RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES
1964-1968, Volume I
Department of State
36. Letter From the Secretary of State to the Secretary of Defense (McNamara)/1/
Washington, February 5, 1964.
/1/ Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 69 A 926, 092 Vietnam. Top Secret; Exdis. According to the Department of State copy of this letter, Mendenhall was the drafter. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)
Dear Bob: I have read with a great deal of interest the Joint Chiefs of Staff Memorandum of January 22, 1964, on Viet-Nam and Southeast Asia, which you forwarded with your letter of January 28, 1964./2/
/2/ See Document 17.
I share the view of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that in Viet-Nam we must demonstrate to both the Communist and the non-Communist worlds that the "wars of national liberation" formula now being pushed so actively by the Communists will not succeed. The Joint Chiefs have, in my view, correctly remarked that the focus of the counterinsurgency battle lies in South Viet-Nam itself, and the war must be fought and won primarily in the minds of the Vietnamese people. This means that this war, like other guerrilla wars, is essentially political--an important fact to bear in mind in determining command and control arrangements in Viet-Nam.
I also agree with the Joint Chiefs that we must follow an integrated U. S. approach in Southeast Asia to achieve our policy objectives. We must determine what the effects will be on the other countries in the area of any major action we take in or with respect to a given country. We must also determine with respect to any proposed action what we can realistically expect to achieve with that action, and balance that against the political and military risks attendant upon that action before reaching a decision.
I have noted the list of possible actions which the Joint Chiefs may wish to consider recommending from a military standpoint as the situation develops. The Department of State will, of course, always be prepared to consider promptly, in the light of the factors mentioned above, any courses of action which the Joint Chiefs and the Department of Defense propose.
With warm regards,
37. Memorandum From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)/1/
Washington, February 7, 1964.
/1/ Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. III, Memos and Misc. Top Secret.
General Khanh has discussed with Lodge the composition of his Government (Saigon's 1510)./2/ It looks pretty good. General Minh as Chief of State will be a big help both in South Vietnam and internationally. As the cable points out, it will leave General Khanh somewhat more free to attend to the substantive problems of winning the war.
/2/ Dated February 7. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 15 VIET S) The White House copy is published in Declassified Documents, 1975, 215C. Lodge had an earlier discussion with Khanh on February 5 during which he expressed concern for Khanh's safety and asked what precautions Khanh was taking against possible coupe. Khanh dismissed the threat, and assured Lodge that he planned to move quickly and vigorously in prosecuting the war. (Telegram 1493 from Saigon, February 5; Department of State, Central Files, POL 23 VIET S. The White House copy of telegram 1493 is published in Declassified Documents, 1975, 215A.)
The Vice Prime Minister in charge of Pacification, Mr. Hoan is a Dai Viet leader. Carl and I met him here once in Washington, and we were not particularly impressed. I gather he will be in charge of the civilian side of the struggle. He has, however, I believe, a fairly large Nationalist following.
Other hopeful signs are Oanh (Carl's friend) as Minister of Finance, Mau (Diem's old Foreign Minister) back in the same job,/3/ and National Defense under Khiem. The Government as a whole seems to include almost every geographic and non-Communist political faction. I am asking State and the Agency to do a more thorough evaluation.
/3/ Tran Ngoc Oanh was Minister of Public Works and Vu Van Mau did not have a Cabinet post in the Diem government.
[Here follows a summary of developments in Laos.]
On top of this,/4/ we have intelligence strongly suggesting that a high level meeting between the North Vietnamese and the Chinese is taking place in a town called Mengtzu near the North Vietnamese border. There has also been a significant movement of Chinese interceptor and bomber aircraft into this area.
/4/ Reference is to the worsening situation in Laos and the possibility of a Pathet Lao military offensive.
These indications plus the situation in South Vietnam suggest to me that any organizational changes that we make here in Washington should occur quickly, so that we have a strong team to deal with the trouble which I sense will be developing in the months of March and April.
38. Report From the Executive Director-Comptroller of Central Intelligence (Kirkpatrick) and the Station Chief in Saigon (de Silva) to the Director of Central Intelligence (McCone)/1/
Saigon, February 10, 1964.
/1/ Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 330-75. Alternate Proposals. Secret. The source text is a copy of the report that the CIA sent McNamara on February 10 under cover of a memorandum explaining that this analysis was not being formally disseminated because it was a reply to a personal request from McCone.
1. With regard to the conduct of the war, we must judge that the situation at this moment must be characterized as one in which the population at large appears apathetic, without enthusiasm either for the GVN or the VC sides but responsive to the latter because it fears the VC. The most important single factor continues to be whether or not the rural population will be willing to defend itself against the VC and to support GVN actions against the VC. In this sector, there now seems to be less conviction and resolution, and a more widespread inclination to avoid the problems of opposing the VC, and to play both sides in hopes somehow of getting along peacefully and without personal commitment.
2. Obviously this gradual abrading of the popular will to resistance, if such is indeed taking place as it appears to be to us here in Saigon, is of the most fundamental importance, and constitutes a trend which must be altered and reversed. What is needed in this regard and very soon are a series of GVN successes in the military sphere which would go [far] toward implanting and nourishing a popular attitude that the GVN has the means of bringing security and a sense of ease to the rural population, and is clearly determined to do so on an everbroadening front throughout the countryside. Only within some such atmosphere of hopefulness can the will and the resolve to oppose the VC be strengthened, and it must be if this war is to be won.
3. The new regime will enjoy stability in direct proportion to the degree it galvanizes and energizes the government apparatus and in particular the Vietnamese military establishment in terms of an aggressive and successful prosecution of the fight. If the present regime should give an impression of uncertainty, apathy, or irresoluteness, it would appear logical to assume that its days as a government would inevitably be numbered, and it would also seem logical that its successor would be a regime destined to lend itself to solutions to end the fighting on conditions which we would find highly undesirable. In short, the present regime can be a stable one if it takes the initiative and forces it on a government structure and a population waiting to be led and hopefully still willing to be led in an anti-VC cause. If the regime falters and appears to be failing in this regard, there are undoubtedly elements in Vietnam who will be willing to make their move and seek other solutions.
4. Mr. Kirkpatrick's personal comment is as follows: I agree with the above but must note that even armed with your pessimistic comments following your last visit I have been shocked by the number of our (CIA) people and of the military, even those whose job is always to say we are winning, who feel that the tide is against us. Admittedly this is based on a limited number of discussions here and in Danang in three days. There are ominous indications that the VC are able to mount larger operations than in the past using bigger arms, including anti-aircraft. Vietnamese Government reactions are still slow, defensive and reminiscent of French tactics here a decade ago. There are still really no fundamental internal security measures of any effectiveness such as identity cards, block wardens, travel controls, etc. Extensive use by the VC of the waterways leaves the GVN handcuffed. It is evident that a major factor in VC victories is their superior intelligence based on nationwide penetrations and intimidation at all levels. This also is a factor in their military victories where internal agents turn guns on defenders. Finally, with the Laos and Cambodia borders open, this entire pacification effort is like trying to mop the floor before turning off the faucet.
39. Memorandum From the President's Special Assist3nt for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to the President/1/
Washington, February 10, 1964.
/1/ Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Vol. 1. Confidential.
Notes for your meeting with Senator Mansfield today at 6:00/2/
/2/ The meeting took place from 6:35 p.m. to 7:15 p.m., February 10. (Johnson Library, President's Daily Diary) No record of the meeting has been found.
On Vietnam he continues to believe in the de Gaulle approach, and we don't, though public finger-pointing at de Gaulle is not your line. I suggest you should say to him that for the present any weakening of our support of anti-Communist forces in South Vietnam would give the signal for a wholesale collapse of anti-Communism all over Southeast Asia. Khanh's government may be our last best chance, and we simply cannot afford to be the ones who seem to pull the plug on him. For this reason you might wish to urge Mansfield himself not to express his own doubts in public, at least for a while. His Vietnamese memoranda are at Tab A./3/
/3/ Document 2 and Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. IV, pp. 691-692.
You are acting promptly to reorganize the Washington end of our South Vietnamese operations and depending on the success of your conversation with Sullivan, you may wish to tell Mansfield in confidence of your plans. The draft NSAM is attached at Tab B./4/
/4/ Not attached; for the approved NSAM, see Document 46.
[Here follow items 2-4 which are unrelated to Vietnam.]
40. Editorial Note
On February 11, 1966, McGeorge Bundy issued National Security Action Memorandum No. 284, "Official Visits to South Vietnam," which directed that official visits by high-ranking military and civilian personnel to South Vietnam be coordinated with the Department of State through the Chairman of the Committee on Policy and Operations in Vietnam. NSAM 284 superseded NSAM 217, January 25, 1963, printed in Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, volume III, page 63.
On January 10, 1964, Roger Hilsman had recommended to the Executive Secretary of the Department of State, Benjamin Read, that NSAM 217 be reissued. Hilsman's memorandum to Read reads in part as follows:
"As you know, there has been a constant flow of high-level visitors to South Viet-Nam during the past couple months. I feel quite strongly that we must be careful not to overload this circuit. After all our purpose in Viet-Nam is to get on with the war. To the extent we divert the Generals as well as our own people from this task, we are not helping matters. It is clear that the Generals themselves feel we have been too importunate in the matter of visitors, and I am sure that Ambassador Lodge shares this view."
Hilsman asked that the Assistant Secretary of State be given responsibility for coordinating visits to South Vietnam. Read complied, because the draft of NSAM 284 which he sent Bundy indicated Hilsman as the coordinator. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 23-10 VIET S) The NSAM as issued, however, gave the responsibility to William Sullivan, the newly-designated Chairman of the Vietnam Committee. For Sullivan's responsibilities, see Document 46.
41. Memorandum of a Conversation, White House/1/
Washington, February 12, 1964, 4:30 p.m.
/1/ Source: Department of State, President's Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 66 D 149, Jan-March, 1964. Secret. Drafted by Willis C. Armstrong. Approved by the Executive Secretary on February 27 and by the White House on February 24. The source text is labeled Part II of a six-topic meeting.
British Prime Minister Sir Alec Douglas Home was in Washington for an official visit, February 12-14.
Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The President suggested that the Secretary of State comment on the situation in Southeast Asia, and the Secretary remarked that good progress had already been made by representatives of the two governments in a common approach to Southeast Asian problems. He explained the talks of February 10 and 11,/2/ and went on to say that agreement had been reached to have some language in the communique to cover our understanding on Southeast Asia, particularly on Viet Nam and Malaysia./3/ Mr. Butler made the point that Britain supported US efforts in Viet Nam and was quite prepared to say so in the communique, whereas Britain was anxious to have a comparable reference to Malaysia in the same paragraph./4/
/2/ These meetings concerned planning for the Indonesia-Malaysia crisis.
/2/ These meetings concerned planning for the Ind/3/This understanding was reached at a discussion between U.S. and U.K. of officials headed by Butler and Rusk, February 12, dealing with Southeast Asian problems in general. (Memorandum of a meeting at the White House, February 12, 3 p.m.; Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 66 D 110, CF 2369)
/4/ The joint communique, February 13, is printed in Department of State Bulletin, pp. 336-337. It did contain references to British support for U.S. policy in Vietnam and U.S. support for British policy in Malaysia.
The Secretary reported further that there had been agreement to have a good thorough NATO discussion next week, with the US talking about South Viet Nam and Laos and with the UK speaking of Malaysia and Cambodia. He also noted the intention of the British to consider with the French what they mean by neutrality in Southeast Asia. Mr. Butler referred to the message from Couve de Murville explaining that neutrality for Cambodia was separable and separate from any efforts with respect to Viet Nam. The Secretary emphasized further that a review with Mr. Butler in an earlier conversation had indicated that in general the US and UK were approaching Southeast Asian problems very much in the same way, should keep in close touch with each other, and should move forward along various lines to be mutually helpful./5/
/5/ In a private conversation, February 12, from 11 a.m. to approximately noon, Home gave Johnson similar assurances although he stated that Great Britain "must help quietly because of its peacekeeping role under the agreements of 1954." (Memorandum for the record by Bundy, February 13; Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Vol. 1)
The Prime Minister said to the President that he thought that the visit of Attorney General Kennedy had been extremely helpful in the harmonization of views on Indonesia and Malaysia./6/ He again referred to British support for US efforts in South Vietnam. The President said this was helpful, because there were always questions in the US as to the extent to which our allies were also committed to support such efforts. The Secretary commented that the object of the NATO discussion on Southeast Asia was to alert all the allies to the problems caused there by Communist forces and to identify their interests. The Prime Minister added that the message from Couve de Murville had indicated a willingness to make a public statement on Cambodia's neutrality, separating it from any question of South Viet Nam.
/6/ Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy undertook a 13-day mission to the Far East, January 15-27, in which he represented President Johnson in talks with the leaders of Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia concerning the dispute over Malaysia. Kennedy also conferred with officials in Japan, Korea, Thailand, and the United Kingdom. For an account of the mission, see Department of State Bulletin, February 17, 1964, pp. 239-243.
The Prime Minister wondered whether the situation in South Viet Nam was worse, or whether it was holding. The Secretary of State said the situation was worse, since there had been a real increase in the capability of the Vietcong. He noted that the resources, human and material, exist, but pointed out that the local Vietnamese have not been sufficiently vigorous. He said we must see what more can be done to help the Vietnamese to do the job, and that the next several weeks of the dry season are critical.
[4 lines of source text not declassified] The President remarked that it was very hard to get a clear picture of the facts in the Vietnamese situation.
Mr. Bundy said that this meeting of our two countries and others with other allies could help a good deal. De Gaulle expresses himself, but does not make any contribution otherwise. The change of government in Viet Nam and the press release of General de Gaulle/7/ had both tended to damage confidence, and meetings such as the present one could help restore it. The Secretary remarked that the UK and US were both using the olive branch and arrows in Southeast Asia, but that de Gaulle was using only the olive branch, and his efforts did not improve the situation. The Prime Minister remarked that "none of these fellows" in Southeast Asia fight very well. The Secretary of State said that the South Vietnamese had really done quite well, all things considered. The Prime Minister said he was not happy about the Malays as fighters, or the Thais. He said that Britain was fortunate to still have some Gurkhas in the area.
/7/ See Document 27.
42. Paper Prepared in the Defense Intelligence Agency/1/
Washington, February 12, 1964.
/1/ Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 68 A 306, 350.05 Southeast Asia. Secret. Attached to a memorandum of transmittal, February 12, from Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Carroll to Secretary of Defense McNamara. SNIE 50-64, "The Situation in Southeast Asia," is not printed. Johnson Library, National Security File, National Intelligence Estimate File, 14.3 NVN)
SNIE 50-64, Short-Term Prospects in Southeast Asia
This Special National Intelligence Estimate was approved by the United States Intelligence Board on 12 February 1964. Significant judgments of this estimate are as follows:
Certain signs of new North Vietnamese and Chinese Communist military activities, together with an upsurge of Viet Cong activity in South Vietnam, recent Viet Cong successes there, and recent Communist advances in Laos, raise the question whether the situations in South Vietnam and Laos may be on the verge of collapse. After carefully reviewing the evidence, we believe:
That the situation in South Vietnam is very serious, and prospects uncertain. Even with US assistance approximately as it now is, we believe, unless there is a marked improvement in the effectiveness of the South Vietnamese government and armed forces, that the South Vietnamese have at best an even chance of withstanding the insurgency threat during the next few weeks or months.
That if present trends in Laos are not checked, there will be continued erosion of non-Communist military and political positions there. The Laos situation may deteriorate rapidly, and it could take a turn which would further improve the Viet Cong position in South Vietnam.
That dramatic new Chinese Communist intervention in Vietnam or Laos is unlikely. North Vietnam, however, is stepping up its support of the Pathet Lao, and may do so for the Viet Cong-perhaps with some increase of Chinese Communist material assistance. The Communist hope in South Vietnam would be to gain sufficient quick victories before General Khanh's new government could bring its full military potential to bear, to undermine the South Vietnamese will to resist, and to induce the US to consider a negotiated settlement its only feasible option.
That developments elsewhere in Southeast Asia, save in Cambodia, have thus far had little impact on those in Vietnam and Laos. However, the outcome of the present war in South Vietnam will have a serious effect on the future willingness of governments in Southeast Asia to adopt anti-Communist, rather than neutralist, stances.
43. Memorandum From the Chairman of the Policy Planning Council (Rostow) to the Secretary of State/1/
Washington, February 13, 1964.
/1/ Source: Department of State, S/P Files: Lot 70 D 199, Southeast Asia. Top Secret; For the Secretary Only. Rusk's initials appear on the source text.
The essential points to be made by the President to a conference of Congressional leaders, in asking for a Resolution, are these. They would require coordinated elaboration (as at President Truman's famous conference on Greece and Turkey in 1947)/2/ among yourself, Secretary McNamara, and General Taylor.
/2/ Apparent reference to a meeting with congressional leaders, February 27, 1947, described in Harry S. Truman, Memoirs, vol. II (Garden City, NY, 1956), p. 103.
1. Southeast Asia is a critical area to the United States and to our world position. The loss of Viet Nam would endanger Southeast Asia. Thailand would no longer rely on U.S. backing. Laos, Cambodia, and probably Burma would go to the Communists. Taiwan's morale would crumble. The Philippines, Korea, and Japan would be insecure. Sukamo would be confirmed in his semi-pro-Communist stance. Malaya would be endangered. The Indian subcontinent would be outflanked. The Middle East and East Africa would be substantially opened up. The credibility of our European stance under the Johnson Administration would be put in question; for our commitments to South Viet Nam are no less explicit than our commitments to Berlin.
2. South Viet Nam is in danger. The internal position in South Viet Nam created by the systematic operations conducted from North Viet Nam is precarious. From outside: the 1962 Geneva Accord and the 1954 Accord are not being respected. North Vietnamese troops are still in Laos; North Vietnamese arms and men are being introduced into South Viet Nam; the war is run by a general staff in the north via a complex communications network; the morale in South Viet Nam (and Southeast Asia) has been weakened by the failure of the West to stop this violation of the 1962 Agreement.
3. Although difficult tasks would still be faced in South Viet Nam and Laos if North Vietnamese compliance with the 1962 Agreement was enforced, we see no possibility of achieving short-run or long-run stability in the area until it is enforced. This is not a new judgment. General Taylor reported to President Kennedy on November 3, 1961: "While we feel that the program recommended represents those measures which should be taken in our present knowledge of the situation in Southeast Asia, I would not suggest that it is the final word. Future needs beyond this program will depend upon the kind of settlement we obtain in Laos and the manner in which Hanoi decides to adjust its conduct to that settlement. If the Hanoi decision is to continue the irregular war declared on South Vietnam in 1959 with continued infiltration and covert support of guerrilla bands in the territory of our ally, we will then have to decide whether to accept as legitimate the continued guidance, training, and support of a guerrilla war across an international boundary, while the attacked react only inside their borders. Can we admit the establishment of the common law that the party attacked and his friends are denied the right to strike the source of aggression, after the fact of external aggression is clearly established? It is our view that our government should undertake with the Vietnamese the measures outlined herein, but should then consider the broader question beyond."/3/
/3/ Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. I, p. 477.
4. We have given the 1962 Agreement a chance to work. The time has now come for the United States to use every means at its command, diplomatic and military, to enforce compliance.
5. We believe there is a fair chance that compliance can be enforced without substantial military engagement if there is a united expression of determination by the Executive and Congressional branches of the Government, backed by our people, for these reasons:
a. Ho has an industrial complex to protect: he is no longer a guerrilla fighter with nothing to lose.
b. Ho does not wish the Chinese in Hanoi.
c. The Chinese Communists are militarily and economically weak but committed to split from Moscow and anxious to come out in the world.
d. Mao's doctrine has always been: "When the enemy advances, withdraw; when the enemy falters, attack."
e. Moscow has ample reasons not to engage its forces in Southeast Asia or elsewhere if U.S. is determined and united.
In short, if our objective is compliance with the 1954 and 1962 Agreements--and not the invasion of North Viet Nam or China--we may be able to achieve it without major military operations, but only if we are united, determined, and prepared for any level of escalation.
6. If we do not take this action now, we not only endanger Southeast Asia, but we encourage the Communists everywhere (including the Caribbean) to believe that it is accepted by the West as legal to conduct wars of "National Liberation" across borders, with resistance possible only from within; and that if guerrilla war successfully takes hold, the West surrenders. Obviously, at some stage, we would react; but then we will have to do so with greater violence from a profoundly weakened Western position.
7. Therefore, we are asking Congressional and national support to draw the line in the dust at the borders of South Viet Nam. The essentials of a Congressional Resolution are:
a. To call attention to the continued violation of the 1954 and 1962 Accords;
b. To reaffirm the United States commitment to Southeast Asia under the Manila Pact;
c. To reaffirm the United States commitment, made by three Presidents, to the continued independence of the people of South Viet Nam;
d. To call on the President to use all the means at our command to enforce compliance with the 1954 and 1962 Accords.
8. At the time of presentation to the Congress of the case for a Congressional Resolution, we shall be publishing evidence of the violation of the Geneva Accords.
9. In the wake of a Congressional Resolution, we shall:
--Move additional forces into the area;
--Take a series of diplomatic moves to inform both our Allies and the various Communist regimes of our intention to impose measured, limited sanctions on North Viet Nam, if necessary, to enforce compliance.
10. There will be considerable confusion in the Free World, which will fear a confrontation; and this will be heightened by the Communists, de Gaulle, Lippmann, etc. The chances of not having to drop bombs in the North will depend substantially on whether the Executive Branch and the Congress remain united and resolute. Let us put all other considerations aside and stay together.
11. If we can make this proposition stick in Southeast Asia, our job with Castro will be greatly eased and the long-run prospects for a peaceful world under law enhanced.
44. Memorandum From the Chairman of the Policy Planning Council (Rostow) to the Secretary of State/1/
Washington, February 14, 1964.
/1/ Source: Department of State, S/P Files: Lot 70 D 199, Vietnam. Secret. Rusk's initials appear on the source text.
Contingency Planning for Southeast Asia
Governor Harriman, Alexis Johnson, Roger Hilsman, Bill Sullivan and I will be meeting with you at 4:30 p.m. today./2/
/2/ The meeting began at 4:40 p.m. and lasted until almost 5:30. Robert Johnson also attended. Johnson Library, Rusk Appointment Book) No record of the meeting has been found.
The purpose of our meeting will be to report to you the results of our individual review of the attached report on Southeast Asia prepared by the Policy Planning Council. A summary of the concept and key issues examined in this report are at Tab A. I recommend you thumb through the table of contents (Tab B)/3/ which will give you an idea of the scope of the paper.
/3/ Not attached to the source text. A copy of the table of contents and the draft report is in Department of State, S/P Files: Lot 70 D 199, Vietnam.
I recommend that you give your approval to the following proposals:
1. That the Tuesday Planning Group at its next meeting take on the job of serving as a steering group to provide general guidance and direction to the preparation of a contingency plan for the imposition of measured sanctions against North Viet-Nam. As you know, Governor Harriman and Alex Johnson are regular members of that group. For these purposes we would add others as required, including immediately senior representatives of FE and USIA.
2. That the Planning Group establish a working group under State Department chairmanship to prepare the necessary studies and plans.
The objective of the next planning stage is not to produce a recommended policy. It is to produce a complete politico-military scenario which we can lay before senior officers of the Government so that they may judge whether and under what circumstances a forward policy of the kind examined here might prove wise and viable.
[Here follows discussion unrelated to Vietnam.]
SUMMARY OF CONCEPT AND KEY ISSUES
I. The Concept
The paper is not a plan, but an exposition of issues that would need to be examined in preparing a plan. It examines a concept designed to cause North Vietnam (the DRV) (a) to cease its illegal infiltration of men and arms into South Vietnam, its direction of the war in South Vietnam and its supporting activities in Laos; and (b) to withdraw its troops or cadres from both countries and to comply fully with the 1954 and 1962 Geneva Accords.
The concept is based upon the assumption that the imposition of graduated political, military and, possibly, economic sanctions on the DRV could cause it to call off the war principally because of its fear that it would otherwise risk loss of its politically important industrial development; because of its fear of being driven into the arms of Communist China; and because of Moscow's, Peiping's and Hanoi's concern about escalation.
II. Key Issues
1. The question of how to define operational objectives that will command wide support at home and abroad; provide a reasonably clear-cut basis for measuring Communist performance and not provide undue opportunities for Communist delaying tactics and political warfare; and therefore provide the basis for determining when U.S. pressures should be continued, when halted. As a related matter, how important and how feasible are inspection arrangements or other means of insuring continued DRV compliance?
2. The question of the degree of the U.S. commitment. We must be prepared to withstand, if necessary, possibly great international political pressures which might force us to desist before we have achieved our objective. We must consider how far we are prepared to go in meeting Communist military responses. We must consider the actions that we would take in the event of either success or failure.
3. Against the background of the past, how do we develop a convincing case against the DRV that will command, at a minimum, broad domestic U.S. support and some international support and at the maximum, broad international support?
4. How might the crisis be terminated? Are there acceptable turning off points? Under what circumstances would we be prepared to go to an international conference and for what purpose?
5. We must consider how far we are prepared to go in providing additional commitments of support to South Vietnam, Thailand and, perhaps, the Philippines, and whether, even with such commitments, they will give us their initial and their continued support.
6. We face broad tactical choices: whether we should move quickly or slowly in posing and carrying out our threat to the DRV; whether we should begin on the covert or the overt level and how and when we should move from one level of action to the other.
7. We need to reexamine organization for making and implementing policy in the context of an intense and possibly protracted politico-military crisis to insure responsiveness to top-level control without neglect of expert advice and local problems.
45. Memorandum From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to the Secretary of Defense (McNamara)/1/
Washington, February 14, 1964.
/1/ Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Aides Files, McGeorge Bundy, Luncheons with the President, Vol. 1, [Part 2]. Secret and Personal. Published in part in Declassified Documents, 1977, 109B.
I wanted to give you some thoughts for your forthcoming trip to Saigon./2/ I agree that the next four or five months will be critical in the sense that if a favorable political and military trend does not develop in that period, we will slowly lose our position in Vietnam and the rest of Southeast Asia. Thus we have a very short time within which to make the changes in our own organization in the field to produce a coherent effort from the American side.
/2/ The McNamara mission visited South Vietnam March 8-12.
I have the impression that since last November 1st our own efforts in support of what we used to call the Strategic Hamlet Program have deteriorated badly. I refer to that collection of activities which included the Montagnard program, hamlet militia training, CIDG training, police training, pig and fertilizer programs, etc.; in short, all of the mixed civil and military counterinsurgency programs which about a year ago seemed to be working well.
The two coups obviously have affected the GVN's efforts, but I am also worried lest our own organization has deteriorated. We have lost [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] a rather large and extraordinarily successful effort with the Montagnards on the Central Plateau. Recent reports suggest to me that what we once thought was a solid program is beginning to fall apart in that region. A [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] memorandum/3/ I have recently read implies that most of the young Vietnamese and tribal dialect speaking Americans who worked in the hill country have been pulled off.
/3/ Not found.
I don't know what has happened to Trueheart's rural rehabilitation committee, which coordinated the AID efforts with the military, especially in the Delta. I assume it must be functioning under Nes; but we haven't had any word about it.
I suspect that Army Special forces, [1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified] have tended to pull their resources away from the populated regions of the High Plateau in an effort to increase their activities along the Laotian border. This may have left the VC behind to attack what we once thought were strong Montagnard hamlets in their rear.
These are only impressions that I have gathered from reading the current reporting, which, as you know too well, is voluminous but uninformative. I have four specific suggestions for you to consider while you are in Saigon:
1. Minister for Rural Operations. We should have one manager in Saigon with the responsibility and authority to run that part of the war which lies between Lodge's diplomatic discourses with the highest level of the GVN on the one hand, and Harkins' military responsibility to advise and direct ARVN and conventional U.S. military efforts on the other. He should have the rank of Minister and be responsible to Lodge and Harkins. Nes should become Lodge's Minister for Political Affairs and should perform the traditional functions of DCM in an ordinary Embassy. The Minister for Operations should be a civilian preferably with some military background, someone like Hank Byroade. Such a person would have direct authority over the following parts of the existing U.S. agencies in Saigon:
(a) The USOM rural rehabilitation organization (i.e., including the USOM representatives in the various provinces).
(b) All USIS psywar-type operations (leaflet printing, films, etc.).
(c) Those Army Special Forces units who are engaged in training Vietnamese irregulars who do not leave their home regions (hamlet militia, SDC, and other local paramilitary organizations as distinguished from regular ARVN units).
(d) Any vestiges remaining of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] paramilitary functions.
He should have a call upon MACV, USOM, the Embassy and [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] for support where necessary.
2. You might inquire whether the organization of the ARVN itself is well suited to the territorial war. Is the division a useful unit on which to base U.S. and GVN planning and support? Would more decentralization of tactical command, say to the province or district level, tend to tailor military operations more closely to local intelligence and other conditions? I have no expertise at all in such matters; but I should imagine that General Stilwell and Bob Thompson may have some useful thoughts. If you are impressed with Thompson, would it make any sense to associate him more closely with our own efforts-i.e., as an informal member of our country team?
3. Wouldn't it be worthwhile discussing with Khanh the possibility of his instructing ARVN subordinate commanders to take their military advisors more seriously? Could this be done on a "burden of proof" basis? If an ARVN unit commander refused to follow U.S. advice and then failed, he would have the burden of showing affirmatively that his decision was the correct one. Conversely, if he followed the advice and failed, he would be given the benefit of any doubt.
4. The necessity for U.S. liaison with Khanh and his government is greater than ever before. We had no knowledge of this coup; and unless we pull up our socks, we will not ever have the opportunity of dissuading others from starting a new one. The French can be counted upon to stir up trouble. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] Lodge has to be persuaded that such people do not represent a threat to his authority, if he chooses to give them guidance.
46. National Security Action Memorandum No. 280/1/
Washington, February 14, 1964.
/1/ Source: Department of State, S/S-NSC Files: Lot 72 D 316, NSAM 280. Secret.
The Secretary of State
The Secretary of Defense
The Director of Central Intelligence
The Administrator. AID
I have today determined that it is essential to establish in Washington a small committee for the management of U.S. policy and operations in South Vietnam. After consultation with the Secretary of State, I have designated Mr. William Sullivan of the Department of State to serve as Chairman of this committee, under the direct supervision of the Secretary of State.
I now request that the Secretary of Defense, the Director of Central Intelligence, and the Administrator of the Agency for International Development nominate to me individuals from their departments and agencies to serve as members of Mr. Sullivan's committee. The officers so nominated will be expected to give an absolute priority to their obligations as members of this committee and as agents for the execution of approved decisions. On this basis, I have already designated Mr. Michael Forrestal to serve as the White House representative on this committee.
Major questions of policy and operations will be subject to my approval in consultation with heads of departments and agencies as appropriate. In the execution of approved policy, it is my desire that Mr. Sullivan's committee shall move energetically, and that department appeal from Mr. Sullivan's decisions shall be kept to a minimum. He is being appointed because he commands the confidence not only of myself and of the Secretary of State, but also of senior officials of all agencies concerned.
It is my hope and expectation that the establishment of this committee will permit an energetic, unified and skillful prosecution of the only war we face at present./2/
/2/ On February 15, at 11:33 a.m., Rusk called McGeorge Bundy. The transcript of their conversation relating to the establishment of the Vietnam Committee reads as follows:
"Re the Viet-Nam task force, Sec. said he put a burr under their tail; told them that their mission is as broad as the problem, top priority, that we have got to win this war. B. thought it important to have the other track explored; Sec. said we were moving full speed on this as an adjunct to the task force." (Ibid., Rusk Files: Lot 72 D 192, Telephone Conversations)
Lyndon B. Johnson
47. Memorandum From the Chairman of the Policy Planning Council (Rostow) to the Secretary of State/1/
Washington, February 15, 1964.
/1/ Source: Department of State, S/P Files: Lot 70 D 199, Vietnam. Secret. Copies were sent to Harriman, Sullivan, U. Alexis Johnson, and Hilsman. Rusk's initials appear on the source text.
Ho and Mao
The question of Hanoi-Peking relations was raised briefly yesterday./2/ I should like to add a word.
/2/ Apparently at the 4:40 p.m. meeting on February 14; see footnote 2, Document 44.
I have assumed for some time that, in terms of Bloc relations and policy towards South Viet-Nam, Ho and Mao were coming closer together, although not without some debate in the Communist Party in Hanoi of which there is considerable evidence.
I assume further that Ho and Mao are now operating very closely and, indeed, engaged in a plan to warn us of escalation should we move north. Some additional aircraft have been moved to Hainan and into South China, I believe.
Moreover, in my view, no plan to inflict even limited damage on the North should proceed without our taking the fullest possible preparations to face any degree of escalation within enemy capabilities. The likelihood of escalation will be inversely proportional to their judgment of our determination and available and relevant military strength.
But this is a quite different matter from the important point made in the paper./3/ For centuries all Vietnamese have had as an objective of policy to keep an arms-length relation to China. The Vietnamese Communist Party has maintained control over its own army, secret police, and party apparatus. It maintains that critical degree of independence now.
/3/ See footnote 3, Document 44.
I do not for one moment believe--nor is there any evidence--that the North Vietnamese are prepared to forego that kind of independence, whatever their present relations with Peking.
A substantial war in North Viet-Nam would require the Chinese Communists to introduce into Hanoi aircraft and, perhaps, troops. No Vietnamese would view this event without a certain apprehension that the consequence might be the permanent reduction in their status from junior partner to Chinese province.
I continue to believe, therefore, that this deep reservation in Hanoi about relations with China will be one among other constraints on their conduct in the face of the policy we have been discussing; although, to repeat, we should not count on anything but a determination and a capacity to make their present course of action, in violation of solemn Accords, unprofitable as opposed to any other course of action they might adopt.
48. Memorandum From the Deputy Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Denney) to the Secretary of State/1/
Washington, February 15, 1964.
/1/ Source: Department of State, S/P Files: Lot 71 D 273, Vietnam. Secret.
Hanoi Foresees Victory in South Vietnam--But Only After Long Guerrilla War
In view of increasing speculation concerning the designs of North Vietnam in the South, we have analyzed a spate of recent statements from Hanoi which provide an unusually revealing picture of Hanoi's calculations.
A series of authoritative North Vietnamese articles, released on February 10 and 11, reaffirm Hanoi's belief that protracted political and military struggle without open North Vietnamese intervention will be ultimately successful against a militarily superior army. Nevertheless, Hanoi again evinces concern about how Viet Cong morale will hold up in the long run and even reveals the existence of considerable Northern disenchantment about the war in the South. The fullest exposition of these views is an article in the January issue of the elite journal Hoc Tap, by Lt. General Nguyen Van Vinh who, as head of the "reunification" committees of both the party's central committee and the National Assembly, probably has a major role in the formulation of Viet Cong policy.
Vinh argues at length against the contention that the conflict carries serious risk of escalation, a view apparently advanced by Moscow and perhaps echoed by some North Vietnamese leaders. In so doing, he warns the United States for the first time that an attack on North Vietnam would involve conflict with Communist China, but he is notably less explicit about the Soviet response. Hanoi appears genuinely concerned that the United States may be considering action against the North. This in part may explain not only these articles but also the recent flurry of related political and even military activity.
General Vinh predicts that the United States will remain involved in South Vietnam "for some years" until forced to withdraw in the face of heavier and heavier defeats. He is less precise about the consequences should the United States vastly increase its role, hinting this might necessitate increased North Vietnamese participation (as in Laos). The article implicitly rules out an international political settlement as a feasible course of action, at least under prevailing conditions. Another statement released the same day categorically rejects French President de Gaulle's suggestion (although it was attributed to President Johnson) that North Vietnam might be neutralized.
[Here follows the text of the 6-page paper.]
49. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/
Saigon, February 18, 1964.
/1/ Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 23-9 VIET S. Secret; Exdis. The source text bears no time of transmission. Received at 10:01 a.m. A note on the White House copy of this telegram indicates that the President read it. Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. IV) Also published in Declassified Documents, 1975, 216A.
1574. For Harriman and Hilsman. I have just seen JCS 4893 to MACV/2/ calling for a plan for "an immediate concentrated counterinsurgency offensive in Long An Province to restore effective GVN control." This is the most discouraging instruction I have seen since joining our Vietnamese effort two months ago. It reveals an almost total lack of comprehension of the character of the Vietnamese problem and of the present situation here.
/2/ Dated February 14, this cable transmitted the JCS belief that a counterinsurgency offensive in Long An Province would be a symbol of "revitalized war effort." The JCS requested development of a comprehensive plan in coordination with the Country Team for "earliest possible accomplishment this purpose." Johnson Library, National Security File. Vietnam Country File. Vol. IV. Memos and Misc.)
It assumes that:
1. An indigenous Communist insurgency enjoying full external Communist support can be defeated by such an "offensive" in a measurable period of time.
