|FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES|
1961-1963, Volume II
Department of State
75. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam/1/
Washington, February 21, 1962, 10:01 a.m.
/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam, Country Series. Confidential. Drafted by Rowan, cleared with Wilson, Rusk, Manning, Cottrell, and Johnson of State, McNamara and Sylvester of Defense, and Salinger of the White House, and approved by Harriman; Rowan signed the telegram for Rusk. Repeated to CINCPAC for Polad and COMUSMACV. The contents were discussed at the Secretary of Defense's Conference at Honolulu on February 19, as indicated in Document 65. Where significant, differences between this telegram and the draft considered at Honolulu are indicated in footnotes below.
1006. Joint State-Defense-USIA Message. Embtel 1013./2/ State, Defense and USIA concur in view that more flexibility needed at local level in handling of American newsmen covering Viet-Nam operations. We conclude that in absence of rigid censorship, US interests best be protected through policy of maximum feasible cooperation, guidance and appeal to good faith of correspondents.
Recent press and magazine reports are convincing evidence that speculation stories by hostile reporters often more damaging than facts they might report.
Ambassador has over-all authority for handling of newsmen, in so far as US is concerned. He will make decisions as to when newsmen permitted to go on any missions with US personnel, when approved by US military commander./3/ They also must approve in advance transport of newsmen on US ships and other US craft, including air, involved in Viet-Nam operations./4/ Ambassador should coordinate the information policy with GVN if possible.
/3/The draft message did not include this last clause.
/4/At this point in the draft message was the sentence: "Ambassador to be guided by advice of Task Force Saigon members, particularly General Harkins."
Attention called to the following guidelines which we believe in our national interest. US military and civilian personnel must see that they are adhered to scrupulously and that Ambassador given complete cooperation if we to avoid harmful press repercussions on both domestic and international scene.
1. This is not a US war. US personnel, civilian or military, should not grant interviews or take other actions implying all-out US involvement. Important that we constantly reinforce idea that this is struggle in which tens of thousands Vietnamese fighting for their freedom, and that our participation is only in training, advisory and support phases.
2. We recognize it natural that American newsmen will concentrate on activities of Americans. It not in our interest, however, to have stories indicating that Americans are leading and directing combat missions against the Viet Cong.
3. Should impress upon newsmen that purpose of certain classified operations is to flush out and destroy bands of vicious Viet Cong terrorists. Every effort made to avoid harming innocent civilians. Sensational press stories about children or civilians who become unfortunate victims of military operations are clearly inimical to national interest.
4. Operations may be referred to in general terms, but specific numbers--particularly numbers of Americans involved--and details of material introduced are not to be provided. On tactical security matters, analysis strength and weaknesses and other operational details which might aid enemy should be avoided.
5. We cannot avoid all criticism of Diem. No effort should be made to "forbid" such articles. Believe, however, that if newsmen feel we are cooperating they will be more receptive to explanation that we in a vicious struggle where support of South Vietnamese is crucial and that articles that tear down Diem only make our task more difficult.
6. Emphasize to newsmen fact that success of operation requires high level GVN-American cooperation and that frivolous, thoughtless criticism of GVN makes cooperation difficult achieve.
7. Correspondents should not be taken on missions whose nature such that undesirable dispatches would be highly probable.
Think it advisable that Ambassador and General Harkins see newsmen at frequent intervals so as to establish point that they keeping press informed to extent compatible with security. Should consider pre-operations briefing of newsmen by designated spokesman.
The point below for consideration and private use at Ambassador's discretion:
It should be possible for Ambassador and/or military to exact from responsible correspondents voluntary undertakings to avoid emphasis in dispatches of sensitive matters, to check doubtful facts with US Government authorities on scene. Seriousness of need for this may be duly impressed on responsible correspondents to extent that, in interests of national security and their own professional needs, they can be persuaded to adopt self-policing machinery. Can be reminded that in World War II American press voluntarily accepted broad and effective censorship. In type struggle now going on in Viet-Nam such self-restraint by press no less important. Important to impress on newsmen that at best this is long term struggle in which most important developments may be least sensational and in which "decisive battles" are most unlikely, therefore stories implying sensational "combat" each day are misleading.
Additional press guidance will be provided from time to time. Your reactions and suggestions welcomed.
76. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam/1/
Washington, February 21, 1962, 4:10 p.m.
/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751K.5/11-1661. Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Maechling; cleared with TF/VN, S/S, AID/FETA, and AID/ AA/F; and approved by Johnson who signed for Rusk. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD.
1010. Task Force Vietnam. From Johnson. Department urgently interested in obtaining maximum utilization of National Police structure in counter-insurgency effort. AID currently reviewing your recommendation of $4.8 million police advisory program for FY 62. Understand that CAS program set forth in Embtel 660/2/ in process implementation.
/2/Dated November 16,1961, not printed. (Ibid., 751K.00/11-1661)
Would appreciate report soonest on latest status programs outlined in Embtel 660 together your views on following points: a) present function and capability of National Police structure in relation to overall counter-insurgency effort, b) plans for expanding or improving such present function and capability, c) organizational changes in both GVN and country team required to maximize police contribution to overall counter-insurgency effort, and d) any other suggestions or comments on best way of integrating National Police into total counter-insurgency effort.
77. Letter From the Commander in Chief, Pacific's Political Adviser (Martin), to the Director of the Vietnam Task Force (Cottrell)/1/
Honolulu, February 21,1962.
