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Full text of "Pentagon Papers"

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011 



IV.A Evolution of the War (26 Vols.) 
U.S. MAP for Diem: The Eisenhower Commitments, 

1954-1960(5 Vols.) 
2. Aid for France in Indochina, 1950-54 




Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 



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UNITED STATES - VIETNAM RELATIONS 



1945 



1967 




VIETNAM TASK FORCE 



OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE 




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Declassified per Executive Order J 3526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 



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IV. A. 2. 



AID FOR FRMCE IN INDOCHIKA - 



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IV. A. 2. AID F OR FMNCE IN IMOCHIM, 19^0-19 3^ 



SUMMARY 



The United States decision to provide military assistance to France 
and the Associated States of Indochina v^as reached informally in February/ 
March 1950, funded by the President on May 1^ 1950? and was announced on 
May 8 of that year. The decision vas taken in spite of the U.S. desire to 
avoid direct involvement in a colonial war, and in spite of a sensing that 
France's political-military situation in Indochina was bad and was deterio- 
rating. Moreover J predictions that U.S. aid would achieve a marked dif- 
ference in the coui-se of the Indochina War were heavily qualified. 

The situation in which the decision was made was completely dominated 
by the take-over of and consolidation of pov/er in China by the communists. 
Nationalist Chinese forces had been withdrawn from mainland China and Com- 
munist Chinese troops had arrived on the border of Indochina in late 19^9 • 
This period was the high water mark of U.S. fears of direct Chinese Com- 
munist intervention in Indochina. NIE 5 of 2S) December 1950 stated: 
"Direct intervention by Chinese Communist troops may occur at any time... 
it is almost certain to occur in strength v^henever there is danger either 
that the Viet Minh will fail to maintain its military objective of driving 
the French out of Indochina , or that the Bao Dai Government is succeeding 
in undermining the support of the Viet Minh." 

The rationale of the decision was provided by the U.S. view that the 
Soviet-controlled expansion of communism both in Asia and in Europe req,uired^ 
in the interests of U.S. national secxrrity, a counter in Indochina. The 
domino thesis v/as q,uite prominent. On 6 March 1950 j the Secretary of Defense 
wrote the President as follows: "The choice confronting the United States 
is to support the legal governjnent in Indochina or to face the extension 
of communism over the remainder of the continental area of Southeast Asia 
and possibly v^estward. . ." Despite this statement, it was a generally 
accepted proposition that "regardless of ciirrent U.S. commitments for cer- 
tain military assistance to China, the U.S. will not commit any of its 
armed forces to the defense of Indochina against overt, foreign aggression, 
under present circumstances." 

The decision to begin military assistance to France and the Associated 
States of Indochina v^as not made under the Illusion of great expectations. 
In April 1950, the Joint Chiefs would go no further than to say that prompt 
delivery of the aid vrould do no more than create the "possibility of success." 
In July 1950, General Ersklne, after completing his Presidential mission 
to Indochina, reported that "the amount of aid and the scope of the assis- 
tance thus far req.uested by the French were inadeq.u3.te to the needs of the 
situation." All U.S. expectations seemed to have been underpinned by the 

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Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011 



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Joint Chiefs' belief that "attainment of United States objectives in Asia 
can only be achieved by ultimate success in China." 

Results of the decision were mixed. Although implementation of the 
decision was partially successful in that it enabled the French to continue 
the military campaign in Indochina to the time of the Geneva Accords ^ mili- 
tary assistance was by and large a failure as an instrument of U.S. policy: 
the U.S. neither assured the French a military success, influenced, the 
political situation to advantage , nor prevented the loss of North Vietnam 
to the communists at Geneva. 

The U.S. MMG Indochina was unable to perform even the limited func- 
tions assigned it. The French, never eager for U.S. advice, succeeded 
in limiting the function of MAAG to order-taking in the commercial sense. 

Contributing to the initial U.S. decision to aid the French, and to 
limiting the effectiveness of the U.S. program of assistance, v;ere (l) 
setting impracticable preconditions for assistance upon the French, (2) the 
U.S. proclivity to accept a slender chance of success vathout weighing alter' 
natives, (3) the suppression of alternatives leading to decisional circu- 
larity and reinforcement of existing policies, (k) repeated failures of 
the U.S. to bargain effectively with the French, and (5) the vulnerability 
of the U.S. policy-marking machinery to spoofing, particularly as regards 
U.S. credulity in accepting French information at face value and in being 
susceptible to "red" scares. 

The decision to provide assistance to France and the Associated States 
is the focus of this discussion; it was but one issue among hundreds pre- 
occupying the United States Government in the time period under considera- 
tion — the fall of China and the Korean War — and it was probably not 
regarded by those who made policy as among their critical decisions. There 
is no evidence of any high U.S. official arguing that any significant commit - 
ment threshold was being crossed. There were, however, those who maintained 
that the important anti-colonial stand of the U.S. was being underm-ined. 
These voices (and they were basically from the public domain) were drowned 
out by those who advocated immediate security needs. The importance of the 
decision v^as that when the U.S. was faced with an unambiguous choice between 
a policy of anti- colonialism and a policy of anti-commxinism, it chose the 
latter. And, although the decision v/as not perceived as getting the U.S. 
more deeply "involved" in Indochina, it did mark a tangible first step in 
that direction. 



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Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 



IV. A. 2. 



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AID FOE FRMCE IN lEDOCHINA, 19^0-19^^ 



TABLE OF CONTENTS AND OUTLniE 



1. The U.S. and the French Colonial War 



2. The Containment of Comm-unism 



3* "The Line of Containiiient" and "The Domino Theory" 
^* U*S' Perception of the Chinese Commiinist Threat.. 



5* U. S . Perceptions of the Situation vj-ithin Vietnam 



a. The Military Situation 



b. The Economic and Political Situation 



c. French Objectives in Vietnam, 



d. French Resolve to Remain in Vietnam 



6. The Decision to Assist France and the Associated States 



a. French Request Aid 



"b. The Griffin Mission 



c. JCS Views 



d. Presidential Approval 



e. Erskine Mission 



f . JCS Ree valuation 



7. MAP for Indochina 



a* Magnitude 



b. Effective-aess 



8. Critique 



a. French Misestimated 



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2 

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17 
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111- 



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be Slim Chance Accepted 



18 



Co Circular Policy 



18 



d. Poor Bargaining 



18 



e. Misinformation 



18 



f . Costs Not Weighed 



19 



Footnotes 



20 



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Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
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NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011 



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Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
N>JD Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 



\ 



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1. Introduction: The U.S. and the French Colonial VJar 

Because the early phase (19^6-19^9) o^ the Indochina war was an 
overt attempt "by the French to reassert authority and control over their 
Indochinese colonies, the United States, although aware that European 
Recovery Program (ERP) funds were indirectly used to finance the war, 
refused to support that war directly. However, American actions taken 
to assure a neutral position -- refusal to sell armaments to the French 
for use in Indochina; refusal to transport troops, arms, or ammunition 
"to or from Netherlands East Indies or French Indochina" l/ -- accompa- 
nied "by .puhlic and private statements of anti-colonialist sentiments, did 
constitute, at least in French eyes, a policy hostile to the French interest 
in Indochina. 2/ Therefore, early in 1-9^7, the Department of State 
, - attempted to reassure the French Government, and to make U.S. policies and 

actions more palatable to them: 

"...In spite any misunderstanding which might have arisen 
in minds French in regard to our position concerning Indochina 
I they must appreciate that we have fully recognized France's 

sovereign position in that area and we do not wish to have it 
appear that we are in any way endeavoring undermine that posi- 
tion, and French should know it is our desire to he helpful 
and we stand ready assist any appropriate way we can to find 
solution for Indochinese problem. At same time we cannot shut 
our eyes to fact that there are two sides this problem and that 
our reports indicate both a lack French understanding of other 
side (more in Saigon than in Paris) and continued existence 
dangerously outmoded colonial outlook and methods in area...." 3/ 

