U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Other State Department Archive SitesU.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Home Issues & Press Travel & Business Countries Youth & Education Careers About State Video
 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Office of the Historian > Foreign Relations of the United States > Kennedy Administration > Volume IV
Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, Volume IV, Vietnam, August-December 1963
Released by the Office of the Historian
Documents 323-347

V. The Johnson Presidency, November 22-December 31, 1963:
Lodge-Johnson Meeting on Vietnam, NSAM 273, McNamara Visit, Year-end Observations

323. Editorial Note

On November 22, 1963, at 12:30 p.m., Central Standard Time, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas while traveling in an open car from Love Field to the Dallas Trade Mart where he was scheduled to give a speech on national security. The President was taken to Parkland Hospital in Dallas where doctors pronounced him dead at 1 p.m. The prepared text of the speech which President Kennedy planned to give, in which there is passing reference to Vietnam, is printed in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963, pages 890-894.

Vice President Johnson arrived at Parkland Hospital approximately 20 minutes before the President was pronounced dead. At 1:40 p.m., the Vice President left the hospital for Love Field. At 2:38 p.m., a Federal Judge administered the oath of office to President Johnson on Air Force One at Love Field. The President then departed on the presidential plane for Washington. Johnson Library, President's Daily Diary)


324. Memorandum From the Secretary of Defense (McNamara) to President Johnson/1/

Washington, November 23, 1963.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vietnam Cables. Secret.

Your Meeting with Ambassador Lodge

I attach a longer draft memorandum/2/ of the results of the Honolulu conference. It was prepared by McGeorge Bundy and covers the highlights of the general discussion. Paragraphs 4 and 7 are the most important, and for your meeting with the Ambassador,/3/ I recommend the following points:

/2/Not found.

/3/See Document 330.

1. Need for Teamwork. It is absolutely vital that the whole of the Country Team, but particularly Ambassador Lodge and General Harkins, work in close harmony and with full consultation back and forth. There must be no back-biting or sniping at low levels such as may have contributed to recent news stories about General Harkins being out of favor with the new regime. A key element in this is the selection of a new deputy to the Ambassador, to replace William Trueheart. (Trueheart has been there more than two years, and the Ambassador agrees that he should now be replaced.) This is for the Secretary of State to work out, but what is needed is a good chief-of-staff type, able to work with the military, economic, and information people, knowing the area, and tough in pulling people together and ironing out any signs of dissension. Two names suggested have been William Sullivan (he is now Governor Harriman's assistant and the Governor may not want to let him go) and Norbert Anschuetz of the Paris Embassy. In any case, the Ambassador should know that he has your authority to select the best possible man that he and Secretary Rusk can find, and this matter should be worked out before he leaves Washington.

2. Economic and Budget Problem. The Honolulu conference highlighted that the new Vietnamese government faces a really serious 1964 budget problem requiring some combination of increased taxes, drawing on foreign exchange reserves, and other austerity measures, perhaps some greater US aid input (though this is tough for AID in view of Congressional cuts), and a really tight budget. The first step, agreed at Honolulu, is for Mr. Bell to get the strongest possible US team out to discuss these problems with the new government, which is clearly very inexperienced and unsure of its ground. The Ambassador must really get into this problem, as the essence of it is political--whether the new government can take steps that may make sense from an economic standpoint without unduly weakening its political position and stability--which is vital to the war. With the new government just getting on its feet, long-term factors are secondary to the short-term problem of insuring its position.

We may well have to accept putting in more aid than we would theoretically like, to ensure the new government's standing, and we should be prepared to direct the necessary funding at whatever cost to other programs in AID or in the Military Assistance Program. (Incidentally, the overall tightness of funds highlights the importance of holding any further cuts in the total foreign aid bill to an absolute minimum.)

Robert S. McNamara


325. Situation Report Prepared in the Department of State for President Johnson/1/

Washington, November 23, 1963.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country File, Memos and Misc. Confidential. Transmitted to the President under cover of an undated memorandum from Rusk.


As background for your talk with Ambassador Lodge the current situation in Viet-Nam is as follows:

Summary Assessment. The outlook is hopeful. There is better assurance than under Diem that the war can be won. We are pulling out 1,000 American troops by the end of 1963. The main concern is whether the generals can hold together until victory has been achieved. An immediate problem is an estimated budgetary deficit of roughly $100 million after aid for 1964.

Political. The new "provisional" government consists of a Military Revolutionary Council, with an Executive Committee of 12 generals headed by General "Big" Minh as President; a Cabinet headed by former Vice President Tho as Premier; and a political advisory body called the "Council of Sages".

Minh and Tho, who are old friends, are working well together. Thus far no important signs of friction have developed among the generals. The uncertain element is the ambitious, emotional General Dinh, who is Minister of Public Security and retains command of the III Corps around Saigon.

The new government has the enthusiastic support of the urban population. The peasants remain apathetic as under the Diem regime, but the government recognizes the importance of moving to win their support.

Military. The Viet Cong incident rate shot up to a new high of about 1,000 per week immediately after the coup, but subsequently resumed to its "normal" level (300-500 per week). The most critical area is the Mekong Delta south and west of Saigon, and it is there that the new government is expected to concentrate its efforts.

The previously low troop ratio in the Delta is being improved. Officers and NCO's are being chosen on merit rather than political loyalty. The dual chain of command which plagued efficiency under Diem has given way to a single chain which will improve coordination of civil and military operations.

The government is expected to correct defects in the implementation of the strategic hamlet program, first by establishing a proper system of priorities for hamlet development from more secure toward less secure areas. Some delay is expected because the government is just establishing a new central organization for the strategic hamlet program, and the new administration will have to shake down at the local level because of changes in province and district chiefs.

Early action is needed to push forward with a fresh, realistic amnesty program to attract Viet Cong to surrender. The new government has not yet had a chance to focus on this problem.

We are pulling out by the end of 1963 about 1,000 of the 16,500 American military forces in Viet-Nam. This was announced on the conclusion of the McNamara-Taylor visit in October.

Economic. The major operational problem we face immediately is how to deal with an estimated 7 billion plaster (roughly $100 million) deficit in the GVN 1964 budget after a United States aid contribution at the 1963 level ($95 million in CIP and $30 million in PL 480). Unless handled properly, this could prevent the generals from consolidating the new government politically.

Secretary McNamara was so concerned at Honolulu that he offered, if necessary, to switch some MAP funds to AID despite a shortage of $12 million in MAP availabilities to meet field requirements. It still remains necessary to conduct a difficult negotiation with the Vietnamese Government to get it to do all it can to meet this budgetary deficit problem.

Relations with Foreign Countries. Our own relations with the new government are excellent at all levels. Ambassador Lodge would like to avoid putting heavy pressure on the new government over the next few months.

Cambodian-Vietnamese relations remain poor. Sihanouk of Cambodia is upset about the activities of Cambodian dissidents in Viet-Nam and Thailand. Viet-Nam is concerned about Viet Cong use of Cambodian territory.

The new Vietnamese Government will work well with Phoumi in Laos. We are pressing it to work with Souvanna, too.

De Gaulle's relations with the new government are strained because he considers the coup a set-back to his hopes for neutralizing Viet-Nam.


326. Briefing Paper Prepared in the Department of State for President Johnson/1/

Washington, November 23, 1963.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country File, Memos and Misc., 11/63-12/63. Secret. Transmitted to the President under cover of an undated memorandum from Rusk.


1. Purpose of visit

Ambassador Lodge is in Washington to discuss Viet-Nam with the President and other high U.S. officials who did not attend the Honolulu meeting on November 20.

2. You may wish to:

--Commend Ambassador Lodge on his superb handling of a difficult situation.

--Draw him out on the Vietnamese situation:

1. Political prospects of the new government.

2. Military outlook.

3. Changes in the strategic hamlet program.

4. Anticipated course of negotiations to meet 1964 budgetary deficit.

--Review with him the draft National Security Action Memorandum emerging from the Honolulu meeting, which Mr. Bundy has initiated./2/

/2/For the approved version, see Document 331.

3. Ambassador Lodge will raise two matters with you, but we are not informed as to what they are.


327. Memorandum of Conversation Between the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Hilsman) and the Ambassador to Vietnam (Lodge)/1/

Washington, November 24, 1963, 10 a.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 1 S VIET-US. Secret Limit Distribution. Drafted and initialed by Hilsman. Approved in FE on November 29. Lodge traveled to Washington after the Honolulu Conference. A typewritten note on the source text reads: "No additional distribution without authorization from FE/MT. Hilsman."

Viet-Nam--General Discussion

Lodge expressed gratitude and praise for the back-up by FE that he has received. Hilsman said that the high regard was mutual.

Lodge raised two other matters described in separate memos./2/

/2/Because of different distribution limitations, Hilsman made three separate memoranda of this conversation. The second is Document 328; the third was not declassified.

Hilsman described the problem of the policy control of the Laos/ North Viet-Nam operations; Lodge had no strong opinions on the matter but understood our concern.

On the question of a Staley-type mission,/3/ Lodge said he had no opinion but would be willing to receive such a mission if Washington thought it was desirable.

/3/For documentation on the Staley Mission to Vietnam, June and July 1961, see Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. I, Documents 72 ff.

Relations with Laos and Cambodia, including the Khmer Serei activities, were also discussed. Lodge is in agreement with our general program.

There were no problems of backstopping of the Embassy by Washington.

The only administrative matter on which Lodge had an opinion was on new plans for the Embassy. He felt that before the new Embassy was built the plans should be reviewed in the light of the experience that we had recently had. Specifically, the Embassy should be designed from a security/defense point of view. The Vietnamese were a violent people and something violent could happen in the future some time. Also, the plans should include a helicopter landing pad.

One other administrative matter concerned secure-voice equipment between the residence and the chancery. Such equipment was essential; it had the added advantage of providing a good excuse for an American guard 24 hours a day at the residence, which was highly desirable.

Lodge said he would look into the controls over air and artillery strikes and the question of an effective amnesty program. In general, however, he did not want to push the military committee around on specific issues, but let them develop in their own way, at least until they had worked out a method of operating and their internal relationships.

Also he wants Nes and cannot understand why any other department or agency of the government should have a voice in the appointment of his DCM.

In conversation with Harriman, Lodge agreed that Madame Nhu should not be permitted entry into the United States.

On the question of a Navy man at CINCPAC, Lodge expressed the interesting view that it might be better to have an Army man. Navy matters were routine in the Pacific; the real problem was going to come in any land warfare. In any land fighting the bulk of the troops would have to be Asian; the US should supply only enough men to justify an American as supreme commander. What we need, therefore, is a politically sensitive Army man who would understand the total problem and lay the groundwork for its solution.

The matter of Dr. Gard did not come up.


328. Memorandum of a Conversation Between the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Hilsman) and the Ambassador to Vietnam (Lodge)/1/

Washington, November 24, 1963, 10 a.m.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, Hilsman Papers, Country Series-Vietnam. Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted and initialed by Hilsman.

Approach to North Viet-Nam

Lodge cited several intelligence reports to indicate that the North Vietnamese might be considering a way out of the war in South Viet-Nam. Further, Lodge is convinced that the North Vietnamese want more than anything else to have the American presence removed and he felt that we should exact some quid pro quo for withdrawing American forces rather than handing it to them on a silver platter, as our present plans for withdrawal would do.

What he proposes is a two-pronged approach to North Viet-Nam. The first is a stick: to pass word to the North Vietnamese that the Americans are impatient and are beginning to think of retaliatory action against North Viet-Nam unless they call off the Viet Cong. The second is a carrot: through a separate channel to pass word to the North Vietnamese that the Americans would be willing to withdraw provided they called off the Viet Cong.

Lodge was at pains to point out that this was quite different from de Gaulle's proposals for a reunified and neutralized Viet-Nam and also different from the Communist and Cambodian proposal for a neutralized South Viet-Nam. What he proposes is, in fact, the neutralization of North Viet-Nam--that is, make it into a Communist neutral along the lines of Yugoslavia.


