The Pentagon Papers
Gravel Edition
Volume 1
Document 41, Remarks made by Major General Thomas J.H. Trapnall, Jr., former Chief of the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG), Indochina, 3 May 1954, p 487-99


The following are comments made by Major General Thomas J. H. Trapnall, Junior, former Chief of the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) Indochina, at his debriefing, 3 May 1954.


The battle of Indochina is an armed revolution which is now in its eighth L year. It is a savage conflict fought in a fantastic country in which the battle may be waged one day in waist-deep muddy rice paddies or later in an impenetrable mountainous jungle. The sun saps the vitality of friend and foe alike, but particularly the European soldier. Torrential monsoon rains turn the delta battleground into a vast swamp which no conventional vehicle can successfully negotiate. It is a war of many paradoxes:

Where there is no popular will to win on the part of the Vietnamese.

Where the leader of the Rebels is more popular than the Vietnamese Chief of State.

Where a sizeable French army is composed of relatively few Frenchmen.

Where the partners of the Associated States regard each other as more dangerous than the enemy.

Where a large segment of the population seeks to expel the French at any price, possibly at the cost of extinction as a new nation.

This is a war which has no easy and immediate solution, a politico-military chess game in which the players sit thousands of miles distant--in Paris, Washington, Peiping, and Moscow.


The autonomous Associated States of Indochina consist of Viet Nam, Laos, and Cambodia. They occupy a blocking position against the expansion of Chinese Communist influence along the principal routes of communication in Southeast Asia. If this area, approximately the size of the state of Texas, defects or is neutralized the frontiers of Burma, Thailand and Malaya would immediately be exposed and eventually the positions of Australia, New Zealand, India, Ceylon, Pakistan, Indonesia and the Philippines would be weakened. A state of Civil War presently exists in Indochina, which pits the Communist Viet Minh against French Union forces essentially devoted to the ideals of freedom. Other issues, such as varieties of Nationalism, are involved as well. Moreover, a state of transition is concurrently underway in which a formerly strong Colonial power is crumbling. France is giving way to a self-determination movement by the indigenous peoples, who, while numbering more than 30 million, lack stability and security. The population of the three states is not completely compatible in matters of economics, culture, religion, ethnic origins, philosophy or [words illegible] compromise position has been reached in which the principal state of Viet Nam, combining the former protectorates of Annam and Tonkin with the ex-colony of Cochin China, has entered into a loose state of alliance with the lesser states of Laos and Cambodia, and with France. This federation is called the French Union. The exact relationship of each autonomous state to France has as yet not been completely determined. This indecision is, moreoverr complicated by natural rivalries existing among the states, even extending to political tribal groups within the states.

The topography of Indochina is varied and consists of extensive mountains, jungles, rivers, canals and major deltas. A remarkable compartmentation results. Military operations in a given area may be conducted with almost complete disregard of the situation in the adjacent compartment. While essentially the ground war presently is the dominant military activity, great potentials in amphibious, naval and air warfare by French Union Forces exist which should be exploited increasingly. Poor internal communications and 1,599 miles of coastline are factors dictating the advisability of utilizing more effectively the combat power of the combined arms.

The political situation in France and Indochina requires a complicated system of military administration. Four national armies comprise the French Union Ground Forces. The French Far East Territorial Force, numbering roughly ¼ million troops, equals the combined totals of the three indigenous armies, of which only that of Viet Nam may be considered as significant. Military responsibility is being delegated to the Associated States to the degree that their state of military development and capabilities so warrant. The pentalateral agreement of 23 December 1950 is the authority for existing relationships. The United States is a signatory to this document which extends MDAP into Indochina. Significantly, the conflict in Indochina has not been "internationalized" such as in Korea. Of the French Union partners, only France is a member of the United Nations. France has specifically opposed UN intervention on the presumption that its control of the Union would eventually be weakened by UN participation. On the enemy-side, the rebel army of 300,000 troops could not be supported without the substantial aid presently provided by Red China.


