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

3268. Reference: Deptel 2705 repeated Paris 2881, London 4471.2 Joint Embassy–MAAG message. MAAG views.

MAAG sees two separate and distinct problems in protecting MDAP material assets: (1) processing Indo-China excesses; (2) preserving and instruction in use of equipment turned over to Vietnamese. Latter is much the greater and longer range problem. Best solution to (1) would be obtain effective French implementation of CollinsEly minute of 1 December 1954. If French withdraw completely in near future estimate 232 US military supervisory personnel augmented by indigenous labor would be required solely to process Indo-China excesses. Best solution to (2) is to implement MAAG table distribution plan Y supplemented by 1000 foreign technicians. If plan Y personnel requirements cannot be met in full, deletion of about 319 US personnel would be acceptable from logistic viewpoint only. Total plan Y thus reduced is 740, only 48 above total of present organization and proposed temporary mission. This 740 does not include 232 which would be needed if French do not implement ElyCollins minute. These solutions provide most effective use of limited personnel and are most economical. It should be understood the [Page 643] above figures need be augmented in event French Air Force and Naval Missions are discontinued.
TERM is less desirable than augmentation of MAAG because of its temporary nature.

If French could fully implement CollinsEly minute, MAAG estimates that after arrival of TERM personnel and technicians not less than 12 months would be required to overcome most critical deficiencies in Vietnamese logistics system. TERM, if established, should be established initially with this minimum time requirement in mind.

Embassy views.


Embassy believes that if reftel proposal is for temporary mission to remove excess MDAP equipment, it is ingenious idea which might well be acceptable to French, UK and Canadians. However, it is not clear to Embassy exactly what would be mission of proposed 350 man military logistic group. Paragraph 1 speaks of sending in additional US military personnel “solely for purpose recovering and preserving equipment now being lost due French withdrawal and lack VN logistical capability”. MAAG interprets this to mean that group would have dual mission of (a) supervising recovery and out-shipment of excess MDAP equipment and (b) assisting in improvement of VN logistical capabilities so as to preserve MDAP equipment now in hands of VN armed forces.3

It is also MAAG interpretation that 1000 Filipino and/or Japanese technicians mentioned in reftel would have sole function of increasing logistical capability of VN armed forces by giving on-the-job training to utilize and preserve their present equipment.

This interpretation placed somewhat in question by name suggested in paragraph 4 reftel for additional military group. “Temporary equipment recovery mission” (TERM) suggests recovery and not logistical training as mission of group.
If MAAG interpretation correct, even after arrival of TERM there would still remain need for approximately 1000 French troops or their equivalent to process excess MDAP equipment. In event of French failure to implement ElyCollins minute, MAAG estimates that if 232 additional US military were assigned to supervise outshipment of excess MDAP, job could be done in about a year with help [Page 644] of local Vietnamese labor (assuming proposed 1000 Filipino/Japanese techicians not assigned to this task).
Regardless of mission actually intended for TERM, it seems clear that case for sending in such a group would be more likely acceptance by UK, Canadians and French if it could be presented as solely an equipment recovery mission with a definite termination date. It is certainly arguable that a mission whose only purpose is to remove military equipment from Vietnam does not violate spirit of articles 16 and 17, which are aimed at preventing increase in military potential. Any indication that proposal included mission to increase logistical capabilities of VN armed forces—in other words, training—would weaken case. French may be expected to have opinion based on own experience as to number of personnel required to complete removal of excess equipment.
In order for second proposal to have chance of obtaining concurrence of ICC majority (Canadians and Indians), it would seem necessary for US to agree to provide full information about movements and activities of TERM personnel.
VN government would undoubtedly prefer Filipino to Japanese technicians but would probably be willing to accept Japanese if their numbers kept to minimum and it were clear that they were here under US, not Vietnamese auspices.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751G.5/2–1356. Secret; Priority. Repeated for information to Paris, London, and Vientiane and passed to the Department of Defense and CINCPAC.
  2. Document 302.
  3. In telegram 2790 to Saigon, February 15, the Department stated that the MAAG interpretation was correct. “State informed by Defense these two tasks inseparable. … Safeguarding U.S.-provided equipment also means showing Vietnamese how to maintain and protect it. Whether or not this has subsidiary effect increasing Vietnamese logistical capability (in itself desirable) essential purpose exercise is protect and preserve U.S. assets in matériel and equipment. … We agree your para 7 that, regardless mission intended for TERM, case should be presented to UK, Canadians and French as a mission for the recovery and maintenance of equipment. (Department of State, Central Files, 751G.5/2–1356)