U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Other State Department Archive SitesU.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Home Issues & Press Travel & Business Countries Youth & Education Careers About State Video
 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

75. Memorandum for the Record by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Taylor)/1/

Washington, April 2, 1963.

/1/Source: National Defense University, Taylor Papers, T-646-71. Secret.

SUBJECT
Meeting with Under Secretary Harriman with regard to Command Relationships between CINCPAC and COMUSMACV

1. I introduced the discussion by describing the review of command relationships made by the JCS which culminated in the recent discussion with Admiral Felt. I showed him General Harkins' "Eyes Only'' to the Chairman (MAC 566)/2/ in which General Harkins recommends no change in the present command setup. I also called Mr. Harriman's attention to General Harkins' directive,/3/ in particular to paragraph 2a which gives Harkins broad responsibilities in the fields of US military policy, operation, advice and assistance to South Vietnam.

/2/Not found.

/3/See Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. II, Document 53.

2. I explained to Mr. Harriman that the Chiefs had gone over this paragraph 2a with Admiral Felt and all were in agreement that this language gave Harkins adequate authority to deal with local incidents, and to conduct the campaign as he saw fit without further specific authority from higher headquarters.

3. With regard to establishing a direct channel of communication between the JCS and General Harkins, I explained the practical difficulties of such a change and the disadvantages from the point of view of the JCS.

4. Mr. Harriman appeared reasonably well satisfied with my explanation but reserved the right to reopen the matter if the present arrangement, in his judgment, does not work well./4/ I asked him to take a look at the POLAD situation in Honolulu as the State representation there should keep CINCPAC abreast of political and economic issues. Mr. Harriman indicated that he would talk to Minister Martin, the present CINCPAC POLAD, and would consider what changes, if any, might be made.

/4/Harriman called U. Alexis Johnson later in the day to discuss his conversation with Taylor:

''They agreed to recommend to the Secy that they continue the present setup re Gen Harkins, but reserve the right to reopen the question in the future.'' (Memorandum of telephone conversation, April 2; Library of Congress, Harriman Papers, Telecons--March-April-May 1963)

5. In the course of the conversation, Mr. Harriman indicated that Admiral Jerauld Wright would succeed Admiral Kirk as Ambassador to Taipei and that Nolting had requested relief from Saigon effective this coming May. Thus far, no successor has been designated.

MDT

 

76. Memorandum From the Director of the Vietnam Working Group (Wood) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Hilsman)/1/

Washington, April 3, 1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 67 D 54, DEF 19-3, Equip and Supplies. Secret. Drafted by Heavner. A copy was also sent to Rice.

SUBJECT
Jets for Government of Viet-Nam

I thought it might be useful for you to have in writing our reasons for opposing the proposal to supply the GVN with four RT-33 and two T-33 jets at this time:

(1) Giving the Vietnamese jets would be a small but significant escalation of the war in Viet-Nam. We would lose the ability to remove jets from Viet-Nam at any time that the international situation might make it in our interest to do so. The fact that these are unarmed jets will be overlooked by Bloc propagandists. Such a move would give the Bloc an excuse for escalation. If the GVN is doing as well against the VC as many of us believe, the DRV and the Bloc may well be looking for such an excuse.

(2) The fact that Cambodia will receive MIGs from the Russians should not be a reason for giving jets to Viet-Nam.

(3) There appears to be no need to give jets to the Vietnamese in order to get the job done. In fact, the job would admittedly be done better if we continued to use only American piloted aircraft. The reason for this is that the T-33 is not as good for reconnaissance as the F-101 which American pilots are now using.

(4) Giving the Vietnamese jets would be a flat and obvious violation of the Geneva Accords, which specifically prohibit the introduction of jet engines into SVN. It is true that we have already been cited for introducing jets and other war material into Viet-Nam. We continue to receive citations from the ICC each time a new violation is detected. Our policy has been to minimize the number of these citations as much as possible. This is because the ICC still has an important effect on world opinion and because there are still things the ICC can do for us. The June 2, 1962 report of the ICC charging the DRV with carrying out a campaign aimed at the violent overthrow of the GVN continues to be very useful./2/ At the moment we want to keep Hanoi's "noxious chemicals'' charge either out of the ICC altogether, or perhaps get the ICC to debunk this propaganda by investigating and reporting that the charges are unfounded. This means we still need ICC, or rather Indian, cooperation.

/2/See Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. II, Document 208.

(5) It is true that giving jets to the Vietnamese would permit them to undertake one of the jobs now being done by Americans. It is also true that the Vietnamese should have some reconnaissance jets of their own before we pull out of Viet-Nam. However, the number of personnel involved is small and the date of our pullout distance.

Conclusion

Giving jets to the Vietnamese now would not shorten the war. It would increase the risks of international incidents and repercussions.

Recommendation

That jets not be given to Viet-Nam now and that the question be reviewed every six months.

 

77. Memorandum of Conversation, White House/1/

Washington, April 4, 1963, 10 a.m.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, 4/63-5/63. Secret. Drafted by Wood on April 5. Approved by the White House on April 9.

SUBJECT
Situation in Viet-Nam

PARTICIPANTS
The President
The Honorable David Ormsby Gore, British Ambassador
Mr. R.G.K. Thompson, Head, British Advisory Mission to Viet-Nam
Mr. Chalmers B. Wood, Director, Working Group, Viet-Nam

The following are the principal points touched on between the President and Mr. R.G.K. Thompson:

1. Diem. Thompson emphasized that Diem had much support in the country where it counted and that he had written off the Saigon intelligentsia. In reply to a question from the President, he said that the quality of the political opposition was very poor. He said that if Diem disappeared there would be a risk of losing the war within six months since there was no other leader of his caliber available. (After the meeting with the President, he qualified this remark by saying that as a result of the war effort there was a continuing increase in the number of competent and experienced Vietnamese officials.)

2. How the War is going. Thompson said that on the military side statistics showed that things were moving in our favor. He cited particularly the increased number of defectors (from an average of 15-20 a week in early 1962 to 148 for the week ending March 25, 1963). He cautioned that the pattern of the war would not change much, that there would be no major victories on our side, and that we had to expect as a part of the fortunes of war occasional reverses, such as the one at Ap Bac.

3. Infiltration. The numbers were not large but the quality of the cadres infiltrated was high. The Viet Cong did not possess the food and equipment necessary to absorb a large quantity of infiltrators and they wished to keep North Viet-Nam's role in the war at least semi-covert.

4. The President asked why the Viet Minh were able to defeat the French. Thompson replied the French never had any hope of getting the people on their side and that the strategic hamlet program, which had gone much better than anyone had expected, provided a degree of security in the countryside which the French had never been able to achieve.

5. American Military Personnel. Thompson said that the American military personnel that he had observed, particularly the MAAG Advisers in the provinces, were very good. He was also impressed by the good behavior of the American military in Saigon.

6. Favorable contrast between the Government of Viet-Nam and Viet Cong controlled territories. Thompson said that things had now progressed to a point where an observer in a plane could distinguish, on the one hand, GVN-controlled territories where roads and bridges were repaired and strategic hamlets built, and, on the other hand, VC territory where the bridges were generally down and the roads cut.

7. Defoliants. Thompson doubted that the effort involved in defoliation was worthwhile on the grounds that even when the foliage was dead, sufficient branches and twigs remained to provide hiding places for the Viet Cong. He also cited the automatic aversion of the Asians to the use of unknown chemicals. As to crop destruction, he believed this should only be carried out in a situation where it was clear that the Viet Cong had no sources of supplies other than the areas to be destroyed. The President asked that the defoliation and crop destruction programs be reviewed again.

8. Vietnamese Morale. Thompson said that the morale not only of the top leaders but also of most Vietnamese civilian and military authorities, particularly province chiefs, was up.

9. Helicopters. These were useful instruments for preventing Viet Cong concentrations and surprising the Viet Cong, but they would not lead to large scale victories. The war would "be won by brains and feet''.

10. Terrorism. Terrorism is not bad at present but as it becomes clear that the Viet Cong are losing, an increase in terrorism, particularly hand grenades in Saigon, should be expected. Such terrorism would be an admission of defeat. It would require steady nerves to endure it, particularly given the unfavorable publicity which would probably be generated in the foreign press.

The Viet Cong were not using much terrorism against officials. They did not kill popular officials but sought to make them unpopular before bumping them off.

11. North Viet-Nam. Not much has been accomplished by the GVN agents who are amateurs when they come up against the professional defense, security, and intelligence measures of the DRV on its home grounds.

12. Tactical Air. This is a key factor, Thompson said, in preventing Viet Cong concentrations, in rescues, and in assisting villages which are attacked. Thompson was dead against strafing and bombing of occupied villages as this would leave an indissoluble legacy of bitterness. He believed that present controls were sufficient to prevent attacks against villages occupied by the Viet Cong.

13. Surrender Policy. Thompson believed that the surrender policy as now elaborated was good. He thought we should give it public support when it was announced (it is now due for announcement on April 17).

14. U.S. Presence. If the GVN continued to progress at the present rate, if it were possible to declare one or two provinces white areas by summer 1963 (no announcement about white areas should be made unless it were certain that the areas were indeed freed of the Viet Cong), and finally, if confidence of success continued to grow until the end of the year, an announcement out of the blue by the United States that it was reducing the American military in Viet-Nam by say 1,000 men would have three good effects:

a) It would show that we were winning;

b) It would take the steam out of the Communists' best propaganda line, i.e., that this was an American war and the Vietnamese were our satellite; and

c) It would reaffirm the honesty of American intentions.

 

78. Minutes of Meeting of the Special Group for Counterinsurgency/1/

Washington, April 4, 1963, 2 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Special Group Counterinsurgency Files: Lot 68 D 451, Special Group (CI). Secret. Drafted by Dingeman who is not listed among the participants.