The prosecution of the war against the Viet Minh in Indochina is a joint responsibility of the sovereign governments of Viet Nam, Cambodia, Laos and France, under the leadership and direction of the latter. The local representative of the French Government is the Commissioner General, M. De Jean. He represents M. Marc Jacquet, French Minister of State, in charge of relations with the Associated States. The Ministers of the Associated States, the French Comniissioner General and the military Commander in Chief, Lt General Henri Navarre, prescribe the conduct of the war. Existing protocols define the degree of military control enjoyed by the Commander in Chief over the armed forces of the individual Associated States. Essentially, the French exercise operational control over all forces in strategy and tactics. Each of the Associated States maintains a Chief of Staff and a General Staff who are primarily concerned with recruiting, training, personnel actions and limited logistical activities. The long range program envisages a progressive turnover of responsibilities to the Associated States, although a requirement exists that adequate coordinating powers be vested in the hands of the French for many years to come.

Political decisions affecting military operations are reached in sessions of the high committee by representatives of the States, France, and the Commander in Chief. Essentially military problems are resolved in a permanent military committee in which the military chiefs of the Associated States together with the Commanding General of Headquarters, Joint and Ground Forces, Far East, participate.

Although a quadruplication of facilities exist in the form of several national general staffs and territorial organizations, actually a reasonably efficient channel of command is maintained by the French. Diplomatic liaison with the States counterpart organizations is exercised wherever coordination is required. This highly complex arrangement of joint and combined staffs and pooling of national forces may be likened to a miniature NATO at war, except that by necessity, the senior and more professionally qualified partner, France, exercises the dominant role. The governmental structure of each state is more or less oriented toward support of the war against Communism and the principal portion of each State's budget is devoted to defense expenditures. Viet Nam is the most vigorous state in this regard. Laos is cooperative to the French, but without sizeable resources of men or money. Cambodia views the entire struggle as secondary to what it considers more important, the determination of future relationships among the States themselves. In consideration of the fact that hostilities are more or less normal in the life of the Indochinese, the States may be considered as mobilized for war, although with less dislocation to private enterprise and fewer restrictions and austerity measures than would be expected by Western nations in a counterpart situation.

Both Laos and Cambodia are constitutional monarchies, while the Vietnamese respond with less solidarity to the government indirectly controlled by the Chief of State, Bao Dai, nominal descendant of the Emperors of Annam. He is potentially a capable leader but unfortunately out of favor with many extreme Nationalists and non-Communist dissidents.

The overall attitude of the population borders on indifference. The failure of friendly propaganda toward both development of a National attitude and the fostering of patriotism is an important deficiency. The uneducated native is inclined toward himself, his family and his tribe, or stock, in that order. The Japanese-inoculated spirity of Asia for the Asiatics has been adopted by Nationalistic leaders and the intelligentsia. The peasant, whose way of life has not been changed for centuries, is mostly apathetic.

The principal targets for Communism are among the educated classes, whose immediate resentment is the domination of the French through force of arms and political and economic controls. These people, when .çonverted to Communism, muster more effective support from the peasantr~T and city workers than do the French and the educated Loyalists. Communist influence is strong and its organization very complete, particularly within the large cities. The contending leaders compete with each other for recruits-the Communists holding forth idealistic rewards reinforced by threats, and the Loyalists stressing fear of the enemy as well as other inducements, some of which approach impressment.

The effect of the Ho Chi Minh bid for a negotiated peace and the French inclination to seek a settlement has had strong repercussions among the people, particularly those who pay double taxes, and whose villages are invaded, fought over and destroyed periodically by the opposing forces.

It is natural that the Communists will support the line of negotiation since implementation of any such peace will set the stage for Communist absorption of the entire area, without fail and immediately. The Ho Demarche, and the proven ability of his field forces to threaten seriously the French Union Forces, has had a profound effect on metropolitan France as well, where a considerable portion of the population is in favor of terminating an expensive and seemingly futile war.


