The Background -1961-1966
Putting the contribution of the Free World allies into proper focus requires first of all a knowledge of the negotiations leading to the commitment of allied economic and military aid, and, second, an understanding of why multilateral aid was sought. The context in which the early discussion of possible troop commitments by the United States or the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization took place indicates the assumptions of U.S. policy-makers. They considered Vietnam, like Korea, a testing ground where the Free World had to use its strength against the forceful expansion of communism. As the Korean War had been an effort of Free World allies against North Korean and Chinese Communist aggression, so they saw the Vietnam War as an allied effort against the aggression of the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese, who were aided by the Russian and Chinese Communists. It is not at all surprising that in the early sixties, when the nature of the US commitment to Vietnam was taking shape, the idea of multilateral aid was being considered.
From the earliest discussions in 1961, Free World troop deployments were tied to and contingent upon the deployment of US troops. Thus in the story of aid to South Vietnam, Free World and US military assistance are intertwined and inextricable, especially in the background of the decisions to deploy troops to South Vietnam. To tell the story of Free World participation it is necessary, therefore, to refer to the background of the deployment of US forces.
Throughout 1961 many possible kinds of troop deployment were considered, from unilateral US intervention to a multilateral Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) force. In May an ad hoc task force appointed by Assistant Secretary of Defense Roswell L. Gilpatric recommended to the National Security Council that the United States should be prepared to fulfill its obligations under the treaty organization, unilaterally if necessary; the State Department redraft of this memorandum also supported the employment of SEATO troops in South Vietnam. The Joint Chiefs of Staff further recommended deployment of
sufficient US forces to deter Communist aggression against South Vietnam. These proposals led to a formal request, National Security Action Memorandum 52, directing the Department of Defense to examine the size and composition of possible troop deployments.
In the absence of a decision by the President of the United States, memorandums continued to stream forth. Presidential adviser Walt W. Rostow suggested in October 1961 a 25,000-man SEATO force to guard the South Vietnam-Laos border; the joint Chiefs modified this, saying the force should be used instead to secure the Central Highlands. The logical and inevitable synthesis of these proposals was made in a memorandum drafted by Under Secretary of State U. Alexis Johnson. Blending Rostow's border control proposal with the joint Chiefs of Staff's concept of winning control of the highlands, Secretary Johnson advocated his synthesis as the initial twofold mission for U.S. forces in Vietnam and spelled out the US objective: to defeat the Viet Cong and preserve a free non-Communist government in the south.
Early Negotiations for Aid to Vietnam
In an October 1961 message requesting more US aid, sent with the concurrence of US Ambassador to South Vietnam Frederick C. Nolting, Jr., President Ngo Dinh Diem also asked the United States to consider the possibility of having President Chiang Kai-shek send a division of Nationalist Chinese troops to South Vietnam.
No firm decisions were made in 1961. The attention of the United States was focused on Laos, Diem was growing increasingly reluctant to accept additional outside intervention, and the internal security situation in South Vietnam did not then seem acute. By 1964, however, the situation had changed: the Laotian war had apparently been settled by the 1962 Geneva Accords, Diem had been overthrown and killed, the Viet Cong insurgency had grown, and South Vietnam had become politically unstable. There was a growing awareness from 1963 on that the war against the Viet Cong, and later against the North Vietnamese Army, was not going well. The issue of increased US or allied assistance was consequently again brought up in high policy councils, this time with greater urgency.
Signaling the growing need of allied and US assistance for South Vietnam was President Lyndon B. Johnson's public call on 23 April 1964 for "more flags" to come forth to support a beleaguered friend. In a similar move in April, the Ministerial Coun-
cil of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization issued a communiqué declaring the defeat of the Viet Cong essential to Southeast Asia's security and underscoring the necessity for SEATO nations to fulfill their treaty obligations. McGeorge Bundy, Presidential Assistant for National Security Affairs, in a related memorandum dated 25 May, recommended that a high-level Southeast Asia strategy conference be convoked to consult with the SEATO allies of the United States in order to obtain specific force commitments. This proposal of a SEATO conference-a conference that was never held-was the last official attempt to place Free World assistance under the aegis of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization. Certain members, especially France, were growing more antipathetic to American policy in Vietnam; hence, when the issue of Free World support for South Vietnam surfaced again in December 1964, it was discussed outside the context of SEATO commitments.
When troop commitments to South Vietnam were further discussed at a White House meeting on 1 December 1964, US objectives were reiterated: first, to end Democratic Republic of Vietnam support of Viet Cong operations in South Vietnam; second, to maintain the security of other noncommunist nations in Southeast Asia; and third, to re-establish an independent and secure South Vietnam. The meeting resolved also that aid be sought from "key allies." Thailand was to be asked to support the US program and intensify its own counterinsurgency efforts in Thailand. Prime Minister J. Harold Wilson of England was to be briefed on the US position and his support sought. William P. Bundy of the State Department was to ask Australia and New Zealand for additional help as well as consideration of the possibility of sending small combat units when and if the United States moved to the second phase of its strategy of increasing military pressure against the enemy. The Philippines were to be asked for a commitment of approximately 1,800 men. The conferees decided to press generally and strongly for more outside aid.
A memorandum for the chief of staff of US Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV), implementing the 1 December White House decision, specifically stated that "Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines should be encouraged to provide combat advisory personnel now and, in event of US troop deployment in RVN, to provide combatant units to reinforce DMZ Defense." 1
At the time the memorandum was written sixteen countries including the United States were already providing aid-some advisory military but largely economical and technical-to South Vietnam. At the end of December the Philippine, Korean, and Nationalist Chinese governments had made known through diplomatic: channels their readiness to provide military assistance to South Vietnam.
