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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 IV
Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, Volume IV, Vietnam, August-December 1963
Released by the Office of the Historian
Documents 307-322

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

Saigon, November 8, 1963, 4 p.m.

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

976. 1. Call on Pham Dang Lam, new Foreign Minister:

2. He expressed his great appreciation that the U.S. had been so prompt in extending recognition to the new Government of Viet-Nam. Out of our conversation emerged the following:

3. The government was going to step up the war effort in the military sense and also as regards a program of social justice. He stressed particularly lessening the burden of forced labor out in the countryside which had been much too heavy during the Diem regime; and consolidating and improving the strategic hamlets which were, by and large, unpopular because of the burdens that they imposed on the population, because they did not fulfill all of the needs of the true community, and because, in all too many cases, the individual did not think the hamlets increased his security against the Viet Cong.

4. Although I brought up the matter of exorbitant taxes and land ownership, he appeared to think they were not as important as the ones that he mentioned.

5. When he asked me my advice, I said I hoped that General Minh would be able to spend a few minutes from time to time in making the public feel that he had a warm approach to the public. This warmth had been very much lacking in the previous administration. I thought that if he would arrange to visit some of the pagodas, if only for twenty minutes, and shake hands and sign some autographs, it would fill a need which all people feel, regardless of race or geography, of being courted by political leaders. General Minh had great prestige and was a personable man, and I felt sure this would do a lot of good and would cost nothing. I also hoped that he would arrange to drop in in a helicopter on various units in the field, asking a few questions and then leave, and that this would also have a good result.

6. When he pressed me for more advice, I said that it was vitally important, now that the Buddhists were in the big majority in the government, to avoid any action which could possibly, by any stretch of the imagination, appear to be anti-Christian. Anything like this could be utterly disastrous to world opinion regarding Viet-Nam. He agreed emphatically.

7. I also thought they could do a much better job on press relations than had been done by the previous administration, and I made a few elementary suggestions on that subject.

8. I hoped Ngo Dinh Can would be treated with leniency. Lam seemed to think this would be the case and that he was really now in protective custody. I said if he were assassinated, it would be unspeakable and offered to fly him out of the country if GVN desired.

9. When I asked him whom I should call on, he said that as I had called on General Minh, General Don, and General Kim, I had really done enough. But then he reflected and said, although protocol does not call for it, he would be personally very happy if I were to call on General Dinh, and impress upon him the great importance of not having any police state methods of government, in particular, the most unfortunate practice which prevailed in the previous regime, of taking young girls out of the house in the middle of the night and off to some concentration camp. He was glad to see that General Dinh had made a declaration along these lines. He said that the "top" was all right, but the thing was to get the order carried out in the lower levels. He did not seem to think I needed to call on anybody else.

10. He said he had only accepted his crushing post which was so much beyond his powers because of his belief that he could count on U.S. help. I assured him that he could.

11. They had had high hopes about an accord with Cambodia and had even planned to open full-fledged Embassy there, but Sihanouk's latest action had shelved all that and was most depressing./3/

/3/Conlon wrote the following comment at this point: "sad but true".



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

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 26 S VIET. Secret; Limit Distribution. Repeated to CINCPAC. Received at 11:13 a.m., November 9, and passed to the White House at 11:25 a.m.

Saigon, November 8, 1963, 5 p.m.

977. CINCPAC for POLAD. Foreign Minister Lam (protect source) asked Political Counselor to meet with him yesterday afternoon for informal talk. Emphasizing that he speaking on strictly personal basis, Lam inquired re public reactions to coup in U.S. After fill-in from press summaries, Lam remarked that U.S. could not avoid charge of having backed or supported coup regardless of outcome. He noted two contradictory rumors in Saigon that U.S. backed coup primarily because (1) U.S. convinced Nhu had contacts and dealing with DRV for neutral solution Vietnamese problem; and (2) U.S. desired change of regime in order obtain new group more amenable neutral solution. Latter rumor obviously naive but indicative of current confused attitudes. Lam expressed strong hope for early U.S. recognition to clear air and help legitimatize provisional government, although noting Foreign Minister formal request for recognition only circulated on Wednesday./2/

/2/November 6.

Lam then turned to current problems of new government and appealed for continued U.S. advice and support in days ahead. He noted that relationship between Military Revolutionary Committee and executive headed by Prime Minister Tho not clearly spelled out and Ministers still feeling their way. However, he believed relationship likely evolve in such manner that executive would run day-to-day affairs of government but with close consultation with military committee on broad policies.

Lam expressed deep concern over possible dangers in organization of police under new government. He felt appointment of General Xuan as head of National Police placed ex-Surete type in key position where he could carry out program of arrests, intimidations and reprisals reminiscent of Nhu. This coupled with appointment of headstrong, impetuous General Dinh as Minister of Security created situation which would bear close watching. Lam labeled reorganization of police and their reorientation to protection of civil liberties as "number one problem of provisional government." Similarly there was need to assure populace of impartial administration of justice both in cities and countryside.

With regard to general approach and image of new executive, Lam considered it essential that there be rather sharp contrast between its approach to populace and that of previous regime. For example, new administration should shed itself of trappings of obvious security measures for movements of Prime Minister and should emphasize simplicity and desire to keep in touch with the people. Bureaucracy should be instructed that advancement dependent on performance alone and that employees should concentrate on discharging their responsibilities and eschew petty politics. Lam said he had discussed above with Tho, who was in a like mind.

Lam had no idea how long transition period between provisional and elected government would be, but believed in principle it should be as short as possible consistent with successful prosecution of the war. In this connection he inquired as to VC reaction in the countryside, which EmbOff provided based on latest MACV reporting.

Lam expressed some concern over French attitudes and policy in present circumstances and for future. He asked to be informed if we received any information as to when (or in Ambassador Lalouette would return to Saigon.

Lam said there would be some reshuffling of functions at FonMin. With regard to post of Secretary General, he said he was considering list of candidates among whom mutual friend appeared prominently (probably Lien, former Counselor of Embassy in Washington).

Lam noted that Ambassador Ly was being recalled for consultation and that despite previous indications that he would return to Vietnam, nothing had been heard from former Ambassador Chuong. He added that if we had suggestions as to likely candidates for Ambassador to Washington he would welcome them on personal basis.

In closing, Lam reemphasized personal nature his remarks and his hope U.S. Government would soon grant recognition to the new provisional government.

Comment: Re penultimate paragraph, believe we might well offer suggestions, but be wary of limiting choice to a particular individual. In this connection understand from Ambassador D'Orlandi that tentative feelers have been made to Thuan by General Don.



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

Saigon, November 11, 1963, 6 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 2 S VIET. Secret. Received at 7:25 a.m. and passed to the White House at 7:42 a.m.

991. During a conversation at a social function, General Don made the following points:

1. That the exorbitant amount of forced labor which had been required of people in the Strategic Hamlets in order to construct the Strategic Hamlets had been and was being drastically reduced. The previous regime, he said, had gone about the Strategic Hamlet program in the wrong way, even though the idea itself is excellent.

2. He was pleased with my congratulations on the statement deploring arbitrary arrests and was determined to adhere to it.

3. He was well aware of the unspeakable results which would flow from any kind of anti-Christian attitude and was determined that such a thing would not happen.

4. When I asked whether General Minh was going to meet the people and do some handshaking and give some autographs, he said that as a military man, General Minh did not like doing that kind of thing, even though he, Don, realized it was important.

5. Like labor leader Tran Quoc Buu, Don felt particularly strong about the elimination of the "caiz"--the Chinese racketeers and extortionists who get between the laboring man and the employer and extort very substantial sums of money. He said that Diem at the beginning of his rule was very vigorous about the Chinese community and enunciated absolutely correct policies, but that eventually the Chinese "took him over." Don said it was "symbolic that as Diem reached the end of his career he sought refuge among the Chinese in Cholon, thereby showing the extent to which he had fallen under their influence." The new government was prepared to be ruthless he said, in preventing Chinese racketeering and extortion. He was emotional about this point.

6. He repeated that new regime was determined to step up the war.

7. Altogether a sound program convincingly started.



310. Telegram From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to the Deputy Director, Far Eastern Division, Directorate of Plans, Central Intelligence Agency (Colby), at Saigon/1/

Washington, November 11, 1963, 3:27 p.m.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, Memos and Miscellaneous. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Sent via CIA channels. On November 2, at McCone's suggestion, the President approved sending Colby to Saigon to assess the situation there. Colby, in Honorable Men, pp. 217-220, recalls his impressions and highlights of the mission, which began on November 3 and ended on November 19.

It now appears at least possible that Mme. Nhu will undertake an intense political campaign in US against both USG and new GVN. It may thus become necessary to make clear the exact quality of her own performance and that of her husband and his brothers and to show both evidence of and reasons for her and their intense unpopularity among Vietnamese people. You should stimulate fullest analysis and reporting on this topic. We are interested in hard facts, and not simply in broad conclusions, however intensely supported by country team.


311. Memorandum From the Deputy Regional Planning Adviser of the Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs (Mendenhall) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Hilsman)/1/

Washington, November 12, 1963.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, Memos and Miscellaneous. Confidential. Attached to the source text was a handwritten note from Forrestal to McGeorge Bundy which reads as follows: "Mac: I think the President should do this in light of N.Y. Times campaign which must be causing worries in Saigon. Mike".

U.S. Policy on Vietnam

An editorial in the New York Times on November 10/2/ and a column by James Reston a few days earlier/3/ suggested strongly that the U.S. should undertake international negotiations for settlement of the Vietnam problem.

/2/The editorial, entitled "A Policy for Vietnam," also called for American consideration of the neutralization of Vietnam.