French and Associated States Forces have received MDAP equipment in increasing amounts since 1950. French Union Forces conduct modern joint military operations according to professionally accepted tactics and techniques, and in accordance with doctrines approved by the U.S. Armed Services. Applications vary in consonance with difficulties imposed by terrain and the climatic environment. It has been noted that this is a war which pits a modern mechanized army against a large and well-led guerrilla force. However, the character of the Viet Minh forces has been changing during the past year. Therefore, many inefficiencies must be charged against the mechanized army since it lacks complete opportunity to utilize its capabilities fully. Since it is neither practicable nor completely desirable to meet the enemy on the basis of guerrilla versus guerrilla, the ultimate solution will require the isolation of the Viet Minh from his base of supply in Red China and then overwhelming him by materiel superiority. In any instance, a requirement for provision of quantities of MDAP equipment exists and will continue to exist for an indetermmate period. Generally, maintenance standards of MDAP equipment are below those of the U.S. Armed Services, although within well-trained units employing equipment in the intended manner, favorable comparisons may be reached. Since many of the personnel of the French Union Army begin their careers as illiterate peasants, completely unskilled, the training and indoctrination task toward better maintenance is evident. MAAG visiting teams proffer such guidance as is feasible. Specific notification of superior, as well as unsatisfactory units, are made officially to the French military authorities. Under the existing terms of reference, MAAG has no authorized direct contact with armed forces of the Associated States. A significant weakness on the part of the French is their failure to project their system of field operations and staff planning beyond their experience in Indochina. Imagination is frequently lacking. Also evident is the fact that their limited experience in World War 11 has stunted their overall development in modern warfare. This is basically the reason underlying their poor staff work, logistics and operational plans. In addition, the French are sensitive and touchy and loath to accept advice. We frequently encounter outdated techniques dating back to Colonial campaigns and World War I.

Another weakness of the French Union Force is the diversity of troops employed. The French Expeditionary Corps is composed of Foreign Legion, Moroccans, Algerians, Tunisians, Songalese and a small percentage of metropolitan French volunteers. These units are diluted nearly 59 percent by native Indochinese. The Associated States Forces are composed of varieties of native Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians. The whole effect is that of a heterogeneous force among whom even basic communication is difficult. Troops require a variety of clothes sizes and diets. They have different religious customs, folk-ways and mores. They vary in their capacity for different tasks and terrain. Logistically, a great problem exists in the support of such troops.

On the other hand, the Rebels are mostly Vietnamese recruited largely from the hardy stocks of Tonkin and Annam. They are a truly homogeneous army whose capabilities and requirements remain more or less consistent.

The MDAP equipment furnished the French Air Force of Indochina has converted it into a modern air arm capable of performing its combat mission in a highly satisfactory manner. It is an effective, offensive or defensive combat weapon, the full potential of which has not been realized.


a. French Forces: All French Army personnel in Indochina are serving in the Regular Army. The draftee in France is not required by law to serve in Indochina. However, he may volunteer for such duty. The period of service in Indochina was formerly 24 months, but due to a shortage of replacements, the period currently is extended to 27 months. French personnel receive substantial increases in pay for service in Indochina.

b. Vietnamese Forces: The original law which drafted man for military service required all physically fit males to undergo a period of service for 60 days. Until April 1953, this law was not strictly enforced. In April, it became, with minor changes, the basis for the ordinance drafting 40,000 men for duty with Kinh Quan battalions. Personnel are inducted into the army for the duration. They are selected on the basis of their family situation. Single men are taken first. A man enlisting for the Regular Army is taken on a trial basis for one year. At the end of one year, and if his service has proven satisfactory, he can reenlist for a period of one, two, three or four years. Recently, the draft laws have been more vigorously enforced to eliminate draft dodging.


