295. Letter From the Secretary of Defense (Wilson) to the Secretary of State1

Dear Mr. Secretary: Since my letter to you of the 13th of December2 regarding the Viet-Nam situation, the Interagency Costing Team3 sent to Saigon to study military finance and related matters, has returned and submitted its report.4 The recommendations of the Team will lead to substantial improvements in budgeting, including savings of millions of dollars during the calendar year 1956. Steps have already been initiated to realize these savings.

The Team also studied the logistic situation in Free Viet-Nam and has reported deficiencies which are of greatest concern to me. Only by prompt action at highest departmental levels will it be possible to correct the problems.

Since the recent heavy phasedown in French forces, an adequate logistic capability in Free Viet-Nam no longer exists. The Team reported that “… the capability of supply of forces in the field in the [Page 627] event hostilities should be resumed in mid-1956 would be virtually non-existent.”5 From the standpoint of preservation of U.S. assets, the situation is also most unsatisfactory. Adequate control of MDAP spares and supplies has, in large part, been lost.

We have concluded that not less than $100,000,000 worth of MDAP material can be saved if prompt corrective action can be taken. Such action includes the availability in Viet-Nam in the immediate future of 150 to 200 Americans skilled in supply management and logistics.

A further essential factor in achieving effective supply control is the implementation of the CollinsEly Minute of Understanding of 1 December 1954.6 This Agreement provides for the return by the French of U.S. equipment no longer required for the purposes for which originally made available. The Agreement further states that decisions on what is to be returned should be made jointly by French and U.S. representatives. Nevertheless, the French are making these decisions unilaterally; it appears that they are carefully sorting out the useful, serviceable items for their own use, and returning the excess and salvage. We know of no valid reason why U.S. personnel should not be allowed to enter French military storage areas to participate in these determinations.

Your assistance in (a) making it somehow possible to bring in additional personnel, and (b) arranging with the French for effective implementation of the CollinsEly Minute of Understanding is requested on an urgent basis. I recognize that in reaching your conclusions, you must also weigh other factors not discussed in this letter. To enable the Department of Defense to carry out its responsibilities in Free Viet-Nam, however, a solution along the lines discussed above is essential.

Sincerely yours,

C.E. Wilson
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751G.5–MSP/1–3156. Secret. This letter is printed also in United States–Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967, Book 10, pp. 1046–1047.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 287.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 263.
  4. For a summary, see Document 288.
  5. Ellipsis in the source text.
  6. The text of the minute of understanding on the recovery of excess MDAP equipment, as signed by Ely and Collins on December 1, 1954, is contained in telegram 1793 from Saigon as modified by telegram 2023 to Saigon, November 10 and 18, 1954. (Department of State, Central Files, 751G.5–MSP/11–1054)