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U.S. Department of State

1961-1963, Volume I
Vietnam, 1961

Department of State
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140. Memorandum From the President's Deputy Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Rostow) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Johnson)/1/

Washington, September 29, 1961.

/1/Source: Department of State, S/S-NSC Files: Lot 72 D 316, NSAMs. Secret. Initialed by Rostow.

Contingency Planning for Southeast Asia

The President, in his speech to the United Nations on Monday,/2/ stated that:

/2/See Document 137.

"The very simple question confronting the world community is whether measures can be devised to protect the small and the weak from such tactics. For if they are successful in Laos and South Viet Nam, the gates will be open wide."

As I indicated to you in a conversation immediately following the speech, I think that it is important that this element, as well as other elements of the speech, be followed up with specific action.

In this particular case, you may wish to embrace this problem within contingency planning for Southeast Asia. Our planning for both an overt break in the cease-fire and for continued ambiguous aggression ought to consider the need for making the case against the Communists in advance by forcing the international community to address itself to the problem of outside intervention in Laos and Viet-Nam.

We tend to assume, perhaps, that a break in the cease-fire would present us with a nice clean-cut case for intervention. But, in view of the fact that Phoumi is regularly engaged in low-level actions against the PL/KL forces, it seems quite possible that the Communists will seize on one of these actions to break the cease-fire. In such a circumstance we will have difficulty convincing the world that the implementation of Plan 5/3/ is really justified. In fact, we might have great difficulty in getting the British to agree to implement Plan 5 under these circumstances. We need to make as much of our case against the Communists as we can in advance of any such situation. To do so, we need to involve the international community before the Communists act.

/3/See footnote 3, Document 104.

Similarly, in anticipation of the possibility that the Communists may exploit for propaganda purposes the actions that we may take to deal with indirect aggression, we need to build the case that will justify those actions when they become known.

I am not prepared to suggest a detailed plan of action. But to illustrate what I have in mind, actions of the following kinds might be considered:

a. Publish a white paper written by Jorden which would describe:

(1) covert Communist aggression under the cover of the cease-fire in Southern Laos; (2) infiltration by the DRV from Southern Laos into South Viet-Nam (making clear that the real DRV objective is South Viet-Nam), and (3) DRV intervention in South Viet-Nam.

b. Go to the UN on the basis of the white paper and the statement in the President's speech and request an investigating commission to go to Laos and South Viet-Nam to look into our charges against North Viet-Nam. Make clear that this commission is not a substitute for the ICC's in Laos and Viet-Nam but is doing a job that is beyond the jurisdiction of either ICC.

c. If we felt that we could obtain such action by the UN, subsequently seek a resolution condemning North Viet-Nam's activities in Laos and South Viet-Nam.

d. Use the ICC's in Laos and Viet-Nam as secondary means of publicizing the case against North Viet-Nam, as well as the final stage of the Geneva Conference.

We would have to consider carefully whether we would want to ask the investigating commission to develop, and the UN to implement, specific recommendations for dealing with the problem. Our primary objective should be to justify our own subsequent actions. UN actions which accomplish little, but tend to deter us from taking action we consider necessary, would be clearly undesirable. But we might very well want a UN presence if we worked out an effective border control system for inside Viet-Nam (for example, a system employing a combination of defoliation with small guard posts and local informers along the lines described by Thompson/4/).

/4/Regarding Thompson's conversations with U.S. officials in Washington earlier in the month, see Document 132.

The object of all this, as I have indicated, would be to seize the international community of this problem, develop our case, and lay the basis for the actions that we ourselves may have to take.


141. Editorial Note

For text of a paper entitled, "South Vietnam: Crisis and Short-Term Prospects," September 29, 1961, prepared in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Department of State, see United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967, Book 11, pages 258-290.


142. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, October 1, 1961, 10 a.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.51K7/10-161. Secret; Niact. Repeated to Bangkok, Vientiane, CINCPAC for PolAd, London, Paris, Geneva for FECON, Phnom Penh, Ottawa, and New Delhi. Also printed in Pentagon Papers: Gravel Edition, vol. II, pp. 649-650.

421. In course long discussion with Admiral Felt and party, General McGarr, and me yesterday evening, President Diem pointed the question. He asked for a bilateral defense treaty with the US. This rather large and unexpected request seemed to have been dragged in by the heels at the end of a far-ranging discussion, but we discovered upon questioning that it was seriously intended and was put forward as result of Diem's deep fear of outcome of Laotian situation, SVN's vulnerability to increased infiltration, and his feelings that US action under SEATO Treaty vis-a-vis SVN would be inhibited by attitudes of other SEATO allies, especially UK and France, as in case Laos.

I told President Diem that question he had raised had a number of important angles, including effect upon SEATO, and I thought we needed to sit down together and discuss all aspects very frankly and thoroughly, to which he agreed. In later conversation with Thuan, I repeated this, and he understands, I think better than Diem, some of the thorny points involved.

Fuller report of our discussion with President Diem will follow./2/ Purpose this message is to get quick preliminary reaction from Washington on Diem's request (which he described as a "bilateral treaty like the one with Taiwan"/3/. I will see him again at Hue on Tuesday/4/ and he may raise subject again. In any event, it would be better to pick up question promptly, I think.

