Section 2, pp. 56-105
II. NSAM-288--TONKIN GULF
A. GENERAL CHARACTER OF THE PERiOD FROM NSAM-288 TO TONKIN GULF
In enunciating the policies of NSAM-288 we had rhetorically committed ourselves to do whatever was needed to achieve our stated objectives in South Vietnam. The program decided upon and spelled out in NSAM-288 reflected our recognition that the problem was greater than we had previously supposed and that the progress that we had previously thought we were making was more apparent than real. The program constituted a larger effort than we had undertaken before; it corresponded to our increased estimates of the magnitude of the task before us. Nevertheless, we might have chosen to do more along the lines of what we did decide to do, and above all we might have chosen to do some things that we specifically chose not to do at this time (although we began to plan for some of these on a contingency basis). If there were to be new or greater problems in the future it was because we did not correctly appraise the magnitude of the problem nor fully foresee the complexity of the difficulties we faced. There were indeed some who believed that the program we decided upon was not enough, notably the JCS who had gone on record that until aid to the VC from outside of South Vietnam was cut off, it would be impossible to eliminate the insurgency there. But the program as decided upon in 288 did correspond to the official consensus that this was a prescription suited to the illness as we diagnosed it.
There were many inhibitions that discouraged doing more than the bare necessity to get the job done. There inhibitions related to the image of the U.S. in world affairs, to possible risks of over-action from the Communist side, to internal American hesitancies about our operations there, and finally to a philosophy concerning the basic social nature of what was happening in Vietnam and how wise it was for the U.S. to become very deeply involved. We had given serious thought to a program of pressures upon the North, largely covert and intended more to persuade them to compel. This was on the theory that the heart of the problem really lay not in South Vietnam but in North Vietnam. But these measures, although far from forgotten, were put on the shelf in the belief, or at least the hope, that they would not be needed.
The long year from March 1964 to April 1965 is divisible into three periods that correspond to major modifications or reformulations of policy. The first would be from March (NSAM-288) to the Tonkin Gulf affair in early August 1964, the second would be from August 1964 to February of 1965, and the third would be from February to April 1965.
From March to August 1965 we tried to make a go of it with the program approved in NSAM-288, in hope that that program would carry us toward our objectives by increasing the amount of aid and advice we gave to the South Vietnamese in order to enable them better to help themselves. But almost from the beginning there were signs that this program would not be enough. And as time passed it became more and more evident that something more would be needed. Soon we began to be turned from full concentration upon the NSAM-288 program by a major distraction--instability and inefficiency of the GVN. This was a distraction that from the first we had feared but had hoped against hope would not grow to major proportions.
A year before, in 1963, it had become more and more evident as time wore on that the unpopularity and inefficiencies of the Diem-Ngu regime destroyed the hope of permanent progress in the pacification program and the ultimate chance of success of the whole counter-insurgency effort. This time it was the increasing instability of the Khanh regime and the inefficiency of his government--the regime that had supplanted the regime that had supplanted Diem and Ngu. Now we feared the inability of the Khanh government to attract and hold the loyalties of the politically active groups within the cities, and we had no confidence in its competence to administer the pacification programs, and thereby win the support of the politically inert peasantry in the rural areas.
But we wanted no more coups. Although Khanh's coup had surprised us and even shaken our confidence somewhat, we quickly made him our boy, put the best possible face on the matter, and made it a prime element of U.S. policy to support Khanh and his colleagues, and discourage any further coups. Each coup that occurred, it seemed, greatly increased the possibility of yet another coup.
Through the first period from March until July, we concentrated upon making the NSAM-288 program work. In addition to the increases in U.S. aid and advice, we sought to strengthen Khanh by patching things up with Big Minh and mollifying the other Generals he had thrown out. We hoped he could somehow subdue the politically active Buddhists, the Catholic political activists, the Dai Viet, and the miscellaneous ambitious colonels and generals.
But execution of the 288 program began to fall behind the plans. The GVN administration of the program had troubles. There were troubles getting piastres--which the U.S. government in effect provided--from the central government to the provinces and districts where they were needed. Agreed pay increases and force increases in the GVN armed forces were only tardily and partially met. Civil servants needed to operate the program in the provinces and districts were not available, were not trained, or, if available and trained, were often not paid, or were insufficiently or tardily paid, or were not provided with necessary expenses. Funds for the provision of necessary goods in the provinces and districts were not met. Payments to peasants for relocation as a part of the pacification program were tardy or inadequate or not made at all. There seemed to be a business as usual attitude in the central government, and the strength of the RVNAF declined. Viet Cong depredations continued and pacification efforts fell behind.
As we pressured Khanh to adopt reforms to remedy the deficiencies of the GVN administration of programs within South Vietnam, his frustrations over these difficulties and failures were increased. He had no taste for the long, unspectacular social reform and social rebuilding that were the tasks of pacification. He soon began to talk increasingly of a scapegoat--a march to the North. He wanted to get the struggle over with. This corresponded to the means that we had considered but had for the time being rejected--seeking escape from our own frustrations in South Vietnam by pressure on the North. We moved gradually in this direction, impelled almost inevitably to ultimate actions of this sort, but always reluctantly and always hesitant to commit ourselves to more than very minor moves, until suddenly and dramatically the Tonkin Gulf affair of early August provided an occasion to make a move of the sort we had long been anticipating but had until then always deferred. But during this period the debate over possible measures of this sort, and the instability of the Khanh government, increasingly distracted attention from programs focussed directly on the problems of pacification and of winning the loyalties of the Vietnamese for the GVN.
In the immediate aftermath of the Tonkin Gulf affair, Khanh, feeling his position strengthened, took ill advised measures to consolidate the gains that he believed had been made thereby, and quickly precipitated an overriding governmental crisis. Thereafter, the stability of the regime became the dominant factor in all considerations. Atttention had to shift from pacification of the millions of rural Vietnamese, who made up the vast majority of the people, to the very few in Saigon, Hue and Danang who were struggling for power.
B. NSAM-288 PROGRAMS MID-MARCH TO MID-MAY 1964
Recommendation #13 of NSAM-288 was "to support a program for national mobilization (including a national service law) to put South Vietnam on a war footing." Responsibility for this was shared between ASD/ISA and AID.
A first step was taken on 20 March when the country team was asked to report on the status of GVN plans and also country team views concerning the adoption of a national service act. The points of greatest concern were what would be the main provisions of the act, and what would be the administrative machinery set up to implement it. The Country Team was also advised that economic mobilization measures should be deferred until after a joint U.S.- GVN survey had been completed.
On 1 April Ambassador Lodge replied, with MACV concurrence, that Premier Khanh planned two categories of mobilization, one civil and one military. The Ambassador said that proposed decrees had been prepared and that if promulgated they would give the GVN adequate power. Details were not included, however, in the Ambassador's report. The Ambassador proposed, on a personal basis, that, if Washington approved, he would try to persuade Khanh to proceed with a mass media presentation of it. Washington agreement to the Embassy evaluation came three days later, although only the general concept had been explained. On that same day, 4 April 1964, Khanh publicly proclaimed a basic decree prescribing broad categories of national service. Its main terms were that all able-bodied males ages 20-45 were subject to national public service. This national public service was to consist of either (a) military service or (b) civil defense service.
This initial decree of 4 April 1964 amounted evidently to nothing more than a statement of intention by the Prime Minister. This was quite short of a law that would go into effect, be administered and thereby made to accomplish something.
On 10 April, the Embassy was informed by a telegram from State that Khanh's decrees had received little publicity in the United States, and the Embassy was asked for a text of the implementing decrees. Five days later on 15 April 1964, Ambassador Lodge reported in more detail on the basic terms of the national public service decree, to wit:
(1) All able-bodied males 20-45 would be subject to national public service and females would be permitted to volunteer.
(2) National public service would consist of either military service or civil defense service.
(3) Civil defense service would be managed by the Ministry of Interior.
(4) The duration of military service would be three years of RVNAF or four years in Regional Forces (Civil Guard) and Popular Forces (Civil Defense Corps and Hamlet Militia).
(5) Call-up priority would be based on age and number of dependents.
(6) Drafted personnel were to be paid by the force to which they were assigned.
This came closer to a law to be administered, but on 28 April Washington told the Embassy that the status of implementation of the recommendations was still not clear. Four days later, on 2 May, Ambassador Lodge reported that draft decrees were still not signed in fact, and that the final nature of the Civil Defense Decree was still in doubt. However, he reported agreement on the principle that the objectives of the National Mobilization Plan should give priority to: (1) bringing the armed forces to authorized strength, (2) improving their morale, (3) carrying out conscription more effectively, and (4) obtaining qualifled civilian workers.
Before he was able to make this report of 2 May, however, Ambassador Lodge had a showdown meeting with Khanh over the failure of the GVN to carry out many of the necessary actions called for by the NSAM-288 programs. On 30 April, accompanied by Westmoreland and Brent (USOM chief), Lodge met with Khanh, Oanh, Khien, and Thieu, to discuss the GVN failure to provide operating funds to provincial and lower local levels, and to correct manpower deficiencies.
Lodge opened the meeting with a prepared statement which he read in French. He said that direct observation by U.S. provincial advisors throughout Vietnam proved that nowhere was there an adequate effort to provide piastres to Corps, Division and sectors, to increase the pay of ARVN and paramilitary forces, to bring these troops to authorized strength, to recruit added forces, or to compensate incapacitated soldiers or families of those killed. In fact, he said, there were confirmed reports from Corps and Division headquarters of deceased soldiers being kept on the roles as the only means of compensating their families and preventing further deterioration of ARVN and paramilitary morale. There had been a steady decline in the strength of RVNAF since October 1963, notably including a decrease of 4,000 in March alone; and the current strength was almost 20,000 below the authorized figure agreed necessary by both governments. Likewise, the force level of SDC had decreased in the same period by almost 13,000, leaving that force 18,000 below its authorized strength. The Civil Guard was almost 5,000 below the required strength. The ARVN and CG desertion rate was double what it had been in February, and SDC desertion rate was up 40%. Only 55% of the conscription quotas were being met and volunteers were below the expected level.
Failure to provide funds was blamed as a major reason for these military manpower deficiencies. The shortage was so great that the current trend in effectives could not be reversed before August in any event. Lodge went on to say that USOM and MACV visits to the provinces also confirmed that failure to provide piastres to local headquarters also led to shortages of resources for pacification efforts. The result was that most of the McNamara program of reforms and improvements (of NSAM-288) was failing, not due to lag in support promised by the United States, but simply because the Saigon government did not provide piastre support for the joint pacification program agreed upon by the two governments. The war, Lodge concluded, was being lost for want of administrative initiative in printing and distributing the necessary local funds for the agreed programs. Lodge conceded that the government had made 'a forward step in announcing its intentions to decentralize procurement authority from the Director General of the Budget and Foreign Aid to the ministries, but further decentralization to provincial and district authorities was advisable.
Khanh passed the buck to Oanh, who explained that the MRC had inherited enormously complicated bureaucratic procedures based on older French practices, with checks and counterchecks before actions could be effected, and that these practices were being reformed. New regulations were about to go into effect and it was hoped that they would improve the situation.
Recommendation #5 of 288 had been "to asist the Vietnamese to create a greatly enlarged administrative corps." Effective action upon this recommendation was considered essential to effective progress in the pacification program, as is clearly implied by the following list of the lines of action that were to be strengthened by the enlarged administrative corps. These were:
1. Training and pay of new hamlet action cadres, of new village secretaries, of district chiefs and other district staff, of a new assistant for pacification for each Province Chief, and of hamlet school teachers, health workers, district agricultural workers, and rural information officers.
2. Special incentive pay for government workers in rural areas.
3. Selective pay raises for some civil servants.
4. Increasing enrollment in the National Institute of Administration (NIA) to full capacity (this was a training school for civil servants), including provision of short term in-service training by NIA.
5. Organization of a joint U.S.-GVN Committee on governmental reform to review, recommend, and install needed provisions in governmental procedures.
6. Expanding and training National Police especially for rural areas consistent with other recommendations to strengthen military and paramilitary forces.
Along with this increase in Vietnamese administrative personnel there was to be increase in U.S. advisory personnel to assist them. On 2 April the Mission advised Washington that a general agreement had been reached with the GVN and estimated that 12 additional USOM public administration personnel were needed. On the following day, however, the Ambassador expressed his reservations over the large increase in staff. On 30 April in an EXDIS to the President, Lodge said that Khanh was willing to accept U.S. administrators in pacified areas provided the U.S. felt willing to accept casualties. Lodge recommended a high level civil administrative advisor to Khanh himself; and on 4 May in an EXDIS to the Secretary of State he recommended four AID public administrative advisors, one to each of the four Corps areas, all to be directly under the Ambassador.
As of mid-May, however, while there were some accomplishments, on the whole there had been more discussion than action. Before the mid-May meeting for Secretary McNamara in Saigon the status of progress was summarized for him in the Mid-May Briefing Book as follows:
1. The initiation of a two-week training program for district chiefs had started and the first class had graduated.
2. Assignment had been made of one entire graduating class, 82 of them with three full years of training, to be district chiefs.
3. Training of 75 hamlet action cadres for use in the Pacification Plan had been initiated.
4. Assignment of 700 Saigon civil servants to the III Corps area had been completed (but two-thirds of them had returned by mid-May as either unfit or in excess of needs).
5. The long standing training programs for hamlet workers had continued.
6. A course to train 2500 new village secretaries had been initiated.
7. Assurance that all future graduates of NIA would be assigned to the countryside had been made.8. There was a promise to undertake to double the output of graduates from the NIA.
No action had been taken, however, on other measures. The most salient inaction was the failure to set up the promised U.S.-GVN committee on government reform. Further, the GVN was not inclined to provide incentive pay to key rural workers.
At the time that Secretary McNamara and his party went to Saigon in the middle of May, the problem areas with respect to implementation of NSAM-288 recommendations were identified as follows:
1. Inadequate provision of piastres for proper utilization of already trained officials and technicians.
2. Possible inability of GVN to get the job done without direct U.S. participation.
3. Lack of information from the field on plans for aggressive implementation of all aspects of this recommendation.
Recommendation 4, 6, and 7 of NSAM-288 concerned increases in GVN military forces and capabilities and were generally considered together:
4. To assist the Vietnamese to increase the armed forces (regular plus paramilitary) by at least 50,000 men.
6. To assist the Vietnamese to improve and reorganize the paramilitary forces and to increase their compensation.
7. To assist the Vietnamese to create an offensive guerrilla force.
On 23 March 1964 a joint State-Defense-AID message asked the country team to refine (and elaborate) these concepts and recommend a program of implementing actions. The mission was authorized to initiate appropriate first steps without waiting for final agreement between the USG and the GVN. There followed, as already noted, the pertinent proclamations of early April, but they were only proclamations, nothing more. On 27 April General Harkins reported that GVN planning for reorganization of paramilitary forces and development of a concept for programs was still in process. General Phat, the Minister of Interior, was considering a merger of SDC and Combat Youth into a single organization (the Popular Forces) under the Ministry of Interior. The Civil Guard would go under the Army high command. Operational control of Popular Forces would be vested in sector and sub-sector commanders at province and district levels. At village levels, Popular Forces would encompass the total local security force and would include both full-time and part-time personnel. Details of compensation and the logistic mechanism were not clear. Harkins judged that the concept was consistent with the Pacification Plan, but the total anticipated strength of Popular Forces could not be projected until more detailed planning had been accomplished. Detailed negotiations with the GVN were continuing and a further report was to be made on 10 May.
Two days later, on 29 April 1964, the JCS commented on the slowness of the GVN in implementing recommendations for 6 and 7 and pointed out an apparent divergence between MACV and GVN on the strength and organization of the GVN forces. They explained that the 50,000 figure was an interim planning figure, and that further increases should be recommended when and as necessary. COMUSMACV was asked to submit his detailed plan for implementing 4, 6, and 7 by the 7th of May.
Almost simultaneously with this JCS message, Harkin's deputy, General West-moreland, was accompanying Ambassador Lodge to see Khanh on the occasion, already described, when Ambassador Lodge made his strong demarche with the Vietnamese Premier. Westmoreland expatiated on the military aspects of the Ambassador's complaint, especially the RVNAF deficiencies, specifying increased desertion rates and inadequate enlistments and draft callups. He calculated that at the current rates of desertion, casualties and recruitment the RVNAF at the end of the year would be smaller not larger than at present.