While the majority of resources are devoted to ground operations, the following factors must be considered:

a. The enemy has no air forces or naval forces other than junks and sampans.
b. Friendly ground forces maintain a large proportion of river squadrons and light aviation units.
c. Opportunities for employment of large tactical air forces and seagoing naval and amphibious forces are limited.
d. Strategic targets are limited. Terrain and enemy skill in camouflage reduce number of tactical targets.
e. A shortage of trained air personnel exists, with limited prospects for augmentation from metropolitan France resources.
f. Commercial resources satisfy a considerable portion of naval and air logistical requirements.
g. Airfield construction limits composition of air traffic to light and medium transports and propeller-driven fighters and bombers. The balance of forces is considered adequate, although recently the French Air Force, motivated by unanticipated operational requirements in Laos and Dien Bien Phu, has requested additional B-26 light bombers, an additional C-47 transport squadron, and the loan of U.S. C-i 19 heavy transports and maintenance personnel. Civilian CAT pilots are presently on contract to the French Air Force for logistical missions. The Army likewise has requested increased air strength in the form of helicopter companies and liaison aircraft.


The missions of the opposing forces may be considered as follows:

VIET MINH--To achieve, by attritive military and political action, a negotiated settlement of the war in Indochina upon such terms as will permit either.
a. Absolute control of a portion of Viet Nam and Laos-generally considered to be north of the 18th Parallel, or
b. Eventual control of the majority portion, or the complete entity, of Indochina as a result of a favorable political position achieved at the peace table.
FRENCH UNION--To achieve, by overwhelming military pressure and political action, a cessation of hostilities upon terms favorable to the French Union which will
a. Restrict the influence of the League of Independent Viet Nam Party-Viet Minh, to that of a controllable minority.
b. Permit the establishment of sound, stable, solvent and harmonious governments within the Associated States.
c. Enable France to maintain its position as the dominant member of the French Union-of the Far East-with extra territorial privileges and commercial benefits.

Naturally, the results of the Geneva Conference may be expected to have a strong influence on future political and military objectives in Indochina for both sides.


By the end of 1954, French Union ground forces will consist of four French and one Vietnamese infantry division and one French airborne division. The ground divisions will be formed from 13 French RCTs and 9 Vietnamese ARCTs. The airborne division will be formed from 2 French ARCTs and one Vietnamese ARCT. This force, known as the Battle Corps, will be supported by 5 armored battalions, 5 reconnaissance battalions, 5 amphibious battalions and 3 medium and 1 heavy artillery battalion. This represents the striking force of the French Union Forces, not much larger than a single U.S. type Army Corps. To free this force for independant action against the Rebel strongholds, the French consider that a force of twice that size is necessary for static defense and pacification purposes. By the end of 1955, this surface defense force will reach a total of 86 standard infantry battalions, 132 light infantry battalions, 1100 suppletive companies, the equivalent of 70 artillery batteries and 36 armored car companies. All units of the French Union Army are equipped with a percentage of MDAP material. Amounts vary according to date of activation, depot stocks, mission and replacement factors. A certain percentage of hard items, estimated at 30 percent of gross requirements, is provided by French procurement agencies and may consist of identical items to those of MDAP, having been acquired during World War II, or through other channels by which U.S. surplus stocks were distributed after 1946. Indigenous production is practically negligible, since local industry is not developed and barely sufficient to provide maintenance for civilian requirements. A certain number of paramilitary agencies exist in this theater of operations which are not MDAP supported. These include militia, national police, plantation guards and others. Obviously, MDAP items, mostly small arms and ammunition will find their way by devious channels into unauthorized hands.

Due to the stress of constant warfare, circumstances are such that strict control is impossible. For example, an MDAP rifle, abandoned in battle may be acquired by a Viet Minh soldier, who will forfeit the same weapon upon his death or capture by paramilitary forces.


In general terms the organization and operation of the technical services which furnish logistical support to the combat arms is similar to that in the United States Army. The French Forces are handicapped by an insufficient number of units and trained specialists and consequently are unable to furnish the amount and quality of support given by comparable U.S. units. For all technical services MDA Programs have furnished the spare parts and small items necessary to carry out adequate maintenance and repair programs.

