80. Memorandum From the Assistant to the Regional Director, Far East (Evans) to the Regional Director, Far East (O’Donnell) in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs1



  • TERM, MAAG and the ICC

Upon the departure of the undersigned, the last individual in either the Department of State or Defense who has been associated with the TERMMAAGICC problem since its inception will have departed. In Viet-Nam the only individual is General Williams.

The Geneva Accords of July 1954 were signed by the North Vietnamese and the French. Neither the U.S. nor the South Vietnamese signed the Accords but each country has indicated unilaterally that it will abide by the general provisions. These Accords provide, amongst other things, that there will be no increase in the number of foreign troops in either North or South Viet-Nam and that foreign troops will be replaced on a unit-for-unit or man-for-man basis. Initially the U.S. interpreted this to mean that the MAAG could not increase its strength over a 342 ceiling, the strength at the time of the signing of the Accords.

It should be noted that at the time of the Geneva Accords, MAAG Viet-Nam (then known as MAAG Indo-China) was devoted almost exclusively to the logistical support of the French and Indo-Chinese forces and was not involved in training.

After the signing of the Accords, the French Army in Viet-Nam was withdrawn and a Vietnamese Army organized to take its place. For a period of several years, the French continued to handle all the training of the Vietnamese Navy and Air Force but began to work with the US–MAAG personnel in training of the Vietnamese Army. An organization known as TRIM was set up under the overall direction of the French in which both Americans and French participated and which was responsible for the training of the Vietnamese forces. The total TRIMMAAG strength was 888. The undersigned was for a period the Executive Officer of TRIM. In the fall of 1955 due to the pressure of the Vietnamese, the French element in TRIM began to be reduced and in 1956 TRIM ceased to exist and the MAAG took over from the French the training of the Vietnamese Army.

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The assumption of this training responsibility by the MAAG caused a personnel crisis in relation to the 342 ceiling. As Secretary of State Dean Acheson2 had made a direct commitment to Sir Anthony Eden that the U.S. would not exceed 342, some other expedient had to be found. It was necessary to find a way of getting additional personnel which would not cause an international incident through the activities of the International Control Commission.

The ICC is the operating agency resulting from the Geneva Accords and is made up of Polish, Canadian, and Indian personnel. It reports to the co-chairmen of the Geneva Accords, Great Britain and Russia. Its periodic reports state to what degree the North and South are complying with the Accords and could result in a reconvening of the powers that met and brought forth the Geneva Accords.

To resolve the MAAG problem of training, it was decided not to increase MAAG but to create a new organization known as the Temporary Equipment Recovery Mission (TERM). The undersigned was dispatched in January of 1956 to Washington to meet with State and Defense officials and try and get a total of 1,055 people for the MAAG operation. As a result of the conference between State and Defense, it was decided to set up TERM as a subterfuge to increase the strength of MAAG. TERM was established at 350, which added to the MAAG strength, gave a total of 692 as opposed to the 1,055 requested by General Williams.

The concept of TERM was that in the eyes of the public and other countries, it would be concerned with the out shipping of excesses in Indo-China left over from the war. This was already a mission of the MAAG so that, in effect, the MAAG was getting 350 additional people for the training of the Vietnamese Army. MAAG was reorganized so that the logistical portion of the MAAG became TERM and TERM was responsible for all logistics, including logistical training which was kept very quiet.

The ICC was informed of the presence of TERM but due to prior representations with the Indians and Canadians, the ICC did not oppose TERM. Secretary Dulles presumably discussed the matter with Nehru, and the Canadians were partially briefed. Unfortunately, the Indians were left with the impression that the cover mission was its actual mission.

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More recently the French have withdrawn from the training of both the Vietnamese Air Force and Navy creating a Saigon requirement for some 70 additional trainers for the Air Force and an estimated 25 for the Navy. This additional requirement could not be met by either increasing TERM or MAAG so a second subterfuge was adopted. It was determined that some 44 military personnel were performing services for the American community in Saigon, operating the post-exchange, the commissary, and communications services. Forty-four spaces were added to the Embassy roll which permitted increasing the actual MAAG strength by 44 people who could give training to the Navy and the Air Force. In reality, the strength of the MAAG thus reached 736.

As time went by, the ICC, under the prodding initially of the Poles and subsequently the Indians, started pressuring the Vietnamese to send TERM home. The Vietnamese maintained a monthly correspondence saying that TERM’s mission was not yet completed but would be completed possibly in another 6 or 8 months.

Finally in the spring of 1959, the ICC submitted its report stating that TERM should cease operations as of 30 June 1959….

General Williams, the Department of Defense and the Department of State have never been satisfied with the subterfuge of TERM and it has been an objective to incorporate TERM into MAAG as soon as the political climate would permit. To do this involves increasing the ceiling of MAAG from 342 to at least 736. Agreement to this action on the part of the Canadians and Indians would be necessary if the ICC were to be prevented from making a cause celebrate of U.S. violation of the Geneva Accords.

Under the urging of Ambassador Durbrow and the Defense Department, the Department of State has actively pursued a policy of trying to get the Canadians to agree prior to approaching the Indians…. Pressure on the Canadians continues but the Indians have not yet been approached. State considers that the British have released us from the commitment mentioned above by Dean Acheson to Anthony Eden to hold to the 342 level for MAAG.

As of the present writing, the June 30 deadline approaches and a decision has not been made as to how to handle the ICC.

A possible solution follows. During July, the Vietnamese government can announce that the mission of TERM is gradually dwindling away and that the U.S. has decided not to replace the TERM personnel as their tours of duty expire. This will result in the virtual elimination of TERM over a one-year period. At the same time the U.S. can start increasing MAAG by replacing the departing TERM personnel by individuals assigned to MAAG. This would result in MAAG reaching a strength of 692 at the end of the year.

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The ICC can be handled by pointing out to the Canadians that they can either accept the doctrine that the Geneva Accords do not bind us since we are not a signatory or that they can accept the theory that we are merely replacing French trainers by MAAG trainers and not increasing the foreign strength in Viet-Nam. It will be remembered that in the days of TRIM there were 888 trainers-French and American.

Assuming the Canadians … accept this doctrine, the Indians will be asked to do the same.

If the Indians fail to buy this idea, it will put the ICC in a two-to-one majority critical of the increase of MAAG, but if the Canadian member remains firm, he can so block the activities of the ICC in this respect so that over a period of several years a dilatory exchange of correspondence will continue.

This solution at least buys a year or two more time and possibly during that time the ICC can either be abolished or will wither away.

Robert F. Evans
Colonel Infantry
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD/ISA Files: FRC 63 A 1672, 092 Vietnam. Secret. A note on the source text indicates O’Donnell saw this memorandum.
  2. John Foster Dulles was Secretary of State at the time of the Geneva Conference on Indochina in 1954. On December 16, 1954, Dulles met with Eden in Paris. A telegraphed report of that conversation reads in part; “[Dulles] told Eden that U.S. had no intention of increasing MAAG beyond the level obtained when Geneva agreement was signed. This raised real problem with respect to training Vietnamese and would require continuing use of French military personnel. He also explained that certain U.S. administrative personnel would be replaced by training personnel, but we did not plan to go beyond the ceiling imposed by Geneva accord.” (Secto 11 from Paris, December 17, 1954; for full text, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. XIII, Part 2, p. 2385)