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Full text of "Pentagon Papers"

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number; NND 63316. By; NWD Date; 201 1 



IV.B F.voltition of the War (26 Vols.) 
Counterinsurgency: The Kennedy Commitments, 1961- 

1963 (5 Vols.) 
1. The Kennedy Commitments and Programs, 1961 





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UNITED STATES - VIETNAM RELATIONS 

1945 - 1967 





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VIETNAM TASK FORCE 



OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE 



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EVOLUTION OF THE WAR 



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IV.B.l THE KENKEDY COMt^HTMENTS Alffi PROGRAMS, I96I 



SUMMRY AND AATALYSIS 



When Kennedy took office, the prospect of an eventual crisis in 
Vietnam had been widely recognized in the government, although nothing 
much had yet "been done about it. Our Ambassador in Saigon had been 
sending worried cables for a year, and twice in recent months (in 
September I96O and again in December) had ended an appraisal of the 
situation by cautiously raising the question of whether the U.S. would 
not sooner or later have to move to replace Diem. Barely a week after 
taking office, Kennedy received and approved a Counter-Insurgency Plan 
(CIP) which, at what seems to have been a rather leisurely pace, had been 
going through drafting and staffing for the previous eight months. 

The CIP was a most modest program by the standard we have become 
accustomed to in Vietnam. It offered Diem financial support for a 20,000 
man increase in his army, which then stood at 150,000; plus support for 
about half of the counter-guerrilla auxiliary force known as the Civil 
Guard. In return, it asked Diem for a number of reforms which appeared 
to the American side as merely common sense -- such as straightening out 
command arrangements for the army under which \2. different officials 
directly responsible to Diem (38 province chiefs, 3 regional comm.anders, 
and a Chief of Staff) shared operational command. 

The CIP was superseded in May by an enlarged version of the sajtie 
program, and the only longer term significance the original program held 
was that it presumably offered the Administration a lesson in dealing with 
Diem (and perhaps, although it was not foreseen then, a lesson in dealing 
with Vietnamese governments generally.) The negotiations dragged on and 
on; the U.S. military and eventually most of the civilians both in Saigon 
and Washington grew impatient for getting on v^ith the war; Diem promised 
action on some of the American points, and finally even issued some decrees, 
none of which were really followed up. For practical purposes, the list of 
"essential reforms" proposed as part of the CIP, including those Diem had 
given the impression he agreed to, could have been substituted unchanged ' 
for the list of reforms the U.S. requested at the en^. of the year, with 
equal effect, as the quid pro quo demanded for the much enlarged U.S. aid 
offer that follo^\ed the Taylor Mission. 

Negotiations with Diem came to an end in May, not because the issues 
had been resolved, but because the U.S. decided to forget trying to pressure 
i Diem for a while and instead try to coax him into reforming by winning his 

(■ confidence. Partly, no doubt, this reflected the view that pressure was 



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getting nowhere and the alternative approach might do "better. Mainly^ 
\ however, the changed policy, and the somewhat enlarged aid program that 

{ accompanied it, reflected the pressures created by the situation in 

neighboring Laos. (We will see that there is a strong case to^be made 
that even the Fall, post-Taylor Mission, decisions were essentially 
dominated by the impact of Laos. But in May the situation was unambiguous. 
Laos, not anything happening in Vietnam, was the driving force.) 

A preliminary step came April 20, Immediately following the Bay of 
Pigs disaster, and with the prospect of a disaster in Laos on the very 
near horizon, Kennedy asked Deputy Secretary of Defense Gilpatric to work 
up a program for saving Vietnam. The program was delivered, as ^requested, 
a week later. It was a somewhat enlarged version of the CIP, with the- 
implication, not spelled out in the paper, that the new effort would be 
put into effect without making any demands on Diem. (Simultaneously, 
Ambassador Durbow, who had been in Vietnajii for four years, was being 
:t*eplaced by Nolting, and this added to the hope that a new start might 
be made with Diem.) There is nothing to suggest that anything more was 
expected of Gilpatric^ s program, and indeed all the evidence suggests that 
the main point of the exercise was to work General Lansdale into the ^role 
of government-wide coordinator and manager of the country's first major^test 
in the new art of counter-insurgency. Lansdale served as Executive Officer 
of the Task Force which Gilpatric organized and which he proposed should be 
given a continuing, dominant role in managing the Vietnamese enterprise. 

^'^ ' By the time the report was submitted on April 27 when the Laos crisis 

was reaching its peak, a new Geneva conference had been agreed upon. But 
there were serious doubts that the pro-western side in Laos would be left 
with anything to negotiate about by the time the conference opened. Even 
the U.S. -favored settlement (a coalition government) represented a major, ^ . 
if prudent, retreat from the previous U.S. position taken during the closing 
months of the Eisenhower Administration.) So the situation in Laos was^ 
bad, if unavoidable; and it followed right on the heels of the Bay of Pigs, 
and at a time when the Soviets were threatening to move against Berlin. 
The emphasis of the Gilpatric Task Force shifted from shaping up the counter- 
insurgency aid program for Vietnam, to finding ways to demonstrate to the 
South Vietnamese (and others) that a further retreat in Laos would not 
foreshadow an imminent retreat in Vietnam. 

On April 28, an annex to the Task Force report proposed to counter 
the impact of Laos with U.S. support for an increase in South Vietnamese 
forces (the original report had proposed only more generous financial support 
for forces already planned under the CIP) and, further, a modest commitment 
of U.S. ground combat units in South Vietnam, with the nominal mission of 
establishing two training centers. On April 29 , Kennedy endorsed the pro- 
posals of the original draft, but took no action on the far more significant 
proposals in the annex. On May 1, a revised Task Force draft came out, 
■ incorporating the Laos Annex proposals, and adding a recommendation that 
the U.S. make clear an intent to intervene in Vietnam to the extent needed 
to prevent a Viet Cong victory. At this point, practical control of the 

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Task Force appears to have shifted out of Gilpatric^s (and Defense *s) 
hands to State (and^ apparently^ George Ball.) A State redraft of the 
report caiiie out May 3? which eliminated the special role laid out for 
Lansdale^ shifted the chairmanship of the continuing Task Force to State, 
and blurred, without wholly eliminating, the Defense-drafted recommendations 
for sending U.S. combat units to Vietnam and for public U,^S. commitments 
to save South Vietnam from Communism. But even the State re-draft recom- 
mended consideration of stationing American troops in Vietnam, for missions 
not involving combat with the Viet Cong, and a bilateral U.S.-SVTT security 
treaty. On May ^4 and 5, still acting under the pressures of the Laos 
crisis, the Administration implied (through a statement by Senator Fulbright 
at the White House following a meeting with Kennedy, and at Kennedy's press 
conference the next day) that it was considering stationing American forces 
in Vietnam. On May 6, a final draft of the Task Force report came out, 
essentially following the State draft of May 3. On May 8, Kennedy signed 
a letter to Diem, to be delivered by Vice President Johnson the next week, 
which promised Diem strong U.S. support, but did not go beyond the program 
outlined in the original Task Force report; it offered neither to finance 
expanded South Vietnamese forces, nor to station American troops in Vietnam. 
On May 11, the recommendations of the final, essentially. State-drafted, report 
were formalized. But by now, the hoped for cease-fire in Laos had come off. 
Vice President Johnson in Saigon on the 12th of May followed through on his 
instructions to proclaim strong U.S. support for and confidence in Diem. 
When Diem talked of his worries about U.S. policy in Laos, Johnson, obviously 
acting on instructions, raised the possibility of stationing American troops 
in Vietnam or of a bilateral treaty. But Diem wanted neither at that time. 
Johnson's instructions were not available to this study, so we do not know 
how he would have responded if Diemi had asked for either troops or a treaty, 
although the language of the Task Force report implies he would only have 
indicated a U.S. willingness to talk about these things. With Johnson, 
came the new Ambassador, Fritz Nolting, whose principal instruction was to 
"get on Diem's wavelength" in contrast to the pressure tactics of his 
predecessor. 

A few weeks later, in June, Diem, responding to an invitation Kennedy 
had sent through Johnson, dispatched an aide to Washington with a letter 
outlining Saigon's "essential military needs." It asked for a large increase 
in U.S. support for Vietnamese forces (sufficient to raise ARVN strength 
from 170,000 to 270,000 men), and also for the dispatch of "selected 
elements of the American Armed Forces", both to establish training centers 
for the Vietnamese and as a symbol of Am.erican commitm.ent to Vietnam. The 
proposal. Diem said, had been worked out with the advice of MAAG Saigon, 
whose chief, along with the JCS and at least some civilian officials, 
strongly favored getting American troops into Vietnam. 

The question of increased support for Vietnamese forces was resolved 
tlirough the use of the Staley Mission. This was normally a group of economic 
experts intended to work with a Vietnamese group on questions of economic 
policy. Particularly at issue was whether the Vietnamese could not be 
financing a larger share of their own defenses. But the -economic proposals 



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and programs, all of which turned out to be pretty general and fuzzy, 
comprised a less important part of the report than the discussion of 
Vietnamese military requirements. Here the study group reflected the 
instructions of the two governments. On the basis of the Staley Report, 
the U.S. agreed to support a further increase of 30,000 in the RTOIAl^, but 
deferred a decision on the balance of the South Vietnamese, request on the 
grounds that the question might not have to be faced since by the time 
the RVNAF' reached 200,000 m.en, sometime late in I962, the Viet Cong might 
already be on the run. The Staley Report also contained what by now had 
already become the usual sorts of nice words about the importance of social, 
political, and administrative reforms, which turned out to have the usual 
relevance to reality. The U.S. was still sticking to the May formula of 
trying to coax Diem to reform, instead of the equally unsuccessful January 
formula of trying to pressure him to reform. 

The other issue -- the request for "elements of the American Armed 
Forces" -- was left completely obscure. From the record available, we 
are not sure that Diem really wanted the troops then, or whether Kennedy 
really was willing to send them if they were wanted. All we know is that 
Diem included some language in his letter that made the request a little 
ambiguous, and that Washington -- eit?ier on the basis of clarification 
from Diem's aide who delivered the letter, or on its own initiative, or 
some combination of both -- interpreted the letter as not asking for troops, 
and nothing came of the apparent request. 

( "" A new, and much more serious sense of crisis developed in September. 

-; This time the problem was not directly Laos, but strong indications of 
moderate deterioration of Diem*s military position and very substantial 
deterioration of morale in Saigon. There was a sharp upswing in Viet Cong 
attacks in September, including a spectacular raid on a province capital 
55 miles from Saigon during which the province chief was publicly beheaded 
by the insurgents. At the end of September, Diem surprised Nolting by 
asking the U.S. for a U.S.-GVN defense treaty. By Diem*s account the loss 
of morale in Saigon was due to worries about U.S. policy growing out of the 
Laos situation. Both U.S. officials in Washington and South Vietnamese 
other than those closest to Diem, though, put most of the blame on deteri- 
oration within South Vietnam, although the demoralizing effect of Viet Cong 
successes was unquestionably magnified by uncertainties about the U.S. 
coiranitment to Vietnam. In response, President Kennedy sent General Taylor 
and Walt Rostow, then both on the White House staff, to Vietnam, accompanied 
by some less prominent officials from State and Defense. 

What Taylor and Rostow reported was that Saigon faced a dual crisis of 
confidence, compounded out doubts arising from Laos that the U.S. would 
stick by South Vietnam, and doubts arising from the Viet Cong successes 
that Diem's unpopular and inefficient regime could beat the Viet Cong anyway. 
The report said that a U.S. military commitment in Vietnam was needed to 
meet the first difficulty; and that the second could best be met by supplying 
a generous infusion of American personnel to all levels of the Vietnamese 
government and army, who could, it was hoped, instill the Vietnamese with 
the right kind of winning spirit, and reform the regime "from the bottom up" 



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despite Diem's weaknesses. The report recoinmended the dispatch of heli- 
copter companies and other forms of combat support^ but without great 
emphasis on these units. Probably, although the record does not specifically 
say so 5 there was a general understanding that such units would be sent 
even before the report was submitted, and that is why there is relatively 
little emphasis on the need for them. 

The crucial issue was what form the American military commitment 
had to take to be effective. Taylor, in an eyes only cable to the 
President, argued strongly for a task force in the delta, consisting 
mainly of army engineers to work where there had been a major flood. The 
delta vms also where the VC were strongest, and Taylor warned the President 
that the force would have to conduct some combat operations and expect to 
take casualties. But Taylor argued that the balance of the program, less 
this task force, would be insufficient, for we had to "convince Diem that 
we are willing to join him in a showdown with the Viet Cong..." 

We do not know what advice President Kennedy received from State: 
Sorenson claims all the President's advisors on Vietnara favored sending 
the ground force; but George Ball, at least, who may not have been part 
of the formal decision group, is widely reported to have opposed such a 
move; so did Galbraith, then Ambassador to India, who happened to be in 
Washington; and perhaps some others. From Defense, the President received 
a memo from McNamara for himself, Gilpatric, and the JCS, stating that they 
were "inclined to recommend" the Taylor program, but only on the understanding 
f ^ that it would be follovred up with more troops as needed, and with a willing- 
ness to attack North Vietnam. (The JCS estimated that ^0,000 American 
troops would be needed to "clean up" the Viet Cong.) The Taylor Mission 
Report, and Taylor's own cables, had also stressed a probable need to attack, 
or at least threaten to attack. North Vietnam. 

The McNaraara memo was sent November 8. But on November 11, Rusk and 
McNamara signed a joint memo that reversed McNamara 's earlier position: 
it recoiTimended deferring, at least for the time being, the dispatch of combat 
units. This obviously suited Kennedy perfectly, and the NSAM embodying the 
decisions vras taken essentially verbatim from the recommendations of the 
Rusk/McNamara paper, except that a recommendation that the U.S. was commiting 
itself to prevent the loss of Vietnam was deleted. 

But where the Taylor Report had implied a continuation of the May 
■policy of trying to coax Diem into cooperating with the U.S., the new 
program was made contingent on Diem's acceptance of a list of reforms; 
further Diem was to be informed that if he accepted the program the U.S. 
would expect to "share in decision-making" .. .rather than "advise only". 
Thus, the effect of the decision was to give Diem less than he was expecting 
(no symbolic commitment of ground forces) but to accompany this limited 
offer with demands for which Diem vras obviously both unprepared and unwilling 
■ to accede to. On top of this, there vras the enormous (and not always recog- 
nized) extent to v^hich U.S. policy was driven by the unthlnkability of 

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avoidably risking another defeat in Southeast Asia hard on the heels of 
the Laos retreat. 