2. The GVN has adequate political cohesion and leadership, centralized control, and local administrative talent and organization to launch a "concentrated counter-insurgency offensive in Long An" or anywhere else.
3. The U.S. Mission here has sufficient influence and control over the GVN to persuade it to do so.
None of these assumptions are true in Viet-Nam today.
I have suggested to MACV that its reply which will to extent possible receive Country Team coordination include frank statement re utter impossibility of launching "an immediate concentrated counter-insurgency offensive" or of achieving quick success even were such action possible. It is my hope that our reply can convey a more realistic appreciation of our task than instruction which engendered it.
Doubtless Ambassador Lodge will have more to say on "quick victory" approach upon his return. In my opinion we face a long hard pull with final success probably dependent more on developments external to Viet Nam than on our counter-insurgency efforts here. On these U.S. Mission is and will continue to exert maximum effort.
50. Memorandum From the Deputy Director for Plans, Central Intelligence Agency (Helms), to the Secretary of State/1/
Washington, February 18, 1964.
/1/ Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. IV, Memos and Misc. Secret. Signed by Colby for Helms. Also sent to McNamara, McGeorge Bundy, Taylor, Hilsman, Forrestal, Anthis, Sullivan, Carroll, and others. Also published in Declassified Documents, 1974, 246D. Bundy wrote the following note on the source text: "President read Feb. 18 and so called meeting of Feb. 20 on SVN. McGB." For the results of the meeting, see Document 54.
According to a covering note, this was the third report of a group of CIA officers who went to Vietnam to cross-check covertly intelligence information provided by the Vietnamese. The first report, February 14, concluded that while the Vietnamese had been reporting honestly to their American counterparts since November 1, 1963, failings in quantity, quality, and training of Vietnamese personnel and lack of professionalism among Vietnamese sources made their intelligence product difficult to evaluate. A general impression gained by the CIA group was that the momentum of the strategic hamlet program had slowed practically to a halt. Commenting specifically on Binh Long and Phuoc Thanh Provinces, the report concluded that security had badly deteriorated there. The second report, February 14, concentrated on I Corps and concluded that optimism regarding the security of the area was mistaken and based on superficial developments. (Both in Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. IV, Memos and Misc.) The accord report is published in Declassified Documents, 1975, 246C.
A. Tide of insurgency in all four corps areas appears to be going against GVN. In many provinces team finds VC-controlled areas to comprise better than 50 or 60 per cent of total area. Some provinces (Phaoc Thanh, Binh Duong and An Xuyen) report VC-controlled areas as high as 80 per cent. In Tay Ninh Province American and Vietnamese officials agree VC can attack and enter any village of their choosing, including provincial capital.
B. National level direction of all programs appears to be weak to non-existent. This includes ARVN operations, strategic hamlet program. Chieu Hoi program, civic action program, national police program, hamlet militia program, etc. What ARVN operations are being conducted appear to be corps-controlled and corps concepts of action appear to vary even to the point that different divisions with the same corps have a different approach to problems.
C. Until 1 Nov coup, strategic hamlet program, while full of faults weaknesses, etc., had certain momentum and full national direction. Since coup, program has been viewed more realistically and many of illusions held jointly by US and Vietnamese have been shattered. Program at present at virtual standstill, as provincial officials, lacking direction at national level, grope for local and varying new approaches to pacification problem. Illustrative of results of current re-evaluation of strategic hamlet program is case of Hau Nghia, where province chief states that of 52 hamlets previously reported as completed, only eight are now considered viable. Province chief estimates that 75 per cent of Hau Nghia VC-controlled.
D. There is no evidence of any particular GVN appeal to youth or students and as matter of fact GVN propaganda mechanism in toto is largely moribund. Dissemination and production of propaganda appear to be centered entirely in Saigon and is so poorly operative in many provincial areas that VC were first to inform populace of 30 January coup. There are no newspapers produced outside of Saigon although VC by contrast do produce some regular periodicals which appear to be well read by local populace. (CAS working with GVN in this entire field.)
E. Several province chiefs encountered proved to be of high caliber. However, due to frequent personnel changes, present incumbents apprehensive over their tenure and reluctant to exercise initiative. Particularly in newly created provinces, there is lack of qualified subordinate personnel.
F. Hamlet militia appear effective mainly in non-critical areas. In critical areas as a rule hamlet militia have been disarmed by province chiefs, overrun by VC, or members have on their own initiative fumed in their arms and resigned. Therefore, in these areas hamlet militia not significant factor in war, brunt of which being increasingly borne by self-defense corps.
G. Quality and quantity of VC arms appear to be rapidly increasing. Presence of Russian-designed carbines, Czech sub machine guns, Chinese SKZ recoilless weapons and 7.92 heavy machine guns and increased use of heavy mortars by VC elements have been noted in all corps areas. These better weapons being distributed down to VC guerrilla units and presence of homemade and French weapons in hands of VC decreasing. In one recent case VC left behind in an overrun district headquarters in Quang Tri French weapons which they had brought with them. Progress in rearming VC units probably uneven, but in IV Corps it believed process virtually complete. In number of areas in IV Corps both American and Vietnamese sources assert that friendly forces now both outgunned and outmanned by enemy. (This info has been scattered in various MAC/V statistical reports, but to our knowledge has never been brought home in a clear, explicit, qualitative statement.)
H. Presence of improved weapons in hands of VC suggests significant degree of infiltration of new equipment into South Vietnam.
51. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense (McNamara)/1/
Washington, February 18, 1964.
/1/ Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 69 A 926, 092 Vietnam. Top Secret; Sensitive.
Vietnam and Southeast Asia
1. Reference is made to the memorandum by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, dated 22 January 1964,/2/ subject as above, which expressed the view that a loss of South Vietnam to the communists would presage a loss of the remainder of the United States position in Southeast Asia. It sets forth a number of actions which the United States should be prepared to take in order to ensure victory. Since submission of that memorandum, mindful of the need to revitalize the counterinsurgency campaign in South Vietnam, which has been interrupted and slowed by the confusion resulting from recent changes in government, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have reviewed the situation in South Vietnam with the view of determining additional actions which can be recommended for implementation immediately.
/2/ See Document 17.
2. The Government of Vietnam has developed, with the close collaboration of the US Military Assistance Command, a new National Pacification Plan/3/ which provides for the orderly pacification of the insurgency in accordance with a realistic phasing schedule. From a military planning viewpoint, this program should correct many of the past deficiencies of the effort, and it provides for consolidation of secure areas and expansion of them (the "spreading oil drop"). US military assets in Vietnam will fully support this plan. What is now required is implementation of additional actions which will insure an integrated political, socio-economic, and psychological offensive to support more fully the military effort. Accordingly, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that the Country Team be directed to implement the following actions at the earliest practicable time:
/3/On February 18, the Khanh government approved the National Pacification Plan which set forth a combined military, political, and economic offensive against the Viet Cong in two stages. Phase I envisioned a coordinated military and civilian effort to clear territory of the Viet Cong, moving successively from secure and highly populated areas into insecure and less densely populated ones. The concept became known as "spreading the oil drop." In Phase II, Vietnamese military forces would destroy the Viet Cong in their secret military bases and end the insurgency. The first priority of Phase I was the provinces surrounding Saigon and extending south into the Delta with an estimated completion date of July 1, 1965. The next priority was the remainder of the Delta and certain critical provinces north of Saigon, with a completion date of January 1, 1966. All of Corps I and II, with the exception of VC strongholds reserved for Phase II, were to be pacified by January 1, 1965. JCS Historical Division, The History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The War in Vietnam. 1960-1968, Part 1, chapter 8, pp. 23-24)
a. Induce the GVN (General Khanh) military to accept US advisors at all levels considered necessary by COMUSMACV. (This is particularly applicable in the critical provinces where the advisory effort should be expanded and should reach down to the subsector level.)
b. Intensify the use of herbicides for crop destruction against identified Viet Cong areas as recommended by the GVN.
c. Improve border control measures:
(1) Direct border surveillance elements to establish intelligence nets without regard to the existing geographic borders.
(2) Exploit smugglers and the Cao Dai, Hoa Hao, and other border minority groups.
(3) Establish denied areas where a "shoot on sight" policy will be followed.
d. Direct the US civilian agencies involved in Vietnam to assist the GVN in producing a civilian counterpart package plan to the GVN National Pacification Plan. (Any area in Vietnam can be temporarily cleared of Viet Cong, but it is the GVN civil administration which must win the people and stabilize the area in concert with the military. This plan should support and revitalize the Vietnamese "New Life Hamlet Program.")
e. Provide US civilian advisors to all necessary echelons and GVN agencies to provide civil administration "know-how" until a GVN corps of administrators can be trained.
f. Encourage early and effective action to implement a realistic land reform program.
g. Support the GVN in a policy of tax forgiveness for low income population in areas where the GVN determines that a critical state of insurgency exists. (In some areas the Viet Cong and GVN both levy taxes on the peasant population. Relief of the GVN tax would provide a small monetary relief but, more important, would have psychological value.)
h. Assist the GVN in developing a National Psychological Operations Plan and conducting psychological operations to insure an intensive nationwide coordinated propaganda campaign to establish the GVN and Khanh's "images," create a "cause" which can serve as a rallying point for the youth/students of Vietnam, and develop the long term national objectives of a free Vietnam.
i. Intensify efforts to gain the support of US news media representatives in Vietnam by exploring with them measures that can be taken to improve this situation.
j. Arrange US sponsored trips to Vietnam by groups of prominent journalists and editors.
k. Inform all GVN military and civilian officials through various means, to include their US advisors and counterparts, that the United States (a) considers it imperative that the present government be stabilized, (b) would oppose another coup, and (c) that the United States is prepared to offer all possible assistance in forming a stable government which will eliminate the necessity for another coup. In this instance, all US intelligence agencies and advisors must be alert to and report cases of dissension and plotting in order to prevent such actions.
3. The Joint Chiefs of Staff recognize that the implementation of the foregoing measures will not be sufficient to exercise a decisive effect on the campaign against the Viet Cong. They are continuing study of the actions suggested in the memorandum of 22 January 1964, as well as other proposals which require further study, and will recommend to you progressively the execution of such actions considered militarily required. Among the subjects to be studied as a matter of urgency are the following:
a. Intensified operations against North Vietnam to include air bombings of selected targets.
b. Removal of restrictions for air and ground cross-border operations.
c. Intelligence and reporting.
d. US organizational changes.
e. Increased US Navy participation in shore and river patrol activities.
f. Introduction of jet aircraft into the Vietnamese Air Force and the US Air Commando unit.
g. DOD-CIA relationship changes.
h. Reduction of test and evaluation activities.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Maxwell D. Taylor/4/
Joint Chiefs of Staff
/4/ Printed from a copy that bears this stamped signature.
52. Letter From the Deputy Chief of Mission in Vietnam (Nes) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Hilsman)/1/
Saigon, February 19, 1964.
/1/ Source: Department of State, William Bundy Files, WPB Special Papers. Secret; Official-Informal. Hilsman sent a copy of this letter to Forrestal for his information with the following handwritten note: "Another old Burma hand you have to deal with!! R.H." On March 5, Green sent this copy to the newly-designated Assistant Secretary of State for Ear Eastern Affairs, William Bundy, stating that the letter with its enclosure "presents views you will be interested in."
Dear Roger: I am sending along to you for what it is worth my personal views on Where We Stand in Viet-Nam conveyed to Ambassador Lodge in the enclosed Memorandum. They vary in several important respects from those held by many high ranking American officials far more experienced with the Vietnamese scene than I. In defense of the judgments I have reached, I can only say that I approached VietNam with little previous knowledge but with an open mind and no vested interest in past counterinsurgency policies or operations.
My most disillusioning experience has been with the MACV-MAAG operation which seems to be tailored largely toward providing the U.S. military establishment, within the framework of World War II Conventional Doctrine, organization and weapons, a fertile field for the utilization and promotion of its senior officers rather than as an instrument to deal with guerrilla war. I have an idea that were you and I, with our Burma experience, to take over from the nineteen General officers we have out here, we might put some realism into the military side of our operations against the VC.
I will have a great deal more to say about our Vietnamese adventure as time goes on but you may rest assured that I will say it only through channels, i.e., to you and to Ambassador Lodge.
Memorandum From the Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy (Nes) to the Ambassador in Vietnam (Lodge)/2/
Saigon, February 17, 1964.
Where We Stand in Viet-Nam
The following are my personal views and with particular reference to the French assessment of the SEA situation as conveyed in Deptel 1232, Paris Embtel 3907 to Dept., and as seen by the British, Paris Embtel 3873 to Dept./3/
/3/ These telegrams, February 13, 13, and 14, respectively, described the rationale of the French for their campaign for neutralism of Vietnam and Southeast Asia. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 16 CHICOM, POL 16 CHICOM, and POL VIET S, respectively)
1. Although I have only been directly associated with this area for some two months, my reading of developments over the past year and recent experiences here lead me to fear that General De Gaulle may be right in his belief that we are faced with the choice between accepting the possible collapse of our counter-insurgency efforts here or the escalation of the conflict toward a direct military confrontation of the DRV and China by the U.S.
2. Nothing that I have seen or heard thus far in Saigon leads me to believe that against the background of recent Vietnamese history our counter-insurgency efforts can win through so long as the Viet Cong is backed politically and psychologically and to a lesser extent militarily by Hanoi and Peking.
3. The peasants who form the mass of the South Vietnamese population are exhausted and sick of 20 years of civil conflict. During this entire period they have never and are not now receiving either political leadership or orderly and just administration from the central authorities of the GVN. They have enjoyed little if any social or economic betterment.
4. On the other hand, the Viet Cong represents a grass roots movement which is disciplined, ideologically dedicated, easily identifiable with the desires of the peasantry and of course ruthless. The fact that the VC has the full backing of China is perhaps its most powerful asset in presenting itself as the inevitable winner.
5. I do not see in the present military regime or any conceivable successor much hope in providing the real political and social leadership or the just and effective country-wide administration so essential to the success of our counter-insurgency program.
I think we would be naive in the extreme to believe that any number or quality of American advisors can succeed in changing within a reasonable period of time the attitudes and patterns of thinking of senior Vietnamese military and political officialdom.
6. In developing a large conventional World War II Vietnamese military establishment organized into four Corps and 9-10 divisions with other equally sizable supporting units, we may, in fact, have a Frankenstein on our hands which on the one hand serves little purpose in dealing effectively with the Viet Cong and on the other provides a perfect framework for spawning successive coups and so perpetuating the current political malaise.
7. Against this pessimistic appraisal, I do believe that were the VC to be totally deprived of all outside support, both material and psychological, we would be graced with the most important factor of all in a counter-insurgency effort-namely time. I would estimate very roughly that so deprived, and assuring continued and massive U.S. support for any and all anti-communist regimes which might emerge in Saigon, we might see the VC movement wither away in 5-10 years time.
8. At the same time, if General De Gaulle could be persuaded to change his view re our willingness to escalate our conflict with the Communists throughout SEA, I think his sponsorship of neutralization of South Viet-Nam might also be modified.
9. Finally, should our readiness and willingness to escalate toward a direct confrontation of Hanoi and Peking become obvious by our overt actions throughout the area, I think the tendencies toward neutralism here would rapidly disappear also.
10. In brief, it seems to me that De Gaulle has correctly analyzed the SEA situation if his assumption is correct that we will do no more than continue our present counter-insurgency efforts in South VietNam--these being concentrated on a large team of American military and civilian advisers working through whatever anti-communist regime exists in Saigon and in massive economic and military aid programs extended through such a regime. After two years of the most strenuous efforts by the U.S. along these lines, De Gaulle quite correctly feels that we have achieved little more than a precarious stalemate which in the next weeks, should further coups occur, could disintegrate very rapidly. This is also the conclusion of SNIE 50-64./4/
/4/ See Document 42.
11. Should this in fact happen, we will be faced either with turning the SEA ball game over to De Gaulle in the hope that his policy can salvage something from the wreckage or of rapidly escalating our efforts toward a final military showdown with China.
1. That we seize every opportunity to warn Washington that escalation may be the only alternative to inevitable neutralization, i.e., the loss of the U.S. political and military position in SEA.
2. That we recommend that De Gaulle be informed in the frankest terms that we will not leave SEA and that we are ready to face a conflict with China to preserve our position here.
3. That we urge the acceleration and expansion of OPS Plan 34A-64./5/
/5/ See footnote 2, Document 4.
53. Message From the Ambassador in Vietnam (Lodge) to the President/1/
Saigon, February 19, 1964--6 p.m.
/1/ Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Exdis. Transmitted as telegram 1583 from Saigon to the Department of State, where it was received at 7:21 a.m. and passed to the White House at 8:30 a.m. Telegram 1583 is the source text.
1. In reply to your 1256,/2/ I believe persistent and patient execution of current civil and military plans will bring victory-provided external pressures would be about as they were when I got here last summer. These pressures come from Communist China, North Viet-Nam, Laos, Cambodia and France, and I believe they have been increasing, although I cannot prove it. Effective steps to lessen, and perhaps eliminate, these pressures would be most helpful.
/2/ In telegram 1256, February 18, from the President to Ambassador Lodge, Johnson reminded Lodge that it had been 2 weeks since he delivered the President's personal message to Khanh (see footnote 2, Document 25). The President asked for a report for his own guidance on any further steps the United States should take to be of assistance and, in particular, any additional military or economic assistance Lodge might need to carry out existing or recommended policies. (Ibid., POL 23-9 VIET S)
2. Believe that within Viet-Nam, U.S. is giving enough economic and military assistance with one exception: an increase of funds to pay for the increase in the pay of the Army and of paramilitary forces./3/
/3/ In telegram CAP 64047 from the White House, February 20, Johnson responded that the request for increase in pay would be addressed immediately. (Ibid., POL 27 VIET S)
/4/ Telegram 1583 bears this typed signature.
54. Memorandum for the Record of a Meeting, White House/1/
Washington, February 20, 1964, 12:17 p.m.
/1/ Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. IV, Memos and Misc. Secret. Drafted by Forrestal. Copies of this memorandum were sent to Rusk, McNamara, Taylor, McCone, Bell, and Sullivan.
Prepared for this meeting, which lasted 1 hour, was an agenda, annotated by McGeorge Bundy, which reads as follows:
"1. Situation Briefing (5 minutes); 2. Intelligence and Reporting, (A) Cooper Activities, (B) French Activities; 3. Operations, (A) Response to Lodge Message, (B) Policy on Dependents [Bundy wrote at this point "P[resident] prefers"], (C) Other Matters; 4. Diplomatic Problems, (A) Cambodia, (B) Laos, (C) Others; 5. North Viet-Nam, (A) Intelligence [Bundy wrote "increase efforts"], (B) Propaganda [Bundy wrote "increase"], (C) Operations; 6. Planning, (A) Johnson Subcommittee [Bundy wrote "Speed up"], (B) Question of Time Phase." (Ibid.)
The President met today with the Secretaries of State and Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Under Secretary Ball, Director McCone, and the members of Mr. William Sullivan's committee on policy and operations in South Vietnam.
After an intelligence briefing on the current situation and a full discussion of the work of the committee, the President directed the following actions:
1. Any requests for assistance or other Washington action from Ambassador Lodge should be given prompt and sympathetic response. Such staff work as may be required to back up such requests in Washington should be given the highest priority, so that decisions can be reached quickly.
2. Contingency planning for pressures against North Vietnam should be speeded up. Particular attention should be given to shaping such pressures so as to produce the maximum credible deterrent effect on Hanoi.
3. For the time being, American dependents in Vietnam should be encouraged to accept voluntary repatriation. Early next month, the Secretary of Defense will consult with Ambassador Lodge on whether dependents should be evacuated and will make appropriate recommendations to the President and the Secretary of State upon his return.
4. The Department of State will explore in a positive manner the possibilities opened up by the recent proposals of Prince Sihanouk for a conference in Phnom Penh on the problem of Cambodian neutrality./2/
/2/ See American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1964, p. 847, footnote 7.
M V Forrestal
55. Message From the Ambassador in Vietnam (Lodge) to the President/1/
Saigon, February 20, 1964--8 p.m.
/1/ Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Exdis. Transmitted as telegram 1594 from Saigon which is the source text. A note on the White House copy of this telegram indicates that the President saw it. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. IV, Cables)
This is in further reply to your 1256./2/
/2/ See footnote 2, Document 53.
1. I believe various pressures can and should be applied to North Viet Nam to cause them to cease and desist from their murderous intrusion into South Viet Nam. I have made detailed recommendations in a memo dated October 30, 1963,/3/ of which Under Secretary Harriman has a copy, and to which I believe I referred briefly to you when you received me on November 24./4/
/3/ Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. IV, pp. 656-659. Sullivan sent a copy of Lodge's paper of October 30, 1963, to McNamara on February 24, 1964. (Memorandum from Sullivan to McNamara, February 24; Department of State, Bundy Files, WPB Special Papers, I of II, 1963)
/4/ See Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. IV, p. 635-637.
2. In light of recent terrorism against Americans in Saigon,/5/ I believe North Viet Nam should be told secretly that every terrorist act against Americans in South Viet Nam will provoke swift retaliation against North Viet Nam.
/5/ Thus far in February, there had been 15 terrorist attacks against Americans, including bombings of a U.S. theater and a softball game in which 5 Americans were killed and over 50, including official dependents, were wounded.
3. On the basis of knowledge available to me, I do not think this will bring on nuclear war with ChiComs or with anyone. It simply puts U.S. and South Viet Nam on a par with ChiComs and North Viet Nam in the struggle against the Viet Cong. At present, we let them have a sanctuary from which they operate against us, whereas we not only have no sanctuary, but do not operate against them in any significant way.
4. If the above recommendation is adopted, we should consider announcing just before undertaking it that we are evacuating all U.S. dependents. Our announcement should make it crystal clear that this step is being taken because we are cleaning the decks for action and intend to make things tougher for the V.C. Evacuation should not appear to be a frightened response due to Viet Cong terrorism.
5. Believe the South Vietnamese expect us to be brave and that there are big advantages to be gained by not disappointing them.
6. My present policy regarding American dependents is that any American who wishes to leave Viet Nam and return to the U.S. be allowed to do so. I reckon that only a few will want to go but that those who are unhappy here should not be required to stay.
7. In regards U.S. children in Saigon, I am in close touch with parents' organization whose present attitude is not to close school. They have question under constant review. General Khanh told me this morning he hopes to move school very soon to a more secure location.
8. In answering your telegrams, I am most anxious to keep you fully informed, and at the same time, not give you too much to read. If you wish my wires to be different in length and format, please advise.
/6/ Telegram 1594 bears this typed signature.
56. Message From the President to the Ambassador in Vietnam (Lodge)/1/
Washington, February 22, 1964--5:28 p.m.
/1/ Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Exdis. Transmitted as telegram 1281 to Saigon, which is the source text. McGeorge Bundy sent a draft of this telegram and the text of Lodge's message, supra, to Palm Springs, California, where the President was vacationing. The text of Bundy's covering cable to the President reads as follows:
"Next two following messages are an incoming from Lodge on enlarging our effort in North Vietnam and a draft response for the President. I send these now because of the President's desire to be very quick and effective in responses to Lodge's messages. The draft answer is being cleared with Rusk and McNamara, and we can get it out as soon as we have the President's own comments."
"The memorandum to Harriman which Lodge refers to [see footnote 3, supra] is sensible but tentative in form, and does not show strong advocacy of anything different from what we have been doing. My own notes on the President's November meeting with Lodge show nothing significant on North Vietnam. We therefore believe that the draft answer is fully responsive, and we assess the incoming message as sincere and reasonable, as far as it goes." (Telegram CAP 64050, February 21; Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. IV)
I appreciated your 1594/2/ which corresponds to much of my own thinking. Secretaries Rusk and McNamara, with my approval have already begun preparing specific plans for pressure against NVN, both in the diplomatic and military fields. Secretary McNamara will be visiting you early in March to review with you that subject and other aspects of the counter-insurgency campaign. Then or very soon thereafter we should make definite decisions.
/2/ Document 55.
I agree that any announcement of the evacuation of dependents must be made in such a way as to show we are getting tougher, not softer, and Bob McNamara will take this up with you also. In the meantime, the policy you have suggested in your paragraph 6 is just what I have already instructed the Departments to implement.
I value these direct exchanges with you on top policy matters. We should keep them up./3/
/3/ Telegram 1281 does not bear President Johnson's signature.
57. Memorandum From the Secretary of Defense (McNamara) to the Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff (Taylor)/1/
Washington, February 21, 1964.
/1/ Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 68 A 4023, Vietnam 092. Top Secret. Attached to the source text was a covering memorandum from William Bundy to McNamara, February 21, which reads as follows:
"The attached memorandum, prepared in response to your request, will obtain JCS views on a number of critical questions affecting our actions in Vietnam. The answers will also be helpful to the work of the Sullivan Committee. We have coordinated this request with the Joint Staff."
As you are aware, one of the alternatives which is now being reviewed with respect to the situation in Vietnam is a carefully planned program designed to exert increasing military pressures upon the government of North Vietnam, with a view to inducing that government to terminate its support and encouragement of the insurrection in South Vietnam and curtail Pathet Lao activities in Laos. The military pressures which might be applied extend from relatively minor covert activities, which you are already examining, to open GVN or U.S. air or sea non-nuclear attacks upon the DRV.
There are a number of military uncertainties which must be resolved, to the extent possible, before political decisions affecting such military actions can be taken. Accordingly, I should like to have your views upon the following matters:
1. The overall capabilities of the DRV and of the Chinese Communists for military action, with specific reference to:
(a) The types and magnitudes of actions which are possible, taking into account current Communist logistic capabilities.
(b) The geographic areas within which such actions might be undertaken.
(c) The time period within which the enemy forces could be brought to bear.
(d) The enemy capability for concurrent reactions, as for example, reactions both in Southeast Asia and in Korea and/or Taiwan off-shore islands.
2. What military actions against North Vietnam, employing air and naval power, but not ground forces beyond the scale of smallscale raids, might be:
(a) undertaken by the GVN and within the plausible range of GVN capabilities
(b) assertedly undertaken by the GVN, even if outside the plausible range of GVN capabilities;
(c) undertaken by the U.S. without public acknowledgment;
(d) undertaken by the U.S. along with, or after, a public declaration by the U.S. of an intent to exert military pressure upon the DRV with a view to forcing a termination of the insurrection in the South?
What targets would be most effective to attack from the standpoint of:
(a) specific effect on DRV capability against Laos, South Vietnam, and Thailand;
(b) interdiction of main communication routes between the DRV and Communist China, plus interdiction of sea communications into North Vietnam;
(c) more generalized target patterns designed to inflict damage on key installation in the DRV but to minimize the effect on the civilian population as a whole?
While the assessment of the impact of possible courses of action on DRV continued support of operations in South Vietnam and Laos is in large part an intelligence question that should be addressed by intelligence authorities as well, I would appreciate the views of the JCS as to the courses of action under one or more of the above headings that would in your judgment be most likely to bring about cessation of DRV support for operations in South Vietnam and Laos and at the same time be least likely to lead to stepped-up conflict and adverse reactions in third countries.
3. Assuming that, in response to the attacks upon the DRV, the DRV and/or the Chicoms undertake large scale troop movements over the border into one or more of:
(a) South Vietnam
(c) Thailand or Burma
(d) South Korea
What U.S. effort, air, sea, and land, would be required to contain such an invasion? If intelligence indicated that such a movement were contemplated by the enemy, what actions against North Vietnam and mainland China would be likely to deter such a response?
In each of these circumstances, or any likely combination of them, to what extent could the U.S. effectively counter such actions through air and naval responses only (without the use of ground forces other than those presently deployed) utilizing each of the following means:
(a) conventional ordnance only:
(b) conventional ordnance plus classified non-nuclear munitions. The degree of increased effectiveness to be expected from the latter should be specified along with the considerations for and against employment.
[Subparagraphs (c) and (d) (5-1/2 lines of source text) not declassified]
4. Assuming that the Chicom reaction included air action from mainland bases (either against SVN or other air bases, or supporting aircraft carriers) to what extent could this air threat be countered by:
(a) actions against enemy aircraft only, without attacks upon mainland bases, or
(b) selective attacks upon the Chinese bases and air defenses utilizing:
(i) Conventional ordnance (plus classified munitions if significantly more effective)
[Subparagraph (ii) (1-1/2 lines of source text) not declassified]
[Subparagraph (c) (2 lines of source text) not declassified]
5. What modifications must be made in existing contingency plans in order to provide for U.S. reactions which would depend primarily upon air activities rather than the intervention of substantial U.S. ground forces?
In view of the broad scope of these questions, I believe that the JCS will wish to create a special planning unit that can devote itself exclusively to these problems on a continuing basis. I appreciate that a detailed response may require a longer time, but believe that we must have your preliminary judgment on these questions for consideration prior to our anticipated departure for South Vietnam about 4 March. Accordingly, I would appreciate it if a preliminary response could be available for discussion with me not later than Monday, March 2. Our review at that time will almost certainly uncover additional questions and refinements that would form the basis for the next phase of the examination.
Robert S. McNamara
58. Telegram From the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Harking) to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Taylor)/1/
Saigon, February 21, 1964--4:15 p.m.
/1/ Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, McNamara Files: FRC 71 A 3470, South Vietnam. Top Secret; Eyes Only. The JCS sent copies of this cable to McNamara, Gilpatric, Anthis, and William Bundy.
MAC 665. Subj: CAS third appraisal./2/ Ref JCS 734, DTG 182258Z Feb./3/
/2/ Document 50.
/3/ In this telegram, the Joint Chiefs requested Harkins' views on the third appraisal. (National Archives and Records Administration. RG 213. ICS Files)
1. Except for the spectacular and eye catching lead sentence, I have no quarrel with most of the statements contained in the CAS survey team appraisal. Where the statements are clean-cut, the supporting information was usually provided by my field personnel and reflected in reports already sent to Washington by this headquarters. Where the statements are sweeping, they are based on opinion or an unfortunate penchant for generalizing from the specific. My detailed comments follow and are geared to the specific paragraphs of the CAS message.
A. Area vs. People. Since August there has been a steady, gradual erosion of GVN control of territory, this erosion has become progressively worse and more noticeable subsequent to 1 Nov 63. In 23 RVN provinces the VC dominate in over 50 percent of the area. Report is in error where it states Binh Duong is 80 percent VC controlled; degree of control by VC is 45 percent. However, Phnoc Tuy in which the area is over 80 percent controlled by the VC is not mentioned in the report. All this has been reported by MACV. It is still considered here that GVN control is complete or predominant over 70 percent of the people in the rural area, while VC control is complete or predominant over 18 Percent. There is another 3 percent over which neither GVN nor VC have dominance. Then there are also the 1,687,000 in the major cities which are definitely under GVN control.
B. National level direction of most, but not all, programs has been weak since 1 November. It is difficult to have direction without an effective government. Khanh, however, is meeting now with [regarding?] a national pacification plan today or by Monday. The effectiveness of military operations may be low but they do proceed according to the national plan and are certainly not without direction. It is logical for the corps to do the derivative planning within assigned areas and to direct and control the operations of its major subordinate units. The divisions within a given corps face different problems in terms of terrain, enemy and population. As regards military civic actions, the program began to get excellent backing in early January to include directives to the field and addresses by top members of the MRC. In a sharp departure from prior practices, twenty million plasters were allocated to the corps for military civic actions. Officials charged with administering the Chieu Hoi program are convinced it will become functional again under General Khanh's leadership.
C. E. F. Concur with contents. In this connection; see US Mission monthly status reports for December and January respectively; Section V and Annex X thereto of US Mission quarterly evaluation for period ending [end?] of December, and pare 6E, MACV headway reports since 8 January./4/
/4/ None found.
D. The experienced Embassy official assigned to monitor and support youth activities states it is not entirely accurate to say that GVN is inactive in their appeal to youth since active programs are carried on by USIS and USOM with the active cooperation of appropriate ministries of GVN. It is true there are no programs carried on to the vast extent of the Cong Hoa or Combatant Youth under the Diem regime. As a matter of fact, GVN propaganda mechanisms are quite active. The statement that "no newspapers are produced outside of Saigon" is not only ill-advised, but false. For example, 183 village district newspapers are operating (of the 200 programmed by USOM). The average circulation per newspaper is 450 three times weekly. These are widely read as demonstrated by requests received last week from Kien Giang, Kian Hoa, and Chaong Thzen for additional paper supplies to increase circulation. Kien Quoc, a provincial newspaper, is produced in four different editions weekly for the key provinces of Quang Ngai, Tay Ninh, Binh Duong and Long An with a provincial circulation of 35,000 each. Periodicals are numerous; for the population alone, USIS produces Huong Que (Rural Life-125,000 copies monthly) and Gioi Tu Do (Free World-150,000 copies monthly) aimed at the student population.
G. The statement "presence of Russian-designed carbines" is misleading. It is true that originally the carbine was Russian-designed--20 years ago. However, the weapon in question is ChiCom PE 53 carbine, which is obsolete in the Chinese Communist army. No knowledge here of Czech submachine guns. Reference is probably to ChiCom 7.62 mm modified K-50 submachine guns. ARVN has a habit of calling this weapon Czech. No information available in this headquarters regarding VC abandonment of weapons during the incident in Quang Tri; it is very unlikely this happened, since VC are not that fat in weapons. The friendly forces are not outmanned & outgunned by the enemy in IV Corps, although certain VC elements in this area such as the 96th and 306th Battalions are considered well trained, aggressive and competent units and they have given good accounts of themselves in several instances. The VC through massing of forces can achieve temporary numerical superiority in areas of their choosing but overall they cannot approximate the RVN strength in either manpower or materiel. The heaviest weapon of the VC is the 81 mm mortar. The VC [have] no 105 or 155 howitzers, no APC's or armored cars, no support aircraft and no heavy river craft.
2. As a general comment this message appears to be a combination of rehashing old information previously reported, plus the reporting of unevaluated individual observations not necessarily in consonance with an overall analysis of the situation in a division tactical area. I am concerned over the disregard of the terms of reference for this group that is demonstrated by the scope of this report. JCS message 362-64 [?] January 1964,/5/ indicates that the role of this group is to "assist in developing techniques to improve [less than 1 1ine of source text not declassified] intelligence collection." This example of unilateral reporting on matters outside their quarter and competency, without the benefit of the advice of this headquarters and other interested agencies can only be detrimental to the achievement of a joint, inter-agency intelligence effort and more important, is likely to introduce misleading, if not incorrect, information into the national decision making process.
/5/ Not printed. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 218, JCS Files)
We have nothing to hide but do have updated info on many of the problems covered by the [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] team report, and feel that such reports should be coordinated before being dispatched.
59. Message From the Ambassador in Vietnam (Lodge) to the President/1/
Saigon, February 22, 1964--2 p.m.
/1/ Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Exdis. Transmitted as telegram 1606 from Saigon, which is the source text. Passed to the White House on receipt at the Department of State.
This is in further reply to your 1256./2/
/2/ See footnote 2, Document 53.
1. In my 1583/3/ I mentioned the external threats to Viet-Nam and the steps which should be taken internally. In my 1594/4/ I referred in detail to steps which should be taken with regard to North Viet-Nam. In this telegram, I suggest steps to be taken with regard to France.
/3/ Document 53.
2. Because French is by all odds the Western language which the largest number of Vietnamese possess the best and because they have many personal relationships with individual French people, General de Gaulle's declaration on neutralism is having a demoralizing effect on the will to win of both senior and junior officers, and of the politically conscious population generally which is quite out of proportion to French power here which is actually quite skimpy. It starts a line of thought which runs: "It was Laos last year; this year it will be Cambodia; and next year it will be us." Obviously such thinking does not make for bravery and for hard fighting. To this psychological campaign is added the activity of French agents; Gen. Khanh's statement to me which is yet to be verified that these agents have conspired with the Viet Cong terrorists during the last week; and reports that some of the explosives which have been found near the theater and the stadium in which Americans were wounded and killed were of French origin. All of this can have a potentially very dangerous effect on Franco-American relations, and they create a totally false and dangerous emphasis here in Viet-Nam. I firmly believe that conditions are fundamentally much worse in North Viet-Nam than they are here. Yet, due in large part to de Gaulle's public utterances and the work of French agents, this community is concentrated on itself and its own fears instead of taking the initiative against an enemy which is having a very hard time in many ways.