/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751K.5/2-2162. Top Secret; Official-Informal.
Dear Cot: While Assistant Secretary Harriman was here/2/ he raised two subjects with me in a brief, private conversation, stressing the importance of my taking the right line on them. This conversation took place during the morning break, and although at lunch time Mr. Harriman said he wanted to have another word with me before he left, the opportunity for one never arose. The purpose of this letter is to find out just what the Department's thinking is on these subjects.
/2/Harriman was in Honolulu on February 19 for the Secretary of Defense's Conference.
The first subject is Jungle Jim operations. Mr. Harriman expressed concern about the inadequacy of information as to targets with the consequent danger that innocent people would be killed. He emphasized that such operations should not be conducted in such a way as to alienate the Vietnamese people from the GVN and the United States. He had no objection to close support of ground operations but was worried about other types of air strikes.
I told him that I had had a letter from you/3/ expressing much the same concern and had discussed it with Admiral Felt. I pointed out that targets were selected in Viet-Nam on the basis of recommendations by the Vietnamese, and I thought that everyone here was conscious of the great importance of hitting the right targets.
/3/Not further identified.
My conversation with Mr. Harriman took place before discussion of Agenda Item 5 on the subject of the problem of target selection and identification, including "action to minimize casualties and damage of friendly assets by air operations". General Anthis briefed on this subject very thoroughly. He acknowledged that all target information came from the Vietnamese and that the United States could not determine as a fact the validity of target information. However, the USAF did not accept any missions which the VNAF could perform and took every precaution to screen the Vietnamese requests which came to it. General Anthis had imposed the restriction on Jungle Jim operations not to operate less than five miles from the Lao and Cambodian borders during the daytime and ten miles at night.
Following General Anthis' briefing Mr. Harriman asked how a decision was made in individual cases as to whether military advantage outweighs political disadvantage. Ambassador Nolting replied that he was convinced that the greatest care has been exercised to insure that wrong targets are not hit although we have to rely completely on Vietnamese intelligence at present. Our post-strike information, however, is virtually nil. He felt we should try to squeeze out more post-strike information and, as our own intelligence capabilities increase, to double check GVN intelligence.
Secretary McNamara said as he saw it there should be three primary restrictions on USAF operations: 1. Minimize risk of loss of US personnel; 2. Avoid trespassing beyond South Viet-Nam's borders; and, 3. Conduct operations only when there is a net advantage. Ambassador Nolting pointed out (without contradiction) that the surest operations were those of close ground support while interdiction strikes were less safe. Mr. Harriman then said that as he understood it General Harkins and Ambassador Nolting would have to decide in each case the question of the net advantage of an air strike since the necessary information was not available in Washington.
On the basis of the foregoing discussion, I had the feeling (although I was unable to confirm it) that Mr. Harriman was satisfied that the responsible people in Viet-Nam, both on the Embassy and military side, are now doing their best to insure that United States air operations are conducted in such a way as to minimize political disadvantages and that day-to-day controls on such operations must be maintained as a practical matter in Viet-Nam rather than in Washington or Honolulu. If this is incorrect, or if you have further thoughts on this subject, please let me know.
The other subject which Mr. Harriman discussed with me was the defoliant operation. We had just had a briefing on defoliants and it was apparent that the technical information available on the results was inadequate and that management of the whole project had been somewhat confused by the autonomous workings of the R and D people. It also came out that the Communists were making propaganda out of the use of defoliants, as was to be expected.
Based on the communications I have seen from the Department on the subject of defoliants, there has been no conflict in view between this headquarters and the Department on this subject. CINCPAC has never been enthusiastic about the project and was firmly opposed to the spraying of crops, fully realizing the political and propaganda hazards. The push behind the project has come from the Vietnamese themselves and the R and D people. As you know the subject has been discussed at both the previous SecDef conferences and approval given for only limited spraying in order to determine the operational usefulness of defoliants under various conditions. To the best of my knowledge what has been done so far on defoliants has been concurred in by the Department. If there is going to be a change in the Department's thinking on this subject, I hope you will let me know.
Since I expect to leave with Admiral Felt on February 28 for a brief trip to Southeast Asia, you may not be able to reply to this letter in time to reach me in Honolulu. However, if there is some guidance which would be useful for me to have on these subjects prior to our visit to Saigon March 6-8, perhaps you could send your reply to me there in care of the Embassy, sending a copy to Tom here. I am, of course, at all times glad to receive guidance on such subjects as this from you and others in FE at any time that you feel there is need for it.
Thank you for sending personal regards via Mr. Harriman. I reciprocate them heartily.
78. Editorial Note
On February 21, 1962, the intelligence community issued Special National Intelligence Estimate 10-62, "Communist Objectives, Capabilities and Intentions in Southeast Asia." (Department of State, S/P Files: Lot 69 D 121, Southeast Asia.) It concluded (1) that the Communist bloc had maintained basic unity in tactics toward Southeast Asia, but a Sino-Soviet split might result in a more militant Chinese attitude in the area; (2) that large-scale military actions by Chinese or North Vietnam was unlikely; (3) that there was no timetable or priority listing that the Communist forces were following in the area; and (4) that Thailand was a prime candidate for subversion.