329. Memorandum of Conversation Between the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Harriman) and the Ambassador to Vietnam (Lodge)/1/

Washington, November 24, 1963.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vietnam Cables. Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Harriman on December 7.

North Vietnam

Regarding NVN, Lodge's idea was that when SVN had made sufficient progress and clearly had the upper hand, we should first get word to NVN, in the form of a plant, that we planned an air strike if NVN did not stop their support of the Viet-Cong, and then develop some method by which, after they were in a fearful mood, direct contact would be made which would get them to stop support in return for our abandoning plans for striking NVN. Lodge believes NVN both fears American air attack and having to call on Red China for support, as NVN feels they would never be able to get Red China out.

Lodge agreed to let me know when he thought an opportunity had come to consider action along the above lines.


330. Memorandum for the Record of Meeting/1/

Washington, November 24, 1963, 3 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Meeting Notes File, Meeting with Lodge and Vietnam Advisers. Secret. Drafted by McCone on November 25. The meeting was held in the Executive Office Building. Johnson describes this meeting in The Vantage Point, pp. 43-44.

South Vietnam Situation

The President, Secretaries Rusk, McNamara, Ball, Messrs. Bundy and McCone, Ambassador Lodge

1. Ambassador Lodge reported that the change in government had been an improvement, that he was hopeful over the outlook, that he expected a speedup of the war, he thought by February or March we would see marked progress. Lodge stated that we were not involved in the coup, though we put pressures on the South Vietnamese government to change its course and those pressures, most particularly on indications of withdrawal by 1965, encouraged the coup. Lodge stated that there were indications that North Vietnam might be interested in arrangements which would be of a nature satisfactory to us. He did not elaborate. He thought that everybody was very happy after the coup and showed some pictures of the crowds in Saigon. He mentioned that Gen. Don would be here and that those talking with him should influence him to put on all the pressure he could. He spoke most highly of the Papal delegate and his intention to see the Pope on Wednesday. [1 sentence (2-1/2 lines) not declassified] Lodge said he saw dangers of an anti-Christian move and this was his purpose in seeing the Pope. He made a point that Bishop Thuc had engaged in serious persecutions involving the imprisonment of a great many people, including three Catholic priests. He also made the point that Can, Diem's brother, also engaged in a variety of activities of persecution and the execution of individuals and that Can had, on his own premises, a burial ground for his victims. Lodge said that we were in no way responsible for the death of Diem and Nhu, that had they followed his advice, they would be alive today. He said that he saved Can from assassination and that Bishop Thuc was out of Saigon under orders from the Papal delegate. (Note: I question whether the Papal delegate can order a Bishop out of a country.) The tone of Ambassador Lodge's statements were optimistic, hopeful, and left the President with the impression that we are on the road to victory.

At this point McCone stated that our estimate of the situation was somewhat more serious. We had noted a continuing increase in Viet Cong activity since the first of November as evidenced by a larger number of Viet Cong attacks. We also noticed with considerable concern a high level of message volume on the Viet Cong military and political networks and this might quite possibly reflect preparations for further sustained guerrilla pressures. Furthermore I stated that the military were having considerable trouble in completing the political organization of the government and were receiving little if any help from civilian leadership. Indeed it seemed to us that the competent civilians were staying on the sidelines and continuing their traditional role of critics rather than turning in and being helpful. I concluded by stating that we could not at this point or time give a particularly optimistic appraisal of the future.

The President then stated that he approached the situation with some misgivings. He noted that a great many people throughout the country questioned our course of action in supporting the overthrow of the Diem regime. He also noted that strong voices in the Congress felt we should get out of Vietnam. Both of these facts give the President considerable concern. He stated that he was not at all sure we took the right course in upsetting the Diem regime but this was a decision that he did not have to make as it was a fait accompli. He said now that it was done, we have to see that our objectives were accomplished. (Note: The inferences were that, left to his own devices, he would not have supported the courses of action which led to the coup.)

The President then stated he has never been happy with our operations in Vietnam. He said there had been serious dissension and divisions within the American community and he told the Ambassador that he was in total charge and he wanted the situation cleaned up. He wanted no more divisions of opinion, no more bickering and any person that did not conform to policy should be removed. At this point Mr. Bundy stated that we were searching for a replacement for Trueheart and what we wanted was a capable administrator who could run the Country Team. The President again repeated his insistence that the Ambassador was the Number One man and he, the President, was holding the Ambassador personally responsible.

Secretary McNamara stated that he had examined the economic situation and that he felt we must give generously of economic aid and must not ask the South Vietnamese government to do the impossible at this particular time.

The President then said that he supported this, but at the same time he wanted to make it abundantly clear that he did not think we had to reform every Asian into our own image. He said that he felt all too often when we engaged in the affairs of a foreign country we wanted to immediately transform that country into our image and this, in his opinion, was a mistake. He was anxious to get along, win the war--he didn't want as much effort placed on so-called social reforms.

Note: I received in this meeting the first "President Johnson tone" for action as contrasted with the "Kennedy tone". Johnson definitely feels that we place too much emphasis on social reforms; he has very little tolerance with our spending so much time being "do-gooders"; and he has no tolerance whatsoever with bickering and quarreling of the type that has gone on in South Vietnam.

The meeting was followed by a statement to the press which was given out by Bundy/2/ to the effect that we would pursue the policies agreed to in Honolulu adopted by the late President Kennedy. A picture was taken of the President with Lodge, McNamara, Rusk and Ball.

/2/This statement was apparently on a background basis; see the article in The New York Times, November 25, but datelined November 24, entitled "Johnson Affirms Aims in Vietnam, Retains Kennedy's Policy of Aiding War on Reds," which cites a "White House Source. "


331. National Security Action Memorandum No. 273/1/

Washington, November 26, 1963.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSAM's. Top Secret. NSAM 273 grew out of the discussion at the November 20 Honolulu Conference. McGeorge Bundy wrote the first draft and sent copies to Hilsman and William Bundy, asking for their opinions. In fact, Bundy's draft was almost identical to the final paper. The major exception was paragraph 7 of the Bundy draft which reads as follows: "7. With respect to action against North Vietnam, there should be a detailed plan for the development of additional Government of Vietnam resources, especially for sea-going activity, and such planning should indicate the time and investment necessary to achieve a wholly new level of effectiveness in this field of action. (Action: DOD and CIA)" (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, Memos and Miscellaneous) Bundy thought that President Kennedy and Lodge might want to discuss this paper during their planned meeting on November 24. Hilsman responded on November 23 in a memorandum to McGeorge Bundy that he thought the draft was "fine" and he had made only minor changes. No record of Hilsman's changes have been found. (Ibid., Hilsman Papers, Country Series-Vietnam) Hilsman also sent a copy to Rusk under cover of a memorandum of November 23 and suggested the Secretary might find it of use at the Cabinet meeting scheduled for that afternoon. (Department of State, Cabinet Meeting Files: Lot 68 D 350) At the November 23 Cabinet meeting, Vietnam was not discussed.

The Secretary of State
The Secretary of Defense
The Director of Central Intelligence
The Administrator, AID
The Director, USIA

The President has reviewed the discussions of South Vietnam which occurred in Honolulu, and has discussed the matter further with Ambassador Lodge./2/ He directs that the following guidance be issued to all concerned:

/2/See Document 330.

1. It remains the central object of the United States in South Vietnam to assist the people and Government of that country to win their contest against the externally directed and supported Communist conspiracy. The test of all U.S. decisions and actions in this area should be the effectiveness of their contribution to this purpose.

2. The objectives of the United States with respect to the withdrawal of U.S. military personnel remain as stated in the White House statement of October 2, 1963./3/

/3/See Document 170.

3. It is a major interest of the United States Government that the present provisional government of South Vietnam should be assisted in consolidating itself and in holding and developing increased public support. All U.S. officers should conduct themselves with this objective in view.

4. The President expects that all senior officers of the Government will move energetically to insure the full unity of support for established U.S policy in South Vietnam. Both in Washington and in the field, it is essential that the Government be unified. It is of particular importance that express or implied criticism of officers of other branches be scrupulously avoided in all contacts with the Vietnamese Government and with the press. More specifically, the President approves the following lines of action developed in the discussions of the Honolulu meeting of November 20. The offices of the Government to which central responsibility is assigned are indicated in each case.

5. We should concentrate our own efforts, and insofar as possible we should persuade the Government of South Vietnam to concentrate its efforts, on the critical situation in the Mekong Delta. This concentration should include not only military but political, economic, social, educational and informational effort. We should seek to turn the tide not only of battle but of belief, and we should seek to increase not only the control of hamlets but the productivity of this area, especially where the proceeds can be held for the advantage of anti-Communist forces.

(Action: The whole country team under the direct supervision of the Ambassador.)

6. Programs of military and economic assistance should be maintained at such levels that their magnitude and effectiveness in the eyes of the Vietnamese Government do not fall below the levels sustained by the United States in the time of the Diem Government. This does not exclude arrangements for economy on the MAP account with respect to accounting for ammunition, or any other readjustments which are possible as between MAP and other U.S. defense resources. Special attention should be given to the expansion of the import, distribution, and effective use of fertilizer for the Delta.

(Action: AID and DOD as appropriate.)

7. Planning should include different levels of possible increased activity, and in each instance there should be estimates of such factors as:

A. Resulting damage to North Vietnam;

B. The plausibility of denial;

C. Possible North Vietnamese retaliation;

D. Other international reaction.

Plans should be submitted promptly for approval by higher authority.

(Action: State, DOD, and CIA.)

8. With respect to Laos, a plan should be developed and submitted for approval by higher authority for military operations up to a line up to 50 kilometers inside Laos, together with political plans for minimizing the international hazards of such an enterprise. Since it is agreed that operational responsibility for such undertakings should pass from CAS to MACV, this plan should include a redefined method of political guidance for such operations, since their timing and character can have an intimate relation to the fluctuating situation in Laos.

(Action: State, DOD, and CIA.)

9. It was agreed in Honolulu that the situation in Cambodia is of the first importance for South Vietnam, and it is therefore urgent that we should lose no opportunity to exercise a favorable influence upon that country. In particular a plan should be developed using all available evidence and methods of persuasion for showing the Cambodians that the recent charges against us are groundless.

(Action: State.)

10. In connection with paragraphs 7 and 8 above, it is desired that we should develop as strong and persuasive a case as possible to demonstrate to the world the degree to which the Viet Cong is controlled, sustained and supplied from Hanoi, through Laos and other channels. In short, we need a more contemporary version of the Jorden Report,/4/ as powerful and complete as possible.

/4/The Jorden report, entitled "A Threat to the Peace, North Viet-Nam's Effort To Conquer South Viet-Nam," was released by the Department of State on December 8, 1961. For documentation on the preparation and release, see Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. I, Documents 122 ff.

(Action: Department of State with other agencies as necessary.)

McGeorge Bundy


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

Washington, November 27, 1963, 8:40 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 29. Secret. Drafted by Mendenhall and cleared by Hilsman. Repeated to Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Vientiane, London, Paris, and CINCPAC for POLAD.

874. Following highlights from call on Hilsman by Tran Chanh Thanh, Vietnamese Ambassador to Tunisia and special representative to Kennedy funeral ceremonies:

1. Assured Thanh that President Johnson not only supports Kennedy policies toward Viet-Nam, but participated in making them. Will therefore give full support to new government in effective conduct of war.