PRESENT
Governor Harriman, The Attorney General, Mr. Gilpatric, Mr. McCone, Mr. Forrestal, Mr. Coffin vice Mr. Bell, Mr. Wilson vice Mr. Murrow, General Johnson vice General Taylor
Mr. Thompson and Mr. Wood were present for Item 1
Mr. Jorden and Mr. Cooper were present for Items 1 and 2
Mr. Maechling, Mr. Koren, Mr. Janow and Mr. Wolf were present for the meeting

1. Discussion with Mr. Thompson on the Situation in Viet-Nam

Mr. Robert Thompson, head of the British Advisory Mission to Viet-Nam, discussed with the members his observations on the situation in Viet-Nam. He characterized the situation as one of requiring patience and exhibiting confidence. Relative to the latter, he believes that the Vietnamese have confidence in the ultimate success of the war against the Viet Cong. He cautioned, however, that there is the danger that we may be over-extending ourselves in the strategic hamlet program, leaving pockets of Viet Cong control behind to subvert and harass the peasants. He stressed the importance of consolidating areas prior to pushing forward into insecure areas.

Mr. Thompson observed that the infiltration is not a decisive factor in Viet Cong recruitment, and that only a relatively small amount of equipment comes into the country by this means. It is his opinion that the solution to the infiltration problem is to gain solid control at the village level with military forces screening in the border areas. Once solid control in the villages is gained, it will be possible to detect infiltrators as they attempt to enter these secure areas.

Mr. Thompson stated that it was his belief that U.S. forces in Viet-Nam are adequate for the task, but by the end of the year it could be possible to withdraw some of these forces. This move should be made as an indication that we are winning and tied into the achievement of a white area, free from Viet Cong attack. He also brought out that good relations exist between the U.S. and Vietnamese. However, he believes that reporting in the U.S. papers on the overall effort in Viet-Nam could be improved.

He acknowledged that a weakness of the Vietnamese is that they have been unable to cope with Communist penetration efforts in the Government, labor, and student organizations. However, steps are being taken to build up an internal security service to improve their capabilities in this area.

In commenting on air strikes, Mr. Thompson stated that their utilization is essential, as the threat prevents the Viet Cong from concentrating to carry out operations. He agreed that large scale "clear and hold'' operations, although they may have some value, have not obtained significant results to date. He emphasized that the most effective method of operations against the Viet Cong are extended operations of ranger or similar type units in areas under Viet Cong control.

Mr. Thompson remarked that President Diem is stronger in the provinces than in Saigon. However, the Government is very dependent on him, and if he were to fall, the whole Government would collapse. To counter this possibility, we must encourage the establishment of a stable administrative system operating from the Ministries down to the village level, which would eventually lead to a viable government when the insurgency situation abates. In conjunction with this effort, planning should be initiated for demobilization, as well as increased attention to programs to assist in the agricultural sector.

Mr. Thompson commented that the only valid bench mark to assess the effectiveness of our effort in Viet-Nam is "when we reach the level of having sufficient control of the population to deny their accessibility to actions by the Viet Cong.'' He believes we might reach this point by the middle of next year. In conclusion, Mr. Thompson stated that the key to success in Viet-Nam is the population and the existence of a strong government, which functions for the benefit of the people. He believes that this trend is now slowly developing.

2. Discussion with Mr. Jorden Concerning his Recent Trip to Viet-Nam/2/

/2/See Documents 64 and 65.

Mr. Jorden, Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, presented a summary of his findings based on his recent trip to Viet-Nam. Mr. Jorden pointed out that he was unable to document and develop any hard evidence of infiltration from Laos into Viet-Nam after October 1, 1962. Mr. Cooper, who has just returned from Viet-Nam, stated that it was difficult to assess the extent of infiltration from Laos; however, he did observe that the Viet Cong are now infiltrating from the southern delta area into the northern provinces. In response to a question from the Chairman, Mr. Jorden stated it would be extremely difficult to interdict infiltration from Laos, but that reconnaissance and surveillance operations over the border should help in determining intelligence on the source of any infiltration.

Mr. Jorden mentioned that he believes that present press reporting out of Viet-Nam is about the best that could be expected under the present circumstances. However, he pointed out that efforts should be made to provide more background briefings for the press in Saigon.

Mr. Jorden stated that despite progress and increased U.S. efforts in Viet-Nam, he did not detect on his recent trip any significant signs of enthusiasm on the part of the Vietnamese that the situation was getting better.

[Here follows discussion of agenda items 3. "Report on Feeder Roads'' in Thailand, 4. "Assessment of Communist Subversive Efforts in Thailand--Bangkok 1477, dated March 29, 1963'', and "Miscellaneous."]

James W. Dingeman
Executive Secretary

 

79. Letter From the Director of the Vietnam Working Group (Wood) to the Ambassador in Vietnam (Nolting)/1/

Washington, April 4, 1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 67 D 54, ORG-1 Gen Pol (Off & Inf Lets). Secret.

Dear Fritz: Thank you for your letter of March 25/2/ on Dave Nuttle's proposals. The letter has just arrived. Your comments seem wise and practical. After I have given myself the pleasure of studying them more carefully I will pass them on to those directly concerned. I think Dave Nuttle's paper and your comments taken together could be very usefully synthesized for use in, say, similar minority problems in other underdeveloped countries.

/2/In his letter to Wood, Nolting assessed a proposal forwarded from the State Department, which called for the establishment of three-man ethnic specialist teams to prepare long-term field studies of tribal minority areas in Vietnam. Nolting praised the idea, but suggested that the techniques proposed should be considered for application in other countries "which are vulnerable to Communist blandishments but which have not yet been swept up in a Viet-Nam style liberation war.'' In Vietnam, Nolting felt that "programs relating to the Montagnards have now gone far beyond the point where such teams would be of much help.'' (Ibid.)

Under the same general head, the British Embassy here tells me, as you probably already know, that their team on aborigines is being formed and that some of the members have, I understand, already arrived in Saigon.

On another British front the Embassy tells me that their plans and funds for a medical team are in hand and that the present problem is the completion of recruiting six properly qualified people.

The most helpful British development has been Bob Thompson's visit, just completed. Before dictating the necessary memoranda of conversations, I thought I would give you the highlights. He saw the President this morning and when queried about Diem, he said the question was not whether we could win with Diem but that without Diem we would very probably lose within six months. He emphasized that the quality of the opposition was very poor. As to the war, he underlined the military statistics which are moving in our favor (especially defections-up to 148 for the week ending March 25). He played down the importance of infiltration. When asked why the French had not been able to win he replied that they had had no hope of getting the population on their side, but that more importantly the strategic hamlet program had gone very much better than we had expected. He praised the quality of the American military observers and advisers. As to defoliants, he felt that even when the foliage was dead it was still possible for the Viet Cong to hide under the branches. He also cited as a negative factor the automatic Asian aversion to unknown chemicals. He was not opposed to crop destruction, provided it was carefully planned so that it really hurt the Viet Cong. He emphasized the improving morale of Vietnamese military and civilian officials, particularly the province chiefs.

Queried on helicopters he said they were fine to prevent large scale concentrations and to surprise the Viet Cong, but that we must expect no large scale victories from them. The war, he emphasized, would be won slowly by brains and feet. He warned that as things turned more definitely against the Viet Cong they must be expected to use more terror, particularly in the form of hand grenades in Saigon.

He felt that tactical air was a key factor in preventing Viet Cong concentrations and in helping villagers and armed forces engaged on the ground. He was dead against strafing and bombing occupied villages since this left an irremediable legacy of bitterness. He thought that the present restrictions reduced the dangers of such activities. Tactical air, he said was carefully controlled and the pilots understood that when in doubt about bombing and strafing, they should not do it.

Throughout, he made it clear that we are winning, that we are on the right track and that we should not be drawn off or man the panic station if there are further incidents like Ap Bac or if press reports continue to be unsavory.

He believed it possible that a real white area could be achieved between June and August, and that if we continue to gain the upper hand it would be wise for the United States to decide unilaterally and without prior announcement to reduce the MAAG by a substantial amount, say 1,000, at the end of calendar 1963. This, he emphasized, would show our confidence that we are winning, would take the steam out of the main Viet Cong propaganda line (that the Vietnamese are a satellite of the Americans), and would reaffirm the honesty of American intentions.

The President warmly congratulated Bob on his presentation and on his very fine work in Viet-Nam.

I enclose a very incomplete agenda/3/ showing some of the other persons he met during his visit here.

/3/Not found attached.

I might comment that his meeting with the Governor was extremely cordial, lasting an hour and 15 minutes-during which time the Governor kept his hearing aid in with the volume up. This is, I believe, a record for undivided gubernatorial attention. To the Governor, Thompson stressed the need for patience and confidence.

Speaking of the attitude of the Vietnamese peasants, the Secretary supposed that the average Vietnamese peasant did not arise and beat his breast and inquire what he could do for Ngo Dinh Diem that day. He recalled that as a boy on a farm in Georgia they had a phone which was connected to about 30 others in the neighborhood, that three rings on the phone signaled everyone to pick up the instrument, and that such a signal could only mean fire, mad dog, or Federal Revenue Agent.

Thompson also made his point to Mr. McNamara about reducing the size of MAAG at the end of the year if things continue to go well.

He made a speech at Fort Bragg.

He was also the dinner guest of the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs Hilsman, where he had a long conversation with Warren Unna. In fact, he did so much for us these last ten days in Washington that he would deserve two months home leave even if he had not spent the previous ten months in Viet-Nam.

During all of these conversations the question of the U.S. press was, of course, a recurring topic. I forgot to mention that he gave a brief backgrounder at the British Embassy and under strictly British auspices which was attended by approximately 15-20 correspondents. The British felt it had gone very well. Roger Hilsman was pleased with the talk that Bob had with Warren Unna. I was happy to receive your letter of March 26/4/ saying that you have asked Lyall Breckon to travel to the delta with Warren if he would like to do it.

