Letter from Deputy Under Secretary for Political Affairs, U. Alexis Johnson, to Deputy Secretary of Defense, Roswell Gilpatric, on increasing the Size of the ARVN, 26 January 1962


Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 2, pp. 661-662


January 26, 1962

The Honorable
Roswell Gilpatric,
Deputy Secretary of Defense.

Dear Mr. Gilpatric:

I have received your letter of December 28 to the Secretary on the question of an increase in the Vietnamese armed forces to the 200,000 man level. The matter was discussed with our Task Force while Ambassador Nolting was here on consultation.

In view of the gravity of the situation in Viet-Nam and of the importance of not interrupting the accelerated rate of our assistance to Viet-Nam, we agree that an increase to about 200,000 should be supported provided the following factors are given careful consideration:

1. That the U.S. military advisers and the Vietnamese authorities continue the joint effort to build up a set of valid tactical and strategic plans. We suggest that the locus of this effort should be in Viet-Nam in order to obtain full Vietnamese cooperation and to meet the speed requirements of a guerrilla war where a large number of incidents are constantly occurring. We would envisage strategic plans made in Saigon giving priority to areas to be cleared and held and setting forth general methods to be used. We believe these should be accomplished by numerous small tactical actions planned and executed by American and Vietnamese officers on the spot to meet the local situation at the moment.

2. The rate of increase to approximately 200,000 men should take into consideration:

a. The ability of the army to absorb and train these men without unduly weakening its fighting ability.
b. Viet-Nam must husband its manpower resources carefully. A minimum number of trained civilians must be left at their posts in order to at least partially satisfy the rising expectations of Viet-Nam's citizens.

3. That the armed forces might best level off at about 200,000 with future emphasis to be devoted to strengthening and enlarging the Civil Guard and Self Defense Corps. Their job would be to hold ground that had been recovered.

4. That henceforth our training programs for ARVN be based primarily on the concept that the Vietnamese army will start winning on the day when it has obtained the confidence of the Vietnamese peasants. As a specific example I suggest that we immediately seek Vietnamese implementation of a policy of promptly giving a small reward in rice, salt or money (commodities in which the Viet Cong are in short supply) to every person who gives information to the army. Similarly, villages which show determination to resist the Viet Cong should receive the promptest possible support.
I would be glad to receive any comments you may have with respect to the foregoing.

Sincerely yours,

s/U. Alexis Johnson
Deputy Under Secretary for Political Affairs


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