2. Answering Thanh's query re significance US withdrawal 1,000 men from Viet-Nam,/2/ Hilsman said withdrawal psychologically important in showing success, encouraging Vietnamese people by showing they can increasingly take over job, and deflating Communist propaganda about American objectives in Viet-Nam. To further query re withdrawal American forces by end 1965, Hilsman explained this means only training personnel since Vietnamese expected to be fully trained by then, and we shall keep in Viet-Nam whatever forces are needed for victory. Thanh said there had been erroneous interpretations of withdrawal announcements in Viet-Nam and suggested public clarification along these lines. Hilsman agreed we would find means following through on this suggestion (FYI we expect set up VOA interview with Hilsman), and proposed GVN also clarify matter publicly. GVN charge Rau (accompanying Thanh) also said that, in SVN withdrawal announcement was interpreted as intended to exert pressure on Diem Government and that we should remove this implication vis-a-vis new GVN. Hilsman agreed.

/2/See Document 339.

3. Thanh raised Cambodian-Vietnamese relations. Said GVN had halted one Khmer Serei station, but broadcasts continuing from units not yet located. Asked whether US would assist in locating if GVN requested, and Hilsman replied affirmatively. (Can Saigon confirm that one station eliminated?)

Hilsman affirmed following further points Department officers made to Thanh November 26:

a. Sihanouk in mood which could lead to establishment Communist base in Cambodia. Important GVN not stand too much on dignity, but in its own interest seize ball and actively seek improve relations with RKG.

b. GVN should avoid negative attitude on Sihanouk's revived proposal for 14-nation conference to guarantee Cambodia's neutrality,/3/ and instead seek turn proposal to its own advantage. GVN should tell RKG it prepared agree formal assurances of respect for Cambodian neutrality provided RKG prepared 1) settle all important outstanding issues between two countries and 2) agree to cooperate in sealing frontier against Viet Cong.

/3/On November 26, the Cambodian Foreign Ministry transmitted to the Embassy in Phnom Penh a copy of its note of November 24 to the Geneva Conference Cochairmen, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union, requesting a reconvening of the 14 Geneva Conference participants in Djarkarta, Bandung, or Rangoon to discuss measures to ensure an "internationally guaranteed and controlled neutralization of Cambodia." Cambodia hoped that the United States would support the idea and warned that should the proposal fail, the situation in Cambodia could lead to international conflict and grave consequences. (Telegram 417 from Phnom Penh, November 26; Department of State, Central Files, POL 27-13 CAMB)

c. Issues to be comprised in overall settlement should include 1) delimitation and demarcation of frontier, 2) mutual renunciation of territorial claims, 3) financial issues, including payment GVN debt to Cambodia. RKG demands re Cambodian minority in Viet-Nam could be properly ignored since they are Vietnamese citizens.

Hilsman strongly urged prompt GVN initiative for bilateral talks with RKG along above lines. Embassy Saigon should follow up.

4. Thanh said 14-nation conference should not be agreed to unless there was formal assurance it would not deal with Viet-Nam. We concurred.

He also said there should be virtually complete agreement on what conference to do, including text of any declaration or agreement, before conference convened. Otherwise Free World lends itself to Communist propaganda exploitation of conference forum, and gets whipsawed on substance. We also agreed this view.

5. Hilsman urged continued stress on modified, improved strategic hamlet program by new government, thereby avoiding danger of slipping into purely conventional warfare approach in dealing with VC.

Thanh leaving Washington November 28 and returning Saigon, December 3.



333. Memorandum Prepared for the Director of Central Intelligence/1/

Washington, November 29, 1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 67 D 54, POL 26 Rebellion, Coups, Insurgency. Secret; No Foreign Dissem. McCone sent this memorandum to Rusk under cover of a December 2 memorandum, which reads as follows:
"You will recall at our recent meeting in Honolulu spokesmen from Saigon mentioned that the Viet Cong were engaged in such activities as defended hamlets, school and medical programs, etc.
"In view of the above the attached memorandum representing the views of the CIA staff on these activities may be of particular interest to you."
For the discussion at the Honolulu meeting, see Document 321.

Viet Cong Quasi-Governmental Activities

1. In the "armed liberation" strategy of both Mao Tse-Tung and Ho Chi Minh, the establishment and gradual extension of "secure" base areas is a primary objective in the struggle. Within such secure areas, the Viet Cong have, since the beginning of resistance against the French in 1945-46, attempted to carry out quasi-governmental functions. Their purpose is two-fold and sometimes contradictory. They seek to win the voluntary support of the population by various activities of a welfare or civic-action nature. By example they try to show that they are more efficient, honest, and humane as administrators than the enemy regime. At the same time, they are concerned with exercising control and extracting support in the form of manpower, food and labor; these requirements frequently take priority and undo any favorable effects from their psychological operations.

2. In areas still not "secure" or not under strong Viet Cong influence, the guerrilla forces must live a hit-and-run existence and have little opportunity to act as the effective local administration. In these areas they must nonetheless rely upon support, shelter, and supply from the civilian populace, which is obtained not only by force but by positive steps to convince the population that its aspirations are those of the Viet Cong.

3. Much of our detailed knowledge with respect to Viet Cong activities in these directions comes from the period of Viet Minh resistance against the French. There is sufficient current reporting, however, to leave little doubt that the same pattern of activity is still being followed.

4. Viet Minh documents captured during the Indochina war frequently dealt with a program to raise rural living standards--the "new life" program. Such documents often contained statistics on the establishment of schools, numbers of children and adults in school, medical dispensaries, numbers of trained medical aides and midwives, sanitation efforts including numbers of wells and latrines dug, and food and livestock production. This effort and various other governmental activities were carried out under the authority of Administrative-Resistance Councils set up at the regional, provincial, district, and town levels.

5. A similar Viet Cong hierarchy of military, politico-administrative, and Liberation Front Committees now exists in South Vietnam, but Viet Cong troops themselves are frequently the agents of both governmental and civic-action tasks. While force and terrorism remain a major Viet Cong instrument against local officials of the South Vietnamese Government and recalcitrant villagers, recently captured Viet Cong documents clearly show that Viet Cong troops and agents are ordered to provide assistance to peasants and to avoid antagonisms and abuses, such as looting or violation of churches and pagodas.

6. A Communist land reform program in South Vietnam, begun by the Viet Minh, is still being carried out under the Viet Cong, but some difficulties have been encountered. This is reflected in the attitude of the Liberation Front, which watered down its initial emphasis on land reform, although free and unconditional distribution of land to poor peasants is still a part of its platform. Informants and Viet Cong prisoners indicate that early attempts by the Viet Cong to force "middle-class" peasants to give land to the poor were too harsh, caused peasant disputes and loss of production, and depleted the source of funds available for peasant loans and for support of Viet Cong troops. As a result, there appears to have been some modification of Viet Cong land reform activities to lessen pressure on "middle-class" peasants and encourage higher production. Although there are some references to communal farms, the Viet Cong do not appear to have stressed land collectivization in South Vietnam, where popular reaction to North Vietnam's brutal agrarian reform policies has been adverse.

7. Current reports also indicate that the Viet Cong provide assistance to peasants in land clearance, seed distribution, and harvesting, and in turn persuade or force peasants to store rice in excess of their own needs for the use of guerrilla troops. Controls are apparently imposed in Viet Cong zones to prevent shipments for commercial marketing in Saigon, or to collect taxes on such shipments. The Viet Cong themselves often pay cash or give promissory notes for the food they acquire.

8. Little detailed information is available on current Communist health and sanitation activities. Captured Viet Cong doctors or medical personnel indicate that dispensaries for treatment of Viet Cong wounded often are scattered inconspicuously among several peasant homes in a village, and that civilians are treated as facilities and supplies permit. Civilians as well as guerrilla forces are almost certainly instructed in methods of sanitation and disease prevention, but apparent shortages of medical personnel and medicines in some areas suggest that medical care for civilians in Viet Cong-dominated areas may be spotty.

9. There are also references to primary and adult education, much of it in the form of indoctrination, and to Viet Cong-run schools operating almost side by side with government schools, under the excuse that peasants lack the necessary documentation required to enter government schools. A Liberation Front broadcast of 19 November 1963 claimed that there were some 1,000 schools with 2 million pupils in "freed areas" of South Vietnam. These figures are doubtless exaggerated, but may be a gauge of a fairly extensive Communist educational effort.

10. A standard Viet Cong technique of gaining a foothold among tribal minorities in the highland areas of South Vietnam-where Communist encouragement of tribal autonomy gives them a political appeal-has been to select promising tribesmen, take them to North Vietnam for training in welfare activities as well as for political indoctrination, and return them to tribal villages where their new skills tend to assure them positions of prestige and leadership.

11. The Viet Cong also promote cultural activities-heavily flavored with propaganda--through press, radio and film media, as well as live drama and festivals. A student informant reported attending dramatic performances in a Viet Cong-held area, where plays, song, and dances provided entertainment and a dose of propaganda--often enthusiastically received.

12. There is little firm information about the Viet Cong effort to develop "combat hamlets." They appear to exist in areas where control by either side is missing or tenuous, and sometimes are located near government "strategic hamlets." Reports indicate that, like strategic hamlets, they are fortified externally, and their inhabitants are carefully trained in defensive procedures and escape routes, often interrelated with other nearby hamlets. Similar defensive systems have long prevailed in Viet Cong-controlled areas, although Viet Cong installations themselves may be innocent looking and easily evacuated buildings or huts.

13. A Viet Cong document discussing the successful construction of a "combat hamlet" indicates that primary stress is laid on determining the basic wants and needs of the inhabitants-frequently their concern for their own land. Propaganda is directed at convincing them that the government is threatening their interests, that defensive measures must be taken, and finally that offensive actions against government officials and troops are needed. The peasants presumably come to regard the Viet Cong as their protectors and to cooperate voluntarily with the Viet Cong military effort.


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

Saigon, November 30, 1963, 4 a.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 26 S VIET. Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution. Repeated to Phnom Penh, Vientiane, Bangkok, and CINCPAC.

1093. CINCPAC for POLAD. Conversation with General Minh Saturday a.m. Nov 30.

1. I told him of President Johnson's determination to continue U.S. help to V.N.'s struggle for freedom, which he much appreciated.

2. He said recent Viet Cong successes, especially the daytime attacks, were due to VC infiltration of GVN units, notably of the Special Forces. This had been going on for two years with the connivance of Nhu who in his last days had appealed directly to the Viet Cong for help. Of this they have proof. Also the Viet Cong had been engaged in selling charcoal to the Government of Viet Nam for a long time.

3. Minh was now engaged in cleaning out the infiltrators, getting rid of the politically appointed non-commissioned officers and bringing the capable officers into the key places.

4. These recent experiences have taught them that in every case the people have left the bad Strategic Hamlets and have returned to their old homes close to their own fields, but that the people have stayed in the good Strategic Hamlets.

5. The Viet Cong were taking advantage of the change of government to capitalize on all that they had gained under the former regime.

6. For the future the GVN intended to base themselves on the good Strategic Hamlets. The efforts to construct Strategic Hamlets had been spread much too thin and instead of allocating 20,000 plasters for each Strategic Hamlet he wanted to concentrate a larger sum of money on a few that were really good. He had already spoken to Brent about this.

7. He wanted the creation of a U.S. team to work with their teams as a "braintrust". He realized that Nhu had kept the Americans at arm's length. They, however, had nothing to hide and wanted to have us understand all the details of their operations as much as possible.

8. Both he and General Kim who was present throughout attached great importance to what they had accomplished with the Hoa Hao's and Cao Dai's. He said there were two million Hoa Hao's. They were rabidly anti-Communist, they knew the country and were a great asset. Diem had lost them by trying to force them into becoming Christians.

9. He said he was still not satisfied with the intelligence he was getting and wanted American help in this regard.

10. The number one priority was Saigon, Cholon and the Delta. He wanted to make an "oil spot" type of operation-something which would spread out. They could not be strong everywhere. They would organize this area with three Generals two of whom were General Phat and General Thieu whose power was delegated from that of General Dinh. The third was General Co. They had complete authority over the province chiefs and district delegates as regards military matters.

