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 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Office of the Historian > Foreign Relations of the United States > Kennedy Administration > Volume III
Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, Volume III, Vietnam, January-August 1963
Released by the Office of the Historian

II. Increasing Tensions Between the United States and South Vietnam, March 15-May 8, 1963:
Reaction to the Mansfield Report, the "Press Problem," the Number and Role of U.S. Advisers in Vietnam, Differences Over the Joint Counterinsurgency Fund

60. Memorandum From the Counselor and Public Affairs Officer of the Embassy in Vietnam (Mecklin) to the Public Affairs Adviser in the Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs (Manell)/1/

Washington, March 15,1963.

/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 306, USIA/IOP/R Files: FRC 68 A 1415, Vietnam-General & Personnel. Secret. Also sent to Manning and Bunce in USIA.

Saigon Reaction to Mansfield

Further to Governor Harriman's request, here are my recollections of the reaction in Saigon to Senator Mansfield's recent report on his visit to Southeast Asia./2/ I assume you will pass them on to the Governor if appropriate.

/2/See Documents 42 and 43.

As you know, there was a considerable difference between the tone and content of the initial U.S. news agency stories and of the report itself. As is, unhappily, so often the case, the news stories accented its negative comment on the Diem regime.

Reactions thus came in two parts: dismay initially, a degree of reassurance when the full text of the report arrived. As far as I know, neither the U.S. Mission nor the GVN was given an advance copy of the report. If this had been done, some of the damage inflicted by incomplete press dispatches could have been averted. It would be useful to distribute advance copies to the parties concerned in future release of papers of this sort.

There was no coverage at all of the report in the Vietnamese press, and thus no editorial comment. This in itself is significant, in my opinion, of a rather chastened mood (however privately bitter) inside the GVN as a result of such recent reminders of sensitive U.S. public opinion as the press uproar over Ap Bac and Secretary Rusk's public criticism of the lack of adequate facilities for newsmen in Viet-Nam. In previous cases of this sort, the GVN often has printed severe foreign criticism in its controlled press, in order later to counter-attack. There was a CAS report/3/ that one group inside the GVN wanted to use this technique on Mansfield, but was overruled by the palace.

/3/Not found.

Similarly, the Mission feared that Mme. Nhu would be stirred to attack the U.S. in her speech on Truong Sisters Day (the national women's festival) which happened to come a few days after the Mansfield paper was released. Ambassador Nolting strongly advised the GVN against permitting her to do this, and in fact warned that he would walk out of the ceremony if she persisted, thus precipitating an ugly, open issue. The speech contained some unpleasant comment on foreign critics, but there were no names and in general it was moderate by comparison with some of her past explosions.

As of my departure from Saigon on March 5, there had been no further GVN public comment that could be related to Mansfield. This clearly seemed to be a hard policy decision since GVN sources had also refrained even from private, anonymous comment to foreign newsmen.

To a lesser degree, this was also true of official GVN comment to the U.S. Mission (as of March 5). I happened to have applied for a meeting with Ngo Dinh Nhu a fortnight earlier to discuss plans for the projected Chieu Hoi (call to return) program to encourage Communist defections. On the morning after the Mansfield report was released, Nhu called me to the palace to talk Chieu Hoi. It was quickly evident that what he really wanted to discuss was Mansfield--but he was relatively guarded, again I think reflecting a GVN decision not to engage in polemics with the U.S. at this point.

Nhu's main point was that the Mansfield report would hurt the Chieu Hoi effort because it suggested flagging U.S. support and thus would influence possible VC defectors to postpone action (which seemed a bit incongruous in view of his repeated previous statements that the U.S. presence should be downplayed). At one point he called the report "treachery'' and he remarked rather enigmatically that "it changes everything,'' declining my invitation to elaborate. He listened somewhat absently and wearily as I remarked that the report was not U.S. Government policy (which I think he doubted, on the assumption that it could not have been released without the President's approval) and that nothing should be permitted to weaken the existing close U.S. working relations with the GVN in Viet-Nam. Altogether Nhu gave an impression of weary frustration with what he considers U.S. vagaries-or worse. He definitely was not as angry as on some previous occasions, but there seemed little doubt that the report would add to U.S. difficulties in working with him. (Nhu commented similarly to CAS, including, I believe, an unhappy reference to Mansfield's praise for Sihanouk, whom Nhu detests.)

A few days later, President Diem called me to the palace to express regrets about my departure for Washington. He talked for 2-1/2 hours, mostly about military operations, and mentioned the Mansfield report only once. This was a parenthetical remark that such foreign talk as this encourages the Communists to make a greater effort. He said it possibly would lead to new Communist infiltration to try to exploit the report's "demoralizing'' impact in South Viet-Nam. He did not pursue the subject further and plainly wanted no comment from me. He was otherwise friendly and apparently unperturbed.

I can't recall that my lower-level GVN friends volunteered any reaction at all to the report. When I asked Phan Van Tao, Director General of Information, what he thought, the reply was a grimace and shrug, again tending to confirm my theory of a policy directive to clam up. But there was no doubt that the GVN was shaken by the initial press treatment of the report, coming as it did on top of a wave of other criticisms. On the basis of my personal knowledge of the notable personality complexities of the Ngo Dinh family, it may be speculated that this kind of suppressed bitterness could turn out to be more consequential to our relations with the GVN than a public explosion.

The full text of the Mansfield report had just arrived when I left Saigon. The immediate result was relaxation, as it was seen that Mansfield urged continuation of the U.S. effort at its present level. The longer term impact remains to be seen, but it may be useful to register some personal speculation.

It is close to axiomatic that the Ngo Dinhs are seldom "persuaded'' in the Western sense, by logical U.S. arguments. Nhu, for example, has said repeatedly that Americans don't "understand'' Asians, Communism, or much of anything else on the intellectual level. Where the GVN has acceded to U.S. wishes, as it frequently does, and often gracefully, I think the main reason has been a realistic acceptance of the political imperative to get along with the U.S., not because our arguments were compelling-however much the results may have subsequently confirmed them. This, I think, is why very few of our agreements with the GVN had materialized except when the U.S. brought direct, specific pressure. It is characteristic of the Ngo Dinhs [less than 1 line not declassified] that they usually come to claim as their own successful actions that were initially urged by foreign advisers, e.g. the strategic hamlet program which grew in large measure from the Thompson Mission.

Thus, I don't think the Mansfield paper will have much effect, in itself, on GVN performance, i.e., its suggestions for specific actions will not be persuasive. On the contrary, I think Diem and the Nhus will resent the outrageous claim of a foreigner to the right to discuss internal Vietnamese affairs, and this in turn will exacerbate their existing emotional attitudes toward the U.S. These, however, were already richly developed.

But politically I think it may turn out that Mansfield's report will be beneficial to the U.S. interest at the Saigon operating level. We have lately been approaching a showdown in our dealings with the GVN in some areas, e.g., the recent prolonged dispute about a GVN piaster appropriation for the strategic hamlets. Within limits, the Mission has almost literally been doing what our press critics have so long urged: "getting tough with Diem.'' This, I think, has combined with the

recent stateside public splashes on Viet-Nam to create the psychological state of suppressed bitterness mentioned above. In effect, what's happening is that the Ngo Dinhs' (especially Nhu's) dislike and suspicions of the U.S. are hardening, and presumably will make trouble for us at some future date as the Communist threat declines. But at the same time the GVN seems to have decided realistically, on the political level, to go along with us at the pressure points, as indicated by its eventual surrender on the piaster issue.

It is certainly debatable whether this is a desirable state of affairs in relations with an ally, but experience indicates that in the case of the GVN it may be the only way to get urgently essential things done. If this is to continue, incidentally, it is important that this changing relationship not be leaked to the press, or hinted in any way in official U.S. public statements. News stories with gloating headlines, e.g., "Diem at last heeding U.S. advice,'' would so anger the Vietnamese that emotion might once again prevail over the GVN's political judgments. (Which in itself is a glimpse of our dilemma in dealing with the U.S. press, since, of course, stories of this sort would strengthen support for U.S. policy in Viet-Nam.)

Within this framework, I think the Mansfield report will be helpful to the Mission in Saigon, at least indirectly, in reinforcing our repeated appeals for better cooperation on grounds of the sensitivity of U.S. public opinion. The GVN has long been particularly alert to Mansfield, first because of his early support for Diem, and later because of the disillusion he revealed in his speech at Michigan State in the summer of 1962./4/ It would be surprising indeed if the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington is not reporting that such doubts by a man in Mansfield's key political position indicate a real possibility of a change in U.S. policy. In other words, paradoxically, we may have arrived at the point where negative criticism of the GVN is almost as useful in the present circumstances in Saigon as it is damaging to the Administration's defense of its policy at home.

/4/See Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. II, Document 214.

It follows, however, that if this is the case, we are in a perilous situation. We certainly can't live on paradoxes indefinitely. Altogether I think the Mansfield report's political and psychological impact, both here and in Saigon, tends to confirm its main point: that it is essential for the U.S. and the GVN to strive more vigorously than ever to turn the struggle decisively against the Communists, as quickly as possible-before the Western political deterioration that Ho Chi Minh has predicted begins indeed to set in.

John M. Mecklin/5/

/5/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.


61. Letter From the Ambassador in Vietnam (Nolting) to Secretary of State at the Presidency and Assistant Secretary of State for National Defense Thuan/1/

Saigon, March 18, 1963.

/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 84, Saigon Embassy Files: FRC 67 A 677, 350 GVN Task Force (Econ). Confidential. Drafted by Solomon Silver of USOM. Transmitted to Washington in Toaid A-2874.

Dear Mr. Secretary: I refer to Mr. Brent's letter of January 14, 1963,/2/ and to our subsequent conversations on the subject of a piaster fund to finance the local currency component of the jointly agreed priority economic program. The high priority accorded the strategic hamlet program and the total counterinsurgency effort by both our governments, in addition to the recognized need for adopting procedures of implementing such programs in an extraordinary and expeditious manner compatible with the extraordinary demands of counterinsurgency, are the factors prompting the proposal to establish a new fund.

/2/Not found.

Mr. Brent's letter communicated to you a proposal worked out at the staff level in broad terms. These proposals are elaborated below in more specific terms which I hope you will find acceptable on behalf of the Government of Viet-Nam. The proposal consists briefly of the following points:

I. Total Requirements

At the staff level, a total piaster requirement for the economic program has been agreed to on the order of 2.3 billion piasters. The Directorate General of Budget and Foreign Aid and USOM have been: working on the details of this program, and while they have not reached agreement on all details, the differences are small enough that it has become, I am sure, a relatively minor problem. The breakdown of this requirement, prepared by the USOM, is attached for your convenience.

