22. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State Washington, January 18, 19551


  • Various Matters Concerning the Three Associated States


  • Secretary of State
  • Deputy Secretary Robert Anderson, Defense Department
  • Admiral Arthur W. Radford
  • Under Secretary Hoover
  • C—Mr. Douglas MacArthur II
  • FE—Mr. Walter S. Robertson
  • EUR—Mr. Livingston T. Merchant
  • S/MSA—Mr. Frederick E. Nolting
  • PSA—Mr. Kenneth T. Young, Jr.

1. Viet-Nam

In opening the meeting the Secretary said that in his opinion things seemed to be going better in Viet-Nam. He referred to General Collins’ most recent telegram, Saigon’s 2811.2 There was some discussion of the CollinsEly minute of understanding on the organization and training of autonomous Vietnamese armed forces. The Secretary said that he had the impression that General Collins was proceeding to negotiate satisfactorily with the Vietnamese on a de facto basis. This was confirmed. In reply to the Secretary’s question on the status of this memorandum, Mr. Robertson reported that there appeared to be a complete misunderstanding in Paris since the French Embassy had informed the Department this morning that, according to a telegram from Paris, General Collins had agreed to present the French revision to the Vietnamese.

2. Cost Estimates

Mr. Anderson then said that his principal concern was the costs estimate of $700 to $800 million over a two-year period which General Collins had submitted in a recent telegram.3 Mr. Anderson said that these figures were all well and good but that he thought the figures should be considered on a comparative basis for the area as a whole. What are the chances for effective results? He recalled that when General Collins went out to Viet-Nam, Secretary Dulles had [Page 49] indicated that prospects were very vague, perhaps ten, twenty or thirty percent. The problem was to find the source of funds of such large estimates. The only one in existence is the $700 million fund under Section 121.4 The Indochina estimates amount to about one-half of that fund. He was worried because Defense has a large number of other items to charge against this same fund.

Later on in the meeting Mr. Nolting came in at the Secretary’s request to discuss the table of $1,100 million claims on Section 121, which Mr. Stassen had given the OCB recently. Mr. Anderson said that new estimates presented by General Collins appear to be substantially more than previous figures. He wanted to know if there was enough money in this fund to take care of Collins’ estimates.

Mr. Nolting replied that there was sufficient money to take care of Collins’ estimates. However, the $700 million is oversubscribed by other items, mainly, military hardware amounting to some $550 million. This includes the item of $154 million for the rehabilitation of equipment in Indochina. Mr. Nolting noted that there was about $400 million oversubscribed. The question is what are legitimate claims against this fund. The problem is to place the highest priority tag on these various items to bring the total of claims down to $700 million. In answer to Mr. Anderson’s question that there did not seem to be enough money for all the promises made to the various governments, Mr. Nolting replied there was enough to meet existing commitments but not enough to meet additional claims that are considered desirable.

Mr. Nolting said that Governor Stassen had arranged for a meeting with Mr. Hensel and himself to establish priority tags in order to scale down claims against the fund. Admiral Radford asked whether or not there would be any savings out of the $785 million of the 1954 funds. Mr. Nolting said there might be $50 million at most, but that was even doubtful.

3. United States Training Mission in Cambodia

The Secretary said that apparently the Defense Department wanted an explicit secret agreement in writing from the Cambodian Government to phase out the French. It seemed to him that this matter could better be taken care of in practice as time went on rather than by a written agreement. That could have pretty bad repercussions. Admiral Radford commented that when he was in Phnom Penh a State Department message had arrived which indicated that the State Department more or less agreed.

[Page 50]

Mr. Robertson said that the principal problem was the great repercussion that such an agreement would certainly cause with the French. If there were nothing to consider but Cambodia there might be no problem but a secret agreement could have a tremendous effect on all our relations with the French across the board. This was one of those cases where a problem in one area leads to more problems in others. He wondered why it would not be just as adequate to seek an agreement which would put the training of the Cambodian forces under the full charge and full responsibility of the US MAAG. The Secretary asked Mr. Anderson and Admiral Radford if we could not use the same formula as in Viet-Nam.

Admiral Radford pointed out that apparently the French have no agreement with the Cambodian Government on a training mission. If we can get an agreement with Cambodia, then the French will not be a party. But he said the question is whether we can go back to the Cambodians and ask them to phase out the French without an explicit agreement. Mr. Anderson explained that the Defense Department feels strongly about this since the US has had no success with the French military where we have tried to work with them. Officers in the Pentagon shudder to think of getting into another such situation in Cambodia. There was general agreement around the table that there had been many difficulties with the French military.