/2/Despatch 158 from Saigon, October 10. (Department of State, Central Files, 751K.5811/10-1061)

/3/A mutual defense treaty signed at Washington, December 2, 1954; for text, see 6 UST 433.

/4/October 3. No record of this meeting has been found.

Our own preliminary reaction is that this request should be seriously and carefully treated to prevent any feeling on GVN's part that US not serious in its intention to support SVN; but we see major issues involved, including overriding Article 19 Geneva Accords, possible ratification problems, as well as effect on SEATO./5/

/5/In telegram 368 to Saigon, October 1, the Department told Nolting that Diem could be informed that his request would be studied "promptly and sympathetically" but that Article 19 of the Geneva Accords was certainly one of the problems to be considered. The Department also told Nolting, for his own information, that it might be possible to strengthen the U.S. commitment to Vietnam under the SEATO umbrella, specifically under Article IV of the SEATO Treaty. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.51K7/10-161) For text of the Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities in Vietnam, signed at Geneva on July 20, 1954, see Foreign Relations, 1952-1954, vol. XVI, p. 1505. For text of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, signed at Manila on September 8, 1954, see American Foreign Policy, 1950-1955: Basic Documents, vol. I, pp. 912-916.

Diem's frame of mind which led to this request derives evidently from his feeling that policy we are pursuing in Laos will expose his flank to Communist infiltration to such an extent that large-scale hostilities in SVN are predictable. He is thus seeking a more binding US commitment than he now thinks he has through SEATO. By the same token, I think a change in US policy vis-a-vis Laos, especially a SEATO decision to use force there if necessary to protect SVN and Thailand, would relieve the pressure for a bilateral treaty.



143. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, October 2, 1961, 8 a.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751K.00/10-261. Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution. Repeated to CINCPAC for PolAd.

427. Task Force VN. Deptel 337./2/ Task Force Saigon appreciates reftel and offer of assistance in obtaining and expediting delivery R and D equipment as well as personnel within next thirty days. We share your sense of urgency. Principal cause present stage development situation here is significant build up VC strength inside South Vietnam by infiltration, terrorism and some conversion as well as greatly added enemy capability to increase presently stepped up rate infiltration due to build-up for Laos which has resulted in Communist control and occupation Lao territory along Lao-South Vietnam border.

/2/Document 136.

Tactics, techniques and conventional as well as special types equipment are highly important to struggle here. However, basic fact is that for some time to come, SVN, in spite recent approval for additional troop strength, does not and will not have sufficient trained military forces to counter Communist build up guerrilla strength within its borders and currently across its borders in Laos. This due to lead time for training newly inducted men. Suggestions in Deptel 337 have been under consideration and in many cases action towards implementation has been taken.

Task Force in conjunction with GVN will continue actions designed preclude formation Communist political and logistical base in SVN. It will also continue assist GVN with strength available to slow down increasing infiltration from across its borders. May have further calls in line with spirit of reftel. Meanwhile, here is where we stand on items mentioned:

A1. In Aug 1961 MAAG prepared master training plan/3/ which included training concept for CG and SDC units. Summary on plan forwarded to RVNAF for comment. We are pressing for reply from RVNAF and expect it soon. Needled Thuan again Sept 29. Anticipate result these efforts will be early implementation of sound program for training CG and SDC personnel and units as expeditiously as possible consistent with operational duties of ARVN, CG and SDC units. Request for part of necessary MAAG augmentation in support this training plan has already been forwarded CINCPAC. Request for balance will be submitted shortly.

/3/Not further identified.

A2. There are adequate quantities of flares, illuminating shells and ground signaling devices in country. MAAG has plans for testing sniperscope and image viewer in jungles and swamps of SVN. Necessary items for test being requested through R and D channels.

A3. Tests already conducted indicate that trained dogs will be of value in SVN. Additional dogs and handlers desired and being requested through R and D channels. Total 60 each will be used for large scale field testing. MAAG considers their greatest potential as sentries at static security sites.

A4. Only portable communication device for patrol use known to MAAG is radio. All radios presently authorized ARVN, CG and SDC programmed. Expedite supply action has been requested and approved by CINCPAC and DCSLOG. Delivery has begun. In order increase effectiveness of patrolling recommend authorization and expedited delivery of following AN/PRC-10 radios over and above those presently programmed:

1 each per ARVN rifle company, total--251

4 per Ranger company, total--344

3 per Civil Guard company, total--1113

Grand total---1708.

A5. Action to obtain self-sterilizing mines for test under local conditions is under way.

A6. Sufficient mines for protection of outposts are on hand and programmed. MAAG continues place emphasis on their use.

A7. No shortage barbed wire and no need at present for expedited supply action.

A8. No shortage small arms in country, expedited supply action not indicated. Armalite looks promising in tests to date. For expanded testing under field and combat conditions action is being taken equip entire airborne brigade soonest.

B1. Several additional Caribou can be used good effect if contract crew and maintenance personnel provided also. Regarding defoliant initial tests have been successful and plans are already under way for use defoliant in Zone D and along Cambodian and Laotian borders and around static jungle outposts. This project being handled by CD and TC. Project is of such magnitude that request for spray planes from out-of-country is being formulated. Expedited supply action has already been requested on all bulldozers that can be effectively employed by the skilled manpower presently available in RVNAF. Additional bulldozers could be used start border clearing operations if operators, maintenance personnel and control organization provided also. However clearing any significant portion border would be mammoth undertaking.

