The Pentagon Papers
Chapter 7, "Re-Emphasis on Pacification: 1965-1967," pp. 515-623.
(Boston: Beacon Press, 1971)
Section 1, pp. 515-560
By the summer of 1967, pacification had become a major ingredient of American strategy in Vietnam, growing steadily in importance and the amount of resources devoted to it. The U.S. Mission in Vietnam had been reorganized three times in 15 months and each reorganization had been designed primarily to improve the management of the pacification effort and raise its priority within our overall effort.
Pacification--or as it is sometimes called by Americans, Revolutionary Development (RD)--had staged a comeback in priority from the days in 1964 and 1965 when it was a program with little emphasis, guidance, or support. It has by now almost equalled in priority for the Americans the original priority given the Strategic Hamlet program in 1962-1963, although the Vietnamese have not yet convinced many people that they attach the same importance to it as we do.
This study traces the climb in pacification's importance during the last two years, until it reached its present level of importance, with further growth likely.
This study concentrates on American decisions, American discussions, American papers. It will be clear to the reader that, if this version of events is accurate, the Vietnamese played a secondary role in the move to re-emphasize pacification. It is the contention of this paper that this was indeed the case, and that the Americans were the prime movers in the series of events which led to the reemphasis of pacification. This study does not cover many important events, particularly the progress of the field effort, the CIA-backed PAT/Cadre program, and GVN activity.
The process by which the American government came to increase its support for pacification is disorderly and haphazard. Individuals like Ambassador Lodge and General Walt and Robert Komer, seem in retrospect to have played important roles, but to each participant in a story still unfolding, the sequence may look different. Therefore, it is quite possible that things didn't quite happen the way they are described here, and someone else, whose actions are not adequately described in the files available for this study, was equally important.
Nor was there anything resembling a conspiracy involved. Indeed, the proponents of what is called so loosely in this paper "pacification" were often in such violent disagreement as to what pacification meant that they quarreled publicly among themselves and overlooked their common interests. At other times, people who disagreed strongly on major issues found themselves temporary allies with a common objective.
Moreover, there is the curious problem of the distance between rhetoric and reality. Even during the dark days of 1964-1965, most Americans paid lip service, particularly in official, on the record statements, to the ultimate importance of pacification. But their public affirmation of the cliches about "winning the hearts and minds of the people" were not related to any programs or priorities then in existence in Vietnam, and they can mislead the casual observer.
The resurgence of pacification was dramatically punctuated by three Presidential conferences on Pacific islands with the leaders of the GVN--Honolulu in February, 1966, Manila in October, 1966 (with five other Chiefs of State also present), and Guam in March, 1967. After each conference the relative importance of pacification took another leap upward within the U.S. Government--reflecting a successful effort within the U.S. Government by its American proponents--and the U.S. tied the GVN onto Declarations and Communiques which committed them to greater effort.
In addition, each conference was followed by a major re-organization within the U.S. Mission, designed primarily to improve our management of the pacification effort. After Honolulu, Deputy Ambassador Porter was given broad new authority to run the civilian agencies. After Manila, Porter was directed to reorganize the components of USIA, CIA, and AID internally to create a single Office of Civil Operations (OCO). And after Guam, OCO--redesignated as CORDS--was put under the control of General Westmoreland, who was given a civilian deputy with the personal rank of Ambassador to assist him.
The low priority of pacification in 1965 was the understandable result of a situation in which battles of unprecedented size were taking place in the highlands and along the coast, the air war was moving slowly north towards Hanoi, and the GVN was in a continual state of disarray.
But a series of events and distinct themes were at work which would converge to give pacification a higher priority. They were to meet at the Honolulu conference in February, 1966.
I. THREADS THAT MET AT HONOLULU
A. HOP TAC
The first was the hold-over program from 1964-1965--pacification's one priority even then, the Hop Tac program. It had been suggested first by Lodge on his way home from his first Ambassadorship, and Taylor and Westmoreland had given it recognition as a high priority program. Although Westmoreland judged it repeatedly as a partial success, it appears now to have been a faultily conceived and clumsily executed program. It was conceptually unsound, lacked the support of the Vietnamese, created disagreements within the U.S. Mission which were never resolved, and then faded away. So unsuccessful was it that during its life span the VC were able to organize a regiment--165A--in the Gia Dinh area surrounding Saigon, and thus forced MACV in late 1966 to commit three U.S. infantry battalions to Operation FAIRFAX to protect the capital. No one analyzed Hop Tac before starting FAIRFAX. With the beginning of FAIRFAX, Hop Tac was buried quietly and the United States proceeded to other matters.
B. AMBASSADOR LODGE AND THE "TRUE BELIEVERS"
Henry Cabot Lodge returned as Ambassador in August of 1965, and immediately began to talk of pacification as "the heart of the matter." In telegrams and Mission Council meetings, Lodge told the President, the GVN, and the Mission that pacification deserved a higher priority. Because he saw himself as an advocate before the President for his beliefs rather than as the overall manager of the largest overseas civil-military effort in American history,* Lodge did not try, as Ambassador Maxwell
* No other American Ambassador has ever had responsibility and authority even close to that in Saigon; only military commands have exceeded it in size.
Taylor had done, to devise an integrated and unified strategy that balanced every part of our effort. Instead, he declared, in his first month back in Vietnam (September, 1965), that "the U.S. military was doing so well now that we face a distinct possibility that VC main force units will be neutralized, and VC fortresses destroyed soon," and that therefore we should be ready to give pacification a new push. While his involvement was irregular and inconsistent, Lodge did nonetheless play a key role in giving pacification a boost. His rhetoric, even if vague, encouraged other advocates of pacification to speak up. The man he brought with him, Edward Lansdale, gave by his very presence an implicit boost to pacification.
C. THE III MARINE AMPHIBIOUS FORCE
Meanwhile, to their own amazement, the Marines were discovering that the toughest war for them was the war in the villages behind them near the Da Nang air base, rather than the war against the main force, which had retreated to the hills to build up. In the first 12 months of their deployment, the Marines virtually reversed their emphasis, turning away from the enemy to a grueling and painfully slow effort to pacify the villages of the central coast in their three TAORs. It was a job that Americans were not equipped for, and the Marine effort raised some basic questions about the role of U.S. troops in Vietnam, but nonetheless, the Marines began to try to sell the rest of the U.S. Government on the success and correctness of their still unproved strategy. The result was a major commitment to the pacification strategy by a service of the U.S. Armed Forces, and influence on the other services, particularly the Army.
D. WASHINGTON GRUMBLES ABOUT THE EFFORT
When Lodge was Ambassador, there was widespread concern about the management of the Mission. Lodge was admittedly not a manager. This concern led to a major conference at Warrenton in January of 1966, during which increased emphasis on pacification and better organization within the U.S. Mission were the main topics. Improving the Washington organizational structure was raised, but not addressed candidly in the final report; Washington seemed far readier to tell Saigon how to reorganize than to set their own house in order. But Warrenton symbolizes the growing dissatisfaction in Washington with the Mission as it was.
E. PRESIDENTIAL EMPHASIS ON THE "OTHER WAR" AND PRESS REACTION
Finally, there was the need of the President, for compelling domestic political reasons, to give greater emphasis to "the other war." With the first full years of major troop commitment ending with victory not yet in sight, there was a growing need to point out to the American public and to the world that the United States was doing a great deal in the midst of war to build a new Vietnam. While this emphasis did not necessarily have to also become an emphasis on pacification, it did, and thus the President in effect gave pacification his personal support--an act which was acutely felt by Americans in Vietnam.
F. MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE WAR...
A summary of the MACV Monthly Evaluations and other reports is contained here, showing how the U.S. command saw its own progress. The summary suggests that MACV foresaw heavy fighting all through 1966, and did not apparently agree with Ambassador Lodge's predictions and hopes that a major pacification effort could be started, but the issue was not analyzed before decisions were made.
A. THE CONFERENCE-FEBRUARY 1966
The details of the working sessions at the Honolulu conference do not appear, in retrospect, to be nearly as important on the future emphasis on pacification as the public statements that came out of Honolulu, particularly the Declaration itself. The discussions and the Declaration are summarized, including the President's final remarks in plenary session.
B. PUBLIC IMPACT...
The press reaction to the conference is summarized.
III. HONOLULU TO MANILA
A. SAIGON: PORTER IN CHARGE
The first reorganization now took place, and Deputy Ambassador Porter was put in direct charge of the civilian agencies. His responsibility and his ability to carry out his responsibility were not equal from the outset, and Porter saw his role in different terms than those in Washington who had given him his difficult task. A major problem was the lack of full support that Porter received from Ambassador Lodge, who had never been fully in favor of the reorganization. Another problem was the lack of a parallel structure in Washington, so that Porter found himself caught between the Washington agencies and their representatives in Saigon, with Komer (see below) as a frequent participant. Nonetheless, Porter accomplished a great deal in the months this arrangement lasted; it just wasn't as much as Washington sought.
B. WASHINGTON: KOMER AS THE BLOWTORCH
In Washington, the President selected a McGeorge Bundy deputy, R. W. Komer, to be his Special Assistant on non-military activities in Vietnam. Komer did not have the same kind of authority over the Washington agencies that Porter, in theory, had over the Saigon extensions. Komer pushed pacification hard, and became the first senior official, with apparently ready access to the President, who put forward the pro-pacification position consistently in high level meetings. His mandate was contained in a loosely worded NSAM, 343, dated March 28, 1966. During the summer of 1966, Komer applied great pressure to both the Mission and the Washington agencies (thus earning from Ambassador Lodge the nickname of "Blowtorch"), with a series of cables and visits to Vietnam, often using the President's name.
C. STUDY GROUPS AND STRATEGISTS: SUMMER 1966
With Porter and Komer in their new roles, a series of Task Forces and Study Groups began to produce papers that gave a better rationale and strategy to pacification. These included the Army study called PROVN, the Priorities Task Force in Saigon, and the Roles and Missions Study Groups in Saigon. At the same time, Westmoreland, whose year end wrapup message on January 1, 1966, had not even mentioned pacification, sent in a new long range strategy which emphasized pacification, to Lodge's pleasure. MACV also produced a new position on revamping ARVN, and briefed the Mission Council on it in August, 1966. The Honolulu emphasis was beginning to produce tangible results on the U.S. side.
D. THE SINGLE MANAGER
Despite the movement described in the above three sections, Washington wanted
more, and was not satisfied with the rate of progress. Komer, therefore, in
August of 1966 had produced a long paper which offered three possible changes
in the management structure of the Mission. They were: (1) put all pacification
responsibility and assets, including MACV Advisors, under Porter; (2) reorganize
the civilian structure to create a single office of operations, and strengthen
MACV internally, but leave the civilians and the military split; (3) give Westmoreland
full pacification responsibility. The Mission rejected all these ideas, offering
in their stead the proposal that Washington leave Saigon alone for a while,
but the pressure for results and better management was too great, and the inadequacies
of the Mission too obvious, to leave it alone. Secretary McNamara weighed in
at this point with a draft Presidential memorandum proposing that Westmoreland
be given responsibility for pacification. Komer and JCS concurred in it, but
State, USIA, AID, and CIA nonconcurred. McNamara, Katzenbach, and Komer then
went to Saigon to take a look at the situation. When they returned, Katzenbach,
new to the State Department and previously uninvolved in the problem, recommended
that Porter be told to reorganize the civilians along the lines previously discussed
(similar to Komer's Alternative Number 2). The President agreed, discussing
it with Lodge and Westmoreland at Honolulu. But he added a vital warning: he
would give the civilians only about 90 to 120 days to make the new structure
work, and then would reconsider the proposal to transfer responsibility for
pacification to MACV.
E. THE MANILA CONFERENCE
The decision had not yet been transmitted to Saigon, but it had been made. At Manila, with six other heads of state in attendance, the discussion turned to other matters. At Manila, in the final Declaration, the GVN announced that they would commit half the armed forces to securing operations in support of pacification/RD. This had previously been discussed, but it was the public commitment that really mattered, and now it was on the record.
IV. OCO TO CORDS
A. OCO ON TRIAL: INTRODUCTION
The Office of Civil Operations was formed, creating confusion and resentment among the agencies, but also marking an immediate and major step forward. The example of the civilians moving at this pace also created pressure and conflict within MACV, which was for the first time confronted with a strong civilian structure. The GVN indicated that it understood and approved of the new structure.
B. OCO ON TRIAL: TOO LITTLE TOO LATE-OR NOT ENOUGH TIME?
Although it was slower than Washington desired, OCO did get off to a start in December of 1966. Wade Lathram, who had been USAID Deputy Director, was chosen to head up OCO--a choice that was unfortunate, because Lathram, a skilled and cautious bureaucrat, was not the kind of driving and dynamic leader that OCO--in a brink of disaster situation from its inception--needed.
Even worse, Porter was almost immediately diverted from OCO to pay more attention to other matters. While the planners had hoped that Porter would take OCO in hand and give Lathram direct guidance, instead he left Lathram in control of OCO and was forced to turn his attentions to running the Mission, during a long vacation (one month) by Lodge.
The most dramatic action that was taken was the selection of the Regional Directors, a move which even attracted newspaper attention. They included Henry Koren, formerly Porter's deputy; John Paul Vann, the controversial former MACV advisor; and Vince Heymann of the CIA.
Slowly, the OCO then turned to picking its province representatives. All in all, OCO accomplished many things that had never been done before; given time it could no doubt have done much more. But it was plagued from the outset by lack of support from the agencies and their representatives in Saigon, and Washington made higher demands than could be met in Saigon.
C. TIME RUNS OUT
It is not clear when the President made the decision to scrap OCO. He communicated his decision to his field commanders at Guam, but there was a two-month delay before the decision was announced publicly or discussed with theGVN.
D. THE CORDS REORGANIZATION
As Bunker took over the Mission, there was a considerable turnover in key personnel. Bunker asked Lansdale and Zorthian to stay on, but Porter, Habib, Wehrle, all left just as Locke, Komer, Calhoun, Cooper, and General Abrams all arrived.
In the new atmosphere, Komer took the lead, making a series of recommendations which maintained the civilian position within MACV, and West-moreland accepted them.
An example of Komer's influence was the question of the role of the ARVN divisions in the RD chain of command, and here Westmoreland took Komer's suggestion even though it meant a reversal of the previous MACV position.