II. Sources of Financing

Sources of financing for the Fund in 1963 would be (a) the unexpended balance of "purchased'' piasters (approximately 635 million as of January 1, 1963); (b) the unobligated balance of 1962 counterpart (approximately 200 million piasters as of January 1, 1963); (c) all newly generated counterpart not committed by agreement to the military budget; (d) other GVN piasters, including VN$300 million "earmarked'' in the National Budget for counterinsurgency, VN$100 million from the Lottery, and additional amounts as required to make up the deficiency between the total agreed program, on the one hand, and the total of (a), (b), and (c) on the other.

III. The Fund

It is proposed that a piaster Fund for the agreed program be established (a special "compte hors budget''), upon signature of a Fund Agreement. The Fund Agreement would provide principally for the following:

(a) The deposit in the Fund of the unexpended balance of the $10 million "piaster purchase.'' From the moment of such deposit the piasters would be subject to the procedures applicable to all releases from the Fund.

(b) The deposit in the Fund of all counterpart piasters not already obligated and not otherwise committed by joint agreement to the military budget.

(c) The deposit into the Fund of the Government of Viet-Nam's contributions including, but not limited to, the 300 million piasters earmarked in the 1963 budget for strategic hamlets and 100 million piasters from Lottery receipts.

(d) In the case of U.S. purchased piasters and unencumbered counterpart piasters, the deposits would be made initially upon establishment of the Fund. In the case of additional GVN contributions, deposits would be made in such a manner as to insure adequate financial resources to cover obligations contained in Action Plan Piaster Agreements or Project Agreements. In order to facilitate expeditious preparation of such agreements, the total of deposits to the tuna from all sources would not be less than 1.5 billion piasters by June 30, 1963 and 2.0 billion piasters by September 30, 1963.

(e) The Fund would be managed by the Director General of Budget and Foreign Aid, and obligations against it would be accomplished by Action Plan Piaster Agreements and Project Agreements signed by him on behalf of the Government of Viet-Nam and by the Director of USOM on behalf of the United States Government

IV. Implementing Agreements

(a) With respect to Action Plan Piaster Agreements in which responsibility for administration rests primarily with the province chief (with the assistance of the province committee), the development of specific requirements and budgets would continue to arise from hamlet, village, district and province requests, which would be screened, as is now the case, by the Interministerial Committee on Province Rehabilitation, on the one hand, and by the U.S. Interagency Committee or USOM, on the other hand. It would then be signed by, in addition to the two signatories noted in III (e) above, the province chief concerned, and by the head of the Secretariat of the Interministerial Committee.

(b) With respect to agreements for which the primary responsibility for direction and administration resides with a GVN national agency or any other agreements to be financed from the Fund, such agreements would be signed by the head of the appropriate agency, as well as by the Director General of Budget and Foreign Aid and the Director of USOM.

V. Expenditures

As there are at this time two distinct types of operation-expenditures made at the province level and those made by national agencies or departments--I propose the following procedures appropriate to each:

(a) For expenditures made at the province level, the procedures now in use for U.S. "piaster purchase' release agreements would be used. This procedure involves the establishing of a fund at the province level which is initially funded for only a relatively small portion of the total agreed expenditures, and is then replenished as required by expenditures under the approved plan.

(b) For plans administered by national agencies, procedures similar to those now used for such expenditures would be employed. It has been agreed by our staffs that some improvements in these procedures might be effected on the occasion of the establishment of this Fund.

In conclusion, it should be pointed out that we recognize that the extent of the liability of the GVN for this fund is not a fixed one. We cannot predict precisely the amount of counterpart that will become available for this purpose. There is no way this can be determined in advance very definitely, since commercial import program licensing rates and military budget requirements are factors in the equation.

It is proposed, however, that in view of the high priority accorded by both our governments to the counterinsurgency effort, that the Government of Viet-Nam agree to provide from its own resources whatever funds are necessary to augment previously identified contributions to the fund to the extent necessary to fully fund an agreed 1963 expenditure program of approximately 2.3 billion piasters. And it is noted that the GVN's contribution to the Fund from non-aid generated sources would not exceed as a maximum, 1.4 billion piasters (including the 300 million and 100 million piasters referred to in II (d) above) even in the event that newly generated counterpart piasters available to the Fund in 1963 were zero. This assumes the contribution in excess of 200 million unencumbered 1962 counterpart piasters and 635 million purchased piasters. The actual GVN contribution might, of course, be less.

If this proposal is agreeable to your government, I would appreciate your concurrence. This would then permit our respective staffs to undertake the establishment of the fund and implementation of the program./3/

/3/In telegram 821 from Saigon, March 19, Ambassador Nolting reported that he gave this letter to Thuan on March 18: "Thuan promised prompt response and said that he did not anticipate any difficulties''. (Department of State, Central Files, AID(US) S VIET) The source text is a copy of the letter sent to Thuan and contains no indication of his response.

Accept, Excellency, the renewed assurances of my highest consideration./4/

/4/The source text bears no signature.




/5/Confidential. Prepared in the Embassy in Saigon.

Note: Figures shown were developed by USOM in December, 1963 [1962] during DCBFA/USOM staff talks. A number of modifications will be necessary when final agreement on the program is worked out, following establishment of the Fund.

Total Program (piasters millions) -- 2,325

A. Activities Directly Affecting Strategic Hamlets -- 1,330

1. Province Administered -- 1,200

S.H. Construction, Civic Action Teams
Hamlet Militia
Training Hamlet Councils
Hamlet Schools
Village/District Works
Fishboat Motors, Facilities

VC Rehabilitation, Resettlement
Emergency Relief
Miscellaneous and Contingency
Montagnards Plans

2. Administered by National Agencies -- 130

Well Digging
Rural Info. Media
Plant Protection
Village/Hamlet Radios
Identification (Teenage Photographs)
Village Health

B. Activities Supporting the Above (Administered by National Agencies) -- 330

Farm Improvement
Credit and Coops
Land Development
Rural Trade Schools
Public Health (Province Level)
Malaria Eradication
Operations Support

C. Support of Infrastructure for War Economy -- 390

Municipal Water Supply
Electric Power
Inland Waterways
Air Traffic Control

National Information Programs
National Radio Network
National Instructional Materials
Nursing Services
National Public Safety Services

D. Long Range Economic Development -- 85

Vocational Education
Teacher, Public, Higher Education
Medical Education
Participant Costs
Labor Institutions
Public Administration
Agriculture (Support)
Saigon Fish Facilities

E. Program Administration -- 190


62. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, March 18, 1963, 7 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, AID(US) S VIET. Confidential; Limit Distribution.

820. For Harriman. Deptel 871./2/ I have not yet had opportunity to read subject GAO report, although I understand a draft of it has reached USOM. I would like, however, to make a preliminary comment based on contents reftel.

/2/Telegram 871, a joint State/AID message to Saigon, March 15, informed the Embassy that a draft GAO report on Vietnam had been prepared, covering roughly 1958 to mid-1962, which was "severely critical of several AID operations, GVN shortcomings in mobilizing resources, and GVN personalities.'' The report also "discloses course of several negotiations with GVN and impugns its good faith.'' GAO reports were customarily printed in unclassified form, but the State Department indicated that it would attempt to have the criticisms of the South Vietnamese Government which were contained in the report classified. (Ibid.)

For many months this Mission has been reporting steady and encouraging progress in the slow and difficult counterinsurgency and pacification effort here. At the same time, we have pointed out that the general situation, though improving, is still fragile and subject to dangerous deterioration, physical and psychological. We are not out of the woods yet; the favorable trend is not irreversible. Any sign of weakening could well result in another attempt to overthrow the government. The predictable result of such an attempt--whether successful or not--would be, in my judgment, a bonanza for Hanoi. As it now stands, continued foreign press criticism of the GVN and US policy here, followed by the Mansfield report and signs of reluctance and disillusionment on the part of certain segments of US opinion, have without doubt encouraged coup plotting, have made the govt here tighten up rather than liberalize, and have encouraged the enemy. I do not think in these circumstances we can afford a public chastisement of the GVN (and/or our own policy) by a US agency. This is not said in an attempt to stifle criticism. It would, however, be totally incredible to the Vietnamese people (government and non-government, friendly and hostile) that the US could sustain a position with one hand and publicly slap it down with the other. They would certainly interpret this as foreshadowing change of US Govt policy here. In this connection, it seems to me pertinent to recall the first commandment of our task force instructions issued two years ago./3/ To build confidence in US intentions to support this country through its duly-elected government, and to use that confidence to improve and underpin the entire situation. These basic instructions have not been changed to my knowledge. We have made, and continue to make, measurable progress under them. I have a strong feeling that publication of the GAO report as summarized and as suggested in reftel would gravely undermine this progress. I do not believe that its publication in any form would provide us leverage in negotiations with GVN.

/3/An apparent reference to the instructions transmitted to the Embassy on May 20, 1961. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. I, Document 56.

It is, therefore, my strong recommendation that US Government consult with Congressional leaders with view to deferring publication of GAO report indefinitely. Executive branch should of course, undertake investigate and correct any specific deficiencies USOM operation brought out by report.



63. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, March 20, 1963, 11 a.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27-10 S VIET. Secret; Limit Distribution. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD.

824. Reference: Deptel 872./2/ Emb A-480 and A-5 19/3/ gave evaluations respectively of Phuoc Long crop destruction and Ca Mau defoliation operations. Evaluation of defoliation operation Rt 1, Phu Yen and Binh Dinh provinces being pouched. Interim evaluation Thua Thien crop destruction operation will follow shortly. In brief, latter operation, carried out with hand-sprayers on ground, proved difficult from point of view logistics and security. Terrain, isolation of area, and VC response made it difficult for chemicals to be transported to target sites and to be applied to crops. Out of 120 hectares planned to be sprayed, only 12 were attacked with herbicides, additional 20 destroyed by hand. Also, psywar effort reportedly not wholly satisfactory. TF/Saigon currently attempting obtain further details on which base evaluation this operation.

/2/See footnote 2, Document 58.

/3/Neither found.

As will be seen from airgrams referred to above, it extremely difficult obtain precise, statistical results defoliation and crop destruction operations, particularly in terms specific military impact and reactions local people. We must rely on judgments and to some extent our conclusions have had to be based more on absence adverse evidence rather than on positive evidence. Similarly, we have drawn conclusion about military effects which are general but which, on basis available evidence, we consider valid.

