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Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) is a designation for American military advisers sent to other countries to assist in the training of conventional armed forces and facilitate military aid. Although numerous MAAG's operated around the world throughout the 1940s-1970's, the most famous MAAG's were those active in Southeast Asia before and during the Vietnam War. Typically, the personnel of MAAG's were considered to be technical staff attached to, and enjoying the privileges of, the US diplomatic mission a country.[1] Though the term is not as widespread as it once was, the functions performed by MAAG's continue to be performed by successor organizations attached to embassies, often called United States Military Groups (USMILGP or MILGRP). The term MAAG may still occasionally be used for such organizations helping promote military partnerships with several Latin American countries such as Peru and the Dominican Republic as well as in African countries such as Liberia.[citation needed]

MAAG, Indochina; MAAG, Vietnam

In September 1950, US President Harry Truman sent the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) to Vietnam to assist the French in the First Indochina War. The President claimed they were not sent as combat troops, but to supervise the use of $10 million worth of US military equipment to support the French in their effort to fight the Viet Minh forces. By 1953, aid increased dramatically to $350 million to replace old military equipment owned by the French.[2]

The French Army however, was reluctant to take U.S. advice, and would not allow the Vietnamese army to be trained to use the new equipment, because it went against French policy. They were supposed to not only defeat enemy forces but to solidify themselves as a colonial power, and they could not do this with a Vietnamese Army. French commanders were so reluctant to accept advice that would weaken their time-honored colonial role that they got in the way of the various attempts by the MAAG to observe where the equipment was being sent and how it was being used. Eventually the French decided to cooperate, but at that point it was too late.[2]

In 1954 the commanding general of French forces in Indochina, General Henri Navarre, allowed the United States to send liaison officers to Vietnamese forces. But it was too late, because of the siege and fall of Dien Bien Phu in the spring. As stated by the Geneva Accords, France was forced to surrender the northern half of Vietnam and to withdraw from South Vietnam by April 1956.[3]

At a conference in Washington, D.C. on February 12, 1955 between officials of the U.S. State Department and the French Minister of Overseas Affairs, it was agreed that all U.S. aid would be funneled directly to South Vietnam and that all major military responsibilities would be transferred from the French to the MAAG under the command of Lieutenant General John O'Daniel. A problem arose however, because the French Expeditionary Force had to depart from South Vietnam in April 1956 pursuant to the Accords. After the French defeat, it was renamed the MAAG in 1955, as the United States became more deeply involved in what would come to be known as the Vietnam War.

The next few years saw the rise of a Communist insurgency in South Vietnam, and President Diem looked increasingly to US military assistance to strengthen his position, albeit with certain reservations. Attacks on US military advisers in Vietnam became more frequent. On October 22, 1957, MAAG and USIS installations in Saigon were bombed, injuring US military advisers.[4] In the summer of 1959, Communist guerrillas staged an attack on a Vietnamese military base in Bien Hoa, killing and wounding several MAAG personnel.[5] During this time, American advisers were not put in high ranking positions, and President Diem was reluctant to allow American advisers into Vietnamese tactical units. He was afraid that the United States would gain control or influence over his forces if Americans got into the ranks of the army. The first signs that his position was beginning to shift came in 1960, when the number of official US military advisers in the country was increased from 327 to 685 at the request of the South Vietnamese government.[5] By 1961, communist guerrillas were becoming stronger and more active. This increased enemy contacts in size and intensity throughout South Vietnam. At this point, Diem was under pressure from US authorities to liberalize his regime and implement reforms. Although key elements in the US administration were resisting his requests for increased military funding and ARVN troop ceilings, MAAG played a significant role in advocating for a greater US presence in the country.[6] Throughout this period relations between the MAAG and Diem were described as "excellent", even through the advisers were doubtful of his ability to hold off the insurgency.[7]

Newly elected President John F. Kennedy agreed with MAAG's calls for increases in ARVN troop levels and the U.S. military commitment in both equipment and men. In response, Kennedy provided $28.4 million in funding for ARVN, and overall military aid increased from $50 million per year to $144 million in 1961. In the first year of the Kennedy administration, MAAG worked closely with administration officials, USOM, and the US Information Service to develop a counterinsurgency plan (CIP). The CIP's main initiatives included the strengthening of ARVN to combat the Communist insurgency, which had the corollary effect of strengthening Diem's political position.[8] At the same time President Diem agreed to the assignment of advisers to battalion level, significantly increasing the number of advisers; from 746 in 1961 to over 3,400 before MAAG was placed under U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) and renamed the Field Advisory Element, Vietnam. At the peak of the war in 1968, 9,430 Army personnel acted as advisors down to the district and battalion level to train, advise and mentor the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), Republic of Vietnam Marine Corps, Republic of Vietnam Navy and the Vietnam Air Force.

