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

96. Memorandum Prepared in the Department of State/1/

Washington, April 18, 1963.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, 4/ 63-5/63. Secret. Attached to a covering memorandum dated April 18 from William H. Brubeck, Executive Secretary of the Department of State, to McGeorge Bundy, which indicates that it was prepared in response to Document 58. Information on a draft of this paper found in Department of State files indicates that the paper was prepared in the Vietnam Working Group on April 17 by Heavner. (Department of State, Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 67 D 54, Pol 27-10 Chemical Warfare, 1963) On April 17, Hilsman sent a copy of the paper to USIA Director Murrow for comment, with a covering memorandum that indicated the paper had been prepared in FE with the assistance of the USIA Vietnam desk. (Washington National Records Center, RG 306, USIA/TOP Files: FRC 67 A 222, IAF Defoliation-1963) Murrow responded on April 19 with a memorandum to Harriman in which he indicated that, while USIA felt that herbicide operations in South Vietnam were contributing to a potentially damaging propaganda campaign being orchestrated from Hanoi, "we concur--if reluctantly--in the recommendation that herbicide operations be continued.'' (Ibid.)

Chemical Defoliation and Crop Destruction in South Viet-Nam

1. Defoliation Activities

Defoliation trials have been carried out in thirteen localities, beginning in August of 1961 (see attached map/2/). About 87 miles of communication lines have been cleared plus a number of areas around military installations. The purpose of these operations is to increase visibility, thus providing better fields of fire and reducing the possibility of ambushes.

/2/Not found attached.

The military effectiveness of defoliation is difficult to assess. Some statistics suggest curtailed Viet Cong activity as a result of defoliation operations, but the evidence is inconclusive. Saigon reports that these trials appear to have a general impact in the security situation, but no statistical results can be isolated. While visibility is without question improved by defoliation, R.G.K. Thompson and some of our own military say the remaining tree trunks, limbs and twigs often provide quite adequate cover.

It is our understanding that ambushes generally make use of terrain features rather than foliage for cover in any event. Moreover, hand cutting would seem simpler, more effective, and probably less expensive in those areas where it is important to clear fields of fire. Thus defoliation appears to be a useful tactic only in those instances where very special terrain features justify it, and we anticipate that such situations are and will be rare.

Proposed plans for future defoliant operations include the clearing of the railroad right of way--according to our Embassy primarily for proper maintenance and only secondarily for security. In addition, COMUSMACV is now studying defoliant targets totaling 12,000 acres. The Vietnamese armed forces are also selecting and evaluating additional targets for the coming growing season, the major portion being in Central Viet-Nam.

2. Crop Destruction

To date two chemical crop destruction operations have been carried out in Viet-Nam, one by air in Phuoc Long Province in November of 1962 and one by hand in Thua Thien Province in February of this year (see attached map). In the Phuoc Long operation 300 hectares, primarily rice, were sprayed with the probable loss to the Viet Cong of 356,000 pounds of food or enough to support 1,000 men for six months.

In Thua Thien, because of difficult terrain and Viet Cong response, only 12 of the planned 120 hectares were actually sprayed, with an additional 20 hectares being destroyed by hand. Initial reports indicate about 56,000 pounds of food, primarily manioc, were destroyed by herbicides in the Thua Thien operation.

Total for both the Phuoc Long and Thua Thien operations was 312 hectares or about 412,000 pounds of food--enough to support 1,000 men for seven months.

As in the case of defoliation, the military effectiveness of crop destruction is difficult to measure. There is good evidence that the Viet Cong are short of food in many areas, however, and these trial operations almost certainly increased their food problem. These operations were carried out in food deficit areas where the Viet Cong have no ready alternative food sources. In such areas, notably in the central plateau and mountain regions, food denial tactics are clearly in order. In areas where food is plentiful, crop destruction is probably not useful and may be counterproductive.

In the case of the Phuoc Long operation, Saigon reports that U.S. advisory personnel believe the general area in which the operation was carried out is a major rice producing area for Zone D. At the present time, Zone D personnel are extremely short of rice; they reportedly require 300 tons per month and are only getting some 150 tons per month. According to information obtained from a recent VC prisoner captured in Zone D, the authorities in Zone D have instructed each man to grow enough rice to feed three people. The Vietnamese Central Intelligence Organization reported last December that twothirds of the Viet Cong in Zone D were to be used for crop protection; this information was derived from captured VC documents. It is the considered opinion of U.S. advisory personnel that the VC located in Zone D are absorbed almost full-time with the problem of survival. As evidence of this, our advisory personnel cite the fact that the defection rate in the area is increasing and that prisoners and defectors are almost invariably hungry and miserable.

Future crop destruction operations now under study include about 4,000 acres in Binh Dinh, Thua Thien, Phnoc Thanh, and Quang Tin provinces. For best results, these targets should be sprayed in April and May.

3. Political Effects

Inside Viet-Nam there is little evidence that either defoliation or crop destruction has generated any significant political reaction against the United States or the GVN. Hanoi propaganda likewise appears to have had little or no effect in South Viet-Nam. It is, of course, possible that the local populace in GVN-controlled areas would consider it unsafe and hence unwise to express adverse reactions to this program of the government.

Viet Cong propaganda efforts are known to have produced popular demonstrations in one provincial capital. On February 8 and 10 Viet Cong were able to stage, in front of the Kien Hoa province headquarters, a demonstration against artillery, air strikes, and the use of chemicals to destroy their food. Since no herbicides have been used in Kien Hoa province, the demonstration was purely the result of Viet Cong propaganda. Saigon comments that the Kien Hoa demonstrations indicate that the Viet Cong can do exploit locally the use of chemicals to at least the temporary detriment of the GVN and the United States.

The demonstrations in Kien Hoa appear to be unique, however, and Saigon reports that they have no information suggesting that operations carried out to date have had any measurably adverse effects on the local population. It is perhaps significant that the only area in which Viet Cong propaganda has had any apparent effect is one where the population has had no first-hand experience of defoliant chemicals.

(a) PsyWar Efforts and Compensation Machinery in Support of Herbicide Operations

ARVN PsyWar activities in support of herbicide operations appear adequate. Ground and air leaflet distribution was employed, using persuasive themes. In most cases, loud speaker planes were also used to explain the program prior to using defoliants in the area. "Sprayed ARVN soldiers'' were displayed to show that chemicals do not harm humans or animals. Sacrificial animals were donated by the government to Montagnard tribesmen to placate any spirits which might have been offended by herbicide operations.

The GVN has set up a mechanism for compensating peasants whose crops are inadvertently destroyed. We do not have much information on the results of the compensation program, but there are indications that it was not adequately carried out, in part because of security difficulties.

(b) Bloc Propaganda

Radio Hanoi has carried propaganda about the defoliant and crop destruction programs for more than a year, billing them as chemical warfare by the United States against the people of Viet-Nam. The Hanoi charges include the use of poison gas as well as noxious chemicals and allege the deaths of many people and animals as a result.

Hanoi output on this theme was stepped up sharply in mid-February and has increased steadily since. By mid-March roughly one quarter of the total DRV output was devoted to the subject. DRV propaganda recently featured a protest to the International Control Commission, reported a mass protest rally in Hanoi on April 7, and claimed that the NFLSVN has evidence of poison sprayings including "objects, photos, and witnesses.'' Moscow, Peking and Havana have picked up the theme, but it still occupies a very small percentage of their total output.

Non-Communist playback has been negligible to date. On April 1, the New York Times printed a letter from British philosopher Bertrand Russell charging that the U.S. is using chemical warfare to destroy crops and livestock and starve the population. The Times editorial set the record straight in the same issue, however, strongly refuting Russell's charges and pointing out that only common weed killers have been used. The Cambodian press has carried a few items, and Hanoi recently cited a statement by 11 African nationalist organizations condemning the U.S. However, the African statement in fact contained no specific reference to poison.

There is no evidence to date that the Bloc propaganda campaign has tended to undermine international support for our Viet-Nam policy or that it has damaged the image of the United States abroad.

(c) Countering Communist Propaganda

To counter Bloc propaganda, Saigon was instructed on March 11 to surface the entire crop destruction and defoliation programs, giving full details to the press./3/ Accordingly, our Saigon mission persuaded the GVN to undertake a press conference on the subject which was held March 20. The presentation was very well done and followed closely an Embassy-prepared guidelines paper./4/

/3/See Document 55.

/4/Not found.

About 80 newsmen attended and all seemed pleased by the briefing. Only two stories were filed, however, and neither story was to our knowledge carried in any U.S. newspaper. Nevertheless, the press conference probably served to place Communist charges in perspective for the Western press in Saigon, and by giving them the true facts, it should tend to prevent their being taken in by future Communist propaganda against the program.

All U.S. posts and missions abroad have been informed of the facts of the program. They are under instructions to report significant reactions to Communist propaganda and to counter such propaganda with the facts as appropriate.

VOA played the March 20 press conference plus an exclusive interview with President Diem on the subject. USIA has also prepared additional material which will be used as required.

4. Conclusions

The Embassy has recommended that both defoliation and crop destruction be continued. They further recommend that they be given authority to approve all herbicide operations, including crop destruction; that crop destruction and defoliation be regarded as a single program, and that the recommendations of local commanders and advisers should henceforth carry more weight in the use of herbicides in order to relate herbicide operations more directly to the local military situation.

Reports from the field do not permit precise, statistical evaluation of the reactions of the people or the military effectiveness of these programs. In part this is due to the limited scale on which herbicides have so far been employed. It is also due, in larger part, to the inherent difficulties of measuring popular sentiment in Viet Nam and to the continuing problem of defining progress in guerrilla conflict.

Some factors are clear if not measurable. One such factor is the value of food denial tactics. The Viet Cong are short of food in some areas and food denial, by whatever means, increases their difficulties. If herbicides are not available, other means have been and will be used by the GVN to destroy VC crops. These alternate means may be more difficult, as hand destruction in remote areas, or more destructive of the soil and human life, as napalm.

