1964-1968, Volume V, Vietnam 1967|
Released by the Office of the Historian
187. Editorial Note The response of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Draft Presidential Memorandum (DPM) of May 19 (Document 177) served to justify the conclusions reached in JCSM 286-67 and JCSM 288-67, May 20, 1967, in which the JCS on strategic grounds called for an extensive force build-up in order to improve the operational capability of the military forces in Vietnam. With this additional capability, the JCS proposed an offensive strategy against North Vietnam much wider in scope than those posed in the DPM. (Johnson Library, Papers of Paul C. Warnke, McNaughton Files, McNTN XIII--Memos 1967 (1)) In CM-2377-67, May 24, JCS Chairman General Earle Wheeler told Secretary of Defense McNamara that a call-up of reserves would be necessary. He pointed out the military could not maintain the momentum of recent offensives, respond to contingencies of enemy threat in particular areas, or expand pacification given the current force levels. In any case, the air and naval attacks against North Vietnam could not be curtailed without giving a significant advantage to the North Vietnamese. Even strengthening the effectiveness of the South Vietnamese troops would not minimize the need for the additional deployment of U.S. forces. (Ibid.) In JCSM-307-67, June 1, the Joint Chiefs took issue with the characterization of their position in "Course A" of the DPM. This option was "an extrapolation of a number of proposals which were recommended separately but not in combination or as interpreted in the DPM." However, the Joint Chiefs were adamantly opposed to the recommendations of the DPM embodied by "Course B" and its inherent "pessimism." The strategy would not permit an early termination of the war and could encourage a "redoubling" of enemy efforts to pursue a military solution. Furthermore, the DPM suggested "a major realignment of US objectives and intentions in Southeast Asia without regard for the long-term consequences." They recommended that the DPM not be sent to the President. (Department of Defense, Official Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 911/300 (19 May 67) IR 1393) In JCSM-312-67, June 2, the JCS considered McNamara's alternatives (a curtailment of air operations above the funnel or attacks throughout North Vietnam limited to major airfields that would include either closing the ports or leaving them open) but recommended their own proposal that involved attacking essential war-supporting fixed targets and lines of communication, neutralizing airfields, and closing the ports. (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, McNamara Files: FRC 71 A 3470, Service and JCS Recommendations re Bombing of DRV) As for the service chiefs, Secretary of the Navy Paul H. Nitze supported the recommendations of the DPM, but Secretary of the Air Force Harold Brown advocated the expanded campaign of the JCS since in his view a restriction of bombing to below the 20th parallel would allow an increased southward infiltration. (Memoranda from Nitze and Brown to McNamara, June 2 and June 3, respectively; Johnson Library, Papers of Paul C. Warnke, McNaughton Files, McNTN XIII, Memos 1967 (3)) 188. Editorial Note On June 2, 1967, U.S. aircraft attacked an anti-aircraft battery at Cam Pha, 50 miles north of Haiphong in North Vietnam. Some of the ordnance struck the Soviet freighter Turkestan, which had been moored near Cam Pha. Damage to the ship was extensive and one crew member died. The Soviet Union issued an immediate protest of the incident which it termed "a crying violation of the freedom of navigation, an act of banditry which may have far-reaching consequences." On June 3 the U.S. Government responded that the attacks by two flights of aircraft had taken place but "only against legitimate military targets" and that it was North Vietnamese anti-aircraft fire which had struck the Soviet vessel. An apology from the U.S. Government was transmitted for delivery to the Soviet Government in telegram 207926 to Moscow, June 3. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S) After further investigation, a note delivered to the Soviet Embassy in Washington on June 20 acknowledged that a third flight of American planes had struck the ship. On June 29 another Soviet ship, the Mikhail Frunze, was damaged near Haiphong during a similar attack. Citing the failure to live up to its promise to avoid such incidents, the Soviets warned that the U.S. Government would "bear all the responsibility for the dangerous consequences of aggressive acts by U.S. aviation." On July 13 the United States admitted the possibility that the Mikhail Frunze could have been hit by its aircraft but labeled any damage sustained by the vessel as "inadvertent." For these public statements, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pages 939-941, 945. On the same day State Department Legal Adviser Leonard Meeker sent to Executive Secretary Benjamin Read a memorandum outlining steps to be taken in order to minimize similar incidents in the future. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S) Further documentation on these episodes is ibid., OS 12 USSR and POL 33-6 US-USSR. 189. Memorandum From the Deputy for Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Komer) to President Johnson/1/
187. Editorial Note
The response of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Draft Presidential Memorandum (DPM) of May 19 (Document 177) served to justify the conclusions reached in JCSM 286-67 and JCSM 288-67, May 20, 1967, in which the JCS on strategic grounds called for an extensive force build-up in order to improve the operational capability of the military forces in Vietnam. With this additional capability, the JCS proposed an offensive strategy against North Vietnam much wider in scope than those posed in the DPM. (Johnson Library, Papers of Paul C. Warnke, McNaughton Files, McNTN XIII--Memos 1967 (1))
In CM-2377-67, May 24, JCS Chairman General Earle Wheeler told Secretary of Defense McNamara that a call-up of reserves would be necessary. He pointed out the military could not maintain the momentum of recent offensives, respond to contingencies of enemy threat in particular areas, or expand pacification given the current force levels. In any case, the air and naval attacks against North Vietnam could not be curtailed without giving a significant advantage to the North Vietnamese. Even strengthening the effectiveness of the South Vietnamese troops would not minimize the need for the additional deployment of U.S. forces. (Ibid.)
In JCSM-307-67, June 1, the Joint Chiefs took issue with the characterization of their position in "Course A" of the DPM. This option was "an extrapolation of a number of proposals which were recommended separately but not in combination or as interpreted in the DPM." However, the Joint Chiefs were adamantly opposed to the recommendations of the DPM embodied by "Course B" and its inherent "pessimism." The strategy would not permit an early termination of the war and could encourage a "redoubling" of enemy efforts to pursue a military solution. Furthermore, the DPM suggested "a major realignment of US objectives and intentions in Southeast Asia without regard for the long-term consequences." They recommended that the DPM not be sent to the President. (Department of Defense, Official Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 911/300 (19 May 67) IR 1393)
In JCSM-312-67, June 2, the JCS considered McNamara's alternatives (a curtailment of air operations above the funnel or attacks throughout North Vietnam limited to major airfields that would include either closing the ports or leaving them open) but recommended their own proposal that involved attacking essential war-supporting fixed targets and lines of communication, neutralizing airfields, and closing the ports. (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, McNamara Files: FRC 71 A 3470, Service and JCS Recommendations re Bombing of DRV) As for the service chiefs, Secretary of the Navy Paul H. Nitze supported the recommendations of the DPM, but Secretary of the Air Force Harold Brown advocated the expanded campaign of the JCS since in his view a restriction of bombing to below the 20th parallel would allow an increased southward infiltration. (Memoranda from Nitze and Brown to McNamara, June 2 and June 3, respectively; Johnson Library, Papers of Paul C. Warnke, McNaughton Files, McNTN XIII, Memos 1967 (3))
188. Editorial Note
On June 2, 1967, U.S. aircraft attacked an anti-aircraft battery at Cam Pha, 50 miles north of Haiphong in North Vietnam. Some of the ordnance struck the Soviet freighter Turkestan, which had been moored near Cam Pha. Damage to the ship was extensive and one crew member died. The Soviet Union issued an immediate protest of the incident which it termed "a crying violation of the freedom of navigation, an act of banditry which may have far-reaching consequences." On June 3 the U.S. Government responded that the attacks by two flights of aircraft had taken place but "only against legitimate military targets" and that it was North Vietnamese anti-aircraft fire which had struck the Soviet vessel. An apology from the U.S. Government was transmitted for delivery to the Soviet Government in telegram 207926 to Moscow, June 3. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S) After further investigation, a note delivered to the Soviet Embassy in Washington on June 20 acknowledged that a third flight of American planes had struck the ship.
On June 29 another Soviet ship, the Mikhail Frunze, was damaged near Haiphong during a similar attack. Citing the failure to live up to its promise to avoid such incidents, the Soviets warned that the U.S. Government would "bear all the responsibility for the dangerous consequences of aggressive acts by U.S. aviation." On July 13 the United States admitted the possibility that the Mikhail Frunze could have been hit by its aircraft but labeled any damage sustained by the vessel as "inadvertent." For these public statements, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pages 939-941, 945. On the same day State Department Legal Adviser Leonard Meeker sent to Executive Secretary Benjamin Read a memorandum outlining steps to be taken in order to minimize similar incidents in the future. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S) Further documentation on these episodes is ibid., OS 12 USSR and POL 33-6 US-USSR.
189. Memorandum From the Deputy for Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Komer) to President Johnson/1/
Saigon, June 3, 1967.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, White House Central Files, Confidential File, ND 19/CO 312, Vietnam (Situation in), June 1967-Sept. 1967. Eyes Only. An attached covering note from McPherson, June 14, reads: "Bob Komer asked me to pass this on to you." According to a notation on the note, the President requested that McPherson send the memorandum to McNamara.
Dear Mr. President:
Let me take advantage of Harry McPherson,/2/ who is staying with me and swilling my booze, to pass on my latest thoughts.
/2/McPherson visited South Vietnam from late May through early June, when he departed for Israel. For his report to the President, see Document 197.
To start with better news first, a month in country has not led me to change my view that we are gaining momentum and that by the end of next winter it will be clear for all to see that we have gained the upper hand. In other words, while the war might not be "won", we will clearly be winning it.
In fact, the one thing that could go most seriously wrong in 1967 is the political process. Thieu and Ky, in their squabbling, could produce a major setback. On the one hand Ky, in desperation because Thieu (despite his assurances of military solidity) has chipped away some of his support, might resort to blatant election rigging. On the other hand, we might face a situation in which none of 5-6 serious candidates gets enough of a vote to give him a solid mandate--thus opening up another period of political jockeying at our expense. Either would be bad from our viewpoint.
Casting "the American vote" may be the only way to forestall such dangers. This in turn has obvious disadvantages, but Washington and the Mission should face up to this issue. At least we should make a conscious choice rather than let one be made by default as is happening now. And with elections three months off, there is little time left to decide. Gene Locke and I are deliberately playing an activist role on this one, so as to give you and Bunker a basis for choice.
I'm very much of two minds on the other gut issue you now confront--more US troops. On the one hand, I am more convinced than ever that we can get a lot more for our money out of the Vietnamese, at peanut cost to us in more advisers, more equipment, more incentives, more insistence on canning incompetents and weeding out the corrupt. I hope you'll encourage Bob McNamara to raise unshirted hell on this one. Then Abrams and I will carry through.
The real question is not whether we need more US troops to "win" the war in the South, but rather how fast we want to win it. I hesitate to guess, but would hazard that we have a 50-50 chance of achieving a clear upper hand by mid-1968 without major US add-ons, if everything else breaks our way. By then, the deterioration of the VC should be amply evident. But Westy, as a prudent commander, naturally wants a reserve for contingencies and feels under great pressure for results.
One last thought. Further bombing escalation in the North may not be as interesting, from a military or political point of view, as "lateral escalation" to disrupt the infiltration routes in Laos and Cambodia. Since the actual effect of the planned barrier is unknown, we should seriously consider other options too. I would not even suggest this did I not feel that the alternatives confronting you (in terms of calling up reserves as well as bombing) might be even more painful. Also, such great pressures are building up among the US military here for getting at the sanctuaries, they might soon generate greater hawk problems back home.
Whenever I quail at all my problems of getting pacification moving, I think of the problems you confront. I'd rather be pacifier than President, and you can depend on me to keep after my share of this war.
190. Memorandum From the Political Counselor of the Embassy in Vietnam (Calhoun) to the Ambassador to Vietnam (Bunker)/1/
Saigon, June 5, 1967.
/1/Source: Center for Military History, DepCORDS/MACV Files, GVN Elections (General): 1967. Secret. Copies were sent to Locke and Komer.
One of the few advantages of being under the weather a few days in Saigon is that it gives one time to think. So I shall try to sort out a few thoughts as to where we are and where we might go. If they don't contribute much, please blame it on the viral infection which was perhaps more deep-seated than I thought!
In looking at the electoral scene broadly, the Thieu-Ky factor fits in as only one aspect, although one of importance and perhaps of greater urgency than others. But it should be solved as a part of the broader goals we seek, rather than as a problem in isolation as it tends to appear now. Our goals in general are to unify the country politically so far as possible and to give a greater sense of participation in government to as wide a representation of Vietnamese as possible, consistent with the demands of security.