B2. If tetrahedron available for issue or test request MAAG be informed of characteristics and availability.

B3. No requirement here for delayed napalm.

B4. No requirement for contract personnel to fly or maintain present H-34s or those programmed for CY 62 unless delivery latter can be and is expedited. Any additional increase over helicopters now programmed will require out-of-country resources for both piloting and maintenance. Main difficulty with use H-34s is in obtaining spare parts from CONUS in spite repeated requisitionings. (Same problem beginning to develop on AD-6 parts.)

D. Added Items.

D1. Terminal Guidance Beacon. Although this is R and D item, recent MAAG study of item indicates it can be used in its present form for target location and marking DZ's for paratroop and resupply operations. Separate action under way through R and D channels to obtain required beacons for airborne brigade and each corps and division.

D2. VT Fuses. MAAG believes VT fuses would be useful in many operations in SVN, including some along border, and therefore recommends that fuses proximity M513 and M514 be provided for operations use as soon as possible and initially in quantities of 3,000 and 1,000 respectively.

D3. Recent RVNAF requests for immediate air photo coverage of SVN as well as longer range photo requirements for TF Saigon will require greatly increased photo interpretation capability in country. Upwards 600,000 prints involved not counting long range requirements. Missions have already started and present limited RVNAF PI capability will be completely swamped as soon as first batch of photos arrive. Recent study here indicates only feasible solution is deployment to Saigon of U.S. Mobile Photo Interpretation Center. Recommend such unit be made available soonest./4/

/4/A copy of this telegram was sent to Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Paul Nitze under cover of a letter, dated October 10, from Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs Walter McConaughy. In that letter McConaughy wrote: "While I realize that providing these items may require some high level decisions in the Pentagon, I urge that these decisions be taken promptly in view of the very immediate dangers in Viet Nam." McConaughy also enclosed a copy of a memorandum, dated October 10, giving the Department of State's "understanding. of the items desired, why they are needed and the problems involved." (National Defense University, Taylor Papers, T-015-69)



144. Memorandum for the Record by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Bundy)/1/

Washington, October 5, 1961.

/1/Source: Department of State, Bundy Files, 1961 Chron. Secret. Copies were sent to Parker, Nitze, Rowen, Williams, and the Coordination Staff.

Planning Group Luncheon, Tuesday October 3, 1961/2/

/2/Apparently at the instigation of William P. Bundy, an interagency group began to meet informally over lunch on Tuesdays in the summer of 1961 to discuss various foreign policy questions. Only Bundy's records of these meetings have been found. Some are in the Bundy Files at the Department of State, and others are scattered in the various files in RG 330 at the Washington National Records Center. No complete set of records of these meetings has been found.

Mr. Rostow Mr. Fowler
Mr. Johnson Mr. Nitze
Mr. McGhee General Parker
Mr. Amory Mr. William Bundy
Mr. Bissell  

1. Viet-Nam. There was a prolonged discussion of whether we were taking all the possible actions, and whether the existing organization was effective. Several specific measures were suggested, including the expediting of junk-force action and the lengthening of MAAG tours. On the broader front, the suggestion that talking direct to the Soviets might have some use was pretty unanimously rejected. The possibility of going to the UN, if the contents of the Jorden report were strong enough, was discussed as a real possibility. As far as the course of developments within Viet-Nam was concerned, there was a general feeling that on the present basis we were doing badly, and that the outcome would be unfavorable in the absence of a major change of course. (This discussion helped to trigger Mr. Rostow's proposal for SEATO forces in Viet-Nam, which is now under urgent JCS consideration.)

[Here follows discussion of Syrian-Egyptian relations and possible future subjects for consideration by the Planning Group.]

William P. Bundy/3/


/3/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.


145. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State (Bowles) to the Secretary of State/1/

Washington, October 5, 1961.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, Schlesinger Papers, Chester Bowles. Secret. A copy of this memorandum was sent by Bowles to Schlesinger under cover of a memorandum of October 7, in which Bowles wrote that the memorandum had so far produced "a relatively negative reaction" at the Department of State and was only a summary of his private views. Bowles told Schlesinger that unless a political settlement was worked out early enough, he thought the United States might be forced to choose between "a major commitment of U.S. troops, with a rapid and disadvantageous escalation, or a precipitous retreat." (Department of State, Central Files, 751K.00/ 10-761) The same day Bowles also sent a copy of the memorandum and a similar covering memorandum to Adlai Stevenson, in which he wrote that the general response to his proposal, "as might be assumed, was a negative one, although George Ball and Averell were in agreement with me." (Ibid.)

The Situation in Southeast Asia

Averell Harriman is striving with great patience and skill to negotiate a settlement for "neutral and independent Laos."

Yet even if an agreement is reached on this difficult question, our position throughout Southeast Asia may grow steadily more precarious with a deteriorating military situation in Vietnam and a highly volatile political position in Thailand.

We should, therefore, look beyond whatever agreements may be achieved in Geneva to the broader implications of the rapidly deteriorating Southeast Asia power balance.

A direct military response to increased Communist pressure has the supreme disadvantage of involving our prestige and power in a remote area under the most adverse circumstances. There is no reason to assume that the Communists would limit their efforts to what we could contain with whatever conventional forces could be spared from other areas.

