12. Telegram From the Special Representative in Vietnam (Collins), the Ambassador in Cambodia (McClintock), and the Ambassador in Laos (Yost) to the Department of State 1

2636. References: A. Deptel 2130;2 B. Deptel 2477.3

1. Pursuant to suggestion in reference a and in view of forthcoming NSC and OCB review of US policies and operations in Associated States referred to in reference b, we met January 74 for general review of situation in our respective areas of responsibility.

2. We discussed kind of joint appraisal that would be feasible for us to make and that would be most useful to US Government, and reached following conclusions:

We agreed that it would not be desirable for us to attempt strategic estimate military situation affecting Associated States since this is properly function of JCS, requires information and staff assistance not available to us here, and must be conducted in broader framework than that of Associated States themselves.
We assumed that US Government appreciates, as we do, importance of preventing Associated States from coming further under Communist domination. We continue to believe that US should exert efforts toward this objective in spheres of military, economic, diplomatic and other aid. We have each reported in light of local conditions of chances of success of US assistance in helping these countries resist further Communist gains. These assessments have varied in each country; however, we continue to believe chances of success warrant US effort being made. Since complete withdrawal of US support would be unacceptable, we consider problem to be not whether US should render aid, but rather how much should be provided.
With respect to amount of US aid that would be justified in each state (considering chances of success in each), this is problem that can only partially be assessed by us. We have each recommended programs of US military and economic assistance for our respective countries. In determining magnitude of these programs, we have had to weigh combination of such factors as: (1) need for creation of indigenous military forces capable of providing at least minimum security; (2) acceptability of programs to political authorities in each country; (3) level of dollar aid that local economies can absorb without severe maladjustments; and (4) need to secure maximum results with minimum expenditure of US funds. These factors tend to be mutually incompatible, and thus programs recommended are at best balance among somewhat conflicting aims. Programs we have recommended, in consideration of above factors as they exist in each state, comprise contribution that we on ground are competent to make. We feel we cannot properly assess whether costs of programs we have recommended bear proper relation to other programs in Far East which compete with them for available US funds, and therefore whether total cost of programs for three Associated States is sound apportionment of available funds. However, estimates set forth below are in our opinion minimal.

3. With above in mind, we concluded that most useful function we could perform at this point to assist in forthcoming policy review would be to outline in general terms and in consolidated form total of aid programs we are recommending. Following are cost estimates for two different periods of time, FY 1956 and CY 1955. FY 1956 figures set forth our estimate of costs of programs we are recommending, and thus amount of funds that would have to be appropriated to support them. CY 1955 figures represent our estimate of costs that will be incurred this calendar year if programs recommended for FY 1956 are approved. CY 1955 costs presumably would be paid generally from funds already appropriated since, if past procedures are followed, FY 1955 funds for military will be used to finance expenditures of last half of calendar.

It will be noted therefore that figures cited in each period for comparable programs are overlapping. (Figures in millions of dollars).

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FY 56 Vietnam Cambodia Laos Totals
Armed Forces 225 44 40–45 309–314
FEC 50 50
Economic and refugee 80 25 18 123
Total cost 335 69 58–63 482–487
Local government contribution –30 –14 –44
Total US cost 325 55 58–63 438–443
Vietnam Cambodia Laos Totals
CY 55 1st half 2nd half 1st half 2nd half 1st half 2nd half 1st half 2nd half
Armed forces 164 126.5 22 22 24–26.5 20–22.5 210–212.5 168.5–171
FEC 50 50 50 50
Economic and refugee 40 40 12.5 12.5 9 9 61.5 61.5
Totals 254 216.5 34.5 34.5 33–35.5 29–31.5 321.5–324 280–282.5
Local contribution –15 –15 –7 –7 –22 –22
US costs 239 201.5 27.5 27.5 33–35.5 29–31.5 299.5–302 258–260.5

Total US cost for Vietnam 440.5, Cambodia 55, Laos 62–67; total for three states 557.5–562.5, of which 100 million is for FEC.

4. Comments on tables:

Under FY 56, support for FEC (50 million) is indicated only through CY 55. While we understand present Washington view is that US will not support FEC beyond end this year, circumstances may require some additional support in CY 56, at least until after date scheduled for elections.
Although Vietnam initially estimated to be capable contributing $43 million of its own funds, believe there are operating expenses, i.e., resettlement of soldiers discharged under program for reduction of armed forces and establishment local governments in areas reclaimed from Viet Minh, not planned for. Accordingly, 30 million dollars local contribution believed to be safe estimate.
The $225 million for Armed Forces exceeds 200 million figure estimated heretofore in order to give government more time to spread reduction of armed forces in CY 55. This will be covered in detail in separate message from Collins.5


Revised cost of direct forces support based on reduced proposed level of forces of 30,100 and 1500 civilians. Structure remains same as that previously recommended in Phnom Penh’s 352 to Department,6 but units are reduced in size. MAAG submitting new force structure in separate message with concurrence McClintock. Cost of $44 million is subject to further reduction if Cambodian Government consents to lower pay forces. Figure for FY 56 can be lower than that for CY 55 if pay rates of new inductees are appreciably lower.



