Source: U.S., Department of State, FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES, 1961-1963, Volume I
Vietnam, 1961,
Washington, DC

Visit of General Edward G. Lansdale to Vietnam, January 2-14, 1961

Paper Prepared by the Country Team Staff Committee/1/

Saigon, [January 4, 1961.]

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751K.5-MSP/1-461. Secret. The Country Team Staff Committee was chaired by Mendenhall and composed of officers from MAAG, USOM, USIS, OSA, and the Embassy. Transmitted as enclosure 1 to despatch 276 from Saigon, January 4.

The plan consisted of a table of contents, the basic plan, 3 annexes, 15 appendices, and 5 tabs. Only the basic plan is printed here. For the draft plan transmitted to Saigon in 1960, see Def 982994, September 16, Foreign Relations, 1958-1960, vol. I, p. 572. In despatch 486, Ambassador Durbrow commented that a number of the indispensable recommendations would "probably not be particularly palatable" to the Government of Vietnam, especially certain political actions and ideas about military-civilian relationships. The Ambassador completed his comments by stating that consideration should be given to what steps "we are prepared to take to encourage, or if necessary to force, acceptance of all essential elements of the plan."

Throughout January the Embassy in Saigon transmitted minor changes in the plan, especially in the summary table of costs. These messages are in Department of State, Central File 751K.5-MSP.


1. Situation

a. General:

(1) Communist-inspired insurgency in SVN, aimed at the destruction of authority and prestige of established government, is a prelude to further inroads designed ultimately to absorb SVN into the Communist bloc.

(2) Existing Conditions:

(a) General: Developments in South Viet-Nam over the past year indicate a trend that is adverse to the stability and effectiveness of President Diem's government. Beginning in December 1959 and continuing to the present, there has been a mounting increase throughout South Viet-Nam of Viet Cong terrorist activities and guerrilla warfare. This activity has included armed propaganda and leaflet distribution; taxing of the population for food, money, and medicines; kidnapping and murder of village and hamlet officials, road and canal ambushes; and armed attacks against agrovilles, land development centers, Civil Guard and Self Defense Corps posts, as well as small army units. Through the use of these tactics current Viet Cong military and political objectives are the overthrow of the Diem Government. Their immediate objectives are to eliminate any semblance of GVN control in rural areas, particularly the Mekong Delta, and establish so-called "liberated zones."

(b) Political: Politically, discontent with the Diem Government has been prevalent for some time among intellectuals and elite circles and has been rising among the peasantry and, to some extent, labor and urban business groups. Criticism of these elements focuses on Ngo family rule, especially the roles of the President's brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, and Madame Nhu and the influence of the clandestine Can Lao political apparatus of the regime. An even more important element in the political situation is the criticism of the President's leadership within government circles, including the official bureaucracy and the military. In the past, such discontent and criticism had been centered on Diem's brothers, Ngo Dinh Nhu and Ngo Dinh Can, as directors of the allegedly corrupt Can Lao Party.

Further aggravating many of the government's problems is the active and partly successful campaign of the Viet Cong to discredit President Diem and weaken the government's authority through political subversion, as well as through military action. Among other factors making this possible is the void between the GVN and its people which stems from the failure of the GVN to communicate understandably with the population and, in reverse, the lack of an effective mechanism whereby the people can in their terms communicate with the GVN. Taking advantage of this lack of effective communication and the GVN's inability to protect the people the Viet Cong has had considerable success in sowing disaffection and disrupting effective administration of the government among the population. This is especially true in the Capital, 1st and 5th Military Regions. Viet Cong successes in these regions are due to the large number among the population who, whether out of terror or sympathy, give support to the Viet Cong. Aided by this situation, the Viet Cong is striving to establish a political apparatus parallel to the GVN. Below province level in the 5th Military Region, no effective GVN control exists in many areas. The Viet Cong are increasing the void by taxation, terroristic acts, attacks on Self Defense posts, assassination of village and provincial officials, and simultaneously a systematic development of the Viet Cong political apparatus to fill the void. In view of the above conditions the principal task facing the GVN is restoration of individual security.

(c) Military: Military force, in the form of increased communist insurgency, is clearly the major immediate threat to the stability of Viet-Nam today. South Viet-Nam is unique in that it is the only country in the world which is forced to defend itself against a communist internal subversion action, while at the same time being subject to the militarily supportable threat of a conventional external attack from communist North Viet-Nam. The RVNAF force basis is inadequate to meet both these threats./2/

/2/See two last sentences of penultimate paragraph of covering despatch for Ambassador Durbrow's views on this subject. [Footnote in the source text. Regarding these views, see footnote 1 above.]