Finally, on 7 May, Harkins was able to report that a USG-GVN agreement had been reached on calendar year 1964 force goals for the RVNAF, Civil Guard and the National Police, although there was not yet an agreement on the SDC and Combat Youth. The agreement on the RVNAF, CG, and SDC force levels were as shown in the tabulation below:
|Current Authorized Strength||Recommended
Strength CV 64
|Amount Increase||Estimated Cost|
|RVNAF||227,000||237,600||10,600||1. GVN = 1.4 billion piastres|
|2. US = $18 million for pay; $5 million MAP|
|Civil Guard||90,015||97,615||7,600||1. .8 billion piastres|
|2. $2.2 million MAP (no esitmate of cost of pay increase)|
|SDC||110,000||110,000||--||No estimates of cost (no agreement yet)|
|Combat Youth||180,00 (trained)||200,000||20,000||No estimates of cost (no agreement yet)|
|80-90,000 (trained and armed)|
500,000 million piastres
With respect to the perennial problem of assisting the Vietnamese to develop their own offensive guerrilla force, in mid-May there was some progress to report, although the accomplishments were less than had been hoped. Efforts were continuing to improve the distribution of Ranger battalions for use against VC base areas and in border areas of I and II Corps. Plans also were being developed at that time for better border control, and for intelligence integration, coordination of Vietnamese Special Forces operations, and air surveillance. Efforts were also being made towards integration of Vietnamese Special Forces and U.S. Special Forces staffs at all command echelons. Vietnamese junior officers and NCO's, including Montagnards, were being initiated to training and guerrilla warfare techniques in the new VNSF/USSF Center at Nha Trang. This was expected to encourage the VNSF to adopt bolder and more confident tactics.
Recommendations 8, 9, and 10 were accomplished rather simply and expeditiously because they consisted entirely of supplying the South Vietnamese materials that they needed. It did not involve our inducing the Vietnamese themselves to do anything. Recommendation 8 was to provide the Vietnamese Air Force 25 A1H aircraft in exchange for present T-28's. Recommendation 9 was to provide the Vietnamese army additional M-113 APC's (withdrawing the M-114's there), additional riverboats and approximately $5-l0 million worth of additional materiel. Recommendation 10 was to announce publicly the fertilizer program and to expand it with a view to trebling within two years the amount of fertilizer currently made available.
MAP funding for Recommendation 8 was approved by ISA on 25 March 1964 following approval of the delivery schedule on 22 March. On 1 May 1964, 19 A1H's were delivered and six more scheduled for delivery 10 days later. A Navy unit of 4 support officers, 8 instruction pilots and 150 men arrived on 30 April 1964 to train Vietnamese crews until they could assume full responsibility, which was estimated to be in three to six months. By early May planning and funding action for the provision of the M-113's had been completed. According to the schedule developed in response to the request for this materiel made by CINCPAC and COMUSMACV, 17 M-113's were shipped to arrive in Saigon 17 April, 16 were due to arrive 29 April, 30 were shipped to arrive by 1 June, and 30 more were to arrive by 10 July. There was an agreement between CINCPAC and COMUSMACV that no additional howitzers, riverboats or AN/PRC/41s were to be recommended at that time. Eighty-five thousand tons of fertilizer had been requested and procured by early May for spring planting, and this had been publicized by the GVN and in Washington. A distribution scheme was being developed and refined in early May with provision for further expansion including a probable 18,000 tons requirement in the fall.
There were two important visitations to Saigon during April. The first was by General Earle G. Wheeler, then Chief of Staff, USA, who visited Saigon from 15-20 April and represented Secretary McNamara and the JCS during the visit of the Secretary of State to Saigon 17-20 April. It was during these meetings that Khanh's desire to shift the emphasis of the struggle to an attack on the North first become emphatically evident. In the meeting with Khanh on 16 April, Wheeler, in company with General Harkins, was informed by Khanh that eventually the war must be moved north. Harkins later told Wheeler that this was the first time Khanh had ever said that extending operations to the North was inevitable. Khanh explained that when the move to the North occurred MACV would have to take over all the logistics. He further said he was ready to start planning for an extension of operations to the North.
Two days later on 18 April Khanh again brought the matter up, this time with Secretary of State Rusk. Rusk replied that this was a big problem, that political preparation would be needed, and that while the U.S. was prepared to take any action necessary to win the war, it had to be very clear that such action was indeed necessary before the U.S. would embark on it.
A fortnight before on 4 April 1964 W. P. Bundy had written a letter to Ambassador Lodge with enclosures which concerned a possible political scenario to support action against North Vietnam and for the earlier, so-called "Blue Annex" (considerations of extended actions to the North) completed during the McNamara-Taylor visit in March 1964. In Washington there was considerable theorizing, in this period, about the best manner of persuading North Vietnam to cease aid to the NLF-VC by forceful but restrained pressures which would convey the threat of greater force if the North Vietnamese did not end their support of the insurgency in South Vietnam. In certain circles in Washington at least, there was what appears now to have been an amazing level of confidence that we could induce the North Vietnamese to abandon their support of the SVN insurgency if only we could convince them that we meant business, and that we would indeed bomb them if they did not stop their infiltration of men and supplies to the South.
This confidence, although ultimately accepted as the basis for decision, was neither universal nor unqualified. This was evident, for instance in the meeting of 19 April, when the subject was discussed in Saigon with Rusk, Lodge, Harkins, Nes, Manfull, DeSilva, Lt. Col. Dunn, General Wheeler, W. P. Bundy, and Solbert of ISA. Much of the discussion on that occasion centered on the political context, objectives, and risks, of increasing military pressure on North Vietnam. It was understood that it would be first exerted solely by the Government of Vietnam, and would be clandestine. Gradually both wraps and restraints would be removed. A point on which there was a good deal of discussion was what contact with the DRV would be best in order to let Hanoi know the meaning of the pressures and of the threats of greater pressures. Ambassador Lodge favored a Canadian ICC man who was about to replace the incumbent. The new man he had known at the UN. While Lodge was willing to participate in discussions of the mechanisms, he was explicitly unsure of Hanoi's reaction to any level of pressure. Lodge was not always fully consistent in his views on this subject, and it is not clear that his reservations on this score led him to counsel against the move or to express other cautions. However, he did say he doubted that we could meet massive intervention by the DRV by purely conventional measures. Rusk hoped that the threatened pressures against Hanoi would induce her to end her support for the VC. Rusk emphasized the importance of obtaining the strongest possible evidence of DRV infiltration. It was during this discussion that the question of the introduction of U.S. Naval forces--and hints of Cam Ranh Bay--arose as a measure which it was hoped would induce increased caution in Hanoi. The presence of military power there, it was hoped, might induce Hanoi to be more restrained in its actions toward South Vietnam. There was speculation about whether the use of nuclear weapons against North Vietnam would bring in the Russians. Rusk had been impressed, so he said, by Chiang Kai-shek's recent, strongly expressed opposition to any use by the United States of nuclear weapons. There was mention that Khiem had sought Chinese Nationalist military forces but their utility was generally deprecated. Bundy conjectured, for argument's sake, that nukes used in wholly unpopulated areas solely for purposes of interdiction might have a different significance than if used otherwise. It is not reported that any examination of effectiveness or of obviously possible countermeasures was essayed; and no decisions were made. But the direction of thinking was clearly away from measures internal to Vietnam, and clearly headed toward military actions against the North.
At the conclusion of his visit to Vietnam in mid-April Secretary Rusk drew up the two-part summary list of added steps that he believed necessary. The first part, composed of actions presenting no substantive policy problems listed the following actions:
1. Engage more flags in South Vietnam.
2. Increase GVN diplomatic representation, and GVN information activity (to widen support of the GVN cause).
3. Enlist General Minh in the war effort.
4. Mobilize public support for war effort by civilian groups.
5. Improve the psychological warfare effort.
6. Discreetly cooperate with Khanh for the expulsion of "undesirable characters."
7. Empower Ambassador Lodge to make on-the-spot promotions to U.S. civilians in Vietnam.
Among the actions the Secretary felt should be considered, but which involved policy problems, were:
1. Maintain U.S. naval presence at either Tourane or Cam Ranh Bay, as a signal to Hanoi (to suggest to them our deep interest in affairs in Vietnam).
2. Spend more money in developing pacified provinces instead of concentrating efforts almost exclusively on trouble spots.
3. Push GVN anti-junk operations gadually north of the DMZ.
4. Remove inhibitions on the use of Asian intelligence agents in Cambodian-Laos border areas.
By the end of another fortnight Khanh's mood had turned much more strongly toward insistence upon his march to the North. On the morning of 4 May 1964, Khanh asked Lodge to call, and Khanh began by asking if he should make a declaration putting the country on a war footing. This, he said would involve getting rid of "politicians" in the government and having a government composed frankly of technicians. It would involve suspension of civil rights ("as had been the case under Lincoln in your civil war"). There would be a curfew, Saigon would cease to be a city of pleasure, and plans laid to evacuate the diplomatic corps and two million people. Khanh then said that an announcement should be made to Hanoi that any further interference with South Vietnam's internal affairs would lead to reprisals, and Khanh specifically asked if the U.S. would be prepared to undertake tit-for-tat bombing each time there was such interference.
Continuing, Khanh talked further, somewhat wildly, of defying Cambodia and breaking diplomatic relations with France; and he even mentioned a declaration of war against the DRV at one point. He conveyed the impression of a desperate desire to press for an early military decision by outright war with the DRy. Lodge sought to discourage this sort of adventurism, but acknowledged that if the DRV invaded South Vietnam with its Army, that act would raise a host of new questions of acute interest to the U.S. Possible entry of Chinese forces would have to be considered. The question then would be whether such an Army could be made ineffective by interdicting its supply lines. He could not envision the U.S. putting into Asia an Army the size of the U.S. Army in Europe in World War II. Khanh said that he understood this but that an "Army Corps" of U.S. Special Forces numbering 10,000 could do in Asia as much as an Army group had done in Europe. "One American can make soldiers out of 10 Orientals." [Sic!] It was illogical, wasteful, and wrong to go on incurring casualties "just in order to make the agony endure."
Near the end of his report of this conversation, the Ambassador inserted this comment, "this man obviously wants to get on with the job and not sit here indefinitely taking casualties. Who can blame him?" Then he added, as a further comment:
His desire to declare a state of war . . . seems wholly in line with our desire to get out of a "business as usual" mentally. He is clearly facing up to all the hard questions and wants us to do it, too.
Lodge's report of Khanh's impatient wish to strike north drew an immediate flash response from Rusk, which began with a statement that made it clear that the message had been considered carefully at the White House. Extremely grave issues were raised by the conversation, and reactions had to be developed with great care. There would still be another meeting with the President on the matter, on 6 May, before McNamara departed for the trip that would take him to Saigon (after Bonn). McNamara would take up issues with Lodge upon his arrival there. But before the 6 May meeting with the President, would Lodge please answer seven questions as a contribution to the Washington consideration of the issue.
The questions raised by the Secretary and the answers provided later by the Embassy follow:
1. What were Khanh's motivations? Does he believe that mobilization makes sense only as a preparation for military action against North Vietnam?
Reply: Khanh as professional soldier thinks in terms of victory. Not a matter of pique. Honestly seeking a means of putting country on war footing.
2. Is there a trace of despair in Khanh's remarks? Does he think he can win without attacking north? Reply: No.
3. Previously Khanh told McNamara it would be necessary to consolidate a base in South Vietnam for attacking North Vietnam. Previous counter-guerrilla experience in Greece, Malaya, and Korea supports this judgment. Reply: Khanh does not want to move regardless of progress in the South.
4. Khanh's talk of evacuating seems fantastic. Reply: Agree. Khanh's concern was an ability to administer the city if attacked. (This referred to Khanh's discussion of evacuating the city.)
5. Were Khanh's talks of warning to Hanoi and Cambodia and action against the French integral parts of mobilization? Reply: Yes. But he should have evidence against French nationals.
6. How to interpret Khanh's remarks about U.S. "Army Corps?" Reply: Loose talk. This reaction came after (Lodge's) discouraging reply about
the possibility of the U.S. bringing in large numbers of forces.
7. Was the GVN capable of administering limited mobilization? Reply: Question is a puzzler. However, some such thing might be a way of overcoming "business as usual."
The response to Khanh's proposal that came out of the 6 May meeting was that the Secretary of Defense was to tell Khanh, when he was in Saigon, that the U.S. did "not intend to provide military support nor undertake the military objective of rolling back Communist control in North Vietnam."
C. THE SECRETARY'S VISiT TO SAIGON MAY 1964
Accompanied by General Wheeler, and MM. Sylvester and McNaughton, and his military aide, the Secretary of Defense made a brief visit to Saigon 12-14 May enroute home from Bonn. In informing Saigon on 4 May of his projected visit he said that his primary objective was to get full information as to the current status and future plans, with targets and dates, for the following items for the rest of calendar year 1964:
1. Augmentation of GVN military and paramilitary forces, with a breakdown by area and service category.
2. Increased compensation for GVN military and paramilitary personnel.
3. Reorganization of military and paramilitary forces.
4. Creation of the Civil Administrative Corps.
5. Implementation of the national mobilization plan.
6. The steps and timetables, both military and civil, for our implementation of the oil-spot concept of pacification.
Additionally, it was further specified that he wanted information on the following:
1. A map of population and areas controlled by the VC and the GVN.
2. Progress of military operations in extending control by the oil-spot theory.
3. Brief reports on the critical provinces.
4. The Country Team's appraisal of Khanh's progress in strengthening national, provincial and district governments.
5. The Country Team's evaluation of Khanh's support by various groups (constituting Vietnamese political power centers).
6. MACV's forecast of likely VC and GVN military activity for the rest of 1964.
7. Recommendations on cross-border intelligence operations.
8. Report on the extent to which the U.S. contribution of added resources or personnel (either military or civilian) for civil programs could strengthen the GVN counterinsurgency program.
The trip books prepared for the members of the Secretary's party also indicated that one major concern was to reinforce Lodge's demarche of 30 April concerning facilitating the flow of piastres to the provinces for counterinsurgency support. It was suggested that possibly the rigid and conservative director of the budget, Luu Van Tinh might have to be dismissed if Oanh couldn't make him do better. A list of problems that were created by lack of piastres in the provinces followed:
1. Health workers trained by AID were not employed for lack of piastres.
2. Provincial and district officers (both health and agricultural extension workers) were severely restricted in travel to villages for lack of per diem and gasoline.
3. Bills for handling AID counterinsurgency cargo at the port of Danang were not paid, resulting in refusal and threat of refusal, by workers and groups, to handle more cargo.
4. Several categories of GVN workers had not been paid salaries owed to them for months.
5. Truckers were threatening to refuse to handle AID counterinsurgency cargo because they had not been paid for past services by the Government of Vietnam.
6. There were inadequate funds to compensate villages for food, lodging, water and services provided by peasants to the ARVN, the CG, and the SDC.
7. There had been nonpayment or delayed or only partial payment of promised relocation allowances to relocated authorities.
In the light of these problems it was considered that two USOM piastre cash funds might be established: (1) a petty cash fund to support the Ministry of Education; and (2) a substantial USOM-controlled piastre fund to break bottlenecks in such matters as transportation of goods, spare parts, per diem payment of immobilized Vietnamese personnel, and emergency purchases on the local market. AID Administrator Bell in Washington had made commitments to Secretary McNamara that all piastres necessary for counterinsurgency would be forthcoming even if deficit financing were needed. But because there were plenty of commodity imports at hand, that posed no problem. USOM and MACV and the public administration advisors who were then being recruited should review carefully whether U.S. civil administration advisors to the provincial chiefs could facilitate the flow of funds and commodities, and expedite paper work. Finally, the use of rural affairs provincial staffs should be increased by one or more per province, perhaps using Filipinos or Chinese Nationals.
