298. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Johnson 1


  • Increased Philippine Participation in Viet-Nam

Macapagal’s Proposal

On September 22 Macapagal told [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] that he expected to discuss the Viet-Nam situation with you, that he thought it was approaching “desperation,” and that he thought part of the trouble might be that the American advisers and military units, being “Westerners and white men,” seemed to the Vietnamese little different from the French and are consequently unable to “convey a sense of common purpose to them.” He suggested that the 16,000 American soldiers in Viet-Nam be replaced by an equal number of Filipinos and Thais. He recognized that “massive logistic support and ultimate control must remain in American hands.” He said he was confident of obtaining Congressional support if Philippine participation were not unilateral but shared with the Thais. Macapagal concluded that he did not wish to seem critical of our present policy and, [Page 657]therefore, wished advice as to whether he should raise the subject with you.2

Our Assessment

We are not sure of Macapagal’s motivation in making this offer. We are aware of the shortcomings of the Philippine armed forces, and are doubtful that Macapagal could obtain Congressional backing for a venture of this sort. Nevertheless, we believe that Macapagal’s proposal might be developed into real and active Philippine participation in support of the GVN. Macapagal seems to be sincerely concerned about the Viet-Nam situation; we believe that Philippine political leadership could be brought to support a substantially higher level of Philippine involvement, and that the problem is to devise levels and forms of participation which are tenable in terms of Philippine capabilities and acceptable to Philippine public opinion.

Philippine Capabilities

Given the above criteria, we believe the Philippines could produce forces such as the following:

Aircraft crews for support of the Viet-Nam Air Force.
Special Forces company.
Engineer platoons (up to 6).
Medical platoons (up to 3).
Personnel in such technical fields as signal, ordnance, transportation, and maintenance.

Marine/Navy personnel to assist the South Vietnamese in junk fleet training and similar maritime counter-insurgency operations.

We understand that use of any of the foregoing outside the Philippines would require Philippine Congressional authorization. In addition, however, the Philippine Government could produce without specific Congressional authorization (if funds were available):

Significantly increased numbers of civilian medical, engineering, and construction personnel and a variety of specialists to work in the civic action field such as agricultural experts. The Philippines could also contribute fertilizer.


The current Philippine budget will not cover the increased costs required for these activities. We are sure that Macapagal will expect the United States to provide the necessary financing.
We expect that, in addition to requesting us to finance Philippine activities in South Viet-Nam, Macapagal will use his proposal as a point of departure for further requests for significant increases in our MAP aid.

Saigon Reaction

Asked to comment on the Philippine capabilities listed above, Embassy Saigon has replied that any or all would be most welcome and has added that Filipinos already in the country are working out well.

Bangkok Reaction

Embassy Bangkok believes it is most unlikely that the Thai would be willing to go along with Macapagal’s proposal. The Embassy believes, however, that the Thai can be encouraged to increase economic aid considerably and, with proper handling, to augment their military assistance somewhat.

Talking Points

We believe Macapagal will be raising his proposal with you, and indeed Ambassador Blair will be suggesting to him that he do so. I suggest that you reply along the following lines:

We are delighted that Macapagal agrees with us in his assessment of the importance of Asians helping Asians in Viet-Nam. We have been most impressed by the ability and devotion of the Filipinos already in Viet-Nam. The nature and depth of our commitment in Viet-Nam is such that we cannot, however, take action which appears to constitute American withdrawal or lessening of interest, as this would be misread in Viet-Nam as well as by the Chinese and others.
At the same time, we believe the Philippines could make an important contribution by committing Philippine armed forces, in addition to making a significant increase in civilian participation in support of civic action.
Work on this should be done very quietly and, if Macapagal agrees in principle, you and he will instruct your representatives to get together to prepare detailed plans. You would hope that the subject could be discussed further at your second meeting.
If Macapagal raises the question of United States financing for increased Philippine activities in Viet-Nam or of increased MAP, you should tell him that in principle the United States will be willing to help out with respect to financing the activities in Viet-Nam, but you should give him no encouragement with respect to increased MAP. [Page 659]These subjects should be discussed by your respective staffs in the course of preparing the detailed plans mentioned above.

The Department of Defense concurs in this memorandum.3

Dean Rusk
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Philippines, Vol. I, 11/63–11/64. Secret. This memorandum was sent to the White House under an October 3 covering memorandum from Read to Bundy.
  2. [text not declassified]
  3. The Joint Chiefs of Staff informed McNamara in JCSM-347–64, October 3, that, “since neither Thailand nor the Philippines has an industrial base, their contributions, especially in economic and social fields, must be largely in terms of personnel and skills.” The JCS recommended contributions in civic action and counterinsurgency operations, and noted that both Thailand and the Philippines would regard these contributions as a basis for increases in their U.S. Military Assistance Program. The Joint Chiefs stated that replacement of U.S. military personnel in South Vietnam by Thai and Filipino military personnel was “impractical.” (Department of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff Files, Official File, 9150 (1 Oct 1964))