3. I suggest, therefore, that General de Gaulle be told that all men of good will obviously desire the end of the Viet Cong war and the creation of a Vietnamese state which is not a satellite, which is free and independent and which is strong enough to be neutral if it wants to be. There is no disagreement about the goal, but simply as to how we are to achieve it. The following questions therefore arise:
a. How can so called "neutralization" be attained if the aggressor is determined not to be neutralized, as is obviously the case as regards North Viet-Nam?
b. South Viet-Nam is experiencing a change of government after a period of deterioration with an inevitable temporarily adverse effect on the war effort. Obviously, the word "negotiation" makes no sense when one side is much weaker than the other. Under these circumstances, there is no negotiation; there is simply an ultimatum and a capitulation. If France had gone to a "neutralizing" conference in 1943, for example, it would merely have confirmed the occupation by the German army. VC activity is not as devastating as was German occupation, but the comparison is applicable. How then can South Viet-Nam go respectably to an international conference when she is weak on the battlefield, and when to go to an international conference under those conditions is to go to inevitable defeat?
c. How can one avoid the conclusion that a chief of state who talks about neutrality at such a time is lessening the will to win of the Viet-Nam army and would thus bring Viet-Nam to a conference weaker than she is already?
d. In view of the fact General de Gaulle must be aware of the above, why does he speak of neutralism at the worst possible time from the standpoint of a truly just solution thus directly helping the Communists and why does he speak publicly of something which should not be public at all, but which should be the subject of a very secret declaration to North Viet-Nam, accompanied by effective pressures of many different kinds?
4. I suggest this one question be then put to him: "Believing you to be a man of good will who would not intentionally work to destroy the RVN or the vital interests of U.S., I, President Johnson, ask you to make a public statement making it clear that your remarks about neutralism were not meant to apply to the present time."
/5/Telegram 1606 bears this typed signature.
60. Telegram From the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council (Smith) to the President, at Palm Springs, California/1/
Washington, February 22, 1964.
/1/ Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Exdis. Also sent to Rusk in Palm Springs. The source text is the copy Smith sent to the Department of State as White House telegram CAP 64056, February 22. No time of transmission appears on the original message, but CAP 64056 was received in the Department of State at 1:49 p.m.
There follows another pair of messages from and to Lodge. The first is a long and important proposal for dealing with the French./2/ The second is an interim answer/3/ which we will send as soon as the President approves.
/3/ See below.
This is the trickiest area yet opened in this dialog, and I am working with Sullivan and Tyler to prepare alternatives for President and Secretary on their return. Meanwhile, they will probably wish to discuss the matter together. (Message from Lodge)
(Draft answer to Lodge from the President follows.)
"Your 1606 has been relayed to me in California. Dean Rusk and I will talk about it here. Let me say at once that we entirely agree with the purpose of your recommendation and that the problem is simply to find the right ways and means of getting the French to understand the damage done by their current position. Ambassador Bohlen has tried repeatedly on this, but I agree with you that we must leave no stone unturned in this effort."/4/
/4/The reply as it was approved in slightly different form reads as follows:
"Your 1606 has been relayed to me in California. Let me say at once that Secretary Rusk and Ambassador Bohlen have probed the French repeatedly to impress upon them futility and danger of empty talk of neutralization of South Viet Nam. We will keep at the French end of it and wish to be informed of any evidence local French activity cutting across our efforts."
"We must expend every effort and mobilize every resource to get Viet Nam strong enough to be independent and feared by any aggressor. We believe that your leadership can make this the driving zeal of every American working with the Vietnamese and that a dedicated and united effort on the American side can inspire them and impress Hanoi with the danger of pursuing its present course." (Telegram CAP 64058, February 22; Department of State, Central Files, PER-Taylor, Maxwell)
61. Memorandum From the Secretary of State's Special Assistant for Vietnam (Sullivan) to the Secretary of State/1/
Washington, February 25, 1964.
/1/ Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET N. Secret; Sensitive. Copies were sent to U. Alexis Johnson and Rostow.
Mr. Read has asked for my comments on Walt Rostow's paper entitled, "Habana and Hanoi."/2/ You will appreciate that I have no competence to make any observations on the Venezuela-Cuba situation and will therefore address my remarks exclusively to the corollary problem which we face in Viet Nam.
/2/ Rostow's paper, February 22, dealt primarily with potential U.S. responses to the discovery of Cuban weapons in Venezuela. Rostow suggested that after reconnaissance and a leaflet drop by U.S. aircraft, Venezuelan military aircraft attack a Cuban target as a reprisal. Rostow then drew a parallel with Vietnam as follows:
"The same principle might be applied in North Viet Nam; that is, if our first overt acts of violence in the north were against targets directly related to North Viet Nam aggression against the south (for example, the Vinh radio station), we could share in the warning leaflet drop, ride high-cover and deal with any escalation, while the South Viet Nam air force would actually attack the chosen target or targets. Once again, this would dramatize the principle at work; be consistent with the notion that our objective is to help the South Vietnamese defend their independence, and that we were merely protectors of that principle, in conformance with the 1954 treaty; and make it somewhat easier for Mao to keep out of the act; although, once again, we cannot go into this without being prepared for escalation."
Rostow also thought that military action against Cuba might "carry enough conviction in Hanoi and elsewhere that the mere massing of our forces in Southeast Asia would, against that background, be a credible demonstration that we were prepared to act against the north." (Ibid., S/P Files: Lot 70 D 199, Vietnam)
First, as I know Mr. Rostow agrees, action against North Viet Nam can never be a substitute for the hard, grubby job of routing out the Viet Cong in the areas where they have established themselves in the South. Despite the fact that they have control, direction, and a certain amount of supply from the North, the Viet Cong, especially in the Delta areas, have a sustaining strength of their own. Therefore, any action which might be taken against the North must be designed to bring the problem in the South within manageable dimensions and not in the vain hope that it can be eliminated purely by pressure on Hanoi.
Secondly, it seems to me that we have to give explicit and active attention to the Soviets. If we propose any moves in North Viet Nam, we should at the same time consider how we can neutralize Soviet reaction. I feel, without having gone into this in detail, that such neutralization might require a fairly broad "peace offensive" erected against the Soviets on matters nearest to the heart, such as Germany, trade, credits, etc. In other words, if we are going to produce a reaction from the North Vietnamese and the Chinese, we should at the same time be actively dangling before the Soviets some reasons for them to look the other way.
Therefore it would seem to me hardly propitious for us to consider simultaneous action in North Viet Nam and in Cuba, no matter how thoroughly we attempt to dissemble either event as being of indigenous origin. Soviet prestige is very actively engaged in Cuba, not only in its confrontation with the U.S. but also in its conflict with the Chinese. Therefore any prospects we might have of deflecting Soviet attention from a more active policy in North Viet Nam would, in my opinion, be seriously compromised by engaging the Soviets simultaneously in the Caribbean.
I believe that if we decide upon more active measures with respect to both Hanoi and Habana, we should undertake them in separate sequence. and with very carefully tailored parallel steps in other directions.
W. H. Sullivan
62. Editorial Note
At a news conference on February 29, 1966, President Johnson announced that William P. Bundy was replacing Roger Hilsman as Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs. The President also answered questions on Vietnam. For the complete transcript of the news conference, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963-64, Book I, pages 322-329. Bundy became Assistant Secretary-designate on March 10 and was approved by the Senate on March 16.
63. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam/1/
Washington, February 29, 1964--8:43 p.m.
/1/ Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Drafted by McGeorge Bundy and Rusk and cleared and initialed by Rusk. Attached to a copy of this telegram at the Johnson Library is a note from Read to Bundy indicating that this telegram "is the substance of what the Secretary and the President agreed to at lunch today." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. IV)
340. For Ambassador from Secretary. Re your 1601./2/ As result your telegram, we requested Ambassador Bohlen to submit his advice as to what we might usefully say to DeGaulle and urged that every effort be made to comply with your request.
/2/This reference is in error and should be to either telegram 1606, Document 59 or to telegram 1613 from Saigon, February 24, in which Lodge reported information from a "very authoritative source that GVN intends to break off relations with France because they think France is going to recognize Hanoi and break with GVN, and they want to beat them to it." In telegram 1613, Lodge again suggested that de Gaulle be convinced to issue a brief public statement saying that his earlier calls for neutralism in Southeast Asia did not apply to the present time. A de Gaulle statement of this kind would, in Lodge's opinion, prevent the potential break in relations between South Vietnam and France and discourage neutralist tendencies in South Vietnam which were sapping the war effort. (Department of State, Central Files, POL FR-VIET S)
Telegram 1601 from Saigon, February 20, reported on a ceremonial call by Lodge, Felt, and Harkins on General Minh. (Ibid., POL 15-1 VIET S; published in Declassified Documents, 1975, 216B.
Bohlen has now replied,/3/ stating that in his view the most effective approach in Paris at present is through Couve de Murville, and we are now instructing him to conduct such an approach along the lines you suggest, especially to see whether a public statement clarifying French policy in Viet-Nam is possible. If this approach does not succeed, Bohlen suggests that he should come back here for consultation. President is authorizing Bohlen to approach Couve as he recommends, and depending on Couve's response we will consider further aspects of Bohlen's proposal.
/3/ In telegram 4061 from Paris, February 26. In addition to recommending an approach through Couve de Murville, Bohlen stated that going through de Gaulle would only produce vague and ambiguous statements and would convince de Gaulle that he had forced the United States to throw itself on his mercy. Bohlen also said that de Gaulle did not have an operational or general plan for a neutralized Vietnam and might even be considering temporary Communist control of all Vietnam from which a Yugoslavia-like Vietnam would emerge. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)
Herve Alphand requested to see me today and affirmed (a) France is not engaged in conspiracy in Southeast Asia against US effort, (b) France remains solidly anti-communist and this applies to Southeast Asia, (c) France does not wish to see military effort in South Viet-Nam fail, (d) There is no understanding between Paris and Peiping regarding Southeast Asia, (e) France wishes to keep in closest consultation with US on Southeast Asian matters./4/
/4/The memorandum of conversation of this meeting, February 28, 3:30 p.m., is ibid., Secretary's Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330.
Clearly we must evaluate this in light of further discussions with French, and implications of some of their recent actions and statements.
Let me repeat that we share your sense of urgency about improving French public position.
64. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom/1/
Washington, March 1, 1964--6:30 p.m.
/1/ Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution. Drafted and approved by Rusk and cleared with Tyler, Green, and Sullivan.
5534. Please pass following message from Secretary to Foreign Secretary:
"Thank you very much for your message of February 29 about South Viet-Nam."/2/
/2/ The message asked for clarification of press stories that the United States was contemplating some form of offensive policy toward North Vietnam and asked for "some advance inkling" of U.S. plans and intentions so that the British Government could concert with the United States on a line to take in public. (Ibid.)
"Let me say at once that we will keep in closest touch with you about further developments in that area. The Viet Cong have obviously attempted to take maximum advantage of changes of government in Saigon and the dislocations which these changes inevitably produce. Whether this increased effort on their part can be sustained over any period of time is not yet clear but there is no doubt that there is a deterioration of morale and effectiveness on the South Viet-Nam side. McNamara's visit will attempt to sort out just where the problems are and what might be done to deal with them."
"As we see it there are three broad alternatives before us in South Viet-Nam. We could withdraw and leave Southeast Asia to the communists. We could continue on our present course and do everything possible to assist the South Viet-Namese to win their own war. We could escalate the war by positive and direct military pressures on Hanoi. I can assure you that the second course is the one we greatly prefer. We cannot adopt the first course, with its calamitous results for the entire free world, and the third course is obviously one which would be turned to with the greatest reluctance."
"We are not convinced that the second course has exhausted its possibilities. We shall do everything we can to make it succeed. Unfortunately, there is not the sense of solidarity in the free world which would give this course the greatest chance of success. The recognition of Peiping by Paris clearly signals to Peiping that their course of militancy pays dividends. The talk of neutralization is phony, given the fact that there is not the slightest indication that North Viet-Nam is interested in breaking away from the communist camp. If neutralization simply means that the US abandons its support of South VietNam, then neutralization is a formula for a communist takeover of Southeast Asia. We have repeatedly said to the other side that if they want to get American forces out of Southeast Asia the way to do it is to leave their neighbors alone."
"I should like to put to you the dividends of concentrating very hard on Laos at this point. If the Geneva Accords of 1962 were to be fully implemented, the situation in South Viet-Nam would be drastically improved. In Laos we have a firm and flat commitment from the Soviet Union as well as solemn commitments from Hanoi and Peiping. Surely on this even Paris can act with complete solidarity with you and us and other free world countries. The Viet Minh presence in Laos and the free use of Laos as an avenue of infiltration into South VietNam are unacceptable violations of the Accords of 1962. Perhaps you could stimulate Paris to give forceful and public support to those Accords and to make it quite clear that all of us in the free world are determined on performance. I feel that we in Washington are in a position to insist upon this because, as you will recall, we went a long way to meet Paris in working out the Accords of 1962 and in accepting and supporting Souvanna Phouma as the Prime Minister. I can tell you that we are much concerned about attitudes expressed by Ambassador Millet who seems to think that General Phouma is the problem and that Souvanna Phouma ought to make his peace at any price with the Pathet Lao. This I suppose is consistent with the view expressed to us since 1961 by Paris that France will not commit a single soldier to Southeast Asia."
"In any event, the purpose of this message is to let you know that we shall certainly keep in touch before any new or important decisions are made about courses of action in Southeast Asia other than those on which we are now embarked."
65. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense (McNamara)/1/
Washington, March 2, 1964.
/1/ Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 69 A 926, 092 Vietnam. Top Secret; Sensitive.
Removal of Restrictions for Air and Ground Cross-Border Operations
1. By JCSM-136-64, dated 18 February 1964, subject: "Vietnam and Southeast Asia (U),"/2/ the Joint Chiefs of Staff forwarded recommendations for certain steps to be taken immediately to revitalize the counterinsurgency campaign in South Vietnam. That memorandum advised that other actions were also under study, among which was the subject removal of existing restrictions related to ground and air cross-border operations. This memorandum contains the views and recommendations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on that subject.
/2/ Document 51.
2. While our available hard intelligence does not reveal the exact dimensions of the infiltration of men and materials into South Vietnam from the North, and the true extent to which the Viet Cong and their North Vietnamese supporters are utilizing sanctuaries in Laos and Cambodia, there is mounting evidence that these are of such proportions as to constitute an increasingly important factor in the war. Modern weapons of Chinese communist origin, including recoilless rifles and quadruple-mounted heavy machine guns, are appearing in the hands of the Viet Cong in South Vietnam in increasing numbers, partially offsetting the tactical advantage we have derived heretofore from the use of air mobility and armored personnel carriers. Viet Cong military capabilities are growing significantly in terms of well trained, well armed, and well directed hard core units, indicating the extent and effectiveness of the support being provided by Hanoi in terms of arms, equipment, trained cadre, and operational direction. There is evidence that small Viet Cong units have used Cambodia as a sanctuary for a considerable period of time. Additionally, there has occurred recently an incident wherein a battalion-sized Viet Cong unit, several hundred strong, after making a devastating attack, withdrew into their inviolable sanctuary in Cambodia. All our experience in counterinsurgency indicates that when the insurgents enjoy the advantage of such sanctuaries and support across international borders, their elimination will be a most difficult, if not impossible, task.
3. In the face of the serious menace to our ultimate victory represented by the above, we continue to operate under the limitations of self-imposed restrictions. These restrictions are outlined in Appendix A hereto./3/ Their effect is to deny to ourselves and our South Vietnamese Allies the essential means to satisfy urgent military requirements for interdiction of infiltration routes, pursuit, and destruction of enemy forces who take refuge in their sanctuaries across the borders.
/3/ Not printed.
4. The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that the time has come to lift the restrictions which limit the effectiveness of our military operations. Certain military operations across the borders of Laos and Cambodia are considered essential to successful prosecution of war. Specifically, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that authority be sought for the conduct of operations as described in Appendix B hereto/4/ which have been proposed by the Commander in Chief, Pacific. An analysis of the military benefits to be gained versus the possible risks involved is also contained in Appendix B.
/4/ In Appendix B, not printed, the JCS recommended that the South Vietnamese adopt a policy of hot pursuit of hostile Viet Cong forces into the Demilitarized Zone, Cambodia, and Laos, and that U.S. advisers be allowed to accompany them; also that the 2d U.S. Air Division be allowed hot pursuit on the same basis. In addition, the JCS recommended low-level reconnaissance of Laos and Cambodia by U.S. aircraft, encouragement of overt operations by South Vietnam against the Viet Cong in Laos (with U.S. advisers and cooperation with friendly Lao forces), and covert ground operations into Cambodia.
5. Since the actions considered here represent only one segment of the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommendations in relation to revitalizing the Vietnamese campaign, it is suggested that this paper be held and considered in connection with the other papers bearing on the Vietnamese campaign.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Maxwell D. Taylor/5/
Joint Chiefs of Staff
/5/ Printed from a copy that bears this stamped signature.
66. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense (McNamara)/1/
Washington, March 2, 1964.
/1/ Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, McNamara Files: FRC 71 A 3470, Military Plans Against NVN, March 1964. Top Secret; Sensitive.
1. This memorandum responds to your memorandum, dated 21 February 1964, subject as above./2/ For purposes of clarity, each question in your memorandum has been repeated and underlined,/3/ followed by the answer thereto. The response to the separate portions of your memorandum follow:
/2/ Document 57.
/3/ Printed here in italic type.
a. The over-all capabilities of the DRV and of the Chinese Communists for military action, with specific reference to:
(1) The types and magnitudes of actions which are possible, taking into account current Communist logistic capabilities.
(2) The geographic areas within which such actions might be undertaken.
(3) The time period within which the enemy forces could be brought to bear.
(4) The enemy capability for concurrent reactions, as for example, reactions both in Southeast Asia and in Korea and/or Taiwan offshore islands.
Answer: Over-all capabilities of the DRV and ChiCom follow:
(a) It is currently estimated that 13 ChiCom infantry divisions, less heavy artillery and armor, plus nine DRV divisions could be logistically supported during the dry season (November-May) in initial moves against Southeast Asian countries. (b) It is currently estimated that the ChiCom Air Force, by redeploying and operating from airfields in South China, Hainan, and North Vietnam, could make available about 400 jet fighters and 125 jet light bombers for operations in Southeast Asia.
(c) The ChiCom naval capabilities include harassing tactics by PT boats, mining operations, and possibly some submarine activity (four to six maintained on station).
(d) With regard to logistic support of DRV/ChiCom aggression in Southeast Asia, the onset of the wet season will bring about a considerable reduction in the capability to support large-scale offensive operations. Further study will be necessary to determine specifics.
(e) The ChiComs have the capability to launch limited ground and/or air attacks concurrently in widely separated areas such as Southeast Asia, South Korea, and Taiwan. However, logistic limitations severely restrict their ability to sustain a major land, sea, and air campaign in more than one area. By concentrating their efforts in any geographic area, they could mount a major campaign comprising land, sea, and air forces as indicated in Appendix C. /4/
/4/ Not printed.
b. What military actions against North Vietnam, employing air and naval power, but not ground forces beyond the scale of small-scale raids, might be:
(1) undertaken by the GVN and within the plausible range of GVN capabilities;
(2) assertedly undertaken by the GVN, even if outside the plausible range of GVN capabilities;
(3) undertaken by the US without public acknowledgment;
(4) undertaken by the US along with, or after, a public declaration by the US of an intent to exert military pressure upon the DRV with a view to forcing a termination of the insurrection in the South?
Answer: Military pressures can be applied to North Vietnam in the form of air strikes, amphibious raids, sabotage operations, and a naval blockade. The Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces (RVNAF) have a very limited capability to conduct air strikes, amphibious raids, and sabotage operations in North Vietnam. By the utilization of nonattributable air support, e.g., Farmgate-type operations, the VNAF air effort could be intensified and expanded for conducting air strikes against LOCs, military installations, and industrial targets. With respect to Farmgate, augmentation with the B-57 jet aircraft, as recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will greatly enhance its capability. The introduction of US air and naval elements, even though not openly acknowledged, would permit further selective destruction of the above targets. Openly announcing US intentions would provide more freedom of action for using military force in achieving clearly stated limited objectives. More detailed information is contained in Appendix A. 4 Additionally, a scenario (Appendix B) 4 has been developed which outlines those actions necessary to the accomplishment of a program of increasing pressures against North Vietnam.
c. What targets would be most effective to attack from the standpoint of:
(1) specific effect on DRV capability against Laos, South Vietnam, and Thailand;
(2) interdiction of main communications routes between the DRV and Communist China, plus interdiction of sea communications into North Vietnam;
(3) more generalized target patterns designed to inflict damage on key installations in the DRV but to minimize the effect on the civilian population as a whole?
Answer: Targets, the destruction of or damage to which would have the most effect on DRV operations against Laos, South Vietnam, and Thailand, include airfields, POL storage facilities, bridges, and military installations. Interdiction attack in Laos and North Vietnam would assist in reducing support to the Pathet Lao and the Viet Minh/Viet Cong. In addition, sustained interdiction attacks of specified railroad facilities, roads, and water routes would disrupt ChiCom support of the DRV. The destruction of selected industrial facilities and power plants will further reduce DRY's war-supporting capability. Targets have been selected in terms of key installations, minimizing destruction to the population as a whole. The treatment of target systems is contained in Appendix A. Annex to Appendix A lists representative targets by category and order of attack within category.
d. Assuming that, in response to the attacks upon the DRV, the DRV and/or the ChiComs undertake large-scale troop movements over the border into one or more of:
(1) South Vietnam
(3) Thailand or Burma
(4) South Korea
What US effort, air, sea, and land, would be required to contain such an invasion? If intelligence indicated that such a movement were contemplated by the enemy, what actions against North Vietnam and mainland China would be likely to deter such a response?/5/
/5/ At this point, McNamara wrote the following note in the margin: "air strikes at 1) ChiCom airfields 2) lines of supply. Why not assume massive use of US air both B47's & sea based & land based in SVN."
Answer: The ChiComs/DRV would be unable to undertake large-scale military actions in more than one area at a time due to logistic limitations and availability of forces, although military pressures might be exerted in several areas. US forces required to counter aggression in each of the areas listed in your memorandum are set forth in Appendix D./6/ In addition, certain actions (such as making clear to the DRV and the ChiComs our limited objectives, alerting and deploying US forces, U.S. Assessment of the Khanh Government 115 and increasing reconnaissance programs in pertinent areas) may deter such responses on the part of the DRV and ChiComs. These actions are treated further in Appendix D.
/6/ Not printed.
e. In each of the circumstances in subparagraph d above, or any likely combination of them, to what extent could the US effectively counter such actions through air and naval responses only (without the use of ground forces other than those presently deployed) under several alternatives as to weapons employed?
(a) In the broad application of land and sea based air power, nonnuclear attacks may not cause the ChiCom/DRV to cease aggression; however, nuclear attacks would have a far greater probability of causing them to desist. Sea power would be most effective in the form of a blockade, but would require imposition for a considerable time before it would have a marked effect on ChiCom/DRV aggressive operations. Other naval actions such as an amphibious feint could be used to supplement the effect of the blockade. Use of classified conventional munitions in an air and naval response would tend to increase the effectiveness of such response on a sortie-by-sortie basis. However, there is relatively little advantage to the use of classified munitions against hard targets. An expanded treatment is contained in Appendix D.
(b) The Joint Chiefs of Staff emphasize that in initiating actions against the DRV there must be a readiness and willingness on the part of the United States to follow through with appropriate contingency plans to counter DRV/ChiCom reaction as required. Also listed in Appendix D are certain related military measures which should be accomplished to improve the US military readiness posture to execute contingency plans. The most important of these is the deployment of US air strike and air defense units to Thailand and South Vietnam as necessary. An attack carrier strike force is available to move within striking distance of North Vietnam.
f. Assuming that ChiCom reaction included air action from mainland bases (either against SVN or other air bases, or supporting aircraft carriers), to what extent could this air threat be countered by: actions against enemy aircraft only or selective attacks against Chinese bases and air defenses utilizing conventional or alternatively low yield nuclear weapons employed to minimize both collateral damage and fallout?
Answer: With respect to air defense, the air defense capabilities in Southeast Asia, Taiwan, Japan, and Korea are inadequate to cope with saturation attacks. Accordingly, enemy air should not be permitted to operate from sanctuaries, but should be attacked at the sources. However, occasional air attacks on Saigon and similar key localities must be anticipated. Additional study is required to provide specific data requested in your memorandum.
g. What modifications must be made in existing contingency plans in order to provide for US reactions which depend primarily upon air activities rather than the intervention of substantial US ground forces?
(a) CINCPAC operation plans provide for the application of military power against the DRV and ChiComs. These are:
i. Plan 33--provides for overt employment of US forces in retaliatory attacks against North Vietnam.
ii. Plan 34-A--provides for RVNAF military operations in North Vietnam.
iii. Plan 99--provides for overt employment of US forces in military operations designed to stabilize the situation in Laos and South Vietnam.
iv. Plan 94--provides for overt operations employing US forces in air strikes against a ChiCom nuclear production facility.
v. Plan 32--provides for the over-all defense of Southeast Asia./7/
/7/ Regarding OPLAN 34A, see footnote 2, Document 4. The text of OPLAN 99-64 is in the Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Southeast Asia, Vol. 11, Memos (B), 5/64-6/64. OPLAN 32-64 is ibid., Memos (A), 5/64-6/64. Texts of OPLAN 32-64 and OPLAN 94-64 are in the National Archives and Records Administration. RG 218, JCS Files.
(b) While CINCPAC has numerous plans which call for substantial US air effort in conjunction with the intervention of US ground forces, there are no specific plans based solely on air and naval responses which apply to all of the situations contained in this paper. The Joint Chiefs of Staff will direct the preparation of such plans as required.
h. The view of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as to the courses of action that would most likely bring about cessation of DRV support for operations in South Vietnam and Laos.
(a) US intentions and resolve to extend the war as necessary should be made clear immediately by overt military actions against the DRV.
(b) Military actions should be part of a coordinated diplomatic, military, and psychological program directed at deterring the enemy and preparing the world for extension of the war.
(c) We should prepare military actions, one in the form of a sudden blow for shock effect, another in the form of ascending order of severity with increasing US participation; the purpose of both being to bring about cessation of DRV support of the insurgency.
(d) Initial military preparations should provide for:
i. Overt demonstrations of US intentions through US low level aerial reconnaissance over Laos and North Vietnam.
ii. Expansion of RVN activities including Farmgate aircraft, into North Vietnam by: (Outlined in Appendix A.)
1. Air strikes
(e) Preparation should be initiated by the US and GVN for:
i. Increasing the intensity of efforts against the DRV by:
1. Armed reconnaissance along the principal supply routes from DRV to
(i) Highway bridges along the principal supply routes from DRV to Laos.
(ii) Military targets in DRV and Laos which directly support the insurgency.
(iii) Airfields in DRV which are used for aerial resupply to Laos.
(iv) POL installations and major LOC facilities between China and DRV in North Vietnam.
(v) Industrial base targets in the Hanoi/Haiphong area.
3. Mine laying in selected areas.
2. An assessment of enemy reactions to the military actions listed above indicates that the Chinese communists view Laos and South Vietnam as DRV problems. It is unlikely that the ChiComs would introduce organized ground units in significant numbers into the DRV, Laos, or Cambodia except as part of an over-all campaign against all of Southeast Asia. They might offer the DRV fighter aircraft, AAA units, and volunteers. They would assume an increased readiness posture and ChiCom aircraft might be committed to the defense of North Vietnam. The Soviets would probably be highly concerned over possible expansion of the conflict. To the extent that Moscow believed the Hanoi and Peiping regimes in jeopardy, Sino-Soviet differences would tend to submerge. It is believed that Moscow would initiate no action which, in the Soviet judgment, would increase the likelihood of nuclear war. The appraisal of possible enemy reaction is contained in Appendix C.
3. The foregoing discussion provides the preliminary judgments of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as you have requested; however, they desire to reaffirm the view expressed by memorandum to you, dated 22 January 1964,/8/ concerning the overriding importance to the security interests of the United States of preventing the loss of RVN. The North Vietnamese direction and support of the insurgency in the RVN is one of the controlling factors in the continuation of the war. Accordingly, intensified operations are warranted and essential at this time to convince both the DRV and ChiCom leadership of our resolution to prevail.
/8/ See Document 17.
4. It is recognized that the program of intensified operations contemplated herein involves a change in US policy. Nevertheless, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that those actions described in paragraph 1h above be approved as a basis for discussion and planning with US and GVN officials in your forthcoming visit to Southeast Asia./9/ In making this recommendation, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recognize that even if success attends our efforts to cause the DRV to desist from aiding the Viet Cong, the latter can by their own efforts sustain the insurgency for an indeterminate period at a reduced level.
/9/ At this point, McNamara wrote in the margin: "OK, fuller use of massive U.S. air power in lieu of US gd forces."
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Maxwell D. Taylor
Joint Chiefs of Staff
67.Memorandum Prepared in the Department of Defense/1/
Washington, March 2, 1964.
/1/ Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. V. No classification marking. In a covering memorandum, McNamara informed the President that this was the 2-page South Vietnam summary which he had requested.
SUMMARY STATEMENT ON SOUTH VIETNAM
1. The Problem
In Southeast Asia today the Free World is facing an attempt by the Communists of North Vietnam to subvert and overthrow the non-Communist government of South Vietnam. North Vietnam has been providing direction, control, and trained cadres for the 25,000 Viet Cong guerrillas and the 60,000 to 80,000 irregulars engaged in harassment, systematic terror, and armed attacks on the people of South Vietnam.
Our purpose in South Vietnam is to help the Vietnamese maintain their independence. We are providing the training and the logistic support which they cannot provide themselves. We will continue to provide that support as long as it is required. As our training missions are completed, certain of our troops can be withdrawn. In December 1000 men came home. This group included, for example, two military police units whose airport guard duty had been taken over by Vietnamese trained for that purpose.
3. The Current Situation
In the past four months, there have been three governments in South Vietnam. Each of them has appointed its own cabinet members, its own provincial governors, and its own senior military leaders. The Viet Cong have taken advantage of the confusion resulting from these changes by raising the level and intensity of their attacks. They have been using larger forces and more powerful weapons.
This increased activity has had a good deal of success. Strategic hamlets formerly under government protection have been lost to the Viet Cong; roads formerly open to free movement have been closed. On the other hand, Viet Cong fatalities have been high. The unfavorable rate of 3 or 4 Viet Cong killed for every Vietnamese has continued. Although 15,000 to 20,000 Viet Cong have been killed during the past 12 months, their strength has remained approximately level through receipt of cadres from North Vietnam and recruits from South Vietnam.
4. Alternative Courses of Action
At least four alternatives are open to us today:
A. We can withdraw from South Vietnam. Without our support the government will be unable to counter the aid from the North for the Viet Cong. Vietnam will collapse, and the ripple effect will be felt throughout Southeast Asia, endangering the independent governments of Thailand and Malaysia, and extending as far as India on the west, Indonesia on the south, and the Philippines on the east.
B. We can seek a formula that will "neutralize" South Vietnam. But any such formula will only lead in the end to the same result as withdrawing support. We all know the communists' attitude that "What's mine is mine and what's yours is negotiable." True neutralization would have to extend to North Vietnam as well, and this possibility has been specifically rejected by the North Vietnamese and Chinese Communist governments.
C. We can send the Marines and other U.S. ground forces against the sources of the aggression. But if we do, our men may well be bogged down in a long war against numerically superior North Vietnamese and ChiCom forces.
D. We can continue our present policy of providing training and logistical support for the South Vietnam forces. This policy has not failed. We propose to continue it.
Secretary McNamara's trip to South Vietnam will provide us with an opportunity to appraise the future prospects for this policy, and the further alternatives that may be available to us.
68. Memorandum Prepared by the Director of Central Intelligence (McCone)/1/
Washington, March 3, 1964.
/1/ Source: Department of State, Bundy Files, WPB Special Papers. Secret. There was no designated recipient of this memorandum indicated on the source text, but a handwritten note by William Bundy reads: "McCone Draft. Bundy Working."
MEMORANDUM ON VIETNAM
Following my trip to Saigon in late December, 1963, I concluded that while the problems of accomplishing the U.S. objectives in South Vietnam are not insurmountable they are indeed formidable and there were more reasons to be pessimistic about obtaining our objectives than there were reasons to be optimistic./2/
/2/ See Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. IV, pp. 735-738.
Since then Khanh's coup has removed Generals Don, Kim, Xuan and Dinh. This has precipitated a decided change in the situation, necessitating a reassessment of the outlook.
In making such a reassessment the following areas must be considered:
1. The South Vietnamese Political Situation.
a. General Khanh has demonstrated that he is an able military leader. He is young (36 years old), relatively inexperienced. He was a lieutenant in 1954 and void of any political experience. He is unknown to the people and hence there is no evidence of strong popular support or great confidence in his leadership on the part of the people. We note considerable gossip among the people with whom the Station is in contact indicating lack of confidence in Khanh and his government.
b. General Khanh has appointed General Big Minh as Chief of State and three Vice Prime Ministers. General Minh is little more than a figurehead if that and has indicated some residual unhappiness at having been displaced by Khanh. Of the three Vice Prime Ministers, Nguyen Ton Hoan is a leader of the Dai Viet Party with a strong political motivation, but has been out of the country since 1954 until January of this year. Nguyen Xuan Oanh is a technician in economics and finance. He has spent most of the past 18 years out of his country and returned only this year. Do Mau is a general, formerly Chief of the Military Security Services and attache in Paris, but has little background in the cultural and social affairs he is supposed to supervise.
c. In addition he has appointed a slate of ministers. These have been drawn from various political and religious groups and with some attention to their geographic origin in an attempt to include most currents of opinion. Due to the lack of experience of the ministers, however, and their varying backgrounds, we cannot expect the cabinet to be especially strong. In addition some able men were not selected because of prior associations with Diem-Nhu, Minh-Don or the French and some others have not wished to serve because of the uncertainty as to the future of this government. We are already receiving reports of planning for new coupe, especially from the political circles of the Dai Viet party. We conclude that the prospects for a strong government are not bright.
d. In the provinces and districts there is both confusion and lack of direction. Some chiefs appointed by Minh have been removed, others do not know their future. Most are awaiting guidance from the new government in Saigon. Therefore, there is no strong political direction at the level of province and district chiefs.
e. As a result of what appears to be a weak and ineffective central government and a confused situation at the level of provinces and districts, many essential programs such as the strategic hamlet program and various civic action programs have come to a virtual halt. This is giving the VC an opportunity to fill this vacuum with their own political and military action with the result that many areas have been lost to the government and there is a growing feeling that the VC may be the wave of the future.
All of the above leads to the conclusion that the situation is worse now than it was in December and therefore I am more pessimistic of the future of the American cause in South Vietnam than my December report reflects.
2. South Vietnam Military Organization
a. The organization still exists in the proportions built up by Diem-Nhu and taken over by Minh-Don. However, there is some evidence that morale is low because of constant changes in leadership at the senior and intermediate levels. This situation might change as the new commanders assume control.
The situation is particularly bad within the Security Forces in Saigon. There have been three different commanders of the Saigon Police and Security Forces in the last few months. We are receiving reports of increased VC activities in Saigon itself. Lack of morale in the military and lack of confidence in Khanh's leadership is causing a new round of coup plotting and also rumors of plans to assassinate Khanh. Either might happen. Khanh is being warned of these plans and plots and is said to be taking precautions. However, his success is dependent upon his mastering the role of leader of the country and being accepted as such by officers at all levels, as well as by the civilian, political and private leadership.
From the above I conclude that the military situation, bad in December, has worsened and the problem of reversing the trend is formidable. A continuation of the present nature of GVN and U.S. military and political actions does not appear to me to be enough to reverse current trends toward defeat.
4.[sic] Viet Cong Activities
Militarily the Viet Cong situation has improved in the last 90 days. They have organized 5 additional battalions, their communication network has been improved, and there are indications that they are organizing units into regiments. Captured equipment gives evidence that VC's now have heavier equipment then they possessed a year ago, bazookas, mortars, anti-aircraft, etc. Much of such heavier equipment is of Chinese Communist origin but does not reflect any sudden great increase of direct Chinese Communist support or presence as much of it could come from DRV inventories. Of the smaller arms, the largest amounts are American made (most captured but some older items infiltrated). The VC's also use some equipment which originated in Communist China, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union. The VC's appear to have substantial supplies of arms, perhaps not the most modern, although they still probably have a serious logistic, maintenance and ammunition problem.
VC leadership seems to be sound; their political action and terrorism are effective, as evidenced by their ability to persuade whole areas to abandon the strategic hamlet program and turn in their arms as a price for pacification.
There is a continuing flow of evidence that VC operations are being directed from North Vietnam, leadership is being supplied from the north as well as war materiel and trained cadres. However it is evident that a very substantial part of the VC organization, strength and support is indigenous to South Vietnam.
I can only conclude from my observations that both militarily and politically the VC are gaining at the moment.
5. United States Operations
1. The military operations conducted by MACV follow the pattern of equipping, training and advising the RVN to get out and fight the war. The Korean situation was different; American forces fought and inspired the Koreans to do likewise. In Vietnam we have had limited experience with this technique but it seems to have been favorable among the Special Forces. There are many causes for Vietnamese reluctance to rush out and fight stemming from the long history, some doubt as to the eventual outcome, many early abuses and the lack of any strong appeal from the GVN. Whether American participation can overcome this or may intensify xenophobic feelings about the Whiteman's war is not clear. It is clear that the present course is not successful.