/4/Not printed. (Department of State, Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 67 D 54, Pol 7 Visits and Mtgs)

I had a fine skiing vacation.

[1 paragraph (1-1/2 lines) not declassified]

I hope to see you soon and I hope that you will let me know if there is anything that we can possibly do for you for your family before your arrival.

With all best wishes.

Yours very sincerely,

Chalmers B. Wood/5/

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

 

80. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense (McNamara)/1/

JCSM-275-63

Washington, April 4, 1963.

/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 66 A 3542, 370.64 2 Feb. Vietnam 1963. Secret.

SUBJECT
Defoliation--Operational Evaluation

1. Reference is made to JCSM-738-62, dated 28 September 1962,/2/ subject: "Review and Operational Evaluation of Defoliation Program in South Vietnam.'' In this memorandum, the Joint Chiefs of Staff concurred in a conclusion forwarded by CINCPAC which stated essentially:

/2/Not printed. (Ibid.)

Potential effectiveness of defoliation was overestimated, particularly in those areas of mixed vegetation, but it was effective in mangrove areas.

2. On the basis of the more recent information contained in the Appendix/3/hereto, evaluation of additional evidence indicates the desirability of revision of the initial conclusions. Whereas the initial test defoliation operations against mangrove forests in January-March 1962 gave satisfactory results, excellent results were obtained in the defoliation operations against mangrove forests in September-October 1962, by using increased quantities of herbicide per acre and a larger droplet size. Additionally, subsequent operations indicate that the results of using herbicides in test defoliation operations conducted prior to March 1962 in the Republic of Vietnam against evergreen and scrub forest were not conclusive because:

/3/Not found attached.

a. The tests were conducted during the dormant season for the above types of vegetation.
b. An insufficient quantity of herbicide per acre was used.
c. The droplet size was too small.

Based on the technical evaluation of the results attained in the January-March 1962 tests against evergreen and scrub forests and the increase in effectiveness obtained against mangrove areas, as stated above, there is now a good reason to conclude that herbicides, if used during the growing season in the proper quantity per acre and in a correct droplet size, would be effective against evergreen and scrub forests.

3. The letter/4/ from the Commander, United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, in the Appendix hereto should be of interest to the Advanced Research Projects Agency.

/4/Not found.

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

A. H. Manhart/5/
Major General, USA
Deputy Director, Joint Staff

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

 

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

Saigon, April 5, 1963, 7 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 26-1 S VIET Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution. Repeated to CINCPAC.

882. CINCPAC for POLAD. Embtels 852,/2/ 790; Deptel 869./3/ Herewith a report of failure to persuade or move Diem on counterinsurgency fund issue. In the past, he has been known to change his mind after digesting some hard facts. He may do so this time, but I rather doubt it. Certainly he gave no indication of so doing in course of three and one-half hour discussion Thursday evening./4/ In writing this, I am gravely concerned and perplexed. I believe I used all the ammunition and personal persuasion I had, without apparent result. He seemed stoically prepared to accept all consequences of his decision, was relatively relaxed and rather philosophical throughout, and gave the impression of one who would rather be right, according to his lights, than President. He was evidently braced for this session, well prepared on details, courteous but immovable.

/2/Document 68.

/3/Telegrams 869 to Saigon and 790 from Saigon are summarized in footnotes 2 and 3, Document 68.

/4/April 4.

Several previous talks with Thuan had revealed increasingly stubborn objections by Diem, stimulated by Nhu, to our long-standing proposal which had, according to Thuan, previously received Diem's approval in principle. I insisted on carrying matter to President after Thuan finally reported his failure to convince him and after discussion of issue and my instructions with Harkins and Brent.

I shall try to give essence of long discussion with Diem as accurately as possible, since I believe situation now confronting us represents another perplexing turn in GVN policy with far reaching implications for American policy. I have considered possibility of his having misunderstood either proposal itself or consequences of his refusal, and I do not believe he is under any misapprehension or misunderstanding. He is apparently sincerely convinced (though erroneously in my judgment) that Americans, particularly at lower levels and in all branches of GVN activity, are, by their very number and zeal, creating within the governmental structure of the GVN and among the population the impression of assuming an American "protectorate'' over SVN. He recognized repeatedly that this is neither our aim nor our desire and expressed great gratitude for American generosity and intentions, but stuck to his conviction that having so many Americans here is creating the impression of a U.S. protectorate. Relating this to our present proposal for counter-insurgency fund, he insisted that our proposal would perpetuate too close a relationship in financial and procedural matters, particularly on the civil side, would undermine the authority of his government and its ability to make unimpeded decisions, and thus play into the hands of the Communists.

I told Diem that I could not accept his argument. I felt he must have been misinformed by persons who, for some ulterior motive, were trying to break the close working relationship between the GVN and us which had produced (and he admitted it) such measurable and encouraging results over the past months. I pointed out to him that it was he who had asked for, and received, American assistance in the very forms requested, without intention or act on our part to infringe his government's sovereignty. I asked him to consider carefully and give me his answer. Did he want to eliminate American help and advice at this critical time? His reply was "not eliminate but reduce'' (referring, I am sure, to the advice, not the material aid). He insisted that the "men at the top'' of our mission understood the psychological and political problems, but that many junior officers among such a large and increasing American contingent did not, and were prone to insist upon their own ideas when they did not have sufficient experience of the country, its people, its traditions, and its way of doing things. He said that the resulting frustration on the part of some Americans was the root cause of a great deal of unfavorable publicity, and of much uncoordinated reporting to Washington. So many Americans were confusing and disrupting the functions of the GVN, he said, particularly at the provincial and district level. He elaborated on the well-known problems of government here. He said that he had two kinds of officials in the provinces: those with a "colonial mentality'' and a new generation of nationally-minded officials. He claimed that U.S. advisors (particularly certain U.S. AID rural affairs [garble] intelligence advisors, psychological and propaganda advisors, and military sector advisors) cause difficulties in the case of the colonial-minded officials by assuming their responsibilities with their concurrence, and in the case of the nationally-minded officials by insisting too much upon their own views and causing delay and confusion. He claimed that the Minister of Interior, and he personally, had received many complaints on this score from provincial officials.

I challenged him to document this, and he went into many alleged cases, ranging from disputes as to where small canals, roads, bridges, etc., should be placed, to conflicting ideas on strategic hamlet construction, to the unwitting stimulation of corruption of Vietnamese local officials when American money was passed out. On the subject of corruption, I told him of one instance known to me where an American advisor had caught a province chief red-handed in overpricing material for a strategic hamlet, and that it was my impression that the presence of Americans had resulted in considerably less chiseling than would otherwise have been the case. He admitted this, and said, as he has done frequently in the past, that we should report to the Minister of Interior any case of corruption and he promised that it would be investigated and dealt with.

In the course of the discussion, I told him that my government and this mission had tried to get the very best people we could for all branches of our mission. They were hand-picked, experienced people, with dedication and good judgment; if these people were creating difficulties of the kind he described, I could not have any hope that a different set of Americans would do any better. I told him I thought that he had been deliberately misled and misinformed. The first serious criticisms I had heard along this line-and these only recently had come, I said, from his brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu. I asked him whether he had carefully checked the sources of his information and warned him that there were many Vietnamese, both Communist and non-Communist, government and non-government, who might wish to mislead him into this vital mistake. He replied calmly that he relied a great deal on his brother, that he could not do all the work himself, and that he trusted his brother's judgment and integrity. He was convinced that what he had said, as ungrateful as it sounded, ought to be said for the sake of the country. He took full responsibility for the decision.

I told him he must realize he was striking at the root of our joint cooperative effort, at what had been freely agreed between him and President Kennedy after long and hard consideration; that it would be impossible, particularly given the trend of U.S. Congressional and public opinion on the subject of Vietnam, for us to hand out the money and equipment without genuine cooperation and team-work, including advice but not ultimate control, in its effective use. This, I said, applied not only to funds and equipment for economic and social purposes in the rural areas (and I reviewed for him these amounts and sources) but also to other American aid, including military. I read to him relevant portions of reftels, and he understood I told him this was a real test of confidence and that I would not recommend, nor would Washington approve, a one-way street on confidence.

This led to a rather philosophical discussion by him of the problems of American aid policy, during which he said inter alia he thought it was the most generously motivated thing in history but that somehow we had not yet found the key for its most effective use, particularly in highly sensitive, ex-colonial, underdeveloped countries. He did not go so far as Nhu has sometimes gone in telling us how we should spend our money, but he did stress the point of giving the recipient country more elbow room to run its own affairs and develop its own institutions according to its own background and traditions. I told him bluntly that this attitude would only arouse suspicions at home, as it did in my own mind, about the political motivations of his government. Was he really working for the benefit of the people or, as his critics charged, to perpetuate his own regime? He responded quite calmly, "look at the record of what I have done and tried to do for the Vietnamese people during the past eight years'', and went into a long history of land development centers, agricultural credits, (both of which he claimed were opposed in one way or another by American advisors at the time), and other social and economic programs. I referred at this point to a trip I had made the day before to An Giang Province, mentioning the large number of refugees who had come over to the government side and the measures being implemented to feed, house, and rehabilitate them. I said these joint GVN-US efforts seemed to me to be working smoothly and effectively there as elsewhere; that security in that area as in many others had been greatly improved and morale lifted. I remarked that I had noticed especially how the children gave the Americans a friendly signal and grin and certainly, even in that VC influenced area, showed no hostility. Diem said rather sadly, "yes, that is often the case. That is what I meant by the colonial mentality of the Vietnamese people. I have complaints from my own officials in those areas to the effect that the people believe that the Americans are now the government and disregard the authority of my local officials.''