Therefore, we need an alternative political approach which may save us from having to choose between diplomatic humiliation or a major military operation, . . .

Let us briefly consider the existing situation.

In Vietnam the government position is steadily weakening. An effective political base appears to be lacking and the Communists are in a position rapidly to increase their military pressure with every prospect for success.

As the situation in Vietnam deteriorates, we face the probability of a sharp reorientation of Thai policy and the strong possibility of a sudden switch in governments.

Such a development is strictly in the Thai tradition. For centuries successive generations of Thais have prided themselves on their ability to assure their security by skilled negotiation. Each powerful new Chinese dynasty in its turn has brought pressure to bear on Thailand, and on each occasion the Thais have managed to preserve their sovereignty by paying some form of political tribute.

In the last part of the 19th Century and the early part of this one, the Thais played the French against the British. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the Thai response was promptly to declare war on the United States the following day.

In view of the power position of their Chinese neighbor, the weakness of SEATO, and the deteriorating situation in Vietnam, it would be sheer folly to assume that history will not repeat itself.

Under present circumstances an upset in Thailand would be viewed as a major American defeat with grave implications both overseas and at home for our position in Germany and elsewhere.

In this complex situation I believe we should urgently consider what may be the only feasible political alternative: to expand the concept of a "neutral and independent Laos" to a proposal for an independent belt in Southeast Asia to include Laos, Burma, Thailand, South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Malaya. Such an arrangement might ultimately be guaranteed by the U.S.S.R., Communist China, India, Japan, and the SEATO powers minus Thailand.

It may already be too late in the day to achieve agreement on a proposal of this magnitude and complexity. In view of the situation in Vietnam, the Vietminh and the Chinese Communists may now feel themselves strong enough to reject any agreement, de jure or de facto, which does not leave Laos and Vietnam and ultimately Thailand, Cambodia, and Malaya, ripe for takeover.

However, it is not inconceivable that the Soviet Union may be prepared to accept and to impose on its allies a neutral Southeast Asian belt with a cease fire in Vietnam. In the absence of a stabilizing development of this kind, a massive Chinese intrusion into this area is likely sooner or later with the strong possibility of a major war into which the Soviet Union might be drawn.

It will be argued persuasively that the Communists would simply use such an arrangement as a screen behind which to maneuver a takeover of the whole area from within. No one can deny this possibility.

However, if the worst occurs and the Communists should proceed with their infiltration program in the face of an agreement for a neutral area, the responsibility would be squarely on their shoulders. We could then take whatever steps were indicated with the reasonable prospect not only of United Nations, but, even more important, of Indian and Japanese support.

Moreover, there is some comfort in the fact that Burma for the last fifteen years, with a weak government, a wobbly economy, and a thousand miles of border with Communist China has maintained an extraordinary degree of independence while refusing to align herself with either side.

The approach might be along the following lines:

1. Averell Harriman is already in touch with Pushkin at Geneva on matters implicating Vietnam. He has already broached to Pushkin the question of U.S.S.R. taking responsibility for preventing North Vietnam infiltration through Laos into South Vietnam.

These preliminary probes should be pursued. If they seem productive, Ambassador Harriman could be authorized, through fairly general instructions, to explore the possibility with Pushkin of reaching an over-all negotiated settlement involving the entire Southeast Asian area.

It has been suggested that the divided situation in Vietnam might be compared in general terms to that in Germany. We and the Soviets recognize that unification under present circumstances is not feasible. Our joint objective, therefore, should be to eliminate the fighting which could quickly spread and involve not only the United States and Vietnam but ultimately the U.S.S.R. and Peking.

Under the circumstances our common interest may best be served by looking beyond not only Laos but Vietnam and to the possibility of a neutral and independent Southeast Asia.

An alternative may be for you to open the subject in its broad implications in your next discussion with Gromyko./2/

/2/Rusk met in Washington on October 6 with Gromyko, who was in the United States to attend the 16th Session of the U.N. General Assembly. A memorandum of this conversation is ibid., Secretary's Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330 October 1961. There is no indication that Rusk broached the idea of a neutral and independent Southeast Asia.

2. As soon as our negotiations or our planning have advanced to the appropriate stage, we should begin preliminary consultation with interested governments. This will not be easy. A United States policy for an independent and neutral Southeast Asia launched without careful preparation would deeply disturb our relations with Vietnam, the Philippines, and Taiwan (although most Thais might secretly welcome it, their public protests would be vigorous).

Yet in view of the ugly nature of the alternatives, I believe that this risk should be run, since the likely course of events under present circumstances may lead them and us into a setback with the gravest world-wide implications. If this setback should coincide with an intensification of the Berlin crisis, the impact on American public opinion and on our relations with the world would be grave indeed.

3. There is a very real possibility that the situation will deteriorate too fast to permit these negotiations to be brought to a conclusion. If this occurs, a political contingency plan should be available which would enable us to move publicly for an independent neutral belt in Southeast Asia. The contingency planning should also study the ways in which the United Nations might be quickly involved if the situation begins to come apart precipitately.

I believe that time is of the essence. I suggest, therefore, that we meet with George Ball, Averell Harriman, and Alexis Johnson as soon as possible to discuss the implications of this approach./3/

/3/No reply to this memorandum has been found.


146. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Nitze) to the Secretary of the Navy (Connally)/1/

I-16, 883/61

Washington, October 5, 1961.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751K.5411/10-961. Secret.

Naval Patrol of South Vietnamese Coastal Waters

It is requested that you furnish answers to the following questions as soon as possible-preferably by noon Saturday, 7 October:

1. If the U.S. (presumably pursuant to a request from the government of South Vietnam) were to assist in patrolling the coastal waters of South Vietnam to help control Viet Cong infiltration by sea, at what distance from the shore could such patrolling be accomplished and be consistent with established precedents, i.e., avoiding creating a precedent which might operate to our disadvantage in the future?

2. (Depending upon the answer to the above question) could patrolling at such distance be effective in helping to control infiltration by sea?

3. Could a patrol action of this type be undertaken by U.S. naval forces presently deployed in the Pacific without unduly degrading their capability to perform other currently assigned missions?

Paul H. Nitze/2/

/2/Printed from a copy that bears this stamped signature.


147. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, October 6, 1961, midnight.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751K.00/10-661. Secret; Niact; Eyes Only Secretary.

445. Ref: Deptel 388./2/ I believe General McGarr is right man for the job. He is vigorous, sound, forthright. He has respect of, and excellent relations with, Vietnamese military officers all ranks. His credence with Diem may have diminished somewhat recently because he has been pushing hard for greater operational authority to military command, which Diem reluctant to give. But McGarr is still making headway with Diem and Thuan. I think change in Chief MAAG at this juncture would be a mistake, but suggest independent look and fresh imaginative ideas might be supplied by on-spot visit and inspection (10 days to two weeks) by General Maxwell Taylor, if possible.

/2/In telegram 388, October 5, drafted by Rusk and sent eyes only to Nolting, Rusk noted that deep concern in Washington prompted him to seek Nolting's "most candid assessment" of his principal colleagues, specifically whether McGarr and Gardiner were "the right men for the job" and whether they were able to "work effectively together." Rusk also said that apart from personnel matters, he would appreciate Nolting's "most urgent estimate" of the prospects in Vietnam and whatever "action you consider essential in Vietnam not to succumb to Viet Cong." (Ibid., 751K00/10-56l)

Gardiner extremely knowledgeable this country and wide-range USOM projects, competent, devoted. He has accepted, though somewhat reluctantly, concept of "break-through programs", although temperamentally conservative and believing in long-term, self-help philosophy. I think it would be mistake to make change USOM director at this critical juncture. Prompt filling existing vacancies high-level USOM staff positions would, however, be most useful, as Gardiner's personal supervision all aid activities poses almost impossible task. Diem, Thuan, and other GVN officials have expressed to me their impatience at USOM's slowness and rigidity. I am working with Gardiner to try to correct this insofar as blame seems to lie on US side; but GVN itself inclined to want the impossible in expecting us to fall in immediately with plans and programs often half-baked and frequently changed. Have told GVN friends this in effort develop better planning and execution on their side.

McGarr and Gardiner respect each other and work well together, subject only to differing professional emphasis. MAAG wants as many troops as possible as soon as possible. USOM has to foot the bill in local currency. Urgency of military requirements and sound economic practices necessarily conflict. McGarr is urged on by his authorities, Gardiner has been restrained by his. We try to strike a balance and to reach prompt task force agreements.

In brief, if we do not succeed here, I do not think it will be the fault of either McGarr or Gardiner. They understand each other and work reasonably well together.

In trying to boil down essentials of what needs to be done here to prevent Viet Cong take-over, I am more and more convinced, that first thing is to assure that the frontier with Laos be restored to friendly hands, willing and able to cooperate with GVN in preventing large-scale infiltrations. As indicated Embtel 373,/3/ the only way I can see that this can be accomplished is through partition of Laos. I realize this presents most difficult problem to you. Up until September, I thought we were on upgrade here. Due to recent infiltrations, which stimulate Viet Cong internal recruitment and aggressiveness, GVN security forces now greatly overextended. This intensifies GVN tendency to procrastinate in developing and executing systematic counter-guerrilla plans, including needed rotational training of troops, and stimulates Diem's proclivity to run things on ad hoc basis. Situation now seems to me thin, brittle. While no recent rumors of military coup, one is likely in my judgment if infiltrations continue unchecked. Potential for further infiltrations in men and materiel known to exist in eastern Laos adds to apprehension of military leaders and government.

/3/Document 133.

Two of my closest colleagues/4/ believe that this country cannot attain the required unity, total national dedication, and organizational efficiency necessary to win with Diem at helm. This may be true. Diem does not organize well, does not delegate sufficient responsibility to his subordinates, and does not appear to know how to cultivate large-scale political support. In my judgment, he is right and sound in his objectives and completely forthright with us. I think it would be a mistake to seek an alternative to Diem at this time or in the foreseeable future. Our present policy of all-out support to the present government here is, I think, our only feasible alternative.