The various units which were trained for the purpose of defending their own strategic hamlets should be used in this way, that is, as a defensive organization and not as offensive units. They are neither trained nor capable of offensive operations. The concept of the civilian defense units should be expanded, along the "oil stain" principle of the Pacification Plans.
Intelligence has been spotty. There has been submersion of bad news and an overstatement of good news. For the past year we have been misinformed about conditions in Vietnam. The entire intelligence apparatus is undergoing review and reorganization. It is essential that this be completed promptly and that there be a very close liaison between the J-2 organization, dealing with enemy capabilities, and the J-3, dealing with RVN capabilities and plans.
I conclude that our military operations in South Vietnam have not been as successful as we assumed up to last December. I think the whole concept has to be reviewed. It is the only time in our history that we have put such a large force into a country for the purpose of telling others to go out and fight. It is conceivable that we have unwittingly lifted the responsibility for the success of the battle from the shoulders of the South Vietnamese onto our own shoulders without accepting combat responsibility. In other words we may have gone beyond a MAAG operation, but have not selected the best way to carry out a combat operation in Vietnamese circumstances.
6. New Courses of Action
In view of the fragile political situation and the deteriorating military situation, one asks the question, "What should we do?" The courses of action are these:
1. Immediately develop a program which will remove us from South Vietnam by negotiating a neutralist "solution". In doing so we must recognize that such a negotiation would lead to South Vietnam falling to the Communists. With this, we could expect others in Southeast Asia to follow "The Domino Theory". Laos would probably fall quickly. Burma and Cambodia would certainly move closer to Peiping and we would need considerable treasure, effort and luck to keep Thailand from slipping away through accommodation or Communist subversion. On the other hand, this might be inevitable if the situation in South Vietnam should be even now beyond the point of no return. The evidence to date, gloomy as it is, does not bear out this prospect as one cannot say that Khanh and company with new and better U.S. support of various kinds cannot develop enough dynamism to hold the Viet Cong to give the GVN and the U.S. time and opportunity to begin turning the tide. We should also recognize that DRV resources and strength are limited and that while they will undoubtedly continue their outside instigation and steady support of the Viet Cong, this prospect is not one of a sudden escalation of their effort.
2. We can continue as we are now doing, restricting ourselves to actions of the same type we have been engaged in. This to me does not seem to be productive. 15,000 or 16,000 Americans have been engaged now for two years training and directing the South Vietnamese. Likewise the South Vietnamese are supplied with all of the arms and ammunition they can use; therefore an increasing quantity of materiel, except in certain special items, would not be productive. Nonetheless, present trends are down and will probably remain so if no great changes occur in either GVN performance or U.S. techniques.
3. We could greatly increase the U.S. military and political commitment in Vietnam and surrounding areas and take a far greater
direct role in the operations. This would be accomplished by a series of actions to step up the dynamism and effectiveness of Khanh's government and its programs. This would require a very direct input into the political posture of the Khanh government and its machinery at the national level and a great increase in our counterinsurgency advice and support at the local levels. As an element of this program we might add the placing of U.S. combat forces in South Vietnam to secure the Saigon base and strengthen Khanh's government against possible coupe. These moves might have some negative effects in terms of highlighting the issue of white-faced intervention but the overall result would appear to be more positive than negative.
4. We could carry out dramatic operations against North Vietnam, theoretically non-attributable but actually well identified as coming from South Vietnam with U.S. support. The consequences of this type of action must be examined but, more important, we must make a judgment as to whether action of this type would accomplish the U.S. objectives in South Vietnam. It seems obvious to me that unless the Khanh government is strengthened in South Vietnam, then carrying the action into North Vietnam would not guarantee victory. It might stop the North Vietnamese supply for a short time. It would not stop the Viet Cong military or political action. It would not guarantee victory. If, on the other hand, the Khanh government can be strengthened, then actions against North Vietnam would be warranted although the cost and risk to the United States would be great. There would be danger that the war would escalate, either through large scale DRV operations into South Vietnam or Laos, Chinese Communist support in these areas, threats of Chinese Communist air strikes against Saigon or U.S. naval forces, or Soviet naval convoying of shipping into the DRV. We should of course be prepared for such contingencies in undertaking any course of extreme pressures against North Vietnam, although I incline to the view that the Communist powers would not in fact feel that such extreme reactions were either necessary or worth the risks involved. I do not think that any extreme U.S. pressures against the DRV would materially affect Sino-Soviet relations.
I am inclined to believe that if the political climate in South Vietnam is proper, then it is worth taking these risks, as the loss of the game in South Vietnam would have too serious consequences to be acceptable. On the other hand, if the Khanh government remains fragile, if the people remain disinterested, and disaffected, and we are continually confronted with coup plotting and the consequent hazards, if the resentment of American presence increases, then it appears to me that carrying the war to North Vietnam would not win the war in South Vietnam and would cause the United States such serious problems in every corner of the world that we should not sanction such an effort.
5. There are steps that can be taken to strengthen the Khanh government. Some of these are:
a. The strategic hamlet program must be revitalized and attacked as the top priority. Plans exist for the implementation of this program according to the "oil stain" concept. The regular forces must establish as their primary duty the reinforcement of the strategic hamlet program according to these plans and the clearing and holding of additional areas. The irregular forces must be supported, trained, advised and inspired by a considerable increase in U.S. Special Forces and AID support, possibly organized as a separate Peoples' Defense Authority.
b. A concentrated program of political action and agitation at the grass roots level must be established using supplied teams to conduct
such agitation, organization and motivation efforts in conjunction with the strategic hamlet program. Additional information and civic action efforts must be conducted in support of these teams.
c. Assistance should be obtained from the Chinese Nationalist Government in a discreet but major scale manner. Detailed recommendations on this point have been submitted separately./3/
/3/ Apparently a reference to an undated and unattributed memorandum received in ISA on March 25 on possible Chinese Nationalist aid to the South Vietnamese in South Vietnam, North Vietnam, and the South China Sea. (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 68 306, 092 Vietnam) When reviewing his papers after he left office, William Bundy noted on the source text that this idea was "a bug with McCone."
d. An unofficial political advisor should be appointed to General Khanh to assist him in his early efforts as Chief of Government. Personnel having experience along these lines with Macapagal, Sarit, and others are available within CIA. In addition to the advisor to General Khanh appropriate advisors should be selected for other key political leaders.
e. Operations should be conducted against Viet Cong personnel and facilities across the Lao and Cambodia borders. In order to conduct such operations reconnaissance both by air and ground will be necessary. These operations should be conducted on a non-admitted (not necessarily deniable) basis.
f. The posture of U.S. personnel in Vietnam must be one of aggressive leadership although they might claim only an "advisory" mission. Thus the maximum use should be made of U.S. channels, organization and appeal to the lower ranking Vietnamese, even at the cost of some noses out of joint at the higher ranks. Our personnel must share the dangers of the Vietnamese peasants and fighting men and take full responsibility for stirring them into maximum action against the Viet Cong in their own protection and for no other purpose. Building overall loyalty to the Saigon government should be a secondary matter, to be sought after security is obtained, not as means thereto.
g. In our diplomatic approaches in Southeast Asia, we must establish the strengthening of the Khanh regime and the morale of the Vietnamese people as our primary objective. All steps in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Taiwan must be taken in this context. It will be particularly important to forcefully demonstrate our rejection of the neutralist solution advocated by the French. This may give us problems in Cambodia and Laos, but these would be both more manageable and of lesser gravity than a growth of defeatism their alternatives might inspire in Vietnam.
h. Consideration should be given to the dispatch of a U.S. battle group to the Saigon area. The ostensible mission of this group would be to insure the security of the Saigon area as the base for operations against the Viet Cong. Its real purpose would be the support of the Khanh government against possible neutralist coupe. There are solid arguments pro and con on the use of combat troops in this manner. General Khanh's own approval would have to be obtained and his judgment might be best on the subject.
5.[sic] With these steps we should be able to strengthen the Khanh government enough to permit us to decide whether continuance along that line alone will be adequate to defeat the Viet Cong or whether these steps must be supplemented by operations against North Vietnam. In the absence of these steps, operations against North Vietnam would in any case not likely be worth the cost. With these steps we might be able to win without attacking North Vietnam but we at least would have sufficient basis to make such activities profitable.
6. The next few weeks or so are probably critical. We may find that Khanh and South Vietnam simply don't have it, or just don't want to be rescued by the U.S. But, if we find instead that there is still some stretch in the situation, then victory may yet come in time. It would be long in coming, in the best of circumstances, but we should never forget that the DRV and Chinese Communists have their own weaknesses, which could grow in time, and that if the peasant in South Vietnam could be assured of his physical security for some sustained period he would no longer actively support the Viet Cong. His support would be accelerated if he could be convinced that in addition to security he could look forward to social, economic and political betterment through loyalty to the GVN.
69. Memorandum From the Secretary of State to the President/1/
Washington, March 4, 1964.
/1/ Source: Department of State, President's Reading File: Lot 74 D 164. Secret; No Distribution.
SUGGESTED ITEMS FOR EVENING READING
1. French Policy in Viet-Nam--Chip Bohlen met today with Couve in Paris and was told that France has had no military or operational policy in Viet-Nam for the past 9 years and, therefore, is not working against U.S. interests./2/ Couve made a personal suggestion, that a "political objective", such as ultimate mutual withdrawal of U.S. and Viet Cong forces, would promote our military aims./3/ He was not suggesting a conference, although admitting that we might have to deal with the Chinese Communists. Couve did not respond to Bohlen's mention of a French statement on Viet-Nam but agreed that French official silence would be desirable.
/2/ As reported in telegrams 4165 and 4173 from Paris, both March 4. (Ibid., Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)
/3/ When the Embassy in Saigon learned of this suggestion by Couve de Murville, it cabled the Department of State that such a proposal revealed a "very fundamental French misunderstanding of the true nature of the Viet Cong." In telegram 1713, March 9, the Embassy explained that the Viet Cong were "indigenous communists" many of whom derived from the Viet Minh cadres who remained in the south after 1954. They had to be eliminated or won over; they could not be induced to withdraw in 1964 any more effectively than they had been in 1954. The Embassy asked that this fact be stressed to the French Government and added that, should South Vietnam learn that the United States was "toying with such an idea," the effect in Vietnam would be "unfortunate." (Ibid.) The White House copy is published in Declassified Documents, 1976, 211E.
[Here follow items 2-7 which were unrelated to Vietnam.]
/4/ Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
III. The McNamara-Taylor Mission To Vietnam and the McNamara Report, March 4-April 3
/1/Source: National Defense University, Taylor Papers, T-36-71. Top Secret. Drafted by Taylor.
[Here follows discussion unrelated to Vietnam.]
4. He then opened the subject of our coming trip to Saigon and asked what course I was inclined to recommend at this moment. I told him that, in general, I felt our program should consist of two main parts; one, an intensive continuation of the counterinsurgency campaign within South Vietnam and, second, a progressive program of selective air and naval attacks against North Vietnam using means beyond those employed in the past. The other Chiefs expressed themselves generally in accord. They also were of the opinion that it was unlikely that the ChiComs would intervene in strength. However, once embarked on the program the US must carry it to success, cost what may.
5. The President accepted the need for punishing Hanoi without debate, but pointed to some other practical difficulties, particularly the political ones with which he was faced. It is quite apparent that he does not want to lose South Vietnam before next November nor does he want to get the country into war.
6. The President is impressed with the danger of another coup. He feels we must make General Khanh "our boy" and proclaim the fact to all and sundry. He wants to see Khanh in the newspapers with McNamara and Taylor holding up his arms.
7. He directed a check made on all requests from Harkins for help since November to see if any have been rejected or significantly curtailed. He anticipates queries from Congress on this score.
8. He asked that we initiate a State/DOD/CIA/COMUSMACV examination of the realism of Senator Mansfield's plan for a neutralization of North and South Vietnam. He expressed indignation over the Saigon article by Keyes Beech dated 22 February (attached)/2/ which revealed US military thinking on an expansion of the war. He directed me to talk to Harkins about it./3/
/3/A handwritten note on the margin reads: "Done, MDT, 13 March '64."
Maxwell D. Taylor/4/
/4/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
71. Summary Record of the 523d Meeting of the National Security Council, White House, Washington, March 5, 1964, 4:30 p.m./1/
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Meetings, Vol. 1, Tab 4. Secret. Drafted by Bromley Smith. An attached attendance list indicates that 23 persons attended the Vietnam portion of the meeting.
1. Secretary McNamara's Trip to South Vietnam
Secretary McNamara gave an oral summary of what he intends to accomplish by visiting South Vietnam. In a report which he will make upon his return, he will comment on the current strength of the Khanh government, the outlook for the future, and on alternative courses of action which might be taken to improve the situation in Vietnam. He said he would be prepared to make both an oral and a written report.
Mr. Bundy commented that the President was not being asked to make decisions prior to the return of Secretary McNamara.
Secretary Rusk said he was taking a sober view, even a pessimistic view of developments in South Vietnam. Listing the points of weakness in the situation in Vietnam was a way for us to concentrate on courses of action to overcome these weaknesses. Our attention should be concentrated on what we can do to improve the course we are now on.
The President asked whether it was true that all recommendations made by Ambassador Lodge had been dealt with without exception--promptly and generally favorably. Secretary McNamara replied affirmatively, as did Director Bell and Director McCone. Secretary Rusk said the only exception was the proposal which Ambassador Lodge had made with respect to how to handle de Gaulle's support of the neutralization of Vietnam.
[Here follows item 2 which was unrelated to Vietnam.]
/2/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
72. Letter From the President to the Secretary of Defense (McNamara)/1/
Washington, March 5, 1964.
/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, McNamara Files: FRC 71 A 1470. Presidential Instructions. No classification marking.
Dear Mr. Secretary: I am giving you this personal letter instead of any more formal instruction, as you leave on your important mission to Saigon, but I shall be grateful if you will share it with the senior officers who are going with you.
I will not ask you now to prepare a formal report, but I do hope that you and your colleagues will work together to bring back the most careful possible assessment of the situation and of the best possible courses of action for improving it. Some of these possibilities have been discussed in a preliminary way here in recent days, but what we now need is an assessment of all the possibilities and needs on the spot.
I particularly want your opinions and recommendations to be framed in the light of your discussions with Ambassador Lodge and his colleagues, and with the leaders of the Vietnamese Government. I look to you, as its senior officer, to coordinate the work of this mission.
Lyndon B. Johnson
73. Letter From the President to the Secretary of Defense (McNamara)/1/
Washington, March 5, 1964
/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, McNamara Files: FRC 71 A 3470, Presidential Instructions. Secret.
Dear Bob: One of the most important things you can do for me in South Vietnam is to talk privately on my behalf with Cabot Lodge. I have the highest regard for him as a patriot and a public servant, and I want him to know at first-hand of my determination that we in Washington must do everything we can to back him up as the top American in Vietnam. He is an old friend of mine from the Senate, and the simplest way of emphasizing my high opinion of him to you is to say that I recommended him for your job after the election of 1952.
When we had our first meeting with Ambassador Lodge, on November 24,2 I told him that I counted on him to take full charge of our effort there and to press our views as strongly as possible on the Government. I also told him that we would back him up in every part of the country team. We have made all the personnel changes which he has requested, and which it was quite proper for him to request in his effort to discharge his responsibilities. You should make it clear that we mean to continue to be responsive to his needs, and that just as we count on him to insist on first-class performance out there, we have taken fairly energetic steps of our own to ensure that the team in Washington working on Vietnam is as good as we can make it.
/2/See Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. IV, pp. 635-637.
I have asked the Ambassador to make sure that we know of any new recommendations and proposals which he or his colleagues may wish to press with us, and on his only specific proposal relating to our own support of the struggle in Vietnam-the support for the military pay raise-I believe we have responded promptly./3/ We are also doing all that we can through Ambassador Bohlen, and here in Washington with Ambassador Alphand, to get across to the French the importance of their own posture in Vietnam, and while Bohlen does not. think we can get the public statements that Ambassador Lodge wants, we have pressed him to do everything that he can in this direction.
/3/See footnote 2, Document 53. On March 9, Forrestal prepared for McGeorge Bundy a memorandum assessing "the extent to which we have responded to Lodge's requests." After reviewing the cable traffic since January 1, Forrestal concluded that there were only two major policy requests from Lodge which were still unresolved: the proposed statement from de Gaulle clarifying his call for neutralism of Vietnam, and Lodge's tentative requests for bringing pressure on North Vietnam. Forrestal explained that the need for considerable planning and policy decisions at the highest level were responsible for these requests going partially unanswered. Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. V, Memos; published in Declassified Documents, 1978, 128C)
McGeorge Bundy passed a copy of Forrestal's memorandum to the President on March 11 stating that further action should await McNamara's return and "that I think we are in slightly better shape on both issues than Forrestal makes out." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. II)
As I read the messages from Ambassador Lodge, these are the specific areas in which he has asked for our support, but I want you to be sure to tell him that we will rely on him and his associates to keep us fully and currently apprised of their needs as they see them. We may not always be able to achieve what they ask, but we will always try, within the limits of our resources and capacities.
Lyndon B. Johnson
74. Memorandum From the Secretary of Defense (McNamara) to the Members of the McNamara-Taylor Mission to Vietnam/1/
Washington, March 5, 1964.
/1/Source: Department of State, Bundy Files, WPB Special Papers. Confidential. Addressed to Bell, McCone, McNaughton, William Bundy, Sullivan, and Sylvester who, with the addition of McNamara and Taylor, made up the mission to South Vietnam. They arrived in Saigon on March 8 and returned to Washington on March 12.
The purpose of our mission is to appraise the current strength of the SVN government; to review the political and military trends of the past four months; to estimate the outlook for the future, assuming no change in current US policies; and to evaluate alternative courses of action in the event it appears current policies will not lead to attainment of our objective.
I do not propose to submit a final written report to the President immediately following our return. Instead, I shall prepare a draft memorandum from which another report will be made. I hope it will be possible for the senior members of the party to concur in all significant points in the draft memorandum; in the event we cannot agree, the dissenting views will be expressed fully as footnotes to the report.
While in SVN, I believe we should minimize both formal and informal contacts with the press. Please review your plans for any such discussions with Arthur Sylvester before they take place and inform him of the substance of the discussions after the event.
I do not believe it should be necessary for individual members of the party, while in SVN, to send interim reports to their Departments or Agencies in Washington. If at any time you believe such a report is required, please furnish me a copy of the proposed message.
Robert S. McNamara
75. Memorandum for the Record by Brigadier General W.W. Stromberg of the Army General Staff/1/
Saigon, March 8, 1964.
/1/Source: National Defense University, Taylor Papers, T-233-69. Top Secret; US Eyes Only. Stromberg sent a copy of this memorandum to Lodge, Taylor, McNamara, and Harkins.
This morning, Sunday, 8 March 1964, I paid a call on General Duong van Minh. A single soldier stood guard behind the closed gate. I saw no other security except possibly three civilian occupants of a white jeep across the street. One of these assisted me in gaining entrance by speaking in Vietnamese to the soldier guard who spoke neither English nor French. At his residence in Saigon, I presented General Minh with a box of orchids and the red canary which was the personal gift of General Wheeler. When I explained to him that the gifts were a token of the high esteem with which he is held in the Pentagon as a soldier and patriot, he was visibly touched. Tam, his son was in the house as was General Kim's son whose name I did not catch. Mrs. Minh joined us for a brief period. She appeared nervous and sad. I attempted to carry out our discussion in English as I had assumed General Minh had continued his English lessons since I had last seen him in 1961, but he quickly reverted to French.
Initially, we covered events leading up to the overthrow of the Diem government. He said he regretted terribly to have been obliged to organize the coup as he had the greatest admiration for the President. As the internal situation deteriorated and he saw that Diem was losing the support of the people to ever greater degrees, General Minh said he constantly attempted to influence the President to make the necessary reforms and to rid himself of the influence of his family and other evil people who surrounded him. Finally, when he-saw that Diem would never listen, he decided to overthrow him before the Viet Cong did so. General Minh said he prepared the coup during a period of two years. For all but three months of this period, General Kim was his only confidante. They constantly discussed possible situations, personalities, forces and the risks involved. Three months before the coup went in, General Minh sent Kim to General Don to cut the latter in. (Kim is married to Don's sister Gabrielle.) Don agreed to the coup. One month before the coup, General Minh asked General Dinh, whose III Corps was essential to success, to his home. This was the critical moment. There was some talking around the point on the part of both but finally, General Dinh suddenly said "Big Brother, our country is in danger, tell me what to do." General Minh gave him his instructions. Finally, every key General and agency was brought into the coup except for General Cao's IV Corps and the Navy. General Cao was not brought in as he was pet of Diem's. The Corps Deputy was in on it. Dinh's III Corps was between Cao and Saigon; and besides, plans had been made to control or destroy two essential ferries between III and IV Corps areas. General Khanh, then CG, II Corps was in on the coup but told Minh he would remain at Pleiku. This way Minh said Khanh could stand back and go either way depending on how the coup worked out. General Khiem played an important role. General Minh did not cut the Navy in as they were too unreliable. He charged General Xuan, CG of the Quang Trung Training Center outside Saigon to take care of the Navy whose headquarters was taken with 40 men. Xuan was also given the job of taking care of the Saigon police; a cause of worry to Minh. During the last month's preparation for the coup, Minh was able to reconcile Dinh and Kim.
(After the abortive coup of 11 November 1960, Kim, then Commandant of the Military Academy at Dalat, had been arrested by Dinh.) In any case before the 1 November 1963 coup, Kim forgave Dinh in order that the larger interests of their country could be served. The final consideration that encouraged all of them to go ahead with [was] the knowledge of the disenchantment of the United States with Diem's government and that the revolutionary government would probably be quickly recognized and supported. General Minh said it was regrettable that his junta had been overthrown because if people could have been patient, he felt they would have pulled the country back on the road to victory. He said that the situation had been deteriorating for so long and with such increasing acceleration, that the situation was bound to continue to deteriorate for a period under his junta before the effect of their measures could be felt. He said it was like a dive bomber plunging at a target. Even after the pilot pulls back on the stick, there is a period when the plane continues in its original speed and direction. He said one of the main objectives of the junta was to win back the support of the people. One of the important considerations here, for example, was to cease promptly attacks on inhabited areas where the Viet Cong were reportedly holed up. General Minh said that ground and air attacks in such situations which resulted in casualties among the civilians had been causing the government to lose the support of the people. Minh said that the relatives and friends of the victims became embittered. Minh said that, therefore, his junta attempted to get rid of the internal Viet Cong organization in the villages. Once the Viet Cong lost their "guides" who prepared their entry into the villages, the Viet Cong would be afraid to enter. He said maybe Americans could not understand how the Viet Cong could be driven out of the villages but that I could be assured the Vietnamese understood how this could be done. Minh said once the Viet Cong was separated from the villages, they could be isolated and destroyed. In the meantime, the infliction of casualties on innocent people would have ceased and chances of winning back their support would be increased. He also said that the junta had been attempting to find effective province and district chiefs who were natives of the area. Minh said this was essential as it carried along with it a built in information system on [of] old family ties and friendships. He said the junta had been making real progress in this program and cited these successful operations in point. One was the district of Cho Cao where the villagers gave information on the Viet Cong inside the village, disappeared from the village before the attack and enabled friendly forces to gain a victory without harming the civilian population. Minh said General Don was on the spot to verify personally the operation The next operation, the success of which was due to information provided by the people was the destruction of a Viet Cong depot on the Canal Commerciale in the Plaine des Joncs. Don was there also to verify personally. The last operation Minh mentioned was the successful ambush set by a friendly battalion of the 21st Division. The Viet Cong were caught in a canal at Chuong Thien in the IV Tactical Zone. It was the first time in the history of the war that friendly forces had been able to set up an ambush of battalion size. It was made possible by the information furnished by the local people. He said of course the measures which make the people want to give information take a long time to implement. Unfortunately, Khanh and the others were young and impatient.
Minh said the junta knew about the 30 January coup one hour before it went off. The other members called Minh and wanted to take immediate action. Minh, however, said they should do nothing and see what would happen as to set Vietnamese against Vietnamese would only play into the Viet Cong hands. Minh said he is absolutely positive that the charges of neutralist and plotting with the French are completely false. He said that although he did not know Kim well before 1959, he had observed him closely ever since. In fact, he had put him to some severe tests of his determination and loyalty and Kim has passed them all. He said that because of his concern over de Gaulle's philosophy of neutralism, he had convoked key French bankers and other businessmen of Saigon whom he knew to his office to inform them how empty and dangerous such a philosophy was. He said these were all official visits. Kim and Don always participated in these meetings. Kim was always the most adamant in denouncing de Gaulle's views to the point where Minh had to remonstrate with Kim about his violent reaction. Minh then stated that he had watched all the other members of the junta closely and worked with them during their three months in power and that all of them were staunch patriots and only desire to defeat the Viet Cong.
Minh said so long as these Generals remain under arrest/2/ the Army will be cut by schisms and the war effort will not be pushed vigorously. He said since the coup many officers have talked to him about the situation in a way they would talk to no other officer. They are bitter and frustrated about it. Minh says he calms them down by telling them to following his example and wait for them to be freed which he is sure will be done. He tells them that he, Minh, loves these Generals as much or more than they do. Minh says the problem stems from the fact that all of these officers have a host of loyal supporters. Don was CG, I Corps for five years and the population in I Corps area and the officers who served there admire and support Don. The same applies to Dinh, who served as CG of II Corps for two years and then for two years as CG, III Corps. As for Kim, an intellectual, Minh said, he had been running the schools. Kim has a group of supporters among senior officers dating from Kim's duty as Commandant of the C & GS School. There is also a large group of young officer supporters dating from the time he was Commandant of the Military Academy. Xuan has his supporters stemming from young officers and NCO's who served under him during his long tenure at the Quang Trung Training Center.
/2/Generals Tran Van Don, Le Van Kim, Ton That Dinh, and Mai Huu Xuan were arrested during the January 30 coup.
Minh said that besides the bad morale problem caused by their unjust imprisonment the Army needs badly the experience of these officers. He sited as an example the impossibility of the young and inexperienced Khiem attempting to serve as both Minister of Defense and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. He mentioned General Duc, recently promoted to CG of IV Corps being both incompetent and crazy. Minh admitted he arranged for Duc to return from France after the 1 November coup but now regretted it. He thought Duc, who had been carrying out a campaign against the Diem regime from outside the country, would be a useful patriotic officer. Minh arranged for doctors care for Duc's crazy tendencies as he believes it comes from some physical ailment. Moreover, Duc proved to be irritable and constantly unhappy about everything. Minh said he believes Khanh gave him the IV Corps job [to] pacify him. As for Khanh, Minh feels that through inexperience, he is trying to develop a climate for politics too fast and that this could be dangerous for the country. However, Khanh believes this makes a good image in the eyes of the rest of the world. Minh said after all there was no party system under Diem. Minh mentioned Khanh's willingness to let the Dai Viet operate, a party formed around 1943 to oppose the Japanese occupation. He cited General Thieu, Chief of Staff of the Joint General Staff and a Catholic, who is a member of the Dai Viet. He says Thieu's brother is Minister of Youth, as I understand it, and is also in the Dai Viet. Minh said the Vice-President also of the Dai Viet, Nguyen Ton Hoan, did not accept that post to remain there indefinitely. He covets the Presidency. Khanh seems happy to have the Dai Viets (Catholics) and the Buddhists in a sort of friendly opposition. In the meantime, try as he may, it will be difficult for Khanh to regain the support of the people. He is putting more and more of the old Diem crowd back in power. He is using the same Diem experts to organize his visit to the countryside and "spontaneous" demonstrations. These tactics, as for Diem, only promote counter-propaganda. Counter-propaganda against the Americans will probably result from "spontaneous" demonstrations such as the one organized for Mr. McNamara this morning at the airport.
However, Minh said the number one problem now was to reunify the Army and carry the war vigorously to the Viet Cong. He said we can worry about Khanh's political fortunes later. He said the four generals must be freed and reintegrated into the Army or the war will not be carried through vigorously because so many officers throughout the Army will not have their hearts in it.
Minh said Khanh must call these officers in, state there has been a misunderstanding, offer his apologies and reintegrate them into the Army.
At this point, I told General Minh that if Khanh refused, and if he or any other group was thinking of a coup, it would be disastrous for both our countries and only the Viet Cong would benefit. Besides, I told him, another coup would just further deteriorate the morale of the Army and destroy the faith of the people. I told him that my superiors in Washington were counting on him to put the interests of his country and his people above his own and to lend his enormous prestige and popularity to support the government, restore the morale of the Army, and prosecute vigorously the war against the Viet Cong.
He thought for a long time and replied he would do everything in his power to support Khanh. However, he said he would like Ambassador Lodge, who enjoys tremendous prestige with the Vietnamese people, Mr. McNamara, and General Taylor to force Khanh to reintegrate the four generals back into the Army. He said the Americans have the power to do it and that it was absolutely essential in order to get the war going again. He said that the reintegration process must be handled carefully. If Khanh told them directly Khanh would be dead of old age before they would accept. If Minh can talk to them (he was unable to see them up to this point) he can influence them to accept, as it is a question of prestige and honor. Minh is ready to give his personal guarantee that the four will bury the hatchet in the interest of the country. Minh will also handle their assignments personally, with the concurrence of Khanh, in order to avoid an embarrassing assignment situation as between these older, more experienced officers and the new crop of generals.
Then as concerns the Army, Minh said he would do everything possible so as to reunify the Army for the government. He said there was only one man in all of Vietnam who had the possibility of doing it and that was he, Minh. He stated he wanted to emphasize the word possibility.
I asked General Minh if he couldn't see any other alternative to the problem of the four generals, such as, for example, freedom and retirement with full benefits. He reacted promptly and vigorously and stated that it wouldn't work and that the only solution for the good of the country was reintegration. He said such a solution would not repair the schisms at all, that the deception of the officer corps would remain.
W. W. Stromberg/3/
/3/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
76. Memorandum Prepared by the Ambassador to France (Bohlen)/1/
Washington, March 12, 1964.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. V. Confidential. Also published in Declassified Documents, 1976, 211H. Bohlen was in Washington for consultations. A note on the source text indicates that the President saw this memorandum and a covering note. The President met with Bohlen from 6:02 to 6:27 p.m. on March 12. Johnson Library, President's Daily Diary) No record of this meeting has been found.
Ambassador Lodge had asked some time ago that we endeavor to obtain from General de Gaulle some clarifying statement in regard to French policy towards Viet-Nam. The Ambassador's request, as I recall it, was based, at least in part, upon a desire to restrain the Viet-Namese from breaking with France on the assumption that France was about to recognize Viet Minh. It was also dictated by the bad effect France's unclear position was having on Viet-Namese morale.
We gave this request of Ambassador Lodge the most careful consideration in Paris and came to the conclusion that any approach to General de Gaulle on this subject would be fruitless. We also noted and so reported to Saigon that there seemed to be no possibility of any French recognition of Hanoi. I feel very definitely that a request of General de Gaulle to clarify a statement which he had purposely left ambiguous would not only not produce the result desired, but also might offer the General an opportunity to restate his very generalized view of Viet-Nam; namely, that neutralization and unification, and similar vague terms were the only possible bases for a solution there. Furthermore, it would tend, I believe, to convince him that the United States was urgently in need of some French help in the Viet-Namese situation. We should always remember that de Gaulle has stated on a number of occasions directly to American officials, to President Kennedy in May of 1961, and to me, his belief that we could not succeed in the course that we are pursuing. It is also not clear exactly what type of clarification we desired. For all of these reasons, I thought at the time, and still do, that any approach to de Gaulle merely for clarification of French policy would be a very serious mistake and would most certainly not yield the result desired.
However, if, as I have reported from Paris, we are able, following Secretary McNamara's visit to devise a course of action in Viet-Nam with a clear political objective, I believe then it would be worthwhile my going to see General de Gaulle to explain this policy and its objective to him and to request the cooperation of France in its achievement. This, of course, is dependent upon our ability to work out some form of coherent policy which I could take to de Gaulle.
On the other hand, if there are considerations of which I am not aware which would make it important, even with the certainty of a refusal, to have made an effort with de Gaulle. I am of course entirely prepared to do it.
C. E. Bohlen
77. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/
Saigon, March 13, 1964--1:11 p.m.
/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Limdis. Repeated to CINCPAC. Taylor described this meeting in Swords and Plowshares, pp. 309-310.
1740. CINCPAC for POLAD. In a conversation yesterday with Secretary McNamara, General Taylor and I on the US side and Generals Khanh and Khiem on the GVN side, General Khanh agreed that actions designed to exert increased pressure on NVN could be a helpful assist to his effort but would be no substitute for successful actions in SVN against the VC. General Khanh said that his "base" in SVN was not strong enough as yet for overt operations against NVN; however. he would like to "redouble" covert operations right away.
78. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/
Saigon, March 13, 1964--1:30 p.m.
/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 23 VIET S. Secret; Priority. Repeated to CINCPAC.
1744. CINCPAC for POLAD. Following based on uncleared memorandum of conversation of final meeting between Secretary McNamara and party with General Khanh and GVN representatives on March 12.
General Khanh opened discussion by referring to preliminary discussions with Secretary McNamara during trip to Hue on March 11 concerning a proposed National Service Act for SVN. Khanh said his government prepared embark upon program to mobilize all human and material resources to fight VC. As envisaged by General Khanh proposed National Service Act would have two major components: military service and civil defense. Breakdown as follows:
Military service comprised of: RVNAF (3 years service; actual strength: 227,000; planned: 251,683). Civil Guard (3-1/2 years; actual: 90,032; planned: 119,636). SDC & hamlet militia (4 years; actual: 257,960; planned: 422,874). Civil defense comprised of civil service corps, cadre corps, National Youth, and political-administration corps.
Khanh noted military service component self-evident and, response McNamara's question, confirmed that civil defense component included civil administration corps for work in countryside. Khanh emphasized that in civil defense sector all civilians would be included; for example, in Saigon might be possible assign trained youth to perform some of static police functions while police were pursuing more important police duties. This segment also included civic action teams for hamlets and villages.
Khanh emphasized figures were planning figures only and designed give idea of number of military and civilians required and indicate financial implications of plan. Eventual numbers would be flexible in that they would depend on such factors as population in a particular area, whether area was actually in danger of VC attack, and strength of VC in particular area, etc.
McNamara stated that US, and he assumed GVN, would wish to study strength figures carefully; however, his first impression was that figure of 422,874 SDC and hamlet militia appeared unduly large and would be difficult to support. Khanh responded that in actual practice total numbers may not reach this level. In fact, number may not exceed 300,000 SDC and hamlet militia actually deployed against VC. Here again figures were flexible and would have be refined depending on actual situation in various areas.
General Taylor noted ascending length of service for Civil Guard (3-1/2 years) and the SDC/hamlet militia (4 years) over RVNAF (3 years) and inquired whether it was because the former groups would be operating close to home. Khanh affirmed this, noting soldiers in ARVN have to move often and take their families with them. Now difficult recruit CG and SDC forces for deployment like ARVN troops. Therefore Khanh felt since they stay close to home they could be expected serve a slightly longer period of service.
Khanh then asked General Thieu to explain breakdown under civil defense sector of proposed National Service Act. Thieu stated that all men from age 18 through 40 would be required to participate in the national pacification effort. Most of them, such as those in civil service corps and cadre corps (those now in countryside) would serve in same positions they now occupy. Others, such as national youth group up to age 40, would be required serve in city and countryside and would be organized into small groups to assist ARVN and Civil Guard. Category of political-administration corps would consist of cadres planned for assignment to villages and hamlets. General Thieu estimated that 125,000 such cadre would be required. In first instance, GVN will ask for volunteers; if insufficient volunteers come forward, the necessary cadres will be drafted. Time spent in political-administration corps would count against military service. McNamara stated general approach appeared excellent but he questioned whether GVN would need 125,000 cadre. McNamara pointed out this number added to total figures for Civil Guard, SDC and hamlet militia, constituted an extremely large figure. If assumed there are approximately 6 million men of draft age in SVN, ratio of estimated figures to total draft-eligible population appeared disproportionate. While genera] concept was excellent it would be desirable to look most closely at planning figures.
Khanh replied that he intended make maximum effort in first instance in 8 critical provinces surrounding Saigon, noting that in certain hamlets now de facto situation exists where people must defend themselves. However, a National Service Act would have a very good effect in Saigon and the other urban areas.
McNamara inquired whether upon his return to Washington he could tell President Johnson that General Khanh's government was prepared embark on a program of national mobilization of human and material resources and whether President Johnson in turn could inform the American people that General Khanh has put SVN on the national mobilization basis. Khanh replied in the affirmative and asked for agreement in principle from us to his proceeding with concept as outlined. McNamara indicated that he viewed concept favorably and asked Ambassador Lodge for his views.
Ambassador stated that he favored general concept but thought that detailed figures should be looked into carefully. Ambassador also believed that emphasis should be placed first on 8 critical provinces surrounding Saigon. General Khanh expressed his thanks for agreement in principle.