/3/See Document 305.

We believe that these suggestions by highly reputable journalists may cause suspicions and questions to arise on the part of the new GVN about U.S. policy and intentions. GVN Foreign Minister Lam has told the Embassy that a rumor is already circulating in Saigon that the U.S. supported the change in regime in Vietnam to obtain a new group more amenable to a neutral situation./4/

/4/See Document 308.

Part of the Vietnamese suspicions, especially with respect to the neutralization of South Vietnam, should be allayed by the Secretary's November 8 press conference./5/ However, the Times November 10 editorial still leaves the picture blurred by suggesting that U.S. policy be carried further by calling for an international conference on Vietnam.

/5/For the transcript of Rusk's press conference of November 8, in which there were questions and answers on Vietnam, see Department of State Bulletin, November 11, 1963, pp. 810-817.

To insure that U.S. policy is correctly understood by the GVN, the Vietnamese people, the American public and the world at large, we propose the following actions:

1. A telegram to Embassy Saigon (Tab A)/6/ proposing that the GVN be reassured on our policy. Request that you initial this cable, obtain White House clearance and forward to the Secretary for signature.

/6/The draft cable (Tab A) was not attached, but for the cable as sent, see Document 315.

2. A statement by the President at his Thursday press conference/7/ in response to a planted question. We suggest that the President reiterate our policy on Vietnam, including our view that there is nothing to be negotiated at an international conference.

/7/Although the President answered a number of questions about Vietnam in his press conference of Thursday, November 14, he did not address the question of an international conference on Vietnam. For the transcript, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963, pp. 845-853.

3. A background conversation by you with Reston and the appropriate Times editor/8/ to try to set them straight on the situation in Vietnam and on U.S. policy regarding Vietnam.

/8/See Document 313.

Mr. Koren concurs in the above, but Mr. Manell has further views with respect to the second and third suggestions.


312. Memorandum for the Record of Discussion at the Daily White House Staff Meeting/1/

Washington, November 13, 1963, 8 a.m.

/1/Source: National Defense University, Taylor Papers, T-646-71. Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by W. Y Smith.

1. Mr. Bundy presided throughout the meeting.

2. Vietnam. Someone mentioned the Halberstam attack on General Harkins in the New York Times./2/ Both Bundy and Forrestal thought it was very unfortunate. When Dungan jokingly asked Forrestal if he didn't like to overthrow established order, Forrestal replied that he did not like to do it in public, and added that certainly no one wanted Halberstam driving General Harkins around Saigon in an APC. Everyone seemed pleased that Halberstam would be leaving Saigon soon for another post.

/2/In his front-page article, "Saigon Coup Hurts Position of Harkins," Halberstam stated the military junta considered Harkins "a symbol of the old order." They resented his earlier assessments that the Buddhist crisis and the politics of the Ngo family were not adversely affecting the war effort and did not trust him with their coup plans. Conversely, Halberstam claimed Lodge's position among the Generals had risen since the coup. Halberstam reported policy differences between Lodge and Harkins over support of the Ngos, claimed Harkins was taken unaware by the coup, and cited "Embassy members" as saying that Harkins had dominated former Ambassador Nolting.

The discussion then turned to the forthcoming Honolulu meeting. Bundy remarked that the agenda seemed to be full of briefings and asked Forrestal if something could be done about that or whether they would have to have some dinners on the side to do some real talking.

Forrestal replied that the only way to break it up was to do as McNamara did, which was to interrupt loudly in the middle of any mechanical briefing. From this exchange, it became clear that at least Bundy and Forrestal now plan to do most of their work outside the meetings. When someone asked Bundy why he was going, he replied that he had been instructed.

Mr. McCone is going out early to see Ambassador Lodge before the meeting starts. Bundy thought this was a fine step, and remarked that if we could just get the ax-Eisenhower Administration people together, everything would be fine.

The newspaper report in the Times/3/ this morning on the Honolulu meeting gave the impression the [that] important work may be going on out there, making it unnecessary for Lodge to come to Washington. This is to be cleared up today, with the purpose being to explain that Lodge will still have good reason to come to Washington.

/3/See The New York Times, November 13, 1963, front-page article by Jack Raymond, entitled, "High U.S. Officials Meet on Vietnam in Hawaii Nov. 20."

USIA may send someone to the meeting, and there is also talk of having Maechling also be present.

[Here follows discussion of matters unrelated to Vietnam.]


313. Memorandum From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)/1/

Washington, November 13, 1963.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, Memos and Miscellaneous. Confidential.

I had a brief talk with Bob Kleiman of the New York Times editorial board this morning. I told him that I thought the Halberstam article in this morning's edition was irresponsible and mostly reflected a personal animus against General Harkins instead of accurate news reporting./2/ Kleiman admitted that this might be so, but pointed out that there must have been some differences of opinion between the Embassy and MACV, since Halberstam quoted inconsistent Embassy sources and MACV public statements.

/2/See footnote 2, Document 312.

Kleiman suggested rather strongly that we move as soon as possible toward a reconvening of the Geneva Conference and a negotiated settlement of the differences between North and South Vietnam. He argued that the political strength of the South will never be as strong again as it will be during the next few months, and that we should seize this opportunity for negotiations before the situation deteriorated and we found ourselves back in a 10-year, Malayan-type effort. In connection with such negotiations he raised the possibility of effecting a mass population transfer in an effort to get all of the Viet Cong moved from the South back up to the North.

I told him that I had great difficulty with this suggestion and thought that it would be folly to pursue this line at the present time. South Vietnam was still not strong enough to approach the bargaining table with any hope of coming away whole. Furthermore, there was no indication that responsible Vietnamese in Vietnam would view the prospects of a new Geneva Conference as anything less than a complete sellout by the U.S. I emphasized that we definitely looked toward the time when South Vietnam would be strong enough to deal with the North on at least a basis of equality. I referred to the President's statement of last year and the NSC statement of last month,/3/ indicating that the U.S. was prepared to withdraw its presence from South Vietnam as soon as Hanoi ceased its interference in the South or as soon as the South was able to handle the problem on its own. We had not yet reached that point, however. I also questioned whether a population transfer would be feasible in view of the difficulty of identifying the bulk of the Viet Cong, to say nothing of the political problems involved in a forced emigration.

/3/Document 170.

Kleiman will no doubt continue to peddle his Geneva Conference idea, and we should be preparing ourselves to counter it.



314. Memorandum for the Record of a Conversation Between the Assistant Director for Rural Affairs of the United States Operations Mission (Phillips) and Prime Minister Tho/1/

Saigon, November 13, 1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 26 S VIET. Secret. Transmitted to the Department of State under cover of airgram A-327 from Saigon, November 18.

1. The Prime Minister said that he had been told by people in the Government who had worked in the Strategic Hamlet Program before and by the Generals that I was the American to see about the Strategic Hamlets. He said he wanted my frank views and he would give me his. If there was one thing he reproached in the Americans, he said, it was that they were too diplomatic, they seemed unable to say what they meant. Only by a frank exchange of views could we work together successfully, he said.

2. The Prime Minister then began reminiscing about the days of the Binh Xuyen, Hoa Hao and Cao Dai and how he, Col. Lansdale and Minh had worked together for President Diem on these problems. He said that afterwards he had remained the President's chief advisor until 1959 when he was pushed aside by Mr. Nhu. He had tried to tell the President that his policies were losing the support of the population in the south but the President only called him and Minh "defeatists" and pushed them further aside.

3. He said it was difficult for the Americans to understand what had happened in the Delta and how the support of the population had been lost there but they must understand this now. The truth was that the Government had been losing the war against the VC in the Delta for some time because it had been losing the population. If one wanted to cite statistics, he said, all one needed to do was mention the fact that the total number of VC in the area was greater now than two years ago, yet around 20,000 had supposedly been killed during this same period. But beyond that, he said, he knew first hand what had been happening because he personally knew the people of this region, his region, and they had told him clearly over the past two years why more and more people were fuming to the VC.

4. He said that his home province of An Giang was an example. The Government through forced labor (as much as 100 days per person) had built the hamlets and many other public works (roads and canals). This cost most people the equivalent of at least 1000 piastres either in cash to pay for substitute labor or in losses suffered because they could not perform other work. At the same time the VC only collected 50 to 100 piastres in taxes. Naturally the people supported the VC--why would they support a Government which was worse than the VC. Many people had come to him, he said, and had broken down in tears over the situation. When Tho would report this to the President, he would be shown long lists of signatures on supposed petitions from people who had "volunteered" their labor. Tho told him that these were fake documents specially prepared by the Province Chief. The President would then talk about his trips to the province and how he was always welcomed by the population. When Tho would try to tell him that it was nothing but a "mise en scene," he would not listen, and would repeat that Tho was a "defeatist."

5. Not only did these practices alienate the people, Tho said, but the previous policy of divide and rule employed against the major religious groups (the Hoa Hao, the Cao Dai and the Catholics), as well as against the Khmer ethnic minority, was disastrous. Minh and he, Tho said, had begged the President to allow them to arm them, particularly the Hoa Hao, because they were so firmly anti-communist. The President had been on the point of agreeing, Tho said, when Nhu persuaded him that he could not trust us (Minh and Tho) or the Hoa Hao. The Hoa Hao became discouraged because they were not helped and because when they identified a communist in their midst and turned him over to the provincial authorities he would bribe the responsible government official and be released.

6. Now, Tho said, we must avoid the mistakes of the past. American aid has been rapid and efficient but not always intelligent. Above all we need intelligent assistance and firm support for what is right. The Americans must stand up for their own democratic principles and must always insist that what we do helps and not harms our own people, Tho said.

