282. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense (Wilson)1


  • Raising U.S. military personnel ceiling for MAAG Vietnam.
Military personnel restrictions for MAAG Vietnam have become an increasingly serious handicap to the attainment of U.S. objectives in Vietnam. Currently, the United States is limited to a ceiling of 342 military personnel for MAAG Vietnam. This figure resulted from the State Department’s interpretation of Chapter III, Article 16, of the Geneva Agreement of 20 July 1954 to mean that the United States is prohibited from introducing military personnel in excess of the 342 U.S. military personnel actually present in Vietnam on 23 July 1954.
The number of 342 military personnel has never been considered adequate by Chief MAAG, Vietnam or CINCPAC to meet the tasks of the MAAG. Requests by the Secretary of Defense to the Secretary of State for a more liberal interpretation of personnel ceiling limitations to exclude certain temporary additional training teams, communication personnel and other military personnel not performing MAAG functions, have been denied and the Secretary of State has reaffirmed that the limitation of 342 U.S. military personnel in Vietnam must be rigidly adhered to.
The MAAG Vietnam and the French forces have been working together in accomplishing the redistribution of United States furnished MDAP material and in training Vietnamese forces. The progressive withdrawal by the French of their military personnel without replacement and the inability of the United States to augment the MAAG personnel has created a critical situation both in carrying out redistribution of MDAP equipment and in the training of Vietnamese forces. CINCPAC has recently reported on the gravity of this [Page 599] situation. In respect to the redistribution of MDAP equipment he states, “It is also foreseeable that present restrictive personnel policy could cause maintenance and redistribution losses of millions of dollars in U.S. Indochina war equipment.” In respect to the over-all accomplishment of U.S. objectives, he states, “We must now balance the mere possibility of criticism (with some technical basis which we can contradict with at least equally plausible contentions) by an enemy who will ‘inevitably criticize’ as loudly without any basis at all, against the grim actuality of an unacceptable shortage of key personnel necessary to keep MAAG and TRIM programs operating effectively in a most critical period which may well determine whether South Vietnam will stand with us or fall to the Communists. I urge that our policy be re-examined on a realistic basis and made sufficiently flexible to meet our vital interests. A second failure in Indochina by the Free World will be exceedingly serious. Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and possibly Burma and Malaya may be at stake. Our effort to avert this disaster should not be made with our hands self-tied behind us because of fear of possible Communist propaganda.”
The Joint Chiefs of Staff concur in the views of CINCPAC. They believe that it would be realistic to interpret the provisions of the Geneva Agreement to permit replacement of French military personnel, withdrawn from the Combined Training Organization (TRIM) without replacement, by U.S. military personnel. Similarly, it should be permissible to replace French military technicians, withdrawn without replacement from execution of the MDAP equipment redistribution activities, by U.S. military technicians. Accordingly, it is recommended that the Secretary of Defense inform the National Security Council of the gravity of the situation in Vietnam, requesting authority to raise the 342 limitation on U.S. military personnel in Vietnam to replace, as required, French military personnel withdrawn without replacement from the training and MDAP equipment redistribution programs.
For the joint Chiefs of Staff:
Arthur Radford
Joint Chiefs of Staff
  1. Source: JCS Records, CCS 092 Asia (6–25–48) (2). Secret.