421. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Laos1

384. Reference to your 6832 and King’s decision to retain Souvanna Phouma.

Joint meeting of DOD, JCS and CAS just completed at which Dillon, Gates, Merchant, Dulles, Lemnitzer and members of their staffs present. Following concept was agreed as basis our course of action in present crisis in Laos.

In view of King’s unwillingness to assume responsibility requested of him it was agreed to make last desperate effort to work through and with Souvanna Phouma as the legal facade of legitimate government and at same time supporting Phoumi and other anti-Communist forces as outlined later. As basic to whole approach, for your information and guidance, you should understand that should this last desperate ploy not be effective difficult alternative must face us of supporting exclusively the anti-Communist elements without reference to Souvanna Phouma’s position. If he is willing to cooperate and do the King’s bidding and assist in an effort to save the integrity of Laos there are set forth below courses of action with which his compliance is required.

You are instructed to tell Souvanna Phouma in presenting our position to him that we must have his concurrence with the following actions if he is to earn US confidence and support: [Page 887]

Move the seat of government at least temporarily from Vientiane to Luang Prabang including the cabinet where he can be near the person of the King and out of danger of the Kong Le threat.
Take all feasible steps to ensure that Kong Le does not initiate action against any FAL units, and desist immediately from any threatening gesture or carrying out of hostilities against Savannakhet.
Ensure through Ouan and through forces at his disposal with the advice and counsel of PEO that all feasible precautions and steps be taken to preserve the assets of government including the Treasury preferably removing liquid cash to Luang Prabang.
Desist from current negotiations with the Pathet Lao and leave this whole issue in abeyance until such time as the government may be able to talk to the PL from a position of unity and strength.3

Begin FYI:

Supply of Anti-Communist Forces. Due to infeasibility of utilizing centralized control under current precarious situation, technique of direct supply to forces will be employed where required. This task will be planned and executed by CINCPAC with the cooperation of the various military Regions and CHPEO and existing arrangements Chief JUSMAAG Thailand.

Special arrangements are required for Savannakhet because of the importance of the concentration there. In moving in supplies already in the pipeline or those yet to be authorized care should be exercised to move with as little ostentation as possible in order not to arouse undue suspicion that center of military operations being centered in Savannakhet.

To ensure that necessary controls are exercised at Savannakhet, high level political and military advice is being assigned to ensure appropriate control. It is essential to this overall plan that Phoumi cooperate and understand the overall plan and concept which will form essential part of Advisors’ approach to him. This of course implies Phoumi’s being subject to his government if Souvanna meets the conditions. Appointment of advisors will be subject of subsequent message.4

In addition it is recognized that PEO personnel will be required to serve in continuing advisory capacity in operations and logistics. In this matter both latitude and discretion required but caution must be [Page 888] observed to ensure US advisory personnel not serve with units in combat.5

Diplomatic Action. We are calling in French, British and Australians immediately to inform them of our overall plan.6 In order to strengthen Souvanna Phouma’s chances of succeeding we are asking them to use their influence with him to carry out the suggestions outlined above. Inasmuch as they have been insistent on our support of him we should get their immediate assistance in gaining his cooperation. Similar information should be passed in the respective capitals to representatives of these governments in order to acquaint them with this concept. End FYI.7

For Bangkok: Ambassador Johnson should inform Sarit concerning the details of this plan of action. Ambassador Johnson’s recommendation also requested on extent to which SEATO representatives of the powers mentioned above should be informed.

Special Mission. In order to bring the thinking and details of this concept to all points concerned and engage in consultation with Ambassador and Country Team plus carrying out any other representation deemed advisable, special mission of Mr. Parson, Mr. Irwin of Defense and Admiral Riley of CINCPAC will be arriving soon as possible. Notification of travel plans upcoming.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/10–660. Top Secret; Niact; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Steeves and cleared with SEA, Merchant, and O’Donnell of OSD/ISA. Also sent niact to CINCPAC for POLAD and Bangkok and priority to London, Paris, Canberra, and Saigon.
  2. Supra.
  3. In telegram 708 from Vientiane, October 9, Brown reported that he had made the démarche to Souvanna. Brown thought that Souvanna’s response was as encouraging as could be expected. (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/10–960; included in the microfiche supplement)
  4. Telegram 387 to Vientiane, October 8, informed the Embassy that Phoumi’s adviser would be Robert J. Jantzen from Bangkok. (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/10–860)
  5. In JCS telegram DA 984040 to CINCPAC, October 8, the JCS instructed Acting PEO Chief Calhoun to inform Phoumi that PEO personnel would be stationed at Savannakhet and vicinity as logistics and operations advisers. (ibid., EA Files: Lot 68 D 77, Laos 1960, Part II; included in the microfiche supplement)
  6. Accounts of these discussions are in a memorandum of conversation, October 8 (Department of State, FE Files: Lot 62 D 26, MC–France), and telegram 389 to Vientiane, October 8 (ibid., Central Files, 751J.00/10–860). Both are included in the microfiche supplement.
  7. In telegram 702 from Vientiane, October 8, Brown requested the following clarifications:

    “Would help greatly if we could have clear picture our present objective. Is it merely restore Phoumi’s morale and effectiveness to keep him in picture to fight PL and have better bargaining power with Souvanna? Is it to support him to overthrow Souvanna? Or is it something else? I foresee much trouble unless everyone is absolutely clear on what we are after.” (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/10–860)

    Telegram 396 to Vientiane, October 9, informed Brown that the “level of aid to Phoumi, at least until we know Souvanna’s reaction, should aim at maintaining morale and capabilities southern forces in being against PL.” (ibid., 751J.00/10–960; included in the microfiche supplement)