235. Memorandum From the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Battle) to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)0


  • Estimate of RLG Military Capability

In response to the President’s request to Mr. U. Alexis Johnson for the United States Country Team’s assessment on the military capability of the Royal Lao Government if hostilities were to resume, I am forwarding you the following information.

[Page 525]

On October 27, General Boyle, Chief MAAG, Laos, discussed this subject with General Maxwell Taylor in Bangkok. General Boyle made it clear that the morale and capacity of the FAR had improved so that at least they could cope with any purely Lao forces deployed against them. However, he considered that the enemy could take over all of Laos at any time it wished in view of the presence of Viet-Minh cadres and units and the capacity of the opposition to increase the number of Viet-Minh forces rapidly at will. (Vientiane’s Despatch 95, November 7, 1961)1

Ambassador Brown informed the Department on November 25 (Vientiane’s 755)2 that this assessment has the concurrence of the Country Team. In his message the Ambassador added:

“The enemy has the capability of reinforcing his forces rapidly along the multiple covered routes at numerous places along the 800 miles of frontier with North Viet-Nam. It must also be accepted that he can similarly reinforce with Chinese ‘volunteers’ or units along an additional 200 miles of frontier of Communist China. Against this flexible force, and with a porous frontier of approximately 1,000 miles, FAR has only an Army of about 67,000. When this is compared against the situation in South Viet-Nam with its relatively well-equipped and well-trained Army of 170,000 as well as a Civil Guard of approximately 100,000, where the enemy is estimated to have a force numerically smaller than PL-KL forces and where there is only about 300 miles of unfriendly frontier to guard, limitations of FAR combat capability would appear fairly obvious.”

L.D. Battle3
  1. Source: Department of State, FE/SEA (Laos) Files: Lot 69 D 169, 324, Military, Laos 1961. Secret. Drafted by Bruns and cleared by Queneau, Cleveland, Anderson, and U. Alexis Johnson.
  2. Ibid., Central Files, 120.1151K/11–761.
  3. Ibid., 751J.5/11–2561.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature. A handwritten note on it indicates that it was sent. Johnson himself sent Bundy a shorter memorandum under his own name, November 27, which attached a copy of telegram 755 from Vientiane and summarized this situation as follows:

    “In summary, Ambassador Brown and other members of the Country Team concur that, although there has been an improvement in the morale and the capacity of the Lao armed forces (FAR) which would enable them to cope with the Pathet Lao and Kong Le forces only, in view of the presence of Viet Minh cadres and units and the capacity of the Viet Minh to reinforce, the enemy still maintains the capability of defeating the FAR and taking over all of Laos.” (Ibid.)