11. On the matter of Cambodia they wanted us to find out whether the Thais were supporting the Khmer Serei. FYI Please advise me.

12. Also did any U.S. Government activity of any kind help Diem's regime to get the Khmer Serei broadcast started. FYI Please advise.

13. Kim asked this question: If Sihanouk is proven to be a Communist, will the United States put a nationalist in power in Cambodia? What will the United States do? FYI What, if anything, should I say to this?

14. They expect the Laotian Army to send a delegation to visit Viet Nam in the near future and are looking forward to it.

15. I again brought up the question of Ngo Dinh Can and was told that they had no intention whatever of killing him and I got the distinct impression that if the tribunal should sentence him to death there was a good chance he would get clemency.

16. There was no doubt at all that these men are most eager to get on with the war and intend to leave no stone unturned. But, in order to show our eagerness, I said that I hoped to be in a position on my next trip to the United States to make a public statement on their accomplishments and also to appear before the Senate and House in a position to point to concrete results and not just to talk about intentions and hopes. When General Minh asked me when I hoped to do this I set the date ahead about a month of what I really plan and said at the end of January. He and General Kim looked at each other but didn't reject that date as impossible so maybe there'll be something by the end of February.



335. Central Intelligence Agency Information Report/1/


Washington, December 2, 1963.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vietnam Memos. Secret; Routine; No Foreign Dissem/No Dissem Abroad/Controlled Dissem Background Use Only. A note on the source text indicates this information was acquired in Saigon on and before November 30; as it was commentary, it was unappraised. Also published in Declassified Documents, 1975, 56 E.

Situation Appraisal as of 30 November 1963

1. This is a field appraisal of the current situation. It is not an official judgment by this Agency or any component thereof. It represents the observations and interpretations of a staff officer based on information available to him at the time of its preparation. Prepared for internal use as a guide to the operational environment, this commentary is disseminated in the belief that it may be useful to other agencies in assessing the situation for their own purposes.

2. Although the Viet Cong (VC) overall incident rate continued to decline this week, enemy activity remained well above normal levels and included several significant successes. Perhaps the most notable VC success was the apparently unimpeded entry of a 300-man force into the US Special Forces civilian irregular defense training camp at Hiep Hoa, Hau Nghia Province, on 24 November. The circumstances behind this VC victory, which resulted in sizeable casualties (including the presumed capture of four Americans) and weapons losses, are not entirely clear, but there is evidence that security arrangements were inadequate; betrayal by some of the strike forces elements within the camp itself is also a possibility. The heaviest enemy activity continued to center on the 5th, 7th, and 9th Division areas, but other areas also responded with higher than usual levels of action to obvious Hanoi orders to exert heavy pressure on the new regime before it had adequate time in which to get organized.

3. The intensive activity of the VC this month has thus far failed of its apparent purpose of inducing panic in the new regime; nevertheless it has demonstrated a continuing, and in some areas an enhanced, enemy capability for sustaining a high level of activity over a period of time spanning several weeks. Perhaps even more disturbing than the VC's continued offensive abilities is evidence of a growing defensive capability against air-supported assault by government forces. A government operation on 24-25 November in reaction to a VC attack in An Xuyen Province encountered heavy fire from what is believed to have been a VC anti-aircraft company prepositioned in anticipation with the result that a number of aircraft were damaged or destroyed. The anti-aircraft fire also helped prevent the operation, once the troops landed, from developing the momentum necessary to close off the VC defenders' avenues of escape. In another area of the Delta, the government on 24 November captured two US 50 calibre machine guns mounted on anti-aircraft blocks, an anti-aircraft speed sight and a hand-held lead and range estimation device. With the exception of the machine guns, the equipment appears to be of Chinese Communist and/or Russian origin.

4. The assassination of President Kennedy has evoked strong emotions of sympathy in South Vietnam, the open articulation of which has undoubtedly been facilitated by the new atmosphere of greater friendship which has to date marked the post-coup period. In addition to an impressive memorial march by high school and university students on 25 November, memorial services at the Cathedral and at Xa Loi have been held in the presence of representatives of the Military Executive Council (MEC)--including Major General Duong Van Minh--and of the provisional government. The Saigon press, both vernacular and foreign language, has been full of expressions of sympathy and of confidence that the American-Vietnamese relationship will continue close under President Lyndon B. Johnson.

5. MEC Chairman Minh on 23 November signed a decree fixing the statute of the Consultative Council of Sages. The new council will consist of from "40 to 80 members selected from circles representing all nationalist tendencies and walks of life," who will participate at the invitation of General Minh. One feature of the statute which is not likely to sit well with some political leaders is the powers given to Nguyen Ngoc Tho, in his capacity as Prime Minister, in relation to the council's work. Several politicians had previously complained in private that Tho was maneuvering to give his mostly southern associates disproportionate representation in the projected council. The membership of the new council does not appear to have been finally decided; there is one report that the Generals have rejected a proposed first list sent up to the MEC, presumably by Tho. Several prominent nationalist politicians, meanwhile, appear to question the realism of the suggestion made by some advisors of the MEC that a two party system be established in South Vietnam; a position which would seem to receive considerable support from the fact that some seventeen groups have already applied to the MEC for permission to form parties.

6. In this initial post-coup shakedown period, it is difficult to trace out the lines of policy implementation within the MRC. Although the triumvirate of Minh and Major Generals Le Van Kim and Tran Van Don appears to exercise overall control and is the source of most of the policy guidance, the inner workings, both vertically and horizontally, of the MEC below this level remain obscure, especially in question of the degree to which the Minh-Kim-Don combine is privy of and controls the day to day activities of the other Generals in their respective spheres of responsibility. Slippage between the generally well intended policy lines laid down by the MEC leaders and actual implementation seems the greatest in connection with the handling of police affairs by Maj. Gen. Mai Huu Xuan, who continues to pack the Directorate-General and police with old cronies, some of whom are of questionable repute, and to pursue with perhaps greater than necessary zeal the roundup for questioning of officials connected with the Diem regime. In the Ministry of Information, Brig. Gen. Tran Tu Oai is taking a considerably less liberal view of freedom of the press than that apparently held by Minh and his immediate associates, reportedly having outlined to editors a fairly extensive list of taboo subjects.

7. Field dissem. State (Ambassador Lodge) USMACV (General Harkins), CINCPAC PACAF ARPAC PACFLT.


336. Memorandum From President Johnson to the Secretary of State/1/

Washington, December 2, 1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, S/S-NSC Files: Lot 72 D 316, NSAMs. Secret.

In our conversation this morning,/2/ we did not have time to get to South Vietnam. I continue to think that it is a matter of the highest importance that we should get an absolutely first-class Deputy Chief of Mission for Ambassador Lodge. I count on having your recommendation before the end of the week, and just as an example of the standard I am hoping to set, let me say to you privately that I have heard very good things of William H. Sullivan and Norbert L. Anschuetz, who is now in Paris.

/2/Rusk met the President at the White House at noon. (Johnson Library, Dean Rusk Appointment Book) No other record of the conversation has been found.

I note in Lodge's 1093/3/ that Big Minh talks about the creation of a U.S. team to work as a brain trust. If it can be done quietly, this seems to me a very good idea, and I think we ought to ask Lodge promptly for his recommendations on the size, structure and composition of such a team. Then if he responds, we ought to get the right people to him just as fast as we can.

/3/Document 334.

I am planning to have a meeting on this whole Vietnam matter next week, and I am asking Bundy to get out the necessary interdepartmental guidance, but I send this memorandum because I feel that you and I must be closely in touch and right on top of this situation all the way.

Lyndon B. Johnson


337. Memorandum From President Johnson to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Taylor)/1/

Washington, December 2, 1963.

/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 69 A 3131, Vietnam 210. Secret.

The more I look at it, the more it is clear to me that South Vietnam is our most critical military area right now. I hope that you and your colleagues in the loins Chiefs of Staff will see to it that the very best available officers are assigned to General Harkins' command in all areas and for all purposes. We should put our blue ribbon men on this job at every level./2/

/2/The President sent a similar memorandum to McCone, December 2, which reads as follows:
"The more I look at South Vietnam, the more I think we must be very quick and firm in getting the best possible men on the job. I did not understand from our last conversation whether you mean to put in a top-notch man, in place of Richardson, or whether you mean to promote the man on the spot. My own conviction is that this job requires the best and most experienced man we can find, and I would hope to have your definite recommendation within the next few days." Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Memos and Misc.)

Lyndon B. Johnson


338. Letter From M. Lyall Breckon of the Vietnam Working Group to the First Secretary of the Embassy in Vietnam (Miller)/1/

Washington, December 2, 1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 67 D 54, POL 27 Coups, Rebellion, Insurgency. Secret; Official-Informal.

Dear Bob: We were intrigued, in your interesting memorandum of a conversation with [less than 1 line not declassified], November 17,/2/ at [less than 1 line not declassified] statement that friends of his had seen papers indicating the late Brother Nhu had reached an advanced point in negotiations with the DRV and that terms had been set under which Ho Chi Minh would be President of reunified Viet-Nam, and Nhu Vice President. Both for the historical record and as an indication of how eager the DRV was for a negotiated settlement, it would be interesting to have further details or even copies of such papers. Do you think it would be feasible to pursue the matter, either with [less than 1 line not declassified] or through CAS channels? It seems curious that the Generals have not made public the proof they say they have ("Big" Minh to the Ambassador November 30, Embtel 1093, for example/3/) of Nhu's dealings with the North, as further justification for the coup.

/2/ Attached but not printed.

/3/Document 334.

From various references I gather [less than 1 line not declassified] interests have taken a strong political turn. Please remember us to him and [less than 1 line not declassified].

Incidentally, on the subject of the ancien regime, you might be interested to know the New York Times yesterday published two pictures of the bodies of Diem and Nhu. They were radiophotos, however, and scarcely recognizable.

Claire joins me in sending our best regards to you, Kaity, and the children. We hope you survived the change of government without trauma. Our own chagrin at leaving two months too early is still very much alive./4/

/4/No reply has been found.

Yours very truly,
M. Lyall Breckon/5/

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


339. Editorial Note

On December 2, 1963, General Harkins made the following announcement:

"On December 3 the first increment of approximately 300 U.S. military personnel will be withdrawn from the Republic of Vietnam. They will be followed during the next two or three weeks by another 700, making a total reduction in force of 1000 before the end of 1963.

"The fact that this reduction can be made at this time reflects much credit on both the American Advisory and Support personnel and their Vietnamese counterparts who have assimilated knowledge and techniques in a most commendable manner. The training of Vietnamese personnel has progressed to the point where the withdrawal of some US forces is possible."

The full text of the statement is in Department of the Army telegram DA 946750 to Saigon, November 30; Johnson Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country File. Also published in Declassified Documents, 1976, 156 D.


340. Telegram From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Commander in Chief, Pacific (Felt)/1/

Washington, December 2, 1963, 4:48 p.m.

/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 71 A 6489, Viet Sensitive. Top Secret. Drafted by Krulak. Repeated for information to Harkins.

JCS 3799. Eyes only for Admiral Felt and General Harkins.

1. At a meeting of the JCS and SecDef the following conclusions were reached from the evidence available here concerning the military situation in South Vietnam. Your comments are requested:

a. The GVN desires to respond to US advice and to improve its operational effectiveness. It has the capability to do so and its plans are basically sound, but it is in a state of orRanizationa1 turmoil.

b. The VC are making an intensive effort to increase their hold on the countryside while the new government is shaking down.

c. The VC have exhibited a powerful capability for at least a brief period of intensified operations, and their skill in counter-airborne operations is improving.

d. There is ground for concern that infiltration of materiel has increased, but little hard proof. This is a prime intelligence deficiency. It affects not only military tactics but our over-all Southeast Asia strategy.