E. THE MISSION ASSESSMENT AS CORDS BEGINS
The situation inherited by CORDS was not very promising. Measurements of progress had been irrelevant and misleading, and progress by nearly all standards has been slow or nonexistent. At this point, the study of CORDS and pacification becomes current events.
End of Summary
I. THREADS THAT MET AT HONOLULU
A. HOP TAC
While pacification received a low emphasis during troubled 1964-1965, there was one important exception: the Hop Tac program, designed to put "whatever resources are required" into the area surrounding Saigon to pacify it. The area was chosen by Ambassador Lodge in his last weeks as Ambassador in June, 1964, and Hop Tac deserves study because both its failures and limited achievements had many of the characteristics of our later pacification efforts--and because, like all pacification efforts, there was constant disagreement within the Mission, the press, and the Vietnamese as to how well the program was doing.
Hop Tac--an intensive pacification effort in the provinces ringing Saigon--was formally proposed at a high level strategy session in Honolulu in July of 1964 by Lodge, then on his way home from his first assignment as Ambassador. In a paper presented to Secretaries Rusk and McNamara and incoming Ambassador Taylor at Honolulu (dated June 19, 1964), Lodge wrote:
A combined GVN-US effort to intensify pacification efforts in critical provinces should be made . . . The eight critical provinces are: Tay Ninh, Binh Duong, Hau Nghia, Long An, Dinh Tuong, Go Cong, Vinh Long, and Quang Ngai. Top priority and maximum effort should be concentrated initially in the strategically important provinces nearest to Saigon, i.e., Long An, Hau Nghia, and Binh Duong. Once real progress has been made in these provinces, the same effort should be made in the five others.
General Taylor and General Westmoreland began Hop Tac, setting up a new and additional headquarters in Saigon which was supposed to tie together the overlapping and quarrelsome commands in the Saigon area. The Vietnamese set up a parallel, "counterpart" organization, although critics of Hop Tac were to point out that the Vietnamese Hop Tac headquarters had virtually no authority or influence, and seemed primarily designed to satisfy the Americans. (Ironically, Hop Tac is the Vietnamese word for "cooperation," which turned out to be just what Hop Tac lacked.)
Hop Tac had a feature previously missing from pacification plans: it sought to tie together the pacification plans of a seven-province area (expanded from Lodge's three provinces to include the adjacent provinces of Phuoc Tuy, Bien Hoa, Phuoc Thanh, and Gia Dinh, which surround Saigon like a doughnut), into a plan in which each province subordinated its own priorities to the concept of building a "giant oil spot" around Saigon. In a phrase which eventually became a joke in the Mission, the American heading the Hop Tac Secretariat at its inception, Colonel Jasper Wilson, briefed senior officials on the creation of "rings of steel" which would grow outward from Saigon until the area from the Cambodian border to the South China Sea was secure. Then, according to the plan, Hop Tac would move into the Delta and North. Colonel Wilson ordered his staff to produce a phased plan in which the area (see map below) to be pacified was divided into four circles around Saigon. Each ring was to be pacified in four months, according to the original plan, which never had any chance of success. But Wilson, under great pressure from his superiors, ordered the plan produced, got his Vietnamese counterparts to translate it, and issued it. The kickoff date for Hop Tac was to be September 12, 1964: the operation, a sweep into the VC-controlled pineapple groves just west and southwest of the city of Saigon--the VC base nearest to the city, which had not been entered by the GVN since the last outpost had been abandoned in 1960.
The operation began on schedule, with elements of the 51st Regiment moving toward their objective west of Saigon. During the second day of the operation, the unit ran into a minefield and took numerous casualties. Shortly thereafter, instead of continuing the operation, the unit broke off contact and, to the amazement of its advisors, turned back towards the city of Saigon. When next located it was in the middle of Saigon participating in the abortive coup d'etat of September 13, 1964.
From that point on, Hop Tac was a constant source of dispute within the U.S. Mission. Almost to a man, the civilian agencies "supporting" Hop Tac felt that the program was unnecessary, repetitive, and doomed. They claimed that they preferred to work through existing channels, although these, in MACV's view, were inadequate. This view was not stated openly, however, since the Ambassador and General Westmoreland had committed all U.S. agencies to full support. On October 6, 1964, for example, General Taylor sent Washington an EXDIS cable in which he discussed and rejected a suggestion to decentralize the pacification effort, and instead listed several actions that the Mission would take. First among these was a "unanimous recommendation" that the Mission "give full support to Hop Tac Plan, assuring it the necessary priority to give it every chance to succeed . . . When Hop Tac priorities permit, concentrate on selected weak areas." Thus there was a reluctance to criticize the program directly.
Deadlines slipped continually; phase lines were readjusted; the official count of "pacified" hamlets climbed steadily. But a special study of the area made in October, 1964, by representatives of USOM, USIS, and MACV concluded: "Generally speaking, Hop Tac, as a program, does not appear to exist as a unified and meaningful operation."
The official view of Hop Tac was that the new coordinating machinery was doing some good. Thus, during a period in which cables on the general situation were rather gloomy, Ambassador Taylor could tell the President in his weekly NODIS that while "pacification progress throughout the rest of Vietnam was minimal at best, largely because of the political climate . . . Some forward movement occurred in the Hop Tac effort growing out of U.S. Mission discussions with the Prime Minister on September 25. The number of operating checkpoints in the Hop Tac area increased markedly; command areas were strengthened; available troop strength increased." Minor statistical advances, taken out of context, were continually being used in the above manner to prove overall progress.
The MACV Command History for 1964 reflects the official view:
"At the end of 1964, Hop Tac was one of the few pacification areas that
showed some success and greater promise." But subsequent events in the
area do not bear out this view. In February of 1966 for example--18 months after
the birth of Hop Tac--when the Hop Tac area was designated as one of the four
"National Priority Areas," the briefers were unable to show Ambassadors
Lodge and Porter any progress in the preceding year. They could not even produce
a plan for the coming year. Originally Hop Tac was focused on cleaning out the
nearest VC base areas, but by February of 1966--with the GVN unable to stop
the growing VC build-up, the emphasis was "placed on lines of communications,
with special attention to be given vital installations including Bien Hoa and
Tan Son Nhut air bases and ammunition and gasoline depots." The best the
briefers could do, in the final briefing prior to the Honolulu Conference, was
to say that they hoped to pacify 72 hamlets in the entire seven-province area,
and "consolidate" 144 hamlets in Gia Dinh--which meant the hamlets
ringing Saigon, including many which were really part of the city. Lodge and Porter were told that day "there has been a lessening of security in Hau Nghia and Gia Dinh provinces. RF and PF units generally are not up to authorized strengths. The new cadre program should be helpful in solving the problem of continued hamlet security after pacification . . . The 1966 plan is not overly optimistic from a military standpoint." (The memorandum recording of this meeting, made by a member of General Lansdale's staff, shows as the only Ambassadorial guidance after this sobering report: "Maps drawn to depict progress of Rural Construction (Pacification) should show as the goal only that area to be pacified during the year . . . The U.S. Mission manpower committee should look into the use of refugees in the national labor force.")
The Vietnamese were cynical about Hop Tac; it was something, speculation ran, that General Khanh had to do to keep the Americans happy, but it was clearly an American show, clearly run by the United States, and the Vietnamese were reluctant to give it meaningful support. It was one of the first major programs with which the United States became publicly identified (since Diem had always kept the United States in as much of a background role as possible--and its shortcomings were in part derived from this fact.
All through Ambassador Taylor's tenure, Hop Tac was something on which he and the Mission Council pinned hope. General Westmoreland thought the program had been reasonably successful, when he told the Mission Council about Hop Tac's first year:
General Westmoreland said that while Hop Tac could be said only to have been about 50% successful, it had undoubtedly averted a VC siege of Saigon.
This same view was reflected in McGeorge Bundy's comments in a memorandum to the President months earlier in February, 1965, when he said:
The Hop Tac program of pacification in this area has not been an unqualified success, but it has not been a failure, and it has certainly prevented any strangling seige of Saigon. We did not have a chance to form an independent judgment on Hop Tac, but we did conclude that whatever its precise measure of success, it is of great importance that this operation be pursued with full vigor. This is the current policy of the Mission.
There were others who said that, as a matter of fact, Saigon was almost under seige and that the situation was deteriorating. Westmoreland's own headquarters, for example, sent to Washington in the June Monthly Evaluation from MACV, the following statement which seems to contradict Westmoreland's optimism:
The sealing off of Saigon from surrounding areas, no matter how incomplete the sealing may be, has had and will continue to have serious economic as well as military effects.
Shortly after he arrived in Vietnam for his second tour, Lodge asked for a private assessment of Hop Tac from an Embassy officer, who reported to him in early September of 1965:
1. Hop Tac did not achieve its original goals primarily because they were completely unrealistic and did not take into account the difficulty of
the task. These goals were set quite arbitrarily and with no regard for the available resources and the strength of the enemy.
2. The second reason for the failures of Hop Tac lies in its strategic concept. The idea of concentric circles outward from Saigon to be pacified in successive waves of clearing, securing and developing may be sound in macroscopic terms; when the Hop Tac area is looked at carefully, the viability of this strategy breaks down. The concentric phase lines around Saigon do not adequately take into account existing areas of GVN strength and existing Viet Cong base areas; rather they commit the GVN to a continual expansionary effort on all sides of Saigon simultaneously, an effort which is beyond its capabilities. Above all, they ignore the political structure of the area around Saigon.
3. The U.S. Mission has two broad courses of action available in regard to Hop Tac. First, the Mission Council may feel that the area encompassed by Hop Tac remains the first pacification priority of the U.S. and the GVN. If this is the considered judgment of the Mission Council, then we must seek ways of re-emphasizing, re-invigorating and reorienting Hop Tac in order to achieve a dramatic and sustained success in pacification.
4. There is an alternative open to the Mission Council. Perhaps it would be politically unwise to attempt to commit the GVN to re-emphasis of Hop Tac at this time. There are several facts which support this view:
A. The GVN has never considered Hop Tac its own plan and its own number one priority. The staff planning for the plan was done almost entirely by the United States, and then translated into Vietnamese. It is, in the eyes of many Vietnamese, "the plan of the Americans."
B. It is perhaps the most difficult area in the country in which to attempt pacification. Since it surrounds Saigon (but does not include it), every political tremor in the capital is felt in the neighboring area . . . the High Command has created chains of command in the area which are clearly designed primarily to prevent coups, and only secondarily to pacify the countryside. Another example: in the last 11 months, 24 out of 31 district chiefs and five out of seven province chiefs have been changed.
C. Prime Minister Ky will never feel that Hop Tac is his plan. If he is seeking a major public triumph, and intends to devote his attention to achieving that triumph, it is unlikely that he will choose Hop Tac, which as mentioned above, is publicly considered an American plan. Moreover, to the extent that any Vietnamese is publicly connected with Hop Tac, it is Nguyen Khanh. For this reason, more than any other, the dangers of re-emphasizing Hop Tac outweigh the possible gains .
The situation in the Hop Tac area will not collapse if Hop Tac is not revitalized now. With the available forces, and particularly with the impending arrival of the 1st Infantry Division to take up a position across the southern arc of Zone D, Saigon itself is not going to be threatened any more than it presently is. The threat-which is substantial-comes from the enemy within, and the solution does not lie within the responsibility of the Hop Tac Council: it is a problem for the Saigon police and intelligence communities. This threat, serious as it is, is not directly affected by the presence of the Viet Cong's 506th battalion 20 miles away in Hau Nghia, nor by Zone D. The two problems can be dealt with separately, and solution of the internal security problems of Saigon are not contingent on the success of clearing Hau Nghia and Long An.
In an effort to reconcile these opposing views about Hop Tac, Lodge told the September 15 Mission Council that "the original reasons for the emphasis placed on the area surrounding Saigon . . . were still valid, primarily because of the heavy density of population. Lodge noted, however, lack of a clear commitment to Hop Tac on the part of the GVN, possibly due to the fact that the Vietnamese consider the program an American scheme. The view was also expressed that the trouble may also lie in US/GVN differences over some fundamental concepts in Hop Tac. Finally, Ambassador Lodge said it was essential that all interested American agencies be agreed on concepts and tactics before an approach to the GVN could be made." After this meeting, no significant action was taken, and the matter lapsed.
The importance of Hop Tac is still difficult to assess; it is included here primarily because of its role as the one major pacification program that was tried during the 1964-1965 period when pacification was not receiving its present top-level emphasis. Whether or not it averted a seige of Saigon, as General Westmoreland claimed, is a semantic question: what constitutes a seige in a guerrilla war? Saigon, of course, never was under seige in the classic sense of the word, but it is hard to conceive of it ever being literally cut off as Dien Bien Phu or Mafeking were-this would not be a logical objective to the Viet Cong, who wanted to put pressure on the capital but knew they couldn't seal it off (nor would have wanted to, since they got supplies from it).
What is important is that the failures of Hop Tac were never adequately reported and analyzed prior to embarking on other pacification efforts. Thus, at one point General Westmoreland told each of his Senior Corps Advisors to start a Hop Tac in his area-a strange request since Hop Tac was designed to pull together a multiplicity of commands not duplicated in any other area. Each Corps naturally responded by producing plans which concentrated their pacification assets around the Corps headquarters-Da Nang, and Can Tho or, in the case of II Corps, Qui Nhon. This in turn led naturally to the later National Priority Area program, but had no other value.
With MACV reluctant to close down its Hop Tac Secretariat, with the civilian Americans giving Hop Tac only verbal support, and with the Vietnamese leaving a powerless staff at the headquarters, Hop Tac could well have survived as an appendix to the normal chain of command, as so many outdated structures survive in Vietnam because no one wants to admit their irrelevance. But General Westmoreland saw a way to dispose of Hop Tac cleanly and quietly in the summer of 1966, and he took it. At the Mission Council meeting of July 7, 1966:
General Westmoreland then turned to the subject of Hop Tac. He summarized the purpose of the Hop Tac concept, which was implemented two years ago, and said that--while it has enjoyed only modest success over the past two years--the situation in the area surrounding Saigon/Cholon would be comparatively worse if we had not had the Hop Tac arrangement. He noted that recent organizational changes have taken place, which have resulted in the Capital Military Region becoming the Capital Military District (as part of the III Corps Tactical Zone) with Saigon remaining as an autonomous city. In view of these changes, there is some question of the validity of continuing with the original concept. More importantly, III Corps has a Revolutionary Development Council and a Hop Tac Council which results in some duplication of effort. Consequently, the General believes that these two councils should be merged, with the Revolutionary Development Council absorbing the Hop Tac Council. General Westmoreland asked the Mission Council to endorse this proposal for him to carry out. After brief discussion, Ambassador Lodge indicated his approval.
