340. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense McNamara to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Wheeler)1


  • U.S. Deployments to Thailand

I am concerned over the steady growth in the number of U.S. personnel planned for deployment to Thailand. It is essential that we pro [Page 754] vide the forces necessary to support U.S. combat operations, to provide adequate counterinsurgency training for the Thailand Armed Forces, and to meet certain other specific commitments we have undertaken (e.g., improvement of certain key lines of communications). It appears, however, that we should be able to meet these commitments and support adequately our air operations without deploying forces in excess of the personnel that are currently approved. You are aware of the very serious implications that a large and growing American presence has for a small and underdeveloped nation such as Thailand. As experience in Vietnam has shown, economic dislocation can seriously weaken the social fabric of the country and undo much that military actions accomplish. Also, large numbers of Americans provide a very fertile propaganda target for Communist and other dissident forces.

Therefore, I believe we must make a continued effort to keep the numbers of U.S. forces in Thailand to a minimum.

Robert S. McNamara
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 72 A 2468, Thailand 370. Secret. Attached to this memorandum was a memorandum to McNamara, January 13, from Assistant Secretary of State for Systems Analysis Enthoven who recommended that McNamara sign the memorandum to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.