The first day of the Secretary's stay in Saigon was spent in briefings, and not all of what he heard was encouraging. There was first a briefing from the Ambassador, who said the administrative mechanism of the central GVN was not functioning smoothly, that Khanh overcentralized authority, and that although the situation might work out the prospects were not good. One bit of encouragement was that Khanh was requesting more U.S. advisors--this was taken as a token of good intentions and of willingness to cooperate with the U.S. The provincial government would continue to be weak, and the corps commanders' authority handicapped the provinces. Khanh's 23 new province chiefs and 80 new district chiefs had improved the quality of leadership, he thought. But the Buddhists, although fragmented, remained politically active and Thich Tri Quang was agitating strongly against Khanh. The Catholics were about to withdraw their chaplains from the Army. The students supported Khanh but the intellectuals did not. Lodge thought that the current U.S. program was of about the right size but that better leadership was needed. He would like U.S. civilian advisors in each corps area. When USOM Director Brent gave his briefing he made the point that USOM was 25 percent short of authorized personnel strength. This led the Secretary to ask about the use of U.S. military personnel, FSOs, or Peace Corps personnel to fill the shortage. Forrestal was asked to look into the problem and report. The NIA was short of faculty because seven instructors had been assigned elsewhere and there was, moreover, and inadequate budget.
In the afternoon briefing, General Harkins said he was guardedly optimistic in spite of the fact that 23 province chiefs, 135 district chiefs, and practically all senior military commanders had been replaced since the last coup. In discussing "Population Control" (pacification), it was decided to use 1 April 1964 as a base for statistical measurements of pacification progress. When he came to the subject of the planned augmentation of ARVN and the paramilitary forces, the figures presented by General Harkins showed that achievement lagged behind the agreed goals. Although the agreed MAP program called for 229,000 RVNAF personnel at that time and 238,000 for the end of calendar year 1964, there were actually only 207,000 currently in RVNAF. (This showed no improvement over March.) The strength of RVNAF had in fact been decreasing consistently from a high of 218,000 in July 1963 because of increased activity (hence losses through casualties), desertions, budget problems and miscellaneous lesser causes.
Among the topics receiving considerable attention during the meeting on the morning of the 13th of May was that of VNAF pilot training program. This subject assumed special importance for three reasons. First, the March program of providing helicopters to the Vietnamese Air Force called also for the provision of pilots to fly them. Second, there had just previously been some embarrassing publicity concerning the participation of USAF pilots in covert combat roles, an activity that had not been publicly acknowledged. Third, the meeting with the President on 6 May had led to the instructions to the Secretary, already noted, to discourage Khanh's hopes of involving the United States in his March to the North. In this discussion of VNAF pilot training, it was revealed that there were 496 VNAF pilots currently at hand, but that 666 were required by 1 July. Thirty helicopter pilots were to finish by 1 July, 30 liaison pilots to finish by 27 June, and 226 cadet pilots were in the United States whose status was not known at the time of the meeting. The Secretary emphasized that it had never been intended that the USAF participate in combat in Vietnam, and current practices that belied this were exceptions to that policy. The Administration had been embarrassed because of the Shank affair--letters which had complained that U.S. boys were being killed in combat while flying inferior aircraft. The Secretary emphasized that that VNAF should have a better pilot-to-aircraft ratio. It should be 2 to 1 instead of 1.4 to 1 as at present. And, as a first priority project, VNAF pilots should transition from other aircraft to the A-lHs to bring the total to 150 qualified to fly that aircraft. It was tentatively agreed to fix that objective for 120 days and accept the consequent degradation of transport capability.
Following this there was a discussion of offensive guerrilla operations and cross-border operations, both of which were agreed to be inadequate. Creation of an offensive guerrilla force had been one of the Secretary's March recommendations. General Westmoreland said that Special Forces of both the U.S. and the GVN were over-extended, and he added he believed that they should be expanded. As a result of this conversation MACV was directed to study the six-month duty tour of the U.S. Special Forces. The Secretary considered it possibly too short and thought it might have to be extended to a full year. On the subject of cross-border operations, the concept was to drop six-man teams in each of authorized areas in North Vietnam and Laos and pick them up, 30 days later, by helicopter. The objective was two teams by 15 June; and this potential was to be doubled each month thereafter. It was decided that operations should begin approximately 15 June 1964.
In his subsequent report on this second SecDef-MACV conference, MACV reported that the Secretary of Defense had expressed disappointment that the civil defense decree of the GVN did not constitute a counterpart to military conscription. Furthermore, MACV recorded that in the course of the discussion of means of strengthening the VNAF the Secretary of Defense had reaffirmed basic U.S. policy that fighting in Vietnam should be done by Vietnamese. The FARM-GATE concept was explained as a specific, reluctantly approved exception, a supplementary effort transitory in nature.
The Secretary's military aide, Lt. Col. Sidney B. Berry, Jr., recorded the decisions taken by the Secretary at Saigon. They were these:
1. Have the first group of six-man reconnaissance teams for cross-border operations ready to operate by 15 June 1964, then double the number of teams each month thereafter. The Secretary was anxious to get hard information on DRV aid to the VC. The Secretary was to get authority for additional cross-border operations in addition to the operations already authorized in two locations.
2. Concerning the VNAF training program, there was never any intent, nor was it the policy of the USG to have USAF pilots participate in combat. Exception to this should be considered undesirable and not setting a precedent. MACV was therefore to give first priority to manning 75 AlHs with two Vietnamese pilots per aircraft, for a total of 150 Vietnamese pilots; and he was also to determine the optimum size of the VNAF, tentatively using a figure of 125 to 150 A1H aircraft. In connection with this the Secretary approved assignment to the VNAF of 25 more A1Hs by 1 October 1964 to replace 18 RT-28s on hand.
3. When the Secretary asked Harkins if he needed additional Special Forces, Harkins replied, "Yes." The Secretary then said that when COMUSMACV stated requirements he would approve them if they were valid. He said that a six-month duty tour was too short and the normal tour should be extended to one year, reserving the right, of course, to make exceptions for special cases.
4. When General Harkins handed the Secretary a shopping list for items and funds totalling about $7 million, the Secretary immediately approved the list.
5. The Secretary directed COMUSMACV to submit in writing requirements for South Vietnamese military housing.
6. Concerning MACV needs, the "SecDef made unequivocal statement that MACV should not hesitate to ask for anything they need. SecDef gives first priority to winning the war in SVN. If necessary he will take weapons and equipment from U.S. forces to give the VNAF. Nothing will be spared to win the war. But U.S. personnel must operate in compliance with USG policies and objectives."
Near the end of the Secretary's stay General Khanh met with McNamara, Lodge, Taylor and Harkins; and judging from the report of the meeting sent in by the Ambassador, Khanh put on a masterful performance. Khanh began his talk by reviewing the recent course of the war claiming to have established control, in the last three months, over some three million Vietnamese citizens [sic]. However, the danger of reinfiltration by the Communists still existed. Khanh said that the biggest and most time-consuming problems were political, and he was unskilled in such things and wanted to lean for advice on Ambassador Lodge. But religious problems were also pressing. There was religious conflict between Catholics and Buddhists and within the Buddhist movement. The Government of Vietnam was in the middle. The real trouble-maker was Thich Tn Quang. Lodge was trying to help Khanh in this. There was also a problem with the press, and with "parlor politicians" (civilians). Khanh said that he was a soldier, not a politician, and wished he could spend his time mounting military operations and in planning long-term strategy instead of dealing with political intrigues and squabbles. But he had to think about the security of his regime.
The Secretary then referred to the Ambassador's report of Khanh's desire not to "prolong the agony," and said that he, the Secretary, wanted to hear more about this. Khanh said that in speaking of not wanting to "make the agony endure" he did not mean he would lose patience, but rather wanted to speed up the effort by something like a proclamation that South Vietnam was being attacked from the north and was therefore being put on a war footing. The statement would also say that if this attack from the north did not stop within a specified period of time, South Vietnam would strike back in ways and degrees comparable to the North Vietnamese attacks on South Vietnam.
Whereas the north attacks us with guerrillas that squirm through the jungle, we would attack them with guerrillas of our own, only ours would fly at treetop level and blow up key installations or mine the Port of Haiphong.
The Secretary asked in return if Khanh judged it wise to start operations at that time. Khanh replied that he needed first to consider the enemy's probable reaction, including the reaction of Communist China. The NLF and VC were only arms and hands of the monster whose head was in Hanoi "and maybe further north." To destroy the thing it was necessary to strike the head. The purpose of going on a war footing was to prepare for ultimate extension of the war to the north. Taylor asked how best to attack the North. It had been noted that small-scale operations had had no success. With respect to RVNAF capabilities, Khanh said that they either were equal to the task already, or soon would be-the problem was to be sure of enjoying full U.S. support. Khanh conceded that there were always unknowns that created uncertainties. Taylor recalled that in March Khanh had favored holding off the attack on North Vietnam until there was a stabler base in South Vietnam. Khanh hedged on this point at first; then, after conceding some GVN weakness, said an attack on the North was the best way to cure that weakness. It would be a cure for weakness to draw clear lines of battle and thereby engage men's hearts in an all-out effort.
The Secretary at a later point reminded Khanh of the 72,000-man increase in ARVN, and another 72,000-man increase in paramilitary forces, that had been agreed upon in March; and pointed out that accomplishments in April did not suggest that the GVN was on schedule. The Secretary emphasized he made the observation only to introduce his main point, which was that the U.S. Government would help in any way it could to get the program back on schedule. Then he produced a chart showing what should have been achieved and what actually had been achieved. The USG would supply any needed funds, and fighter-type aircraft, but the GVN must emphasize to the provinces that program funds must be disbursed. Khanh blamed the piastre disbursal difficulties on inherited French budget practices, and promised to pressure the province chiefs further on the matter. There was talk about incompetent personnel within the GVN and of the problems of replacing them.
D. THE HONOLULU CONFERENCE OF 30 MAY 1964
The next landmark of policy formation for Vietnam was the Honolulu Conference of 30 May 1964. On 26 May, the President sent out to Lodge his call for the Honolulu Conference:
I have been giving the most intense consideration to the whole battle for Southeast Asia, and I have now instructed Dean Rusk, Bob McNamara, Max Taylor and John McCone to join Felt in Honolulu for a meeting with you and a very small group of your most senior associates in Southeast Asia to review for my final approval a series of plans for effective action.
I am sending you this message at once to give you private advance notice because I hope this meeting can occur very soon-perhaps on Monday. Dean Rusk will be sending you tomorrow a separate cable on the subjects proposed for the meeting, and Bob McNamara will put a plane at your disposal for the trip
Other parts of the message referred to matters related to imepnding changes in the mission in Saigon-the retirement of General Harkins and his replacement by General Westmoreland and the strengthening of the civilian side of the country team.
The promised policy guidance followed promptly. It constituted both an appraisal of the current situation and a statement of the needs--flowing from that appraisal--that it seemed evident had to be met, along with some proposals for meeting those needs.
I. You will have surmised from yesterday's telegram from the President and the Secretary that we here are fully aware that gravest decisions are in front of us and other governments about free world's interest in and commitment to security of Southeast Asia. Our point of departure is and must be that we cannot accept overrunning of Southeast Asia by Hanoi and Peiping. Full and frank discussion of these decisions with you is purpose of Honolulu meeting....
2. President will continue in close consultation with Congressional leadership (he met with Democratic leadership and Senate Republicans yesterday) and will wish Congress associated with him on any steps which carry with them substantial acts and risks of escalation. At that point there will be three central questions:
a. Is the security of Southeast Asia vital to the U.S. and of the free world?
b. Are additional steps necessary?
c. Will the additional steps accomplish their mission of stopping the intrusions of Hanoi and Peping into the south?
Whether approached from b or c above, it seems obvious that we must do everything within our power to stiffen and strengthen the situation in South Vietnam. We recognize that . . . the time sequence of Communist actions may force the critical decisions before any such preparatory measures could achieve tangible success.
II. Nevertheless, in Honolulu, we would like you . . . to be prepared to discuss with us several proposals . . perhaps the most radical . . . is the one which . . . would involve a major infusion of U.S. efforts into a group of selected provinces where Vietnamese seem currently unable to execute their pacification programs .
We would therefore propose that U.S. personnel, both civilian and military, drawn from the U.S. establishment currently in Vietnam, be "encadred" into current Vietnamese political and military structure....
Specifically, this would involve the assignment of civilian personnel, alternatively military personnel with a civilian function, to work in the provincial administration, and insofar as it is feasible, down to the logistic level of administration. On the military side it would mean the introduction of mobile training teams to train, stiffen and improve the state of the Vietnamese paramilitary forces and district operation planning....
In order to test the utility of such a proposal, we would suggest that seven provinces be chosen for this purpose. We would offer the provinces of Long An, Dinh Tuong, Kien Hoa, Tay Ninh, Hau Nghia, which are five critical provinces in the immediate vicinity of Saigon. Additionally, we would propose Quang Ngia. . . . and finally Phu Yen.....
U.S. personnel assigned to these functions would not appear directly in the chain of command. . . . They would instead be listed as "assistants" to the Vietnamese officials. In practice, however, we would expect them to carry a major share of the burden of decision and action....
....This proposal might also require a close integration of U.S. and Vietnamese pacification activities in Saigon.....
III. In addition to these radical proposals . . . we continue gravely concerned about the differences between Khanh and the generals, the problem of Big Minh, and the religious differences. . .
IV. Finally, we wish to consult with you on the manner in which we can eliminate the business as usual attitude in Saigon. . . . We will also
wish to examine the best means of reducing the problems of dependents. . .
On the same day that the foregoing policy guidance went out to Ambassador Lodge, a meeting was held in Washington at William Sullivan's suggestion. Attended by Mr. McGeorge Bundy, John McNaughton, General Goodpastor and William Colby, it considered a policy memo drawn up by Mr. Mendenhall covering most of the same points raised in the message to Lodge. The gist of the memo was that the GVN was not operating effectively enough to reverse the adverse trend of the war against the VC, that the Khanh government was well intentioned but its good plans were not being translated into effective action, and that it was necessary therefore to find means of broadening the U.S. role in Vietnam in order to infuse efficiency into the operations of the GVN. In general, the memo argued the U.S. should become more deeply involved both militarily and otherwise, abandoning the passive advisor role but avoiding visibility as a part of the chain of command. Vietnamese sensitivities imposed limitations, and if it should appear that the United States intruded, the Vietnamese might come to resent our presence. The memo proposed, nevertheless, that the meeting carefully consider a phased expansion of the U.S. role. First, military advisors might be placed in paramilitary units in seven provinces--about 300 added advisors would be needed for this purpose. Second, in the same seven provinces--Long An, Dinh Tuong, Kien Hoa, Tay Ninh, Hau Nghia, Quang Ngia, and Phu Yen--U.S. civilian and military personnel should be interlarded in the civil administration, about 10 per province for a total of 70. Third, as an experiment, the U.S. might try civilians at district levels to supplement the U.S. military personnel being assigned there. "In view of the traditional distrust of the Vietnamese peasants for military personnel, it is of considerable importance to begin an introduction of American civilian presence at this level to help win support of the peasant population." [Sic] To back up these field operations it was suggested that a joint Vietnamese-American Pacification Operations Committee be established, with high level representation from MACV and USOM on the U.S. side, and from the Defense Ministry, the Joint General Staff (JGS), the Vice President for Pacification, and the Directorate of the Budget and Foreign Aid on the Vietnamese side. This Joint Pacification Operations Committee should be concerned not with policy but with implementation of policies. (This was judged the weak side of the GVN.) U.S. personnel might, in addition, be introduced at reasonably high levels into the Ministries of Rural Affairs, Interior, Information, Education, Health, Public Works, and, in fact, into any other agency concerned with pacification. Finally, the U.S. personnel so assigned should come from among those Americans already on the spot-partly from civilians and partly from military officers already on assignment there-and the vacancies caused by these reassignments should be filled by recruitment from the U.S.
A cable from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to CINCPAC and COMUSMACV indicated that (in addition to some questions on Laos) the Secretary of Defense wanted the views of the two senior commanders in the Pacific (CINCPAC and MACV) on a series of questions largely but not exclusively military in nature:
1. What military actions, in ascending order of gravity, might be taken to impress Hanoi with our intentions to strike North Vietnam?
2. What would be the time factors and force requirements involved in achieving readiness for such actions against North Vietnam?
3. What should be the purpose and pattern of the initial air strike against North Vietnam?
4. What was their concept of the actions and reactions which might arise from progressive implementation of CINCPAC plans 37-64 and 32-64?
5. How might North Vietnam and Communist China respond to these escalating pressures?
6. What military help should be sought from SEATO nations?
There was a second group of queries which referred not to the possibility of military pressures of one sort or another against North Vietnam, but rather were directed mainly to the counterinsurgency efforts within South Vietnam.