2. If these conclusions are valid they generate several questions:

a. What specifically is being done to increase the intensity of GVN offensive activity to the 20 day per month level contemplated in the National Campaign Plan? What are the prospects?

b. What specific steps are being taken to enhance the quality, effectiveness and number of the paramilitary forces in the critical Delta area? What is the progress?

c. Is there reason to be apprehensive that the junta is not able to control General Dinh? One report is that he blocked the proposed corps command shift. Should the junta be urged to take action against him?

d. What more can be done--in Vietnam, Washington or elsewhere--to give a clearer and more substantial picture of the infiltration situation?


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

Saigon, December 3, 1963, 11 a.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27-13 CAMB. Secret; Immediate; Limit Distribution. Repeated to Bangkok, London, Paris, Vientiane, Ottawa, Phnom Penh, New Delhi, Moscow, and CINCPAC. Passed to the White House.

1103. CINCPAC for POLAD. Deptel 884./2/ I am unable to predict new GVN's reaction to specific Cambodian neutrality proposal. But when I saw General Minh and General Kim on Saturday, they asked the US to say what our attitude would be if it were definitely proven that Sihanouk was, in fact, in the ChiCom camp (see my 1093)./3/ They also asked specifically whether we would try and remove Sihanouk and put in a "nationalist" Chief of State. They also stressed the fact that if Cambodia were truly neutral, with the result that the frontier would be truly sealed off, the war against the Viet Cong would be immensely helped.

/2/In telegram 884, December 1, the Department of State instructed the Embassies in Saigon and Bangkok to convey to their host governments U.S. views on Sihanouk's proposal for a conference on Cambodian neutrality. Generally the Department favored the proposal. (Ibid.)

/3/Document 334.

In view of this very forthright expression of their position, I wonder whether the Department wants me to go back to them at this time. Certainly, before I do so, I need further clarification. While I see the merit of some of the arguments advanced in Deptel 884, it seems to me that the instruction glosses over some fundamental points.

The basic point about the Cambodian proposal is that it is not aimed at Communist encroachment in Southeast Asia but rather at giving Sihanouk international assurances against encroachment by Vietnam and Thailand. (The United States is now also accused and, as I note that we are not prepared to participate in a conference so long as the Cambodian charges stand, it would not be surprising if Vietnam and Thailand should take a similar stance.)

Given the fact that Sihanouk's proposal is clearly and openly aimed at his neighbors, it follows that he will not be satisfied unless we and the other Geneva powers give him some kind of assurance against what he seems to be really afraid of: Vietnamese and/or Thai aggression. Unfortunately, in Vietnamese eyes, this would appear to be siding with a country fully prepared to collaborate with the Communists against a country engaged in a bitter armed struggle against Communist aggression.

Moreover, if we fall in with Sihanouk's proposal in the face of patent blackmail, we shall do ourselves incalculable damage in this country and, I should think, in other Far East countries which are stoutly anti-Communist. If we put Sihanouk in a position to involve us in consultations with Communist powers regarding alleged threats to Cambodian neutrality and territorial integrity on the part of anti-Communist countries in the area--and I do not think we could realistically expect to leave the conference table having conceded less than this--we shall undermine the confidence of the new Vietnamese leadership in the firmness of our purpose here and play into the hands of the advocates of neutralism for South Vietnam.

Finally, I think that rather than improving the chances of bilateral cooperation between Cambodia and Vietnam--which holds out our best chance for sealing the border--Sihanouk's conference proposal would have the reverse effect. So long as Sihanouk thinks that there is a chance of sheltering under a big power umbrella and blackmailing us regularly, he is not likely to come to terms bilaterally with his neighbors. This may be, incidentally, one reason why he has deliberately failed to take advantage of the improved attitude of Vietnam toward Cambodia.

As for the ICC, given its composition and its dependence on Cambodian cooperation for its effectiveness, I do not think that we could realistically expect it to seal off the border. On past performance, Sihanouk would wish to use it only to verify Vietnamese encroachments and the Poles could be counted on to see that it was not used in such a way as to interfere seriously with Viet Cong activities.

I would appreciate the Department's comments on the above. I realize the pressures that are on us to participate in the conference and the risk that, if we do not, Sihanouk may make further irrational moves, including calling in the Chinese Communists. The latter would evidently confront us with grave decisions. It is a risk, however, which seems to me worth taking rather than accepting the near certainty of a serious deterioration of our position in South Vietnam if we yield to Sihanouk's blackmail. We are also under pressure from the GVN and we have an overriding interest in keeping their morale high in view of the major military effort we are rightly demanding of them.



342. Letter From the Ambassador in Vietnam (Lodge) to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Harriman)/1/

Saigon, December 3, 1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 72 D 219, TIGER Basic File. Secret; Eyes Only.

Dear Averell: This relates to our conversation/2/ concerning the putting of pressure on North Viet-Nam with a view to making a sort of Tito/3/ out of Ho Chi Minh.

/2/No record of this conversation has been found.

/3/President of the Republic of Yugoslavia, Josip Broz Tito.

First, as you requested, I enclose the text of the notes from which I read.

Secondly, it has occurred to me that one possible channel would be from me to d'Orlandi, the Italian Ambassador here, from d'Orlandi to Maneli, the Polish representative on the I.C.C., and from Maneli to Pham Van Dong or Ho Chi Minh.

I have gotten to know d'Orlandi very well and believe he can be trusted. He is also an extremely precise man and well able to handle an idea in all its various refinements and shadings. This is something for you to consider. I realize you may have a better way.

With all my best wishes,
As ever yours,
Cabot L.



Saigon, October 30, 1963.


/4/Secret; Eyes Only. Reviewing his papers after retiring as Assistant secretary of state for Far Eastern Affairs, William P. Bundy described this proposal by Lodge as follows: "A bizarre aberration. Never considered or taken seriously by anyone, so far as I know." (Department of state, Bundy Files, Chronology, 1964)

This is a proposal for study and analysis in Washington in the light of the much greater store of information available there. While it does not purport to be a finished proposal, I hope it will stimulate thinking, which will eventually lead to such a proposal.

H.C. Lodge

1. The McNamara-Taylor judgment, announced at the White House on October 2,/5/ that the U.S. could complete the major part of its task in South Viet-Nam (SVN) by 1965, with the implication that withdrawal of most U.S. military personnel would then be possible, could create an opportunity for a U.S. demarche toward North Viet-Nam (NVN).

/5/See Document 170.

2. This paper seeks to describe this opportunity. It therefore does not consider the merits of the question of whether or not the U.S. should withdraw by 1965. And, it certainly does not foreclose our right not to withdraw if this seems like the prudent course to follow at the time.

3. There are straws in the wind which indicate that there is an off-chance that the present may be a favorable moment for such a demarche. One is the apprehension in NVN, so frequently reported, concerning an increase in ChiCom influence because of the Sino-Soviet split. Another is the acute food shortage. Still another would be found in [document number not declassified],/6/ if true, regarding the departure of Soviet technicians. Finally, there is a remark made by the North Viet-Nam Ambassador to Laos on September 16 to UPI reporter Ray Herndon. After Herndon had asked the Ambassador whether NVN would be interested in negotiating with SVN, the latter is reported to have replied: "Why deal with the son when we can deal with the father?" (The "son" being SVN and the "father" being the U.S.)

/6/Not found.

4. What follows is also not a scheme to unify North and South Viet-Nam; it is still less a scheme to neutralize South Viet-Nam. On the contrary, it aims at a ChiCom rollback; it is a move towards neutralizing NVN alone; it should tend to strengthen the anti-Communist position in SVN; it seeks to contend with the Communists over what they (the Communists) have rather than contending with them over what we have.

5. Now for the proposal itself. If, pursuant to the McNamara-Taylor announcement, we undertake a definitive withdrawal of U.S. troops from Viet-Nam, to be completed by a certain date, we will be doing something which NVN strongly desires. We should, therefore, seek maximum leverage from such withdrawal and use it to put pressure on and to obtain concessions from NVN. Available information indicates NVN strongly desires U.S. troop withdrawal.

6. They should, therefore, be made to pay for it and not give it to them for nothing. One concession we should insist on would be cessation of support for Viet Cong and Pathet Lao. (I doubt that they could bring about a VC cease fire, even if they tried--unless it was a mutual cease fire, involving both VC and GVN.)

7. I do not visualize a neutralized and united Viet-Nam; on the contrary, I look for a militantly anti-Communist SVN with a Yugoslavia-like neutralist nation to the north. I do not propose a negotiation; I propose that they be told: U.S. would like to unload--if terms were right-perhaps leave some economic aid, but withdraw troops, provided NVN stops supplying Viet Cong and Pathet Lao and tries for a cease fire. A long-term food agreement might be possible.

From another quarter they could be told that if they don't stop aid to VC and PL, they will suffer.

One example of what we might hope for from such a demarche would be sealed borders into Laos and South Viet-Nam in the manner of the Greek-Yugoslav border at the time of the civil war there. Surely this would make our work in SVN very much more manageable.

8. As a carrot to NVN, substantial offers of food support, both from the U.S. and SVN, might be tendered. As a stick, NVN could be informed that American patience with their continued support of VC and Pathet Lao is wearing thin and that their supply bases supporting Communist efforts in Laos and SVN may not be indefinitely permitted to operate from the sanctuary of NVN. Perhaps this point would be made believable if CAS were one night to destroy one NVN supply depot. Others better informed than I must estimate risk which this action would incur of bringing more ChiCom influence into NVN than is there already.

9. Other thoughts on the matter: The neutralization of NVN might be attractive to the Soviet Union, as counterbalancing the ChiCom influence in Albania. Our reputation among Communists for impatience and impulsiveness might make our proposal plausible to a North Viet-Nam official who is looking for something with which to counter ChiCom hegemony. Also, Ho Chi Minh has a unique prestige and may be one of the few who could pull off such a change of course. Perhaps we should hurry up and try to use him while he is still around. The report from French Delegate General at Hanoi (Paris No. 55, November 13/7/) quoting Pham Van Dong as saying U.S. will tire of fight may mean that McNamara-Taylor report has convinced NVN we really might get out and thus makes this proposal particularly believable.

/7/Reference is to telegram 2324 from Paris, repeated to Saigon as telegram 55, November 13. It reported that French sources indicated that DRV Prime Minister Pham Van Dong stated that the coup in Saigon was a "step in the right direction," and that the "U.S. would tire of the fighting and in that case DRV would show itself as supple as it is now rigid. It is still not the moment for negotiations." (Department of State, Central Files, POL 32-4 VIET) The reference to this November 13 cable in a document dated October 30 leads to the conclusion that Lodge revised this paper after October 30 to include the Dong remarks.

10. Is it not doubtful that SVN can ever know true peace and tranquillity without neutralization of NVN? And if NVN, thinking that they are winning in SVN, rejects what is here proposed, what have we lost? We will not, in case these ideas lead to nothing, have in any way prejudiced our right to keep our troops in SVN after 1965 if this seems like the wise thing to do at the time.


343. Telegram From the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Harkins) to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Taylor)/1/

Saigon, December 4, 1963, 11 a.m.

/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 71 A 6489, Viet Sensitive. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Also sent to CINCPAC eyes only for Felt.

MAC J00 9294. Eyes only for Admiral Felt and General Taylor. A. JCS 3799 DTG 022148Z./2/ Following keyed to paras of Ref A.

/2/Document 340.

1.a. Concur. It is view of Gen Don it will be another month before organizational turmoil subsides and modification basic plans effected. I am inclined to agree.

1.b. Concur. VC are expending every effort to capitalize on turmoil resultant from coup. They have been effective in attaining this objective however definite reduction in their activity can be noted in the last week. VC incidents this week dropped to 518 from 666 and attacks dropped to 84 from 106.

