Eisenhower Library, Eisenhower papers, Whitman file

Memorandum of Discussion at the 193d Meeting of the National Security Council, Tuesday, April 13, 19541

top secret
eyes only

Present at the 193rd Meeting of the Council were the President of the United States, presiding; the Vice President of the United States; the Acting Secretary of State; the Secretary of Defense; the Acting Director, Foreign Operations Administration; and the Director, Office of Defense Mobilization. Also present were the Secretary of the Treasury; the Attorney General (for Items 1 and 2); the Director, Bureau of the Budget; the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Director of Central Intelligence; the Assistant to the President; Mr. Cutler, Special Assistant to the President; White House Staff Secretary; the Executive Secretary, NSC; and the Deputy Executive Secretary, NSC.

The following is a summary of the discussion at the meeting and the main points taken.

[Here follows discussion on items 1. “Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security”, 2. “Constitutional Authority for Use of U.S. Forces in Reacting Promptly to Aggression”, and 3. “U.S. Strategy for Developing a Position of Military Strength in the Far East”.]

4. Expansion of Republic of Korea Forces (Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated April 7, 19542)

Mr. Cutler briefed the Council on the content of the report, and called attention to the sheet of cost data for an increased ROK force,3 which was distributed by Secretary Wilson. He pointed out that the current report was of an interim character, since the State Department wished to reply to President Rhee’s request for increasing the size of the ROK military establishment, prior to the Geneva Conference. He then read the recommendations in paragraph 7 of the JCS report, which had been approved by the Planning Board. Thereafter he called attention to the high annual maintenance cost for the proposed new level of ROK forces, and also to the manpower problem which increased ROK forces would pose. Finally, he said, the Department of State had reservations about refusing to provide a second wing of jet aircraft for the ROK Air Force, and that the Planning Board had desired [Page 1786] to raise again the question of the use of an ROK division in Indochina, to which the State Department was opposed at this time.

At the conclusion of Mr. Cutler’s remarks the Council discussed for some little time the accuracy of a manpower figure provided by FOA, which indicated that there were only two million males between the ages of 17 and 40 available for service in the ROK armed forces. It was widely believed that this figure was too low, and the President stated that it was essential to get the correct figure as the basis for a reply to President Rhee’s request.

Admiral Radford expressed the opinion that there was plenty of manpower available in the ROK, and also pointed out how much cheaper it was to maintain Korean rather than U.S. divisions. Admiral Radford also said that we should recast our whole approach to the organization of Asiatic armies. There was no need to provide them with the elaborate and expensive equipment which we provided for our own forces.

Secretary Smith stated that the important thing was to formulate a reply to Rhee’s letter to the President, since the ROKs have now agreed to attend the Geneva Conference without any quid pro quo in the shape of an increase in the level of the ROK armed forces. The Department of State supported the recommendations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff with very slight reservations. The State Department did not insist on providing an extra wing of jet aircraft at this time, but wished the door to be left open in case we wanted to provide the second jet wing at a later time. Also, in view of the fact that the Chinese were pouring tanks and artillery into North Korea, some items should be supplied by us to the South Korean forces. He heartily agreed with the rule of austerity in equipping the ROK forces, but he did not think that this austerity should extend to combat matériel.

The President said that of course we must not reply to President Rhee by throwing a wet fish in his face. The JCS recommendations were sound, and we should certainly tell Rhee the facts of life. Nevertheless, there was a lot more assistance that we could provide and many things that we could do to improve the quality of the ROK forces within present force levels.

Admiral Radford observed that General Van Fleet had a lot of useful ideas on this subject. It might be a good idea to send him on a temporary survey trip to Korea.4 Secretary Smith warmly seconded Admiral Radford’s [Page 1787] proposal, and suggested that Van Fleet be asked to go out and write a comprehensive report when he returns.

The President again pointed out the need of getting a quick reply to Rhee which would have as its theme, “We still love you, you s.o.b.”

The Vice President commented that as, in the State Department’s phrase, “a bone to Rhee“, Van Fleet would be perfect. President Rhee was completely devoted to him.

Mr. Cutler then inquired whether the Council approved the recommendations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The President replied that this should be the tentative position. The answer to President Rhee would be subject to modification in the light of General Van Fleet’s report.

Mr. Dodge said that there was another aspect of this problem which the Council should recognize. The larger the military forces that the ROK could get the United States to support, the greater would be their demands upon us for economic support in order to bolster their economy. Admiral Radford admitted that this was true, but pointed out that the United States was attempting to recruit indigenous forces among the Asian nations. The big problem in Korea, Japan and Formosa was their economic debility. If we want these nations to support larger armed forces, we would have to provide them assistance.

Mr. Cutler asked the Council if it now wished to reconsider the offer of an ROK division for service in Indochina.5 The President replied that no consideration should be given at this time to the use of an ROK division in Indochina.

The National Security Council:6

Agreed that the Secretary of Defense should ask General Van Fleet to undertake a mission to Korea of limited duration for the purpose of recommending the future size and composition of the active armed forces of the Republic of Korea and the practicability of a joint US–ROK program for Korean reserve forces.
Concurred in the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, contained in paragraph 7 of their memorandum attached to the reference memorandum, as the tentative position of the United States on the subject, pending receipt of the above-mentioned recommendations by General Van Fleet.
Agreed that the Departments of State and Defense should draft for the President’s consideration a message to President Rhee on the subject, reflecting the actions in a and b above.

Note: The actions in a and b above subsequently transmitted to the Secretary of Defense for appropriate action. The action in c above subsequently transmitted to the Secretaries of State and Defense for appropriate action.

[Page 1788]

[Here follows discussion on items 5. “U.S. Policy Toward Italy”, 6. “FY 1955 Appropriations for USIA and Educational Exchange Programs”, 7. “Reports by the Acting Secretary of State” (on Indochina and Geneva Conference), and 8. “NSC Status of Projects”.]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Drafted by Gleason on Apr. 14.
  2. Supra.
  3. See the memorandum, infra.
  4. On Apr. 21 Secretary of Defense Wilson announced that President Eisenhower had appointed retired General Van Fleet to head a mission to the Far East to survey U.S. military assistance programs in the Far East with special attention to Korea and the Republic of China. Visits to Japan and the Philippines were also scheduled. The mission was in the Far East from early May to early July 1954. The “Report of the Van Fleet Mission to the Far East”, submitted to the President by Wilson on Sept. 30, 1954, is not printed. (Attachment to covering note, Oct. 7, from Maurice W. Roche, Administrative Secretary to Secretary Wilson, to the Secretary of State; 611.90/10–754) For a memorandum from Robertson to Dulles, Oct. 25, assessing the Van Fleet report, see volume xii, Part 1.
  5. See the memorandum of discussion at the 187th meeting of the NSC, Mar. 4, p. 1755.
  6. The following paragraphs and note constituted NSC Action No. 1092, a record copy of which is located in S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) files, lot 66 D 95.