By this time Hop Tac had long lost the "highest priority" which was supposed to justify it, and both the American and the Vietnamese had turned to other matters.
But Hop Tac was not adequately analyzed before embarking on other efforts, and its shortcomings were largely forgotten by the time that the still-deteriorating situation in Gia Dinh led MACV to commit three U.S. Army battalions to the inner area surrounding Saigon--the original first phase of Hop Tac--as part of Operation Fairfax in November of 1966. The Mission, with no institutional memory, forgot--or never learned--the lessons that Hop Tac could have offered.
B. AMBASSADOR LODGE AND THE "TRUE BELIEVERS"
Many senior American officials have paid varying degrees of lip service to the pacification effort since 1962--a fact which makes it extremely hard to determine who really pushed pacification and who didn't. But about Ambassador Lodge, there can be little question. He had repeatedly called pacification "the heart of the matter," and his unfailing belief in the importance of the effort can be clearly shown in his public and private statements and his cables.
His emphasis on pacification resumed the day he returned to Saigon in August 1965, when in his arrival statement he said that the United States supported the "true revolution" of the Vietnamese people. His continual emphasis on the effort seems to have had a definite impact on the mood in Washington and in the Mission, and played a role in the events leading up to the Honolulu Conference in February 1966--where pacification was given (or so it seemed to Americans and Vietnamese alike in Vietnam) the President's blessing.
It is true that Ambassador Taylor also felt that pacification was important and that it would deserve high emphasis; his push on Hop Tac clearly demonstrates this fact. But because Maxwell Taylor saw that it was his responsibility as Ambassador to reconcile competing requirements for limited resources, and develop a single overall strategy for the effort, he never let pacification consume too many resources prematurely. Lodge, on the other hand, did not see himself as an administrator or manager of the U.S. Mission, but as the President's personal representative and advisor in Saigon. Thus, he felt no qualms about advocating a certain course of action-in this case, pacification. There is no record of Ambassador Lodge worrying about the way his latest proposals would affect the balance of the whole effort. He simply did not see himself as responsible for the actions of the operating agencies which represented AID, USIA, and the CIA, let alone DOD, in Vietnam *--not even after receiving
* See for example, Lodge's NODIS to the President, February 1, 1966, in which he said: ". . . I have learned of Zorthian's wire to Marks, which, of course, he has the right to send, since I hold that Zorthian, like U.S. agency chiefs here, has and should have an open channel to his agency. It is a statement of Zorthian's opinion which, of course, was sent without my approval or direction . . ." (The subject was apparently a suggestion that Lodge address the United Nations General Assembly in New York, although Lodge's cable cited does not explicitly state what Zorthian's cable said.)
a strong letter of authority from President Johnson in July of 1965:
As you take charge of the American effort in South Vietnam, I want you to have this expression of my confidence, and a reaffirmation of my desire that as Ambassador you exercise full responsibility for the work of the United States Government in South Vietnam. In general terms this authority is parallel to that set forth in my letter to Ambassador Taylor of July 2, 1964. *
* The letter to Taylor had said, among other points: "I wish it clearly understood that this overall responsibility includes the whole military effort in South Vietnam and authorizes the degree of command and control that you consider appropriate."
Given his belief in the fundamental importance of the pacification effort, Lodge was ready to push it at any time he could. He did not examine the possibility that certain times were more favorable than others for an effort which needed the full participation of the Vietnamese in order to succeed, and, like many in the government, failed to see that at certain times emphasis on pacification would not only not work but would be harmful to GVN/US relations, and would reduce the chances for a successful joint effort at some more propitious time.
Thus, it is not surprising that one of his last major documents at the end of his first tour as Ambassador proposed Hop Tac--in the face of strong possibilities that the situation was not favorable to it--and that on his return in August 1965 he was advocating more effort in pacification.
Thus, for example, meeting with his senior officers one month after he arrived, Lodge "began the meeting by stating that in his opinion the United States military was doing so well not that 'we face a distinct possibility that VC main force units will be neutralized and that VC fortresses will be destroyed soon. We should be ready to handle the VC in small units. This gives counter-subversion/terrorism or pacification or counterinsurgency--I am not overly concerned with what we call it--a new urgency for all of us here.'"
It is likely that if Lodge had clarified his view of pacification and repeated it continually in public and privately, as he did with anything he believed in, his view would eventually have taken hold in the United States Mission. But the problem of how pacification should work was-and is-a very difficult one. It raises a number of extremely difficult questions on which the United States Government has never reached a unified position.
Sensing that Lodge was receptive to ideas which emphasized pacification but that he had no set views on details, many groups and individuals besieged him with a resurgence of ideas and philosophies on pacification. They were all encouraged by his verbal support or his glowing cables to Washington. The whole atmosphere in the Mission became more favorable towards pacification and pacifiers; Lansdale, Colonel Serong (the Australian who was to organize the Police Field Force with support from Lodge), Sir Robert Thompson (whose Malayan experiences had led him to emphasize the police), Colonel Bohannon (who began as a Lansdale deputy, but whose views took a different line), the Marines (with their pacification efforts and CAP's near Da Nang), the CIA (which produced, with Lodge's strong support, the PAT's-turned RD cadre), USIA and AID (with their small but growing field programs), the Army (which entered the game late but elicited from Lodge on visits to the U.S. 25th Infantry Division and then the 1st Infantry Division, some of his longest and most glowing accounts of pacification in action).
These groups and individuals fought about details, sometimes debating minor points like medieval monks but also disagreeing on rather basic points-such as whether the object was to gain the population's support or to control them by force. (A popular Marine saying, which tried to bridge the gap, went: "Get the people by the balls, and their hearts and minds will follow.") But each group found something that appealed to Lodge, and each in turn gained encouragement from him. The slow change in mood also affected Washington.
In dealing with his role in the re-emphasis of pacification, we must distinguish between Lodge's influence on our overall, or grand, strategy--on which he was ultimately to have considerable impact--and his influence on the operational details of the policy. The latter did not interest him on a continuing basis, and it is thus easy to underestimate his influence. There was, for example, a tendency in Saigon during his Ambassadorship to minimize his importance, since each agency could ignore him when he told them to do something and usually get away with it. But this popular view overlooked Lodge's impact in encouraging all sorts of people to emerge from parts of the USG with renewed hope for pacification. It overlooked the impact of his cables and statements, which added up to a massive endorsement of pacification. In his NODIS weeklies to the President, for example, pacification receives more attention than any other subject.
Alone, Lodge could have done little, if anything, to move the USG around. But his influence seems clear, more so in retrospect than at the time: at a time when frustrations were growing, he was emphasizing a different rhetoric and strategy.
The best way to show his emphasis is simply to quote from the cables and memoranda of the period. Each one shows Lodge, either directly or indirectly, putting forth his general beliefs-sometimes contradictory. They form an important part of the background to Honolulu, where pacification was to get its biggest push to that date:
1. Lodge at the end of his first tour in Vietnam, defining pacification in his paper proposing Hop Tac:
The first priority after the military have cleared an area is to bring about the selection of an able man for that area, who will in turn go about creating a basically civilian counter-terrorist organization on the "precinct" level, or equivalent thereof . . . Its prime purpose will be, notably with police help, to create security for the local government and free it from all intimidation by going through the precinct with a fine-toothed comb....Once the local government feels safer, it should move energetically to promote public safety for the people; the people should then rally more to the government; and this should create an upward spiral as regards security organization . . . USOM and USIA will support these local "precinct" organizations, will actually work through them, and will seek to make it attractive to be one of those who builds such a counterterrorism precinct organization . . . The military should take special precautions in their operations not to injure in any way the non-combatants. It must also behave itself so well that the people like the Army...."
2. Lodge's Ten Point Program for Success:
In each city precinct and each rural hamlet immediately adjacent to a thoroughly pacified city (i.e., the smallest unit from a public safety standpoint) the following program should be undertaken in the following order:
1. Saturate the minds of the people with some socially ConsciouS and attractive ideology, which is susceptible of being carried out.
2. Organize the people politically with a hamlet chief and committee whose actions would be backed by the police or the military using police-type tactics. This committee should have representatives of the political, military, economic and social organizations and should have an executive who directs.
3. With the help of the police or military, conduct a census.
4. Issue identification cards.
5. Issue permits for the movement of goods and people.
6. When necessary, hold a curfew.
7. Thanks to all these methods, go through each hamlet with a fine-tooth comb to apprehend the terrorists.
8. At the first quiet moment, bring in agricultural experts, school teachers, etc.
9. The hamlet should also be organized for its own defense against small Viet Cong attacks.
10. After all these things have been accomplished, hold elections for local office.
COMMENT: Lodge began his second tour as Ambassador where he had left off the year before. The above paper, which he also transmitted to the President in a NODIS message, again represented no official U.S. position. After writing it and giving it to everyone in the Mission, he let the matter drop, and thus the paper did not assume any official character. Since nothing was changed in the procedures of the Mission, and since the old criteria for pacification still applied unchanged, Lodge had, in typical fashion, failed to affect the operating Mission.
3. The Assignment of Lansdale:
Handpicked group of about ten experienced counter-subversion/counter terrorism workers under direction of Edward G. Lansdale will be going to Saigon to provide Ambassador Lodge with special operating staff in field of political action both at central level and also in connection with rural programs.
COMMENT: From the beginning, there was misunderstanding over Lansdale's role in Lodge's Embassy. The first cable reflects this. The phrase "countersubversion/counter-terrorism workers," seems to contradict the latter part of the sentence, about "political action." From the start Lodge wanted him to "get pacification going." Thus, less than a month later, Lodge told the President:
I appointed Edward Lansdale, with his complete approval, to be chairman of the U.S. Mission Liaison Group to the newly created Vietnamese governmental body having to do with what we call "pacification," what they call "rural construction," and what means to me socially conscious practical politics, the by-product of which is effective counter-subversion/ terrorism. I thought it was important for all concerned for him to have a definite allocation where he would have the best chance of bringing his talents to bear. I trust that the hopes of some journalists that he is here in an adversarial relationship with existing US agencies will be nipped in the bud by making him the spokesman for the whole US Mission in this particular regard. (Italics added)
Thus, another action which served to strengthen the pacification priority, although its primary reason probably was to get Lansdale working on something other than Saigon politics.
4. Lodge on the Use of U.S. Troops in Pacification:
The presence of American troops does provide the opportunity for thorough pacification of the areas in which they are stationed and full advantage should be taken of this opportunity. It is a very big divident from our investment of men and money. For example, the Third Marine Division has scored impressive successes north, south, and west of Da Nang....If our American troops can emulate this performance (of the protoCAC units) of 60 Americans and 150 Vietnamese, we ought to be a tremendous amount of small unit nighttime effective pacification, and we would be neglecting an opportunity not to use American troops for this purpose, thereby pacifying the country and transforming the ARVN, making it into a much more vital and effective element of Vietnamese society, able at some not too remote date to carry on by themselves within outside help . . . We are already discussing with the Vietnamese the possibility of singling out areas that look like good prospects, that are potentially pretty much over on our side, and then pacifying them so as to get a little smell of across-the-board success in the air . . . I am not ready to say, "What areas would be chosen for pacification, when should the plan be started, what objectives would be best," but hope to be able to do so soon. I am now encouraging General Ky to concentrate GVN efforts and enthusiasm on pacification so that this can have sustained, wholehearted GVN participation . . . Development of popular electoral processes is part of all our current planning for counter subversion/terrorism in "rural construction (pacification) ."
COMMENT: Here, for the first time, Lodge addresses a key point: the role of U.S. troops on pacification. The whole concept of the use of U.S. troops was being worked out during this period (see following section on Marines), and Lodge now began to weigh in with qualified support for the Marine approach, based on an overly optimistic view of the situation.
5. Lansdale's Weekly Report, October 4, 1965:
Past week devoted to getting GVN into sound start again on pacification program . . . U.S. Mission Liaison Group shaping up into realistic instrument for working level teamwork on pacification by all U.S. Missions....
COMMENT: Lansdale was responding to the direction given him by Lodge.
6. Lodge on the GVN's Attitude Towards Pacification:
During my talk with General Co, the deputy Prime Minister in charge of six ministries, I was impressed by the amount of sustained analytical thought which he, with his colleagues, had given to how to organize the government for the great new job of pacification which confronts them--and which is clearly their government's most important single responsibility.
COMMENT: Lodge had by this time let the GVN know clearly what tune he wanted to hear, and with their usual skill the Vietnamese--even General Co, who turned out to be worthless on pacification--were playing the right song back.
7. When the chance to win over the people was missed some years ago, a situation came into being in which it was indispensable for the VC large units to be defeated before true community building, with its mixture of political and security measures, would be possible. Otherwise, the VC battalions, emerging from untouchable sanctuaries, would destroy whatever community building had painstakingly been achieved. Now it looks as though the VC know this and has already begun to act on the knowledge, transforming themselves into small units and individual terrorists, and into subversive political operators.
COMMENT: Lodge's sequence of events--destroy the main force enemy first, pacify second--is hard to argue with, but his assessment of VC capabilities and intentions falls short of accuracy.
As a final note to the examination of Lodge's emphasis on pacification, it is worthwhile asking why he has so consistently put such a high priority on the effort--regardless of methodology--to gain control of the villages. The answer may lie in his strong views on the way the war will end in Vietnam. Lodge doubted that there would ever be meaningful negotiations with the Viet Cong. An old hand at negotiating with the communists, Lodge felt that the most likely end to the war was for the enemy to "fadeaway" after a prolonged period of conflict. In his view, therefore, control of the population became the best way to force the fadeaway. Furthermore, in the event that there was some sort of pro forma discussions with the communists at some future date, Lodge felt that there were certain minimum conditions of a "satisfactory outcome" which must be met. An examination of his definition of a satisfactory outcome shows the overriding importance of the pacification effort in his mind. The following is from a telegram sent "For the President and the Secretary from Lodge" on October 21, 1965, which Lodge considered one of his most important cables:
What we consider a satisfactory outcome to be would, of course, be a very closely kept secret. It would include the following, not necessarily in this order:
1. The area around Saigon and south of Saigon (all of the Delta) must be pacified. This area includes about 55 to 60% of the population of Vietnam. "Pacified" is defined as the existence of a state of mind among the people that they have a stake in the government as shown by the holding of local elections. It also means a proper local police force. In brief, a pacified area is economically, socially, and politically a part of the RVN.
