Historical Dictionary



Following Chinese and Soviet diplomatic recognition of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) in January 1950 and the outbreak of the Korean War in June of that year, in September American President Harry S. Truman authorized and dispatched the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) to Vietnam to assist the French in using American aid to fight the DRV. The Griffin and Melby–Erskine missions had prepared the way earlier in the year for the implementation of such military assistance, albeit that much remained to be ironed out. The American contingent arrived in September 1950 and was eventually placed under the leadership of General Francis G. Brink. MAAG was up and working as of 17 September 1950. Like their Chinese adversaries assisting the DRV, the Americans were responsible for providing military and economic aid to the French and advising on military strategy and tactics. Brink presided over a team of sixty, working in five branches: Aid Supply, Transport, Technical Services, Logistics, and Operations. In December 1950, the French, the Americans, and the three Associated States of Indochina signed the Pentalateral Mutual Defense Assistance Pact establishing the rules by which military assistance would be provided. However, the combination of the ambiguous wording of certain clauses concerning the supervision of military assistance, the small size of the advisory group, French reluctance to allow the Americans to become too directly involved in internal military questions and operations, and problems of language greatly limited the effectiveness of American attempts to oversee and inspect the utilization of their military aid. In addition to the army, MAAG Air Force and Navy teams also provided aid to the French. Brink personally flew to Tokyo in 1951 to obtain crucial supplies from the Far East Command Headquarters for the French and he made another trip there during the battle for Phat Diem. Despite such assistance, General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny complained that MAAG was responsible for turning down French requests for aid. Brink’s investigation of this matter turned up no evidence substantiating such an allegation. The French were particularly opposed to American and non-communist Vietnamese desires to bypass the French in order to channel military aid directly to the national armies of the Associated States of Indochina. As American historian Georges Herring has pointed out, whatever the talk of a “Western alliance against communism”, relations between the French and the MAAG officers were often stormy. MAAG officers visited the battlefields in 1953 and early 1954, although the French had refused to consult MAAG before the operation began in November. Between 1950 and 1954, American military aid to the French exceeded 2.6 billion dollars. The MAAG remained operational following the signing of the Geneva Accords, allowing the Americans to continue to provide aid and training to the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam (The Geneva accords recognized the on-going validity of the pre-existing agreements.). In January 1962, MAAG was subordinated to the newly created Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV). In 1964, when it became clear that a new war for Vietnam was in the making, MAAG was phased out. See also AID, AMERICAN; AID, CHINESE COMMUNIST; AID, SOVIET; FINANCIAL COST OF INDOCHINA WAR, FRANCE.