Ambassador Taylor's Situation Report on the Republic of Vietnam, 10 August 1964

Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 3, pp. 530-33

SACSA-M 400-64
14 August 1964


Subject: Ambassador Taylor's Initial Report from South Vietnam

1. Attached to this memorandum for Mr. McNamara's information is a brief of Ambassador Taylor's initial report from South Vietnam.

2. This brief was furnished to the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary Vance as background material for their appearance before the Vinson Committee on Tuesday, 18 August 1964.

A. R. Brownfield
Colonel, USA
Acting Special Assistant



10 Aug 1964

1. On 10 July 1964 the President requested Ambassador Taylor (Deptel 108) to furnish him a coordinated country team report at the end of the month.

2. On 10 August 1964 Ambassador Taylor complied with the President's request. A breakout of Ambassador Taylor's report follows:


The report is not intended as a comparison, since the turmoil following the two coups and the invalidation of the earlier data base (Strategic Hamlet Program) provide no meaningful base on which a comparison could be made. However, this report is intended to establish a baseline from which future progress may be measured.

The basis of this report and monthly reports hereafter are the results of a country-wide canvass of responsible US advisors and observers. The canvass dealt with: Army and public morale, combat effectiveness of military units, US/GVN counterpart relationships, and effectiveness of GVN officials.

In broad terms, the canvass results are surprisingly optimistic at the operational levels of both the civil and military organizations. This feeling of optimism exceeds that of most senior US officials in Saigon. Future reports should determine who is right.

Viet Cong Situation:


The communist strategy as defined by North Vietnam and the puppet National Liberation Front is to seek a political settlement favorable to the communists. This political objective to be achieved by stages, passing first through "neutralism," using the National Liberation Front machinery, and then the technique of a coalition government.


The VC tactics are to harass, erode and terrorize the VN population and its leadership into a state of demoralization without an attempt to defeat the RVNAF or seize and conquer terrain by military means. US/GVN progress should be measured against this strategy and these tactics.


In terms of equipment and training, the VC are better armed and led today than ever in the past.

VC infiltration continues from Laos and Cambodia.

No indication that the VC are experiencing any difficulty in replacing their losses in men and equipment.

No reason to believe the VC will risk their gains in an overt military confrontation with GVN forces, although they have a sizeable force with considerable offensive capability in the central highlands.

GVN Situation:


The slow pace of the CI campaign and the weakness of his government has caused Khanh to use the March North theme to rally the homefront, and offset the war weariness.

US observers feel the symptoms of defeatism are more in the minds of the inexperienced and untried leadership in Saigon than in the people and the Army.

We may face mounting pressure from the GVN to win the war by direct attack on Hanoi which if resisted will cause local politicians to seriously consider negotiation or local soldiers to consider a military adventure without US consent.

For the present, the Khanh government has the necessary military support to stay in power.

It is estimated that Khanh has a 50/50 chance of lasting out the year.

The government is ineffective, beset by inexperienced ministers who are jealous and suspicious of each other.

Khanh does not have confidence or trust in most of his ministers and is not able to form them into a group with a common loyalty and purpose.

There is no one in sight to replace Khanh.

Khanh has, for the moment, allayed the friction between the Buddhists and Catholics.

Khanh has won the cooperation of the Hoa Hao and Cao Dai.

Khanh has responded to our suggestions for improved relations between GVN and US Mission.

The population is confused and apathetic.

Khanh has not succeeded in building active popular support in Saigon.

Population support in the countryside in directly proportionate to the degree of GVN protection.

There are grounds to conclude that no sophisticated psychological approach is necessary to attract the country people to the GVN at this time. The assurance of a reasonably secure life is all that is necessary.

The success of US attacks on North Vietnam, although furnishing a psychological lift to the GVN, may have whetted their appetite for further moves against the DRV.


Prices are stable and inflation is under control.

Industrial production has shown a slight increase from 140% of the 1962 level on 1 April 1964 to 143% on 31 July 1964.

End CY 64 industrial production is projected to be 150% of the 1962 level.

Any increase in capital goods imports would, if not covered by US assistance, lead to a major balance of payments problem.

USOM is examining the GVN tax structure, import policy, present multiple exchange rate system, competence and effectiveness of government administration, and proper use of total resources in the prosecution of the war.

Pacification Support:

The inexperienced ministries of Police, Education, Public Works, Interior, Information, Rural Affairs, Health and Finance are not represented in follow-up actions in the areas that have been cleared by the armed forces. This advisory task is the responsibility of USOM and USIS.

USOM CY64 provincial manpower objective has been established as two Americans in each province, often reinforced with a third Public Safety Officer. A considerable increase from the current strength of 64.

USIS has 16 US personnel in the field and anticipates no increase.

GVN representation at the province and district level, although inexperienced, is reported by US observers to be performing effectively with good US/GVN working relationships.

Capitol Military District (CMD) Pacification Program (Hop Tac) is designed to induce the Vietnmese to:

Work together as a functioning government.

Build within both urban and rural areas a more sound administrative, social and economic platform.

Achieve some pragmatic military successes which will bolster Vietnamese morale, engage the energies of their best qualified personnel and drive the VC effectively away from the nation's heartland.


The regular and paramilitary personnel strengths are slowly rising and by January 1965 should reach 98% of the target strength of 446,000.

The RVNAF desertion rate has decreased to 5.72% or ½ the rate of last March.

Three VNAF squadrons of A-1H aircraft will be combat ready by 30 September 1964 and the fourth by 1 December 1964 with a two to one pilot to cockpit ratio.

The evaluation of RVNAF units reports the following number combat effective:

28 of 30 regiments
100 of 101 infantry, marine and airborne battalions
17 of 20 ranger battalions
19 of 20 engineer battalions

The principal defects are low present for duty strengths and weak leadership at the lower levels. Both are receiving corrective treatment.

Extensive intelligence programs are underway to improve our intelligence capability by the end of the year.

GVN Overall Objective:

Increase in percentage of population control represent progress toward stabilizing the in-country situation. Using July figures as a base, the following percentages should be attainable.

Rural Urban
31 July 64 31 Dec 64 31 July 64 31 Dec 64
GVN control 33% 40% 44% 47%
VC control 20% 16% 18% 14%
Contested 47% 44% 42% 39%

US Mission Objectives:

Do everything possible to bolster the Khanh Government.

Improve the in-country pacification campaign against the VC.

Concentrating efforts on strategically important areas such as the provinces around Saigon (The Hop Tac Plan).

Undertake "show-window" social and economic projects in secure urban and rural areas.

Be prepared to implement contingency plans against North Vietnam with optimum readiness by January 1, 1965.

Keep the US public informed of what we are doing and why.

3. Ambassador Taylor's report, because of its across the board approach to the counterinsurgency problem, should be of significant value to all governmental agencies in determining how much success their departmental programs are achieving.

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