299. Memorandum of a Conversation, Washington, February 2, 19561
- State–Defense Meeting, February 2, on Problem of MDAP Redistribution in Viet-Nam in Relation to limitation on MAAG Personnel.
- Mr. Gordon Gray
- General Fox
- General Brown
- Admiral Wilkins
- Mr. McGuire
- Capt. Robins
- Mr. Wescott and others
- Mr. Allen W. Dulles
- Mr. Murphy
- Mr. Robertson
- Mr. Young
- Mr. Raymond 2
- Mr. Kattenburg
Mr. Gray indicated the meeting had been called to explore possible solutions to the urgent problems of logistics and training that we confront in Viet-Nam as a result of the 342 limitations on MAAG personnel, which State had continued to be unwilling to lift. Mr. Gray did not feel that this was an NSC problem at this stage but that we should for the present continue to seek mutually acceptable solutions.
General Fox indicated that Defense needed twice the present number of its personnel in Saigon, or at least 636 personnel in the MAAG. If we could not do this there might be serious embarrassment for all of us, as the French were taking out all kinds of equipment, some of it was rotting away because of poor handling and neglect, and U.S. assets were being totally dissipated. Mr. McGuire underlined what General Fox and Mr. Gray had stated.
Mr. Murphy asked whether the additional personnel to be sent in must be U.S. military in uniform. The Defense side stated that in their view they should be. Mr. Murphy again asked why it was necessary to have a sergeant wearing stripes. Could he not be a sergeant in civilian clothes? Mr. Robertson emphasized that we were in complete agreement as to the basic objectives, but that the Secretary and our lawyers felt only that we should not do this in such a way as to flaunt the Armistice openly and possibly bring about a highly dangerous Viet-Minh reaction. Could we not show more ingenuity in achieving this vital task of training the Army and retrieving our equipment?
The Defense legal representative stated that he saw no legal bar to sending additional military personnel; even if the first provision of Article 16 of the Armistice Agreement could not be interpreted as allowing U.S. military personnel to replace the French, it was a fact that MAAG operated as part of the diplomatic mission and consequently did not have to be considered as military personnel, even though uniformed. Mr. Raymond replied that from the State legal [Page 635] point of view several interpretations (in fact six of them) were possible and that it was not at all clear which was the right one.
Speaking for the Military Executive Agency in the area (Navy), Admiral Wilkins indicated that 636 personnel in MAAG would achieve only the training objective. In order to realize all MAAG needs, including the urgent task of retrieving U.S. equipment, MAAG needed a total of 1700–1800 personnel. … Mr. Robertson indicated that Ambassador Reinhardt had suggested in a very recent telegram that a French military Mission of about 1,000 might be left in Viet-Nam to perform on the MDAP redistribution problem.3 Mr. Robertson asked whether Defense would agree to this solution if the French and Vietnamese were willing to leave enough French in the field to do this.
Admiral Wilkins gave a highly tentative approval to this idea, provided in addition we could introduce 200 supervisory personnel to direct the operation. Mr. Robertson asked whether these could be civilians, i.e. soldiers not in uniform. General Brown and the Defense legal representatives agreed to look into this matter, to explore it further, and to let us have their views.
Mr. Gray agreed that Defense should undertake further exploration of various suggested solutions and that they would communicate further with us on the entire problem.4