The Pentagon Papers
Gravel Edition
Volume 1
Document 50, Memorandum from Arthur Radford, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, "Studies with Respect to Possible US Action Regarding Indochina," 26 May 1954, pp. 511-15.

26 May 1954


Subject: Studies with Respect to Possible U.S. Action Regarding Indochina

1. Reference is made to the memorandum by the Acting Secretary of Defense, dated 18 May 1954, subject as above, wherein the Joint Chiefs of Staff were requested to prepare certain studies, and agreed outline answers to certain questions relating thereto, for discussion with the Acting Secretary of Defense on or before 24 May, and for subsequent submission to the National Security Council (NSC).

2. a. The studies requested by the Acting Secretary of Defense were developed within the parameters prescribed in the memorandum by the Executive Secretary, NSC, dated 18 May 1954, subject as above. This memorandum is interpreted as assuming no concurrent involvement in Korea. This assumption may be quite unrealistic and lead to malemployment of available forces. The Joint Chiefs of Staff desire to point out their belief that, from the point of view of the United States, with reference to the Far East as a whole, Indochina is devoid of decisive military objectives and the allocation of more than token U.S. armed forces in indochina would be a serious diversion of limited U.S. capabilities. The principal sources of Viet Minh military supply lie outside Indochina. The destruction or neutralization of these sources in China proper would materially reduce the French military problems in Indochina.

b. In connection with the above, it may be readily anticipated that, upon Chinese Communist intervention in Indochina, the French would promptly request the immediate deployment of U.S. ground and air forces, additional naval forces, and a considerable increase in MDAF armament and equipment. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have stated their belief that committing to the Indochina conflict naval forces in excess of a Fast Carrier Task Force and supporting forces, as necessary in accordance with the developments in the situation, of basing substantial air forces in Indochina, will involve maldeployment of forces and reduce readiness to meet probable Chinese Communist reaction elsewhere in the Far East. Simultaneously, it is necessary to keep in mind the considerable Allied military potential available in the Korea-Japan-Okinawa area.

c. In light of the above, it is clear that the denial of these forces to Indochina could result in a schism between the United States and France unless they were employed elsewhere. However, it should be noted that the Joint Chiefs of Staff have plans, both approved and under consideration, which provide for the employment of these forces in combat operations outside Indochina. Nevertheless, it is desired to repeat that this particular report is responsive to the question of U.S. intervention in Indochina only.


3. Strategic Concept and Plan of Operation

Seek to create conditions through the destruction of effective Communist forces and their means for support in the Indochina action and by reducing Chinese Communist capability for further aggression, under which Associated States forces could assume responsibility for the defense of Indochina. In the light of this concept the major courses of action would be as follows:

a. Employing atomic weapons, whenever advantageous, as well as other weapons, conduct offensive air operations against selected military targets in Indochina and against those military targets in China, Hainan, and other Communist-held offshore islands which are being used by the Communists in direct support of their operations, or which threaten the security of U.S. and allied forces in the area.

b. Simultaneously, French Union Forces, augmented by U.S. naval and air forces, would exploit by coordinated ground, naval, and air action such successes as may be gained as a result of the aforementioned air operations in order to destroy enemy forces in Indochina.

c. Conduct coordinated ground, naval, and air action to destroy enemy forces in Indochina.

d. In the light of circumstances prevailing at the time, and subject to an evaluation of the results of operations conducted under subparagraphs a and b above, be prepared to take further action against Communist China to reduce its war-making capability, such as:

(I) Destruction of additional selected military targets. In connection with these additional targets, such action requires an enlarged but highly selective atomic offensive in addition to attacks employing other weapons systems.
(2) Blockade of the China coast. This might be instituted progressively from the outset.
(3) Seizure or neutralization of Hainan Island.
(4) Operations against the Chinese mainland by Chinese Nationalist forces.

4. Forces Required of Each Nation Participating

The forces which would be employed under current plans during the initial phases of the above operations are those indicated in the Appendix hereto. The duration of the commitment of these forces would depend on the success of French Union forces operations supported by U.S. naval and air operations in defeating communist forces in Indochina.

5. Normal Service logistic arrangement for United States Forces would prevail. CINCPAC would be responsible for providing logistic support. CINCFE would assist by providing material and logistic support as mutually agreed with CINCPAC, or as directed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The facilities of MATS and MSTS would be made available to CINCPAC as directed. Existing U.S. bases in Western Pacific are available. Bases with limited facilities in Indochina and the Philippines (other than U.S.) would be available. Effort would be made to obtain or utilize bases on Formosa, if required. The French would provide their own logistic support within capabilities. United States logistical support of French Union Forces and Associated States would be provided as required. The Military Assistance Advisory Group, Indochina, would coordinate and arrange for utilization of facilities and services and would provide logistic support to the United States Liaison Groups and Training Missions. In the event operations should involve the use of NORC Forces, United States logistic support above the current NORC MDA Program would be provided.