One paragraph dealt with South Vietnam; it reads:
"In South Vietnam, we believe that there will be no significant change over the short run in the current pattern of Viet Cong activity, although the scope and tempo of the Communist military and political campaigns will probably be increased. The Viet Cong will probably again resort to large-scale attacks, seeking to dramatize the weakness of the Diem forces and to reduce both civilian and military morale, in an effort to bring about Diem's downfall under circumstances which could be exploited to Communist advantage."
79. Letter From the Chief of the Military Assistance Advisory Group in Vietnam (McGarr) to the Vice President (Johnson)/1/
Saigon, February 22, 1962.
/1/Source: Declassified Documents, 1976, 33H. Secret.
Dear Mr. Vice President: One of the nicest things said to me since my arrival here as Chief, MAAG, was your remark, "I'm glad we have you fighting for us out here." Because of this, I feel as a fellow westerner, you will understand the following remarks and my feelings, both personal and professional, about fast moving events here. First of all, I am most happy that the wonderful impact made by your trip, and its dynamic pro-American effect on the Vietnamese people, has not been allowed to lag-that we are delivering on the promises and maintaining the image. Second, I get the distinct impression that since your visit and the advent of Vietnam on the forefront of the world stage, we have tended to be too pessimistic about the situation here. It is still critical but certainly not hopeless. Third, that other of our top people now understand what you learned last May-that there is a hot war going on here for which neither MAAG nor our country was geared.
This latter which I reported 17 months ago, was the key to my past problems here until your understanding began to change the climate of opinion at the policy and decision making levels. As you will recall, an already complex situation was made even more difficult by the military and political ideas on Vietnam which prevailed at that time. MAAG was trying to pull them together into a coordinated effort. However, along the way, the admittedly attractive idea of quick and spectacular military victories instead of the historically sound sustained longer range approach got the upper hand. Although this was contrary to MAAG's considered judgment, we naturally attempted to carry it out--even to the point of it becoming counterproductive with Diem.
I was most happy that the Secretary of Defense after hearing my ideas on this, which coincided with Diem's opinions, put this idea on the back burner. Time, of course, is the controlling factor for the work of the "Civic Action-Rural Reconstruction" teams in laying the absolutely necessary infrastructure at village and hamlet level which will allow GVN to eventually separate the VC from the people. Such a control framework, plus adequate force which is now on the way, will permit the development of badly needed operational intelligence, plus an understanding on the part of the people through assuring their better protection. These basic elements, with adequate training of sufficient military forces is the crux of the Pacification Problem toward which MAAG's advisory effort has been oriented since my arrival.
The announcement of the new Command, USCOMACV, has had a good psychological effect on GVN and RVNAF. However, in providing GVN the tools to do the job, we must not offer so much that they forget that the job of saving their country is theirs--only they can do it. In addition, the political, economic and psychological fields must march abreast of the military effort as a coordinated whole. Ambassador Nolting is working hard on this.
On the military side, while Diem still runs a highly centralized operation, significant progress has been made in the military--although his tendency to run the military show still persists. This will take strong coordinating political assistance in complementing areas. Training has been expedited and improved but, in my professional opinion, it has been cut to buy time until it is now barely marginal and cannot be further reduced. In addition, it is still difficult to get commanders and politicians here to think and act unconventionally. As our enemy is tough, dedicated and trained--we also must be if we are to win.
I feel the new command will find that a firm base has been built here for continued progress as an Area Command--the operational type work the MAAG staff has been hard pressed to do here since 1959. This new headquarters should now allow the slowly increasing staff and command increment which remains with MAAG as a subordinate headquarters, a chance to do a better Training-MAP-job. With the hot war situation, this training job must be especially done well and it must, of necessity, get into the field of daily small unit operational planning. The breakdown of functions and responsibilities between the two headquarters is progressing smoothly and will, no doubt, take this into consideration.
Naturally, due to the rapid build up of recently authorized MAAG Advisors, we are experiencing some "growing pains" in arranging for their logistical support and insuring their prompt assignment to the most productive advisory slots. Of course, we will continue to experience certain frustrations inherent in this wartime situation wherein we have no command authority vis-à-vis our counterparts. However, I feel we are continuing to make progress.
With the formation of a senior headquarters, I particularly wanted you to know the terrific job the people working under me have done--under complex and difficult conditions. I can truly report that we have not let you down with respect to your praise of last May. With the growing understanding of the complex situation here and the psychological effect of our country's strong stand announced to the world--followed through with actions--I am more sure than ever that we will win! Of course, MAAG will continue to work as a part of the new team towards this end. Harryette, my boss from "Six Shooter Junction," Hemsted, sends her very best to you and your good Lady, as does her sister-in-law, Amanda Amsler of Houston. You can be sure we will keep pushing!
Warmest personal regards,
Lionel C. McGarr
80. Editorial Note
On February 22, 1962, Secretary of State Rusk presented an address at Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina, in which he spoke of United States interests in South Vietnam. He stated that "the United States has no national requirements in that area." Rather, he said, United States interests lay in preventing external aggression from the north from succeeding. For text of the address, see Department of State Bulletin, March 19, 1962, pages 448-454.
81. Telegram From the Commander in Chief, Pacific (Felt), to the Joint Chiefs of Staff/1/
Honolulu, February 22, 1962, 10:15 p.m.
/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series. Secret. Repeated to CONCPACFLT, CINCUSARPAC, PACAF, MAC/V, and MAAG Vietnam.
230815Z. Appraisal of SVN situation.
