Memorandum for General Lansdale on the Vietnamese Command Problem, L.L. Lemnitzer, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, 18 January 1962

Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 2, pp. 659-660

Washington 25, D.C.

CM-49 1-62
JAN 18 1962

Subject: Vietnamese Command Problem

1. As you point out in your memorandum of 27 December 1961, it is quite clear that Diem's apprehension about a coup is the basis for his reluctance to authorize his military field commander to implement the task force concept that was an important part of the over-all plan of operations against the Viet Cong. I fully agree that this basic issue needs to be resolved.

2. You are well aware that Chief MAAG, Vietnam, in accordance with his assigned mission, has operated principally as an adviser and trainer rather than as a commander. As such he has suggested and counseled, dropping ideas which the Vietnamese could pick up and incorporate in their own plans. This method "saved face" for them, and has been the accepted method of overcoming simultaneously the inexperience and the pride of the Vietnamese officers. Now a strong case can be made for increased direct participation by US personnel in the planning and supervision of Vietnamese counterinsurgency operations. Inherent in such increased direct participation should be some assurance of US support for Diem personally. Convincing Diem of this personal support remains a principal task of the senior US representatives in Vietnam. The increased US military stake in Vietnam should be of great assistance in this task.

3. In my view, however, some of the decisions made during the 16 December SecDef meeting at CINCPAC Headquarters offer a greater hope for progress in Vietnam. It was agreed that, while we should continue to press for acceptance of an over-all plan or concept of operations, we must place immediate emphasis on smaller, more specific, and more readily-accomplished operations. Such a techinque is more likely to be acceptable to Diem. At the same time, successful small operations will provide the impetus for larger scale offensive operations.

4. I don't believe there is any finite answer to the question you pose as to how we convince Diem he must delegate authority to subordinates he doesn't fully trust. We discussed this subject at considerable length at Monday's (15 January 1962) conference in Honolulu. The Ambassador, General McGarr and other top level officers of the Embassy and MAAG recognize the nature of the problem and the importance of reaching a satisfactory solution thereto. If it was not for the heavy responsibilities you are now assigned which would preclude your going to Saigon, I believe that one of the best ways to deal with this problem would be to implement the earlier recommendation to send one Brigadier General Lansdale out to Saigon to be personal adviser and confidant to Diem.

L. L. Lemnitzer
Joint Chiefs of Staff

cc: Secretary McNamara
Deputy Secretary Gilpatric
Admiral Heinz

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