The I December White House meeting appears to have been crucial in determining the manner of soliciting allied support and the nature of the relationship between the Republic of Vietnam and the allies. President Johnson then strongly felt the need for "new, dramatic, effective" forms of assistance, specifically from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the Philippines; Dean Rusk, the Secretary of State, felt that Britain, too, could help. (Inexplicably, aid from the Republic of Korea was not discussed at the December meeting.) It was decided to seek "military and political cooperation" from these allies. General Maxwell D. Taylor, US Ambassador to South Vietnam, was to inform the White House what kind of assistance would be welcome after explaining US policy and consulting with government officials of Vietnam. The parameters of Ambassador Taylor's discussions with the Vietnam government clearly had been laid down at the 1 December White House meeting. Thus the initiative in seeking allied help for Vietnam came first from the United States. The government of Vietnam did have a voice, however, in determining the nature of allied assistance.
In November 1964, prior to Taylor's return to Washington, Major General Nguyen Khanh, the head of state in South Vietnam, had mentioned to him in reference to the more flags appeal that South Vietnam had only a general need for additional manpower for the military and police. 2 Upon his return to South Vietnam in December, acting on his instructions from President Johnson, Taylor emphasized in a 7 December meeting with Vietnam government officials the importance of Free World assistance from the US domestic point of view but stressed that the United States did not want to "internationalize" the war on the pattern of Korea. The issue really involved making Free World support concretely evident. To this principle General Khanh and Brigadier General Cao Van Vien agreed.
It must he kept in mind at this point drat aside from tentative probes of the attitudes of the government of Australia and the government of New Zealand no effort was being made to secure
foreign combat troops, but economic assistance, military advisers, civil affairs personnel, and humanitarian aid were requested. A series of State Department messages dating from May 1964 stressed again and again that no foreign combat troops were being sought.
From the time of the earliest deliberations on the question of troop deployments the United States had conceived of military assistance in its broad aspects in multilateral terms. Significantly the question of allied versus unilateral aid to Vietnam seems to have been resolved by the United States in favor of allied aid. The request for allied aid resulted from US initiatives; the government of South Vietnam seems to have acted merely as the agent transmitting the formal request for assistance.
Chester Cooper, former director of Asian affairs for the White House, fittingly summarized the US quest for more flags in his book, The Lost Crusade:
The "More Flags" campaign had gotten off to a slow start in late 1964. It required the application of considerable pressure for Washington to elicit any meaningful commitments. One of the more exasperating aspects of the search for "More Flags" was the lassitude, even disinterest, of the Saigon Government. In part . . . the South Vietnamese leaders were preoccupied with political jockeying . . . . In addition Saigon appeared to believe that the program was a public relations campaign directed at the American people. As a consequence, it was left to Washington to play the role of supplicant in the quest for Free World support.
Further, the inexperienced and understaffed foreign service of the Vietnam government simply did not have the resources to carry out such a major diplomatic initiative. With political turmoil and war at home, and representation in only a few countries abroad, the Vietnam government was physically unable to obtain aid alone and perforce had to rely on US assistance to obtain outside help. The usual procedure was to have the American embassies in Europe, Asia, and Latin America discuss the subject of aid for South Vietnam with the host countries. The Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, and the US Operations Mission prepared a list of the kind of aid desired. When a country agreed to provide some assistance, the US government then informed the Vietnam government, which in turn made a formal request for aid from the country.
In January 1965 as the United States became more actively engaged in the war in Vietnam, the search for more flags was intensified and the United States gradually in later months began to seek combat units.
To erase the conception that the Vietnam War was purely an American undertaking supported only by non-Asians, the Australians for example, more effort was placed on increased Free World support, especially from nonaligned countries. The focus of diplomatic activities shifted to Latin America, where countries were urged to assist South Vietnam.
Even before January 1965 the United States government had shown interest in obtaining Latin American support in keeping with the President's appeal for more international aid. Conversation with Argentinian and Brazilian officials indicated that Latin American countries would be more inclined to participate on the general basis of support for countries struggling against communism than on the basis of aid specifically earmarked for South Vietnam. The commitment was in principle to support anti Communist nations against Communist aggression, but not to provide support to South Vietnam in particular.
As a follow-up to the earlier probes, US embassies in all Latin American nations (save Haiti) approached their respective host governments about possible forms of aid for the government of South Vietnam in its struggle against communism. The US government made it clear that each country could determine the best way to assist South Vietnam but suggested that medical and engineering personnel and food and medical supplies would be welcome.
As a result of these US approaches on behalf of the Vietnam government, a number of Latin American governments indicated interest. Honduras and Nicaragua were thinking of a joint medical service team, Brazil of foodstuffs and medical supplies. Ecuador and Peru declined to assist because of their own internal political problems; other Latin American countries were still undecided at the end of January 1965.
After the initial contacts were made, US missions were directed not to pursue further the question of aid to South Vietnam. They could respond positively to any offers of help from Latin Americans and could offer US financial support to underwrite any aid. The restriction on further diplomatic initiatives on behalf of South Vietnam in Latin America was due to unfavorable stories in the Latin American press that accused the United States of exerting pressure to extract aid. Thus the Latin American diplomatic thrust was tempered.