Mr. R.G.K. Thompson, head of the British Advisory Mission in Saigon, believes that crop destruction should be used only in situations where it is clear that the Viet Cong have no alternate sources of supply. It is his view that crop destruction is a useful weapon only when the people and the Viet Cong are effectively separated. This appears to be a correct evaluation, and our use of defoliant chemicals may have been premature. However, since the programs have been initiated and have proved effective against Viet Cong crops in remote areas, and since there are distinct disadvantages to halting the program at this time, we believe they should be continued on at least a limited basis.

A prime consideration in this evaluation is that the Communist propaganda will almost certainly be continued regardless of whether or not the herbicide programs are continued. This propaganda has not so far had any significant and measurable effect either inside or outside Viet-Nam. There are signs, however, that the Bloc intends to redouble its efforts, and it is not impossible or even unlikely that this propaganda will become more effective in the future.

Regardless of the degree of effectiveness of future Bloc propaganda, halting herbicide operations now would tend to confirm Bloc charges and invite further such campaigns because of their proven effectiveness against us. (It is worth noting in this connection that the only place in Viet-Nam where the Communists have succeeded in generating a demonstration against herbicides is in an area where the people have had no first hand experience of either defoliation or crop destruction.)

We recognize as Thompson has pointed out, that feet and brains, not gimmicks, will win the war. We also recognize the dangers of herbicide operations. On balance, however, the following considerations appear ruling:

a) Defoliation is at best only partially effective militarily. Ambushes normally make use of terrain features rather than foliage for cover. In those cases where it is important to clear fields of fire, it would appear that hand cutting would normally be at least as easy and inexpensive as defoliation.

b) Although crop destruction might better have been postponed until a later stage in the war, it has proved to have an important potential for hurting the Viet Cong in food deficit areas. While a massive program should not be undertaken at this time, crop destruction should be continued in areas where the inhabitants are known to be solidly Viet Cong and where food denial tactics are certain to bring effective pressures on them.

c) Halting herbicide operations under Communist propaganda fire would not halt propaganda attacks. On the contrary, if we yield and halt operations, it would likely encourage further propaganda attacks.

5. Recommendations

We therefore recommend that herbicide operations be continued and that authority to approve all such operations be delegated to the Ambassador and COMUSMACV, provided:

(1) that all herbicide operations continue to be most closely controlled by the Ambassador and COMUSMACV;

(2) that crop destruction be undertaken only in areas where it is clear that the inhabitants are Viet Cong and have no ready alternative food sources;

(3) that defoliation operations be limited to those situations, which we assume will be rare, where special terrain features are such as to fully justify the use of chemical clearing;

(4) that all herbicide operations be undertaken only when it is clear that both PsyWar preparations and compensation and relief machinery are adequate; and

(5) that the Embassy provide by late summer a complete report and evaluation of all herbicide operations carried out during the 1963 growing season.


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

Washington, April 18, 1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 67 D 54, Def 19/2 Advisory and Training Assist. Secret. Sent to Hilsman through Rice.

American Military Personnel in Viet-Nam

At the July meeting in Honolulu, Secretary McNamara requested a plan to reduce the American military in Viet-Nam to about 1500 by FY68. MACV made several plans which were rejected as being too expensive and finally submitted a Comprehensive Plan for SVN which was endorsed by Embassy Airgram A-417 and in later messages (enclosed)./2/ The objective was to "assure the capability of the GVN to exercise permanent and continued sovereignty over SVN at the end of CY65 without the need for continued US special military assistance''. Reductions in military personnel would not start until FY65. The cost of the Plan, which involved additional training for the Vietnamese forces so that they could take over more quickly, was estimated at $168 million above already planned expenditures for the period through FY68. The additional cost for FY64 alone was planned at $88 million. The plan also required additional expenditures by the Vietnamese of about 800 million piasters (the equivalent of $10.9 million at 73 to 1). This would require deficit financing by the GVN in addition to the deficit financing needed to pick up the costs of the strategic hamlet and counterinsurgency programs. All above figures subject to change without notice.

/2/Not found enclosed. A note on the source text indicates that the enclosures included the airgram cited, telegrams 856 and 857 to Saigon, and portions of telegram 844 from Saigon. Telegrams 844 from Saigon and 856 to Saigon are Documents 67 and 57. Regarding airgram A-417 to Saigon and telegram 857 to Saigon, see footnotes 2 and 5. Document 57.

As you know Bob Thompson suggested while in Washington that if one or two provinces became genuinely "white'' by July or August this year, and if the GVN continued to make good progress, the US should seriously consider pulling out a significant number of men, say 1,000, by the end of calendar 1963.

The Comprehensive Plan described above, which has been approved by Admiral Felt and JCS as well as by the Embassy, has been under study in Defense since early February. Quite clearly DOD will not be able to make the funds required by this plan available.

Politically, I recommend that a substantial number of American military should be pulled out of Viet-Nam by the end of this year, provided we make the progress suggested by Thompson. Diem's discussions with the Ambassador show that this is a touchy subject with the Vietnamese. However, the Vietnamese would like these men taken out of the provinces. It is more likely that they will be taken out of Saigon where you report that 50% of the American military are now stationed. It is for our military to decide which jobs they can best eliminate. I understand very confidentially that McNamara will tell them to cut their forces by 1,000 at the end of this year and will also make it clear that large additional funds will not be available.

I believe the difficulty DOD has faced has been to try and meet McNamara's July request that the cut be completed by FY68, and secondly to assume that the rate of increasing GVN strength through FY68 which had already been planned should be maintained in the face of a very substantial cut in our military. It would be more realistic to make a substantial cut now provided progress continues, and to then plan to reduce the rate at which the American military are cut back in the following years. Should the war go better than we expect in '66 and '67 we can always pull out still more men. This would be safer than pulling out too many men too soon.

You have asked that we first seek to reach agreement with the military on a ceiling and that we then ask them to cut by 1,000 at the end of the year provided good progress continues. When the Comprehensive Plan was made there were 12,200 U.S. military in Viet-Nam. The number is now over 13,000 and before your request was made State approved further increases which could bring the total to 15,600. Since DOD will have to ask State clearance for any further increases and since McNamara will almost certainly order them to make a cut of about 1,000 by the end of CY63, the question of a ceiling has become somewhat academic. It adds one more emotional element to an already tight situation.

If we insist on it, and if the war should suddenly take a turn for the worse, we would then have to approve a break in the ceiling and DOD would have to rush in additional men.


That we see what happens at Honolulu. DOD is very conscious of our views and I think our relations would be less strained if we do not insist on them at this time. We should veto any further requests for increases which in effect would place a ceiling of 15,600 on our military and quietly support McNamara's intention to achieve a significant reduction by the end of the year, provided things go well. Personally, I think 1,000 military could be pulled out of Saigon tomorrow and things would go better. During 1964 we should press for a further reduction of 1500 to 2000. You should also keep in mind that of the present 13,000 in Viet-Nam about 3,000 are advisers and 10,000 are troops. I would not want to see us cut 1,000 advisers at the end of this year, but the military could well cut some of their headquarters and backup troops.


98. Memorandum From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to the President/1/

Washington, April 22, 1963.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, 4/ 63-5/63. Secret. Also sent to McGeorge Bundy.


I attach a memorandum prepared by the Department of State and a paper prepared by the Joint Chiefs of Staff/2/ on the subject of chemical defoliation and crop destruction in South Vietnam. Both papers come essentially to the same conclusions and recommendations, which are best summarized on page 8 of the attached State paper. If you accept these recommendations, you will, in effect, be continuing present policy with one important exception: both State and the JCS wish to give blanket authority to Saigon to decide when and where crop destruction operations will be carried out. At present such blanket authority has only been given for defoliation (weed killing operations). Permission to destroy crops by chemical means still must come from Washington.

/2/Documents 96 and 93, respectively.

It seems to me that, having started on this type of operation, we have already reaped the propaganda whirlwind. If we stop now the propaganda will probably continue, and we would be denying ourselves whatever military effect the use of herbicides have. Both Roger Hilsman and I felt, when we were in South Vietnam, that under certain special conditions which will occur more and more frequently as the Viet Cong are driven into more remote base areas, the use of chemicals to destroy crops from the air has a definite military value in denying food for the fighting cadres of the Viet Cong. Under these circumstances it would seem to me unwise to cancel this program at this time; but I do think you should not grant blanket authorization to Saigon for crop destruction activity. It is hard to conceive of a situation where there would not be time to explain a project to Washington and obtain authorization from here.


99. Central Intelligence Agency Information Report/1/


Washington, April 22, 1963.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, 4/ 63-5/63. Secret; No Foreign Dissem; No Dissem Abroad; Background Use Only. Also published in Declassified Documents, 1977, 93B.

Indications of Government of Vietnam Plan To Request Reduction of American Personnel in Vietnam

By mid-April 1963 a considerable amount of tension had developed between the Government of Vietnam and the U.S. Government over operations in South Vietnam. Both Diem and Ngo Dinh Nhu were concerned over recent "infringements'' of Vietnamese sovereignty. MAAG was cited as a violator in this connection, but the U.S. Special Forces were singled out as the main irritant. Diem is allowing additional time for further blunders and, after building up a strong case, he plans to confront Ambassador Nolting and USMACV Chief General Harkins with irrefutable evidence of U.S. responsibility, demanding a reduction in the number of U.S. personnel in South Vietnam on the basis that the force is too large and unmanageable.

2. Some Vietnamese involved in close working relationships with Americans were being questioned in detail by Presidency Staff members as to U.S. activities. Some of the individuals questioned had indicated to the Presidency that the U.S. military, and particularly the U.S. Special Forces, although generally well motivated, did not seem to understand the necessity for coordinating their activities with appropriate Vietnamese authorities.

