170. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Robertson) to Secretary of State Dulles 0


  • Additional Military Assistance to the Indonesian Army


On November 5, 1958 you approved a series of future U.S. actions with respect to Indonesia1 including an augmented program of military assistance totaling $7.8 million to be allocated to the three Indonesian Armed Services as follows: Army—$2.4 million (bridges): Navy—$2.9 million (small vessels and hardware for Marine Corps); Air Force—$2.5 million (pilot training) (Tab A).2 While the Army is our primary target, it was and is considered important to give some assistance to the Navy and Air Force to prevent inter-service jealousies from working against the Army leadership. A request for a Presidential Determination under Section 451(a) of the Mutual Security Act of 1954, as amended, approving the use of $7.8 million for furnishing military assistance on a grant basis to Indonesia is presently in its final stages of preparation before being sent to the White House.

In preliminary discussions of this possible assistance, however, the Indonesian Army has responded without enthusiasm to our proposed [Page 317] furnishing of bridges and has asked instead that the U.S. consider supplying items of the highest priority—i.e. basic light arms and support equipment for 20 infantry battalions. The equipment requested (small arms, transportation and communications equipment—ALUSNA Djakarta telegram 232345Z3 December, Tab B) has been “sanitized” by the Indonesians to take into consideration the problem we have with the Netherlands and Australians over the supply of heavy equipment or equipment designed for amphibious operation. Ambassador Jones recommends that we agree to furnish this equipment for 20 infantry battalions on an urgent basis (Embassy telegrams 20264 and 2063,5 Tab C). Assistant Secretary of Defense Irwin has informed us that the Defense Department and the JCS strongly endorse the proposal and has stated that funds are available. The substitution of this first priority Army equipment in place of the bridges would require additional financing of $7.2 million. The total amount of the pending request for Presidential Determination would thus be raised from $7.8 million to $15.0 million.

I believe that it is essential to the success of our policy in Indonesia that we respond favorably and quickly to the Indonesian Army’s request that we furnish this basic equipment for 20 infantry battalions. The Army with a strength of about 200,000 men is a potent political force. It is the only force in Indonesia which stands a reasonable chance of being able to stem Communist advances and has made a start in this direction. Compared to the Navy and the Air Force, the Army to date has contracted for only relatively small quantities of military equipment from the Soviet bloc. Our failure to respond favorably to the Army’s request will weaken the position of the Army Chief of Staff Nasution and other pro-West officers and almost certainly force the Army to turn increasingly to the bloc as a source of military supply. A favorable answer to Nasution would, on the other hand, enable us at least for the next few months to retain and perhaps increase our influence within the Army and our ability to encourage internal Indonesian developments along a desirable course.


That you approve an increase of $7.2 million in the pending request for Presidential Determination for Indonesia, raising the total to be requested from $7.8 million to $15.0 million to be allocated as follows: Army—$9.6 million; Navy—$2.9 million; Air Force—$2.5 million; the [Page 318] equipment to be furnished to the Army to be as described in Tab B and the equipment to be furnished to the Navy and Air Force to be as originally described in Tab A, and that the Dutch, British and Australians be informed accordingly.6

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 756D.5–MSP/1–959. Secret. Drafted by Wenzel on January 8 and cleared by Parsons and Merchant. This memorandum was sent through and initialed by Dillon and Herter.
  2. See Document 163.
  3. No tabs were found attached. According to a note on the source text, however, Tab A was Document 160.
  4. See footnote 3, Document 169.
  5. Document 169.
  6. See footnote 4, Document 169.
  7. On January 20, Dulles approved this recommendation. In telegram 1327 to Djakarta, January 22, the Department informed the Embassy of Dulles’ decision, noting that the subject should not be discussed with the Indonesian Government pending further instruction. It explained that a request for a Presidential Determination was being modified to reflect these changes in the augmented military sales program. (Department of State, Central Files, 756D.56/1–2259) See Supplement.