Consequently, the U.S. bargaining position was feeble. Further, 
Galbraith at least, and probably others, advised Kennedy that there was 
not much point to bargaining with Diem anyway, since he would never 
follow through on any promises he made. (Galbraith favored promoting an 
anti-Diem military coup at the earliest convenient moment.) Kennedy 
ended up settling for a set of promises that fell well short of any 
serious effort to make the aid program really contingent on reforms by 
Diem. Since the war soon thereafter began to look better, Kennedy never 
had occasion to reconsider his decision on combat troops; and no urgent 
reason to consider Galbraith 's advice on getting rid of Diem until late 
1963. 



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THE KEMIEDY PROGRATvi MD COMIITAiSNTS: I96I 



CHRONOLOGY 



DATE 



1960-1961 



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Situation in Vietnam 






US-Soviet Relations 



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Situation in Laos 



DESC RI PTION 

■ 

According to Ambassador Diirbrovr 
there was widespread popular dis- 
satisfaction with the Diem Govern- 
ment and a growing guerrilla threat. 
At the same time, there had been a 
very gradual gro"\rbh of U.S. involve- 
ment in assisting the GTOJ to counter 
the VC. 

In the U.S. two questions influenced 
decisions about Vietnaia: first, what 
should the U.S. give Diem to comiter 
the commujiists; secondly, what -- if 
any --" demands should be posed as a 
quid pro quo for assistance? 

The problems of dealing with Koscow 
were far more pressing than those 
related to Vietnam. A feeling that 
Amerj.ceJs position in the world had 
been eroded by the USSR prevailed; 
Kennedy was particularly determined 
to regain American strength, prestige 
and influence. Anything which could 
be construed as American weaJcness 
yis-a-vis the USSR was to be avoided. 
This affected policy toward Vietnam., 

The US-backed, pro-American faction 
under Phoumi Nosavan was losing to 
the pro-Communist/neutralist faction 
supported by the Soviet Union, 
Coromdtment of U.S. forces was rejected 
and on May 2, I961 a cease-fire was 
decla-red. President Kennedy decided 
to support a coalition solution, even 
though the odds on coalition leader 
Souvanna Phouma's staying in power 
were very low. As a consequence of 
this decision, Washington believed 
•that Southeast A.sian leaders doubted 
the sincerity of the U.S. co}iaTiitm.ent 
to the area, and the U.S. felt 



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20 Jan 195 ] 



28 Jan 1961 



I^esident Kennedy- 
Inaugurated 

Kennedy Approves the 
Counter insurgency 
Plan (CIP) for Viet- 
nam 



DESCRIKi-^IQN 

compelled to do something to restore 
confidence, demonstrate U.So resolve 
and dispel any idea Moscow might 
have that the UoS. intended to with- 
draw from Southeast Asia. Laos was 
thus particularly influential in 
development of policy toward Vietnam 



Gradually developed during 1961, the 
CIP was to be the basis for e>rpanded 
U.S. assistance to Vietnam* Kennedy 
automatically approved its main pro- 
visions; negotiations with Diem about 
the CIP began 13 February and con- 
tinued through May of I961. The UcS. 
offered $28 cU million to support a 
20,000-man increase in the iVRVT^ (for 
a new total of 170,000); to train^^ 
equip and supply a 325 000-m.3n Civil 
Guard at $12*7 million. The fu.ll 
package added less than $42 million 
to the current $220 million aid pro- 
gram. 



The CIP called for consolidation of 
the RVMF chain of comjup^nd (never 
fully accomplished under Diem.) E^ 
agreement was reached on the question 
of strategy diiring this period. 
(Diem wanted "strategic" outposts ^ 
Agrovilles^ lines of streng-th through- 
out the country; the l^iAAG favored a 
"net and spear" concept -- sm_all units 
operating out of pacified areas to 
find the enemy^ call in reserve forces 
gradually extend security to all of 
Vietnamo) 

Civil reforms included urging Diem, to 
broaden his government 5 include oppo- 
sition political leaders in the 
cabinet J give the National Assembly 
some power 5 institute civic action to 
win hearts, minds and loyalty of the 
peasants o . . ; 



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Mid-Jan 196l 



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A Lansdale Report on 
Vietnam 



February-May 
1961 



Durbrov.r T^iegotiations 
■with Diem on the CIP 



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DESGRIETION 

The CIP assruned the GWI had the 
potential to cope with 'the VC if 
necessary corrective measures -vrere 
taken and if adequate forces were 
provided. The mx)licit bargain of 
the plan: the U.S. would support 
"adequate forces" 1^ Diein would 
institute "necessary corrective 
measures." Again, although socio- 
political reforms were sought 
through the CIP and other plans , 
they were not realized during the 
early Kennedy years. 

Following a trip to Vietnajn^ 
Major General E « G. Lansdale called 
for strong support for Dieifi and 
reconimended the U.So demonstrate 
that support immediately. Only if 
Diem's confidence in the U.S. were 
restored would U.S. influence be 
effective, said Lansdale* He recom- 
mended the iimnediate transfer of 
Lurbrow (he was "too close to the 
forest" and was not trusted by the 
GTO) and imraediate adoption of social, 
economic, political and military pro- 
grams to prove U.S. backing for Diem 
as well as help Diem stabilize the 
countryside. 

Diem stalled the implementation of 
his "major promises" (to establish 
a central intelligence organization, 
put operational control for counter- 
insurgency oxoerations under the mili- 
tary comm.and system, reform the cabi- 
net and governrfiental administra.tion) . 
Washington held u}^ the "green light" 
on aid as long as Diem stalled -■- 
although the JCS and M/lAG in Saigon 
were impatient to get on with the war 
and were annoyed by the delay. 
Finally, in mid-May (a-ffcer Durbrow 
had ended his foior-year tour in Viet- 
nani) Diem implemented some "major 
promises" by decree. But nothing- 
changed. . 



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DATE 



12 Apr 1961 



EVENT OR DOCUl^IENT 

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Rosto-vr Memorandum for 
President Kennedy 



20 Apr 1961 



The Presidential 
Program for 
Vietnam 



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27 Apr I96I 



Gilpatric Task Force 
Report submitted; the 
KSC meets 



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DESGRIFJIOK 

W. W. Rostow suggested several vays 
for "gesjring-up the whole Vietnam 
operation." These included: assign- 
ing a first-rate 5 fulltirrie backstop 
man in Washington to Vietnam affairs 
(Lansdale); a Vice Presidential visit 
in Southeast Asia; exploring vays to 
use new American techniques and 
gadgets in the fight against the VC; 
replacing the ICA (AID) chief; high- 
level discussion of tactics for per- 
suading Diem to broaden his govern- 
ment; a Presidential letter to Diem 
in vdiich Kennedy would reaffirm 
sux)7Dort for him but express the 
urgency attached to finding a ^'more 
effective political and m-orale 
setting" for military operations. 

Deputy Secretary of Defense Gilpatric 
was directed to appraise the current 
status and future prospects of the 
VC drive in South Va^tncija^ then 
recommend a series of actions to 
prevent coiimiunist domination of the 

GWl. 

(At this same tim.e: the Bay of Pigs 
invasion force sur'rendered and the 
Laos crisis was coming to a head.) 

Gilpatric 8.nd Lansdale headed a Task 
Force established immediately to 
carry out these instructions o 

This first Task Force draft called 
for a moderate acceleration of the 
CIP program approved in January^ with 
stress on vigor , enthusiasm and strong 
leadership. The report recomonended 
building on present US-GVll programs , 
inf\ising them with a new sense of 
iu:gency 8.nd creating action programs 
in aMost every field to create a 
viable and increasingly democratic 
government in SVI^ to prevent commu- 
nist domination. 'Eo ARVN increase 



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DESCRIPTION 



28 -Apr 1961 



Laos Annex to (first) 
Task Force Report 



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beyond the already-authorised 20^000- 
maxi addition was recoBvmended; a 
modest MAAG increase was proposed. 
The US would support the Civil Guard 
and Self "Defense Corps. Emphasis 
was on stabilizing the countryside ^ 
not on pressing Diera for political 
or administrative reforms. (Gilpatric 
wanted Lansdale to go to Vietnam 
immediately after the prograi'n was 
approved to consult with Vietnajnese 
and US leaders and maJ^e further recom- 
mendations for action; but McNamara 
ma^e Lansdale 's mission contingent 
upon an invitation from the US Am- 
bassador in Saigon --an invitation 
that never cameo) 

The ESC wa.s to discuss this report 
but the 27 April meeting was domi- 
nated by the acute Laotian crisis. 

A report -- a response^ really -- 
concerning the critical situation 
in Laos and its effect on Vietnam 
was prepared for the ESC on 28 April. 
It recoroinended a two-division ARVT^ 
increase and deployment of 36OO US 
troops to Vietnam (two l600-man 
teatns to train each new division; 
i|00 Special Forces troops to ST)eed 
over-all ARVjV counterinsurgency 
training). Rationale: to enable 
ARVi^F to guard against conventional 
invasion of South Vietnam. (Both 
the incree.sed forces and their Justi- 
fication were different from two 
earlier reports. Lansdale had advo- 
cated no MWN increase but felt some 
US force build-up was called for as 
a demonstration of American support 
for the GVK. Gilpatric 's m-ilitary 
aide 5 Colonel E. F. Black, -vrrote the 
other report w^hich saw no need for 
more US troops but recommended ex- 
pansion of AlWN to meet the threat 
of increased infiltration. These 



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DATE 



EVmT OR D0CIJ14EDJT 



DESCRIPTION 



29 Apr 1961 



Kennedy Decisions on 
the Draft Rei3ort 






^^ 



c 



1 May 19&1 



NSC Meets; New Draft 
of the Task Force 
Report Issued 



vievs vere rejected in^fax^or of 
Black's second paper which advo- 
cated more ARYN troops "■- to . 
coujiter overt aggression^ not in- 
creased infiltration -- and com*- 
mitment of US troops for training 
purposes -- not for politics.! 
reassurance or demonstration of 
US resolve. Black's second paper 
was sent to the NSC.) 

Kennedy did not act on the Laos 
Annex, He approved only the 
limited military proposals con- ^ 
tained. in the first Gilpatric Task 
Force report. The 685-man MAAG 
would be increased to 785 to enable 
it to train the approved 20,000 ne\r 
ARW troops c Kennedy also author- 
ized the MAAG to support and advise 
the Self Defense Corps (40,000 men); 
authorized MAP support for the entire 
Civil Guard of 68^000 ( vice 32,000 
previously supported) ; ordered in- 
stallation of radar surveillance 
equipment and okayed MAP support 
and training for the Vietnamese 
Junk Force • 

Kerjiedy again deferred decision on 
sending troops into Laos apparently 
because the feeling that the US would 
not moke such a move was now firm. 

The 1 May draft report was little 
different from the 28 April version. 
The Laos Annex was incorporated into 
the main paper; the US was to make 
knovrn its readiness to "intervene 
unilaterally" in Southeast Asia to 
fulfill SEATO commitments (vice 
intervene in conjunction with SEATO ' 
forces), . ARVN increases were no\r 
Justified by the threat of overt 
aggression as well as increased in- 
filtration. 



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DAT3 



3 May 1961 



EVEI^TT OR DOCLMEI'TT 

State (George Ball) 
Revision of Task 
Force Re'cort 



i 

I 



5 May 1961 



NSC Meeting 



DESCRIPTION 

This draii: V7as very different from 
the original. Lansdale's role vas 
eliriinated; the Gilpatric-Lansdale 
Task Force was to be replaced by a 
new group chaired by Ball, then 
Undersecretary of State. (Lansdale 
reacted with a "strong recoxnxriendation" 
that Defense stay out of the director- 
ship proposed by State and. said the 
"us past performajice and theory of 
action, which State apparently desires 
to continue, simply offers no sovmd 
basis for winning.. «") In State's 
rewritten political section of the 
report, the Defense reconiraendation 
to meke clear US determination to 
intervene vinilaterally if necessary 
to save South Vietnam from communisui 
was replaced by a proposal to explore 
ne\r bilateral treaty arrangements with 
Diem (arrangements which might mean 
intervention against the guerrillas 
but might mean intervention only 
against DRV attack) . The need for 
new arrangements w^as tied to the 
"loss" of Laos. State incorporated 
unchanged the Defense drafi: as the 
military section of its revised 
report, but iraplied "further study" 
would be given to some Defense recom- 
mendations. Overall, the State 
revision tried to tone dovm commit- 
ments to Vietnam suggested in the 
Defense version. It left the Rt^esi- 
dent a great deal of room to maneuver 
without explicitly overruling recom- 
mendations presented him. 

Again, Laos was the main subject. 
Most agreed the chance for salvaging 
anything out of the cease-fire and 
coalition government was slim indeed c 
Ways in which to reassure Vietnam and 
Thailand were sought. The Vice 
President's trip to Southeast Asia 
was announced after the m-eetlng. 



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DATh 



6 May 1961 



EVEI-;T OE DOCmiEKT 

Second State Re-Draft 
of the Task Force 
Report 



10 May 1961 



JCSM 320-61 



11 May 1961 



KSM 52 



DESCRIFJION 

Here, military actions^ were con- 
tained in an annex; the political 
section reflected less panic over 
the loss of Laos; deplo;^T>ient of 
US troops "was less definite -- 
called something which "might 
result from an NSC decision follow- 
ing discussions between Vice Presi- 
dent Johnson and President Diem." 
The matter is being studied, said 
the drafi:. The report said: Diem 
"is not now fully confident of US 
support 5" that it is "essential 
(his) full confidence in and com- 
munication with the United States 
be restored promptly." (Lansdale's 
recommendations of January, April, 
etc.) The report called for a 
"major alteration in the present 
government structure, " "believed" 
a combination of inducements plus 
discreet pressures might work, but 
it was unenthuslastic both about 
Diem, and his chances of success c 
The Diem-is-the-only-available- 
leader syndrome is evident here. 

"Assuming the political decision is 
to hold Southeast Asia outside the 
communist sphere," the JCS emphati- 
cally recommended deployment of 
sufficient US forces to provide a 
visible deterrent to potential 
DRV/CHICOM action, release AlVm from 
static to active coimterinsurgency 
operations, assist training and indi- 
cate US firmness c (in JCSM 3II-61 
of "9 May, the Chiefs recoinmended 
deployment of US forces to Thailand 
also, ) 

Directed "full examination" by DOD 
of a study on the size and composi- 
tion of forces which might comprise 
a possible commitment of troops to 
Southeast Asia. In effect, Kennedy 
"took note" of the study but m.ade 
no decision on the issue of troop 



8 



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EVEIW OR DOCmiEN'T 



DESCRIPTION 



9-15 May 1961 



Vice President 
Johnson Visits 
Southeast Asia 



coriimitment . The Arabassador in Saigon 
was empowered to open negotiations 
about a bilateral treaty but "vras 
directed to make no commitments with- 
out further review by the President. 
These recommendations from the May 6 
Task Force report were approved: 
help the GVl\f increase border patrol 
and coimterinsurgency capability 
through aerial surveillance and new 
technological devices; help set up 
a center to test new wea^pons and 
techniques; help ARVI^I implement 
healthy welfare and public work pro- 
jects; deploy a ^00-man special forces 
group to Nha Trang to accelerate AEVN 
training; instruct JCS, CPNCPAC, MAAG 
to assess the military utility of aai 
increase in ARWJ from 170,000 to 
200;,000 (the two-division increase 
recommended previously). 