French Forces: French Forces are, for the most part, trained prior to shipment to Indochina. Training of individual replacements is done in the units to which they are assigned. French Far East ground forces operate schools for artillery, armor, engineer and transportation for their own forces and additionally provide generous quotas for Associated States personnel. Recently, four tactical training centers have been activated for use as maneuver areas for large tactical formations and battalions rotated out of static positions.

Vietnamese Forces: There are eight training centers for recruits of the Vietnamese Army. Four are for recruits for the Regular Army and four are for personnel to be activated into Kinh Quan (light infantry) battalions and companies. On-the-job training is conducted in technical fields for selected individuals upon assignment to a unit. In addition to this training, a limited number of specialists, technical, non-commissioned and officer schools exist. A considerable number of indigenous officers and men attend French schools both in France and Indochina. Training is not up to American standards.

The Associated States training plan has an annual capacity of about 65,000. It is considered adequate to meet phased build-up requirements. By American criteria, certain training deficiencies are conspicuous, particularly in such areas as standardization of training aids, programs of instruction, troop training programs and training literature. Utilization of plant facilities with greater efficiency is a further requirement. It is apparent that the Associated States forces are developing with more stress on quantity than quality. It is hoped that American guidance will prove acceptable and valuable to the French. The use of MDAP equipment has not generated any critical training problems, however a need exists for management training to encompass stock control; organization of depots and other procedural-type activities.


French naval strength is approximately 10,000. The only Associated States navy is a 1,000 man Vietnamese force. Naval forces are light units composed of approximately 250 light vessels and 100 small craft. These are supported by an aircraft carrier on loan from NATO and a squadron of privateer aircraft. Command of river operations as well as overall logistic support is the responsibility of the Commander, French Naval Forces ashore. Direct coordination of naval river forces with the respective Army area commands is executed at the Naval area level. Commander, French Naval Forces, afloat, controls coastal operations including surveillance, blockade, and amphibious operations. Naval Aviation, Indochina, supports the Naval mission as directed. The aircraft carrier force is under Naval administrative command although embarked aircraft operate as directed by the French Air Force area tactical commands.


The French Union naval forces in Indochina are reasonably effective on rivers and inshore areas. They have had much experience in river landings, combating, river ambushes and intercepting junk and small boat traffic on both the ocean and inland waterways. Also, logistic support by water to all services is a constant and heavy undertaking. For guerrilla warfare along the waterways in the Red River and Mekong River deltas, they are uniquely qualified and equipped. In other more orthodox forms of naval warfare such as large amphibious operations, anti-submarine and anti-aircraft warfare, they are neither trained nor equipped. With the establishment of the Joint Amphibious Staff and the formation of an Amphibious Corps, part of this deficiency should be eliminated. Although enemy submarines and aircraft have not been a factor in this war, the possibility does exist. There is little in Indochina to combat the potential menace. Limitations and restrictions for the conduct of the war at present are basically caused by a shortage of personnel rather than a lack of equipment. In addition, concrete and positive steps have been taken in the establishing of a Vietnamese National Navy. This will perform a two-fold purpose--that of easing the serious shortage of personnel and engendering a spirit of pride in the Vietnamese people through increased responsibility and participation in the conduct of the war in their homeland.


As of 10 April 1954, the French Air Force consisted of 98 Bearcats, organized into 4 squadrons, 16 Bearcat Photo Recon Aircraft organized as a flight, 84 B-26 light bombers, expanding to 3 squadrons, a light tactical reconnaissance flight of modified B-26 bombers, 4 transport squadrons of 114 C-47s-65 MDAP-and liaison aircraft squadrons consisting of 8 C-45s, 12 L-20 Beavers and 8 H-19 helicopters. Additionally, 85 Army liaison aircraft-L-19s-will be delivered by 31 August. 22 C-119 packets with supporting (200) mechanics are on loan during the present emergency.