Certain funding guidelines were set. Donor countries were urged to meet as much of the cost of their aid as possible, particularly expenses within the donor country and transportation costs. The US government would consider, on a case basis,
financing those costs or a portion thereof necessary to prevent the aid from being withdrawn. Washington would decide the question of cost sharing, and pressed for standardized overseas allowance and maintenance costs, reflecting equal rates for all Free World forces. In the event donors could not meet operating expenses, the Agency for International Development through allocations to the budget would subsidize them. Donors were also asked to furnish the supplies and equipment their projects entailed. In determining the nature of the project, countries were to keep in mind certain criteria, namely that the project be clearly defined, be self-contained, and make a direct contribution to pacification or other priority programs.
Because of the accelerating pace of events and continuing political uncertainty in South Vietnam, the US government began to consider contingencies other than using noncombatants from the allies. In a memorandum of 7 February 1965 to the President, McGeorge Bundy, believing the government of
Vietnam would collapse by 1966 without more US help and action, recommended increasing military pressure against the north. Also in early February the Joint Chiefs of Staff suggested deployment of a Marine expeditionary brigade to Da Nang.
The commander of US Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, General William C. Westmoreland, responding to a message from the joint Chiefs requesting his views on the security situation and possible troop deployments to the most vulnerable areas, indicated in a 17 February message that the security situation was in fact deteriorating, and supported the joint Chiefs' recommendation that the Marine brigade be sent to DA Nang.
In February 1965, the chairman of the joint Chiefs notified General Westmoreland that a major policy decision had been made "at the highest level" to "do everything possible to maximize our military efforts to reverse the present unfavorable situation [in South Vietnam]." The foundation was thus laid for steady increases in US and Free World combat troop deployments; it was determined to press forward to attain US limited objectives despite any difficulties.
The Joint Chiefs then expanded, in a 20 February message, their recommendations to include deployment of a Republic of Korea Army division "for counterinsurgency and base security operations. Estimated strength 21,000," as well as additional US troops-Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps. The message also spelled out two stumbling blocks to the recommended deployment. The first problem was the provision of sufficient logistical support and the second the establishment of joint command
relationships to provide the Commander, US Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, with effective command of US and allied ground forces so that combat operations could in turn be properly co-ordinated with those of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. The chairman of the joint Chiefs again solicited the views of the Commander in Chief, Pacific, and the Commander, US Military Assistance Command, on projected logistical and command arrangements necessary to implement the recommendations of the joint Chiefs, who had concluded that "the needs of the military situation in SVN Have become primary, and direct military action appears to be imperative if defeat is to be avoided.
Ambassador Taylor, in response to the joint Chiefs' proposals, indicated that he had strong reservations against sending marines to DA Nang, but that he would support General Westmoreland's recommendation for one battalion landing team to provide security for DA Nang. No sooner was the deployment approved, the marines on their way, and Vietnam government consent sought, than the State Department requested Taylor's views on -the possible use of an international-that is, a multilateral-force in Vietnam.
The ambassador's first reaction to the idea of an international combat force for northern South Vietnam was not favorable. The Australian envoy to South Vietnam as well as Ambassador Taylor felt that the deployment of such a force might heighten Vietnamese xenophobia and encourage the government of Vietnam to let the US government assume an even greater share of the burden.
The idea of a multilateral or international combat force, of which Ambassador Taylor disapproved, was raised by the Chief of Staff of the Army, General Harold K. Johnson, upon his return from a Vietnam fact-finding trip in March 1965. Specifically in the fourteenth point of his report, General Johnson recommended seeking a commitment from Australia and New Zealand to take responsibility for establishing Regional Forces training centers and thus broadening the international nature of the war against the Communists. The Secretary of Defense concurred but also suggested the deployment of a Korean division. He noted in his concurrence with General Johnson's recommendation that the policy of the United States was now to send anything that would strengthen the position of the government of Vietnam.
General Johnson also attempted to resurrect (without success) the notion of invoking the terms of the Southeast Asia
Treaty Organization to deploy a four-division force across the demilitarized zone, from the South China Sea through Laos to the Mekong River, to stem infiltration.
April 1965, like February, was a crucial and significant time for US policy on the deployment of Free World combat troops. The United States had been, in the months from December 1964 to March 1965, edging toward the commitment of outside combat forces, US and Free World, and a policy of more active support for South Vietnam. In April the United States became committed, at first in principle and then in deed, to sending combat troops to Vietnam and to engaging in a more active and open partnership in the defense of South Vietnam.
On 1 April Free World troop contributions were discussed in a high-level policy meeting at which General Johnson's 21-point proposal, which included soliciting troops from Australia and New Zealand, was approved. Discussion of the desirability of Free World combat forces continued on 3 April while Ambassador Taylor was still in the United States. The President and Secretary of Defense both favored the idea but it was recognized that there were serious political problems in obtaining troops from the Republic of Korea, the only readily available source. Moreover the Vietnam government seemed reluctant to have them. Other officials wanted to ask Australia for a destroyer to work with the Seventh Fleet. Taylor was instructed to explain upon his return to South Vietnam the latest US policy decision and to obtain concurrence and co-operation from the government of Vietnam on possible contributions from other countries. The actual decision to seek Free World combat troops, made earlier, was confirmed on 6 April and embodied in National Security Action Memorandum 328. The State Department was to explore with the Korean, Australian, and New Zealand governments the possibility of rapidly deploying combat elements of their armed forces in conjunction with additional US deployments. Both Australia and the Republic of Korea had already on 3 April 1965 indicated informally their willingness to send combat troops.
