283. Telegram From the Embassy in Thailand to the Department of State1

162. Pierce Arrow. Deptels 178,2 141.3

I have delayed answering inquiry relating Thai attitude in event we request deployment of ground forces until I could get the results of [Page 608] special Thai Cabinet meeting that was held on 5 August after I had presented Presidentʼs letter to PriMin. In course of my meeting with Thanom, I decided to take advantage of his obvious pleasure with US actions and Presidentʼs message. I said I had not been instructed to bring up question of ground troop deployment, but it obviously matter we should keep under close review as situation developed. Thanom stated that in principle he had no objection to deployment of ground troops but would wish to have further advance consultation as to the timing of any deployments considered necessary. I did not pursue matter further. As I had thought, the Cabinet reaction indicates a divided opinion (see FTG 8110).4 I think Thanom would be inclined to agree without much argument over detail but he would be under considerable pressure from Gen Chitti, Marshal Dawee and FonMin Thanat to refrain from doing so until and unless there was a clear indication of the necessity for their use across the Mekong. Motivations are not wholly clear. I am inclined to feel Chitti and Dawee opportunistic in terms personal effect on individual positions. Thanat quite simply would wish to use such consultation to influence US policy in protecting Thai vital interests.
There are several basic factors on which there is general Thai agreement. These are.
Extreme Thai sensitivity about assuming a stance of open belligerency. [4 lines of source text not declassified.
As I have reported several times, the Thai simply do not believe that the presence of American troops as such would provide additional deterrence. They believe the wide publicity given to recent logistic buildup plus demonstrated ability to deploy rapidly by air makes actual physical presence in Thailand unnecessary before there is reason for their use and a decision to so use them.
The Thai are quite frankly extremely loath to increase the American military presence. At present moment we are over the 5,000 mark and rapidly climbing. Until we intend to use combat troops across the Mekong they would hope to limit US military presence here, particularly that growing portion which is primarily intended for US strategic interests.
Thai sensitivity over imputation they totally dependent on US. Latest Thai public comments carry pointed emphasis on absence present need for US troop deployment and refrain from public comment on US air deployment. RTG obviously attempting make it clear to its own citizens it not abdicating its authority and responsibility to US; and that US assistance will be invoked only when job clearly beyond Thai capabilities.
US slowness in responding to Thai concern over US Command arrangements.
In summary, I have agreement (in principle) for deployment of ground troops subject to consultation on timing. Such consultation will inevitably involve some searching questions as to our plans for their use. Nevertheless, I can secure agreement any time we really determine this essential enough to warrant real pressure and I am given reasonable rationale.

In my opinion, it would be serious error to press such request at present time.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Immediate, Exdis. Repeated to CINCPAC, Saigon for Westmoreland, and Vientiane. Pierce Arrow was a series indicator relating to the North Vietnamese attack/attacks on the U.S. Destroyer Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin and the U.S. response to it. Passed to the White House, Department of Defense, and CIA.
  2. In telegram 178 to Bangkok, August 5, the Department instructed the Embassy to state in response to press inquiries that the United States contemplated no deployment of U.S. troops to Thailand except for precautionary air movements. The Embassy was also requested to obtain Thai Government advance approval for possible deployment of U.S. ground troops already on alert, unless it would involve wide-ranging discussions with the Thais on the use to which U.S. troops might be put. (Ibid.)
  3. Dated July 30. (Ibid., POL 27 ASIA SE)
  4. Not found.