A. Your 220001Z cite JCS 3384.
1. In appraising the situation in SVN we must proceed from three basic facts: first, the communists are presently forcing us to fight on their terms. Second, by its non-conventional nature this form of warfare is designed to be prolonged so as to militarily/politically sap GVN strength. Third, enemy is extremely elusive and operates by methods designed to place conventional military elements at disadvantage where the power of GVN's more modern armaments/force are often negated to significant extent.
2. Proceeding then from these facts, I equate situation as follows. As regards GVN relative strength vis-à-vis Viet Cong, the current situation, although showing a temporary diminution in VC activity, does not portend any significant lessening of VC capabilities. Following is submitted in support of this statement.
a. Main VC military body has not been defeated; conversely, it is numerically stronger than ever before, and militarily/politically the VC is very active.
b. Viet Cong still possess their various base areas and exert control over generally same territorial extent as 1961.
c. Routes of infiltrations from DRV are still open to VC through Laos and support is still coming over these routes.
d. Militarily, VC can attack at will, move swiftly, and has an offensive posture, whereas many GVN ground force elements are, by circumstances, forced into sedentary-fixed defenses, and, where GVN forces undertake offensive they handicapped by VC elusiveness. Further, GVN forces handicapped by inadequate timely intelligence on
e. Will, determination, and fighting ability of VC is at least equal to GVN. Until only recently, the VC were far in the lead in offensive/aggressive posture, thus engendering more hope/confidence in rank and file.
f. Politically VC has support of a significant segment of rural population; politically, time appears on the side of Viet Cong.
g. Lastly, length and nature of the conflict combine to breed circumstances wherein an anti-government coup could be launched, but conversely, no anti-communist coup is likely to topple Viet Cong.
3. In respect to our strength position throughout country, GVN military strength is comparatively uniform but GVN's political strength is not. Generally the GVN's political conbro1 is greatest in the major urban areas and along coastal plain where good routes of communication exist. On other hand, GVN control is virtually nonexistent in Phuoc Thanh province which is largely encompassed by Viet Cong's stronghold of war Zone D. Viet Cong are also dominant in much of the Ca Mau Peninsula swamp area and in much of high plateau area along the Laos border--both regions where terrain/lack of roads tend to restrict movement of conventional forces. A program of province surveys is underway. Reports on first two provinces surveyed (Tay Ninh and Binh Long) illustrate variance of GVN strength in different areas. In Tay Ninh of 56 villages, GVN has some control of 33, and full control in only 12 of these. In Binh Long province, however, GVN has full political conbro1 of 14 of 15 ethnic Vietnamese villages and partial control of the 16 Montagnard villages.
4. In regard to enemy and friendly activities, VC have expanded political activity while maintaining their previous pattern of military activity. VC have established a new party: South Vietnam People's Revolutionary Party. Also, Southern Liberation Front has established number of subsidiary fronts designed to establish a firm hold on SVN by organizing each segment of society in VC support. New propaganda station has begun broadcasting to SVN in five languages. VC are concentrating on getting firm grass roots support.
a. That VC will attempt to establish a liberated area in SVN is indicated by above political developments. Advantages of establishment of liberation govt are manifold as witnessed by Laos example in which KL/PL gained diplomatic recognition and considerable bloc material support after establishing stronghold in PDJ. With US-backed GVN actions becoming more effective against VC, communists probably feel forced to respond.
b. On the military side, VC pattern is largely a continuation of the small unit actions: ambushes of GVN forces, mining of roads, destruction of ground lines of communications, and attacks of small GVN units, particularly CG/SDC installations. VC dedicated to destruction of CG/SDC which are a basic threat to VC as military means of GVN to separate VC from people. VC have capability of concentrating forces to achieve local numerical superiority over GVN forces in any local area. The VC avoids standup battles with RVNAF. While VC have successfully evaded most of RVNAF larger scale operations, existence of RVNAF forces in vicinity of VC infested areas has probably prevented large scale VC operations. With new training and weapons being provided SDC/CG forces, they stand to possibly cause increasing damage to VC hold on certain areas. VC casualties suffered from CG, SDC, and RVNAF about evenly divided, one third from each.
c. Considerable civil activity will be required to take bulk of basically neutral villages firmly into GVN camp. More Civic Action Teams are needed. These, together with implementation of strategic hamlet plan should be a proper complement to improved GVN military posture.
d. GVN military operations have increased numerically--28 January there were 232 operations involving forces BN size or larger. Real war of attrition, however, being fought by CG/SDC platoons/companies. These operations are responsible for killing most of VC. When these forces encounter any strong VC concentrations they have responsive backing by RVNAF which increasingly aggressive and exploiting their new air mobility.
5. In regard to future VC military activity.
a. In coming months is expected generally to follow past pattern/ tactics. We may anticipate continuation of large numbers of low-level incidents with occasional attack in BN strength. Expect more VC emphasis to put on organization/training to further develop larger tactical units. Also, VC may obtain better weapons for use against helicopters/low flying aircraft. VC will endeavor to sabotage aircraft, and improve their intelligence and defensive means of obtaining warning re air/ground attacks. VC will try to retain present numerical strength thru local recruitment plus infiltration. Concerted attempts will be made to capture as well as infiltrate arms.
b. Politically VC will stress themes of: US military intervention, US interference in internal affairs, use of defoliants, and presence of US aircraft. National Liberation Front will continue to expand its activities by setting up Red organizations to reach/supervise people. There will be greater emphasis on political efforts in cities as well as countryside, with continuous effort to gain populace's support, and to recruit, VC may even make a dramatic appeal for world support for any so called liberation government.