The following day, 7 April, in his Johns Hopkins speech, the President, while stressing the desire of the United States for peace and its reluctance to get involved in the Vietnam War, stated that the United States' pressure on North Vietnam as well as its greater military effort was not a change in purpose but a change in what "we believe that purpose requires."
Obviously what was required of the United States to accomplish its purpose in South Vietnam was changing. Even though a
survey concluded that the manpower resources of South Vietnam were adequate to support both the "quantitative and qualitative requirements of RVNAF provided the resources were used effectively," there was an apparent need for more troop strength quickly. General Westmoreland had reported on 3 April evidence of the presence of elements of the 325th Division of the People's Army of [North] Vietnam in South Vietnam. This discovery plus the deteriorating security situation in I and II Corps Tactical Zones was the background of both the diplomatic probes to obtain Free World forces and the preparation of a joint Chiefs plan of action and time schedule to send a two- or three-division force into South Vietnam.
With the basic decision made to commit Free World combat forces when needed, policy and plans began to be formulated to bring about the deployment and to establish command relationships.
In messages to the chairman of the joint Chiefs and Commander in Chief, Pacific, General Westmoreland outlined his proposed command relationship for the employment of Free World troops. The Korean division, according to General Westmoreland's recommendation, would not be attached to the US Marine Corps expeditionary force but would constitute the major Free World component of an international military security task force to block infiltration through the demilitarized zone. General Westmoreland wanted, however, to deploy the Korean force first around Quang Ngai to provide security for port and base development there. Admiral U. S. Grant Sharp, Commander in Chief, Pacific, directed this on 10 April. Free World units would be attached or assigned to US brigades with combined staff representation to give these forces an international flavor and still allow the United States to retain full authority over its own forces.
General Westmoreland also proposed "a mechanism at the national level to control international forces"-involving the joint exercise of authority by Commander in Chief, Vietnamese Armed Forces, and Commander, US Military Assistance Command, Vietnam-the formation of a small, single, combined staff headed by a US general, a Vietnamese deputy chief of combined staff, and a multinational staff. This staff would develop the parameters of strategic guidance, rules of engagement, and command relationships. The small combined staff which General Westmoreland wanted established would provide staff supervision and direction of multinational forces in the event major multinational forces were assigned to South Vietnam; no nation-
al headquarters would stand between the unit commander and the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, or Commander in Chief, Vietnam Armed Forces.
In separate meetings later in April with Australian and Vietnamese government officials, the issue of a combined staff was again discussed. At a conference on 28 April, General Westmoreland told General Nguyen Van Thieu and Major General Duong Van Minh that the first mission of Free World forces would be to furnish base security in order to release Vietnamese troops from such tasks; patrols would then be sent outside base areas in co-ordination with Vietnam commanders. Though General Minh had previously favored the combined staff concept, he now stated that he would prefer to have the MACV International Military Assistance Office provide the necessary staff mechanism. The proposal was to be studied further.
Meeting the following day with the Australian Ambassador to South Vietnam, General Westmoreland again broached the question of command arrangements. Pending further guidance, the ambassador was unprepared to say whether it would be possible to incorporate Australian forces with other Free World troops into an international military security task force but indicated his government had been thinking of brigading the Australian battalion with a US unit rather than put the battalion out on its own. The Australian Ambassador was also notified that the MACV International Military Assistance Office was visualized as the staff mechanism for solving problems between the government of Vietnam and Free World forces.
The Korean government, not wanting to have the only Free World combat forces besides the US forces in South Vietnam, expressed the fear that its aid might be seen not as independently and freely given but as the fulfillment of the obligation of a vassal state. These misgivings caused the United States to weigh more carefully the pros and cons of obtaining Korean combat troops before again asking the government of Vietnam to approach the Republic of Korea for combat troops.
On 15 April word had come from Washington that more US troops would definitely be sent because deteriorating conditions in South Vietnam warranted it, and there had not been a negative reaction to the earlier deployments. Ambassador Taylor was somewhat taken aback by this development. During his recent visit to Washington, 28 March-5 April, he had felt that the President was exercising caution and restraint on the subject of possible troop deployments. But after President Johnson's 7 April speech at Johns Hopkins he had noticed that the cables
from Washington indicated a strong desire to accelerate deployments. Taylor's response was twofold: he asked first that the decision to send a US brigade to Bien Hoa or Vung Tau be held in abeyance and that the matter be brought up at the Honolulu Conference scheduled later in April; and second, in a separate message, he suggested the kind of instructions and rationale Washington should provide for him to present to the Vietnam government in order to further the new U.S. policy of actually seeking Free World ground combat forces.
Taylor reasoned that in spite of the evidence of U.S.-Vietnam success it had become increasingly clear that the US objective of forcing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam to cease its support of the Viet Cong insurgency "cannot be attained in an acceptable time frame by the methods presently employed." The Joint Chiefs, therefore, after assessing the manpower situation and concluding that the Army of the Republic of Vietnam would have insufficient manpower to master the situation even with mobilization in the foreseeable future, believed that the equivalent of twenty new battalions was needed to prevent the war from dragging "into 1966 and beyond." The government of the United States had accepted the validity of this reasoning and offered to help the Vietnam government raise these forces, stated Taylor, "provided we can get a reasonable degree of participation from other third countries. If the GVN will make urgent representation to them, we believe, it will be entirely possible to obtain the following contributions: Korea, one regimental combat team; Australia, one infantry battalion; New Zealand, one battery and one company of tanks; Philippine Islands, one battalion." The United States would provide necessary logistic and combat support. Taylor concluded that such arguments would, when presented to the Vietnam government, give him the means of getting South Vietnam to resolve the question of Free World support.