A serious split in the military, which we now have, is dangerous because it could threaten the entire process. It can be solved either by healing the split or by submerging it in the broader problem so that it may lose some of its poison. Our present efforts, and those of people such as Bui Diem and Nguyen Van Kieu, are directed at healing the split before it becomes unbridgeable. There is a real question whether it hasn't already become so, but these efforts are worth pursuing until they either succeed or it becomes clear such a result is not attainable. Despite Bui Diem's pleas for patience, I am increasingly doubtful that Thieu and Ky are going to be able to agree on a solution acceptable to them personally and to their adherents. The only feasible solution seems to be Ky as Presidential candidate and Thieu as a four or five-star head of the Armed Forces, with full authority over RVNAF except the final power of the President and with agreement between the two of them as to what the RVNAF's tasks and powers should be. If Thieu and Ky are unable between themselves to agree on this solution, I doubt it can be achieved by other means, even with General Westmoreland's strong support. And we are faced with a dilemma in deciding whether to engage Westmoreland's considerable prestige for this purpose, since to be effective it must in effect be a demand and it could then only be interpreted by all political circles as the Americans opting for Ky as President. No matter how it is done, this is the way it will be interpreted by the military and civilians alike. If we choose this course and recommend it to Washington, we should point out this consequence clearly. I would be against it myself, since it closes out most of our other options now and makes Ky our man henceforth, win or lose. If Thieu and Ky can arrive at it by themselves, fine.
Assuming that they can not work it out themselves and that Thieu and Ky remain divided, we should try to guide all the principal candidates--civilian or military--into recognizing the need for a government of national union so long as the war continues. By recognition I mean public declarations of intent which are explicit and clear as to what type government will be formed by the candidate who wins. To achieve this, I believe we should work on the principal candidates--or perhaps initially on their closest associates or political managers--to make them understand the overriding need for a wartime coalition employing the best talents available to Vietnam in order to unify the many diverse elements in the country--regional, religious, minorities, military, civilian, etc. A common declaration of intent by all the serious candidates might temper the existing bitterness and division, even among the military, before it grows deeper with the election campaign. If successful, such a declaration might also bring some moral pressure to bear on the "incumbent" candidate(s) not to wage a political campaign based on unlimited use of their very considerable advantages.
The practicability of such an approach is hard to judge. The incumbent(s) are undoubtedly counting heavily on their built-in assets and probably also estimate that public and other criticism and pressure will not diminish them seriously. The civilians on their side are counting on their southern and civilian appeal to overcome their material disadvantages. To declare publicly that they will bring their military opponents into high office--including the Prime Ministership--will in their eyes undercut one of their principal appeals to the electorate. Thus, while we might be able to get Thieu or Ky to make some such declaration, it is more doubtful that Suu and Huong and Ha Thuc Ky would be prepared to do this in advance. If it can be combined with effective guarantees of truly free elections and really equal facilities available to all candidates, then it might be more acceptable to them. This argues further for strong pressure by us on Ky to assure that such are provided. In addition, we might consider the added pressure of suggesting that official observation teams be invited from one or more international organizations to observe during July and August. These teams should be assured of the right to make public demands for equalization of opportunity based on specific complaints brought to their attention or filed with the Central Election Campaign Committee. Only if these teams had full and immediate access to all news media could these demands have their effect in time. To set up such a complex and highly organized arrangement through existing international organs may not be feasible in the short time remaining but it should at least be considered. As you know, Do invited U Thant to send observers but he was non-committal and he did not send them in September 1966. My own experience in Korea with UNCURK/2/ hardly encourages me to believe that this procedure can be very effective, although there they had an autocratic and clever opponent in Syngman Rhee/3/ and here we have a world press much more focused on the problem.
/2/UN Commission on Unification and Reconstruction of Korea.
/3/The Republic of Korea's first President.
With all its potential disadvantages, perhaps we should still quietly explore the feasibility of some such course of action, first with Washington and then with the principal competing groups. To be successful the result must be public agreement on all aspects by all parties, namely (1) free and fair elections, the results of which will be accepted by all parties; (2) equal facilities for all qualifying candidates; (3) an effective Central Election Campaign Committee able to speak and act freely and impartially; (4) international teams to observe and make public statements on the foregoing; (5) post-election cooperation by the principal candidates through offers to employ the talents available in opposing tickets to form a government of national union to prosecute the war and negotiate the peace.
Even if we decide not to pursue all of these points, I believe we should (1) continue to encourage quiet mediation between Thieu and Ky, (2) pursue "equal facilities" vigorously with Ky and let our position ultimately become known, (3) not let our options be closed out prematurely or by inadvertence, and (4) keep continuously in touch at various levels with all the principal candidates and their closest supporters.
If nothing else, perhaps the foregoing could be a useful basis for discussion in a small group.
191. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/
Saigon, June 7, 1967, 0450Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S. Secret; Exdis. Received at 9:52 a.m.
27739. Ref State 207351./2/
/2/In telegram 207351 to Saigon, June 2, the Department instructed the Mission to develop guidelines for the use of U.S. aircraft to avoid partisan political usage by South Vietnamese leaders. (Ibid.)
1. We too have been concerned in recent weeks over possible inadvertent US involvement in partisan political trips or other activities of candidates. Mission election committee has examined the matter carefully and has now completed guidelines this general subject for distribution throughout Mission and to field. These were approved by Mission Council June 5 and full distribution should be completed by end of this week./3/
2. These guidelines include basic statement US policy of impartiality and intent assist GVN to assure honest and fair elections, and two detailed instructions on transportation and equal access to information media. Copies are being pouched Department.
3. Although we can do much to assist GVN through making available our resources, success of all our efforts depends, in last analysis, on willingness GVN to apply its efforts and its own resources to assuring honest and fair elections and equal facilities for all qualifying candidates. This in turn depends directly upon Ky and those around him and, to a less clear degree on Thieu.
4. I intend to see Ky in the near future and to go over this whole subject with him carefully and plainly. In addition to clarifying our policy with respect to assistance, I plan to discuss with him the damaging effects of his censorship policy and other aspects of his apparent exploitation his official position. I shall also review with him ways in which we can assist the GVN to equalize opportunities all candidates and assure fair and honest elections.
5. I plan to await the outcome of my talk with Ky before deciding when and how to raise the subject with Thieu. In the light of these conversations we will be better able to judge what additional measures might have to be taken on the U.S. side.
192. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/
Saigon, June 7, 1967, 1120Z.
/1/Source: National and Records Administration Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Nodis. Received at 9:42 a.m. In a June 7 covering memorandum transmitting this telegram to the President, Rostow noted that Bunker wanted to know whether President Johnson wanted any changes in the way in which the Ambassador reported in order to be "as helpful to you as he can." No subsequent alteration was indicated. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 8B (1) [A] Bunker's Weekly Report to the President) This telegram is printed in full in Pike, The Bunker Papers, pp. 37-44.
27781. For the President from Bunker. Herewith my sixth weekly telegram:
1. The papers which I mentioned in my message last week as
having requested Ambassador Locke, General Westmoreland and Ambassador Komer to submit--i.e. on the optimum use of manpower by Ambassador Locke; on the reorientation of the Mission of the Vietnamese armed forces and their revitalization with emphasis on improvement and quality by General Westmoreland; and on an action program for stepping up revolutionary development by Ambassador Komer are in course of preparation./2/ I hope to be able to report on the substance of these and our conclusions as to what ought to be done on these priority matters in the near future.
/2/In telegram 27204 from Saigon, May 31, Bunker informed the President of his plans to have a weekly meeting with Westmoreland, Locke, and Komer "in order to review progress, to formulate policy and plans, and to devise methods for pushing ahead with priority projects." In addition to the three papers mentioned, Bunker assigned to himself a paper on "evolution toward a constitutional government and keeping the political process on track." (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S) These papers have not been found.
2. Both here and on field trips, Bob Komer has explained to our entire organization engaged in revolutionary development the new organizational setup and how we expect it to work. I am sure this has been effective in removing any lingering apprehension on the part of the civilian elements of the organization that they were being submerged in the military. I am satisfied that we shall have a better and harder-hitting organization for our advisory and supporting role in revolutionary development with this merging of the civilian-military elements and the consequent concentration of responsibility envisaged in the single management concept we have adopted.
3. In a series of splendidly executed offensive operations undertaken by General Westmoreland since late April in which a total of over 11,000 of the enemy have been killed in action, the enemy has been kept off balance and his time schedule been disrupted. Captured documents, reports by returnees and others indicate that the main effort of the enemy to achieve his summer campaign objectives has been postponed from May to June or July.
4. While the enemy's offensive thrust has been blunted, it has not been eliminated. Enemy pressure (from two and possibly three divisions) continues along the DMZ. Infiltration through Laos also continues and during the past three weeks enemy activity in the central highlands has stepped up significantly. General Westmoreland's strategy of anticipating enemy threats and of keeping him off balance has paid off handsomely, and is one which he intends to continue in view of what he foresees as an intensification of enemy attempts to achieve his summer campaign objectives.
5. An encouraging element of these recent operations has been evidence of the increased effectiveness of the Vietnamese armed forces. In a number of heavy engagements throughout the country ARVN units have responded well to the challenges placed upon them. They contributed materially to the success of the initial operations in the DMZ, killing 342 enemy with a loss of only 31 of their own forces. In a total of 14 other operations in the I Corps area during the past six weeks, ARVN units accounted for 1,400 enemy killed in action. On my trip to the II Corps area yesterday, General Larson told me that the ARVN units under General Vinh Loc's command were giving a good account of themselves. I believe that where the ARVN is weakest, however, is in their pacification role where motivation and performance still leave much to be desired. Here, of course, the regional and popular forces are also important elements and all are getting increased attention.
6. The Thieu-Ky rivalry which I shall refer to later in more detail still continues, but efforts are being made by the Vietnamese, with our prodding, to try to work out the problem themselves. I reported on the talk I had had last Saturday/3/ with Ambassador Bui Diem (Saigon 27480)/4/ who has been actively pursuing the matter and who has been working with Thieu's brother, Kieu, to prepare the ground for a meeting between Thieu and Ky. We are reporting today on our latest talks with Kieu (Saigon 27753)./5/ I also expect to see Bui Diem today or tomorrow and will report on any further developments. I think it is highly desirable that the two principals, with the help of their colleagues, should settle this problem themselves, if at all possible through a genuine and full understanding. I will, of course, continue to encourage them to do so, but am not especially sanguine. I am keeping a close watch on the problem to determine if and when more active intervention on my part is required.
/4/Bunker reported in on his meeting with Diem in telegram 27480 from Saigon, June 3. Bunker related his frustrations that despite Ky's prior assurances to him that he would meet with Thieu "in order to endeavor to come to some arrangement with him," he had not yet done so. Diem explained the delay by referring to the necessity "for careful preparation" before Ky and Thieu met. In addition, Diem told Bunker that if Thieu recognized that his chances for election were "not good" if he was to be pitted against Ky, he might consider alternatives to becoming President, including the leadership of the Senate or a return to the armed forces. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S)
/5/Dated June 7. (Ibid.)
7. Bui Diem and General Thieu's brother, Nguyen Van Kieu, are continuing their efforts to bring Thieu and Ky together, and they are still hopeful that a mutually satisfactory compromise can be worked out between them if the ground is carefully prepared before they meet. They may succeed, and certainly that would be the best solution, but I have the growing feeling that time is running against this effort and that the political temperature is again going up rather than down. I mentioned that I had spoken with Bui Diem on June 3 about his efforts to work out a compromise between Ky and Thieu (Saigon 27481)./6/ He said that the effort to bring them together at a dinner on May 31 had failed because Thieu did not want to see Ky in the presence of the other Generals. However, Thieu let it be known that he would like to see Ky alone, and Ky agreed to this. Bui Diem understood from Kieu that Thieu might be willing to take the Presidency of the Senate or the top position in the armed forces under certain circumstances. Diem also thinks that the chief motive behind Thieu's present actions is the feeling that he has not been treated fairly by the other Generals. If this is true, it might be possible to overcome Thieu's bitterness and offer him a position that he can accept. However, Bui Diem has evidently not yet succeeded in bringing Ky and Thieu together. A conversation on June 6 with Thieu's brother, Nguyen Van Kieu, while confirming generally Diem's account, indicates that the differences in viewpoint between Thieu and Ky remain substantial.
/6/Dated June 3. (Ibid.)
8. The Assembly was drawn into the Thieu-Ky conflict last week and it is now involved in a bitter fight over the issue of the election dates. From recent remarks by both Thieu and Huong supporters, I judge that Thieu is considering throwing his weight behind Huong, a move which if taken prematurely would almost certainly preclude any amicable settlement between Thieu and Ky. I hope that a face-to-face talk between Thieu and Ky will be arranged before any public decisions of this sort are made, however.
9. The Thieu-Ky rivalry was reflected in the Assembly in the handling of the rather confused issue of the 30 "introductions" required of Presidential candidates. Thieu went on the public record on May 11 in opposition to the requirement, terming it "unconstitutional and undemocratic." The Assembly ignored his opposition and voted the requirement into the electoral law. At Thieu's behest, the Directorate on May 24 agreed to ask the Assembly to drop this provision in the electoral law.