/4/When later asked who it was that he was referring to here, Nolting said that one of the two was definitely Mendenhall and the other was either Anspacher or Gardiner. When the same question was put to Mendenhall, he said that Nolting was likely referring to him and Gardiner. (Department of State, Office of the Historian, Vietnam Interviews, Frederick Nolting, Jr., May 25, 1984, and ibid., Joseph A. Mendenhall, December 27, 1983)

This carries with it, of course, the opportunity to bring about such ameliorations as we can. I think we have better than 50-50 chance of winning on this policy line provided the border with Laos is reasonably well protected. If not, I think this government will go down, or out, and that this will probably hasten a Communist takeover here.



148. Diary Entry by the Chief of Naval Operations (Anderson)/1/

October 9, 1961

/1/Source: Naval Historical Center, Anderson Papers, Diary. Top Secret.

1400. The Joint Chiefs of Staff met . . . . /2/ Relative to Southeast Asia, Mr. Bundy stated the proposal to put forces along the border was made for political reasons. Chiefs accepted this provided when actually in Vietnam they NOT be put on border. SecDef wanted a positive recommendation on South Vietnam which CNO provided: if we cannot go into Laos, we should go into South Vietnam, we should include SEATO. SecDef agreed, requested an estimate bv Wednesdavy/3/ of forces needed to eliminate Viet Cong . . . .

/2/The omitted portion indicates that the Secretary of Defense joined the meeting at 2:30 p.m.

/3/October 11.


149. Memorandum From the Chief of Naval Operations (Anderson) to the Secretary of Defense (McNamara)/1/

Washington, October 9, 1961.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751K.5411/10-961. Secret. A copy was also sent to the Secretary of the Navy. The source text was an attachment to a covering memorandum of the same date from Nitze to Rusk.

Naval Patrol of South Vietnamese Coastal Waters

(a) ASD (ISA) Memorandum I-16883/61 of 5 October 1961/2/

/2/Document 146.

1. In response to the questions posed in reference (a), the following answers are provided:

a. If the U.S. assisted in patrolling the South Vietnamese coastal waters at the request of the Government of South Vietnam, there would be no legal restrictions that would hinder us notwithstanding the implications of the Geneva Accord of 1954. Our case would be based on South Vietnam's inherent right of self defense. Any measures taken at her request within her territorial waters (3 mile limit) would be justified by her sovereignty. The preponderance of traffic is carried in small boats close inshore in territorial waters under cover of darkness. If it is necessary to interdict such traffic in international waters, this can be justified under the same right of self-defense. Since this is an accepted, well established right, no undesirable precedent would be established.

b. Naval patrols could effectively help to control infiltration by sea. The radar search capability of such patrols would enhance the probability of detecting boats carrying Viet Cong infiltrators from North Vietnam. The details of carrying out an air-sea barrier should be left to the unified commander. He would probably wish to augment the South Vietnamese junk force with suitable U.S. forces.

c. The assignment of destroyers or patrol aircraft from the Seventh Fleet for patrol action of this type would divert them from the principal threat which they are designed to counter, namely, that of the Soviet submarines in the Western Pacific. However, they are available for any purpose.

2. Current information from the Chief of the Military Assistance and Advisory Group at Vietnam indicates that Viet Cong infiltration is mainly overland through Laos. Since the fall of Tchepone, Communist forces have had free access to the Vietnam border by this secure and well concealed route. He believes that the sea route is not used to any great extent to infiltrate military personnel or supplies but may be used to introduce agents, couriers and medical supplies. The bulk of the weapons, ammunition and material is brought in by infiltrators overland.

GW Anderson


150. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense (McNamara)/1/


Washington, October 9, 1961.

/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 71 A 6489, Viet-1. Top Secret. Received in the Office of the Secretary of Defense on October 9. Also printed, with minor deletions, in United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967, Book 11, pp. 297-299.

Concept of Use of SEATO Forces in South Vietnam (C)

1. Reference is made to the memorandum by the Deputy Secretary of Defense, dated 5 October 1961,/2/ subject as above. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have considered the proposed concept for the use of SEATO forces in South Vietnam and the suggested two principal military possibilities for its implementation.

/2/Not found.

2. It is their opinion that the use of SEATO forces at the greatest possible number of entry points along the whole South Vietnam border, but excluding that part of the 17th parallel now held by the South Vietnamese Army itself, is not feasible for the following reasons:

a. SEATO forces will be deployed over a border of several hundred miles and will be attacked piecemeal or by-passed at the Viet Cong's own choice.

b. It may reduce but cannot stop infiltration of Viet Cong personnel and material.

c. It deploys SEATO forces in the weakest defense points should DRV or ChiCom forces intervene.

d. It compounds the problems of communications and logistical support.

3. Further, the alternative possibility of using SEATO forces to cover solely the 17th parallel, although considered feasible to a limited extent, is militarily unsound in view of the following considerations.

a. The 17th parallel is not a main avenue of approach being used by the Viet Cong.

b. North Vietnam may interpret such SEATO action as a preparation for aggression against them, thus promoting the possibility of communist harassment and destruction of friendly combat and logistic forces concentrated near the parallel, if not escalation.

4. As stated in your memorandum, the proposed concept set forth must be analyzed in the total context of the defense of Southeast Asia. Any concept which deals with the defense of Southeast Asia that does not include all or a substantial portion of Laos is, from a military standpoint, unsound. To concede the majority of northern and central Laos would leave three quarters of the border of Thailand exposed and thus invite an expansion of communist military action. To concede southern Laos would open the flanks of both Thailand and South Vietnam as well as expose Cambodia. Any attempt to combat insurgency in South Vietnam, while holding areas in Laos essential to the defense of Thailand and South Vietnam and, at the same time, putting troops in Thailand, would require an effort on the part of the United States alone on the order of magnitude of at least three divisions plus supporting units. This would require an additional two divisions from the United States.

