National Security Action Memorandum 52, signed by McGeorge Bundy, Presidential adviser on national security, 11 May 1961.

Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 2, pp. 642-643

Reprinted from New York Times

U.S. Approval, in 1961, of Steps to Strengthen South Vietnam

National Security Action Memorandum 52, signed by McGeorge Bundy, Presidential adviser on national security, 11 May 1961.

1. The U.S. objective and concept of operations stated in report are approved: to prevent Communist domination of South Vietnam; to create in that country a viable and increasingly democratic society, and to initiate, on an accelerated basis, a series of mutually supporting actions of a military, political, economic, psychological and covert character designed to achieve this objective.
2. The approval given for specific military actions by the President at the National Security Council meeting on April 29, 1961, is confirmed.
3. Additional actions listed at pages 4 and 5 of the Task Force Report are authorized, with the objective of meeting the increased security threat resulting from the new situation along the frontier between Laos and Vietnam. In particular, the President directs an assessment of the military utility of a further increase in G.V.N. forces from 170,000 to 200,000, together with an assessment of the parallel political and fiscal implications.
4. The President directs full examination by the Defense Department, under the guidance of the Director of the continuing Task Force on Vietnam, of the size and composition of forces which would be desirable in the case of a possible commitment of U.S. forces to Vietnam. The diplomatic setting within which this action might be taken should also be examined.
5. The U.S. will seek to increase the confidence of President Diem and his Government in the United States by a series of actions and messages relating to the trip of Vice President Johnson. The U.S. will attempt to strengthen President Diem's popular support within Vietnam by reappraisal and negotiation, under the direction of Ambassador Nolting. Ambassador Nolting is also requested to recommend any necessary reorganization of the Country Team for these purposes.
6. The U.S. will negotiate in appropriate ways to improve Vietnam's relationship with other countries, especially Cambodia, and its standing in word opinion.
7. The Ambassador is authorized to begin negotiations looking toward a new bilateral arrangement with Vietnam, but no firm commitment will be made to such an arrangement without further review by the President.
8. The U.S. will undertake economic programs in Vietnam with a view to both short-term immediate impact and a contribution to the longer-range economic viability of the country, and the specific actions proposed on pages 12 and 13 of the Task Force Report are authorized.
9. The U.S. will strengthen its efforts in the psychological field as recommended on pages 14 and 15 of the Task Force Report.
10. The program for covert actions outlined on page 15 of the Task Force Report is approved.
11. These decisions will be supported by appropriate budgetary action, but the President reserves judgment on the levels of funding proposed on pages 15 and 16 of the Task Force Report and in the funding annex.
12. Finally, the President approves the continuation of a special Task Force on Vietnam, established in and directed by the Department of State under Sterling J. Cottrell as Director, and Chalmers B. Wood as Executive Officer.

Vinnie's Note on NSAM 52:

There was a request on H-Diplo in November of 2003 for the full text of NSAM 52. The following was submitted to H-Diplo by Marvin Russell of the US National Archives and Records Administration:

From: Marvin Russell <>

Some list members have requested the complete text of the program of
action section on covert action. It is reproduced below. The underlined
sections are State proposed changes in the original draft. [This feature
may not survive transmission to the H-Diplo listserve --Mod.]

6. Covert Actions:

a. Intelligence: Expand current positive and counter-intelligence
operations against Communist forces in South Viet-Nam and against North
Viet-Nam. These include penetration of the Viet-Namese Communist
mechanism, dispatch of agents to North Viet-Nam and strengthening
Viet-Namese internal security services. Authorization should be given on
a case by case basis only for the use in North Viet-Nam operations of
civilian air crews of American and other nationality, as appropriate, in
addition to Viet-Namese. Consideration should be given for over-flights
of North Viet-Nam for photographic intelligence coverage, using American
or Chinese Nationalists crews and equipment as necessary.

b. Communications Intelligence: Expand the current program of
interception and direction finding covering Viet-Namese Communist
communications activities in South Viet-Nam, as well as North Viet-Nam
targets. Obtain USIB authority to conduct these operations on a fully
joint basis, permitting the sharing of results of interception, direction
finding, traffic analysis and cryptographic analysis by American agencies
with the Viet-Namese to the extent needed to launch rapid attacks on
Viet-Namese communist communications and command installations.

This program should be supplemented by a program, duly coordinated, of
training additional Viet-Namese Army units in intercept and direction
finding by U.S. Army Security Agency. Also, U.S. Army Security Agency
teams could be sent to Viet-Nam for direct operations, coordinated in the
same manner.--Approved by the President at the NSC meeting of 29 April

c. Unconventional Warfare: Expand present operations of the First
Observation Battalion in guerrilla areas of South Viet-Nam, under Joint
MAAG-CIA sponsership [sic.] and direction. This should be in full
operational collaboration with the Viet-Namese, using Viet-Namese
civilians recruited with CIA aid.

In Laos, infiltrate teams under light civilian cover to Southeast Laos to
locate and attach [sic.] Viet-Namese Communist bases and lines of
communications. These teams should be supported by assault units of 100
to 150 Viet-Namese for use on targets beyond capability of teams. Training
of teams could be a combined operation by CIA and U.S. Army Special
Forces. (These operations should continue despite a possible cease-fire
in Laos.) If a cease-fire takes place in Laos, this action would be

In North Vietnam, using the foundation established by intelligence
operations, form networks of resistance, covert bases and teams for
sabotage and light harassment.

>>>the remainder of sub-paragraph "c" and all of sub-paragraph "d" are in
>>>the FRUS volume.<<<

e. The expanded program outlined above will require an additional 40
personnel for the CIA station and an increase in the CIA outlay for
Viet-Nam of approximately $1,500,000 for FY 62, partly compensated by
withdrawal of personnel from other areas. The U.S. Army Security Agency
actions to supplement communications intelligence will require 78
personnel and approximately $1.2 million in equipment. --The personnel and
fund augmentations contained in this sub-paragraph were approved by the
President at the NSC meeting of 29 April 1961.

Marvin Russell

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