MAAG, Indochina had three commanders: Brig.Gen. Francis G. Brink, October 1950-August 1952; Maj.Gen. Thomas J. H. Trapnell, August 1952-April 1954; and LtGen John W. O'Daniel, April 1954-November 1955. MAAG, Vietnam was commanded by Lt.Gen. Samuel T. Williams, November 1955-September 1960; Lt.Gen. Lionel C. McGarr, September 1960-July 1962; and Maj.Gen. Charles J. Timmes, July 1962-May 1964.


MAAG Laos was established in 1961 to replace the Programs Evaluation Office in its support of the Royal Lao Army's fight against the communist Pathet Lao. On July 23, 1962, several interested countries agreed in Geneva to guarantee the neutrality and independence of Laos. As such, the US removed the MAAG, replacing it with a "Requirements Office", which served as a convenient cover for the CIA activities. Military advisers thereafter became Army (ARMA) and Air Force Attachés (AIRA) to the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane under "Project White Star" Mobile Training Teams (later renamed "Project 404").

One of MAAG Laos' commanders was Reuben Tucker.

MAAG Cambodia

MAAG Cambodia was established on June 4, 1955, pursuant to the United States-Royal Government of Cambodia agreement of May 16, 1955. This agreement included the introduction of high-ranking US military personnel to advise the Cambodian armed forces as non-combatants.[9] The advisory group was staffed mainly by army personnel, with smaller contingents of navy and air force personnel.

As Cambodia's leadership took an official policy of neutrality in the Cold War, MAAG Cambodia's involvement in the country was terminated on November 20, 1963 by General Order 6, MAAG Cambodia, following the Cambodian government's cancellation of all U.S. aid.[10]

MAAG Republic of China

In Taiwan, U.S. Military Advisory Group generally refers to the United States Armed Forces in the Republic of China (Taiwan) from April 1951 to December 1978. The commander of these forces was U.S. Major General William C. Chase. American military advisers were tasked with providing arms and military advice, assisting with Taiwanese military training, implementation of the Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty, maintaining military contacts, and monitoring Republic of China forces. In 1957 there were 10,000 Americans in Taiwan, the great majority being CIA and military personnel and their families.[11]

Since 1979, the site of MAAG headquarters in Taipei has been occupied by American Institute in Taiwan/Taipei branch, which is scheduled to move to a new office complex in 2015.


 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Army Center of Military History website

  1. "The special status of personnel serving in Military Advisory Assistance Groups (MAAG) results from their position as an integral part of the Embassy of the United States where they perform duty." Dieter Fleck, Stuart Addy. Handbook of the Law of Visiting Forces. Oxford University Press, 2001. p102
  2. 2.0 2.1 Ott 21
  3. Ott 21-22
  4. Vietnam Perspectives - Vol. 1, No. 1, Aug., 1965. Chronology of Events Relative to Vietnam, 1954-1965, p.19.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Vietnam Perspectives - Vol. 1, No. 1, Aug., 1965. Chronology of Events Relative to Vietnam, 1954-1965, p. 20.
  6. Ambassadorial Roles and Foreign Policy: Elbridge Durbrow, Frederick Nolting, and the U.S. Commitment to Diem's Vietnam, 1957-61 Michael R. Adamson Presidential Studies Quarterly, p.239.
  7. Ambassadorial Roles and Foreign Policy: Elbridge Durbrow, Frederick Nolting, and the U.S. Commitment to Diem's Vietnam, 1957-61 Michael R. Adamson Presidential Studies Quarterly, p. 243.
  8. Ambassadorial Roles and Foreign Policy: Elbridge Durbrow, Frederick Nolting, and the U.S. Commitment to Diem's Vietnam, 1957-61 Michael R. Adamson Presidential Studies Quarterly, p. 242.
  9. Full text of the original 1955 treaty:
  11. Operations Coordinating Board memo, "Report on Taiwan and the Government of the Republic of China (NSC 5723)," April 20, 1959, NatArch, Defense Dept. file 1959, box MNR2.

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