The problem is twofold, although at present the counterinsurgency phase is the more dangerous and immediate. In this counterinsurgency fight RVNAF is on the defensive. Approximately 75% of ARVN is committed to pacification missions, about half of these being committed to static guard and security roles. The military chain of command has usually been violated at the expense of unity of effort and command. No adequate operations control or overall planning system presently exists, although significant progress has been made in the development of military plans. The President has exercised arbitrary control of operations, by-passing command channels of the JGS and often Corps and Division staff. Resources have been fragmented to provincial control. The above practices appear to have been designed to divide responsibility in order to guard against the possibility of a military coup through placing too much power in the hands of a single subordinate. The guerrilla problem has become much more serious than the Civil Guard can manage, thereby requiring a disproportionately large RVNAF commitment, which has further resulted in a serious weakening of the RVNAF capability for defense against internal or overt attack in force. Rotation within RVNAF and Civil Guard cannot be accomplished regularly. Many units have been on operations for a year or more without relief, because RVNAF strength is insufficient to permit an adequate rotation policy and to conduct adequate border and coastal surveillance. Many troops are battle weary, in a state of low morale, and in need of recuperation and training. Notwithstanding the above deficiencies, GVN plans have recently been developed for the RVNAF Command Control and Logistic structure which upon implementation, possibly in the near future, should correct major deficiencies if adequate military strength is provided.

The complete divorce of command control from logistics support in the field has resulted in a lethargic and cumbersome requisitioning and supply system. Requisitions from tactical units even below division level must be submitted through channels to agencies of the Defense Department in Saigon with consequent red tape before issues can be authorized and deliveries effected. Reorganization plans being developed will establish "Logistic Commands" in place of present military regions and under operational control of their respective Corps commanders, thus enabling tactical units to follow-through on deliveries against their requisitions. The poor, and in some regions nonexistent, communications systems and road net are primary logistics obstacle [obstacles] in Viet-Nam. Although the President has continued to make strenuous efforts to improve the road net, military movements must continue to rely on light more mobile systems and airlift for the foreseeable future. Implementation of the concept of light mobile logistic support with pack supply suitable to mountain trails is urgent if RVNAF is to take offensive against insurgency.

Some elements of desirable counterinsurgency actions have been recommended piecemeal to GVN and RVNAF authorities. These elements have been incorporated herein in order to form a comprehensive and coordinated plan for counterinsurgency actions. President Diem and RVNAF military authorities appear to be receptive to significant improvement of the national military establishment and some of the actions contemplated by this plan have actually been taken and others are under consideration by the RVNAF authorities. The GVN's plans for implementing counterinsurgency measures are progressing at an increasing tempo concurrently with the preparation of this counterinsurgency plan. It should, therefore, be read with the thought that some elements may already have been implemented or may be in the process of implementation.

The current military intelligence capability of the RVNAF is inadequate to support the critical intelligence requirements of all echelons of the armed forces. Although the GVN has recently agreed that improvement is needed the intelligence agencies of GVN are not now adequately integrated with the various military and quasimilitary intelligence systems. The processing of military intelligence is too slow for timely tactical reaction. The major reason for this slow intelligence responsiveness is the total lack of an adequate civilian communications system in the provinces. While the military command communications system is frequently the best in an area, it is often inadequate, overcrowded, and not comprehensive enough for anti-insurgency intelligence gathering and disseminating needs.

(d) Economic: The economic health of the country, though not robust, has been improving rapidly. In the future, if current economic trends continue and the economy is not further disrupted by adverse security developments, the economy will be able, insofar as physical wealth is concerned, to provide for the consumption needs of a growing population and at the same time to finance a steadily increasing proportion of local military costs and could under favorable conditions meet essentially all these costs. Along with lack of confidence in the future, a principal deterrent to economic progress is the avowed and effective VC campaign for the systematic sabotage of the public works program including progressive destruction of lines of communication, structures, agrovilles and the like when left unprotected by Civil Guard or ARVN units.

For the first several years after institution of direct U.S. aid to Viet-Nam the aid level was determined primarily on a budgetary gap basis, but early in 1959 this was shifted to a balance of payments basis. Since exports plus aid received exceeded imports, sizeable foreign exchange reserves were accumulated. The increase in reserves, together with the GVN's reluctance to tax the wealth accumulating in private hands, has led to a large money supply and an increasing budgetary deficit which could cause inflation.

Distribution of income is very uneven, with rural population receiving little of the benefits of an expanding economy, a fact which is believed to bear on their lack of positive support for the GVN.