3. Field Dissem. State (Ambassador Nolting), USMACV (General. Harkins), MAAG (General Timmes), CINCPAC PACFLT ARPAC PACAF.


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


Saigon, April 25, 1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 26-1 S VIET Top Secret. Drafted by R. H. Miller and cleared by Manfull and General Harkins. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD.



/2/Document 66.

For Harriman and Hilsman from Nolting. In response to the reference instruction, my staff and I, with the close cooperation of MACV and 2nd Air Division, have conducted a thorough review and evaluation of the subject of interdiction air strikes. The results of this study are presented below.

General Description of the Problem.

During the past six months about 7,000 combat support sorties, or a little more than 1,000 per month, have been flown in SVN. About 2,500 of these, or 35%, have been flown by Farmgate (combined US/ VNAF crews). Of these 7,000 combat support sorties, VNAF has flown about 1,900 interdiction missions, while Farmgate aircraft have flown about 600 such missions. Thus, Farmgate has flown about 415 combat support sorties per month over the past six months, of which about 100 per month have been interdiction missions. Accordingly, Farmgate combat support sorties have amounted to about 35% of the total such sorties flown in SVN over the past six months, while Farmgate interdiction sorties have counted for less than 10% of that total.

There are three general types of interdiction targets involved in the war against the VC:

a) Structures abandoned by people relocated into strategic hamlets. The purpose of pre-planned interdiction missions against such structures is to deny the VC their use as dwellings, food storage, training centers, arms factories, ordnance storage, etc.

b) Structures abandoned by the VC during ARVN operations against them. Immediately following the operation, and after GVN forces have withdrawn from the area, ARVN often requests an air strike to destroy the remaining structures.

c) Targets of known VC concentrations, headquarters, storage areas, communications and control centers, arms manufacturing facilities, etc. These targets are normally located in remote areas where the air interdiction mission is the only feasible method of destroying them.

Of these three types of targets, only the third kind is likely to be inhabited at the time of an interdiction mission against it. Because of the remote areas in which targets are normally located, however, interdiction strikes against them are unlikely to affect many people who might be classed as "innocent bystanders.'' To be sure, these target areas could harbor some people who were not wholehearted V(: supporters or who might even be basically anti-VC. It is highly doubtful, though, that the numbers of such persons are great enough in proportion to the total numbers of people in SVN affected by all GVN and VC military operations to have any important effect on the GVN's efforts to gain control over and support of the mass of the population.

The basic source of intelligence for interdiction target selection is GVN knowledge of those areas under VC control or in which VC influence is predominant. This knowledge is gained from secret agents in GVN employ at different levels; interrogation of VC prisoners and defectors; captured VC documents; patrolling and scouting by ARVN, Rangers, Special Forces and paramilitary units; after-action surveillance of withdrawing VC to obtain information on escape and dispersal routes; VC ground fire; and photo reconnaissance. Sometimes, intelligence gathered from one or more of these sources has such a high reliability that a valid target can be established immediately. When, however, intelligence is fragmentary or has a lower evaluation rating, additional confirmatory evidence is sought by employing one or more of the sources mentioned above, as well as by photo reconnaissance flown specifically for target location and evaluation. Any time lag ensuing from this process requires revalidation of the target.

In many cases, the information provided by local civil GVN authorities establishes the basic requirements for an interdiction mission. This information is passed by civilians through the village and district chiefs to the Province Chief, who passes it to the GVN military authorities. Interdiction target requests originating with the local civilian authorities must be passed at least to Corps level for approval; target requests originating at the Corps level or higher must be passed to the local authorities to confirm the validity of the target. While the mechanism for approving interdiction targets varies slightly from Corps Hqs. to Corps Hqs., all such targets must be approved at the Corps level.

Additional requirements for target identification and attack are effective target marking, two-way radio communications, and trained Vietnamese forward air controllers, all of which must without exception be employed before Farmgate aircraft are authorized to attack an interdiction target. Final discretion for carrying out interdiction missions rests with the pilot. There are many cases on record of both Farmgate and VNAF pilots refraining from attacking targets because of inadequate target visibility, communications failure, inadequate target markings, and apparent discrepancies between the target as seen by the pilot and as described in the target folder. Pilots returning to base having refrained from delivering ordnance for these reasons are not charged with failure to carry out their missions. They are debriefed and the results of their observations are fed back into intelligence channels for verification and necessary correction of targets.

No one would claim that the sources of intelligence on which target selection is based are faultless. Nevertheless, as described above, raw intelligence is subjected to such painstaking scrutiny and confirmation at all levels before a target is approved and actually attacked that the risks arising from Vietnamese carelessness or insensitivity are considered to be minimal. Parenthetically, the stringent requirements and controls imposed on Farmgate interdiction missions have been adopted by the GVN and greatly improved VNAF operations and procedures.

It is admittedly difficult to obtain accurate and complete information on the casualties caused by interdiction strikes. Nevertheless, positive official evidence is available in only one case to confirm that innocent people have been killed or injured in interdiction strikes. It should be noted that this case was attributable to serious pilot error rather than to faulty intelligence or improper target selection. Reports of other such incidents are occasionally received; they are investigated but have not been confirmed. There is certainly no evidence to suggest that the relatively small number of Vietnamese affected by interdiction missions react more adversely to the GVN than do the many more affected by all types of GVN and VC military operations. It also seems highly questionable to conclude that individuals affected by Farmgate or VNAF interdiction strikes, even if these individuals are basically anti-VC or at least less than wholehearted VC supporters, are going to become sympathetic to the VC. Just as good an argument to the contrary might be made: individuals who are half-hearted supporters of the VC or who are forced by circumstances to work for the VC could regret the circumstances which exposed them to the strikes, and blame the VC for these circumstances; they could fear those strikes more than they resent the perpetrators of the strikes. Indeed, there is more evidence to support this argument than the contrary one. One of the generally accepted major reasons for the large-scale Montagnard flight into GVN-controlled areas over the past year has been their fear of being caught between VC and GVN military operations, including air strikes. Their reaction generally was not to go deeper into VC territory but to flee VC-controlled areas in search of GVN protection. Similarly, in a more recent case, it appears that the 1,300 or more refugees of Khmer-origin who recently fled an area long controlled by the VC in the Tri Ton District of An Giang Province to receive GVN protection did so because the area near where they had been living had just prior to their flight been subjected to heavy and sustained air strikes against the VC. These people who have sought GVN protection have undoubtedly made no conscious political choice between the VC and the GVN; rather they have sought safety and decided that safety lay with the GVN rather than with the VC.

As indicated above, less than 10% of the combat support sorties flown in SVN in the past six months have been interdiction missions flown by Farmgate aircraft. These aircraft, of course, have VNAF markings. As was originally stipulated in the rules of employment of Farmgate aircraft, they are employed in combat support missions only when the VNAF capability is exceeded. Despite frequent press reports on the role of USAF personnel in combat support missions, there is no more emphasis on that role than on the role of the US Army advisers attached to ARVN combat units. There is thus no foundation for believing that US participation in interdiction missions could intensify the Communist charges of US control over the war in SVN or of the GVN's "neo-colonial'' subservience to the US.

Pros and Cons

The analysis above is intended to place the subject of interdiction air strikes in proportion within the overall context of the GVN's war against the VC and of the GVN's efforts to win the support of the population. It obviously attaches more weight generally to the pro arguments in the reference instruction than to the con arguments, largely because the latter are reduced in importance when applied to the subject of interdiction in its proper context as we see it. Nevertheless, it is believed useful to make some specific comments on the Department's pro and con arguments.


Regarding the first pro argument, intelligence reports confirm that the interdiction effort restricts VC movements, the consolidation and storage of VC arms, equipment, food and other supplies. Interdiction; strikes also restrict the manufacture of VC war goods, keep the VC forces off balance, disrupt training centers, render medical attention more difficult and lower morale. In short, the destruction of interdiction targets restricts the flow of war materiel to VC forces, which in turn reduces their capability to fight.

A key pro argument has been omitted from the reference instruction. Farmgate interdiction missions constitute about one-fourth of the interdiction missions in SVN. To reduce Farmgate participation in such missions before VNAF has the capability to fulfill the requirements and at a time when operations against the VC are being intensified in accordance with the National Campaign would deprive the GVN of an important military advantage. Undoubtedly, the plan of ground operations under the National Campaign would have to be restudied and reduced in scope, resulting in a prolongation of the war. Similarly, the political impact of a Farmgate curtailment at this time on US-GVN relations is likely to be considerable.


1. As the above statement of the problem would suggest, con arguments 1, 2, 5 and 6 are so general that they might be applied across the board to all types of GVN military operations. To use them against a specific aspect such as interdiction gives those arguments much more importance than they should have in relation to the pro arguments. One might ask, for example, that if Farmgate interdiction missions were ruled out, would the GVN be better able to win the support of the population? Would the VC be able to recruit with much less ease? In our judgment, the answer to both of these questions is no.

In this connection, it may be a dangerous oversimplification, as con argument 1 asserts, to regard any SVN territory as enemy or any village as VC. However, it is an equally dangerous oversimplification to consider that there are no hard and fast VC targets, base areas, training and supply centers, etc., which can be destroyed by air interdiction without endangering the lives of innocent people. Such areas are frequently revealed by GVN military sweeps and patrols, and increasingly, through intelligence provided by defectors and POW's. Post-strike inspections on the ground have frequently verified the accuracy of the intelligence and the effectiveness of the strikes.

2. It is the considered military judgment here that con argument 3 is not valid, since the extent or magnitude of the target, or its relationship to a battle line, does not matter. In the judgment of MACV, with which I agree, once a target is verified, it is just as legitimate in counterinsurgency warfare as in a limited or general conventional war. We are therefore unaware of any reason why interdiction missions are more applicable to conventional warfare then to counterinsurgency warfare, although we are fully conscious of the greater difficulty of fixing targets in this type of situation.

