298. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Robertson) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State (Murphy)1

SUBJECT

  • Logistics and Training Problems in Viet-Nam in Relation to MAAG Personnel Ceiling (Your meeting with Defense 5 p.m., February 22)
1.
There are three distinct but related problems on this subject: a) training of the Vietnamese Army (Secretary Wilson’s letter of December 133); b) implementation of the ElyCollins Minute of Understanding of 1 December 19544 providing for full return by French of U.S. equipment no longer required for purposes for which made available; and c) logistical support and training of the Vietnamese Army. FE suggestions on solutions for these problems are contained in paragraph 6 of this memorandum.
2.
Secretary Wilson has followed up his letter of December 13 regarding the handicaps faced by Defense in accomplishing its mission of training the Vietnamese Army under the 342 U.S. military personnel limitation (Tab A) by a new letter dated January 315 on the MDAP redistribution and logistical support problems raised in Viet-Nam by the recent heavy phase-down of French forces (Tab B). An Interagency Costing Team under General Lawton has recently studied this problem in Saigon and in submitting its conclusions and recommendations has reported logistical deficiencies which are of the greatest concern to Defense6 (Tab C). Our assistance is requested on an urgent basis: a) to make possible the bringing in of additional personnel and b) to arrange with the French for effective implementation of the ElyCollins Minute of Understanding.
3.
The Secretary on January 19 decided we should not now authorize Defense to raise the MAAG ceiling by allowing substitution of U.S. for French military training and technical personnel.7 We should, however, study other ways and means of achieving our vital objectives despite assumed limitations on the number of U.S. military personnel. Greater use of civilian personnel, including military in civilian status if feasible (Suez Canal Base Formula8), contracts with [Page 632] business firms for MDAP redistribution assistance, exploration with French of possibility attaching FEC elements or individuals to MAAG and additional French to TRIM for specified period were suggested. We would also not object to personnel practices designed to keep the full effective strength of the military component of MAAG Viet-Nam to 342 on duty in Viet-Nam at all times thus allowing theoretical excess of ceiling by average daily number of military personnel not on duty because of medical, leave, travel or other reasons.
4.
Neither the Secretary’s decision of January 19 nor the suggestions above have yet been formally communicated to Defense. Our Ambassador at Saigon has concurred in general with the possibilities suggested.9 (Tab D)
5.

On January 24 the Vietnamese Government handed us a formal note10 requesting that the U.S. send to Viet-Nam additional military instructions [instructors?] to offset the evacuations of the FEC. We have told Saigon not to respond to this request, but merely acknowledge it for the time being.11 At the same time, the Vietnamese Government has given a note to the French Government expressing “agreement” of the Viet-Nam Government to complete withdrawal of the FEC from Viet-Nam. The French have not yet answered the note but have let it be known to our Embassy in Paris that they are in fact disposed and would be prepared to retain some FEC force in Viet-Nam provided Viet-Nam requests them to do so and does not pose preconditions no French Government is likely be able to meet.12

6.
a) We believe solution of the MDAP redistribution problem (ElyCollins Minute) lies mainly in getting the French to perform and we should consider a diplomatic approach to the French at the Washington and Paris level, if necessary. In regard to the logistics support of the Viet-Nam Army, we believe that in addition to [Page 633] present MAAG and French capabilities in this respect, a possible solution might be the hiring of Japanese, Chinese, and Filipino personnel who were previously employed by the U.S. forces in their own countries and have been trained in U.S. supply procedures, as recommended on page 10 of the Interagency Costing Team Report. As regards both these problems, we think civilians on a contract basis and possibly soldiers out of uniform would also relieve the MAAG. In regard to training of the Army, the best present solution would seem to be to devote maximum number of spaces within MAAG to that vital operation, including theoretical excess of ceiling as described in paragraph 3 above, b) Embassy Saigon states in telegram 3130, February 213 (Tab E), that if present limitations on MAAG personnel remain in effect, MAAG estimates approximately 1000 French troops would be required for period of about one year to implement ElyCollins Minute effectively and another several hundred for indefinite period to continue training of the Army and Navy. The Embassy believes the Vietnamese could continue to demand withdrawal of the FEC and at the same time agree to retention of such a residual force if these troops were given specific missions and a different label, such as French Military (or Liaison) Mission. The Embassy believes the Vietnamese Government might be induced to agree to retention of French personnel on this basis, and both Embassies Paris and Saigon believe the French might agree if requested by the Vietnamese and U.S.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751G.5/2–256. Secret. Drafted by Kattenburg with Young’s concurrence.
  2. For a report of that meeting, see infra .
  3. See footnote 3, Document 287.
  4. See footnote 6, Document 295.
  5. Document 295.
  6. See Document 288.
  7. See footnote 9, Document 289.
  8. The reference is to an Anglo-Egyptian Agreement of October 19, 1954.
  9. See Document 292.
  10. Text of this note is in telegram 2977 from Saigon, January 24. (Department of State, Central Files, 751G.5/1–2456)
  11. Telegram 2610 to Saigon, January 31, not printed. (Ibid., 751G.5/1–1956)
  12. The Embassy had reported on the French reaction to the Vietnamese note in telegram 3327 from Paris, January 25:

    “In sum Roux conveyed distinct impression French consider retention French force South Vietnam desirable.

    “In response question, Roux said Jacquot estimated 12 to 15,000 FEC residual force could carry out training responsibilities Cambodia, Laos (including base complement Seno) and South Vietnam, as well [as] armistice responsibilities, protection ICC personnel et cetera South Vietnam.”

    The Embassy commented that this information was in accordance with its previous view that France would be willing to maintain the FEC around the 15,000-man level “provided Vietnam requests them do so and does not pose pre-conditions no French government likely be able meet.” (Ibid., 751G.5/1–2556)

  13. Not printed. (Ibid., 751G.5/2–256)