The earlier U.S. Country Team-approved military budget of 6,066.9 million piastres for 1961 does not include various GVN proposals relating to the military and security forces. The budgetary aspects of these proposals will be fully discussed in Appendix IV to Annex C which will be submitted separately.

The several proposals in this counterinsurgency plan (see table on following page) will further increase the costs of the GVN's military and related budgets for security forces by perhaps as much as 478.8 million piastres. In subsequent years if the 20,000 force level increase is fully realized, annual costs of the Counterinsurgency Plan proposals will be about 876.9 million piastres.

In addition, a number of other suggestions have been accepted by the GVN, such as subsidization of rice prices to peasants, which will further increase financial pressures. Still other suggestions have been made, such as establishment of a system of payment for corvee labor and institution of a system of subsidies for agroville inhabitants, which, if accepted by the GVN, would add even more to budgetary costs.

Summary Table of Costs

Counterinsurgency Plan (In Millions)
  1961 Annual Costs
(1) 20,000 Force Increase: 280.8 25.1 -- 703.3 4.12 --
(2) Transfer of Civil Guard 140.2/3/ 14.4/4/ 6.9/5/ 77.6/3/ 5.5/4/ 3/5/
(3) Psychological Operations .5 -- .15 /6/ -- /6/
(4) Communications, i.e., Village Alarm Systems 1.5 -- .5 /6/ -- /6/
(5) Junk Force 55.0 /7/ -- 96.0 /7/ --
(6) Intelligence Activities .3 /7/ -- /6/ /7/ --
(7) Canine Alarm Detachment .5 -- -- /6/ -- --
Total 478.8 39.5 7.5 876.9 9.6 .3

/3/Amounts given are in addition to annual Civil Guard costs of about 1,125 million piastres for pay and allowances, transportation, etc., all of which is normally covered by GVN's own budget. [Footnote in the source text.]

/4/These are initial costs of transfer and of first full year of force maintenance. Totals given do not include ARVN excess material to be used by the CG valued at $5.3 million in 1961 and approximately $2.0 million annually thereafter. [Footnote in the source text.]

/5/This is MAAG estimate of ICA programmed items pursuant to FY 1959 and FY 1960 ProAgs. (Project No. 430-71-219) required by Civil Guards. This estimate is now under study by USOM. [Footnote in the source text. This project has not been identified further.]

/6/There may be small amounts required annually for the continuation of ongoing activities; these amounts would not be significant in terms of the overall magnitude of costs of the plan. [Footnote in the source text.]

/7/There will be certain MAP requirements for these purposes, but amounts are as yet undetermined. [Footnote in the source text.]

The economic chapter being developed for separate submission will (a) provide further details on cost, (b) estimate the effect of these costs on the total budgetary deficit of the country, (c) suggest means of financing this deficit and (d) suggest certain economic activities to help counter Communist insurgency.

(e) Summary: In view of known communist objectives in SVN, the known general situation and the dangerous political and military situation, if the GVN does not take immediate and extraordinary action to regain popular support and to correct the organizational and procedural weaknesses which contribute to the growth of the Viet Cong power, the Viet Cong can cause the overthrow of the present GVN government in the months to come.

b. Enemy Forces: See Current Intelligence Estimates.

c. Friendly Forces:

(1) U.S.: See current Operations Plans. U.S. administration and logistic support to GVN will be coordinated by the Ambassador with the coordination of military logistics support to RVNAF the responsibility of Chief MAAG.

(2) GVN has an active military force of 150,000 spaces and an unorganized pool of about 120,000 prior service reservists. The major elements of the active force are three Corps headquarters; seven reduced strength Infantry Divisions; one Airborne Brigade; a Ranger Organization of approximately 9,000; token Air Force and Navy support, to include three Marine Battalions; and sub-minimal logistic support units. A Civil Guard Organization was placed under the operational control of the Department of Defense by Presidential decree early in December 1960 and will commence training on January 3, 1961, on a twenty-four week training cycle. Action is being taken to furnish MAP support to 32,000 of the Civil Guard Force of approximately 60,000. There are no approved plans for adding regular units to the 150,000-man force now in existence. However, President Diem has consistently stated his urgent need for a minimum 20,000 man increase in the RVNAF to improve security and permit rotation of ARVN units for training.

d. Assumptions:

(1) That the greatest immediate threat to the continued existence of the Republic of Viet-Nam is posed by the steady expansion of guerrilla warfare by the Vietnamese Communists, with the Mekong Delta as a political and military base.