Neither direct nor indirect assistance to the French effort in" 
Indochina was deemed "appropriate," however, until the French took con- 
crete steps to grant autonomy to Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The U.S. 
was prepared to support the "Bao Dai solution" for Vietnam when and if 
Bao Dai acquired genuine independen£e. The U.S. warned France against 
settling for a "native government /headed by Bao Dai/ V7hich_by failing 
to develop appeal among Vietnamese might become virtually /.a_y_puppet 
government, separated from /the/ people and existing only by /the/ pres- 
- ■ ence /of/ French military forces." h/ 

In March, 19^9? i^ "tbe so-called Elysee Agreement, France con- 
tracted with Bao Dai to grant "independence within the French Union" to 
Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. 3/ Despite U.S. urgings, the Elysee Agree- 
ment remained a potentially empty and ill-defined French promise for eleven 
months. In that period, -the Nationalist forces of Chiang Kai-shek were 
driven from the Cnina mainland, and in November, Mao's legions arrived at 
the Indochina ^ border. In January, I95O3 Ho Chi Minh declared that his was 
the "only legal government of the Vietnamese people" and indicated his 
willingness to cooperate with any nation willing to recognize it on the 
basis of "equality and mutual respect of national sovereignty and territory. "6/ 



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Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011 



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The Communist Chinese promptly responded with recognition, folio-wed by 
the Soviets. In France, there was a sharp debate in the National Assembly 
between Leftist advocates of an immediate truce with the Viet Minh, and 
Government supporters of ratification for the Elysee Agreement. On 
2 February 1950, the French Government prevailed, and the Elysee Agreement 
was formally ratified. Under the circumstances, the United States deter- 
mined that this a^ction met its minimum requirements for tangible French 
progress towards Vietnamese autonomy. On 3 February, President Truman 
approved recognition of the States of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. 7/ 
VJithin three months the United States decided to extend economic and 
military aid to the new States, On 8 May 1950, the Secretary of State 
announced that: 

"The United States Government, convinced that neither 
national independence nor democratic evolution exist in any 
area dominated by Soviet imperialism, considers the situation 
to be such as to warrant its according economic aid and mili- 
tary equipment to the Associated States of Indochina and to 
France in order to assist them in restoring stability and 
permitting these states to pursue their peaceful and democratic 
development." 8/ 

The U.S. involvement in the Vietnam war originated with its 
decision to provide assistance to France and the Associated States, and 
to form MAAG Indochina. Therefore, it is of particular importance to 
understand the reasons for the decision, the form of its execution, and 
its effects. 

2. The Containment of Communism 

U.S. chagrin and increasing concern over the post-World War II 
expansion of the Soviet Union in Europe, together with fear of further 
gains by communism, set the tone of U.S. policy toward Asian communist • 
nations in the 19^1-8-1950 period. As the Secretary of State's statement 
above indicates, these were the days of the "monolithic Communist bloc," 
dominated by the Soviet Union. A National Security Council policy paper 
of I9U9 stated that: . . 

"The USSR is now an Asiatic power of the first magnitude 
with expanding influence and interest extending throughout 
continental Asia and into the Pacific, Since the defeat of 
Japan... the Soviet Union has been able to consolidate its 
strategic position until the base of Soviet power in Asia 
comprises not only the Soviet Fa,r East, but also China north 
of the Great VJall, Northern Korea, Sakahalin, and the Kuriles." 2/ 

The question of how best to oppose the expansion of communism 
in Asia was raised to crisis proportions by the "loss" of China. An 
extensive and acrimonious national debate on foreign policy was stirred, 
conducted in the midst of growing public apprehension over communist 
penetration, espionage, and subversion in Europe and within the United 
States itself. In Congress, a particularly active and vocal group 



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advocated increased aid to the Chinese Nationalists, who were regarded by 
many, even at this late date, as the bulwark containing communism in 
Asia. lO/ Although no major emphasis was given Indochina in 19^9? ^SC 
papers did discuss the importance of the Franco-Viet Minh struggle, and 
link the future of Indochina v/ith that of the rest of the world: 

"in any event, colonia^l-nationalist conflict provides a 
fertile field for subversive communist activities, and it is 
now clear that Southeast Asia is the target of a coordinated 
offensive directed by the Kremlin. In seeking to gain control 
of Southeast Asia, the Kremlin is motivated in part by a desire 
to acq,uire Southeast Asia's resources and communication lines, 
and to deny them to us. But the political gains which would 
accrue to the USSR from communist capture of Southeast Asia 
are equally significant. The extension of communist authority 
-in China represents a grievous political defeat for us: if 
' Southeast Asia also is swept by communism we shall have suffered 
a major political rout the repercussions of which will be felt 
throughout the rest of the world, especially in the Middle East 
and in a then critically exposed Australia." 11/ 

It was precisely the extension of communist authority over China referred to 
above that led to increased emphasis in U.S. policy on Indochina in late 
19ii9 and 1950." 

Follovang the Chinese Communist victories of 19^9 ^'^d the movement 
of Chinese Communist troops to the border of Indochina in November of that 
year, NSC 6U (February 7, 1950) concluded that "the Departments of State 
and Defense should prepare, as a Eiatter of priority, a program of all 
practicable measures designed to protect U.S. security interests in Indo- 
china.." 12/ On the same day, I3/ following the Communist Chinese 
(January I8) and the Soviet (January 30) recognition of the Ho Chi Minh 
regime, ihj the United States announced its recognition of the Bao Dai 
Government. Theretofore, the U.S. had remained neutral, hesitating to 
choose between supporting France, a friendly colonial power engaged in 
re-establishing its authority, or supporting the Viet Minh, a communist- 
dominated independence movement in opposition to that European ally. 
This dilemma had been resolved by the victory of the Chinese Communists 
over the Nationalists, and by the threat posed to Indochina. The United 
States policy of support for the French and the Associated States was 
adjudged one befitting an anti-colonial democracy: support of nationalism 
and independence; opposition to attempted encroachments thereon by inter- 
national communism. 



-j^ 



3 • "The Line of Containment" and "The Domino Theory 

The logic of this shift in U.S. policy is found not only in the 
direct threat to Southeast Asia posed by Communist China (and the Soviet 
Union), but also in the broader strategic concept of a line of contain- 
ment^ and in the early articulation of what later became known as the 



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"domino theory." Discussion of the line of containment centered about vhere ■ 
that line was to be di^awn: Indochina^ and^ later ^ Korea^ fell on the free 
side of that line. 15/ The domino notion had been advanced by General Claire 
Chennault^ among others, in the reference to Nationalist China l6/; the domino 
theory as applied to Indochina reinforced the decision of vhere to draw the 
line of containment. Both ideas were embodied by the Joint Chiefs of Staff 
in a 1950 memorandum to the Secretary of Defense evaluating "the strategic 
importance, from the military point of view, of Southeast Asia": 

"c. Southeast Asia is a vital segment in the line of 
containment of Communism stretching from Japan southward and 
around to the Indian Peninsula... The security of the three 
major non-Communist base areas in this quarter of the world -- 
Japan, India, and Australia -- depends in a large measure on 
.the denial of Southeast Asia to the Communists. If Southeast 
Asia is lost, these three base areas will tend to be isolated 
from one another j 

"d. The fall of Indochina would undoubtedly lead to the 
fall of the other mainland states of Southeast Asia... 

"e. The fall of Southeast Asia would result in the 
virtually complete denial to the United States of the Pacific 
Littoral of Asia. 