6. In regard to specific questions posed by your para 2, ref d, following submitted:
a. VC strength is estimated at 20,000 to 25,000. This is a net increase of at least 2,000 from our Dec 61 estimate of nearly 18,000. Believe that at least half this increase due to active recruiting, with remainder infiltrated largely overland.
b. Review of casualties/incident statistics over past year indicates that the 3rd Corps area has been most active in both categories. The 2nd and 1st Corps zones, however, have shown a broadening of VC initiated incidents since last summer. Noteworthy in analysis of GVN casualties during the last six months of 1961 is that while losses in the regular armed forces remained generally constant, there was a significant rise in SDC losses. In fact they have sustained greatest number of losses each month since Oct.
c. Incidents run the gamut of armed attacks, acts of terrorism, sabotage, and propaganda. Criteria has been constant for past two years.
d. The increase in number of VC initiated incidents and in SVN casualties must be attributed to the buildup of both GVN and VC forces, and to a lesser extent to the expanding of RVNAF operations. To some extent, increased number and scope of GVN military operations apparently induces temporary increased retaliatory VC incidents probably as a psychological tactic. Viet Cong's high incident rate in 3rd Corps remained generally constant while total of incidents went up as VC strength increase permitted a spread of operations into other two corps zones. VC losses have increased substantially each month and almost doubled from June 1961 to January 1962. Acting to destroy SDC forces VC have caused a deadly conflict increasing losses on both sides. As RVNAF have increased operational tempo they have increased their troops' exposure to steady minor losses from snipers/ ambushes.
e. Better reporting methods have been developed over past few months, but this has not necessarily caused increase in events reported upon.
7. In overall summary, VC are feeling results of improvement of GVN military posture, but they have not suffered major setbacks or loss of territory. VC plan a prolonged form of athritiona1 warfare. VC cannot be defeated by purely military means. They will not yet stand and fight in open. Until they change from subterranean tactics, they cannot be routed/defeated solely by bayonet. While military superiority is a prerequisite to solution final success will come only when people can be alienated away from Viet Cong and given adequate protection/security.
82. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam/1/
Washington, February 23, 1962, 4:11 p.m.
/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751K.00/1-2362. Confidential, No Distribution; Eyes Only. Drafted by Johnson and cleared by Harriman, Battle, and Rusk. Signed by Johnson for the Secretary.
1015. Personal for Ambassador Nolting from the Secretary. Following up your conversations with Harriman in Honolulu, the Secretary of Defense has informed us that, in addition to telling and confirming to Harkins substantive paragraph of my January 20 letter/2/ to you, he told Harkins that he should disregard the "terms of reference" contained in the CINCPAC message to Harkins./3/ Secretary of Defense considers his statements to Harkins as superseding terms of reference contained in CINCPAC message and, in your discretion, you are authorized to show this message to Harkins as well as pertinent sentences of my letter of January 20 to you.
/2/See Document 40.
/3/See Document 53.
It is my judgment that you will be in a stronger personal position in carrying out your overall responsibility if discussions of terms of reference are allowed to rest on present understanding rather than enter again into attempt to find new "constitutional language" which can only leave some scars detrimental to the good will and confidence that now exists between State and Defense as well as between you personally and General Harkins.
I again want to make it clear that, if and when practical problems arise, if you will inform me I am prepared promptly deal with them; if actual problems arise which require more formal general statement of relationships than those you now have, I will of course go into it. Believe sweeping instructions and authority given you in Deptel 1006/4/ on handling public relations well demonstrates attitudes of all here on such problems.
I appreciate that it is a tough job and demanding on you personally. We want to help all we can.
You can be sure that you have the continued confidence and appreciation of the President and me and that we shall give you and our effort in Viet-Nam our full support.
83. Memorandum From the Naval Aide to the President's Military Representative (Bagley) to the President's Military Representative (Taylor)/1/
Washington, February 23, 1962.
/1/Source: National Defense University, Taylor Papers, T-133-69. Top Secret.
/2/SEATO Plan 7/61, "A Plan to Assist the Government of South Vietnam to Counter Communist Insurgency in South Vietnam," December 20, 1961. (National Archives, RG 349, SEATO Registry Microfilm, Reel S-3-61)
1. The SEATO Military Advisors are reviewing the concept of operations contained in the draft SEATO Plan 7. The plan includes the directive, intelligence annex, and concept at this time; on national approval of the concept, the question of force allocations will be undertaken so that the Plan can be discussed in detail at the 21 April meeting (now scheduled for Paris, but under review to relocate in SEA).
2. The main points of the draft concept are extracted below:
MISSION: To assist the GVN to counter Communist insurgency and gain full control of its territory, so as to establish conditions in which it can resolve its problems and maintain the security and independence of South Viet-Nam.
EXECUTION: Immediate assistance to GVN will be given by externally based air and naval forces. This will be followed as rapidly as possible by the deployment of a substantial SEATO Force to key strategic areas of SVN.
Aims of SEATO Force:
(1) Assist in securing the Seat of Government.
(1) Assist the GVN to destroy the Viet Cong.
SEATO Field Force Tasks:
(a) Deploy forces to such key strategic areas as the situation may require to achieve the aims of the SEATO Force.