10. Ky reportedly went along with the decision in the Directorate meeting. His supporters in the Assembly continued to press for the "introduction" clause, however, and Ky himself was quoted in Viet-Nam Press on June 1 as saying that the requirement "doesn't matter for those who have the ability to run." At the same time we had a number of reports that indicated Ky's supporters were actively rounding up provincial councillors to "introduce" Ky. These tactics were apparently aimed at two objectives: to embarrass Thieu publicly by having the Assembly again reject his views; and to create the impression of a groundswell of support for Ky by having a large number of provincial councillors flock to "introduce" his candidacy.
11. On June 2 the Assembly voted 45 to 39 in favor of retaining the requirement for 30 "introductions." This vote fell short of the majority which is required under Article 45 of the Constitution to override a "request for reconsideration" by the executive. It is not clear whether this article applies in this interim period, however.
12. The question of the 30 "introductions" has thus become a matter of interpretation of the Constitution. The Assembly avoided making any constitutional interpretation by simply reporting its vote to the Directorate. Thieu supporters are known to believe that the Directorate is now free to promulgate the law without the controversial "introduction" provision, but it is by no means certain that Ky and his supporters will go along with that interpretation./7/
/7/On June 10 Locke reported that the Directorate had decided the previous day to promulgate the Constitution without the provision requiring formal "introductions" of presidential candidates. (Telegram 27955 from Saigon; ibid.)
13. The confused issue of the 30 "introductions" has become further snarled and political tension somewhat heightened by the related issue of the dates of the elections. The Armed Forces Council decided when it accepted the Constitution in late March that the elections for the Presidency and the Senate should be held on September 1 and the elections for the lower house on October 1. General Thieu announced this decision in promulgating the Constitution on April 1. However, the Assembly subsequently voted to set the Presidential elections for September 3 (which is a Sunday, as required in the Constitution) and the Senate on December 17. The Assembly has so far set no date for the lower house elections. One motive for setting the Senate elections on December 17 may have been that to do so prolongs the life of the present Assembly. Another probably more important motive is the fact that moving the Senate election back to December would permit defeated Presidential candidates to file and run for the Senate.
14. In the same letter which requested that the Assembly reconsider the "introduction" provision, the Directorate asked the Assembly to change the election dates back to "early September" for the President and the Senate and "early October" for the lower house. The Assembly voted June 3 against the Directorate's request on the election dates. The leader of the pro-government democratic alliance bloc, Le Phuoc Sang, proposed that a final vote not be taken for several days. When his proposal was voted down, he and about 35 of the bloc's members walked out of the Assembly. The final vote against the Directorate request was taken after the walk-out.
15. Sang explained in the Assembly session of June 6 that the walk-out was to protest the way in which the voting had been conducted; he wanted a roll call vote, not a secret ballot. Sang is scheduled to hold a press conference today on the matter. He and about 35 of his bloc of approximately 55 Deputies are at least temporarily boycotting Assembly sessions, though he said yesterday that his bloc would return to the Assembly at a "favorable time," and I understand from reports today that they will attend the next session. In a counter action, about 8 of Sang's bloc announced their withdrawal from the bloc in protest against Sang's moves.
16. While the question of the 30 "introductions" has become an issue between Thieu and Ky, and their rivalry has thus been projected into the Assembly, the question of the election dates appears to be primarily a matter of pro-government versus "opposition." From the point of view of the military, the matter involves the question of "face" because the dates were set by the Armed Forces Council. We have had several reports that indicate the Directorate is both united and determined on the election dates issue. A letter from General Thieu was delivered to the Assembly June 6 in which he urges speedy dispatch of the Senate election law to the Directorate so that the Presidential and the Senate laws can be promulgated together. There would be no strong reason to promulgate them together unless the Presidential and Senate elections were held on the same day as proposed by the Directorate. The Thieu letter therefore probably reflects continued government determination to maintain the original dates for the elections. The walk-out of pro-government Deputies and Sang's press conference today may be designed to justify the Directorate's amending the electoral laws.
17. The Assembly voted final approval of the Senate law June 6, without the participation of about 35 of Sang's democratic alliance bloc. Presumably the law will be sent at once to the Directorate. We understand from members of the Directorate staff that a meeting will be held soon to decide government action on the two laws. It could be a difficult session. Assembly reactions to any changes which the Directorate may make in the laws could also cause more friction between the government and "opposition" Deputies.
18. In addition to the maneuvers of Ky's supporters in the Assembly, we have also noted that some of Thieu's remarks have been censored from the local press. Even though Thieu's remarks seemed quite unexceptional, an interview between Thieu and a Japanese correspondent on the question of the candidacies of Ky and Thieu and the effect on the unity of the armed forces was heavily cut from the weekend papers. Thieu will, of course, be aware of this censoring of his comments, and it will not be likely to improve the chances of his coming to some agreement with Ky. Ky has also stated publicly his intention to continue censorship during the campaign. He said in a June 4 interview with Viet-Nam Press that "all press articles and reports at home and news dispatches from foreign press concerning the Presidential election to be held in September will be censored if they sow dissent and confusion among the national ranks . . . The government cannot allow the press to publish articles which criticize the candidates personally . . . our country has been divided and we should not deepen this division."
19. I should also report that Thieu told Harry McPherson on June 2 that he thought it would be very good for the country if Tran Van Huong were elected President. He said that the country is tired of military rule, and he added that if a civilian is elected President he will work, whatever his position, to assure the President the full support of the armed forces and to prevent coups. He again implied several times that he is not very hopeful of winning the Presidency himself. This, together with past remarks and some hints we have had from one of Huong's supporters suggests to me that Thieu may be thinking his best bet is to back Huong. His hope in this case would be to eliminate Ky as his major power rival by engineering Ky's defeat in the coming election, or to use this possibility as bargaining leverage to bring Ky around to a compromise.
20. Although I now fear that the chances of a Thieu-Ky agreement are not very encouraging, as I have said I think we must continue to press for such an agreement as the best possible solution. If in a week or so it becomes clear that there is little or no compromise, we should consider how we might act to resolve the conflict in such a way as to give the least possible jolt to the political health of the nation and the least damage to our freedom of action here.
21. I think, also, we should urge on all candidates the need for post-election cooperation and widest possible participation in the new government.
[Here follows discussion of the security situation in I and II Corps, economic matters, the Chieu Hoi program, casualties, Korean forces, and visiting Congressional delegations.]
193. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/
Washington, June 11, 1967, 10:30 a.m.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. 1, Misc. Memos. Secret. There is an indication on the memorandum that the President saw it.
One thought about the Viet Nam problem in the light of our recent Middle East experience.
It was again demonstrated that the Soviet government, on balance--to put it mildly--does not wish us well. I suppose the moderates in the Soviet government were strengthened by the failure of the Soviet Middle East adventure as they were temporarily strengthened by failure in the Cuba missile gambit. And I do think that in this 50th anniversary year the Soviet Union would prefer not to have a major direct confrontation with the U.S. Nevertheless, we must not count on their taking us off the hook in Viet Nam cheaply or easily.
Therefore, if we undertake a peace gambit with the USSR on Viet Nam in the days ahead, as I would be inclined to do, we must do it against the background that some time during July we may have to up the ante in Viet Nam: with respect to troops and, even, with respect to bombing.
I tried to suggest this in the drafting of the proposed message to Kosygin./2/
/2/This "pen pal" letter, drafted by Rostow on June 9, proposed that the conflict be moved "from the battlefield to the ballot box" and stated that the administration would decrease the tempo of its bombing and re-establish prohibited areas around Hanoi and Haiphong. It presumably was postponed due to Kosygin's announcement that he would come to the United Nations in New York for discussions of the Middle East crisis in the General Assembly. (Ibid., Memos to the President, Walt Rostow, 6/1-8/2/67, Vol. I)
To make this more credible, we might this week open some kind of conversation on Viet Nam with the Russians, either through a note from you to Kosygin, Secretary Rusk meeting Gromyko in Geneva after NATO, or both.
Then about mid-month Bob McNamara and Bus Wheeler would go to Viet Nam; and it should not be too deeply concealed that they are assessing what may be required to push the war forward hard if we cannot get a diplomatic break soon. In short, without giving the Soviets anything like an ultimatum, they ought to get the feeling that, unless they want to face quite a lot more pressure in Viet Nam, including, quite possibly, increased risks of a confrontation with us in Southeast Asia, they had better try to get more active in Hanoi.
Incidentally, I talked with Sec. Rusk about the Asian Chiefs of State meeting around the 19th. He had had the impression that Holt had thought we had better wait until after the Vietnamese election. He himself thinks it would be unfortunate until Ky and Thieu straighten themselves out; and he believes there are some scheduling problems. In any case, I shall be following through on this tomorrow, Monday, June 12./3/
/3/From 7:32 to 8:50 p.m. the next day, the Special Committee of the NSC met. Those in attendance in addition to the President and Rostow included Katzenbach, Vance, Helms, Clifford, McGeorge Bundy, Rostow, McNamara, Wheeler, Thompson, Sisco, Warnke, Harold Saunders, Raymond Garthoff, Eugene Rostow, and Henry Fowler. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary) No notes of the meeting have been found. The President discussed the upcoming Kosygin visit during a meeting with Thompson on June 14, and during the weekly luncheon that followed, which Thompson attended. (Ibid.) Notes of these discussions have not been found.
194. Draft Memorandum From Secretary of Defense McNamara to President Johnson/1/
Washington, June 12, 1967.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 2EE Primarily McNamara Recommendations. Top Secret; Sensitive. The notations "L" on the summary and the draft memorandum indicate that the President saw them. This DPM is printed in part in The Pentagon Papers, The Senator Gravel Edition, pp. 189-191. An attached table of North Vietnamese import capabilities and a list of bombing targets are not printed.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff have recommended a program for intensified US military actions against North Vietnam./2/ Their program would have as its chief feature heavy attacks upon the Hanoi-Haiphong logistical base, and would include actions such as bombing and mining the ports.
/2/See Document 141.
The attached full memorandum analyzes three major alternatives: Alternative A--the JCS proposal to expand the present program to include mining of the ports and attacks on roads and bridges closer to Hanoi and Haiphong; Alternative B--which would continue the present level of attacks but generally restrict it to the neck of North Vietnam south of 20 degrees; and Alternative C--a refinement of the currently approved program.
In the memorandum, Mr. Vance and I:
--Oppose the JCS program (Alternative A) on grounds that it would neither substantially reduce the flow of men and supplies to the South nor pressure Hanoi toward settlement, that it would be costly in American lives and in domestic and world opinion, and that it would run serious risks of enlarging the war into one with the Soviet Union and China, leaving us a few months from now more frustrated and with almost no choice but even further escalation.
--Oppose mere refinement of the present program (Alternative C) on grounds that it would involve most of the costs and some of the risks of Alternative A with less chance than Alternative A of either interdicting supplies or moving Hanoi toward settlement.
--Recommend concentration of the bulk of our efforts on infiltration routes south of 20 degrees (Alternative B) because this course would interdict supplies as effectively as the other alternatives, would cost the least in pilots' lives, and would be consistent with effort to move toward negotiations.
Implicit in the recommendation is a conviction that nothing short of toppling the Hanoi regime will pressure North Vietnam to settle so long as they believe they have a chance to win the "war of attrition" in the South, a judgment that actions sufficient to topple the Hanoi regime will put us into war with the Soviet Union and China, and a belief that a shift to Alternative B can be timed and handled in such a way as to gain politically while not endangering the morale of our fighting men.
The Director of Central Intelligence and the Secretaries of the Air Force and Navy have each independently considered the alternative programs. No one of them recommends Alternative A. Mr. Nitze joins with Mr. Vance and me in recommending B; Dr. Brown prefers C; Mr. Helms does not make a specific recommendation, but states the CIA believes that none of the alternatives is capable of decreasing Hanoi's determination to persist in the war or of reducing the flow of goods sufficiently to affect the war in the South.
Robert S. McNamara
Draft Memorandum From Secretary of Defense McNamara to President Johnson
Washington, June 12, 1967.
This memorandum analyzes three major alternatives: Alternative A--the JCS proposal to expand the present program to include mining of the ports and attacks on roads and bridges close to Hanoi and Haiphong; Alternative B--which would continue the present level of attacks but generally restrict it to the neck of North Vietnam south of 20 degrees; and Alternative C--a refinement of the currently approved program.
I. THE THREE ALTERNATIVES
Alternative A. Intensified attack on the Hanoi-Haiphong logistical base. Under this Alternative, we would continue attacks on enemy installations and industry and would conduct an intensified, concurrent and sustained effort against all elements of land, sea and air lines of communication in North Vietnam--especially those entering and departing the Hanoi-Haiphong areas. Foreign shipping would be "shouldered out" of Haiphong by a series of air attacks that close in on the center of the port complex. The harbor and approaches would be mined, forcing foreign shipping out into the nearby estuaries for offloading by lighterage. Intensive and systematic armed reconnaissance would be carried out against the roads and railroads from China (especially the northeast railroad), against coastal shipping and coastal transshipment locations, and against all other land lines of communication. The eight major operational airfields would be systematically attacked, and the deep-water ports of Cam Pha and Hon Gai would be struck or mined as required. Alternative A could be pursued full-force between now and September (thereafter the onset of unfavorable weather conditions would seriously impair operations).
