George Trofimoff was sent to Indochina, to Laos, to Vientiane, as a “civilian”. He was assigned as an “End-Use Observer” with the Program Evaluation Office of the International Cooperation Administration (ICA).
This was a front organization under which two CIA operatives, George and his partner, would evaluate and assist in countering Communist activity of the Pathet Lao. It was March, 1956. The French had fought long and hard but the North Vietnamese had defeated them in the battle of Dien Bien Phu. It was becoming evident that South Vietnam was not going to be able to withstand a Communist takeover from the North. The American view was that, if South Vietnam fell under Communist influence, Laos, and Thailand would follow and ultimately all of Southeast Asia.
Vietnam would probably be where the free world, the United States, in particular, would make its stand and the border between North Vietnam and Laos would be of particular strategic importance. George Trofimoff and his partner were assigned to organize and equip to the extent possible the Montagnard mountain tribes along that border, as what would be called an Auto-defense group.
After the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu, the Geneva Accords were entered into in 1954 and, from that, with the thought of maintaining peace, an International Control Commission (ICC) with observation patrols was set up to prevent rearmament. Training and arming to the extent possible the Montagnard tribes therefore had to be done under the guise of foreign aid and in secrecy. George Trofimoff served in this capacity.
I write of his service in my book: The Colonel George Trofimoff Story, the tale of America’s highest ranking military officer convicted of spying.