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268. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State 1

684. Task Force Vietnam. Department has informed us2 current policy approach re Geneva Accords is that we need not confirm to world that we disregarding Accords by increased aid to Viet-Nam and that GVN should counter charges violation not by admission but by counter-charging DRV violations and insisting on ICC investigations of GVN charges if DRV charges to be investigated.

We agree with this approach as far as it goes, but believe that further development of our Geneva Accords position is necessary in order enable US meet (a) political need of reassuring Vietnamese public and preventing further morale deterioration through provision more information as to what US has been doing in way military assistance to Viet-Nam during past few months and, as decisions reached in future, what additional steps we are taking, and (b) desirability maintaining with local US correspondents reasonable status of credibility which now seriously stretched by our continued insistence US military personnel still within 685 ceiling. (c) Believe also that if and when US military personnel are given certain operational functions in Vietnam, USG may find it desirable to let American public know what they are doing so that it will be prepared for possible news of casualties.

Believe that we could meet above objectives to substantial degree if we could find means consistent with Geneva Accords of being more direct and forthright about increased US military personnel in Vietnam. We think this could be done by use rotation argument under Article 163 to effect that American military personnel are replacing withdrawn French personnel. This was basis our argument to ICC in early 1960 when we increased MAAG to 685. At that time we said we had right to go up to 888, since French had at least that number training personnel in Viet-Nam when Geneva Accords concluded. Subsequently we learned from French military [Page 646]attaché Saigon that French training cadres in 1954 actually amounted to about 3,500.

Believe we should inform Canadians and Indians bilaterally (not through formal ICC channel except in answer to eventual ICC letter requesting explanation) that we now intend take advantage this fact for further augmentation MAAG in light growing DRV threat. Department will recall this is essentially line we intended to take some months ago but Canadians in Saigon objected and said Indians would not go along. However, in light Washington discussions with Nehru, we would hope Indians would now be more forthcoming. (Have discussed here with Ambassador Galbraith.)

Seems desirable at present time avoid any reference to our “right” to replace French combat troops (who amounted to about 150,000 in 1954), because this would probably make it tactically harder to sell Indians and therefore Canadians on immediate case about increase in MAAG. We should however, keep this point in reserve for future use if needed.

In eventual publicity which we might undertake after establishing 3,500 justifications with Indians and Canadians, we do not think we would need to be rigidly careful to state publicly that all American military personnel in Viet-Nam are trainers and advisers only, but neither should be strident in stating that they are not. We believe that case by case decision as to what to state publicly would be best method, and that Embassy Saigon should be consulted in each case prior public announcements anywhere. Since it is likely we shall want to show that some American personnel are “operational” (such as projected helicopter crews), we should be prepared meet possible argument by DRV and Poles that this shows de facto military alliance in violation Article 19 Geneva Accords.4 Believe our best way of meeting this if it arises would be to point out that as far as US is legally concerned only written treaty signed and ratified by two-thirds of Senate constitutes military alliance and that does not exist in case Vietnam.

Would appreciate Department’s early reaction to above. If Department concurs suggest New Delhi and Ottawa be asked make prompt approaches to governments to which accredited, and that these approaches be pitched more in terms of informing those governments what we propose to do rather than asking for their concurrence. Meanwhile we would compile with view toward bolstering [Page 647]Vietnamese morale what we believe could be released locally with respect build-up US military assistance during recent months.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751K.00.11-2161. Secret. Repeated to CINCPAC for PolAd, New Delhi, Ottawa, Bangkok, Vientiane, London, Paris, Geneva for FECON, and Phnom Penh.
  2. Reference is to telegram 618; see footnote 2, Document 257.
  3. Article 16 of the Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities in Vietnam, signed at Geneva on July 20, 1954, stipulated seven conditions under which the “rotation of units and groups of personnel, the arrival in Viet-Nam of individual personnel on a temporary duty basis and the return to Viet-Nam of individual personnel after short periods of leave or temporary duty outside VietNam” would be permitted. ( Foreign Relations, 1952-1954, vol. XVI, pp. 1505-1520)
  4. Article 19 reads: “With effect from the date of entry into force of the present Agreement, no military base under the control of a foreign State may be established in the re-grouping zone of either party; the two parties shall ensure that the zones assigned to them do not adhere to any military alliance and are not used for the resumption of hostilities or to further an aggressive policy.” (Ibid.)