• « 



"f . . . . Soviet control of all the major components of 
Asia's war potential might become a decisive factor affecting 
the balance of power between the United States and the USSR... 

"g. A Soviet position of dominance over the Far East 
would also threaten the United States position in Japan... The 
.feasibility of retention by the United States of its offshore 
island bases could thus be jeopardized." 1?/ 

This theory, whether more or less completely articulated, appears in the 
relevant NSC papers of the Indochina War period, and underlies all major 
U.S. policy decisions taken relevant to the area, 18/ 

k. U.S. Perception of the Chinese Communist Threat 

In the words of NSC 6h (February, 1950), "The presence of Chinese 
CommiHiist troops along the border of Indochina makes it possible for arms, 
material and troops to move freely from Comm'onist China to the northern 
Tonkin area now controlled by Ho Chi Minh. There is already evidence of 
movement of arms." 19/ NIE 5 maintained somewhat later, as the decision 
to help the French was being re-examined, that: "The Communist Chinese 
regime is already furnishing the Viet Minh materiel, training, and technical 
assistance.' Official French sources report tha^t Chinese Comjnunist troops 
are already present in Tonkin in some strength. . . 20 / Direct intervention 
by Chinese Communist troops may occur at any tiiae... It is almost certain 

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to occur in strength v^henever there is danger either that the Viet Minh 
will fail to attain its military objective of driving the French out of 
Indochina 5 or that the Bao Dai Government is succeeding in undermining 
the support of the Viet MinJi." 2l/ NIE 5 appeared on December 29, 1950- 

Although the threat of intervention to be expected from Communist 
China did not again reach this intensity or certainty during the remainder 
of the war — the estimated probability of intervention declined consistently 
after the publication of KEE 5 -- estimates throughout the period Indicate 
continuing Communist Chinese provision of milita.ry arms^ materiel, and 
training to the Viet Minh^ and the existence of Communist Chinese potential 
for direct intervention. Ro direct reference was made to possible Viet 
Minh resentment toward , or resistance to, direct Chinese intervention. 

In sum, the U.S. perceived a major Chinese threat at the time 
the decision to support France and the Associated States was m.ade; a high 
probability v/as assigned direct Chinese Communist intervention at the time 
this decision vras being confirmed^ this assigned probability declined rapidly, 
and it remained low through the post-Korea.n war period. It was believed 
that the Chinese were providing assistance to the Viet Minh throughout 
the period late I9U9-I954. 

5- U.S. Perceptions of the Situation within Vietnam 

On April 5, I95O, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, referring to intelli- 
gence estimates, indicated to the Secretary of Defense their view that 
"the situation in Southeast Asia has deteriorated," and that, further, 
"without United States assistance, this deterioration v;ill be accelerated." 22^ 
(The implication that U.S. assistance would result in improvement over and 
above the present situation cannot be detected in this carefully worded 
statement.) The Joint Chiefs of Staff went on to state that: "in general, 
the basic conditions of political and economic stability in this area, as 
well as the military and internal security conditions, are unsatisfactory. 
These factors are closely interrelated, and it is probable that, from the 
long-term point of vievr, political and economic stability is the controlling 
factor. On the other hand, the military situation in some areas, particu- 
larly Indochina, is of pressing urgency." 

NIE 5 was the over-all U.S. assessment of the situation in Vietnam 
closest in time to the U.S. decision to support the French and the Associated 
States. It estimated the French position as "critically endangered by the 
Viet Minh," and as "precarious." 23/ Combining the more detailed estimates 
of this document with sta.tements and estimates contained in other U.S. docu- 
ments contemporary with NIE 5^ the follov/ing picture emerges: 

a. The Military Situation 

(1) French-Viet Minh areas of control - see maps 



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(2) Force ratio - French between 1.5 s.nd 1.6 to 1 Viet Minh; 
vis-a-vis regular forces in the Tonkin Delta, the ratio 
was reversed - approximately 1.15 Viet Minh to 1 French 
(NIE 5) . 

(3) Equipment status - French superiority, but Viet Minh 
improving due to Chinese aid. 

(^'■) Mobility - Viet Minh superior; French roadbound. 

(5) Strategy - French strategy lacking in aggressiveness, 
defensive, of doubtful value. 

(6) Status of Vietnamese National Army - essentially none; 
"only a slight chance that the French can maintain their 
military position long enough" Zhj to build such an army. 

('i^) Relative capabilities - danger of a major military defeat 
of the French by the Viet Minh in Tonkin within six to 
nine months, which would jeopardize the French position 
in the remainder of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. 

b . The Economic and Political Situation 

French resources badly strained; little or no real nationalist 
Vietnamese leadership, government; little popular support of Bao Dai regime 
25/; political and economic situation generally poor. 

c. French Objectives in Vietnam 

French slovmess an.d obstructionism over the years in creating 
a Vietnamese national government and national army (March 8, 19^4-9^ agree- 

I ments were not ratified by France until February 2, I950) 5 and continued 

slowness in giving control of the bureaucracy to the Vietnamese, indicate 

( a reluctant departure, if any departure, from colonial objectives. 



d. French Resolve to Remain in Vietnam 

"... there are grounds for questioning the French will to 
.remain in Indochina." 26 / 

Thus, the American perception of the situation in Vietnam in 1950 was generally 
one of gloom, with little light at the end of the tunnel; in retrospect, it 
seems reasonably acciorate. 

6. The Decision to Assist France and the Associated States 
a. French Request Aid 

United States involvement in the bleak Indochinese situation 
was hastened when, on February I6, 1950, the French requested U.S. military 

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and economic assistance for the prosecution of the Indochinese war. The 
French forwarded their request after deciding "to set forth to the United 
States Government fully and frankly the extreme gravity of the situation 
in Indochina. . •" 

"... the truth of the matter vras that the effort in Indo- 
china was such of a drain on France that a long-term program. 
of assistance was necessary and it was only from the United 
States that it could come. Othervrise ... it was very likely 
that France might be forced to reconsider her entire policy 
with the possible view to cutting her losses and withdrawing 
from Indochina . . . looking into the future it was obvious . . . 
that France cou_ld not' continue indefinitely to bear this bur- 
den alone if the expected developments in regard to increased 
assistance to Ho Chi Minh came about... In any event the French 
Government was confronted with necessity of reducing the present 
French forces in Indochina by at least 25^000 not only for 
budgetary reasons, but because additional men were urgentH.y 
needed in connection with French national military program." 27/ ' 

Yet this appeal for aidj its thinly-veiled reinforcing arguments referring 
to withdrawal and the defense of Eurojje (on the day following the severing 
of U.S. -Bulgarian relations) ^ w^as unaccompanied by a willingness to satisfy 
a U.S. request for France to announce the "evolutionary nature" of the 
governments of the Associated States , or to clarify othervrise the French 
intentions toward Indochina. 

On Febru8-ry 27, a Department of State report on the position 
of the United States with respect to Indochina was submitted for the NSC*s 
considerationo Issued on February 27 as NSC Gh^ the report concluded 
that : 

"lO. It is important to United States security interests 
that all practicable naeasures be taken to prevent further 
Communist expansion in Southeast Asia. Indochina is a key 
area of Southeast Asia and is under immediate threat • 

"11. The neighboring countries of Thailand and Burma 
could be expected to fall under Coironunist domination if Indo- 
china were controlled by a Communist -dominated government. 
The balance of Southeast Asia would then be in grave hazard. 