General Harkins noted that a mobilization law was in fact in existence but that few people knew about it. He pointed out that ARVN, CG and SDC were not up to their authorized military strengths. Khanh said that he realized this but believed it still desirable to have a new law setting forth a national service or mobilization program. Harkins stated that MACV and other elements of US Mission would like to work closely with Khanh and his chief aides in developing such a law. Khanh replied this well understood. McNamara said it was agreed on American side that general concept was a wise one and that we should proceed on this basis.
Khanh then inquired whether it was desirable to raise CG to same relative status as ARVN as regards salary, pensions, survivors benefits, etc. He estimated that total cost would be in neighborhood of one billion plasters. McNamara thought this was highly desirable. General Taylor inquired whether this would involve any change in role or mission of Civil Guard. Khanh replied in negative stating that it was merely question putting Civil Guard on comparable basis with ARVN as concerns benefits he had mentioned. McNamara observed that he felt all agreed in principle on this.
McNamara inquired how long Khanh estimated it would take to recruit and train administrative cadre for 8 critical provinces near Saigon. Khanh estimated approximately one month, in any event he believed cadres could be in place by end of April. Khanh said GVN would aim for volunteers for this effort and it was not necessary to await promulgation of National Service Act.
In response Taylor's question as to how long Khanh anticipated it would take to draft and promulgate National Service Law, Khanh observed that GVN was a fairly compact organization at present and that law could be ready for his signature in very short time. Taylor pointed to necessity give due regard to democratic forms in developing and announcing a National Service Act. Khanh agreed and said that at same time a major effort was being made to pacify the countryside, he intended to push for concurrent development of democratic institutions and forms. McNamara suggested that when Khanh ready announce a National Service Act that he also re-emphasize related actions already taken and those planned for the future, such as those for expansion of national economy, for increased educational opportunities in hamlets, for increased production of rice, for marketing of fish, and so forth. McNamara believed a well publicized announcement of this nature would find ready response among people and would materially assist Khanh to obtain and hold support of Vietnamese people. Ambassador Lodge agreed and added that, despite statement of General de Gaulle to the effect that we could not win a military war in SVN, Americans were well aware that war here is an inter-related one having political, economic, social and psychological aspects. Memcon being pouched./2/
79. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to the President/1/
Washington, March 13, 1964.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, McGeorge Bundy, Memos to the President, Vol. 11. No classification marking.
You may or may not want these for night reading, but you should have them available:
At Tab A is McNamara's full draft report/2/ of which you got a brief this morning./3/
/2/Not attached, but see Document 84.
/3/The President met briefly and individually with McNamara and then McGeorge Bundy between 8:50 and 10 a.m. on March 13. Later in the day from 12:15 to 1:23 p.m., he met with McNamara, Rusk, Taylor, McCone, and McGeorge Bundy as a group. Apparently the President was briefed on the draft McNamara report on one, some, or all of these occasions. Johnson Library, President's Daily Diary)
At Tab B is his draft White House statement/4/ which both Dean Rusk and I think needs a lot of revision.
/4/Not attached. Reference is to a draft version of a White House statement of March 17, printed in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963-64, vol. 1, pp. 387-388. An undated text of the proposed White House statement and a copy with handwritten revisions by McGeorge Bundy are in the Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. V.
At Tab C is a fascinating document prepared for possible publication in Foreign Affairs by Ambassador Lodge./5/
/5/Not attached, but a draft of the article is attached to a letter from Lodge to Harriman March 3; ibid.
For the TV show on Vietnam,/6/ I myself would quietly but firmly spell out the following themes:
/6/For the transcript of the President's television and radio interview conducted by representatives of the major broadcast services, March 15, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963-64, Book I, pp. 361-375.
1. Neutralization of the whole area has been repeatedly denounced by the Communists and is therefore not practicable now.
2. The right of people to choose their own course is exactly what we are supporting, and if foreign interference and subversion should end, the need for our help will end.
3. While the danger of the threat continues, American support will be firm and strong.
4. Secretary McNamara and a first-rate team have made a most careful study which has led to constructive suggestions that are now being reviewed within the Government.
5. We are strong, calm and determined, in a situation which has danger but also hope.
6. The Ambassador is our top man in the field, and you are proud of the U.S. unity which has been developed both here and in Vietnam in the first hundred days.
80. Memorandum From the Deputy Director for Intelligence (Cline) to the Director of Central Intelligence (McCone)/1/
Washington, March 14, 1964.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. XXX, CIA. Secret.
1. In my memorandum to the DCI, 30 October 1963,/2/ just before the "Big" Minh coup in Saigon, I argued against U.S. support for coup plotting on the grounds that: "If a coup succeeds it will result in the kind of dislocation and confusion characteristic of post-coup South Korea and the Dominican Republic." This phenomenon is exactly what we have been witnessing in South Vietnam in the last four months. My arguments, which went for naught, in favor of bolstering the shaky Diem regime are even more compelling toward support of the Khanh regime. It is probably our last chance to halt the spiral of confusion of purpose and defeatism that may destroy our position in Southeast Asia.
2. The simple question raised in the McNamara report/3/ is whether, with ample U.S. support of counterinsurgency efforts in South Vietnam, the recent trend toward Viet Cong victory can be reversed, and substantial, sustained progress made toward stabilization. I believe the odds are 6 to 5 against this favorable trend setting in within the next 3 to 4 months, as concluded by McNamara, so long as North Vietnamese political, military and logistic support are freely available to the Viet Cong. Furthermore, I think the loss of virtually all U.S. prestige and influence in Southeast Asia is likely if a favorable trend does not set in in South Vietnam soon. Consequently, it seems to me too great a gamble for the United States to rely solely on the measures recommended for South Vietnam during the next 3 to 4 months. Instead, I recommend that the measures recommended by McNamara be supplemented as soon as operationally feasible by adopting steps 1 through 3 of "Possible Later Actions" plus all four actions suggested in your footnote to the conclusion (p. 14) of the report. Personally, I would also recommend the "rejected" course of action of furnishing a U.S. combat unit (perhaps a battalion landing team) to insure the security of U.S. personnel and-implicitly-the Khanh regime's control of the Saigon area.
Ray S. Cline/4/
/4/At the bottom of the source text, Cline added a postscript on Cambodia, but acknowledged that it went "beyond the scope of the measures intended to save South Vietnam."
81. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to the President/1/
Washington, March 14, 1964.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, McGeorge Bundy, Memos to the President, Vol. II. No classification marking. Although there is no indication on the source text, this memorandum was presumably prepared in anticipation of the interview with the President by broadcast media representatives on March 15. See footnote 6, Document 79.
BROAD QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON VIETNAM
1. Why is South Vietnam important to us?
First, it is a key element in Southeast Asia. Southeast Asia in turn is an area whose size and importance are plain to see-almost 250 million people and a land and sea area stretching from China to Australia, and from the Philippines to India. Second, we have a commitment there in honor and in national interest. Ten years ago President Eisenhower rightly decided to support the new government of South Vietnam and we have continued that support ever since in good times and in bad. Indeed the language of that first commitment reminds me very much of the language we still use (Eisenhower letter to Diem attached at Tab A )/2/ It speaks of our assistance against subversion and aggression. It speaks of the need for effective performance and reform in Vietnam. It speaks of the need to respond to the aspirations of the people of Vietnam themselves.
/2/Letter dated October 25, 1954; Foreign Relations, 1952-1954, vol. XIII, Part 2, pp. 2166-2167.
In recent months the danger and difficulty in Vietnam have increased, but this is no time to quit, and it is no time for discouragement.
2. What are the prospects now?
I am working right this week end with Secretary Rusk, Secretary McNamara and General Taylor on this problem, and I can tell you that while there have been troubles and difficulties in recent months out there, we are going to keep right on with our basic present program and purpose. I am proud of the improvement in the coordination of the American effort both here and in Saigon, and we expect to take further measures to strengthen our support for the free people of South Vietnam.
I am particularly encouraged by reports from the Ambassador and from Secretary McNamara on the quality of the present leadership of South Vietnam. I have had an encouraging personal message from General Khanh, and we are very hopeful that his government will be able to take the strong and effective measures which are needed on every front out there.
I am sure the Vietnamese people will respond to this kind of leadership because it is quite foreign to the traditions of the area to give in to pressures which are directed from Peking. (Some deliberate connection of the Communists with China may be helpful in Saigon.)
3. Can this be ended by 1965?
1965 has never been anything more for us than a target for the completion of certain specific forms of technical training and assistance. A struggle of this kind needs patience and determination. We and our friends in Vietnam entirely agree that as time goes on the responsibility for effective work in all fields should be carried more and more by the Vietnamese themselves. No one who is working effectively against Communism need be worried about American determination and persistence. We mean to keep at it out there.
3/Printed from a copy that bears these typed initials.
82. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense (McNamara)/1/
/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 69 A 7425, Vietnam 381. Top Secret. A note on the source text indicates that McNamara saw this memorandum on April 2.
Washington, March 14, 1964.
/2/Reference is to a March 13 draft of Document 84.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff have reviewed the subject memorandum and concur with the recommendations subject to the following comments:/3/
/3/Within the JCS, Commandant of the Marine Corps General Greene and Chief of Staff of the Air Force General LeMay were critical of McNamara's draft report. Greene wrote that the 12 recommendations "offer little more than a continuation of present programs of action in Vietnam," and reiterated the view that if the United States was to stay and win in Vietnam, then that objective should be pursued with the full concentrated power of the United States. Greene stated, "half measures won't win in South Vietnam."
General LeMay agreed with McNamara's recommendations to support and stabilize the Khanh government, but took exception with the view that the "military tools of the GVN/US effort" were sound and adequate. LeMay felt that to do the job in Vietnam, the Viet Cong had to be attacked in their Cambodian sanctuaries and North Vietnam's supply and reinforcement lines through Laos could not be left unmolested. General Greene's comments are in JCS 2343/346-1, March 17, and General LeMay's are in CSAFM-263-64 to JCS, March 14; both in National Archives and Records Administration, RG 218, JCS Files, JMF 9155.3/3100 (13 Mar 64), as quoted in Historical Division, Joint Secretariat, JCS, The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the War in Vietnam, 1960-1968, Part 1, Chapter 9, pp. 18 and 19)
a. The Joint Chiefs of Staff do not believe that the recommended program in itself will be sufficient to turn the tide against the Viet Cong in South Vietnam without positive action being taken against the Hanoi Government at an early date. They have in mind the conduct of the kind of program designed to bring about cessation of DRV support for operations in South Vietnam and Laos outlined in JCSM-174-64, subject: "Vietnam," dated 2 March 1964./4/ Such a program would not only deter the aggressive actions of the DRV but would be a source of encouragement to South Vietnam which should significantly facilitate the counterinsurgency program in that country. To increase our readiness for such actions, the US Government should establish at once the political and military bases in the United States and South Vietnam for offensive actions against the North and across the Laotian and Cambodian borders, including measures for the control of contraband traffic on the Mekong.
b. In view of the current attitude of the Sihanouk Government in Cambodia, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend authorizing now hot pursuit into that country.
c. With regard to the reaction times contained in recommendation 12 of the subject memorandum, the Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that the time of reaction for border control and retaliatory actions against North Vietnam should be reduced to 24 hours and the time for the initiation of the program of "graduated overt military pressures" reduced to 72 hours. These times are considered feasible as soon as an aerial mining capability has been established in the VNAF.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Maxwell D. Taylor
83. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to the President/1/
Washington, March 15, 1964.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security Files, Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. II. Secret.
This memorandum is designed to help to clarify the issues that are likely to be before you at 10 A.M. Monday./2/ As I see it, the problem of our next steps with respect to Vietnam falls into four parts:
/2/From 10:12 to approximately 11:15 a.m. on March 16, the President met with McNamara, Ball, Taylor, and McGeorge Bundy in an informal meeting to discuss the McNamara report. No record of the meeting has been found. For the approved report, see Document 84.
1. Action in South Vietnam itself.
Following are my comments on each item.
1. Action in South Vietnam itself.
I think we have agreement all around on Item 1, which remains the most important of the lot. Bob McNamara assured me today that his twelve recommendations fully cover everything Lodge is asking for within South Vietnam, and then some. He further assures me that Lodge himself spoke of six crucial needs for action in Vietnam, and that all six are more than covered within his recommendations.
2. Action relating to Cambodia and Laos.
The McNamara report is so drafted as to leave you leeway in these two areas. It would authorize hot pursuit and ground operations over the Laotian line, but it is noncommittal about operations across the Cambodian border. McCone and Lodge would like to go further, especially with respect to Cambodia, and I find that Dean Rusk is also strongly inclined to move in this direction if the right combination of political and practical steps can be devised. I think there is room here for you to move in a direction which is at once useful to South Vietnam and effective as a response to the Ambassador's own desires. We will not have final plans on this tomorrow morning, but I think the field is a productive one and that a good resolution can be found. I think it is particularly desirable that we should have Lodge work on the practical process of this matter with Khanh directly.
3. Action against North Vietnam.
On this one we have agreement between McNamara and Khanh, at least for the present, that overt action against North Vietnam is undesirable. There is also agreement that the covert program should be intensified. As a practical matter, McNamara believes that this program will not amount to very much, and I agree with him, but I believe it essential that we authorize Lodge to strengthen it in any way that he can work out with Khanh. The one specific Lodge request which is still outstanding in this area is his proposal of late February that we warn the North Vietnamese of direct retaliation in response to any terrorist attack on Americans. McNamara tells me that the concern over the lives of Americans had been greatly reduced by the time of his visit last week, and that therefore this is not now a live issue. But at the end of the current deliberations, you will wish to go back to Lodge again.
4. Relations with France.
It is now agreed that Bohlen should go to work directly with General de Gaulle, as soon as possible after the General's return from Mexico. This will not be for about another ten days. The Department will be drafting a detailed instruction to Bohlen this week, and Dean Rusk's current intent is to let Ambassador Lodge and Ambassador Bohlen both comment on this instruction before it is made final. This seems to us the best we can do to keep all parties in line.
There are other questions which need to be discussed tomorrow morning, like the shape of the White House statement to follow the more formal meeting on Tuesday. For internal Pentagon reasons, McNamara is very eager to put out a substantial account of the current situation in terms which are acceptable to his military colleagues. I myself doubt that this should be done at the White House level, and we will have alternative statements for your consideration in the morning.
84. Memorandum From the Secretary of Defense (McNamara) to the President/1/
Washington, March 16, 1964.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. V. Secret. Also printed in Pentagon Papers: Gravel Edition, vol. III, pp. 499-510 and published in Declassified Documents, 1978, 148A. On March 16, Bromley Smith sent a slightly revised version of this memorandum to the National Security Council for consideration at a March 17 meeting. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. V)
A March 2 preliminary draft of this memorandum was prepared by William Bundy over the weekend of February 29-March 1, designed, in Bundy's words, as an "overall vehicle for thought and also designed by Secretary McNamara to serve as a possible framework for his report upon his return." Bundy's covering memorandum and the draft are ibid., Vol IV. They are published in Declassified Documents, 1975, 157A. On March 4, an abbreviated version of the draft was sent to those officials attending the March 5 NSC meeting (see Document 71). This March 4 draft is in Department of State, Bundy Files, WPB Special Papers. An undated White House copy of the abbreviated March 4 draft, received for filing on March 6, is published in Declassified Documents, 1977, 146D.
Two additional drafts of the full memorandum, March 5 and March 13, are in the Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. V. Important differences between these drafts and the final memorandum as submitted to the President are noted in footnotes below.
This report addresses two questions:/2/
/2/The introduction highlighting the two questions to be addressed appeared in the March 13 draft. In previous drafts, the report was introduced as an analysis of problems in Vietnam, possible courses of action, and pro and cons of a program of military action against North Vietnam.
1. What is the present situation in Vietnam? (What is the trend of the counterinsurgency program, how stable is the Khanh government, and what is the effectiveness of our current policy of assisting the South Vietnamese Government by economic aid, military training and logistical support?)
2. How can we improve that situation? (What are the plans and prospects of the Khanh government and what more should they be doing, and what more should the U.S. be doing under present or revised policy, in South Vietnam or against North Vietnam?)
To answer the questions, the report will review: I. U.S. Objectives in South Vietnam; II. Present U.S. Policy in South Vietnam; III. The Present Situation; IV. Alternative Present Courses of Action; V. Possible Later Actions; VI. Other Actions Considered But Rejected; and VII. Recommendations.
I. U.S. Objectives in South Vietnam
We seek an independent non-Communist South Vietnam. We do not require that it serve as a Western base or as a member of a Western Alliance. South Vietnam must be free, however, to accept outside assistance as required to maintain its security. This assistance should be able to take the form not only of economic and social measures but also police and military help to root out and control insurgent elements.
Unless we can achieve this objective in South Vietnam, almost all of Southeast Asia will probably fall under Communist dominance (all of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia), accommodate to Communism so as to remove effective U.S. and anti-Communist influence (Burma), or fall under the domination of forces not now explicitly Communist but likely then to become so (Indonesia taking over Malaysia). Thailand might hold for a period with our help, but would be under grave pressure. Even the Philippines would become shaky, and the threat to India to the west, Australia and New Zealand to the south, and Taiwan, Korea, and Japan to the north and east would be greatly increased.
All of these consequences would probably have been true even if the U.S. had not since 1954, and especially since 1961, become so heavily engaged in South Vietnam. However, that fact accentuates the impact of a Communist South Vietnam not only in Asia, but in the rest of the world, where the South Vietnam conflict is regarded as a test case of U.S. capacity to help a nation meet a Communist "war of liberation."
Thus, purely in terms of foreign policy, the stakes are high. They are increased by domestic factors.
II. Present U.S. Policy in South Vietnam
We are now trying to help South Vietnam defeat the Viet Cong, supported from the North, by means short of the unqualified use of U.S. combat forces.3 We are not acting against North Vietnam except by a very modest "covert" program operated by South Vietnamese (and a few Chinese Nationalists)-a program so limited that it is unlikely to have any significant effect. In Laos, we are still working largely within the framework of the 1962 Geneva Accords. In Cambodia we are still seeking to keep Sihanouk from abandoning whatever neutrality he may still have and fulfilling his threat of reaching an accommodation with Hanoi and Peking. As a consequence of these policies, we and the GVN have had to condone the extensive use of Cambodian and Laotian territory by the Viet Cong, both as a sanctuary and as infiltration routes.
3 The adjective "unqualified" referring to use of combat troops first appeared in the March 13 draft. The last two sentences of section 11 were also added to the March 13 draft.
III. The Present Situation in South Vietnam
The key elements in the present situation are as follows:
A. The military tools and concepts of the GVN/US effort are generally sound and adequate.4 Substantially more can be done in the effective employment of military forces and in the economic and civic action areas. These improvements may require some selective increases in the U.S. presence, but it does not appear likely that major equipment replacement and additions in U.S. personnel are indicated under current policy.
4 Mr. McCone emphasizes that the GVN/US program can never be considered completely satisfactory so long as it permits the Viet Cong a sanctuary in Cambodia and a continuing uninterrupted and unmolested source of supply and reinforcement from NVN through Laos. [Footnote in the source text that first appeared in the March 13 draft.]
B. The U.S. policy of reducing existing personnel where South Vietnamese are in a position to assume the functions is still sound. Its application will not lead to any major reductions in the near future, but adherence to this policy as such has a sound effect in portraying to the U.S. and the world that we continue to regard the war as a conflict the South Vietnamese must win and take ultimate responsibility for. Substantial reductions in the numbers of U.S. military training personnel should be possible before the end of 1965. However, the U.S. should continue to reiterate that it will provide all the assistance and advice required to do the job regardless of how long it takes.
C. The situation has unquestionably been growing worse, at least since September:
1. In terms of government control of the countryside, about 40% of the territory is under Viet Cong control or predominant influence./5/ In 22 of the 43 provinces, the Viet Cong control 50% or more of the land area, including 80% of Phuoc Tuy; 90% of Binh Duong; 75% of Hau Nghia; 90% of Long An; 90% of Kien Tuong; 90% of Dinh Tuong; 90% of Kien Hoar and 85% of An Xuyen.
/5/In the March 5 draft the figure was 30 percent.
2. Large groups of the population are now showing signs of apathy and indifference, and there are some signs of frustration/6/ within the U.S. contingent:
/6/In the March 5 draft "declining morale" was used rather than "frustration."
a. The ARVN and paramilitary desertion rates, and particularly the latter, are high and increasing.
b. Draft dodging is high while the Viet Cong are recruiting energetically and effectively.
c. The morale of the hamlet militia and of the Self Defense Corps, on which the security of the hamlets depends, is poor and falling.
3. In the last 90 days the weakening of the government's position has been particularly noticeable. For example:
a. In Quang Nam province, in the I Corps, the militia in 17 hamlets turned in their weapons.
b. In Binh Duong province (III Corps) the hamlet militia were disarmed because of suspected disloyalty.
c. In Binh Dinh province, in the II Corps, 75 hamlets were severely damaged by the Viet Cong (in contrast, during the twelve months ending June 30, 1963, attacks on strategic hamlets were few and none was overrun).
d. In Quang Ngai province, at the northern edge of the II Corps, there were 413 strategic hamlets under government control a year ago. Of that number, 335 have been damaged to varying degrees or fallen into disrepair, and only 275 remain under government control.
e. Security throughout the IV Corps has deteriorated badly. The Viet Cong control virtually all facets of peasant life in the southernmost provinces and the government troops there are reduced to defending the administrative centers. Except in An Giang province (dominated by the Hoa Hao religious sect) armed escort is required for almost all movement in both the southern and northern areas of the IV Corps.
4. The political control structure extending from Saigon down into the hamlets disappeared following the November coup. Of the 41 incumbent province chiefs on November 1, 35 have been replaced (nine provinces had three province chiefs in three months; one province had four). Scores of lesser officials were replaced. Almost all major military commands have changed hands twice since the November coup. The faith of the peasants has been shaken by the disruptions in experienced leadership and the loss of physical security. In many areas, power vacuums have developed causing confusion among the people and a rising rate of rural disorders.
5. North Vietnamese support, always significant, has been increasing:
a. Communications between Hanoi and the Viet Cong (see classified annex)./7/
b. Since July 1, 1963, the following items of equipment, not previously encountered in South Vietnam, have been captured from the Viet Cong:
ChiCom 75 mm, recoilless rifles.
ChiCom heavy machine guns. U.S. .50 caliber heavy machine guns on Chicom mounts.
In addition, it is clear that the Viet Cong are using Chinese 90 mm rocket launchers and mortars.
c. The Viet Cong are importing large quantities of munitions and chemicals for the production of explosives: Approximately 50,000 pounds of explosive-producing chemicals destined for the Viet Cong have been intercepted in the 12 months ending March 1964. On December 24, five tons of ammunition, of which one and one-half tons were 75 mm recoilless rifle ammunition, was captured at the Dinh Tuong Viet Cong arsenal. Ninety percent was of ChiCom manufacture.
D. The greatest weakness in the present situation is the uncertain viability of the Khanh government. Khanh himself is a very able man within his experience, but he does not yet have wide political appeal and his control of the Army itself is uncertain (he has the serious problem of the jailed generals)./8/ After two coupe, as was mentioned above, there has been a sharp drop in morale and organization, and Khanh has not yet been able to build these up satisfactorily. There is a constant threat of assassination or of another coup, which would drop morale and organization nearly to zero./9/ Whether or not French nationals are actively encouraging such a coup, de Gaulle's position and the continuing pessimism and anti-Americanism of the French community in South Vietnam provide constant fuel to neutralist sentiment and the coup possibility. If a coup is set underway, the odds of our detecting and preventing it in the tactical sense are not high./10/
/8/The observation in the parenthesis was added to the March 13 draft.
/9/Mr. McCone does not believe the dangers of another coup (except as a result of a possible assassination) at this time are as serious as he believes this paragraph implies. [Footnote in the source text that first appeared in the March 13 draft.1
/10/In the March 5 draft, a section IV, "The Situation in North Vietnam and Communist China," followed this paragraph. The section concluded that "the Viet Cong operation has been a North Vietnamese show from the beginning and almost certainly remains so," and maintained that Hanoi did not need help from China nor did it want it. While leaning toward Peking rather than Moscow, North Vietnam wanted to win the war in the south "by itself." The section highlighted North Vietnam's vulnerabilities: agriculture, a weak industrial base, and dependence on outside sources for POL. The conclusion was that the North Vietnamese feared U.S. action and "serious pressure could affect Hanoi's determination or at least lead them to throttle back." The assessment concluded that the Soviet Union was presently unwilling to help North Vietnam and that China, despite its encouragement, was unwilling to commit itself to offering significant help.
E. On the positive side, we have found many reasons for encouragement in the performance of the Khanh government to date. Although its top layer is thin,/11/ it is highly responsive to U.S. advice, and with a good grasp of the basic elements of rooting out the Viet Cong. Opposition groups are fragmentary, and Khanh has brought in at least token representation from many key groups hitherto left out. He is keenly aware of the danger of assassination or coup and is taking resourceful steps to minimize these risks. All told, these evidences of energy, comprehension, and decision add up to a sufficiently strong chance of Khanh's really taking hold in the next few months for us to devote all possible energy and resources to his support.
/11/In the March 13 draft, at this point was the phrase "it is more able than under any previous regime," with a footnote in the source text that reads as follows:
"Mr. McCone, while encouraged by Khanh's evident ability, does not believe that we have had enough experience with the members of Khanh's government to be able to make this judgment."
IV. Alternative Present Courses of Action
A. Negotiate on the Basis of "Neutralization"
While de Gaulle has not been clear on what he means by this and is probably deliberately keeping it vague as he did in working toward an Algerian settlement-he clearly means not only a South Vietnam that would not be a Western base or part of an alliance structure (both of which we could accept) but also withdrawal of all external military assistance and specifically total U.S. withdrawal. To negotiate on this basis-indeed without specifically rejecting it would simply mean a Communist take-over in South Vietnam. Only the U.S. presence after 1954 held the South together under far more favorable circumstances, and enabled Diem to refuse to go through with the 1954 provision calling for nationwide "free" elections in 1956. Even talking about a U.S. withdrawal would undermine any chance of keeping a non-Communist government in South Vietnam, and the rug would probably be pulled before the negotiations had gone far.12
12 The March 5 draft contained an extensive discussion of "just what kind of a solution we might be prepared to accept at some point through the path of negotiation." This section suggested refining thinking on possible acceptable points to be included in future negotiations. Essentially, the 1954 Geneva Accords would provide the framework of the U.S. position with the following exceptions: 1) Removal of restrictions on external military assistance; 2) Establishment of an effective guarantee of South Vietnam's borders with a police mechanism more effective than the ICC; 3) An equivalent guarantee of Cambodia's borders and a rewriting of the 1962 Laos accords; and 4) Removal of the 1954 provision for "free elections" in all of Vietnam. The discussion held that neutralization of North Vietnam was unattainable, but could be considered for tactical reasons. It concluded that "the guts of what we are after is that North Vietnam should renew its understanding not to interfere in the South, and that this undertaking should be subject to really effective control this time."
B. Initiate GVN and U.S. Military Actions Against North Vietnam/13/
/13/From this point, the March 5 draft differs both organizationally and substantively from the March 13 draft and final memorandum. The reorganization reflects the results of the McNamara Mission. Hereafter only differences between the March 13 draft and the final resort will be noted.
We have given serious thought to all the implications and ways of carrying out direct military action against North Vietnam in order to supplement the counterinsurgency program in South Vietnam. (The analysis of overt U.S. action is attached as Annex A.)/14/ In summary, the actions break down into three categories:
1. Border Control Actions. For example:
a. An expansion of current authority for Laotian overflights to permit low-level reconnaissance by aircraft when such flights are required to supplement the currently approved U-2 flights.
b. Vietnamese cross-border ground penetrations into Laos, without the presence of U.S. advisors or re-supply by U.S. aircraft.
c. Expansion of the patrols into Laos to include use of U.S. advisors and re-supply by U.S. aircraft.
d. Hot pursuit of VC forces moving across the Cambodian border and destruction of VC bases on the Vietnam/Cambodian line.
e. Air and ground strikes against selected targets in Laos by South Vietnam forces.
2. Retaliatory Actions. For example:
a. Overt high and/or low level reconnaissance flights by U.S. or Farmgate aircraft over North Vietnam to assist in locating and identifying the sources of external aid to the Viet Cong.
b. Retaliatory bombing strikes and commando raids on a tit-for-tat basis by the GVN against NVN targets (communication centers, training camps, infiltration routes, etc.).
c. Aerial mining by the GVN aircraft (possibly with U.S. assistance) of the major NVN ports.
3. Graduated Overt Military Pressure by GVN and U.S. Forces.
This program would go beyond reacting on a tit-for-tat basis. It would include air attacks against military and possibly industrial targets. The program would utilize the combined resources of the GVN Air Force and the U.S. Farmgate Squadron, with the latter reinforced by three squadrons of B-57s presently in Japan. Before this program could be implemented it would be necessary to provide some additional air defense for South Vietnam and to ready U.S. forces in the Pacific for possible escalation.
The analysis of the more serious of these military actions (from 2(b) upward) revealed the extremely delicate nature of such operations, both from the military and political standpoints. There would be the problem of marshalling the case to justify such action, the problem of Communist escalation, and the problem of dealing with the pressures for premature or "stacked" negotiations. We would have to calculate the effect of such military actions against a specified political objective. That objective, while being cast in terms of eliminating North Vietnamese control and direction of the insurgency, would in practical terms be directed toward collapsing the morale and the self-assurance of the Viet Cong cadres now operating in South Vietnam and bolstering the morale of the Khanh regime. We could not, of course, be sure that our objective could be achieved by any means within the practical range of our options. Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, unless and until the Khanh government has established its position and preferably is making significant progress in the South, an overt extension of operations into the North carries the risk of being mounted from an extremely weak base which might at any moment collapse and leave the posture of political confrontation worsened rather than improved.
The other side of the argument is that the young Khanh government needs the reinforcement of some significant successes against the North and without them the in-country program, even with the expansion discussed in Section C below, may not be sufficient to stem the tide.
On balance, except to the extent suggested in Section V below, I recommend against initiation at this time of overt GVN and/or U.S. military actions against North Vietnam.
C. Initiate Measures to Improve the Situation in South Vietnam
There were and are sound reasons for the limits imposed by present policy-the South Vietnamese must win their own fight; U.S. intervention on a larger scale, and/or GVN actions against the North, would disturb key allies and other nations; etc. In any case, it is vital that we continue to take every reasonable measure to assure success in South Vietnam. The policy choice is not an "either/or" between this course of action and possible pressures against the North; the former is essential without regard to our decision with respect to the latter. The latter can, at best, only reinforce the former.
The following are the actions we believe can be taken in order to improve the situation both in the immediate future and over a longer term period. To emphasize that a new phase has begun, the measures to be taken by the Khanh government should be described by some term such as "South Vietnam's Program for National Mobilization."
Basic U.S. Posture
1. The U.S. at all levels must continue to make it emphatically clear that we are prepared to furnish assistance and support for as long as it takes to bring the insurgency under control.
2. The U.S. at all levels should continue to make it clear that we fully support the Khanh government and are totally opposed to any further coupe. The ambassador should instruct all elements, including the military advisors, to report intelligence information of possible coups promptly, with the decision to be made by the ambassador whether to report such information to Khanh. However, we must recognize that our chances would not be great of detecting and preventing a coup that had major military backing.
3. We should support fully the Pacification Plan now announced by Khanh (described in Annex B),/15/ and particularly the basic theory now fully accepted both on the Vietnamese and U.S. sides-of concentrating on the more secure areas and working out from these through military operations to provide security, followed by necessary civil and economic actions to make the presence of the government felt and to provide economic improvements. This so-called "oil spot" theory is excellent, and its acceptance is a major step forward. However, it is necessary to push hard to get specific instructions out to the provinces, so that there is real unity of effort at all levels. A related matter is to stabilize the assignment of province chiefs and senior commanders and clarify their responsibilities and relationships.
/15/Not found, but see footnote 3, Document 51.
Many of the actions described in succeeding paragraphs fit right into the framework of the Plan as announced by Khanh. Wherever possible, we should tie our urging of such actions to Khanh's own formulation of them, so that he will be carrying out a Vietnamese plan and not one imposed by the U.S.
Civil and Military Mobilization
4. To put the whole nation on a war footing--to obtain the manpower for these efforts described below and to remedy present inequities and inadequacies in the use of manpower--a new National Mobilization Plan (to include a National Service Law) should be urgently developed by the Country Team in collaboration with the Khanh government. The present structure of decrees, dating from the Diem government, is haphazard and produces substantial injustices. The new Program for National Mobilization would both greatly increase the effectiveness of the war effort and be a strong visible sign of the government's determination and will. Full attention should be given to the way it is presented so that it appears as a remedy for past injustices; and not as a repressive or totalitarian act.
5. The strength of the Armed Forces (regular plus paramilitary) must be increased by at least 50,000 men. About 15,000 of these are required to fill the regular Armed Forces (ARVN) to their present authorized strength. Another 5,000 would fill the existing paramilitary forces to authorized strengths. The balance of 30,000 men is required to increase the strength of the paramilitary forces, in whatever form these may be organized (see paragraph 7 below). (All of the foregoing strength figures are illustrative and subject to review, which review I have directed General Harkins to make in consultation with General Khanh.)
6. A Civil Administrative Corps is urgently required to work in the provincial capitals, the district towns, the villages, and the hamlets. "Hamlet civic action teams" of five men each are now beginning to be trained, on a small scale, to go into hamlets after they have been cleared, start the rehabilitation process, and train hamlet leaders to carry on. School teachers and health technicians are now assigned to some hamlets, many more are needed, and those on the job need to be retrained to higher competence. Many other types of technicians (e.g., agricultural workers) are needed, in varying numbers. Taking into account the fact that many hamlets are not now secure, and that adequate training is required, the initial goal during 1964 should be at least 7,500 additional persons; the ultimate target, at least 40,000 men for the 8,000 hamlets, in 2500 villages and 43 provinces. The administrators would come largely from the areas in which they serve and would be paid by the national government. The U.S. should work with the GVN urgently to devise the necessary recruiting plans, training facilities, financing methods, and organizational arrangements, and should furnish training personnel at once, under the auspices of the AID Mission. Further, maximum effort should be made to make use of the available trained personnel by assignment to provincial and village administration where needed.
Improved Military Forces
7. The paramilitary forces are now understrength and lacking in effectiveness. They must be improved and reorganized.
a. What remains of the present hamlet militia (and related forces of a part-time nature for hamlet defense) should be consolidated with the Self Defense Corps into a single force compensated by the national government.
b. Pay and collateral benefits must be substantially improved at once. A reasonable course of action would be to raise the pay scale of the Civil Guard approximately to that of the regular Armed Forces, and to raise the pay scale of a reorganized Self Defense Corps approximately to the present level of the Civil Guard. In addition, measures should be taken to improve the housing and allowances of the families of both forces, so that they can live decently in areas near where the forces are operating.
c. Strength should be maintained and expanded by conscription, effectively enforced, and by more centrally directed recruitment policies.
d. Additional U.S. personnel should be assigned to the training of all these paramilitary forces.
e. The National Police require special consideration. Their strength in the provinces should be substantially increased and consideration should be given to including them as part of an overall "Popular Defense Force". In expanding and improving the police, the AID Mission should make special arrangements to draw on the advice of the present British training mission under Brigadier Thompson because of its experience in Malaya. (Mr. Bell has instructed Mr. Brent, the USOM Chief, to accomplish this.)
8. An offensive Guerrilla force should be created to operate along the border and in areas where VC control is dominant. Such a force could be organized around present Ranger Companies and ARVN Special Forces and provided with special training and advice by U.S. Special Forces. The force should carry the fight to the VC on their own basis in advance of clear-and-hold operations on the conventional pattern.
Additional Military Equipment for the GVN
9. The Vietnamese Air Force should be strengthened at once by the substitution of 25 A-1H aircraft for the present 25 T-28s. The A-1H aircraft has a much greater bomb load and slightly better speed.16
16 Concurrently, the effectiveness of the USAF's Farmgate operation will be increased by assignment of A-1E aircraft in replacement of B-26s and T-28s. Furthermore, in another important area, we are strengthening the U.S. intelligence and reporting system. [Footnote in the source text.]
10. Although there are no major equipment deficiencies in other forces, we should act at once to replace the present M-114 armored personnel carriers by 63 M-113s and to provide additional river boats. Additional lesser deficiencies should also be met at an estimated cost of approximately $10 million.
11. The approved, but unannounced, Fertilizer Program should be particularly stressed and expanded and publicly announced. Its target of 85,000 tons for the present planting season (April-June) should probably be doubled for the next season and trebled the following season, both to provide immediate and direct benefits to peasants in secure areas and to improve the rice crops and export earnings. Estimates are that an additional ton of fertilizer costing around $70 can, if properly applied, produce additional yield of an equivalent two tons of rice, which might be sold for $110 per ton. Thus, the potential export improvement alone could be on the order of $20 million from this year's 85,000 ton input.