1.c. Concur in part. VC have demonstrated capability at least for brief period of making intensified effort. Intensity of operations has resulted in some gains in some areas of the country side. Reports from corps area yesterday indicate no strat hamlet occupied or attacked by VC during post coup. Intensified opns continue under VC control in I, II and IV Corps. In III Corps 8 strat hamlets in Kien Tuong Prov recently occupied by VC remain under their control. Consider also that possibly all of anti GVN activity may not properly be attributed to VC. At least some of past activity may be result of activity of dissident elements. Concur VC have improved skill in counter-airborne operations basically because of more targets, better weapons, and intensified training.

1.d. Share your concern that infiltration of materiel has increased. This is not situation which can be classified as post coup as indicators this regard have been apparent for some time. Have hard proof of increase in this area and while it not overly alarming as to intensity it is significant. Agree that it has effect not only on military tactics but also on our over-all SE Asia strategy. Recent study prepared this subject and submitted to Ambassador for transmittal to Sec State./3/Copies being provided JCS and CINCPAC.

/3/Not identified.

2.a. To date little has been accomplished toward increasing the intensity of GVN offensive activity to the statistical 20 day per month level. The drop in intensity which occurred in immediate post coup period has been substantially restored; however, anticipated increase in intensity has not as yet been realized. Believe note should be taken here that statistical level of operational intensity is not necessarily the best indicator of operational effectiveness. The development and execution of comprehensive opnl plans and the freeing of elements tied to static defensive positions has commanded the principal attention of the senior comdrs. Avowed aims of MRC are qualitative improvement and intensification of opns. Believe prospects are good for ultimate realization these objectives; however, as indicated in para 1.a. above Gen Don holds view that another month will be required before MRC has weathered reorganization. RVN revision of basic plan nearing completion.

2.b. In the 7th, 9th and 21st Division areas the following steps have been accomplished or are planned to improve para-military forces:

(1) The elimination of small outposts and watchtowers is proceeding apace under leadership of Gen Co, and until yesterday Col Dong of 7th. Co's basic plan is to move the SDC from outposts into hamlets depriving VC of lucrative targets and providing interim defense of hamlets without militia. CG freed from outposts will be formed into mobile units.

(2) Senior comdrs in Delta realize that CG and SDC units which have been on static defense missions must be retrained. Facilities for such retraining exist and it is being programmed.

(3) Very little training and arming of hamlet militia has been accomplished since 1 Nov due reevaluation entire program and wholesale changes in province chiefs. Prospects for progress in the positioning of effective defenders for hamlets is good.

(4) JGS is ready to inaugurate an eight week training course for militia squad leaders. Program to start soon as criteria for selection of the leaders is agreed upon.

(5) As reported separately/4/ GVN is conducting negotiations with Hoa Hao who extend through central Delta. GVN hope is that Hoa Hao will extend ranks of the CG, SDC, border surveillance units and contribute more effective hamlet militia. Gen Minh feels that Hoa Hao SF units can be utilized in Camau Peninsula.

/4/Not found.

(6) MRC also entertain hopes of rallying Catholics and Cao Dai in Kien Hoa, many of whom live beyond trace of strategic hamlets. Concept is to arm those who are willing to defend their communities against VC.

2.c. While there is no doubt in my mind that the junta as a group are keeping their eyes on Gen Dinh to insure that he does not get out of line, I do not subscribe to the rumor or supposition that they are unable to control him. Report you cite that he blocked the proposed corps command shift while fairly widely quoted has to my knowledge no valid basis and at this point can only be classified as supposition. Do not believe we should interpose at this time to encourage junta to take action against Dinh. Do feel that his dual responsibilities as III Corps Comdr and Minister of Security are too much for one man and have and will continue to suggest that he be relieved of his responsibilities as III Corps Comdr so that his full efforts may be devoted to his ministerial responsibilities.

2.d. In-country efforts toward giving a clearer and more substantial picture of the infiltration situation encompass better utilization and control of border surveillance, mountain scout, strike force and other elements. Believe progress in this area underway incident to consolidation of former CAS supported elements under MACV and delegation by JGS of control all such elements to corps comdrs.

Significant requirement this regard is lifting of current restrictions on cross border aerial photo recce either by in-country or other aircraft to include Cambodia, Laos, and DRV. Lifting of restrictions on use of US personnel in cross border collection operations would help. More direct access to US collection resources SEA would provide for concentration of effort. Proposal for use of attaches this area in preparation. Steps already taken to obtain CAS assistance.

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

Saigon, December 4, 1963, 2 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27-13 CAMB. Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution.

1107. For Harriman from Lodge. Embassy telegram 1103./2/ The more I think about the proposed conference on Cambodia, as described in Dept's telegrams, the more disastrous I think it would be to the war to help the Republic of Viet-Nam to win and then maintain its independence from Communist aggression. I say this for the following reasons:

/2/Document 341.

1. It is inconceivable to me that a conference like this could do other than foment and encourage the neutralism which is always present in varying degrees here in South Viet-Nam. People here will say: "First there was Laos; now there is Cambodia; tomorrow it will be Viet-Nam." Obviously, any encouragement of neutralism must impair the war effort.

2. If this conference is held, it will be impossible to avoid consideration of all the Southeast Asian questions, including particularly the unification of North and South Viet-Nam. I recognize the wise desire expressed in Deptel to limit conference scope but doubt whether it can be done. And this emphatically is not the time even to discuss the question of unifying North and South Viet-Nam. The present is the time to strengthen the anti-Communist free world character of South Viet-Nam and to seek to detach, as best we can, North Viet-Nam from Communist China--somewhat as Yugoslavia was detached from the Soviet Union. I admit that Yugoslavia was in a better position to be detached than North Viet-Nam is, but this is nonetheless the direction in which we ought to work now--if only as a preparatory stage to something else. It would be most imprudent to consider the unification of North and South Viet-Nam until South Viet-Nam is in a position of superior strength at the conference table and obviously this state of affairs is not now even in sight.

3. The French will be present at the Cambodian conference and this will naturally put them in a position to hamper all of our major policy objectives here which, without a conference, they could not do since they have put no money and no men into the game and are totally without chips. Why we should hand them this juicy favor by putting them into the game I do not see, particularly in light of the fact, as Dept recognized in Deptel 800,/3/ French and U.S. policy on divergent paths.

/3/In telegram 800 to Paris, November 15, the Department of State provided the following information:
"It is quite clear French (De Gaulle) and US policy moving along divergent paths Viet-Nam. If French wish, at least initially, to neglect apparently considerable potential influence they might have with new GVN by non-recognition, that is regrettable. However, since present thrust of French advice to GVN likely to be in direction of neutral 'solution', we see no great loss in delay in resumption Franco-Vietnamese relations." (Department of State, Central Files, POL 16 S VIET)

4. An agreement to protect South Viet-Nam's neutralists from infiltration from Cambodia which was actually enforced by an efficacious border Patrol would have merit, but I have seen no serious suggestion that there is even a possibility of this. If there were a possibility of it, a conference would probably not be necessary to bring it about.

5. I am sure the ChiComs support conference as a step toward helping the Viet Cong in South Viet-Nam, even though I realize praiseworthy motives of conference advocates.

6. We should not go into a conference without being clear in our minds as to how we are most likely to come out of it. We should make up our minds what, as an absolute minimum, we must gain from the conference and what, as an absolute minimum, we must avoid. We should then see how many conferees we can count on. All these calculations should precede a decision.

7. Giving our opponents (i.e., ChiComs, et al) an opportunity to open up an attack on our ally (South Viet-Nam) does not seem like a good way to get on with the war.

8. I dislike differing with conference advocates in U.S. Govt for whom I have such a high regard and with whom I usually agree. I recognize there may be things I do not know. But the above is how it looks to me here in Saigon.

9. It looks as though we were at last getting into a good posture here to get some really solid success in the prosecution of the war. We and the Vietnamese have put both blood and treasure into it. Our joint effort here deserves every chance of success.



345. Telegram From the Commander in Chief, Pacific (Felt) to the Joint Chiefs of Staff/1/

Honolulu, December 4, 1963, 7 p.m.

/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 71-A-6489, Viet Sensitive. Top Secret; Routine. Repeated for information to the White House eyes only for Bundy; to the Department of State eyes only for Rusk, Ball, Harriman, and Hilsman; and to the CIA for McCone and Helms. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 S VIET, and Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vietnam Cables) Also published in Declassified Documents, 1976, 250D.

DTG 050500Z. Situation in RVN. A. COMUSMACV DTG 040300Z./2/

/2/Document 343.

1. I have reviewed ref A and am in general agreement. In certain areas, and para 1 a is a prime example, it is impossible to make an expert judgment at this time.

2. I believe Viet Cong has focus on GVN's state of organizational turmoil and will strive to utmost to exploit the circumstance to its advantage. First, Viet Cong is likely to maintain a high level of armed attacks so as to militarily discredit GVN. Second, there could be attempts by VC, using its own as well as "front elements," to provoke mass agitation. VC goal would be to generate agitation beyond manageable proportions by present government, thus forcing it to take repressive measures to restore order. Politically VC can be expected to try to create situations which will thrust serious challenges before new government while at the same time putting military pressure on it.

3. Militarily, VC antiaircraft firepower is growing.

4. A major problem before GVN is to reduce flow of VC materiel coming in from out of country sources. Assets listed in para 2d of ref A have had limited success in North but have been ineffectual in South. More strict control of Mekong and other waterways should be a priority objective. In view of present difficulties with Cambodia, there is no prospect of achieving control through political means and Cambodian/RVN cooperation. VC materiel infiltration by SEA into Cau Mau Peninsula deserves further attention.

5. In respect to border surveillance command and control consolidation under corps commands, two considerations apply:

a. Where there are ARVN units operating with CIDG units in an area on a regular basis, control should rest with the corps commander.

b. Where ARVN units are not operating with CIDG on a regular basis, following should be considered:

(1) Central operational control by special operational group (MACV, JGS, CAS) from Saigon.

(2) Provision for lateral liaison by CIDG/USAF (P)V at corps level for emergency assistance, logistics support, or coordinated operations to include relief operations and air strikes.

c. In both a and b situations provision should be made for rapid transmission of CIDG intelligence to corps commanders to enable them to take rapid action against VC whenever possible.

6. CAS reports on the Laos/RVN cross border patrols have not contained much info on locations of VC crossing points or any evidence of DRV support sites in Laos. I would attribute most of this failure to secure results to a lack of aggressiveness on the part of the patrol leaders. US advisors should be permitted to accompany the patrols for a certain distance into Laos and without continuous referral for approval to higher headquarters. Cross border patrols can only carry so much weight through the difficult terrain. If they are to make penetrations to adequate depths and to remain on site for observation purposes, they need to be resupplied by air. Walking around that part of the world takes time and observation can be extremely limited. We need tactical air recce to locate the most likely areas of VC activity that can then be thoroughly checked out and interdicted by ground units. Cold Tale photography of DRV and Laos are being run regularly. This photography and Able Mable photos of Laos give acceptable coverage of static installations and LOCs and are usable for planning operations. Wash DC restrictions prevent current use of US A/C for low-level time-sensitive tactical photography. Requirements for coverage of Cambodia can be included in Cold Tale missions.


346. Memorandum of Telephone Conversation Between the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Harriman) and the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)/1/

Washington, December 4, 1963, 10:40 p.m.

/1/Source: Library of Congress, Harriman Papers, Telephone Conversations. Transcribed by Dolores Perruso of Harriman's staff.

[Here follows discussion of matters unrelated to Vietnam.]

Bundy wanted the Gov to know that the President sent a memo to the Secretary/2/ saying how strongly he feels about getting a first-rate deputy for Lodge.

/2/Not found.

Harriman mentioned Nes.

Bundy said he got the Gov's memo of conversation with Lodge./3/

/3/A memorandum from Harriman to Bundy, December 3, describes the Harriman-Lodge discussion as follows:
"I am attaching a copy of a memorandum of my personal talk with Cabot Lodge, which for obvious reasons I am not distributing.
"You may want to show the President the last paragraph which relates to Cabot's personal political thoughts. (Sounds as if Cabot doesn't think much of the Republican chances next year.)" (Library of Congress, Harriman Papers, Bundy, McGeorge)
The memorandum of conversation between Lodge and Harriman has not been found.