2. The thickly populated northeastern strip along the coast which includes 25% of the population would be completely pacified.
3. The GVN would retain its present control of all cities and all provincial capitals.
4. All principal roads would be open to the Vietnamese military day and night.
5. Those areas not pacified would not be safe havens for the VC but would be contested by energetic offensive forays to prevent consolidation of a communist base.
6. The VC disarms; and their weapons and explosives are removed from their hands. Their main force units broken up.
7. North Vietnam stops its infiltration.
8. Chieu Hoi rehabilitation would be extended to individual VC who are suitable
9. Hardcore VC to go to North Vietnani.
10. GVN to approve.
COMMENT: This means that we would not be insisting on the complete elimination of the VC although no safe haven would be allocated them. It would mean that we and the GVN would control 80 to 85% of the population and that the VC would be limited to the jungle and mountainous areas where they would go on as bandits, much as their counterparts in Malaya and Luzon--and where the GVN would have the right to pursue them and try to destroy them.
Lodge's formula for a satisfactory outcome is based on the absolute necessity
of controlling the villages. In day-to-day terms this meant that, as Ambassador,
Lodge had to push pacification as hard as possible. Thus, he was quite pleased
with the emphasis that came out of the Honolulu conference in February of
C. THE III MARINE AMPHIBIOUS FORCE
To what extent the growing Marine emphasis on pacification was a factor during
the period before the Honolulu conference is impossible to determine; the timing
and evidence would suggest that the impact of the Marine strategy was greatest
in the period after Honolulu, as they became more sure of the rightness
of their approach, and as they garnered more and more publicity for it. Nonetheless,
in the first eleven months of their mission in I Corps, the Marines had gotten
deeply into the pacification program. The Marines thus became the most vocal
advocates within the Armed Forces for emphasizing pacification more, and search
and destroy less.
The Marine deployments and mission are covered in earlier decision studies in this series and will thus be treated only briefly here. The emphasis of this section is not on the influence the Marines had on the Honolulu conference, but on the way the Marines gradually moved into their new role, and the difficulties with it. The material here applied, therefore, equally to the pre- and post-Honolulu periods, throughout which the Marine successes, as they reported them, had a growing impact on the thinking of civilian and military alike, in Saigon, CINCPAC, and Washington.
The Marines landed their first troops--two Battalion Landing Teams--in Da Nang in March of 1965. Their original mission, "to secure enclaves in the northem region of Vietnam containing air and communications installations, was simplicity itself." (From "U.S. Marine Corps Civic Action Efforts in Vietnam, March 1965-March 1966, a study done by the USMC Historical Branch, hereafter referred to as MC History; from unpaged draft.)
By the time of the Honolulu conference the Marines--by now organized into the III Marine Amphibious Force--had changed their mission considerably, and to a degree then unequalled among other American units was deeply engaged in pacification operations.
A monthly report issued by General Krulak, Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, indicates the evolution of Marine thinking on their mission. Reviewing the first seven months of their deployment in I Corps, the Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, wrote in September, 1965:
The Mission assigned III MAF was initially confined to airfield security. Subsequently, a limited offensive responsibility was added, which has gradually grown to an essentially unrestrained authority for offensive operations. Finally, and largely on its own, III MAF has entered the pacification program, with the bulk of its pacification efforts taking place since June. [Emphasis added]
One month later, after chronicling their successes, the report indicated the major shift in strategic thinking which was taking place at General Walt's headquarters in Da Nang, and at General Krulak's in Hawaii:
While accomplishing all this the Marines were feeling, with growing impact, a cardinal counterinsurgency principle: that if local forces do not move in promptly behind the offensive effort, then first line forces must be diverted to provide the essential hamlet security, police and stabilization. The alternative is to risk the development of vacua, into which the VC guerrilla can flow. This condition grew during the period. The Popular Forces and police were inadequate in numbers and in quality to do their part of the job, as the Marines did theirs. This operated to complicate the Marines' problem by making the civic action effort more difficult, by permitting harassment of our forces, and by making possible a suicide attack on the Chu Lao and Marble Mountain areas.
The end of the period saw the 676 square mile III MAF area of influence more stable, more prosperous, and far more hopeful, but it saw also an urgent need for efficient regional or local forces to take up their proper burden, so the Marines can maintain the momentum of their search/clear/pacification efforts. It is plain that the most efficient way to bring this about is to give III MAF substantial authority over the RF or PF serving in this area, in order that they may be properly trained and properly led.
This summary, written in the headquarters of the man often regarded as the philosopher of the Marine Corps, shows the Marines in the process of swinging their emphasis around--turning away from the offensive against the enemy waiting in the nearby hills, and towards the people and the VC guerrillas among the people inside their TAOR.
It was a crucial, difficult decision for the men who made it. Significantly, the indications are strong that the decision was made almost entirely inside Marine Corps channels, through a chain of command that bypassed COMUSMACV and the civilian leaders of our government, and ran from General Greene through General Krulak to General Walt. The files do not reveal discussions of the implications, feasibility, cost, and desirability of the Marine strategy among highranking officials in the Embassy, MACV headquarters, the Defense and State Departments. Yet in retrospect it seems clear that the strategy the Marines proposed to follow, a strategy about which they made no secret, was in sharp variance with the strategy of the other U.S. units in the country, with far-ranging political implications that could even affect the ultimate chances for negotiations.
It should be clear that the Marine concept of operations has a different implicit time requirement than a more enemy-oriented search and destroy effort. It is not within the scope of this paper to analyze the different requirements, but it does appear that the Marine strategy, which General Walt sometimes described as the "wringing out of the VC from the land like you wring water out of a sponge," is slow and methodical, requires vast numbers of troops, runs the risk of turning into an occupation even while being called "pacification,' civic action," and involves Americans deeply in the politics and traditions of rural Vietnam. The strategy can succeed, perhaps, but if it is to succeed, it must be undertaken with full awareness by the highest levels of the USG of its potential costs in manpower and time, and the exacting nature of the work. Instead, the documents suggest that the Marines determined their strategy basically on their own, deriving part of it from their own traditions in the "Banana Republics" and China (where Generals Walt, Krulak, Nickerson, and others had served in the 1930's), and partly from an attempt to solve problems of an unprecedented nature which were cropping up inside their TAORs, even on the edge of the great air base at Da Nang.
As it was, the Marine strategy was judged successful, at least by the Marines, long before it had even had a real test. It was applauded by many observers before the VC had begun to react to it, and as such, encouraged imitators while it was still unproven.
The Marine dilemma was how to support the pacification effort without taking it over. They thought they had succeeded in doing this by "self-effacing support for Vietnamese rural construction" after August of 1965, but there is much contradictory evidence on this point. The Marines themselves, according to the classified historical study they recently produced, understood that their pacification work had "to function through local Vietnamese officials. The tendency to produce Marine Corps programs or to work 'democratically' through individuals had to be strictly controlled. Only Vietnamese programs could be tolerated and support of these programs had to take place through Vietnamese governing officials . . ."
But despite their good intentions to work through the existing GVN structure, the Marines found in many cases that the existing structure barely existed, except on paper, and in other cases that the existing structure was too slow and too corrupt for their requirements. And gradually the Marines got more deeply into the politics of rural Vietnam than they had intended, or presumably desired.
Their difficulties were greatest in the area of highest priority, the National Priority Area (as it was to be designated in October 1965) south of Da Nang. In a nine-village complex just south of the air base, the Marines urged upon the GVN successful completion of a special pacification program which had been designed by them in close conjunction with the Quang Nam Deputy Province Chief. The nine villages were divided into two groups, and the first phase, scheduled for completion first in December of 1965, included only five of the villages, with only 23,000 people living in them. By February, 1966, the plan had slipped considerably, and the projected completion date for the first five villages was pushed back to April, 1966. The GVN and the Marines considered their control to extend to over 16,000 of the 23,000 people in the area, but, according to an Embassy evaluation of the area, only 682 were young men between the ages of 17 and 30. It was clear that the Marines were trying to pacify an area in which the young men no longer lived, having either been drafted, joined the VC, or gone to Da Nang to work for the Americans. "The basic problem posed by this lack of manpower must be solved before the area can be expected to participate in its own defense," the Embassy report said. "Until it is solved, the Marines and the ARVN will remain tied to defensive mission involving them with the population. No one in Quang Nam sees any immediate solution to this dilemma." The report concluded with a description of how over-involved with local politics the Marines were becoming, unintentionally, and said:
The plan, despite the valiant efforts of the Marines, is in trouble, caused by a confused and fragmented chain of command, a lack of skilled cadre, inability to recruit locally RF and PF--and the open opposition of the VNQDD.
The VNQDD, or Vietnam Quoc Dan Dang, was the political party controlling the provinces of Quang Ngai, Quang Nam, and Quang Tin. The Marines knew little about them, although, according to the study, all the village chiefs in the area were VNQDD members. The VNQDD were not supporting the priority area plan because they had not been consulted in its formulation, and for this reason, and others, the report predicted the failure of the plan, despite the heavy Marine commitment.
Like Hop Tac, it was an unusually difficult situation, but it illustrates the problems that the Marines, and any other U.S. troops that got deeply involved in pacification, confronted in Vietnam.
D. WASHINGTON GRUMBLES ABOUT THE EFFORT
Throughout the period of the buildup in Vietnam, there was a growing chorus of discontent in Washington over the management of the U.S. effort in Vietnam, most of it directed at the civilian agencies--USIA, AID, and the CIA. Unhappiness with the way the Mission ran was to lead to three major reorganizations in the 15-month period from the Honolulu conference to the arrival of Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker. The first reorganization took place immediately after Honolulu, and assigned to the Deputy Ambassador, William J. Porter, specific duties and responsibilities which had previously been dispersed throughout the Mission and handled on an ad hoc basis. The second reorganization, which took place in November-December 1966, reorganized the internal components of AID, USIA, and the CIA so that the Deputy Ambassador could control directly a single Office of Civil Operation (OCO), bypassing the agency chiefs. The latest reorganization, which was announced in May 1967, transferred responsibility for OCO from the Deputy Ambassador to COMUSMACV, who in turn was given a civilian Deputy with the rank of Ambassador (R. W. Komer). This section outlines events leading to the first reorganization in March 1966, a reorganization which raised the priority of the pacification effort, but left most of the basic problems in the U.S. Mission unsolved. The actual reorganization, and its effects, will be covered below.
Efforts to reorganize the Saigon Mission are a recurring theme in recent history. The impetus for reorganization has consistently come from Washington, and the Mission has usually resisted. Its resistance is not hard to understand, since almost every reorganization scheme tended to diminish the authority and autonomy of senior members of the Mission Council such as the JUSPAO Director, the USAID Director, and the CIA Station Chief.
Skeptics have said that whenever things are going poorly, "Americans reorganize." But the opponents of various reorganization schemes have been unable to defend the existing Mission Council system, which must definitely be rated one of Vietnam's casualties. Not since the beginning of the "country team" concept in the 1950's ("Mission Council" being another term for the same structure) had the concept been tested the way it was to be tested in Vietnam. The pressure of events, the tension, the unprecedented size of the agencies and a host of other factors made the system shaky even under the strong manager Maxwell Taylor. Under the man who didn't want to manage, Lodge, it began to crumble. Each agency had its own ideas on what had to be done, its own communication channels with Washington, its own personnel and administrative structure--and starting in 1964-65, each agency began to have its own field personnel operating under separate and parallel chains of command. This latter event was ultimately to prove the one which gave reorganization efforts such force, since it began to become clear to people in Washington and Saigon alike that the Americans in the provinces were not always working on the same team, and that they were receiving conflicting or overlapping instructions from a variety of sources in Saigon and Washington.
Still, while General Taylor was Ambassador, reorganization was not something to be pushed seriously by Washington. With Lodge back in charge, it was a different story. As a matter of fact, so serious were Lodge's managerial deficiencies that even during his first tour, when the U.S. Mission was less than 20,000 men, and the entire civilian component under 1,000, there was talk of reorganization. In a personal message to Lodge on May 26, 1964, the President made the following prophetic statement:
I have received from [Mike] Forrestal a direct account of your belief that there is need for change and improvement in the civilian side of the country team. We have reached a similar conclusion here, and indeed we believe it is essential for you to have a top-ranking officer who is wholly acceptable to you as chief of staff for country team operations. My own impression is that this should be either a newly appointed civilian of wide governmental experience and high standing, or General Westmoreland....
This message became irrelevant when Lodge suddenly resigned in June of 1964 to assist Governor Scranton's bid for the Republican nomination, but it shows that the President, Lodge, and apparently other people in Washington had deep concern with the structure of the Mission at this early date.
By sending Taylor and Alexis Johnson--then the State Department's highest-ranking Foreign Service Officer--to Saigon in July of 1964, the President in effect put off any Washington-initiated reorganizations for the length of Taylor's tour, since no one in Washington could tell the former Chairman of the JCS how to run a mission.
