468. Memorandum From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to President Kennedy0

Help to Kong Le and the Meos

In response to your question this morning whether Kong Le and the Meos were receiving American support, I have obtained the following information from State and CIA:1

We are aiding the Kong Le Neutralists and the Meo through five channels.

Under Article 6 of the Geneva Accords,2 military supplies and equipment are permitted to be introduced into Laos at the request of the RLG. Souvanna Phouma has made such a request, but we have not surfaced it because it was not a cabinet decision. U.S. supplies are being delivered to him from Thailand. Souvanna is using his Soviet and American aircraft and crews to airlift these military supplies directly to Kong Le in the Plaine des Jarres.
Phoumi, with our encouragement, has been delivering arms and ammunition out of FAR stocks to Souvanna, who airlifts them to the Plaine des Jarres as described above. We replace the depleted FAR stocks.
Phoumi is also delivering arms and ammunition directly to Kong Le’s isolated units, using his own air force.

Air America has augmented its regular airlift of food, clothing, etc., to the Meo tribesmen, who turn some of it over to isolated Kong Le troops.

[2 paragraphs (7 lines of source text) not declassified]

There are occasional reports of arms and ammunition shortages, both from the KL and the Meo. In some cases this is a problem of transport. [Page 1008] It is easy to supply the Plaine des Jarres airfield, harder to get the materiel overland through the jungle to isolated units.

The Meo have not been given large reserves of ammunition, because they are extremely difficult to control. Nevertheless, we have so far been able to keep them adequately supplied on a current basis.

Over the last four days the situation in the Plaine des Jarres appears to have been militarily quiet.3 Either this is due to a change in Communist tactic from military aggression to political and propaganda attacks, or is simply the build up before the next Pathet Lao assault on Kong Le. One risk we run is that Kong Le may well make the next attack in an effort to regain the positions in the Plaine des Jarres which he has lost. Thus our Ambassador in Vientiane is trying to walk a tricky tightrope between insuring Kong Le adequate military assistance, on the one hand, and avoiding the escalation of the fighting on the other.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Laos: General, 5/1/63–5/20/63. Top Secret. Drafted by Forrestal.
  2. In Current Intelligence Memorandum OCI No. 1541/63, May 2, the Office of Current Intelligence concluded that complaints by Kong Le and Meo Commander Vang Pao that they were receiving insufficient support, which were cited in a CIA morning report of May 1, reflected typical impatience of field commanders with those supporting them rather than a problem of inadequate supply. The spirits of Kong Le’s and Vang Pao’s forces were good and had improved since the desperate days of early April 1963. The memorandum went on to explain the methods of supplying Kong Le and the Meo, similar to the information presented to the President below. (Ibid.)
  3. Article 6 of the Protocol to the Declaration on the Neutrality of Laos, July 23, reads: “The introduction into Laos of armaments, munitions and war material generally, except such quantities of conventional armaments as the Royal Government of Laos may consider necessary for the national defense of Laos, is prohibited.” Full text is in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1962, pp. 1078–1083.
  4. According to OCI No. 1541/63, 4,500 Meo guerrillas were involved in limited support of Kong Le. In a memorandum to Taylor, May 2, Bagley concluded: “The Meos continue to be a major deterrent to unlimited PL aggression in central Laos. There are some indications that Souvanna may have traded off a halt to recent Meo actions against the PL to get the cease fire now existing in Laos.” (National Defense University, Taylor Papers, Laos #2, 7, T–265–69)