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officials accepted the terms of the Ely-Collins arrangement in a revised form.

A combined Franco-American training command, designated the Training Relations Instruction Mission (TRIM), became operational in Saigon the day following the French ratification of the Ely-Collins understanding.* Headed by Lieutenant General O'Daniel but under the "overall authority" of General Ely, TRIM was structured to prevent domination by either French or Americans. The training mission was composed of four divisions, Army, Navy, Air Force, and National Security, each of which was headed alternately by either an American or a French officer. The chief of each division had as his deputy an officer of the opposite nationality. U.S. officers, however, headed the divisions considered by MAAG officials as the most important-Army and National Security. Operating through TRIM and assisted by the French military, the USMAAG was tasked with implementing the U.S. Military Assistance Program in a manner that would help shape the Vietnamese national forces into a cohesive defense establishment prior to the withdrawal of French forces.

Origins of U.S. Marine Assistance

Only one U.S. Marine was serving with the USMAAG in Saigon when TRIM became operational-Lieutenant Colonel Victor J. Croizat.** Croizat's assignment to the U.S. advisory group had resulted when General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr., Commandant of the Marine Corps, nominated him to fill a newly created billet as liaison officer between the MAAG and the French High Command during the latter stages of the Indochina War. Largely because of his French language fluency and his former association with many French officers while attending their war college in 1949, Croizat was chosen for the assignment.

Lieutenant Colonel Croizat, however, did not arrive in Vietnam until 2 August 1954. By then the cease-fire agreement had been signed at Geneva and the need for a liaison officer with the French High Command no longer existed. General O'Daniel, therefore, assigned the newly arrived Marine officer to serve on the General Commission for Refugees which had been created by the South Vietnamese Government immediately after the cease-fire. In this capacity Croizat became directly involved in the construction of refugee reception centers and the selection and development of resettlement areas in the South. When U.S. naval forces began assisting in the evacuation of North Vietnam, Lieutenant Colonel Croizat was sent to Haiphong, the principal seaport of Tonkin. There he headed the MAAG detachment and was responsible for coordinating U.S. operations in the area with those of the French and Vietnamese. When the so-called "Passage to Freedom" concluded in May 1955, 807,000 people, 469,000 tons of equipment and supplies, and 23,000 vehicles had been evacuated from Communist North Vietnam.* It was not until February 1955 that the Marine returned to Saigon.

During Lieutenant Colonel Croizat's absence, Premier Diem had acted on a long-standing proposal to create a small Vietnamese Marine Corps. The issue of a separate Marine force composed of Vietnamese national troops had surfaced frequently since the birth of the Vietnamese Navy in the early 1950s. Although the proposal had been heartily endorsed by a number of senior French Navy officers, the downward spiral of the French war effort had intervened to prevent the subject from being advanced beyond a conceptual stage. Largely as a result of earlier discussions with Croizat, Premier Diem acted on the matter on 13 October when he signed a decree which included the following articles:

ARTICLE 1. Effective 1 October 1954 there is created within the Naval Establishment a corps of infantry specializing in the surveillance of waterways and amphibious operations on the coast and rivers, to be designated as:

*The combined training mission originally was designated the Allied Training Operations Mission. This designation was changed prior to the time the mission became operational.

**0ther Marines, however, were present in Saigon at the time. They were those assigned to the American Embassy. One officer was serving as Assistant Naval Attache/Assistant Naval Attache for Air, and 12 other Marines were serving as security guards.

*The French moved 497,000 people, 400.000 tons of equipment and supplies, and 15,000 vehicles. The U.S. Navy moved the balance.

 

 

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