7. The implementation of the strategic hamlet program must be revised, Tho said. We must find a way to lift up the burden placed on our people and we must somehow pay them for their work. Both General Minh and I are realistic, he said. We realize that we too have lost much of the trust of our former supporters in the Delta. The people there have little faith in anyone--the Diem Government was but the last in a long string of Governments of broken promises beginning with the French Colonial Government at the beginning of World War II and continuing through those of Bao Dai.

8. The main ideas for the Delta which General Minh and I have in mind, Tho said, are as follows:

a. We will correct the abuses of the past government, such as forced labor, and will do everything possible to raise the morale of the population in the Delta to give them faith in the Government. This they do not now have.

b. There is a real need for aggressive local militia seeking out the VC in their areas. As fast as we can be assured of their political loyalty we will train and arm the Hoa Hao and Cao Dai population in the Delta and the remaining Catholic groupings not already armed. Their mission will be mainly local security. We will also win the support of the Khmers and train and arm them--at present they are neutral for the most part.

c. We will concentrate on the economic and social development of the hamlets already built to raise the morale of the people, and at the same time provide them with better security which they do not now have.

d. We will organize a special effort in the Camau Peninsula to disrupt the VC bases there because this is the main source of funds and trained recruits for the entire VC effort in the Delta. We will do this by training special ranger groups, mainly composed of Hoa Hao, already familiar with the area, who will carry the fight to the VC. They will be backed up by mobile, regular military units to strike against VC concentrations.

e. We will build more hamlets and we may move some which are now poorly placed but this will be done very selectively and the people will be paid for their work. There will be no more corvee labor.

f. We will form a high-level directing and coordinating committee within the Government for the overall pacification effort.

9. The Prime Minister then asked me to contact Bui Van Luong as soon as possible to discuss with him in detail the hamlet program. Luong's appointment was temporary, Tho said, for about two months to assist in an orderly transfer of the program and of the experience gained with it during the previous government. Tho said there would be a meeting at the end of this week between the Government and the Military Committee to make policy decisions concerning the Strategic Hamlet Program.

10. During the conversation, I mentioned the actions taken to resume aid as instructed by Mr. Brent. I also responded to the Prime Minister's request for specific opinions in regard to the Strategic Hamlet Program as follows:

a. The Government should form a high-level committee to direct the overall pacification effort of which the Strategic Hamlet Program is a major part.

b. The Government should concentrate initially on consolidating existing hamlets and providing them with adequate security and the economic and social benefits promised.

c. I agreed with him completely that there must be no more corvee labor, that further work should be compensated for in some manner and that USOM would do everything it could to help the Government raise the morale and win the support of the population in the Delta which was the key to defeating the communists in that area.

11. Comment: The Prime Minister had obviously been thinking about the problem of pacifying the Delta for many years, and from his constant references to General Minh it was clear that there was a considerable identity of views between them. My impression was that he had a complete grasp of the political realities in the Delta and that for the first time solid progress can be achieved in that area if the U.S. can develop a military and civilian aid program sufficiently flexible to give support when and where needed. I also received the impression, although he did not specifically so state, that the Prime Minister expects General Minh to head the high-level pacification committee.


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

Washington, November 13, 1963, 6:17 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 1 S VIET-US. Confidential; Priority. Drafted by Mendenhall and cleared by Hilsman and Forrestal. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD, London, Paris, Bangkok, Ottawa, New Delhi, Vientiane, and Phnom Penh. See Document 311 for the suggestion that this cable be sent.

781. At your discretion you may wish reassure GVN that New York Times Nov 10 editorial and Reston column few days earlier suggesting new negotiated settlement of Vietnam problem do not represent US Government policy.

Our policy remains as outlined by President Kennedy in December 1961:

"The United States, like the Republic of Vietnam, remains devoted to the cause of peace and our primary purpose is to help [South Vietnam's] people maintain their independence. If the Communist authorities in North Vietnam will stop their campaign to destroy the Republic of Vietnam, the measures we are taking to assist [South Vietnam's] defense efforts will no longer be necessary."/2/ This policy reaffirmed by Secretary at Nov 8 press conference./3/

/2/The quote is from a letter from Kennedy to Diem, dated December 14 but released December 15, 1961, the full text of which is printed in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1961, p. 801. All brackets are in the source text.

/3/See footnote 5, Document 311.

Our goal is thus to return to cease-fire established by 1954 Geneva Accords. If Hanoi will cease and desist in subversive aggression against RVN, and GVN is thereby enabled extend its authority throughout South Vietnam, US will withdraw its forces from South Vietnam because reason for their presence and support of GVN will have ceased exist.

We see no necessity for international negotiations as suggested by Times to return to a peaceful SVN free of attempted subversion from outside. Within concept US policy as outlined by President we cannot envisage any points that would be negotiable. Good faith of our withdrawal intentions has already been established by announcement we shall withdraw 1,000 US military personnel by end 1963.



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

Washington, November 13, 1963, 7:52 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 26 S VIET. Secret; Priority. Drafted by Mendenhall; cleared with Forrestal, Rice, and Manning; and approved by Rusk.

784. For Ambassador Lodge from the Secretary. Halberstam article carried New York Times November 13 (full text sent by wireless file) dealing with military coup readers' feelings regarding General Harkins and different assessments of Vietnamese situation by Harkins and Embassy viewed with serious concern at high levels here. Obvious of course that this type story handicaps effective functioning of Government agencies and complicates problems all of us face in our complex operations relating to Vietnam.

Feel strongly that corrective measures need to be taken in official American community in Saigon to stop this kind of talk with newsmen which only creates internal difficulties within U.S. Government and friction with GVN. While we are aware from previous exchanges with you that it is hard deal with this problem, we regard it of such importance that we request that you re-examine all feasible methods of resolving it to prevent future repetitions.

We leave to your discretion what action to take to offset effects of Halberstam article, and would appreciate your thoughts as to how this might be accomplished./2/

/2/Lodge responded in telegram 1010 from Saigon, November 14, as follows: "
"Have not yet seen Halberstam article but heartily agree that kind of story you describe handicaps effective functioning of government agencies."
He indicated that he would call a country team meeting to urge key members to prevent such news stories, and stated his belief that there were no leaks from the Embassy. He also noted:
"Halberstam has at least twice to my knowledge in the past taken material leaked to the Times in Washington and then sent it back to the U.S. under a Saigon dateline. Do not know whether he has done this in this case." (Ibid.)



317. Memorandum From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to the President's Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)/1/

Washington, November 14, 1963.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, Memos and Miscellaneous. Secret.

Conversation with Ambassador Alphand

I spoke to Ambassador Alphand after dinner last night to sound out his views on the French attitude towards the new regime in Saigon. He gave me to understand that France could be expected to recognize the Government soon, although it might do so in a less formal way than the United States.

He asked me what I thought of the prospects for eventual unification and neutralization of North and South Vietnam. I told him that I thought this was a highly unlikely prospect in the foreseeable future, given the relative power balance of the two areas. Ambassador Alphand said that he thought that the French and U.S. positions were not far apart except on the question of timing. I said that this might be so, but that I had the impression that the French did not take sufficiently into account the problem alluded to by General Minh in his exclusive interview with Le Monde several days ago. To be neutral, one had to be strong; and it would take some time to build the necessary strength.

Ambassador Alphand asked why the United States had been so surprised at General De Gaulle's statement about South Vietnam prior to the coup. I said that we were not so surprised at the substance of the statement as we were at the timing of it and the fact that it was made without consultation. Ambassador Alphand observed rather sourly that since we never consulted them on Southeast Asia, we should not be surprised if they did not consult us.

I attach two cables (Paris 2324/2/ and 2331/3/) which shed some more light on the French attitude.

/2/Telegram 2324, November 13, reads as follows: "French Delegate General De Buzon recently saw DRV Prime Minister Pham Van Dong. Latter said coup in Saigon, although US-inspired, was step in right direction. US would tire of fighting and in that case DRV would show itself as supple as it is now rigid. It still not the moment for negotiations. Dong hoped French would exert influence on us to see latter observed Geneva Accords of 1954. Reportedly Buzon made no comment and there no plans instruct him pursue matter." (Department of State, Central Files, POL 32-4 VIET)

/3/The reference is in error since telegram 2331 from Paris is an unclassified administrative cable. (Ibid., AV 10)



318. Telegram From the Central Intelligence Agency Station in Saigon to the Agency/1/

Saigon, November 16, 1963, 12:50 p.m.

/1/Source: Declassified Documents, 1977, 94B. Secret; Priority; Eyes Only. The number of this cable was deleted when the document was declassified in 1976.

1. Have not seen Halberstam article but I believe that the important matter Ambassador Lodge wishes to talk about in Washington is the replacement of General Harkins.

2. The Vietnamese junta members certainly do consider General Harkins as a symbol of the old order and it is perhaps significant that there is no great depth of contact between U.S. military and the key junta figures. Advisers still have official contact on their military affairs but the Generals are clearly moving in the direction of occupying themselves with the problems of running the country, for which they do not look for advice from the U.S. military. With respect to General Harkins himself, during the pre-coup period, the junta leaders did not feel they could confide in him without fear of repetition to the Palace. MACV as a whole, and specifically General Harkins, were very much caught off base by the coup, in good part because, as he has many times stated, he believed such a development would be unfortunate. Most dramatic example was the briefing given Admiral Felt who departed the very morning of the coup with MACV assertions that no coup would take place. With respect to his assessment of the war, we are on less clear ground as he was talking generally about military and strategic hamlet progress and the opposite view was talking mainly about political dissatisfaction in the cities. Certainly General Harkins' emphasis has been that of a good soldier resolved to take his objective and not being easily deterred by evidence of difficulty or opposition. However, this emphasis on progress and strengthening of the Vietnamese has somewhat obscured the fact that the enemy has only been contained, not reduced in the short term, although containment in this subversive war should lead gradually to reduction.