Alternative B: Emphasis on the infiltration routes south of the 20th Parallel. Under this alternative, the dominant emphasis would be, not on preventing matérial from flowing into North Vietnam (and thus not on "economic" pressure on the regime), but on preventing military men and matériel from flowing out of the North into the South. We would terminate bombing in the Red River basin except for occasional sorties (perhaps 3%)--those necessary to keep enemy air defenses and damage-repair crews positioned there and to keep important fixed targets knocked out. The same total number of sorties envisioned under Alternative A--together with naval gunfire at targets ashore and afloat and mining of inland waterways, estuaries and coastal waters--would be concentrated in the neck of North Vietnam, between 17 degrees and 20 degrees, through which all land infiltration must pass and in which the "extended battle zone" north of the DMZ lies. The effort would be intensive and sustained, designed especially to saturate choke points and to complement similar new intensive interdiction efforts in adjacent areas in Laos and near the 17th Parallel inside South Vietnam.
Alternative C. Extension of the current program. This alternative would be essentially a refinement of the currently approved program and therefore a compromise between Alternative A and Alternative B. Under it, while avoiding attacks within the 10-mile prohibited zone around Hanoi and strikes at or mining of the ports, we would conduct a heavy effort against all other land, sea, and air lines of communication. Important fixed targets would be kept knocked out; intensive, sustained and systematic armed reconnaissance would be carried out against the roads and railroads and coastal shipping throughout the country; and the eight major airfields would be systematically attacked. The total number of sorties would be the same as under the other two alternatives.
Mr. Vance and I recommend Alternative B.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend Alternative A./3/
/3/JCSM-286-67 20 May 1967. [Footnote in the source text. See Document 187.]
The Secretary of the Navy recommends Alternative B.
The Secretary of the Air Force recommends Alternative C modified to add some targets (especially LOC targets) to the present list and to eliminate others.
The Director of the CIA does not make a recommendation. The CIA judgment is that none of the alternatives is capable of decreasing Hanoi's determination to persist in the war or of reducing the flow of goods sufficiently to affect the war in the South.
II. GENERAL SITUATION IN VIETNAM
The alternative programs of military actions against the North must be viewed in their total context:
In South Vietnam, the combat operations have reached a high level of intensity with only slow progress by friendly forces, a situation which it is within the power of the enemy to perpetuate; likewise, the pacification campaign is making little progress; the government is still largely corrupt, incompetent and unresponsive to the needs and wishes of the people; and only first and halting steps toward national reconciliation have been taken. On the encouraging side, there is movement toward constitutional government, jeopardized somewhat by the military-civilian and Ky-Thieu conflicts. The attitude of the American public toward the Vietnam war, because of the rising US casualty rate and the increasing proportion of losses being suffered by US as compared with South Vietnamese forces, is one of substantial disfavor.
III. OVER-ALL US OBJECTIVE AND BOMBING SUB-OBJECTIVES
Any program of action against the North must be viewed, furthermore, in terms of its relation to the single, limited US over-all objective in Vietnam and to the sub-objectives underlying the US bombing program. The limited over-all US objective, in terms of the narrow US commitment and not of wider US preferences, is to take action (so long as they continue to help themselves) to see that the people of South Vietnam are permitted to determine their own future. Our commitment is to stop (or generously to offset when we cannot stop) North Vietnamese military intervention in the South, so that "the board will not be tilted" against Saigon in an internal South Vietnamese contest for control./4/ The sub-objectives, at which our bombing campaign in the North has always been aimed, are these:
/4/Much of the disagreement in the US Government over courses of action stems from different views as to what the US objective, or commitment, is. The JCS, for example, call my statement of US commitment a "modification of present US objectives . . . [which] would undermine and no longer provide a complete rationale for our presence in South Vietnam or much of our effort over the past two years." (JCSM-307-67 1 June 1967.) If the US commitment is as I have described it (which is essentially as it has been stated by you, Secretary Rusk, Ambassador Goldberg and me over the past few years), one has good grounds to question the rationale for even more US effort in Vietnam. Specifically, US efforts against the North should take account of the fact that the Viet Cong in the South now receive from North Vietnam perhaps 1/5th to 1/10th as much assistance in men and 1/1000th as much assistance in matériel as the Saigon Government receives from the US and other third countries. The approximately $17 billion of matériel sent by the US to Vietnam annually is 1000 times the estimated $15-20 million of matériel sent to the South from North Vietnam (and approximately 25 times as much as the $720 million the USSR and China are estimated to have given North Vietnam in 1966). The 54,000 third-nation troops in South Vietnam alone exceed the number of North Vietnamese soldiers in regular units in the South, while the 500,000 total of US plus third-country manpower is about 10 times the number in North Vietnamese regular units and at least five times the number of infiltrated North Vietnamese now in the South. [Footnote and brackets in the source text.]
--(1) To retaliate and to lift the morale of the people in the South, including Americans, who are being attacked by agents of the North;
--(2) To add to the pressure on Hanoi to end the war;
--(3) To reduce the flow and/or to increase the cost of infiltrating men and matériel from North to South.
The three alternative courses of action against North Vietnam must be compared on the basis of their respective contributions to (or detractions from) this US over-all objective and these US bombing sub-objectives.
IV. ANALYSIS OF ALTERNATIVE A
The present proposal of the JCS has its background in Rolling Thunder 56, the expansion of the bombing program over North Vietnam which was approved in early May. Before it was approved, General Wheeler said: "The bombing campaign is reaching the point where we will have struck all worthwhile fixed targets except the ports. At this time we will have to address the requirement to deny the DRV the use of the ports." Except for the port areas and a few targets in heavily populated areas, all that remains are minor targets, restrikes of certain major targets, and armed reconnaissance of the lines of communication (LOCs). Against this background, the JCS have submitted their recommendation (Alternative A).
Although the three alternatives would each involve about the same number of sorties against the North, Alternative A, unlike the other two, would hit targets significantly different from, and more sensitive than, those at which the bombing campaign has heretofore been directed. It would be regarded as continuing the pattern of escalation in the air campaign. The proponents of Alternative A present it as designed to achieve all three of the bombing sub-objectives mentioned above.
[Here follows McNamara's assessment of Alternative A, in which he argued first that an escalation in bombing would not improve the morale of the GVN. In addition, he did not believe that additional bombing would deter the DRV from its goal of unification. As for the increased interdiction impact that would arise under this alternative, McNamara denied that any level of increase would reduce the flow of arms and men southward to a level below that necessary to sustain the VC insurgency. As well, an escalation in bombing would have little impact on the war-making capacity of the North. Negative results would occur in terms of the cost to the United States of the lives of its pilots and troops, adverse domestic and world opinion, and the heightened risk of a strong reaction from the Communist bloc.]
V. ANALYSIS OF ALTERNATIVE B
Alternative B would shift most of the bombing away from the Red River basin and concentrate the bulk of our effort on infiltration routes in the southern neck of North Vietnam south of 20 degrees.
It reflects a belief that the outcome of the war hinges on what happens in the South, that neither military defeat nor military victory is in the cards there no matter which alternative is chosen against the North, that the cost of both Alternatives A and C, especially in pilots' lives, would be excessive, and that Alternative A would risk expanding the war dangerously, leaving us a few months from now more frustrated and with almost no choice but even further escalation. Alternative B is designed to improve the negotiating environment by combining continued progress in the South (attacks against VC/NVA main force units and slow improvements in pacification that may follow the new constitution, the national reconciliation proclamation, and the Vietnamese elections this fall) with a restrained program against the North.
Proponents of Alternative B believe that we are in a military situation that cannot be changed materially by expanding our military effort, that the politico-pacification situation in South Vietnam will improve only slowly, and that Hanoi will therefore persevere. These proponents favor a calm drive to settle the war--a deliberate process on four fronts: The Rolling Thunder front in the North, and the large-unit, politico-pacification, and diplomatic fronts in the South. The Alternative B approach against the North is to maximize interdiction while minimizing loss of life, risk of escalation, and impediments to negotiations; in the South, the approach is to maintain the initiative on the large-unit front, to move on with pacification efforts and with the national election in September, and to initiate periodic peace probes.
[Here follows McNamara's evaluation of Alternative B, in which he contended that concentrating bombing near the DMZ would not impair in any significant way the enemy's ability to continue to carry the war southward. Public reaction would be negative as long as the bombing continued. In addition, aircraft and pilot losses might still be high if the DRV shifted its air defense system to the area. The morale of U.S. troops, let alone the GVN and its soldiers, might be dampened and the Communist side might be encouraged by this scale-back.]
VI. ANALYSIS OF ALTERNATIVE C
Alternative C--essentially a continuation of the current program--serves none of our positive objectives./5/ This alternative does not contain enough pressure to persuade Hanoi to settle the war (although some believe that it contains so much bombing that it will keep the North Vietnamese away from the conference table). This alternative does not put a meaningful ceiling on the flow of men and matériel into the South (although it diverts sorties from the infiltration routes in the funnel between 17ˇ and 20 degrees, where they could help the war in the South most). The cost of the program, in lost pilots, is high. And it lacks the political advantages of Alternative B.
/5/The Secretary of the Air Force argues for Alternative C (modified). He believes that our air interdiction effort has had some effect in reducing infiltration below what it otherwise would have been. He believes that Alternative A, from the purely military point of view, would be worth its extra cost in terms of reduced enemy abilities in South Vietnam; but he considers port closure too risky and believes that, with the ports open to handle diverted imports, attacks on the northeast and the northwest roads and railroads should be limited to harassment. At the same time, he opposes Alternative B on the ground that it would give Hanoi a "free ride" down to 20 degrees; this, in his view, would more than offset the increased effectiveness to be expected from Alternative B's added anti-infiltration effort south of 20 degrees. He believes that US pilot-loss rates, after the enemy has been given 3-6 months to adjust his AAA, will not be significantly different under Alternatives B and C. He consequently recommends continuation of the present program--including strikes on airfields (except Gia Lam) as necessary to minimize over-all losses in the air campaign--with refinements to add some targets (especially LOC targets) to the present list and to eliminate others. [Footnote in the source text.]
Alternative C has but two arguments in its favor: It avoids the most serious risks in Alternative A of escalation into a larger war, and it avoids the risk in Alternative B of what may appear (if the shift is mishandled) to be a conspicuous admission of failure of the bombing program.
The concern of our field commanders with bombing restrictions is well expressed by a message from Admiral Sharp after he received his instruction regarding the 10-mile prohibited area around Hanoi: "We have repeatedly sought to obtain authority for a systematic air campaign directed against carefully selected targets whose destruction and constant disruption would steadily increase the pressure on Hanoi. It seems unfortunate that just when the pressure is increasing by virtue of such an air campaign, and the weather is optimum over northern NVN, we must back off." (CINCPAC 290506Z May 67)/6/
I am convinced that, within the limits to which we can go with prudence, "strategic" bombing of North Vietnam will at best be unproductive. I am convinced that mining the ports would not only be unproductive but very costly in domestic and world support and very dangerous--running high risks of enlarging the war as the program is carried out and almost certainly leaving us, when it has been carried out, frustrated and with no choice but to escalate further. At the same time, I am doubtful that bombing the infiltration routes north or south of 20 degrees will put a meaningful ceiling on men or matériel entering South Vietnam. Nevertheless, I recommend Alternative B (which emphasizes bombing the area between 17 degrees and 20 degrees) because (1) it holds highest promise of serving a military purpose, (2) it will cost the least in pilots' lives, and (3) it is consistent with efforts to move toward negotiations.
Implicit in the recommendation is a conviction that nothing short of toppling the Hanoi regime will pressure North Vietnam to settle so long as they believe they have a chance to win the "war of attrition" in the South, a judgment that actions sufficient to topple the Hanoi regime will put us into war with the Soviet Union and China, and a belief that a shift to Alternative B can be timed and handled in such a way as to gain politically while not endangering the morale of our fighting men.
Robert S. McNamara
195. Memorandum of Conversation/1/
Washington, June 13, 1967.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, EA/VN Files: Lot 71 D 88, Memcons of Amb. Diem, 1967. Drafted by Philip Habib.
1. Ambassador Diem had returned from three weeks in Saigon on the night of Monday, June 12. The Prime Minister had instructed him to come in and "report" to us on recent events in Saigon. The Prime Minister had asked him to get back to Saigon within a week or so. Diem was hoping to stay a little longer in Washington before returning.