1. What were their views on providing four-man advisory teams, at once, for each district in the seven selected provinces, and later in all of the 239 districts in SVN?
2. In what other ways could military personnel be used to advantage in forwarding the pacification program in the seven selected provinces?
3. What was the current status of:
a. The proposed increase in regular and paramilitary forces of the GVN, including the expansion of the VNAF, the reorganization of paramilitary forces and the increased compensation for GVN military forces?
b. Formation of an intelligence net of U.S. advisors reporting on conditions in the RVNAF?
c. Development of a capability for offensive guerrilla operations?
d. Progress under decrees for national mobilization?
e. Progress in detailing and in carrying out operational plans for clear-hold operations (the oil-spot concept)?
Along with the solicitation of opinion from COMUSMACV and CINCPAC, summary proposals were developed by SACSA on the "feasiblility of strengthening RVNAF, CG and SDC by increased advisory efforts and/or encadrement." SACSA's proposals, intended for consideration at the Honolulu meeting, centered on three subjects. The first elaborated a concept which was called "U.S. Advisory Assistance to the Vitenamese Civil Guard" which consisted of a phased program of U.S. detachments at the district level to provide operational assistance to paramilitary forces. About one and one-half years (or until the end of calendar year 1965) would be needed to expand the current effort--which consisted of two-man teams for only 13 districts--to 239 districts with larger advisory teams (one officer and 3 NCO specialists). Thus, by the end of 1965, according to this plan, approximately 1,000 men would be assigned to the districts. To support this effort in the districts about 500 more personnel would be needed, raising the total to 1500. The limiting factor on this effort would be a shortage of interpretors.
The second program proposed for consideration by SACSA was a "Pilot Program for Provision of Advisory Assistance to Paramilitary Forces in Seven Provinces." This was directed exclusively to the seven critical provinces, namely, Long An, Dinh Tuong, Kien Hoa, Hau Nghia, Tay Ninh, Quang Ngia and Phu Yen. The concept in this case was to assign one advisory detachment with one company grade officer and three NCOs to each of the 49 districts in the seven provinces. In addition to this total of 200 persons, a 35 percent manpower overhead slice plus some augmentation at the province level (70 + 30) would be required. This would mean about 100 men in addition to the 4 X 49 in the districts, or an overall total of about 300. In addition, a minimum of 49 interpretors would be needed.
The third proposal for discussion was a suggestion that U.S. advisors be placed at company level in regular ARVN units. In investigating this proposal, CINCPAC, COMUSMACV and advisors on the spot had been asked their judgment, and all were reported to believe that this extension of advisors to company level was not necessary, and that the current advisory structure to ARVN was adequate.
The problem areas cited in all of these proposals to extend the advisory system were the questionable acceptability to the Vietnamese of further intrusion by American advisors, the shortage of interpretors, and finally the inevitable increase in U.S. casualties.
The political problems demanding solutions in order to permit the GVN to proceed effectively in its struggle against the VC were identified in the U.S preparations for the Honolulu Conference as:
a. The disposition of the senior political and military prisoners from the two coups (there was resentment by some groups over the detention of prisoners at Dalat; on the other hand, there was possible danger to the Khanh regime if they were released).
b. The rising religious tension both Catholic and Buddhist.
c. The split between Buddhists under Thich Tam Chau (moderates and under Thich Tn Quang (extremists).
d. Petty politicking within the GVN.
e. GVN failure to provide local lectures.
f. GVN failure to appoint Ambassadors to key governments.
g. Inadequate GVN arrangements to handle third country aid.
h. RVNAF failure to protect the population.
It was not within the competence of the Honolulu Conference to come to any decisions concerning the touchy matter of additional pressures against the North; this could be done only at the White House level. Agreement was reached, however, on certain specific actions to be taken with respect to the critical provinces and very shortly after the return of major participants to Washington these actions were approved and instructions were sent to the field accordingly.
On 5 June the Department notified the Embassy in Saigon that actions agreed upon at Honolulu were to be taken with respect to the critical provinces as follows:
1. Move in added South Vietnamese troops to assure numerical superiority over the VC.
2. Assign contol over all troops in each province to the province chief.
3. Execute clear-and-hold operations on a hamlet-by-hamlet basis following the "oil spot" theory for each of the approximately 40 districts within the seven critical provinces.
4. Introduce population control programs (curfews, ID papers, intelligence networks, etc.).
5. Increase the number of provincial police.
6. Expand the information program.
7. Develop special economic programs for each province.
8. Add U.S. personnel as follows:
a. 320 military advisors in provinces and districts.
b. 40 USOM advisors in provinces and districts.
c. 74 battalion advisors (2 for each of 37 battalions).
9. Transfer military personnel as needed to fill USOM shortages.
10. Establish joint US/GVN teams to monitor the program at both National and Provincial levels.
E. PREPARATION FOR INCREASED PRESSURE ON NORTH VIETNAM
The critical question of pressures against North Vietnam remained theoretically moot. The consensus of those formulating policy proposals for final approval by highest authority appears to have been that these pressures would have to be resorted to sooner or later. But the subject was politically explosive, especially in a presidential election year. Accordingly, not only did the basic foreign policy issues involved need careful exploration, but the domestic political framework needed preparation before any binding commitments to serious actions could be decided upon.
On 15 June 1964, McGeorge Bundy addressed a memorandum to the Secrecaries of State and Defense announcing a meeting in the Secretary of State's Conference room that same day at 6:00 p.m.
The principal question for discussion will be to assess the desirability of recommending to the President that a Congressional resolution on Southeast Asia should be sought [material missing]
The second question is what the optimum recommendation for action should be if in fact a congressional resolution is not recommended.
There were six enclosures included for the consideration of those attending the conference. The first was a memorandum on the subject of "Elements of a Southeast Asia Policy That Does Not Include a Congressional Resolution." The second was a Sullivan memorandum summarizing the current situation in South Vietnam. The third was a memorandum by W. P. Bundy dated 12 June 1964 on "Probable Developments and [the] Case for Congressional Resolution on Southeast Asia." The fourth was a draft resolution on Southeast Asia for Congressional approval. The fifth suggested basic themes to be employed in presenting the resolution to the Congress. The sixth and last consisted of a long series of questions and answers regarding the resolution of the public relations sort that it was thought should surround the effort.
The proposed "Elements of a Policy That Does Not Include a Congressional Resolution" consisted largely of an elaboration of the covert measures that were already either approved or nearing approval. This included RECCE STRIKE and T-28 Operations all over Laos and small-scale RECCE STRIKE Operations in North Vietnam after appropriate provocation. Apparently the sequence of actions was thought of as beginning with VNAF Operations in the Laotian corridor, followed by limited air and sea deployments of U.S. forces toward Southeast Asia, and still more limited troop movements in that general area. Military actions were to be accompanied by political actions which would maximize diplomatic support for Laos and maximize the support and visible presence of allies in Saigon. This last was explicitly stated to be particularly desired by "higher authority." Diplomatic moves, it was hoped, would also intensify support of Souvanna. In Vietnam, the paper argued, we should emphasize the critical province program, strengthen the Country Team, shift the U.S. role from advice to direction, discourage emphatically any further coup plots, and give energetic support to Khanh. In the U.S. there should be expanded publicity for opposition to both aggressive adventure and withdrawal. It is probably significant that the last words of this study were that "this outline does not preclude a shift to a higher level of action, if actions of other side should justify or require it. It does assume that in the absence of such drastic action, defense of U.S. interests is possible within these limits over the next six months."
The Sullivan memorandum warrants special attention because, although nominally a report on this situation, it speculated on policy and courses of action in a way very significant to the policy formulation processes at this time. In discussing the role of morale as a future consideration it approached a level of mysticism over a pathway of dilettastism. It was stated that at Honolulu both Lodge and Westmoreland had said the situation would remain in its current stalemate unless some "victory" were introduced. Wesimoreland defined victory as determination to take some new military commitments such as air strikes against the Viet Cong in the Laos corridor; while Lodge defined victory as willingness to make punitive air strikes against North Vietnam. "The significant fact . . . was that they [both Westmoreland and Lodge] looked toward some American decision to undertake a commitment which the Vietnamese would interpret as a willingness to raise the military ante and eschew negotiations begun from a position of weakness." Although Khanh had had some success, Vietnamese morale was still not good and needed leadership had not been displayed.
If we can obtain a breakthrough in the mutual commitment of the U.S. in Vietnam to a confident sense of victory, we believe that we can introduce this sort of executive involvement into the Vietnamese structure. . . . No one . . . can define with precision just how that breakthrough can be established. It could come from the external actions of the U.S., internal leadership in Vietnam, or from an act of the irreversible commitment by the United States.
The "logic" of this seemed to be that Khanh had not been able to provide the necessary leadership, despite all the aid and support the U.S. had given. No level of mere aid, advice, and support short of full participation could be expected to supply this deficiency, because Khanh would remain discouraged and defeated until he was given full assurance of victory. He would not be able to feel that assurance of victory until the U.S. committed itself to full participation in the struggle, even to the extent of co-belligerency. If the U.S. could commit itself in this way, the U.S. determination would somehow be transfused into the GVN. The problem before the assembled U.S. policy-makers, therefore, was to find some means of breakthrough into an irreversible commitment of the U.S.
The actions contemplated in this memorandum were not finally decided upon at this juncture, as we know. But we were gravitating inexorably in that direction in response to forces already at work, and over which we had ceased to have much real control. The situation in Vietnam had so developed, by this time, that by common consent the success of our programs in Vietnam-and indeed of our whole policy there, with which we had publicly and repeatedly associated our national prestige-depended upon the stability of the GVN. Conditions being what they were, the GVN equated, for the future to which plans and actions applied, with the Khanh regime. We were therefore almost as dependent upon Khanh as he was beholden to us. Circumstances had thus forced us into a situation wherein the most immediate and pressing goal of our programs in Vietnam was recognized to be using our resources and prestige to perpetuate a regime that we knew was only one faction--opposed by other factions--and without any broad base of popular support. We were aware of that weakness, and fully intented, whenever it was expedient, to find ways to broaden that basis of popular support. But that was something that could be--and indeed had to be--deferred. Meantime we had to do first things first--we had to bolster the Khanh regime, and since this could only be done by endowing it with some of our own sense of purpose and determination for the cause that was in the first instance theirs, not ours, we would prepare to do the things Khanh indicated were necessary to give him courage.
F. INCREASING U.S. INVOLVEMENT AND GROWING GVN INSTABILITY
The changing of the guard in the U.S. mission in Saigon at the half year point, when Ambassador Lodge returned to the U.S. to participate in election year politics, symbolized the growing importance attached by the U.S. to its Southeast Asia commitment. The combination of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs as Ambassador, backed up by a Deputy Ambassador in the person of U. Alexis Johnson, a former Under Secretary of State who had been U.S. Ambassador to Thailand and was well known in SEA, made a prestigious and impressive team. Moreover, in sending the new Ambassador, the President endowed him with unusual powers.
Dear Ambassador Taylor: As you take charge of the American effort in South Vietnam, I want you to have this formal expression not only of my confidence, but of my desire that you have and exercise full responsibility for the effort of the United States government in South Vietnam. In general terms this authority is parallel to that set forth in President Kennedy's letter of May 29, 1961, to all American Ambassadors; specifically, 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.
I recognize that in the conduct of the day-to-day business of the military assistance command, Vietnam, you will wish to work out arrangements which do not burden you or impede the exercise of your overall direction.
At your convenience I should be glad to know of the arrangements which you propose for meeting the terms of this instuction, so that appropriate supporting action can be taken in the Defense Department and elsewhere as necessary.
This letter rescinds all conflicting instructions to US officers in Vietnam.
Lyndon B. Johnson
The new U.S. team set out immediately to systematize U.S. operations in Vietnam, including reorganization of the upper echelons of the Mission. Added to this was an effort to improve the efficiency of the GVN and USG-GVN cooperation by developing a coordinate, parallel GVN organization. On 7 July Ambassador Taylor reported that, following recommendations from Deputy Ambassador Johnson and agency heads there, he had organized U.S. mission operations under the direction of a U.S. Mission Council, over which he would preside. The Council was to consist of himself, Johnson, Westmoreland, Killen (temporarily Hurt), Zorthian, DeSilva and Sullivan. This group was to meet once a week as an executive organization. To support this council he also established a Coordinating Committee to be chaired by Sullivan. This would carry out Mission Council decisions and prepare the agenda for Council meetings. On the following day, 8 July, Ambassador Taylor reported that he had called upon Khanh, and that Khanh had expressed satisfaction over the new U.S. personnel, and noted the rising morale their appointments had caused within the government. Taylor told Khanh about the formation of the Mission Council and Khanh asked for an organization chart so that he could develop a coordinate set-up within the GVN. Khanh said moreover that the U.S. should not merely advise, but should actually participate in GVN operations and decisions. "We should do this in Saigon (as well as in the provinces), between GVN ministries and offices and their American counterparts."
The new Ambassador did not delay in plunging into the substance of the problems that were plaguing Vietnam. In his first conversations with Khanh he asked about the status of the religious problem, and according to Taylor's report of the conversation, Khanh said the situation was still delicate, that the Catholics were better organized and were the aggressors, that Thich Tn Quang appeared reasonable when in Saigon but less so when in Hue. When the Ambassador queried Khanh about the progress of the recruiting effort, Khanh said that it was not going as well as he would like. With respect to the new pacification plan, HOP TAC, that had been agreed upon, the Ambassador expressed his approval of the general idea because paramilitary forces existed in this area to relieve ARVN. The Ambassador next took up the question of high desertion rates to which Khanh appears to have replied rather fuzzily. He said that the problem was complicated by many factors, that the Vietnamese liked to serve near home and sometimes left one service to join another. He implied that the figures might not mean exactly what they seemed to mean.
The lively interest of the President at this time was indicated by his 10 July request directly to the Ambassador for a coordinated Country Team report at the end of each month to show "where we stand in the process of increasing the effectiveness of our military, economic, information, and intelligence programs, just where the Khanh government stands in the same fields, and what progess we are making in the effort to mesh our work with theirs along the lines of your talk with General Khanh.
Five days later on 15 July, Ambassador Taylor transmitted estimates (not the monthly report) of VC strength which raised the previous estimate from 28,000 to 34,000. In so doing he explained that this was not a sudden and dramatic increase, but rather amounted to acceptance of the existence of units that had been suspected for two or three years but for which confirming evidence had only recently been received.
This increased estimate of enemy strength and recent upward trend in VC activity in the North should not occasion over-concern. We have been coping with this strength for some time without being accurately aware of its dimensions.
The figures were interpretable as a reminder, however, of the growing magnitude of the problem, and of the need to raise the level of GVN/US effort. As a result the Ambassador commented that he was expediting formulation of additional requirements to support the plans in the ensuing months.
For a while, there was a serious effort to coordinate USOM-GVN planning, and on 17 July 1964, USOM met with Khanh, Hoan, Oanh and others--a group Khanh called the National Security Council. This cooperation was approved, as well as cooperation between USIS and the GVN information office--a more sensitive problem. On 23 July 1964, Taylor and Khanh discussed this cooperation in another NSC meeting and it was agreed that, to facilitate things, mutual bureaucratic adjustments would be made. In this same meeting of 23 July, Khanh revived his pressure for offensive operations against North Vietnam and expressed again his impatience with the long pull of counterinsurgency and pacification programs.
This reopening of the "march to the north" theme on 23 July was not the first revival. On 19 July, General Ky had talked to reporters about plans for operations in Laos, and on the same day Khanh himself had made indiscreet remarks about "march to the north" at a unification rally in Saigon. This led to stories and editorials in the Saigon press. The Ambassador protested the campaign as looking like an effort to force the hand of the U.S. This became a central preoccupation of Ambassador Taylor thereafter. He firmly opposed Khanh's pressure on the one hand, and on the other had argued for patience with the GVN even though the GVN defense ministry put out an embarrassing press release immediately after the long Taylor-Khanh talk which followed on 24 July 1964.
