44. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense1


  • Jet Aircraft for Vietnam (C)
Reference is made to a memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA), dated 10 September 1958, subject: “Jet Aircraft for Vietnam (C)”.2
The Joint Chiefs of Staff have considered the CINCPAC message and additional items contained in the memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of Defense.
Specific comments with respect to the message from CINCPAC to the Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA) are contained in the Appendix hereto.3
The following are comments on additional items included in the memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of Defense:
There is a military requirement to modernize the Vietnamese National Air Force (VNAF) with jet aircraft as opposed to propeller aircraft. However, this requirement is secondary to the requirement for jet facilities, capable of sustained jet operations in support of U.S. contingency plans for the defense of Vietnam. Jet aircraft were included in the FY 1960 Military Assistance Program by Chief, MAAG, Vietnam primarily to provide means whereby jet facilities could be incorporated into the Vietnamese construction program and funded in the Vietnamese national budget. This program was supported by the Commander in Chief, Pacific, in recognition of the U.S. requirement for jet facilities. If, in light of the Geneva Accords, it is determined that jet aircraft cannot be delivered to the VNAF by end of CY 1960, a suitable type of propeller aircraft should be programmed to cover the interim period. In this respect, an indication from the Department of State as to an estimated time that the Geneva Accords problem might be received would materially assist the Joint Chiefs of Staff in determining the interim type propeller aircraft to be programmed, provided such an estimate can be immediately obtained.
There is a U.S. military requirement for two airfields in Vietnam capable of sustained jet operations to accommodate U.S. forces as stated above. There are currently in existence, or undergoing construction, only seven airfields in Southeast Asia that will be capable of operating jet aircraft (one in Burma, two in Malaya, and one operational and three being improved in Thailand). There is none in South Vietnam. Because of the indefinite delivery of jet aircraft to Vietnam, it is deemed advisable to request the International Cooperation Administration (ICA) to include Cape St. Jacques in addition to [Page 109] Tan Son Nhut in their program of improvement, under guise of commercial aviation. This would provide the minimum jet facilities required by U.S. military plans. The runways of these airfields should be a minimum of 9,000 feet in length.
In regard to the F8F aircraft now in the Thailand Air Force, there are no replacement aircraft in the FY 1959/1 approved Military Assistance Program. It would be most undesirable to augment the Vietnam F8F aircraft with discarded F8F’s from Thailand, even if they were available, while Thailand was provided jet aircraft. Such action might introduce political and psychological complications of serious import. Considering this fact and the logistic problem involved, it is evident that the utilization of F8F aircraft in Thailand to prolong the period for which Vietnamese Air Force can be equipped with this type aircraft is not practicable.
As indicated in subparagraph b above, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have considered the other jet facilities located or to be located in adjacent Southeast Asia areas.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Maxwell D. Taylor
General United States Army
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD/ISA Files: FRC 62 A 1698, 451.2 Vietnam. Secret.
  2. Not printed. (Ibid.)
  3. Not printed, but see footnote 6, Document 25.