(2) That North Viet-Nam has the capability of supporting guerrilla operations in SVN by infiltrating regular forces and cadres to strengthen locally recruited elements. (Guerrilla forces have increased from 3,500 to an ARVN estimate of 9,800 during 1960.)

(3) That at the present time the Diem Government offers the best hope for defeating the Viet Cong threat.

(4) That the Government of Viet-Nam has the basic potential to cope with the Viet Cong guerrilla threat if necessary corrective measures are taken and adequate forces are provided.

(5) That the gravity of this threat will continue until a maximum offensive and coordinated retaliatory effort is made by civil and military authorities.

(6) That the most vital consideration of US policy in Viet-Nam is to create governmental stability by the eradication of insurgency in the Republic of Viet-Nam and to that end the activities of all US agencies will be coordinated.

(7) That the Viet Cong, in coordination with the communist parties of Laos and Cambodia, will continue to build up a maximum effort against the Republic of Viet-Nam. The April '61 elections constitute particularly critical period.

(8) That the DRV has a current continuing military capability for external aggression against SVN.

2. Mission: Defeat Communist insurgency efforts in SVN.

3. Execution:

a. Objectives:

(1) GVN must take immediate and extraordinary action to:

(a) Suppress and defeat disruptive Communist activities in South Viet-Nam and concurrently maintain a capability to meet overt aggression.

(b) Establish and maintain political and economic control and stability.

(c) Interdict aid flowing to insurgents across Vietnamese borders, to include both police and military action in coordination with the adjacent nations of Laos and Cambodia.

(2) Country Team:

(a) Induce the GVN to adopt and vigorously prosecute Country Team Plans designed to defeat Communist insurgency.

b. Tasks:

(1) Political:

(a) Political tasks have been outlined in Embassy Telegram 624, September 16, 1960, and Embassy Telegram 1151, December 4, 1960. Action already taken to carry out those tasks was described in Embassy Telegram 802, October 15, 1960; Embassy Despatch 157, October 15, 1960; Embassy Telegram 1216, December 24, 1960; and Embassy Despatch 264, December 27, 1960. Further action in execution of these tasks is proposed in Embassy Telegram 1151./8/ In addition to tasks relating to the GVN administration itself, further steps are required in the field of development of independent and quasi-independent political institutions and organizations, such as labor unions, youth movements and political parties. Possible steps in this field are under study by the Country Team.

/8/For texts of telegrams 624, 802, 1151, and 1216, see Foreign Relations, 1958-1960, vol. I, pp. 575, 595, 707, and 739. For texts of despatches 157 and 264, see ibid., pp. 598 and 745.

(2) Security:

(a) Establish an Emergency Operations Control System to include (Appendix I, Annex B):

1. A national emergency council (GVN established an Internal Security Council 7 October 1960).

2. A director of operations (Permanent Secretary for National Defense so designated 7 October 1960) with responsive regional, provincial, district, and village internal security councils.

(b) Implement fully planning aspects of the national planning, programming, and budgeting system (Appendix II, Annex B).

(c) Develop and employ to optimum RVNAF capabilities to support emergency and related internal security operations on a fully coordinated schedule (Appendix III, Annex B).

(d) Take extraordinary action starting at highest levels of government and extending to the lowest political subdivision (the village) to establish and maintain internal security.

(e) Assign high priority to the development of intelligence/ counterintelligence staff and operational procedure to provide not only timely and accurate knowledge of Viet Cong activities and organization within Viet-Nam, but also provide information to enable the GVN to correct sociological and economic problems which the communists are exploiting (Appendix IV, Annex B).

(f) Develop an adequate border/coastal patrol system (Appendix V, Annex B).

(g) Develop an adequate communication capability within GVN agencies to support emergency and related internal security operations (Appendix VI, Annex B).

(h) Employ full use of psychological and civil affairs programs in support of internal security actions (Appendix VII, Annex B).

(i) Establish concurrently means for assuring continued security (Appendix III, Annex B).

(j) Retain the Civil Guard under the temporary control of the Department of Defense for the duration of the emergency (Appendix VII, Annex B).

(k) To develop the force basis for the RVNAF to cope with the insurgency now threatening the GVN and to build capacity for resistance to external aggression (Annex A).

(3) Economic: to be forwarded in supplemental submission to this basic plan.

(4) Psychological:

(a) Improve communications between the Government of VietNam and its people.

(b) Attract the loyalty of the population to the GVN and to the Diem regime.

(c) Acquaint the people with the aims and actions of the GVN and persuade them that the GVN is acting in their interests.