I tried to bring him back to the specific subject of the proposed counter-insurgency fund. I suggested that we could do something about specific cases where the advisory effort proved to be undercutting the authority of Vietnamese officials. It was clearly necessary, however, to establish an adequate and agreed piaster fund and procedures to carry on the strategic hamlet and related programs if the gains to date were to be consolidated and this struggle eventually won. This, I said, was a must from my government's viewpoint. I reviewed with him the pathfinding procedures developed last year, President Kennedy's hard decision (contrary to our balance of payments policy) to buy 10 million dollars worth of piasters, the successful experience to date with this fund and procedures. I reviewed with him the concept and origin of provincial rehabilitation plans; how they were developed by his own officials, screened and approved by Ngo Dinh Nhu's Ministerial Committee on Strategic Hamlets, passed to the U.S. Committee on Province Rehabilitation with a request for support. I showed him that these plans were generally accepted by the U.S. committee without appreciable change, and that there were absolutely no grounds for the contention that the US was usurping planning and executive functions of the GVN at any echelon. He admitted this, but insisted that some of our people in the field, particularly on the civilian side but also some sector advisors, were undoing the good work done by the committees, creating interference and playing to the colonial-minded Vietnamese and hence into the hands of the VC. Upon my insistence upon specifics, he finally said he felt the real trouble was that we had too many people here, advising in too much detail on too many matters, and that the remedy was to gradually cut back the number of people, thus "restoring control at the top''. I told him that I could not accept the implication that our people were freewheeling and out of control nor that there was uncoordinated reporting. I did not think it was true. We certainly had no desire to flood his country with Americans, and there might be some possibility of reducing the number; but certainly, considering our investment here, we had to have eyes and ears, as well as an advisory voice. Our support in its present dimensions would not be possible otherwise. With respect to the subject fund, we were asking two things: A commitment by the GVN to fill a limited gap for agreed counter-insurgency work, and procedures along the lines already proven to be effective. I asked whether his objections to this were financial, political or what. He said they are not financial; that the GVN was prepared to provide from its own resources or borrowings whatever seemed to it to be necessary to continue vigorously the strategic hamlet and rural development programs.

It could not, however, accept an American voice or control over the GVN's own resources. This, he said, would be interpreted throughout his government and by all Vietnamese as Vietnam's becoming a "protectorate''. I pointed out that we were in fact under this proposal asking for a voice with respect to about 1.3 billion piasters of Vietnamese origin, whereas the GVN had been exercising for years a voice-and a predominant one-in the expenditure of U.S. funds now running at the rate of some 36 billion piasters per year. I found it impossible to accept his reasoning. He said simply that this was one of the problems involved in giving aid. I asked him what he intended to do. Did he wish to abolish the present procedures for approving projects and dispensing funds in the provinces? He said that he did not wish to abolish those procedures insofar as U.S. funds were concerned, but he could not see his way clear to extending them over GVN's own funds. I said this was the nub of the problem, and that we were not prepared to go ahead on the present effort unless it could be overcome. He said again that the GVN would supply adequate funds for counter-insurgency but had to have control of them itself. We could verify their expenditures had been made; GVN books would be open./5/

/5/A marginal notation at this point, in Wood's hand, reads: "If we bought more piasters would it be all right?''

Before leaving, I told the President, as a friend and a supporter of his, I was bound to say that his decision, in my opinion, would result in a downward spiral of Vietnam-American confidence, would result in curtailment of U.S. aid, and really threaten to wash out the gains made over the last year and a half. I asked him to reconsider. He said that he had thought hard about this matter, that he knew our policy was well motivated, but he could not accept this proposal. His reasons were in a nutshell that it would be considered by the Vietnamese people, both in form and execution, as proof of the establishment of a U.S. "protectorate''. I repeated that I could not accept his reasons and that, in my opinion, he was by this decision forcing a change in the policy of the U.S. Government towards Vietnam.

Comments follow./6/

/6/Document 82.

Nolting

 

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

Saigon, April 7, 1963, 1 a.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 26-1 S VIEI Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution. Repeated to CINCPAC. Also published in Declassified Documents, 1978, 433B.

888. CINCPAC for POLAD. Embtel 882./2/ In assessing Diem's rejection of our proposal for counter-insurgency fund, most significant point is that grounds advanced for rejection approach repudiation of concept of expanded and deepened U.S. advisory effort, civil and military. This concept was fundamental element our agreement with GVN in December 1961 on greatly stepped up U.S. assistance effort. Progress made since that date would not have occurred, in our view, without massive advisory effort, nor do we believe it can be maintained if drastic reduction made at this stage in number of advisors, particularly in provinces and with smaller military formations-which are precisely areas where Diem seems to find most difficulty. We would not deny that some advisors may, on occasion, have acted in way to cause complaint or that their number and zeal have reached point where, to those who want to see it that way, there are similarities with a "protectorate'' situation. Point is we don't think GVN can win without U.S. advisors in roughly present density for the next year at least.

/2/Document 81.

We also gravely doubt that momentum of strategic hamlet program can be maintained and, especially, gains already made consolidated without piastre fund of roughly size we have proposed and procedures for its use as effective as those we have had for purchased piastres. Although Diem says GVN will make necessary funds available, he is probably thinking of much smaller sum than we are (very likely the 400 million piastres already earmarked by GVN vs 1300 million in our proposal) and it is clear that he is not thinking of procedures which would give us satisfactory voice in use of GVN funds. (He probably wants to revert to former unsatisfactory GVN procedures.) In short, we conclude that unless we can get something comparable to what we have proposed, there is grave risk that strategic hamlet program will founder. Without successful strategic hamlet program, it will take longer to get insurgency under control.

If this is correct evaluation of significance of Diem's position, we see no viable alternative to taking action (or possibly series of actions) designed to convince Diem that we mean business--notwithstanding grave risk that such action (a) will not move Diem but on contrary lead to retaliatory action and descending spiral our relations and (b) might light coup fuse. (We continue have no grounds to believe that coup would bring to power a government more likely to win the war than Diem. On contrary, we think a coup, either accomplished or abortive, would weaken chances of preserving independence of SVN.)

Unless tactical move prescribed at end this message bears fruit, first action we would recommend is to inform GVN that we are revising counterpart support to GVN military budget downward by, say, 1.3 billion piastres (from 7.5 billion) and are tentatively earmarking this sum for support to strategic hamlet program. This would be very r serious matter for GVN but action not irreversible if Diem comes around and would not involve dislocations inherent in cancelling orders for hamlet materials, for example. Moreover, it is in any case going to be necessary to reduce counterpart allocation to military budget (if joint fund is not approved), simply in order to provide funds to carry on minimum existing economic projects and for USOM operating expenses.

In informing Diem of above, we would at same time offer (a) to review advisor situation with view to seeing what reduction can be made and (b) to replace any advisor who abuses his position or undermines GVN authority. Finally, as earnest our firm intention to phase out special military assistance, would give him detailed briefing on 3year comprehensive plan (request authority to do this).

Before taking step of informing Diem of reduced support for military budget, believe it advisable for tactical reasons to ask him to give me written response our proposal for counter-insurgency fund, to include reasons for rejection. This move would provide time for him to reflect on consequences his decision and for members his government to work on him if they are disposed to do so. I might also use this period for further talks with Diem and others in course of which I might draw on arguments in immediately preceding paragraph. Meanwhile, we would quietly hold up approval of military budget support level and any new allocations of funds.

Harkins and Brent concur.

Nolting

 

83. Editorial Note

The eighth Ministerial meeting of the Council of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) was held in Paris, April 8-10, under the chairmanship of French Foreign Minister Maurice Couve de Murville. Secretary of State Dean Rusk led the United States delegation to the meeting. Rusk addressed the Council on April 8 and gave a guardedly optimistic assessment of developments in Vietnam: "In Viet-Nam, although the struggle has intensified since our 1961 meeting, the Viet Cong drive has been blunted, and there are some grounds for further encouragement. We believe that Viet-Nam has now found the right strategy for meeting the Viet Cong terrorism and is applying it with increasing vigor.''

The communique issued by the Council at the conclusion of the meeting on April 10 was similarly optimistic. The Council noted reports of considerable progress in the fight against subversion in Vietnam, and expressed the hope that "Viet-Nam, with the support given to it, would be in a position to maintain its advance towards internal stability and international security.'' For texts of Rusk's statement to the Council and the final communique, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1963, pages 729-733.

 

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

Washington, April 8, 1963-8:06 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, AID (US) S VIET. Secret; Operational Immediate. Drafted and cleared by Wood. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD and to Paris for the U.S. Delegation at the SEATO Council meeting.

943. Paris SEATO for Hilsman and Felt. Embtels 882 and 888./2/ Your recommendations receiving full review here. Meanwhile suggest you hold off requesting explanatory letter from Diem and from reducing counterpart support to GVN military budget.

/2/Documents 81 and 82.

1. What is your judgment as to probable GVN actions if support to GVN military budget were revised downward as suggested reftel?

2. If these revisions made what likelihood that GVN would agree use these funds for CI Program?

3. Why do you believe that GVN will not make 1.3 billion piasters available for CI?

4. Do you expect GVN could be persuaded to make their piasters available under acceptable procedures?

5. Would GVN likely agree to provincial advisers continuance and joint CI fund if funded (a) with U.S. owned Sec 104 (c) PL-480/3/ piaster proceeds; (b) with more purchased piasters?

/3/Section 104 (c) of P.L. 480, as adopted on July 10, 1954, stipulates that the President may enter into agreements with friendly nations to use the foreign currency which accrues under P.L. 480 for the following purpose: "To procure military equipment, materials, facilities, and services for the common defense.'' (68 Stat. 454)

6. What is your estimate amount needed carry on non-CI economic projects and fund USOM operating expenses for remainder CY 63?