(b) Participate in operations to isolate the Viet Cong from North Viet-Nam: initially an effective naval and air patrol of the Vietnamese coast and the waters of the Mekong delta to be established to prevent the flow of Communist personnel and equipment by sea or inland waterway from north of the 1 7th Parallel and Cambodia, subsequently, SEATO ground and air forces to assist the South Vietnamese forces to effectively control their land border.
(c) Provide air and naval support to GVN and SEATO forces; to include reconnaissance, interdiction and support to ground forces by SEATO units operating from bases in South Viet-Nam. SEATO air and naval units also may be deployed to bases in Thailand to provide additional support to operations in South Viet-Nam and to provide improved capability to respond to overt aggression. The type and amount of support to forces in South Viet-Nam that can be provided by air units based in Thailand will depend greatly on whether overflight of Laos is authorized.
Deployment: Initially, SEATO forces should deploy to the Saigon and Tourane areas with the bulk of the ground forces deployed in the Tourane area. However, plans must be sufficiently flexible to allow for a changing situation and variations in the planned deployments. Thus it may be necessary to include, additionally or alternatively, Nha Trang or other suitable areas in the initial deployment locations.
Deployment and subsequent operations will be supported by forces, including Special Forces, remaining under national command. Some of these may be deployed to Thailand, South Viet-Nam, and the South China Sea as appropriate.
Contingencies: The Commander SEATO Field Forces will be prepared for the following contingencies; the implementation of plans for these contingencies will be subject to prior specific direction by appropriate higher SEATO authority:
(a) Partial implementation. It is not possible to foresee the exact conditions which might exist at the time the SEATO Council approves a request for assistance from the GVN. The plans for the employment of SEATO forces, therefore, must provide for maximum flexibility and lend themselves to partial implementation.
(b) Counter-insurgency in Laos. It is possible that the Royal Laotian Government will conduct counter-insurgent operations in southern Laos either alone or with SEATO assistance (MPO Plan 5 operation). In either event SEATO forces in South Viet-Nam will be prepared to coordinate their operations with any such operations in Laos.
(c) Extension of operations into Laos. The successful execution of the SEATO mission in South Viet-Nam may require extension of air and/ or ground operations into southern Laos for the purpose of denying the Viet Cong safe havens and lines of communication in that area.
(d) Attack on SEATO forces by external forces. In the event of such attack, SEATO forces will take action for their security appropriate to the circumstances.
(e) Overt aggression. In the event of overt aggression, transition to operations under the appropriate SEATO plan will be required.
3. The plan recognizes the current situation and in that respect is more suitable to the problem than Plan 5 is in Laos. It ignores Cambodia except inferentially by reference to lines of communication in Laos (which could be used to reach Cambodia, then into SVN). The question of action against NVN, in any form, if external support of insurgency in SVN continues, is not faced, though the possibility of escalation is. It is psychologically sound to include the deployment of Plan 7 forces to Thailand in addition to the increased readiness gained thereby to meet broader intervention.
/3/Printed from a copy that bears these typed initials.
84. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State/1/
Moscow, February 26, 1962, 5 p.m.
/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751K.00/2-2662.
2284. Our views on numbered points Depcirctel 1476/2/ are as follows:
/2/Dated February 24, it circulated the views of the Yugoslav Charge in London Vukolic, concerning Soviet interests in the war in Vietnam. (Ibid., 751K.00/2-2462)
(1) As in Laos, can assume Moscow wishes avoid enlargement of hostilities into international conflict which would heighten risk of major war. In this sense Vietnam not vital Soviet interest. However, if balance should tip in South Vietnam's favor, Soviets might feel obliged to re-dress balance through greater support of DRV: 1) to meet threat to DRV itself, and 2) to prevent Chinese from coming in large way.
(2) Although Moscow likely prefer peaceful resolution of Vietnam problem, it cannot afford to appear soft regarding expansion of communism in colonial areas, if for no other reason than this would seem to confirm Chinese arguments in ideological dispute. Likely Moscow approach would be to use growing tension over Vietnam as pressure to convene international conference in 1954 Geneva framework.
(3) In past Soviets may have been confident that South Vietnam would fall to Communists sooner or later, but vigorous and effective US support for South Vietnam would change situation, especially if latter became strong enough to expand military operations into DRV.
(4) a. Establishment of "liberated" area and "government" in South Vietnam would not necessarily pose dilemma for Soviets, although likely that they would oppose these moves until possibility of reactivating international machinery explored further. Moscow for example has not recognized FLN de jure, although it supports latter materially and with propaganda.
b. Do not believe Soviets so much concerned over revelation of split with Chinese as they are with preserving their influence in DRV. Possible that Soviets will promise logistic support to DRV to preempt Chinese intervention as they did in Laos.
Vukolic's point regarding "influential groups" in USSR strikes us as typically Yugoslav. Do not believe there is serious division of opinion here regarding Vietnam and all major elements of regime, including military, likely be opposed to escalation there.
Soviet press has not indicated what purpose is of Ponomaryev mission currently in DRV. Presumably this related to Soviet-Chinese ideological dispute, but it could also be engaged in seeking DRV agreement to cautious policy in South Vietnam.