Purpose: to reassure Asian leaders 
that despite Laos, the United States 
could be counted on to support them. 
Johnson reported the mission had 
halted the decline of confidence in 
the United States^ but did not restore 
confidence already lost. Johnson 
strongly believed that faith must be 
restored;, the "battle against commu- 
nism must be joined in Southeast Asia 
with strength and determination" (or 
the US would be reduced to a fortress 
America with defenses pulled back to 
California's shores); he believed 
there was no alternative to US leader- 
ship in Southeast Asia but that any 
help e^rfcended -- military^ economic^ 
social --- must be part of a mutual 
effort and contingent upon Asian 
willingness to "take the necessary 
measures to make our aid effective." 
He reported that Ainerican troops were 
neither reciuired nor desired by Asian 
leaders at this time. 



9 



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DATE 



EVENT OE DOClUvJMT 



DESCRIPTION 



"s 



l8 May 1961 



Lansdale MeinorandTjm 
for Gilpatric 



c 



5' Jime 1951 



Rostow Rote to 
McNaiQsxa 



10 



Calling Thailand and Vietnam the 
most iimiediate^ most important 
trouble spots, the Vice President 
said the US "must decide vhether 
to support Diem -- or let Vietnam 
fall," opted for supporting Diem, 
said "the most imxjortant thing is 
imaginative, creative, American 
management of our military aid 
program," and reported $50 million 
in military and economic assis- 
tance "-will be needed if we decide 
to siipport Vietnam." The same 
amount. was recommended for Thailand, 

The Vice President concluded by 
posing this as the fundamental 
decision: "whether . c .to meet the 
challenge of Commmiist expansion 
now in Southeast Asia or throw in 
the towel." Cautioning that "heavy 
and continuing costs" would be re- 
quired, that sometime the US "may be 
faced with the f-urther decision of 
v/hether we commit major United States 
forces to the area or cut our losses 
and withdraw should ovx other efforts 
fail," Johnson recommended "we pro- 
ceed with a clear-cut and strong 
program of action." 

Lansdale noted Diem's rejection of 
US combat forces per s^ at this time 
but pointed out Diem seemed willing 
to accept troops for training pur- 
poses only. At this same time, l^IAAG 
Chief McGarr requested l6,000 US 
troops (combat units) be sent, nomi- 
nally to establish centers to train 
RVImAF divisions. If Diem vrould not 
accept 165OOO, McGarr would settle 
for 10,000 menc 

Saying "v?e must thinJi of the kind of 
forces for Thailand now, Vietnam 
later," Rostow suggested"aircraft, 
helicopters, communications^ men^ 



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DATE 



EVENT OR DOGU?'M^~T 






9 June 1961 



Diem Letter to 
Kennedy 



Mid-Juxie to 
Ju]y 1961 



The Staley Mission 



r^. 






11 



DESCRIPTION 

Special Forces ^ militia teachers , 
etc." would he needed to support a 
"co^mter-guerrilla war in Vietnaja." 
Rostow does not mention combat 
units. 

Here, in response to Vice President 
Johnson's request that he outline 
miiitaxy needs 5 Diem did request US 
troops explicitly for training RWiAF 
"officers and technical specialists'' 
"- not entire divisions. He pro- 
posed ARW be increased from 3 70,000 
to 270,000 to "coujiter the ominous 
tlxreat of communist domination" -- 
a threat he documented by inflated 
infiltra.tion figures and words about 
the "perilous" situation created by 
the Laos solution. To train these 
100,000 new ARW troops Diem asked 
for "considerable exr)ansion" of the 
MAAG in the form of "selected 
elements of the American Armed 
Forces. 



!I 



A team headed by Eugene Staley 
(Stanford Research Institute) was 
to work with Vietnamese officials 
in an effort to resolve the continu- 
ing problem of how Vietnam was to 
finance its own war effort (deficit 
financing, inflation, the commodity 
import program, piaster /dollar 
exchange rates, all presented diffi- 
culties). But the Staley group 
became the vehicle for force level 
discussions and economic issues were 
treated rather perfunctorily. The 
group "does not consider itself com- 
petent to make specific recomjnenda- 
tions as to desired force levels" but 
adopted two a].ternative levels for 
"economic planning purposes": 
200,000 if the insurgency in Vietnam 
remains at present levels, if Laos 
does not fall; 270,000 if the Viet- 
cong significantly increase the in- 
surgency and if the communists win 
de facto control of Laos. 



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DATE 



11 Aug 1961 



Kennedy Decision 
WSAl/[ 65 



/: 



15 Aug I9&I 



KIE 1^-3/53.61 



c 



Late Aug I96I 



Theodore White 
Re-ports 



/■ 



1 Sep I9&I 



General McGarr 
Re-oorts 



^ 



27 Sep 1951 



Nolting Reports 



r^. 



12 



DESCRIPTION 

President Kennedy agreed vith the 
Staley Report (of k August) tha,t 
security requirements demanded 
first priority 5 that economic and 
social programs had to be accelerated^ 
that it vas in the US interest to pro- 
mote a viable Vietnamo He agreed to 
support an ARW increase to 200^000 
if Diem in turn agreed to a plan for 
using these forces. The 270,000 
level was thus disapproved. But the 
plan for using MW forces had not 
yet been dra-vm. Diem had not yet 
designed -•- much less imiplemented -" 
social reforms supposedly required 
in retujrn for US assistance. 

Although collapse of the Saigon 
regime might com.e by a coup or from 
Diem^s death, its fall because of a 
"prolonged and difficult" struggle 
was not pr edict edc 

"The situation gets worse almost week 
by week..," particularly the militsjry 
situation in the delta. If the U.S. 
decides it must intervene, White 
asked if we had the people, instru- 
ments or clear objectives to make it 
successful. 

The PJNE has displayed increased 
efficiency, a spirit of renewed 
confidence is "beginning to permeate 
the people, the GW end the Armed 
Forces 



tr 



Kolting was "unable report. o .progress 
toward attainment task force goals of 
creating viable 8Jid increasingly demo- 
cratic society," called the -government 
and civil situation unchanged from 
early September. A series of lo.rge 
scale VC attacks in central Vietnam, 
the day-long VC seizure of Phuoc Vinh, 
capital of ffoTiaerJ Phuoc Thanh Pro- 
vince --55 miles from Saigon — in 



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/' 



DATE 

27 Sep 1961 
(Continued) 



EVEilT OR DOCUIvISNT 



1 Oct 1961 



-y' 



Diem Request 



1 Oct 1961 



State "First 

12 --Mo nth Report" 



5 Oct 1961 



The "Rostow Proposal" 



■> 



9 Oct 1961 



JCSM 717-61 



DESCRIPTION 

vhich the VC publicly beheaded 
Diem's province chief ajad escajDed 
before government troops arrived 
and increased infiltration through 
Laos demonstrated "that the 
tide has not yet turned" militajrily. 

Diem requested a bilateral trea^ty 
with the U.S. This surprised 
Kolting but proba.bly did not sur- 
prise the White House^ alx-eady 
•wa^rned by White of the grave mili- 
tary situation. 



i^^ 



This political assessment mirrored 
Nolting's "no progress" report but 
State found the military situation 
more serious than Embassy reports 
had indicated. 



Suggested a 25,000-man SEATO force 
be put into Vietnam to guard the 
Vietnam/Laos border between the D^ 
and Cambodia. (The Pathet Lao had 
gained dujring September^ as had VC 
infiltration through Laos to the 
GWI. This prompted pla,ns for U.S. 
action. ) 



The JCS rejected the Rostow pro- 
posal: forces would be stretched 
thin^ they could not stop infil- 
traction, and would be at the worst 
place to oppose potential DRV/CHICOM 
invasion. The Chiefs wanted to make 
a Concentrated effort in Laos where 
a firm stand can be tadien saving all 
or substantially all of Laos which 
would^ at the saane time^ protect 
Thailand and protect the borders 
of South Vietnam." But if this were 
"politically unacceptable" the Chiefs 
"provided. . «a possible limited interim 
course of action": deplo^^ment of 
about 20^000 troops to the central 
highlands near Pleiku to assist the 
GVI^I and free certain GVl^T forces for 
offensive action against the VCo 



13 



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EVEiV^T OR D0CUI-5MT 



DESCRIPTIOU 



c 



10 Oct 1961 



I 



"Concept of Interven- 
tion in Vietnam" 



11 Oct 1961 



■y 



NSC Meeting on 
Vietnam 



Drafted by Alexis Jolmsonj the paper 
blended Rostov's border control jpro-- 
posal -^/rith the JCS win-control-of- 
the-highlands co'onter-proposal for 
the initial mission of U.S. forces 
in Vietnam, "The real and ultimate 
objective" of U.S. troops was al?o 
addressed. To defeat the Vietcong 
and render Vietnam seciire imder a. 
non-Communist government, Johnson 
"guessed" three divisions would be 
the ultiraate force required in sup- 
port of the "real objective." The 
paper estimated a satisfactory 
settlement in Laos would reduce but 
not eliminate infiltration into 
South Vietnam, that even if infil- 
tration were cut down, there was no 
assurance that the GV1\^ could "in 
the foreseeab-le futui^e be able to 
defeat the Viet Cong." Unilateral 
U.S. action would probably be neces- 
sary. The plan's viability was 
dependent on the degree in which the 
GV1\T accelerated "political and mili- 
tary action in its own defense." 

The NSC considered four papers: the 
Alexis Joh_nson draft; an NIE estiiaate 
that SEATO a.ction would be opposed 
by the DRV, Viet Cong and the Soviet 
Union (airlift), that these forces 
stood a good chance of thv^arting the 
SEATO intervention; third, a JCS 
estimate that ^0,000 U.S. troops 
would be required to "clean up the 
Viet Cong threat" and another 128,000 
men would be needed to Oiopose 
DRV/CHICOM intervention (draining 
3 to i| reserve divisions). Finally, 
a memorandum from William Bundy to 
McNamara which said "it is really 
now or never if we are to arrest the 
gains being made by the Viet Cong 



II 



o9 



and gave "an early and hard-hitting 
operation" a 70 percent chance of 
doing that. Bundy added, the chance 
of cleaning up the situation "de-oends 



\k 



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DATE 

11 Oct is6i 
(Continued) 



EVENT OR DOCUlvIENT 



/I 



13 Oct 19&1 



Saigon Message i|88 



lU Oct 1961 



New York Times 



c 



20 Oct I96I 



CINCPAC Recoixmendation 



I8-2U Oct 1961 



Taylor Mission to 
VoBtnam 



23 Oct 1961 



Ch MA/IG Message 



15 



DESCRIPTION 

on Diem's effectiveness ^ which is 
very problems.tical^'^ D^avored going 
in with 7O-3O odds "but figured the 
odds would slide down if the U.S. 
"let 5 say 5 a month go by" before 
moving. 

Reversing his previous position^ 
Diem requested an additional fighter- 
boiaber squadron^ civilian pilots for 
helicopters and C-^7 transports and 
U.S. combat units for a "combat- 
training" mission near the Dt!iZ^ 
possibly also in the highlands o He 
asked consideration be given a pos- 
sible request for a division of 
Chiang Kai-shek's troops to support 



the GWI. Nolting recommended serious 
and prompt" a;btention for the requests. 

In an article leaked by the govern- 
ment -- perhaps by Kennedy himself -- 
leaders were called reluctant to send 
U.S. combat units into Southeast Asiao 
Obviously ujatrue, the leak was prob- 
ably designed to end speculation a.bout 
troop deployment and guard Kennedy's 
freedom of action « 

Admiral Felt felt the pros and cons 
of U.S. troop deployment added up in 
favor of no deployment until other 
means of helping Diem had been ex- 
hausted. 

On the 18th 5 Diem said he wanted no 
U.S. combat troops for any missionc 
He repeated his rec[uest for a bi- 
lateral defense treaty^ more support 
for ARW and combat-support equix^m.ent 
(helicopters^ aircraft ^ etc. ) . 

General McGarr suggested that the 
serious Mekong River flood could 
provide a cover for U.S. troop de- 
ployment: combat units could be 
disguised as huma.nitarian relief 
forces and be dispatched to the 
delta. 



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I 



DATE 



25 Oct 1961 



EVENT OR DOCUMEOT 



Saigon Message. 53^ 



1 Nov 1961 



MGUIO Message OOO5 



1 Nov 1961 



MGUIO 0006 EYES ONLY 
FOR THE PRESIDED 



16 






DESCRIPTION 

Taylor reported the pervasii^e crisis 
of confidence and serious loss in 
Vietnamese national morale created 
by Laos and the flood^ weakened the 
war effort. To cope with this Taylor 
recommended: Improvement of intelli- 
gence on the VC; building ARVN 
mobility; blocking infiltration into 
the highlands by organizing a border 
ranter force; introduction of U.S. 
forces either for emergency^ short- 
term assistance_j or for more sub- 
stantial^ long-term support (a flood 
relief plus military reserve task 
force). Diem had reacted favorably 
"on all points. " 

Taylor told the President^^ Rusk and 
McNamara "we should put in a task 
force (6-8^000 men) consisting 
largely of logistical troops for 
the purpose of participating in flood 
relief and at the same time of pro- 
viding a UoSo military presence in 
Vietnam capable of assuring Diem of 
our readiness to join him in a mili- 
tary showdown with the Viet Cong..." 

Taylor concluded that the commi.inist 
strategy of taking over Southeast 
Asia by gu-errilla warfare was "well 
on the way to success in Vietnam"; 



TT 



he said the GVN was caught in inter- 
locking circles" of bad tactics and 
bad administrative arrangements" 
which allow VC gains and invite a 
political crisis. He recommended 
more U.S. support for paramilitary 
groups and ARVN mobility; the MAAG 
should be reorganized and increased 
and the task force introduced to 
"conduct such combat operations as 
are necessary for self-defense and 
for the security of the area in which 
(it) is stationed/' among other 
things. Taylor felt the disadvan- 
tages of deploynent were outweighed 
by gains^ said SVN is "not an ex- 



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DATE 

1 Nov 1961 
(Continued) 



EVEOT OR DOCUMENT 



3 Nov 1961 



Taylor Report 



17 



DESCRIPTION 

cessively difficult or unpleasant 
place to operate" and the "risks of 
backing into a major Asian war "by 
way of SVN" are not impressive: 
North Vietnam "is extremely viilner- 
able to conventional bombing. . .there 
is no case for fearing a mass on- 
slaught of communist manpower. . . 
particularly if our air power is 
allowed a free hand against logisti- 
cal targets. . ." 

