294. Memorandum From the Secretary of the Air Force (Quarles) to the Secretary of Defense (Wilson)1


  • Observations on Recent Far East Visit—Vietnam

Two serious problems in Vietnam require attention. The most urgent of these is the necessity to achieve an agreed upon plan (France–U.S.–Vietnam) for withdrawal of French forces. The present basis of action is an unplanned and unpredictable reduction of French forces, of ten at a rate exceeding the capacity of the Vietnamese to fill the resulting military vacuum. French forces are now maintained in Vietnam on an almost month-to-month authority. Funds for the continuance of French elements in Vietnam extend only to 20 March 1956. The Vietnamese are impatient about French withdrawal, want them out regardless. The French feel the Vietnamese are incompetent to take over and carry on. An objective plan that faced the realities and submerged animosities for the time being is badly needed and our mission should be encouraged to use its good offices [Page 626] to this end. It may exceed the present authority which Paris has given General Jacquot, the local commander.

The second problem is produced by the present U.S. interpretation of the Geneva agreements. Our State Department holds that no more U.S. military personnel may be maintained in Vietnam than were there at the time of the Geneva truce. This has the effect of limiting the MAAG Chief to about half the personnel needed for his training missions. Two solutions suggest themselves. One is to press for a more liberal interpretation of the Geneva Agreement that recognizes that U.S. forces might increase as French forces decrease. The other is to reach agreement with the Vietnamese and the French to the end that the MAAG may have the services of French technicians in the number needed. General Jacquot viewed this concept favorably, and President Diem would accede to it as a last resort, although much preferring U.S. personnel.

Donald A. Quarles
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 60 A 1339, 200 Vietnam. Secret.