■"12. Accordingly, the Departments of State and Defense 
should prepare as a matter of priority a program of all prac- 
ticable measures designed to protect United States seciority 
interests in Indochina." 28/ 

To "facilitate" Department of Defense consideration of NSC Gh^ then Deputy 
Under Secretary of State Dean Rusk provided Major General James H. Burns 
of OSD a brief statement of Department of State policy in Indochina and 
Southeast Asia: 

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"The Department of State believes that vithin the 
limitations imposed by existing commitments and strategic 
priorities 5 the resources of the United States should be 
deployed to reserve Indochina and Southeast Asia from fxurther 
Communist encroachment. The Department of State has accord- 
ingly already engaged all its political resources to the end 
that this object be secured. The Department is now engaged 
in the process of urgently examining what additional economic 
resources can effectively be engaged in the same operation. 

"it is now^ in the opinion of the Department ^ a matter of 
the greatest urgency that the Department of Defense assess the 
strategic aspects of the situation and consider, from the mili- 
tary point of view, how the United States can best contribute 
to the prevention of further Communist encroachment in that 
area." 29/ 

In a memorandum for the President of Majrch 6, 1950, the 
Secretary of Defense described U.S. options as follows: 

"The French are irrevocably committed in Indochina and 
are supporting the three states as a move aimed at achieving 
non-Communist political stability. . . The choice confronting 
the United States is to support the legal governments in 
Indochina or to face the extension of Comnixinism over the 
remainder of the continental area of Southeast Asia and 
possibly westward,. •" 30/ 

b. The Griffin Mission 

While the choice among alternatives awaited provision of the 
views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the military departments, 31/ the 
Secretary of State sent to the Far East "the Griffin Mission," which was 
given the task of surveying "the kinds and approximate value of assistance 
needed" 32 / in Indochina (among other countries). Departing when it did, 
some five months following the fall of Rationalist China, and headed by 
the fomaer Deputy Chief of the Aid Mission to Mainland China, the Griffin 
Mission was probably intended to avoid further attacks on the State 
Department's Asia policy as well as to determine how U.S. economic 
resoui^ces might effectively be employed in Southeast Asia. 

On March 22, the Griffin Mission report recommended U.S. aid 
for a program of rural rehabilitation, the provision of lioiited amounts of 
commodities and industrial equipment, and a program, of technical assistance 
These measures were estimated to cost $23.5 miDlion for the period through 
June, 1951^ The mission also recomnended the "psychological shock of 
ships with military aid material in the immediate futiore" 33 / as a measure 
to dramatize the U.S. commitment to those on the scene. 

c. JCS Views 

On April 5? "the Joint Chiefs of Staff responded to a request 
by the Secretary of Defense with recommendations for measures vrhich, from 

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the United States military point of viev^ might prevent commmiist expansion 
in Southeast Asia. 3^/ The six most important points made by the Chiefs 
are these: 

(1) A recommendation for early implementation of military 
aid programs for Indochina and the other statec of Southeast Asia^, with 
ftuids already allocated to the states of Southeast Asia^to be delivered at 
the earliest practicable date and to be augmented as a matter of urgency with 
funds from the unallocated portion of the President's emergency fund. For 
the next fiscal year, an estimated $100 million will be required for the 
military portion of this program. 

(2) "In view of the history of military aid in China, the 
Joint Chiefs of Staff "urge that these aid programs be subject, in any event, 
to the follovzing conditions: 

"a. That United States military aid not be granted 
unconditionally; rather that it be carefully controlled and that the aid 
program be integrated with political and economic programs; and 

"b. That requests for military equipment be screened 
first by an officer designated by the Department of Defense and on duty in 
the recipient state. These requests should be subject to his determina- 
tion as to the feasibility and satisfactory coordination of specific military 
operations. It should be understood that military aid will only be considered 
in connection with such coordinated operational plans as are approved by the 
representative of the Department of Defense on duty in the recipient coiintry. 
Fvirther, in conformity vrith current procedures, the final approval of all 
programs for military materiel will be subject to the concurrence of the 
Joint Chiefs of Staff," 

(3) "Formation of a Southeast Asia Aid Committee is recom- 
mended. 

(k) "The Joint Chiefs of Staff recognize the political 
implications involved in military aid to Indochina. It must be appreciated, 
however, that French armed forces ... are in the field and that if these 
were to be withdravm this year because of political considerations, the Bao 
Dai regime probably could not survive even with United States aido If the 
United States were now to insist upon independence for Vietnam and a phased 
French withdrawal from that country, this might improve the political 
situation. The French could be expected to interpose objections to, and 
certainly delays in such a programc ^ Conditions in Indochina, however, are 
unstable an.d the situation is apparently deteriorating rapidly so that the 
urgent need for at least an initial increment of military and economic aid 
is psychologically overriding. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, therefore, 
recommend the provision of military aid to Indochina at the earliest prac- 
ticable date under a prograin to implement the President's action approving 
the allocation of $15 million for Indochina and that corresponding incre- 
ments of political and economic aid be progratmned on an interim basis vrith- 
out prejudice to the pattern of the policy for additional military, political 
and economic aid that may be developed later." 

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(5) " ..• the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend the immediate 
establishment of a small United States military aid group in Indochina.,. 
The Joint Chiefs of Staff would expect the senior member of this group to 
sit in consultation with military representatives of France and Vietnam and 
possibly of Laos and Cambodia. In addition to screening requests for materiel^ 
he would be expected to insure full coordination of military plans and efforts 
between the French and Vietnamese forces and to supervise the allocation of 
materiel." 



(6) "The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe in the possibility 
of success of a prompt coordinated United States program of military, 
political, and economic aid to Southeast Asia and feel that such a success 
might well lead to the gaining of the initiative in the struggle in that 
general area." 

The last of these points is clearly fundamental to the under- 
taking of any program of assistance; yet in the Chiefs' memorandum it 
appears only as the concluding portion of the paragraph (paragraph 15) recom- 
mending establishment of a military aid group in Indochina, and is subse- 
quently subjected to the qualification that "attainment of United States 
objectives in Asia can only be achieved by ultimate success in China." 
More remarkable, however, is the rarity with which even such equivocal 
predictions of success appear in the available docimients relating directly 
to the decision to provide assistance to Indochina. Direct statements on 
the probable effectiveness of such United States programs of the period 
are typically absent; indirect statements are typically of the implied- 
imperative ("we must do X if Asia is to be saved"), or the negative -imperative 
(if we do not do X, Asia will be lost"). There was no assxu^ance of military 
success given; and the calculus of the decision-making process relating to 
■ the weighing of the probability of success against the costs of failure of 
U.S. programs in the 1950 period is not evident, unfortunately, in available 
documents. 

d. Presidential Approval 

|! -On May 1, 1950, President Truman approved the allocation of 

$10 million to the Department of Defense to cover the early shipment of 

i urgently needed military assistance items to Indochina, 35 / thus taking 

the first crucial decision regarding U.S. military involvement in Vietnam. 

X On May 8, the Secretary of State, in a statement at the ministerial level 

f meeting in Paris, announced United States assistance to the Associated 

States and France. And on May 2^, the "governments of France and the 
Associated States were notified of the United States intention to establish 
an economic aid mission to the Associated States, thus marking the imple- 
mentation of the recomiaendations of the Griffin Mission. 