The points raised by Taylor were resolved at the Honolulu Conference of 20 April 196 at which time the deployment of one Australian battalion at Vung Tau and one Korean regimental combat team (three battalions) at Quang Ngai was approved. The instructions Taylor proposed as the basis for raising the issue of Free World forces were accepted verbatim. These instructions noted in closing that "you [Taylor] will seek the concurrence of the GVN to the foregoing program, recognizing that a large number of questions such as command relationships, concepts of employment and disposition of forces must be worked out subsequently."
The one revision of the Honolulu Conference decisions was to ask the Republic of Korea for a division and not a regimental combat team; it was expected in South Vietnam in mid-June.
The Honolulu Conference also introduced a general concept of operations by U.S. and allied ground combat forces in support of Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces. A number of assumptions undergirded the discussion: national forces would retain command identity; the United States would not place its forces under the operational control of the Vietnam armed forces as allied commanders, though the Republic of Vietnam might in a special case place it's forces under US operational control; and allied forces would accept operational control by US commanders, and combat units would normally be placed under operational control of U.S. commanders at brigade level or higher. The mission of US and allied forces was "to render advice and/or combat support to RVNAF."
General Westmoreland in early May set forth the "procedures and command relationship" involved in commitments of additional US ground forces, and the underlying concept of an international military security task force first discussed in April. According to this concept allied forces were to be "brigaded" with US forces under a US commander and a combined staff. The US brigade would be the nucleus of the international security force, which would be employed in a manner similar to that of a US brigade. The mission of allied forces was set down in three stages. The first stage was base security; the second, after the bases were secure, was deep patrolling and offensive operations involving reconnaissance and moves against Viet Cong bases and areas; and the third was search missions for enemy units farther a field in co-ordination with Vietnam armed forces. The Commander, US Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, would assume operational control of US and allied forces upon their arrival in Vietnam. General Westmoreland reiterated that US forces would not be placed under operational control or command of allied commanders.
The international security force concept per se, which envisioned a multinational force blocking infiltration through the demilitarized zone, and the attendant concept of brigading Free World and US units were later dropped. Other countries and the Republic of Vietnam had shown little interest, there were many political problems, and, most significantly, the bulk of enemy infiltration skirted the demilitarized zone and came through Laos. The concept of a three-stage mission was retained.
Nonetheless, planning for command and control arrangements of Free World forces continued into May 1965. From June to October 1964 Free World activities had been handled by a small staff section within the '.Military Assistance Command, Vietnam-J-5, the Plans and Policy Directorate. As the scope of the Free World contributions, military and technical, grew, the need for a separate staff section just for Free World affairs became apparent. As a first step General Westmoreland in December 1964 had established the International Military Assistance Office under the staff supervision of the USMACV assistant chief of staff, J-5. In May 1965 after the decision to seek Free World combat forces had been taken, further plans were made to effect smooth-functioning command relationships. Generals Westmoreland and Minh, in discussing the subject of a combined staff, brought up earlier in April, envisaged this time a staff which would prepare studies, analysis, and guidance for US and Vietnam field commands through the respective chains of command-a combined staff, not a combined headquarters. General Westmoreland felt it premature to propose creation of a combined co-ordinating staff. At the same time he appointed Brigadier General James L. Collins, Jr., as his special representative to the Vietnam Joint General Staff on all matters pertaining to the coordination of US, Vietnam, and other Free World forces operations. This was about as far as General Westmoreland was willing to go at the time on the matter of command arrangements.
Free World Troops in Vietnam, 1965-1966
In May 1965 Free World commitments began to be honored as other governments agreed officially to send troops and prepared to deploy them. The first to help with this expansion was the government of Australia. Australia agreed in May to send a task force to South Vietnam composed of Headquarters, Royal Australian Regiment, plus the 79th Signal Troop and a logistical support company. Arriving in South Vietnam during the early part of June, this contingent, attached to the US 173d Airborne Brigade, operated from Bien Hoa. A military working arrangement had already been signed between the Commander, Australian Armed Forces, Vietnam, and General Westmoreland that provided for operational control of the Australian troops by the Commander, US Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, and also for complete US administrative and logistical support. In September a financial working arrangement was concluded that provided for the Australian government to repay the United
States for support on a reimbursable basis. At the end of September the Australians augmented their infantry battalion with a 105-mm. howitzer battery, a field engineer troop, and an air reconnaissance flight. With the addition of another signal troop, the year-end Australian strength in South Vietnam reached 1,557.
It was also in May 1965 that the government of New Zealand decided to replace its engineer detachment with a combat force and announced the decision to deploy a 105-mm. howitzer battery. The battery arrived in Vietnam on 21 July and was attached to the US 173d Airborne Brigade. Its primary mission was to support the Australian battalion. Like the Australians, the New Zealanders were also under the operational control of General Westmoreland, with the United States providing administrative and logistical support on a reimbursable basis. At the end of 1965, 119 New Zealanders were fighting alongside their Australian comrades.
General Westmoreland's long-range goal was for the nations of Australia and New Zealand to deploy a full Australian-New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) brigade during the coming year. As a short-range objective, he hoped for the immediate deployment of an additional Australian battalion. This matter was still unresolved by the end of the year.