7. What is possibility at this time or in near future of altering the proposed counterinsurgency joint fund to give GVN greater voice in planning and control of operations, and at same time continue an effective CI effort?

Request reply Tuesday COB Washington time./4/

/4/See Document 85.

Ball

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

Saigon, April 9, 1963, 7 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 26-1 S VIET Secret; Operational Immediate; Limit Distribution. Repeated to CINCPAC and Paris. A note on a copy of this telegram in the Kennedy Library indicates that it was included in the briefing book prepared for the President for the NSC meeting on April 10. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, /4/63-5/63)

893. Paris for SEATO for Secretary Hilsman and Felt. CINCPAC for POLAD. Deptel 943, Embtels 882 and 888./2/ GVN seems to be giving ground on this issue. On Monday, I sent personal letter to President Diem/3/ requesting written reply to my letter to Thuan of March 18//4/ on counter-insurgency fund. Today, Thuan asked me to see him and what he had to say after talks with Diem and Nhu encourages our hope for reasonable and effective compromise. We went very thoroughly into matter. Thuan, while unable to guarantee Diem's position, made following points and proposals which he thought, on basis conversation with President after our talk, could be made acceptable to GVN:

/2/Documents 84, 81, and 82, respectively.

/3/No copy of this letter has been found.

/4/Document 61.

Thuan's first point was that GVN did not want to alter fundamentally relationship with U.S. He said this meant that GVN does not desire a reduction of U.S. advisory-support effort. I asked, what about reduction of U.S. advisors? Thuan replied he thought Diem did not want a reduction in number of U.S. advisors, but only more "political sensitivity'' on the part of certain advisors especially in rural areas.

Thuan specifically stated that Diem had agreed that relationship and working arrangements between GVN Inter-Ministerial Committee on Strategic Hamlets and U.S. Province Rehabilitation Committee should remain as is.

(There is an ambiguity here which will require further detailed discussion.)

On the question of financing the rural counter-insurgency program, Thuan stated that the GVN is prepared to contribute piasters from its own resources, on the basis of the list of projects attached to my letter of March 18 (Toaid A-2874) up to 2.3 billion piasters. Questioned closely on this, he said that Diem had not specifically agreed to the amount, but he felt that he could persuade him to state this in terms. I asked, under what procedure would GVN's contribution be expended. Thuan replied, under special fund set up for this purpose, not subject to bureaucratic red tape, for allotment to province chiefs in manner similar to that employed in Phu Yen Province prior to establishment of U.S. special fund. (We believe this can be made to work, but will require further negotiation and effective understanding.)

In general diagnosis of Diem's position last week and reasons therefor, Thuan said that President was emotionally worked up by a number of reports (some true, some partly true, and some false) concerning Americans' activities coming to him at the same time. He listed a number of these, and I agreed, of course, to look into each one. He agreed with me (and said Diem now does, too) that these relatively minor matters do not justify "pouring out the baby with the bath'', the one point on which Thuan said he had no hope of persuading Diem was to continue the procedure of approving expenditures and dispensing funds of GVN origin through the existing province committee of three (generally the Province Chief, the MAAG sector advisor, and the USOM provincial representative). I said I could see no reason to dispense with this provenly effective mechanism. I saw considerable danger in falling again into the time-consuming procedures of prior years, and there was not time for this. I further stated that a good province chief would find, in my opinion, no difficulty in such an arrangement, since he would have the initiative and should exercise it. I also said, that without such an arrangement, I could not see how proper coordination could be achieved between the arrival of U.S. goods (both MAP and AID) and the parallel requirements for piaster expenditures. I said that fundamentally the difference between- us seemed to be this: that the GVN, under Ngo Dinh Nhu's theory, seemed to expect the Vietnamese peasants to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps when they have no shoes; we, to contrary, felt that they must be given, either in money or in kind, some inducement to work for the government's cause. This did not have to be lavish, but it had to be something. Thuan admitted the difference in philosophy, but stuck to his point that he could not persuade Diem to continue the three-party arrangement in the provinces using GVN funds.

I told him that, while he was not sure of being able to persuade his government on the basis of the above, I was less sure of being able to persuade mine. Nevertheless, hoped with him to be able to work out a satisfactory arrangement to continue the joint effort, and I was encouraged by what he had told me of the relaxation in President Diem's attitude. Thuan, who was in process of drafting at Diem's request a reply to my letter of March 18, said he would make this as "good'' as he could and hoped to get it signed promptly. I said I felt we could work out the ad hoc and ad hominem problems as they arose, but the main thing was to be sure that we understood each other and had confidence each in the intentions of the other. Without this, no compromise would work. He reiterated that Diem had no intention of suggesting a change in basic relations at this time, although he realized that he had conveyed that idea. Thuan said "the trouble is that we have a lot of people with a lot of views, not a coordinated government''.

Deptel 943 was received after this conversation. Answers to numbered questions therein, in light of above conversation, follow:

1 and 2. Purpose of informing GVN of reduction counterpart support to military budget would be to impress on them seriousness with which we regard their rejection of CI fund proposal and to do this in such a way as to create minimum dislocations if tactic has intended effect. That is, if GVN in face of our action comes around on CI fund or shows interest in satisfactory compromise, we could revert to status quo ante on military budget. If, on other hand, GVN does not come around, we think it is improbable that they would cooperate on use of transferred counterpart funds in accordance our desires. On contrary, they might also retaliate, for example by additional restrictions on advisers. In other words, as we sought to indicate in our 888, this is exceedingly risky step and chances success we think about fifty-fifty provided there are no leaks. In light indication from Thuan of real movement on GVN side, hope this step will not be necessary.

3. Primarily because of known view of GVN, particularly Nhu, that province rehabilitation operations should be funded locally to maximum extent and statements of Diem that provincial operations supported by purchased piastres have in past been too "lavish'', we had thought it most unlikely GVN would come up with fund of size we consider necessary. There is also fact that GVN budgeted total of 100 million piastres for Strategic Hamlet Program in CY 1962 and for CY 1963 has budgeted 300 million plus earmarking 100 million from lottery receipts. It would appear from Thuan's statements that we were too pessimistic.

4. Conversation with Thuan gives hope that they can be.

5a. See 1 and 2 above. These funds are already part of projected contributor to military budget.

5b. Probably.

6. Depends on how "non-CI projects'' are defined. (See attachment to Toaid A-2874.)

7. Under our proposal all planning and expenditures would require joint U.S.-GVN agreement. (See Toaid A-2874 and earlier agreement on purchased piastres.) There may be ways in which this can be improved, at least optically [sic], from GVN standpoint. There are also probably ways in which U.S. advice in this process can be made less obtrusive and possibly some reduction in number of advisors can be effected.

Nolting

 

86. Telegram From the Delegation at the SEATO Council Meeting to the Department of State/1/

Paris, April 10, 1963-2 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL S VIET. Confidential; Priority. Repeated to Saigon.

Secto 19. GVN FonMin Mau at his request called on Secretary April 10./2/ At latter's request Mau described situation his country, referring to evidences of success in military and economic fields and pointing to prospect in few months of assembly and local elections. Secretary expressed pleasure at progress, but warned of need to maintain momentum and to guard against our common efforts being sapped by inevitable frustrations.

/2/Secretary Rusk was still in Paris for the SEATO Council meeting.

Mau then launched into review his government's viewpoint on problems confronting it. After alluding to difficulties posed by Viet Minh infiltration through Cambodia and Laos, Mau warned against danger of bloc efforts to divide the free world. For instance, the idea of neutralization for SVN originates with the Communists but is supported by "certain organs of French Government'', which hope see both bloc and US depart leaving a French presence in SVN. Example of difficulties facing Souvanna, a "creature of French,'' is particularly instructive. Mau stated, however, he wished to concentrate on more delicate question of three problems cropping up between US and GVN which derive from principle of freedom:

1) Press: US press often does not understand nature of situation in SVN, seeks sensational aspect, and has deleterious effect on US public opinion. Furthermore unrestricted freedom of press can jeopardize security of military operations.

2) Vietnamese oppositionists: 75 to 80 percent of those claiming be opposition political elements have proved be "creatures of French" and undesirable elements, such as Tran Van Huu, tend to gather in Paris where they do not observe non-political role appropriate for political refugees (such as Bidault). GVN can't understand why USG permits such persons, who obtain French travel documents, to come to US. Such visits give unfortunate impression of US support.

3) General policy: GVN, which is locked in struggle with VC, cannot accept 100 percent democracy.

Secretary spoke briefly to these three points, assuring Mau first of US concern that balanced press picture emanate from SVN but stressing need for prerequisite of mutual confidence between press and GVN. He stated that US press reacts badly to feeling GVN attempting control our public opinion. If, however, American public believes it getting full picture, it will support our efforts in SVN. Secretary mentioned to Mau in confidence he had talks with number of press leaders in effort promote balanced reporting. Re oppositionists, Secretary stated denial entry into US would only turn undesirable public attention on them. Finally, Secretary stated that while hesitating prescribe form of political changes desirable for SVN he wished emphasize importance GVN be in position enlist energies and loyalties of the people.