. On June 27^ 1950, President Truman, in announcing the onset 
of the Korean war, also stated that he had "directed acceleration in the 
furnishing of military assistance to the forces of France and the Associated 
States in Indochina and the dispatch of a military mission to provide close 

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vorking relations with those forces." 36/ The concept of a military 
assistance advisory group had also been approved, although the President 
did not refer to MAAG in his public statement. 37/ Also, in June, 
following the recomraendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Southeast 
Asia Aid Policy Committee was established, 

e. Erskine Mission 

The military mission dispatched by the President and headed 
by Major General Graves B. Erskine, USMC, arrived in'Saigon on July 15, 
and reported its findings on August 5. General Erskine reported that a 
permanent solution of the Indochina crisis went beyond military action 
alone, the core of the problem being a deep-seated hatred and distrust of 
the French by the population that precluded their cooperation in the - 
prosecution of the war. The mission also reported that the amount of aid 
and the scope of the assistance thus far requested by the French were 
inadequate to the needs of the situation. 38/ 

The first elements of the U.S. MAAG were assigned to Indo- 
china on August 3, I95O; Brigadier General Francis G. Brink, USA, assumed 
command as the first Chief of hlAAG on October 10. The mission of the 
MAAG was limited to provision of material assistance to the French forces 
and indirect provision of military aid to the forces of the Associated 
States; General Brj,nk was directed not to assume any training or advisory 
responsibilities toward the indigenous armies. But from the outset, the 
French rigorously limited end-use inspections of MAAG to a small number 
of carefully prescribed visits. 39/ 

f • JCS Reevalua.tion 

After the initial decision to provide assistance to France 
and the Associated States had been taken, the formation of an economic mission 
had been announced, the first shipment of arms and equipment had arrived in 
Indochina, and the MAG had been approved and was in the process of forma- 
tion, concern mounted over the soundness of these moves. The Joint Chiefs 
of Staff were again asked by the Secretary of Defense to fox'mulate a posi- 
tion on future U.S. actions with respect to Indochina, and the Southeast 
Asia Aid Policy Coinmittee (SEAAPC) published, on October 11, I95O, .a draft 
"Proposed Statement of U.S. Policy on Indochina." The SEAAPC statement 
proposed adding another dimension to U.S. assistance policy: "Regardless 
of cirrrent U.S. commitments for provision of certain military assistance to 
Indochina, the U.S. will not coimnit any of its armed forces to the defense 
of Indochina against overt, foreign aggression, "under present circumstances." 
^Q / Tile paper also recommended that the U.S. support the "prompt accelera- 
tion of the formation of new national armies of the three Associated States," 
and a covering memorandum to the Secretaries of State and Defense recom- 
mended that if negotiations were conducted with the French, U.S. representa- 
tives should: 

. • . secure French acceptance of the following conditions 
which shall attach to the extension of U.S. assistance in the 

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formation of national armies in Indochina: (l) French Union Forces 
would not be withdrawn from Indochina until such Associated States 
armies are fully trained and ready to act effectively in replace- 
ment; (2) France would not decrea.se its outlays for Indochina 
"below the 1950 rate dui^ing the period of the American military 
aid requested; (3) the national armies project would have the 
approval of the three Associated States governments; (h) the 
High Commissioner for Indochina^ the French Command^ and the 
three Associated States woiiLd maintain full consultative rela- 
tions v;ith the Legation and T-IAAG during the period of the 
formation of the armies." 

The Joint Chiefs of Staff reevaluation appeared on October 27: 
military aid should be continued on an expedited basis. Again the judgment 
V7as offered that genuine autonomy and self-government had to be extended to 
the people of Indochina to ajueliorate the basic cause of the deterioration 
of security in Indochina: lack of popular support for the authorities., kl / 
But the most clearly articulated and complete expression of the Joint 
Chiefs' over-all position at year end is found in NSC 6U/1;, k2 / a November 
28 paper by the Chiefs which takes account of a report from General Brink Us/ 
and the Southeast Asia Aid Policy Committee's draft of October 11; in fact^ 
this statement of short- and long-run objectives contained in NSC 6U/l was 
to remain the basis of United States policy toward Indochina for the dura- 
tion of the French-Indochina war. 

"SHORT TERM OBJECTIVES 

"a. The United States should take action ^ as a matter of 
urgency^ by all means practicable short of the actual employment 
of United States military forces^ to deny Indochina to Communism. 

"b. As long as the present situation exists ^ the United 
States should continue to insure that the primary responsibility 
for the restoration of peace and security in Indochina rests 
with the French. 

"c. The United States should seek to develop its military 
assistance program for Indochina based on aui over-all military 
plan prepared by the French, concurred in by the Associated 
States of Indochina^ and acceptable to the United States. 

"(l) Both the plan and the program should be 
developed and implemented as a matter of urgency. It should 
be clearly understood, however, that United States acceptance 
of the plan Is limited to the logistical support which the 
United States may agree to fiirnish. The aid provided under 
the program "should be furnished to the French in Indochina 
and to "the Associated States. The allocation of United States 
military assistance as between the French and the national 
armies of Indochina should be approved by the French and 
United States authorities in Indochina. 

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"(2) Popular support of the Government by the 
Indochinese people is essential to a favorable settlement of 
the security problem of Indochina, Therefore^ as a condition 
to the provision of those further increases in military 
assistance to Indochina necessary for the implementation of 
an agreed over-all military plan^ the United States Govern- 
ment should obtain assurances from the French Government that: 

"(a) A program providing for the eventual 
■self-government of Indochina either vrithin or outside of the 
French Union -will be developed ^ made public ^ and jjnplementa- 
tion initiated at once in order to strengthen the national 
spirit of the Indochinese in opposition to Communism. 

"(b) National armies of the Associated 
States of Indochina v/ill be organized as a matter of lorgency. 
While it is dovibtful that the buildup of these armies can be 
accomplished in time to contribute significantly to the 
present military situation, the direct political and psycho- 
logical benefits to be derived from this course would be great and 
would thus result in immediate , although indirect, military 
benefits, 

"(c) Pending the formation and training of 
Indochinese national armies as effective units , and as an 
interim emergency m^easure, France will dispatch sufficient 
additional armed forces to Indochina to insure that the 
restoration of peace and internal security in that country 
"will be accomplished in accordance with the timetable of 
the over-all military plan for Indochina. 

"(d) France will change its political and 
military concepts in Indochina to: 

_i. Eliminate its policy of 
'colonialism. ' 

ii. Provide proper tutelage to 
the Associated States. 

iii . Insure that a suitable military 
command structure , unhs^mpered by political interference, is 
established to conduct effective and appropriate military 
operations. . . 

"(3) At an appropriate time the United States 
should institute checks to satisfy itself that the condi- 
tions set forth in subparagraph £.(2) above axe being ful- 
filled. 

"d. The United States should exert all practicable 
political and diplomatic measures required to obtain the 



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recognition of the Associated States "by the other non- 
Communist states of Southeast and South Asia. 

"£. In the event of overt attack by organized 
Chinese Communist forces against Indochina, the United 
States should not permit itself to become engaged in a 
general war with Communist China but should, in concert 
with the United Kingdom, support France and the Associated 
States by all means short of the actual employment of 
United States military forces. This support should 
include appropriate expansion of the present military 
assistance program and endeavors to induce States in 
the neighborhood of Indochina to commit armed forces to 
resist the aggression. 

"f . The United States should immediately 
reconsider its policy toward Indochina whenever it 
appears that the French Goverrmient may abandon its 
military position in that country or plans to refer the 
problem of Indochina to the United Nations. Unless the 
situation throughout the world generally, and Indochina 
specifically, changes materially, the United States 
should seek to dissuade the French from referring the 
Indochina question to the United Nations. 

"g. Inasmuch as the United States-sponsored 
resolution, 'Uniting for Peace,' has been adopted by the 
General Assembly of the United Nations, and should a 
situation develop in Indochina in a manner similar to that in 
Korea in which United Nations forces were required, the United 
States would then probably be morally obligated to contribute 
its armed forces designated for service on behalf of the 
United Nations. It is, therefore, in the interests of the 
United States to tal^e such action in Indochina as would 
forestall the need for the General Assembly to invoke the 
provisions of the resolution, 'Uniting for Peace 



I n 

o 



The JCS also proposed long-term objectives, urging the development of an 
underground guerrilla warfare capability, a psychological warfare program 
("to demonstrate the evils of Comjnianism. . • - and to warn„..of renewed 
Chinese imperialism"), and encouragement of an appropriate regional 
secui'ity arrangement. These concepts formed the heart of an NSC Staff 
Study of December 28. hh/ The initial decision to give assistance was con^ 
firmed after nearly one~~year's continual re-exatnina-tion, and remained basic 
to U.S. policy for the remainder of the war. 