US and GVN Costs of the Above Actions
The above actions will involve a limited increase in U.S. personnel and in direct Defense Department costs. More significantly, they involve significant increase in Military Assistance Program costs and in the budget of the GVN itself, with the latter requiring additional US economic aid. The estimates of additional annual costs are as follows:
/17/Increases in GVN budget expenditures do not automatically require equal increases in U.S. economic aid. As a rough approximation, subject to later refinement, an increase of 5-6 billion piastres of GVN budget expenditures might require an increase of $30-40 million worth of imports financed through U.S. economic aid. Some of the imports undoubtedly could be obtained under P.L. 480. [Footnote in the source text.]
If the Khanh government can stay in power and the above actions can be carried out rapidly, it is my judgment that the situation in South Vietnam can be significantly improved in the next four to six months./18/ The present deterioration may continue for a part of this period, but I believe it can be levelled out and some improvement will become visible during the period. I therefore believe that this course of action should be urgently pursued while we prepare such additional actions as may be necessary for success.
/18/In the March 13 draft, the time frame for improvement was "the next three to four months" and an extensive crossed-out footnote reads as follows:
"Mr. McCone believes that the situation in South Vietnam is so serious that it calls for more immediate and positive action than I have proposed. His reasons are: '(1) General Minh is discontented and his attitude will be a drag on Khanh's efforts to activate the military and civilian establishments. (2) Khanh's three Vice Premiers cannot give him the solid help that he needs because two of them, Hoan (an important political figure in Dai Viet Party) and Oanh (a capable economist and professor) have been out of the country for ten years or more and are therefore out of touch, and General Mau is known to be an affable but not a strong figure. General Khiem (Minister of Defense) is not particularly impressive. Parenthetically, it is reported to me that Generals Khiem, Mau and Thieu (Khanh's Chief of Staff) are the trio who conceived the January 30th coup. (3) I have received so many reports that the ARVN, from field grade officers down, lack the motivation and will and/or techniques to confront the enemy that I cannot but accept this as probable truth. This is also present among the middle and lower level civil officials. (4) The morale of the people in the hamlets and villages and countryside is reported as very low. (5) The irregular forces, i.e., Civil Guard and Self Defense Corps, are ineffective and the Hamlet Militia have virtually disintegrated. (6) The Viet Cong situation is improving militarily, organizationally, and in their political power over the people of the countryside.'"
"He concurs in the actions outlined in the previous pages and in Sections V and V11 below, but states that they are 'too little too late.' In addition he would: (1) Have General Khanh meet immediately with Sihanouk for the purpose of developing a joint South Vietnam-Cambodia program to clear the Cambodian border. And, if there is no successful meeting, General Khanh with U.S. assistance would stop all traffic on the Mekong River into and from Cambodia, and would implement immediately 'border control' item (b) on page 5 above (i.e., Vietnamese patrols, with appropriate U.S. aerial resupply, into Laotian territory). (3) Have Khanh negotiate with Chiang Kai-shek for the movement of two or possibly three divisions into the southern tip of the Delta in order to give impetus and support to the hard-pressed ARVN effort in that area. (4) Implement immediately 'retaliatory' item (a) on page 6 above (i.e., overt U.S. air reconnaissance over North Vietnam). He recommends that the overflights be over populous areas for psychological in addition to intelligence purposes."
V. Possible Later Actions
If the Khanh government takes hold vigorously-inspiring confidence, whether or not noteworthy progress has been made-or if we get hard information of significantly stepped-up VC arms supply from the North, we may wish to mount new and significant pressures against North Vietnam. We should start preparations for such a capability now. (See Annex C for an analysis of the situation in North Vietnam and Communist China.)/19/ Specifically, we should develop a capability to initiate within 72 hours the "Border Control"/20/ and "Retaliatory Actions" referred to on pages 5 and 6, and we should achieve a capability to initiate with 30 days' notice the program of "Graduated Overt Military Pressure." The reasoning behind this program of preparations for initiating action against North Vietnam is rooted in the fact that, even with progress in the pacification plan, the Vietnamese Government and the population in the South will still have to face the prospect of a very lengthy campaign based on a war-weary nation and operating against Viet Cong cadres who retain a great measure of motivation and assurance.
/20/Authority should be granted immediately for covert Vietnamese operations into Laos, for the purposes of border control and of "hot pursuit" into Laos. Decision on "hot pursuit" into Cambodia should await further study of our relations with that country. [Footnote in the source text.]
In this connection, General Khanh stated that his primary concern is to establish a firm base in the South. He favors continuation of covert activities against North Vietnam, but until such time as "rear area security" has been established, he does not wish to engage in overt operations against the North.
In order to accelerate the realization of pacification and particularly in order to denigrate the morale of the Viet Cong forces, it may be necessary at some time in the future to put demonstrable retaliatory pressure on the North. Such a course of action might proceed according to the scenario outlined in Annex D.
VI. Other Actions Considered But Rejected
We have considered the following actions, but rejected them for the time being except to the extent indicated below:
1. Return of Dependents. We recommend that the present policy be continued of permitting dependents to return home on a voluntary basis, but not ordering them to do so. The security situation in Saigon appears to have improved significantly, and ordering dependents home would now, in the universal judgment of our senior people in Saigon, have a serious impact on South Vietnamese morale. It would also raise a serious question whether tours of duty for AID personnel would not have to be shortened. Thus, unless there are further serious incidents, or unless we were taking more drastic measures generally we believe compulsory return should not be undertaken.
2. Furnishing a U.S. Combat Unit to Secure the Saigon Area. It is the universal judgment of our senior people in Saigon, with which we concur, that this action would now have serious adverse psychological consequences and should not be undertaken.
3. U.S. Taking Over Command. It has been suggested that the U.S. move from its present advisory role to a role that would amount in practice to effective command. Again, the judgment of all senior people in Saigon, with which we concur, is that the possible military advantages of such action would be far outweighed by its adverse psychological impact. It would cut across the whole basic picture of the Vietnamese winning their own war and lay us wide open to hostile propaganda both within South Vietnam and outside. Moreover, the present responsiveness of the GVN to our advice-although it has not yet reduced military reaction time-makes it less urgent. At the same time, MACV is steadily taking actions to bring U.S. and GVN operating staffs closer together at all levels, including joint operating rooms at key command levels.
/21/The March 13 draft contains a crossed-out footnote that reads as follows:
"Mr. McCone believes that these recommendations, in which he concurs without reservation, are inadequate to meet the `very serious situation confronting us in Vietnam and recommends the additional actions stated in the footnote to the Conclusions to Section IV of this Report for the reasons there stated.'"
I recommend that you instruct the appropriate agencies of the U.S. Government:
1. To make it clear that we are prepared to furnish assistance and support to South Vietnam for as long as it takes to bring the insurgency under control.
2. To make it clear that we fully support the Khanh government and are opposed to any further coupe.
3. To support a Program for National Mobilization (including a national service law) to put South Vietnam on a war footing.
4. To assist the Vietnamese to increase the armed forces (regular plus paramilitary) by at least 50,000 men.
5. To assist the Vietnamese to create a greatly enlarged Civil Administrative Corps for work at province, district and hamlet levels.
6. To assist the Vietnamese to improve and reorganize the paramilitary forces and to increase their compensation.
7. To assist the Vietnamese to create an offensive guerrilla force.
8. To provide the Vietnamese Air Force 25 A-1H aircraft in exchange for the present T-28s.
9. To provide the Vietnamese Army additional M-113 armored personnel carriers (withdrawing the M-114s there), additional river boats, and approximately $5-10 million of other additional material.
10. To announce publicly the Fertilizer Program and to expand it with a view within two years to trebling/22/ the amount of fertilizer made available.
/22/In the March 13 draft, the amount of fertilizer to be made available reads "doubled."
11. To authorize continued high-level U.S. overflights of South Vietnam's borders and to authorize "hot pursuit" and South Vietnamese ground operations over the Laotian line for the purpose of border control. More ambitious operations into Laos involving units beyond battalion size should be authorized only with the approval of Souvanna Phouma. Operations across the Cambodian border should depend on the state of relations with Cambodia.
12. To prepare immediately to be in a position on 72 hours' notice to initiate the full range of Laotian and Cambodian "Border Control" actions (beyond those authorized in paragraph 11 above) and the "Retaliatory Actions" against North Vietnam, and to be in a position on 30 days' notice to initiate the program of "Graduated Overt Military Pressure" against North Vietnam.
Robert S. McNamara
85. Message From the President to the Ambassador in Vietnam (Lodge)/1/
Washington, March 17, 1964--9:28 p.m.
/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Top Secret; Priority; Exdis. Drafted in the White House and approved by Rusk. Transmitted as telegram 1454 to Saigon, which is the source text.
1. I have now personally reviewed your cables 1754 through 1757/2/ and have considered them with Secretaries of State and Defense. I am delighted to find that we have a very high measure of agreement.
/2/In these telegrams from Saigon, March 15, Lodge commented on the March 13 draft of the McNamara report. Lodge thought that the situation in South Vietnam had been growing worse since May, not September, 1963. He took exception to the view that U.S. officials in Vietnam were any more "frustrated" than was normal "in the tropics dealing with orientals," and noted that CIA "old hands" reported some improvement in the lower Delta. Lodge thought that most former province chiefs were incompetent, did not consider the jailed Generals a threat to Khanh's control of the army, and blamed the poor showing of South Vietnam in reacting to the Viet Cong's challenge on the Diem government's policies and legacy. As for McCone's views, Lodge doubted that a meeting between Sihanouk and Khanh would accomplish much, and he considered stopping traffic on the Mekong bound for Cambodia and hot pursuit of Viet Cong into Cambodia as justifiable because Cambodia was no longer a "bona fide neutral." Lodge opposed the idea of Chinese Nationalist troops in Vietnam, although he thought they and the South Koreans might serve as advisers. He opposed recommendation 12 of the McNamara report, recommended his idea of a "diplomatic carrot-and-stick approach backed by covert military means" in dealing with North Vietnam, and reserved judgment on overt U.S. military action against the North. (All ibid., POL 27 VIET S, except telegram 1756 which is POL 32 CAMBODIA-VIET S)
2. Your comments on various sections of McNamara report/3/ make good sense to all of us, and report has been revised to meet most of your points. Revised version as approved today in National Security Council follows by air.
3. We have also shortened and amended the White House statement/4/ to reconcile it with your comments. Different people seem to view the past differently, but there is no point in letting such differences worry us as we go forward.
/4/See footnote 3, Document 86.
4. Specifically with respect to the comments in your 1757 your whole-hearted support of first eleven recommendations covers our most important efforts which are still in South Vietnam. On your additional comments, I have reached the following conclusions:
(1) I think additional actions against Laos and Cambodia should be intensively examined. We have agreed that cross-border ground penetrations should be initiated into Laos along any lines which can be worked out by Khanh and Phoumi with Souvanna's endorsement, and I will authorize low-level reconnaissance there wherever the present high-level flights indicate that such reconnaissance may be needed.
The questions of further U.S. participation and of air and ground strikes against Laos raise tough diplomatic issues and I have asked Rusk and McNamara to concert a further recommendation. My first thought is that it is important to seek support from Souvanna Phouma and to build a stronger case before we take action which might have only limited military effect and could trigger wider Communist action in Laos.
On Cambodia we find ourselves hard put to keep abreast of the rapid changes Sihanouk introduces into the scene./5/ Our impression is that bilateral GVN-RKG talks may now be in progress and State has sent you some thoughts on those prospects./6/ However, in the event of further deterioration, I would expect to authorize hot pursuit.
/5/Sihanouk rejected a proposal for a quadripartite conference on Cambodia, rejected bilateral talks with South Vietnam on frontier differences, and sent a mission to Hanoi to discuss South Vietnamese border matters.
/6/Apparent reference to telegram 1452 to Saigon, March 17. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 8 CAMB)
On overt high- or low-level reconnaissance over North Vietnam, we are not ready to make a decision now. I have asked that political and diplomatic preparations be made to lay a basis for such reconnaissance if it seems necessary or desirable after a few weeks, for military or political reasons, or both.
(2) As I read your comments on John McCone's points, the main items are those discussed above on Laos and Cambodia. We agree that Mekong traffic is a trump card, and State has already sent you a message on this question./7/
/7/Not further identified.
We agree that large-scale Chinese Nationalist incursion would be a mistake, but high quality advisers are different matter and we will send further thoughts on that.
(3) I have ordered a review of your paper of October 30./8/ My own inclination is to favor such pressures, short of overt military action.
/8/Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. v, pp. 656-659.
(4) Like you, I reserve judgment on such overt U.S. measures against North Vietnam. Question of direct retaliation for attacks on Americans is more complex. As I understand it from McNamara mission, these attacks are not an immediate present threat, but you are authorized to prepare contingency recommendation for specific tit-for-tat actions in the event attacks on Americans are renewed.
Your cable does not mention it, but Bob McNamara has reported your concern about the effectiveness of our representations to the French. I have discussed this matter with Bohlen and we now plan that he will raise these matters with General de Gaulle personally when latter returns from Caribbean. Department is drafting instructions and will circulate them for your comment before they are final./9/ Meanwhile we may wish to consider whether at some point it would be fruitful for you to go to Paris yourself to explain the realities of the situation to the General. In the light of your wartime connection with France, this possibility seems to me to have real merit./10/
/9/See footnote 3, Document 92.
/10/Telegram 1454 does not bear President Johnson's signature.
86. Summary Record of the 524th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, March 17, 1964, Noon/1/
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Meetings, Vol. 1, U.S. Policy Toward Vietnam. Secret. Drafted by Bromley Smith. A full attendance list for this meeting is ibid.
REPORT OF SECRETARY MCNAMARA'S TRIP TO VIETNAM
In response to a request from the President, Mr. McCone reported that there was nothing new out of Vietnam this morning worthy of mention. Secretary Rusk said that we had preliminary information about what might become an important new development, i.e., that Sihanouk of Cambodia is turning away from North Vietnam and is prepared to work out an understanding with South Vietnam.
Secretary Rusk presented the recommendations on pages 17 and 18 of Secretary McNamara's report on Vietnam (attached)./2/ He said that no one could guarantee that the proposed program would ensure success, but that if the situation in South Vietnam continued to deteriorate, the proposed recommendations provided for readying forces which could be used if it were decided later to take the war to North Vietnam.
Secretary McNamara said he had no additional comments to make but asked General Taylor to present the military actions discussed in the report. General Taylor began by commenting that highlevel overflights of North Vietnam are now possible, but if we required low-level reconnaissance, we will have to use U.S. planes overtly. General Taylor then covered the sections of the report, including border control actions, retaliatory actions, and the graduated overt military pressure program. He said that the kinds of military actions he described would produce strong reactions in Cambodia and in North Vietnam including, as a final act, asking the Chinese Communists to come to their support. Risk of escalation would be greatest if we undertook the overt military pressure program, and before doing so, we would want to improve the readiness of U.S. naval forces in the Pacific.
General Taylor said the Chiefs support the McNamara report. They favor readying forces now which would be required if it were decided later to take further military action than that recommended in the report. The Chiefs also want to examine the possibility of reducing from 72 to 24 hours the prior notice required to undertake actions against North Vietnam.
Secretary McNamara said that each Department and Agency concurs with the recommendations which fall in its area of responsibility. Ambassador Lodge agrees with all the recommendations except for his views on the need for overt reconnaissance of Cambodia. Mr. McGeorge Bundy pointed out that Ambassador Lodge's recommendation on Cambodian reconnaissance has been overtaken by events. No decision on this matter can be taken until we have further information about the conversations which are taking place between Khanh and the Cambodians.
The President said it was his understanding that Ambassador Lodge approved all the recommendations in the report except the one which has been overtaken by events and which he can be told lies in the area of unfinished business. The President then asked Secretary McNamara to summarize all twelve of his recommendations.
Secretary McNamara said as to cost, the program proposed would involve an expenditure of between $50 million and $60 million by the South Vietnamese, but that the actual cost to us would be approximately $30 million. Some of the cost will be covered by PL 480 funds and the remainder will come from reallocation of funds to meet the new plans. No supplemental budget request will be necessary.
Secretary McNamara covered very briefly all twelve recommendations. He agreed that the Joint Chiefs of Staff should study the proposal to reduce the 72-hour notice proposal contained in Recommendation 12. He agreed that this time should be reduced if it is possible to do so without resulting in the maldeployment of our forces in the Pacific.
The President asked Secretary McNamara if his program would reverse the current trend in South Vietnam. Secretary McNamara replied that if we carry out energetically the proposals he has made, Khanh can stem the tide in South Vietnam, and within four to six months, improve the situation there.
The President summarized the alternatives to the recommended course of action, i.e., putting in more U.S. forces, pulling out of the area, or neutralizing the area. He said the course we are following is the only realistic alternative. It will have the maximum effectiveness with the minimum loss.
General Taylor said the Chiefs believed the proposed program was acceptable, but it may not be sufficient to save the situation in Vietnam. He commented that the Chiefs' interest in military action against North Vietnam was based on their belief that action against North Vietnam might be necessary to make effective the program recommended by Secretary McNamara.
Secretary McNamara commented that Khanh had told him that he opposed taking the war to North Vietnam now because he felt that the South Vietnamese need a more secure base in the South before undertaking expanded military action.
The President said the McNamara proposals did not foreclose action later if the situation did not improve as we expected. He asked whether anyone present had any objections. Hearing none, he said the recommendations were approved.
The President, accompanied by Secretaries Rusk and McNamara, USIA Director Rowan, and Mr. McGeorge Bundy, went to his office where a draft press statement was revised and later issued. (Copy attached)/3/
/3/The final statement is printed in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963-64, pp. 387-388. Attached to a Department of State copy of the McNamara report of March 16 was a draft of this statement with handwritten revisions. (Department of State, S/S-NSC Files: Lot 70 D 265, NSC Meetings, 3/17/64)
/4/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
87. National Security Action Memorandum No. 288/1/
Washington, March 17, 1964.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSAMs. Secret
1. The report of Secretary McNamara dated March 16, 1964 was considered and approved by the President in a meeting of the National Security Council on March 17. All agencies concerned are directed to proceed energetically with the execution of the recommendations of that report.
2. The President, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense, has designated the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs to coordinate the execution of the recommendations in the report.
88. Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation Between the Secretary of State and the Director of the United States Information Agency (Rowan), Washington, March 17, 1964, 5:15 p.m./1/
/1/Source: Department of State, Rusk Files: Lot 72 D 192, Telephone Conversations. No classification marking. Transcribed by Carolyn J. Proctor of Secretary Rusk's staff.
TELEPHONE CALL FROM MR. ROWAN
R said in terms of our broadcast into North Vietnam, we are confused as to whether we should play up North Vietnam as tool of Chinese or that they are caught between Moscow and Peking. Sec said he would think the theme should be their leaders are leading them into an unnecessary and fratricidal struggle with their brothers and this is eating up their own resources and threatening them with unnecessary dangers. Sec said he would think R should draw the line between Hanoi leadership and their own people; and then the Chinese business; Sec said not to get into the Moscow-Peking aspect.
[Here follows discussion of matters unrelated to Vietnam.]
89. Memorandum From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)/1/
Washington, March 18, 1964.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. V. Secret.
I have read Bill Smith's two memoranda on Vietnam/2/ with great interest. These support in appropriate cautious language some of the things which I have been hearing myself. It may be worthwhile for all of us if I commit to paper some additional evidence in support of Bill Smith's worries.
/2/In March 17 memoranda to Bundy, William Y. Smith of the NSC Staff reported "undercurrents" of pessimism within the Department of Defense over the situation in South Vietnam. The belief was that there was no alternative to Khnah, yet he did not have the ability to rally the army. Furthermore, Smith reported that some feared that the Johnson administration was not taking forthright action because of the upcoming Presidential campaign. In his second memorandum, Smith drew an analogy between the missile gap issue in the 1960 campaign and Vietnam in 1964. Smith suggested that the Johnson administration should avoid the mistakes made by Eisenhower in 1960 by briefing opposition candidates on Vietnam and by making sure that the administration spoke with one voice. (Ibid.)
Before Sullivan left for Saigon, he attended a meeting of the JCS with Secretary McNamara and General Taylor. Sullivan reported to me that he was impressed by the vehemence of opinion in the JCS for strong overt U.S. action against the North. Admiral McDonald was particularly outspoken, but the other Chiefs appeared to support his views.
General Anthis (who is Krulak's successor) told me after a rather wet working dinner at Ray Cline's office that he felt if we couldn't "make the high jumps in South Vietnam, then we should pole-vault into the North".
After the mission's return from Saigon, Sullivan tells me that McNamara's report was very strenuously criticized by some officers in MACV and some of his own team. Yesterday a correspondent from Time Magazine (Cook) told me he was convinced that the decision not to attack the North was made because President Johnson did not wish to face a domestic political crisis before the election. He said that his Pentagon sources were convinced that the correct decision in Vietnam was avoided for this reason. I told him this was hogwash and could not come from responsible officials and certainly not anyone who was associated with the top-level team representing all interested agencies who accompanied the Secretary.
So I agree with Bill Smith that there may be a problem developing here, but I don't think it is quite like the missile gap issue in 1960. The difficulty then apparently was that the Eisenhower Administration felt it could not safely disclose enough of the facts to permit a reasonable explanation of the Government's position. I don't think quite the same problem exists with respect to our policies in Southeast Asia today. The question of whether or not overt U.S. forces should be used against the North depends upon an assessment of factors which are, in most instances, currently discussed in the press. Against the history of the Bay of Pigs and the October Cuban crisis, the advantage in political debate, I think, lies with the Administration. Prudence and caution are really more popular stances, I believe, than loud demands for war. The thing to avoid is too flat an impression that we have stopped thinking about all the possibilities.
I agree with Bill Smith that responsible officials in the Government should be encouraged to speak quite frankly about our current estimates of the position in South Vietnam and the rationale supporting McNamara's recommendations. In speaking about the North, it should be emphasized that the situation is constantly being reviewed by Defense and State to see if further actions need be taken.
Actually, I am somewhat more worried by those who argue for a bugout in Southeast Asia than I am by the adherents of Rostow.
90. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to the President/1/
Washington, March 18, 1964.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. V. No classification marking.
Attached are two parting memoranda from Roger Hilsman to Dean Rusk which are worth your attention when you have a chance to read them. With exceptions, I think they are a good and clear assessment of the basic view of the matter which this Government has had right along. Roger is a better analyst than administrator, and this is the sort of thing he has done best. His specific proposal that we put some troops in Thailand is more attractive to State Department and White House staff than to the Pentagon, because its object is political and not military. I think you may hear more of this proposal in coming weeks.
Letter From the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Hilsman) to the Secretary of State/2/
Washington, March 14, 1964.
/2/Secret. The letter was not attached to the covering memorandum from Bundy to the President. Hilsman sent copies of this letter and the attached memorandum to McNamara, McCone, Harriman, William and McGeorge Bundy, and Forrestal.
Dear Mr. Secretary: As I leave Government service and the post of Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs, I thought it might be useful for me to set down my thoughts on the persistent and stubborn problem of Southeast Asia, which has plagued us for the past decade.
Although our ability to control the course of events in Southeast Asia is inherently limited, I think the root of our present troubles there--in South Viet-Nam, Laos, Cambodia, and even Thailand--lies primarily in the gnawing doubts of both the Southeast Asians and the Communists as to our ultimate intentions in the region.
Since the fall of Dienbienphu, all Asians have wondered about our determination to fight in Southeast Asia, should fighting become necessary. Given the facts of life in a nuclear world, they are not impressed with the totality of our power even though the strategic balance tips heavily in our favor. Both free and Communist Asians scrutinize our actions and words for signs of U.S. determination to use appropriate force, tailored to the essentially limited political objectives we seek in this part of the world-that is, free and independent nations rather than bastions of anti-Communism. But of such determination they seem to feel they have seen few signs. The alacrity with which the Communists fell into line after we introduced troops into Thailand following the fall of Nam Tha illustrates the effectiveness of such moves as well as the fact that the Communists continue to worry that we might well fight if they push us too hard.
It seems to me that these doubts about our ultimate intentions are fundamental and recurrent wherever you look in Southeast Asia. We all say that Sihanouk is misbehaving because he feels that we are losing in South Viet-Nam. But even Sihanouk understands the extent of American power, and what he means by his statement that Communism is the wave of the future is most probably that he feels the United States is not prepared to do what is necessary to preserve Southeast Asia as a whole. Generosity, maturity, and restraint have not worked with Sihanouk. But so far it must seem to him that we are acting from weakness, and he might respond quite differently if he thought we were acting from strength.
In Laos, the Communists have pursued a two-track policy. They scratch away at the neutralist and conservative positions with one hand, pausing on each occasion to assess our reaction. With the other hand, they continue to toy with talks about a Government of National Union and implementation of the Geneva Accords. Quite clearly, they are keeping both lines open-ready to go ahead with implementing the Geneva Accords if and when they finally become convinced that we are both able and determined to permit them no other honorable alternative, and ready to nibble our position away completely if we appear indecisive.
The Thais, with infinite patience, are merely waiting. Although their indecision shows occasionally in reminiscences about their past successes in balancing off the rivalries of Great Powers, most Thais are prepared to be stubborn: they will match what they think is vigor with vigor and what they think is indecisiveness with indecisiveness.
The South Vietnamese are equally concerned. DeGaulle, Lippmann, and Mansfield have set the neutralist hares running with self-fulfilling prophecies that dishearten those who wish to fight and encourage coup-plotting among both the true neutralists and the simple opportunists. But what gives these lofty, unrealistic thoughts of a peaceful neutralist Asia their credibility is, again, fundamental doubts about our ultimate intentions.
A corollary to the preceding analysis is that we have so far failed as a Government to mesh fully the many different instrumentalities of foreign policy and thus to obtain full benefit from mutually reinforcing actions. This is true throughout Southeast Asia, but especially in South Viet-Nam. It applies to all instrumentalities of foreign policy equally, but it can best be summed up by Clausewitz's dictum that war is politics pursued by other means. We must learn better how to tailor our military might, aid, etc., to political purposes and, most important, to orchestrate military power more neatly with diplomacy and politics.
If we can successfully convince our friends and allies as well as the Communists and those, such as de Gaulle and Sihanouk, who tend to serve the Communists' purposes, that we are determined to take whatever measures are necessary in Southeast Asia to protect those who oppose the Communists and to maintain our power and influence in the area, we will have established an atmosphere in which our problems in Laos, Viet-Nam and Cambodia may be amenable to solution. In such an atmosphere, the Communist side must inevitably be more cautious as it contemplates the possibility that we might escalate hostility to a level unacceptable to them. It is not necessary that they be certain of what we will do; but we must give them reason to assume that we are prepared to go as far as necessary to defeat their plans and achieve our objectives.
I believe, therefore, that we must urgently begin to strengthen our overall military posture in Southeast Asia in ways which will make it clear that we are single-mindedly improving our capability to take whatever military steps may be necessary to halt Communist aggression in the area. Because Thailand, a loyal friend and ally, is the keystone of our position in Southeast Asia, we should begin by introducing substantial U.S. ground and air forces into that country in order (1) to imply clearly that we are prepared to introduce U.S. ground forces into Laos if necessary, and (2) to guarantee that, whatever else happens, Thailand itself will not be left to the mercy of Communist aggression. This step, in which some of our SEATO allies should be willing to join, must be accompanied by a diplomatic offensive designed (1) to reassure our friends as to our determination, and (2) to warn the Communist side that they are indeed playing a "deeply dangerous game."
I scarcely need add that I do not envisage this U.S. buildup of a military presence in Thailand as susceptible to dismantlement in the short term. No matter what we do, our problems in Southeast Asia are not going to vanish overnight and we must be prepared to maintain a strong military posture in the area quite indefinitely. (I believe the Thais will gratefully accept and fully cooperate with such a determined U.S. approach to the mutual threat; as I say, all that really bothers them is doubt as to our intention to remain in the area.)
At the same time, we should keep clear in our own minds an important distinction between means and objectives in Southeast Asia. A strong military posture in Thailand is an instrument, not an objective. Its purpose will be served once Thailand and its neighbors have the wherewithal to maintain their own freedom and independence whether through new collective security arrangements or a gradual receding of the Communist threat.
Meanwhile, the strengthening of our position in Thailand, together with our flat assertions of determination to take whatever steps the situation in the area requires and our clear commitment to a victory in the guerrilla war in South Viet-Nam, would, in my view, make all of the problems we face in the area more susceptible to effective treatment.
By way of conclusion, I would say that we have not yet lost the struggle for Southeast Asia, and I see no reason for despair. But I believe we must focus on the essentials of the problems confronting us and pursue an integrated and coordinated policy toward the area as a whole if we are to come out on top. We must take action that will make it clear to friend and foe alike that we mean to fulfill our responsibilities in Southeast Asia.
I am attaching a separate summary of my views on the situation we face in South Viet-Nam.
Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Hilsman) to the Secretary of State/3/
Washington, March 14, 1964
In my judgment, the strategic concept that was developed for South Viet-Nam remains basically sound. If we can ever manage to have it implemented fully and with vigor, the result will be victory.
The concept is based on the assumption that villagers in Southeast Asia are fumed inward on themselves and have little or no sense of identification with either the national government or Communist ideology--that the villagers are isolated physically, politically and psychologically. In such circumstances, it is not at all difficult to develop a guerrilla movement. In Burma during World War II, about 150 Americans created a guerrilla force of 30,000, and did it with white faces. It is hardly surprising that the Viet Cong could do equally well or better in South Viet-Nam.
A corollary to this assumption is that the villagers' greatest desire is security and that, if the villagers are given security, some simple progress towards a better life, and--most important of all--a sense that the government cares about them and their future, they will respond with loyalty.
The recent USIA survey of Long An/4/ gives some evidence of the validity of this assumption. 1,250 families were interviewed in Long An, which is among the worst of the Delta provinces. The results were as follows: In insecure villages, 75 percent of the people expressed an attitude towards the Viet Cong and the government that was essentially "a plague on both their houses", and 25 percent of the people were silent. In relatively secure villages--those which could be penetrated by large Viet Cong groups but not by small patrols--50 percent of the people took a "plague on both their houses" point of view, and 50 percent were mildly pro-government. In very secure villages, which had also received some benefits, such as a school or a well, the people were 100 percent pro-government and expressed a determination to fight the Viet Cong.
/4/Not further identified.
On the basis of such an apparently valid assumption, the strategic concept calls for primary emphasis on giving security to the villagers. The tactics are the so-called oil-blot approach, starting with a secure area and extending it slowly, making sure no Viet Cong pockets are left behind, and using police units to winkle out the Viet Cong agents in each particular village.
This calls for the use of military forces in a different way from that of orthodox, conventional war. Rather than chasing Viet Cong, the military must put primary emphasis on clear-and-hold operations and on rapid reinforcement of villages under attack. It is also important, of course, to keep the Viet Cong regular units off balance by conventional offensive operations, but these should be secondary to the major task of extending security.
All this requires careful coordination of military operations, police efforts and rural development towards the primary objectives: the extension of security over the heavily-populated regions of the Delta, the cutting off of Viet Cong sources of supplies and especially recruits, and their dispersion into the jungles and mountains where they can be worn down by attrition, starvation and more conventional military means.
At the heart of the strategic concept are two basic principles:
The first is that of the oil blot. In the past, the GVN sought to blanket the whole country with so-called strategic hamlets which in many cases involved nothing more than wire-enclosed villages doused with political propaganda, with the Viet Cong agents left in place. The result was to blanket the Delta with little Dienbienphus--indefensible, inadequately armed hamlets far from reinforcements, that lacked both government benefits and police facilities to winkle out Communist sympathizers, with Viet Cong pockets left behind. In effect these were storage places of arms for the Viet Cong which could be seized at any time. After November 1st, the military began to demobilize some of these vulnerable villages and outposts, and a race developed between the government and the Viet Cong. The race may have ended in a tie, but the result is that the Viet Cong now have much better weapons and greater stocks of ammunition than they ever had before.
The second basic principle is that the way to fight a guerrilla is to adopt the tactics of the guerrilla--night ambushes, small patrols, and so on. In spite of all our pressures, this has never been done in Viet-Nam. Instead, the emphasis has been on large operations, artillery and air bombardments, and the use of cumbersome battalion-sized units which telegraph their movements to the Viet Cong.
As to the question of operations against North Viet-Nam, I would suggest that such operations may at a certain stage be a useful supplement to an effective counterinsurgency program, but that they would not be an effective substitute for such a program.
My own preference would be to continue the covert, or at least deniable, operations along the general lines we have been following for some months with the objective, since these are only pinpricks, not of forcing North Viet-Nam to its knees but of keeping the threat of eventual destruction alive in Hanoi's mind. Then after we had made sufficient progress in the Delta so that all concerned began to realize that the Viet Cong were losing the support of the population, and that their ability to continue the war depended solely on North Vietnamese support, I think we should indicate as much privately to the North Vietnamese and follow this by selected attacks on their infiltration bases and training camps.
In my judgment, significant action against North Viet-Nam that is taken before we have demonstrated success in our counterinsurgency program will be interpreted by the Communists as an act of desperation, and will, therefore, not be effective in persuading the North Vietnamese to cease and desist. What is worse, I think that premature action will so alarm our friends and allies and a significant segment of domestic opinion that the pressures for neutralization will become formidable.
In sum, I believe that we can win in Viet-Nam with a number of provisos.
The first proviso is that we do not over-militarize the war--that we concentrate not on killing Viet Cong and the conventional means of warfare, but on an effective program for extending the areas of security gradually, systematically, and thoroughly. This will require better teamwork in Saigon than we have had in the past and considerably more emphasis on clear-and-hold operations and on police work than we ourselves have given to the Vietnamese.
The problems of getting effective teamwork is troublesome. Ideally, what we need is what the British had in Malaya--a Gerald Templer/5/ who has absolute authority to hire and fire anyone in any agency or department and through whom all reporting and all orders are transmitted.
/5/General Sir Gerald W.R. Templer, British Commander in Chief, Eastern Command, 1950-1951, and High Commissioner for the Federation of Malaya, 1952-1954.
My second proviso is that there be political stability in Saigon. The talk of neutralization is clearly very dangerous. It tends to be in the nature of a self-fulfilling prophecy-talk about neutralization disheartens those who must fully and vigorously implement the strategic concept and encourages those who are plotting for a neutralist coup.
I think we can counter such dangers most effectively by the proposals in my letter to you of March 14 dealing with the whole of Southeast Asia; if necessary, however, we might also station a Marine battalion in Saigon. Publicly, we could explain this as a move to protect American dependents; privately, we could pass the word in Viet-Nam that we wanted no more coups./6/
/6/McGeorge Bundy wrote the following marginal note: "No one in Saigon agrees."
To reiterate, I think that we have made the necessary and fundamental policy decisions on the over-all strategic concept. What remains is to implement this concept vigorously and with effective coordination.
91. Message From the Ambassador in Vietnam (Lodge) to the President/1/
Saigon, March 19, 1964--3 p.m.
/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Top Secret; Exdis. Transmitted as telegram 1776 from Saigon, which is the source text. Passed to the White House on receipt in the Department of State.
1. Thank you for your 1454./2/ I will carry out the program with maximum energy.
2. It seems appropriate to comment further on two matters: first, the proposal to put pressure on North Vietnam, as referred to in your pare 4, subparagraph 3, so that they will cease their aggression; and, second, the imaginative and interesting suggestion, which deserves careful analysis, that I see General de Gaulle.
3. As regards pressure on NVN, I submit the following:
4. US problem in any underdeveloped country is how to apply our power. The Communists, confident that we will not use our missiles, are trying to take over the people in the underdeveloped countries right under our noses. It is as though we had a tremendous warship capable of dominating the seas, but were facing a problem in the middle of the desert. In such a situation our power seems useless.
5. Last autumn the US did face the problem of how to apply our power in South Vietnam. President Kennedy, very properly I thought, wanted to bring about some fundamental changes in the behavior of the GVN. But we seemed to be up against a blank wall. There seemed to be no way we could use our great power which would not either damage the war effort or bring on an economic panic with widespread unemployment and starvation.
6. Yet, finally, much thought and study in Washington and in the Embassy discovered ways to apply US power. We hammered away at one place and then at another and, after awhile, there was a crack in the blank wall. The beginning of a change in Diem's attitude was becoming apparent when the Nov 1 coup came. A description of these methods is in my 949, Nov 6./3/
/3/Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. V, pp. 575-578.
7. Now we face the problem of how to apply our power to NVN, and we seem also to be up against a blank wall. Yet we seem to be quite sure of two things: (a) one single saturation raid on NVN could destroy the fruits of eight years' fighting against the French and of ten years backbreaking labor since 1954; and (b) while there would be some sort of ChiCom reaction, the above raid would not bring on nuclear war or a real world war.
