219. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, April 10, 19591


  • Franco-American Cooperation in Training Lao National Army


  • His Excellency Herve Alphand, French Ambassador
  • Mr. Charles Lucet, French Minister
  • The Honorable Walter S. Robertson, Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs
  • Mr. Eric Kocher, Director, Southeast Asian Affairs
  • WE—Mr. Edgar J. Beigel
  • SEA—Mr. Thomas J. Corcoran, Officer-in-Charge, Laos Affairs

Mr. Alphand referred to his earlier conversation with Mr. Murphy 2 on the subject of ANL training and to the suggestion of General d’Arrivere concerning Franco-American cooperation and said that he had received word that the French Government was ready to consider General d’Arrivere’s suggestion. He then reviewed the contents of the attached note and said he felt that execution of such a plan would not be in violation of the Geneva Accords. He well realized that the US had not signed the Geneva Accords but felt that since the French had signed them this consideration was important. He said that if the US agreed in principle the details of such a plan might be discussed between the French Foreign Office and the American Embassy in Paris.

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Mr. Robertson said that there appeared to have been a misunderstanding about what we had proposed from the very beginning on improving the training of the ANL. General Heintges, when he visited Laos near the end of last year, had been concerned that the ANL was not getting proper training and that its condition was deteriorating. Under the Geneva Accords the French had been entitled to maintain a military mission of 1500 men and base garrisons of 3500 men. In actual fact, we understood that the total French military strength in Laos had declined to about 300 of whom only about 100 appeared to be concerned with training. General Heintges and the Defense Department were concerned about our ability to continue to get funds to support the Lao army if it appeared that through inadequate training it would be unable to accomplish its purpose. General Heintges had discussed the matter with General d’Arrivere, with whom he was personally acquainted, and with Ambassador Gassouin. He had worked out a plan for training under French supervision. It was never our intention to take the place of the French in training the Lao army. The French representatives on the ground in Laos had been in general agreement with this plan. Mr. Robertson had also discussed it with Mr. Daridan during his recent visit to Washington.

Mr. Alphand expressed the opinion that French acceptance of US participation in ANL training and French willingness to pay the cost of additional French training personnel represented progress. Mr. Robertson said that we were much encouraged by this news and that we would refer the French proposal to the Department of Defense for its comments after which we would again discuss it with the French Embassy.



After receiving the reply of the Lao Government to its proposals on the question of training the royal army, the French Government decided to consider a new formula capable of assuring useful Franco-American cooperation in Laos. This formula could be inspired by the principles described below:

With a view to respecting the arrangements of the Geneva Accords, it is important that France retain charge of training Lao combat units.
The United States would for its part, in accord with the French Military Mission, attend to the functioning of logistic services such as quartermaster, engineering, communications, matériel.
Instruction would take place at the Seno base where would be assembled on the one hand the French technical personnel there stationed and on the other hand 80 French instructors charged with assuring the instruction and putting back into condition of the 14 Lao infantry battalions. The Lao authorities would be invited to maintain permanently at Seno two battalions under instruction and to furnish the necessary service personnel.
The upkeep of the 80 French instructors charged with training the Lao forces would be at the expense of the French government.

The adoption of this solution presupposes that the Seno base which belongs territorially under Lao sovereignty will remain under French command.

The French Government hopes that the details of this formula can be discussed as soon as possible in Paris between the United States Embassy and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.5/4–1059. Secret. Drafted by Corcoran and cleared by Kocher.
  2. Memorandum of conversation, April 8. (ibid., 751J.5/4–859; included in the microfiche supplement)
  3. Secret. The source text indicates this is an unofficial translation.