7. MAP for Indochina 

a, Ma.gnitude 

The U.S. military assistance program to the French and 
Associated States was iirplemented rapidly, considering the major U.S. 

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coimnitment to the Korean war. In a somewhat premature judgment of out- 
comes ^ a progress report on the implementation of NSC 6^1- (March 15? 1951)" 
stated that "Anierican military aid furnished the States' forces and the 
Army of the French Union may have been the decisive factor in the preserva- 
tion of the area against Commtinist aggression." h^ / Through 1952 and into 
195^ "the ^©AP shipments to Indochina increased steadily k6/ : by February 3^ 
1953? the United States had shipped 137,200 long tons of material (22^1 
ships' cargoes); by July 195^? approximately I5O5OOO long tons had been 
sentj including 1^800 combat vehicles^ 30,887 motor transport vehicles, 
361 ;, 522 small arms and machine guns, ^38 naval craft, 2 World War II air- 
craft carriers, and about 5OO aircraft. By the conclusion of the Geneva 
agreements in July, 195'4-, the U.S. had delivered aid to Indochina at an 
original cost of $2,600 million. Wj/ Nonetheless, protests of the French 
at the slowness of deliveries and the "interference" of MAAG with French 
requests were recurrent, and peaked, during the crisis days of 195^* Yet 
these complaints probably reflected less genuine U.S. shortcomings than 
French resentment of American efforts to advise, screen, inspect, and 
verify, and sheer frustration. Moreover, the vagaries of the French logistic 
system not only made the MAAG job more difficult, but firrther mpeded com- 
bat supplies. 

b. Effectiveness 

In spite of the conditions under which U.S. assistance to 
France and the Associated States was given, the MAAG during the period of 
the Indochina war was little more than a small (70 in 1950, 3^2 in 195^) 
supply- support group which exerted far more influence upon U.S. decisions 
than on the French. The French, never eager for American advice, not 
only succeeded in limiting the function of MAAG to order-taking in the 
corrimercial sense, but in fact -- through adroit pressuring of officials 
above the MAAG -- sometimes reduced MAAG to the position of taking their 
military orders. Available data do not permit detailed evaluation of the 
efficiency of I4AP, but it seems clear that French restrictions on the U.S. 
MAAG reduced it to virtual impotence, US/ 

However, to relate any judgment of the effectiveness of the 
United States assistance program simply and directly to the outcome of the 
war would clearly be inappropriate. For the most part, U.S. expectations 
were not high. In the words of the Ajnerlcan Ambassador to France in Febru- 
ary, 1950, "obviously any program of external assistance was ma.rginal in 
character and entirely dependent for its success upon the solidity of the 
base -- in this case, the firmness of French policy and actions in Indo- 
china." J49/ French determination to resist American advice vras not matched 
by firmness in proceeding with granting independence to Vietnam, or other- 
wise meeting the political situation in Indochina. Hence, as the U.S. 
apparently expected, a favora.ble outcome to the Indochina v/ar continued 
to elude France, even vrith Anierican material and financial help. U.S. 
assistance enabled France to wage a military battle while it lost its 
political v?ar -- in Saigon and in Paris. (The military defeat at Dien 
Bien Phu was iraportant primarily from the point of view of its psychologi- 
cal and political impact on the French, and was so interpreted in the rele- 
vant U.S. intelligence estimates.) 50/ 

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If it would be an error to evaluate the effectiveness of the 
U.S. program in terms of v/ar outcome, and if the efficiency of MP and 
MAAG cannot meaningfully "be analyzed ^ it remains to evaluate the degree 
to vhich France met the conditions under which assistance was tendered , 
which presumably impinged directly on U.S. political objectives: 

(l) The United States objective of insuring "that the . ■ 
primary responsibility for the restoration of peace 
and security in Indochina rests with the French" 
was fulfilled; in fact, it was insisted on by the 
French. On the one hand^ U.S. military forces 
were never directly engaged in the Indochina war. 
On the other hand, the French, in retaining this 
primary responsibility, preserved the prerogative 
to determine policy and the freedom to reject U.S. 
advice. U.S. "leverage" was minimal. 

• . (2) The condition of basing the assistance program on 

"an urgently prepared French plan acceptable to 
the Associated States and to the U.S." was frus- 
trated in several ways. At the outset no overall 
plan was presented, and those portions of existing 
plans to which U.S. authorities were privy ( e.g. , 
Allessandri's pacification plan for the Tonkin 
Delta) were not acceptable to U.S. thinking. Second, 
when the Letourneau-Allard and Navarre plans were 
finally prepared (in 1953? three years after the 
U.S. decided tha^t a plan was a necessary precondi- 
tion for aid), some U.S. observers realized that 
these were more concepts than plans. U.S. accep- 
tance of the plans vms more reluctant than the 
granting of $385 million in additional assistance 
might indicate. 51/ Finally, the plans, once 
"accepted," were not vigorously carried out. ^2/ 

(3) The French raet ipro forma the condition that they 
provide the U.S. assurances that they vrould grant 
self-governirient for Indochina, and form national 
armies for the Associated States. But it was clear 
throughout the war that, regardless of the amounts 
of U.S. assistance rendered, France's declarations 
of intent were grudgingly issued, and were seldom 
. ■ followed by action. The French Indochina war had 
to be lost before Vietnam was granted genuine in- 
dependence. 

. (k) Although France did expand its forces in Indochina, 

these forces were never sufficient to the task. French 
draftees were never employed in Indochina. France 



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continually pointed to its European defense posture 
in explanation. In at least one case^ U.S. per- 
sonnel were requested ( e.g « ^ as aircraft mechanics) ^ 
and 200 were provided ^ when a pool of suitable 
personnel existed in Metropolitan France. 

(5) Statements to the contrary notwithstanding, the 
French did not ameliorate neo-mercantilism or other 
colonial policies , or provide "proper tutelage" 

to the Associated States; nor did it develop a 
command structure suitable to the United States. 

(6) The U.S. "checks to satisfy itself that the condi- 
tions" imposed were being satisfied, were, by and 
large, few and far between, and were conducted at 
the pleasure and within the specifications of the 
French. 

(7) The French chose not to refer Indochina to the 
United Nations. Certainly the U.S. assistance 
program bore on this decision; whether or not it 
was the deciding factor is unclear. 

The effectiveness of the United States assistance program 
as an instrument of United States policy — q.uite aside from the outcome 
of the war -- was thus q.uite low. 