Taylor organized the Mission Council--not a new invention, but a formalization of the country team into a body which met once a week, with agendas, minutes, and records of decisions. Taylor was particularly concerned that the Mission Council should have a "satisfactory meshing with . . . counterpart activities on the GVN side." And while he was Ambassador the U.S. made a determined effort to make the system work without reorganization. In a letter to Elbridge Durbrow, who was once American Ambassador in Saigon himself, Alexis Johnson described the system:
Max and I dropped the title "Country Team" and set up what we called the "Mission Council" on a formalized basis. In addition to Max and myself, the members were General Westmoreland, Barry Zorthian as JUSPAO (Joint United States Public Affairs Office-this covered both MACV and Embassy info as well as psychological operations in the field and against the DRy), the Director of USOM and the CAS Station Chief. We established an Executive Secretary who was first Bill Sullivan and later Jack Herfurt, who was charged with the preparation of agenda, the recording of decisions, and, most importantly, following up and monitoring of decisions that were taken. We met regularly once a week (with occasional special meetings as required), with paper circulated before hand insofar as possible. One of the responsibilities of the Executive Secretary was to see that issues were worked out beforehand at staff level insofar as possible and the remaining issues clearly defined. . . . It was normally our practice to keep all members of the Council fully informed and to discuss all questions, regardless of their sensitivity. . . . After an informal exchange of views, we took up questions on the agenda, doing our best to obtain the consensus of all members. When in rare cases this was not achieved, the Ambassador of course took the decision. We considered the full range of questions, including such fundamental ones as when and under what circumstances we should bomb the North . . . etc. . . . Below the Mission Council level we established a series of committees in problem areas involving more than one agency of the mission, chaired by the agency of primary interest. These committees were responsible directly to the Mission Council. . . . We persuaded the GVN, on its side, to set up a similar organization that was first called the "Pacification Council" and later the "Rural Construction Council." . . . The GVN Council and the Mission Council met together once a week with an agenda prepared beforehand by the two Executive Secretaries . . . One of my theories, and to a degree I think it was borne out in Saigon, was that the Mission Council and the Joint Council were important not so much for what was in fact decided at the meetings but for the fact that their existence, and the necessity of reporting to them, acted as a spur to the staff people to get things done and to resolve issues at their level. Organization structure of course does not assure brilliant performance, but I do take some satisfaction in feeling that, due to the organizational structure that we established, we established the habit of the Mission elements and the GVN and the Mission, working together in a more effective way.
Whether or not the system described by Ambassador Johnson above really worked the way he says it was supposed to is not the subject of this study. But it appears that within a few months after Lodge returned as Ambassador the people within the USG advocating reorganization as at least a partial solution to the problems of the Mission were once again in full cry.
The relationship of the reorganizers to the pacifiers must be explained. Those
who advocated restructuring the Mission for more effective management were
not necessarily the same people advocating a higher emphasis for pacification. But usually, since the organization of the Mission was so obviously deficient, both groups of people would end up advocating some kind of change- and even if they disagreed on the nature of the change, the most important fact was that they were generally pushing a similar mood of dissatisfaction with the Mission upon the high-ranking officials with whom they might come in contact. (It should be kept in mind that they were really not groups at all, in the normal sense of the word, but a shifting collection of individuals with varying degrees of loyalty to either their parent agency or their own sense of history; and on each individual issue a different set of allies and antagonists might well exist.)
The efforts of those advocating reorganization began to bear edible fruit in December 1965 and January 1966, when a conference was held at Warrenton, Va., to which the Mission sent an impressive collection of Mission Council members: Deputy Ambassador Porter, USAID Mission Director Mann, JUSPAO Director Zorthian, Political Counsellor Habib, General Lansdale, CIA Station Chief Jorgenson, and Brigadier General Collins, representing Westmoreland. From Washington came the second and third echelons of the bureaucracy: Leonard Unger, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State; Rutherford Poats, Assistant Administrator of AID; Major General Peers, SACSA; Alvin Friedman, ISA; William Colby and Peer da Silva, CIA; Chester Cooper, White House; and Sanford Marlowe, USIA. Other participants included: Major General Hutchins, CINCPAC; Rufus Phillips of Lansdale's group; Charles Zwick and Henry Rowen of BOB; George Lodge, the Ambassador's son; Desmond Fitzgerald, CIA; and Leon Goure, of RAND.
The purpose of the meeting was to "bring together senior representatives of the U.S. Mission, Saigon, the Vietnam Coordinating Committee, Washington, and several other individuals to (a) review the joint GVN-US pacification/rural construction program and seek to promote its more effective operation and (b) address the problem of the increasingly serious shortages and bottlenecks in manpower, materials, and transport in Vietnam and to designate priorities and machinery for resources control and allocation." The major unstated purpose, in addition to those mentioned above, was to discuss the organization of the U.S. Mission in Vietnam.
Warrenton was to turn out to be a prelude to Honolulu, and as such its reccomendations never were to become an integral part of the Mission's plans and strategy. But the direction that was developed at Warrenton is significant, because it represents the clear and unmistakable thrust that existed at the time in the "working levels" of both Saigon and Washington. Given the normal time lag before individual thoughts can reach the stage of agreed-upon committee-produced papers, Warrenton, we can assume, reflected the evolution of thinking that had been going on, particularly among the civilians, as the first year of U.S. combat troop and deployment began to end. Indeed, in its catch-all approach to pacification, Warrenton had something for everyone.
The final recommendations from the Warrenton conference were addressed to Secretaries Rusk and McNamara, Admiral Raborn, Mr. Bell, Mr. Marks, and Mr. McGeorge Bundy, from the meeting's co-chairmen, Ambassador Unger and Ambassador Porter. The conclusions included the following points (with comments as required):
1. There was a consensus that the designation of priority rural construction areas for 1966 was important and that the modest goals set for these areas were realistic. However, it was emphasized that the contrast between the massive imput of U.S. resources and the modest priority area goals made success in those areas imperative....
COMMENT: The National Priority Areas did not meet their 1966 goals.
2. In view of the prime importance to the U.S. of success in the four National Priority Areas, there was discussion of the need for designating U.S. team chiefs to head the U.S. advisory effort in those areas. It was agreed that the U.S. Mission Council would consider this matter promptly and report its conclusions to the VNCC.
COMMENT: The designation of team chiefs for the priority areas did not take place. Here is another example of the Washington effort to reorganize Saigon, with Saigon resisting.
3. There was widespread recognition of the need to provide within the U.S. Mission a single focus of operational control and management over the full range of the pertinent U.S. efforts in order to gear all such U.S. activities and resources effectively into implementation or the rural construction concept. However, some concern was expressed that too drastic organizational changes within the U.S. Mission would create problems with the counterpart GVN organization and would not ensure success of rural construction programs. No agreement was reached on the precise form for organization changes but there was general consensus that the focal point of control and management had to rest just below the Ambassador and that there must be a senior Mission official solely concerned with this subject. Disagreement was registered as to: (1) whether the Deputy Ambassador, assisted by a staff, should serve this function or whether another senior official (perhaps a second Deputy Ambassador) should be appointed; and (2) what extent individual agency personnel, funds, and operations devoted to rural construction could and should be broken out of agency organizations and placed under the direction of the single focal point
COMMENT: Here was the compromise wording on the issue which concerned the participants at Warrenton a great deal. Each representative at Warrenton brought with him a proposed organization chart for the Mission (see below), but no agreement could be reached at that time. In the main body of the memorandum to the principals on January 13, 1966, Unger and Porter wrote:
The optimum organization for the U.S. Mission for its support of the rural construction/pacification program-a senior official with a supporting staff with full-time responsibility in this field was considered necessary. (Coordination is also required with Ambassador Lodge and Mr. Bell on this point.) It would also be desirable for such an official to have in Washington a high-level point of liaison to assure the expeditious discharge here of urgent Vietnam business in this field....
When he reported to the Mission Liaison Group on Warrenton two weeks later, on January 27, 1966, Porter sharply downplayed the move for reorganization which was coming from Washington and changed the emphasis. He said:
a. No decision was reached at Warrenton with respect to a U.S. in-country organization for rural construction, although the possibility of a single manager was discussed.
b. The U.S. Mission will continue to support Rural Construction with the same organizational structure it is now using, placing particular reliance on the Mission Liaison Group.
c. Officials in Washington were concerned about teamwork among the U.S. agencies in Vietnam but not about ability to do the job. Differences of opinion are expected, and machinery exists to resolve them. Differences due to personalities cannot be tolerated.
d. It is clearly understood in Washington that military operations alone are not enough, and that effective Rural Construction is imperative. The highest levels in the USG are keenly aware of the importance of US/GVN work in Rural Construction . . . [Emphasis added]
Although not much more than a footnote now, the reorganization schemes that were presented at Warrenton deserve brief mention. At Warrenton, the participants were still fishing for ways and means, and their proposals reveal to a limited extent the intent of each agency when faced, three months later, with a new structure in both Saigon and Washington--with Porter in charge in Saigon and Komer in business in the White House.
Chester Cooper, working for McGeorge Bundy in the White House, proposed a second Deputy Ambassador for Pacification, with control over CIA, USAID, JUSPAO, and partial control (not clarified) over MACV's Rural Construction advisors. Cooper also wanted a "Washington representative" in Saigon to expedite resource allocation. He was ambiguous about Lansdale's role. Cooper advocated a unified field chain of command. Poats and Mann submitted a joint Washington-Saigon proposal on behalf of AID (another clear indication of the fact that the real chains of command ran through agency channels, rather than through the Ambassador to Washington). They advocated a complicated arrangement in which a Chief of Staff for Pacification would head up special task forces "drawn from operating agencies but staying in their operational job in their agencies." AID in effect wanted no major change in the Mission, and particularly opposed any change in the multiplicity of chains of command in the provinces. They also advocated a Theater CINC, a resources allocation committee chaired by the AID Mission Director, and a MACV advisory structure that is partially under the Ambassador and partially separate (not clarified).
Zorthian suggested that the Deputy Ambassador coordinate all pacification activities but made it clear that he would make no change in the chains of command. Indeed, he emphasized the direct access of each Mission Council member to the Ambassador, the separateness of each agency's field program.
SACSA proposed a division of MACV into a tactical unit command and a Pacification command. All civilian elements supporting pacification would be under the Deputy for Pacification, who in turn would report to the Ambassador and Deputy Ambassador. The advisory structure would have been split down the middle between tactical unit advisors and province/district advisors.
General Collins suggested no major change in the structure of the Mission, but advocated the information of "Task Groups to deal with specific problems organized on an ad hoc basis from personnel provided by interested agencies. The Deputy Ambassador to be relieved of routine duties and to spend substantially all his time on rural construction duties . . ." The State Department proposed a "Central Pacification Organization" which would have been not more than a coordinating committee for the existing agencies.
What these reorganization proposals seem to suggest, in light of the ultimate direction that the Mission took, is that when agencies are asked to produce suggestions which may reduce or inhibit their prerogatives, they are unlikely to do so in a manner responsive to the requirements of their politically-appointed chieftains. The prerogatives and privileges of the agencies inevitably come first. One does not reorganize voluntarily; the impetus comes from without. This is also seen in the different attitude that the reorganizers had towards Washington and Saigon. Although the same problem in coordination existed (and still exists) in Washington as in Saigon, the Washington officials always were ready to tell Saigon how to clean up its house, but were slow to suggest self-improvements. At Warrenton, perhaps prodded by the Saigon representatives, they did take note of the matter, although they were reluctant to suggest a clear solution:
Note was also taken of the inadequacy of present U.S. Government machinery to handle Vietnam problems quickly and decisively. The need for referral of too large a number of problems to the Secretarial level was one of the problems mentioned. While the meeting did not have time to come to any firm conclusions, there was a view that the VNCC because of its coordinating, rather than decision-cum-enforcement powers could not perform this task except in part. If endowing the VNCC or its Chairman with larger powers, and with a staff associated with no one agency, is not a feasible solution, it was considered that the required directing position might have to be set up at a higher level, perhaps related to the National Security Council.
In the Warrenton report, then, all the events of the coming year were foreshadowed, and, reading between the lines, one can now see what was coming. Unfortunately, and obviously, this was not the case at the time-particularly for the Mission in Saigon.
E. PRESIDENTIAL EMPHASIS ON THE "OTHER WAR" AND PRESS REACTION
At the end of 1965, with the bombing of the north in its tenth month, and our ground forces growing steadily, the Administration was making a determined effort to emphasize those American activities in Vietnam which did not directly involve guns and fighting. This emphasis on what came to be called the "Other War" reached a high point during the conference at Honolulu in February of 1966. The emphasis on the other war did not necessarily have to lead, as it did, to a re-emphasis of pacification; that was a by-product, at least in part, of the renewed support for pacification which had been coming from Ambassador Lodge, the Marines, the CIA (with their cadre), and the advocates of organizational reform (all covered in previous sections). But the two themes merged at Honolulu, and thus, out of the conference, came the first clear statement of Presidential support to pacification.
The need of the Administration to emphasize and publicize the nonmilitary aspects of the war needs little amplification. Few documents show this emphasis in the pre-Honolulu period, since it was so obvious. In an exception, a joint State-USIA message dated October 4, 1965, Washington told the Saigon Mission:
There is continuing concern at the highest levels here regarding need to emphasize our non-military programs in Vietnam and give them maximum possible public exposure both in U.S. and abroad. [Emphasis Added]
We recognize that the Mission is fully cognizant of this problem and already has underway measures to broaden public knowledge and understanding of non-military activities . . . We are also conscious of difficulties involved in enlisting greater press interest in these developments when it finds military actions more dramatic and newsworthy. Nevertheless, we hope will continue to give non-military programs increasing priority .
It is useful to recall the situation which existed in February of 1966, when the President went to Honolulu to meet with Ky and Thieu. On January 30, 1966, the bombing of the North began again, after a 37-day pause. There were 197,000 American servicemen in Vietnam by February 1. The Washington Post--which supported the Administration--editorialized on February 1:
It is to be hoped that a new look is being taken at the military tactics in the South so that greater emphasis can be put on the safety of civilians, the rehabilitation of the countryside, the furtherance of economic growth.....Efforts behind the lines at economic and social programs must be increased.
Senator Fuibright had launched his public hearings on Vietnam, and on February 4 had subjected David Bell of AID to a nearly four-hour grilling in the committee. That same day, the conference was announced.
The emphasis at Honolulu was clear from before the conference started. In his press conference announcing the meeting, the President said that he would take Secretary Freeman and Secretary Gardner, not previously involved in Vietnam, as well as experts from their staffs. Freeman would go on to Saigon, the President added "to explore and inaugurate certain pacification programs in the fields of health, education, and agriculture." The President then added:
We are going to emphasize, in every way we can, in line with the very fine pronouncements that the Prime Minister [Ky] has made concerning his desires in the field of education and health and agriculture. We want to be sure that we have our best planning and our maximum effort put into it. But we will, of course, go into the military briefing very thoroughly . .
Even before the conference began, there were early reactions from the press to this emphasis. The New York Times editorialized on February 6:
Programs in health, education and agriculture of the kind President Johnson evidently has in mind, can make an important contribution. To combat the revolutionary idea the Communists have set loose in Vietnam, a better idea is needed. Vigorous social reform--and particularly, land reform, which has received little more than lip-service so far--could well be made the price of increased economic aid, which is now to be doubled.