3. With respect to General Harkins' position vis-a-vis Ambassador Lodge, it is quite clear that the Richardson case was only the overture to the opera. Ambassador Lodge has many positive qualities of political sagacity, courage and meticulous insistence on following specific Washington directives, but the fact is that he is running very much a vest-pocket operation and not a country team or total American effort. This method of operation puts a premium on subordinates who can operate on a tactical level rather than as co-workers in the strategic vineyard. The relationship of course has been exacerbated by the incident in which Harkins was telling Don that it was not the time to run a coup when the Ambassador was trying to support a Vietnamese effort in this direction, by Harkins' personal intervention with Thuan to dissuade him from resigning on the basis of a very private and sensitive conversation Thuan had with D'Orlandi which was reported to Lodge, and the fact that Harkins was kept out of the coup planning in response to Washington's instructions to Lodge that this be discussed only with CIA. Putting the U.S. effort and the American community into an integrated bundle is made no easier by the absence of any working system of policy coordination, since top level country team meetings are seldom held. On the military side the usual multiplicity of staff and command levels and the emphasis on the statistical approach separate General Harkins from the highly personalized political activities of Lodge.

4. In summary, the junta members have no great love for General Harkins but probably would be content to see him remain on purely technical military level. The Vietnamese themselves are groping around the organizational, bureaucratic and political jungles, trying to turn their convictions and their popular support into specific ways of strengthening the country against its enemy. Ambassador Lodge has established a highly positive image in their eyes and in the eyes of many Vietnamese for his obvious support of the revolution. How this image will bear up against their inevitable day-to-day negotiations and collaboration with the working level American community remains to be seen. If the approach is to be the one outlined by Ambassador Lodge however it will be clear that the members of the community will have to learn to adjust to his style or be replaced.


319. Memorandum for the Record of Conversation Between the Assistant Director for Rural Affairs of the United States Operations Mission (Phillips) and President Minh /1/

Saigon, November 18, 1963, 11 a.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15 S VIET. Secret. Transmitted to the Department of State under cover of airgram A-350 from Saigon, December 2.

1. I was informed by General Kim on 17 November that General Minh would like to see me on the 18th. The appointment was originally scheduled for 1700 and moved up to 1100 by a call from General Minh's aide that same morning.

2. General Minh, who I have known personally since 1955, was extremely cordial and friendly. He spoke very personally about how he was now playing a role that he had never wanted to play, how he had been the chief instrument of a coup that he had always wished to avoid. He recalled our last conversation together at a dinner at General Kim's house some 8 months ago in which he had remarked that the Diem Government was in a very steep nose-dive and it was questionable whether it could be pulled out in time. He said that he did not know the answer yet. The new government, he stated, had inherited a truly formidable task beyond what any outsider could realize.

3. Concerning the Strategic Hamlet Program, General Minh said that he had always been in favor of the basic concept which was good, but that it had been misapplied by the previous government and exploited for personal political gain by Mr. Nhu. He agreed that it was absolutely necessary to fulfill the implied promises given to that part of the population involved in the program and to consolidate existing hamlets. At the same time, in those areas in the Delta where mass relocation had occurred, he felt that people should be given the choice of returning to their original homes if they really wanted to do so, or of staying in the Strategic Hamlets. He said that Central Vietnam was best suited for the program but that the concept should not have been applied indiscriminately in all parts of the Delta. In those parts of the Delta where people's homes were widely dispersed, a system of constant small unit patrolling combined with armed local militia was the best answer.

4. Minh stated that it was important to fit the strategic hamlet into an overall concept of pacification, and to understand that pacification, not spectacular combat actions against the VC, was the main mission of the military forces. He said that the VC were not afraid of spectacular operations involving large units but were afraid of small combat actions and civic action operations which would disrupt and destroy their support organization, both outside and within existing strategic hamlets. The way to break up their organization was to win the support of the population by working with them and gaining their confidence.

5. To carry out pacification successfully, according to Minh, the Army would have to be reorganized on a territorial basis. The existing inverted pyramid of enormous staff organization at corps and division level would have to be reversed and reponsibilities decentralized. The corps were staffed by "bureaucrats" not soldiers. He said that units would be assigned to a defined area and given a pacification mission within that area for an extended period of time. Small unit highly mobile operations would be emphasized. He envisaged that there would be greater decentralization of responsibility to subordinate echelons, that they would be given the authority to operate without constant reference to higher headquarters. This would also apply to the province chiefs. If officials at the province and unit level fail to produce results, then they would be replaced, but no longer would they be required to constantly refer to higher echelons or to Saigon.

6. General Minh said that one of the greatest problems the new regime faced was the lack of qualified civil or military personnel to accept responsible positions in the provinces. He said he would prefer to have civilians as district chiefs and province chiefs, if at all possible. In this connection, he wondered what had happened to all the NIA (National Institute of Administration) graduates and where they were. The problem is that they are so understaffed with qualified people. He said he would very much like to have a list of these people and where they were now. He was also interested in special training courses for civilian and military district chiefs.

7. What made the task of picking up and carrying on from the previous government particularly difficult was the widespread corruption existing in the provinces, according to Minh. Practically everybody had been involved, he said. Now the problem was what to do with these people because they were, for the most part, also the only trained administrators and technicians in Vietnam. He indicated that the new government intended to punish the most flagrant cases and transfer others to different provinces. Hereafter, he said, instead of permitting this type of corruption to continue, the first few province chiefs caught stealing would be shot. This might seem a bloody solution, he stated, but it was necessary to make examples. At this point I suggested that if he could make an example of a relative of some high official in the new government, this would be even more impressive. Minh said that the Americans had no idea how extensive corruption had been under the previous government or the effect it had had on the morale of the population. He said that many province and district chiefs had sold MAP barbed wire to the population who knew very well that the barbed wire had been given free by the U.S. One thing that a lot of people have never realized, he said, is that the average peasant is very intelligent. He knows when he is being robbed, and he knows the difference between good and bad government. The population in the countryside asks very little, only an opportunity to farm their rice fields in peace and that they were very cooperative if treated justly. He cited two particular cases of corruption examples. In the Province of Nhatrang, the old province chief had apparently demanded a substantial pay-off to grant licenses to sell either rice or fish in the province. This had, in effect, created two monopolies. When the old province chief was removed many individuals came to the new one to ask permission to sell their rice. When the new province chief told them that anyone who wanted to sell their products could do so without restriction, people actually broke down and cried. He said the corruption in higher circles of the government had been even worse. For instance, General Don had already been approached by a group of Chinese who wanted his cooperation in continuing to monopolize the Camau charcoal trade. They had offered to give 50,000,000 piastres to the Army and 20,000,000 piastres to General Don. He said that this was typical of the way things had been done under the previous government.

8. Minh said that the only way to correct this kind of abuse was to re-orient officials in the provinces and to carry out not only announced but also surprise inspections. He said that he agreed that it was necessary to get out into the provinces, see what was going on and make on-the-spot corrections. He said he would do this personally. The previous government, he felt, had had little contact with the population. Most officials were constantly looking over their shoulder to Saigon. These attitudes would have to be changed. He again reiterated that he intended to play a leading role in this by making personal inspections in the field. He said that changing the attitudes of most government officials towards the population was perhaps the most important task the government had to accomplish.

9. In the Delta, General Minh stated, the new government's policy would be to help groups such as the Hoa Hao to defend their home areas. This would be a major objective. At the same time, an improved approach to pacification would be tried in other areas. He said that he would select Long An as a model province for the new approach because it was one of the toughest and was, at the same time, accessible to Saigon. Captain Dao, soon to be promoted to Major, and currently General Le Van Kim's aide, was to be selected as Province Chief. Minh also said that a special effort would be made in the Camau region, utilizing Hoa Hao commands along with mobile regular forces to break up VC support operations. He said that the main support for almost everything the VC did in the Delta came from their Camau base. At the same time they would attempt, he said, to break the back of the charcoal racket. He said influential people had been involved in this since 1954 and were, in effect, on the VC payroll. It would be difficult and complicated because the Chinese were also involved.

10. Comment: Nothing in General Minh's personal manner that the writer could notice, has changed since he became the Chief of State. He is as unpretentious and candid as in the past. He obviously has no illusions about the difficulties ahead or that the main task of leadership falls on him. He is still the only top Vietnamese leader, known to the writer, who projects the personal warmth and sympathy required to stir popular enthusiasm in Vietnam. The man has the necessary elements of a popular leader in his character but he will have to be pushed into assuming this role because he is essentially a humble man.


320. Telegram From the Central Intelligence Agency Station in Saigon to the Agency/1/

Saigon, November 19, 1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 S VIET. Secret; Priority; Eyes Only. The source text is the copy sent by the CIA to the Department of State eyes only for Rusk, Harriman, Ball, Hilsman, and Hughes; also sent to the Office of the Secretary of Defense eyes only for McNamara, Gilpatric, Taylor, Krulak, and William Bundy; and to the White House eyes only for McGeorge Bundy.