After the United States, the nation providing the greatest amount of assistance to South Vietnam in 1965 was the Republic of Korea. In January, after an official request, the Korean government deployed a task force consisting of an army engineer battalion with necessary support and self-defense troops for work in the field of civic action. The main party of this "Dove Unit," as it was called, arrived on 16 March and was based at Di An in Bien Hoa Province. The military working arrangement between General Westmoreland and the Korean commander, Major General Chae Myung-Shin, stated that the task force would function under the operating parameters established by the Free World Military Assistance Policy Council. The council consisted of the chief of staff of the US Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, Major General Richard G. Stilwell (later replaced by the commander himself); the senior Korean commander; and the chief of the joint General Staff, Brigadier General Cao Van Vien, who was the council chairman. The council provided operational guidance for, not control of, Free World forces. The working agreement also stated that the Korean unit would be responsive to the over-all commander in any given area.
In response to further requests by both the US and Vietnam governments, the Korean government on 12 August approved deployment of an Army infantry division (understrength), one Marine Corps regiment, and one field support command composed of Army and Marine elements with normal support troops. Prior to their arrival in South Vietnam, a new Military Assistance Policy Council would continue to provide operational guidelines and the United States would furnish logistical support. The Republic of Korea Capital Infantry Division (understrength), and the Republic of Korea 2d Marine Brigade were completely deployed by early November of 1965 and given security duties at Cam Ranh Bay and Qui Nhon. Following discussions between the Korean commander and General Westmoreland, it was determined that the US Commanding General, Field Forces, Vietnam, would have de facto operational control over the Korean forces, although orders would be phrased as requests. (Since the command and control arrangements for Korean units were unlike those for any other Free World troop contributors, they will be treated separately and in detail.) Korean troop strength was now raised to 20,620, with considerable discussion regarding further increases.
The Republic of the Philippines, Thailand, and the Republic of China also had given aid, but only in the form of noncombatants to act in either advisory or civic action roles. Throughout 1965 efforts were made to obtain additional Philippine representation, specifically a 2,000-man civic action group. As a result of domestic political problems, however, the Philippine government failed to make a decision on this matter.
At the end of 1965, a new drive was under way in Washington to encourage Free World nations to increase the amount of their aid or, in some cases, to begin aid to Vietnam. As a result of these efforts Free World contributions to South Vietnam increased significantly in 1966. Much of the aid resulted from negotiations and the urgings of the United States in the previous year. Only now did these efforts bear fruit. Most nations still preferred to provide civic action and medical assistance as opposed to active military assistance. Fear of adverse world public opinion specifically affected the decisions of the German Federal Republic and the Republic of China as to the kind of assistance offered or the kind that could be accepted. Germany was concerned with the possibility of renewed Soviet pressure on Berlin, while the entry of the Republic of China into Vietnam might bring about a Chinese Communist reaction in the Formosa Strait. India and Canada were also limited in the kind of assistance they could give
because of their membership in the International Control Commission. The Republic of the Philippines and the Republic of Korea found their proposals meeting opposition from within their respective national legislative bodies. Some of this opposition was due to political instability in South Vietnam from March through June 1966. Countries were reluctant to send aid when the future of South Vietnam seemed uncertain and perilous.
While political bickering over the Vietnam issue occupied some elements of the Korean government, less publicized efforts were well under way to increase the number of Korean units in South Vietnam. On 8 January 1966 the US Ambassador in Seoul was instructed by the Secretary of State to begin prompt negotiations to obtain a Korean regiment for deployment to South Vietnam by April, and a Korean division for deployment by July. These units were to be accompanied by the necessary combat support and combat service support elements.
During the course of the negotiations, three major points developed by the Korean government and agreed to by the United States were that Korean defense capability would not be jeopardized, that the expenses of deploying additional forces to South Vietnam would not constitute an excessive economic burden to the Korean people, and that the Republic of Korea would receive preferential treatment to maximize its economic benefits.
President Chung Hee Park of Korea on 29 January approved, subject to ratification by the Korean National Assembly, the South Vietnamese request for an additional Korean regiment and division. In response to this announcement the United States agreed to finance all additional costs and equip as necessary the extra forces deployed to South Vietnam; assume the costs of overseas allowances at the agreed upon scale; provide death and disability gratuities resulting from casualties; and equip, train, and finance the replacements for the forces deployed to South Vietnam. After several weeks of debate and behind-the-scenes political maneuvering, the Korean National Assembly passed the bill authorizing the dispatch of additional troops to South Vietnam.
On 17 February 1966, the Royal Thai Military Assistance Group, Vietnam, was activated, with the Thai Air Force contingent becoming a subordinate element of that group. In March a military working arrangement was signed between the US Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, and the Royal Thai Military Assistance Group, Vietnam.
By March the Joint General Staff had developed a tentative Korean force structure and presented it to the Chief, Korean
Military Assistance Group. The major components of this force provided for one infantry division and one regiment, headquarters augmentation to the Republic of Korea Forces, Vietnam, logistical headquarters units, one engineer battalion, one evacuation hospital and associated medical units, ordnance direct support and ammunition units, quartermaster service, signal units, and transportation units-a total of 23,488 men.
More help was forthcoming when on 8 March the government of Australia announced it would increase its one-battalion force to a two-battalion task force with a headquarters, special air service squadron, armor, artillery, signal, supply and transport, field ambulance, and ordnance and shop units. Low key discussions had been under way since December 1965, but fear of criticism had prevented the subject from being made public. This commitment would raise the Australian troop strength to over 4,500.
Concurrently the MACV staff and an Australian joint services planning team were striving to develop new military working arrangements and a plan for the deployment of the task force. The agreement, signed on 17 March, confirmed the employment of the task force in Phuoc Tuy Province. The advance party for the 1st Australian Task force left for South Vietnam on 12 April, the main body following in several increments.
