|The initiative to depose Diem acceleated.|
Summary Record of the 519th Meeting of
the National Security
Council White House, Washington, October 2, 1963 (1)
[Here follows an attendance list.]
The President opened the meeting by summarizing where we now
stand on U.S. policy toward Vietnam. Most of the officials
involved are in agreement. We are not papering over our
differences. We are agreed to try to find effective means of
changing the political atmosphere in Saigon. We are agreed that
we should not cut off all U.S. aid to Vietnam, but are agreed on
the necessity of trying to improve the situation in Vietnam by
bringing about changes there. Reports of disagreements do not
help the war effort in Vietnam and do no good to the government
a whole. We must all sign on and with a good heart set out to
implement the actions decided upon. Here and in Saigon we must
get ahead by carrying out the agreed policy. Because we are
agreed, we should convey our agreement to our subordinates.
There are no differences between Washington and Ambassador Lodge
or among the State and Defense Departments and the CIA.
Lodge has full authority to pull into line all U.S. government
representatives in Saigon.
The President then turned to consideration of the draft
public statement (copy attached).(2) He said that attacks on the
Diem regime in public statements are less effective than actions
which we plan to take. He preferred to base our policy on the
harm which Diem's political actions are causing to the effort
against the Viet Cong rather than on our moral opposition to the
kind of government Diem is running.
Mr. Ball said that he and Secretary Rusk felt that there
should be a stress on the moral issues involved because of the
beneficial effect which such emphasis produced in world public
opinion, especially among UN delegates. The President replied
that the major problem was with U.S. public opinion and he
believed we should stress the harm Diem's policies are doing to
the war effort against the Communists.
Mr. Bundy said Secretary McNamara and General Taylor wanted
to emphasize the objective of winning the war. State Department
officials wanted something more than an objective of merely
winning the war. Mr. Harriman commented that he was prepared to
accept the language as proposed.
The President objected to the phrase "by the end of this
year" in the sentence "The U.S. program for training Vietnamese
should have progressed to the point where 1000 U.S. military
personnel assigned to South Vietnam could be withdrawn." He
believed that if we were accused of being over optimistic.
Secretary McNamara said he saw great value in this sentence in
order to meet the view of Senator Fulbright and others that we
are bogged down forever in Vietnam. He said the sentence reveals
that we have a withdrawal plan. Furthermore, it commits us to
emphasize the training of Vietnamese, which is something we must
do in order to replace U.S. personnel with Vietnamese.
The draft announcement was changed to make both of the time
predictions included in paragraph 3 a part of the McNamara-Taylor
report rather than as predictions of the President.
Mr. Bundy raised the question as to Ambassador Lodge's view
of the proposed draft policy statement. He said Ambassador Lodge
could be told that because of the time pressure it had not been
possible to clear the statement with him, but that it was felt
here it would meet his requirements.
The President then asked about the measures which we would
take to bring pressure on Diem. Secretary McNamara replied that a
working group would propose recommendations for the President's
decision at a later date.
The President directed that no one discuss with the press
any measures which he may decide to undertake on the basis of the
recommendations to be made to him. He said we should not talk
about such measures until they are agreed. The selected cuts in
U.S. assistance should be discussed only in the Cabinet Room
until all of them were finally agreed upon.
Mr. Salinger said he would decline to answer any press
questions about what measures the U.S. proposed to take.
In response to a question by Administrator Bell, the
President said he should reply to inquiring Congressmen that we
are continuing our present aid schedule. After a further
exchange, the President made clear that what he thought we should
tell the Congressmen should be limited to saying that aid which
we are now extending would be continued. He recognized that aid
we are now extending is not that [sic] we had been extending
prior to the August disturbances.
Secretary McNamara felt that Mr. Bell should say nothing.
The group would return to the President by Friday(3) with
(1). Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings
and Memoranda Series, NSC Meeting No. 519. Top Secret. This
meeting took place in the Cabinet Room and lasted until 6:30
p.m., according to the President's Log.
(2). Not attached, see infra.
(3). October 4.
Record of Action No. 2475; Taken at the 519th Meeting of the
National Security Council, Washington, October 2, 1963.(1)
McNAMARA-TAYLOR REPORT ON VIETNAM(2)
a. Endorsed the basic presentation on Vietnam made by
Secretary McNamara and General Taylor.
b. Noted the President's approval of the following
statement of U.S. policy which was later released to the
"1. The security of South Viet Nam is a major interest of
the United States as other free nations. We will adhere to our
policy of working with the people and Government of South Viet
Nam to deny this country to Communism and to suppress the
externally stimulated and supported insurgency of the Viet Cong
as promptly as possible. Effective performance in this
undertaking is the central objective of our policy in South Viet
2. The military program in South Viet Nam has made progress
and is sound in principle, though improvement are being
3. Major U.S. assistance in support of this military effort is
needed only until the insurgency has been suppressed or until the
national security forces of the Government of South Viet Nam are
capable of suppressing it.
"Secretary McNamara and General Taylor reported their
judgement that the major part of the U.S. military task can be
completed by the end of 1965, although there may be a continuing
requirement for a limited number of U.S. training personnel. They
reported that by the end of this year, the U.S. program for
training Vietnamese should have progressed to the point where
1,000 U.S. military personnel assigned to South Viet Nam can be
(1) Source: Department of State, S/S-NSC Files: Lot 70 D 265, NSC
(2)Document 167 (FRUS, Vietnam 1961-63, Vol IV).
(3) Printed in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United
States: John E Kennedy, 1963, pp 759-760. McGeorge Bundy sent
Lodge the following telegram explaining this statement:
"Statement issued after NSC meeting today represents
President's own judgment of common purpose and policy established
by you and McNamara mission and is designed to strengthen your
hand in next phase.
"Urgency of immediate public proof of unity here prevented
prior reference to you but President asked me to insure that if
you need any adjustment or modification you let us know." (CAP
63556, October 3; Kennedy Library, National Security File,
Vietnam Country Series, State Cables)
Lodge responded in telegram 624 from Saigon: "The statement
is excellent in substance and well-tempered in tone. I am proud
to be associated with it." (Ibid.)
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