The political pressures in Saigon were at that time increasing vastly. Both Kanh and other top Vietnamese politicians and political generals were reacting in increasingly strong ways. The very evident instability of the current regime increased rapidly and at the same time there was a tendency to try to escape from the dilemmas posed within South Vietnam by actions against North Vietnam, actions which it had been hoped would lead to a unity within South Vietnam impossible under the current circumstances. There was a CAS report, for instance, of coup plotting on 24 July that said a decision had been made by the generals to remove Khanh, but that it was not clear who would replace him or whether the planned removal would be opposed. This was the same day that the Ambassador, who had scarcely been in Saigon a fortnight, had first protested to Khanh concerning his indiscreet remarks about a march to the north. The Ambassador also talked to Khanh, following the Mission Council meeting, concerning the rumors of a possible coup. Khanh said that because he (Taylor--i.e., the U.S.) had imposed Minh on the MRC as Chief of State, and because of Minh's support of Generals Kim and Xuan and other partisans of French neutralist policies, Defense Minister Khiem and Chief of State Thieu were leading a group that was pressing Khanh to get rid of Minh. This Khiem block was permeated by Dai Viet political influence. Khanh asked Taylor if he should resign. Taylor said the USG could not contemplate the consequences of another change of government. Because no other leader was in sight, Khanh had our support and he must continue in the face of adversity. "Could we help?" Taylor inquired. Khanh asked that we let it be known that we wanted no more changes of government and asked Taylor to talk to Khiem and his supporters about the bad effects of politics in the armed forces.
One means of demonstrating U.S. support of Khanh was to let Khanh make he first announcement of increased U.S. aid, followed by a background state~nent by the Ambassador. To carry this out, the Ambassador submitted a draft statement for Khanh to use. One part of this draft statement mentioned the increase of U.S. military advisors and their extension "to the district level." When Taylor and Johnson discussed this with Khanh at Dalat two days later, Khanh saw advantages to the proclamation in general, but preferred to change the reference "advisors at the district level" to read "advisors throughout the provinces," because the original suggested an undesirably deep penetration of the GVN by the U.S.
When Ambassador Taylor on 25 July reported further on Khanh's revival of the march to the north theme, he interpreted it as response to political and morale problems within South Vietnam. The Ambassador suggested several possible motivations, and commented that if Khanh had been reasonably sincere his objective probably was to:
....talk "march north" but really have in mind getting U.S. committed to program of reprisal bombing. Such a limited program could be first step to further escalation against Hanoi. [Doc. 58]
On 10 August, when the storm clouds had already appeared but before the gale had begun to blow, Ambassador Taylor filed his first monthly U.S. mission report. The report began by expressing surprise that the first sampling of advisor-level opinion revealed more optimism than among the senior U.S. officials in Saigon. Following this preliminary flourish, the report gave an introductory definition of the problem which was, in simplest terms, that the Hanoi/NLF startegy was not to defeat GVN military forces in battle but rather to harass and terrorize the SVN population and leadership into a state of such demoralization that a political settlement favorable to NVN would ensue. At that point they could proceed by stages to the full attainment of their goals. To oppose this strategy, the Khanh government had a complex not only of military programs, but of social, economic, psychological and above all administrative programs. This complex of programs Taylor reported on under three captions: "Political," "Military" and "Overall." On the political side he reported:
The most important and most intractable internal problem of South Vietnam in meeting the Viet Cong threat is the political structure at the national level. The best thing that can be said about the Khanh government is that it has lasted six months and has about a 50-50 chance of lasting out the year, although probably not without some changed faces in the Cabinet. Although opposed by Minh and resisted less openly by Dai Viet sympathizers among the military, Prime Minister Khanh seems for the time being to have the necessary military support to remain in power. However, it is an ineffective government beset by inexperienced ministers who are also jealous and suspicious of each other....
On the positive side, Khanh seems to have allayed the friction between Buddhists and Catholics at least for the moment, has won the cooperation of the Hoa Hao and Cao Dai, and has responded to our suggestions for improved relations between the GVN and the U.S. mission.....
Khanh has not succeeded in building any substantial body of active popular support in the countryside. In the countryside . . . that support for the GVN exists in direct proportion to the degree of security established by government forces.....
The intriguing inside his government and the absence of dramatic military or political successes react upon Khanh . . . moody . . . subjective to fits of despondency. Seeing the slow course of the counterinsurgency campaign frustrated by the weakness of his government, Khanh has turned to the "march north" theme to unify the home front and to offset the war weariness which he asserts is oppressing his people and his forces.
The state of mind of Khanh and his colleagues would be an important factor in the future conduct of the war, Taylor judged.
They found slow, hard-slugging contest fatiguing to their spirits. The reprisals of 5 August (Tonkin Gulf) had given them a lift, but if indecisive bloodshed with the VC continued, they would probably exert continuing and increasing pressure for direct attack upon Hanoi.
Concerning pacification, the Ambassador observed that the most difficult part of the program was the civilian follow-up after the clearing operation in the clear-and-hold program. The difficulty stemmed from the inefficiency of the ministries. To energize these civilian functions, USOM had increased its provincial representation from 45 in March to 64 in July, but this was still insufficient, despite the judgment of critical inefficiency in the ministries. Taylor next reported that "U.S. observers reported in July that in about ¾ of the provinces GVN provincial and district officers were performing effectively It was too soon to go into details regarding Hop Tac, and the report on that program was in effect a description of its objectives and rationale rather than a progress report.
The Ambassador reported that on the military side, the personnel strength of RVNAF and of the paramilitary forces was slowly rising and by January should reach about 98 percent of the target strength of 446,000. COMUSMACV had reported at the end of July that the actual GVN strength stood at 219,954 RVNAF, 88,560 Regional Forces (formerly Civil Guard), and 127,453 Popular Forces (formerly Self Defense Corps).
III. FROM TONKIN TO NSAM-328
A. TONKIN GULF AND FOLLOWING POLITICAL CRISES
As already noted, the Ambassador's first monthly report was filed just before the internal Vietnamese political storm broke in full force. Through the late spring and into July of 1964, the Buddhist-Catholic quarrel intensified. Students again began to demonstrate in Saigon and Hue. By July a coup plot was developing against Khanh led by his disgruntled Vice Premier, Dr. Nguyen Ton Hoan, who was backed by the Dai Viet and several top military leaders. But according to one of the best authorities, known U.S. opposition to a coup made its leaders hesitate and nothing immediately developed. Then came the Tonkin Gulf affair of 2-4 August, and the U.S. retaliatory strikes of 4-5 August.
An immediate effect of the raids was to shore up Khanh's weakening position. But contrary to prevailing theories and hopes, stability was very short-lived. Khanh sought to exploit the affair by a radio appeal for unity and national discipline. He did not arrest the coup plotters however, which many Vietnamese--but not the U.S. Embassy--advised. Instead, on 7 August, he announced a state of emergency, reimposed censorship and other prescriptions and restrictions on liberties and movements of the Vietnamese people.
Apparently hoping to further exploit the opportunity, Khanh hurriedly sought to draw up a new charter to centralize and increase his powers. On 12 August he discussed this for the first time with Ambassador Taylor. The Ambassador made two comments, one suggesting caution lest "renewed instability . . . result from these sweeping changes," the other urging a public explanation of the need for the changes because of a state of emergency.
Two days later at a joint NSC planning session, Khanh showed Ambassador Taylor a rough translation of the proposed draft of a new charter. It was hastily drawn and included both dubious provisions and gruff language. The Ambassador was immediately afraid this would lead to criticism in the U.S. and the world press; he assigned Sullivan and Manfull to work on a revision. But they had little time and were unable to exert much influence. A day later, August 15, the Ambassador reported the document still did not satisfy him but that the MRC fully intended to impose it and he saw no alternative to trying to make the best of it. Certain passages evidently had been toned down and something resembling a bill of rights inserted. Nevertheless the charter gave virtually complete power to Khanh. A special session of the MRC approved Khanh's new charter and elected him President. Minh was expediently removed: the charter abolished his job as Chief of State. Since his overthrow at the end of January Minh had been inactive and sulky; but whatever his faults he had a considerable following within South Vietnam. It had been American policy to convince Khanh to bring Minh into his government thereby endowing the Khanh regime with some of Minh's popularity. Khanh had acceded to U.S. wishes. But Minh's presence had not yielded the hoped for unity. Ambassador Taylor, Minh's friend for several years, had attempted to patch up the deteriorating relations between the two generals but these efforts only incurred Khanh's suspicion of Taylor.
In the period immediately following the Tonkin Gulf affair, Washington officials sought agreement on Southeast Asian policies. We were entering a new era. On 14 August, State cabled a summary of a tentative policy paper to Saigon, Vientiane and CINCPAC for comment. The paper began by stating that during the next fortnight no precipitate actions that might relieve the Communists of the onus of further escalation should be taken. DESOTO patrols should be held up; there should be no extra 34A operations. But low morale and lost momentum in SVN had to be treated. The best means to improve morale in South Vietnam and at the same time pressure North Vietnam at the lowest level of risk had to be found. This was the guiding philosophy. Basically required were military pressures plus other actions to convince Hanoi and Peking to cease aggression. Negotiation without continued military pressure would not achieve these objectives. The paper listed seven [words illegible] those already exerted, then discussed more serious actions. Lesser pressures, it was stated, were to relay the threat of systematic, military action against the DRV. Hanoi was to be informed that incidents arising from the lesser actions or deterioration in South Vietnam--particularly clear evidence of increased infiltration from the North--could trigger that sustained action. In any case, for planning purposes the paper looked to 1 January 1965 as the starting point for the more serious systematic pressures.
The Mission comment took the form of an alternative draft. It began by agreeing with the assumption of the proposed Department paper, that the present pacification plan, by itself, was insufficient to maintain national morale or to offer reasonable hope of eventual success. Something more was clearly needed. The main problem in the immediate future was to gain time for the Khanh regime to achieve a modicum of stability and thereby provide a viable base for operations.
In particular, if we can avoid it, we should not get involved militarily with North Vietnam or possibly with Red China if our base in South Vietnam is insecure and Khanh's Army is tied down by the VC insurgency.
A second objective was to maintain the morale of the GVN. The mission judged that this would not be difficult if we could assure Khanh of our readiness to bring added pressure on Hanoi in return for evidence of his ability and willingness to do his part. A third objective would be to hold the DRV in check and restrain further infiltration to aid the VC buildup.
1 January 65 was agreed upon, for planning purposes, as the date to begin the
escalating pressure on the DRV. Three aspects of these pressures were considered
by the Mission: first, actions to be taken with the Khanh government; second, actions against Hanoi; and third, after a pause, "initiation of an orchestrated air attack against North Vietnam." The first of these involved a commitment. "We should express our willingness to Khanh to engage in planning and eventually to exert intense pressure on North Vietnam providing certain conditions are met in advance." Thus, before we would agree to go all out against the North, Khanh must stabilize his government and make progress in cleaning out his own backyard. Specifically, he would be required to execute the initial phases of the HOP TAC plan successfully. This would have to succeed to the extent of pushing the VC away from the doors of Saigon. Moreover, the overall pacification program, including HOP TAC, should progress sufficiently to allow earmarking at least three division equivalents for the defense of the I Corps area should the DRV step up military operations in that area.
In making these commitments to Khanh, the Mission would make clear to Khanh the limited nature of our objectives-that we were not ready to join in a crusade to unify the North and the South, nor to overthrow Ho Chi Minh. Our objective was to be limited to inducing Hanoi to cease its subversive efforts in the South. Pursuant of this philosophy, the Mission draft proposed a program roughly comparable to that suggested by Washington. The specific difference was the emphasis in the Mission draft on the need for a stable base in South Vietnam before beginning overt pressures on the North; and, to effect this, the policy of a quid pro quo--getting Khanh to clean up his house and make some progress in pacification as the price of our commitment to pressures against the North.
During the fast moving events of the third week of August, the President decided to bring Ambassador Taylor back to Washington for consultation early in September. In a joint State-Defense message on 20 August, Taylor was advised of questions that officials in various departments would want to ask during his forthcoming visit. The visit was first scheduled for the end of the month, but along with the draft policy paper of mid-month, the original plans were overtaken by political events (turmoil) in Vietnam, and the meeting was postponed about two weeks, from late August to mid-September. It is worth noting, nevertheless, that among the items still prominent in the intended discussions with Taylor, at the time of the first notice of the meeting, were the status of pacification programs--HOP TAC especially--Corps, division and provincial plans; the joint US/GVN committees; the newly established operations center; the role of Popular Forces and of Regional Forces; and the RVNAF police and local security plans. Pacification was the first item, and detailed interest was indicated.
Shaplen calls the week from 16 August--when Khanh publicly announced the new charter--to 23 August critical, because of Khanh's failure to establish a broadly based civilian government under the authority of the new charter. He had been warned by many Vietnamese that the pressures of civilian and religious demands for a voice in the government were building up, but nothing was done and major demonstrations began again on 21 August.
This account will not detail the political events that occurred from 21 August on. However, to keep our American concern with programs in Vietnam in context it is necessary to keep in mind the general sequence of political events during the turmoil of the next several weeks. On 21 August the first serious student demonsration following the proclamation of the 16 August charter occurred. Khanh met with the students, but did not satisfy their demands. The same day Thich Tam Chau, President of the Buddhist Institute for Secular Affairs, demanded that Khanh take action against the Diemist Can Lao Party, whom the Buddhists alleged to be their oppressors. Both Buddhists and Viet Cong began to infiltrate the fringes of the student demonstrations about this time. A confused, many-sided contest developed with Catholics, Viet Cong and Buddhists seeking to manipulate or exploit the student demonstrations. On 23 August the Buddhists in Hue formed a new Movement for the Salvation of Buddhism in Danger (similar to the organization against Diem).
On the night of 24 August another coup rumor spread. It was later suspected that Dai Viet generals had indeed been ready to move that night, but that Khiem, who had been wavering between Khanh and the Dai Viet, told them to wait. That same night Khanh asked three top bonzes to come to Cap St. Jacques for consultation. They refused, and Khanh for his part rushed back to Saigon. He met with them and they demanded, first, abolition of the 16 August charter, second establishment of government councils to assure full freedom of religion and expression, and third, free elections by 1 November 1965. Khanh made the mistake of telling them he wanted to consult with the Americans. At 1:00 a.m. on 25 August, Ambassador Taylor and Deputy Ambassador Johnson met with Khanh and they "unofficially" advised him to accept the Buddhist demands in principle, but otherwise to be tough and not to knuckle under to any minority. The conference lasted until about 3:00 a.m.
At 5:00 a.m. of 25 August, Khanh issued a communique promising to revise the new constitution, reduce press censorship, rectify local abuses by arranging special courts, and permit continued demonstrations, with the proviso that those responsible for actions of disorder be punished.
But these concessions again were not enough to satisfy the students. Later that morning a crowd of 25,000 gathered in front of Khanh's office. Khanh appeared before them and denied that he wanted to be a dictator, but refused to make further concessions. He did not, however, have the crowd dispersed. Instead, he withdrew and then, without warning, issued an announcement from his military headquarters that the 16 August charter would be withdrawn and that he, Khanh, was quitting. Further, he announced that the MRC would meet the next day, 26 August, to choose a new Chief of State.
The MRC met on 26 and 27 August. Khanh brought in the three generals he had accused of participating in the pro-French neutralist plot, as a ploy to forestall a power bid by Minh. But the Council refused to seat them and they were returned to their protective custody at Dalat. While these maneuvers were going Ofl Street demonstrations continued. Within the MRC Khiem failed in an attempt to name himself Chief of State and Minh Prime Minister. Next Khanh was named Prime Minister, but refused to accept either Khiem or Minh as President. Finally, when he refused to be installed alone, the triumvirate of Khanh, Minh and Khiem was chosen.
Anarchy in the streets of Saigon intensified. Khanh again nominally Prime Minister, was by this time back in Dalat in a state of exhaustion. The troika of Khanh, Minh and Khiem never met, and Nguyen Xuan Oanh was made acting Prime Minister. Rumors of coups continued-one supposedly by the Dai Viet, another by the so-called "colonels' Group."
On 29 August 1964 Vietnamese paratroopers with bayonets were used to restore order in Saigon. At this time Khanh was in Dalat. On 1 September General Westmoreland went to see Khanh in Dalat to urge him to keep ARVN on the offensive against the Viet Cong and to press on with HOP TAC and the other pacification programs. As a quid pro quo for this, Westmoreland revised his previous position, and promised that U.S. advisors throughout MACV would alert Khanh to unusual troop movements (movements which might be an indication of a coup).