2540. 1. General Don, accompanied by Generals Kim and Khiem, stated 19 November that Gen Big Minh had invited General Phoumi pay an incognito and discreet visit to Saigon at end November. Don believes it particularly essential establish good relationships with Laos in order permit a collaborative effort along Lao-Vietnam border against Viet Cong lines of supply and communication. He said that Laotians do not have sufficient force to cover this area themselves and are quite willing and anxious that Vietnamese assist but Vietnamese wish to be correct in clearing any such activity with Laos. Vietnamese would use Special Forces units in civilian clothes as regular army would not handle matter discreetly enough. Don said they had high regard for General Phoumi and look forward to fruitful relationships with him.

2. Following points were made in reply to General Don:

a. Importance of including Souvanna Phouma in any contacts with Laos. We believe, and General Don agreed, that neutralists and General Phoumi forces working very well together and it important to maintain this close collaboration in interests of free world.

b. Importance of maintaining some form of balance in Laos rather than taking too vigorous a position, as open conflict invites major DRV participation and although we are working on it, up to now we have not built adequate strength on non-Communist side to withstand an onslaught.

c. Within these limits we concur with desirability of continuing and stepping up discreetly handled Vietnamese operations in cross border area of same nature we trained for and initiated in 1961 and early 1962, suspended during period immediately after Geneva Accords of 1962 and have endeavored to resume in recent months with first results just coming in.

4. Comment: Generals were most confiding and open in expressing their ideas but they anticipate that they will be treated with discretion. Thus request most limited distribution this information and non-exposure outside American channels in order encourage Generals continue keep open a frank and honest mutual channel of information and suggestion.

5. This message passed to Ambassador Lodge and General Harkins. Suggest addressees pass to local Ambassadors on limited basis.


321. Memorandum of Discussion at the Special Meeting on Vietnam/1/

Honolulu, November 20, 1963.

/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 334, MAC/V Files: FRC 69 A 702, 204-58 Policy and Precedent Files (1963). Secret. No drafting information appears on the source text. An attached copy of the press release describing the work of the conference is not printed.
Felt sent this summary of the discussion at Honolulu to McNamara under cover of a memorandum of November 22. The agenda for the meeting is not printed. Items E and G. of the agenda, "CIA-MACV Relations" and "Review of Special Funding", did not have memoranda of discussion. On November 19, Rusk and McNamara agreed to address certain items on the agenda in subcommittees which met on the morning of November 20 and then reported to the principal participants in the afternoon. Another copy of this memorandum is ibid., RG 84, Saigon Embassy Files: FRC 67 A 677, 350. Honolulu Conference.
In a November 13 memorandum, Forrestal briefed McGeorge Bundy on this meeting. The memorandum reads in part as follows:
"From what I can gather the Honolulu Meeting is shaping up into a replica of its predecessors, i.e., an eight-hour briefing conducted in the usual military manner. In the past this has meant about 100 people in the CINCPAC Conference Room, who are treated to a dazzling display of maps and charts, punctuated with some impressive intellectual fireworks from Bob McNamara." (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, Honolulu Meeting, Briefing Book, 11/20/63 A)

Item A 1--Country Team Review of the Situation (Political)

Summary of Discussion

Ambassador Lodge described the outlook for the immediate future of Vietnam as hopeful. The Generals appear to be united and determined to step up the war effort. They profess to be keenly aware that the struggle with the Viet Cong is not only a military problem, but is also political and psychological. They attach great importance to a social and economic program as an aid to winning the war. The Generals believe that

(1) The requirements for the population to contribute what amounts to "forced labor" in connection with the construction of strategic hamlets must be drastically reduced, if not totally eliminated.

(2) The Strategic Hamlet Program has been pushed too rapidly and at too great a cost in human effort. More emphasis must be placed on the sociological aspects of the program. Existing strategic hamlets must be consolidated and improved. Any further wholesale expansion of the program should be deferred.

(3) Chinese racketeers and extortionists--the so-called "cailles"--must be eliminated.

(4) The procedure of arbitrary arrests and disregard of habeas corpus must end.

(5) Major efforts must be made to win over the Hoa Hao and Cao Dai sects to the side of the government. (Recent reports indicate some initial successes in this direction.)

Resumption of U.S. aid should improve the economic situation. The U.S. should for this first year avoid a situation in which it appears that the Diem regime received more aid than the new government.

As far as political institutions are concerned, the Generals talk of facilitating the growth of political parties and of creating more courts and judges, but much of this seems theoretical. Western-educated urban elements expect progress in political liberalization and perhaps the Council of Sages/2/ will be able to do something to fulfill this need for political expression.

/2/According to telegram 1092 from Saigon, November 20, the Council of Sages was formally established by the Provisional Government as a smaller Council of Notables, still intended to be advisory and broadly representative of Vietnamese society. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 15-1 S VIET)

Ambassador Lodge doubted the wisdom of the U.S. making sweeping demands for democratization or for early elections at this time. He believed that in Vietnam the technique of changing governments by violent means is not yet ready to be displaced in favor of changing governments by election. He emphasized that if we can get through the next six months without a serious falling out among the Generals we will be lucky. However, the leading members of the Generals' group are modern-minded men who are at least aware of conditions in the modern world other than in the strictly military field. They evince a desire to react intelligently to the social, economic and political factors, and their performance to date in this sphere has been good. Americans--whether in government or in the press--should not seek to guide them at every turn nor try to get them to act as though they were made in our image. As long as they follow the course they have set for themselves, we should not push them too hard for several months. Since coming to power, the new leaders of Vietnam have acted with restraint. They have held down on arrests, have been willing to correct errors, and have avoided any wholesale purges throughout the governmental administration. Their handling of press and public relations generally is a great improvement. They are trying to please the public--a rather new departure in Vietnam. Although the question of where the true power and influence lies will not become clear until the pulling and hauling of various personalities has made itself felt, the Generals appear to have really tried to have a big civilian element in the government.

In conclusion, Ambassador Lodge remarked that what we are really trying to do in Vietnam is to win the minds of the people. This includes not only the Generals and people who are currently living under RVN control, but also the Viet Cong. The problem is to convince the young VC soldier that if he continues to fight he will surely be killed, but that if he stops he will find that he and his family have an opportunity for a good life in peace and security. Problem thus is not only military, but economic, social and political as well.

For the first time in years the central government has the enthusiastic support of the urban population. However, in the final analysis the war will be won or lost in the country-side and to date the rural population is still apathetic.

The changed situation requires us to rethink our programs, civil and military. We must see whether and how our programs need changing. For example, with regard to our military programs, the question arises whether--with a real chain of command, an improved fighting spirit, the commitment of troops to fight the VC instead of to static non-military missions--present and proposed force levels are appropriate.

To take another example, in our economic programs aimed at the rural areas, we have developed procedures to deal directly with Province Chiefs. This was done largely because of the lassitude of the central bureaucracy and its apparent lack of interest in what happened in the countryside. Perhaps it is still wise to continue to by-pass Saigon so far as possible, but it would be well to review the question. We may be about to get a "new look" in the Saigon bureaucracy.

Finally, as regards all U.S. programs-military, economic, psychological-we should continue to keep before us the goal of setting dates for phasing out U.S. activities and turning them over to the Vietnamese; and these dates, too, should be looked at again in the light of the new political situation. The date mentioned in the McNamara-Taylor statement of October 2/3/ on U.S. military withdrawal had-and is still having-a tonic effect. We should set dates for USOM and USIS programs, too. We can always grant last-minute extensions if we think it wise to do so.

/3/Document 167.

Ambassador Lodge said all this is submitted in the belief that an American presence will be wanted-and needed-in Vietnam for some time in the future. But it should perhaps be a different kind of presence from what exists--and is needed--in Vietnam today.

Secretary Rusk asked whether we could expect to encourage the new government to move closer toward a true democracy without thereby reducing the main effort against the VC. Ambassador Lodge replied that as an example forced labor could be reduced although not entirely. He went on to say that while we can expect some progress toward democratic processes at the local village and hamlet level it is hard for him to imagine a sophisticated Western democracy emerging in Vietnam for some time to come.

Secretary Rusk asked if there was any way the U.S. could hope to prevent a future internal split between the Generals. Ambassador Lodge replied that this can best be accomplished by making sure that they understand what the U.S. considers would be best for their country. He noted that the Generals recognized the advantages of sticking together. In addition to other actions, the Ambassador said if we make it clear, for example, that we have confidence in General Minh it will materially help his position among his colleagues and probably will serve to retain him in his present position of authority. From his own conversation with Generals Minh, Don, and Kim, Ambassador Lodge is confident that they want to avoid any internal disputes among the members of the Military Revolutionary Council. These three key Generals believe that they can keep General Dinh under control. However, Ambassador Lodge is not too sure this is the case, as General Dinh, in addition to being Minister of Security, also commands the troops of III Corps.

General Taylor asked what were the present intentions of the military leaders with respect to the ultimate shape of the government. Ambassador Lodge replied that he believes that General Minh is sincere when he says that the Military Revolutionary Council is merely a provisional government. However, there is no political leadership emerging from the scene thus far and he doubts that it will come from any of the civilians who are now in the Cabinet. Ambassador Lodge re-emphasized his earlier recommendation that the U.S. not press the Generals too hard on political reforms and early elections. He would instead urge that the U.S. be patient and give the Generals a chance to get on with the war. Ambassador Lodge believes that they are sincere, that they have the good of their country at heart, and that they have a basically sound program.

Item A 2--Review of Situation (Military)

Summary of Discussion

General Harkins began by pointing out that despite what has appeared in the press, there is no difference of opinion between Ambassador Lodge and himself on the situation in Vietnam or on the conduct of the war against the VC. Ambassador Lodge expressed his complete agreement.