Regarding plans for future operations, General Harkins and I recently approved GVN request, supported by USOM recommendation, for applying herbicides to railroad right-of-way primarily for proper railway maintenance and only secondarily for security purpose. Project will be carried out on ground by railroad maintenance employees and herbicides will be provided by USOM from U.S. commercial sources. Same criteria as for military defoliation projects being applied: avoidance of crops, proper stage of growth, psywar effort. We also anticipate that GVN will in near future submit rather extensive proposals for defoliation and crop destruction in anticipation next growing season. In fact, it has recently submitted several targets which now being studied. We consider it important to determine future basis for herbicide operations and to inform GVN soon so that its planning may be developed accordingly.

On basis evaluation results so far, General Harkins and I recommend that chemical defoliation and crop destruction be continued (latter as integral part of more general GVN food denial program) but on new footing: instead of considering chemical defoliation and crop destruction as separate program under which appropriate targets can be selected, herbicides should be considered as an effective tool to be employed in specific situations and areas where we can determine that their employment will hurt VC military or supply operations. This shift in emphasis would still mean limiting crop destruction operations to crops definitely identified as being grown by or for VC, such as those near or in definitely established VC secret bases (e.g., Zone D or Duong-Minh-Chau Zone) and where denial those crops would magnify VC supply problems greatly and directly. Similarly, for defoliation new basis would still mean limiting operations to targets where we see definite and justifiable military utility. In both defoliation and crop destruction, however, new emphasis should mean greater dependence on views and recommendations local commanders and advisers rather than on those of GVN/JGS in Saigon. This should permit operations to be more directly related to local military situation, thereby ensuring greater military impact.

Procedurally, General Harkins and I recommend that we be given authority approve crop destruction targets now, as well as authority approve other defoliation targets in addition to lines of communication and related areas. We would continue report operations fully to Washington with our evaluations as information becomes available. Regarding selection targets, we would envisage continuing same careful selection process used to date, judging selections on basis existing criteria.

Regarding propaganda and political effects, implications and effects present bloc campaign against "poison gas'' and "noxious chemicals'' difficult foresee at present. However, we have no information suggesting that operations carried out to date have had any measurably adverse effects on local population vis--vis GVN or U.S. Moreover, from our vantage point, we can see no signs that bloc propaganda has tended undermine international support for U.S. effort in SVN or for Diem government, or that it has raised questions regarding U.S. moral standing or adherence to international agreements. Accordingly, we recommend that use of herbicides be continued on basis described above, recognizing that bloc propaganda efforts will continue and likely increase as VC are hurt. We also recommend that, in order help combat bloc propaganda with truth, results of herbicide operations be included in daily GVN and U.S. military press briefings and that reporters be given opportunity observe defoliation or crop destruction missions.

Regarding Department's paper, our records indicate trial defoliation operations began August 1961 (Rt 13, Chon Thanh), and that thirteen specific areas have been hit. Regarding crop destruction, as noted above only about 12 hectares sprayed with herbicides in Thua Thien, bringing total chemical crop destruction efforts to 312 hectares. As for military effectiveness defoliation, would prefer see it described as appearing have general impact on security situation although no statistical results can be isolated. Again, with crop destruction, evidence of military effectiveness may never be conclusive in wholly measurable terms but believe Phuoc Long operation validates general conclusion that VC in Zone D hurting for food and that whatever done to deny them food will add to their problems.



64. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs' Special Assistant (Jorden) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Harriman)/1/

Washington, March 20, 1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 67 D 54, POL 27-11 Infiltration. Secret.

Infiltration in Viet Nam

(This memorandum is based on a study of the above subject conducted during a visit to Viet Nam from February 21 to March 14.)

Problem. To demonstrate the continued use of Laos as a channel for introduction of Viet Cong personnel and war material into South Viet Nam, particularly since October 7 by which date all foreign military personnel were to have been withdrawn from Laos under the Geneva Agreement.

Procedure. Before departing Washington, I read all available information on this subject. In Saigon, I reviewed more recent data with the Embassy and CAS. The subject was discussed in detail with the G-2 section of MAC/V. The latter has just completed a study of infiltration and has submitted it to the JCS.

Then, working through contacts in the Vietnamese Government I was able to look over the evidence in the hands of ARVN/G-2 and other intelligence agencies. This evidence consisted of captured weapons and supplies, interrogation reports of VC prisoners and defectors, captured diaries and documents. Finally, I visited a number of posts near the border and talked with Vietnamese and American officers who are concerned with border control and the infiltration problem.

Findings. Infiltration from North Viet Nam into South Viet Nam occurred through the first eight months of 1962. It is possible to demonstrate that the territory of Laos and Cambodia was used for this purpose. In addition, external support for the Viet Cong effort can be demonstrated in the increasing quantity of arms and equipment captured in South Viet Nam which originated from bloc sources. These include weapons and ammunition, particularly of Chinese origin, and medical supplies from Communist China, North Viet Nam, Hungary and East Germany.

It is not possible, however, to prove any significant movement of personnel through Laos and into South Viet Nam since September, 1962. As of the date of my departure from Saigon, no VC prisoner or defector had come into GVN hands who admitted entering South Viet Nam after October 7. Informants in the Highlands and other areas have reported Viet Cong moving over trails and through or near villages from the direction of Laos in recent months. But hard evidence is lacking.

Conclusions. We cannot now prove a clear violation of the Laos Agreement by demonstrating that foreign military personnel crossed into South Viet Nam from Laos since October 7, 1962. Nor, in fact, is there hard evidence that the elaborate program of infiltration from North Viet Nam into the South continued during the past five months on any significant scale.

I question, therefore, the utility at this point of producing a follow-up report on this subject along the lines of the Department's earlier white paper, "A Threat to the Peace.''/2/ Nor do we have in hand the kind of material that would make possible an effective protest to the Soviets in their role as co-chairman of the Laos settlement.

/2/See footnote 3, Document 35.

It appears virtually certain, however, that the kind of evidence we seek will become available within a reasonable time. Officials in Saigon, both Vietnamese and American, are alert to the problem and can be expected to report promptly any significant new evidence that becomes available.

Some Observations on Infiltration.

Problems of control--the people.

Control of Viet Cong infiltration into South Viet Nam depends on control of the Highlands. This, in turn, means winning the confidence and cooperation of significant numbers of the Highland tribes who inhabit most of the area. A start has been made by the handful of able and talented Special Forces teams now operating in the area. More, much more, must be done if this problem is to be met even half-way.

A major disadvantage in this effort is the contempt in which most Vietnamese hold the tribal peoples. This sentiment is reciprocated by the Montagnard. Moreover, the Viet Cong have devoted considerable effort to winning Montagnard support by both promises and threats. Some Vietnamese understand the problem perfectly well and are working to overcome the residue of distrust and dislike that has prevailed. But it is going to take a major effort to convince the average Vietnamese soldier, officer and government official of the necessity for treating the tribesmen as something more than sub-human.

The territory.

The most misleading thing we can do is to look at a political map of Viet Nam and think in terms of "sealing off'' the border. A topographical map helps. Better still, one should fly over the vast trackless area that is the Viet Nam-Laos border region. Mile after mile of mountains and steep valleys unfold below you. The whole area is covered by impenetrable forest growth. Now and then you see a hut, or a cluster of three of four, in the middle of nowhere. The monotony is broken occasionally by a open plot burned into a hillside for planting.

I visited one post where part of a Vietnamese battalion (181 men) and one lonely American sergeant were stationed. Their sector was an area of more than 250 square miles. Their assignment-to patrol their area and to keep a 20 mile stretch of highway open and safe. A regiment might have been able to do it.

At another post, a 12-man American Special Forces team had trained a 200-man strike force of Montagnard and a patrol group of 150. Their area was 1,800 square miles.

An American officer noted: "They could put the Fourth Route Army through here and we wouldn't know it until they hit somewhere.''

No one is quite certain just where the Laos border is. Three maps of different scale each show it differently with variations up to ten miles.

These are some of the things we must consider when we talk of border control and infiltration in Viet Nam.

Need for better surveillance.

If infiltration from the North and through Laos is to be controlled or even restricted, it is clear that greater efforts will have to go into tighter border surveillance. This calls for an accelerated effort with the mountain tribesmen. One promising program in this regard is the proposal to form small (five-man) patrol units to move into the large unpoliced area east of the Laos border. Their job would not be to engage the Viet Cong, though they would carry light arms to defend themselves. Rather they would try to spot infiltration groups, report their size and direction, discover the most used trails for later ambush, locate feeding and rest stations, and the like. For both political and practical reasons, we should seek to engage the Vietnamese in this program as actively as possible.

Deep surveillance.

From the testimony of Viet Cong infiltrators and other evidence, it seems certain that much of the effort depends on VC establishments in such places as Tchepone, Saravana and Atopeu. Officers on the scene think that surveillance of these areas by small patrols would produce invaluable information on the Viet Cong infiltration and supply effort. Such a program of deep surveillance involves sensitive political questions which must be weighed carefully. However, we should consider that we are dealing with an enemy that treats such niceties with contempt. If there has been no recent review of this problem, this might be an appropriate time for reconsideration.

Aerial surveillance.

I understand that the program of aerial reconnaissance over suspected VC base areas in Laos and along the border area was halted some time ago. U.S. officers in Viet Nam believe that this amounts to tying one arm behind our back in the anti-infiltration effort. Should not this matter be reconsidered?

VC aerial flights.

I heard several reports in the border areas of mysterious night flights from the direction of Laos flying due East into the heart of the Highlands and then returning in the direction of Laos some time later. People on the scene assumed they were VC flights and that they were either delivering key personnel or high priority equipment to a VC base in the area.

Officials in Saigon appeared not to have heard of these reports. The matter should be checked carefully. If there seems to be any basis in fact for the belief that some kind of air drop effort is underway from Laos to the VC, appropriate steps to intercept should be undertaken.

A downed plane from Laos carrying VC supplies or personnel would provide us with dramatic evidence of infiltration to say nothing of a clear violation of the Laos Agreement.

Nature of infiltration.

The most recent information from VC prisoners and defectors includes some disquieting data. An increasing number of infiltrees during 1962 were specialists--in antiaircraft, armor and transport. This suggests a move toward much more sophisticated activity than the VC have engaged in heretofore. The number of recoilless rifles in VC hands has increased and there have been several reports that they have 50 cal. machineguns, effective against aircraft.

Our intelligence people in Saigon are fully aware of these developments. We should consider them here in assessing VC plans and determination to counter the heightened use of air and armor by the GVN.


65. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs' Special Assistant (Jorden) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Harriman)/1/

Washington, March 21, 1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 67 D 54, PR-II Press Relations (Moss Comm). Confidential; Eyes Only. Harriman indicated on the source text that he was sending copies of this memorandum to Hilsman, Rice, and Wood, and intended to brief Rusk on it verbally. He wrote: "I accept these comments & recommend they be adopted as guides.'' In circulating the memorandum for this purpose, however, Harriman indicated that numbered paragraph 8 of the Recommendations section should be omitted.

Press Reporting from Viet Nam


There is, I think, a serious misunderstanding of what has come to be called the "press problem in Viet Nam.'' The impression has gained currency in official circles that "the real story'' is not being told. The press has been described as negative, biased, naive, or worse. Some officials believe that American reporters in Viet Nam concentrate on criticism and pay slight attention to some of the promising and encouraging developments.

Periodically, a story appears from or about Viet Nam which causes official embarrassment. Often our reaction is to try to discover the source and plug the "leak,'' to order our people not to talk about the subject concerned, and to think in terms of how we can "balance'' the account.

Blame is variously ascribed--to the GVN's lack of capability and skill in handling information problems, to the GVN's official policy of regarding anything critical of itself as treasonable or pro-Communist, to the immaturity or irresponsibility of the American press, to the alleged proclivity of the press toward the sensational, the negative, and the critical.

Some Observations

1. The Viet Nam story is one of great complexity and with infinite shadings and nuances. There is considerably more gray than there is black or white. In any situation as complicated as this, we have to expect reporting--whether official or in the press--that is good and bad, fair and unfair, balanced or one-sided, accurate or in error. We are getting far more of the former of each of these pairs than of the latter.

2. To ignore the many negative features of the situation in Viet Nam is to dangerously delude ourselves. There is a vast multitude of problems and only by recognizing them can we hope to do something about them. A reporter who exposes such a problem may well be opening the door to its solution.

3. The quality of reporting by American newsmen from Viet Nam is, in my opinion, exceedingly good. They are young, it is true. And they are still learning their trade. But they are doing so with energy and seriousness of purpose. They spend a considerable amount of time in the provinces and the villages and with the military forces in the field. They have both better information and a better feel for the situation than many military officers and officials in Saigon.

They do not rush into print with everything they hear or know. Each one of them has on occasion not written stories he could have because he felt it would jeopardize military security or some larger interest.

They have made mistakes. None of them probably would write each of his stories precisely as he did if he were doing it over. But the same is true of any good reporter. No one in whatever profession can be very active without an occasional mistake. In general, I think that errors of fact or judgement have been no greater in reporting from Viet Nam than on any major story of this kind.

The relative youth of the reporters in Saigon is sometimes given as an explanation for alleged deficiencies in their reporting. Yet some of the most "critical'' and "negative'' reporting from Viet Nam in the past year or so has come from such reporters as Homer Bigart, Keyes Beech, Robert Martin, and Bob Trumbull--each of them mature, seasoned, and experienced reporters.

3. [sic] We can understand the problems of the reporters in Saigon only by realizing some of the difficulties under which they operate. I refer here to the negative attitude of the Diem Government toward the foreign press. With their own press under total control, they find it difficult to understand why the U.S. press is permitted to travel freely and write freely. The highest officials in Saigon regard the foreign reporters as a kind of fifth column in their midst. The police keep careful check on where the reporters go and with whom they talk. The threat of expulsion hangs over them constantly.

4. The editorials of many American newspapers have been far more intemperate and one-sided than any of the reporting from Saigon. A phrase or a sentence in a story from Viet Nam--probably accurate in the context in which it was used--is sometimes pulled out and used as the basis for the most sweeping generalizations about the country, its government or the military situation. There is a tendency to confuse reporting from and about Viet Nam with editorials and other comment and to bracket them all under the term "press coverage.''

5. It is charged that the reporters have stressed excessively the role of American forces and personnel in Viet Nam and downgraded the Vietnamese effort. We must recognize a fact of life: any time we have 12,000 Americans in a country, particularly if they are under combat or otherwise hazardous conditions, there is going to be more interest here in how they are faring and what they are doing than in almost any other development. Also, a story from Viet Nam that mentions one or some Americans is much more likely to appear on the front pages here than a story that includes no such mention.

Many stories are written from Viet Nam that do not mention Americans directly or indirectly. It is not the reporters' fault that they often end up as four or five paragraphs on Page 15.

6. It also is unfortunately true that "bad news'' is likely to get more space and prominent display than stories of progress and hope. A defeat is likely to win more attention than a victory. The determination of space and display is made in the home office, not by the reporter on the spot.

7. We cannot hope to get 12,000 Americans scattered widely over the Vietnamese countryside to stop talking to reporters. It is sometimes possible, particularly in the Saigon area, to limit discussion of a single matter for a limited time period. Control is also possible on matters to which a very limited number of people have access. But efforts to get all Americans to avoid discussing this or that subject are likely to prove ineffective.

On the whole, we are likely to have more success in keeping sensitive matters out of print if we give reporters the details on an "off the record'' basis accompanied by an explanation of why publication would adversely affect our interests. This is not foolproof, of course, but it is likely to be more effective than efforts at mass muzzling. This approach should not be used to conceal bad news but to protect information in which very real security interests may be involved.

Some Recommendations

1. We should encourage the GVN by every available means to improve its information policy and techniques and to avoid excited and vocal reactions to every story it considers critical of itself. This is not an easy task. The present and former Public Affairs Officers in Saigon have worked hard and with some success on this matter. The effort should be continued. As much as possible we should encourage the GVN to do the kind of job it did this week on the "germ warfare'' charges.

2. The desirability of getting the best possible Public Information personnel into MAC/V cannot be exaggerated. It is essential that the PIO's, particularly the chief PIO, be competent, imaginative and forceful and that they have the confidence of both their superiors and of the press.

3. There should be the closest possible working relationship between the PIO and the press attache in USIS. They should share information and ideas and consult daily. Sensitive matters or policy questions should be referred to the Public Affairs Officer and, as he deems necessary, by the PAO to the Ambassador. All concerned should try to promote as fast and as free a flow of information as possible.

4. The Embassy should give its full support to the PAO, the press attache and the cause of freer and fuller information. I suggested in Saigon that the Embassy consider setting up a weekly meeting between the resident American correspondents and a responsible Embassy officer. These sessions should be a two-way street-an opportunity for the Embassy to provide background and perspective but also to get information and to discover and respond positively to the correspondents' problems or complaints. An occasional session with the Ambassador serves the good cause of promoting better mutual understanding, but the reporters understand he is a busy man.

5. In Saigon and in Washington, news stories from Viet Nam should be read more as a source of information than of possible embarrassment. Time and energy devoted to correcting weaknesses or mistakes would be better spent than that devoted to stopping leaks or criticizing the reporters.

There will be times when we will want to comment on a news story with a statement aimed at providing balance and perspective. But we should avoid rushing into print with public disclaimers or denials. These have at times been just as wrong or misleading as the reports they sought to balance.

6. It would be useful if high officials here would take appropriate opportunities to clarify U.S. policy in Viet Nam and to put the total situation in focus. It would be helpful to give Viet Nam particular attention in the useful series of regional background sessions which the Public Affairs Bureau has developed. Any presentation of the situation should, of course, include a realistic balance of positive and negative aspects.

7. Here and in Saigon, we should view with considerably more equanimity, the occasional appearance of stories that appear to be "negative'' or "embarrassing.'' This situation can never be eliminated. We can and should do those things within our power. especially in Saigon, to introduce balance and perspective. But this can only be done on a basis of mutual trust and confidence between reporters and officials.

We can hope to deal with a problem as difficult as that of Viet Nam only with the fullest possible information. In my opinion, the American reporters in Viet Nam are making a valuable contribution in providing us and the American people with many of the facts we need.

8. To anyone interested in the press situation in Viet Nam, I would commend highly the very thoughtful report/2/ prepared for Ambassador Nolting last November by Mr. John Mecklin, the PAO in Saigon.

/2/Dated November 27, 1962; for text, see Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. II, Document 322.

Finally, I would say that the U.S. Government is fortunate in having in Saigon men with the intelligence, drive and understanding of press problems of Mr. Mecklin and the new press attache, Mr. Paul Garvey. Hopefully the new PIO in the military command will have similar qualities. If their advice is sought and followed, we should be well on the way toward handling a problem that can never really be solved.


66. Airgram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam/1/


Washington, March 22, 1963, 5:13 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 26-1 S VIET Top Secret; Priority. Drafted by Heavner and Wood, cleared by Harriman and Hilsman. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD. JCS and DOD/ISA were informed of the contents of the message.

Subject: Interdiction. For Nolting from Harriman. The use of air power in counterinsurgency operations in Viet-Nam has been subject to continuing study and refinement. The Country Team, and particularly the military members of the Country Team, are to be commended for their constant efforts to increase the effectiveness of our air advantage in Viet Nam.

However, we must never forget that this is a political war and since more than a year has now passed since we began our expanded assistance to Viet-Nam, we feel that we must now undertake a careful evaluation of the future use of both American and Vietnamese air power against the Viet Cong.

There appears to be no doubt of the great value of the increased mobility which transport planes and helicopters have conferred on the RVNAF. Relief by air power of units, posts, and hamlets under attack has proved very important. Reconnaissance by air is also most valuable. In the case of close air support for Government-initiated offensive operations, the picture is not so clear, however, and further study seems in order. But we are particularly struck by the difficulties of assessment with regard to interdiction missions.

In an effort to clarify the value of air interdiction missions and place them in proper perspective, we have drawn up the following balance sheet. We are aware that our information is incomplete. The great difficulty here is that, basically, any evaluation of the usefulness of air interdiction tends to become an evaluation of the temper of the Vietnamese people. The difficulties of assessment do not make it any less important, however. We therefore request that the Country Team consider the following statement of the problem, give us their comments, and wherever possible, provide us with more complete information.


We understand that U.S. piloted combat fixed-wing aircraft now fly about 1,000 sorties monthly. Of these, about 530 are in direct support of ground actions. Over 300 of the remainder are interdiction missions. These, as we understand it, are independent air strikes against ground targets believed to be Viet Cong positions or bases.

Targets for interdiction missions are often inhabited. Given the Viet Cong dependence upon the people, it is believed likely that many Viet Cong bases and installations include numbers of persons who are not hard core Communists, who are less than wholehearted supporters of the Viet Cong, or who may even be basically anti-Viet Cong.

