310. Memorandum of Discussion at the 279th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, March 8, 19561

Present at the 279th meeting of the Council were the following: The President of the United States, presiding; the Vice President of the United States; the Acting Secretary of State; the Acting Secretary of Defense; and the Director, Office of Defense Mobilization. Also present were the Secretary of the Treasury; the Attorney General (for Items 1 and 2); the Special Assistant to the President for Disarmament; the Director, Bureau of the Budget; the Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission; the Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Director, U.S. Information Agency; the Chairman, Interdepartmental Committee on Internal Security (for Items 1 and 2); the Deputy Director, Bureau of the Budget; General Thomas D. White for the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Director of Central Intelligence; Special Assistants to the President Anderson and Jackson; the Special Counsel to the President (for Item 1); the Deputy Assistant to the President; the NSC Representative on Internal Security (for Items 1 and 2); the White House Staff Secretary; the Executive Secretary, NSC; and the Deputy Executive Secretary, NSC.

There follows a summary of the discussion at the meeting and the main points taken.

[Here follows discussion of items 1. “Communist Activities in the U.S.”, 2. “Reappraisal of U.S. Policy Regarding Soviet Shipments Afforded Diplomatic Immunity”, and 3. “Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security”.]

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4. United States Objectives and Courses of Action With Respect to Southeast Asia (NSC 5405; Progress Report, dated December 21, 1955, by OCB on NSC 54052)

After Mr. Anderson had briefed the Council on the highlights of the subject Progress Report, Secretary Hoover requested permission to point up more recent developments since the cut-off date of the Progress Report. Before doing so, he stated that our present policies with respect to Southeast Asia needed to be brought up to date, though many of them remain generally valid. Moreover, he pointed out, the news from Southeast Asia was by no means all bad.

Secretary Hoover then commented on the closing of the U.S. Consulate at Hanoi on December 11, 1955. He referred to the happy results of the recent election in Free Vietnam, which had resulted in strong support of Prime Minister Diem’s government. It was estimated that 83% of those eligible to vote had actually voted. This was very heartening in view of the threats made by the Vietminh to disrupt this election. It was also pointed out that General O’Daniel was just back from Vietnam, and reported the situation there to be very encouraging.

Secretary Hoover then said he would like to review with the Council the proposals which will be presented to Congress in connection with the request for appropriations for assistance to the several countries of Southeast Asia. We would be asking for an increase in funds earmarked for Vietnam. About the same amount as for the present fiscal year would be requested for Laos. There would be a slight increase in funds requested for Cambodia, and a marked increase in requests for assistance to Thailand. Whereas the total amount requested for assistance to these countries for the FY 1956 programs had amounted to $386 million, we would be asking for $491 million for the programs for FY 1957. Secretary Hoover concluded with the expressed judgment that within the above programming the Administration was doing everything possible that could be done to achieve the objectives of the United States in the area of Southeast Asia. He furthermore predicted an interesting report when the Secretary of State returned from his current trip to the Far East.

The President inquired as to the date of the return of Secretary Dulles. Secretary Hoover replied that he would return about March 22. The President said he was glad to hear this. He had had a recent request that the subject of the Bricker Amendment in its latest version should be the subject of discussion at a Congressional leaders [Page 655] meeting at The White House in the immediate future.3 He had preferred to wait until the Secretary of State got back. Meanwhile, said the President, he wished to heck he could get the whole Bricker Amendment blown to kingdom come.

Governor Brucker, the Acting Secretary of Defense, then referred to the desire of the Defense Department to augment the size of the Military Assistance Advisory Group in Vietnam. Secretary Hoover replied that he sympathized with this objective, and that the State Department had been working very hard to achieve it. Unfortunately this was a complex and difficult problem. The President interrupted to say, let’s keep pegging at it, and Secretary Hoover went on to say that even the sending in of U.S. forces to constitute salvage teams to bring back U.S. military equipment no longer useful in Free Vietnam, had been protested by the British, the French, the Indians, and the Canadians. All of them thought that such a move would constitute a provocation under the terms of the Geneva Armistice Agreement.

Secretary Brucker again pointed out that U.S. equipment to the value of between $50 million and $75 million was going unused in Vietnam. It would be very desirable if we could get this equipment back home through an increase in the size of our MAAG. The President asked whether we could not get even the British and Canadians to let us go in and salvage our own military matériel.

Secretary Hoover replied by stating his belief that such a move would be possible only if the U.S. personnel sent in to salvage the matériel were civilians. The British strongly objected to any increase in U.S. uniformed personnel in the present circumstances. After further discussion, the President suggested that Secretary Brucker investigate the possibility of salvaging this matériel by recourse to civilian contract arrangements.

The National Security Council:4

Noted and discussed the reference Progress Report on the subject by the Operations Coordinating Board, and a supplementary statement by the Acting Secretary of State on recent developments and on the proposed Fiscal Year 1957 foreign assistance program for this area.
Directed the NSC Planning Board to prepare a revise d statement of policy on Southeast Asia, bringing existing policies up to date on both a regional and country basis.
Noted the President’s request that the Department of Defense investigate the feasibility of salvaging U.S. equipment in Free Vietnam through means of civilian contract arrangements.

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Note: The action in c above, as approved by the President, subsequently transmitted to the Secretary of Defense.

[Here follows discussion of item 5. “FY 1957 MDAP Objective for Thailand.”]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Drafted by Gleason on March 9.
  2. Not printed. (Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 5405 Series)
  3. For documentation on the issue, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. i, Part 2, pp. 1768 ff.
  4. The following paragraphs and note constitute NSC Action No. 1526, the record copy of which is in Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95.