5. What is needed is not the spreading out of our forces throughout Southeast Asia but rather a concentrated effort in Laos where a firm stand can be taken saving all or substantially all of Laos which would, at the same time, protect Thailand and protect the borders of South Vietnam.

6. The over-all objective could best be served by the implementation of SEATO Plan 5/61, or a variation thereof, now. This would accomplish the objective of assisting to secure the border of South Vietnam against the infiltration of personnel and material in support of the Viet Cong thus freeing Vietnamese forces to conduct more effective offensive operations in South Vietnam. In addition, this action would stem further communist gains in Laos and, at the same time, give concrete evidence of US determination to stand firm against further communist advances world-wide.

7. If implementation of SEATO Plan 5, or a variation thereof, is considered a politically unacceptable course of action at this time, there is provided herewith a possible limited interim course of action. This course of action, covered in the Appendices hereto,/3/ could provide a degree of assistance to the Government of South Vietnam to regain control of its own territory, and could free certain South Vietnamese forces for offensive actions against the Viet Cong. While the Joint Chiefs of Staff agree that implementation of this limited course of action would not provide for the defense of Thailand or Laos, nor contribute substantially or permanently to solution of the over-all problem of defense of Southeast Asia, they consider the Plan preferable to either of the two military possibilities described in referenced memorandum

/3/Appendixes A and B are printed in United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967, Book 11, pp. 300-311.

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

L.L. Lemnitzer/4/


Joint Chiefs of Staff

/4/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.


151. Editorial Note

The Central Intelligence Agency prepared a Special National Intelligence Estimate, SNIE 10-3-61, "Probable Communist Reactions to Certain SEATO Undertakings in South Vietnam." The text of this paper is printed in United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967, Book 11, pages 313-321; although no copy has been found. The printed text does not include the usual cover sheet indicating that the estimate was approved by the appropriate intelligence agencies.



152. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, October 10, 1961, 7 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751K.00/10-1061. Secret; Priority. Repeated to CINCPAC for PolAd. The Department was also asked to pass a copy to ACSI.

467. Deptel 374./2/ Answers to questions raised reftel can be only extremely rough estimates at best in view paucity confirmed information available:

/2/Dated October 3. (Ibid., 751K.00/l0-261)

1, 2, and 3: While armed activity has always been controlled and cadred from the DRV, until summer 1961 perhaps between 70 and 95 percent of Viet Cong forces consisted of local indigenous personnel who had never been in DRV for training or indoctrination. Proportion local indigenous personnel always much higher in southern delta area and considerably lower in highlands bordering Laos, where population thinner and infiltration from DRV easier. Local indigenous personnel consist of (a) Commies and Commie sympathizers left in place by Viet Minh in 1954-55 when they were supposed to pull their armed forces out of South Vietnam for regroupment to North Vietnam under terms Geneva Accords; (b) Persons recruited by coercion through pressure and terrorist tactics since VC guerrilla campaign began to be stepped up two years ago; and (c) Those recruited by persuasion during same period. Line between latter two categories undoubtedly often hard to draw with respect to villagers and peasants who make up bulk of VC forces.

Infiltrators up to few months ago largely consisted of VC leaders and cadres. In southern areas infiltrators probably mostly regrouped southerners sent back from North Vietnam to South Vietnam since we have seen relatively few reports of VC with Northern Vietnamese accents. In central highlands area infiltrators included both Vietnamese and Montagnards, and these personnel placed into much lower levels of VC organization than political and military cadres which infiltrated into southern areas. Difficult to know to what extent these were persons trained in place in South Vietnam, persons regrouped to north in 1954 and sent back, or persons taken out of Vietnam more recently and trained probably in southern Laos prior to their return; several reports indicate last group greatly augmented since first of year.

In any case, little doubt that great bulk of infiltrators have come by land rather than by sea. Infiltration of personnel by sea probably restricted to couriers and individual agents.

During past three months or so picture given above has altered in certain important respects. Greatly stepped-up infiltration into central highlands and VC resistance zone delta northeast of Saigon has taken place. While in southern area infiltrators are still believed to be primarily individuals or small guerrilla groups rather than complete regular units in manner of execution and extent of coordinated attacks north of Kontum early Sept indicates these probably conducted by regular VC forces from nearby Laos and that large-scale infiltration of possibly up to battalion-size units now being carried out this area.

Conclusion about sizeable increase in infiltration is based more on deductions from number, size, and nature of VC attacks in central Vietnam and zone delta area in Sept than on actual specific evidence. We are making every effort as requested Dept's 344/3/ to come up with concrete evidence, but such evidence has been hard to come by to date. One example is . . . statement of captured infiltrator that he was accompanied by about 250 VC who descended from North Vietnam via Laos into zone delta in July. Despite series of recent large-scale VC actions in central Vietnam, no prisoner interrogation reports of similar nature re infiltration into central Vietnam have come to our attention so far. Evidence is likewise scarce to confirm our continued belief that prisoners captured and interviewed during successful ARVN operations in delta in July-August claimed without exception to be local indigenous personnel.