Meanwhile, because of this turmoil, Ambassador Taylor's trip to Washington had been postponed until the end of the first week of September. There was further excitement on the night of 2 September, when dissident troops, mostly aligned with Dai Viet leaders, began to converge on the city. But some of the Colonels' Group got wind of the movement and stopped the advance before midnight, stringing along with Khanh for the time being. Meanwhile, a new group had been formed in Hue called the People's Revolutionary Committee, which, according to Shaplen, had "distinct tones of separatism," and was verbally attacking the temporary government. On 4 September Khanh returned to Saigon from his Dalat retreat, and announced a tentative formula for new administrative machinery to take over for the next two months, after which a new government of civilians would replace the government of the military. Khanh was welcomed, and produced a letter, signed by both Thich Tn Quang and Thich Tam Chau, pledging support and unity. Reportedly this had been paid for by a sum equalling $230,000. Deals of this kind were by no means unknown in Vietnam. Khanh at this time finally got rid of Dr. Hoan, who had been plotting against him for a long time, by forcing his resignation and exile to Japan. Following this there was enough of a lull to permit the Ambassador to return to Washington. He would not complete the round trip, however, before turmoil erupted again in Saigon.
B. POLICIES IN THE PERIOD OF TURMOIL
On the eve of his 6 September departure for Washington, Ambassador Taylor cabled a review of the Vietnamese situation
.....At best the emerging governmental structure might be capable of maintaining a holding operation against the Viet Cong. This level of effort could, with luck and strenuous efforts, be expanded to produce certain limited pacification successes, for example, in the territory covered by the HOP TAC Plan. But the willingness and ability of such a government to exert itself or' to attempt to execute an allout pacification plan would be marginal. It would probably be incapable of galvanizing the people to the heightened levels of unity and sacrifice necessary to carry forward the counterinsurgency program to final success. Instead, it would look increasingly to the United States to take the major responsibility for prying the VC and the North Vietnamese off the backs of the South Vietnamese population. . . . In the cold light of recently acquired facts, we need 2 to 3 months to get any sort of government going which has any chance of being able to maintain order in the cities and to continue the pacification efforts of past levels. There is no present urge to march north . . . the leadership is exhausted and frustrated.....and not anxious to take on any new problems or obligations. Hence, there is no need to hasten our plans to satisfy an impatinece to close with the enemy .
On 4 September the Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International
Security Affairs, Peter Solbert, forwarded to the Secretary of Defense a
orandum including a set of summary recommendations for a program of overall Social development called "stability for the GVN." Copies of this memorandum Were seen by both Vance and McNamara, but there is no documentary evidence that it was given serious consideration. The program was based on a longer RAND study by C. J. Zwick, and it proposed a series of measures to broaden Popular support of the Government of Vietnam. The measures were divided into an Urban Program and a Rural Program. Summarily, under the Urban Program, there were six major areas of development:
1. a reduction of consumer prices for selected commodities;
2. an increase in government salaries;
3. mass low cost public housing;
4. urban public works;
5. expanded educational programs; and
6. an improved business climate to foster private business.
Under the proposed Rural Program there were four items:
1. an elimination of corvée labor and provision for paid public works;
2. subsidized credit to peasants under GVN control;
3. an increase in military pay and benefits; and
4. educational assistance to rural youths.
This memorandum further suggested that involving in the program the leaders of the various political factions in Vietnam who were currently causing trouble would indirectly enlist them in what amounted to stabilizing efforts, and the current plague of factionalism might be reduced.
The policy decisions reached in the high level discussions of 7 September were formalized in NSAM-314. These decisions were approved:
1. Resumption of U.S. Naval patrols (DESOTO) in the Gulf of Tonkin, following the return to Saigon of the Ambassador.
2. 34A operations by the GVN to be resumed after completion of the first DESOTO patrol.
3. Discussions with the government of Laos of plans for a limited GVN air-ground operation in the Laos corridor areas.
4. Preparation to respond against the DRV to any attack on U.S. units or any spectacular DRV/VC acts against South Vietnam.
Following the statement of these specific action decisions, NSAM-314 reemphasized the importance of economic and political actions having immediate impact on South Vietnam such as pay raises to civilian personnel and spot projects in cities and selected rural areas. The emphasis on immediate impact should be noted. Finally, it was emphasized that all decisions were "governed by a prevailing judgment that the first order of business at present is to strengthen the fabric of the Government of South Vietnam . . ."
In the period immediately after the August crisis, Minh, acting, in effect, as Chief of State, although he did not actually hold the title, appointed a new High National Council to represent all elements of the population and prepare a new constitution for the return of civilian government.
But there was no real stability. On 13 September, while Ambassador Taylor was on his way back to Saigon from his visit to Washington, a bloodless coup was staged in Saigon by General Lam Van Phat (who had been scheduled to be removed as Commander of IV Corps). Soon after the coup began the U.S. announced its support for the "duly constituted" troika regime of Khanh, Minh and Khiem. This plus a counter-coup by a group of younger officers including Nguyen Cao Ky and Nguyen Chanh Thi, put Khanh back in power. One result of the Phat coup attempt, however, was that it established the power of the younger general officers headed by Ky and Thi. Nguyen Van Thieu, who was close to the Dai Viet party, was reported to be a major behind-the-scenes manipulator of the coup, mainly by neutralizing his immediate boss, General Khiem.
The next several weeks amounted to a period of suspended animation for the GVN (but not for the VC) while the new constitution was being prepared. Except for some debatable progress in HOP TAC, little was accomplished in pacifiation. Moreover, infusing an interim government with an efficiency that neither it nor any predecessor had had was too much to expect. In Saigon, much attention was given to establishing a policy coordination center for covert military operations--i.e., 34A, Cross-Border, Yankee Team, Lucky Dragon, etc. These operations and the political problems of the central government, appear to have been the principal immediate concerns of the Embassy during this period.
In October, Washington queried the Embassy as to whether greater progress pacification might result from further decentralization of the program, even raising the question of whether aid might not bypass the GVN in Saigon and go directly to the provinces. In reply, the Mission conceded that a good deal of decentralization was already in effect and that in some provinces local initiative was paying off. Progress was continuing despite the turmoil in Saigon. Nevertheless, recent U.S. advisor reports showed that the number of provinces where pacification was not going satisfactorily had doubled since July--from 7 to 14. This in part was due to concentration of most of the pacification efforts on HOP TAC, and in part to the political turmoil in Saigon. However, the Mission did not believe that further decentralization was either feasible or advisable. The central problem in administering pacification, in the considered view of the Mission, was to establish justified requirements at the provincial level and then fill pipelines to meet these provincial needs. This required overall coordination.
Two weeks after the 13 September coup, the High National Council, composed of 17 elderly professional men, was inaugurated. Despite the continuing air of crisis, the Council fulfilled its promise to deliver a new constitution by the end of October and selected Phan Khac Suu (an older, non-aligned politician) as the new Chief of Staff. Suu immediately chose a civilian, Tran Van Huong, as new Premier. Huong almost immediately came under fire from several factions and it soon became apparent that Khanh was still the real power behind the throne. Khanh got rid of Khiem, sending him to Washington, and Minh went abroad on a "goodwill tour."
As the year moved toward a close it came time again for the Ambassador to return to Washington for policy consultations. Progress in the program within South Vietnam had been spotty at best, and in many areas retrogression could not be denied. The efforts to develop efficient administration within the GVN had made no progress at all-the game of musical chairs at the top made this impossible. It was generally conceded that pacification had fallen back, at best marking time in some areas. As for the HOP TAC area immediately surrounding Saigon, opinions were divided. The official view reflected in the statistical analysis was that slow but steady progress was being made. Most of the informal and local judgments, however, were less sanguine. Some increases in RVNAF recruitment had been registered, but this did not mean that action against the VC had improved, that capabilities had increased, that lost ground was being retaken, or that control of the rural population was being wrested from the Viet Cong.
C. THE PERIOD OF INCREASING PRESSURES ON NVN
In anticipation of the Ambassador's forthcoming visit to Washington, General Westmoreland provided an assessment of the military situation. On 24 November General Westmoreland observed that in September the Mission had been preoccupied with the problem of keeping RVNAF intact in the face of internal dissention and political and religious purges but by late November he was pleased at the way the RVNAF had weathered the political storm and encouraged by increased RVNAF strength because of volunteers and enlistments. RVNAF strength of 31 October was compared to figures for 30 April: 230,474 RVNAF, up from 207,410; 92,265 Regional Forces, up from 85,660; 159,392 Popular Forces, up from 96,263. During September and October, RVNAF and Regional Forces officers and NCOs to the rank of first corporal had received a 10% increase in basic pay; the lowest three enlisted grades in these forces--plus all Popular Force personnel--had received 300 more piastres per month. Cost of living increases to NCOs matched those given to officers. Subsector U.S. advisory teams (two officers, three enlisted men) were operating in some 75 districts. General Westmoreland reported HOP TAC was progressing slowly. Civil-military-political planners were working together; the Saigon-level coordinating group, the HOP TAC Council, was operating.
General Westmoreland summarized the key issues as he viewed them at the time. First, there was a need to establish concrete but attainable shortrange goals to give momentum; second, more effective means of asserting U.S. policy and plans for the pacification program at the Saigon level was needed; third, the U.S. should take a positive position against external support of the insurgency.
Also on 24 November, Westmoreland recommended an increase in RVNAF force structure and requested its early approval to permit official negotiations with the GVN, to facilitate MAP planning. This recommendation followed a joint U.S./GVN survey and a COMUSMACV staff study. Two alternative levels of increase were proposed:
|Already Authorized||Increase||Increase||New Total||New Total|
|Alt I||Alt 2||Alt I||Alt 2|
|Para Mil||No Alt for Para Mil||No Alt for Para Mil||322,187||322,187|
The increase in U.S. advisors for the two alternative programs would be 446 and 606, respectively. The first (the lower) alternative was supported by the JCS on 17 December 1964 and approved by Secretary McNamara on 13 January 1965. This January decision raised the total U.S. military personnel in Vietnam from 22,309 to 22,755.
Both the tenor of the thinking and the policies that emerged from the meetings of early December are reflected in the draft instructions from the President to Ambassador Taylor possibly written by Taylor himself. These were first drawn up on 30 November 1964, revised on 2 December and used at the meeting of the principals on 3 December.
During the recent review in Washington of the situation in South Vietnam, it was clearly established that the unsatisfactory progress being made in the pacification of the VC was the result of two primary causes from which many secondary causes stemmed; first, the governmental instability in Saigon and the second, the continued reinforcement and direction of the VC by the North Vietnamese government. To change the downward trend of events, it will be necessary to deal adequately with both of these factors.
It is clear however that these factors are not of equal importance. There must be a stable, effective government to conduct a campaign against the VC even if the aid of North Vietnam for the VC should end. While the elimination of North Vietnamese intervention will raise morale on our side and make it easier for the government to function, it will not in itself end the war against the VC. It is rather an important contributory factor to the creation of conditions favoring a successful campaign against the VC within South Vietnam. Since action against North Vietnam is contributory, not central, we should not incur the risks which are inherent in expansion of hostilities until there is a government in Saigon capable of handling the serious problems involved in such an expansion and of exploiting the favorable effects which may be anticipated from an end of support and direction by North Vietnam.
It is this consideration which has borne heavily on the recent deliberations in Washington and has conditioned the conclusions reached. There have been many expressions of admiration for the courage being shown by the Huong government which has the complete support of the U.S. government in its resistance to the minority pressures which are attempting to drag it down. However, the difficulties which it is facing raise inevitable questions as to its capacity and readiness to discharge the responsibilities which it would incur if some of the new measures under consideration were taken.
There are certain minimum criteria of performance in South Vietnam which must be met before any new measures against North Vietnam would be either justified or practicable. At a minimum the government should be able to speak for and to its people who will need guidance and leadership throughout the coming critical period. It should be capable of maintaining law and order in its principal centers of population, make plans for the conduct of operations and assure their efficient execution by military and police forces completely responsive to its authority. It must have the means to cope with the enemy reactions which must be expected to result from any change in the pattern of our operations.
I (the President) particularly request that you and your colleagues in the American Country Team develop and execute a concerted effort to bring home to all groups in South Vietnam the paramount importance of national unity against the Communist enemy at this critical time. It is a matter of the greatest difficulty for the U.S. government to require great sacrifice of American citizens when reports from Saigon reportedly give evidence of heedless self-interest and shortsightedness among nearly all major groups in South Vietnam....
While effectiveness is largely a subjective judgement, progress in certain specific areas such as those listed below provide some tangible measure. The U.S. mission should urge upon the GVN particular efforts in these fields.....
(1) Improve the use of manpower for military and pacification purposes.
(2) Bring the armed forces and police to authorized strength and maximize their effectiveness.
(3) Replace incompetent officials and commanders; freeze the competent in place for extended periods of service.
(4) Clarify and strengthen police powers of arrest, detention, and interrogation of VC suspects.
(5) Clarify and strengthen the authority of provincial chiefs.
(6) Make demonstrable progress in the HOP TAC operation around Saigon.
(7) Broaden and intensify the civic action program using both military and civilian resources to produce tangible evidence of the desire of the government to help the hamlets and villages.
(8) Carry out a sanitary clean up of Saigon.
While progress was being made toward these goals, the U.S. would be willing to strike harder at infiltration routes in Laos and at sea and, in conjunction with the Lao Government, add U.S. air power to operations to restrict the use of Laotian territory for infiltration into South Vietnam. The U.S. would also favor intensification of MAROPS (covert activities against the DRV). In the meantime, GVN and U.S. armed forces should be ready to execute prompt reprisals for any unusual hostile action. When these conditions were met (and after the GVN had demonstrated its firm control) the U.S. would be prepared to consider a program of direct military pressure on the DRV. These second phase operations would consist of a series of air attacks on the DRV progressively mounting in scope and intensity for the purpose of convincing DRV leaders that it was in their interest to cease aid to the VC, to respect the independence and security of the South. The prospective participants in such attacks were the Air Forces of the U.S., South Vietnam and Laos. The U.S. Mission was to be authorized to initiate planning with the GVN for such operations immediately, with the understanding that the U.S. had not committed itself to them.
Immediately after the Ambassador's return to Saigon the U.S. began to increase its covert operations against infiltration from the North. On 14 December U.S. aircraft began Operation BARREL ROLL (armed reconnaissance against infiltration routes in Laos). This and other signs of increased American commitment against North Vietnam's involvement in the South showed no results in terms of increasing GVN stability. Jockeying among generals behind the scenes continued. The younger generals who had saved Khanh in the 13 September coup demanded the High National Council fire nine generals and 30 other officers, notably Generals Minh, Don, Xuan and Kim, who had been in the original post-Diem junta. The Council refused and the young generals began a life and death struggle against the Huong regime. On 20 December Generals Thi and Ky led their group in a purge-or virtual coup-of the Council. This was followed immediately by formation of an Armed Forces Council (AFC). Nominally headed by Khanh, the young generals aimed to curb his powers through the new council. AFC offered to mediate conflicts between Buddhist dissidents and the Huong government. These actions exacerbated already unhappy relations between Khanh and politically motivated young generals and the American Ambassador who was striving to foster a representative civilian government and discourage coups by small-time military dictators. The struggle (described in detail in other papers) was intensified at this time and continued for several weeks.
Throughout January and February 1965 the weekly Vietnam Sitreps published by the Intelligence and Reporting Subcommittee of the Interagency Vietnam Coordinating Committee warned generally and repeatedly that progress concerning pacification was "slow" or that there was a "slow down" or said there was "little progress to report." The Vietnamese commander of the HOP TAC area generally continued to report "a favorable situation"--but this was accompanied frequently by a statement of increased Viet Cong activity in these favorable areas.
After BARREL ROLL, U.S. pressure upon North Vietnam was notably increased by the FLAMING DART attacks of 7-12 February following the Pleiku incident. The McGeorge Bundy group (MacNaughton, Cooper, Unger and Bundy) were in Saigon at the time. On the return trip to Washington shortly after Pleiku, the group drafted a memorandum for the President. Intended to reflect the consensus of policy discussions with the Mission, the memorandum really reflects Bundy's point of view, particularly in presentation of a rationale for ROLLING THUNDER operations--soon to begin. Analysis of this memo and the ROLLING THUNDER annex is part of another report in this series. For present purposes it is sufficient to note that the memo reported the situation in Vietnam was deteriorating and said defeat was inevitable unless the United States intervened military by bombing the North to persuade Hanoi to cease and desist. South Vietnam was to be rescued not by measures in South Vietnam but by pressures against the North.