8. If NVN thought that the US had the will to use just what we have out here in Southeast Asia (the 7th Fleet, US Air Force units, etc.), they would see that they cannot afford a Viet Cong victory in SVN. The price would be too high.
9. The problem is how to persuade NVN, and a corollary is how to apply our power in relatively limited doses so as to give them a sample of how really dangerous we are. Some overt reconnaissance flights might be useful as an initial step.
10. What we can do to them should also be linked to what we can do for them-in terms of rice and removing whatever US personnel we intend to remove anyway.
11. I recommend that the same kind of intensive study be now given to the above in Washington that was given last fall to applying sanctions to Diem. I am confident that good results would be obtained and that some things which look pretty strong today would start falling apart.
12. As regards de Gaulle, I look forward to chance to comment, which you mentioned in your last paragraph, on instructions to Ambassador Bohlen. Paris seems honestly to believe that 1964 is 1954, which leads them into still other dangerous errors.
13. As regards my going to Paris to explain realities to the General, the following can be said in favor:
14. A life-time of association with the French, the wartime connection of which you spoke, and more recent contacts in 1960 and in 1961, at which time I located the headquarters of the Atlantic Institute in Paris, above all, the fact that I would be visiting him as your representative should bring about a change in attitude, if anything can.
15. On the negative side is the reaction in the GVN. Prolonged reflection convinces me that GVN, from General Khanh on down, would be filled with apprehension and that, given their mentality, nothing could convince them that I was not going to Paris to sell them down the river. As US representative, I am extremely prominent here, and a trip by me to Paris to see de Gaulle, at this time, would be a body blow to morale and would, with one hand, destroy what we are trying to do with the passage of time.
/4/Telegram 1776 bears this typed signature.
92. Message From the President to the Ambassador in Vietnam (Lodge)/1/
Washington, March 20, 1964--5:58 p.m.
/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Top Secret; Exdis. The message was drafted in the White House and approved by Rusk. Transmitted as telegram 1484 to Saigon, which is the source text.
1. We have studied your 1776/2/ and I am asking State to have Bill Bundy make sure that you get our latest planning documents on ways of applying pressure and power against the North. I understand that some of this was discussed with you by McNamara mission in Saigon, but as plans are refined it would be helpful to have your detailed comments. As we agreed in our previous messages to each other, judgment is reserved for the present on overt military action in view of the consensus from Saigon conversations of McNamara mission with General Khanh and you on judgment that movement against the North at the present would be premature. We here share General Khanh's judgment that the immediate and essential task is to strengthen the southern base. For this reason our planning for action against the North is on a contingency basis at present, and immediate problem in this area is to develop the strongest possible military and political base for possible later action. There is additional international reason for avoiding immediate overt action in that we expect a showdown between the Chinese and Soviet Communist parties soon and action against the North will be more practicable after than before a showdown. But if at any time you feel that more immediate action is urgent, I count on you to let me know specifically the reasons for such action, together with your recommendations for its size and shape.
2. On dealing with de Gaulle, I continue to think it may be valuable for you to go to Paris after Bohlen has made his first try. (State is sending you draft instruction to Bohlen, which I have not yet reviewed, for your comment.)/3/ It ought to be possible to explain in Saigon that your mission is precisely for the purpose of knocking down the idea of neutralization wherever it rears its ugly head, and on this point I think that nothing is more important than to stop neutralist talk wherever we can by whatever means we can. I have made this point myself to Mansfield and Lippmann and I expect to use every public opportunity to restate our position firmly. You may want to convey our concern on this point to General Khanh and get his ideas on the best possible joint program to stop such talk in Saigon, in Washington, and in Paris. I imagine that you have kept General Khanh abreast of our efforts in Paris. After we see the results of the Bohlen approach you might wish to sound him out on Paris visit by you./4/
/3/Telegram 1487 to Saigon, March 20. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S). For the instructions sent to Paris, see Document 96.
/4/Telegram 1484 does not bear President Johnson's signature.
93. Message From the Ambassador in Vietnam (Lodge) to the President/1/
Saigon, March 23, 1964--1 p.m.
/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET-S. Top Secret; Exdis. Transmitted as telegram 1803 from Saigon, which is the source text. Passed to the White House on receipt in the Department of State.
I will of course be glad to comment on whatever you send me regarding pressure on the North.
2. I continue to agree that overt U.S. action should be withheld until after Viet-Nam and U.S. covert steps have been tried-and tried as part of an essentially diplomatic pressure move. I do not think that such a move, including the Viet-Nam and U.S. covert activities involved, is premature. If such an effort could be successfully carried out, it would obviously greatly discourage the VC and help General Khanh strengthen his southern base. In fact it might very much hasten the end of the war here. I have noted with interest your expectation of a showdown between the Chinese and Soviet Communist Parties and agree that this is a major element to be considered in any such diplomatic effort.
3. U.S. Mission (Country Team) will hear a report, pursuant to instruction in your 1454,/3/ paragraph 4, subparagraph 4 on "tit for tat" methods at the regular meeting this week./4/
/4/According to telegram 1828 from Saigon, from Lodge to the President, March 25, a committee of CIA and military representatives from the Embassy reached the preliminary conclusion that for a program of "tit-for-tat" overt military actions against North Vietnam, aerial bombardment and aerial mine-laying were the preferred methods of counteraction. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)
4. As regards de Gaulle, I will of course be glad to carry out your instructions to the best of my ability, should you decide you want me to go. I am commenting on proposed instruction to Ambassador Bohlen in separate telegram./5/ I like your reasoning regarding knocking down the idea of neutralism and will discuss with General Khanh.
/6/Telegram 1803 bears this typed signature.
94. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/
Saigon, March 23, 1964--4 p.m
/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Nodis.
1806. For the Secretary from Lodge. Regarding your priority 1487,/2/ I recommend that the fourth unnumbered paragraph in instruction to Bohlen make it clear that what we want from de Gaulle is a statement that he does not favor his "neutralization" at the present time. We are not asking him to drop his idea for all eternity. What we want is a statement saying that he does not think it applies now.
/2/See footnote 3, Document 92. The fourth unnumbered paragraph reads as follows:
"What we actually want from de Gaulle is a public statement, prior to SEATO meeting, that the idea of 'neutralization' does not relate to the attitudes or policies of the Government of Vietnam or its friends in the face of the current communist aggression."
Perhaps the following line of argument may be helpful to Ambassador Bohlen for his own information and use as he deems opportune. It seeks to refute some of the misconceptions which have been put out in Paris, and also seeks to deal with the circumstances which are particularly vivid in Saigon. The argument runs as follows:
1. France and the U.S. are headed for a collision as regards VietNam. This is not due to a fundamental difference of interests but to a misunderstanding, which it is the business of diplomacy to straighten out. As one who rejoices in French strength, I am worried that so many highly placed Vietnamese sincerely believe that General de Gaulle wishes the destruction of the Republic of Viet-Nam; that French agents are trying to incite the assassination of the Chief of State; and that French agents have worked with the Viet Cong in the recent terrorism against Americans. I have on every occasion made it clear that I think these rumors are fantastic and impossible to substantiate and have often tried to persuade the Chief of State not to break off relations with France. But much more than my efforts is needed.
2. Also on February 20 the VC, in an official communication, said it "approves particularly President de Gaulle's proposal to establish a regime of neutrality in South Viet-Nam".
3. For these reasons, a statement by General de Gaulle himself to the effect that his idea of "neutralism" was not meant to apply at the present time would have a very constructive effect.
4. Beyond the helpful effect which it would have, it is also clearly justified by the situation in Viet-Nam and for the following reasons:
a. The situation here is not hopeless at all. 1964 is not 1954. Vietnamese military are definitely on the track for the first time since the deterioration began in April of '63. The brave are being rewarded; the cowards are being relieved. In order to enable the GVN to hold an area once it has been cleared, the U.S. is helping strengthen the militia and create a corps of civil administrators. A National Service Law will soon be in effect.
b. Also, contrary to what is often said in Europe, the Americans and Vietnamese are not seeking an exclusively military solution of the problem. Indeed we agree that an exclusively military solution of the problem would be impossible. Hand in hand with the attempt of the military to bring about order is a social revolution in which the U.S. is taking an active part and which also aims to bring education, health, economic well-being, land ownership, to the ordinary people. The U.S. agrees emphatically that this struggle cannot be won exclusively by military methods.
5. It should be emphasized that the U.S. is not, as is being said in Europe, trying to do with "16,000 men what France did not do with 200,000 men". The U.S. effort is totally different; it has entirely distinct aims; it is not nearly as extensive and has not nearly as ambitious a goal as did the French aims in the early 1950's.
6. The statement often made in Europe that "while the U.S. has its strategic interests in Viet-Nam, the French have their cultural and economic interests" is profoundly misleading. Actually, the strategic interest in the American-Vietnamese effort in Viet-Nam is directly to the advantage of the French doctor, the French schoolteacher, and the French businessman in Viet-Nam, just as their presence here helps Viet-Nam and thus helps U.S. interests here. American and French interests should not be put in contra-distinction with each other as they are mutually consistent.
7. The Communists realize that the American-Vietnamese effort is actually getting off the ground, which is why they are intensifying their neutralist talk. In the language of the Viet Cong, "neutralism" is the same thing as Communist victory. We realize that it is a coincidence, but it is a most unfortunate coincidence that General de Gaulle's phrase "neutralism" is the identical phrase used by the Communists.
8. France has an influence in Viet-Nam way beyond what it contributes in the way of men, weapons and money. This is because French is still the Western language which is possessed by the largest number of Vietnamese (although the younger generation is trying hard to get away from French and to learn English). But at the present, the so-called people who count in Viet-Nam read French newspapers; in particular, they read the background news stories which the Agence France Presse gets from the Quai d'Orsay. Some are impressed by it and others are infuriated by it, and altogether no good purpose is served. If what is desired is the eventual neutralization of Indo-China or of Viet-Nam, the way not to do it is to create the furor which these statements out of Paris create. General de Gaulle is thus a very influential figure in Viet-Nam and, unwittingly, in a way which is defeating his own stated purpose.
9. A de Gaulle statement stating that he did not favor "neutralism" now would go far to correct the present bad situation, and at the same time, to promote a good result.
10. Such a statement not only does not foreclose a unified and neutral Indo-China at some future date; it would actually greatly facilitate such a result.
11. If a neutral Indo-China, or even a neutral Viet-Nam, were attempted at the present time, it would be foredoomed to failure. Since South Viet-Nam is not strong enough to bargain on an equal basis with North Viet-Nam, the holding of the conference would end the will to win in South Viet-Nam, and the net result would be to turn South Viet-Nam over to the North. By no stretch of the imagination can this be considered neutralism.
12. If so-called "neutralism" had been applied to France at any time between 1940 and 1944, the German Army would have remained in occupation in France. In fact, the initial German occupation before the collapse of the Vichy government was virtually the same kind of neutralism with regard to France which some appear to advocate today with regard to Viet-Nam. Those of us who have always wanted a strong France and are glad that France is strong today would have opposed "neutralism" for a France occupied by an hostile army in the '40's, just as we oppose "neutralism" for a Viet-Nam, which, though not occupied in the same sense, is under hostile attack in the '60's. And, one might add, just as we oppose "neutralism" for Berlin./3/
/3/In telegram 1510 to Saigon, March 24, Rusk thanked Lodge for his suggestions, which were being repeated verbatim to Ambassador Bohlen. He also noted: "The President has incorporated your suggested phrasing into paragraph four of his instructions to Bohlen and those instructions are being sent to Paris today." Department of State. Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)
95. Memorandum From the Secretary of State's Special Assistant for Vietnam (Sullivan) to the Special Assistant in the Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs (Thompson)/1/
Washington, March 23, 1964.
/1/Source: Kennedy Library, Thomson Papers, Southeast Asia, Vietnam, McNamara's Speech, 3/26/64. Confidential. Rusk took this memorandum to a luncheon meeting with the President, McGeorge Bundy, and McNamara at the White House on March 24, where the McNamara speech was approved substantially as originally drafted. No record of the luncheon meeting has been found. (Memorandum from Read to Rusk; Department of State, President's Reading File: Lot 74 D 164)
/2/The speech was given on March 26 at the James Forrestal Memorial Awards Dinner of the National Security Industrial Association in Washington. For text. see Department of State Bulletin, April 13, 1964, pp. 562-570.
I think the general tone and thrust of this speech is excellent but I detect one truly major problem toward the end of it. In the section "A Program to Meet Our Objectives" there is a listing of the options which President Johnson had before him prior to the McNamara visit. The manner in which the second option--"A Big War"--is treated leaves our reaction to this speech [option?] deliberately inconclusive.
I know that this is a useful device in maintaining a certain degree of uncertainty in the North. It is also valuable for dealing with the LeMays and the Rostows. However, that is not the audience which this particular speech is intended to address.
The basic purpose of the speech is to obtain broad support and particularly to state objectives which will be endorsed by the Mansfields and the Lippmanns. More pointedly, it is intended to separate the Mansfields from the Morses.
A second objective is to set forward our policy with precision in a way which will induce General de Gaulle similarly to define French policy. Indeed, we are telling de Gaulle that the McNamara speech will make our policy "precise".
Therefore, deliberately to leave an area of imprecision in order to attain a commendable objective with respect to the North would be defeating the major purposes and the major addresses of the speech.
I would, therefore, recommend that the entire section concerning options be rewritten so that the only course of action which is described and discarded is the "neutralization" course. The speech could then remain silent on the question of the "Big War"./2/
/2/At this point, Sullivan added the following handwritten note: "I have discussed this with McNaughton, who says that McNamara does want to retain the `options.' However these particular arguments have not been presented to him. WHS"
There are attached also certain suggestions by Joe Mendenhall for revision of the sections on pages four and five in the interest of clear historical accuracy./3/
/3/Attached but not printed.
96. Message From the President to the Ambassador in France (Bohlen)/1/
Washington, March 24, 1964--6:42 p.m.
/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. The message was drafted in the White House; discussed and revised at a 1 p.m. luncheon meeting among the President, Rusk, McNamara, and McGeorge Bundy; and approved by Rusk. Transmitted as telegram 4793 to Paris, which is the source text. Also published in Declassified Documents, 1978, 296A. A draft with McGeorge Bundy's handwritten revisions is in the Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. VI, Cables and Memos.
As agreed [in] recent consultations Washington, you should seek early appointment with de Gaulle for frank discussion Vietnam. You should indicate that you will have message from me for the General, draft text of which appended this instruction.
In presenting this message, you should stress our determination to assure that communist-directed aggression will not succeed in overthrowing independent states in Southeast Asia and our willingness take necessary measures to implement that determination.
You should point out that in Vietnam, we have come to this determination after having thoroughly examined and rejected arguments for disengagement or for political negotiation starting from current circumstances. You should draw upon March 17 White House statement/2/ following National Security Council action on McNamara report/3/ to describe nature our current commitment and action which we pursuing jointly with Khanh Government.
/2/See footnote 4, Document 79.
What we actually want from de Gaulle is a public statement, prior to SEATO meeting,/4/ that the idea of "neutralization" does not apply to the attitudes or policies of the Government of Vietnam or its friends in the face of the current communist aggression. We want him to state that he does not favor "neutralization" of this sort at the present time. We are not asking him to drop his idea for all eternity. What we want is a statement that he does not think it applies now. French spokesmen like Couve and Baumel have repeatedly said in private that a US pullout now would be disastrous and that we must keep up our end in South Viet-Nam. What we need is some parallel expression from the General./5/
/4/The ninth Ministerial Meeting of the SEATO Council, Manila, April 13-15.
/5/The last sentence of this paragraph was added to the draft by McGeorge Bundy: see footnote 1 above.
We leave to your discretion whatever action you feel appropriate to develop the forum or the manner in which such a statement might be delivered. You will have noted from other messages that the Vietnamese Foreign Minister expects to be in Paris in the near future; and it might be opportune for the statement to appear in the form of a joint French-Vietnamese communique on that occasion.
You may use whatever argument or persuasion you deem most effective in the presentation of this demarche. But you should make it clear that we expect France, as an ally, to adopt an attitude of cooperation rather than obstruction in this critical area of United States interest. I would welcome any comments or suggestions you may have on the text of my message to de Gaulle and will consider them urgently with Secretary Rusk.
Secretary Rusk has sent an advance copy of this instruction to Ambassador Lodge, who made constructive suggestions which have been incorporated into the message as you have received it. The full text of his cable presenting additional argumentation for your demarche is being repeated to Paris./6/
/6/Document 94. On March 23, Lodge informed the President that he had told Khanh about the proposed demarche to de Gaulle and that Khanh was "extremely positive" about the idea of having a public statement by de Gaulle on record. (Telegram 1811 from Saigon; Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S) After a night's reflection, Lodge informed the President that such a de Gaulle statement could pave the way for a new Vietnamese-French relationship and allow Khanh to drop his plan to break diplomatic relations with Paris. (Telegram 1817 from Saigon, March 24; ibid.)
Message to de Gaulle
The most immediate and the most complex problem of foreign policy which faces the United States today is centered in Southeast Asia. The type of subversive aggression which is being conducted against independent states and innocent populations in that part of the world poses a dangerous threat to the prospects for the stable evolution of developing nations everywhere. The Republic of Vietnam is, at the present time, the principal target of this aggression. As you know, it is the policy of my Government to furnish assistance and support to the Republic of Vietnam for as long as it is required to bring this aggression and terrorism under control.
Our objective in the pursuit of this policy is to assist in the establishment, throughout Southeast Asia, of independent states, secure from their neighbors, and each with an opportunity to determine its own policies, both foreign and domestic.
It is understandable, in the larger perspectives of history, and, given the political and economic circumstances, that these states might eventually choose an international posture which could be described as neutral. In this sense, neutralization might be held out as a long term objective to which these states could aspire.
However, all our reports from the area show that current public discussion of this objective has left a twofold impression: First, that the present victims of aggression should adopt an attitude of neutrality towards it; and second, that these same victims should be required not to accept external assistance to meet that aggression. It seems clear to us that these two courses would amount to a prescription for disaster.
Ambassador Lodge has informed me that in Vietnam today, there is a widespread impression that France endorses such courses. This impression has stirred up a sharp reaction among many elements in Vietnam, a reaction which has been moderated only by our own diplomatic efforts. At the same time in private conversations leading representatives of France have made it clear that France does not believe US help can safely be ended now, and that France does not believe in letting the Communists take over South Viet-Nam./7/
/7/The last sentence of the paragraph was added by McGeorge Bundy.
I believe it is important that all erroneous public impressions concerning the policies of nations which have an interest in the future of Southeast Asia be eliminated so that the problems of that area can be seen and dealt with as lucidly as possible. I have directed that the policy of the United States be set forth with precision; and senior members of my Government will do this in the course of the next few days.
It would be most helpful to our common cause if the real policy of France could also be clarified publicly in the minds of those who may feel disturbed by implications which have been read into its most recent expression. It would be particularly useful if such clarification should be made prior to the Manila meeting of the SEATO Council.
With these thoughts in mind, I have asked Ambassador Bohlen to discuss these matters with you and to report your views./8/
/8/Telegram 4793 does not bear President Johnson's signature.
97. Message From the Ambassador in France (Bohlen) to the President/1/
Paris, March 25, 1964--5 p.m.
/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Transmitted as telegram 4486 from Paris, which is the source text. Passed to the White House on receipt in the Department of State.
We were informed this morning/2/ by the Quai d'Orsay at about same time that Deptel 4793/3/ arrived that Khanh had taken up with French Charge a demand for a statement from de Gaulle about French position on neutrality (Embtel 4481)./4/ Since Khanh seems to have jumped the gun on us and in effect asked for what I was trying to obtain I wonder if we should not wait a day or so and assess French reaction before my seeking an interview with de Gaulle. However, on assumption that I will go through with this interview I would like to submit for your consideration the following suggestions in regard to the text of your message to de Gaulle. I assume this was designed to be presented in writing and we can of course add suitable salutation and closing.
/4/Khanh made this demand to Perruche on March 23, suggesting that the statement should make clear that even if future neutrality were desirable for Vietnam, the current struggle against the Viet Cong was the correct course. Should France do this, Khanh suggested that Vietnam could then remove economic restrictions on French imports and name a new Ambassador to Paris. Khanh added that the need for such a statement was both important and urgent; he had to have an answer by April 1. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 1 FR-VIET S)
I would suggest dropping paragraph four which as written seems to be our interpretation of French position. It is somewhat strong and I fear might produce an unnecessarily adverse reaction from de Gaulle. I would also eliminate last sentence of paragraph five since I think it extremely unwise to even hint to de Gaulle that "leading representatives of France" making statements about French policy which de Gaulle himself has initiated and which might lead him to the view that his position was being undercut by these "representatives".
In place therefore of paragraphs four and five I would substitute the following:
"The difficulty is that the term neutralization is being understood by certain people in Vietnam as having immediate application and not as a long-term objective. These people consider that any advocacy of neutrality at the present time really is a pseudonym for eventual Communist take-over. This impression has stirred up sharp reaction among many elements in Vietnam, a reaction which we have done our best to moderate through our own diplomatic efforts".
The Quai also informed us of a conversation that you had with Alphand (I assume during Defferre's visit). I would appreciate anything that you could let us have on this conversation./5/
/5/From 4:43 to 4:50 p.m., March 24, the President met with Gaston Defferre, Mayor of Marseilles. (Johnson Library, President's Daily Diary) No record of this meeting has been found.
I shall not request an interview with de Gaulle until I hear further from you./6/
/6/Rusk called William Bundy on March 25 at 2:33 p.m., to discuss this cable. The transcript of their telephone conversation reads in part as follows:
"The Sec asked him if he had seen Bohlen's message and Bundy said he had. Sec said it was bad that Khanh went roaring in. Bundy said we should have warned Bohlen Bundy said we were in an awful box, and said he was inclined to agree that Bohlen should put off his call to De Gaulle for a day or two. Sec said it would be very unwise to go roaring in. Sec said perhaps he had better in effect say that he had been informed about Khanh's action and that we think it would be very unwise for Khanh to go on down this road. We have been urging maximum restraint on him in this matter. We were concerned by the known fact that neutralization would create problems in Vietnam and go on from there. Sec said we should do something as a consequence of what Khanh has said rather than a parallel move. Bundy asked if we should let the French know we were coming, so to speak, and Sec said no but to go because Khanh did this and try to get the thing in order. Sec said it was a rough one and that this rather guarantees that we would fail with De Gaulle. Sec thought maybe we should wait a couple of days. Bundy said we were not under specific gun and Monday they agreed would be OK." (Department of State, Rusk Files: Lot 72 D 192, Telephone Conversations)
/7/Telegram 4486 bears this typed signature.
98. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in France/1/
Washington, March 25, 1964--7:02 p.m.
/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted in the White House, cleared by William Bundy and Rusk, and approved by Sullivan. Repeated to Saigon.
4818. For Ambassador.
1. The President has reviewed your 4486/2/ and agrees with you that you should wait a day or so to assess French reaction before seeking interview with de Gaulle. He nevertheless believes that you should seek this interview without fail within the 'next week, adjusting your presentation to the situation as it then appears, and making the strongest possible argument to the General for a public clarification of the position of France.
2. The President does not wish any formal message from himself to be presented at this time, in the light of Khanh's threatening démarche. Instead you should draw on the draft message in our 4793/3/ as appropriate, making clear that these are Presidential views as well as those of the USG in general. You should present these views as an expansion upon the brief remarks which the President made informally to Alphand.
3. We do not fully share your argument that General should go uninformed of what his Foreign Minister and others are saying officially to us, and believe it should be helpful to say that the policy of France as stated to us in diplomatic channels has only to be clarified publicly in order to become much more helpful to the common cause on the scene.
4. President's short meeting with Alphand took place on request of latter before Defferre meeting./4/ On South East Asia, exchange was very brief. President said that as he understood it, France did not wish American forces pulled out and did not believe in this kind of neutralism which would lead to takeover of south by Communists. If this were indeed French position, President said, it would be helpful to have it publicly clarified. Alphand said he would report this view and contrive to indicate some personal sympathy with it without actually committing himself.
/4/See footnote 5, Document 97. No record of the Alphand-Johnson meeting has been found.
99. Memorandum for the Record of the White House Daily Staff Meeting, Washington, March 30, 1964, 8 a.m./1/
/1/Source: National Defense University, Taylor Papers. T-217-69. Secret: Eyes Only. Drafted by William Y. Smith.
1. Mr. Bundy presided throughout the meeting.
2. Vietnam. The entire meeting was spent in a long discussion of our problems in Vietnam. Forrestal had sent Bundy the latest Sit Rep on Vietnam, with the comment that he was not sure our military operations in the field were in consonance with our political objectives./2/ Bundy said he had found the Forrestal memorandum very interesting, and asked why the military seemed to have the impression that napalm solves everything, and why they spent so much time chasing the enemy. In fact, he said, the enemy was not as readily identifiable as those operations made him sound. He asked if I had followed these matters closely, and I replied I had not, with respect to day to day operations.
/2/It was the weekly report from USMACV dated 23 May. [Footnote in the source text in Smith's hand. Forrestal's covering memorandum has not been found.]
Bundy then asked Cooper what he thought, and he responded that he was very concerned because we only had two or three months left to really get things moving, and it did not look like the field operations were going as they should. I then interjected that I could see some disadvantages and difficulties in using napalm and in chasing the enemy, but wondered what alternatives the other people really had in mind.
My question lead to two different kinds of responses, one from Forrestal and Bundy, and the second from Cooper. Forrestal referred to a book by a Frenchman, Modern Warfare, by Roger Trinquier,/3/ which he said was a report on the French experiences in Southeast Asia and Algeria. According to Forrestal, you can see from this book that we are making the same mistakes the French did, and are forgetting to profit by their lessons. The only specific concerning Vietnam he mentioned was that unless something changes, when the rainy season sets in, RVN morale will drop so far that the army may not be able to be salvaged. Cooper, on the other hand, said that we needed some "dramatic victories" to bolster the Vietnamese people. After the meeting I asked Cooper how he could reconcile dramatic victories with no identifiable enemy. He said he was not quite sure, but that we should be able to make raids on political and military command posts and bring back some Viet Cong alive. He thought the military could think of other possibilities. Both Cooper's and Forrestal's comments had one thing in common: neither was sure that the present military staffs in Saigon were capable of moving fast enough to solve these problems.
/3/Roger Trinquier, Modern Warfare: A French View of Counterinsurgency (New York: Praeger, 1964).
Bundy again commented that the basic problem was that the military thought of the war in Vietnam too much in terms of regular conventional warfare with an identifiable enemy and specific military objectives. In fact the problem was quite different. The result of this type of military thinking was that all the Chiefs except General Taylor wanted to go north. He asked that Forrestal recast his comments in his weekend memorandum,/4/ raising questions on the course of operations in Vietnam in terms that Bundy could send to Secretary McNamara. Bundy would tell McNamara that these questions had been raised, and Bundy felt they should be discussed with the President. Forrestal replied that the instances he cited did not really make a strong enough case since McNamara could cite some other "Krulak statistics" to show the other side. Bundy said then that he and Cooper should get together to draft such a memorandum. After the meeting I talked with Cooper and Forrestal, at Forrestal's suggestion, to see what assistance I can be in these conversations. Forrestal said that his basic point was that the operations the military consider important, such as the search and clear, are not the type of actions that will be most effective in achieving US objectives. He realizes that this is more an attitude of mind than anything else, but believes that it should be dealt with somehow. He is clearly groping, in a constructive way.
/4/Apparent reference to the covering memorandum by Forrestal; see footnote 2 above.
The military weren't the only ones in trouble this morning. The new AID man in Saigon is not considered the best possible choice. Forrestal thinks Bell's approach is to treat the Vietnam situation as any other bureaucratic problem. In reality, however, special treatment is called for. Bell wants to send a man named Van Dyke to Saigon, a good, capable, conservative administrator. The White House evidently is pushing Amory. Komer suggested another alternative, a Jim Killen. Bundy will see if the issue is still open.
The upshot of this discussion was that there may soon be some White House initiative to look more closely into the types of military operations being conducted in Vietnam. More important, however, to me it demonstrated the frustration of certain elements of the civilian side of the government over progress in Vietnam. If the military are frustrated and want to go north, the civilians are equally frustrated and want to do something more-they didn't know what-in the south. The basic point is that everyone is increasingly frustrated, and this is not good.
[Here follows discussion of subjects unrelated to Vietnam.]
7. Vietnam War Game./5/ I asked Bundy if the Vietnam war game next week would help deal with any of the problems with which he was concerned. He said it would not, since it properly would be dealing with higher levels of escalation. Having had no other comment from him, I take this as his concurrence of the scenario I gave him Friday./6/
/5/Reference is to a political-military game, code-named Sigma 1-64, sponsored by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and organized by the Joint Wargames Agency of the JCS. The game took place from April 6 to 9 and had as participants most of the senior officials in the Johnson administration. The focus was the insurgency in South Vietnam and ways to combat it. The report of the war game is in the Johnson Library, National Security File, Agencies' File, JCS War Games. William Sullivan, in Obbligato, pp. 178-182, describes this war game in detail, but misdates it as occurring in the spring of 1963, not 1964.
/6/March 27. The scenario for Sigma 1-64 is not printed. (Ibid.)
100. Memorandum From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)/1/
Washington, March 30, 1964.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Luncheons with the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. I, Part 2. Secret.
Apropos of our discussion this morning,/2/ my thinking is as follows:
/2/See Document 99.
Although we have paid a lot of attention to the personnel and organization of the new government in Saigon, we have done very little to improve our own organization there. It is a full five months since the November 1st coup and two months since General Khanh's coup. Most of the experts seem to be agreed that this dry season is critical in reversing the declining trend in the war we have been observing during the past year. Unfortunately, we have now let more than half that season go by without having shaken ourselves down in Saigon.
The warning indicators are still flashing. The MACV report/3/ which I have shown you over the week-end does not by itself prove that we have a military staff in Saigon inadequate for the job. All one can say (and this only at the risk of violent reaction from the uniformed side of the Pentagon) is that such a report which places such emphasis on military activities so similar to those which failed the French, suggests a lack of understanding of what the war is about.
/3/See footnote 2, Document 99.
It is extremely difficult, and probably irresponsible for civilians to second-guess military field commanders; and it is even more difficult for them to propose new tactics. Beyond recommending that Roger Trinquier's book/4/ be made required reading, there is not much we can do from here. So, what it comes down to is that we simply must get out to Saigon our most imaginative military commanders and civilian administrators. This we simply have not done.
/4/See footnote 3, Document 99.
Both Bill Bundy and Bill Sullivan spoke to McNamara about this problem in Honolulu on their way to Saigon. The best Bob could offer was that he would consider relieving General Harkins no sooner than April 15 and not later than June 30. I spoke to Bob myself before the Forrestal Award Dinner, and he then told me that he plans to move Harkins when Lodge leaves. Bob thinks that Lodge will inevitably succumb to temptation in the month of June, resign, and return here for the convention. His reasons for not wanting to move Harkins now are:
a. We can't afford a change in the American organization until the Khanh Government is settled down.
b. Khanh and Harkins get along very well.
c. General Westmoreland has not been there long enough yet to be able to take over.
Sullivan believes, and I agree with him, that these three reasons merely cover Bob's fundamental problem, which is that Max Taylor and the Chiefs will not agree to a change at this time. Sullivan is also somewhat concerned about Westmoreland. He thinks he is an able, flexible officer, but extremely ambitious and anxious to take over the complete direction of the war from the Ambassador. Sullivan is worried that unless Westmoreland gets into the habit of working for a powerful figure, he will tend to dominate any new ambassador we send out, if and when Lodge returns. For this reason Sullivan thinks it is important that there be an overlap and that any new ambassador be a particularly powerful figure.
Our record on the civilian side is not any better. You know the problems we have had finding an AID Director. On top of that, there is still no civilian in Saigon who is acting as Chief of Staff for the war in the countryside. The original theory was that Dave Nes, the DCM, would do this. But I am still doubtful whether he can do this job at all, and certainly not within the time we have left. Dave has not had experience in an insurgency situation and, like most senior Foreign Service Officers, is bound to devote more of his time to the diplomatic and housekeeping problems of the Embassy and the vast American community in Saigon. For some months I have felt that another man at Nes's level was required-a man who would be Lodee's Chief of Staff for coordinating all U.S. activities, military and civilian, in support of the war in the field. The ideal I have in mind is someone like Desmond Fitzgerald, and there are probably some other people like him in the CIA and perhaps in the DOD. I attach a memorandum I wrote to Bob McNamara before he went out on his trip, a copy of which I have sent to John McCone; but so far I have gotten absolutely nowhere with it./5/
I had a long talk with Dave Bell about his new Mission Director, during the course of which he exposed his own theory that since the AID Agency did not actually have full responsibility for the effort against the Viet Cong, he did not see how an AID official could take over the whole job. I had been trying to convince him of the importance of getting a man like [1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified]. I think that Dave may be right; but the result as of the moment is that there is no one in the AID Mission in Saigon, and no prospects for finding anyone who can even do a first-class job in running the AID part of the Strategic Hamlet Program.
Finally we must face the likelihood that Lodge might leave and start looking for a new ambassador. This is going to be an immensely difficult job, since we need a man with somewhat inconsistent qualities. He has to be prestigious enough to retain civilian control of the total U.S. effort, and at the same time he has to know enough about the theory of counterinsurgency at least to be able to encourage the useful actions of the military and discourage the self-defeating ones. What I really would like to see the President do would be to appoint you and Bob as a committee of two to produce the top level personnel and effect the changes in Saigon. You could both call on the two departments, the Agency and the AID people, for nominations and suggestions; but somehow there must be a place where the brutal decisions are taken and made to stick.
Chet Cooper is completely right. This is a Greek tragedy, and the curtain is slowly descending.
101. Memorandum From the Director, Far East Region, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Blouin) to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (McNaughton)/1/
Washington, March 30, 1964.
/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 68 A 4023, 092 Vietnam. Top Secret.
This is a summary of actions taken to implement the approved recommendations of the McNamara report./3/
The White House statement of 17 March 64/4/ included the statement that "It will remain the policy of the United States to furnish assistance and support to South Vietnam for as long as it is required to bring Communist aggression and terrorism under control." Same point was made in Secretary McNamara's 26 Mar 64 speech./5/
/4/See footnote 4, Document 79.
/5/See Document 95.
2. To make it clear that we fully support the Khanh government and are opposed to any further coupe.
All Saigon agencies advised 18 Mar 64 that procedures should be established to bring coup plotting to the attention of the Ambassador for his evaluation and decision as to action (Deptel 1463)./6/ [7-1/2 lines of source text not declassified]
/6/Not printed. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 7 US/MCNAMARA)
Embassy, Saigon was requested 20 Mar 64 (Deptel 1490)/7/ to report the current status of GVN plans and CT views with regard to adoption of a National Service Act. Embassy reported 25 Mar 64 (Embtel 1829)/8/ that as of that time GVN seems to favor institution of a civil defense organization to supplement present regular and paramilitary forces, rather than implementation of a national mobilization plan. An interagency committee, chaired by J-1, MACV, will continue to study the problem. The GVN has been notified that the US wishes to have an opportunity to comment on any proposed plan at an early stage of development.
/7/Not printed. (Ibid., POL 23 VIET S)
/8/Not printed. (Ibid., POL 7 US/MCNAMARA)
Embassy advised 23 Mar 64 (Deptel 1505)/9/ among other things that General Khanh's concept for employment of forces must be refined before any firm determination is made as to the breakdown of the "at least 50,000 men" increase; that it is essential that an early determination be made as to the responsibility of the military and paramilitary (including police); that it is essential that RVNAF carry the war to the guerrillas in their base areas. Embassy was advised to refine the concept for implementing recommendations 4, 6, and 7 and to submit requirements for forces (including US personnel), MAP, and AID funding.
/9/Not printed. (Ibid.)
General Harkins reported 25 Mar 64/10/ that MACV, in conjunction with all other interested agencies in Saigon, was progressing well with required planning. Mission approval for the program is to be sought soon and presentation to the GVN made as soon thereafter as possible. Mr. Brent is exploring financial aspects with Vice Prime Minister Oanh.
/10/Not further identified.
On 21 Mar 64 (Embtel [Deptel] 1492)/11/ the Embassy was requested to submit estimates of US and GVN personnel requirements; cost; and training schedules. Embassy was asked whether Michigan State or third country personnel would be useful.
/11/Not printed. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 23 VIET S)
There has been no response from Saigon and no further action generated in Washington./12/
/12/First session of special civil administration training course for district chiefs from four provinces began 30 Mar 64. The course will be repeated once a month until all of the 237 district chiefs have a chance to attend. [Footnote in the source text.]
See summary under Recommendation #4 above.
7. To assist the Vietnamese to create an offensive guerrilla force.
See summary under Recommendation #4 above.