2. Diem commented that the Middle East crisis appears to have ended up in a way which is beneficial to the Vietnamese problem. In his view Hanoi had been in a hurry to back the Arabs, not having expected the Israelis to move so quickly. There may be some inclination to put the blame on the Russians. Diem believed that the Middle Eastern crisis had opened the eyes of some of the international critics of American policy who would now have to think things over more carefully. During a stopover in Tokyo he had received the distinct impression from conversations with government officials and Parliamentarians that they now feel that while it is easy to criticize American policy it is not so easy to find a solution. This was related to Middle East developments and many people who are critical of American support for Viet-Nam urged US intervention in Israel. At any rate attention was focused on the Middle East and if the Vietnamese situation didn't tense up this might provide time for the situation in Viet-Nam to improve. Diem clarified this remark by referring to the concentration of official and press criticism on the performance of the Vietnamese Army. Unfavorable remarks about the efficiency of the Vietnamese Army are a cause of concern to Prime Minister Ky, General Vien and others. Basically, the criticism has focused on the weaknesses of the 25th, 5th and 18th Divisions. The Prime Minister would like to solve the problem but it is becoming something of a cause celebre which makes it more difficult to move against particularly incompetent officers. Mr. Bundy asked whether the incompetence in these Divisions was at the command level or generally throughout the officer group. Diem replied that in the case of the 25th Division the problem was to replace General Chinh, whereas in the 5th Division there was a good deal of talk of corruption which was checked out and which turned out to be that the Commander was not so much to blame as were his underlings. The Prime Minister intended to take measures at the proper time. Diem had pointed out to the Prime Minister that the international press knows about the inefficiencies of these Divisions which furthers the impression that Vietnamese troops are no good while US troops are in the thick of the fighting. Fortunately press attention has moved away from this problem but it can be expected to return.
3. Diem said that in his observation the Prime Minister was not so preoccupied with politics as to forget about the need for improved efficiency in the Government and the furtherance of the pacification program. His desire to push these programs goes beyond, although it is related to, the need for showing improvement before the September elections. Mr. Bundy asked if there was a feeling of "attentisme" among the Vietnamese officials in light of the coming elections. Diem said this was unavoidable but the Prime Minister was trying to minimize it. He was well aware of the need to show progress along all fronts, both military and civilian.
4. Diem said that the problems of the National Assembly were occupying the Prime Minister. It was Ky's firm intention to abide by the decisions of the Assembly and to work in full cooperation with it. At the present time the members of the Assembly are emotional in their attitudes and it is difficult to get a consensus but Ky was going to work with and through the Assembly. There were a number of issues involving strong feelings on the part of the Directorate and the Assembly. On the question of the requirement for a Presidential candidate to be presented by thirty elected representatives, this was no problem for Ky who could get thirty or more. The Directorate, however, opposed the measure as did the Catholics. Ky was trying to be neutral and Diem did not believe this would be a major problem.
5. A second issue between the Assembly and the Directorate involved the question of the Presidential candidates going through a run-off procedure unless a minimum percentage of the vote was secured. The Prime Minister understood the U.S. point of view on the desirability of a run-off and he was basically in agreement. However, he believed after careful analysis that if a run-off were to be provided for at this time it would produce maneuvering which would be detrimental to an honest election. At any rate the issue seemed to be resolved and there would be no run-off.
6. The date of the elections remained a bone of contention. The Directorate wished Presidential and Upper House elections to be held on the third of September whereas the law as passed by the Assembly provides for Upper House elections on the 17th of December. The Prime Minister has always wanted these elections to be held together and has made his position clear. There will be further examinations and further discussion between the Government and the Assembly.
7. Diem said that all of this debate was in an atmosphere which had generated strong emotional reaction against the Assembly among certain members of the Directorate and in particular he cited Thieu and Chieu. Some people in the Directorate wished to convene the Armed Forces Congress to over-ride the Assembly but Ky had said that this was impossible. The Constitution had been promulgated and the Armed Forces could not be convened for this purpose. He intends to stick by this opinion and abide by Assembly decisions. Diem believes that in the end all the Generals will agree and that the problems will be worked out. He thinks Ky is maintaining as strong a hand as necessary to assure continuing functioning of the Assembly. Election laws for the first round of elections will be ready before the filing date which is July 15. (Embassy Saigon reports filing date is June 30.)
8. Mr. Bundy asked how things were between Thieu and Ky. Diem said he would like to tell the whole story. He had had a long conversation with Thieu and many conversations with Ky and other Generals while in Saigon. He was sorry not to be able to bring back a concrete result. Diem said that when he got to Saigon a number of Generals came to tell him of Thieu's intention to run. He had asked whether this had been by prior arrangement. After discussing the matter with Thieu, Bui Diem discovered that there was considerable misunderstanding between Thieu and the others. According to Thieu he believed that at the time of the promulgation of the Constitution on April 1, the question of his candidacy for the Presidency had been discussed within the Armed Forces Congress and in an "unofficial way" they were prepared to back Thieu. Thieu then went to the hospital where he had a minor operation and was working on his plans for the campaign. A few days later General Thang came to see Thieu and said that on the authority of the majority of the Generals and speaking on their behalf, mentioning them by name, he wanted to say that Ky had a better chance to win and Thieu would be better off not to run. This was a blow to Thieu who was flabbergasted listening to Thang. Thieu thought he had the backing of the officers and now he felt deceived and this was the beginning of the trouble. Diem had talked to the other Generals who claimed that it wasn't true that they had told Thieu they would back him. They had just been polite about their attitude toward Thieu. It was not true that they had been deceitful; they just simply thought that Ky had a better chance. Thieu continued to feel deceived, an attitude which was furthered by ill-considered censorship of his statements by General Tri. Diem had gone to see Thieu to convey the feelings of the others. He told Thieu that it was not his impression that the Generals were against him but that they preferred to back one man who had the best chance and would do anything they could to get Thieu to change his mind. Thieu said it was a matter of prestige. Diem had asked what might be done to repair the situation and Thieu said he would think it over but he assured Diem that he would do nothing to harm the unity of the Army nor the stability of the country nor would he do anything to harm Ky. Thieu said he knew he would not have a chance to win but his candidacy was a matter of conscience. Diem then talked to Ky who agreed to see Thieu and beg him to withdraw for the sake of unity. It was Diem's definite impression that Thieu had been hurt morally and was reacting out of bitterness.
9. Mr. Bundy asked if this bitterness could be reduced. Diem said yes, that Tri had been told to be more careful and that Thang and the others were asked to make some gestures toward Thieu for the sake of unity. Nevertheless before Diem had left Saigon he was told that Thieu would announce his candidacy by the 15th of June./2/ This would not necessarily be a final and formal announcement but it would be firmer than hitherto. Thieu's brother Kieu had been reassuring Bui Diem that even a formal announcement wouldn't mean that there could be no change and a withdrawal later on. Diem felt that this was still possible even given Thieu's bitterness.
/2/He did so on June 15.
10. Diem said that Ky had asked him to report these facts here and to report them even to the President if necessary. Ky felt that he had to run, that he had been urged by people inside and outside the Armed Forces to be a candidate. These people found Thieu indecisive which was the main reason almost all of them prefer Ky. Ky felt compelled to announce and before doing so he had talked to Thieu. He believed that he had Thieu's tacit agreement. Thieu had told Ky to go ahead with his candidacy. Seeing that this was after Thang had seen Thieu he went ahead. Diem said that he was sorry that things had developed the way they had. The issues looked personal and petty but unfortunately human beings were involved. Mr. Bundy asked what the outlook was. Diem said that ideally Thieu should withdraw and Ky would be the only candidate. It was not possible for Ky to withdraw. The organization for his election was being set up and the other Generals would be "deceived" if he withdrew. The door is still open to Thieu's withdrawal. It depends largely on Ky who has "not broken his bridges" to Thieu as had the other Generals. Ky would have to go to Thieu and the two of them make whatever arrangement is necessary to secure Thieu's withdrawal. Diem said that if Thieu withdraws the tension will ease. However if Thieu goes ahead out of bitterness Diem thinks the situation is not as worrisome as we might expect. Of course the military vote will be split but he did not believe there would be any danger to the unity of the Army. Thieu had told Diem and asked him to say in Washington that Thieu will do anything for the sake of unity and will do nothing that could be construed as division. He would take no action by arms or words to weaken the unity of the Army and the stability of the country. So Diem has come to the conclusion that it would be unfortunate to have two military candidates but it will not cause unmanageable divisions within the Army.
11. Mr. Bundy asked how it could be kept from doing that. Diem replied that General Vien will keep the Army aside from the controversy and that Ky will agree to the Army being kept out of the machinery of politics. It is true that a candidate from an incumbent administration will find it difficult to keep that administration out of politics but the Prime Minister would be careful to operate "normally" and this would help ward off any divisions inside the Army and civil administration.
12. Diem said that in addition to the problem of military unity there was also a question of how to conduct fair, honest elections. The Prime Minister was well-intentioned but good intentions sometimes do not control men. There were also problems of censorship with the provision of equal facilities for civilian candidates. On censorship the Prime Minister had definite ideas. He did not believe that the campaign should concern itself with issues that should be avoided because they create dangerous dissension. In particular he spoke of religious and regional factors. In his opinion the candidates should reach a consensus on how to conduct the campaign and then abide by it. As far as censorship was concerned Ky was willing to have representatives of the various candidates on the censorship boards so that common approval could be secured. Diem felt that Ky was determined to conduct a fair election as he had just recently assured Congressman Dow and Senator Hart/3/ but of course intention and ability were different things when it came to controlling people down the line.
/3/Representative John G. Dow (D-NY) and Senator Philip A. Hart (D-MI).
13. This led Diem to discuss the subject of General Loan with the parenthetical remark that this was an embarrassing subject but there was nothing to hide. Diem said that he had met with Loan in the presence of Ky and discussed the problem frankly. He cited the various rumors of Loan's activities and the consensus. The Prime Minister had agreed with Diem and had asked Loan to re-examine his machinery with a view to controlling the men under him. Diem said that Loan was not a bad man but that he had too many hats and could not control all of his men. Ky wanted an honest election and recognizes the crucial importance of Viet-Nam in following a bad path or setting a bad example for the future. Everyone agrees in principle.
14. Mr. Bundy referred to the Thieu-Ky problem and asked if a real talk had yet taken place between them. Diem said no, that he had tried to pave the way but when they met they avoided talking about ugly things./4/ There was some attempt at trying to reach a prior understanding but he had not succeeded. He had talked to Thieu about his returning to the Army or taking the presidency of the Upper House but had received no reaction. Diem said that Ambassador Bunker had asked if there were anything he could do. At the time Diem felt it was preferable to let the matter be worked out among the Vietnamese. He was wondering if that was still valid or whether or not it would be preferable for Ambassador Bunker to go further. Diem knows that Thieu had been hurt in his conversation with General Westmoreland which he understood as a US suggestion for withdrawal./5/ Diem believed that Ambassador Bunker should concentrate on Ky at this stage to get Ky to talk frankly with Thieu, making whatever offers were necessary for an amicable settlement. Once Ky had done this then the Ambassador might talk to Thieu.
/4/Diem attempted to continue his mediation of the dispute. In telegram 27182 from Saigon, June 8, Bunker reported that he heard from Diem that Thieu and Ky at some point did talk "amicably but without a solution emerging." They met each other only with other Generals present, and pledged to talk again. Thieu later told Diem that he would stand by his promise not to split the military. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S) In telegram 27982 from Saigon, June 11, Bunker reported that Diem stated before he left for Washington that the situation was "under control" and that "no untoward steps would be taken by the principals or those immediately around them." (Ibid.)
/5/See Document 163.
15. Diem feels that Thieu is acting impulsively. He knows he can't win but nevertheless he goes ahead. However, there was still room for maneuver even if the public announcement took place and the situation could clear up by the day candidacies had to be filed.
16. Diem then referred to a conversation that Ky had had with Tran Van Huong. The two men had mutual respect for each other and had spoken frankly. Huong had told Ky that they could not be running mates in either order but that both should run./6/ They did not talk in specific terms but they came out with a general understanding that whoever wins would consider the other for the position of Prime Minister. Diem thought this would be a good combination but he cautioned against any optimism; that there would eventually be a lot of people around each of the men who would be opposed to this. Diem closed by repeating again that the Prime Minister had asked him to report faithfully in Washington and to give his assurances about the conduct of the campaign. Although the Vietnamese people are in a stage of political immaturity and have suffered from communist actions, it is difficult to have normal elections, but he could assure us that as far as the Prime Minister was concerned they will do their best to get the maximum honesty possible and the absence of blatant irregularities. Mr. Bundy pointed out that it wasn't only in the interest of international acceptance of the elections but it was terribly important also from the standpoint of the Vietnamese people who are shrewd and who would know what was going on. Bui Diem said there was a question of equilibrium. If the Government was too liberal or if it was too crude there could be a great deal of difficulty. He hoped that Ky would handle it with his customary honesty and sincerity.
/6/Huong announced his Presidential candidacy on May 26.
196. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam/1/
Washington, June 13, 1967, 1:31 p.m.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted and approved by Habib and cleared by Bundy, Miller, and Carver.
210584. 1. We have noted in your latest reporting that the Thieu-Ky confrontation does not seem to be moving toward satisfactory resolution and that opposing positions appear to be increasingly firm. Bui Diem's comment that Thieu may declare his candidacy formally on June 15 would appear to establish some sort of deadline. Diem's departure (he reached here late last night) and Kieu's leaving the scene might create a gap in communication between Thieu and Ky. Obviously if Thieu formally declares his candidacy on the 15th, positions will become more rigid and the chance for a negotiated amicable settlement between them decreases.