Rusk

 

87. Editorial Note

On April 10, 1963, the National Security Council met to consider problems in Laos and South Vietnam. At the request of McGeorge Bundy,-the Department of State prepared and circulated to the National Security Council a briefing paper which outlined the problems to be considered by the Council. (Memorandum of telephone conversation, April 8; Library of Congress, Harriman Papers, Telcons -- March-April-May-1963) The problem at issue in Vietnam was identified in the paper as "an apparently critical situation'' which had developed concerning the Counter-Insurgency Piaster Fund established in 1962. The paper traced the dispute over the question of joint supervision of the fund, and concluded: "It now seems probable that a reasonable and effective compromise can be worked out in the field which will provide for appropriate Vietnamese funding contributions and adequate U.S. advisory representation in the Counter-Insurgency Program.'' (Memorandum for consideration by the National Security Council on April 10; Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, /4/63-5/63)

The National Security Council limited its discussion on April 10, however, to the implications of developments in Laos. According to a summary record of the meeting prepared by Bromley Smith, "Mr Harriman recommended that the discussion of Vietnam be omitted in view of recent developments which indicated that the problem discussed in the State paper was not as urgent as had appeared earlier.'' (Ibid., Meetings and Memoranda Series)

Harriman wrote to General Taylor after the meeting that the National Security Council had deferred consideration of Vietnam in light of the assurance received from Saigon in telegram 893 (Document 85) that a compromise on the issue of the counterinsurgency fund seemed likely. Harriman added, "it was decided that the Ambassador and the Country Team should be given an opportunity to work out the 'reasonable and effective compromise' which is predicated in that message.'' Therefore, Harriman concluded, "it would be appropriate for the Special Group (CI) to be guided by this decision and to defer consideration of the subject until and unless it appears that our Ambassador and his Country Team are unable to accomplish the results which they anticipate.'' (Memorandum from Harriman to Taylor, April 10; Department of State, Central Files, POL 26-1 S VIET)

 

88. Memorandum for the Record of a Conversation With the Presidential Counselor (Ngo Dinh Nhu)/1/

Saigon, April 12, 1963.

/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 334, MAC/V Files: FRC 69 A 702, 501-03 (63). Secret. Drafted on April 15. The name of Nhu's interlocutor, who drafted the memorandum, was not declassified.

1. Ngo Dinh Nhu began [less than 1 line not declassified] by stating that an important current of "revisionism'' thought was moving with increasing strength throughout various departments of the Government of Vietnam, within the armed forces, and in such semi-private organizations as the Republican Youth. It was not clear as to what Nhu meant by "revisionism''. He seemed to imply that a general reexamination of the processes and performance of government in its broadest sense was taking place-a self-criticism and self-examination. [1 sentence (1-1/2 lines) not declassified] Nhu said that part of this process represented an effort to grapple with the problem of "control''. He said that in developed societies with a tradition of democratic control, absorbed by the citizenry during early youth, such institutions as a free press, free association and assembly, democratic political institutions, and free universities contribute to democratic control of the society. However, in the underdeveloped state of war-time South Vietnam, other forms of control are necessary. Nhu did not define these other forms of control but gave the impression of making an exploratory effort toward locating and applying control measures. He repeated several times that the objective was to achieve "liberty, fraternity, and justice.''

2. Nhu said that one area of revisionist thought and of the control problem lay in the problem of relationship between the province chief and the central government, especially the ministries. Nhu feels that province chiefs have acquired too much power, usurping "illegal power'' to a degree which results in local abuses and lack of a sufficiently coordinated and disciplined governmental process. Province chiefs are not sufficiently responsive to the various ministries of the central government. He cited relationships between the Ministry of Finance and the province chiefs and said that the Ministry of Finance had inadequate control of the discharge of fiscal responsibilities by a province chief in his province. Province chiefs were also insufficiently responsive to the Ministry of Interior.

3. Another sector of revisionist thinking is in the field of education. Nhu thinks that the Vietnamese educational system, including the universities, is not geared to the needs of a developing new country in terms of modern statehood. The Vietnamese educational system does not produce civic-minded graduates imbued with a sense of patriotism or of service to the nation. He said that, in contrast to the American system, civics is not even taught anywhere in the Vietnamese educational process.

4. Nhu claimed that revisionist soul-searching was taking place in the Cabinet ministries with respect to the organization, personnel, and performance of these ministries. And he claimed that similar self-examination is taking place within the armed forces. He mentioned his growing interest in psychological warfare as conducted by the armed forces and said that psychological and political warfare consciousness and practice within the armed forces cannot be achieved as long as this sector is left primarily to a handful of trained specialists within the armed forces. Trained specialists tend to be ignored by their commanding officers and consequently fail to achieve the objectives sought. Nhu's thesis is that psychological and political warfare consciousness within the armed forces must be obtained by training the commanding officers themselves from general staff officers and corps commanders on down to the various echelons of command. This program has already been started and Nhu referred to the 133 officers who had just been graduated at the Psychological Warfare Cadres Training Center in Saigon. Nhu spoke at the graduation ceremonies and an article on the subject is carried in the Times of Vietnam, 13 April 1963, Page 2. General Tran Van Don headed up this course of instruction.

5. Nhu touched only briefly on the American economic aid problem and said that he thought some economic aid should be augmented, other aid should be programmed for elimination in the long run, some forms of aid should be programmed for elimination in the short run, and some aid could be eliminated almost immediately.

6. On American presence in South Vietnam, Nhu repeated his view that it would be useful to reduce the numbers of Americans by anywhere from 500 to 3,000 or 4,000. He said that when the Americans first arrived, the Vietnamese had a particular respect for them because the Americans were very hard-working, disciplined, and without "rancor'' among themselves or toward other persons. However, Nhu feels that the process of discipline has broken down with the passing of time and the numerical increase of the American presence in South Vietnam. He repeated that the influx of Americans and their stationing in the provinces had been welcomed with the thought that Americans located in the provinces would come to understand the difficulties confronted by the Vietnamese and would interpret Vietnamese problems sympathetically and with more knowledge of the situation. This had not proved sufficiently to be the case.

7. Nhu said that for us to understand President Diem we should recall that Diem had spent a great part of his life in reaction against and resistance to French domination. He would be extremely sensitive to any situation which seemed even to imply the shadow of a protectorate status or of, as Nhu put it, ''condominium''. [2 sentences (3 lines) not declassified] Nhu said that he wanted to avoid "institutionalizing'' certain substantive relationships and procedures jointly engaged in by the Vietnamese and by American personnel. These relationships and procedures should not become "juridical''. Aside from these problems of the institutional and juridical, Nhu said that, for his part, he was disposed to consult with and inform American personnel as fully as before on problems and programs of joint interest.

8. According to Nhu, President Diem has received a considerable flow of complaints and statements of irritation from his military and civilian chiefs about problems of relationships with American counterparts. He cited General Dinh as being among these officials and claims that General Dinh had commented to the effect that there were too many Americans in South Vietnam. Complaints had come in from the Joint General Staff. Nhu volunteered his recognition that one advantage of the American presence at all echelons was to help keep Vietnamese officials honest and stimulate them into better performance as Vietnamese officials did not want to look bad in the eyes of a foreign officer. The Vietnamese officials were at a disadvantage with respect to their American opposite numbers as the Americans controlled the "means'', that is, the funds and goods. This contributed to the sense of inadequacy and inferiority felt by Vietnamese officials. In this connection and in passing, Nhu cited as an example the allegation that U.S. Special Forces were directly distributing funds and goods instead of doing so though Vietnamese authorities.

9. [1 sentence (1-1/2 lines) not declassified] He said that Colonel Le Quang Tung had made some criticisms and Nhu had replied to the effect that anyone can avoid making mistakes by just sitting back in his chair and "smoking his pipe''. President Diem had recently called down both Tung and Nhu because of inadequacies in the Vietnamese Special Forces performance and Nhu, himself, implied that Tung was not sufficiently experienced, qualified, or senior for the responsibility he now holds. Nevertheless, he gave [less than 1 line not declassified] no real impression that Tung was slated to be changed from his present assignment.

10. Nhu then referred to problems relating to the construction of the long earthen wall, "the Maginot Line'', as a defensive measure in the province of Vinh Long. This had been an initiative on the part of the province chief and had not been cleared with the Interministerial Committee on Strategic Hamlets. When Nhu called the province chief in for an explanation, the province chief justified the project and said that American opposition was based on personal antagonism to him. Nhu described the province chief as having made an effort to put the problem on a "nationalist'' basis. He allowed the province chief to make his presentation in defense of the project before the Interministerial Committee and then asked the Regional Delegue for his view, which turned out to be in support of the province chief. After examination, Nhu ruled against the project on the basis of effectiveness alone and then succeeded in reversing President Diem's judgment since Diem had previously heard the province chief's defense and had approved the project. Nhu expressed appreciation for American representations against this project which had been made on a private and constructive basis to Vietnamese authorities.

[1 page of source text not declassified]

 

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

Saigon, April 13, 1963, 1 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15-1 S VIET. Confidential; Limit Distribution.

909. For Hilsman. For your information Harkins, Brent and I have declined on grounds press of work previously accepted invitation from Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu to spend several days next week at GVN villa in Dalat. Real reasons for this action, which I shall pass to President Diem orally at first opportunity, stem from recent directive from Madame Nhu to Women's Solidarity Movement urging members not to show gratitude for foreign (i.e. American) aid (UPI has filed story on directive this week and Time correspondent has cabled translation much of text). Directive seriously impugns motives of givers of aid, charging that some of latter believe their position gives them right to destroy "our customs and habits and healthy laws'' and that they are using their position "to make lackeys of Vietnamese and to seduce Vietnamese women into decadent paths''. Notwithstanding likelihood adverse but unpredictable reaction from Madame Nhu, do not believe that we can afford to let this directive go unnoticed. Nor do I and my colleagues feel that senior members of mission should be in position of publicly accepting rather lavish hospitality from Madame Nhu immediately following this outburst.

I hope that leaks on this matter do not occur but, if they do, felt you should know background.

Nolting

 

90. Telegram From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to the President, at Palm Beach, Florida/1/

Washington, April 16, 1963, 3:42 p.m.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, /4/ 63-5/63. Secret; Operational Immediate. Transmission was authorized by Bromley Smith. Sent to the President's naval aide, Captain Tazewell T Shepard, for the President. A handwritten note on the source text indicates that the President read the telegram.