8. Critique 

As earlier sections of this paper have suggested, the U.S. was 
persuaded to involve itself in the Indochina war by the perceived need^ 
following the fall of Nationalist China, to hold a line against comm~anists. 
This strategic drawing of the line at the Chinese-Indochina border was 
reinforced by the belief that the fall of Indochina would undoubtedly lead 
to the fall of the other mainland states of Southeast Asia, and that tbe 
fall of Southeast Asia would eventuate in the virtually complete denial 
to the United States of the Pacific Littoral of Asia. Prospects for a 
French victory in Indochina were assessed in contemporary U.S. intelli- 
gence documents as poor; nonetheless, the U.S. provided military and 
economic assistance to the French and the Associated States in the belief 
that a prompt, coordinated United States program of military, political, 
and economic aid offered some prospect that France might succeed in gain- 
ing the initia.tive in the struggle in that area. Six major points of 
critique of U.S. policy follow: 

a. The- U.S. Misestim.ated France 

U.S. policymakers apparently realized that the conditions 
they imposed upon the French were impracticable to some degree. Nonethe- 
less, they believed that pre-conditions were necessary and could assist 

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in convincing the French to mend their colonial ways and to pursue the 
war with American methods ;, diligence , and aggressiveness. Tlie French^ 
long noted for proficiency and precision in logic, required no Descartes 
to realize that the United States v^as thus asking France (l) to regain full 
responsibility for the Indochina War, and in particular for fighting and 
taking casualties in that war; (2) to follovr the "guidance" and "advice" 
of the United States on the exercise of this French responsibility; and 
(3) having fought the war, presumably to a successful conclusion, to re- 
linguish control over Indochina, In view of the French willingness to 
retain responsibility for the war, it is not surprising that they were 
reluctant, at best, to accept propositions (2) and (3)* Despite French 
pronouncements on their role in fighting coimnunism, there is little reason 
to believe that they regarded the Indochina war in the same light as the 
U.S. viewed the Korean War. Rather, their behavior resembled that of 
other colonial powers who had fought to retain profitable colonies. 

b. Slim Chance Acce-pted by the U.S. 

Had U.S. policymakers recognized the slimness of the chance 
of persuading France to accept the three propositions specified above, 
they might have sought alternative courses of action in Indochina. As 
it was, the possibility (as opposed to the probability) of success was 
their prime consideration, and, overestimating U.S. leverage for influ- 
encing a favorable outcome, alternatives were not considered. 

c. Circular U.S. Policy 

Suppression of alternatives, both on the general and the 
particular level (see Note 48 for an exajnple of the latter), led to a 
circularity in and reinforcement of existing policies -- constant forced 
choices between "bad" and "worse." 53/ 

d. Poor Barsainins 



Having taken a hard policy line toward the French, the United 
Ste.tes failed to bargain effectively. Thus, in circumstances not totally 
dissimilar from those prevailing in Vietnam in subsequent time periods, 
the U.S. continued to provide assistance disregarding infi-actions of pre- 
conditions; moreover, the pre-conditions for aid vrere not modified. With- 
out modification, the conditions became worse than meaningless: standing 
testajnents to U.S. impotence, to be recognized only when and how the French 
chose. The U.S. becajne virtually a prisoner of its ovm policy. Contain- 
ment of communism, concern for the French in relation to the postwar Europe 
of MTO, EDC, and the Soviet threat in the West, combined with a fear, 
based on World War II strategy, that a French withdrawal from Indochina 
would leave exposed the U.S. flank in Korea, all compelled the U.S. to 
continue aid. Yet none of these considerations should have precluded 
modification of the U.S. bargaining strategy. 

e. Misinformation 

The U.S. policyma^king machinery was highly vulnerable to 
spoofing, on at least three counts: (l) the very strength of the U.S. 

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position regarding communism must have been a constant temptation^ not 
always resisted, for other parties to cry "red" and thus to manipulate 
the U.S.; (2) dependence on official French sources for intelligence and 
other information Y/as potentially misleading; (3) reliance on the high- 
level mission technique for gathering information to be used as a direct 
input to policy decisions proved unsatisfactory. ^V 

f. Costs Not Weighed 

Finally, there is little indication that U.S. policymakers, 
their thoughts dominated by the objective of containing the monolithic 
communist bloc, faced up to the costs of winning the Indochina v/ar, even 
while direct U.S. intervention was being considered. 55/ Nor does the 
evidence suggest that consideration was given to the tangible and intangi- 
ble costs of providing U.S. military assistance to a power losing a war, 
including the potential impact on the U.S. position in Asia. And, finally, 
available documents fail to reveal any consideration given to the notion 
of sunk costs. There were, of course, voices in the wilderness. An uji- 
signed, undated memorandum posed eight key questions to be ansv/ered by . 
the NSC durinp; the spring of 19^4 . 56/ Comment on the following four . 
questions, in relation to the time at which they were raised, is unneces- 
sary: 

-- Just how important is Southeast Asia to the security 
interests of the U.S.? Is the analysis in NSC 5^05 
still valid? Is the area important enough to fight for? 

— How important is Indochina in the defense of Southeast 
Asia? Is the "domino theory" valid? Is Indochina im- 
portant enough to fight for? If not, what are the stra- 
tegic consequences of the loss of all or part of Indochina? 

— If the U.S. intervenes in Indochina, ca.n we count on the 
support of the natives? Can we fight as allies of the 
French and avoid the stigma of colonialism? 

— Is there a strategic concept for the conduct of a war in 
Indochina which offers promise of early success...? 



The decision of the United States to provide assistance to France and 
the Associated States during the Indochina War is usually treated lightly, 
if at all, in current histories. Yet, both the taking of the decision and 
its implementation were significant for and remarkably similar, to subse- 
quent U.S. experiences in Vietnam. 



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IV. A. 2 



FOOTNOTES 



.1. Department of State Circiilar to certain American diplomatic and 

consular officers , January 23^ 19^6. The association of the l^ether- 
lands East Indies with French Indochina could not have been lost on 
the French. 

2. Department of State , Office of Far Eastern Affairs^ Memo for Mr, Acheson 
fromJ.C.V.5 Jajiuary 8, 19^7. 

3c Department of State outgoing telegram to AMElffl Paris U3I5 February 3 5 
19^^7 (SECRET) . - 

k. Department of State outgoing telegram to AMEIylB Paris ik^, January 17, 
19^9 (SECRET). 

'5. Joseph Buttinger^ Vietnam: A Dragon Embattled (Wew York: Praeger^ I9675 
2 vols), II, pp. 706-707- 

6. Bernard B, Fall, ed. , Ho Chi Minh on Revolution (New York: Praeger, 
1967), pp. 197-198. 

7. Memorandum for the President from the Secretary of State, February 2, 
1950. 

8. Department of State Bulletin, May 22, I95O. 

9. NSC U8/I, Report by the Executive Secretary, December 23, 19^9, p. 3 
(TOP SECRET) . 

10. Cf. McCarran bill, introduced February 25, 19^9^ to provide $1.5 billion 
loan to Nationalist China, subsequent Bridges call for investigation of 
U.S. -China policy. 

11. NSC U8/I, p, 13. 

12. NSC 6k, Report by the Department of State, February 7, I95O, p. 3 
(top SECRET) . 

13. The French Assembly ratified the bill which in effect established the 
Associated States on January 29^ 1950. The reasons for recognition 
advanced by the Secretary of State to the President are encoui^agement 
to national aspirations under non-coromunist leadership; establishment 
of stable non-communist goverimients in areis adjacent to Communist 
China; support to France; demonstration of displeasui-e with communist 
tactics. Department of State, Memorandum for the President from the 
Secretary, subject "U.S. Recognition of Vietnaiu, Laos and Cambodia," 
February 2, I95O. 



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l4. The import of Secretary Acheson's statement of February 1 is made 
clear by the first paragraph of the Department of State press 
release of that date: "The recognition by the Kremlin of Ho Chi 
Minh's communist movement in Indochina comes as a surprise. The 
Soviet acknowledgment of this movement should remove any illusions 
as to the 'nationalist' nature of Ho Chi Minh's aims and reveals 
Ho in his true colors as the mortal enemy of independence in Indo- 
china ..." 

15' As President Truman was later to v/rite concerning his view of Chi- 
nese operations in November 1950, "The situation in Korea... was 
not the only instance of a new aggressiveness on the part of Com- 
munist China. There vras evidence that the communist rebel forces 
in Indochina were receiving increasing aid from Peiping. Also^ 
in the last days of October ^ Communist China had moved agaj-nst the 
- ancient theocracy of Tibet. We were seeing a pattern in Indochina 

and Tibet timed to coincide with the attack in Korea as a challenge 
. to the Western world." Memoirs of Harry S. Truman , Volume 2, p. 38O. 

