Deputy Director of Viet-Nam Working Group, Theodore J.C. Heavner, Address Made Before National Sec & Leg Committee at the National Convention of Veterans of Foreign Wars, in Seattle, Washington, August 25, 1963, "The Viet-Nam Situation"


Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 2, pp. 825-827


Deputy Director of Viet-Nam Working Group, Theodore J.C. Heavner, Address Made Before National Sec & Leg Committee at the National Convention of Veterans of Foreign Wars, in Seattle, Washington, August 25, 1963, "The Viet-Nam Situation," Department of State Bulletin, September 9, 1963, p. 392:

* * *

"In the light of long-term trends in Communist and free Asia let me now review the elements of U.S. strategy and policy. Our policy in the Far East can be summed up in these four points:

"1. To stand firmly behind our commitments to the defense of independent nations and to turn back any aggressive thrust from communism;
"2. To contribute as we are able to the prosperity and development of nations which request our assistance as the surest way of helping to build a system of free, viable, and strong nations in Asia;
"3. To recognize the value of initiatives by the Pacific nations themselves to develop their own modes of cooperation and communication, and to stand ready to assist when called upon to do so;
"4. To work patiently for the realization of a Pacific community of nations so prosperous and progressive that its attraction will prove, in the long run, irresistible to those peoples now kept by their rulers from participation in it."

* * *

The Guerrilla War in Viet-Nam

"To understand why President Kennedy said in his state of the Union message that 'The spearpoint of aggression has been blunted in South Viet-Nam,' we need to consider the situation in the fall of 1961 and early 1962. The Vietnamese were quite plainly losing their fight against the Communist guerrillas then.

"The Communist guerrillas, 1,500 strong, took and held overnight a provincial capital in September of 1961, and, to underline the fact, they publicly beheaded the Chief of Province there. The flow of rice into Saigon, normally a rice export center, was choked off by the guerrillas to the point where the United States sent P.L. 480 rice to Saigon in early 1962. Enemy attacks in January of last year were running at the rate of more than 120 per week. We even feared that the Communist Viet Cong might soon be able to declare 'a liberated area' somewhere in the highlands.

"Faced with this deteriorating situation, President Diem in December of 1961 sent a letter to President Kennedy in which he outlined the nature of the attack on his government and asked for increased American assistance. The United States considered this request very carefully. Vice President Johnson had visited Viet-Nam in May of 1961, and President Kennedy had sent General [Maxwell D.] Taylor to Viet-Nam again in the fall of that year. So we were very clear about the nature of the threat.

"We knew that the Viet Cong attack was caused, led, and directed by the Communist authorities in North Viet-Nam. This was a case of Communist aggression, although the Communists made great efforts to conceal the fact, aggression against a friendly people with whom the United States had strong ties. There could be little question about our decision. We promptly agreed to step up our military and economic assistance.

"When we increased our assistance to Viet-Nam we issued a study of the evidence of Communist infiltration into South Viet-Nam and Communist direction of the war against the Government of South Viet-Nam. This was necessary, not just out of a 'decent respect for the opinions of mankind,' but because of the great and continuing Communist effort to portray the Viet Cong as an indigenuous and legitimate popular movement against a repressive government. I think it is worth noting in this connection that the international body specifically established in 1954 at the Geneva conference to oversee and keep the peace in Viet-Nam--the International Control Commission, composed of India, Canada, and Poland--has confirmed the fact that Communist North VietNam is engaged in an attempt to overthrow by violence the Government of South Viet-Nam. After sifting the evidence for almost a year, the International Control Commission in June of 1962 issued a special report which makes it clear that the Viet Cong are the instruments of Hanoi's deliberate attack on South Viet-Nam.

"If we were losing the war in the fall of 1961 and early 1962, where are we today? I think it is fair to say that the tide has now turned and that the Government of Viet-Nam is with our help slowly overcoming the Communist guerrillas. No more provincial capitals have been taken, the Communists have not 'liberated' any part of South Viet-Nam, and Saigon is once again exporting rice. In fact we anticipate that Saigon will export 300,000 tons of rice this year.

* * *

The 'Why,' of Our Involvement

"I have described the American role in the Vietnamese war-the 'how' of our involvement. I would like to close by indicating something of the 'why.'

"You can think of Viet-Nam as a piece of strategic real estate. It is on the corner of mainland Asia, across the east-west trade routes, and in a position that would make it an excellent base for further Communist aggression against the rest of free Asia.

"You can think of our involvement in South Viet-Nam in terms of a moral commitment. The Vietnamese, on the frontier of the free world, are fighting not just for themselves but for all men who wish to remain free. I believe the 300-500 casualties they suffer each week is a precious contribution to the security of the whole free world.

"You can think of the American role in South Viet-Nam in terms of our SEATO [Southeast Asia Treaty Organization] commitment. You can regard it as a fulfillment of the implied obligation which we as a nation undertook when we said at the Geneva Conference in 1954 that we would regard any renewal of aggression in violation of the Geneva Agreements with grave concern and as seriously threatening international peace and security.

"You can think of South Viet-Nam as a test case; there is good reason to believe that this is the view of the Communist bloc. In Viet-Nam we are deter-
mining whether or not the free world can help a nation defend itself against the subversion and guerrilla warfare which make up the 'war of national liberation' tactics. I think it is fair to say that we have largely stopped the Communist thrust all around the world in conventional and nuclear terms. We are now confronted by a new kind of threat, and we have to a degree invented a new kind of response to meet it. All of the underdeveloped nations of the world are watching the event. If South Viet-Nam falls, their will to resist this kind of aggression will be weakened and the whole fabric of free-world strength and determination damaged thereby.

"Perhaps, in more human terms, you may want to think of our support to Viet-Nam as American help to the nearly 1 million Vietnamese refugees who fled North Viet-Nam in 1954 and 1955 to avoid living under a Communist regime."


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