2. Your previous reporting indicated that you believed it desirable to allow the forces in motion to work themselves out, reserving your own direct intervention to that time you considered it essential. Has our forebearance led Thieu to believe we have no objection to dual candidacies or to his own candidacy in place of Ky?
3. We still believe, as we take it you do, that avoidance of dual military candidacies is most desirable. We note, however, that Ky and Diem have been seeking to downplay the consequences of such a development and have been supported in this judgment by other Ky supporters like General Khang. What is your personal assessment of the consequences of dual candidacies in view of the opinions and positions that have appeared to emerge as the maneuvering has been taking place? How would the military leadership, as reflected in the Armed Forces Congress, line up in the event that Thieu persists in his desire to run? How would such a situation affect military unity, civilian candidate prospects, and conduct of elections? Can Thieu be diverted and through what specific offers that Ky could be expected or persuaded to make?
4. We believe that you are in the best position to judge whether it is necessary for you to intervene directly, when to do so and through what medium. Would appreciate receiving from you on an urgent basis your current assessment and plan of action.
197. Memorandum From the President's Special Counsel (McPherson) to President Johnson/1/
Washington, June 13, 1967, 8:15 p.m.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President, Walt Rostow, 6/1-8/2/67, Vol. I. No classification marking. McPherson visited Vietnam from late May through early June. The notation "L" on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it.
For the President
These impressions of Vietnam should obviously be discounted by several factors:
--this was my first trip, and so I have no previous standard against which to measure my judgments.
--being there two weeks is just enough time for heroes to be discovered and discarded, and not enough time to identify the long-term trends that will determine the future.
--a VIP traveller is exposed to the "winning" situations, and as a result his natural instinct is to listen harder to the skeptics than to the optimists.
--I am neither a military nor a geopolitical strategist; what I thought especially important may only have been incidental, and vice versa.
This said, here is what I saw and came to believe.
A. The colossal size of our effort.
The first and last thing you come to understand is that the big issue on the campuses, whether we should be in Vietnam or not, is almost beside the point. We are there in such enormous force, in such totality, that the fact of our presence is where you start from.
At 1500 feet in a Huey on any given afternoon, you look out on two or three Eagle flights of choppers going in to chase VC's; an air strike in progress; artillery "prepping" another area; a division camp here, a battalion forward area there; trucks moving on a dozen roads.
Flying north along the road to Danang, you see why the highway is secure: great areas have been scraped off the hilltops every five miles or so, ringed by 105's/2/ and covered with tanks and tents. We have just about paved the road-side for a hundred miles.
B. The quality of our people.
I am sure that America has never committed so much of its talent to a single military or political operation. The officers I spoke with were, by and large, superb professionals, and some of them had a sense that this war is far more complex, and its issues far more difficult, than could be addressed by military firepower alone. This was particularly true of the Army--surely because the Army has the main job of advising the ARVN and dealing with the frustrating human problems of security and pacification.
We have a number of civilians in Vietnam who have been there for years, whose commitment is total, and who tend to discount the virtues of any new "way" to win the war and secure the peace. They have seen many bright flags go up, and come down, tattered and spoiled, within a few months.
The military tend to defend the status quo, that is, whatever is being done at the moment. The embassy people tend to be absorbed in specific political questions--who is down and who is up in Saigon. Neither group seems to be looking for a new kind of politics, a politics of programs instead of personalities.
It may be that Ambassador Bunker, working with Lilienthal, can inspire that kind of politics in the Saigon government. He has a number of civilians in OCO, and some military advisors with the ARVN, who can support him in that effort, and are anxious to do so.
My impression is that most of the military have "accepted" revolutionary development as an assignment, but only in their heads; their hearts are committed to the shooting war against the VC main forces. The OCO people--Komer excluded--seem to be hesitant about occupying the driver's seat and calling for more effort in the unglamorous pacification campaign. Being loyal by nature and training, the military will do their part in assisting revolutionary development, but there will be many occasions in which questions of priority will be difficult. It will require constant pressure from here to keep the pacification effort at the fore-front.
One last observation about the quality of our people. An old master sergeant told me that "there never has been an army like this. Our kids out here are the finest soldiers we ever put on a battlefield--and I went through World War II and Korea with some mighty good units. These boys don't wave the flag, but they do their job better than soldiers have ever done it." From what I saw, I'm sure he must be right.
I would recommend that thought be given to extending the tour of some officers and men--particularly those who are serving as ARVN advisors. One year is more than enough for the foot soldier. It is too short for those who must do the sometimes satisfying, often infuriating job of dealing with an alien military force, whose customs and experience are not only different from ours, but pose constant obstacles to military efficiency.
C. The quality of RVN people.
Bill Jorden and I had a long dinner with Ky one night, and I had another hour with him before I left. I also had an hour and a half with Thieu. I did not meet Huong or Suu, the two principal civilian candidates.
With Ky and Thieu, I talked chiefly about the "new politics" of programs instead of personalities, and about corruption. They made all the right sounds; they were for the first and against the second. (Bunker rightly says this is the problem, whether they are only making the right sounds and haven't the will or the intention of performing; whether, as he puts it, they are smooth, or only slick.)
Whatever the case, Ky is, as you know, disarmingly candid, and his ambition, which is almost unlimited, could be the engine of progress for Vietnam, as well as glory for himself.
When I talked of the need for program, and said I thought the American people would more willingly support a man with a vision for his people than someone who had only won a fight for power, Ky said "We'll all have a program. We'll all sound like Roosevelts. The question is, who could carry it out? The civilians are too old, and I don't know what General Thieu wants." It was unnecessary for him to say who could carry out a program of reform.
When I talked of corruption--which I was told is almost universal throughout the government, from the police check-point to the license office, from the district chief to the corps commander and probably the ministries in Saigon--he said, "Most of the generals are corrupt. Most of the senior officials in the provinces are corrupt. But getting at corruption takes time. And you must remember that corruption exists everywhere, and people can live with some of it. You live with it in Chicago and New York." I accepted this at the dinner, shortly after I arrived in Vietnam, but when he repeated it at the end of my visit I said "I don't think you have all that time. And I don't think you can stand even as much corruption as we have in the States. We have a government that people have given their loyalty to, and we can absorb some corruption. The problem here is that people have not given their loyalty to the national government, and I don't think they will so long as officials of that government leech on them day and night." He agreed at once, which was a bit disconcerting--too much like the old Asian game of saying yes to whatever the colonial westerner wants. I said I thought a real national leader could create a powerful constituency if he convinced the people that between them--between the leader at the top and the people at the bottom--they could crush the sons-of-bitches in the middle who were sapping the strength of people. His eyes lit up for a moment, and he said, "Yes, yes"--but then he thought of the trouble that would entail, and he said "But it takes time to get them out. You must be patient."
I met a few province chiefs and district chiefs; they were generally present at briefings in the field, but either through embarrassment over their lack of English or the American's impatience with their slowness, they did no briefing themselves. This is unwise. Whenever a military or civilian VIP travels through Vietnam, our people should make a point of having ARVN officers or civilian personnel take an active part in the briefing. Otherwise it is only an American show; and the war in Vietnam is not only an American show. I made a point of this to MACV.
Everyone I talked to rated the ARVN soldier as "good, if he is well led." Of course the problem is just that--honest and devoted leadership.
I heard many expressions of contempt for the Popular Forces and Regional Forces, the fellows who man the triangular French-style forts around the hamlets. But most of those expressions came from American military in Saigon. Our officers in the field, and our OCO civilians, gave them higher marks. The difference in judgment stems from a difference in concept: in Saigon the view is that the PF and RF should do more patrolling and ambushing; in the field, people are more inclined to admire these semi-trained men for staying in the forts at all, and to mark their successes in fights with the VC, rather than their failures.
Most of our chips in the pacification field are riding on the revolutionary development program. I had a good talk with General Thang, who runs it; he says he wants to quit, but Komer believes he can be talked out of it. I asked him if the problem was lack of support from Ky and Thieu. "The problem is not what they say," he said, in almost the same words Bunker had used, "but what they do."/3/
/3/See Document 189.
I spent a whole day at the RD training center in Vung Tau, with Major Nguyen Be, the director of the school and one of the fathers of the program. He is a charismatic figure. I liked him instinctively and I was surprised at the intensity of his convictions. He sees RD as truly revolutionary, as creating the basis for a popular democracy, and he fears the program will be blunted and perhaps destroyed "when those in the power structure learn what it is we are trying to do--give the people power." I had some sign of this from Thieu, who said "better educated and more patriotic people--Army people--ought to be put in charge of every RD team."
Over 55,000 cadre have been turned out of Vung Tau. How well they are doing is hard to say. They are supposed to move into hamlets in 59-man teams; the average size of the teams in place, however, is about 30. The rest just leave. Hamlet life is boring; the pay of a cadre is poor (3500 piastres a month, or $35) and the teams often run into Vietnam's endemic problem--corruption or lack of interest at the province level.
I saw teams in some hamlets that had made some forward movement, at least according to their charts. I heard of others where progress existed solely in the words of the team leader, and where nothing had changed. An American whose insights seemed right to me said, "Nothing can really work unless there is political change. RD has been tried before, under Diem; almost everything has been tried. But until there is a government in Saigon that can gain the people's trust, and make its will felt in the provinces, all of these schemes will break apart on the same old rocks: suspicion of the government, corrupt officials, lack of response by those in a position to help."
Still, Major Be and his instructors believe in the program, and they are working at it seven days a week. If the ARVN cooperate with the cadres, without dominating them--which in my opinion would distort the whole RD effort--RD can become the base on which a more secure and hopeful country can be built.
Fred Weyand, the fine general who is just getting this third star, said "Before I came out here a year and a half ago, I thought we were at zero. I was wrong. We were at minus fifty. Now we are at zero." That was my impression, on this first visit. I think we have created a vacuum, and pushed the VC out of a great many places they controlled. Now the question is, what's going to fill the vacuum?
It could be the VC; though they are hurt, I think they are still strong enough to do it. It could be us, with another 200,000 troops. But if it is us, what follows when we leave? This is a constant dilemma in Vietnam: how much to run the show, and run it well, as we can; how much to hang back and try to bring the government along, frustrating as that is. One day we must leave; but we cannot leave until the RVN is strong enough and respected enough to take our place as the controlling factor in Vietnam.
Today, most Vietnamese are politically inert. The common judgment is that not more than 10 to 20 percent of the people would voluntarily cast their lot with the VC. Another 20 percent would go with the RVN. That leaves 60 percent "don't knows." An astute young civilian who has lived in the Delta for the last three years, studying VC morale, says "If there were an election in this province, with one VC candidate, one RVN candidate, and one man who said to hell with both of them, the latter would win."
RVN must erase the image of its past behavior. Some officers and civilians are trying to do this, urged on by American advisors.
There must be visible and direct action against corruption. Today, complaints about corruption are quashed as they move up the line. There is an elaborate process of pay-offs that sees to this. People know this, and while they may endure it, they obviously will not give their loyalty to a system that perpetuates it. The most infuriating practice of all is that of arresting those who complain about corruption as "possible VC."
The supply of social services must be made more responsive. It takes forever to get action on urgent needs in the hamlets, and there is plenty of rake-off as the goods finally move down the line. Organization is one problem; I never understood how the ministry-corps commander-division commander-province chief-district chief system was supposed to work, and apparently it often just doesn't. It would seem useful to try to separate military and civil responsibilities, and perhaps to relieve the corps and division commanders of all purely civil responsibilities.
Security forces in the hamlets are still not strong enough, or aggressive enough. It is almost impossible for an American, living in our comfortable (if sometimes riot-torn) society, to understand what the problem of security is in Vietnam. You just can't go down that country road, although it looks peaceful. You can't spend the night in this area. You take off from a rice paddy with your .50-cal. gunners aiming at an impassive crowd of peasants standing on a dike. This PF outpost was overrun last week. (And that police check-point was annihilated in February; the VC went into the neighboring hamlet, and asked the people to identify the off-duty police living there. The people hated the police so much, because they had illegally charged them 100 piastres for every bag of rice they moved through the check-point, that they pointed them out at once, and the VC, playing heroes, executed them.)
Some RF and PF units are beginning to move out on patrol at night, where there is fire-power to back them up.
E. Specific politics
I have heard that Gene Locke and General Westmoreland are backing Ky. A number of American civilians, in OCO and the embassy, are convinced that the best president for Vietnam would be a civilian and a southerner. They are for Mr. Huong, a former prime minister and mayor of Saigon. He is in his sixties.
Ky told me Huong had said to him, "I can't win, and I hope you do. I am too old to get much done." Thieu said, "I am a candidate, but I hope Huong wins. We should have a civilian president." Thieu is not optimistic about his own candidacy.
