7. Memorandum From the Chairman of the Operations Coordinating Board’s Special Working Group on Indochina (Young) to the Under Secretary of State (Hoover)1

The Special OCB Working Group on Indochina held its meeting2 yesterday at the Pentagon to hear a G–2 briefing on military situation in Communist Viet-Nam and Free Viet-Nam. This memorandum summarizes the highlights.

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1. The Viet Minh

Communist military capabilities have substantially increased since the Geneva Accord was signed July 21, 1954. At that time the Viet Minh regular army consisted of seven divisions and a large number of independent battalions and auxiliary guerrilla groups. The size of the regular army was approximately 145,000 out of 330,000, or approximately 40% of the total Viet Minh strength last July. Today there are eleven divisions which constitute 230,000 men out of 335,000, or roughly two-thirds. The regular army has increased nearly 100,000 in men.

G–2 estimates that there has already been an unprecedented increase in fire power. There has been a six-fold increase in artillery fire power during the past year. The equipment has come in from China before and after the Geneva Accord on a large scale. It continues to move into North Viet-Nam but there has been a perceptible reduction recently. Most of the military equipment is Russian, Czech or Eastern European. The Chinese Communists have supplied sixty-m.m. mortars and seventy-six-m.m. guns manufactured by them in Manchuria.

Nine of the eleven Viet Minh divisions are in the general Hanoi area. One division is near the demilitarized zone. There are no indications as yet that Viet Minh divisions have moved towards the demilitarized line. The whole emphasis during the past six months has been on standardization and a shift away from guerrilla type organization. There is no visible or potential threat to the Viet Minh in North Viet-Nam at this time.

2. French Expeditionary Corps

French forces have decreased from 175,000 to approximately 125,000 as of December 31, 1954. However, the bulk of this reduction has been in the transfer of Vietnamese soldiers to the Vietnamese National Army. Only some 10 to 15,000 French soldiers have so far been repatriated to metropolitan France, according to G–2.

40,000 French forces remain in the Haiphong area. In the south there are two divisions in the Saigon area, one division next to the demilitarized zone and one in the Tourane area a bit south of the zone.

3. The Vietnamese National Army

At the time of the cease-fire this army had about 210,000 soldiers. It now numbers about 145,000 plus some 35,000 auxiliaries of nondescript character. This 145,000 also includes some 30 to 40,000 Vietnamese troops sifted from the FEC. Thus the absolute decrease in the Vietnamese National Army is approximately 100,000 in the past [Page 17] six months. Those soldiers either deserted in the north to live in their native villages or were demobilized as a result of the deactivation of some Vietnamese units.

G–2 puts a very low rating on the Vietnamese National Army compared to the Viet Minh army. The morale of the Vietnamese National Army is very low. It lacks combat as well as logistic capabilities. It has only 650 officers of the rank of captain or higher. According to G–2 it could not withstand any kind of Viet Minh attack nor can it carry out a mission of pacification and internal security at the present time.

4. General Estimate

G–2 estimates that the Vietnamese National Army controls only the Saigon area and a few other places near division headquarters in Free Viet-Nam. The rest of the area is subject to the authority of the private armies of the sects or to Viet Minh sympathizers and secret guerrilla cadres. The Viet Minh has removed most of its regular army forces from the south but it has left stores of arms and ammunition in hidden deposits throughout Free Viet-Nam. According to G–2 the Viet Minh retains a capability for guerrilla warfare in the south which could severely harass the Government of Viet-Nam under present circumstances.

  1. Source: Department of State, OCB Files: Lot 61 D 385, Indochina, General. Secret. Sent through Robertson. Young’s principal job was Director of the Office of Philippine and Southeast Asian Affairs.

    At the suggestion of Robert Cutler, Special Assistant to the President, the Operations Coordinating Board (OCB) established on August 4, 1954, a special working group on Indochina intended to deal with the day-to-day developments in Indochina, particularly in regard to necessary readjustments in U.S. programs in light of the termination of hostilities. (Ibid.: Lot 62 D 430, Minutes) The group consisted of representatives from the Departments of State (chairman), Defense, the Treasury, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Foreign Operations Administration, the U.S. Information Agency, the Bureau of the Budget, and the Operations Coordinating Board.

  2. Reports of other meetings of the OCB Working Group on Indochina are ibid., Southeast Asia.