Memorandum to Secretary of Defense McNamara from L.L. Lemnitzer, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Ambassador Galbraith's memorandum, 13 April 1962

Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 2, pp. 671-672

13 APR 1962

Subject: US Policy Toward Vietnam

1. Reference is made to a memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA) dated 10 April 1962, requesting comments on a memorandum to the President by the Honorable J. K. Galbraith, US Ambassador to India, wherein he proposes changes to the present US policy toward Vietnam and the government of President Diem.

2. The burden of Mr. Galbraith's proposals appears to be that present US policy toward Vietnam should be revised in order to seek a political solution to the problem of communist penetration in the area. The effect of these proposals is to put the United States in a position of initiating negotiations with the communists to seek disengagement from what is by now a well-known commitment to take a forthright stand against Communism in Southeast Asia.

3. The President of the United States and the Secretary of Defense both have recently and publicly affirmed the intention of the US Government to support the government of President Diem and the people of South Vietnam to whatever extent may be necessary to eliminate the Viet Cong threat. In his letter of 14 December 1961 to President Diem, President Kennedy said:

Your (President Diem's) letter underlines what our own information has convincingly shown-that the campaign of force and terror now being waged against your people and your Government is supported and directed from the outside by the authorities at Hanoi. They have thus violated the provisions of the Geneva Accords designed to ensure peace in Vietnam and to which they bound themselves in 1954.

At that time, the United States, although not a party to the Accords, declared that it would view any renewal of the aggression in violation of the agreements with grave concern and as seriously threatening international peace and security. We continue to maintain that view.

In accordance with that declaration, and in response to your request, we are prepared to help the Republic of Vietnam to protect its people and to preserve its independence.

4. The various measures approved for implementation by the United States in support of our objectives in South Vietnam have not yet been underway long enough to demonstrate their full effectiveness. Any reversal of US policy could have disastrous effects, not only upon our relationship with South Vietnam, but with the rest of our Asian and other allies as well.

5. The problems raised by Mr. Gaibraith with regard to our present policy have been considered in the coordinated development of that policy. The Joint Chiefs of Staff are aware of the deficiencies of the present government of South Vietnam. However, the President's policy of supporting the Diem regime while applying pressure for reform appears to be the only practicable alternative at this time. In this regard, the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as expressed in JCSM-33-62 are reaffirmed.

6. It is the opinion of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the present US policy toward South Vietnam, as announced by the President, should be pursued vigorously to a successful conclusion.

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
L. L. Lemnitzer
Joint Chiefs of Staff

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