The "Evaluation and Simimary" section 
suggested urgency and optimism: SVN 
is in trouble_j major U.S. interests 
are at stake; prompt and energetic 
U.S. action -- military^ economic^ 
political — can lead to victory with- 
out a U.S. take-over of the war_j can 
cure weaknesses in the Diem regime. 
That the Vietnamese must win the war 
was a unanimous view — but most 
mission participants believed all 
Vietnamese operations could be sub- 
stantially improved by America's 
"limited partnership" with the GVN. 
The GVN is cast in the best possible 
light; any suggestion that the U.S. 
should IJjnit rather than expand its 
commitment -- or face the need to 
enter the battle in full force at 
this time — is avoided. Underlying 
the summary was the notion that 
"graduated measures on the DRV (applied) 
with weapons or our own choosing" 
could reverse any adverse trend in the 
South. And ground troops were always 
possible. The Taylor Report recom- 
mended the U.S. make obvious its readi- 
ness to act; develop reserve strength 
in the U.S. "to cover action in 
Southeast Asia up to the nuclear 
threshold in that area" and thereby 
sober the enemy and discourage esca- 
lation. However^ bombing was a more 
likely Vietnam contingency than was 
use of ground troops; the latter 



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DATE 

3 Nov 1961 
(Continued) 



EVENT OR DOCUi^AEi^T 



DESCRIPTION 

option "vras tied to a U.S. response 
to renewed fighting in Laos and/or 
overt invasion of South Vietnam. 
But Taylor suggested troops be sent 
t'o Diemj the Taylor Report and 
cables recoramend combat troop de- 
ployment to Vietnam. (A message 
from Nolting sutranarizing the Diem- 
Taylor meeting on which the recom-^ 
mendations apparently rest (Saigon 
message 5^1^ 25 Oct 61) does. not 
indicate a.ny enthusiasm on Diem's 
part to deployment of troops ^ how- 
ever. He hinted U.S. troops for 
training might be requested, then 
drojDped the subject.) 

Appendices to the Taylor Report 
written by members of the grouj^ 
give a slightly different picture. 
There is less optimism about the 
GVN*s chances of success , less 
optimism about chances of U.S. 
actioji -- political or military — 
tipping the balance. For example : 
William Jordan (State) said almost 
all Vietnamese interviewed had em- 
phasi2.ed the gravity of the situation, 
growing VC successes and loss of 
confidence in Diem. The ARVl^I lacked 
aggressiveness, was devoid of any 
sense of }xcgency^ short of able 
leaders. Sterling Cottrell (State) 
said: It is an open question whether 
the GW can succeed even with U.S» 
assistance. Thus it wovild be a mis- 
take to make an ir:oaYocabls U»So 
commitment to defeat coi/imunists in 
South Vietnam. Foreign military 
forces cannot win the battle at the 
village level --■ vrhere it must be 
joined; the primary responsibility 
for saving Vietnam must rest with 
the GVN. For these reasons Cottrell 
argued against a treaty which would 
either shift \iltimate responsibility 
to the U.S. or engage a full U.So 
cojranitment to defeat the Vietconp". 



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DATS 



/-■ 



5 Nov 19ol 



EVEAiT OR DOCIJf'/iEl--;T 



S_NIE 10-J|"6l 



8 Nov 1961 



McNamara Memorandujn 
for the President ■ 



r 



DESCRIPTION 

« 

This estimated the DRV i/ould re- 
■spond to an increased U.S. troop 
corairitment "by increasing support 
to the Vietcong. If U.S. coriHiit™ 
ment to the GVi'T grew^ so, would DRV 
support to the VC- Four possible 
U.S. courses vere given: airlift 
plus more help for ARVl^I; deployment 
of 8-10^000 troops as a I'lood relief 
task force; deployment of 25-^05 000 
comoat troops; with each coui'^se^. 
warn Hanoi of U.S. determination to 
hold SVI^^ and U.S. intention to bomb 
the DRV if its support for the VC 
did not cease. The SNIE estimated 
air attacks agaj.nst the North would 
not cause its VC support to stop 
and figured Moscow and Peking would 
react strongly to air attacks. 



Secretary McNamara, Gilpatric and 
the JCS were "inclined to recommend 
that we do comxait the U.Sc to the 
clear objective of preventing the 
fall of South Vietnara to coi^ioiunism 
and that we support this commitment 
by the necessary military actions," 
The memorandujn said the fall of 
Vietnam would create "extremely 
serious" strategic imxDlications 
worldwide, that chances were "probably 
sharply against" preventing that fall 
without a U.S. troop commitment but 
that even with major troop deploynent 
(205,000 was the ma>:jjnum number of 
groujid forces estimated necessary to 
deal with a large overt invasion from 
the. DRV and/or China) txhe U.S. would 
still be at the mercy of external 
forces -- Diem, Laos, domestic politi- 
cal problems, etcc -- and thus success 
could not be guaranteedo McNamara 
recommended against deployment of a 
task force (the 8,000-man group 
mentioned in the Taylor Report) 
"unless \je are willing to msike an 
affirmative decision" to full support 
a commitment to save South Vietnam. 



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( ) 



DATE 

11 Nov 1961 



EVEilT OR DOCIMhS-TT 

Rusk/McNejnara MemO' 
randimi for the 
President 



f 



\h Kov 1961 



DEPTEL 619 to Saigon 



DESCRI PTION 

This may have been prepared at 
Kennedy's specific instruction; 
it recoiTxrnended what Kennedy 
wanted to hear: that the decision 
to coimnit major groiind forces coiild 
be deferred. In this paper , rhetoric 
is escalated from that of McNajnara's 
8 IJovember memorandixTi but U.3, 
actions recommended are far less 
significant^ less committing. Mili- 
tej:y courses are divided into two 
phases: firsts promptly deploy sup- 
port troops and equipment (heli- 
copters^ transport aircra.ft, mari- 
time equipment and trainers ^ special 
intelligence and air reconnaissance 
groups 5 other men and materiel to 
improve training, logistics ^ econo- 
mic and other assistance programs). 
Then study and possibl y deploy 
ma.jor ground combat forces at a., 
later date. Despite the clear wai-n- 
ing that even deployment of major 
U.S. units could not assure success 
against communism, the memoranduxn's 
initial recommendation was that the 
U.S. ^'commit itself to the clear 
objective of preventing the fall of 
South Vietnam to Commimism," be pre- 
pared to send troops and to "strike at 
the source of aggression in North Viet- 
.nam." A number of diplomatic moves 
(in the U.N., in NATO and SEATO coun- 
cils^, etc.) are suggested to signal U.S 
determination; economic, social and 
other programs designed to help South 
Vietnam are suggested; ways to elicit ■ 
improvements from Diem are recom- 
mended. 

This was Nolting's guidance, based 
on the Rusk/McNamara memorandum. 
Nolting was told the anti-guerrilla 
effort *'must essentially be a GVN 
taskc.No amount of extra aid can 
be substitute for GV1\ taking measujres 
to permit [itj to assum.e offensive 



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EVEl\TT OR DOCmiSNT 



±k E 



-■^ov 1961 



/:■ 



22 Kov 1961 



NSAM 111 



7 Dec 1961 



Alexis Johnson/Rostow 
Redrafi: ("Clarifica- 
tion'') of Nolting's 
lU KoyemlDer guidance 



DESCRIPTION 

and strengthen the administrative 
and political bases of government 
c « o .Do not propose to introduce 
into GW the U.S. combat troops 
novv^ "but propose a phase of intense 
public and diplomatic activity to 
focus on infiltration from ]\'Orth. 
Shall decide later on course of 
action should infiltration not be 
radically reduced." Diem's talking 
necessary measures -- political^ 
military 5 economic --to improve 
his government ajid relations v/ith 
the people were a prerequisite to 
further U.S. assistance: "Package 
should be presented as first steps 
in a partnership, in which the U.S. 
is prepared to do more as joint 
study of facts and GVN performance 
makes increased U.S. aid possible 
and productive." Strictly for his 
ovm information^ Nolting was told 
Defense was "preparing plans for the 
use of U.S. combat forces in SW 
under various contingencies ^ includ- 
ing stepped up infiltration as well 
as organized. . « (military) interven- 
tion. However, objective of our 
policy is to do all possible to ac- 
complish purpose without use of U.S. 
combat forces." And^ Nolting was 
to tell Diem: "We would expect to 
share in the decision-making process 
in the political^! economic and mili- 
tary fields as they affect the 
security situation," 

Called the "Pirst Phase of Vietnam 
Program" this NSAli approved all 
Rusk/Mcllamara recommendations of 
11 November except the first one: 
their initial recoffimenda,tion that 
the U.S» commit itself to saving 
South Vietnam was omitted. 

"What we have in mind is that in 
operations directly related to the 
security situation, partnership 
will be so close that one p^irty 



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DATE 

7 Dec 1961 
(Continued) 



EVENT OR DOCUi-iEIMT 



11 Dec 1961 



y 



]N[ew York Times 



15 Dec 1961 



New York Times 



DESCRIPTION 

will not take decisions or actions 
affecting the other without fu.ll 
and frank prior consultation." 
This is different from the idea that 
Anieric3.n involvement should be so 
intimate that the GVN would be re- 
formed "from the bottcun uio" -- 
despite Diemo 

(Although Washington ■o;ave in -- or 
gave up — on the kind and degree 
of pressirfe to exert on Diem^ 
Washington did not soften on 
Lansdaleo Despite four requests 
from Diem and the recommendations 
from. Cottrell, the Taylor Report 
and William Bundy that Lansdale be 
sent to Saigorij he did not get 
there until late I965.) 

Two U.S. helicopter companies (33 
H-2ICS5 kOO men) arrived in Vietnam^ 
the first direct U.S. military sup- 
port for the GVNo 

ICC reaction: shall vre continue 
functioning here in the face of 
U.S. assistance (increase barred 
by the Geneva Accords)? 

Reported the formal exchange of 
letters between Kennedy and Diem 
annomicing a steT:)ped"Up aid progrsm 
for Vietnam o 



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IV.B.l. 



KEWJTCDY PROGRAM. kW> COMMZL^MEKTS: I96I 



TABLE OF COKTEOTS kW) OUTLIKE 



CHAPTER I 



Page 
1 



I. MTRODUCTIOW, 



II. THE CONTEXP 



1 



3 



The VC Insurgency Itself 



Problems With the Diem Government 



Problems With the Soviets 



The Situation in Laos 



The Special American Commitment to Vietnam 



III. SUMMARY. 



CHAPTER II - THE COUNTERINSURGEWCY PLAN. 



I. WINTER, 1961 



II. LANSDALE'S REPORT 



III. NEGOTIATING THE C IP 



9 



11 



13 



IV. DURBROW' S TACTICS I6 



CHAPTER III - THE SPRING DECISIONS - I. 



I. THE "PRESIDENTIAL PROGFAf/l" 



19 



19 



1. The Security Situation in Vietnam 



i^. 



2. The Administration's Special Interest in Coujiter- 
Insurgency 



20 



3. The Apparent Futility and Divisiveness of the Durbrow 
(pressure) Tactics for Dealing With Diem 



20 



21 



The Weakness of US Policy in Laos, and the Need 
for a Signal of Firra Policy in Vietnam 



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II, THE APRIL 26 REPORT 23 

III. LADJSDALE\S ROIE ' 28 

I\r. KEroiEDY'S APRIL 29 DECISIONS 29 

V. THE LAOS AIMEX 31 

VI. THE MAY 1 REVIEW : 32 

VII. STATE'S REDRAFT 35 

VIII. WIDENING THE OPTIONS 36 

K. TIJE TROOP ISSUE kO 

CHAPTER IV - FROM MAY TO SEPTEMBER 52 

Ic THE JOHNSON MISSION o 52 

II. DIEt'l'S cTUNE LETTER ' 58 

III. THE STALE! MISSION ' = 6l 

IV. U.S. COMBAT TROOPS &\- 

V. THE TREATY REQUEST 69 

VI. THE SITUATION IN SEPTEMBER 71 

CHAPTER- V - THE FALL DECISIONS - 1 76 

I. THE DECISION TO SEND TAYIOR 76 

II. THE NEWSPAPERS AND TPIE CABLES 85 

III. CINCPAC RECOMMENDS "NOT NOW" 88 . 

IV. TAYIjOR in SAIGON. . ." o 90 

V. THE TAYLOR REPORT 100 

VI. SOME CABLES FROM SAICrON ' IO9 



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CHAPTER VI - THE FALL DECISIONS - II o 11^ 



I. CONTEXT 



114 



II. FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS 122 

III. AFTERMATH 135 



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EVOLUTION OF THE WA P. 
KEIMEDY PROGRAM MD COMMITMENTS: 19^1 



IV.B.l. CHAPTER I 



I. INTRODUCTION 

In the summer of 1959^ it vas hard to find an American official 
worried about Vietnam. This vas not because things vere going veil. 
They were not. A National Intelligence Estimate published in August por- 
trayed Diem as unpopular^ his economy as developing less rapidly than its 
rival in the North^ and his government under pressure from guerrillas 
encouraged and in part supported from the North. Nevertheless^ the NIE 
suggested no crisis then or for the foreseeable future. What the NIE 
■ called "harassment" (i.e.^ support for the 'VC) from the North would con- 
tinue^ but overt invasion seemed most unlikely. Neither communist nor 
anti-coimnujiist enemies tfithin South Vietnam vere seen as an immediate threat. 
Diem vould remain as President^ said the NIE, "formany years." In G^um, the 
NIE sav the situation in Vietnam as unhappy^ but not unstable. That was to 
be about as close to good news as we would hear from South Vietnaai for a 
long tijne. l/ 

From then on, the classified record through the end of 19^1 shows 
a succession of bleak appraisals of the regime's support in the cities, 

■ and among the mi].itary, aMost always accompanied by increasingly bleak 

estimates of increased VC strength and activity in the countryside. A dis- 
patch from our Embassy in Saigon in March, I960, described the situation in 
grave terms, but ended on the hopeful note that as of January Diem was 
recognizing his problems and promising to do som-.ething about them. 2/ In 

i . . August, an NIE analysis reported a "marked deterioration since January." 3/ 

In November, a military coup barely failed to overthrow Diem. 

In January, I961 an old coujaterinsurgency hand. General Ed^^ard 
Lansdale, went to Vietnam to look things over for the Secretary of Defense. 
He returned v/ith a report that "the Viet Cong hope to win back Vietnam 
south of the ITth parallel this year, if at all possible, and are much fur- 
ther along towards accomplishing this goal than I had realized from reading 
the reports received in Washington." hf 

Nevertheless, the situation was never seen as nearly so grave as 
I these reports, read years later, might suggest. We 'VTill see that at least 

up until the fall of I96I, while appraisals of the situation sometimes 
* suggested ijnminent crisis, the recommendations made to the President (by the 

authors of these frightening appraisals) always implied a less pessimistic 

view. 