Ky said "There will be a coup if a civilian wins and tries to negotiate with the VC or the North, or tries to form a coalition." Thieu said "If I were Chief of Staff or Defense Minister, I would take no part in a coup; I would be loyal to a civilian." (Looking at American military power around Saigon, it seemed clear to me that we could, if we chose, pretty well contain a coup involving ARVN military units.)
Ky said, "The problem I will face is keeping the vote from going too high." Apparently he meant that his friend Loan's enthusiasm--coupled with his power as police and security chief--might get the better of him and produce a 90 percent "mandate." Thieu said, "There must not be any police interference with the election."
I stressed the vital importance of fair elections with both men, saying that a corrupted outcome could undermine American support for the war and set the RVN back years in its efforts to gain public support. As expected, both agreed.
It seems to me that if Thieu remains in, and has not already made a deal with Huong, Ky will win in a simple plurality vote. But if Thieu throws his support to Huong, that would mean a new ball game. I believe we should play it loose for awhile. This is what Ellsworth Bunker appears to be doing.
F. The Viet Cong
Though they are in trouble in most areas, they can still operate in many villages throughout the country, using "terror and blandishment," as Robert Shaplen calls it. (His book, "The Lost Revolution," is the best work on Vietnam I have read, and I recommend it highly. It covers the 1945-1965 period.)/4/
/4/Robert Shaplen, The Lost Revolution: The U.S. in Vietnam, 1946-1966 (New York: Harper & Row, 1966).
Recruitment is more difficult; the VC are having to assure potential recruits that they will keep them in their home areas. More often than not they move them soon thereafter into regional or main force units, and this has created some of the dissatisfaction that has led many to become hoi chans./5/
/5/A reference to hoi chanh, or ralliers defecting from the Viet Cong by way of the government-sponsored Chieu Hoi (Open Arms) amnesty program.
Despite their losses, they command militant support among a number of villagers. I was told of an old woman, who, seeing her husband arrested as a VC and having already lost two sons with VC units, threw grenades after the RVN police as they left her hamlet.
The VC take every advantage of the hatred generated by RVN corruption, and by the absence of government services. At the same time, they have little to offer in a positive way; their basic appeal is to those who want to get rid of today's system and today's "colonialists"--Americans.
It sounds romantic to say so, but if I were a young peasant living in a hamlet, and had had none of my family hurt or killed by the VC; if I saw that the ridiculous Vietnamese educational system would almost certainly deny me the chance to go beyond the fifth grade; if I was frustrated by the lack of opportunity, and bored by the limited life of the hamlet; if I had no sense of commitment to today's South Vietnamese nation, because the Saigon government had given me no reason to have it; and if I were offered the possibility of adventure, of striking at my Frenchified oppressors and their American allies, and of rising to a position of leadership in the VC, I would join up.
This is only to say that some well-spring of idealism and romanticism is being reached by the Viet Cong, and that it will continue being reached until the government finds a way to tap it for itself. The RD teams, and the spirit of men like Major Be, are the most likely means of doing that; but as I have said, their spirit can be destroyed, just as other efforts have been destroyed in the past, by listless, negligent, or corrupt government officials.
I visited one Chieu-Hoi center. Accommodations were pretty crowded and facilities were few. There are stories of hoi chans being beaten, and frequent accounts of their being denied ID cards and work permits. Whatever the truth of these tales, they do illustrate the understandably divided emotions with which hoi chans are regarded by government forces.
The VC do not give up to U.S. forces in great numbers, although we scare a great many of them into turning themselves in to ARVN units. The language problem, and their fear of our terrific might, make it difficult for them to come to us. I don't know how effective our psy war operation is. MACV's people are infatuated with how many million leaflets they've dropped; someone suggested they would be more effective if they dropped them in their canisters. There is, I take it, much room for improvement in this part of our effort.
It is impossible to tell how many recruits the VC are now getting. The young civilian in the Delta said "Recently most young men around here have managed to dodge both the VC and the ARVN draft." MACV's figures are highly suspicious. Last year's figure was an extrapolation from captured records in 6 provinces out of 44. (The same can almost be said of ARVN and MACV's body counts, in my opinion; nobody seemed to know how many innocent bystanders, impressed baggage carriers and others had been included in the VC "body count." Some improvements in technique are being made in intelligence estimates, however, based on captured morning reports and order of battle documents. The whole business of VC strength, North Vietnamese infiltrators, etc. is a matter of intense controversy between our Army and the Air Force. It is in the latter's interest to show that strikes in the North and in Laos have sharply reduced the enemy's strength; and the Army just as stoutly holds to its figures that show a substantial rise in that strength even after two years of bombing.)
G. Other Free World Forces/6/
/6/Thai, Filipino, Australian, New Zealander, and South Korean troop units, plus a host of noncombatants from various other nations, served alongside American soldiers and ARVN in Vietnam. For the "More Flags" effort by the Johnson administration, see Stanley R. Larsen and James L. Collins, Jr., Allied Participation in Vietnam (Washington: Department of the Army, 1975).
I visited Philcag, and was stunned by the soldierly bearing of the Filipino soldiers./7/ They have an effective civic action effort, a med cap program, and they are building a large and decent refugee camp. Their commander, General Tobias,/8/ is a spit-and-polish tiger. I asked him if many of his men had fought the Huks./9/ He said, "Yes, but compared to the VC, the Huks were amateurs." He was not sanguine about chances of increasing Philcag's numbers in the near future.
/7/The Philippine Civic Action Group, 2,000-strong, was dispatched to the Republic of Vietnam during 1966 as part of the Free World Military Assistance program. Its primary base camp was in Tay Ninh Province. Medical teams operated in three other provinces. Documentation on the Filipino contribution to the war effort is in Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, volume XXVI.
/8/Brigadier General Gaudencio V. Tobias.
/9/The Hukbalahap were Communist-inspired insurgents in the Philippines.
I visited both the ROK marines and the ROK Tiger division./10/ God, they are a tough bunch. They have a method of seal-and-search that is the epitome of war psychology; it is slow, harrowing, and effective. Some of our civilians feel they have created as many problems as they've solved, that they are too brutal and careless of civilian life. I can't judge the merits of this. I only know I hope I never meet one in a rice paddy some night without the right set of credentials.
/10/The official name of the Tiger division, stationed in Binh Dinh Province, was the Capital Division.
I paid a brief visit to an Australian unit. The CO, a colonel of supply, said he thought the Australians were too cautious; they did not patrol widely, or invite attacks; he thought their effectiveness was being diminished by their conservatism. He suggested that this had political causes, as the home government didn't want to see a big casualty list.
Our firepower is unbelievable. But so, too, are the bunker fortifications of the VC. I prowled around one in a forest north of the 1st Division area, and it was like an underground garage. In the Ho Bo and Boi Loi woods, in the 25th Division area,/11/ we used B-52s to blow enormous craters all over the place, but our soldiers still had a terrific time cleaning out the VC who remained. We still have few answers to booby-traps and mines. The VC are ingenious in setting them, and they take a fearful toll of civilian lives.
/11/The U.S. Army's 25th Division was headquartered at Cu Chi. It operated principally in Hau Nghia and Long An Provinces. For information on the war in this area, see Eric Bergerud, The Dynamics of Defeat: The Vietnam War in Hau Nghia Province (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1991); Thomas C. Thayer, War Without Fronts: The American Experience in Vietnam (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1985); and Jeffrey Race, War Comes to Long An (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973).
The "war zone"/12/ question is a tough one. Some commanders think it is no question at all; you simply move everybody out and then you sweep the place as if it were the Benning battery range. Others believe, as I do, that you create tough political problems when you move people against their will, and that in the absence of special circumstances, it is better to go through the difficult business of trying to root out the VC from among the innocent farmers. I heard Senator Russell/13/ say something to this effect the other night--that you always create problems when you move people away from their homes, particularly in Asia, where ancestor worship is the rule.
/12/Fortified Viet Cong base complexes, often near population centers.
/13/Senator Richard Russell (D-GA).
[Here follows McPherson's continued discussion of military tactics, the outlook of Air Force personnel, images of servicemen in the field, and general comments on personnel, including a description of Robert Komer as "the hope" of many officers and civilians in Vietnam.]
I come back neither optimistic nor pessimistic, neither more hawk nor more dove. We are simply there, and we should be.
I had to laugh each time I thought of Fulbright's phrase "the arrogance of power."/14/ I'm sure it applied, and may still apply, to some Americans in Vietnam, who thought we could bring this conflict to an end by the sheer force of military power and the sheer weight of our assistance programs. But when I think of the American major sitting in his fly-specked office in Gia Dinh province, wondering how to get his Vietnamese advisee to do something intelligent for a change, "arrogance of power" makes me laugh. Our people in Vietnam know, so much more intimately and painfully than Senator Fulbright knows, what the limitations of power are.
/14/In the spring, Senator J. William Fulbright (D-AK) published a critical account of U.S. foreign policy, The Arrogance of Power (New York: Random House, 1967).
I wish there were some new way to convey the reality of Vietnam: some vivid way to say how inter-twined all the strands are, political, military, social, economic, educational, racial, nationalistic. Any one of them can snarl up, or support, any one of the others.
If our effort is only military, we will lose the big prize. We can have, and indeed have now, a kind of enclave-plus-strike force capability. We can line the roads between the enclaves with soldiers, and in that way "secure" them.
But security in Vietnam, freedom from that feeling that you are in somebody's sights, will ultimately have to be won by something more than military means alone. Leadership at the top, and the political and economic stimulation of the masses of poor who live in the rural areas, are just as important to security as live ammunition. That is a platitude back here in Washington. It is as much a reality in Vietnam as the beauty of the women.
One thing you must always insist on is honest reporting by your own people. You must put a premium on candor, and a pox on what is only meant to make you, and other leaders at home, feel confident. General Harkins/15/ destroyed himself by his unfounded and misleading optimism. There is a natural tendency in the military to feel that things are going pretty well, and will go much better if we only have a few more bodies and bombs. I am not competent to pass on the more-troops question, but I think every eye that passes on it should be somewhat wary of the hungry optimism that is a part of the military personality.
/15/Westmoreland replaced General Paul D. Harkins as Commander, MACV, on June 20, 1964.
Every aspect of our national life and our role in the world is involved in Vietnam. I feel that I am only another of those many men who have a part of their souls at stake there.
198. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/
Saigon, June 14, 1967, 1230Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Received at 10:33 a.m. and passed to the White House. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD.
28090. Ref: State 210835/2/ and 210584./3/
/2/In telegram 210835 to Saigon, June 13, the Department informed Bunker of a conversation among Bundy, Habib, and Diem. Bunker was urged to arrange a substantive meeting between Thieu and Ky in order to resolve the problem of two military candidates. (Ibid.)
1. I had a meeting of approximately one hour with Prime Minister Ky the afternoon of June 14 and I expect to see General Thieu later this evening.
2. I told the Prime Minister I had three main questions that I wished to raise with him. I said that we had seen increasing signs of arbitrary censorship in the press and other restrictions which might limit the capabilities of candidates to express their views on an equitable basis during the election campaign. I recognized that there were genuine national security reasons for censorship in wartime, but in recent weeks the censorship had been far broader than this and appeared to be directed against the statements of candidates and other matters connected with the elections. I noted in particular that the chief of state's own remarks on these subjects had even been censored out of the local press. I told Ky I thought it was vital that on this question, as on other matters related to the elections, an impression not be created that arbitrary and repressive measures were being used. I added that the foreign press was already becoming aware of this situation and that we had even had indications of concern from Congressmen and other circles in the U.S. I said I was sure that he would appreciate what a difficult situation would arise if these measures reached such proportions as to bring into question his government's intentions regarding fair elections.
3. Ky acknowledged that there had been some overly enthusiastic steps taken by the censors but said that we had to understand that in this country the press, whether overt or clandestine, would engage in unlimited character assassination if they were not restrained and this would inevitably have an unstabilizing effect on the political situation. He said that it was not like the U.S. and we had to understand this. He then went on to say, however, that he realized censorship of matters relating to candidates and the elections campaign had to be fairly administered. He said that he already had someone from General Thieu's press staff in the censorship office and it was his intention to have each of the candidates assign a representative to this office to make decisions regarding censorship. I also raised with Ky the reports we had had that requests for establishment of new newspapers by candidates were being refused. Ky said that he did indeed not intend to allow any more newspapers to be established, that this had been government policy for the last two years, noting that there were 27 already in Saigon and that there were plenty of opportunities for the candidates to use existing newspapers.
4. I then told Ky that I had also been greatly disturbed by other reports indicating that measures were being taken by his supporters to use questionable tactics and pressure to assure his election. He reiterated that the U.S., with all its investment here in men and money, could not tolerate the use of measures which would make a fair vote impossible. I cited specifically recent reports we had had that General Loan and his men were bringing pressure through police and military security circles to assure that the necessary vote was obtained for Ky's ticket or to remove officials who did not cooperate. Ky did not deny specifically that General Loan had been engaged in such pressure but said he had cautioned Loan as a friend and loyal supporter.