Joint US-Vietnamese procedures for checking targets and controlling aircraft to insure that they hit the right target have been very carefully worked out and refined. They are believed to be basically sound. The intelligence on which targeting is based, however, comes from Vietnamese sources which are often difficult to evaluate. To the degree that this intelligence is faulty or imprecise, the likelihood of injuring or killing civilians is increased.

We have in fact received scattered reports of civilians being injured and killed by interdiction missions. Considering the difficulty in separating out Viet Cong personnel from the general population, plus the sources of our intelligence, this is probably to be expected. The problem, then, revolves around the reactions of the Vietnamese population to these injuries and deaths. We must seek to weigh popular Vietnamese reactions to the civilian casualties which are inflicted by air power against the value of Viet Cong casualties so inflicted.

Another, somewhat separate, but equally important factor in the problem is the American presence. We have been at great pains to put strict limits on our role in this war, not only for domestic reasons, but also because the mere appearance of either American control or direct participation in the war gives substance to the main theme of Communist propaganda, i.e. that Diem is an American puppet, that this is a neo-colonial war, and that all patriotic Vietnamese must fight for their independence against the United States.

In examining this problem the following specific factors must be considered, they are set forth as arguments, of varying degrees of validity, pro and con.


1. Interdiction missions appear to have contributed substantially to the progress already registered against the Viet Cong. Intelligence reports and POWs indicate that one of the most serious problems which the Viet Cong confront is how to react to air power. Air attacks are credited with inflicting heavy casualties on the VC. They no longer feel safe in their base areas and are under constant psychological pressure as a result. Their growing logistic problems stem at least in part from the destruction of supplies by air raids.

2. Evidence of popular resentment resulting from interdiction missions is slim. We do not know that injuries or deaths of civilians have generated any substantial degree of hatred or resentment against either the GVN or the United States.

3. We do not know how many innocents have been injured or killed. Given the care with which proposed targets are examined, the number could be quite small.

4. Targeting procedures have been continually refined and intelligence is improving. Fewer and fewer civilians should therefore be involved in interdiction strikes. The Strategic Hamlet program also helps. As that program progresses, the Viet Cong should be progressively separated from the people, thus reducing the chances of air strikes resulting in civilian casualties.

5. In this war we work under a number of limitations, most notably, presumed enemy safe havens and secure bases across international boundaries. We should not deny ourselves the full use of those advantages which we enjoy. A principal advantage is our monopoly of air power.

6. While there has been rising concern in the United States about the American combat role in Viet-Nam, both in terms of interdiction missions and close air support, international opinion seems to have been affected very little. Aside from the Communist bloc, our efforts to help the Vietnamese defend themselves appear to have been accepted without much difficulty. Within Viet-Nam, there is little or no evidence that the American role in the use of air power against the Viet Cong is resented or that it has helped advance the Communist propaganda line.

7. The Vietnamese are not yet capable of conducting the war from the air without our help. Our air efforts in Viet-Nam, including interdiction missions, are an important part of training the Vietnamese to defend themselves and to take over the war effort.


1. The U.S. objective in Viet-Nam is to assist the Government to reestablish predominant control over its national territory. To do this the GVN must win the support of its citizens. While destroying Viet Cong targets makes life immediately more difficult for the VC, the lasting result may be to create resentment among people who are living in the target areas or who have friends and relatives there. We cannot assume that the people in the target areas have chosen to be governed by the VC. There are probably very few in Viet-Nam who are such hardened and committed Communists that they cannot be won back to support of the Government.

This is a political war. To regard any territory as enemy or any villages as VC is a dangerous oversimplification.

2. We do not know with any certainty the reactions of the Vietnamese rural population to interdiction missions. It is known, however, that the VC are able to recruit with little or no difficulty in many areas. The growth in VC strength in spite of very heavy casualties in the course of the past year is dramatic evidence of this. It is not unreasonable to suspect that an important factor in the ease of VC recruitment is popular resentment generated by interdiction strikes.

It could be argued that each time an inhabited VC target is hit, serious political antagonism is created in the vicinity, and that these antagonisms would be deepened in localities subjected to repeated air strikes. The French experience suggests that both propositions are true. Since these targets can rarely be reached on foot, it would be quite difficult to assuage resentments so generated by sending in civic action teams to help with reconstruction. It seems unlikely that GVN broadcasts, or even rural programs such as agricultural credit, will readily win over persons whose friends or relatives have been killed or injured by aerial attacks. These people are more likely to volunteer for the VC.

3. Interdiction strikes are most effective where enemy forces, supply lines, and logistics are highly organized, well defined, and hence vulnerable to air attack. This is not the case in Viet-Nam. Air interdiction is basically a conventional war concept, and to be valid, interdiction strikes require clearly defined enemy territory. We are not prepared to admit that parts of Viet-Nam are enemy territory.

The French experience suggests, in fact, that air interdiction is not a useful concept in this kind of warfare. There is no question that air power is useful against the VC and that they are afraid of it. But the best use of air power may be strictly limited to relief of units, posts, and hamlets under attack, the great mobility which air power provides, and carefully controlled close air support of government operations.

4. While targeting has certainly been improved, it is probably not susceptible to adequate refinement. This is because many Vietnamese officials frankly do not recognize the basically political nature of this war. The province and district chiefs, who are the primary sources for much of the intelligence on which interdiction strikes are based, are inadequately trained and often do regard certain areas as enemy territory simply because they are known to harbor VC.

In this connection, we note (Embtel 1553, June 4, 1962)/2/ that in June of last year we undertook a very large attack involving B-26s, AD-6s and T-28s against "confirmed command post installations, facilities and activities'' in I Corps. The coordinates reported for the strike zone covered an area of about 230 square miles.

/2/Telegram 1553 from Saigon conveyed a summary of an intelligence briefing conducted in Saigon on June 1. (Ibid., 751K.00/6-462)

5. The prestige of the U.S. in Asia can be seriously damaged if it becomes widely known that American aviators are killing Vietnamese peasants. The Communist nations have already started to make this a serious part of their propaganda campaign. We may be able to explain that defoliants are weed killers, but we cannot expect to explain why American pilots are using bombs, napalm, and machine guns against Vietnamese peasants in a war where our role has been publicly defined as limited to training, equipping, and supplying the Vietnamese in the prosecution of their own defensive war. For ourselves and for the Vietnamese the most important rule governing our actions is to avoid steps which will create the general belief that this is our war. We are already getting too close to such a position.

6. Our actions in undertaking a direct combat role in Viet-Nam are in violation of the Geneva Accords.

7. It appears that the U.S. role in interdiction-strikes badly stretches, if it does not actually break, the mandate under which American air power was first engaged in the Viet-Nam conflict.

NSAM 111 of November 22, 1961,/3/ authorized U.S. uniformed personnel "for air reconnaissance, photography, instruction in and execution of air-ground support techniques, and for special intelligence.'' Present interdiction missions appear to go beyond "air-ground support techniques''.

/3/For text, see Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. I, Document 272.


The arguments set forth above indicate there is not a demonstrably clear case either for or against interdiction missions, and this in itself is a convincing argument for undertaking a review. While some of the issues involved transcend the situation in Viet-Nam itself, such a review requires an on-the-ground evaluation of the validity of arguments advanced above, pro and con, and some indication of the respective weights to be assigned them. In such an evaluation, we think the intimate interaction of political and military factors must be taken into account. A measure, for instance, which gave short-run military advantages might in the long run be militarily disadvantageous if it affected popular attitudes in such a way as to increase Viet Cong ability to build larger forces and the organization required for their effective support. What we would hope to determine is the net worth, positive or negative, of (a) U.S.-piloted interdiction and (b) interdiction missions piloted only by Vietnamese.

On receipt of your comments and information, we intend to review the problem thoroughly and come to a decision./4/

/4/In telegram 917 from Saigon, April 16, Nolting responded that the Embassy was "coordinating with MACV an extensive review all aspects air interdiction. Because of vital importance this subject to effort here in Vietnam, believe thoroughness preferable to speed. I hope be able respond definitively within very near future.'' (Department of State, Central Files, POL 26-1 S VIET)



67. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, March 26, 1963, 7 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, DEF 19 S VIET. Secret. Repeated to CINCPAC.

844. CINCPAC also for POLAD. Reference: Department telegrams 856,/2/ 857./3/ Country Team message.

/2/Document 57.

/3/See footnote 5, Document 57.

1. Recommend State/DOD/AID accept CPSVN as basis for MAP planning CPSVN developed by MACV/MAAG in response specific directive by SecDef last July to develop military plan which looked ahead three years and covered requirements to meet GVN military needs on orderly basis so that, by end three-year period, GVN could take over increasingly greater share of internal security responsibility and US special assistance could begin be phased out. Basic assumptions to this exercise were that VC insurgency would be under control by end three-year period and that extensive US support would be required during period to do this. In process its development, plan realistically related to MAP planning and requirements National Campaign./4/ Within this context, plan represents best military judgment on how to bring insurgency under control and meet SecDef's objective. Accordingly, I gave my concurrence to CPSVN as basis for MAP planning, subject review annually as normally occurs with MAP. It of course impossible guarantee that CPSVN will bring US out of woods by end three-year period, or that its major assumption that VC will be brought under control by then will be borne out. Present progress is encouraging and holds prospect of continuing in same vein, but nonmilitary aspects this war can not easily be quantified or put into time period. Thus, there are risks in tying ourselves to time limit for bringing insurgency under control and defining phase-out special US military assistance to GVN. However, as stated para 4 of Plan, CPSVN represents best estimate military requirement to permit GVN to defeat current insurgency by end CY 65, defeat any new insurgency threat that may arise after withdrawal special US military assistance and put up initial defense against overt invasion.

/4/Regarding the National Campaign Plan, see Document 26.

2. Care was taken in development CPSVN to relate it to revised FY63 MAP. Refined FY64 MA program and FY65-69 plan now being developed under assumption that CPSVN will be received favorably in Washington. In fact, revised FY63 MAP now approved by DOD was developed concurrently with CPSVN to support intensified counterinsurgency effort during 1964 in line with National Campaign Plan (NCP). As reflected in para 8, CPSVN, $160 million DOD guideline for FY64 entirely inadequate by estimated $369 million to permit implementation CPSVN. In this connection, believe it important keep in mind that over FY64-69 time span CPSVN envisages total cost of only $4 million more than DOD dollar guidelines ($901 million vs. $897 million). Adding PCH&T increases total costs by $62 million over same period, since DOD guidelines now require country allocation to bear cost PCH&T. Major compression involved in CPSVN occurs in FY64 in order provide means to accomplish job in three year period.