The Secretary commented that oral assurances from the Cambodians might be a possibility, although of course they would not be nearly as effective as a written agreement. Nevertheless, he felt it was necessary to live with the situation and let it work itself out in practice, as far as French military instructors were concerned.

Mr. Robertson then proposed the following draft agreement with the Cambodians as a possible solution:

“The Cambodian Government, recognizing that the actual direction of an effective program in field of military training and organization must be vested in a single authority, agrees that full responsibility for assisting the Government of Cambodia in the organization and training of its armed forces will be assumed by the Chief of the United States Military Assistance Advisory Group on ———— 1955.”

Admiral Radford said he personally could accept this formula since the French could not expect to stay if we had full authority. He pointed out that he was speaking personally and not for the JCS, since their position was that a written agreement on a French phase out was a prerequisite.

Secretary Anderson said that he would go along with State’s suggestion.

[Page 51]

4. Additional Helicopters for the International Control Commission

The Secretary read from Saigon’s 2784.5 He pointed out that the situation in Laos was becoming more acute and that the Commission was handicapped by lack of helicopters.

Mr. Anderson said that he was worried about opinion in the US. The Americans had heard so much about the failures of the French and the loss of equipment that there might be unfavorable reaction to turning more equipment, especially helicopters in short supply, over to the French. He thought it might be better to loan the helicopters to the Canadian Government which could then make them available to the French to fly and maintain. He thought this would be a much more popular issue. Admiral Radford pointed out that there might be certain operational difficulties since only the French air force has the capability of maintaining and supplying aircraft in Indochina.

Mr. Robertson pointed out that everyone on the spot had underlined the very real shortage—General Collins, General O’Daniel, the British, the Canadians and even the Indians. Mr. MacArthur said that Yost had again urged the very real need for such helicopters to give the Commission more mobility, and pointed out that the situation in Laos could disintegrate.

The Secretary asked Mr. Merchant if the French would regard it as openly offensive if we made the helicopters available to the Canadians instead of the French. Mr. Merchant thought that the French would be slighted but that this could be circumvented perhaps by leasing the helicopters to the Canadians who would ask the French to operate them. Mr. Merchant said that the Canadian Ambassador was coming in to see him this afternoon and asked whether this should be raised with him then.

Mr. Anderson asked Admiral Radford to check up on this matter and report as soon as possible to the Secretary as to whether the helicopters could be made available. He hoped that the matter could be explored first with Canada on a loan basis for six months. Admiral Radford said that the helicopters might be obtained in Korea and Japan. Mention was made of the possibility that the Canadians themselves might have helicopters which they had obtained from the US since they do not manufacture them. It was agreed that Mr. Merchant would explore this matter with the Canadian Ambassador this afternoon.

[Page 52]

5. MDA Matériel in Viet-Nam

Mr. Anderson pointed out that this could be a “hot” issue since many members of Congress, particularly certain influential committee members, had expressed great concern over the possible loss of this matériel to the Communists. He pointed out that most of the matériel had been moved out of the north to Saigon. The excess equipment is to be recovered by the US in accordance with the ElyCollins memorandum of December 1.6 Admiral Radford pointed out that we were getting most of this back and that it was now undergoing an inventory.

Mr. Anderson said that the problem now was not how much matériel had been moved out of the north and the south but how to get the matériel out of Saigon. It would have been preferable if most of this matériel could have been moved from Haiphong to some other place in the Far East than Saigon. Now it was a question of getting out of Saigon before there was danger that it might be lost.

The Secretary suggested that a report ought to be made to these Congressmen to show them what a good job has actually been done.

  1. Source: Department of State, FE/SEA Files: Lot 59 D 630, PSA. Top Secret. Drafted by Young.
  2. In this telegram, January 17, Collins reported that he had that day informed Diem that he was being recalled to Washington for consultations on Vietnam. Collins put the most favorable light possible on his trip vis-à-vis the Vietnamese situation, which reassured Diem. (Ibid., Central Files, 120.1515G/1–1755)
  3. Apparent reference to telegram 2636, Document 12.
  4. The reference is to section 121 of the Mutual Security Act of 1954, Public Law 665, enacted August 26, 1954; for text of this section, see 68 Stat. 837.
  5. In this telegram, January 15, the Embassy in Saigon reported the gist of an aide-mémoire from the French reaffirming the gravity and urgency of the need for helicopters and light aircraft for use by the ICC. (Department of State, Central Files, 751G.00/1–1555)
  6. The text of the minute of understanding, signed by Collins and Ely in Saigon and providing for immediate U.S.-French negotiations to establish procedures for the return to U.S. control of excess MDAP equipment is in telegram 1793 from Saigon, November 10, 1954, as changed by telegram 2023 to Saigon, November 18, 1954. (Ibid., 751G.5–MSP/11–1054)