Soviet policy toward Vietnam will be very much influenced by outcome in Laos as well as by developments in other major East-West problems such as disarmament and Berlin. In many respects Soviet policy appears to be approaching a crossroads and developments in any one of these problems could well affect general course of Soviet policy toward West as well as toward Commie China. Whatever Soviet longer-range policy on Vietnam question may be I am convinced that for present they would prefer avoid any decisive actions there.
85. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/
Saigon, February 26, 1962, 6 p.m.
/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751K.00/1-2662. Secret; Priority. A note on the source text in U. Alexis Johnson's handwriting reads: "No action required. Shown to Gov. Harriman."
1088. Eyes only Secretary from Nolting. Ref Deptel 1015./2/ Thank you for your message. I shall proceed on basis you outline, and am confident Gen. Harkins and I can work together successfully assuming our respective day-to-day instructions are consistent. In this connection, the more we can think and speak of Viet-Nam struggle in its present phase in terms of "pacification of the country and winning the allegiance of the people" as contrasted with "winning the war", the more we will find success, in my judgment.
I appreciate very much the President's and your own expressions of confidence, and warmly reciprocate them.
86. Memorandum From the Secretary of Defense's Assistant for Special Operations (Lansdale) to the Secretary of Defense (McNamara)/1/
Washington, February 26, 1962.
/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, Lansdale Files: FRC 63 A 1803, Vietnam 7. Confidential; Sensitive. Also sent to Gilpatric. Lansdale signed the memorandum "Ed."
After your approval, I accepted the invitation by Charlie Murphy to meet with the editors of Life magazine for an off-the-record discussion on Vietnam. We had a two hour talk at lunch in New York last Friday, 23 February. I spent several more hours with the writers and photographers who are working on Life's coverage of Vietnam. Charlie Murphy, who arranged this and accompanied me, was most constructive in his comments and questions.
Essentially, the editors (George Hunt, Hugh Moffatt, Joe Kessner, etc.) seemed to be sincerely trying to make up their minds on whether or not the U.S. is wise in supporting Ngo Dinh Diem in Vietnam. "Can we win with him?" "Should a coup replace him?"
The questions apparently were raised by a series of letters from Time-Life correspondents, sparked to some extent by Stan Karnow of the Hong Kong office who is violently opposed to Diem. Karnow is the man who was opposed to our aid in Laos and, earlier, our aid to Chiang against Mao; he has a low opinion of Nolting, McGarr, and Felt. Anyhow, as a result, Life editor Roy Alexander has gone to Vietnam for a first-hand look, to help advise on Life's editorial policy re Diem.
I gave them several different angles for consideration. Since there seems to be a stepped-up campaign Newsweek, New York Times, and certain parts of Washington) to denigrate the President's decision to support Vietnam and Diem's government, some of my remarks may be of help to you. I note the highlights below, along with some of the questions asked.
At the start, I remarked that they--and other Americans--were trying to play God, by trying to pick a leader for Vietnam. If they were serious, as they seemed to be, then they needed a yardstick to measure up Diem and other Vietnamese, to compare them for the job. I had some suggested measurements which Americans might use:
1. Dedication to defeat the enemy. Since Vietnam is essentially in a life-or-death struggle, the leader on our side must be every bit as dedicated to victory as Ho Chi Minh is on the Communist side.
2. Executive ability. The leader must have the ability to keep his government running, in many complex fields, despite the lack of competent or experienced Vietnamese administrators.
3. Moral courage. In a war, such as Vietnam's, there are many tough decisions that have to be made. None ever seem to be "black and white" problems, but mostly fuzzy gray ones which take real moral courage to decide.
4. Constitutionality. Since Vietnam has gone through real birth pangs in becoming a nation, we must consider the value of the legality of the Presidency. The Vietnamese had elected an Assembly to write a Constitution in 1956, had voted for this Constitution which established a government for the people, including a President, Vice President, and an Assembly, and had voted in the Presidential election of 1961 for President Diem and Vice President Tho. Do we want to make that Constitution a scrap of paper or a viable legal document?
5. Integrity. We should want a Vietnamese leader who has deep honesty, a selfless dedication to the cause, a man who won't use U.S. aid for his own selfish ends. Even those who hate Diem admit he is puritanically honest.
6. Team leader. Diem is weak in delegating authority and in getting the whole Vietnamese team to follow him whole-heartedly. But, have we really thought about why? U.S. officials have insisted that Diem give authority to civil and military officials who are weak, if not disloyal; a number of our own Presidents have had similar problems and we might well show a little more constructive understanding by helping him solve this problem rather than force him to compound it.
7. Popularity. The leader of the free Vietnamese must vie in popularity with the leader of the slave Vietnamese, Ho Chi Minh. Diem is the best known free Vietnamese. Making him the best liked is simply a professional chore, with some help from Diem; the chore is neither one for Madison Avenue techniques nor Communist techniques. It was done in 1954-56, and could be done again, if necessary. As a corollary, it is noted that intellectuals who are most critical of Diem do not speak of love or affection for and by the people. Intellectuals instinctively mistrust the people, with their belief of superiority of intellect needing to be kept unsullied by trust of others. This snobbery or arrogance is amusing but empty when it turns to being critical of a person for not being popular.