8. To provide the Vietnamese Air Force 25 A-1H aircraft in exchange for the present T-28s.
On 22 March 64, CINCPAC advised the JCS that he has approved a plan for delivery of 16 A-1H's (from units in the Pacific) in Vietnam on or about 1 May and 9 from the USS Midway by 15 May./13/ These aircraft constituting the third VNAF squadron will be located at Bien Hoa. A Navy unit of 4 support officers, 8 instructor pilots, and 150 men will arrive on or about 1 May. Its mission is to train the VN pilots and maintenance people until they can assume full responsibility (estimated three-six months). ODMA is handling funding.
/13/CINCPAC telegram 220026Z, March 22. Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. VI)
COMUSMACV has requested shipment of 63 M-113's in three increments with the first increment to arrive in Vietnam on or about 15 Apr 64 and the last before 1 June 64./14/ This schedule was approved by the Department of the Army on 26 Mar 64. The disposition of the M-114's that are being withdrawn is being worked out by the Department of the Army. ODMA will determine the price and funding data for the exchange as soon as the final disposition is decided. There is no resultant delay.
/14/Not further identified.
On 22 March 1964, CINCPAC listed his additional FY 64 requirements for Vietnam./15/ They are 30 M-113's, 84 cupolas for M-113's, TACS, 54 AN/ARC-55 and 93 AN/ARC-45 radios, 17 loudspeaker systems, 5 30-ton cranes, transportation for CG, conversion of an LSM to a hospital ship and 500 backpack sprays. Total cost of this list is $2.65 million. CINCPAC was advised by ODMA on 25 March 1964 that these additional requirements were approved for funding and was requested to provide programming data. CINCPAC also proposed additional items that would increase the FY 65 MAP from $150.8 to $174.6 million. ODMA will respond to this request later.
/15/CINCPAC telegram 22002Z, March 22. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. VI)
10. To announce publicly the Fertilizer Program and to expand it with a view within two years to trebling the amount of fertilizer made available.
The Embassy was requested 25 Mar 64 (Deptel 1523)/16/ to draft a public announcement for the Ambassador's and GVN concurrence, after which appropriate announcement is to be made in Saigon. Embassy was advised that the release should probably be deferred until week of 30 Mar to permit resolution of fertilizer procurement problems. USOM has advised AID that commercial suppliers in Vietnam can meet the requirement.
/16/Not printed. (Department of State, Central Files, AID (US) VIET S)
A draft telegram of guidelines to Saigon was considered by DOD 30 March 64. Its main provisions are to authorize the following:
(1) Establishment of covert five-man GVN military liaison team with Laotian forces at Savannakhet.
(2) Authorization of hot pursuit.
(3) Authorization of intelligence collection operations and commando and sabotage raids by VN forces in the region south of Tchepone.
(4) Operations of not to exceed battalion size for relief and support of friendly Lao forces in border regions.
(5) Limited covert encadrement of FAR units in territory adjacent Lao Vol Bn 33.
(6) Resupply opns. (See Vientiane #1067)/17/
/17/Paragraph (6) was handwritten. In telegram 1067, March 30, the Embassy in Vientiane recommended against approaching Souvanna Phouma on the question of resupply of covert South Vietnamese troops in Laos because of his fundamental opposition to Laos becoming involved in "someone else's war." (Ibid., POL 27 VIET S)
12. To prepare immediately to be in a position on 72 hours notice to initiate the full range of Laotian and Cambodian "Border Control" actions (beyond those authorized in paragraph 11 above) and the "Retaliatory Actions" against North Vietnam, and to be in a position on 30 days' notice to initiate the program of "Graduated Overt Military Pressure" against North Vietnam.
The JCS recommended 30 Mar 64 (JCSM-272-64)/18/ that authority be granted to deploy 48 B-57's and 1081 personnel from Japan to Clark Air Force Base, beginning 1 Apr 64 and at the rate of 4 aircraft every three days. If necessary, movement can be completed in 4 days.
/18/Not printed. (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 69 A 926, 452.1 Vietnam)
On 30 Mar 64 the JCS approved dispatch of planning guidance to CINCPAC that requests submission of an outline plan to the JCS by 8 May emphasizing the application of air and naval power against the DRV and Communist China. The objective of the operations would be to cause cessation of any large scale aggression undertaken by the CHICOM's, possibly assisted by the DRV, in response to US/GVN military pressures against the DRV. A series of other planning messages have been sent by the JCS to CINCPAC. The JCS were requested on 25 Mar to brief selected representatives of the Department of State as early as possible on the concepts of our plans for phased actions.
On 26 March Mr. Forrestal sent Mr. Rowen a memorandum entitled, "Political Scenario in support of pressures on the North."/19/ Mr. Rowen has added material to this memorandum and prepared a new script on 28 March./20/ Copies have been sent to Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Forrestal.
/19/Apparent reference to the first draft of Document 102.
/20/See footnote 2, Document 102.
F. J. Blouin
102. Memorandum From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)/1/
Washington, March 31, 1964.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. VI, Cables and Memos. Top Secret. This covering memorandum is also published in Declassified Documents, 1984, 002725.
I attach the latest version of my political scenario for pressures on the North./2/ Bill Sullivan and Henry Rowen from McNaughton's office participated. I discussed it at luncheon today with Sullivan, McNaughton and Bill Bundy. We agreed it could go to General Taylor as a draft with no official standing. This means it will probably be taken up at the JCS meeting tomorrow.
/2/On March 30, Forrestal sent McGeorge Bundy a copy of what he described as "a very rough draft of a political scenario for pressures against North Vietnam." Forrestal stated that he did the original "off the top of my head" and that Henry Rowen of ISA had "tinkered with it, but not brutally enough." The March 28 draft scenario and the covering memorandum from Forrestal to Bundy are in the Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. VI, Cables and Memos.
This draft does two major violences to JCS thinking. Instead of proceeding immediately to direct U.S. involvement (which some of the Chiefs favor) it introduces a second phase of overt SVN action with U.S. covert support. All us civilians are agreed that this is the stage we should really plan for, keeping the possibility of direct U.S. action as a contingency reserved against the possibility of major escalation.
The other probable shortfall from the JCS point of view is the memorandum's failure to concentrate on intensified border operations against Laos and Cambodia and U.S. low-level reconnaissance over these two countries, plus North Vietnam. Again the civilians are agreed that these actions would only attract a strong international protest against the U.S., without providing us with significant leverage against the North.
Finally, I am worried that too much preoccupation with a military-political scenario will detract from our regular efforts in South Vietnam, which, as you and I know, need considerable improvement. More specifically, it is hard to imagine a more dangerous course than embarking upon the attached scenario without having made the changes in "policy and personnel" in our own organization in Saigon.
Please let me know urgently if any of the steps I am taking seem impolitic to you.
POLITICAL SCENARIO IN SUPPORT OF PRESSURES ON THE
This paper does not describe in detail the nature or order of specific military actions which are being devised by JCS. It is assumed, however, that there are three major categories of such actions, with perhaps some overlap between the categories:
a. Covert SVN action against the North (with US covert support).
b. Overt SVN action against the North (with US covert support) including:
c. Overt joint SVN and US action including:
Warning and preparatory actions
US aerial reconnaissance activities
Naval control measures ("selective" or total blockade,
possibly including mining operations)
What follows are some suggestions for political moves to set the stage and to develop support both at home and abroad for each category of action.
I. Political steps during the period from the present to the time when US and GVN decide on overt SVN actions against the North.
We are in this period now, and it is assumed that actions in Category (a) will be continued and augmented. During this period it is necessary for both the GVN and the US to make clear in each country and to the world the nature of the underlying facts and rationale which support the GVN's efforts against the VC and our support of these efforts. There should be produced by speeches, articles, interviews and other methods, a consistent historical picture of SVN since World War II, a general description of North Vietnamese involvement in events since 1959 and a more detailed description of the desired state of affairs in Southeast Asia after control of the insurgency from North. Secretary McNamara's speech on March 26/4/ is an excellent start on such a program. Among the specific steps which should be prepared to follow McNamara's speech are:
/4/See Document 95.
1. An article by Ambassador Lodge should appear within the next two weeks (a draft has already been prepared by Lodge, commented on here, and is being resumed to him for final revision)./5/
/5/The major substantive revision of the draft Lodge article suggested by William Bundy and Rusk in telegram 1543 to Saigon, March 27, was their desire that Lodge identify North Vietnam as the "primary aggressor" against South Vietnam rather than emphasizing China's role. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)
2. Another speech by General Khanh on war aims. In such a speech General Khanh should describe the specific programs and measures which his government intends to pursue in order to bring a better life to the villages of Vietnam. General Khanh has already made a strong start in his speech of March 9th./6/ Subsequent speeches laying out specific programs in support of these aims should also be made by General Khanh and other members of his government. The Department of State should prepare a brochure of significant excerpts from General Khanh's speeches for informal dissemination to interested experts in this country.
/6/A summary and analysis of the speech are in telegrams 1711 and 1729 from Saigon, March 8 and 11. (Ibid.)
3. Material for friendly Senators and Congressmen should be prepared on the subject of neutralism, US objectives in Southeast Asia as a whole, new programs and reforms undertaken by the GVN, and a general description of NVN direction and control of the VC.
4. In addition to the above, a modest program aimed at increasing public awareness of the US interest and involvement in Vietnam should be carried out. Additional material along the lines of the recently issued AID poster/7/ should be developed and distributed. Public service advertisements in magazines, newspapers and radio/television should be encouraged.
/7/Not further identified.
5. Another diplomatic exchange with the British, and one with our principal allies to make sure that they understand our view of the war in South Vietnam and the importance of North Vietnamese involvement. We did something like this recently when Lord Home and Butler were in Washington,/8/ and Bohlen is currently probing the French on the subject of "neutralization." Another effort should be made three or four weeks from now, perhaps by sending an emissary to London and Paris to report on progress made in SVN. At that time North Atlantic Council should also be given a presentation of the US view
/8/Reference is to the official visit of February 12-14; see Document 41.
II. Steps to be taken after decision to begin actions in Category (b): (i.e. Overt actions by SVN against the North).
Although the decision to initiate these actions will have to be taken at the highest level of the US Government, it must be remembered that political initiatives should surface in Saigon and not in Washington, so as to maintain the credibility of the sovereignty of the GVN. The nature of some operations that might be carried out in this phase (e.g., Farmgate) will make it difficult to deny US involvement. Some specific and political moves are listed below:
1. McNamara should make another trip to Saigon. His object should be to secure General Khanh's agreement to begin overt SVN action against the North. Publicly, his trip will be explained as the next in a logical series but particular emphasis will be placed on his on-the-spot review of the problems posed by increasing evidence of North Vietnamese involvement. McNamara reports to the President on his return.
2. McNamara carries with him to Saigon some suggestions for another major speech by General Khanh. This speech gives details on NVN activity against the South and contains a demand that Hanoi cease. The speech also describes the future of Indo-China if Hanoi would cooperate. It foresees a period of two independent but separate Vietnams, gradually increasing peaceful contacts with each other followed by eventual reunification on a satisfactory basis.
3. President consults with limited number of Congressional leaders and discloses that the US has been asked by General Khanh to help the GVN bring pressures on the North for the purpose of convincing Hanoi to cease its insurgency in the South. He [1 line of source text not declassified] informs them that USG intends to give SVN covert support in these operations.
4. Speech by General Khanh.
5. Shortly thereafter, public release of Jorden White Paper/9/ detailing NVN involvement.
/9/Published by the Department of State in February 1965, as Aggression From the North: The Record of North Vietnam's Campaign To Conquer South Vietnam.
[Numbered paragraph 6 (1-1/2 lines of source text) not declassified]
7. Offer reassurances to SVN and Thailand (and possibly Laos) of US protection and assistance in the event of NVN retaliation by air or by stepped-up insurgency. Request permission of Philippines and Thailand to stage and deploy US forces to those countries.
8. US commences unannounced air defense capability for Saigon and takes first overt military movements to prepare for possible escalation (such as fleet movement to provide whatever cover JCS deems necessary for air operations against North). Some care should be taken, however, to avoid public appearance that US is involved in GVN action.
9. GVN begins training Vietnamese pilots for B-57's.
10. US evacuates dependents from Saigon.
11. GVN takes first action against North (probably Farmgate harbor minings of important ports).
12. Immediately thereafter Khanh makes second speech calling on North to cease insurgency and making public the military action which has been taken.
13. US uses third country, i.e., Canada, UK or France to transmit message to Hanoi that while US deplores need for these actions, it understands their necessity and supports them in principle. US also indicates particular interest in that part of Khanh's speech offering food to the North and wonders if negotiations between North and South might be useful. Some communication to ChiComs might also be appropriate. No approach should be made to USSR at this time.
14. President consults broader group of Congressional leaders and describes the gravity of situation, making full disclosure [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] evidence of NVN involvement with VC, and emphasizes need to support Khanh in his initiative. President does not ask for action by Congress. He also gives background briefing, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] to selected group of public opinion leaders (editors, publishers and columnists). He might also consider briefing Republican candidate.
15. On the assumption that no change occurs in NVN attitude and behavior, Khanh makes speech immediately after appropriate VC incident, i.e., cutting of rail line, killing of US personnel or destruction of POL dump; announces need to inflict appropriate type of damage on NVN. Khanh deplores necessity for taking such action and situation which makes it necessary for SVN to send military force to North, instead of food and medicine.
16. First targeted attack occurs as promptly as possible. Use of Farmgate aircraft may lead to public disclosure of US participation, either through loss of the aircraft by way of enemy anti-aircraft capability or materiel failure or through disclosures made by correspondents in SVN. Means of minimizing this possibility through improvements in SVN capabilities or through use of sheepdipped US pilots should be investigated.
17. Other overt SVN actions against North are taken accompanied by a series of SVN announcements and a call by Khanh for a GVN-DRV meeting at Hue and cessation of VC attacks. Propagandize North, by radio and leaflet, warning of the consequences and [of] continued aggression. Khanh stresses that these are not reprisals against civilians. Stresses GVN carrying out "just actions" in reply to "acts of terror."
Farmgate-type actions should probably continue until some evidence of a favorable North Vietnamese reaction appears. We should consider at some stage precisely what we would expect them to do and inform them of this decision. We should probably not consider moving to the next phase of overt US pressures unless the ChiComs intervene or the DRV begins a full-scale assault on the South. It is important that all the possibilities of SVN overt pressures covertly supported by us be played out to the full.
III. US decides on direct US action against NVN.
The move from the previous categories of action to this one can be made either suddenly or slowly, depending upon the array of military actions from which we choose. In other words, we could proceed slowly and logically from covert to overt support of SVN sponsored actions or we might decide to move quickly and dramatically if international pressures had reached a dangerous point or if we wish to lend support to four-power conference in Geneva. The specific political steps listed below could be adjusted to either course.
1. If we have not already done so the establishment of EXCOM arrangements at this point is essential.
2. The Department of State brings SEATO allies up to date on [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] evidence of VC involvement. Though formal SEATO action will not be possible because of the probable positions of France and the UK, the US case might be based in part upon the US SEATO commitment. The North Atlantic Council should be informed.
3. Second conference between President and legislative leaders in which the President discloses full details [less than 1 line of source text not declassified], reviews histories of attacks against US installations and personnel in SVN and states arguments for necessity for retaliation directly against the North, and asks Congressional support and possibly a Congressional resolution.
4. Public speech by President setting forth US policy and explaining necessity for direct action against North. US direct action takes place in accordance with JCS plan and simultaneous deployment of US forces to offset possible escalation.
5. Assurances given to SVN, Laos and Thailand on US protection, already evident through US military deployment, against possible DRV and ChiCom retaliation.
6. Convey to North our demands which need to be satisfied in order to stop our action, expanding on points in Presidential speech. Make clear limited intentions and determinations. State actions we want taken by North and fact that compliance will have to be visible to us. Possibly identify some specific VC units we want to see comply with our demands.
7. As a supplement to what was said in the President's speech, state privately to the Soviets and ChiComs our objectives and warn the Soviets and ChiComs against support of the North either directly or by way of arms and logistics (SAM, interceptors, trucks, POL).
8. Conference begins in Geneva and US action continues unless visible cessation of NVN action in South occurs. Note: The possibility should be considered of making the.initial US action strong, so as to permit some time to pass before second action is needed. If, as it should be, our measure of compliance is a reduction in the insurgency, rather than DRV promises, it is possible that military pressures might have to be continued over a period of several months and perhaps even longer. We will have to be prepared to deal with the international pressures which might build up during this period.
The following are some of the questions with which we must be prepared to deal at a conference and upon which we must prepare a position:
Our overt goal.
The problem of dealing with the VC.
Provisions for reimposing military pressures.
Controls on indigenous forces?
GVN-DRV diplomatic and other contacts.
Treatment of Laos and Cambodia.
9. Conference reaches acceptable settlement or US actions continue and increase.
103. Memorandum From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)/1/
Washington, April 1, 1964.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. VI, Cables and Memos. Top Secret.
/2/The luncheon meeting took place from 12:35 to 2:54 p.m., April 2. (Ibid.. President's Daily Diary) No record of the meeting has been found.
Here is a list of matters which I think you can profitably raise at the luncheon tomorrow.
1. Replacement for Ambassador Lodge brought about by his possible resignation after the Oregon primary.
2. Reassignment of General Harkins and reorganization of MACV. (I have submitted a memorandum to you on this subject.)/3/
3. Follow-up action with respect to Chantrea (I have submitted a memorandum to you.)/4/
/4/The Chantrea incident occurred on March 19 when South Vietnamese troops accompanied by two American advisers entered Cambodia in hot pursuit of people fleeing and believed to be Viet Cong. The Vietnamese Air Force directed napalm and machinegun fire on the village of Chantrea and a U.S. helicopter penetrated Cambodia. MACV reported that U.S. personnel did not fire on the fleeing civilians nor did they direct Vietnamese fire, but they were deficient in determining their geographical position. (Memorandum from Forrestal to the President, March 21; Johnson Library, White House Confidential File, CO 312 Vietnam) In a memorandum to McGeorge Bundy, April 1, Forrestal suggested ways to assure that this type of incident did not happen again. (Ibid., National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. VI, Cables and Memos)
4. Discussion of tactical problem of clear-and-sweep plus air strikes, versus clear-and-hold operations. (I would only raise this in an elliptical fashion if the chance occurs during the discussion of Harkins or Chantrea.)
5. Cross border operations between Laos and Cambodia. Although the JCS raised this question this afternoon, they were surprisingly mild. General Taylor, however, was not present, and he may suggest early action. Sihanouk having just made another turn-about, and Souvanna being in one of his periodical states of jelly--this is not the time to press against either of these countries. This is particularly true if we have any hope of laying a political base for direct pressure against the North. It is going to be difficult enough to lay such a base without also having to face the screams of the rest of the world that we are beating on two small and supposedly neutral countries.
6. Political scenario and military planning for pressures against the North. General Taylor has the political scenario which I developed/5/ and he may have read it. The Joint Chiefs got an oral description this afternoon and seemed receptive. However, they will only be getting the actual copies tonight. Judging from Goodpaster's comments, Taylor seems wedded to the idea of moving from reconnaissance and cross border operations against Laos and Cambodia, and low-level reconnaissance over all contiguous countries through retaliatory actions by both US and SVN forces to full scale air strikes against the North. But we really do not know what his position actually is. The next step in this planning should be to have the JCS designate one or two senior officers to fill in the military part of the scenario.
/5/See attachment, Document 102.
104. Memorandum From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)/1/
Washington, April 1, 1964.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. VI, Cables and Memos. Top Secret. Also published in Declassified Documents, 1984, 002725.
I enclose a draft telegram to Saigon and Vientiane, which it is proposed be sent today to the field./2/
/2/Attached but not printed was a draft of telegram 1630 to Saigon, also sent to Vientiane as telegram 836, April 7. In substance the draft and the cable as sent were similar and they provided proposed guidelines for the types of operations in Laos by South Vietnamese forces for which the United States was prepared to provide financial and materiel support. The principal difference between the draft and cable was that the latter had an introduction that indicated that the guidelines were tentative and subject to comment by Ambassador Unger in Laos. (Department of State. Central Files. POL 27 VIET S)
To send this telegram without Averell's approval is just asking for trouble in my book. Sullivan tells me that he believes that the Governor would not object to the substance; but he admits that he has never shown anything quite like this cable to Averell. I am going to urge as strongly as I can that they not dispatch this cable until Averell's return on Friday./3/
On the substance, I think this is an ill-conceived plan, which could well cut the ground out from Unger in Vientiane. Souvanna has been increasingly nervous about his relations with Phoumi and has been making real gestures in the direction of leaving Vientiane with the neutral faction and returning to the Plain of Jars. He is also about to leave for Peiping and Hanoi. The possibility that an overenthusiastic MACV might order a raid into Laos without Unger's knowing about it could, in my opinion, really upset the applecart. Sullivan thinks that the concept of "hot pursuit" and the fact that the border regions are generally uninhabited will, in effect, result in there being no action taken under these instructions. How he can think this so soon after the Chantrea incident puzzles me. I think at the very least we must give Unger a veto on the planned operations, subject to being overridden here in Washington./4/ We can keep our fingers crossed on the "hot pursuit" activities.
/4/In telegrams 1116 and 1119 from Vientiane, April 10 and 11, Unger responded to telegram 836 to Vientiane and the guidelines for cross-border operations in Laos by stating that such activities would jeopardize the U.S. policy of Lao neutrality and would be opposed by Souvanna Phouma. In most areas of Laos, the presence of South Vietnamese troops would destroy existing U.S.-Lao cooperation in combating North Vietnamese presence in Laos. (Both Department of State. Central Files. POL 27 VIET S)
I am going to talk to your brother about this to get his reaction. I know that the working-level of the State Department feels more concerned about this than I do.
105. Message From the Ambassador in France (Bohlen) to the President/1/
Paris, April 2, 1964--8 p.m.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. III. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Transmitted as telegram 4615 from Paris, which is the source text. Passed to the White House on receipt in the Department of State. The Department of State also summarized this telegram as an item for the President's evening reading, April 2. (Department of State, S/S Files: Lot 64 D 164, President's Evening Reading File. 1964)
I spent approximately forty-five minutes this afternoon endeavoring to persuade General de Gaulle to make a statement which would clarify French policy on neutrality as a long-term policy and policy applicable in the actual situation of warfare in Vietnam. De Gaulle told me frankly that he did not think he could make any such statement since he believed in the policy of neutrality even under present conditions. The most I could get him to do was to say that if "he returned" to the subject he would state that France was against anything that would lead to the Communist takeover but he said he would probably add that this was the reason why they favored the policy of neutrality.
I began the conversation by outlining in detail your message (Deptel 4793)/2/ I then outlined the four possible courses of action which the US could follow: 1) withdrawal, which we had rejected; 2) enlargement of the war, which we did not seek; 3) a continuance of the present course of action and to assist the Government of Vietnam; and 4) we had even considered the policy of neutrality but had rejected it because of total inapplicability to warfare such as existed in Vietnam.
I mentioned that in effect current US policy was that of number 3, to continue our assistance to the Vietnamese Government with certain variations dictated by circumstances emphasizing that this assistance would involve political as well as military factors. I also told him that in the opinion of Secretary McNamara General Khanh had made an excellent impression upon the Americans there. He seemed to be intelligent, able, energetic, and with a clear understanding of the necessities of the situation.
I then asked General de Gaulle if he had any comments to make in regard to what I had told him. General de Gaulle said that France did not agree with the US in its analysis of the situation in that it did not consider that there was any real government in Vietnam. He pointed out that Diem, who had had a real government, had lost the support of his people and had been "eliminated". He was succeeded by someone whose name he could not remember (presumably Big Minh), and now they had "this Khanh". He said the war in essence was the same one that the French had been fighting since the end of World War II; that the Vietnamese had no taste for this war and that the anti-Communist forces in Vietnam were not up to the task.
I interrupted him to tell him this was quite contrary to our analysis of the situation. We felt it was quite different, one was a colonial war which came out as colonial wars always do and the other was a war against aggression directed and maintained from without. I said that I assumed that France did not wish to see the Communists take over Vietnam nor for this reason did they wish to see the US withdraw under present circumstances. De Gaulle agreed with these two statements and said they were correct. I then said that I thought France could assist the Vietnamese Government in this difficult task if it were possible to find a formulation of words which, without denying the validity of an eventual policy of neutrality, could state that neutrality is obviously not applicable under present conditions and that the first task in Vietnam is military stabilization.
De Gaulle at this point asked what would be our policy if and when a military stabilization--which he doubted--was achieved. I told him that then we could certainly have no objection to a consideration of neutrality if the military situation was stabilized to the point where the government really controlled its own territory and if it was the desire of the government. I pointed out that the US had in effect agreed to the neutralization of Laos and Cambodia but not Vietnam where circumstances were entirely different.
De Gaulle then said it was his considered judgment that the US could not possibly succeed in the course that we were on. He felt we would merely repeat the experience the French had earlier; that the Vietnamese had no stomach for the war; that in his opinion the quicker we came out for neutralization in Vietnam, possibly through the mechanism of a Geneva-type conference including the Chinese, the better it would be. He said it was conceivable that the situation might not get much worse but saw no prospect of it getting better. He said it was either this neutralization as an announced policy or a willingness of the US to really carry the war to the North and if necessary against China.
I interrupted to ask him if the French would be in favor of our extending the war. He said no, that France would not wish to see this but at least it was a clear and definite policy.
De Gaulle then in a rather reminiscent mood mentioned that the US and France had never coordinated their policies towards Southeast Asia, referring to the period during the war when we seemed to be working against France in Indochina. I told him that while this may have had some truth towards the end of the war it was not true since I was in the Embassy here (1949-1951) when we shifted over to full assistance to the French in order to help them win the war. I also reminded him that at one point in 1954 we had given serious consideration to the atomic bomb in order to help relieve the situation in Dien Bien Phu. I took advantage of the opening and said that if we could get now some moral assistance from the French Government we would be satisfied and repeated arguments in favor of clarifying statement in regard to neutrality as a long-term and not an immediate policy. De Gaulle countered by saying in effect he considered that the neutrality policy offered the only way out to the US other than to engage in a major hostility against North Vietnam and China.
He said that he felt that any military stabilization would only come about with Chinese consent and that with Chinese consent there could be genuine neutrality. He also mentioned that once China had decided in favor of neutrality he felt some time in the future the two parts of Vietnam would then come together.
I countered this by telling him our experience with Communists had shown that neutrality was a policy which the Communists would adopt only if they were avoiding something worse, mentioning in this connection the case of Laos.
I asked de Gaulle what form of pressure or inducement could be used on the Chinese for them to accept neutrality when according to his statement they were on the winning side. De Gaulle shrugged his shoulders and said this would have to be seen, mentioning parenthetically that this was one of the reasons why they had recognized China when they did in order to be in a position to ascertain Chinese views.
With further reference to his statement that we had never concerted our policies in this area I told him that I was sure the US would be more than anxious to concert with France in the present situation in Southeast Asia and if he could find it possible to make the declaration that I had referred to this would rapidly lead to a close consultation in regard to Vietnam. De Gaulle said flatly it was too late for any such concerting and repeated his view that the sooner the US went for neutralization in Vietnam the better off they would be.
He then said that the most he could do at the present time would be that if he reverted to the subject to say that France was against the Communization of Vietnam and it was for this reason that they were in favor of neutralization.
Since it was apparent that no further argumentation would be of any avail with de Gaulle I terminated the conversation with the statement that there would be a considerable degree of disappointment in Washington over his position on this matter and that I feared a good opportunity had been lost to really work closely together with France on a specific situation.
I think that the above narrative speaks for itself. De Gaulle was courteous and affable throughout and did not appear to be irritated by my rather frank and direct comments, but showed no sign whatsoever of changing his attitude. It seems to me that what this adds up to is his firm belief that the course we are on, i.e., supporting the Vietnamese Government, is one that will only end in failure and that the best policy for the US was to opt for an immediate policy of neutralization. The only other alternative he could see would be one in which the US would enlarge the war by an attack on North Vietnam and probably China.
It was not clear to me to what extent De Gaulle was operating on genuine conviction or whether past failure and humiliation in Vietnam played a large part in determining his current attitude.
I shall merely tell press that I had not seen General de Gaulle since January and was just having a "tour d'horizon".
I will send a further analytical message and a few more minor details tomorrow./3/
/4/Telegram 4615 bears this typed signature.
106. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State/1/
Paris, April 3, 1964--noon.
/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Nodis.
4621. For Secretary from Ambassador. The following are some sidelights of the conversation with de Gaulle which I did not consider of sufficient importance to put into the main telegram to the President (Embtel 4615)./2/ One very noticeable feature was his obvious contemptuous dislike of the Vietnamese and their government. At one point after he had complained about the attitude towards France of successive Vietnamese governments, beginning with Diem and with particular reference to the Khanh government, I told him that I thought the statement that we were seeking would be a great step in the direction of improved Franco-Vietnamese relations, mentioning in this connection that while we had known about Khanh's démarche to the French Chargé in Saigon/3/ we had not suggested it.
/3/See footnote 4, Document 97.
De Gaulle in answer said flatly that the attitude of any Vietnamese Government towards France was a matter of complete and utter indifference. He also throughout the conversation made disparaging references to the fighting ability, morale and general character of the Vietnamese people. Some time ago Pinay in private conversation with me had mentioned that while he was in the government he too had been struck by de Gaulle's basic dislike of Vietnam and his unwillingness to hear any rational analysis of the situation there.
De Gaulle a number of times during the conversation referred to the fact that the request I was making did not render France's task more easy. When I inquired as to exactly what he meant he made a vague reference to his previous statements at his press conferences about France's views on the situation in the Orient. I surmise that what he had in mind is the general plan he had for the recognition of Communist China.
One thing that can be said in regard to this conversation is that it indeed "clarified" French policy in regard to Vietnam. De Gaulle was explicit in his statement that he felt that neutralization was the only course which the U.S. could follow and "the sooner the better" unless we were prepared to carry military operations to the North against Vietminh and against China.
You will recall that Couve de Murville made a similar statement to me about a month ago (Embtel 3968)/4/ in regard to the possibility of extension of hostilities. I did not gather however from de Gaulle that he really seriously was recommending this course of action but merely that it was pointed out as clear and definite policy, presumably, to contrast with the uncertainties of our present course.
/4/Dated February 25. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)
I can assure you that I used every argument that I could think of but avoided any threats or implied threats as to the future effect on relations with the U.S. since I was convinced that these would merely complicate matters without producing the slightest change in de Gaulle's attitude.
My impression was that de Gaulle will probably say nothing on the subject of Vietnam for some time to come while he watches to see whether we are able with the Vietnamese to bring about an improvement in the situation or whether as he anticipates we will be headed towards a bigger crisis later on. I would certainly recommend against any further approach to de Gaulle on this subject and that we make every effort to keep the actual contents of this talk confidential.
I don't quite know how this problem will be handled in Saigon since Lodge apparently had already informed Khanh of my proposed talk. I would suggest that a sanitized version of this conversation be transmitted to Khanh but I feel that anything like a full account of de Gaulle's views should not be given to Vietnam.
You will undoubtedly wish to discuss this matter further with Couve de Murville in Manila/5/ but I would think with the realization in the back of your mind that Couve has no authority to make de Gaulle's policy.
/5/See Document 113.
107. Summary Record of the 526th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, April 3, 1964, 2 p.m./1/
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Meetings, Vol. 1. Top Secret. Drafted by Bromley Smith.
The President opened the meeting with the Congressional Leaders by saying that his purpose was to bring them up to date on recent developments. Various Council members would report on current situations. He first called on Secretary Rusk for a summary of developments in Brazil.
[Here follow Rusk's briefing on Brazil and subsequent discussion.]
The President then turned to a discussion of our policy toward Vietnam. He referred to his meeting with Ambassador Lodge/2/ in which he told the Ambassador that he was to carry out a unified policy. The President mentioned that he had made personnel changes in USIA and CIA which the Ambassador suggested. He said there were alternative policies for Vietnam but that the Administration had chosen one following a National Security Council discussion of Secretary McNamara's report/3/ which he made upon his return from his fourth trip to Vietnam. The President said he wanted the Congressional Leaders to know the policy of the Administration. He was not asking those present to commit themselves on the policy. His purpose was to be certain that those present knew exactly what we are trying to do in Vietnam. He then called on Secretary McNamara.
/2/See Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. iv, pp. 635-637.
Secretary McNamara apologized for the absence of General Taylor who he said was indisposed and obliged to remain at his quarters. He then described how the situation in Vietnam had grown worse, especially since last September. The Viet Cong controls 40% of the territory but a lesser percentage of the total population. The people of Vietnam were becoming apathetic toward the war. This had the effect in the military of increasing the desertion rate. Many fortified hamlets had been overrun or disbanded-some civil guards had turned in the weapons with which they were supposed to defend these hamlets. The security in many areas was less than it had been. The political structure in the hamlets and villages had almost disappeared. Frequent changes of hamlet leaders and village chieftains had produced a vacuum into which the Viet Cong had moved. The changes of local leaders caused by the changes of the central government in Saigon had contributed to local disorganization in village and provincial governmental life. In addition, the Viet Cong was receiving larger weapons primarily from Communist China.
Secretary McNamara then summarized the various policy alternatives for Vietnam:
a. We could withdraw entirely and allow the area to be taken by the Communists.
b. We could agree to a neutralization of the area which, in effect, would mean permitting it to fall into Communist hands.
c. We could broaden the military campaign by taking the war to other areas, such as North Vietnam. This alternative we had seriously considered.
d. We could make the present program of assistance more effective. This is the course we have chosen to follow.
Secretary McNamara then spelled out the military action categories which were contained in his report but which were not recommended to the President for approval. He said that General Khanh did not favor broadening the military action at present because he felt that first priority should be given to solving the problems of security in South Vietnam.
Secretary McNamara summarized the various parts of the current expanded program. He said that the Joint Chiefs of Staff supported the program adopted, but the Chiefs felt that to be successful in South Vietnam the war would have to be taken to North Vietnam. He said that the twelfth recommendation in the report called for preparations so that we would be in a position to broaden the war if the adopted program did not succeed in solidifying the situation in South Vietnam.
Senator Dirksen asked whether General Harkins were going to be retained in Saigon. Secretary McNamara said under normal procedures General Harkins will retire on July 31st. He had performed magnificently. It may be that he would be called back to Washington in the next few months prior to the date of his retirement. The President said that the best officer in the U.S. military forces for this assignment had been sent as General Harkins' deputy in anticipation of his taking command. He said this officer is General Westmoreland.
Senator Saltonstall asked whether, under the new McNamara program, U.S. soldiers would be participating in the fighting or whether they remained as advisers to the South Vietnamese. Secretary McNamara replied that they would continue their present role of advising.
[Here follows discussion of Panama.]
Senator Morse said that the Panamanian agreement was a great agreement and he congratulated the President and the Secretary of State. He said, however, he felt obliged to say that he disagrees entirely with the program for South Vietnam. He said that the only way to solve the Vietnam problem was by using SEATO and the UN to achieve a peaceful settlement.
The President said that there was no effort to compromise Senator Morse's position or involve him in the Administration plan for Vietnam. Senator Morse replied that he understood, however, that Premier Khanh had called him a traitor. President Johnson replied that "no one in this room has called you a traitor."
Senator Dirksen said he wondered whether SEATO was viable. Senator Mansfield replied that in his view SEATO was a paper tiger, adding that the President's policy toward Vietnam was the only one we could follow.
The President said we had recently attempted to find out what de Gaulle was trying to accomplish in Southeast Asia. On the basis of Ambassador Bohlen's talk with de Gaulle we had learned that the French have no plan or program./4/ The President concluded by saying that we have now adopted an expanded program for South Vietnam and we will push it as hard as we can.
/4/See Documents 105 and 106.
Senator Dirksen asked whether the press reports coming out of Saigon were accurate. Secretary McNamara replied by saying that there were a host of wars going in Vietnam. Each dispatch is right but covers only one facet of the problem. Therefore, it is not an accurate description of the whole problem. We tried to get as full a picture of the situation as we could and traveled widely in the area. The picture we did get was quite different from that appearing in the press.
[Here follows discussion of Panama and Africa.]
Senator Humphrey stated that the President's statement on Panama was excellent. He said our forbearance and patience had paid off. With respect to Vietnam, he asked what would be the extra cost of the new program. Secretary McNamara replied that this was very difficult to estimate but he doubted that it would exceed $50 million additional.
Senator Humphrey asked where we expect to get the Vietnamese to carry out the new program. Mr. Bell replied that numbers of Vietnamese were going back to Saigon from exile. In addition, the program called for greatly expanded training of Vietnamese civil administrators. He doubted that there was a problem of obtaining people to take the civil training courses.
The President, noting that Secretary Rusk had to leave the meeting to keep an earlier appointment, asked Under Secretary Ball to report on his recent activities.
[Here follows discussion of subjects unrelated to Vietnam.]
/5/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
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