The telegram was sent in response to telegram PBWH07 from Captain Shepard to McGeorge Bundy, sent from Palm Beach at 2 p.m. April 16, which reads: "The President asked for a report on the use of the chemicals in RVN. What good did they do? Stop any further use until there has been an analysis.'' (Ibid.)

CAP 63195. Only chemicals which have been used in Vietnam are ordinary weed killers similar to those in common use in the United States. Report on their effectiveness both as defoliants and to destroy crops has been in preparation by Defense and State for the past three weeks and will be available by week end. Since last December no further crop destruction has been authorized and none may be authorized without your approval. Except for clearing of railroad right of way no defoliation is planned within the next few weeks. Suggest you review matter after seeing report on your return.

 

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

Saigon, April 17, 1963, 3 p.m.

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

920. CINCPAC for POLAD. Deptel 952;/2/ Embtel 909./3/ Saw President Diem at my request yesterday morning for a 2-hour session. Believe our talk eased situation further and perhaps paved way for satisfactory resolution of problem of counter-insurgency fund, although this remains to be seen.

/2/Telegram 952 to Saigon, April 12, asked Ambassador Nolting if it would be "tactically useful'' to hold regular weekly meetings with Diem in order to ease tension. (Ibid.)

/3/Document 89.

Told him first of Department's instructions received Sunday/4/ re my home leave and return.

/4/April 14. The instructions have not been found.

Then repeated reasons for our continued concern to settle promptly question of adequate Counter-Insurgency Fund and procedures to go with it, so that other important financial segments of U.S. support could move forward without interruption. Diem said letter we had requested was being prepared by Thuan and said he would act on it promptly. I told him thing which concerns us most were reasons that he had given for turning down our proposal. These seemed to amount to desire substantially to reduce American advisory effort in Vietnam. I hoped that upon reflection he would agree that time was not yet ripe for curtailment of advisory effort in any sector. I said we understood his problems, had already looked into some of complaints he had made, and would look into them all on case-by-case basis. I had certain procedures to suggest for remedying these matters. What we could not agree to was a wholesale reduction of advisory effort at this juncture while continuing large [scale] physical and financial aid, although nothing would please us more than to arrive at a stage as soon as possible when reductions of U.S. advisors would be possible without loss of momentum. Diem has evidently backed off considerably from his original position and, after some conversation, made it clear that he now does not insist upon withdrawals of U.S. personnel, but rather upon a concerted effort to make advisory system work better. He went into several new types of complaints from GVN officials, concerning both military and civilian matters, which I will not detail here. I suggested that we should work out with Thuan, for submission to him, possible remedial measures: A small group to look into such complaints on a case-by-case basis; frequent or regular meetings between himself and me or General Harkins (or both) to take up matters before they reached a crisis stage; perhaps a directive to all of our advisors in the field and to all their counterparts in Government of Vietnam detailing certain responsibilities and other matters to clarify relationships and functions. He thought these suggestions were good, and we will proceed to work them out with Thuan. My guess is that we can continue to take the heat out of this matter. We will, of course, have to see to what extent he will in fact drop his previous demands and work out satisfactory compromise on counter-insurgency funding and procedures.

I then requested to speak frankly on delicate question of public (or semi-public) statements, principally by Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu, which had caused misunderstanding and resentment among Americans here and had become cause of real morale problem on our side. I related this to need for "more goodwill and understanding'' which he had mentioned in connection with the U.S. advisory effort. I cited Madame Nhu's recent communique to Women's Solidarity Movement,/5/ and read certain passages which were invidious to Americans. I told him that none of our principal officers wished to be in position of seeming to agree with or condone such statements, and for that reason General and Mrs. Harkins, Mr. Brent and my family and I had reluctantly declined our previously planned visit to Dalat at the invitation of Madame Nhu. I said we had declined ostensibly on grounds of business here, but I wanted him to know privately that a major factor was the communique referred to. He seemed to understand this position, and after some discussion said he would do what he could to prevent a repetition. In course of this discussion, in which he at first defended Madame Nhu while admitting she was prone to overstate, I had opportunity to stress point that such statements were not only damaging in America, but in Vietnam as well. They encourage the very form of criticism by Americans which he had complained against and could in fact bring about a dangerous situation in which the "volatile Vietnamese'' (to use his phrase) might get out of hand. This, I thought, might take one of two directions-either against Americans or against those who were apparently driving wedges between Americans and their Vietnamese friends.

/5/See Document 89.

Comment: It is too early, I think, to know how this rather sensitive matter will turn out. At any rate, I felt compelled to insist that he exercise his responsibility in this matter and President Diem, initially at least, received it in the spirit intended.

Our further conversation concerned various matters of some importance to progress of events here. I found Diem optimistic and apparently thinking in terms of moving in right directions on political side. He spoke of reviewing dossiers of political prisoners for public trials in near future, of organizing village elections and subsequently Provincial Council elections. I urged him to press on with these matters, which would give new demonstration of direction of his policy. He said he would do so. He closed conversation by proposing several trips with General Harkins and me.

Nolting

 

92. Editorial Note

On April 17, 1963, President Diem issued in Saigon what became known as the "Chieu Hoi proclamation.'' (Chieu Hoi translates into English as "Open Arms.'') The proclamation reads, in part, as follows:

''Based on the ideal of Personalism and the spirit of Brotherhood and Justice, the policy of Chieu Hoi sets forth the measures and methods to be applied to these elements who have been tricked, terrorized, exploited by the communist bandits, and who, becoming enlightened, (seek of their own volition to) come back to present themselves (to the authorities) to serve the National Government.''

The proclamation established a "Chieu Hoi Sub-Committee,'' directly responsible to the Interministerial Committee for Strategic Hamlets, with the duty of carrying out the policy "by reaching from the hamlets, to the districts, to the provinces, to the towns, to the Capital.''

President Diem concluded the proclamation by calling on all persons who had been "flattered and deceived and exploited by the communists to come back soon to the just cause, in order to join with the people in struggling to build a new society, a new civilization, in which each citizen is free to develop himself in all fields.''

President Diem broadcast a message from the Presidential Palace in conjunction with the issuance of this proclamation. For texts of both the proclamation and the broadcast, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1963, pages 848-849.

USIA mounted an extensive information program in Vietnam to support the Diem government's efforts to achieve "maximum nationwide and external exploitation of Chieu Hoi proclamation.'' (Washington National Records Center, RG 306, USIA/IAF Files: FRC 68 A 1415, Vietnam-Outgoing, 1963)

 

93. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense (McNamara)/1/

JCSM-302-63

Washington, April 17, 1963.

/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 66 A 3542, Vietnam 1962 370.64 2 Feb. Secret.

SUBJECT
Defoliation and Crop Destruction in South Vietnam

1. Reference is made to a memorandum by Mr. Michael Forrestal of the White House Staff for the Honorable W. Averell Harriman, dated 13 March 1963,/2/ which stated that the President would like an up-to-date report on the results of defoliation and crop destruction carried out by the Armed Forces, Republic of Vietnam. He suggested that the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on this subject be coordinated into a single State/Defense/US Information Agency paper for the President. Certain guidelines were furnished which have been followed in this memorandum.

/2/Document 58.

2. Two separate herbicide programs have been in progress during the past year and a half in the Republic of Vietnam. In order to increase visibility and deter Viet Cong ambush, a total of 87 miles of roads, canals and areas bordering military installations were sprayed with defoliants. Trial crop destruction operations were conducted against Viet Cong crops in two areas, 750 acres of Phuoc Long Province and 29 acres in Thua Thien Province.

3. As in other weapons systems, a precise statistical determination of the military effectiveness of defoliant operations in terms of enemy losses or as a deterrent to his operations is difficult. Technical reports received from the field thus far, however, provide ample evidence that they do give us a degree of military advantage. Specifically, defoliation facilitates clearing of rights of way along rail lines, retards jungle growth, and thereby makes enemy concealment more difficult while improving our reconnaissance and ability to see the enemy. The Joint Chiefs of Staff conclude that defoliation contributes to the improvement of the security situation and that it is one tool of many in the counter-insurgency kit.

4. Crop destruction operation in Phuoc Long Province adjacent to Viet Cong War Zone D is estimated to have resulted in the destruction of over 700,000 pounds of rice or roughly enough to feed 1,000 Viet Cong for one year. Militarily and technically, the results were excellent. The actual operation was conducted entirely by Vietnamese. This operation was a military success in that it increased the Viet Cong food problems in the area and concurrently added to over-all logistic difficulties in the Viet Cong Zone D area.

5. In Thua Thien Province, only 29 out of 296 target acres have been attacked with herbicides. This was a hand-sprayed operation carried out on an experimental basis which in part accounts for the low percentage of total area sprayed. Consequently, a full evaluation of this operation is not yet available. However, initial reports citing the destruction of 56,000 pounds of food give every evidence that the success achieved in Phuoc Long will be repeated.

6. In connection with proposed plans for future operations, the Country Team has recently approved a Government of Vietnam (GVN) request to apply herbicides to railroad rights of way primarily for proper railway maintenance and only secondarily for security. The project would be carried out on the ground by railroad maintenance employees with herbicides being provided by the US Overseas Mission from US commercial sources. In addition, COMUSMACV is now studying 12,000 acres as possible defoliant targets and the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces are actively selecting and evaluating additional targets for operations during the forthcoming growing season. Plans include communication and area targets with the major portion being in Central Vietnam. The total acreage is unknown now. A list of crop destruction targets in Binh Dinh, Thua Thien, Phuoc Thanh, and Quang Tin Provinces totaling approximately 4,000 acres has been submitted to COMUSMACV./3/ Evaluation of first priority targets based on current selection criteria is now in process by COMUSMACV. To gain optimum effect, these crop destruction targets should be sprayed in April and May.

/3/Not found.