Soon after the action of Australia, the New Zealand government decided to increase modestly its contingent in South Vietnam. Despite Australian election year pressures, the artillery battery supporting the Australian forces was to be brought up to strength by adding two more 105-mm. howitzers and twenty-seven men. In addition, the surgical team at Qui Nhon was to be increased from seven to thirteen men.
In preparation for the influx of Free World forces, President Johnson signed into law on 25 March 1966 a Department of Defense supplemental appropriations bill which transferred the responsibility for Military Assistance Program funding from the Office of the Secretary of Defense to the various services in South Vietnam. The change in budgeting and funding had little or no impact on support procedures in Vietnam, but it did allow Free World Military Assistance Forces to be supported by corresponding US services rather than through the normal Military Assistance Program channels. This was done for ease of planning and to provide some relief to the Vietnamese logistics system, which was having a difficult enough time in accomplishing the support mission for its own forces.
In early April the Joint Chiefs of Staff asked the Commander
in Chief, Pacific, about the possibility of increased Free World assistance to South Vietnam. The basis of this inquiry was a joint Chiefs study to determine what additional support would be useful and what support Free World nations could be expected to provide. It was hoped that shortfalls in certain types of US units decided upon at the Honolulu Conference held earlier in the year could be filled by Free World nations. Several problem areas required coordination before a request to a nation could be made. The first consideration was a unit's ability to contribute favorably to the progress of the war, with immediate and noticeable effect. Other problem areas were command and control, security, areas of operation, linguistic barriers, special situations engendered by nationality, religious customs, degree of acceptability in South Vietnam, and the donor nation's ability to house air units. Finally, the Free World units should be operationally, logistically, and administratively within the means of support of the United States, South Vietnam, or the Free World country providing the assistance.
Headquarters, MACV, provided the Commander in Chief, Pacific, Admiral Sharp, with a list of units it believed the Free World Military Assistance Forces could realistically provide. The Army list consisted of varying numbers of infantry battalions; antiaircraft battalions; field artillery battalions; engineer construction companies, light equipment companies, port construction companies, dump truck companies, asphalt platoons, and miscellaneous engineer support detachments; medical evacuation units; petroleum depot units; transportation units; and tugboat crews. The Air Force pointed out a need for F-100, F104, F-5, and B-57 squadrons; possibly Free World forces to man an F-5 squadron at Bien Hoa; light observation units and qualified men for use in forward air control; and air liaison officers and duty officers for command centers and transport squadrons or flights. It was recognized, however, that the introduction of additional air force units would require the construction of more facilities. The Navy pointed out a need for additional surface patrol craft for coastal operations, additional craft of the destroyer type for naval gunfire missions, more patrol aircraft, survey ships to meet the demands of hydrographic surveys, and logistics lift craft. In analyzing the list of Asian nations that might be able or willing to contribute, the Commander in Chief, Pacific, noted that Thailand and Malaysia were committed fully in their own particular areas. The Republic of Korea had provided all that could be expected, and further increases would not produce sufficient returns for the amount of US investment
required. Both Japan and the Republic of China were capable of supplying more assistance in all of the categories, but once again political considerations and fear of Chinese Communist escalation of the war limited their support.
It was also in April 1966 that the US Mission in Saigon put in abeyance indefinitely the concept of inviting military observer teams from selected African countries to South Vietnam. These observers were to have been used to advise and assist in counterinsurgency warfare. The idea had been advanced as early as August 1965 but never got off the ground. Efforts to get other military observers to South Vietnam did continue, however. Both (reek and Dutch military officers showed interest, but the same could not be said for the Greek government. The US Ambassador in Athens suggested that if one or more of the other North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations were to take the first step, the Greek government would probably follow suit. The government of the Netherlands appeared to favor the idea and as a result a joint invitation from Vietnam and the United States was sent to the Dutch Minister of Defense. However, the invitation to send Dutch military observers to Vietnam was never issued. In late September a group of observers from the Japanese Self-Defense Force visited South Vietnam and toured various installations. The visit was sponsored by the Japanese Embassy, and the US Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, provided the transportation within Vietnam.
While the military situation seemed to be sorting itself out, the political turmoil in South Vietnam caused concern within the Korean government over the advisability of increasing the Korean commitment. Some influential government officials and segments of the press suggested that it might be wise to delay the deployment of additional troops until after the Vietnam elections. When the United States pointed out the adverse effect such a decision would have, the Korean Minister of Defense on 25 May reaffirmed the Korean commitment to South Vietnam.
Philippine assistance to Vietnam came closer to being a reality when the Philippine Vietnam aid bill was passed in June. Unexpected opposition to this measure and the election of a new president the previous November had all contributed to months of delay. In addition, the original plan of Diosdada Macapagal, the defeated candidate for president, who favored a combat force, was altered to provide a task force tailored to carry out a civic action mission. Consisting of an engineer construction battalion, medical and rural community development teams, a security battalion, a field artillery battery, and logistics and headquar-
ters elements, the task force was to number 2,068 men and to carry the designation 1st Philippine Civic Action Group, Vietnam. It was not until mid-October 1966 that the last of these troops settled into their base camp on the outskirts of Tay Ninh City.