But an effort to seek political "victory" in South Vietnam is likely to prove as fruitless as the long attempt at military "victory." A more limited and realistic objective is essential.
The conference itself, and its repercussions both in Washington and Vietnam, will be discussed in a following section, so there is little need to dwell on the pre-Honolulu period. In Saigon, where the word of the conference barely preceded the departure of the participants, the New York Times bureau chief wrote a perceptive article which reflected thinking of many junior and mid-level officials in both the U.S. Mission and the GVN. The theme it stated was not new then, and still has a very familiar ring today:
....There are now 230,000 to 250,000 pro-Communist troops in South Vietnam, including the Vietcong guerrillas and about 11 tough regiments of the North Vietnamese Army. That is at least twice as many enemy troops as there were at the start of last year, despite the major United States buildup since then.
This does not mean that the American build-up has been futile: the build-up was all that saved South Vietnam, in the view of most experts. It does mean that no way has yet been found to prevent the enemy from matching an American build-up with a build-up of his own.
About 200,000 American troops are now in South Vietnam along with 550,000 South Vietnamese armed men, of whom about half are well-trained army troops.
American and South Vietnamese military officers have asked for more American troops, requesting a force of about 400,000 men by the end of 1966. Not all of this strength has been promised by President Johnson, but major reinforcements are already in the offing....
But while 1966 will be an important year militarily, one in which all generals assume that there will be bloodier fighting, it will also be a year of increased emphasis on the subtle political and social aspects of the struggle.
The Honolulu conference will in fact concentrate largely on economic, social and political problems, according to informed sources.
It is felt in Saigon, however, that the Johnson Administration cannot, even with the best of intentions, guarantee the allegiance of the Vietnamese to their Government merely by pumping more money and technical skill into South Vietnam to give people the "better life" of which officials speak.
At least 20 to 25 per cent of the country's area is so firmly in control of the Vietcong guerrillas that no civic and political programs are possible there at all. Other large areas are so sharply contested that for the time being pacification and rural-improvement workers cannot operate.
Thus, rural-pacification work in 1966 is to be concentrated in one-third or fewer of the rural hamlets that the Government already claims to control. The limitation implies an admission that after five years of war the allies are starting from scratch in this field, and that progress must be slow.
With American enthusiasm, the United States may wish to speed the pace of pacification, but there will be serious obstacles. Most of the sadder but wiser veterans of previous programs in Vietnam seem convinced that pressure from Washington for higher and more seductive statistical goals is a major danger. They counsel "slowly but surely."
As an example, the South Vietnamese Government is trying to turn 23,000 rural-affairs workers, most of them originally trained only in armed propaganda work, into more rounded rural-construction workers.
It then plans to recruit and train 19,000 more workers, for a total of 42,000. In the opinion of some officials, it will be very difficult even to reach this goal, and any great expansion carries a risk of substituting numbers for real training.
The present pacification plan is considered imaginative and sound by experts with long experience in Vietnam, but it is considered certain that the plan could be improved at Honolulu.
Experience has shown that the crucial matter in Vietnam is always execution rather than planning. The scarcest resources in the country are manpower and leadership.
It is generally agreed that it would not be enough, say, for the United States to offer help in improving agriculture in the South Vietnamese countryside. The Americans must also consider, it is felt, whether their suggested plan is one that the South Vietnamese understand and actually--rather than merely politely--approve, and whether the badly strained South Vietnamese administration can execute the plan.
American experts in Saigon also assert that the highly ideological Vietcong movement cannot be offset merely by offers of a "better life" for the peasants.
The Vietcong have a loyal, dedicated and highly disciplined underground political structure that operates in the heart of Saigon itself and in thousands of hamlets. So far the peasants have shown little inclination to inform on this structure and to help the Government activity.
This is the central problem of the South Vietnamese war....
F. MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE WAR...
The re-emphasis of pacification was, of course, a far more disorderly process than any written review can suggest, and unfortunately must overlook many events and recommendations which were not central to the re-emphasis of pacification. But it is useful and important to review briefly what the Mission was reporting to Washington about the overall effort during 1965, since Saigon's reports should have formed an important part of the background for decision.
This selection should be read not as the "objective" story of what was happening in Vietnam-such an objective study is simply not possible at this time, even if we had access to enemy thinking-but as a reflection of the beliefs of the Americans in Saigon, and as a reflection of what the Mission wanted Washington to believe.
This selection is entirely direct quotations from MACV's Monthly Evaluation Report. Each month this report began with a summary of the month's events, and the following items represent the running evaluation for 1965: [Emphasis Added]
January, 1965: Review of military events in January tend to induce a decidedly more optimistic view than has been seen in recent months. Despite adverse influence exerted by national level political disorders and localized Buddhist/student rioting, the military experienced the most successful single month of the counterinsurgency effort . . . Pacification made little progress this month. Although some gains were made in the Hop Tac area, effort in the remainder of RVN was hampered by political activity and religious and student disorders . . . If the RVNAF capability can be underwritten by political stability and durability, a significant turning point in the war could be forthcoming.
February, 1965: . . . GVN forces continued to make progress in III and IV CTZ, maintained a tenuous balance over the VC in I CTZ, and suffered general regression in II CTZ . . . The indicators of RVNAF operational effort . . . all showed a decline. However, losses on both sides remained high due to the violence of encounters and VC tenacity....The long term effect of events in February is impossible to foretell. It is obvious that the complexion of the war has changed. The VC appear to be making a concerted effort to isolate the northern portion of RVN by seizing a salient to the sea in the northern part of II CTZ. Here RVNAF has lost the initiative, at least temporarily. However, US/GVN strikes against DRV and increased use of U.S. jet aircraft in RVN has had a salutary effect on both military and civilian morale which may result in a greater national effort and, hopefully, reverse the downward trend.
March, 1965: Events in March were encouraging . . . RVNAF ground operations were highlighted by renewed operational effort . . . VC activity was considerably below the norm of the preceding six months and indications were that the enemy was engaged in the re-supply and re-positioning of units possibly in preparation for a new offensive, probably in the II Corps area . . . In summary, March has given rise to some cautious optimism. The current government appears to be taking control of the situation and, if the present state of popular morale can be sustained and strengthened, the GVN, with continued U.S. support, should be able to counter future VC offenses successfully.
April, 1965: Friendly forces retained the initiative during April and a review of events reinforces the feeling of optimism generated last month....In summary, current trends are highly encouraging and the GVN may have actually turned the tide at long last. However, there are some disquieting factors which indicate a need to avoid overconfidence. A test of these trends should be forthcoming in the next few months if the VC launch their expected counter-offensive and the period may well be one of the most important of the war.
May, 1965: The encouraging trends of the past few months did not carry through into May and there were some serious setbacks. However, it is hoped that the high morale and improved discipline and leadership which has developed during that period will sustain future GVN efforts....
June, 1965: During June the military situation in the RVN continued to worsen despite a few bright spots occasioned by RVNAF successes. In general, however, the VC . . . retained the initiative having launched several well-coordinated, savage attacks in regimental strength....
July, 1965: An overall analysis of the military situation at the end of July reveals that GVN forces continued to make progress in IV Corps, maintained a limited edge in I Corps with the increased USMC effort and suffered a general regression in the northern portion of III Corps as well as in the central highlands of II Corps. The VC monsoon offensive, which was so effective in June, faltered during July as VC casualty figures reached anew high....
August, 1965: An evaluation of the overall military effort in August reveals several encouraging facts. The most pronounced is the steady increase in the number of VC casualties and the number of VC "ralliers" to the GVN . . . In summary, the general increase in offensive operations by GVN, U.S. and Third Country forces and a correlative increase in enemy casualties have kept the VC off balance and prevented his interference with the build-up of U.S. forces. The often spoken of VC "monsoon offensive" has not materialized, and it now appears that the VC have relinquished the initiative in the conduct of the war.
September, 1965: As the end of the monsoon season approached, the military situation appears considerably brighter than in May when the VC threatened to defeat the RVNAF. Since May the build-up of Free World Military Assistance Forces, coupled with aggressive combat operations, has thwarted VC plans and has laid the foundation for the eventual defeat of the VC....
October, 1965: . . . an increase in magnitude and tempo of engagements as the GVN/FWF maintained the initiative . . . In summary, the military situation during October continued to favor the Allies as the VC experienced heavy casualties from the overwhelming Allied fire power.....
November, 1965: The increasing tempo of the war was reflected in casualty totals which reached new highs for VC/PA VN and friendly forces..... While keeping the enemy generally off balance, GVN/FWMAF were able to maintain and, to some degree, to increase the scope and intensity of friendly-initiated operations.
December, 1965: Military activity in December was highlighted by an increase in the number of VC/PAVN attacks on isolated outposts, hamlets, and districts, towns, and the avoidance of contact with large GVN and Free World Forces. The effectiveness of this strategy was attested by the highest monthly friendly casualty total of the war, by friendly weapons losses in excess of weapons captured for the first time since July, and by 30% fewer VC casualties than in November....
January, 1966: The Free World peace offensive, coupled with TET festivities and the accompanying cease-fire, resulted in a period of restricted military activities for both friendly and enemy forces....Despite this decrease in activity, GVN and Free World Forces continued to force inroads into areas long conceded as VC territory . . . [Emphasis Added]
This is not the place for a detailed analysis of the reporting of the war, or of the implications of the above-cited evaluations. But several points do seem to emerge:
1. The reports are far too optimistic from January through April, 1965, and a big switch seems to come in June, 1965, when General Westmoreland had already made his 44-battalion request and warned of disaster if they were not forth-coming. May's report begins to show the change in mood, but its ambiguous evaluation is in sharp contrast to the brief backward look offered in September.
2. Pacification is mentioned in the January evaluation, but fades away to virtually nothing in the months of the build-up.
3. The evaluations do not suggest that the main force threat is in any way diminishing by the end of 1965. Indeed, they accurately predict larger battles in 1966. They do not suggest, therefore, that the time had come to start emphasizing pacification at the expense of exerting more pressure directly on the enemy. The evaluations do not address this question directly, of course, but they do suggest that if any greater emphasis was to be put on pacification, it could be done only if there was not a corresponding reduction in the attack effort against the VC. This, in turn, would imply that if pacification was to receive greater emphasis at the beginning of 1966, it would require either more Allied troops or else might lead to a lessening of pressure on the VC.
A. THE CONFERENCE-FEBRUARY 1966
The details of the closed meetings at Honolulu do not appear, in retrospect, to be nearly as important on the future emphasis on pacification as the mere fact that the public statements of all participants carried forward the theme that had been enunciated in the Declaration. This may often be true of conferences; it certainly appears true of this one, which was convened hastily and took place without any preparatory staff work on either side of the Pacific. In addition, the political upheavals in the spring of 1966, which followed the conference closely, contributed to a reduction in the importance of the details of the conference as it related to pacification.
Pacification was discussed frequently during the closed sessions. The first time came during the plenary session, when Ambassador Lodge delivered his statement to the President.
Speaking before a large audience which included General Thieu and Air Vice Marshal Ky, Lodge made a general statement about what he called "the subterranean war," and then discussed the four National Priority Areas which the GVN and the U.S. had established in October 1965:
I would like to begin by saying that the successes and the sacrifices of the military, both the Vietnamese and the American military, have created a fresh opportunity to win the so-called "subterranean war"....
.....We can beat up North Vietnamese regiments in the high plateau for the next twenty years and it will not end the war-unless we and the Vietnamese are able to build simple but solid political institutions under which a proper police can function and a climate created in which economic and social revolution, in freedom, are possible.
The GVN has organized itself to do this job and you will hear a presentation by General Thang, who is in charge. The American contribution consists of training and equipping of personnel; advice; and material....
Four priority areas have been chosen. Three are places of great importance and difficulty. The fourth is largely pacified and is the place where they want to get the economic and social development program going. We think the areas are well chosen. The three tough ones are close to the Vietnamese and American armies which means that the military presence helps pacification. And, as pacification gets going, it improves the base for the military.
In the four priority areas are 192 hamlets, including 238,600 people, to be secured by the end of 1966. But GVN efforts are not limited to these four priority areas. An effort is underway which aims to raise the percentage of the whole country which is pacified by about 14%; i.e., from the current figure of about 52% to about 66% by the end of the year . . . *
* On March 4, 1966, Lodge transmitted the text and charts of this briefing to Secretary McNamara and apparently at the same time to the White House, at the request of Jack Valenti. Lodge wrote:
"At the request of Jack Valenti, I have put together a book containing
the text and maps used in my presentation at the Honolulu Conference. It is
serve as a current indicator of pacification progress being made within the 1966 National Priority Areas....
"I think I should call attention to the fact that for Americans, it is natural to set goals and then work to achieve them by a specific date.
"This, however, is not the traditional Vietnamese way. While they have set a goal of 190 hamlets in the four priority areas, my guess would be that by the end of 1966, they may have achieved somewhat more than this, but not necessarily the ones which are listed here. In fact, if they ran into unexpectedly heavy opposition in one place and find a particularly good and unexpected opportunity elsewhere, they probably ought to change the plan...."
I hope that out of this conference we will return with clear views in our own minds as to how we can apply more military pressure and do it better, how we can build democracy in Vietnam and what steps must be taken to do it better, how we can search for peace in the world, honorable and just peace, and do it better.
If we can do the first, namely, develop better methods for defeating the Viet Cong and better methods for developing a democracy, I have no doubt but that the third will be much easier to do because you can bargain much better from strength than you can from weakness.
After a short recess, Secretary Rusk then discussed the reasons why Hanoi was not yet ready to negotiate, and said that if the GVN built "the kind of society which is indestructible," then Hanoi would probably come to the conference table more rapidly. "Anything that can move faster rather than more slowly on our side and your side," he said, "anything that can cause them to realize that an epidemic of confidence is building in the South and that momentum is gathering could hasten the time when Hanoi will decide to stop this aggression."
The President then said: "I hope that every person here from the U.S. side will bear in mind that before I take that plane back, I want to have the best suggestion obtainable as to how we can bring better military pressure on Hanoi and from the pacification side how we can bring a better program to the people of South Vietnam, and finally, third, what other efforts we can make to secure a just and honorable peace. Now, I want to have my little briefcase filled with those three targets-a better military program, a better pacification program that includes everything, and a better peace program."
General Thang then presented the GVN's pacification plans, in a briefing later made public. Thang said:
The objective of the whole people of my country is a unified democratic and strong Vietnam . . . To reach this objective, our National Leadership Committee has promoted three main policies: first, military offenses; second, rural pacification; amd third, democracy.
