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    President Eisenhower sends a general to Vietnam, noting that "Personal rank given him could be 'the equivalent of ambassador'"

    Dwight Eisenhower Autograph Endorsement as president. One page, 8" x 10.5", [Washington], [November 10, 1954]. Early in America's involvement in Vietnam, President Eisenhower testily responds in pencil along the margins of a typed memorandum from Attorney General Herbert Brownell concerning General J. Lawton Collins' special mission to Vietnam. The president writes in full:

    "Take this up at once with Sec State & Sec Defense. In my opinion the crux of the matter is character of function - not rank! Interest of U.S. require Collins to exercise functions essentially military - but he can have civilian assistance. All branches of govt can be directed to cooperate with him to carry out his instructions in Vietnam and I think directive should make all this clear - at once! Personal rank given him could be 'the equivalent of ambassador.'"

    The subject of Brownell's memo, written on November 10, 1954, on "Office of the Attorney General" letterhead, was "General Lawton Collins / Mission to South Viet Nam." In Brownell's memo, which he has initialed, the president is advised that "there is substantial risk that General Collins might forfeit his Army commission." Brownell recommended that "the Administration seek a joint resolution of Congress expressly exempting the appointment from the terms of the statute."

    General J. Lawton Collins, who had served as chief of staff of the U.S. Army from 1949 through 1953, was sent to Saigon as an emissary by President Eisenhower in December. Finding confusion there, he proposed that U.S. aid to Vietnam be limited and if the situation did not improve, he suggested that the U.S. withdraw. Eisenhower recalled Collins in 1955 and rejected his advice. The general retired the next year.

    Also included is a one page transcription by a presidential aide of President Eisenhower's lengthy endorsement addressed "To Sec State & Def - also [Bernard] Shanley." Additionally included is a five-page "Memorandum for the Attorney General," typed on "Department of Justice" letterhead on November 4, 1954. Brownell refers to this memo in his own memo written six days later to the president. This memo seeks to answer the question of "whether the status of an officer in the Regular Army would be jeopardized, if he is appointed by the President as 'Special United States Representative with the personal rank of ambassador' and ordered to proceed to a named region, there to take charge of all United States resources and with them to carry out the orders of the President." The memo is signed on page five by J. Lee Rankin, the assistant attorney general.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2011
    8th-9th Friday-Saturday
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