8. Liberal? Conservative? Some of the criticism of the Vietnamese government and of Diem is based on unusually fuzzy thinking for this day and age. Much of the political reform measures we insist that Diem adopt need to be looked at in the harsh light of the violent combat in Vietnam. An honest, hard look will reveal that they are "gimmicks" with much the same flavor as "deforestation"; the political gimmicks are pushed forward with much the same do-good enthusiasm as military and economic gimmicks. We should be desiring a Churchill, not a Chamberlain, for these critical moments in Vietnam. Some reforms are needed, but we must help Diem and the Vietnamese towards practical ways of solving their problems, not just sit on the sidelines and give orders for actions which are not solutions.
9. Know the needs of people and country. There are a number of politicians in Vietnam who aspire to be the top leader. In talking with a number of them, including some who are friends of mine, I know of none who has the depth of understanding his people and country which is needed for leadership now. Some are sincere patriots whom I would like to see growing politically today by holding positions of public trust. Others only seek to satisfy narrow aims or their vanity.
A rather lively discussion took place after this description of a suggested "yardstick." It continued after the editors left and when Scott Levitt (writer), Howard Sochurek (photographer), and I discussed the articles the two of them will prepare. Some of the questions asked in both sessions stick in my mind, and I am noting them below, as of interest to you:
Q.: What makes you think Americans should "play God," as you put it?
A.: I was merely putting the correct label to what you, and other Americans, seem to be up to today. You wonder if we can win with Diem or be better off with a coup and a possible military leader in Vietnam. President Kennedy has pledged U.S. support to Diem, and we are matching that pledge with a series of actions. Now you express doubt that this is what we should do. You hint that there are alternatives. When I suggest that these alternatives be taken out in the daylight and measured, it should cause no surprise. It is obvious that you, as responsible editors, are doing much the same as we are doing in Washington--acting as Americans for the best good of our country and trying to think very hard before we take each decision.
Q.: Does President Kennedy really want to win in Vietnam? Isn't there some hedging on this desire when Secretary McNamara says it will take 5 to 6 years?
A.: I feel that the Administration has made it very plain that the U.S. is determined to help the Vietnamese win their struggle for freedom. The President has said so in plain terms, not only to the U.S., but to the Vietnamese and the world. Secretary McNamara and Deputy Secretary Gilpatric, along with General Lemnitzer, are taking many actions to make our military aid and advisors really help the Vietnamese. To those who hope for a quick, cheap, and easy victory, the top folks in the Pentagon are saying honestly that this looks like a tough job that is going to take some doing.
Q.: Why was General Harkins appointed? Did Secretary McNamara think he needed more rank in the U.S. military? Can a conventional soldier win this kind of a war?
A.: General Harkins was picked as the military man who could best use U.S. military resources to help the Vietnamese win. He has just arrived. Why not wait and see how he does?
Q.: Why don't we get rid of people like Gardiner in USOM and McGarr in MAAG? They aren't getting anywhere with the Vietnamese and aren't helping anybody win.
A.: This question is in the category of "why don't you stop beating your wife." Any answer I give damns me. However, it should be obvious that someone in authority has placed them in Vietnam and believes they are serving usefully.
Q.: Why do we have the big "paper-mill" MAAG in Saigon? Why so many U.S. military at desks and not out in the field?
A.: This is much the same category of question as the previous one. Taking these questions, and your earlier ones on Diem, it seems that you and too many other Americans, including both military and civil officials in Washington and Saigon, simply fail to realize the facts of today's war. Our side is under deadly attack. It is life-or-death today in Vietnam, tomorrow elsewhere. The American people should be awake to this condition of war--and grimly determine that anything short of victory is too little. Since part of the deadly attack today includes the art of tranquilizing Americans at the same time, all of us--including Life reporters--who have seen the face of this enemy in the attack should bring it home to other Americans. In combat, we remove the commander when his unit fails to take the objective. If we saw today's struggle as combat, we would do the same--whether the commander was an ambassador, an economist, an information man, or a military man. You know how our press would scream about the relief of "good guys" from devoted service to their country in some hardship post abroad. Well, we still have some toughening up to do, to relegate the "nice people" to our social life and start asking only if the man we put in is winning or not, the way we want him to.
Q.: Yes, but don't you think the American people deserve to know all that is going on in Vietnam? After all, some Americans are being killed there, and it is likely that more will be, with the big build-up of our forces there.
A.: Certainly I agree that Americans must have the truth, every bit of it that won't help the enemy defeat us. But, isn't it time that you started doing this constructively--rather than treating Vietnam as some quaint and strange place, full of peculiar little people, out at the end of nowhere where our good "American boys" don't belong anyhow, and where some Americans are all thumbs in what they're doing? You who have been there say that the Vietnamese are wonderful people, with a deep love of individual liberty. Well, why don't you picture them to the American people that way--as real people not too unlike us, people fighting against tyranny today? Then, as Americans go out to help them in this good fight--as advisors where the shooting is--standing up to be counted right alongside them--the American people can understand why Americans took the risks along with the Vietnamese. Hellsfire, we both love the same concept of freedom, and you know it, and I know it, but you haven't told that to the American people yet. They deserve that truth. And, to encourage the very Americans we need as dedicated volunteers in Vietnam, why don't you give some recognition to our really good guys out there? You've seen them in action, committed right up to the hilt in this struggle. I know that the Vietnamese love this type of American and bust their britches trying to be as good as he thinks they are. Well, we ought to love this type of American, too, and let him know it--to give him the encouragement he richly deserves. We have them in Vietnam today. I think your readers deserve to know about them. If a guy like that becomes a casualty, every American will feel it and not have to wonder what he was doing halfway around the world.
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