20. Telegram From the Embassy in Australia to the Department of State1

2886. Ref: Stateʼs 89909; Embtel 2847.2

In brief conversation with DCM, Prime Minister said he intends undertake general review of GOA military commitments as soon as Sir John Wilton, Chairman Chiefs of Staff, returns from Saigon, and new Cabinet formed sometime next week. Holt indicated that, with election success behind him in which Viet-Nam major issue, Cabinet should consider on urgent basis what more GOA can contribute to Viet-Nam. He said Cabinet would also review forces committed to Malaysia and get determination whether some elements GOA forces there might better be utilized in Viet-Nam. He stressed GOA desire maintain British forces in Malaysia and said GOA would have to take account of this in their consideration of possible adjustments in their own force structure in Malaysia.

Comment: Following are present prospects for an increase in military commitment to SVN:3

Three of eight army battalions are overseas now. Two of remaining five were recently activated and will not be equipped or combat-ready for some time. Army is hard put to absorb new Selective National Service input of personnel and support present overseas deployment. A third battalion could be sent to Viet-Nam by consolidating and transferring trained personnel from Australian based battalions. This could be done in three to four monthsʼ time, at expense of slowing down training other battalions and absorption National Service men. Armyʼs position is that there should be a third battalion in Australian Viet-Nam Task Force and RAA does have plans to implement increase providing order is given.

Most likely source for relatively early augmentation in SVN is Air Force. Probably units would be light bomber squadron (Canberraʼs) for fighter-bomber squadron (Sabreʼs). Like all Australian units, Air Force is familiar with US operations and could be easily integrated.

[Page 49]

Navy could probably release up to four minesweepers now based Malaysia. In addition, as new patrol boats now being acquired become available, these could be assigned. But this would not be possible for about two years.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, DEF 6 AUSTL. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Repeated priority to Kuala Lumpur and Saigon. On the White House copy of this telegram there is an indication that the President saw it. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Australia, Vol. II, Cables 1/66–7/67)
  2. Telegram 89909 not found. Telegram 2847 from Canberra, November 29, is in Department of State, Central Files, DEF 6 UK.
  3. On December 16 Rostow informed the President that the Australians had decided to send 900 more men to Vietnam, a fighter squadron of 8 fighter bombers, a ship, and 6 frogmen for harbor clearance. (Note from Rostow to Johnson, December 16; ibid., Memos 1/66–7/67)