/3/Dated September 24. (Ibid., 751K.00/9-2461)

Under these circumstances we believe it impossible come up with any very meaningful figure on number infiltrators. Feel best we can provide is above qualitative analysis. Even ARVN sources unable at present give reasonable estimate, though they are now reportedly working on this problem.

4. VC forces relied mainly until few months ago on captured weapons and material from GVN forces and crudely made arms fabricated in VC-controlled areas in South Vietnam. There were some reports, credible, of arms shipments from north by sea. Similarly VC depended largely upon area in which they found themselves for food supplies. We believe this is still true for southern Vietnam. In central highlands, however, there seems little doubt that weapons and ammunition are now coming in via Laos but it is impossible provide any estimate re quantity since arms continue to be of American or West European origin captured during Indo-China War rather than of Communist bloc manufacture. In view limited food availability in highlands area we assume VC also bringing in some food supplies from Laos to support greatly increased number of personnel.

Infiltration of arms as well as personnel by sea continues to be relatively small as far as available information indicates.

5. As one ARVN source said, trying to locate crossing points SVN/Laos border like trying to tell which hole in a sieve water comes out of. Actually, entire Laotian border open to infiltration and VC able use all existing roads and trails not under direct and continuing GVN or RLG control (latter are few indeed). Use of DMZ, reportedly heavy several months ago, probably discontinued, since route through Laos now wide open and not so liable political repercussions.



153. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State /1/

Saigon, October 11, 1961, 3 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 851K.49/10-1161. Confidential; Priority. Repeated to CINCPAC for PolAd, Phnom Penh, and Bangkok. Received at 10:03 a.m.

471. Vietnamese have given guarded publicity to flood damage now occurring on lower reaches of Mekong. In response to inquiries of Economic Counsellor, Vice President Tho had following to say, with proviso that for variety of reasons GVN did not wish publicize extent of flood losses at this time. They appear catastrophic.

Vice President said that in provinces of Kien Tuong, Kien Phong and part of An Giang, 200,000 people are now homeless. All of Kien Tuong, comprising 43,000 cultivated hectares, has been "destroyed" by the incursion of two to three meters of water. In Kien Phong, 50 percent of cultivated area of 166,000 hectares has been lost, and in southern section of An Giang, 30 percent of cultivated area of 302,000 hectares has been destroyed. Road to Rach Gia from Long Xuyen is now acting as a dam and preventing flooding south of that line, but just north of road settlement of Caisan one has probably been completely destroyed. A quarrel is now going on between those living north and south of roadway, as those north of road wish it breached in order to relieve flooding in their areas. This would not be a wise move according to Vice President. While flood now appears to be receding Vietnamese authorities fear lunar tides occurring about Oct. 26, as high tide from sea will then prevent recession of flood waters for a few days. Losses include 300,000 tons of rice; indeterminate quantity of animals, 50 people drowned; housing, possessions and clothing of 200,000 people. Relief goods, including clothing, medicine and the like will obviously be needed on most urgent basis, and we will attempt to prepare requirements as soon as possible, do what we can to help while means at hand, and keep Washington fully informed.



154. Memorandum From the President's Military Adviser (Taylor) to the President/1/

Washington, October 11, 1961.

/1/Source: National Defense University, Taylor Papers, T-625-71. Top Secret. No drafting information is given on the source text.

Discussion of Southeast Asia Planning, 10:45 a.m., Wednesday, 11 October 1961

1. It is my understanding that Mr. Alexis Johnson, representing State, will present to you the following principal topics.

a. The present situation in Southeast Asia. He will base this discussion upon the attached summary/2/ which you may have read among your papers over the last weekend.

/2/Not found attached to the source text, but presumably a reference to the Department of State paper, Document 155.

b. The status of the military plan "SEATO 5 Plus", which is the old SEATO 5/3/ with a greater use of indigenous forces than in the original plan.

/3/Regarding SEATO Plan 5 Plus, see footnote 1, Document 155. Regarding SEATO Plan 5, see footnote 3, Document 104.

c. A new concept for the introduction of SEATO forces into South Vietnam.

2. With regard to SEATO Plan 5 Plus, I believe that it is drawn properly to cope with an overt resumption of hostilities but, as you have commented, it is not designed to cope with continued infiltration into Southern Laos and across into South Vietnam. The principal unfinished business with regard to this Plan is to nail down the contributions to be made by the other SEATO countries, and to reach agreement as to the circumstances which would warrant implementing it.

3. The concept for strengthening South Vietnam will be presented to you to obtain general approval for its further development. Decision may be asked on some specific actions which are desirable in South Vietnam, regardless of whether the new concept is adopted in its entirety.

4. One important question which should be discussed is the possible U.S. force requirements (air and ground) if the SEATO Plan 5 Plus and the South Vietnam Plan should be implemented either singly or concurrently. While a decision to plan is not a decision to implement, in all logic we should have the forces available or in sight for these Southeast Asia plans and, at the same time, be able to meet our obligations to Berlin and NATO. In my opinion, our present military structure is not sufficient for both tasks. Thus, the capital question is whether additional forces should be mobilized now or the limitations of our military capabilities in Southeast Asia accepted as a permanent fact.

Maxwell D. Taylor/4/

/4/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.

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