The idea that victory could be achieved quickly was explicitly dismissed: perhaps "the next year or so" would be enough to turn the tide. And this, hopefully, could be accomplished by the persuasive power of aerial bombardment.
ROLLING THUNDER was to be a program of sustained, continuous, increasing reprisal beginning at a low level and becoming increasingly violent. The level of violence would vary according to the North Vietnamese response: if they persisted in infiltration, violence would continuously increase; if they reduced their meddling, we would respond in kind and degree.
This subject had been discussed at considerable length in Saigon. The Bundy memorandum was followed by a cable from Taylor which presented generally similar recommendations under the heading of "graduated reprisals." CINCPAC commented on the Taylor proposals, urging that the levels of attack should be forceful enough to be militarily effective, not merely politically persuasive. On 8 February, McNamara requested the JCS to develop a program; shortly thereafter they produced their "Eight-week-Program" of bombing.
In Saigon, the FLAMING DART bombings of 7-12 February--the first reprisal bombings since August 1964--were promptly followed by the Armed Forces Council selection on 16 February of a new cabinet; headed by Dr. Pham Huy Quat, the cabinet was installed on 18 February. Another coup was attempted on 19 February but thwarted by the AFC. And General Khanh (whose actions against Huong in January had lost him Taylor's confidence) was removed on the 20th. Four days later, 24 February, Khanh left for foreign parts and ROLLING THUNDER began. Any positive correlation between U.S. pressure on North Vietnam and the stability of the GVN remained to be established.
During these first two months of 1965 almost no progress was made toward increasing RVNAF strength. Goals were raised but actual force levels were not. MACV data on RVNAF strength were later provided the Secretary:
RVNAF IN THOUSANDS
Although the conditions stipulated in December had not been met, although the program continued to fall further behind, we were fully committed to pressure on the North by this time. On 1 March 1965, in a memorandum to all Service Secretaries, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Chief of Naval Operations, Army and Air Force Chiefs of Staff and Commandant of the Marine Corps, the Secretary of Defense pledged unlimited funds to the support of the Vietnam effort.
Over the past two or three years I have emphasized the importance of providing all necessary military assistance to South Vietnam, whether it be through MAP or through application of U.S. forces and their associated equipment.
Occasionally instances come to my attention indicating that some in the Department feel restraints are imposed by limitations of funds.
I want it clearly understood that there is an unlimited appropriation available for the financing of aid to Vietnam. Under no circumstances is a lack of money to stand in the way of aid to that nation.
signed/Robert S. McNamara
Early in March the Chief of Staff of the Army, General Harold K. Johnson, evaluated the need for added supporting actions in Vietnam. On 5 March his party was briefed by the Ambassador. Taylor saw the basic unresolved problem as the provision of adequate security for the population. Without it, other programs were either impossible or of marginal effectiveness at best. Given security and reasonable time, however, these other programs would fall into place. The three primary causes of insecurity were (1) lack of satisfactory progress in destroying the VC, (2) the continuing capability of the VC to replace losses and increase their strength, and (3) our inability to establish and maintain an effective government.
Inability to suppress the insurgency was considered largely the consequence of insufficient trained paramilitary and police manpower. A numerical superiority in excess of five to one over the VC had never been obtained; historical example suggested a 10-to-1 or 20-to-1 ratio was prerequisite to effective operations against guerrilla forces. It was therefore essential to raise new forces and improve those already in being.
Why was the pacification program of such limited effectiveness? In many provinces the reason was poor-or non-existent-civil action after military clearing operations. The Ministries of Interior, Health, Agriculture, Public Works and Rural Affairs were responsible for civilian "follow-up" but these departments had been impotent throughout 1964, largely because of general government instability. Programs lacked continuity; personnel were constantly rotating. Occasional military successes achieved in clearing operations too frequently went unexploited. Areas were cleared but not held. Other areas were cleared and held-but were not developed; the VC infra-structure remained in place, ready to emerge when the troops moved on.
Counterinsurgency was plagued by popular apathy and dwindling morale, some the consequences of a long and seemingly endless war. There was no sense of dedication to the GVN comparable to that instilled in the VC.
Secondly, South Vietnam's open frontiers could not be sealed against infiltration. Continued DRV support to the VC, the heart of the infiltration problem, could not be eliminated by closing the frontiers from inside South Vietnam so the only way to stop infiltration was to make Hanoi order it stopped. Such was the fundamental justification for BARREL ROLL and ROLLING THUNDER operations. These, plus 34A, constituted the principal hope for ending infiltration.
It was conceded that even without its support from the North the VC could continue to recruit in the South, especially in areas lacking security and commitment to Saigon. However, it was hoped that pressure on Hanoi would help to change many conditions unfavorable to the GVN. For example, offensive action against NVN would raise national morale in South Vietnam and might provide at least a partial antidote against the willingness of country boys to join the VC.
There were many causes of the failure to establish and maintain an effective government. South Vietnam had never been a nation in spirit; a government which the people could call their own was new to them. Even now their instinct said any government was intrinsically their enemy. The people had long been divided by racial and religious differences which over the centuries their alien rulers had sought to perpetuate. No cement was present to bind together the heterogeneous elements of this society. Since the fall of Diem and the sudden removal of the restraints imposed by his dictatorial regime, the natural tendency to disunity and factionalism had been given free play; demonstrations, bonze immolations and military coups had been rife. These had produced the political turbulence of the last fifteen months.
The Ambassador closed his briefing by suggesting the possibility of increased activities in several areas:
a. improvement in training and mobility of existing forces;
b. establishment of priorities in the use of existing forces;
c. expansion of the capacity of the training establishment;
d. means to give greater attractiveness to military service;
e. use of U.S. manpower to offset the present shortage in the Vietnamese armed forces;
f. use of U.S. Navy resources to strengthen surveillance of coastal and inland waterways;
g. increased tempo for BARREL ROLL and ROLLING THUNDER;
h. expanded use of peoples action teams;
i. increased U.S. aid in combatting economic ills;
j. preparations to cope with the mounting refugee problem in central Vietnam;
k. improved procedures and equipment for resource control;
1. vitalization of public information programs, provision of a 250-kilowatt transmitter for Saigon; and
m. prompt response to all personnel requests supporting the U.S. mission.
General Johnson returned on 12 March, submitted his report on the 14th. The guts of the report, a series of 21 recommendations plus an indication of marginal Comments Secretary McNamara scribbled on his copy follow (the Secretary's Comments are in parentheses):
1. Provide increased mobility for existing forces by introducing more Army helicopter companies. (OK)
2. Deploy more 0-1 type aircraft to give saturation surveillance capability to improve intelligence. (OK)
3. Establish Joint U.S.-RVNAF Target Research and Analysis Center to utilize increased info effectively. (OK)
4. Evaluate effects of COMUSMACV's unrestricted employment of U.S. fighter-bombers within SVN. (?)
5. Increase scope and tempo of U.S. air strikes against NVN. (Discuss with Chiefs.)
6. Remove self imposed restrictions on conduct of U.S. air strikes against North Vietnam. (Some already removed. Views of Chiefs.)
7. Increase tempo and scope of special operations activities against North Vietnam. (Ask Max for plan.)
8. Increase Naval and air RECCE and harassing operations against North Vietnam. (Ask Max for plan.)
9. Re-orient BARREL ROLL to increase effectiveness. (OK)
10. Commit elements of 7th Fleet to air/surface patrol of coastal areas. (OK, ask Max for plan.)
11. Program of cash awards for capture of DRV junks. (OK, ask Max for plan.)
12. Streamline procedure to give MACV quick authority and funds for construction projects in VN. (See 13)
13. Establish stockpile of construction materials and equipment within 3 to 4 sailing days of VN controlled by MACV. (Applicable to both 12 and 13-John to work with Paul and Charlie.) [ASD/ISA, SecDef and SecArmy respectively]
14. Get Australian/New Zealand agreement to take responsibility for establishing regional forces training center. (Ask State to try.)
15. Integrated U.S./GVN psychological warfare operations organization. (USIA job,--DOD will help.)
16. Accelerate positioning of remaining sub-sector advisory teams. (OK-- ask Max his requirements.)
17. Provide cash contingency fund to each sub-sector advisory group. (OK--ask Max for his plan.)
18. Establish procedure for sub-sector advisory groups to draw on USOM food stuffs and building materials. (OK--ask Max for his plan.)
19. Initiate dredging projects at Danang, Qui Nhon and Nha Trang. (OK--ask Max for his requirements.)
20. Provide 4 LSTs and 6 LSVs for logistic support along east-west supply axis. (OK--ask Max for his requirements.)
21. Accelerate program for jet applicable airfield. (What is the program?--John will follow.)
To the measures the Secretary added one of his own: "extend tours." It was incorporated into later versions of the list.
In addition to the above the Johnson report suggested two alternative deployments of a tailored division force to assist Vietnamese units in offensive action in II Corps. One was to deploy U.S. combat units to assume responsibility for security of the Bien Hoa-Tan Son Nhut air base complex, Nha Trang, Qui Nhon and Pleiku. The second was to deploy U.S. combat units to assume responsibility for defense of Kontum, Pleiku and Darlac provinces in II Corps. On the first alternative the Secretary noted: "Johnson does not recommend this"; he suggested that JCS should study, and "Max's and Westy's views" toward the second alternative should be sought.
On 8 March, when Johnson was in Vietnam, the first two Marine battalions landed at Danang. Almost all of the intelligence reports during that month indicated our programs in Vietnam were either stalemated or failing. Not only was RVNAF strength considerably below the goals set and agreed upon, it was in considerable danger of actually decreasing. The situation on this score was indicated by the following table included in the March MACV report.
28 Feb 65 Audited Strength
31 March 65 Estimates
|Armed Combat Youth||
Although some HOP TAC progress was occasionally reported the pacification situation otherwise was quite gloomy. The Vietnam Sitreps of 3 March 1965 reported the nationwide pacification effort remained stalled. The HOP TAC program "continues but personnel changes, past and future, may retard the future success of this effort." The 10 March Sitrep called the national pacification effort "stagnated" and objectives in some areas "regressing." In the I and II Corps pacification has "all but ceased." Only a few widely scattered places in the rest of the country could report any achievement. In the HOP TAC area the anticipated slow-down in pacification had arrived-the result of shifting military commanders and province and district chiefs. On 17 March, pacification was virtually stalled, refugee problems were mounting in I and II Corps. Only in the HOP TAC area were there "modest gains . . . in spite of increased VC area activity." By 24 March the word used for pacification efforts generally was "stalled," and the effort had now become increasingly devoted to refugee centers and relief. However, the Sitrep said 356 hamlets in the HOP TAC area had been reported--by Vietnamese authorities--as meeting agreed criteria and 927,000 persons were living in zones that had been declared clear.
At the time of the Johnson Mission, concern over the evident failures of the pacification program was such that proposals to change the framework within which it was conducted--proposals to put the USOM, USIS and CIA pacification operations all under MACV--were examined at length. Ambassadors Taybr and Alexis Johnson as well as General Westmoreland were advocating sweeping changes of this sort. All apparently conceded the need for greater coordination of the different kinds of programs, military and aid, [words illegible] into pacification but senior mission officials strongly opposed any major revision of the non-military effort.
Near the end of March Ambassador Taylor returned to Washington for policy conferences.
Four sets of proposals had been specifically developed for Consideration at
the 1 April meeting. One of these was General Johnson's report Which has already
been described in detail. Another was a suggested program of 12 covert actions
submitted by the Director of Central Intelligence. A third was an mformation
program developed by USIS. The fourth was a proposed program
of 41 non-military measures initially suggested, by Ambassador Taylor, then worked on by State during the third week of March, and finally incorporated in a memorandum to the President dated 31 March.
The 41 possible non-military actions proposed for consideration by Ambassador Taylor were arranged in 9 groups. The first group was entitled "Decentralization In The GVN and The Rural Program." This group included measures to urge the GVN to increase the power and responsibility of individual province chiefs, and to persuade the peasants they had a stake in the GVN by giving rural pacification a positive label, "new rural life hamlet program," and complexion.
The second group of non-military actions concerned "Youth, Religion, and Other Special Groups." Within this group were a series of actions to expand the support of the GVN Ministry of Youth and Sports, to reduce the draft age from 20 to 18 or 17, to persuade the GVN to meet Montagnard grievances, and to increase aid to the Vietnamese labor movement.
Under the heading "Economic and Social Measures," there were specific proposals to support a better coastal water transportation system and to urge the GVN to promulgate and put into effect an equitable land reform program. By sending U.S. and possibly nationalist Chinese experts it was hoped the GVN could be assisted in combating the growing VC capability to extract financial and material support from GVN resources. Measures were also urged to expand and accelerate slum clearance and low cost housing in troublesome urban areas and to improve the water supply.
Specific measures advocated under the heading "Education" included a general increase in U.S. assistance, expansion of the program to translate American textbooks into Vietnamese and to establish secondary schools on American principles for Vietnamese students.
Among the five specific measures under the rubric "Security and Intelligence," one urged promulgation of an effective arrest and detention law, another asked for a great increase in intelligence funds, a third called for a system of rewards for information leading to the capture or death of VC leaders, and the last was a suggestion for a national counterespionage organization.
The "Psychological Operations" proposed were mainly additions to proposals already made in the USIS report of Mr. Rowan.
The specific measures under "GVN Personnel" (and its systems of recruiting and training officials for the rural program) were to urge the GVN to establish rewards for outstanding performance, and give double or triple pay to rural school teachers and officials.
There were two measures to aid "Refugees in Emergency Situations": one to provide additional U.S. support for the refugee program, and the other to establish a joint U.S./GVN reaction team for quick survey and immediate action in war disaster situations.
The last group of proposals was a revision of the old idea of encadrement of U.S. officers at key spots within the GVN. The administrative measures to increase U.S. effectiveness included such suggestions as allowing U.S. officers to work directly with special interest groups including Buddhists, Catholics, the sects, Montagnards, students, labor, etc.; and assigning other U.S. officers to work directly within the GVN, including the Prime Minister's office and key ministries. Another suggestion was for the establishment of a U.S. inter-agency group on pacification to be directed by a senior Mission officer reporting directly to the Ambassador. (This suggestion was evidently directed at the same problem as the suggestion for establishing all U.S. pacification effort under MACV that had arisen during the visit of General Johnson.)
A feature of this proposed program that should be noted is that many if not most of the suggestions began with such phrases as "urge the GVN" or "persuade the GVN." This was of course not the first time that our assistance took this form. This had been going on for a long time. But the difference between merely supplying aid and also trying to supply initiative is significant.
In preparation for the important 1 April meeting a White House paper entitled "Key Elements For Discussion, Thursday, April 1, at 5:30 P.M." was circulated to participants. In summarizing the situation the paper said that morale had improved in South Vietnam and that, although the government had not really settled down, it seemed "hopeful both in its capacity and its sense of political forces." The South Vietnamese armed forces were in reasonably good shape although its top leadership was not really effective and the ratio of ARVN to VC (whose members were increasing) was not good enough. The situation in many parts of the countryside continued to go in favor of the VC although there was, at that writing, what was believed to be a temporary lull. Turning to the matter of the bombing this statement said that:
Hanoi has shown no signs of give, and Peiping has stiffened its position within the last week. We still believe that attacks near Hanoi might substantially raise the odds of Peiping coming in with air.
Hanoi was expected to continue stepping up its infiltration both by land through Laos and by sea. There were clear indications of different viewpoints in Hanoi, Peiping, and Moscow with respect to "so-called wars of liberation," as well as continued friction between Moscow and Peiping.
However, neither such frictions nor the pressure of our present slowly ascending pace of air attacks on North Vietnam can be expected to produce a real change in Hanoi's position for some time, probably two to three months at best.
The argument then proceeded to the key question of whether or not Hanoi would continue to make real headway in the South. If it continued to make such headway, even a major step-up in our air attacks would probably not make them much more reasonable. On the other hand if the situation in South Vietnam began to move against the VC and the going became increasingly tough, then the "situation might begin to move on a political track-but again not in less than two to three months, in our present judgment." This was a significant departure from the theory for ROLLING THUNDER propounded when that bombing pressure was inaugurated.
