This NSAM was the last official policy pronouncement Kennedy made on Vietnam. Based on this memo, what do you see as his Vietnam legacy? Is there any way to predict how he would have handled Vietnam policy had he lived?



Secretary of State
Secretary of Defense
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

SUBJECT: South Vietnam 

At a meeting on October 5, 1963, the President considered the recommendations
contained in the report of Secretary McNamara and General Taylor on their mission to
South Vietnam. 

The President approved the military recommendations contained in Section I B (1 -3)
of the report, but directed that no formal announcement be made of the implementation
of plans to withdraw 1,000 U.S. military personnel by the end of 1963. 

After discussion of the remaining recommendations of the report, the President
approved the instruction to Ambassador Lodge which is set forth in State Department
telegram No. 534 to Saigon. 

McGeorge Bundy 

Copy furnished: Director of Central Intelligence
Administrator, Agency for International Development 11/21/63




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

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

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

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

4. It is of the highest importance that the United States Government avoid either the
appearance or the reality of public recrimination from one part of it against
another, and the President expects that all senior officers of the Government will
take energetic steps to insure that they and their subordinate go out of their way to
maintain and to defend the unity of the United States Government both here and in the
field. More specifically, the President approves the following lines of action
developed in the discussions of the Honolulu meeting of November 20. The office or
offices of the Government to which central responsibility is assigned is indicated in
each case. 

5. We should concentrate our own efforts, and insofar as possible we should persuade
the government of South Vietnam to concentrate its efforts, on the critical situation
in the Mekong Delta. This concentration should include not only military but
political, economic, social, educational and informational efforts. We should seek to
turn the tide not only of battle but of belief, and we should seek to increase not
only our control of land but the productivity of this area whenever the proceeds can
be held for the advantage of anti-Communist forces. (Action: The whole country team
under the direct supervision of the Ambassador.) 

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

7. With respect to action against North Vietnam, there should be a detailed plan for
the development of additional Government of Vietnam resources, especially for
sea-going activity, and such planning should indicate the time and investment
necessary to achieve a wholly new level of effectiveness in this field of action.
(Action: DOD and CIA) 

8. With respect to Laos, a plan should be developed for military operations up to a
line up to 50 kilometers inside Laos, together with political plans for minimizing
the international hazards of such an enterprise. Since it is agreed that operational
responsibility for such undertakings should pass from CAS to MACV, this plan should
provide an alternative method of political liaison for such operations, since their
timing and character can have an intimate relation to the fluctuating situation in
Laos. (Action: State, DOD and CIA.) 

9. It was agreed in Honolulu that the situation in Cambodia is of the first
importance for South Vietnam, and it is therefore urgent that we should lose no
opportunity to exercise a favorable influence upon that country. In particular,
measures should be undertaken to satisfy ourselves completely that recent charges
from Cambodia are groundless, and we should put ourselves in a position to offer to
the Cambodians a full opportunity to satisfy themselves on this same point. (Action:

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

McGeorge Bundy

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