66. Telegram From the Chief of the Military Assistance Advisory Group in Viet-Nam (McGarr) to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Lemnitzer)1

SGN 376. Increasing pressure being brought to bear by State Department to bring British, Malayan and other third country trainers into anti-guerrilla training program of RVNAF which is MAAG’s mission. Have pointed out strongly the confusion that will result if coordinated counter-insurgency doctrine and training which MAAG has developed, using best of other country experience applicable here, should now be redirected and diluted by individual third country trainers with different concepts and methods. Diem had assured me these third country trainers in MAAG field not desired. However, Ambassador here and Ken Young new Ambassador Thai land leaving for Washington visit today making concerted effort change Diem’s mind by indicating VN has much to learn from British and Australians. I do not agree and am [not?] certain history would show U.S. had to be “bailed out” by them as in past. I am [Page 167] unable here to pin down “Thompson group” qualifications and, more important, its authority; only that they are anti-guerrilla “experts.” Feel we must insist they convince us by furnishing concrete anti-guerrilla material for our evaluation and consideration before we approve their coming. Also, if State forces it, that it must be understood any actions by them in MAAG field are controlled by MAAG.

Now that MAAG has fought through major RVNAF reorganization and strengthening of command structure, taken over Civil Guard training, and gotten approval on a long overdue 20,000 RVNAF increase, we are just beginning to show positive results as manifested by increasing offensive operations against Viet Cong. I am convinced US prestige as well as that of US military will suffer in Southeast Asia if third country individuals are to be forced into MAAG field here. I have no objection to their operations in other fields and this is already mostly agreed by the country team. This should suffice to “show the flag.” If State Department insistence result of political expediency, then believe strongly Defense Department must, to protect itself, go on record that we are now progressing in a military sense and have already set the stage organization and strength-wise for further successes. New approach by Ken Young here yesterday with Thuan and me was have “international counter-guerrilla warfare school,” which has been considered by Washington Task Force, for location somewhere in Far East definitely located South Vietnam. MAAG is resisting this maneuver for reasons above and in addition, because feel it will conflict with and retard our hot war effort by sowing seeds of doubt our methods with other countries trying to get into act operationally. Better results obtainable by location of “international counter-guerrilla warfare school” in say Malaya, with field research work here by its “students.” I am convinced participation by third country trainers would be militarily counter-productive MAAG’s mission here.

As a fall back position, if forced to have “international counter-guerrilla warfare school,” in Vietnam, believe we could possibly compromise on Asian trainers, such as Filipinos and Chinese Nationalists, as they really knowledgeable, would be more acceptable to GVN, mix better ethnically and would not downgrade US effort to extent British participation.

Augmentation of RVNAF is being delayed by US failure so far to assure the GVN of the necessary defense support funds as differentiated from MAP funds already promised. While admittedly an economic problem, the GVN high officials say they cannot by themselves finance the local currency costs of the 20,000 augmentation presently approved, the 30,000 additional augmentation proposed nor the 100,000 augmentation to achieve the requisite 15 [Page 168] division force which they are convinced they need and with which MAAG analysis agrees, all concurrently with maintaining paramilitary forces which they also supporting local currency-wise. In view GVN economic base, cannot expect GVN carry this added security load. In addition attempting this would result serious curtailment of Diem’s economic and social programs. USOM attitude here apparently strongly supported by ICA and State in Washington is to sit by and wait for Special Financial Group (SFG) to arrive and analyze economic and financial situation. This could take months and every day the RVNAF mobilization is further delayed is dangerous. These fiscal and diplomatic types fail or refuse to realize the time lag for training and equipping military forces.

In view feeling by GVN that we have not lived up to our commitments in the past, following on heels of deteriorating Laos situation and Vice President Johnson’s statements here, more delay could well trigger an attitude of neutralism in both the military and certain dissident political circles which could be disastrous to US Presidential policy pronouncements again reiterated in Kennedy address this morning emphasizing deeds not words.2 General Sibley accompanying Secretary Defense Thuan to Washington and will see you. Sincerely hope Secretary Defense Thuan will be given solid commitments on defense support aid. President GVN defense budget for 1962 limited by USOM to 3.150 billion piastres, whereas 7.7 billion piastres required if RVNAF augmentation is not to suffer further delays.

  1. Source: National Defense University, Lemnitzer Papers, 1961, Eyes Only Messages In. Secret: Eyes Only; Exclusive.
  2. For text of President Kennedy’s address to the American people, June 6, concerning his meeting with Khrushchev at Vienna, June 3-4, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1961, pp. 441-446.