3. Regarding con argument 4, it is granted that targeting techniques cannot be refined to as great a degree as would be ideal. It may also be admitted that certain Vietnamese officials are not as sensitive to the basically political nature of the war, and therefore are not wholly trustworthy as sources of information for interdiction target selection (province officials and ARVN military officers vary widely in this regard). However, in absolute terms, target selection techniques currently employed in SVN are applied with great care and with many safety devices. Moreover, it must be recognized that, largely because of the USAF advisory effort and Farmgate operation, VNAF techniques of target selection, marking and operational control have been tightened up and improved considerably.

In this connection, there appears to be a misconception as to what an interdiction target is. It is not an area, but a pinpointed facility or troop concentration. Thus, even if a province or district chief considers an area as enemy territory simply because it harbors VC, the interdiction strike is conducted, not against an area but against a specific verified target--a target which is usually in a remote area. The 230mile area referred to in the reference instruction was not the target but the target area. In that area there were 19 pinpoint targets of which 12 were hit and 7 were not hit because of weather. The incident referred to was caused by pilot error.

4. Regarding con argument 7, Farmgate aircraft are today operating under the same ground rules that were established when they arrived in Viet-Nam. There has been no change in those rules. Two changes have occurred, however, since Farmgate first arrived in SVN: 1) the number of Farmgate aircraft has increased to meet increased requirements and the tempo of air activity has increased; and 2) the press has gradually devoted more attention to the role of air power in Viet-Nam's war.


US-piloted interdiction missions, at the present stage of the war in SVN, are a necessary supplement to VNAF's interdiction capability, which is growing but is still insufficient to fulfill the intensified requirements of the National Campaign. Total Farmgate and VNAF capabilities are still at times exceeded by these requirements. Intelligence reports confirm that the present combined interdiction effort of Farmgate and VNAF is restricting VC capabilities through the destruction of VC troops, arms, equipment and supplies.

The continued refinement of target selection, marking and operational control techniques has reduced insofar as possible the likelihood that interdiction missions will cause casualties among innocent civilians or among people who are not wholehearted VC supporters, although there is no way to ensure that interdiction missions will avoid such casualties altogether. There is, on the other hand, considerable evidence that those threatened by air strikes and other combat operations have found that the way to escape danger is to seek GVN protection. The GVN has not thereby won their loyalty, but it has won control over them and the opportunity to win their loyalty, and it has denied them, their resources and their energies to the VC. Against this, there is very little concrete evidence available to give weight to the argument that interdiction missions, more than other kinds of combat operation, will render more difficult if not impossible the GVN's task of winning the loyalty of the people. To curtail or withdraw Farmgate interdiction operations on the basis of very little negative evidence when the positive evidence of their effectiveness is much greater would, in my judgment, be a mistake. It would render more difficult and lengthy the task of restoring internal security to SVN, give the VC an advantage it does not now have, and raise questions in the GVN as to US support.

The fundamental questions raised in the reference instruction have been on our minds here for a long time. It is certainly useful to have made another mission-wide assessment of this particular problem. I have myself been on the look-out for many months, and have had many discussions to try to evaluate the net effects of many types of military operations, not alone air operations. The yardstick used is winning the people. The best evidence, I think, is found in captured VC documents and in POW and defector testimony. Among these, I have seen nothing to indicate or suggest that the VC think that air strikes are helping to win the struggle for them. On the contrary, all the evidence from VC sources is in the opposite sense.

F.E. Nolting, Jr.


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

Saigon, April 26, 1963, 5 p.m.

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

959. CINCPAC for POLAD. Embtel 920./2/ Have now received (April 23) Diem's written reply/3/ re Counterinsurgency Fund. It is brief, reiterates GVN unwillingness to apply purchased-piastre procedures to GVN funds on grounds derogation of sovereignty, but states flatly that "GVN intends obtain necessary resources to finance all jointly developed projects listed in annex to your letter of March 18, 1963 (Toaid A-2874),/4/ even if total cost of these projects should go as high as 2 billion 300 million piastres''. Letter also states desire maintain existing relationship between, and apparently functions of, GVN Interministerial Committee on Strategic Hamlets (ICSH) and U.S. Committee on Province Rehabilitation (COPROR) and to continue coordinate U.S. and GVN activities in rural area.

/2/Document 91.

/3/Not found.

/4/The letter and attachment are printed as Document 61.

Letter is of course entirely too vague on question of procedures, and Trueheart, Brent and I met with Thuan April 24 to pin down these elements of problem. To set stage, I first proposed to Thuan that--since Diem's only explicit objection to continuing present purchased piastre procedures was that it would be derogation to sovereignty to apply them to GVN funds--the problem would be solved by transferring required piastres from counterpart tentatively earmarked for military budget to Counterinsurgency Fund, with GVN applying its own funds to former. As expected, Thuan threw up his hands at this, and we then proceeded to talk about procedures for using GVN funds. Upshot appears to be that we can get following, confirmed by exchange of letters with Thuan:

1. Piastres to cover province administered projects (Section A1 of attachment to March 18 letter) would be paid as required into special Treasury account from which they would be disbursed directly to province chiefs to carry out approved programs.

2. Province programs would be approved as in the past by ICSH and COPROR.

3. Disbursement would be made by province chief without need to have concurrence U.S. provincial representatives. (This is nominally only difference between this procedure and that used for purchased piastres.) However, province chief would consult with U.S. representatives re his plans and proposed actions, so that related GVN and U.S. rural programs can be properly developed and executed, and his expenditures would be made known to U.S. provincial representatives.

4. With regard to nationally administered programs (remainder of items in annex to March 18 letter), GVN funds would not be deposited in special account. These programs would be administered in same manner as counterpart-funded programs, i.e., on basis of appropriate understanding or agreement between Directorate General of Budget and Foreign Aid and USOM.

5. GVN agrees to provide piastres to support essential USOM operations ("program administration'' in annex to March 18 letter). Thuan did not agree, however, to support any specific level of expenditures under this heading, pending detailed GVN review of USOM estimate. On other hand, I made it clear that we will insist after this review on definitive GVN commitment. (This is essential if we are to insure against being forced later to make piastre purchase simply to keep USOM going, and I so explained matter to Thuan.)

On paper the above goes far to meet our requirements. Only significant change from past procedures is that involving U.S. provincial representatives concurring in province chiefs' expenditures. This is not something we would insist on--we are not interested in vetoing expenditures, quite the contrary--and procedure was initially introduced at GVN request as check on local GVN officials.

Procedurally, then, we have what we want, and we have a formal GVN commitment to speed up to our target of 2.3 billion piastres. We, therefore, recommend that this solution be accepted as best compromise obtainable in present circumstances.

In recommending acceptance, however, we wish Washington to understand that we have doubts as to how this scheme will work in practice./5/ These doubts stem from fact that, though we shall be using old and tested procedures, we shall be dealing with GVN money. It may be that GVN will be as ready to spend for counterinsurgency programs as we are, and formal statement of readiness to find 2.3 billion piastres/6/ for types of projects we favor certainly suggests that they will be. Nevertheless, past experience with parsimonious approach of GVN dictates caution at least.

/5/These doubts were expressed in a memorandum for the record prepared on April 30 by Rufus Phillips, who, as Assistant Director for Rural Affairs of the U.S. Operations Mission, had immediate responsibility for the strategic hamlet program. As Phillips saw it:

''We are now asked to give up essential ingredients of what has proven to be a winning formula. We are asked to give up direct US funding, and to give up effective US participation in the province administered counter-insurgency operations directed at winning the people. Yet, it is precisely this participation, and the funding system which has supported and made it possible, which are essential to the success of the program.'' (Hoover Institution Archives, Lansdale Papers, Chron File C)

/6/A marginal notation at this point, in Wood's hand, reads: " 'if' it is needed''.

There is, however, no present alternative to trying to make this work. To try to force use of counterpart piastres for counterinsurgency would not in practice give us much more leverage in funding projects which we want-possibly less in view of bitterness which insistence on this would arouse. Moreover, important programs which would be affected by shift would then be subject aforementioned parsimonious GVN approach.

As for using PL 480 US-owned piastres, this seems to us nonstarter because it presupposes GVN willingness to amend existing sales agreement, and we fail to see any incentive for them to do so.

Only other alternative is further piastre purchase. We have made it very clear from outset that this is ruled out, and that we would not recommend it. We have also discussed fully with Thuan our misgivings concerning GVN's willingness in fact to spend sums which seem to be required. Thuan is aware that our leverage on this consists in the "matching'' goods and services from U.S. sources which we could withhold, if important differences arise concerning the amount of pump-priming that has to be done.

In summary, this outcome is not as fool-proof as we would like, but on balance we believe we should move ahead on this basis. Recommend Dept authorize us ASAP to exchange memoranda of understanding with GVN on this basis.



102. Memorandum From the Assistant Director for Rural Affairs, United States Operations Mission in Vietnam (Phillips), to the Director of the Mission (Brent)/1/

Saigon, May 1,1963.

/1/Source: Hoover Institution Archives, Lansdale Papers, Chron File C. Secret. A note on the source text indicates that copies were also sent to the Ambassador, the Deputy Chief of Mission, J-5 MAC/V, J-3 MAC/V, Chief of MAAG, Chief of OSA, and the Director of the Office of Vietnam Affairs, AID/Washington.

An Evaluation of Progress in the Strategic Hamlet-Provincial Rehabilitation Program

1. I have asked our Regional Representatives, Ralph Harwood (IV Corps -), George Melvin (III Corps -), John Perry (II Corps -) and Len Maynard (I Corps +) to assess the progress of the Strategic Hamlet-Provincial Rehabilitation Program, in their regions. Their reports, attached to this memorandum,/2/ provide a brief, analytical and realistic province by province review of progress made in this effort to date.

/2/Not found attached.

2. This evaluation seems particularly useful at this time, since a major change in the provincial support method is under consideration./3/ It should provide useful documentation for discussions of the program at the upcoming Secretary of Defense Conference in Hawaii.

