132. Editorial Note

On September 17, 1961, the British Foreign Office announced the establishment in Saigon of an Advisory Mission to be headed by Robert G.K. Thompson, former Permanent Secretary of Defense in the Malayan Federation. According to the announcement, the Mission’s function was to assist the Government of Viet-Nam in administrative and police matters. The United States Embassy in Saigon reported that the British announcement was “given little play here,” but that it was encouraging that government officials at various levels, including President Diem himself, seemed more interested in the Malayan experiences than they had been in the past. (Telegram 414 from Saigon, September 28; Department of State, Central Files, 751K.5-MSP/9-2861)

The Embassy in Saigon had been furnished by the British Embassy texts of the draft announcement, unattributable background notes, and off-the-record replies to anticipated questions about the Mission. Among other things, this information indicated that the Mission was to be under the general direction of the British Ambassador, was to consist of four or five officers, and was to be purely civilian in its composition and activities. (Telegram 333 from Saigon, September 7; ibid., 751K.5-MSP/9-761)

On August 24, Field Marshal Sir General Gerald Templer, who was British High Commissioner for the Federation of Malaya from 1952 to 1954, wrote to Maxwell Taylor a letter of introduction for Robert Thompson, who, he said, would be visiting Washington, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore on his way to Saigon, where he was [Page 301] expected to join the other members of the British Advisory Mission toward the end of September. Templer asked Taylor whether he would meet with Thompson during the Washington visit “so that you might give him your personal guidance and advice.” (Ibid., Viet-Nam Working Group Files: Lot 66 D 193, VN 1961 Presidential Program-Political) Thompson met with Taylor at 11 a.m. on September 19. (National Defense University, Taylor Papers, Appointment Book-T-609-69A) He also met with Lemnitzer at 3 p.m. that day. (Ibid., Lemnitzer Papers, Journal-L-419-71) No record of the discussion at either of these meetings has been found.

In telegram 351 to Saigon, September 28, the Department reported that during his consultations in Washington, Thompson put forward several ideas that were used in Malaya to control the Communist insurgency. The “most immediately promising,” according to the Department, were an amnesty resettlement plan to encourage Viet Cong defections and the possibility of denying food supplies to the Viet Cong, especially in the high plateau area where food was scarce and denial could be effective. (Department of State, Central Files, 751K.00/9-2861)