3. The detailed review of the refined FY64 program and FY65-69 MA Plan for RVN now scheduled in CINCPAC 13-17 May 63, following submission of 1 May 63.To meet this tight schedule, CPSVN is being used as planning basis.

4. Envision little problem in accomplishing activations or increased strengths under the FY64 force levels proposed in CPSVN. Soft spots in training of some categories of technical personnel are discussed in CPSVN but they are not considered sufficient to affect the feasibility of the plan.

5. Parallel development of other mutually supporting national plans and programs such as National Police, etc., should and are being accomplished to attain the objectives cited in the CPSVN.

6. In light above, following are Country Team's answers to questions posed Deptel 856:

A. We do not anticipate economic consequences to be overriding factor in GVN's willingness to accept additional piaster contribution. We cannot foresee GVN's reaction with any precision. We now trying persuade GVN agree contribute in major way to joint counterinsurgency fund and undoubtedly later in year we will be trying to get GVN agree finance an increased proportion its military budget for CY 1964 (in past 3 years GVN proportion has increased from 11 percent to 29 percent). However, GVN budgeted in CY 1963 force levels paralleling those in CPSVN which FY63 paramilitary increase just recently approved by OSD. Re-examination of CY 64 additional cost stated in CPSVN for planned FY 1964 force levels reflects that the increase will be about 492 million rather than 846 million piasters. Difference between 492 and 846 is a result of GVN budgeting in CY 1963 for force levels larger for paramilitary forces than we had projected based on previous MAP planning figures, resulting in lower average cost per man. General Harkins furnished Secretary Thuan 5 March, without commitment, detailed proposed see [sic] structure for CY 1964 for GVN budget planning guidance (which are based on CPSVN FY64 and FY65 planned strengths) with no adverse reaction to date or expected.

In fact pattern has been the reverse, with MAAG and MACV receiving repeated requests for MAP support of increased forces. Since GVN knows forces proposed (which represent the increased piaster contribution required), we recommend that requirement continue to be described to GVN in terms requirements of National Campaign and not of three-year plan objective of which was US phase down to normal MAAG. If GVN does not agree to absorb additional piaster costs of CPSVN, latter would have to be stretched out accordingly. Amount of stretch out and corresponding effect on CPSVN cannot be determined in vacuum.

Additional financial contribution required of GVN to implement CPSVN would comprise only about 4 percent and 10 percent respectively of deficits which we estimate would be in order of five billion piasters in CY1963 and 5.5 billion in CY1964. We do not envision supplementing or increasing of GVN CY63 budget for support of CPSVN. Believe CY63 shortfall amounting to about 200 million piasters can be absorbed by program slippages. While anticipated aggregate deficit of 10 to 11 billion piasters in CY1963 and 1964 is staggering burden, and we doubt GVN's ability, administratively and politically, to implement harsh and unpopular measures necessary to hold inflation in check, contribution to CPSVN is only a minor fraction of estimated deficit. Since we anticipate deficits of this order of magnitude with or without CPSVN, economic risks, whatever their potential danger must simply be borne and measures taken to minimize their ill effects.

Accordingly, we think standby authority to inject goods and services into Vietnam will be necessary if deficits of this order develop. Such authority will not only help assuage GVN fears, but will also enable US to intercede swiftly and effectively should inflation threaten to nullify economic and social gains already achieved.

B. Anticipate two stage turnover present CIDG areas: 1) as these areas come under initial GVN control, CIDG will be absorbed into RVNAF, CG, SDC or discharged; 2) as these areas are further secured permitting turnover to civil authorities, paramilitary will be demobilized and used as recruitment base for local police per Embtel 800./5/ To extent stages (1) and (2) overlap, there could be direct absorption of CIDG into police.

/5/Document 53.

C. Dollar costs of construction in CPSVN peak at $26 million in FY1964 decreasing to annual average of less than $4 million in succeeding years. In view comments in answer pare A. regarding dangers inherent in anticipated budget deficits, definitely recommend against additional shifts out of MAP which would further exacerbate these deficits. Large and complex construction projects in MAP exceed capability SVN construction industry and availability GVN or counterpart piasters. In addition to MAP funded construction program, there is annual counterpart-funded construction program as part of GVN budget which represents maximum counterpart fund availability for that purpose.

D. MAP includes maintenance of weapons, arms and other ordnance items required to support villages and hamlets, including those taken over from CIDG. Anticipate CIDG secured hamlets will normally not require other hamlet kit items. These hamlets will be ready for socio-economic projects through USOM's action plans and are included in projects given pare E. below.

E. USOM now has study underway to develop three-year projections for action plans related counterinsurgency. However, these projections based not only on CPSVN (which contemplates construction 7,500 strategic hamlets by end FY1963 and completion total 11,000 by July 1964), but also on experience already gained as new CI activities progress and evolve. Projections cited below would require revision if CPSVN not approved but some increases would still be required.

Preliminary estimates for province administered-strategic hamlet plans (activity no. 430-AA-99-5) Montagnard relief (activity no. 430-AA-99-AB-5) and CI operational support (activity no. 430-AA-99-A1-5) indicate total FY63 and FY64 dollar costs these activities $3.4 million and $6.3 million respectively as compared CAP totals $3.020 and $3.4 million. Wish emphasize these new estimates do not necessarily require increase by these amounts in FY1963 and 1964 total dollar requirements; final estimates may vary considerably up or down after completion review balance of program. Do not recommend change in FY1963 and FY1964 dollar totals for Congressional presentation for AID. However, some increase in total FY1964 requirements stated CAP is definite future possibility for which AID/W may wish to reserve funds.

CY1963 and CY1964 piaster requirements for above three activities may require increases over CAP estimates on order of VN$ 265 million and VN$ 284 million respectively. As in case of dollars, these not net increases and only in part attributable to CPSVN.

7. Regarding Deptel 857, differences in economic consequences of stretching CPSVN from three to four years should not prove consequential. We face serious economic problems in any case. In our view, CPSVN should be put into effect, but no hard decisions need be taken on timing US phase-out. Latter will undoubtedly occur gradually and in any event should not begin until internal security situation permits and until GVN can realistically take over. This process may begin before end CY 1965 or it may begin later.

Accordingly, recommend that no decision re extending phase-out of US special military assistance be taken at this time for the following reasons:

a. The target date for phase-out of the US special military assistance was generally established in the SecDef requirement for the development of the CPSVN. The date was further defined by the CINCPAC guidance and assumption that this insurgency will be under control at the end of 3 years (end of CY 65). The plan was developed to accomplish the desired objective within the assumptions and timeframe established.

b. The CPSVN was developed concurrently with the revised FY 63 MAP. The refined FY 64 MAP as well as the PY 65-69 MA plan are now being developed for submission to CINCPAC 1 May 63 under the assumption that the CPSVN will be favorably received in Washington.

c. A stretch-out would require a smaller increase in the FY 64 training costs to US and GVN. However, when considered in the context of the overall FY 64 costs and the training costs which would be MAP supported if the CPSVN were not implemented, the increase of $3.7 million under the CPSVN is very minor. The savings realized in later years will offset a portion of this increased cost. Many of the individuals trained early under MAP will undoubtedly be qualified for subsequent duty as instructors. This gives RVNAF the capability of developing more qualified technicians, specialists and leaders, sooner than would occur otherwise. The overall increased training costs for the period FY 63-68 over that contained in the original MAP is only$3.2 million of a total $74.3 million.

d. The training proposed in the CPSVN is adequate to provide their personnel required to execute the plan within the 3-year period. Shortages of personnel in critical categories are discussed in the CPSVN but they are not considered sufficient to affect the feasibility of the plan. Should GVN be unable take over US tasks when the appropriate time arrives, it would be for relatively short extension of a few specific US units or personnel. This residue would not justify continued existence of the US special military assistance but could probably be handled by MAAG.

e. There may be some political risk that GVN would become unduly concerned that US planning pull out prematurely, if they were informed now of 3-year plan. For this reason believe it preferable present additional requirements to GVN in terms National Campaign rather than CPSVN.



68. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, March 28, 1963, 8 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, AID(US) S VIET. Secret; Limit Distribution. Repeated to CINCPAC.

852. CINCPAC for POLAD. Deptel 869,/2/ Embtel 790./3/ Went to day to prod Thuan on counter-insurgency fund. Ran into what has proved to be serious trouble. Thuan first raised certain questions and objections of relatively minor nature which he said had been raised by Director of Budget and Department of Interior. Discussing these, I suggested that we get our experts together in next day or two to iron out any remaining differences so that proposed letter could be signed and matter concluded.

/2/In telegram 869 to Saigon, March 15, the Department of State asked for a status report on efforts to settle the details of CI financing. (Ibid.)

/3/In telegram 790 from Saigon, March 6, Nolting reported that Thuan had advised him that President Diem had accepted "in principle'' the U.S. proposal for a joint counterinsurgency fund for 1963, "although he still needed to be filled in on details.'' (Ibid.)

Thuan then said (asking me not to report) that agreement in principle that he had previously gotten from Ngo Dinh Nhu had been withdrawn. I asked him whether President Diem had also reneged, and he said no, that Nhu was the trouble. I asked him why, and he said in effect that Nhu had been frightened off from close collaboration envisaged in this counter-insurgency proposal by the "atmosphere'' now prevailing in US-GVN relations. In discussing this, Thuan repeatedly referred to the doubts and misgivings engendered by the Mansfield report, by editorial and press pressures against the GVN in America, by what appeared to Nhu to be indications of US uncertainty in continued support of GVN. In this connection he referred to Washington Post story about Nguyen Ton Hoan and upcoming visit of Warren Unna, whom he characterized as incurably prejudiced against GVN. In short, he said that Nhu particularly was disturbed about entering into a commitment of this sort (both procedural and financial) at a time when he thought he saw signs of a possible shift in US policy.

In a long discussion I attempted to disabuse him of these doubts, citing recent statements by Secretaries Rusk and Harriman and giving him my own convictions. Thuan commented that it was ironic that these tremors should be disturbing basis of our joint endeavors at very time when our team work is excellent and when real progress is being made. With this comment I heartily agreed.

I suggested that, even if Nhu had grounds for feeling as he does, the best way to get over this period is to demonstrate confidence which would in turn engender confidence; the worst way would be to give USG and Congress grounds for feeling GVN was holding back in committing themselves to an essential part of the counter-insurgency struggle. I said I would like to talk to Nhu about this. Thuan said he would see him again this afternoon and try to overcome his objections, and let me know if he needed my assistance.

