104. Memorandum From the President’s Military Representative (Taylor) to the President1


  • Southeast Asian Planning
In continuing my examination of the need for increasing the South Vietnamese Army in line with President Diem’s request of June 9,2 I have become increasingly aware of the need for a rational analysis of the need for military forces in Laos and Thailand, as well as in Vietnam.
The immediate military danger to Viet-Nam as well as to its neighbors derives from the continued infiltration from the North into the Laotian panhandle and over the western border of Vietnam. There is no present military plan in existence which is adequate to cope with this threat.SEATO 53 is a military plan designed primarily to hold Vientiane, Seno and several other important population centers. It offers no response to the continued attrition being carried on by the irregular invaders into Laos and Vietnam.
The Royal Laotian Army (FAL), with or without the Meos, is inadequate to cope with this threat. You are aware of the program to improve the quality of the FAL which is being carried forward presently by the MAAG in Laos. However, all of the reports which I have seen suggest that many months of intensive work will be necessary to make this force truly combat-worthy. Even if it becomes so, its strength and resources are not sufficient to cope unassisted with the infiltration.
Without suggesting a reduction of effort in North Laos, my feeling is that a prime military requirement is the early establishment of a secure base in the south of Laos, capable of covering the flank of South Viet-Nam and capable of providing a point of support for operations in the North. Such a base can be secured only through the cooperative action of Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, assisted and encouraged by the United States.
Action to pull these countries together in coordinated action should be accompanied by a continuation of our efforts to improve [Page 244] the Laotian Army. Following agreement as to the role which the military and paramilitary forces of these countries would play in establishing this base, the United States can then see more clearly the kind of military aid programs which are necessary and appropriate in this region. In other words, to answer the question of the future size of the Vietnamese Army, we need a strategic plan for the entire Southeast Asian area.
These comments add up to a reinforcement of Mr. Rostow’s terminal point in his Memorandum to you of July 25,4 that we need a tightly knit Southeast Asia task force to pull these complex issues together and to submit recommended solutions to the same Steering Group which is watching the Berlin situation. I have passed this paper to Mr. Steeves who is preparing the basic State position on a Southeast Asia program.
Maxwell D. Taylor 5
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Regional Security Series, Southeast Asia-General. Secret. No drafting or clearance information is given on the source text. Copies were sent to Bundy (presumably McGeorge), Lemnitzer, U. Alexis Johnson, Rostow, Robert Kennedy, and Steeves.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 69.
  3. Reference is to Plan 5/61, “A Plan To Assist the Royal Laotian Government To Counter Communist Insurgency in Laos,” (MS/623/1/61), April 20, 1961. (National Archives and Records Service, RG 333, SEATO Registry Microfilm, Reel S-3 61)
  4. Not found.
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.