The top levels of the Kennedy A.dministration dealt only intermit- 
tently mth the problem of Vietnam during I96I. There was a flurry of 



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of activity in late; A jri], and early May^ which we will see was essentially 
an offshoot- of the Laos crisis which had come to a head at that time. .A 
much more thorough review was undertaken in the fall^ following Genera,l 
Taylor's mission to Saigon^ which then led to an important expansion of the 
American effort in Vietnam. 

No fundamental new American decisions on Vietnam were made until 
the Buddhist unrest in the last half of 1963^, and no major new military 
decisions were made until I965. Consequently, the decisions in the fall of 
1961 ( essentially _, to provide combat support -- for example^ heli- 
copter compa-nies — but to defer any decision on direct combat troops) have 
come to seem very important. This paper tries to describe what led up to 
those decisions^ what alternatives were available and what the implications 
of the choices were. 

The story is a fairly complicated one. For although it is hard to 
recall that context today^ Vietnam in I961 was a peripheral crisis. Even 
within Southeast Asia it received far less of the Administration's and the 
world's attention than did Laos. The New York Tljnes Index for I961 has 
eight col-umns of Vietnam^ twenty-six on Laos. Decisions about Vietnam were 
greatly influenced by what was happening elsewhere. In the narrow Vietnam- 
ese context^ the weaknesses and peculiarities of the Diem government had a 
substantial^ if not always obvious^ impact on the behavior of both the 
Vietnamese officials seeking American aid and the American decision-makers 
pondering the nature and terms of the aid they would offer. 

As it happens^ the Eisenhower Administration was never faced with a 
need for high-level decisions affecting the crisis developing in Vietnam 
during i960. A formal Counterinsurgency Plan^ intended to be the basis of au 
expanded prograra of assistance to Vietnam^ was being worked on through most 
of that year^ but (presumably reflecting a subdued sense of urgency)^ it took 
eight months to reach the White House. By that time_, a new Administration 
had just ta,ken office. President Kennedy promptly approved the plan_, but 
this merely set off lengthy negotiations with the Vietnamese about whether 
and when they would do their share of the CIP. In late April^ though^ a crisis 
atmosphere developed^ not because of anything fresh out of Vietnam^ but 
because of a need to shore up the Vietnamese and others in Southeast Asia 
in the face of a likely collapse of the U.S. position in Laos. This led to 
a UoS. offer to discuss putting American troops into Vietnam^ or perha^ps 
negotiate a bilateral security treaty with the Vietnamese. When^ however^ 
Vice President Johnson mentioned the possibility of troops to Diem in May^ Diem 
said he wanted no troops yet. The idea of a bilateral treaty similarly 
slipped out of sight. Consequently^ although the United States had itself 
indicated a iriUlngness in May to discuss a deeper commitment^ the South 
Vietnamese did not ta>.e up the opportunity^ and the Administration had no 
occasion to face up to really hard decisions. 

But by October^ the situation in Vietnatn had worsened. The VC 
were becoming disturbingly aggressive. Now^ Diem did raise the question of 



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a treaty. This request^ coming after the American offer in May to con- 
sider such steps and in the context of a -worsening situation in VietnaiTij, 
could hardly be ignored. The Taylor Mission and the Presidential reviev 
and decisions of November followed. 

The present paper is organized around these natural climaxes in - 
the policy process. The balance of Part I describes the situation inherited 
by the ne-w Administration. Part II covers the period through the May peak.. 
Part III covers the fall crisis. 

II. THE CONTE}^ 

In January^ 1961^, there vere five issues that were going to affect 
American policy toward Vietnam. They turned on: 

1. The VC Insurgency Itself 

An illustration of the growth of the insurgency^ but also of the 
limits of U.S. concern can be seen in the I96O CINCPAC Comijiand History. 
For several years prior to I96O, CINCPAC histories do not mention the VC 
insurgency at all. In 196o_, the development of a counterinsurgency plan for 
Vietnam (and simultaneously one for Laos) received a fair amount of atten- 
tion. But when^ in April_j MAAG in Saigon asked for additional transports 
and helicopters for the counterinsurgency effort^ CINCPAC turned doT/n the 
requests for transports^ and OSD overruled the recommendation CINCPAC for- 
warded for 6 helicopters. By December^ OSD was willing to approve sending 
11 helicopters (of 16 newly requested) on an "emergenc;y" basis. But the 
emergency was partly a matter of reassuring Diem after the November coup^ 
and the degree of emergency is suggested by the rate of delivery: h in 
December^ and the balance over the next three months. 5/ 

The record_, in general^ indicates a level of concern such as that 
illustrated by the helicopter decisions: gro\-7lng gradually through 1960^ 
but still pretty much of a back-burner issue so far as the attention and 
sense of urgency it commanded among policy -level officials. As we will see_, 
the new Kennedy Administration gave it more attention_, as the Eisenhower , 
Adtuini strati on undoubtedly would haA'-e had it remained in office. But it is 
important (though hard^ now that Vietnara has loomed so large) to keep in 
mind how secondary an issue the VC threat to Vietnam seemed to be in early 
1961. 

2, Problems ¥ith the Diem Government 

Yet^ although the VC gains were not seen -- even in the dispatches 
from Saigon -- as serious enough to threaten the iimuediate collapse of the 
Diem government^ those gains did have the effect of raising difficult ques- 
tic3ns about our relations with Diem that we had never had to face before. 
I For by late 1960^ it was a quite widely held view that the Diem government 



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vas probably going to be overthrown sooner or later^ barring major changes 
from -vrithin. In contrast to the May 1959 KIE^s confident statement that 
Diem "almost certainly" vould remain president "for many years_," ve find 
the August i960 NIE predicting that the recent "adverse trends^" if con- 
tinued^ would "almost certainly in time cause the collapse of Diem's 
regime." 6/ 

The simple_, unhappy fact vas that whatever his triumphs in 1955 
BXid 1956^ by the end of the 1950s the feeling was growing that the best 
thing that could be said for Diem was that he .was holding the country to- 
gether and keeping it from succumbing to the communists. Once even this 
came into doubt^ talk among Vietnamese and eventually among Americans of 
whether it might be better to look for alternative leadership became 
inevitable. 

The sense of trouble shows through even among the optjjnists. ¥e 
find Kenneth Young^ U.S. Ambassador to Thailand and a strong believer in 
Diem^ warning him in October^ I960 that "there seems to be somewhat of a 
crisis of confidence in Vietnam." 7/ 

But the long list of measures Young suggested were all tactical 
in nature^ and required no basic changes in the regime. 

Our Ambassador in Saigon (Eldridge Durbrow) was more pessimistic: 

...situation in Viet-Nam /December^ 1960/ is highly 
dangerous to US interests. Communists are engaged in 
large-scale guerrilla effort to take over country- 
side and oust Diem's Government. Their activities have 
steadily increased in intensity throughout this year. 
In addition^ Diem is faced with widespread popular dis- 
satisfaction with his government's inability to stem the 
communist tide and its own heavy-handed methods of op- 
eration. It seems clear that if he is to remain in 
power he must meet these two challenges by improvements 
in his methods of conducting var against communists and 
in vigorous action to build greater popular support. We ■ 
should help and encourage him to talie effective action. 
Should he not do so^ ve may -well be forced^ in not too 
distant future^ to undertaJce difficult task of identify- 
ing and supporting alternate leadership. 8/ 

But the difficulties (and risks) of that task looked forbidding. 
During the IJovemb.-r^ I960 coup attempt the U.S. had apparently used its 
influence to get the coup leaders to negotiate mth Diem for reforms^ 
allowing Diem to retain his position with reduced powers. Whether because 
of their o^m indecision or U.S. pressure^ the coup leaders allowed a delay 
that let Diem bring loyalist troops in to regain control. (Three years 



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later^ a leader of the November^ 19^3 coup "somewhat emphatically" told, 
an Merlcan agent that "it would do no good to send anyone around to 
attempt to stop things^ as happened in November^ 1960/') 9/ 

The situation that was left -- with a number of American offi- 
cials unhappy with Diem and doubtful that he was capable of winning the 
war ^ yet unwilling to risk a coup -- produced strains within the 
American government. Short of encouraging a coup^ we seemed to have two 
alternatives: attempt to pressure Diem or attempt to so win his confi- 
dence that he would accept our advice willingly. The only effective form 
of U.S. pressure^ however^ was to withhold aid_, and doing so would sooner 
or later wealien the war effort. 

Consequently a division developed^ mainly (but not purely) along 
the lines of Defense against State_, about the advisability of using pres- 
sure. The division was particularly sharp since Diem seemed willing to go 
part way^ at least^ in meeting our military suggestions^, so that the 
Defense view tended to be that the U.S. would be weakening the war effort 
if aid vrere withheld to seek to gain civil reforms that not many people in 
Defense regarded as crucial. Besides^ it was argued^ Diem would not suc- 
cumb to pressure anyway. ¥e would just encourage another coup_, and the 
communists would exploit it. 

Given this sort of argument^ there would always (at least through 
1961) be at least two layers to decisions about aid to Vietnam: Fnat 
should the U.S. be willing to give? and ¥hat_, if any^ demands should be 
made on Diem' in return for the aid? 



v 



3. Problems With the Soviets 



But from Washington^ both problems within Vietnam -- hov?- to deal 
with the Viet Cong^ and how to deal with Diem -- seemed quite inconsequen- 
tial compared to the problems of dealing with the Soviets. There were two 
elements to the Soviet problem. The first ^ which only indirectly affected 
Vietnam^ was the generally aggressive and confident posture of the Russians 
at that time^ and the generally defensive position of the Anericans. To use 
W.W. Rostow's terminology^ the Soviets were then entering the third year of 
their "post-sputnik" offensive^ and their aggressiveness would continue 
through the Cuban missile crisis. On the U.S. side there was dismay even 
among Republicans (openly^ for example^ by Rockefeller; necessarily subdued 
by Mxon^ but reported by any number of journalists on the basis of private 
conversations) at what seemed to be an erosion of the American position in 
the world. The Coolidge Commission^ appointed by the President^ warned him 
I in January^ 1960^ 'to ^ among other steps^ '-close the missile gap" and gen- 

erally strengthen our defenses. Kennedy^ of course^ made erosion of our 
position in the world a major campaign issue. All of this made I96I a 
peculiarly difficult year for Anericans to make concessions^ or give ground 
to the Soviets when it could be avoided^ or even postponed. That was clear 



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in January _j and everything thereafter that was_, or could be interpreted 
to be a veak U.S. response^ only strengthened the pressure to hold on in 
Vietnara. lo/ 

A further element of the Soviet problem impinged directly on _ ■ 
Vietnam. The nev Administration _, even before taking office^ was inclined 
to believe that unconventional warfare was likely to be terrifically 
important in the 1960s. In January 196l_, K2rushchev seconded that view 
with his speech pledging Soviet support to "wars of national liberation." 
Vietnam was where such a. war was actually going on. Indeed^ since the war 

in Laos had moved far beyond the insurgency sta^e_, Vietnam was the only 
place in the world where the Administration faced a well-developed Com- 
munist effort to topple a pro-Western government with an externally-aided 
pro -communist insurgency. It was a challenge that could hardly be ignored. 

Y 4. The Situation in Laos 

Meanwhile^ mthin Southeast Asia itself there was the peculiar | 

problem of Laos^^ where the Western position was in the process of falling \ 

apart as Kennedy took office. The Eisenhower Administration had been giving 
strong support to a pro-Am.erican faction in Laos. As a consequence^ the , 

neutralist faction had joined in an alliance irlth the pro-communist faction. 
The Soviets were sending aid to the neutralist/communist alliance_j which 
they recognized as the legitimate governtnent in Laos; the U.S. recognized 
and aided the pro-western faction. Unfortunately_j it turned out that the 
neutralist/communist forces were far more effective than those favored by 
the U.S.^ and so it became clear that only by putting an American army 
into Laos could the pro-Western faction be kept in power. Indeed^ it was 
doubtful that even a coalition government headed by the neutralists (the 
choice the U.S. adopted) could be salvaged. The coalition government solu- 
tion would raise problems for other countries in Southeast Asia: there 
would be doubts about U.S. commitments in that part of the world_j and 
(since it was obvious that the communist forces would be left with de facto ■ 
control of eastern Laos)^ the settlement would create direct security 
threats for Thailand and Vietnam* These problems would accompany a "good" 
outcome in Laos (the coalition government); if the Pathet Lao chose to 
simply overrun the country outright (as^ short of direct American inter- 
vention^ they had the power to do)^ the problem, elsewhere in Southeast | 
Asia would be so much the worse. Consequently^ throughout 196l_, we find 1 
the effects of the Laos situation spilling over onto Vietnam. 

5. The Special American Commitment to Vi etnam 

Finally^ in this reviev;" of factors that would affect policy-making 1 
on Vietnam^ we must note that South Vietnafn^ (unlike any of the other coun- [ 
tries in Southeast Asia) was essentially the creation of the United States. i 



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^^ Without U.S. support Diem almost certainly could not have con-' 

solidated his hold on the South during 1955 and 1956. 

Without the threat of U.S. intervention^ South Vietnam could not 
have refused to even discuss the elections called for in I956 under the 
Geneva settlement without being jj:miediately overrun by the Viet Minh armies. 

Without U.S. aid in the years following^ the Diem regime certainly, 
and an independent South Vietnam aOmost as certainly, could not have sur- 
vived . 

Further, from 195^1 on there had been repeated statements of U.S. 
support for South Vietnam of a sort that we would not find in our dealings 
with other countries in this part of the world. It is true there was 
nothing unqualified about this support: it was always economic, and 
occasionally accompanied by statements suggesting that the Diem regme had 
incurred an obligation to undertake reforms in return for our assistance. 
But then, vntll I96I, there was no occasion to consider any assistance that 
went beyond economic support and the usual sort of military equipment and 
advice, and no suggestion that our continued support was in doubt. 

Consequently, the U.S. had gradually developed a special commit- 
ment in South Vietnam. It was certainly not absolutely binding, even at 
the level of assistance existing at the start of 196I, much less at any 
higher level the South Vietnamese might come to need or request. But the 
commitment was there; to let it slip would be awkward, at the least. 
^ Whether it really had any impact on later decisions is hard to say. Given 

the other factors already discussed, it is not hard to believe that in its 
absence, U.S. policy might have followed exactly the same course it has 
followed. On the other hand, in the absence of a pre-existing special re- . 
lation with South Vietnam, the U.S. in I961 possibly would have at least 
considered a coalition government for Vietnam as well as Laos, and chosen 
to limit direct U.S. involvement to Thailand and other countries in the area 
historically independent of both Hanoi and Peking. But that is the moot est 
sort of question. For if there had been no pre-existing commitment to South 
Vietnam in I961, there would not have been a South Vietnam to worry about 
anyway. 