As the enemy threat grew, methods for utilizing Free World forces were considered. At the Mission Council meeting of 1 August 1966, General Westmoreland discussed the large-scale infiltration of the 324 B Division of the North Vietnam Army through the demilitarized zone and possible means to counter it. One was the formation of a multinational force to operate in the area south of the demilitarized zone. A brigade-size unit of Korean, Australian, New Zealand, and U.S. (KANZUS) troops, was conceived to support the 1st Vietnam Army Division. The brigade would be commanded by a US Marine Corps general officer and would consist of two US Marine battalions and one Korean infantry battalion; the headquarters would provide spaces for incorporating token contributions from Australia and New Zealand. The US commander was to have operational control over the Vietnamese Army forces also, but this control was to be exercised under the guise of "operational co-ordination" to avoid offending the sensibilities of the Vietnamese. The principal value of this organization was that it would be an international force confronting the invasion from the north. General Westmoreland suggested also that the International Control Commission could place observers with the force. Since a unit of this type would be expected to co-operate closely with the commission, positions held by the force would be accessible for visits by the commission.
The Mission Council responded favorably to the concept and believed that if an international force could be developed and possibly could be deployed under the auspices of the International Control Commission that the US position in the event of peace negotiations might be improved. The Joint Chiefs were requested to study the proposal and, if in agreement, to ask the US government to approach the governments concerned to obtain their views and concurrence. The US Ambassador to South Vietnam, Henry Cabot Lodge, pursued the same end with an identical message to the Secretary of State. All US ambassadors to the nations consulted concurred in the project and were favorably impressed with the proposal.
On 21 August General Westmoreland requested that State and Defense Department approval of and guidance for the KANZUS project be speeded up. The stationing of any sizable
force in northern Quang Tri Province would have to be accomplished by 1 October; otherwise the beginning of the northeast monsoon would seriously hinder base camp construction, establishment and stocking of supply points, upgrading of lines of communication, and other actions necessary for adequate logistical and administrative support. Also, only minimum time was available for the assembly and shakedown of elements of the force.
Other difficulties arose. Exception was taken to the name KANZUS as being necessarily restrictive to the nations participating and it was proposed that a name be devised that would signify broad participation in this international force. The ground rules for operations in the area of the demilitarized zone also had to be considered, and it was recommended that the force have the necessary authority to maneuver in the South Vietnamese portion of the zone.
As September ended it was apparent that the proposed KANZUS force was insufficient to meet the enemy threat in northern I Corps, which was now on the order of three divisions. To counter this multidivisional threat, which could be supported indefinitely from adjacent enemy havens, a force of greater strength and capability than KANZUS was required. A MACV study concluded that the concept of an international force was valid but recommended that implementation be delayed until after the monsoon season.
In early October 1966, General Westmoreland was asked to comment on the feasibility of employing the British Gurkha Brigade in South Vietnam. The Gurkhas, professional soldiers from Nepal, had been a part of the British Army since 1815. Excellent soldiers, they had established an outstanding reputation in every campaign in which they participated. Since World War II, the Gurkhas had been employed on the Malay Peninsula and Borneo and all but 500 of the 14,500 Gurkhas then on active duty were still in the area. Speculation that the Gurkhas would be phased out of British service was confirmed in discussions between the US Army attaché in London and the Adjutant General of the British Army; the Adjutant General was unable to say when, except that the phase-out would commence within the year and could be completed within three years. Among other problems was whether it was desirable to employ the Gurkhas in South Vietnam. Gurkha units were formed and trained on the British system, and, above platoon level, were led by British officers. The Gurkha Brigade consisted of eight infantry battalions, one engineer battalion, one signal battalion, and other sup-
Table 1 - STRENGTH OF FREE WORLD MILITARY ASSISTANCE FORCES 1964-1970
(Strength by Calendar Year)
|Number of maneuver battalions||----||1||2||2||3||3||3|
|Number of maneuver battalions||----||10||22||22||22||22||22|
|Number of maneuver battalions||----||0||0||1||3||6||6|
|Republic of China|
|Total maneuver battalions||0||11||24||25||28||31||3|
port elements, all of which would have made a welcome addition to the allied effort. There were, however, several important factors to be considered in using Gurkha units in South Vietnam. Besides American antipathy toward the use of mercenaries, there was the possibility that the Gurkhas would be reluctant to serve under other than British leadership. Further, employing Gurkhas in South Vietnam could become the focal point of a new Communist propaganda campaign.
If the Gurkhas were made available, General Westmoreland's concept of employment was to use the brigade on operations similar to those it had been conducting. The principal advantage of having the brigade would be the addition of highly trained and disciplined troops, experienced in counter guerrilla operations. All questions, however, became moot when the United Kingdom decided not to phase out the Gurkha Brigade before 1969. At that time British defense policy and troop requirements beyond 1969 would be reviewed.
Loss of the Gurkha force was more than offset by another increase in Korean troops. The 9th Korean Division, brought in during the period from 5 September to 8 October, was placed in the Ninh Hoa area at the junction of Highways 1 and 21. Of the 9th Korean Division, known as the White Horse Division, the 28th Regiment was stationed in the Tuy Hoa area, the 29th Regiment on the mainland side to protect Cram Ranh Bay.
The contributions of the Free World Military Assistance Forces increased after the end of fiscal year 1965. The time of the greatest buildup was during fiscal year 1966, after which there was a leveling off period with a decrease in strength. (Table 1)
Beginning with the arrival by late 1966 of sizable Free World contingents, the story of the contribution of individual Free World countries can best be told on an individual case basis.
Notes for Chapter I
1. Italics are the author's. (Return to page)
2. This is the only guidance Taylor received from the Vietnamese prior to 1 December 1964 as far as the author can discover. (Return to page)
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