41. Telegram From the Ambassador in Vietnam (Durbrow) to the Department of State1

1108. Ref Embtel 206, Aug. 5, 1958.2 During Shuff visit3 latter discussed at length question introduction jet fighters VN. Shuff indicated he hoped JCS could induce State to change its decision and permit introduction jets June 1960 despite possible strong ICC reaction. Shuff opposed to substitution AD4’s for short period since he expected that State would agree by June 1960 or some later date to introduce jets. Since MAAG must make plans well in advance to assure adequate plans and facilities for VNAF, MAAG can not wait year or two pending possible State decision to introduce jets. Therefore definite decision must be reached this matter soonest.

Shuff group stated that if State would not agree introduce jets 1960 present F8F’s could be kept operational after June 1960 by transferring to VN and cannibalizing F8F’s now being used by Thai AFL. Since Diem knows Tyris [Thais?], Philippines, Koreans and ChiNats all have jets he too hopes some way can be worked out furnish jets VNAF despite probable ICC objection. Assuming this cannot [Page 103] be done by 1960 it would be psychologically very detrimental to US interests if we insisted Diem accept old obsolete F8F’s from Thailand in order keep his Air Force operational particularly since Thais would receive jets as replacements for F8F’s.

On other hand while Diem would not be completely satisfied, I am convinced he will reluctantly accept AD4’s as more effective close support combat plane than F8F’s and one which would be more combat effective for mission assigned VNAF. In any event I must emphasize adverse psychological reactions if we insist on giving him discarded Thai F8F’s.

Chief MAAG concurs.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751G.5622/12–558. Repeated for information to CINCPAC for PolAd.
  2. Document 25.
  3. Charles H. Shuff, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs who was responsible for military assistance programs, visited Vietnam in late November 1958.
  4. Admiral Felt concurred completely with Durbrow’s view that transfer of F8F’s from Thailand was unacceptable. He previewed the CINCPAC position as follows:

    CINCPAC position on the improvement of VN Air Force will be forwarded shortly in which recommendation will be made that F8F’s now in Vietnam be replaced substantially by AD4s, augmented with RT33’S to provide recce capability and at the same time, provide justification for jet airfield development. Introduction RT33 also for purpose of entering wedge in ultimate introduction modest number of jet interceptors when possible in light of Geneva Accords.” (CINCPAC telegram to CNO, 7234, 120326Z December 1958; Department of State, Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 66 D 193, Jet Aircraft)

    CINCPAC made the formal recommendation described in the preceding paragraph in telegram 140053Z December 1958 to CNO, stressing that the RT33s were completely unarmed photographic aircraft. (Ibid.)