III. SUMMARY 

Looking over the context we have been reviewing, it seems like a 
situation in which mistakes would be easy to make. The Viet Cong threat was 
serious enough to demand action; but not serious enough to compete with other 
crises and problems for the attention of senior decision-makers. A sound 
decision on tactics and levels of commitment to deal with the Viet Cong in- 
volved as much a judgment on the internal politics of non-communists in 
Vietnam as it did a judgment of the guerrillas' strength, and character, 
and relation with Planoi. (Even a judgement that the war could be treated as 
a strictly military problem after all, involved at least an implicit judge- 
ment, and a controversial one, about Vietnamese politics.) Even if Diem 



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looked not worth supporting it would "be painful to make a decision to let 
him sink^ and especially so in the world context of I96I0 Faced with. a 
challenge to deal with wars of national liberation^j it would be hard to 
decide that the first one we happened to meet was "not our style o" And after 
the U.S. stepped back in Laos^ it might be hard to persuade the Russians 
that we intended to stand firm anywhere if we then gave up on Vietnam. 
Finally^ if the UoS, suspected that the best course in Vietnam was to seek 
immediately an alternative to Diem^ no one knew who the alternative might 
be_j or whether getting rid of Diem would really make things better o 

Such was the prospect of Vietnam as 196I began^ and a new Adminis- 
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THE COUxiTEKIIiSURG-EKCY PLAIT 



IV.B. 



CHAPTER II 



I. "WINTER, 1961 

The Vietnam Counter-Insurgency Plan which vas being "worked on 
through most of I960 finally reached the White House in late January^ 
apparently just after Kennedy took office. We do not have a document show- 
ing the exact date^ but we know that Kennedy approved the main provisions of 
the Plan after a meeting on January 28th_j and negotiations with Diem began 
February I3. l/ 

The provisions of the CIP tell a good deal about how the Viet Cong 
threat looked to American and Vietnamese officials" at the beginning of 19^1^ 
for there is nothing in the record to suggest that anyone -- either in 
Saigon or Washington^ Vietnamese or American -- judged the CIP to be an in- 
adequate response to the VC threat. 

« 

The U.S. offered Diem equipment and supplies to outfit a 20_,000 man 
increase in his army. The cost was estimated at $28.4 million. The U.S. 
also offered to train _, outfit and supply 32^000 micn of the Civil Guard (a 
counterguerriJJa auxilliary) at a cost of $12.7 million. These two moves 
would help Diem expand the WNKF to a total of 170^000 men^. and expand the 
Civil Guard to a total of 68_,000 men. There were some further odds and ends 
totalling less than another million. The full package added up to less than 
$J+2 million^ which was a substantial but not enormous increment to on-going 
U.S.- aid to Vietnam of about $220 million a year. (Since most of these 
costs were for initial outfitting of new forces^ the package was mainly a 
one-time shot in the arm.) 2/ 

For their part_, the Vietnamese were supposed to pay the local cur- 
rency costs of the new forces^ and carry out a number of military and civil 
reforms. 

The key military reforms were to straighten out the chain of command^ 
and to develop an agreed overall plan of operations, 

/The chain of com^nand problem was that control of the counter- 
insurgency effort in the provinces was divided between the local 
military commander and the Province Chief_, a personal appointee 
of Diem^ and reporting directly to Diem. Even at a higher level^ 
3 regional fie3,d comraands reported directly to Diem^ by-passing 
the Chief of Staff. So a total of ^2 officials with some sub- 
stantial (and overlapping) control of the war effort reported 
directly to Diem: 38 Province Chiefs^ 3 regional commanders_, and 
the Chief of Staff. The "reform" eventually gotten from Diem put 



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the regional coinmanders under the Chief of Staff ^ and com- 
bined the office of Province Chief (usually a Mlitary man 
in any event) and local field coimnander. But the Province 
Chiefs still were personally responsible to Diein_, and 
could appeal directly to him outside the nominal chain of 
command. Diem^s reform^ consequently^ turned out to be 
essentially meaningless. His reluctance to move on this 
issue vas not surprising. After all^ the division and con- 
fusion of military authority served a real purpose for a 
ruler like Diem^ mth no broad base of support: it less- 
ened the chance of a coup that vould throw him out. 

_^he overall plan issue^ on vhich not even a paper agree- 
ment vas reached during the period covered by this account, 
was really an argument over strategy. It has a familiar 
ring. - 

^Diem seemed oriented very much towards maintaining at 
least the pretense of control over all of South Vietnam. Con- 
sequently, he favored maintaining military outposts (and 
concentrating the population in Agrovilles, the predecessors 
of the strategic hamlets) along "lines of strength" (gener- 
ally main roads) which stretched throughout the country. To 
assert at least nominal control over the countryside between 
'these lines of strength, the military forces would period- 
ically organize a sweep. In contrast to this, the American 
plan stressed what MAAG called a "net and spear" concept. 
Small units would scour the jungles beyond the pacified area. 
¥[ien this "net" found an enemy unit, they would call in 
reserves (the spear) for a concentrated attempt to destroy 
the unit. As new areas were thus cleared, the net would be 
pushed further out into previously uncontested areas. It is 
not clear how well refined either concept was, or (with hind- 
sight) whether the American plan was really a great deal more 
realistic than Diem's. But the American interest in getting 
Diem to agree to a plan does seem to have been primarily 
oriented to getting him to agree to some systematic proce- 
dure for using forces to clear areas of VC control, instead 
of tying up most of his forces defending fixed installations, 
with periodic uneventful sweeps through the hinterland, 7" 3/ 

On the civil side, the stress in the CIP was on trying to shore 
up the regime's support within the cities by such steps as bringing 
opposition leaders into the government, and giving the l^Iational Assembly 
the power to investigate charges of mismanagement and corruption in the 

executive. 



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A good deal of bureaucratic compromise had gone into the CIP. 
Mbassador Durbrow only reluctantly conceded any real need for the 
20^000 man force increase. The stress on civil reforms^ in particular 
on civil reforms as part of a quid pro quo ^ came into the plan only 
after the Saigon Embassy became involved^ although there vere general 
allusions to such things even in the original military draft of the 
CIP. 

ITevertheless, there vas at least a paper agreement_, and so far 
as the record shows^ substantial real agreement as veil. No one com- 
plained the plan vas inadequate. It vould_j "if properly implemented^" 
"turn 'the tide." And^ by implication^, it vould do so vithout any major 
increase in American personnel in Vietnam^ and indeed^ aside from the 
one -shot outfitting of the nev units _, vithout even any major increase 
in American aid. 5/ 

None of this meant that the varnings that ve have seen in the 
Saigon Embassy's dispatches or in the August SEIE vere not seriously 
intended. What it did mean vas that^ as of early 196l_, the viev that 
vas presented to senior officials in "Washington essentially shoved the 
VC threat as a problem vhich could be pretty confidently handled^ given 
a little more muscle for the array and some sharping up by the Vietnam- 
ese administration. Any doubts expressed vent to the vill and compe- 
tence of the Diem regime^ not to the strength of the VC^ the role of 
Hanoi;, or the adequacy of U.S. aid. 

Consequently^ among the assumptions listed as underlying the 
CIP^ ve find (vith emphasis added): 

That the Government of Viet-Nam has the basic potential 
to cope vlth the Viet Cong guerrilla threat if necessary cor - 
rective measures are talien and adequate forces are provided . 6/ 

That of course vas the heart of the CIP bargain: the U.S. vould 
provide support for the "adequate forces" if Diem vould take the "neces- 
sary corrective steps." The hinted corollary vas that our commitment to 
'Diem should be contingent on his' performance : - ," . 

That at the present time the Diem government offers the 
best hope for defeating the Viet Cong, 7/ ■. 

II. lAIJSDALE'S REPORT 

Running against these suggestions (of a fi3:Tia bargaining position 
contingent on Diem's performance)^ vas concern that if Diem vere overthrown 
his successors might be no better; and that the VC might exploit the con- 
fusion and perhaps even civil var folloiring a coup. Further^ there vas an 
argujnent that part of Diem's reluctance to move on reforms vas that he vas 



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afraid to make any concession that might weaken his grip: consequently 
the U.S. needed to reassure him that he could count on our firm support 
to hijn personally. 

A strong statement of this point of view is contained in a 
report submitted in January by Brig. General Edward Lansdale^ then the' 
Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Special Operations. Lansdale 
had become famous for his work in the Philippines advising on the suc- 
cessful campaign against the Huk insurgents. In 1955 ^^^ 195^^ he was 
a key figure in installing and establishing Diem as President of South 
Vietnam. As mentioned in the Introduction^ Lansdale visited Vietnam in 
early January. Here_j from his report^, are a few extracts on Diem and 
how Lansdale felt he should be handled: 

. . .We must support Ngo Dinh Diem until another strong 
executive can replace him legally. President Diem feels that 
Americans have attacked him almost as viciously as the Com- 
munists^ and he has withdrawn into a shell for self -protection. 
¥e have to show him by deeds _, not words alone ^ that we are his 
friend. This vrill make our influence effective again. 



• o 



.If the next American official to talk to President Diem 
would have the good sense to see him as a himaan being who has 
been through a lot of hell for years — and not as an opponent 
to be beaten to his knees — we would start regaining our in- 
fluence y±th him in a healthy way. VJhatever else we might 
thinly of him^ he has been unselfish in devoting his life to his 
country and has little in personal belongings to show for it. 
If we donH- like the heavy influence of Brother Ehu^ then let's 
move someone of ours in close. This someone^ however^ must be 
able to look at problems with understanding^ suggest better 
solutions than does Nhu^ earn a position of influence.... 

Ambassador Durbrow should be transferred in the immediate 
future. He has been in the 'forest of tigers' which is Viet- 
nam for nearly four years now and I doubt that he himself 
realizes how tired he has become or how close he is to the in- 
dividual trees in this big woods. Correctly or not^ the 
recognized government of Vietnam does not look upon him as a 
frlend_j believing he sympathized strongly with the coup 
leaders of 11 November. 

. . .Ngo Dinh Diem is still the only Vietnamese \r±th execu- 
tive ability and the required determination to be an effective 
President. I believe there mil be another attempt to get rid 
of him soon^ unless the U.So makes it clear that we are back- 
ing him as the elected top man. If the 11 November coup had 
been successful^ I believe that a numher of highly selfish and 



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mediocre people vouJLd be squabbling among themselves for 
power while the Communists took over. The Communists will 
be more alert to exploit the next coup attempt...* 8/ 

Lansdale*s view was not immediately taken up^ even though 
Hilsman reports that his presentation impressed Kennedy enough to start 
the President thinking about sending the General to Saigon as our next 
Ambassador. 9/ Instead^ Kennedy made what was under the circumstances 
the easiest^ least tim.e-consuming decision^ which was simply to let the 
Ambassador he had inherited, from the Eisenhower Administration go for- 
ward and make a try with the plan and negotiating tactics already pre- 
pared. 

Durbrow's guidance specif ical3,y tells him (in instructions he 
certainly found suited his own view perfectly): 

...considered U.S. view (is) that success requires im- 
plementation entire plan... If Ambassador considers GVN 
does not provide necessary cooperation; he should inform 
Washington with recommendations which may include suspen- 
sion U.S. contribution. lO/ 

III. KEGOT^IATIN G THE CIP 

Kennedy's approval of the CIP apparently was seen as quite a 
routine action. None of the memoirs of the period give it any particu- 
lar attention. And^ although both Schlesinger and Hilsman refer to 
General Lansdale's report as shocking the President about the state of 
things in Vietnara^ that report itself does not criticize the dP^ or 
the adequacy of its programs. 

The guidance to Dirrbrow assumed agreement could be reached 
"within two weeks." This choice of language in the guidance cable im- 
plies that we believed Diem would quickly agree on the terms of the CIP; 
and the question of using pressure against him ("suspension of U.S. con- 
tribution") would only arise later^ should he fail to follow through on 
his part of the agreement, ll/ 

As it turned out; Durbrow's efforts took a more complicated 
form. Even reaching a nominal agreement on the CIP took about 6 weeks. 
Then; Durbrow recommended holding up what is constantly referred to as 
"the green light" on increased aid until Diem had actually signed decrees 

implementing his major promises. 

On March 8 (in response to a Washington s\iggestion for stepping 
up some aid prior to agreement on the CIP); Saigon cabled that: 

...despite pressure of Biibassy and MAAG; GVN has not 
decreed the required measures and will continue to delay 
unless highly pressured to act. 12/ 



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But by the l6th both the MAAG Chief and the Mbassador vere 
taking a gentler line. Durbrow^s cable of that date reports that 
agreement on military reforms had reached a poi:ot "vhich MMG considers 
it can live -with provided GVE follows through ^vith proper implementa- 
tioUc" He -was more concerned about the civil reforms^ but nevertheless 
concluded the cable >7lth: ' • 

Comments: Diem -was most affable _, exuded confidence 
and for first time expressed some gratitude our CIP efforts 
which he promised implement as best he could. ' Again before 
giving full green light believe ve should avfait outcome 
detail discussion by GW-US officials. In meantime MAAG 
quietly ordering some equipment for 20^000 increase. 13/ 

And a veek later^ Washington replied^ agreeing that the "green 
light" should be held up until the CIP was approved^ but also noting 
that since success depended on the mlling cooperation of the Vietnaraese^j 
the Etiibassy ought not to push Diem too hard in the negotiations. 1^/ j 

Following this_, the CIP negotiations dragged on inconclusively^ I 
and there is a ghostly quality to it all. There are cables giving en- ' 

couraging progress reports which^ in fact^ seem limited to vague promises ! 
which^ with hindsight^ we know to have been quite meaningless. MAAG (and j 
eventually the JCS in Washington) grew increasingly Ijupatient with 
Durbrow^s insistence on further holding up the "green light." They wanted 
to get on mth the war. 

By the end^ Durbrow was simply holding out for Diem to actually 
complete the paperwork on some steps he had long ago said he intended to 
take. His very last cable (May 3) gives a good feeling for the flavor 
of the negotiations that had been going on between Diem and Durbrow for 
the nearly 3 months since the CIP talks began (and indeed it gives the 
flavor of Durbrow' s relations with Diem at least since the previous 
October). 

During the inauguration reception at Palace April 29^ 
Diem took me aside and asked if I had given green light for , 
US iraplementation of our part of coimter insurgency plan 
(CIP). I replied franlily that I had not and noted that as 
stated in my letter of February 13 certain minimum actions 
must be taken by the GW first if CIP is to produce results. 
I listed following actions: (l) Establishment of a central 
intelligence organization; (2) assignment of operational 
control for counter insurgency operations within military 
chain of command; and (3) implementation of reforms an- 
nounced by Diem on February 6. Diem replied that he would 
do all these things^ but that time was requj.red to work 
out details. He said various GW Cabinet members and Joint 



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General Staff studying proposals and have different ideas. 
Since he wants to be sure that whatever done is veil thought 
out^ will be successful and not have to be changed in future 
he letting responsible officials thoroughly consider pro- 
posals. Diem stated that Secretary Thuan working on detailed 
statute for central intelligence organization^ but it re- 
quired more vrork and needs to be polished up. I replied that 
frankly time was slipping by and as yet there no action on 
these three points^ which essential before 1 can give "green 
light" on equipment for 20^000 increase in armed forces. 