5. I said that the third subject I wished to raise was a matter we had discussed before, namely, our deep concern for the unity of the armed forces and the stability of the country. I recalled his earlier statement to me and to Ambassador Bui Diem that he would discuss privately with General Thieu the matter of two military candidates and try to work out a satisfactory arrangement that would not risk splitting the armed forces. I observed that no such talk had apparently been held and that the problem seemed no nearer solution. I said both he and General Thieu had given assurances to the President at Guam that there would be no split in the military and both had renewed these assurances to me repeatedly since that time. It now appeared likely, however, that there would be in fact two military candidates and that despite General Vien's statement that the armed forces would not take part in politics, the reality was that this situation would inevitably have a deep effect on military unity. I pointed out that inevitably there would be supporters for both him and Thieu within the ranks of the armed forces and that this could only have a divisive effect which would impede the vital war role that the Vietnamese armed forces must play. I underlined the extremely serious effect political squabbles among the military here would have on U.S. public opinion and support at a time when our losses were heavy and the outcome of the war was unsettled. I asked Ky what he planned to do about trying to resolve this problem with Thieu before it was too late.
6. Ky said that the matter was giving him some concern also. At his meeting with the four corps commanders and certain of the military members of the Directorate at Qui Nhon on June 12, the corps commanders reported that there was beginning to be political talk among the junior officers. He instructed them to tell the officers to keep clear of politics and get back to fighting the war and impressed upon them the necessity for not allowing the political campaign to split the army. I said that this was praiseworthy but did not resolve the problem. Ky then remarked that he had in fact been trying to arrange a private talk with Thieu, but the latter had not responded. He said he would try once again to arrange this as soon as possible and would sincerely try to work out a solution that was acceptable and that would avoid a serious split in the armed forces. I said I hoped he would succeed in this important effort and commented that there was surely a role for both of them in the future government of Viet-Nam. They had worked together closely and effectively for two years and should be able to continue to work for the good of the country.
7. In discussing this entire question of the elections and the government which would emerge from it, I told Ky of my strong conviction that the end result must be a strengthening of the country through a broadly-based government comprising unity of the military and cooperation between the civilian and military elements. I said I had been encouraged by the reports of the understanding reached between Ky and Huong regarding use of each other's services, whichever one might win the election. I thought that was a vital principle which should be encouraged for all the candidates. I would also like to see a statement by all candidates that they would accept the verdict of the electorate and would support whatever government emerged as a result of fair and free elections. Ky confirmed that he had reached such an understanding with Huong and concluded with the statement that he understood that what was needed as the final result of the constitutional process was not a strong man but a strong regime.
199. Memorandum From the Deputy for Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development (Komer) to the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Westmoreland)/1/
Saigon, June 14, 1967.
/1/Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Colby Files, Job 80-M01009A, Vietnam Phoenix/Pacification. Secret; Eyes Only.
I've been pressing a new concept for attack on infrastructure in hopes of selling it before our visitors arrive. It is based on a long background of my own study and analysis back in Washington. CORDS, J-2, and OSA have reviewed it and buy the concept, though many personnel and other details will have to be worked out.
The concept is frankly experimental, but it costs us little to experiment. We have no place to go but up. It is essentially a management structure extending right down to district level. Added personnel needs will be minimal at the outset, and probably available in theater.
The new organization gives OSA a key managerial role, but with full J-2 participation at all levels. I think this sound, because anti-
infrastructure intelligence and operations are primarily a police-type matter, and OSA has extensive expertise. Also, I envisage PRU and NPFF as chief exploitation arms. Thus, on the principle of choosing the best "project manager," I chose OSA. But at each level the operation will come under the relevant commander.
There is some concern lest we be setting up two intelligence chains, one for tactical intelligence and another for anti-infrastructure. However, I strongly favor this from a management viewpoint, because the necessary and vital concentration of military intelligence assets (ARVN and US) on tactical needs has partly been at the expense of anti-infrastructure. Moreover, the duplication is so minimal as to be inconsequential.
I intend to personally monitor and if necessary manage this experiment. But I don't want to start till I'm sure I'm on all fours with you.
R. W. Komer/2/
/2/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
Memorandum From the Deputy for Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development (Komer) to the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Westmoreland)
Saigon, June 14, 1967.
1. Purpose: To outline an improved organization for attack on VC infrastructure.
a. AB-142, the Combined Campaign Plan, highlights destruction of the VC infrastructure as a necessary component of revolutionary development.
b. MRD and supporting US documents describing concepts for revolutionary development also focus on destruction of the VC infrastructure as a basic task.
c. RD teams are instructed to "root out the VC infrastructure".
d. You have recently emphasized, on several occasions, the need for a better approach to this key problem area.
e. Nevertheless, an integrated, organized attack on the VC infrastructure has not been mounted countrywide.
f. In contrast to the greatly improved tactical intelligence which has materially aided anti-main force operations, results against the infrastructure leave much to be desired. CT 4, organized as part of Operation Fairfax, has pulled together at a high level and for a limited area most of the anti-infrastructure intelligence organizations. But overall results against the infrastructure--considering the length of the operation and size of the troop commitment--have been limited.
g. Attack on the infrastructure is not strictly an intelligence problem, but must include exploitation as well. While many units and agencies--US and GVN--are at least partially involved in the attack on infrastructure, there is as yet only piecemeal coordination particularly at the local level. For example, there are only a few District Operational Intelligence Coordination Centers--modeled on the Dien Ban experiment. Nor is there adequate tie-in between intelligence gathering and exploitation.
h. Because rooting out the infrastructure is an essential element of the pacification process, I propose to make it part of Project Takeoff and to monitor it personally. In my judgment, attack on the infrastructure is--in both its intelligence and exploitation aspects--primarily a police-type measure (see Annex 5 of basic study)./3/ The GVN agency with the greatest intelligence capability in this field seems to be the NP Special Branch, supported by OSA, and the exploitation assets best suited in the PRV and later a revamped NPFF.
/3/Tabs A-E and Annexes 1-5 are attached but not printed.
i. Therefore, I had CIA in Washington do a study for me on how to mount a more effective attack on VC infrastructure, especially at the critical district and province levels. I have since personally revised the study with CORDS and OSA help. It is at Tab E.
j. A sustained, effective attack on VC infrastructure requires primarily better management of already substantial GVN/US resources, i.e. pulling together the multiplicity of US and GVN agencies already partly in the business. It must be a combined civil/military effort, primarily GVN in character, but with US civil/military assets in an energizing and advisory role. With the Mission reorganization, such joint US action is now more feasible than before.
k. What is chiefly needed is: (1) a joint management structure extending from Saigon down to district--first on a "US-only" basis and then with full GVN participation; (2) a "program manager" at each level to insure coordinated action; (3) use of MACV's excellent ADP system to provide up-to-date target lists to the provinces and districts and to monitor performance; (4) machinery to assign these targets to appropriate exploitation assets at each field level. The organizational concept proposed to meet these requirements conforms to the new CORDS structure at each level and to the new integrated chain of command (Tab A). It is essentially a unified management structure targeted specifically on infrastructure, but building on existing assets and organizations.
l. While the agencies and personnel concerned must be predominantly Vietnamese, US personnel must play the vital catalytic role. Experience has shown that a small number of US "advisors" in key positions can energize much larger GVN operations. By using existing OSA and MI personnel, added US personnel requirements can be held to a bare minimum of around 164, most of whom are probably available in theater (Tab B).
m. The operational concept at the cutting edge is analogous to a "rifle shot" rather than a "shotgun" approach. Instead of cordon and search operations, it will stress quick reaction operations aimed at individual cadre or at most small groups. Cutting off the heads of the infrastructure at local levels will tend to degrade the whole structure. A three-phase plan for putting the above concepts into operation is essential. First concept approval should be obtained. Next the US side should be developed. Then the plan should be presented to the appropriate GVN agencies (Tab C).
o. MACV Staff concurs in importance of revitalized attack on the infrastructure and in the general concept outlined herein, though it requests more detailed study of the modest added personnel required (164 in all--most of whom I believe are already programmed or could be reprogrammed from in-country resources) and of the intermediate level ICEX organization.
a. As Deputy for CORDS I approve this concept in substance, but wish to see if you have any objections.
b. Provided you see none, I will convene the proposed Saigon-level ICEX Committee, under my chairmanship, to review and submit firm requirements for personnel, intermediate structure, and time-phased plans for implementation.
c. I further propose to inform Ambassador Bunker by letter of the action taken. I do not believe that we need his formal concurrence, though I am confident he will have no objection.
R. W. Komer/4/
/4/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
200. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/
Saigon, June 14, 1967, 1335Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Nodis. Received at 10:58 a.m. This telegram is printed in full in Pike, The Bunker Papers, pp. 45-51.
28095. For the President from Bunker. Herewith my seventh weekly telegram:
1. General Westmoreland has submitted to me the report which I have requested on programs for reorientation of the mission of the Vietnamese armed forces and improvement in their quality and performance./2/ The report together with his recommendations covering not only activities already underway but also proposals for further actions looking to both the immediate and longer term is comprehensive and thorough. It is worthy of and will require careful study and I hope that we shall have an opportunity to go over it in some detail during Secretary McNamara's visit. Among the important matters treated in detail are:
/2/See footnote 2, Document 192.
A) Improving the leadership and enhancing the personnel effectiveness of the ARVN/RF/PF through such things as improvement in the awarding of commissions and promotions, selective procedures, training of officer candidates, the introduction of an effective personnel management and accounting system, tightening up on discipline, improvement in the treatment of veterans in order to clear the rolls of those incapable of further active duty and an expanded advisory effort to support properly the revolutionary development program;
B) To improve motivation and morale through more equitable pay scales, improvement in rations, and revitalization of the dependent housing program;
C) Improvement in the command structure and equipment of the regional popular forces and a revised motivation and indoctrination program to reflect the role of the PF soldier in revolutionary development;
D) A comprehensive training effort to improve intelligence and reconnaissance operations and to improve the combat effectiveness of battalions; training of ARVN/RF/PF for support of revolutionary development particularly in providing security and support to the civil population;
E) Experimentation with various forms of integrated US/RVNAF operations such as the combined action concept (CAC) initiated by the U.S. Marine Corps; a "buddy system" in which a U.S. Army battalion is paired off with an ARVN battalion all the way down to squad level; a system in which an ARVN company is attached to a U.S. Army battalion; and "combined lightning teams" in which a U.S. squad and an ARVN squad will pair with a popular force platoon. The intent of all these operations is to raise the level of training and effectiveness of the ARVN/RF/PF units and to practice the principle of economy of force for the U.S. units. As a result of these experiments it is contemplated that a basic concept for integrated operations will be prepared and put into effect.
F) Institution of quarterly reviews at which time progress is measured against objectives, problems discovered and decisions taken. First of these reviews was held last month.
2. I have mentioned only a very few highlights among literally hundreds of actions underway to improve the performance of ARVN/RF/PF bearing on both the immediate present and the longer term. While there is still a long way to go particularly with the regional and popular forces the payoff of these many improved programs is already being felt in many areas.
A) The number of desertions has dropped to a little over one-third of what it was a year ago.
B) The number of missing in action has dropped to one-half of what it was in early 1966.
C) The trend of weapons lost has been reversed. In early 1966 ARVN/RF/PF lost more than twice the number captured. The ratio is now the exact opposite.
D) In large unit operations ARVN is making more enemy contacts although fewer total operations are run.
E) In small unit operations the ARVN/RF/PF rate of enemy contacts has risen by thirty percent. These are encouraging signs although much remains to be done.
3. The Thieu-Ky situation is still unresolved in spite of the efforts of Ambassador Bui Diem and Foreign Minister Tran Van Do. Despite Ky's assertion both to Ambassador Bui Diem and to me that he would talk with Thieu and endeavor to reach an understanding, he has made only half-hearted attempts to do so and the two have had no meaningful talks. I have appointments today to see both Thieu and Ky. I shall stress to both of them our continuing concern at the prospects of candidacies which could divide the military and threaten national unity as a whole. Although both have asserted in their talks with me that their two candidacies will not divide the military and that General Vien, the Minister of Defense and Chief of Staff, is determined to keep the armed forces aloof from politics and the Presidential campaign I do not accept these statements at face value. I shall press Ky to talk with Thieu promptly to see if a basis still exists for cooperation between them. I intend to indicate again to both, as I have previously, that U.S. national interests can not permit the vital constitutional development in Viet-Nam to be threatened by personal ambitions or rivalry, or by measures to undermine the electoral process. In connection with the electoral process there have been some disturbing developments in regard to the exercise of censorship and arbitrary press control. Equally disturbing are reports on some of General Loan's activities which would require national police and national security chiefs in the provinces to support Ky actively in such a way as to assure his election. I intend to impress on Ky again the absolute importance, in his own interest as well as ours, of seeing to it that the elections are fair and free.
[Here follows discussion of Bui Diem's efforts to mediate the Thieu-Ky rivalry, Ky's campaign tactics, election laws, hamlet chief elections, VC repatriation, economic matters, Chieu Hoi, casualties, and the upcoming visit of Secretary of Defense McNamara and Under Secretary of State Katzenbach.]
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