Comment: We have been feeling that this kind of reaction was brewing. We can get over it but it may take awhile. I would like again to stress my conviction, particularly in connection with the GAO report,/4/ that the sine qua non of what we can get done here under present policies is mutual confidence. I hope Nhu's suspicions can be overcome and that they will not rub off on President Diem and other members of the government.

/4/See footnote 2, Document 62.



69. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam/1/

Washington, March 29, 1963-1:04 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, AID(US) S VIET Secret; Limit Distribution; Operational Immediate. Drafted by Heavner and cleared by Koren, Rice, and Hilsman. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD.

911. Embtel 852./2/ We most concerned by report GVN apparently drawing back from commitment to continue successful rural CI social economic programs which we view as heart of effort to win support of VN people and isolate VC. If our figures correct, funds remaining for these programs will be exhausted in about one month. Firm GVN commitment therefore appears most urgent matter. In negotiating with Nhu and Diem you therefore authorized at your discretion stress great importance we attach to these programs and state Washington also views their continuation as test of mutual confidence. If GVN unwilling trust us to extent of continuing successful and vital CI programs under proven machinery, difficulties of working together for common goals will be greatly increased.

/2/Document 68.

You are also authorized tell Nhu and Diem that you instructed assure them US policy remains full support of Diem's government in its efforts defend VN against VC attack and bring better life to VN people. Mansfield report does not mean change in US policy of support for GVN against Communist threat. This connection you may wish quote President Kennedy's March 6 press conference remarks on Mansfield report./3/

/3/During his press conference on March 6, President Kennedy was asked to comment on the recommendation by the Mansfield committee for "a thorough security reassessment in the Far East and a clamp down, if not a reduction in our aid to that part of the world.'' Kennedy replied:

''I don't see how we are going to be able, unless we are going to pull out of Southeast Asia and turn it over to the Communists, how we are going to be able to reduce very much our economic programs and military programs in South Viet-Nam in Cambodia, in Thailand.

''I think that unless you want to withdraw from the field and decide that it is in the national interest to permit that area to collapse, I would think that it would be impossible to substantially change it particularly, as we are in a very intensive struggle in those areas.'' (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963, pp. 243-244)

With regard Warren Unna visit you may wish tell Nhu that Thompson had long talk with Unna last night and Unna appeared impressed by Thompson's positive views VN situation.



70. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, March 30, 1963, noon.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, AID(US) S VIET. Secret; Limit Distribution. Repeated to CINCPAC.

860. CINCPAC for POLAD. Deptel 911/2/ greatly appreciated. If Thuan has been unable to overcome main objection to counterinsurgency fund described Embtel 852/3/ on basis arguments already advanced, warnings and assurances contained reftel should be most useful in my next meeting with him, Nhu or Diem. To make point even more emphatic, plan tell them also that further procurement and shipment of hamlet kit materials (barbed wire, etc.), PL 480 and AID dollar procurement items for hamlets would not seem justified unless there is adequate piaster fund to go with them, and agreed procedures for their effective use.

/2/Document 69.

/3/Document 68.

Harkin and Brent concur.



71. Telegram From the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Harkins) to the Commander in Chief, Pacific (Felt)/1/

Saigon, March 30, 1963, 2:05 p.m.

/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 84, Saigon Embassy Files: FRC 68 A 5159, Interdiction, SGN (63)19 GVN. Top Secret; Priority. Sent to CNO exclusive for Admiral Felt who was in Washington and for General Barnes. A copy was sent by courier to Ambassador Nolting.

MACJ00 1870. 1. My comments on State to Saigon 22 March/2/ follow. Before making specific comments I want to set the stage first. There are no hard facts here to support general theme that aerial interdiction is an indiscriminate killer. Second, recognize fully that the war in Vietnam is political as well as military. In fact, this point was one of the essential elements in the National Campaign Plan. How ever at this stage of the game the 30,000 VC casualties on the one hand and 13,000 RVN on the other for 1962 would indicate it has a distinct military flavor. Third, political attacks by the VC are possible only because of the active participation of their military forces. For this reason, destruction of the VC political organization, which is essential to GVN efforts to regain control and support of the people, requires application of force against the VC military capability which enables it to flourish. In many cases air delivered munitions are the only type of force which can presently reach some of the VC strongholds. Fourth, to consider the VC as merely a political adversary in spite of the vicious manner and means that he employs to subvert the populace is inviting disaster and accepting a degree of procrastination which puts time on his side.

/2/Document 66.

2. Specific comments in the area of statement of the problem follow:

a. U.S. supported offensive sorties though increasing have not reached the tempo cited. Actual statistics for U.S. fixed wing aircraft for the past 6 months reveal a total of 2450 offensive sorties for an average of 480 per month of which an average of 100 were interdiction. 183 (Farmgate) interdiction missions have been flown thus far in March 1963 which is indicative of the increase in this area.

b. The first paragraph should state that these air strikes are based upon confirmed intelligence. Additionally, Vietnamese military personnel are on board U.S. aircraft when ordnance delivery missions are flown.

c. In regard to the 2nd paragraph, VC bases and installations identified by intelligence have existed for a considerable period-if not hard core, the population in these areas are considered active sympathizers in the enemy camp. We realize that 2 or 3 hard core VC can make a village VC using their terrorist methods. We are particularly mindful of this and never put strikes on such villages if we feel this the case.

d. Third paragraph is basically sound although the quality and quantity of intelligence are improving. Unfortunately shooting wars have always produced civilian casualties. A most regrettable fact. This must be weighed in light of the malicious killing done by the VC purposeful terrorization.

e. The concern expressed in paragraph 4 of the problem is shared here. The RVN accepts the probability of occasional incidents philosophically. The most probable adverse effect has been VC exploitation and exaggeration for propaganda purposes. It must be pointed out that air is only one of many means to achieve interdiction; however, it attracts more attention though not necessarily inflicting more innocent casualties in RVN than artillery, surface action, etc. Further, there is no basis to assume relaxation of thorough planning and forewarning measures to avoid civil casualties even at the expense of reduced results.

f. The approach expressed in paragraph 5 of the problem has been unavoidably compromised numerous times. The presence of U.S. press representatives free to report anything other than classified information makes secretiveness in this area more difficult. It is quite possible that a reevaluation of the U.S. role is in order as pertains to open acknowledgment of our disdain for international Communism.

3. Following comment pertains to the Pros of the problem:

a. Although this may be called a political war it is an established fact that the VC have maintained and operated four war zones for as long as 17 years. Support by the population concentrically surrounding these zones varies inversely with the distance from the heart of each war zone area; from passive support, such as providing rice, to active participation in guerrilla actions. These war zones are the safe havens inside the country from which the direction of the VC effort comes.

b. The former successes in recruiting have not been continued as evidenced by increased tempo of kidnapping and impressing of males to support the VC cause. The "dramatic growth'' in VC strength is more attributable to our own improved intelligence reporting, which has confirmed that the VC hard core was already there.

c. Parts of RVN are enemy held as stated in paragraph 2 (War Zones). The aircraft presently used in SVN are adapted to the type of interdiction missions that the enemy disposition and the nature of the terrain dictate. The optimum roles of air operations in this type of conflict are the support roles. However, this does not obviate offensive operations as a major contribution to the C.I. effort.

d. Target lists are approved by JGS after intensive screening. In the present organization of the districts and provinces either the chief or his deputy is a military man. The conditions that existed in June of last year no longer apply to the tempo and method of current operations.

e. Propaganda is not restricted to the Communist bloc. Our role in RVN should be placed before the world by our own agencies to allow both sides to be analyzed. The current propaganda is an excellent barometer of the effectiveness of our air operations. It does not appear that we have suffered a loss of prestige in any friendly nation in S.E. Asia.

f. U.S. forces are presently in South Vietnam at the request of the RVN in an advisory role. RVN is not a signatory of the Geneva Accords.

g. RVNAF pilots unaccompanied by U.S. advisors fly the majority of interdiction missions. No interdiction missions are executed by USAF pilots exclusively.

4. Conclusions:

a. It is essential in a counter-insurgency effort that all types of means and method of delivery of munitions be employed. Increasing intelligence capabilities, proper selection of targets, better accuracy on control of delivery, all of which we are working daily to improve, should do much to eliminate the political opposition to interdiction.

b. As long as the U.S. supports the RVN in this effort propaganda wise it appears to make little difference as to whether interdiction is made by U.S. or VN piloted aircraft. If air attacks were not hurting the VC the propaganda effort would not be directed at this capability. The VC is directing a strong propaganda and terrorist campaign against the strategic hamlet too and we know this program is hurting them badly.

c. Aerial interdiction cannot be related to recruiting ability of VC, as long as the VC have access to people they will get recruits. As the VNAF improves in capability direct U.S. participation (Farmgate) will be reduced accordingly.

5. This responds to ADMINO CINCPAC 242350Z/3/ which requested my personal comments. My response has been prepared in order to reach you while you are still in Washington. Country Team position this regard has not been determined, however Amb Nolting has seen this message./4/

/3/Not found.

/4/Numbered paragraph 5 was handwritten. On March 30, General Anthis, U.S. Air Force Commander in Vietnam, sent a memorandum to General Harkins commenting on airgram CA-10362, Document 66, along lines similar to those outlined in Harkins' telegram:

''In summary, I can think of no greater advantage to be gained by the VC than to have the role of air curtailed at this time. If we wish to serve the interests of the Communists, this is the step to take. The last attack from Hanoi was on defoliation. Apparently the latest is interdiction. If interdiction is curtailed or stopped then I would say we are well on our way to a 'gut-less' war in SVN.'' (Washington National Records Center, RG 84, Saigon Embassy Files: FRC 68 A 5159, Interdiction, SGN (63)19 GVN)


72. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Hilsman) to the Secretary of State/1/

Washington, April 1963./2/

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, Hilsman Papers, Vietnam Country Series, Hilsman Trip 12/62-1/63, Related Documents. Secret. Also sent to McNamara, McCone, Harriman, McGeorge Bundy, William Bundy, and Forrestal.

/2/The source text is undated, but it appears to have been drafted shortly after Hilsman assumed the duties of Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs in April.

South Viet-Nam

In my judgment, the strategic concept that was developed for South Viet-Nam remains basically sound. If we can ever manage to have it implemented fully and with vigor, the result will be victory.

The concept is based on the assumption that villagers in Southeast Asia are turned inward on themselves and have little or no sense of identification with either the national government or Communist ideology--that the villagers are isolated physically, politically and psychologically. In such circumstances, it is not at all difficult to develop a guerrilla movement. In Burma during World War II, about 150 Americans created a guerrilla force of 30,000 and did it with white faces. It is hardly surprising that the Viet Cong could do equally well or better in South Viet-Nam.