7. There is no indication from the field that herbicide operations have had an adverse propaganda effect upon the local population. Neither is there any indication of condemnation of GVN and US efforts from other than Bloc propaganda sources. Any propaganda effort on the part of the Bloc can be countered by timely and frequent press briefings and by permitting press members to observe defoliation and crop destruction missions. Efforts have been initiated in Saigon in this matter. In any event, stepped-up Bloc propaganda efforts should be regarded primarily as a barometric reading of the degree of success being achieved rather than as a reason for terminating or decreasing the defoliation and crop destruction effort.

8. The Joint Chiefs of Staff agree with the Country Team, Vietnam, that defoliation and crop destruction operations should be continued. Herbicides should be considered as an effective tool to be employed in specific situations and areas where its employment will hurt Viet Cong military or supply operations. This policy would reflect greater dependence on the views and recommendations of the local commanders and advisers. As Ambassador Nolting noted in his message to State on 10 March 1963,/4/ this should permit operations to be more directly related to the local military situation, thus ensuring a greater military value.

/4/Not found.

9. The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that:

a. Herbicide operations be prosecuted in Vietnam on a continuing basis.

b. The Country Team, Vietnam, be authorized to approve crop destruction as well as other defoliation targets based on existing target selection criteria. Resultant reports and evaluations would continue to be made.

c. A memorandum be forwarded to the Secretary of State substantially as indicated in the Appendix hereto./5/

/5/Not printed. The draft memorandum prepared for Secretary McNamara's signature was sent from William Bundy to Harriman on April 19. The memorandum reflected the views and recommendations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as outlined in the JCS memorandum printed here. (Department of State, Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 67 D 54, Pol-Polit Affairs & Rel, Pol 27-10 Chemical Warfare 1963)

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

Maxwell D. Taylor
Chairman
Joint Chiefs of Staff

 

94. National Intelligence Estimate/1/

NIE 53-63

Washington, April 17, 1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, INR-NIE Files. Secret; Controlled Dissem. According to a note on the cover sheet: "The following intelligence organizations participated in the preparation of this estimate: The Central Intelligence Agency and the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State, Defense, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and NSA.'' All members of the U.S. Intelligence Board concurred in this estimate on April 17, except the Atomic Energy Commission Representative and the Assistant Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who abstained on the grounds that the subject was outside their jurisdiction. The statement of the problem and the conclusions are also printed in United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967, Book 12, pp. 522-524.

PROSPECTS IN SOUTH VIETNAM

The Problem

To assess the situation and prospects in South Vietnam, with special emphasis upon the military and political factors most likely to affect the counterinsurgency effort.

Conclusions

A. We believe that Communist progress has been blunted and that the situation is improving. Strengthened South Vietnamese capabilities and effectiveness, and particularly US involvement, are causing the Viet Cong increased difficulty, although there are as yet no persuasive indications that the Communists have been grievously hurt. (Paras. 27-28)

B. We believe the Communists will continue to wage a war of attrition, hoping for some break in the situation which will lead to victory. They evidently hope that a combination of military pressure and political deterioration will in time create favorable circumstances either for delivering a coup de grace or for a political settlement which will enable them to continue the struggle on more favorable terms. We believe it unlikely, especially in view of the open US commitment, that the North Vietnamese regime will either resort to overt military attack or introduce acknowledged North Vietnamese military units into the south in an effort to win a quick victory. (Paras. 29-31)

C. Assuming no great increase in external support to the Viet Cong, changes and improvements which have occurred during the past year now indicate that the Viet Cong can be contained militarily and that further progress can be made in expanding the area of government control and in creating greater security in the countryside. However, we do not believe that it is possible at this time to project the future course of the war with any confidence. Decisive campaigns have yet to be fought and no quick and easy end to the war is in sight. Despite South Vietnamese progress, the situation remains fragile. (Para. 32)

D. Developments during the last year or two also show some promise of resolving the political weaknesses, particularly that of insecurity in the countryside, upon which the insurgency has fed. However, the government's capacity to embark upon the broader measures required to translate military success into lasting political stability is questionable. (Paras. 33-35)

[Here follow 11 pages of discussion of the conclusions outlined above.]

32. The Outlook. Whether the Communists are correct in their appraisal will, of course, depend in some measure upon the extent and nature of US involvement, but primarily upon the South Vietnamese response to the developing situation. We do not believe that it is possible at this time to project the future course of the war with any confidence. Despite GVN progress, the situation remains fragile. A series of major Viet Cong successes, should they occur, might have a shattering psychological effect. Nevertheless, the heavy US involvement and close working relationships between US and Vietnamese personnel have fundamentally altered the outlook. Changes and improvements have occurred during the past year which for the first time indicate that the Viet Cong can be contained militarily and that further progress can be made in expanding the area of government control and in creating security in the countryside. However, some areas of Viet Cong control, such as the Mekong delta, will be very difficult to pacify, decisive campaigns have yet to be fought, and no quick and easy end to the war is in sight.

33. Developments in the last year or two have also gone some distance in establishing a basis for winning over the peasantry and in improving the efficiency of the military establishment and the civilian bureaucracy. It can, of course, be argued that only a highly centralized regime, single-mindedly dedicated to independence, and placing a heavy emphasis on personal loyalty can cope with the problems of guerrilla warfare. However, we believe that a greater willingness on the part of the regime to enlist the active support of those who have become disaffected or discouraged in the face of Diem's techniques of government would considerably speed the reduction of the Viet Cong insurgency.

34. Substantial reduction of Viet Cong military power, however, would probably intensify rather than reduce the need for changes in the philosophy and practice of the Diem regime, if revived insurgency were to be precluded and military victory translated into political consolidation. The achievement of physical security in the countryside would in itself satisfy a major political requirement in convincing the peasants of the government's ability to protect them. But the government must be both willing and able to expand its efforts to bring social, political, and economic improvements to the countryside if the peasant is to recognize a stake in the survival of the government and to be fortified against Communist blandishments. Effective action in this and other fields, particularly with the removal of a substantial US presence at all levels of the government, would almost certainly require a wider participation in the development and implementation of policy and a considerable reduction in the tight, personal control of the bureaucracy.

35. On the basis of its past performance, the ability of the Diem regime to move willingly and effectively in these directions is questionable, and may become even more so should military victory come within sight. With the removal of the inhibiting effects of an immediate and overwhelming military danger, political stability would be greatly threatened if disappointment with the regime's performance mounted among important sectors of the population and the conviction deepened that legal avenues to change remained blocked.

[Here follows a map of South Vietnam highlighting principal. areas of insurgency and counterinsurgency activity.]

 

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

Washington, April 18, 1963, 6 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, AID (US) S VIET. Secret. Drafted by Wood and cleared by Rice and Hilsman, in AID by Stoneman and R. Poats, and in DOD by Colonel Kent. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD.

970. Joint State/AID/Defense. Embtel 920./2/ Gratified atmosphere continues improve. You have done excellent job making Diem face funding issue without upsetting joint effort. Concur your view expressed to Thuan (Embtel 893)/3/ that heart of matter may revolve around whether or not peasants should be given boots so they can have straps to pull on. Certainly this has been one of your longstanding problems. Given success of US-GVN cooperation during past 15 months we would hope avoid crisis our relations with GVN, but continue dialogue thru frequent letters and meetings. Following offered for your consideration in attempting maintain reasonable degree flexibility in negotiating subjects which GVN has put on table.

/2/Document 91.

/3/ Document 85.

A. U.S. Military and Civilian Advisers

1. Completely concur with your suggestion to Diem that specific cases raised by GVN could be discussed as suggested reftel. We prepared fully support you in seeking recall and personnel whose presence, in your judgment, may jeopardize US-GVN cooperation.

2. Suggest you and TF/Saigon consider whether we should offer substantially reduce number U.S. military advisers in any province within say 90 days after it declared "white''?

3. DOD actively studying Comprehensive Plan which will be discussed at Honolulu. Meanwhile it should not be discussed with GVN.

B. C.I. Joint Piaster Fund

We would have no objection to minor modification role provincial representatives, e.g. re veto power these reps over GVN funds. However use streamlined budget procedures appears essential.

Because attribution of source of piasters has become such an issue, we wish to make sure Saigon understands distinction between US-owned PL 480 piasters and GVN-owned counterpart, both of which involved in U.S. support of GVN military budget. Use of US-owned Section 104(c) PL 480 piasters may offer a practical psychological advantage over use counterpart which continues to be mentioned in Saigon messages when referring to diversions from military budget. There is a legal problem of definition here, and the tentative interpretation is that 104(c) currencies can be used for C.I. activities which are basically defensive in nature, but not those of primarily an economic and social development nature.

View this limitation, if US-owned PL 480 funds appear helpful in present situation, you may wish consider proposing amendment Sales Agreement to provide for piaster use under Section 104(e)/4/ rather than 104(c) as at present, and seeking Presidential waiver grant the 104(e) funds for C.I.

/4/Section 104 (e) of P.L. 480 stipulates that the President may enter into agreements with friendly nations to use the foreign currency which accrues under P.L. 480 for the following purposes: "For promoting balanced economic development and trade among nations.'' (68 Stat. 4541)

We also observe that it would not appear essential to extend C.I. joint piaster fund procedures to cover USAID support and economic development costs, and perhaps not to war infrastructure costs. If a substantial negotiating advantage could be achieved, it would seem to be possible to reduce size of joint fund to costs of direct counterinsurgency purposes only.

Rusk

 

 


Return to This Volume Home Page

  Back to top

U.S. Department of State
USA.govU.S. Department of StateUpdates  |   Frequent Questions  |   Contact Us  |   Email this Page  |   Subject Index  |   Search
The Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department. External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.
About state.gov  |   Privacy Notice  |   FOIA  |   Copyright Information  |   Other U.S. Government Information

Published by the U.S. Department of State Website at http://www.state.gov maintained by the Bureau of Public Affairs.