The general MAAG opinion is that the individual flight and ground crews are very well qualified in operating and maintaining their equipment. However, there is not enough of them. Shortages of MDAP supplied equipment of the major categories has not restricted or hampered the operational ability of the FAF combat squadrons and support agencies. Some of the changes in methods and procedures which MAAG believed should be placed in effect are actually beyond the capability of the FAF due primarily to the shortage of personnel and overall restrictions imposed on the FAF by the political and economic situation both in Indochina and in Metropolitan France.

The French are highly operationally minded, however, they do not put proper emphasis on their logistics support requirements to support their operations. In spite of the MDAP equipment and machinery received, the development of this country's self-sufficiency has been abnormally slow.


The Viet Minh is a well-led, veteran guerrilla army of approximately 300,000 troops organized into 6 infantry divisions, a heavy division of artillery and engineers and numerous regiments, battalions and companies. It has a regional militia component as well as its regular troops. Its equipment and tactics are those of light infantry with a tremendous capability of cross country mobility and endurance. A high command is reputed to contain Red Chinese advisors. Until the pitched battle at Dien Bien Phu, the rebels followed the strategy of hit and run with much of its maneuver dictated by political objectives. The manner in which this force deployed its battle corps into assault infantry, and, with effective artillery support, captured several highly organized and well-defended strong points, indicates a versatility not fully appreciated prior to this campaign season. Additionally, the Viet Minh are skilled in psychological and political indoctrination and have been able to establish bases of operations behind French fortified lines, particularly in the delta. The recent capability of the Viet Minh to seize territory throughout Indochina, albeit temporarily, will have a profound effect upon the conferences at Geneva.


In June 1953, General Navarre formulated a set of principles for the conduct of the war in Indochina. This was described in the O'Daniel report as the Navarre concept for successful conclusion of the war in Indochina, but it is less a formula for successfully concluding the war than a statement of short term aims, to wit:

a. To retake the initiative immediately through the carrying out, beginning this summer, of local offensives and by pushing to the utmost commando and guerrilla actions.

b. To take the offensive in the north beginning September 15, in order to forestall the enemy attack. To conduct the battle which will take place during the fall and winter of 1953-54 in an offensive manner by attacking the flanks and rear of the enemy.

c. To recover from areas not directly involved in the battle a maximum number of units. To pacify these regions progressively.

d. To build up progressively a battle corps by grouping battalions into regiments and regiments into divisions and by giving to the units thus created the necessary support-artillery, engineers, armor, ~0mmunications_taking into account the very special character of the war in Indochina, the terrain-the enemy. To bring about a cooperation with the Air Force and the Navy.

e. To maintain a reserve of special type units-armor, commando, light battalion, etc., for attachment to groups and divisions in accordance with terrain and mission.

f. To continue the effort of instructing and organizing the army of the Associated States so as to give them more and more participation as well as more and more autonomy in the conduct of operations.

Note: The above was given to General O'Daniel in writing by General Navarre on 29 June 1953 and was thereafter referred to as the Navarre concept for the successful conclusion of war in Indochina.

Few of these aims are progressing satisfactorily. The training of the National armies is woefully inefficient and the series of tactical offensive operations engaged in during 1953-54 fighting season, instead of retaking the initiative has lost it to the Viet Minh. After a rather encouraging beginning with the Lang Son operation, Navarre's later operations reveal that he is following the same conservative defensive tactics as his predecessor, General Satan. Although Mouette was highly publicized as a successful offensive, it in fact was nothing but a reconnaissance in force with the objective of occupying a strong position and awaiting attack by the enemy in the hope of dealing him a crippling blow. The enemy refused to be taken in. The current campaign season has been dominated by the Viet Minh, and the present position of the French Union Forces is no improvement over that of last year. Dien Bien Phu is not only another Na San but a grave tactical and strategic error. The only hope for gain from the battle now raging is that the French can survive. The French have consistently postponed seizure of the initiative through failure to select and pursue vital military objectives such as the obvious enemy troop concentration depot and communications area in the foothills north of the Tonkin delta. Viet Minh leadership, on the other hand, has capitalized on this vacated opportunity by seizing and holding the initiative. The French battle corps, which was built up hopefully by energetic withdrawal of implanted units, has now been dissipated into four sizeable components: (1) Dien Bien Phu--12 battalions--an expensive-supplied airhead, is encircled and under heavy attack. (2) SenoSavannakhet-Thakhek-Pakse area--15 battalions--partially supported by air with its overland communications threatened. (3) Operation Atlanta--25 battalions-a coastline sweep north from Nha Trang, which has uncovered no appreciable enemy, and (4) the Tonkin delta--18 battalions--where the enemy is increasing his attacks on rear installations and lines of communications. The lack of initiative which the French have is emphasized by the day-to-day reaction of the French to enemy moves and activity as expressed in recent requests for emergency assistance in the way of U.S. equipment and maintenance personnel.

