359. Memorandum From Marshall Wright of the National Security Council Staff to the Presidentʼs Special Assistant (Rostow)1
- Additional Thai Troop Contribution in Viet-Nam
The current state of play is:
- The Thai Offer. The Thai have offered to send a 10,800-man brigade group. The group would be composed of 3 Infantry, 1 Artillery, and 1 Engineer Battalion, plus supporting units. This unit would include the 2,300-man unit which should be leaving Thailand for Viet-Nam very soon. In other words, the Thai are offering an additional 8,500 men.
The Price. The Thai have tied to this offer a statement of their military requirements which, if taken at face value, is huge. Our Embassy, [Page 797] however, has isolated those elements of the Thai request on which quick action is necessary to obtain the additional troops in Viet-Nam. It is much more modest.2
The Thai want:
- 1 U.S. Hawk Battalio.
- 1 Helicopter Battalio.
- Equipment for a 10,000-man “compensating force.
- Equipment, and maintenance and training costs for a 5,000-man replacement pool for the unit in South Viet-Na.
- Assumption by us of all charges to the Thai budget incurred in equipping, training and maintaining in South Viet-Nam of the brigade grou.
The Embassy also believes the Thai will require accelerated delivery of some airplanes and patrol boats already scheduled under MAP, and some long-term extension of MAP support to elements of the Thai armed forces not now receiving assistance.
Very tentatively, the cost of the package has been figured at a maximum of $149 million. This estimate is being refined, but should not prove too much off the mark. At that price, the 8,500 men will cost us about $17,529 apiece.
Problems. The initial reaction in DOD is fairly favorable. They see
the following potential problems.
- There is some sentiment in Defense that the Hawk Battalion just makes no sense for Thailand.
- All agree it makes excellent sense to give the Thai a Helicopter Battalion for use against the insurgency in the North East. There is, however, a real problem in physically providing the helicopters as quickly as the Thai want them. It is probable that delivery during CY 1968 and 1969 (as urged by our Embassy) could only be made at the expense of the requirements of our forces in Viet-Nam.
- The Thai probably expect us to pay the per diem costs of the men in Viet-Nam, which is offensive, in principle, to DOD and which would set an unhealthy precedent in regard to other troop contributing countries. (The actual amount of money is small, however, and it should not be hard to find a way around this problem.)
- I am told that Secretary McNamara takes a dim view of financing “compensatory forces”. I would guess, however, that this will be a sticking point with the Thai, and we have already agreed to a similar arrangement with the Koreans.
- Secretary McNamara had taken the position that it was not worthwhile getting involved in an additional Thai contribution of less than 10,000 men. The Thai are actually offering only 8,500 additional men. The total Thai force, however, would total over 10,000 and this, I expect, will be treated as meeting the McNamara formula.
Political Strategy. Our Embassy in Bangkok believes that with a quick response to the package cited above, the Thai could put 5,000 men in Viet-Nam by mid-1968 and an additional 5,000 by early 1969. These are “the most optimistic dates possible” and would be dependent on quick delivery by us of the necessary equipment as well as a good deal of Thai vigor in the follow-through.
Any attempt to negotiate a significantly different package would be difficult and very time-consuming, according to our Embassy. Should we decide that the price is too high and choose to forget the whole thing, the Embassy believes the Thai would immediately become less willing to cooperate in making Thai real estate available for a broad range of Viet-Nam-related projects.
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 5 D (2), Allies Troop Commitments and other Aid, 1967–1969. Secret; Exdis. A note by William Jorden on the source text indicates that he had read it.↩
- The Embassyʼs report and assessment of the Thai offer are in telegrams 3318, 3319, and 3320 from Bangkok, all September 19. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)↩