300. Memorandum of Discussion at a Department of State–Joint Chiefs of Staff Meeting, The Pentagon, Washington, February 4, 1956, 11:30 a.m.1

[Here follows discussion on the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission in Korea.]

2. Vietnam

Mr. Murphy mentioned yesterday’s [sic] meeting2 between officers of the Department and a Defense Department group headed by [Page 636] Assistant Secretary Gordon Gray on the MAAG problem in Vietnam and the deterioration of U.S. equipment furnished earlier to the French in Indochina and now virtually abandoned in Vietnam. He continued that the matter had been brought to Secretary Dulles’ attention this morning and that the Secretary had directed immediate discussions with the UK and Canada to enable us to send a sufficient number of personnel to salvage and maintain the U.S.-supplied equipment. The Secretary had reiterated his view that with sufficient ingenuity of approach we should be able to work ourselves out of the difficulty caused by the ceiling on the number of officers to be assigned to the MAAG for training purposes.

Admiral Radford observed that the sooner the French are out of Vietnam, as well as Laos and Cambodia, and the sooner we take over all training the better. He declared that French training is entirely inadequate and that the French presence now causes more trouble than it is worth. He suggested that perhaps the Thais could assist in replacing the French in Laos, for instance. He agreed with Ambassador Reinhardt’s recently expressed views that it is unrealistic to plan on strengthening the TRIM organization, and he remarked incidentally that he had not yet received the memorandum promised him by Ambassador Reinhardt on his and the Ambassador’s conversation in December with French Admiral Jozan.3 Admiral Radford expressed the view that Jozan should be removed from Indochina, commenting that he is a man steeped in bitterness over France’s Indochina debacle and is basically hostile toward the United States. In response to an inquiry from Mr. Murphy as to the present role of the French navy in Vietnam and as to why it is not cooperating more fully with the Vietnamese, Admiral Radford stated that Jozan’s ultimate aim is to arrange matters so that eventually France would have bases in Indochina similar to U.S. rights in the Philippines. However, he said, the French are unwilling now to give the Vietnamese proper assistance even in patrol activities, and there is suspicion that they are not above winking at Vietminh infiltration along the coast of Vietnam. The Admiral declared that the whole situation out there is not going well, and he fears it will not get any better. In connection with Secretary Dulles’ view as to our problems under the Geneva agreement, Admiral Radford stressed that he would strongly recommend sending out people into Vietnam in uniform. He and other members of the JCS appeared to be in general agreement that the several suggested alternatives to the use of regular military personnel would be neither efficient nor effective.

[Page 637]

[Here follow a briefing by the Department of State on the EisenhowerEden and Dulles–Lloyd talks, January 30–February 1, and a general report by Radford on his recent trip to the Middle and Far East.]4

  1. Source: Department of State, State–JCS Meetings: Lot 61 D 417. Top Secret. A note on the source text reads: “State draft. Not cleared with any of the participants.” In all 23 persons attended the meeting including Radford and all the Chiefs of Staff; Gray, Fox, and Sullivan for Defense; Murphy, MacArthur, and Robertson for State; Cabell for the CIA; and Gleason for the NSC.
  2. See the memorandum of conversation, supra.
  3. Not found. A brief summary of this conversation, held December 29, is in Radford’s trip report to the Secretary of Defense dated February 7. (Naval Historical Center, Radford Papers, 333.1 (Trip 9) 12/12/55–1/19/56)
  4. Vietnam was discussed again at the next State–JCS meeting held February 10. The section of the memorandum of discussion pertaining to Vietnam follows:

    “As regards Vietnam, Admiral Radford said that he had received a much blacker picture of the situation from Premier Diem than he had anticipated. He thinks Diem has done a good job against great odds. Diem claims that the French naval patrol is allowing the Vietminh to infiltrate all along the coast and Admiral Radford commented that there is no doubt that the French are bitter over the general situation in Indochina and their loss of position and are not fulfilling their responsibilities in either Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia. He repeated earlier statements as to the harmful effect on our position caused by our self-imposed restriction on the size of our military mission there. Mr. Robertson suggested that if the French should move out entirely and we, because of political problems arising from the Geneva agreement, were not able to replace them in numbers sufficient to accomplish our objectives, that would leave a dangerous vacuum. He pointed out that the French have definite responsibilities under the Geneva agreement with respect to Vietnam and that the same is true in Laos. Admiral Radford commented that, on balance, he is not sure whether we would not be better off if the French left the Indochinese states altogether.” (Memorandum of discussion at State–JCS meeting, February 10; Department of State, State–JCS Meetings: Lot 61 D 417)