Turning to the military situation in Vietnam, General Harkins emphasized that the problem is one of people, not statistics. The problem is to win the people over to the full support of the war effort. Until the new government gets out in the field and talks to the people and reams their problems and true feelings, they can never hope to really win the war.

As for the statistics, after the coup VC incidents shot up to 300-400% of what they were before. However, after 6 November they dropped down to normal and have remained that way ever since. Similarly, the numbers of returnees under the Chieu Hoi program fell off markedly since early October. However, just this past week over 350 members of the Hoa Hao Sect have rallied to the government, as have a number of Cao Dais. At the same time, the Montagnard tribes are continuing to come out of the hills to seek the protection of the government. (About 220,000 had rallied to the government before the coup as a result of such programs as the CIDG. At present a total of about 400,000 Montagnards are under RVN control.)

The change of government has had a definite impact at the province level, where everything focuses on the Province Chief. These 42 key individuals have the real job of winning the people over to the support of the government. Perhaps even more important than the Province Chief is the District Chief, of whom there are over 253 throughout the country. As these officials are definitely associated with the old government insofar as the villager is concerned, we must expect that the new regime will probably want to reassign nearly all of them to emphasize the complete break with past policy.

As to the situation within the officer ranks generally, there is still much to be done. There remain a lot of deserving officers who should be promoted. General Minh is well aware of this point. The role of Generals Khanh and Tri in the II and I Corps, respectively, is still not clear although they have associated themselves with the objectives of the coup. General Minh intends to establish a more direct chain of command and insure that military orders will be carried out when received. This will be quite a change for the good as in the past a military order was seldom implemented until the responsible commander had checked it out through political channels back to the Palace.

The principal problems the new government faces are: first, the appointment of new Province and District Chiefs will inevitably complicate matters until these new officials are able to become acquainted with their areas of responsibility and get on top of the local situation; second, the establishment of a straightforward military chain of command will, of course, involve some high level negotiations among the Generals themselves; third, the people in the rural areas still remain apathetic to the government; fourth, the support of the man in the village and hamlet will depend on whether the government can assure him security and do something to improve his current marginal existence.

Secretary Rusk asked how Province and District Chiefs were selected-were they natives of the area to which they were assigned? General Harkins stated that the selection of these key officials was done by Generals Minh and Don in consultation with the Corps Commander concerned. He emphasized that those Province Chiefs who were being relieved would not be wasted; they would be reassigned to other positions where they could make use of their experience.

General Harkins emphasized again that we must expect that it will take a little time for things to settle down again after this change of administration. The new government is discovering a lot of things that it did not know. For example, some 50 tons of ammunition were found stored in the Presidential Guard barracks. Another problem the new government is considering, for example, is what to do with the gendarmerie. The question arises as to whether it is better to have these outstanding NCOs engaged in police functions primarily within the Capitol area, or whether they could better serve the nation by being reintegrated into the Army and sent out to fight the VC.

[Here follows a description of a slide show given by Harkins.]

Item A 3--Review of Situation (Economic)

Summary of Discussion

Mr. Brent took the lead on this item, noting the difficulties experienced with the Diem regime in its latter days and pointing out the opportunity which now existed for more effective collaboration between the U.S. and RVN under the new regime. The Generals are seeking means to improve government administration, to get the most out of U.S. aid, and to win the war as soon as possible.

Initial U.S. efforts in the economic field are directed toward encouraging the RVN to establish a central ministry for economic policy and planning, including all aspects of foreign aid. This idea has been well received by the Prime Minister and working level officials. The fact that the Prime Minister has already assumed direct responsibility for supervision of the Ministry of Finance and National Economy is a first step in this direction. The Prime Minister is well informed on the economic problems of his country. In an informal session with him on 7 November 1963, agreement in principle was reached on the following points, details to be worked out as circumstances permit:

a. All economic aid matters will be handled through the Prime Minister's office.

b. All strategic hamlet matters will be handled through the Prime Minister's office.

c. A mixed U.S.-Vietnamese group can be established to study the economic situation, isolate problems, and recommend solutions. The RVN team would include Dean Thuc; the Minister of Rural Affairs, Mr. Quang; and the Director General of Planning, Mr. Diem.

d. Budget matters, except military, will also be under control of the Prime Minister.

Areas of priority attention would be taxation; exploitation of farmers, fishermen, and small artisans by middlemen; inefficient government procedures; use of foreign aid; joint U.S.-RVN budgeting; and marketing policies for rice, fish, and fertilizer.

The total requirements for U.S. aid remain large. Defense expenditures (including MAP) equal nearly 1/4 of the country's national income and substantially exceed the entire fiscal revenue of the central government. The Country Team recognizes the limitations on foreign aid funds imposed by Congress, but recommends maintenance of the FY 63 level in FY 64 and 65. Beside the economic rationale, it appears politically and psychologically necessary to extend at least the same measure of support to the new regime as was extended to Diem.

Upon U.S. recognition of the new RVN on 8 November, a commercial import and PL 480, Title I program were resumed to cover urgently required materials and items. An amendment to the PL 480, Title I program was negotiated to provide 4.3 million dollars worth of wheat flour and sweetened condensed milk.

Since the pipeline for essential commodities is refilled, our present posture is to carefully review specific requests of the RVN. Our intention is to maintain leverage and avoid the impression of giving a blank check. We are hopeful that a few months experience will allow negotiation of a more substantial installment of aid in return for RVN cooperation along lines desired by the U.S.

Two additional facts of the commercial import program should be mentioned. First, it was undoubtedly the realization that the U.S. could not be bluffed into restoring import financing that finally provided the spark that set off the coup. Second, there is no indication that the Vietnamese economy was harmed by the suspension in any fundamental respect. Prices of indigenously produced commodities pursued the usual seasonal patterns and price increases in imported commodities were anticipated with the notable exception of condensed milk and flour. Local production apparently was not seriously affected.

On the social side there are a number of encouraging signs. The new Minister of Security and the new Chief of Police both recognize that there must be an end to fear and hatred of the government. The police must be restrained and re-educated. This same concern for popular feeling has also been expressed by the new Minister of Information, the new Minister of Education, and by the new Minister of Labor. During Mr. Brent's calls upon six of the new Ministers, all have been unanimous in expressing their beliefs that the future of Vietnam must be determined by the people of Vietnam themselves.

As for the students and the Buddhists, both groups feel that as originators of events that led to the coup, they deserve special treatment. The Buddhist associations are being listened to by the new government and are exerting a calming influence. The students on the other hand, except in Hue, are demanding dismissals of governmental and educational officials and a number of other changes. They are organizing into associations with definite political objectives and may continue to be a problem. The new government hopes that they can be developed as a constructive force. In this connection, General Minh is working with a group of students for the establishment of a Vietnamese Peace Corps so that the younger generation can channel their energies into worthwhile civic action type activities.

Mr. Brent concluded that there is an entirely new spirit in Vietnam; that the new government is confident, but not overconfident; that it is warmly disposed toward the U.S., and, that we have opportunities to exploit that we never had before. The Vietnamese are soberly aware that if this present experiment fails there will probably be no second chance.

Secretary Rusk asked if the former Secretary of State at the Presidency, Mr. Thuan, was usable in the new government. Ambassador Lodge stated that Thuan would probably prefer some post outside of the country, and that Generals Minh and Don may well use him later as an Ambassador.

Secretary Rusk then asked to what extent the U.S. officials shared offices with Vietnamese compatriots. Mr. Brent replied that at the province level they do, but very little at the government level. Secretary Rusk stated that this might be desirable if the Vietnamese would agree.

Mr. William P. Bundy asked if the RVN had purchased milk and flour from France following the suspension of the CIP. Mr. Brent replied they had since U.S. supplies were not available for delivery in time to meet the government's requirements and since France was prepared to divert a ship for the purpose. However, after conversations with the Prime Minister, the RVN agreed to reduce these orders by 50% since the U.S. can now supply these commodities on the desired schedule.

Secretary McNamara then inquired as to the estimated size of the rice crop, to which Mr. Brent replied that they hope to have a 300,000 ton export this year, and that due to improved seed and fertilizer it could be approximately 30% more by next year. Secretary McNamara said it would be worth considering the diversion of a substantial amount of U.S. aid to provide more fertilizer and thereby increase rice production. For a relatively small dollar outlay for fertilizer we could raise the RVN's income from its rice exports appreciably. As it will probably not be possible for the new government to raise taxes, the only solution to its economic problem is to increase its exports. This means an increased requirement for fertilizer and seed. He asked the Group 1 subcommittee/4/ to look into this further. Mr. Bell then asked if the new government would have to relax economic controls, or if it could take steps to raise additional taxes or to improve tax collection. Ambassador Lodge replied that it was too early to give an answer to this and Minister Trueheart added that while the RVN can improve tax collection, it would not be feasible to increase direct taxes on items in heavy demand such as milk, for example. Admiral Felt stated that there were some cases where the people were subjected to double taxation by both the government and the VC. Perhaps as the areas of VC control were reduced, the government might be able to increase its tax collections. Secretary McNamara said that we must be realistic. The new government cannot be expected to establish a standard of austerity too soon, nor can it count on much increased revenue from improved tax collection procedures. The only solution seems to be greater emphasis on increasing productivity in the export sector of the economy.

/4/Group 1 was the subcommittee dealing with economic problems. It included as members Janow, Brent, Trueheart, Forrestal, Stoneman, William Bundy, Major General Timmes, Silver, and others.

[Here follows discussion of agenda item A4, "Review of the Situation (Province Summaries)," given by Harkins. Harkins stated that while the Country Team considered all provinces critical, they singled out 13 which were "particularly critical because of their current problems." Those provinces were Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh, Phuoc Thanh, Binh Duong, Tay Ninh, Hau Nghia, Long An, Kien Tuong, Dinh Tuong, Kien Hoa, Chnong Thien, and An Xuyen. The state of this last province on the Ca Mau peninsula occasioned the more general discussion printed below.]