....But it is necessary, Mr. President, to define what this means by pacification. In my opinion, that is a failure of the past government, not to define exactly what we mean by pacification....
I think that it is necessary to . . . define pacification as an effort to which aims at improving the standard of living in this area in every respect--political, economic, social.
.... the prerequisite is security . . . So our concept of pacification is based on four main points:
Point No. 1: The rural pacification operation can only implement restore the public security first, and carrying out a government policy
through the real solidarity among the people, the armed forces, and the administration....
Point No. 2: Our government should be very clear when it says that it would like to build a new society for a better life in rural areas. That is meaningless to the peasant if you don't develop that in a concrete package.
[At this point, Thang launched into a lengthy explanation of what be meant by a new society. In a vague discussion, he described the social, economic, and political attributes of the new society, all of which were general and idealized statements.]
Point No. 3: The clear and realistic policy of the government contributing to a better life in a new society I just mentioned should be widely known among the population and the cadres....
Point No. 4: Rural pacification operations will open lasting peace if the enemy infrastructure is destroyed and permanently followed up, our own infrastructure created and supported by the people . . . All provinces have promised to the government that 75 percent of the following facts maybe can be accomplished by the 1st of January 1967: Pacification of 963 new hamlets; pacification of 1,083 existing hamlets; building of 2251 classrooms; 913 kilometers of roads; 128 bridges; 57 dams; and 119 kilometers of canals . . . While we have selected four areas of priority, the pacification operation has been pushed forward as usual, but with less efforts....
Rural pacification will be a long-term operation. We have modest and practical, rather than spectacular, goals for 1966....
After General Thang's remarks, the plenary session records show repeated references to the pacification effort, although there is confusion as to what it means. General Thieu made additional summary remarks on pacification, then Minister Ton gave a briefing on the economic situation, followed by David Bell on the same subject.
The next day, February 8, the working groups presented their findings to the President. First, Secretary Rusk and Foreign Minister Do discussed the session on negotiations. Then General Thang and Secretary Freeman reported on their session on rural construction. The details of the working groups session itself are covered below, but in plenary. Thang emphasized the following points:
Our future should be developed mainly in four priority areas....Handicraft should be introduced and developed in those areas also . . . Rural electrification should be developed and the number of generators increased in 1967....
Land reform efforts should be pushed forward....
We ask that construction material and cement be sent to Vietnam as soon as possible so our school programs can be developed....
The training of officials at hamlet and village levels is vital....
Secretary Freeman, who was about to make his first trip to Vietnam, summarized for the Americans:
Having spent a good deal of time yesterday listening to the very eloquent presentations by the Chairman and the Prime Minister, as well as by Minister Ton, this is pretty much what we would call a nuts and bolts discussion session.
One thing that was decided for United States purposes, for purposes of phraseology, was that the word "pacification" really did not have the right tone. The term "social construction" might better be used....
There was some discussion, considerable, about the selection of province chiefs. It was strongly emphasized that it was important that the men be of integrity and ability, and that they be selected and maintained and backed up.
The Prime Minister, General Thieu, and then General Thang both said that you [General Thieu] were personally interested in this, and that you were going to select them shortly, that they would have a duration of at least a year, but would be carefully reviewed and would be changed if they didn't do the job, but wouldn't be changed for other reasons, which we thought was extremely important and we were gratified to find it out.
You also explained to us, your associates General Ky and General Thang, the change of command, saying in the past they were confused, and that they were now clear, so that everyone knew exactly what their function would be.
Then you discussed the training of the cadre....
I want to review the REA question and find out a bit more about why that seemed to have some lag.
Finally, we discussed the possibility of a joint training program for the village and hamlet chiefs who presumably would be elected, but that some background in the philosophy, purpose and aims of government, and the techniques of governing and administration, were felt to be needed by those people.
The President then responded to the remarks of Thang and Freeman by urging "all of you connected with our program . . . to give very special attention to refugee camps and the schools in the refugee camps." He then turned to Minister Ton and David Bell for a discussion of the economic situation. Then Secretary Gardner, who had co-chaired a working group on health and education-the distinction between rural construction and the health/education programs was not clarified-made his remarks. He set out perhaps the most clearly-defined objectives of the session (except for the economic negotiations), describing the new contract with the AMA for training personnel, the new goal for provincial medical teams, and the plans for a new medical logistics system. In large part his goals were more specific than those of the other working group because the USAID Public Health Chief in Saigon, Major General James Humphries, had already laid groundwork for an excellent program of health services and assistance, and Gardner was able to work from a specific plan.
Gardner went on to discuss education, where his goals and objectives were less clear, and the President asked several detailed questions, concluding by asking General Ky to ask the Ambassador to request an educational team to go to Saigon after the agricultural team headed by Secretary Freeman returned.
The Vietnamese then thanked the Americans for the conference, and in turn some of the senior members of the American delegation-in order, Admiral Sharp, Leonard Marks, General Wheeler, Ambassador Lodge, Ambassador Harriman-made brief statements about the meaning of the conference. The President then made his final statement:
....Preserve this communique, because it is one we don't want to forget. It will be a kind of bible that we are going to follow. When we come back here 90 days from now, or six months from now, we are going to start out and make reference to the announcements that the President, the Chief of State and the Prime Minister made in paragraph 1, and what the leaders and advisors reviewed in paragraph 2 . . . You men who are responsible for these departments, you ministers, and the staffs associated with them in both governments, bear in mind we are going to give you an examination and the finals will be on just what you have done.
In paragraph 5; how have you built democracy in the rural areas? How much of it have you built, when and where? Give us dates, times, numbers.
In paragraph 2; larger outputs, more efficient production to improve credit, handicraft, light industry, rural electrification-are those just phrases, high-sounding words, or have you (sic) coonskins on the wall....
Next is health and education, Mr. Gardner. We don't want to talk about it; we want to do something about it. "The President pledges he will dispatch teams of experts." Well, we better do something besides dispatching. They should get out there. We are going to train health personnel. How many? You don't want to be like the fellow who was playing poker and when he made a big bet they called him and said "what have you got?" He said, "aces" and they asked "how many" and he said "one aces"....
Next is refugees. That is just as hot as a pistol in my country. You don't want me to raise a white flag and surrender so we have to do something about that....
Growing military effectiveness: we have not gone in because we don't want to overshadow this meeting here with bombs, with mortars, with hand grenades, with "Masher" movements. I don't know who names your operations, but "Masher." I get kind of mashed myself. But we haven't gone into the details of growing military effectiveness for two or three reasons. One, we want to be able to honestly and truthfully say that this has not been a military build-up conference of the world here in Honolulu. We have been talking about building a society following the outlines of the Prime Minister's speech yesterday.
Second, this is not the place, with 100 people sitting around, to build a military effectiveness.
Third, I want to put it off as long as I can, having to make these crucial decisions. I enjoy this agony . . . I don't want to come out of this meeting that we have come up here and added on X divisions and Y battalions or Z regiments or D dollars, because one good story about how many bil
lions are going to be spent can bring us more inflation that we are talking about in Vietnam. We want to work those out in the quietness of the Cabinet Room after you have made your recommendations, General Wheeler, Admiral Sharp, when you come to us . . . [Emphasis Added]
The President's remarks candidly indicated the type of pressure and the expectations that he had for the effort.
But beyond the high-level interest so clearly demonstrated publicly for the first time at Honolulu, what was accomplished? As mentioned earlier, Honolulu's importance lay in two things: (1) the public support shown for the "other war"; and (2) the sections of the Declaration which committed the GVN to the electoral process. If nothing else was accomplished at Honolulu, that made the conference worthwhile. Thus, it is perhaps petty to criticize the details of the conference. But they do suggest an unfortunate failure to come to grips with any of the basic issues concerning pacification, and, moreover, a skillful performance by the GVN to please their American hosts. Thang's statement to the President after the working session, for example, with its emphasis on rural electrification, handicrafts, and the need for "materials and cement"--none of which were major GVN concerns at that time--can best be explained, in retrospect, by the Vietnamese desire to emphasize those things they felt the Secretary of Agriculture, the co-chairman of the American working group, was most interested in.
Although the inner workings of the conference do not seem to have had much importance on the development of the pacification effort, a record does remain of the "rural construction working group," and it deserves a brief summary. The meeting is useful to examine not because of its ultimate importance, which was marginal, but because it provides us with a record of a type of discussion between Americans and Vietnamese which has been replayed constantly since (and before). To some weary participants, the very words used have seemed to be unchanged since 1962.
A summary cannot, unfortunately, recapture the flavor of confusion which surrounds the memorandum for the record (A-2254, February 15, 1966). The meeting began with a discussion of terminology (see footnote on "revolutionary development") in which it was decided to use the phrase "social construction" in place of pacification in English. Then, according to the memorandum, everyone lapsed back into using the phrase "pacification."
The American representatives then pressed the issue of the role of the province chief, implying strongly that they thought the province chiefs should have more power and autonomy. The Vietnamese, led by General Co, neatly answered this issue, "referring to the establishment of Rural Construction Councils and Division and Corps levels, where such matters as the disposition and use of military forces are arbitrated and decided upon." When Leonard Unger, asked if the military commanders would be committed to providing the necessary military forces for the pacification effort, "General Co again responded, saying that in the past senior commanders tended to pull troops away from Provincial control for search and destroy operations. This is a natural desire on the part of these commanders who tend to feel that this is a more important role for such troops. Now, however, their missions have changed. These senior commanders are now directly involved in the pacification program, are members of the respective Rural Construction Councils . . . In other words, things have changed for the better. Ambassador Unger continued to pursue his point, stressing our concern that vestiges of the past may still remain. General Thang re-entered the discussion, explaining that the GVN now has a new chain of command, clear and clean from Saigon to the Corps to the Division to the Province to the District; there is only one channel in the country and it is a military channel . . . Still on the same subject, Mr. Poats raised the question: What is the primary mission of the Division Commander? Is it pacification? General Thang answered in the affirmative."
The discussion continued along these lines, and the airgram candidly concludes: "Generals Co and Thang were being pressed by rather pointed questions at this juncture and seemed to be trying to indicate that pacification is a primary task, although other military tasks must continue to be performed. It was fairly apparent that troops charged with securing the pacification area are liable still to be withdrawn on a temporary basis to meet situations which ARVN senior commanders judge to be critical."
The meeting then discussed the cadre program; the renewed emphasis on village government; the role of the province chief (at this point General Co made his statement that the GVN would appoint province chiefs for one year minimum period, a decision which was never carried out); the introduction of troops; the cadre (again); the six areas where the effort needed improvement (agriculture, handicraft, land reform, rural electrification, construction materials, and training of local officials); land reform (with Minister Tn presenting his four-month-old plan again, and Poats expressing "concern about the performance to date"); and the general question of pacification goals.
And then, after reporting back to the President in the meeting described earlier, the participants broke up, returning to Saigon and Washington to give "the other war" a new emphasis; to reorganize the Mission in Saigon; to appoint a new Special Assistant to the President in Washington; to start the quest for coonskins (the phrase was in common use in Saigon within a few days); to await the public and press reaction (see following section); and to walk without warning into a major political crisis which almost brought the government down, set back every time-schedule made at Honolulu, forced a postponement of the next scheduled conference from June-July until October, and--through an ironic twist of fate--left the GVN stronger than before, following a remarkably successful election.
B. IMPACT ON PUBLIC IN U.S., ON U.S. MISSION IN VIETNAM, AND ON VIETNAMESE
"This week the word 'pacification' was on everyone's lips at the Honolulu conference on Vietnam," wrote Charles Mohr in the New York Times, February 13, 1966, "and many important members of the Johnson Administration embraced the idea with all the enthusiasm of a horse player with a new betting system. The main purpose of the Honolulu conference was to dramatize this American enthusiasm for the 1966 rural pacification--sometimes called 'rural construction'--program of the Government of South Vietnam and to pledge more American assistance for the program."
Mohr's article may have been slightly exaggerated, but there can be little doubt that the President's pledge on behalf of the U.S. Government to the pacification effort began a new period for the U.S. Government in Vietnam. From Honolulu on it was open and unmistakable U.S. policy to support pacification and the "other war," and those who saw these activities as unimportant or secondary had to submerge their sentiments under a cloud of rhetoric. Despite this fact, of course, many heated discussions still lay ahead of the Mission on program after program, and many major battles remained to be fought. Porter and Komer would fight them, as will be shown later.
This was the great impact of Honolulu--on pacification. But there were other ramifications of the Honolulu conference which overshadowed the emphasis on non-military activities in the months that followed. Because of these events--particularly the political upheavals that rocked Vietnam from March until June--the follow-up conference tentatively planned for June did not take place, and the growth in pacification's importance was probably set back about six months. While this study does not try to cover the concurrent events of the period, it should be emphasized that the most important parts of the Honolulu Declaration were not those dealing with pacification at all, but rather the sections which committed the GVN to "formulate a democratic constitution to the people for discussion and modification; to seek its ratification by secret ballot; to create, on the basis of elections rooted in that constitution, an elected government . . ." With these words, the GVN was openly committed, under U.S. pressure, to a process which they probably did not desire or appreciate. In the months that followed, the words of the Honolulu Declaration were used against General Ky by his Buddhist Struggle Movement opponents, to hoist him on his Honolulu petard; but then, in a remarkable about-face, Ky simultaneously cracked down on the Buddhists and held successful elections for a Constitutional Assembly (September 11, 1966).
The following collection of newspaper items is selected to show that there were differing opinions within the U.S. Mission and among Vietnamese, but that in general the message from Honolulu did get through to the Mission. Since almost every reporter in Saigon had sources within some element of the Mission who were telling him their honest feelings (the Saigon Mission, it was once said by Barry Zorthian, could not keep a secret 24 hours), the stories from Saigon do reflect what the Mission thought in the days just after Honolulu. The editorials and columnists from Washington indicate to what degree the Administration succeeded in convincing the press corps (which is not, of course, the U.S. public) that the emphasis at Honolulu was really on pacification.
EDITORIAL: The New York Herald Tribune, February 8:
The meeting presents the prospect of our resuming the war in more favorable circumstances. The meeting of the heads of the American and South Vietnamese governments is a fresh and stronger demonstration of mutual confidence. On this basis they can now proceed to mount measures for dealing with the equally important military and civilian aspects of the war.