French tactics are based primarily on defense, even though French Union Forces outnumber Viet Minh forces by almost 2 to I, have overwhelming fire power, and unopposed air force, a balanced naval force and strategic transport capability. The barbed wire concept is exemplified by the fact that the French have established a requirement of 4000 tons of this item per month over and above that furnished by France. The bulk of the C-119 airlift for Dien Bien Phu supply was utilized in dropping barbed wire.

French Union forces do not as a general rule attempt to gain and maintain contact with the enemy, but rather, they wait for the Viet Minh to attack. Patrolling is the exception rather than the rule. Viet Minh regular battle corps troops have been avoided unless the French troops are well dug in behind barbed wire or have astronomical odds in their favor.

Night operations are never employed by French Union forces although the Viet Minh use such operations most successfully. French forces retire to their fortified and secured areas at nightfall, and control only the areas of their fields of fire. Night operations training should be instituted and emphasized in their training programs, and French Union forces should be as adept and successful in such operations as the enemy.

At present there is no evidence that the French staff is working off-detailed plans for the final offensive which General Navarre has indicated to me as Chief MAAG will occur during the next dry season, 1954-55.

Although Navarre demands that his requirement for U.S. equipment should not be challenged by this MAAG, the fact is that the small inadequate French staff handling this function is not capable of accurately presenting requirements for Indochina. Were it not for the screening which these requests undergo by MAAG, material would be wastefully supplied, and many critical and sudden shortages would occur. Many examples of this lack of planning foresight can be found in the files of this MAAG, such as requests for specialized equipment requiring specially trained operators with no companion plan to provide such operators-request for a specific amount of ammunition in January is constitute a year, supply only to double the request in April-not because of an oversight or error but because of poor planning for the operations to occur during the intervening months.

This lack of French staff capability and to a great extent the conservative and defensive attitude of the entire theater of operations, is due in large measure to the fact that many of the officers on duty in this theatre are over age in grade according to U.S. standards, and are lacking in drive and imagination. Lack of command supervision is obvious in all echelons, the best evidence of which is the absence of command inspections and maintenance inspections of equipment of commanders. End-use inspections by members of this MAAG frequently reveal that higher commanders have never made an inspection of equipment in their subordinate units. Shortage of personnel is another contributing factor which cannot be overcome except through more extensive support from metropolitan


A strictly military solution to the war in Indochina is not possible. Military operations are too closely bound to concurrent political problems, and most of the military decisions concerning tactics and strategy have their origin in the politics of the situation here. The governments of the three Associated States are comparatively weak, and are almost as insistent upon complete autonomy from France as they are on liberation from the Communists. It is doubtful if the ordinary people understand the issues at stake between the rebel and Associated States objectives. It probably appears to them that they are being ground between the two political groups, one of which seeks to achieve autonomy by Communist methods. The other by political evolution. They are not aware of the dangers of domination by Communism nor of the difference between democracy and the Communist People's Government as we understand it.