Harriman said he rather agreed with Lodge about the military. Harriman said he was told Nes is a very good man--it is between Nes and Anschuetz.

Bill thinks of the two, Nes is the better. Harriman said he talked to Yost. Yost said he was good with military problems and confirmed what Lodge said about Libya. Harriman said Bill said what happened when he was there that caused confusion is that Lodge was taking things into his own hands. Harriman said if Lodge wants Nes, Nes is the best man to do the job. Harriman said he wouldn't support Nes unless he had satisfactory reports. A DCM job is an awful job to take. Nes would have the advantage of being Lodge's choice.

Bundy said Lodge didn't distinguish himself in his interview with the President. Bundy said he thought he was nervous. He thought Lodge may know that the President never thought much of him.

Harriman said it is too bad.

Bundy said he doesn't have the operation going.

Harriman said he was concerned about it. Harriman said he hoped Bundy wouldn't blame Trueheart.

Bundy said he had a high opinion of Trueheart. In the context of the circumstances everybody thought it was better to have a change.

[Here follows discussion unrelated to Vietnam.]


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

Washington, December 5, 1963.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Memos and Misc. Top Secret. Sent also to the Secretary of Defense, the Director of Central Intelligence, and the Administrator of the Agency for International Development.


Attached is a draft Memorandum to the President on the status of actions under National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) 273,/2/ and action recommendations for additional measures to win the war.

/2/Document 331.

This draft will be the basis of discussion at the meeting in the Department of State at 3 p.m., December 6, 1963.

It is not intended, at this stage, any of the agencies concerned to the precise views stated, although staff consultation has taken place.




The following actions have been taken pursuant to specified paragraphs of NSAM 273.

Paragraph 5. Action to place military emphasis on the Delta was begun based on findings of the McNamara-Taylor mission. An additional Vietnamese Division was shifted to the Delta. Since then, directives have been issued to COMUSMACV to implement an increase in military tempo, improve tactics, maintenance of full strength in combat elements, training and arming of hamlet militia, and a consolidation of the strategic hamlet program to bring the pace of construction to a level consistent with the Government's capability to provide essential protection and to introduce civic action programs.

Numerous AID actions have been taken designed to increase agricultural production in the Delta. These include an offer to finance a massive grant distribution of fertilizer, expanded grant distribution of pesticides, a program of rice seed multiplication and joint study of possible GVN policy changes affecting the economy of rice production. Additional action has been taken regarding intensification of the hamlet school program, retention of trained hamlet medics and the furnishing of generators and community radio sets.

Paragraph 6. AID has assured the GVN that, subject to Congressional appropriations, the United States will maintain the level of aid provided in FY'63 to the Diem government. Through the newly established Joint Committee on Economic Policy negotiations with the GVN have begun on desirable changes in GVN economic policies, and is using the leverage of commercial import financing to bring about these changes. [sic] Specifically, AID has proposed to the GVN a program of tax reform and enforcement, the draw-down of GVN exchange reserves up to $25 million a year, elimination of luxury imports, and measures to increase exports.

The Joint Staff has undertaken to determine the feasibility of establishing required reserve stocks of ammunition in Viet-Nam as US-owned stocks. The Director of Military Assistance is reviewing what immediate action can be taken in the interim period to establish US ammunition stocks in Viet-Nam. Additionally a study is underway to determine if economics can be made in the helicopter program as between MAP and service requirements. It has been determined that CINCPAC has authority to provide GVN forces serviceable, but not necessarily new materiels, and this should result in a reduction of MAP costs.

Paragraph 7. A joint CIA-Defense plan for intensified operations against North Viet-Nam, providing for selective actions of graduated scope and intensity, is being prepared in Saigon and is due in Washington by December 20.

Paragraph 8. It has been agreed between the Department of Defense and CIA that responsibility for support of paramilitary operations into southern Laos would pass from CAS to MACV. With this action a problem in the policy control and clearance of such politically sensitive operations clearly arises. What we do within Laos by such means can effect the viability of Souvanna Phouma's delicately balanced government in Laos as well as, less directly, the strength of Sihanouk's suspicions of US machinations near his borders.

The Country Team in Saigon has suggested that the following arrangement would protect US interests in the matter:

A. Establish a zone extending up to 50 kilometers into Laos from the border in which operations could be run without individual clearance.

B. MACV would undertake to inform Ambassador Lodge fully on plans and operations within this zone so that Ambassador Unger in Vientiane and the Department of State could be kept current on these activities.

C. Plans for operations outside the specified zone would require Washington clearance through both State and military channels.

This arrangement is acceptable to the Department of Defense and to the Central Intelligence Agency. Relevant suggestions by General Harkins include the desirability of cross-border aerial reconnaissance of Laos (as well as Cambodia and North Viet-Nam) and the use of US personnel in cross-border intelligence collection operations. These suggestions are endorsed by Admiral Felt.

The Department of State, recognizing the importance of obtaining all possible intelligence on Viet Minh infiltration routes through Laos, endorses the principle of a controlled increase in cross-border operations into Laos. However, it is unable to accept the Saigon Country Team recommendation on the ground that this fails to provide the close and continuing political guidance and clearance essential to all such operations if the broader interests of the US are to be protected. For this purpose not even the joint approval of the Ambassadors in Saigon and Vientiane is adequate; the broad overview available only in Washington is mandatory. The Department of State, therefore, recommends:

A. All cross-border operations into Laos be dependent upon clearance by the Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs, Department of State.

B. This clearance can be achieved by:

(1) Establishing a coordinating group in Saigon headed by an Embassy political officer (POLAD) assisted by one American and one Vietnamese Special Forces adviser.

(2) Developing joint US-Vietnamese cross-border plans by a joint border operations center established under respective US and Vietnamese Special Forces command.

(3) Plans would be submitted to the POLAD who would clear in the field with the US Embassies in Saigon and Vientiane and get final clearance from Washington.

Paragraph 9. US ability to influence Cambodia has been greatly reduced by Sihanouk's request for termination of US aid and by his continued charges of US complicity in Khmer Serei activities. Efforts to locate the Khmer Serei transmitters have not yet been conclusive, but they continue. [1 sentence (2 lines) not declassified] Meanwhile, the Cambodians have apparently adopted a less arbitrary attitude toward our aid termination. We have instructed our Ambassador to be forthcoming to the extent Cambodian intentions are sincere and in conformity with our legal requirements and our dignity. The situation has been further complicated by Sihanouk's call for an international conference to guarantee his neutrality. His proposal is directed at Viet-Nam and Thailand and has rendered the chances of Vietnamese initiative to improve relations with Cambodia almost nil. We are now consulting with our allies to help us determine what our response to Sihanouk's proposal should be.

Paragraph 10. MACV has prepared a report/4/ on Hanoi's control and supply of the Viet Cong, which is being forwarded after coordination with the Embassy. On its receipt in Washington it will be studied and a decision will be made whether to send Mr. Jordan again to Viet-Nam or whether enough material is in hand to write this story for publication.

/4/Not found.


/5/There is no "Part 1". The source text begins with page 1; presumably this document is the second part of the attachment.

In addition to actions already taken under National Security Action Memorandum No. 273, November 26, 1963, an inter-agency review of the current situation in Viet-Nam shows additional actions to be desirable. If you concur in the following further actions, they will be cabled to the Ambassador for execution unless he has serious objections.

A. Political

1. Formulation of U.S.-GVN Brain Trust.

Background: General Minh told Ambassador Lodge November 30 that he wants a U.S. team to work with the GVN as a "brain trust."/6/ This is another of several indications that the new government--contrary to the Diem government--is most receptive to U.S. advice. We must, however, continue to be discreet about the manner of giving advice to avoid a basis for charges that the new government is our puppet.

/6/See Document 334.


a) That Embassy Saigon actively follow up General Minh's invitation, creating whatever type of advisory arrangement the Embassy and the GVN deem most suitable.

b) That Washington offer to furnish for permanent or TDY assignment any personnel U.S. agencies in Saigon or the GVN considers required for this purpose.

2. Acceleration of a Modified Strategic Hamlet Program.

Background: The new GVN has decided to concentrate on the improvement of existing strategic hamlets to insure that they serve the purposes for which they were created. The economic development phase of the strategic hamlet program has just been placed in a new Commissariat General for a New Rural Life attached to the Premier's office. The security phase is presumably a responsibility of the Ministry of National Defense. Coordination is presumably handled by the cabinet at national level and by provincial and lower officials at local levels.

On the U.S. side a Committee on Provincial Rehabilitation serves as a U.S. coordinating and advisory organ on the strategic hamlet program.


a) That Embassy Saigon explore with the GVN the adequacy of GVN machinery to coordinate the counter-insurgency program (military clear-and-hold operations and the strategic hamlet program) nationwide and to establish priorities for the assignment of economic and military resources to this program.

b) That U.S. officials in Saigon urge the GVN to push ahead with all deliberate speed on consolidating existing strategic hamlets on a phased basis from more secure to less secure areas.

c) That the GVN be urged to continue the construction of new strategic hamlets if there are relatively secure zones where they are needed

3. Revival and Revitalization of the Amnesty Program.

Background: The Diem regime inaugurated a limited amnesty program for Viet Cong in January, 1963, which left persons surrendering in considerable doubt as to their future prospects. While the Diem Government's claim that 15,000 had surrendered under this program is probably grossly exaggerated, a well-devised amnesty program is a vital part of a counter-insurgency program. The new government has concentrated important efforts on gaining the support of the dissident Hoa Hao and Cao Dai sects (numbering millions in the Mekong Delta), but has had no time to devote to the program of amnesty for Viet Cong.


a) That Embassy Saigon urge early GVN attention to a revitalized amnesty program with forgiveness, for example, to all who served in the Viet Cong prior to the November 1 coup and who surrender by a certain date.

b) That land redistribution and vocational training be incorporated in the amnesty program.

c) That the program be given maximum publicity.

4. Revival and Revitalization of Land Programs.

Background: The Diem Government instituted both land rental contract and land redistribution programs. The first never received adequate emphasis, and the second virtually lapsed with the spread of the guerrilla war. The former limited rents to 25 percent of the crop. Under the second program the GVN bought the land from landlords and sold it on an installment basis to peasants. (The Communists, of course, gave away land they expropriated.) The GVN still holds undistributed about 625,000 acres of land bought from French landowners.


a) That the new GVN, as an important means of attracting peasant support, revitalize the land rental contract and land redistribution programs, and establish the easiest possible terms for the latter consistent with the government's budgetary problems.

5. Encouragement of Treatment of Peasants With Social Justice.

Background: Under the old regime the peasents were constantly pushed around because of the pressure on provincial and lower officials to meet the central government's desires or to impress Saigon. The completely different attitude of the new government is shown by its prompt discontinuation of forced labor on projects which do not directly benefit the peasant. Despite the good effect of this exemplary attitude at the top, the tendency among officials in non-democratic Oriental states is to push the people around, and the new regime will have to be prepared to deal swiftly and justly with officials displaying the old approach.


a) That Embassy Saigon encourage the new GVN at every appropriate opportunity to maintain special diligence about official treatment of the peasants with consideration, respect, and justice.

6. Establishment of a Domestic Peace Corps.

Background: Shortly after the coup General Minh directed that a student who suggested direct urban participation in the improvement of rural life be asked to set up a "domestic Peace Corps" for this purpose. Nothing more has been heard of this, but it seems to be a laudable idea for establishing the links now missing between the urban intelligentsia and the rural masses and for giving the former an opportunity for direct participation in the war effort.


a) That Embassy Saigon follow up this idea with the GVN and encourage its implementation.