In connection Diem remarks^ Vice' President Tho told me April 
28 that he had not seen CIP^ although he had heard of its 
existence_, and he does not believe other Ministers have seen 
it either. Question thus arises as to whether Diem's state- 
ment that various Cabinet members studying CIP refers only to 
Thuan. I gave Tho fairly detailed fill-in on CIP contents. 
Tho said action now by President^ at least implementation of 
reforms^ needed in order .capitalize on present ups^-ang in 
popular feeling about situation following GW success in carry- 
ing out elections despite VC efforts to disrupt. Stating he 
did not know when if ever reforms will be implemented^ he com- 
mented that failure take such action after so many promises 
would lose all momentum gained from elections. Tho added that^ 
aside from psychological impact- _, reforms likely take (sic_; 3}is-ke) 
little change unless* Diem himself changes his method of opera- 
ting. Ke noticed that if "super ministers" mthout real 
authority the?/ likely becorae 'ju.st additional level in bureauc- 
racy ^'D-thout making GYT^T more effective. 

On May 2 in course my formal farewell call I asked Diem if 
decrees yet signed on intelligence organization^ chain of 
command and reforms. Diem stated he working on these matters 
but went through usual citation of difficulties including 
problem of convincing available personnel that they capable 
and qualified carry out responsibilities. He stated he already 
naraed Colonel I^lguyen Van Yankee to head intelligence organiza- 
tion^ Colonel Yanlvee has selected building for his headquarters 
and in process recruiting staff ^ while Secretary Thuan working 
on statute for organization. Re chain of command^ I strongly 
emphasized that this one of most important factors in CIP^ GVN 
must organize itself to follow national plan with one man in 
charge operational control and not waste time chasing will of 
wisps. Diem replied that he not feeling well (he has cold) and 
with inauguration he has not had time focus on this question 
but he' will do it. Pie stated that he realizes only effective 
way is to place counter insurgency operations under Joint 
General Staff^ but that his generals disagreed as to exactly 
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Diem^ referring Sihanoui^'s Vientiane press conference (Vien- 
tiane's 1979)^ stated he did not believe there would be lu- 
nation conference and he afraid Laos almost lost already. 
Diem argued that since PL occupy almost all of southern Laos_j 
ve must agree increase in RVMF to provide additional per- 
sonnel to train self defense corps which in very bad shape. 

Comment: Although Thuan has indicated to /mMG Chief/ General 
McGarr decree designating single officer to conduct counter 
insurgency operations being signed iinminently^ I asked him 
morning May 3 when seeing off Harriman and Lemnitzer whether 
I would receive before departure "present" he has long prom- 
ised me. He replied presents often come when least expected^ 
which apparently means Diem not yet ready sign decree. 

While we should proceed v^ith procurement equipment for 20^000 
increase as recommended my l6o6; I do not believe GVN shou].d 
be informed of this green light^ particularly until above 
decree signed. Durbrow. I5/ 

The February 6 reforms referred to involved a cabinet re-organi- 
zation Diem had announced before the start of the CIP negotiations. The 
intelligence re- organization was to consolidate the 7 existing services. 
The chain of command problem has been discussed above. Diem finally issued 
decrees on all these points a few days after Durbrow went home. The de- 
crees were essentially meaningless: exactly these same issues remained 
high on the list of "necessary reforms" called for after the Taylor Mission^ 
and indeed throughout the rest of Diera's life. 

IV. DURBROW 'S TACTICS 

Did Durbrow 's tactics make sense? There is an argument to be 
made both ways. Certainly if Durbrow 's focus was on the pro forma paper- 
work^ then they did not. Mere formal organizational re-arrangements 
(unifying the then 7 intelligence services into 1^ setting up at least a 
nominal chain of command for the war) often change very little even when 
they are seriously intended. To the extent they are not seriously in- 
tended^ they are almost certain to be meaningless. Vice President Tho^ of 
course^ is cited in the cable as making exactly that point. The very fact 
that Durbrow chose to include this remark in the cable (without questioning 
it) suggests he agreed. But if squeezing the formal decrees out of Diem 
really did not mean much^ then v?'hat was the point of exacerbating relations 
with Diem (not to mention relations with the military members of the U.S. 
mission) to get them? In hindsight^ we can say there was none^ unless the 
U.S. really meant what it had said about making U.S. support for Diem con- 
tingent on his talking "corrective measures." Then the function of those 
tactics would not have been to squeeze a probably m^eanlngless concession 
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have been naive to expect much follow-though from Diem. The purpose 
would have been to begin the process of separating U.S. support for . 
Vietnam from support for the Diem regijiie^ and to lay the basis for 
stronger such signals in the future unless Diem underwent some miracu- 
lous reformation. That^ of course^ is exactly the tack the U.S. 
followed in the fall of 1963^ once the Administration had really de- 
cided that we coiald not go on with the Diem regime as it then existed. 

* 

Ml this can be said wi.th hindsight. It is not clear how much 
of this line of thinking should be attributed to American officials in 
Washington or Saigon at the time. There is no hint in the cables we 
have that Durbrow was thinking this way. Rather he seems to have felt 
that the concessions he was wringing from Diem represented real progress^ 
but that we would have to keep up the pressure (presumably with threats 
to suspend aid — as his guidance considered — even after the "green 
light" was given) to keep goading Diem in the right direction. Meanwhile^ 
the predominant view (pushed most strongly _j but hardly exclusively by the 
military) was that we should^ and could effectively get on with the war 
with as much cooperation as we could get from Diem short of interfering 
with the war effort: it was all right to try for a quid pro quo on aid^ 
but not very hard. The Lansdale view went even fi;.rther_, stressing the 
need for a demonstration of positive^ essentially unqualified support for 
Diem if only to discourage a further coup attempt^ which Lansdale saw as 
the main short -run danger. 

In a significant way^ Lansdale *s view was not very different in 
its analysis of tactics from the view that Diem was hopeless. Both 
Lansdale^ with his strong pro-Diem view^ and men like Galbraith with a 
strong anti-Diem view^ agreed that Diem could not be pressured into re- 
forming this regime. ("He won't change^ because he can't change^" \rrote 
Galbraith in a cable we will quote in more detail later.) 

"Where the Lansdale and Galbraith views differed — a fundamental 
difference^ of course^-- was in their estimate of the balance of risks of 
a coupo Lansdale^ and obviously his view carried the day^ believed that a 
coup was much more likely to make things worse than make things better. 
This must have been an especia3-ly hard view to argue against in I961, when 
Diem did not look as hopeless as he would later^ and when a strong argu- 
ment could be made that the U.S. just could not afford at that time to 
risk the collapse of a pro-Western government in Vietnam. It must have 
seemed essentially irresistable to take the route of at least postponing^ 
as seemed quite feasible^ a decision on such a tough and risky course as 
holding back on support for Diem. The President^ after all^ could remem- 
ber the charges that the Truman Administration had given away China by 
holding back on aid to Chiang to tiy to pressure him toward reform. As a 
young Congressman^ he had even joined the chorus. 

Meanwhile Durbrovr was about to come hom^e (he had been in Vietnam 
for k years); security problems in Vietnam were^ at best^ not improving; 



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and the repercussions of Laos vere spilling over and -would make fur- 
ther moves on Vietnam an urgent matter « By the middj,e of April_, the 
Administration vas undertaking its first close look at the problan 
in Vietnam (in contrast to the almost automatic approval of the CIP 
during the opening days of the nev Administration). 



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IV.B. 



THE SPRING DECISIONS - I 



CHAPTER III 



I. THE "PRESIDENTIAL PROGRAM" 

The development of what eventually came to be called "The Presi- 
dential Program for Vietnam" formally began with this memorandum from 
McNamara to Gilpatric: 

20 April 1961 
MEMORANDUM FOR THE DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE 

This will confirm our discussion of this morning during 
which I stated that the President has asked that you: 

a. Appraise the current status and future prospects of 
the Communist drive to dominate South Viet-Nam. 

b. Recommend a series of actions (military^ political 
and/or economic^ overt and/or covert) which^ in your 

■ - opinion^ will prevent Communist domination of that 

country. 

The President would like to receive your report on or 
before Thursday^ April 27. 

During the course of your stLidy^ you should draw^ to the 
extent you believe necessary _, upon the views and resources of 
the State Department and CIA. Mr. Chester Bowles was present 
when the President discussed the matter with me^ and I have 
reviewed the project with Mr. Allen Dulles. Further^ the 
President stated that Mr. Walt Rostow would be available to 
counsel with you. l/ 

GilpatriCj although obviously given a completely free hand under the 
terms of the memo_, nevertheless set up an interagency task force to work 
on the report. A draft was ready April 26^ and Gilpatric sent it to the 
President the following day. But this turned out to be only the first,, 
and relatively unioiportant phase of the effort. For the Laos crisis came 
to a boil just ac the first Gilpatric report was finished^ and the Task 
Force was continued with the essentially new mission of a recommending 
additional measure to keep our position from falling apart in the wake of 
what was happening in Laos- Consequently^, to understand these late- 
April^ early-May decisions^ we have to treat separately the initial 
Gilpatric effort and the later^ primarily State-drafted revision^ dated 
May 6. The same general factors were in the background of both efforts^ 



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although Laos vas only one of the things that influenced the April 26 
effort^ vhile it became the overvheltning element in the May 6 effort. 
It is worth setting out these influencing factors^, specifically: 

1. The security situation in Vietnamo 

2. The Administration's special interest in counter-insurgencyo 

3o The apparent futility and divisiveness oT the Dujrhrow (pres- 
sure) tactics for dealing with Diem. 

4o Eventually most important^ and substantially narrowing the 
range of options realistically open to the Administration^ 
the weakness of US policy in Laos^ and the consequent 
strongly felt need for a signal of firm policy in Vietnamo 

lo The Security Situation in Vietnam 

The VC threat in Vietnam looked worse in April than it had in 
Januaryo We will see that Gilpatric's report painted a bleak pictureo 
Yet^ there is no hint in the record that concern about the immediate situa- 
tion in Vietnam was a major factor in the decision to formulate a new 
program.. 

VC strength was estimated at 3-15^000 in Lansdale's January memo- 
randum; 8-10^000 in a March NIE; 10^000 in an April briefing paper (appar- 
ently by Lansdale) immediately preceding — and recommending -- the Gilpatric 
Task Force; then 12^,000 one week later in the Gilpatric report proper. VC 
incidents were reported high for April (according to the Task Force report^ 
650 per month _j k times higher than January)^ but an upsurge in activity had 
long been predicted to coincide with the Vietnamese elections o As would 
happen in the future^ the failure of the VC to prevent the elections was 
considered a sign of government strength o 2 

On the basis of the Task Force statistics^, we could assume that 
the situation was deteriorating rapidly: taken literally^ they indicate an 
increase in VC strength of 20 percent in about a week; plus the large in- 
crease in incidents o But neither cables from the field; nor the Washington 
files show any sense of a sharply deteriorating situationo And; as we will 
see; the initial Task Force Report; despite its crisis tone; recommended 
no increase "in military strength for the Vietnamese; only more generous US 
financial aid to forces already planned under the CIPo 

2. The Administration's Special Interest in Counter-insurgency 

■f _ 

A more important impetus to the Gilpatric effort than any sense 
of deterioration in Vietnam seems to have been the Administration's 
general interest in doing something about counter-insurgency warfare; 
combined with an interest in finding more informal and more efficient means 



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of supervising policy "than the Eisenhower Administration's elaborate 
National Seciirity structure o The effort in Vietnam obviously required 
some coordination of separate efforts by at least State^ Defense^ CIA_, 
and ICA (a predecessor of AID). Further^ once a coordinated program was 
vorked out,, the idea appears to have been to focus responsibility for 
seeing to it that the program was carried out on some clearly identified 
individualo This search for a better way to organize policy seems to 
have been the principal motive behind the initial Gilpatric effort^ al- 
though it became inconsec^uential after the original submission o 

3« The Apparent Futility and Divisiveness of the Durbrow (Pressui'e ) 
Tactics for Dealing With Diem 

Late April was a peculiarly appropriate time to undertake the 
sort of sharpening up of policy and its organization just described o It 
was probably clear by then that Durbrow' s pressui-e tactics were not really 
accomplishing much with Diemo Besides^j Durbrow had been in Vietnam for 
four years by Aprils and a new Ambassador would normally have been sent in 
any event o Fritz Nolting had been chosen by early April; and he was 
scheduled to take over in early Mayo Fuxther^ Diem had just been reelected^ 
an essentially meaningless formality to be siore^ but still one more thing 
that helped make late April a logical time for taking a fresh look at US 
relations with Diemo And even to people who believed that a continuation 
of Durbrow' s pressure tactics might be the best approach to Diem^ events 
elsewhere and especially in Laos must have raised questions about whether 
it was a politic time to be threatening to withhold aid. 

^o The Weakness of US Policy in Laos^ and the Need for a Signal of 
Firm Policy in Vietnam 

■ Tb.e situation in the world that April seemed to create an 
urgent requirement for the US to do something to demonstrate firmness^ 
and especially so in Southeast Asiao The Task Force was set up the day 
after the Bay of Pigs invasion force surrendered^ and at a time when the 
Laos crisis was obviously coming to heado There had been implicit agree- 
ment in principle between the US and the Soviets to seek a cease fire in 
Laos and to organize a neutral coalition government o But it was not clear 
at all that the cease-fire would come while there was anything left worth 
arguing about in the hands of the pro-Western factiouo Gilpatric' s 
initial Task Force report reached the President the day of a crisis meeting 
on Laos; and the more important second phase of the effort began then^ in 
an atmosphere wholly dominated by LaoSo 

But even before the Laos crisis reached its peak, there was a sense in 
Washington and generally in the world that put strong pressirres on the 
Administration to look for ways to take a firm stand somewhere; and if it 
wa:s not to be in Laos^ then Vietnam was next under the gun. 