The French have a tremendous investment in Indochina and have made great strides in bringing the advantages of Western civilization to the people. Yet the French are not wanted. Colonialism is still the chief argument against the French and with some substance. The natives are still considered as second-rate people and the French have only made concessions reluctantly and when forced to do so. There is a lack of camaraderie between the native soldier and officer and the French. Separate messes are maintained, due in some measure to the difference in dietary preference, but also due to this lack of friendly association in a common cause.
The Viet Minh, on the other hand, are fighting a clever war of attrition, without chance of a major military victory, but apparently feeling that time is working in their favor and that French and U.S. public opinion will force eventual favorable negotiation.


In 1949 the French, in a search for Nationalist support against Ho Chi Minh, recognized Bao Dai, playboy scion of the ancient Annamite emperors as Chief of State of Viet Nam which was given its independence within the framework of the French Union. Bao Dai is popularly believed to be very pro-French, and most of the people have a luke-warm feeling toward the Government which they feel is not earnestly working for their complete independence from France. The French promise independence, but only reluctantly give concessions.

The key to this problem is a strong and effective Nationalist army with the support of the Populist behind it. When the people have confidence in their government and in its ability, through the Nationalist army, to give them the protection from Communist terrorism which is necessary for business and commerce, then complete victory will be in sight.


The U.S. has greatly contributed to the success of the French in holding Indochina from the beginning. In January 1951, material was rushed from the docks of Haiphong to the battlefield of Vinh Yen, then being fought under the personal direction of Marshall De Lattre himself. Since then, delivery of aid has kept pace with changing French needs, often on a crash basis, down to the present heroic defense of Dien Bien Phu. U.S. aid has consisted of budgetary support, furnishing of end items, military hardware, and of technical training teams. The magnitude and range of this contribution is shown by the following very few examples. All of these figures are as of 31 March this year.

a. 785 million dollars has been allocated for the budgetry support of the French Expeditionary Force and the Vietnamese Army. This will assist in meeting budgetary requirements for pay, food, and allowances for these troops.

b. Under MDA Programs, a total of more than 784 millions of dollars has been programmed for the years 1950-54. Of this, more than 440 million dollars worth of military end items have been received.

c. To date, 31 March 1954, 441 ships have delivered a total of 478 thousands of long tons of MDA equipment to Indochina.


As in Korea, Iran, Malaya, and Burma, the war in Indochina is not a separate entity. It is another tentacle of the octopus, another brush fire on the periphery of the iron and bamboo curtains. The problem can only be solved completely if the masters of the Kremlin decide that Indochina should be abandoned in favor of more profitable enterprises elsewhere. However, ways and means exist to achieve a degree of success with respect to Indochina, beginning at the political level--specifically at the level of Chiefs of State. What is then necessary is as follows:

a. An agreement must be reached with the French to deliver their strongest possible assault upon the Viet Minh as soon as possible to reduce their efficiency of that force to its lowest potential.

b. Concurrently, the Associated States armies must be put through a training cycle designed to produce leaders and units and to develop confidence through skill and achievement. Such forces must be developed to the level of the ROK or Greek armies under American tutelage and material support for these forces must be in being and capable of replacing the French when they retire.

c. A defensive alliance of democratic nations of the Orient must be developed to provide future stability for the Associated States. The U.S. must establish leadership in this area by relieving the French in a similar manner as was followed in relieving the British for the responsibility of Greece.

d. The sovereignty and territorial borders of the Associated States must be guaranteed--under no circumstances should the country be allowed to divide on an arbitrary parallel such as in Korea.


I recommend that the Department of Defense urge that negotiations for agreements to be initiated at the earliest time to achieve the foregoing objectives and that upon reaching an understanding with France and the Associated States, a full-scale U.S. training mission be established with the Associated States forces to achieve an effective training base by Spring of 1956. That the French overwhelm the enemy in the interim is a vital concurrent requirement, and, again, this objective must be achieved by governmental agreement, with the U.S. insisting that the French Government establish military victory as a primary objective and so instruct the field commander, who may then be relieved of his anxieties regarding casualties and indifferent political and moral support from France.

In conclusion, I reaffirm my opinion that victory in Indochina is an international rather than a local matter, and essentially political as well as military.

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