6. Plan for Command Structure

In accordance with the Unified Command Plan, CINCPAC would exercise unified command of assigned forces. He would insure the coordination of all operations in Southeast Asia and provide for the necessary ground-air coordination between French Union Forces and U.S. Navy and Air Force forces which operate in support of the land battle. In addition, CINCPAC would select targets and conduct air operations with assigned forces against military targets in Indochina and those in China which directly support Chinese Communist aggression. COMSAC would support CINCPAC in these operations, and in addition would conduct air operations to further reduce the Chinese Communists war-making capability, as directed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. CINCFE will continue to provide for the security of Japan and the Ryukyus in accordance with his priority mission and in addition would support CINCPAC and COMSAC in their operations as agreed mutually.

7. Plan for Training Native Troops

For the United States to initiate training of Associated States Forces, it is estimated that approximately 2,270 U.S. personnel would be required, as an augmentation of the existing Military Assistance Advisory Group, to carry out this program. In addition, U.S. personnel would be required to provide appropriate logistic support. The exact size and composition of the training mission, the logistic support requirements, and the security requirements and arrangements will be determined in light of recommendations which have been requested from CINCPAC and the Chief, MAAG, Indochina. The training of Associated States Forces would be patterned after the training program conducted for RCK forces in Korea.

8. Plan for World-Wide Military Aid

The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that action should be taken to insure appropriate degree of mobilization to provide for the greater risk of a general war and be prudently prepared under this alternate assumption. In view of the increased risk of general war involving the Soviet Bloc, immediate action would have to be taken to strengthen our allies. However, due to the overriding mobilization requirements for U.S. forces, such aid would be limited to those allies who could directly support the U.S. strategic concept for general war. This aid would further be limited to combat essential material, essential replacements, and spare parts which are beyond the capabilities of the individual countries to provide from their own or other allied resources.


9. Strategic Concept and Plan of Action

Seek to create conditions by destroying effective Communist forces in Indochina, under which the Associated States Forces could assume responsibility for the defense of Indochina. In the light of this concept, the major courses of action which would be undertaken are as follows:

a. Conduct air operations in support of allied forces in Indochina. The employment of atomic weapons is contemplated in the event that such course appears militarily advantageous.
b. Simultaneously, French Union Forces augmented by such armed forces of the Philippines and Thailand as may be committed would, in coordination with U.S. naval and Air Force forces, conduct coordinated ground, naval and air action to destroy enemy forces in Indochina.

10. Forces Required of Each Nation Participating

The forces which would be employed under current plans during the initial phases of the above operation would include:

a. French Union Forces currently operating in Indochina.
b. A U.S. Fast Carrier Task Force and supporting forces as necessary in accordance with developments in the situation.
c. U.S. Air Force units operating from present bases outside Indochina as required.
d. Forces as may be contributed by other friendly nations.

The duration of commitment of these forces cannot be determined at this time.

11. Plan for Logistic Support

The plan for logistic support would be the same under this assumption as under the assumption that Chinese Communists intervene (see paragraph 5 above)--except for the last sentence of paragraph 5.

12. Plan for Command Structure

Although the Allied Commander in Chief in Indochina should be French, there must be a United States Deputy with sufficient staff assistance to provide liaison with the French and coordinate U.S. activities with the over-all operation. CINCPAC would exercise command over all U.S. forces based in Indochina and other forces assigned to him for operations in Indochina. In addition, a U.S. Air Advisor would be provided the French Commander in Chief for the purpose of advising him concerning the air effort. This officer would have no command responsibilities but would be under the direction of the U.S. Deputy.

13. Plan for Training Native Troops

The plan for training native troops would be the same under this assumption as under the assumption that Chinese Communists intervene (see paragraph 7 above).

14. Plan for World-Wide Military Aid

a. Initially, there would be no requirement for additional material and equipment over and above current IDAP for the French and other allied forces in Indochina. MDA programs, however, would require augmentation within approximately 6 months to provide equipment and support necessary to equip initially and maintain a total of 3 new ROK-equivalent Associated States' divisions. Thereafter, increased MDA programs would be required to support additional Associated States' divisions as developed. The maximum number of such divisions probably would not exceed 20.
b. All other military assistance should proceed as currently programmed.
c. Current programs for equipping and modernizing U.S. forces must not be curtailed as a result of any of the foregoing.


15. Whether or not the U.S. intervenes in Indochina, the Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that it is vital that the war in Indochina be financed by a method separate and distinct from the world-wide MDAP. It is imperative that the commander be provided with the necessary equipment to wage war effectively without the financial and legal restrictions imposed by MDAP procedures. The current practice of diverting MDA funds from approved programs to support emergency requirements such as those resulting from combat operations in Indochina has already had the effect of hindering the attainment of our world-wide strategic objectives. Only by divorcing the fluid requirements which exist in local combat situations from the normal MDA programming methods and procedures can the orderly achievement of our objectives in other world areas be achieved.

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Joint Chiefs of Staff

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