7. Development of Additional Political Action Techniques.

Background: To further strengthen the political will of the population against the Viet Cong assaults, a political action campaign should be mounted to give the people vehicles for expression of their interests. These vehicles should, to the maximum possible extent, be non-governmental in order to enable the people to use them to represent their interests vis-a-vis the government. This political action campaign should use existing organizations wherever possible, but new ones may need to be established with covert and overt U.S. and GVN assistance.

The Tenant Farmers Union, an affiliate of Viet-Nam's largest labor confederation, is the best example of an existing organization which might be revitalized. Reaching its peak effectiveness in 1959 with a claimed membership of 300,000, it supported the GVN's land reform program on the local level, organized cooperatives and distributed fertilizer at cost. It lost momentum because of Diem/Nhu mistrust of it as a private organization, but still has a skeleton organization which could probably be expanded.


a) That Embassy Saigon sound out the generals about revitalization of the Tenant Farmers Union and its use for indirectly attracting peasant support to the government.

b) That the Country Team study the desirability of seeking to establish additional organizations for the purpose of building anti-Communist political strength, and recommend a U.S. program of action.

8. Improved Treatment of the Mountain Tribespeople.

Background: Approximately 600,000 of South Viet-Nam's population of 14.5 million belong to one of a large number of mountain tribes. These people, culturally distinct from the ethnic Vietnamese, have long been subject to discriminatory treatment by the Vietnamese and have been particularly subject to clever exploitation by the Communists. Some improvement has, however, taken place in South Vietnamese attitudes and practices toward the Montagnards since 1961


a) That an intensive U.S.-GVN study of the land tenure situation in Montagnard areas be proposed to the GVN with a view to providing the Montagnards with some form of title to ancestral lands. b) That the GVN be urged to increase Montagnard educational facilities at the village and provincial levels. c) That U.S. officials emphasize on every possible occasion to responsible GVN officials the importance of improved attitudes toward the Montagnards.

9. Dissipation of Rumors About Arbitrary Police Methods.

Background: News stories are appearing of a repetition of arbitrary police methods by the new government. Continuation of such reports will damage the regime's international reputation and harm its domestic political standing.


a) That the new government issue a prompt and comprehensive public statement listing all non-Communists detained, the reasons for their detention and the expected disposition of the cases. b) That the new regime be urged either to try or to remove Ngo Dinh Can expeditiously from Viet-Nam.

10. Neutralization of General Ton That Dinh

Background: Dinh, emotional and ambitious, is the potential Nasser among the generals. Not only is he Minister of Public Security and a frequent, if self-appointed, spokesman for the new government, but he retains command of the III Corps around Saigon and the Commander of the IV Corps in the Mekong Delta is believed close to him.


a) That Embassy Saigon be urged to seek and use any feasible and appropriate means for neutralizing Dinh, such as separating him from his troop command on the ground that this job plus his ministry are too much for one man.

11. Improvement of Vietnamese-Cambodian Relations.

Background: Immediately following the coup prospects for improved Vietnamese-Cambodian relations appeared favorable. Despite Sihanouk's laying down five difficult conditions for resumption of relations with the GVN, the latter sent their former representative to Phnom Penh on a personal mission. This might have borne fruit if coup rumors against Sihanouk had not emanated from Saigon causing Sihanouk to refuse further attempts. Since then further Sihanouk accusations against the GVN and suggestions of neutralization and subsequent confederation with Cambodia have reduced hopes for improvement almost to the vanishing point. The outlook is further clouded by Sihanouk's demand for Cambodian neutrality being internationally guaranteed through a conference of the Geneva Powers. GVN considers Sihanouk's proposal highly unnecessary and beamed primarily at Viet-Nam and Thailand. The GVN will be suspicious of any U.S. pressure (and it would have to be heavy) on the GVN to participate in such a conference.

The Vietnamese-Cambodian border remains a sore point. There is no doubt the Viet Cong make use of Cambodia both as refuge and infiltration route and as a way to smuggle in supplies for their SVN operations. General Harkins has proposed: (a) photo reconnaissance flights on the Cambodian side of the border, (b) clandestine intelligence operations across the border into Cambodia, (c) institution of a "hot pursuit" policy, and (d) rigid inspection and control of the Cambodian use of the Mekong.


a) That the GVN should be urged to continue to exercise restraint vis-a-vis Cambodia and to seize the initiative in making concrete proposals. The latter should be such that if accepted they would result in demonstrable improvement in relations and if refused would put Sihanouk on the spot as being the one who rejected generous and practical offers of reconciliation, thus indicating he really did not desire normal relations. Silencing of the Khmer Serei radio and cessation of any GVN support therefore is an obvious step for the GVN.

b) That General Harkins' fourth proposal be approved, but the first three deferred at present because of the likelihood they would drive Sihanouk still closer to Communist China. They can be reconsidered if Sihanouk fails to agree to reasonable GVN proposals for settlement of their problems and cooperation about the border.

12. Improvement of Relations With Laos.

Background: At the present time embassies are maintained in Saigon and Vientiane headed by Charges whose actual diplomatic status is purposely left ambiguous. Work is carried on but not at the desired level. Souvanna has so far refused to accept a GVN ambassador or even to grant formal recognition to the new regime. He claims the former will require tripartite approval by the three sections and the latter must await indications that the new regime has full popular support. At the same time, Vietnamese contact with the right wing faction in Laos (General Phoumi) on military matters continues and there are repeated reports of a meeting about to take place. Regardless of the state of diplomatic relations, close cooperation between the two military sides is important for the operations we wish to see conducted in the corridor.


1) We should not hesitate to urge, when possible, both countries to resume full diplomatic relations and to cooperate militarily. Border cooperation is essential; however, purely military relations should not be carried out without the knowledge of Souvanna.

13. Relations With Other Countries.

Background: Improvement of relations with Thailand appear not only desirable, but possible. Malaysia and the Philippines offer good prospects. It is important that the GVN not just give lip service to their declaration for a desire for friendly relations, but actively pursue them, particularly in Asia. The importance of this in the receipt of third country economic and technical assistance is obvious. However, internal matters should take precedence and the reported visit of General Don to nearby countries at this time is questionable.


1) We should endeavor where possible to foster good international relations of the GVN. This is particularly important in Asia to avoid the isolation which was increasing under Diem.

2) An effective Vietnamese spokesman at the UN would help greatly both in presenting the GVN side of the war and refuting Communist Bloc propaganda against it. Generally, the quality of Vietnamese representation abroad should be improved.

B. Intelligence

Background: The current volume, accuracy and timeliness of intelligence concerning Viet Cong capabilities, strengths, sources of personnel and supplies, actions and plans are not adequate to serve as a basis for political action or for military planning and operations. Evidence of infiltration is meager while the effectiveness of recent operations suggests that the actual level of personnel and material infiltration may have been seriously underestimated. We also have inadequate data on the reasons motivating the entry into the Viet Cong of such large numbers of people from South Viet-Nam.


1) That the National Security Agency be requested to adjust its priorities of effort and allocations of personnel and material, both in Washington and Viet-Nam, as required to break Viet Cong communication codes.

2) That Embassies Saigon, Phnom Penh and Vientiane be directed to develop a combined intelligence acquisition plan designed to produce reliable and timely information concerning the Viet Cong use of the territory of Cambodia and Laos. A directed [direct] feature of this plan should be to assign Embassy Saigon overall responsibility for the coordination of U.S. agency efforts in this regard.

3) That the U.S. agencies in Saigon, in coordination with the GVN, develop improved prisoner interrogation procedures to produce a rapid and voluminous flow of intelligence on Viet Cong infiltration and on local recruitment in South Viet-Nam (including numbers and motivation).

4) In order to assure the availability of presently unreported, but useful overt information, the Country Team should communicate requirements on a continuing basis to all operating staff, and impress them with the need for greater reporting consciousness.

5) To coordinate the covert and overt collection processes, the Ambassador may wish to appoint a senior official full time for this purpose.

C. Military

Background: Notwithstanding the considerable improvement in the Vietnamese military posture and the newly evident inclination of the Vietnamese to respond more effectively to U.S. military advice, operational, training and conceptual deficiencies still exist.


1) Combat troops should be employed to their maximum capacity in the performance of combat missions. The average RVNAF Battalion (130 total) is engaged in combat missions on 10-15 days of each month. Our objective is 20 days per month of effective operations for all combat forces.

2) The numerous under-manned and non-effective outposts in remote areas are a drain on available military manpower and constitute vulnerable targets for Viet Cong attack. Action to disband unneeded posts and consolidate others in larger and more effective installations is now under way. It must be accelerated.

3) The Vietnamese have thus far failed to assign sufficient numbers of highly qualified Special Forces personnel for counterpart training with our own Special Forces. More emphasis on this program may be needed.

4) The shift of military emphasis to the Delta has been proceeding at a slow pace. It probably should be accelerated. The best available Vietnamese military commanders have not yet been assigned to the Delta, although there is steady progress in this direction.

5) Terrain sweeps, which often fail to inflict casualties upon the Viet Cong forces and contribute little toward consolidating control over areas involved, continue to divert a considerable proportion of the total Vietnamese offensive resources. These ineffectual sweeps are steadily being replaced by the more effective "clear and hold" operations. The process should be accelerated. Specifically there should be an increase in protracted combat patrolling, in which air-supplied patrols remain in the field for periods of several weeks, relying upon ground controlled, quickly responsive direct air support as a major element of their combat power.

6) Concurrent with the consolidation of the strategic hamlet program, particularly in the Delta, the companion program of arming and training an effective hamlet militia requires refinement and invigoration.

7) Manning levels of combat units remain too low. Pressure must be maintained to persuade Vietnamese authorities to bring these units to full strength.

8) Improvement of Vietnamese capabilities for combined air-sea-ground operations is required.

9) More use should be made of the sea for tactical maneuver. There is also a requirement to increase river operations, in order to deny the Viet Cong these avenues of resupply and secure them for the transportation of essential GVN supplies.

D. Economic

Background: Additional actions beyond those already taken are necessary to assure that the GVN has the necessary resources for the counter-insurgency program, and takes effective action in the economic field to attract the support of the peasants.


1) That an economic expert, with a recognized independent reputation and capable of establishing rapport with the GVN-e.g. Eugene Staley (who led a similar special mission in 1961), be recruited immediately to conduct delicate and difficult negotiations with the GVN designed to produce the resources necessary for counter-insurgency. Measures to be negotiated with the GVN include:

a. Improve tax enforcement and compliance.

b. Increase the productivity of the tax system.

c. Reduce commercial credit (other than credit for export and agriculture).

d. Develop institutions and instruments to mobilize voluntary savings.

e. Draw down exchange reserves by $20-25 million a year.

f. Eliminate import subsidies of about 300 million plasters (principally on milk and cotton).

g. Reduce non-counter-insurgency operating expenditure especially construction and subsidies to government corporations.

h. Hold government investment expenditures to one billion piasters.

i. Tighten the import program to eliminate the bulk of financing of luxury items.

j. Auction limited amount of foreign exchange for luxuries.

k. Increase exports through a variety of specified measures.

l. Lift price and other restrictions on production and use of agricultural forestry and fisheries products.

m. Establish a country-wide price support policy for major agricultural crops.

n. Expand agricultural credit facilities.

2. That Embassy and AID Saigon continue to urge the GVN to streamline its administrative procedures to bring about a more rapid flow of funds to the provinces, decentralize responsibility and control of resources and assign more effective civil personnel to the Mekong Delta.

3. That Embassy and AID Saigon continue to urge the GVN to assign a qualified deputy to each province chief, with priority to the Mekong Delta, responsible for administering the economic and political aspects of the strategic hamlet program.

4. That AID Saigon and MACV urge the GVN to reactivate its dormant program of military civic action, with emphasis on the Mekong Delta.



Return to This Volume Home Page

  Back to top

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

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