Secretary of Defense by the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Aug. 11; for text, see United States–Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967, Book 9, pp. 134–137. A memorandum by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary Wilson dated Aug. 28 explained the necessity for the modification of the Aug. 11 paper, which had been more optimistic than the memorandum printed here with regard to the prospects for the success of the Navarre Plan; for text, see ibid., pp. 138–139.
  3. Ante, p. 493.