213. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Robertson) to the Acting Secretary of State1
- New Plan for Supporting Lao National Army
In view of the importance of the Lao National Army not only for the maintenance of internal security but also as the Royal Lao Government’s most effective administrative instrument, we have been concerned for some time at its unsatisfactory state of efficiency and training. Defense has prepared a plan for improving support of the Lao National Army which involves a complete reorganization of the Program Evaluation Office (civilian MAAG) and a marked increase in the number of American active duty personnel in Laos.
Briefly, the plan envisages increasing the total authorized American strength of PEO from 56 to 66 of whom 28 would be active military personnel. It also calls for the assignment of a total of 96 American military personnel in twelve mobile training teams for a period of six months. These teams would operate ostensibly as a ramification of French military mission and would include some French members.
The French military and diplomatic representatives in Vientiane approved of the plan but the reaction of French officials in Paris was clearly negative. This negative position was based on a French view that participation of U.S. instructors in the training of the Lao Army would not be compatible with Article 6 of the 1954 Geneva Accord on Laos or with the former Lao Prime Minister’s declaration of May 31, 1958, undertaking continued observance of Geneva restrictions in Laos until a political settlement might be reached in Viet-Nam. The French position also reflected a French intention to “maintain wholly all their relationships with Laos.”
We have discussed this problem with the French Embassy here and with Mr. Daridan, Director General of Political and Economic Affairs at the Quai d’Orsay, stressing our desire to find a solution to the problem acceptable to France. We have also underlined the urgency of improving the training of the Lao National Army. We hope [Page 509] that the Lao declaration of February 112 will provide a basis for obtaining the necessary French acquiescence in the execution of the plan. However, we have informed Defense that it would be prudent to prepare an alternate plan to be used should it prove impossible to obtain French cooperation.
Pending a final determination of the French attitude we have suspended action on the twelve mobile training teams. We have proceeded, however, with the strengthening of the PEO, the temporary assignment of a team to survey MAP equipment on hand, and the temporary assignment of a small number of Seabees to assist in road and airport repair.
With your approval we propose to authorize the assignment of fifteen enlisted men to supervise Filipino technicians.
That you approve the assignment of fifteen U.S. enlisted men to supervise Filipino technicians already assigned to Laos.3
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.5/2–1759. Secret. Drafted by Corcoran and concurred in by Kocher and Parsons. An earlier memorandum with an identical subject title, but without a recommendation, was sent to and noted by Dulles on January 19. (ibid., 751J.5/1–1959; included in the microfiche supplement)↩
- An advance translation of the text of this statement is in telegram 1370 from Vientiane, February 10. In the statement, the Royal Lao Government stated that the 1954 Geneva Agreement on the cessation of hostilities in Laos had been fulfilled as had the responsibilities for Laos undertaken by the French High Command at Geneva. The government refused to accept the interpretation that the Geneva Agreements were applicable to Laos as long as the reunification of Vietnam had not taken place; nor would it accept the idea that it was the ICC’s role to mediate differences between the Royal Government and an unspecified opposition political party, the NLHX. (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/2–1059; included in the microfiche supplement)↩
- On another copy of this memorandum, a marginal note indicates Herter “approved providing no uniforms. February 17, 1959.” (Department of State, SEA (Laos) Files: Lot 65 D 169, Laos Jan.–Aug. 1959)↩