An Xuyen, on the extreme tip of the Ca Mau peninsula is safe in the cities, but the VC really own the province. They have been in control since the early forties. There is considerable production of rice and of charcoal, amounting to some $10 million a year. Much of this revenue is siphoned off by the VC. Some of the produce goes to Thailand and some to Singapore as well as to Saigon. MACV is investigating the feasibility of a combined naval-economic blockade to cut off the flow of revenue to the VC.

General Harkins emphasized the need for the RVN to get trained intelligence personnel into the strategic hamlets to identify the VC and keep them from forming Communist cells. Security of the informer is the key to the problem. Thus far there have not been sufficient military forces at the village level to make it safe for people to report on the VC. Secretary McNamara asked if the reason that so many strategic hamlets were not considered successful in the Delta was for security, economic, or political reasons, or all three. Mr. Fraleigh stated that they were unsuccessful in all three. However, in the northern areas of Vietnam 60% of the hamlets were considered successful.

Secretary McNamara said that he believed there were three things to do in the Delta: first, get the Chieu Hoi Program moving; second, get the fertilizer program going to increase output of rice; and third, and most important, improve the security of the strategic hamlets by arming the trained militia and increasing the number of militia.

General Harkins added that the leaders of the new government must get out of Saigon and talk to the people in the Delta area.

General Taylor remarked that this discussion points up the fact that the war is different in each province. Perhaps we need joint U.S.-Vietnam province teams to attack the problem at the province level. He asked if the criticality of the thirteen provinces was based purely on military assessment. General Harkins said it was not; that it was across the board.

Ambassador Lodge then gave a political summary of the current situation throughout the provinces making the following points:

a. Most of the population is aware of the coup.

b. Most of the population is reserved in their opinion of the coup and are waiting to see what effects it will have on their daily lives.

c. Major programs are now stalled at the province level awaiting instructions from the central government.

d. Numerous changes and impending changes of province chiefs have contributed to the uncertainty and inactivity at the province level.

e. The death of Diem is regretted; the death of Nhu is not.

f. Public opinion concerning U.S. involvement in the coup is mixed. Cooperation between RVN and U.S. personnel is closer than ever before.

Item B 1--Prospects and measures proposed by Country Team for improved prosecution of the war under the new government (Political, including possibility of improved relations with neighboring States)

[Here follows discussion of Vietnam's relations with Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and France which developed into a general discussion of the situation in Cambodia.]

Item B 2--Prospects and measures proposed by Country Team for improved prosecution of the war under the new government (Military, including a report on progress in accomplishment of tasks assigned as a result of the McNamara-Taylor Mission, and outlining plans for control of infiltration and special requirements for the Delta Campaign)

[Here follows Harkins' presentation, including slides, of the actions that the Republic of Vietnam's Armed Forces were taking to increase pressure on the Viet Cong. This presentation led to a more general discussion printed below.]

Secretary McNamara stated he assumed that the first effort would be made to protect the hamlets that have already been built. General Harkins said the whole Strategic Hamlet Program was under intensive review. Secretary McNamara asked how long this would take. Minister Trueheart estimated that it would be two to three months before the revised program could get under way. General Taylor recommended that any new plans that are prepared should establish firm target dates for various phases, so that tangible check points on RVN progress would be available.

Item B 3--Prospects and measures proposed by Country Team for improved prosecution of the war under the new government (Economic)

Summary of Discussion

Mr. Silver reviewed the economic situation in South Vietnam noting that the RVN expenditures have risen about 60% in the period 1960-1964 while U.S. aid, which amounts to about 40% of the central government's revenue, has declined somewhat. This increase in expenditures is nearly entirely attributable to an increase in defense expenditures, a 100% increase from 1960 to 1964. In addition, the increase for civil expenditures included non-military costs for counterinsurgency, and as a major item, support for the strategic hamlet program.

Turning to the 1964 budget, the Diem government estimated the total budget deficit in 1964 at approximately 9.0 billion plasters. After adjustments to his figures, USOM believes that the deficit will more likely be in the order of 7.0 billion plasters. This 7.0 billion plasters represent about one third of the total money supply; about 8% of the GNP; and an equivalent deficit in the U.S. budget of close to $50.0 billion.

South Vietnam is primarily agricultural, with a small industrial base. This is significant since the economy does not have the capacity to expand and meet the increasing demand for goods. Although prices have not gone up appreciably despite increased defense expenditures during the past years, it is not believed this situation will continue through 1964 unless the projected deficit is neutralized.

A previous backlog of U.S. economic aid and a pump-priming operation to get the strategic hamlet program started has had the effect of reducing central government expenditures in the past. In addition, the RVN has reduced its foreign exchange holdings from about $200.0 million in 1961 to about $155.0 million in 1962. Fortunately, these holdings have been rising in recent months because of stepped-up rice exports.

USOM's proposal is that U.S. and RVN personnel should sit down together and discuss these problems with a view toward developing agreed joint solutions. In general, USOM's recommendations would be to improve the efficiency of tax collections, increase taxes on selected items (e.g., gasoline), reduce the civil budget by 1.0 billion plasters, maintain the 1964 military expenditures at the 1963 level if this is consistent with the war effort, and introduce attractive savings programs, including increased use of the national lottery, rural banks, war bonds, etc. Also, USOM believes that the economy can stand an increase in money supply of 1.0 to 1.5 billion plasters without serious effects.

All of this leaves the RVN about 2.0 billion plasters short in their budget. USOM would recommend that this be met by drawing down on their foreign exchange reserves which amount to about $170.0 million at present.

Secretary Rusk then asked for comments on the export/import status. Mr. Silver said that in 1960 the foreign exchange earnings were $88.0 million. In 1961 it dropped to $70.0 million due to a drop in price of rice and rubber on the world market. In 1962 earnings dropped further to $47.0 million due to floods which wiped out the usual rice exports. The estimate for this year comes to about $80.0 million with the projection for 1965 hopefully at $95.0 million. Present imports are about $250.0 million. This figure does not include MAP or strategic hamlet inputs, but does include CIP. In response to a question from Mr. Bell, Mr. Silver pointed out that this analysis only relates to government and not to the private sector.

Mr. William P. Bundy asked why a 2.0 billion plaster deficit in 1964 was considered important when there had been 3.0 to 4.0 billion plaster deficits in 1962 and 1963. Mr. Silver replied that prices have risen 15% in the last three years and this, plus cumulative deficits of this magnitude could well become serious.

Secretary McNamara stated that one of the charts showed a 20% increase in the money supply during the first part of this year and asked how this was to be absorbed. Mr. Silver said apparently much of this money was cash hoardings. There were also reports that quantities of cash were being held by the VC as a precaution against the day when the strategic hamlet program would cut them off from their current sources of revenue from the countryside.

Secretary McNamara expressed concern that this huge increase in money supply in combination with a deficit of 7.0 billion plasters could lead to price increases which in turn could create such serious political problems that the present government might not be able to survive. It will be hard enough for the new government to consolidate its position as it is. It is absolutely essential that we help it maintain economic stability over the next 12 to 18 months. Under the best of circumstances the hoped for transfer of power from the military to some form of civilian government will be a very difficult political operation. Under conditions of economic instability it will be almost impossible.

Secretary McNamara stated he was of the opinion the U.S. should lean over backwards to help the Generals avoid economic unrest. With a tremendous deficit lying ahead, this is going to be very difficult. The United States should not try to push this new government too far to raise taxes, tighten up administration, reduce budgets, and so forth. Economic stability is really the foundation of military security in the long run. He would be prepared, therefore, to take a calculated risk and cut some of our safety factors on the military side if this were necessary to insure economic stability.

Mr. Bell agreed that the RVN was facing a very difficult and dangerous economic siutation which could be extremely serious to the whole war effort. Our first objective should be to get together with the Vietnamese to be sure we understand one another. Toward this end, plans are being made to send out a prominent figure in the economic field as head of a U.S. economic mission which would tackle these problems jointly with the best Vietnamese economists. This is clearly what must be undertaken in the next couple of months.

Mr. Janow then commented further on the import level. He said that in 1962 imports were about $280 million. This year the estimate (including our aid) is about $238 million and for 1964 the planning figure is about $255 million. If this commercial import level is compared with their exports of about $100 million, there is a gap of about $150 million. This deficit does not include such costs as MAP, the counter-insurgency program which the US is supporting, or capital investment. If these are added the figure is increased by another $250 million. A gap of this kind, built into the RVN economy is obviously against their best interest.

Major General Timmes then spoke about the military budget. Using charts he showed that the RVN regular forces would require about 11.2 billion plasters. 75% of this would go to military pay, allowance, and subsistence. General Timmes emphasized that this is the Vietnam plaster budget. The MAP budget amounts to about $175 million. He then showed a comparison of this year and last year's RVN military budget. This showed that the current budget is only 358 million plasters larger than last year's and the forces are much larger. MAAG believes that this budget has been reduced to the minimum figure.

General Timmes showed the figures for the Civil Guard and SDC. He pointed out that 86% of the Civil Guard and 95% of the Self Defense Force budgets were for pay and allowances. His final chart showed how the total defense cost of 14.5 billion plasters for CY 64 was made up. He noted that perhaps this figure could be reduced by 100 to 200 million plasters as a result of force reorganizations which might take place under the new government.