/3/For the reaction of Phillips and his staff to the agreement reached with the Diem government on the question of control over the financing of the counterinsurgency program, see footnote 5, Document 101.

3. In general, highly significant progress has been made in the Strategic Hamlet-Provincial Rehabilitation program in many provinces. Progress is measured in terms of the establishment, in steadily increasing number, of viable hamlets with inhabitants who have the will and the means to resist the Vietcong. There is a sharp difference between the number of such hamlets, and the total number of strategic hamlets officially listed as complete by the Vietnamese Government. That the distinction is both necessary and realistic has been confirmed to us by Colonel Lac and his staff who reviewed these evaluations in draft.

4. After six months field experience with this program, it has become inescapably clear that, although the concept itself is excellent, execution of the program is seriously handicapped by a lack of understanding of the concept and the lack of sufficient will to put it into effect. This is especially true of provincial and other local participating officials, but is by no means confined to them. There is, almost across the board, great difficulty in grasping the idea that "the strategic hamlet is a state of mind.'' Conditioned by years of experience with the French, and having no prior experience in the practice of democratic methods of leadership, many feel unable to carry out the program without using methods sure to alienate the population whose support is its real objective. Significant progress has been made in improving the basic attitudes of officialdom but this progress has stemmed more from our on-the-spot insistence that the welfare of the population be considered than from Central Government direction.

Even when Mr. Nhu touched upon this vital area in his recent speech at Lo-O, his references were oblique and not easily translatable into practical actions. Specific guidance from the Interministerial Committee against such practices as the collection of money for hamlet construction from the population has been honored as much in the breach as in the observance (one province chief recently received a reminder on this score and complained bitterly that this would force him to stop his entire program).

5. More important than what the Central Government says, however, are its actions in rewarding some province chiefs and punishing others for their progress in establishing hamlets. Here the stress has been almost entirely on quantity, not quality, which has reinforced the natural inclination of most provincial officials to create strategic hamlets "by command.'' I have accompanied the Minister of Interior, for instance, on visits to hamlets where he praised the Province Chief for having moved the population without expense to the Government, but where I found out later the Province Chief was obliged, because of popular discontent, to use two companies of Civil Guard to keep the people in the hamlets. This continues up to the present to be the main approach of the Central Government. This must be changed, for insistence by the Central Government on unrealistic requirements tends to force province chiefs into actions surely destructive to the program.

6. This situation is changing for the better, but still too slowly to produce the type and number of viable hamlets needed to win the war. Fortunately, encouraged by readily available support and by our guidance and backing at the provincial level, more and more province chiefs are learning for themselves that the program must be carried out the hard way, i.e., by persuading the population and winning their support--rather than by herding them into hamlets. It is precisely this change at provincial level which is most encouraging and which holds the most promise of ultimate success if we can keep the present support pattern in being.

7. These are problems which must be understood and which must be solved if the strategic hamlets are to be viable and effective in achieving their purpose. The evaluations which are attached highlight some of the problem areas, particularly in the Delta where they are most acute and where, except in a few provinces, the apparent progress is largely illusory.

8. In conclusion, it should be added that the above comments must not be construed as reflecting undue pessimism or a negative outlook. To the contrary, the strategic hamlet program has so well proven itself in those areas where it has been well executed that there is every reason for optimism and confidence. At the same time, however, if success is to become widespread, some of the obstacles and problems involved must be realistically faced and solved. These can be solved if we have the perseverance and the intelligence to continue to seek their solution in a manner which fits the task, for the heart of this task is a psychological revolution in the way the Vietnamese Government and its officials operate.


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

Washington, May 1, 1963, 4:29 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, AID (US) S VIET. Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Montgomery and Poats and cleared by Wood, Donald L. Woolf in SEA, Robert W. Barnett and Hilsman in FE, Fowler in AID, and Kent in DOD/ISA. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD.

1024. Joint State/AID. Embtel 959,/2/ If Thuan's conversation can be translated into agreement believe this best available resolution difficult situation. You authorized seek memorandum of understanding along lines procedures contained reftel.

/2/Document 101.

Depending on your judgment of current atmosphere you should decide whether or not seek add to memo understanding statement that funds adequate to cover local costs of all provincial plans approved by Interministerial Committee and COPROR will be deposited in specified increments in advance of requirements.

If helpful to your efforts you may inform Thuan that you have been instructed achieve broadest possible list of activities eligible for special Treasury fund financing to include if possible all activities under province administered plans regardless whether included in section A1 attachment March 18 letter/3/ or subsequently added on grounds this necessary insure most efficient flow our dollar commodities. Alternatively it may be preferable simply submit list to include all activities in province administered programs whether or not in March 18 letter.

/3/Document 61.

May we assume Province Chiefs will be able to draw upon special Treasury fund against approved plans without need for clearance from other GVN agencies? Would appreciate whatever clarifications you may obtain re special Treasury fund.

While we have no objection to joint review of USOM administrative costs, memorandum should not derogate from U.S. rights under Section 1, para 3 of Annex to Bilateral of September 7, 1957, requiring GVN to finance administrative costs from counterpart account. Notification under para 3 of Annex to Bilateral could provide for nature and mechanics of review to be made this instance.



104. Letter From the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Hilsman) to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Bundy)/1/

Washington, May 1, 1963.

/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 67 A 4564, Vietnam 1963 333 Jan. Secret. The copy of this letter in Department of State files indicates that it was drafted on April 18 by Wood and cleared by Harriman, Johnson (G), and Rice. (Department of State, Central Files, DEF 19-3 US-S Viet)

Dear Bill: I was glad to discuss with you the problem of jets for Viet-Nam. Having thought it over, I believe on balance that it is best not to provide the Vietnamese Air Force with jets at this time. Certainly we should consider whether they should have jets before our extraordinary assistance is withdrawn, but this is some years off. Unless some new and important factors arise, I suggest we let the matter rest for the time being.

Certainly American pilots in F-101's can do a better job of photo reconnaissance than Vietnamese pilots in T-33's. It would not lead to a significant reduction in U.S. personnel. There thus doesn't seem to be a compelling reason for changing now. As you say, we have violated the Geneva Accords in the past. We have been cited for these violations. However, in each case our actions resulted in an important increase in Viet-Nam's ability to defend itself (e.g. helicopters and M-113's). The reason our violations have not caused greater repercussions is because we made it clear to the ICC that we were helping Viet-Nam defend itself. Tacit Indian recognition of this point was shown by the helpful ICC report of June 2, 1962,/2/ which came close to charging North Viet-Nam with aggression. We are still trying to get a legal report out of the ICC which could give us more useful ammunition. Thus, we don't want to rock the tippy ICC boat more than we have to. Jets are an emotional subject with them which we should not take on without compelling reasons. Herbicides in Viet-Nam and the whole situation in Laos are already giving us enough to do with the ICC.

/2/For excerpts of the Special Report issued in Saigon on June 2, 1962, by the International Commission for Supervision and Control, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1962, pp. 1103-1106.

Finally, so long as the jets are ours we can pull them out any time it is in our interest to do so. To give them to the Vietnamese could be considered an escalation. The war seems to be going our way under the terms in which it is now being fought. We shouldn't give the other side a pretext to change the terms unless we thereby obtained a decided advantage.

In short, giving the Vietnamese jets at this time will not shorten the war or materially reduce the American commitment. It would risk international repercussions which we are anxious to avoid.

In saying the above, I do not mean of course to close the door on this issue. I think it should be reviewed whenever the situation has so changed as to warrant reconsideration./3/

/3/On May 17, Secretary of Defense McNamara sent a memorandum to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff which noted the continuing reservations of the Department of State on the question of the delivery of jet aircraft to the Republic of Vietnam. In light of those reservations, McNamara directed that the 4 RT-33 and 2 T-33 aircraft earmarked for Vietnam in the fiscal year 1962 Military Assistance Program be reallocated to meet other requirements. In addition, McNamara wrote: "As I mentioned at the Honolulu Conference on 6 May, we should take a hard look at the plans for delivering jet aircraft under future year programs for Vietnam. I feel that the plans presented at Honolulu were unrealistic in this regard. Aside from the political aspects, I have reservations as to the advisability, on cost effectiveness grounds, of providing jets for Vietnam before the insurgency is under control. Request that you give special attention to this matter in your review of the CINCPAC Military Assistance Plan for Vietnam.'' (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 69 A 3131, Vietnam 452)

Regarding the Honolulu conference, see Document 107.

Sincerely yours,

Roger Hilsman


105. Memorandum From the Deputy Director of the Vietnam Working Group (Heavner) to the Director (Wood)/1/

Washington, May 2, 1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 67 D 54, Pol 15 Govt. Secret; Limit Distribution.

Forrestal Meeting on Contingencies

(1) Forrestal indicated that shortly after your return/2/ he will want a checklist of things which we have asked or which in the future we might ask Diem to do. He seems to be thinking of a large paper which would include various means of pressuring Diem as well as requesting him to do various things. He specifically asked that we include in the paper alternative means of applying economic and fiscal pressures. (I briefly mentioned some of the alternatives we have debated here, and at his request, gave him a rundown on the current status of the CI fund negotiations.) I have asked Jim/3/ to draft up the various alternatives which we have for pressuring Diem on the economic side, giving both pros and cons and likely GVN responses./4/

/2/On May 4, Wood traveled to Honolulu for the Secretary of Defense Conference on Vietnam at CINCPAC headquarters on May 6. After the conference, he went on to Vietnam for the remainder of the month for discussions with the Vietnam Country Team.

/3/James M. Montgomery of the Vietnam Working Group.

