287. Telegram From the Ambassador in Vietnam (Reinhardt) to the Department of State1

2648. Reference: Department telegram 21792 and 2189;3 Embassy telegram 2647.4

We fully recognize need additional MAAGTRIM personnel for training purposes as well as to check and handle redistribution MDAP equipment which French no longer capable of processing, and we would not challenge, therefore, military arguments for wishing to disregard restrictions resulting from Geneva Armistice.
We note, however, absence any discussion in Deptel of political repercussions of a possible change of policy, and feel obliged to point out that these might be very serious and even have a military bearing. Although exact sequence of events cannot be forecast with any certainty, following developments must be considered as possible consequences any action our part which would be viewed by other parties as open US violation of provisions of armistice: (a) hardening of Vietnamese position to point where Vietnamese cease to provide minimum cooperation considered necessary by ICC; (b) adoption by French of position that they no longer able to carry out armistice by virtue of US refusal to cooperate; (c) decision by ICC that commission can no longer function in Vietnam with blame placed in part on [Page 616] US; (d) eventual denunciation or armistice by DRV on ground agreement rendered void by flagrant violation in south, followed by increased Chinese military intervention in north; (e) general impression throughout world (particularly among neutral Asian states) that collapse Geneva settlement brought about largely by US actions; (f) use by DRV of our action as pretext for any eventual aggressive moves on their part.
We are under no illusion that Geneva settlement represents any stable long-term solution that ICC can (or should) remain indefinitely in Vietnam as question is rather one of timing: whether for sake of limited military advantage this time we should take action which would afford other parties involved with opportunity (which many would rejoice in) of placing onus for collapse of Geneva settlement on US doorstep, or whether a little more flexibility our part at present juncture might not avoid this predicament while still permitting some solution to be gradually worked out which would safeguard our military interests.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751G.5–MSP/12–3155. Secret. Repeated for information to Paris, London, Ottawa, New Delhi, Phnom Penh, and Vientiane.
  2. In this telegram, December 24, the Department, while stating that it had not decided to change policy with respect to the current MAAG ceiling, nonetheless instructed the Embassy, pending a final NSC or interdepartmental decision, that it was “essential that we not commit ourselves on applicability of and U.S. compliance with possible ICC controls to MAAG personnel,” and outlined the steps necessary for maintaining this interim position. (Ibid., 751G.5–MSP/12–2255)
  3. In this telegram, December 24, the Department sent the Embassy the text of the JCS memorandum to the Secretary of Defense dated December 9 (Document 282), and a covering letter dated December 13 from Wilson to Dulles. In strongly urging that the Department of State allow the MAAG to exceed the ceiling of 342, Wilson acknowledged that certain U.S. commitments had been made to other governments with regard to maintaining the ceiling, but argued that “military considerations in this instance might well be considered as over-riding since the Chief of the U.S. MAAG, Viet-Nam has been assigned the responsibility for developing those forces required to produce and maintain internal security in that country in accordance with an approved NSC decision. … If a favorable solution to this problem is not forthcoming in the immediate future, it is considered that the NSC military objective should be revised downward so as to reflect a mission which might reasonably be accomplished by the MAAG, Vietnam.” (Telegram 2189 is in Department of State, Central Files, 751G.5–MSP/12–2455; quotations here are from Wilson’s signed letter, ibid., 751G.5–MSP/12–1355)
  4. In this telegram, December 31, the Embassy asked for further clarifications on the position it was to take on the question of ICC control of the number of MAAG personnel. (Ibid., 751G.5–MSP/12–3155)