(d) Counteract among the people and in the military sense within the RVNAF VC propaganda denigrating the Diem regime and painting it as opposed to the unification of North and South Viet Nam./9/

/9/A handwritten note on the source text at this point reads: "Easy on this; he does oppose."

(e) Foster a spirit of national unity and purpose among all elements of the Vietnamese society.

(f) Strengthen the people's confidence in and respect for the RVNAF as a security force vis--vis the VC.

(g) Raise South Viet-Nam's prestige among the peoples of other countries especially in Asia and Africa as a means of enhancing the GVN's national security and stability.

c. Concept of Operations:

(1) General:

(a) Political Operations. Refer to Embassy communications listed in political section under "Tasks" above.

(b) Politico/Military Operations. In order to provide protection which the people require, it is necessary to exercise more than an ordinary degree of control over the population. Among the more important operations required are those for exercising control in such manner as to isolate insurgents and sympathizers from the support of the populace. Such techniques as registration and identification food control and control of movement will be implemented as appropriate.

(c) Military Operations:

1. There are immediate actions, civil and military, which the GVN can and must take to halt or slow down the current and extremely serious adverse security trend until such time as the necessary increased offensive capability can be brought to bear. These actions include, of course, extraordinary action by the GVN to:

a. Further develop a national emergency operations control system. (Command relationships as described in Appendix I, Annex B.)

b. Implement the National Planning System.

c. Implement the plan for a national intelligence organization and system with particular emphasis on obtaining information at the village level, and integrating effort at the national level.

d. Fully employ military capabilities to include strengthening and reorganizing military command and control channels.

e. Establish a border/coastal surveillance system.

f. Improve the civil and military communications system.

g. Reduce attrition rate of armed forces and utilize the trained manpower pool.

2. Equally as essential as the above is the requirement to overcome inherent weakness in the current RVNAF force structure which contributes directly to the present deterioration in the morale, state of training, and combat effectiveness of the RVNAF. A minimum force increase of 20,000 is required to correct these present weaknesses and to furnish the offensive potential required to defeat the Viet Cong and maintain concurrently a capability for combatting overt attack. In this respect, increased capabilities required to accomplish critical counterinsurgency objectives include:

a. Meaningful rotation of combat units.

b. Effective training.

c. Sufficient ARVN units to replace certain Civil Guard companies to be disengaged for training.

d. More effective surveillance of tremendous and rugged jungle and border areas and inland waterways.

e. Increased helicopter lift and close air support. (Indications are that Viet-Nam will receive 11 H-34's by end of March, 1961.)

f. An adequate intelligence capability.

g. Correction of the present imbalance between logistic support and combat units, and inclusion of additional support for the proposed increase in RVNAF combat troops and for logistical support of the Civil Guard.

h. Adequate forces in position to deter and to combat overt aggression and to prevent further expansion of the Viet Cong insurgency and concurrently communist infiltration of regular troops into SVN in support of the Viet Cong insurgency effort.

i. Establishment of communication means and procedures for lateral and vertical exchange of information at all levels, civil and military.

(d) Economic Operations: To be forwarded in supplemental submission.

(e) Psychological: (See Appendix VII, Annex B)

The exchange of information between the Government and its people is of underlying significance to drawing the two segments of Vietnamese society closer together. By means of a coordinated mechanism at the highest level of the GVN, psychological programs should be developed which not only will keep the people advised quickly and factually of what the government is doing and why, but also will encourage the people to respond to the government's actions in terms which will strengthen their feeling of participation in government and thus their loyalty to it.


1. the expansion of communications facilities (press, radio, films) to the provinces,

2. frequent and frank contact between the government and the press

3. reflecting government operations (especially the National Assembly) via public media to the people,

4. improving the public relations techniques at the Presidency,

5. developing by means of public relations techniques a sense of "mutuality of interests" between the Army and the people,

6. maintaining public awareness of GVN economic development progress,

7. exposing the people to the fallacies of DRV propaganda in popular terms at the local level.

(2) Specific Task Concepts. Attached to Annex B is a detailed analysis of each counterinsurgency task required of the GVN to include purpose, scope, present situation, concept and implementation, with the exception of the required force increase, which is in Annex A.

2. Editorial Note

General Lansdale visited Vietnam from January 2 to 14, 1961. On January 17, he reported on his trip in a memorandum to Secretary of Defense Gates, recommending: "The U.S. should recognize that Vietnam is in a critical condition and should treat it as a combat area of the cold war, as an area requiring emergency treatment." For text of the memorandum, see United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967,Book 11, pages 1-12.

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