The Pentagon Papers
Gravel Edition
Volume 1
Document 48, Memorandum from Secretary of the Army, Robert T. Stevens, on Indochina, 19 May 1954, p 508-09.


19 May 1954

MEMORANDUM FOR: THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
SUBJECT: Indo-China

1. I am becoming increasingly concerned over the frequency of statements by individuals of influence within and without the government that United States air and sea forces alone could solve our problems in Indo-China, and equally so over the very evident lack of appreciation of the logistics factors affecting operations in that area.

2. Indo-China is almost totally devoid of local resources which would be of use to our Armed Forces. It has a tropical, monsoon climate with pronounced wet and dry seasons and the disease and morale hazards are high for Caucasian troops. The population, when not hostile, is untrustworthy. However, the principal deficiency of Indo-China as a base for the support of large military operations lies in the inadequacy of its facilities for the movement of supplies.

3. The two principal ports are Saigon and Haiphong, with a combined daily capacity of 15,100 short tons. Both are inland river ports requiring considerable dredging before maximum potential can be obtained. There are nine secondary ports whose tonnage capacities vary from 100 to 1,400 tons.

4. Because of the inadequacies of the road, railroad, and waterway systems north from Saigon, this port would be of very little use for the support of operations in the Tonkin Delta. Haiphong could not be used without augmentation of its capacity including full use of secondary ports and all beaches. The tonnage capacity of the road and railroad system from Haiphong to Hanoi is even now less than the port capacity of Haiphong.

5. It would be necessary to make full use of the air for supply and evacuation as well as for tactical support. Much construction, to include lengthening and reinforcing of runways, of extreme difficulty during the rainy season, would be necessary. Only three airfields in Indo-China, Haiphong/Cat Bi, Tourane and Tan Sou Nhut (near Saigon) have runways over 7,500 feet long and have reported pavement strengths which could support B-45 bomber operations. Eight fields can handle transport planes as large as a C-119; an additional seven fields can accommodate C-46's. Sustained operations could not be undertaken on most of these fields in the rainy season. Within the Delta itself, there are ten airfields of all types of which only one, Cat Bi, is currently being used by C-119's or C-54's.

6. Even were it decided to limit the employment of United States forces to naval and air, which in itself would be a basically faulty military decision, it would devolve upon the Army to perform the bulk of the logistical services and it is essential that the magnitude of the effort required be clearly understood.

7. The adverse conditions prevalent in this area combine all those which confronted United States forces in previous campaigns in the South and Southwest Pacific and Eastern Asia, with the additional grave complication of a large native population, in thousands of villages, most of which are about evenly divided between friendly and hostile.

8. The complex nature of these problems would require a major United States logistical effort. It explodes the myth that air and sea forces could solve the Indo-China problems. If United States land-based forces are projected any appreciable distance inland, as would be essential, they would require constant local security at their every location, and for their every activity. The Army would have to provide these forces, their total would be very large, and the time to provide them would be extensive.

ROBERT T. STEVENS
Secretary of the Army


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