A corollary to this assumption is that the villager's greatest desire is security and that, if the villagers are given security, some simple progress towards a better life, and--most important of all--a sense that the government cares about them and their future, they will respond with loyalty.

The recent USIA survey of Long An/3/ gives some evidence of the validity of this assumption. 1,250 families were interviewed in Long An, which is among the worst of the Delta provinces. The results were as follows: In insecure villages, 75 percent of the people expressed an attitude towards the Viet Cong and the government that was essentially "a plague on both their houses'', and 25 percent of the people were silent. In relatively secure villages--those which could be penetrated by large Viet Cong groups but not by small patrols--50 percent of the people took a "plague on both their houses'' point of view, and 50 percent were mildly pro-government. In very secure villages, which had also received some benefits, such as a school or a well, the people were 100 percent pro-government and expressed a determination to fight the Viet Cong.

/3/Not found.

On the basis of such an apparently valid assumption, the strategic concept calls for primary emphasis on giving security to the villages. The tactics are the so-called oil-blot approach, starting with a secure areas and extending it slowly, making sure no Viet Cong pockets are left behind, and using police units to winkle out the Viet Cong agents in each particular village.

This calls for the use of military forces in a different way from that of orthodox, conventional war. Rather than chasing Viet Cong, the military must put primary emphasis on clear-and-hold operations and on rapid reinforcement of villages under attack. It is also important, of course, to keep the Viet Cong regular units off balance by conventional offensive operations, but these should be secondary to the major task of extending security.

All this requires careful coordination of military operations, police efforts and rural development towards the primary objectives: the extension of security over the heavily-populated regions of the Delta, the cutting off of Viet Cong sources of supplies and especially recruits, and their dispersion into the jungles and mountains where they can be worn down by attrition, starvation and more conventional military means.

At the heart of the strategic concept are two basic principles:

The first is that of the oil blot. In the past, the GVN sought to blanket the whole country with so-called strategic hamlets which in many cases involved nothing more than wire-enclosed villages doused with political propaganda, with the Viet Cong agents left in place. The result was to blanket the Delta with little Dienbienphus--indefensible, inadequately armed hamlets far from reinforcements, that lacked both government benefits and police facilities to winkle out Communist sympathizers, with Viet Cong pockets left behind. In effect these were storage places of arms for the Viet Cong which could be seized at any time. After November 1st, the military began to demobilize some of these vulnerable villages and outposts, and a race developed between the government and the Viet Cong. The race may have ended in a tie, but the result is that the Viet Cong now have much better weapons and greater stocks of ammunition than they ever had before.

The second basic principle is that the way to fight a guerrilla is to adopt the tactics of the guerrilla--night ambushes, small patrols, and so on. In spite of all our pressures, this has never been done in Viet-Nam. Instead, the emphasis has been on large operations, artillery and air bombardments, and the use of cumbersome battalion-sized units which telegraph their movements to the Viet Cong.

As to the question of operations against North Viet-Nam, I would suggest that such operations may at a certain stage be a useful supplement to an effective counterinsurgency program, but they would not be an effective substitute for such a program.

My own preference would be to continue the covert, or at least deniable, operations along the general lines we have been following for some months with the objective, since these are only pinpricks, not of forcing North Viet-Nam to its knees but of keeping the threat of eventual destruction alive in Hanoi's mind. Then, after we had made sufficient progress in the Delta so that all concerned began to realize that the Viet Cong were losing the support of the population, and that their ability to continue the war depended solely on North Vietnamese support, I think we should indicate as much privately to the North Vietnamese and follow this by selected attacks on their infiltration bases and training camps.

In my judgment, significant action against North Viet-Nam that is taken before we have demonstrated success in our counter-insurgency program will be interpreted by the Communists as an act of desperation, and will, therefore, not be effective in persuading the North Vietnamese to cease and desist. What is worse, I think that premature action will so alarm our friends and allies and a significant segment of domestic opinion that the pressures for neutralization will become formidable.

In sum, I believe that we can win in Viet-Nam with a number of provisos.

The first proviso is that we do not over-militarize the war-that we concentrate not on killing Viet Cong and other conventional means of warfare, but on an effective program for extending the areas of security gradually, systematically, and thoroughly. This will require better teamwork in Saigon than we have had in the past and considerably more emphasis on clear-and-hold operations and on police work than we ourselves have given to the Vietnamese.

The problem of getting effective teamwork is troublesome. Ideally, what we need is what the British had in Malaya-a Gerald Templar who has absolute authority to hire and fire anyone in any agency or department and through whom all reporting and all orders are transmitted.

My second proviso is that there be political stability in Saigon. The talk of neutralization is clearly very dangerous. It tends to be in the nature of a self-fulfilling prophecy-talk about neutralization disheartens those who must fully and vigorously implement the strategic concept and encourages those who are plotting for a neutralist coup.

I think we can counter such dangers most effectively by the proposals in my letter to you of March 14/4/ dealing with the whole of Southeast Asia; if necessary, however, we might also station a Marine battalion in Saigon. Publicly, we could explain this as a move to protect American dependents; privately, we could pass the word in Viet-Nam that we wanted no more coupe.

/4/Not found.

To reiterate, I think that we have made the necessary and fundamental policy decision on the over-all strategic concept. What remains is to implement this concept vigorously and with effective coordination.


73. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State/1/

Washington, April 1, 1963, noon.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL S VIET Secret. Drafted by Wood on April 5 and approved in M on April 15. Thompson spent 2 weeks in Washington at the end of March and the first week in April. During the period April 1-4, Thompson met with a number of officials concerned with developments in Vietnam including Hilsman, Harriman, Rusk, Murrow, McNamara, and Kennedy. No records of Thompson's conversations with Hilsman, Rusk, Murrow and McNamara have been found. Regarding Thompson's conversation with President Kennedy, see Document 77.

Situation in Viet-Nam

Governor W. Averell Harriman
Mr. R.G K Thompson, Head, British Advisory Mission to Viet-Nam
Mr. Michael V. Forrestal, NSC Member
Mr. William H. Sullivan, Asst. to Undersecretary for Political Affairs
Mr. Chalmers B. Wood, Director, Working Group/Viet-Nam

There follow the chief topics in the conversation between Governor Harriman and Mr. Thompson:

1. Confidence. Thompson emphasized the necessity of building confidence on the part of the GVN and in Washington. This was a matter of making it clear that we were determined to see this through. The Governor asked whether it was possible to build Vietnamese confidence in Diem. Thompson replied that where you needed confidence most was in the villages and that it was increasing there. An index of this confidence was the fact that so much rice was getting through from the villages to Saigon. The GVN might be able to export 300,000 tons during 1963. The Mansfield Report had a depressing effect, particularly because it complimented Sihanouk. The Governor wondered whether Senator Mansfield knew this.

2. Press Relations. The Governor felt that the chief responsibility for improving press relations rests with the GVN President Diem and that everything possible had been done in Washington. Thompson said that he had strongly emphasized the importance of this matter to President Diem and to Thuan.

3. U.S. Forces Level. Thompson said that Secretary McNamara has asked him about the advisability of reducing U.S. forces. He had replied that if progress during 1963 continued good, and if it were possible to have a white area during the summer, it might be wise to reduce U.S. strength by a significant amount, say 1,000 men. This would take the steam out of Viet Cong propaganda and it would reaffirm the honesty of American intentions.

4. Population Control. Thompson believed this program should have priority in order to regain control of the hamlets. Many villagers were pleased that the Government cared enough to give them I.D. cards. The program so far has been a thorough and useful census. The Governor felt that the name was unfortunate and should be changed.

5. Surrender Program. Thompson emphasized that the top level of the GVN now understood that persons who surrender must be well treated. Nhu attached great importance to this.

6. Strategic Hamlets. In general it is no longer possible for the Viet Cong to run in and out of these hamlets at will. Before the U.S. took a decisive hand the hamlet program had been shallow and inadequate. Since September, 1962, it has been much better.

7. Size of Viet Cong Forces. The Governor noted that the number of Viet Cong continued to increase. Thompson said that this was done mainly by recruitment, pointing out that the Viet Cong control large enough areas to recruit the numbers they need.

8. Montagnards. Thompson was pleased with the Montagnards but cautioned that they were less dependable than the Vietnamese villagers, more easily influenced by unfounded rumors, and therefore prone to switching sides.

9. Republican Youth Movement and Women's Solidarity Movement. Thompson said he was chary of these organizations. He did not know much about the Women's Solidarity Movement. These organizations were very much Vietnamese affairs. However, if it was necessary to give training to people who were already Republican Youth in order to improve hamlet defense, we should not hesitate to do so.

10. GVN Foreign Relations. The Governor felt that Diem could obtain better control of his frontiers by changing his attitude toward Sihanouk. Thompson was dubious.

11. Authority of Local Officials. The Governor felt that the GVN should give more authority to its local officials and pick better people for these jobs. Thompson emphasized the greatly improved caliber of the province chiefs.

12. Corps Headquarters. Thompson felt that the creation of headquarters for the four Corps in Viet-Nam added one more layer to the chain-of-command, that they were obstructive, and used up too many officers.

13. Recruiting for Civilian Jobs. This was difficult as the Army has had the cream for eight years. The middle ranks of the Civil Service must, in the future, come from the Army. Parenthetically, there is no longer any difficulty in recruiting for the Civil Guard. This is an important indication, said Thompson, of improved rural morale.

14. Diem and the Chain-of-Command. Thompson felt that President Diem should delegate more authority.

15. Tactical Air. Thompson was strongly opposed to bombing populated areas which were not under Viet Cong attack.


74. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam/1/

Washington, April 1, 1963, 5:40 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, AID(US) S VIET Secret; Operational Immediate; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Heavner and Stoneman and cleared by Wood, Rice, and Hilsman, and in DOD/ISA in substance by Heinz. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD.

910. State/AID/Defense message. Embtel 860./2/ Concur with your plan tell Nhu and Diem further procurement and shipment hamlet kit materials, PL-480 and AID dollar procurement items for hamlets not justified unless there adequate piaster fund and agreed procedures for piaster use.

/2/Document 70.

You may further wish indicate that new approvals are currently pending in AID/W for additional funds for direct counter-insurgency procurement and for additional Title II PL-480 commodities. We may hold up these approvals pending resolution piaster issue. FYI, we will continue processing papers assuming satisfactory outcome your negotiations End FYI.




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