/4/On May 20, Heavner sent an 18-page memorandum to Hilsman listing the reforms which the United States had urged Diem to implement since 1960, as well as "actions which we might consider pressing Diem to take''. Projected reforms listed by Heavner included recognition of a legal opposition, delegation of presidential authority, acceptance of additional U.S. direction of the economic and social aspects of the strategic hamlet program, land reform, and measures to increase income for Vietnamese farmers. With the exception of some possible flexibility on the question of allowing the price of rice to rise, Heavner noted that Diem was unlikely to respond favorably to any of the proposed reforms. (Department of State, Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 67 D 54, Pol 15 Govt)

(2) As you know, he also wants a new paper on what to do if Diem passes from the scene./5/He was not aware of the existence of the 1961 contingency plan,/6/ which I took with me as you suggested.

/5/Enclosure to Document 133.

/6/For text, see Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. I, Document 181.

CIA has been wamping up some drafts on this. They appear to regard brother Nhu as the most likely if not the most appealing prospect for a successor. This disturbs me personally, because I think Nhu is a sure loser. He is so cordially hated by all and sundry that I think he could not possibly lead the Vietnamese to victory against the VC. Moreover, his anti-American bias seems much stronger than that of Diem; I doubt that we could work with him even as well as we do with the old boy. Finally, I don't think this intellectual acrobat has the grip or the stamina or the practicality required to take and hold power.

I think you might want to discuss this both in Honolulu and Saigon. Our present plan which calls for constitutional succession backed or followed by a military leader is still valid. Saigon has not suggested any alteration, but I gather their thinking is moving away from that solution and in the direction of supporting brother Nhu.

(3) Most of the meeting/7/ was taken up with a discussion of how best to get political intelligence on the military establishment, particularly at the middle levels of Major and Colonel. A plan tentatively agreed upon is to designate whether [sic] MAAG advisers as political reporters in addition to their regular duties. Their job would be to evaluate the political tendencies and loyalties of the military establishment, or that part of it within their ken, and if it ever became necessary, to use their influence as directed by the Ambassador.

/7/No further record of this meeting has been found.

It was pointed out, repointed out, and repeatedly emphasized that the great danger in this plan would be GVN discovery of the effort. The reporting channel, as I understand it, would be through General Harkins to the station chief and the Ambassador, rather than plugging CIA into the machine at any other lower or lateral level.

General Krulak was present at the meeting, and he will discuss the matter at Honolulu. I recommend that you talk to him about it.


106. Memorandum for the Ambassador in Vietnam (Nolting) and the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Harkins)/1/

Washington, May 3, 1963.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, 4/63-5/63. Secret; Limit Distribution. A note on the source text indicates that the memorandum was to be hand-delivered by Arthur Sylvester, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. A covering memorandum from White House Press Secretary Pierre Salinger to Sylvester, also dated May 3, notes that the memorandum "has been signed off here.'' Salinger added that Sylvester should obtain the necessary clearances in the Departments of Defense and State. There is no indication on the source text of such clearances.

According to Salinger's memoirs, he drafted the memorandum on instructions from President Kennedy after the President had met with John Mecklin at the White House on April 29. Salinger arranged the meeting for Mecklin, who was in Washington recuperating from surgery, after Mecklin convinced him that the President should be informed of the "mounting difficulties in Saigon'' regarding press coverage of the war. (Salinger, With Kennedy, p. 400) Mecklin wrote of this meeting that Kennedy was "skeptical but willing to try'' his advice that the administration make an effort to take newsmen into their confidence. (Mecklin, Mission in Torment, pp. 149-151) After the meeting, Salinger recorded that "the President told me he had been deeply impressed with Mecklin's recital-but at the same time he did not feel that any new press policy in Vietnam would, in the long run, be successful because of the highly conflicting interests of the government and the press there.'' Nevertheless, after a discussion, in which McGeorge Bundy participated, Kennedy authorized Salinger to draft a new press guideline to be delivered to Harkins and Nolting by Sylvester at one of the periodic review meetings in Honolulu. (Salinger, With Kennedy, p. 401) The policy outlined in the memorandum was formally implemented in the press policy guidance sent to Saigon on May 21 in Document 130.

1) Extensive discussions have been held over this past weeks on press situation in Viet Nam which had shown substantial improvement in the past few months. In our view however, the press situation in South Viet Nam at present still holds unfortunate potential which rigid continuation of present press policies might aggravate. After conversations including State, Defense, the White House (including the President) and USIA, it is thought desirable to keep present favorable momentum by granting more leeway to field in making day to-day news policy as it affects on-the-spot situations. This would include wherever possible taking American reporters in Saigon further into our confidence, particularly on matters which they are almost certain to learn about anyway. Washington will exercise patience with efforts in implementation of this guide in order to give it chance for success.

2) Public statements by high officials of the United States Government either visiting South Viet Nam or discussing our policies in Soutl1 Viet Nam should continue on the note of caution manifested by the President in his December 12th press conference,/2/ cited here for your information:

/2/For full text of these remarks, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1962, p. 870.

''Q: Mr. President, it was just a year ago that you ordered stepped-up aid to Viet Nam. There seems to be a good deal of discouragement about the progress. Can you give us your assessment?

''The President: Well, we are putting in a major effort in Viet Nam. As you know, we have about 10 or 11 times as many men there as we had a year ago. We have had a number of casualties. We put in an awful lot of equipment. We are going ahead with the strategic hamlet proposal. In some phases, the military program has been quite successful. There is great difficulty, however, in fighting a guerrilla war. You need ten to one, or eleven to one, especially in terrain as difficult as South Viet Nam.

''So we don't see the end of the tunnel, but I must say I don't think it is darker than it was a year ago, and in some ways lighter.''

Neither undue optimism nor pessimism are called for.

3) Nothing in this memorandum should be interpreted as any change in your present policy of discouraging public and private comments by United States personnel of a derogatory nature about Vietnamese military efforts.


107. Memorandum for the Record of the Secretary of Defense Conference/1/

Honolulu, May 6, 1963.

/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 69 A 6214, Sec Def Conference (HQ CINCPAC). Secret. Drafted in Washington on May 8.

The participants in the conference, which was held at CINCPAC headquarters, included Secretary of Defense McNamara, General Harkins, General Krulak, Admiral Felt, Assistant Secretary of State Hilsman, Ambassador Nolting, and USOM Director Brent.

Notes and Necessary Actions Resulting from SecDef Honolulu Conference on Vietnam, 6 May 1963

Item 1. Evaluation of the Situation in RVN

a. General Harkins discussed the over-all progress that had been made since the last meeting/2/ and conveyed the feeling of optimism that all elements of the Country Team now have. General Harkins did not attempt to predict a date when the insurgency would be broken, but did feel that we are certainly on the right track and that we are winning the war in Vietnam, although the struggle will still be a protracted one.

/2/The previous conference convened by the Secretary of Defense to consider progress in Vietnam was held on October 2, 1962. See Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. II, Document 298.

In response to a question from the Secretary, General Harkins stated that M-113's have proven to be excellent combat vehicles and have produced a very high number of VC casualties. In regard to M-114's, he stated that they had not been in use long enough to prove their merit, but that he expected them to also be of great value.

(1) Action: The Secretary directed that we should examine the Thai MA Program to see if we should put additional M-113/M-114's in the Thai Program. we should also consider these vehicles for India. In this regard, CINCPAC stated that the most recent submission for Thailand does have APC in the program.

b. General Harkins reported that the M-79 grenade launcher is one of the best weapons they have in Vietnam. It is useful for the troops, paramilitary forces, and for hamlet defense.

(2) Action: The Secretary stated that we should also look into this weapon for Thailand. He wished to know if we have the proper number scheduled. We should also look into the possibility of sending this weapon to South America.

c. General Harkins mentioned that in regard to US helicopter support, in June the Army will begin to shift from H-21's to HU-1B's.

d. In regard to the Navy, Capt. Drachnik reported that scheduled junks are now all operational. The Gulf of Siam patrol has shown good results, where the junks are backed up by PGM as available. He said that additional PGM will be assigned to the area when they are received. Capt. Drachnik stated that one item of concern is the shallow draft swimmer-support boats. They have worked out well but maintenance is difficult. The bow is subject to heavy damage and they have a repair problem, the main trouble at present being getting sufficient epoxy resin. A shipment was due on 1 April but has not yet arrived.

(3) Action: The Secretary directed that we look into this problem and speed up delivery of the epoxy.

e. General Harkins reported that the medical program is going well. We presently have a team of 127 US medical personnel there. They treat about 150,000 people a week. They are training VN personnel, both VNAF and strategic hamlet medics. In regard to the latter, there is a problem with the GVN Department of Health which is slowing up the training program.

(4) Action: The Secretary stated that he thought the major purpose of the 127-man medical team was to train Vietnamese and that it appears they are putting more emphasis on treatment rather than training when the opposite should be true. He directed that COMUSMACV develop and send in a plan for medical training of Vietnamese.

f. General Harkins discussed the training and equipment of the paramilitary forces. In response to a question, he stated that hamlet militia do get weapons, but that the issue of weapons is subject to GVN regulations. The Secretary mentioned that at the previous conference the subject of AR-15 rifles had arisen. He asked how many were in-country and what was the appraisal of this rifle. General Harkins reported that it is a very good weapon and well-liked, but that the weapons in-country can do the job. The Secretary remarked that possibly we should not send in any new rifles unless they are AR-15's. It was pointed out that our rifle program is now about completed and that all programming is for replacement or attrition, and that for FY 64 substituting AR-15 for other weapons would cost about an additional $1 million.

(5) Action: The Secretary stated he would review the reports presently in Defense regarding the AR-15 prior to making any further decisions regarding this weapon.

g. General Harkins reported that the VC defection rate was increasing. The GVN Chieu Hoi Program has been instituted and looks good. However, there is a shortage of loudspeaker planes to use in connection with this program. It was pointed out that there is a restriction on use of US planes and crews for loudspeaker operations. The VNAF has enough C-47's, but needs additional loud-speaker equipment.