The two are intimately related . . . the loyalty and support of the peasants in the interior are essential. President Johnson is bidding for them by offering some of the benefits of his Great Society program to the South Vietnamese. It will not be easy, in time of war, . . . but . . . they must be pursued with the same vigor as we press the war on the battlefield.
EDITORIAL: The Washington Evening Star, February 7:
It is particularly significant that the American delegation included HEW Secretary Gardner and Orville Freeman, Secretary of Agriculture. Their presence certainly means that a greater "pacification" effort will be made as the fighting goes on . . ."
COLUMNIST: Marquis Childs, February 9 (from Honolulu)
This conference called by President Johnson is a large blue chip put on the survival value of the wiry, exuberant Air Vice Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky, and the generals who rule with him. It is expected that Ky will not only survive but that with massive economic help from the U.S. the national leadership committee will eventually win the support of the peasant in the countryside . . . Any sensible bookmaker would quote long odds against the bet paying off. But after so many false starts this seems to be the right direction--a determined drive to raise the level of living in the countryside and close the gap of indifference and hostility between the peasant and the sophisticated city dweller . . . Over and over we have been told that only by winning the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people will we achieve a victory that has meaning beyond the grim choice of pulverization of American occupation into the indefinite future
This is the reason teams of American specialists in agriculture, health, and education are going to Vietnam....
EDITORIAL: The New York Herald Tribune, February 9:
Perhaps the most constructive part of the Honolulu conference was the emphasis it placed on this hitherto badly neglected aspect of the Viet Nam war [Pacification]. It is unfortunate that Chief of State Thieu diverted attention from it by heaping more fuel on the controversy over whether the Viet Cong should or should not sit at a peace conference table....
EDITORIAL: The New York Times, February 9 and 13:
The Honolulu conference has followed the classic pattern of Summit meetings that are hastily called without thorough preparation in advance; it has left confusion in its wake, with more questions raised than answered.....The one important area of agreement at Honolulu, apart from continuation of the military efforts, was on an expanded program of "rural construction." The prospective doubling of American economic aid, however, will be futile unless it is accompanied by a veritable social revolution, including vigorous land reform. Premier Ky cast some doubt in his emphasis on moving slowly. His Minister of Rural Pacification envisages action in only 1,900 of South Vietnam's 15,000 hamlets this year.
Vice President Humphrey evidently has his work cut out for him in his follow-up visit to Saigon. Unless some way can be found to give more momentum to this effort, the new economic aid program may go down the same drain as all previous programs of this kind.
It would be a cruel deception for Americans to get the idea that social reforms carried out by the Ky government with American money are going to make any perceptible difference in the near future to the Vietnamese people or to the course of the war.
COLUMNIST: Ted Lewis, New York Daily News, February 10 (from Washington):
Why, all of a sudden, has President Johnson begun to come to grips with the "other war" in South Vietnam? . . . Johnson, with his typical oratorical flourishes, has given the impression that he launched something totally new at Honolulu ....The fact is that for several years this problem of the "other war" has been recognized as vital by the State Department, the Pentagon and even by the White House. But nobody did much about it, except in an offhand way
Johnson is a master of timing. He has definitely gained a political advantage over his Viet policy critics by stressing right now the need of win-fling over the peasants.....[Senator Robert] Kennedy complained in a Senate speech just ten days ago that there were 'many indications that we have not yet even begun to develop a program....It is absolutely urgent," the Senator said, "that we now act to institute new programs of education, land reform, public health, political participation......"
NEWS ANALYSIS: Richard Critchfield in The Washington Evening Star, February 9 (from Saigon):
President Johnson's historic decision at Honolulu backing an American-sponsored brand of social revolution as an alternative to communism in South Vietnam was warmly hailed today by veteran political observers. The Honolulu declaration was viewed as ending postwar era of American foreign policy aimed at stabilizing the status quo in Asia.
The key phrase, in the view of many diplomats here, was the offer of full American "support to measures of social revolution, including land reform based upon the principle of building upward from the hopes and purposes of all the people of Vietnam."
.....Johnson's decisions to put political remedies on a par with military action are also regarded here as a major personal triumph for Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge and his top aide, Major General Edward G. Lansdale, the two main advocates of "social revolution" in South Vietnam.....The Honolulu declaration appears to signify a major shift away from the policy of primarily military support established by President Kennedy in 1961 and closely identified with General Maxwell Taylor, Defense Secretary McNamara, and Secretary of State Rusk....The Lodge-Lansdale formula was a striking departure in that it saw the eventual solution not so much in Hanoi's capitulation as in successful pacification in South Vietnam . . . The Honolulu declaration amounts to almost a point by point acceptance of this formula and both its phraseology and philosophy bear Lansdale's unmistakable imprint.....
EDITORIAL: The Baltimore Sun, February 10:
Unless there was more substance to the Honolulu Conference than meets the eye, it could be summed up as much ado-not much ado about nothing but simply much ado . . . It was all spectacular and diverting but so far as we can see the problem of the war is where it was before the burst of activity began . . . It is probably worthwhile to have a reiteration of the social and economic measures needed in South Vietnam . . . It is essential to underscore the political nature of the war, along with the continuing military operations. But these matters were generally understood before the Honolulu meetings. Perhaps events to come will make the purpose of the meeting clearer.
EDITORIAL: The New York Post, February 9:
The Hawaii meetings were advertised as the beginning of a vast new movement of economic and social reform in Vietnam, President Johnson, we were told, went to Honolulu to launch the new approach with maximum drama.
Instead, the session inadvertently underscored the lack of interest of the junta in Saigon in anything but military conquest of the Viet Cong, to be carried out by stepped up U.S. armed efforts....
NEWS STORY: AP, February 10 (from Honolulu):
Vice President Humphrey left for Saigon today with South Vietnam's top leaders to spur action on programs attacking hunger, disease, and ignorance in that war-torn country....
NEWS ANALYSIS: Charles Mohr, The New York Times, February 10 (from Saigon):
In the atmosphere of Honolulu, there was much emphasis on form, so much that in some ways it may have obscured substance. The Americans appeared so delighted with Marshal Ky's "style"--with his showing as a politically salable young man with the right instincts rather than as a young warlord--that there seemed to be almost no emphasis on the important differences between the Governments . . . What Marshal Ky told President Johnson was something he had often said before: South Vietnamese society is still riddled with social injustices and political weaknesses; there is not one political party worthy of the name . . . The South Vietnamese leaders believe that they could not survive a "peaceful settlement" that left the VC political structure in place, even if the VC guerrilla units were disbanded. Therefore, the South Vietnamese feel that "rural pacification," of which much was said at Honolulu, is necessary not only to help them achieve military victory but also to prevent a political reversal of that victory . . . As the Vietnamese see pacification, its core is not merely "helping the people to a better life," the aspect on which many American speakers dwelled, it is rather the destruction of the clandestine VC political structure and the creation of an ironlike system of government political control over the population....
But the two governments have never been closer than they are in the aftermath of Honolulu, and the atmosphere of good feeling seems genuine....
NEWS ANALYSIS: Roscoe Drummond, February 14 (from Washington):
.....The decisions taken at Honolulu by President Johnson and Premier Ky go to the heart of winning. They were primarily social, economic, and political decisions. They come at a malleable and perhaps decisive turn in the war....
NEWS ANALYSIS: Tom Wicker in The New York Times, February 13 (from Saigon):
Vice President Humphrey . . . has left Saigon reverberating with what he said was the "single message" he had come to deliver. The message was that the war in Vietnam was a war to bring social justice and economic and political progress to the Vietnamese people . . . Humphrey said at a news conference here: "Social and economic revolution does not belong to the V.C. Non-communist forces are the ones forwarding the revolution."
The emphasis on social reform could also quiet critics who contend that Washington has concentrated too much on the military problem and not enough on civic action to win the loyalty of the Vietnamese people....
NEWS ANALYSIS: Charles Mohr, The New York Times, February 13 (from Saigon):
By giving enormous emphasis and publicity to it, an impression was left that pacification is something new. In a sense, there was some truth in this. The men running the program, both Vietnamese and American, are new. And the 1966 plan itself is a new one in many respects.
Pacification is vitally important to success in the guerrilla war in South Vietnam. Without it, purely military success becomes empty even if all the battles are "won."
NEWS ANALYSIS: Joseph Alsop, February 14 (from Saigon):
CART BEFORE HORSE . . . All that really mattered at Honolulu was a Presidential decision to provide the forces needed to keep the pressure on the enemy here in Vietnam. The odds are heavy that the President, who seems to prefer doing good by stealth, actually took this decision behind the electorate smokescreen of talk about other matters. The question remains whether the needed forces will be provided soon enough. One must wait and see.
But at the risk of sounding captious, and for the sake of honesty and realism, it must be noted that there was a big Madison Avenue element in all the talk about "pacification" during the Hawaii meeting and Vice President Humphrey's subsequent visit to Vietnam.
This does not mean that pacification of the Vietnamese countryside is an unimportant and/or secondary problem. On the contrary, it will eventually be all-important and primary. But one need only glance at the list of priority areas marked for pacification now, to see the adman's touch in the present commotion.
There are: An Giang Province, which belongs to the Hoa Hao sect and has been long since pacified by the Hoa Hao; the Hop Tac region near Saigon, where General Harkins experimented unhappily with the so-called oil spot technique; parts of Binh Dinh Province along the north-south highway; and the fringes of the Marine enclave at Da Nang.
Each area differs from the others. In the case of the nine villages on the fringes of the Marines' Da Nang enclave, for instance, pacification is needed to insure airfield security from mortar fire. Most of these villages have been Viet Cong strongholds for over 20 years, and they could be dangerous.
.....Pacification by the Marines looks very fine . . . But it takes far too many Marines to do the job.
Nonetheless, the real objections to making a big-immediate show of pacification are quite different. The Hop Tac experience tells the story. Here a great effort was made by the Vietnamese authorities with the strong support of General Harkins. A good deal was initially accomplished. Boasts began to be heard. Whereat the enemy sailed forth from the nearest redoubt area, knocked down everything that had been built up, murdered all the villagers who had worked with the government, and left things much worse than they had been before . . . An attempt to make a big immediate show of pacification needs to be warned against, because of the Washington pressure to do just that. A large element of the U.S. Mission was called home a month or so ago. And in effect, these men were commanded to produce a plan for making a show as soon as possible.
Fortunately, they had the courage to point out that the cart was being put before the horse once again. Fortunately, Ambassador Lodge is well aware of the dangers of putting the cart before the horse. The pressure for something showy may continue, but it is likely to be resisted.
If so, the pressure will not be altogether useless. The Vietnamese and the Americans here are getting ready for pacification on a big scale and in an imaginative way, partly because of that pressure.
It is vital to have everything in readiness to do the job of pacification as soon as favorable circumstances arise. But it is also vital to bear in mind that really favorable circumstances cannot arise until the enemy's backbone of regular units is at last very close to the breaking point, if not actually beginning to break.
EDITORIAL: Christian Science Monitor, February 11:
If Saigon and Washington fight South Vietnam's economic and social war as vigorously as they fight its military war, the Communist thrust against that country will fail. Yet this is the biggest "if" of the war. Over and over lip-service has been paid to the inescapable need of winning over the peasantry. But time and again this has come to naught.
We are cautiously encouraged by the latest steps being taken. The strong emphasis laid in the Honolulu Declaration on civic reforms is a commitment in the right direction. The sending of Vice-President Humphrey to study South Vietnamese reform programs on the spot is an even stronger earnest of American's intention not to let this program slip back into another do-nothing doldrum.....
Go to the Next Section of Volume 2, Chapter 7 of the Pentagon Papers, "Re-Emphasis on Pacification, 1965-1967"
Glossary of Acronyms and Terms
Go to Volume 1, Chapter 1 of the Pentagon Papers, "Background to the Conflict, 1940-1950." pp. 1-52
Go to Volume 1, Chapter 2 of the Pentagon Papers, "U.S. Involvement in the Franco-Viet Minh War, 1950-1954," pp. 53-107
Go to Volume 1, Chapter 3 of the Pentagon Papers, "The Geneva Conference, May-July, 1954," pp. 108-178.
Go to Volume 1, Chapter 4 of the Pentagon Papers, "U.S. and France in Indochina, 1950-56," pp. 179-241
Volume 1, Chapter 5 of the Pentagon Papers, "Origins of the Insurgency
in South Vietnam, 1954-1960," pp. 242-314
Go to Volume 2, Chapter 1 of the Pentagon Papers, "The Kennedy Commitments and Programs, 1961,"pp. 1-127
Go to Volume 2, Chapter 2 of the Pentagon Papers, "The Strategic Hamlet Program, 1961-1963," pp. 128-159.
Go to Volume 2, Chapter 3, of the Pentagon Papers, "Phased Withdrawal of U.S. Forces, 1962-1964," pp. 160-200.
Go to Volume 2, Chapter 4, of the Pentagon Papers, "The Overthrow of Ngo Dinh Diem, May-November, 1963," pp. 201-276.
Go to Volume 2, Chapter 5 of the Pentagon Papers, "US-GVN Relations, 1964-1967," pp. 277-407.
Go to Volume 2, Chapter 6 of the Pentagon Papers, "The Advisory Build-up, 1961-67," pp. 408-514
Go to Volume 2, Chapter 7 of the Pentagon Papers, "Re-Emphasis on Pacification: 1965-1967," pp. 515-623.
Go to Volume 3, Chapter 1 of the Pentagon Papers, "U.S. Programs in South Vietnam, Nov. 1963-Apr. 1965," pp. 1-105.
Go to Volume 3, Chapter 2 of the Pentagon Papers, "Military Pressures Against North Vietnam, February 1964-January 1965," pp. 106-268.
Go to Volume 3, Chapter 3, of the Pentagon Papers, "The Air War in North Vietnam: Rolling Thunder Begins, February-June, 1965," pp. 269-388
Go to Volume 3, Chapter 4, of the Pentagon Papers, "American Troops Enter the Ground War, March-July 1965," pp. 389-485
Go to Volume 4, Chapter 1, of the Pentagon Papers, "The Air War in North Vietnam, 1965-1968," pp. 1-276.
Go to Volume 4, Chapter 2, of the Pentagon Papers, "U.S. Ground Strategy and Force Deployments, 1965-1968," pp. 277-604.
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