Following some considerations on immediate international moves and more general political posture, the memo turned to "actions within South Vietnam." Employing every useful resource to improve the efforts in the South was defined as crucial. The paper indicated that the 41-point program of non-military measures developed mainly by Ambassador Taylor included promising elements and that the mission as well as agencies in Washington should develop additional points. McCone's suggestions for largely covert actions were recommended for further study. Both the Rowan (USIS) and the 21-point program of General Johnson were viewed favorably, as well as an increase in U.S. military support forces in Vietnam from 18,000 to 20,000 men. An increase in GVN manpower was also approved with increased pay scales to be used as an inducement regardless of the monetary costs. On one copy of this document that went to OSD, there was a handwritten additional point that was, "change mission of Marine force." This significant addition was later adopted in NSAM-328.
The remainder of the paper was devoted, first, to U.S. and third country combat forces in South Vietnam, and second, to actions against North Vietnam and in Laos. These are of interest here only in the extent to which they distracted from or supplanted counterinsurgency actions within South Vietnam. So far as U.S. combat forces within South Vietnam were concerned, there was cautious consideration of a small and gradual buildup. But it was emphasized that because the reaction of the GVN and of the South Vietnamese people to any major U.S. combat deployment was uncertain, and because the net effectiveness of U.S. combat forces in the Vietnamese environment was also uncertain, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense had recommended that action of this sort be limited. Only the deployment of two additional Marine battalions, one Marine air squadron and certain logistical forces over the ensuing sixty-day period was approved. Continuation of ROLLING THUNDER operations on a slowly ascending scale was assumed. It was also assumed that preparations would be made for additional strikes and for a response to any higher level of VC operations, as well as, correspondingly, to slow the pace in the unlikely event that VC actions slacked off sharply.
In the NSC meeting of 1 April 1965, the President gave his formal approval, "subject to modifications in the light of experience," to the 41-point program of non-military actions submitted by Ambassador Taylor and described above. He gave general approval to the USIS recommendations, except that no additional funds were to be supplied for this work-the program was to be funded and supported by other agencies. The President further approved the urgent exploration of the covert actions proposed by the Director of Central Intelligence. Finally, he repeated his previous approval of the 21-point program of military actions recommended by General Johnson. On the exclusively military side the President authorized the 18,000 to 20,000-man increase in U.S. military support forces, the deployment of two additional Marine battalions, and the change of mission for all Marine battalions to permit their use in active combat under conditions to be established and approved by the Secretary of Defense in consultation with the Secretary of State. However, because this last decision was contingent upon future agreements between the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense its full significance was not immediately apparent. It was left to the Ambassador to seek South Vietnamese government approval and coordination for all of these measures.
NSAM-328 did not last long as a full and current statement of U.S. policy. There were some responsible officials who had misgivings about increasing our involvement in South Vietnam or about increasing it more rapidly than might be necessary. There were others who apparently felt that NSAM-328 risked falling between two stools. One such was John A. McCone, Director of CIA (who was perhaps also unhappy about the increasing involvement per se). The day after the 1 April meeting he addressed a memorandum expressing second thoughts to the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Ambassador Taylor. The change in the U.S. role from merely giving advice and static defense, to active combat operations against Viet Cong guerrillas, appeared to bother him. He felt our ground force operations would very possibly have only limited effectiveness against guerrillas, and above all, he felt the conduct of active combat operations in South Vietnam should be accompanied by air strikes against the North sufficiently heavy and damaging to really hurt the North. If the U.S. were to combine combat operations in the South with air strikes of any kind in the North, the attacks on the North should be heavy and do great damage. Without expressly saying so, his point seems to have been that the air war against the North should not be an attempt to persuade, but an effort to compel. He said that he had already reported that:
The strikes to date have not caused a change in the North Vietnamese policy of directing Viet Cong insurgency, infiltrating cadres and supplying materials. If anything, the strikes to date have hardened their attitude.
Although the memo as a whole conveys Mr. McCone's serious doubt that the ground operations in the South would in any event serve their purpose, he clearly advocated bombing more heavily if we decided to engage in ground operations. Unless they were supported by really strong actions against North Vietnam, he felt such ground operations would be doomed to failure:
I believe our proposed track offers great danger of simply encouraging Chinese Communists and Soviet support of the DRV and VC cause if for no other reason than the risk for both will be minimum. I envision that the reaction of the NVN and the Chinese Communists will be to deliberately, carefully, and probably gradually, build up the Viet Cong capabilities by covert infiltration of North Vietnamese and, possibly, Chinese cadres and thus bring an ever increasing pressure on our forces. In effect, we will find ourselves mired down in combat in the jungle in a military effort we cannot win, and from which we will have extreme difficulty in extracting ourselves.
McCone argued that if we were going to change the mission of the U.S. ground forces we also needed to change the ground rules of the strikes against North Vietnam, and he concluded:
If we are unwilling to take this kind of a decision now, we must not take the actions concerning the mission of our ground forces for the reasons I have mentioned above.
McCone's views notwithstanding, U.S. policy was promptly and sharply reoriented in the direction of greater military involvement with a proportionate de-emphasis of the direct counterinsurgency efforts. It is not fully clear to this writer exactly how and why this rapid re-orientation occurred. On 7 April the President made his famous Johns Hopkins speech in which he publicly committed the United States more than ever before to the defense of South Vietnam, but also committed himself to engage in unconditional discussions. The following day, Pham Van Dong published his Four Points in what seemed a defiant, and unyielding response. This sharp DRV rebuff of the President's initiative may well have accelerated the re-orientation. The re-orientation of policy itself, however, was expressed not in an explicit restatement of formal policy, but in a series of action decisions over the following fortnight that caught the Saigon Mission very much by surprise.
The Ambassador's NODIS to the President on 13 April had a comparatively optimistic tone. It began, "We have just completed another quite favorable week in terms of losses inflicted upon the Viet Cong...." The critical conditions in Bien Dinh Province had been considerably relieved and the province, it was believed, was about back to normal. Although a large part of the province remained under Viet Cong control, many areas had been restored to government control and the fear of the loss of major towns seemed past. There had been aggressive action by a new division commander, and there seemed to be improved morale attributable to the air actions against North Vietnam. There was a possibility that the Viet Cong were regrouping and they would probably soon engage in some new kind or phase of offensive action. But, then as now, there were what some interpreted as indications that the Viet Cong morale might be dropping. Furthermore, estimates-not audited figures-indicated that the government military and paramilitary forces had been increased by some 10,000 during the month of March as against the target of 8,000 per month. Prime Minister Quat was continuing his program of visiting the provinces, and in addition to making himself and the Saigon government known to the hinterlands, he had expressed particular interest in such projects as rural electrification, agricultural development, water supply and school construction. Quat's principal worry continued to be the unruly generals and there was continued evidence of disunity within the senior officers corps.
Within two days, however, messages went out from Washington indicating that decisions had been made at the highest level to go beyond the measures specified in NSAM-328. On 15 April, McGeorge Bundy sent a personal nodis to Ambassador Taylor saying that the President had just approved important future military deployments and that some personal explanation might be helpful.
The President has repeatedly emphasized his personal desire for a strong experiment in the encadrement of U.S. troops with the Vietnamese. He is also very eager to see prompt experiments in use of energetic teams of U.S. officials in support of provisional governments under unified U.S. leadership. These desires are the source of corresponding paragraphs in our message.
On further troop deployments, the President's belief is that current situation requires use of all practical means of strengthening position in South Vietnam and that additional U.S. troops are important if not decisive reinforcements. He has' not seen evidence of negative result of deployments to date, and does not wish to wait any longer than is essential for genuine GVN agreement.
President always intended these plans be reviewed with you and approved by Quat before final execution, and we regret any contrary impression given by our messages in recent days.
The message stated that "highest authority" believed that, in addition to the actions against the North, something new had to be added in the South, to achieve victory.
1. Experimental encadrement by U.S. forces of South Vietnamese ground troops both to stiffen and increase their effectiveness and also to add to their fire power. Two approaches were to be carried out concurrently, one involving integration of a substantial number of U.S. combat personnel in each of several ARVN battalions, the other involving the combined operation of approximately three additional Army/Marine battalions with three or more South Vietnamese battalions for use in combat operations.
2. Introduction of a brigade force into the Bien Hoa-Vung Tau area to act both as a security force for installations and to participate in counterinsurgency combat operations.
3. Introduction of a battalion or multi-battalion forces into three additional locations along the coast, such as Qui Nhon. The purpose here would be to experiment further with using U.S. forces in counterinsurgency role in addition to providing security for the base.
In addition to these three steps, which were intended basically to increase the military effectiveness of the counterguerrilla campaign, a series of other steps was proposed. One was a substantial expansion of the Vietnamese recruiting campaign using U.S. recruiting experts, techniques and procedures. A second was an experimental program to provide expanded medical services to the countryside utilizing mobile dispensaries.
The next one--and the one that caused considerable subsequent discussion--was the experimental introduction into the provincial government structure of a team of U.S. Army civil affairs personnel to assist in the establishment of stable provincial administration and to initiate and direct the necessary political, economic and security programs. It was proposed that teams be introduced first into only one or two provinces. General Peers was being sent to work with COMUSMACV in developing detailed plans.
The last non-military measure was an experimental plan for distributing food directly to regular and paramilitary personnel and their families.
Hot on the heels of this message came another on 16 April explaining in some further detail the proposition to experiment with U.S. civil affairs officers in the pacification program. Major General W. R. Peers' party was scheduled to arrive in Saigon on 19 April. According to the proposal COMUSMACV was to designate a senior officer to direct the overall U.S. Army Civil Affairs effort in the one or two test provinces. Within these, the responsibility for all U.S. activities would be vested in the senior U.S. Army sector advisor.
This last message was, for Taylor, the straw that broke the camel's back. Immediately
upon receiving it the Ambassador dispatched a NODIS to McGeorge
.....Contrary to the firm understanding which I received in Washington, I was not asked to concur in this massive visitation. For your information, I do not concur.
Based on the little I know of the proposed civil affairs experiment, I am opposed to beginning any extensive planning exercise which, because of its controversial and divisive concept, is going to shake this mission and divert senior members from their important daily tasks. If GVN gets word of these plans to impose U.S. military government framework on their country (as this new concept seems to imply), it will have a very serious impact on our relations here.
We are rocking the boat at a time when we have it almost on an even keel. I recommend that we suspend action on this project until we have time to talk over its merits and decide how to proceed with order.
Shortly after dispatching this telegram, the Ambassador sent another to McGeorge Bundy, this one dealing more generally with the defense message of 15 April which had laid out the new program of added measures decided upon by the President.
I am greatly troubled by DoD 15 April 15. First, it shows no consideration for the fact that, as a result of decisions taken in Washington during my visit, this mission is charged with securing implementation by the two-month old Quat government of a 21-point military program, a 41-point nonmilitary program, a 16-point Rowan USIS program and a 12-point CIA program. Now this new cable opens up new vistas of further points as if we can win here somehow on a point score. We are going to stall the machine of government if we do not declare a moratorium on new programs for at least six months. Next, it shows a far greater willingness to get into the ground war than I had discerned in Washington during my recent trip
My greatest concern arises over para 6 reftel [the civil affairs experiment proposal] which frankly bewilders me. What do the authors of this cable think the mission has been doing over the months and years? We have presumably the best qualified people the Washington agencies (State, AID, DoD, USIA and CIA) can find working in the provinces seven days a week at precisely the task described in paragraph 6. Is it proposed to withdraw these people and replace them by Army civil affairs types operating on the pattern of military occupation? If this is the thought, I would regard such a change in policy which would gain wide publicity, as disastrous in its likely efforts upon pacification in general and on US/GVN relations in particular.
Mac, can't we be better protected from our friends? I know that everyone wants to help, but there is such a thing as killing with kindness. In particular, we want to stay alive here because we think we're winning--and will continue to win unless helped to death.
Shortly after sending this cable, the Ambassador sent still a third message, this one suggesting certain steps that might be taken in Washington to facilitate his implementation of the many and rapidly changing policies and programs that had been decided upon in Washington since his visit. The problem was winning not only the acquiescence, but the support and active cooperation of the South Vietnamese government. He suggested the kind of instruction that Washington should provide him to present to the GVN--the new policy of third country participation in ground combat. Taylor's proposed instructions are quoted in full here because they provide, for better or worse, an internally consistent rationale for the shifting policies of that month:
The USG has completed a thorough review of the situation in South Vietnam both in its national and international aspects and has reached certain important conclusions. It feels that in recent weeks there has been a somewhat favorable change in the overall situation as the result of the air attacks on the DRV, the relatively small but numerous successes in the field against the VC and the encouraging progress of the Quat government. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that, in all probability, the primary objective of the GVN and the USG of changing the will of the DRV to support the VC insurgency cannot be attained in an accpetable time frame by the methods presently employed. The air campaign in the North must be supplemented by signal successes against the VC in the South before we can hope to create that frame of mind in Hanoi which will lead to the decisions we seek.
The JCS have reviewed the military resources which will be available in SVN by the end of 1965 and have concluded that even with an attainment of the highest feasible mobilization goals, ARVN will have insufficient forces to carry out the kind of successful campaign against the VC which is considered essential for the purposes discussed above. If the ground war is not to drag into 1966 and even beyond, they consider it necessary to reinforce GVN ground forces with about twenty battalion equivalents in addition to the forces now being recruited in SVN. Since these reinforcements cannot be raised by the GVN they must inevitably come from third country sources.
The USG accepts the validity of this reasoning of the JCS and offers its assistance to the GVN to raise these additional forces for the purpose of bringing the VC insurgency to an end in the shortest possible time. We are prepared to bring in additional U.S. ground forces provided we can get a reasonable degree of participation from other third countries. If the GVN will make urgent representations to them, we believe it will be entirely possible to obtain the following contributions: Korea, one regimental combat team; Australia, one Infantry battalion; New Zealand, one battery and one company of tanks; Philippine Islands, one battalion. If the forces of the foregoing magnitude are forthcoming, the USG is prepared to provide the remainder of the combat reinforcements as well as the necessary logistic personnel to support the third country contingents. Also, it will use its good offices as desired in assisting the GVN approach to these governments.
You (the Ambassador), will seek the concurrence of the GVN to the foregoing program, recognizing that a large number of questions such as command relationships, concepts of employment and disposition of forces must be worked out subsequently.
The message concluded that, armed with an instruction of this kind, he, Taylor, would be adequately equipped to initiate what might be a sharp debate within the GVN. Something of this sort was needed before taking up the matter of troop arrangements with Quat.
Later the same day, Deputy Ambassador U. Alexis Johnson sent Washington his personal observations on the recent decision to introduce third country troops. He had just returned from one day at Pleiku with Premier Quat, and two days in the Danang-Hue area, where he had had "extended visits and informal conversations with all of the senior Marine officers ashore."
I fully appreciate considerations both internal and external to SVN which impel move on our part to bring this war to successful conclusion as quickly as possible . . . However, I gravely question whether this result can be achieved at this time by massive input of non-Vietnamese military forces. As we have learned, we are dealing with volatile and hyper-sensitive people with strong xenophobic characteristics never far below the surface. We have thus far deployed our Marine battalions to minimize direct contact with local population. This not only from our choice but that of GVN, especially General Thi. On this I think Thi is right. Hasty and ill conceived deployment of non-Vietnamese in combat roles where they are substantially involved with local population could badly backfire on U.S. and give rise to cries by Buddhists . . . and others to "throw out foreigners" and "return Vietnam to the Vietnamese . . ."
The message went on to say that in the next few weeks the Marines at Danang would have a chance to test their success as a reaction force in support of ARVN mitiated contact with the enemy, and in patrolling thinly populated areas. The Deputy Ambassador recommended that we await the outcome of this testing before engaging any more forces.
A hastily arranged meeting in Honolulu on 20 April was evidently called to
soothe Taylor's temper over the hasty decisions to deploy third country troops,
and to get agreement to them by the senior U.S. policy officials concerned-not
to reverse or alter those policies or to shift the direction of our commitments.
By that point we were inexorably committed to a military resolution of the insurgency.
The problem seemed no longer soluble by any other means.
Go Back to the First Section of Volume 3, Chapter I of the Pentagon Papers, "U.S. Programs in South Vietnam, Nov. 1963-Apr. 1965," pp. 1-105.
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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