(6) Action: The Secretary stated that we should look into the restrictions on use of US planes and crews and make them commonsense restrictions, that we should minimize the participation of US personnel and that we should expand as rapidly as possible the GVN capability for loudspeaker operations. He directed that COMUSMACV send in a list of equipment needed to install in GVN planes and that DOD will see that it is delivered.

h. General Harkins reported on progress of the National Campaign Plan noting that Phase I is essentially completed, and Phase II should formally start in July. However, there will be no dramatic entry into Phase II, since many activities are already underway with increased operations throughout SVN.

i. On the Strategic Hamlet Program, Mr. Trueheart reported that generally speaking it is going very well in the first three Corps areas, but not very well in the IV Corps. He stated that in the II Corps we have an excellent plan which is well co-ordinated and which is going well. In the Delta area, the strategic hamlet problem is more difficult. Here the people are spread out more, with hamlets one house wide and five miles long along the canal. In the area there are more VC, the people are generally more hostile to the Government, and strategic hamlets defenses are more difficult.

j. On border problems, General Harkins stated that as long as we have Laos and Cambodia there will be border problems. In regard to infiltration, he stated that Phu Quoc is a transshipping point. Where the junk patrols are backed up by PGM (as in the Phu Quoc area), they are more effective.

k. In giving his outlook for the future, General Harkins gave his opinion that some of our recent setbacks had been due to people dropping their guard. He said that this is a natural reaction when things are going well, and it is something we have to watch. Also, this is the wrong time for us to mention any cutback to the GVN. We should not have them think that now that we have gotten them this far, we are going to decrease our support.

Item 2. Comprehensive Plan South Vietnam

a. CINCPAC presented the proposed '64-'69 RVNAF force structure and the proposed phasing in of equipment to the RVNAF. The Secretary questioned some of the figures, in that they showed larger forces in '68 than in '64, whereas we are operating on the assumption that the back of the insurgency would be broken by FY'65.

(7) Action: The Secretary stated it his impression that the projections were too light on helos and transport aircraft and too heavy on fighters. He specifically questioned the introduction of F-5A and F-5B aircraft.

He further stated that insofar as the MAP is concerned, once the insurgency is broken, the MAP for GVN should be about $50 million per year. He suggested that it would be wise to work out two alternative plans-one that the GVN could carry on with about $50-$100 million US assistance annually (including supporting assistance) and the other which showed what would be required from a military standpoint.

b. CINCPAC then presented the detailed '64 requirements, which showed a total of $163 million for maintenance of current forces and $59 million for force improvements. It was pointed out that the $163 million operating requirements exceeds the present FY '64 Vietnam MAP ceiling of $159.1 million. A detailed list of each project for force improvement was then presented.

(8) Action: The Secretary stated that he did not see how it would be possible to meet the proposed total $222 million for FY 64. He then proposed that the figure of $65 million for ammunition be reduced to about $30 million. He would guarantee that if MACV ran into trouble, DOD would see that requirements were filled immediately from US stocks. The Secretary expressed his views that US equipment now in; country which is to be turned over to the GVN should be turned over at no cost to MAP. This would cover such items as helicopters, C-123, AC&W and Tropo-scatter equipment.

(9) Action: The Secretary also stated that the phase out of US personnel as planned is too slow and that we should try to get US numbers down to a minimum level earlier than FY'66.

Item 3. Role of Attack Aircraft

a. General Anthis presented a briefing of all air operations in Vietnam. In each category (i.e. transport, liaison, combat sorties) there has been a great increase in air activity over the past year.

(10) Action: The Secretary requested that in the future the statistics for combat sorties be broken down to show the types of combat sorties (i.e. interdiction, convoy escort, helo escort, etc.)

b. General Anthis stated there has been an increase in photo recce over the past year. He stated that over 70% of targeting for interdiction purposes comes from photo recce. Currently, we have a problem of quickly getting film from the airfield to processing centers. MACV has requested additional aircraft (U-3B or T-37) for this purpose.

(11) Action: The Secretary asked that we look into getting the U-3B aircraft to Vietnam.

(12) Action: The Secretary remarked while the VN Air Force is increasing its activities, the job to be done has also increased. The VNAF is not doing a greater proportion of the job than they were doing last year; in air lift the VNAF is doing proportionally less than they were a year ago. He stated that it is his desire that we expedite training of the Air Force so that they can take over an increasingly greater share of air tasks, thus relieving US personnel. He directed that COMUSMACV look into the training of VNAF personnel with a view toward accomplishing this purpose.

c. General Anthis mentioned that the number of flare missions has increased greatly over the past year and that the supply of flares was getting short.

(13) Action: The Secretary directed that we get an additional supply of flares out there as soon as possible. It was reported by CINCPAC that 5,000 are now en route. The Secretary asked that we see that the flare supply is adequate.

d. General Anthis gave a detailed briefing of air interdiction operations, covering the types of targets, the targeting process, and the control of air interdiction operations. The controls are all pointed toward hitting verified VC targets and avoiding hitting any friendly personnel. General Anthis mentioned that in the past year there have been 1350 combat sorties. During this period there have been reported only 14 alleged reports of air strikes hitting friendly personnel. Of these 14, only in two cases did investigation show the aircraft hitting the wrong target.

(14) Action: The Secretary stated he is satisfied that we are doing well in the air interdiction effort, but that we should make sure that all possible errors are reported and that we keep track of any errors shown up in targeting in the air strikes.

Item 4. US-GVN Relations

a. Ambassador Nolting stated that the atmosphere of US-GVN relations is somewhat less cordial than it was six months ago. There remains a sense of touchiness in the GVN resulting from the CI fund discussions. He also attributed this situation to an increasing sense of nationalism and from misgiving on US policy in SEA due to:

(1) Mansfield Report
(2) The situation in Laos
(3) The touchiness of the GVN regarding US advisors (both military and civilian) whenever advisory efforts touch upon the political field.

In regard to advisors, he stated that he feels no specific measures are called for to remove any blocks of advisors. The GVN concern re US advisors is not with any advisors who are in the strictly military field, but rather with the group of advisors, civilian and military, now in each province and concerned with advising and assisting the Province Chiefs. While these advisors are the ones that cause GVN concern, at the same time it is these advisors who are most valuable in the over-all CI effort.

(15) Action: The Secretary stated that we should have a plan for phasing out US personnel; as the situation improves we should phase down our effort. This will be required if we are to get continued US support for our effort in Vietnam. The Secretary also stated that the last category of personnel he would take out would be advisors. He still desires that we lay down a plan to have the RVNAF take over some functions this year so that we can take out 1,000 or so personnel late this year if the situation allows. The Secretary repeated that we should lay down a plan to expedite training to get VN personnel to take over tasks being performed by US personnel. For instance, he asked why should we have US personnel flying Cessna 185's?

b. Mr. Brent, USOM Director, presented the GVN budgetary projections, showing that there is a projected shortage of piasters for future operations. The alternatives we have for solving this piaster shortage are all undesirable; these include budget deficits, US piaster purchase, and relaxation of US imposed import controls. The piaster problem was discussed further without reaching any recommended solution.

(16) Action: The Secretary requested that in view of the impending piaster shortage and the GVN deficit, the Ambassador let State and Defense know if the GVN should do any cutting back on its piaster support of CI operations.

c. There was a brief discussion of press relations. It was pointed out that we have a problem either if US personnel talk too much or refuse to talk to the press at all. Better indoctrination is the only way we can improve this situation.

(17) Action: The Secretary requested that General Wheeler look into putting more emphasis on training our people before they leave the US. This is the best place to indoctrinate them in regard to press relations.

Item 5. GVN Operations in the DRV

(Being reported separately by Gen. Krulak.)/3/

/3/No such report has been found.

L.C. Heinz/4/
Rear Admiral, USN
Director, Far East Region

/4/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.


108. Letter From the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Hilsman) to the Director of the United States Information Agency (Murrow)/1/

Washington, May 6, 1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 67 D 54, INF Information Activities (Gen). Secret. Drafted on April 15 by Wood and cleared by Rice. Also sent to Jorden.

Dear Ed: I would like to suggest a steady, low-key, and continuing propaganda campaign, particularly through Vietnamese media, to the effect that North Viet-Nam is falling increasingly under Communist Chinese influence.

Ho Chi Minh poses as the father of Vietnamese independence and it would be galling for him and his government since the Chinese have been the ancestral enemies for more than 2,000 years, having invaded Viet-Nam many times and, indeed, controlled the country for about 1,000 years. Ho chi Minh has always tried to straddle between Russia and Communist China and to play the role of the elder statesman patching up differences between the two. His posture is clearly becoming increasingly uncomfortable and I thus think it would be timely to turn his discomfort to our advantage.

Perhaps more importantly we do not want North Viet-Nam to become a satellite of Communist China. This would be regarded widely in Southeast Asia as one more inevitable step in the takeover of Asia. It would also render that much more difficult any possible political solution to the Vietnamese problem and reduce the viability of the Vietnamese hope that some day their country may be reunited. While this hope may not seem very viable to us even now, it must be a part of the long range political program of any government in South Viet-Nam. We cannot, within our present policy, control the balance of North Viet-Nam's alignment between Russia and Communist China, but I think we have the capability of influencing it. If Ho chi Minh and his government are labelled as becoming increasing subservient to Communist China it is at least likely that he will increase his efforts to demonstrate his continuing strong connections with the Russians.

Ho's problems in this respect are highlighted by an Airgram from Paris (A-1693, January 16, 1963)/2/ citing French sources to the effect that the number of Russian technicians in North Viet-Nam declined from 60% to 15% of all technicians in North Viet-Nam during 1960 and 1961 whereas the percent of ChiCom technicians allegedly increased from 28% to 80% of all technicians. Ho's problem is also brought out in an AP despatch of April 5 indicating that since he will not achieve a quick victory he will need a lot of logistic support for a long war and reflecting his concern that if he accepts such support from Communist China his country would become "virtually a vassal of neighboring China.''