Secretary McNamara pointed out that the difference between these figures and Mr. Silver's program came to 750 million plasters. Secretary Rusk then asked how much of a limiting factor was money as far as finishing the war at an early date. Secretary McNamara said that in his opinion the RVN is going to be right on the ragged edge of running out of the money needed to win the war. The situation in the Delta and strategic hamlet program itself are both serious, immediate problems. Furthermore, we must improve the output of the country. This means more fertilizers, additional expenditures to raise the economic base and increase productivity. He stated that all this requires money. The RVN has this tremendous deficit; the new government is sitting on top of a keg of political dynamite. Secretary McNamara doubts that enough money has been budgeted under AID and MAP to handle the situation. This is very serious problem which must be watched extremely carefully.

Mr. Bell shared Secretary McNamara's concern. More money may be required to finance what ought to be the heaviest action year of the war. If things move successfully, it might be possible to taper off after the next 12 to 15 months. However, we must be careful not to give the RVN any more of a "fiscal hangover" from the war than necessary. He agreed with Secretary McNamara that it is a serious problem which could blow up on us if we are not careful in the next six months. But, we must also keep the RVN's feet to the fire, keep their resources fully committed, and not let them saddle themselves with an economy and military establishment that is larger than circumstances require.

Mr. Fraleigh then discussed the advantages of increased use of fertilizer on rice production. Vietnam uses very little fertilizer on rice as compared to other countries. As a result, its per hectare yield of rice is i/2 that of Taiwan or Japan. Mr. Fraleigh recommends that we think in terms of doubling the use of fertilizer in 1964. For every $70 spent on a ton of fertilizer delivered in Vietnam, $110 worth of additional milled rice is produced for export. Mr. Bell wondered what was holding it back. Mr. Fraleigh replied it was the credit system, since fertilizer is handled commercially. Secretary McNamara observed that unless an adequate credit system is devised to improve the distribution of fertilizer, the productivity will not rise and this productivity is needed to build political stability. Ambassador Lodge remarked that South Vietnam could be one of the richest rice producing areas of the world.

Secretary McNamara said he was afraid a certain euphoria had settled over us since the coup. True, the Generals are friendly to us, but the situation in Cambodia is deteriorating and the VC showed they have a tremendous reserve capability by trebling their rate of incidents week before last. He wondered if current U.S. programs put enough power behind our objectives.

Secretary Rusk noted that the Japanese might be able to work something out with the RVN on a rice-fertilizer barter basis. This would be a matter that could be explored during his forthcoming trip.

Secretary McNamara summarized the present situation as follows. South Vietnam is under tremendous pressure from the VC. The VC are as numerous today as they were a year or two years ago. The surrounding area is weaker. The Cambodian situation is potentially very serious to the RVN. The input of arms from Cambodia before the recent developments was very worrisome in the Delta. The Generals head a very fragile government. The United States should not try to cut the comers too fine. We must be prepared to devote enough resources to this job of winning the war to be certain of accomplishing it instead of just hoping to accomplish it.

Decisions Made and Actions To Be Taken

Exploratory discussions would be held with the Japanese government to determine if a mutually advantageous rice-fertilizer barter arrangement could be worked out between Japan and the RVN. (Action: State.)

Item B 4--Prospects and measures proposed by Country Team for improved prosecution of the war under the new government (Strategic Hamlet Program)

Summary of Discussion

Minister Trueheart led the discussion. He stated that the Strategic Hamlet Program is sound. It separates the VC from supplies, intelligence information, and from the general population. In the longer term, the program holds out prospects for social and economic changes throughout the country.

However, under the Diem regime implementation of the program has been faulty, particularly in the Delta region, primarily due to over-extension. The Strategic Hamlet Program represents a large dollar investment by the U.S. Government and a large labor investment by the Vietnamese people. Minister Trueheart believes the new government in RVN will continue the program since they cannot default on what was promised the people under this program by their predecessors. The Generals will seek to disassociate themselves from past errors by providing for closer military and civil cooperation, reduced forced labor, relocation of poorly placed hamlets and improved training and arming of the militia. Most importantly, they must, sooner or later, establish meaningful priorities. Primary emphasis on hamlets must be in the Delta area and progress reporting should focus on this strategic region as well as on the thirteen critical provinces discussed earlier by General Harkins.

In the future additional hamlets will be required, maybe as many as one thousand, and some poor hamlets will need relocation. This will be expensive. Seventy percent of the hamlets in the Delta are not up to the standard required to make them truly effective. Economic and political progress must be made to improve the people's standard of living. New educational facilities are required and distribution of fertilizer to the inhabitants of the strategic hamlets is needed. The new government has established an inter-ministerial committee to supervise the Strategic Hamlet Program. Minister Trueheart stated that as far as the Country Team could determine, the one billion plasters already budgeted by the RVN for support of strategic hamlets will cover current costs. No additional MAP funds are foreseen.

Secretary Rusk asked how much medical contact did the people in the hamlets have? He was answered that this varies, USOM has one group that dispenses some medical assistance and the U.S. Army has an on-the-job medical training program. General Harkins added that there are only 700 doctors in RVN, 450 of whom are in the armed forces.

Mr. McGeorge Bundy asked where does the responsibility for the Strategic Hamlet Program now fall? Minister Trueheart replied that there was no change on the U.S. side, and that the inter-ministerial committee is responsible on the RVN side. Mr. Bundy then asked how do we communicate our recommendations concerning this program to RVN now that Mr. Nhu is dead. Minister Trueheart replied that we utilize all available means of communication through MAAG, USOM, MACV, etc.

Admiral Felt stated we are dealing with development of a new campaign plan with priority emphasized on areas south and southwest of Saigon. General Harkins replied the first priority of effort would be in this part of the country although attention would also be given to the problem areas in the north.

Mr. McGeorge Bundy then asked to whom the province chiefs report. Minister Trueheart replied that this varies between Corps, but in most cases to Corps Commanders. Admiral Felt then asked if this put the division commanders on the same level as the province chiefs. Mr. Colby replied in the affirmative, but noted that the division is an operational command subject to movement to any part of the country.

Mr. McGeorge Bundy asked how the strategic hamlets are financed. Minister Trueheart replied that they were originally financed through an emergency purchase of ten million dollars worth of plasters by the U.S. Government. Now they are being financed by the Vietnamese Government, although some $35 million of U.S. assistance has gone into the hamlet program this year. Minister Trueheart stated that there is an advantage to the village inhabitants contributing reasonable amounts of labor to the hamlets as it serves thereby to identify the peasants with their own hamlets and with the program as a whole.

Minister Trueheart emphasized that when he said 70% of the hamlets in the Delta were not considered up to standard, he did not mean that they are under VC control. General Taylor asked if there are any hamlets under control of the VC. General Harkins responded that although some hamlets have been over-run and some subverted by the VC, he did not know of any that were actually under the control of the VC.

[Here follows discussion of Item C 1, "Revision of Military Comprehensive Plan;" Item C 2, "Status Report on FY 64 MAP;" Item D, "Outline in terms of forces, timing and numbers involved, the projected program for reduction U.S. military forces by end FY65;" and Item E, "Country Team suggestions for revision of current reports to develop a consolidated country team reporting system."]


322. Memorandum for the Record of Discussion at the Daily White House Staff Meeting/1/

Washington, November 22, 1963, 8 a.m.

/1/Source: National Defense University, Taylor Papers, T-646-71. Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by W. Y. Smith.

1. Mr. Bundy presided throughout the meeting.

2. Honolulu. Mr. Bundy opened the meeting, commenting that he was very impressed with the idea of traveling by jet to distant places and holding a conference./2/ The fact that he was able to get a good night's sleep before arriving in Honolulu and that the whole trip was so effortless and comfortable made a deep impression on him.

/2/See Document 321.

Bundy commented that his overall impressions of the conference itself were diffuse, and that this was probably significant. He then went on to make a few specific points. There is no country team in Vietnam at the present time in any real sense. It is clear that Harkins feels he does not have the Ambassador's confidence, and this is affecting US operations in the country. Lodge is clearly the dominant personality, but it is not at all evident that he can handle the job he is now faced with. He is a strong-willed close operator who keeps only his personal staff involved. This was just the type needed during his first months in Saigon when he was supposed to create a posture which would indicate to any would-be revolutionist that the US would not automatically side with Diem.

Now, however, what is needed is a good manager, who can develop a team to do a very complex job. Lodge apparently has neither the inclination for nor the interest in this type of management task. In short, the course the US country team will chart in Vietnam is by no means decided upon. As for the military side Bundy made a passing reference to General Harkins' somewhat shaky performance, and then passed on to say that it was undoubtedly difficult for him to operate under Lodge, particularly after Nolting from whom there was normally complete backing. Now Lodge represents an independent source of power that can not be relied upon to move always in the direction General Harkins might wish.

As to the meetings, Bundy said that briefings of McNamara tend to be sessions where people try to fool him, and he tries to convince them they cannot. As for the military reporting, someone told Bundy that for the first time it was realistic about the situation in the Delta. It was uncertain whether the change resulted from the fact that US military now believed they could criticize the Vietnam war effort without fear of criticizing the government itself, or whether it was something more fundamental.

Bundy was impressed with the argument by an AID man that fertilizer could be a big help in winning the war in the Delta. He said that everyone recognized that the strategic hamlets, even though associated with Nhu, had to remain the center of the war effort.

Turning to the regime itself Bundy said it was too early to see what course it would follow, but it was clear that the coalition of generals might not last. The regime was concentrating on continuing the war and, more important, seems determined to focus on the war in the Delta, thus hitting at the Viet Cong resource base.

[Here follows discussion of matters unrelated to Vietnam.]

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