215. Memorandum From the Director of the Office of Philippine and Southeast Asian Affairs (Young) to the Acting Secretary of State1


  • Revision in Force Levels and Costs for Vietnamese Military Forces
[Page 467]

The purpose of this memorandum is to bring to your attention a problem assuming importance from the political, military and economic point of view. In preparing the Vietnamese program for fiscal 1956 we sent out a joint State–Defense–FOA message to Saigon2 requesting information on force levels and costs. The reply3 gave a split opinion.

MAAG Saigon recommends the force level of 170,000 until July 1, 1956 with a reduction thereafter to 150,000 by December 31, 1956 with conscription starting January 1, 1957. The Embassy and the FOA Mission both recommend a reduction to 100,000 by the end of 1955 and the beginning of conscription early in 1956. The latter recommendation is much closer to the Collins figures approved by Washington last February.

The MAAG recommendations would entail a total cost in calender 1956 of $336 million compared to our present estimate of $180 million. Since the Vietnamese Government probably would not be able to assume any part of this additional cost, the field estimates the United States would have to assume the total addition of $156 million.

A message from the field states that the costs for the military program in calender 1956 will depend on Washington decisions regarding force levels.

The special working group on Indochina has met twice on this telegram.4 We have discussed the political, military and economic implications at length without coming to any decision. We have instructed a subcommittee to prepare a telegram to the field asking for more information. Accordingly, in a week or two this matter may have to be raised at a higher level in order to determine whether we should continue with the Collins program of a drastic reduction and a large-scale demobilization or whether we should phase down the Vietnamese forces much more slowly. At the present time I recommend a slower reduction even though it will cost us more money.

  1. Source: Department of State, OCB Files: Lot 61 D 385, Indochina, General. Secret. Sent through Robertson and cleared with Murphy and U/OP.
  2. Telegram 5235 to Saigon, May 25; see footnote 2, Document 208.
  3. Document 208.
  4. Reports of these OCB meetings are in memoranda of discussions by Kenneth P. Landon of the OCB, June 15 and 23. (Department of State, OCB Files: Lot 62 D 430, Southeast Asia)