16. On May 3^ 19^9? General Chennault told two Congressional Committees 
that unless the U.S. took immediate steps to save the Nationalists, 
all Asia would fall to the communists. 

17. Memorandujn for the Secretary of Defense, from Joint Chiefs of Staff, 
Subject: Strategic Assessment of Southeast Asia^ April 10^ I95O (TS). 

18. NSC 48, 6k series, 12k series, 177, 5^05. 

19. NSC 6k, p. 2. 

20. NIE 5 5 Indochina: Current Si.tuation and Probable Developments , 
December 29, 1950, p. 2 (TS). ' ' . 

• 

21. NIE 5, p. 2. Luclen Bodard in his The Quicksand War (pp. 228-229) 
contends that the French High Command "systematically put out false 
intelligence that was meant to end up in Washington" en this and 
related issues. Only subseq.uent events showed the French that there 
was a real Chinese threat. 

22. Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense, April 5, I95O (TS). 

23. NIE 5, pp. 1, 2. 

24. Ibid., p. 1. 

25. See Department of State Outgoing Telegram to AlA Consul Saigon 25, 
Personal for Jessup from Butterworth, January 20, I95O, "...marked 
opposition has been encountered which demonstrates at least that 
Bao Dai's popular support has not yet widened." 

26. NIE 5, p. 1. ■ 



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27. Department of State Incoming Telegram from Paris 837, February 22, 
1950 . 

28. NSC 6hy The Position of the United States with Respect to Indochina, 
February 27, 195O, p. 3 (ts). 

29. Department of State letter from Deputy Under Secretary Rusk to 
Major General James H. Burns, March 7, I95O (TS). 

30. Memorandum for the President from the Secretary of Defense, approved 
by SecDef, March 6, I95O (tS). 

31- By March 6, State and Defense had agreed on a military assistance 

program for Indochina and Thailand in the amounts of $15 and 10 million 
respectively. Draft memorandum to the President, "Allocation of Funds 
to Provide Military Assistance to Thailand and Indochina Under Section 
303 of Mutual Defense Assistance Act, March 6, I95O (TS). 

32. Ninth Report to Congress of ECA, 1951, p. 99. 

33* Quoted in Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense from Secretary of 
the Navy, "Aid to Indochina," March 28, 1950, p. 2. (tS) 

3^. Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 
"strategic Assessment of Southeast Asia," April 5, 195O (TS). 

35* Department of State Outgoing Telegram to AmEmbassy London 20i^9, May 3, 
1950 (TS), - , 

36. Statement of the President, June 27, 1950. 

37- Memorandum for the Joint Chiefs of Staff from Secretary of Defense, 
June 6, 1950. 'Cited in U„S , Policy Toward Vietnam Since 19^5 ^ OCMH 
Draft TS-62-5-3 (ts). 

38. Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 
Annex 2, October I6, I95O (S); see also The U.S. A7:my Role in the Con- 
flict in Vietnam . OCMH Draft TS-64-7-1 (TS), pp. 22-23; the generally 
pessimistic conclusions of the mission are also presented in Anjiex 2 
to Southeast Asia Policy Committee "Proposed Statement of U.S. Policy 
in Indochina for NSC Consideration," October 11, I95O (tS). 

39- OCMH Draft 13-6^^-7-1, P- 23. 

^0. In their comment on this paper, the Joint Secretaries recommended 
strengthening this restriction by including in it the contingency 
of "augmented internal communist offensives." Memorandum for the 
Secretary of Defense from the Joint Secretaries, October I8, I95O 
(TS). 



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ill. Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense from the Joint Chiefs of Staff , 
Subject: Possible Future Action in Indochina^ October 27, 195O (TS). 

1+2. Report to the National Security Council by the Secretary of Defense 
on the Position of the United States v^ith Respect to Indochina, 
December 21^ 195O (TS). 

kS' Department of State Incoming Message from U.S. Minister Saigon 763? 
November ky I95O (TS). 

kh. NSC staff Study on Position of the United States with Respect to Indo- 
china, December 28, I95O (TS). 

U5. Progress Report by the Under Secretary of State to the National Secujrity 
Council on the Implementation of NSC 6k, March I5, I95I (TS). 

kS. OCMH TS-6i|-7-lj pp. 365 il7-U8. All numbers are taken to be approxi- 
mations. 

i+7* Irving Heymont, et.al . , Cost Analysis of Counterinsurgency Operations , 
RAC-TP-232, June 1967, Vol 1, p. 10 (S). " 

^^' ^■^' 3 informal memorandum from Mr. Max Lehrer to General Bonesteel of 
April 21 3 195^1: "This /attached/ report makes it clear that the U.S. 
MAG has little information available on which it could operate. The 
written report actually understates the deficiencies in information. 
Our people find that the morale of the MAAG in Indochina is virtually . 
non-existent and the MAA.G is reduced to relative impotence." 

I49. Departm^ent of State Incoming Telegram from Paris 837 ? February 22, 

1950 (S). 

50. NIE 63-5^1, Conseq.uences Within Indochina of the Fall of Dien Bien Phu , 
April 30, 195^ (S). 

51. Regarding the Letourneau-Allard plan, General Trapnell, Chief I^AA^G, 
reported, "v7hile this plan is slow and expensive, the other course 
of action is to accept a stalemate which is also not only expensive, 
but in the long run, favors the Viet Minh and offers no solution." 
(Memorandum from General Trapnell, OSD files, March 3I5 1953) 

52. Although General 0* Daniel, in his report of July I5, I953 (TS) waxed 
enthusiastic over the successor Navarre Plan, broadly and attractively 
described to him by General Navarre himself, it was clear to others 
that the plan v/as hollow. "There is no concrete evidence that the 
French Union forces v^ill be able to take decisive action to win the 
war in the foreseeable future..." (Comments by Army Attache, Saigon, 
November 2^^, I953 (s)) 



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53. Thus the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 195^1: "There are two basic military 
concepts for the defense of Southeast Asia: a. Static type defense 
(Korea type), b. An offensive to attack the source of communist mili- 
tary power being applied in Southeast Asia /i.._e,. , China/." It is in- 
teresting that in this assessment the Chiefs selected b . ^ although 
The force requirements and logistic support. - .have not been fully 
developed." Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense from the Joint 
Chiefs of Staff, Subject: -"Defense of Southeast Asia in the Event 
of Loss of Indochina to the Communists," May 21, I95U (TS). 

5h. C.f . 3 the reports of General 0^ Daniel following his three missions 
to Indochina. Following the second mission, O'Daniel reported that 

prospects for victory appear increasingly encouraging and I heartily 
recommend continuation and intensification of United States support." 
(Rrogress Report on Military Situation in Indochina as of November 19> 
1953 (TS).) Follov/ing the third mission, which General Navarre tried 
unsuccessfully to prevent, 0* Daniel was even more optimistic in his 
remarks, including those on Dien Bien Phu, given the circimstances. 
(Report of U.S. Special Mission to Indochina, February 5, 195^ (TS)) 

55* Secretary of the Army Robert T. Stevens found it necessary to write, . 
even following the U.S. experiences of the Korean war, "l am becoming 
Increasingly concerned over the freq,uency of statements by individuals ■ 
of influence within and v^ithout the government that United States air 
and sea forces alone could solve our problem in Indochina, and equally 
so over the very evident lack of appreciation of the logistics factors 
affecting operations in that area." Memorandiira for the Secretary of 
Defense, Subject: Indochina, May I9, 195^^ (TS). See also Note 53- 

56. NSC 5^05 file of OSD, 



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