Estimated costs Laos armed forces left flexible since substantial reductions in pay and allowances believed possible due to present high scales compared to Vietnam and Cambodia. Refinement these figures as well as survey entire Lao military structure requires prompt assignment qualified personnel to assist Legation in this important work. Such personnel could be placed in Attaché group or USOM.

5. We agreed that in Cambodia immediate establishment of logistic and fiscal MAAG is necessary to provide supervision and control over US equipment and funds; and that in Laos adequate personnel to perform similar functions should be made available soonest. Competent budget and fiscal personnel will be of great assistance to Chiefs of Mission in analyzing Cambodian and Laotian military budget proposals to insure items budgeted are justified and warrant US support. Need for reduction of pay and allowance scales is case in point.

6. Foregoing tables express our best estimate of situation CY 55 and FY 56 as priced out for military and economic aid. However, we cannot emphasize too strongly that acceptance of these or other more refined tables by our Government will not signify automatic success to our venture in Indochina unless our policies are imbued with a spirit of resolution coupled with resiliency to meet a constantly shifting situation. We should likewise wish to emphasize “Indochina” is no longer a useful rubric. “Indochina” does not mean only Vietnam, nor does it fitly describe Cambodia and Laos. Eventually we may have to think of Cambodia and Laos in connection with a broad coalition comprised of these two countries, Burma and Thailand. Likewise with regard to Cambodia and Laos, because of differing political, ethnic and religious factors which are in play there, there is possibly greater scope for diplomatic effort in linking these countries with other areas of southeast Asia to the west.

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7. In respect to Vietnam, diplomacy assumes a third dimensional aspect because of equivocal French position in Vietnam. We consider it important to emphasize that our judgments regarding US assistance to Associated States are made on assumption that French Government policy remains as stated in SmithLa Chambre minute of understanding of 29 September7 and reaffirmed in subsequent DullesMendes-France talks to effect that France will firmly oppose extension of influence or control of Viet Minh movement. If as Embassy Paris has predicted and as recent telegrams from Paris (re Paris telegrams 2761 repeated Saigon 418 and Paris 2795 repeated Saigon 4318) have to an extent substantiated, this or a subsequent French Government concludes a deal with Ho Chi Minh, our entire estimate situation might undergo swift and drastic revision. We believe that under such circumstances US assistance provided Vietnam would have to be continued, even though at a reduced scale, in order to gain time to permit removal of bulk of US furnished military equipment.

8. [Garble] these hedges on future, we strongly feel that investment recommended above is justified and we are confident that if this investment is underwritten by US we will have a fair chance to maintain the integrity of these countries.

Collins, McClintock, Yost
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751G.5–MSP/1–855. Top Secret. Repeated for information to Paris, Phnom Penh, and Vientiane; passed to the Department of Defense and CINCPAC. In telegram 142218Z from CINCPAC to CNO, January 14, repeated for information to Saigon, Admiral Stump gave his general endorsement to the recommendations in telegram 2636. (Collins Papers, Vietnam File, Series VII, S)
  2. Dated November 26, 1954; for text, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. xiii, Part 2, p. 2309.
  3. Dated December 17, 1954; for text, see ibid., p. 2392.
  4. At Dalat, South Vietnam.
  5. In telegram 2676 from Saigon, January 10, Collins relayed Minh’s strong concern that the force level for South Vietnam of 88,085, as suggested by the United States, was too low and the timetable for reductions from the present level of 217,000 was too rapid. Minh foresaw great problems with such a drastic program. On January 5 he presented a counterproposal accepting reluctantly the size and composition of forces proposed by the United States, but asking for an extension of the phasing-down process until March 1956. Collins refused to accept this proposal, but stated he would be willing to recommend to Washington support of a 100,000 Vietnamese force with a target date of December 31, 1955 for reduction to that level. Collins estimated the cost of this plan would be roughly $225 million. (Department of State, Central Files, 751G.5–MSP/1–1055)
  6. Dated December 13, 1954, not printed. (Ibid., 751H.5/12–1354)
  7. For text, see Department of State Press Release 542, September 29, 1954, Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. xiii, Part 2, p. 2097.
  8. For telegram 2795, see Document 5. Telegram 2761 is not printed, but see footnote 5, ibid.