/2/Not printed. (Ibid., Central Files, 851H.0060/1-1663)

I suggest such a campaign could be carried on by highlighting every visit or program between North Viet-Nam and Communist China and by frequently citing the innumerable instances in Vietnamese history when the Chinese have sought to or have actually gained control of Viet-Nam. I believe the program should not be high-keyed and short lived. It should be a slow, steady repetition of the theme. We should avoid the untruth of stating that Ho chi Minh is the satellite of the Communist Chinese, but rather suggest that he is falling increasingly under their influence.

In this connection I wonder if someone on your staff could give us the present status of our capacity and of the South Vietnamese capacity to broadcast into North Viet-Nam.

I would be glad to have your views on this question and provide any further information which you might need.


Roger Hilsman/3/

/3/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.


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

Saigon, May 6, 1963, 7 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27-14 S VIET Secret. Repeated to CINCPAC, London, New Delhi, and Ottawa.

987. CINCPAC for POLAD and Ambassador Nolting. Deptel 951, Emb A-651./2/ GVN replied May 4 to ICC concerning DRV charges on "noxious chemicals'' (copies being pouched). Reply asserts charges completely without foundation, explains purpose defoliation operations in RVN; claims no chemical product other than 2,4-D 2,4,5-T has "ever'' been used, particularly arsenites and others alleged by Hanoi. Letter says DRV charges constitute inadmissible interference in internal affairs of RVN; notes Communist propaganda effort aims at diverting international attention from VC aggressive acts (it mentions particularly VC arsonists in Saigon) in face realization that VN people: turning away from Communist propaganda (Strategic Hamlet and Chieu Hoi programs are cited). GVN letter also encloses text President Diem's VOA interview (Emb A-552)/3/ and Professor Buu Hoi's April 15 press conference this subject (Emb A-628)./4/ Finally, letter says in event "some'' members ICC wish to form "personal opinion'' GVN mission will arrange with local authorities for them to go to provinces where VC propaganda alleges defoliation caused damage or claimed victims.

/2/In telegram 951 to Saigon, April 12, the Department concurred in the Embassy's proposal to encourage the Government of Vietnam to limit the response to the North Vietnamese charges to a denial. (Ibid., POL 27-10 S VIET) Airgram A-651 from Saigon, April 23, transmitted a copy of the April 8 letter from the ICC to the Government of Vietnam requesting a response to North Vietnamese charges that noxious chemicals had been used to carry out "collective reprisals'' against the people of South Vietnam. (Ibid., POL 27 S VIET)

/3/In the interview, which was conducted by the Voice of America on March 17, Diem characterized the North Vietnamese charges as "a pure fabrication''. (Airgram A-552 from Saigon, March 26; ibid., POL 27-10 S VIET)

/4/On April 15, Professor Buu Hoi, Director of the Vietnamese Atomic Energy Office, held a press conference in Saigon to explain that defoliants and herbicides were not harmful to humans or animals and could have beneficial effects. (Airgram A-628 from Saigon, April 18; ibid.)

We consider letter generally good (although claim that no other chemicals than 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T used is not true and no mention made of crop destruction) but final reference to visit more forthcoming than we would have preferred. Colonel An, Chief GVN Mission to ICC, explained to Embassy officer wording of this paragraph had been changed from "invitation'' to offer to "arrange if requested'' in light Embassy's views; draft had then been discussed with Foreign Minister Mau and President Diem who "instructed'' An leave offer in. An requested our assistance in obtaining British and Canadian support for position outlined in letter.

[1 paragraph (5 lines) not declassified]

It continues our strong conviction (with which Colonel An [less than 1 line not declassified] agree) ICC investigation would be counterproductive and latest offer to arrange visit should not be permitted provide opening wedge such investigation. Would be helpful if New Delhi, Ottawa, London, and Department would continue use appropriate opportunities emphasize this position. We plan continue taking this position here with Canadians, British and GVN.

Concerning New Delhi's 4123/5/ to Department, Embassy fully agrees first pare Deptel 1000./6/ On question legal committee report,/7/ believe its release would have considerable exploitable value to us even though information old and we should seek avoid quid pro quo between non-publication of report and ICC decision not to investigate chemicals charges. In view immediate necessity preventing ICC investigation, however, and fact our views on legal report recently conveyed Indians, believe we should concentrate on "noxious chemicals'' charges and not add to potential linkup those charges with legal report by pressing for latter at this time.

/5/In telegram 4123 from New Delhi, April 23, the Embassy noted that Indian officials inclined to the view that it might be better if the ICC investigated the North Vietnamese charges and refuted them rather than dismiss them and leave the question open for further exploitation by the North Vietnamese. (Ibid.)

/6/The first paragraph of telegram 1000 to Saigon, April 25, outlined the Department of State's conviction that given Polish membership, the ICC was unlikely to clear the Government of Vietnam rapidly of the noxious chemical charges. Rather, the investigation would probably be prolonged with continued propaganda exploitation by the North Vietnamese. (Ibid.)

/7/Not further identified.



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

Washington, May 7, 1963-7:57 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27-10 S VIET Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Montgomery and cleared by Heavner, Hilsman, Harriman, Heinz, Murrow, and Forrestal. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD. On May 15 Forrestal sent a copy of the telegram to McGeorge Bundy with a covering memorandum which reads, in part: "The arrangements described in the cable are satisfactory to me, but let me know if you have any other thoughts.'' Bundy initialed the memorandum and indicated in the margin that the arrangements described were "OK''. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, 4/63-5/63.)

1055. Joint State/Defense message. Embtel 824./2/ Herbicides. Program has been reviewed by highest levels:

/2/Document 63.

Defoliation: 1. Authority to initiate defoliation operations is delegated to Ambassador and COMUSMACV. 2. Guidelines: Defoliation operations should be few in number, undertaken only in following circumstances: a) where terrain and vegetation peculiarly [particularly?] favor use of herbicides; b) in areas remote from population; and c) when hand cutting and burning are impracticable. A few high priority projects can be undertaken in populated areas where military advantage very clear and hand cutting and burning not feasible.

Crop Destruction: 1. All crop destruction operations must be approved in advance by Assistant Secretary FE and DOD. 2. Guidelines re Crop Destruction: a) Crop destruction must be confined to remote areas known to be occupied by VC. It should not be carried on in areas where VC are intermingled with native inhabitants and latter cannot escape. Also should be limited to areas where VC either do not have nearby alternative sources food or areas in which there is overall food deficit e.g. High Plateau and Zone D.

General Comments (applicable to both defoliation and crop destruction):

a. All herbicide operations to be undertaken only after it is clear both PsyWar preparations and compensation and relief machinery are adequate. Would appear GVN should increase compensation efforts.

b. Suggest further increase reliance on hand operations where feasible which less awesome than spraying by air.

c. Continue efforts counteract international effect Commie propaganda through demonstrations, visits by newsmen, etc.

d. Request by first week July a full report and evaluation of all 1963 herbicide operations to serve as basis decision here whether continue defoliation and crop destruction.



111. Memorandum From the Secretary of Defense (McNamara) to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Nitze)/1/

Washington, May 8, 1963.

/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Vietnam Task Force Files: FRC 75-163, Chronological File-Vietnam-1963. Secret.

The tentative Military Assistance Program recommended by CINCPAC/2/ for South Vietnam for the years Fiscal 1965 through Fiscal 1968 totals approximately $575 million. In my opinion, this is at least $270 million higher than an acceptable program./3/

/2/On an attached interoffice control sheet, Colonel J.R. Kent noted that Admiral Felt had presented a proposed military assistance plan for Vietnam at the May 6 conference in Honolulu. Kent added, however, that the specific CINCPAC recommendations to which McNamara referred in this memorandum apparently were those in the Comprehensive Plan of January 25, Document 18.

/3/On May 17, William Bundy sent a memorandum to McNamara in which he proposed a military assistance program for Vietnam for fiscal years 1965-1969 not to exceed $450 million. Bundy noted that if the figures given in McNamara's May 8 memorandum to Nitze were taken as governing, the military assistance program for 1965-1969 could not exceed $390 million. Bundy argued that a $390 million program would be too limiting, and would require an abrupt drop in Vietnamese force levels in fiscal year 1966 to the pre-build-up force levels of 1959. (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Vietnam Task Force Files: FRC 75-163, Chronological File-Vietnam-1963)

CINCPAC's recommendations assume an unrealistically high level for the South Vietnamese forces and assign to them equipment which is both complicated to operate and costly to procure and maintain. I believe the plan needs to be completely reworked./4/

/4/An instruction to rework the plan in accordance with McNamara's objections was sent to Admiral Felt by the JCS on May 9. (Telegram JCS 9820 to CINCPAC, May 9; ibid., OSD Files: FRC 69 A 3131, VN 091.3 MAP 1963) This telegram also instructed CINCPAC to prepare, "as a matter of urgency'', a plan for the withdrawal of 1,000 U.S. troops from Vietnam before the end of the year. CINCPAC was instructed to bear in mind that Secretary McNamara felt that "the phase-out program presented during 6 May conference appeared too slow.'' CINCPAC was to develop a revised plan to achieve a more rapid phase-out of U.S. forces, with emphasis on the development of training plans to accelerate the replacement of U.S. by South Vietnamese units.

Before the first of September, please submit to me your recommendations for the Military Assistance Program for South Vietnam for the years Fiscal 1965 through Fiscal 1969. For each of the years I should like to see the following information: the personnel strength of each of the South Vietnamese forces; the weapons inventory of the South Vietnamese forces in a form similar to that attached;/5/ the defense budget to be funded by South Vietnam; the Supplementary Assistance to be furnished by the U.S.; the Military Assistance Program, both in dollars and in terms of the weapons listed in the attached schedule; the U.S. forces assigned to South Vietnam broken down by function.

/5/Not printed.

Robert S. McNamara/6/

/6/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.


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