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Something of the mood of the time can be sensed in these quotes_, one 
from a March 28 I^IE on Southeast Asia_, another from Lansdale's notes^ and 
finally a significant question from a Kennedy press conference: 

From th e NIE : 

There is a deep awareness among the countries of Southeast Asia 
that developments in the I^otian crisis^ and its outcome _, have a 
profound impact on their future o The governments of the area 
tend to regard the Laotian crisis as a symbolic test of strengths 
between the major powers of the West and the Communist bloc. 3/ 

From Lansdale^s notes (about April 2l ): 

lo Psychological — YE believed always they main target o Now 
it comes — 'when ou-r tu:m comes_, will we be treated the same 
as Laos?» Main task GW confidence in US. hj 

And suggesting the more general tone of the time (even a week before 
the Bay of Pigs^ prompted by the Soviet orbiting of a man in space) this 
CLuestion at Kennedy's April 12 news conference: 

Mto President,, this question might better be asked at a history 
class than at a news conference^ but here it is anyway^ The 
Communists seem to be putting us on the defensive on a number of 
fronts -- now^ again^ in spacoo Wars aside^, do you think there 
is a danger that their system is going to prove more durable than 
ourSo 5/ 

The President answered with cautious reassurance o Eight days later^ 
after the Bay of Pigs^ and the day he ordered the Task Force to go ahead_, 
he told the Association of Newspaper Editors: 



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it is clearer than ever that we face a relentless struggle 
in every corner of the globe that goes far beyond the clash of 
armies_3 or even nuclear armaments. Tlie armies are there <> But 
they serve primarily as the shield behind which subversion^ 
infiltration^ and a host of other tactics steadily advance^ 
picking off vulnerable areas one by one in situations that do 
not permit our own armed intervention^ o o o We dare not fail to 
see the insidious nature of this new and deeper struggle o We 
dare not fail to grasp the new concepts^ the new tools^ the 
new sense of urgency we will need to combat it -- whether in 
Cuba or South Vietnamo 6/ (Notice Kennedy's exp3.icit assump- 
tion about US armed intervention as a means of dealing with 
insurgencies. Not too much can be read into his remark^ for it 
probably was inspired primarily by criticism of his refusal to 
try to save the Bay of Pigs contingent. But the balance of the 
record adds significance to the comment.) 



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IIo THE APRIL 26 REPORT 

The available Gilpatric file consists mostly of drafts of the report 
and memos from Lansdaleo It contains a memorandum dated April 13; in 
vhich Lansdale advised Gilpatric of a meeting with Rostow^^ at which Rostov 
shoved Lansdale a copy of a memorandum to Kennedy recommending a fresh 
crack at the Vietnam situationo Here is Rostov's memorandum: 



April 12^ 1961 



MEMORANDUM TO THE PRESIDED 



FROM: WR 



I^ov that the Viet-Nam election is over^ I believe ve must 
turn to gearing up the whole Viet-Nam operationo Among the pos- 
sible lines of action that might be considered at an early high 
level meeting are the following: 

lo The appointment of a full time first-rate back-stop man 
in Washington o McNamara^ as veil as your staff ^ believes this to 
be essential. 

2. The briefing of our new Ambassador ^ Fritz Nolting^ includ- 
ing sufficient talk with yourself so that he fully imderstands the 
priority you attach to the Viet-Nam problemo 

3o A possible visit to Viet-Nam in the near future by the 
Vice President. 

ko A possible visit to the United States of Mto Thuan^ 
acting Defense Minister^ and one of the fev men around Diem with 
operational capacity and vigor 

5o The sending to Viet-Nam of a research and development and 
military hardvrare team which would explore with General McGarr 
vhich of the various techniq.ues and gadgets nov available or being 
explored might be relevant and useful in the Viet-Nam operationo 

60 The raising of the MAAG ceiling;, which involves some 
diplomacy^ unless we can find an alternative way of introducing 
into the Viet-Nam operation a substantial number of Special 
Forces types. 

7<. The question of replacing the present ICA Chief in Viet- 
Nam^ who_j by all accounts^ has expended his capital*, We need a 
vigorous man who can vrork veil vith the military^ since some of 
the rural development problems relate closely to guerrilla opera- 
tions. 



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8o Settling the q_uestion of the extra funds for Diezno 

9o The tactics of persuading Diem to move more rapid2.y to 
broaden the base of his government; as veil as to decrease its 
centralization and improve its efficiency. 

Against the backgroimd of decisions we should urgently take 
on these matters^, you may wish to prepare a letter to Diem which 
would not only congratulate him^ reaffirm our support^ and 
specify new initiatives we are prepared to take_j but would make 
clear to him the urgency you attach to a more effective political 
and morale setting for his military operationj, now that the 
elections are successfully behind him^ 

Neither this memo^ nor other available papers ^ give us a basis for 
judging how far the stress on the importance of Vietnam was already in- 
fluenced by developments in Iaos_j and how much it reflects a separable 
interest in taking on the challenge of "wars of liberatiouo" Both were 
undoubtedly important. But this Rostov memo turned out to be pretty close 
to an agenda for the initial Task Force report. It seems very safe to 
assujiie that the " full-time _j first-rate^ back-stop man in Washington"" 
Rostow had in mind was Lansdaleo (Gilpatric himself obviously could not 
be expected to spend full-time on Vietnamo ) Presiuaably the President's 
request for the Gilpatric report was intended as either a' method of easing 
Lansdale into that role^ or at least of trying him out in it. 

Following the description of the Rostow memo^ Gi2,patric's file con- 
tains several carbon copies of a long paper^ unsigned but certainly by 
Iansdale_5 which among other things recommends that the President set up a 
Task Force for Vietnam which would lay out a detailed program of action 
and go on to supervise the implementation of that program. The date on 
the paper is April 19^ but a draft must have been prepared some days 
earlier; probably about the time of lansdale' s discussion with Rostow on 
the 13th; since the available copies recommended that the Task Force sub- 
mit its report to the President by April 21. The paper explicitly foresaw 
a major role for General Lansdale both in the Task Force^ and thereafter 
in supervising the implementation of the report. 

This Task Force was apparently intended to supersede what the paper 
refers to as "one of the customary working groups in Washington" vhich 
was "being called together next week by John Steeves^ Acting Assistant 
Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs o" 

In view of all this^ it is not surprising to find that the first 
phase of the Task Force effort appears^ from the record^ to have been 
very much a Gilpatric -lansdale show. The first meeting of the group 
(which included State and CIA representatives) was apparently held 
April 2ky four days after Gilpatric was told to go ahead o A draft report 



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was ready the 26th, following individaial raeetings between members and 
Gilpatric and Lansdale, Present files do not show whether there v?as 
another fiill meeting of the group before the first version of the report 
(d3,ted April 26) >?as sent to the President on the 27th. 

Here are the opening sections, which introduce the list of proposed 
auctions which malie up the program, j/ 

■ A PR0GR/\I--1 OF ACTIQI';! TO PRFn/ENT CQMI-'IUITIST D0MIMTI01\^ OP 

SOUTH VIETNMl 

APPRAISAL OF THE SITUATION 
• 
After meeting in Hanoi on 13 May 1959; the Central Com:Qiittee 
of the North Vietnamese Communist Party publicly announced its 
intention "to smash" the government of President Diem. Follow- 
ing this decision^ the Viet Cong have significantly inc3-eased 
their progrein of infiltration, subversion, sabotage and assas- 
sination designed to achieve this end. 

At the North Vietnamese Comiaujiist Party Congress in Septe^mber 
i960, the earlier declaration of underground war by the Party's 
Control Committee v/as reaffirmed. Tliis action 'bj the Party 
Congress took place oii'ly amonth after Kong Le's coup in Lp.os. 
Scarcely two months later there vTas a mllitai^f uprising in 
"Saigon. The t'ormoil created throughout the area by this rapid 
succession of events provides an ideal eirvironment for the Com- 
munist "master plan" to take over all of Southeast Asia. 

Since that time, as can be seen from the attached map, the 
. internal secuj'ity situation in South Vietnam has become critical - 
VJhat amounts to a state of active guerrilla vjs.rfare now exists 
throu^iout the country. The nuxaber of Viet Ccng I:.ard-core 
Communists has increased from J-S-UoO in early 190O to an estimated 
12^000 today. The number of violent incidents per month now 
averages 650. Casualties on both sides totaled more than U5OO 
during the first three months of this year. Fifty -eight percent 
of the coiaitry is under some degree of CommiJinist control^ rang- 
ing from harassment and night raids to almost complete adjiiinis- 
trative jurisdiction in the Communist "secure areas." 

The Viet Cong over the past two years have succeeded in 
stepping up the pace and intensity of their attacks to the point 
where South Vietnam is nearing the decisive phase in its battle 
for survival. If the situation continues to deteriorate, the 
Cominunists mil be able to press on to their strategic goal of 
establishing a rival "National Liberation Front" government in 
one of these "secuxe areas" thereby plunging the nation into 
open civil v/ar. They have publicly announced that they will 
"take over the country before the end of I90I." 



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This situation is thus critical,, but is not hopeless. The 
Vietnamese Government^ with American aid^ has increased its 
capabilities to fight its attackers^ and provides a base upon 
which the necessary additional effort can be founded to defeat 
the Communist attack. Should the Communist effort increase^ 
either directly or as a result of a collapse of Laosy additional 
measures beyond those proposed herein would be necessary. 

In shorty the situation in South Vietnam has reached the 
point where^ at least for the time being^? primary emphasis 
should be placed on providing a solution to the internal se- 
curity problem. 

The US Objective : To create a viable and increasingly demo- 
cratic society in South Vietnam and to prevent Communist domina- 
tion of the co-untry. 

Concept of Operations : To initiate on an accelerated basis^ 
a series of mutually supporting actions of a military^ political 
economic^ psychological and covert character designed to achieve 
this objective. In so doings it is intended to use^ and where 
appropriate extend^ expedite or build upon the existing US and 
Government of Vietnam (GVI^) programs already underway in South 
Vietnam. There is neither the time available nor any sound . 
justification for "starting from scratch." Rather the need is 
to focus the US effort in South Vietnam on the immediate internal 
security problem; to infuse it with a sense of urgency and a dedi- 
cation to the overall US objective; to achieve^ through coopera- 
tive inter- departmental support both in the field and in Washington^ 
the operational flexibility needed to apply the available US assets 
in a manner best calculated to achieve our objective in Vietnam; 
and^ finally^ to impress on our friends^ the Vietnamese^ and on our 
foes^ the Viet Cong^ that come what may^ the US intends to win this 
battle. 

The program that followed this strongly worded introduction was very 
modesty not merely compared to current US involvement^ but to the effort 
the US imdertook following the Taylor Mission in the fall. The program is 
essentially sjjnply a moderate acceleration of the CIP program approved in 
January^ with a great deal of stress on vigor^ enthusiasm^ and strong 
leadership in carrying out the programo 

In particular^ the program proposes no increase in the Vietnamese 
army^ and only a moderate (in hindsight, inconsequential) increase in the 
size of our MMG mission. The main military measures were for the US to 
pr.ovide financial support for the 20j000-man increase in the RVMF and to 
provide support for the full complement of counter- insurgency auxiliary 
forces (Civil Guard and Self -Defense Corps) planned by Diem. Both were 



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modest steps. For under the CIP we -were already planning to pay support 
costs for 150;,000 men of the RYEAF and 32^000 men of the Civil Guard o This 
Task Force proposal^ which had been urged for some weeks by MAAG in Saigon^ 
simply said that we would provide the same support for all the Vietnamese 
forces that we had already planned to provide for most of them. 

For the rest_j the Presidential Program in its final form^ issued 
May 19j turned out (after a great deal of stirring around) to be close to 
that proposed in the April 26 draft o 

Two comments are needed on this material. Firsts the program Lansdale 
and Gilpatric proposed was not so narrowly military as the repeated em- 
phasis on priority for the internal secirrity problem might suggest o Rather^ 
the emphasis was on stabilizing the countryside^j in contrast to pressing 
Diem on political and administrative reforms mainly of interest to Diem' s 
■urban criticSo This reflected both Lansdale' s judgments on counter- 
insurgency^ which look good in hindsight,, and his strongly pro-Diem 
orientation^ which looks much less goodo 

Second^ the reference to a communist "master plan" for Southeast Asia 
(and similar language is found in a number of other staff papers through 
the balance of I961) suggests a view of the situation which has been much 
criticized recently by men like Galbraith and Kennano Public comjnents by 
those who were closely involved (both those critical of policy since 19^5^ 
such as Sorenson and lillsrcis/a, and those supporting the Administration^ 
such as William Bundy) suggest a more sophisticated view of the problem. 
Here we simply note that the formal staff work available strongly supports 
Galbraith and Kennan_j although this does not necessarily imply that the 
senior members of the Administration shared the view that North Vietnam was 
operating (in the words of another staff paper) as the "implementing agent 
of Bloc policy" rather than in fairly conventional^ mainly non-ideological 
pursuit of its own national interests 8/ 

III. lANSDALE^S ROLE 

In his April 27 memorandum transmitting the Report to the President^ 
Gilpatric noted that: 

.o.in the short time available to the Task Force it was not 
possible to develop the program in complete detailo However^ 
there has been prepared a plan for mutually supporting actions 
of a political^j military^ economic _j psychological^ and covert 
character which can be refined periodically on the basis of 
further recommendations from the fields 

Toward this end^ Brigadier General EoG. Lansdale^ USAF^ who 
has been designated Operations Officer for the Task Force^ will 
proceed to Vietnam immediately after the program receives 



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Presidential approval. Following on the spot discussions 
with US and Vietnamese officials^ he \-i±ll forv/ard to the Director 
of the Tasli Porce specific recommendations for action in support 
of the attached program. 

This appears to have "been the high point of Lansdale's role in Vietnam 
policy. Lansdale hj this time had already sent (with Gilpatric^s approval) 
messages requesting various people to meet him in Saigon^ May 5- This is 
from a memorandiim he sent to Richard Bissell^ then still a Deputy Director 
of the CIA^ requesting the services of one of his colleagues from the 
1955 -195^ experience in Vietnam: 

I realize Redick is cornmitted to an important joh in Laos 
and that this is a difficult time in that trouble spot. I do 
feel^ however^ that we may ^^et save Vietnam and that our best 
effort should be put into it, 

Redick_, in my opinion^ is now so much a part of the iininhib- 
ited communications between President Diem and myself that it goes 
far beyond the qu.estion of having an interpreter. His particiaar 
facility for appreciating iny meaning in words and the thoughts 
of Diem in return is practically indispensable to me in the role 
I am assigned in seelring President Kennedy *s goal for Vietnam. 9/ 

But none of this \;as to be. Present files contain a thermofax of 
McNamara's copy of the mamorandujn Gilpatric sent to the President. In 
McNamara's handv/riting the words (Lansdale) "will proceed to Vietnam im- 
mediately" are changed to "will proceed to Vietnam when requested by the 
Aml:>assador." As we \fill see below^ when the Task Force Report was re- 
drafted the nezt week^ Lansdale 's key role disappears entirely^ at the 
request of the State Depajrtment, but presumably with the concurrence of 
the V/liite House. 

IV. KEIMSDY'S APRIL 29 DECISIONS 

Although our record is not clear, it appears that the cover memorandum 
was sent to the President as Gilpatric had signed it^ and that McNeinara's 
correction reflected a decision made after the paper vrent to the President, 
rather than a change in the language of the memo. In any event, at a 
meeting on April 29^ President Kennedy approved only the quite limited mili- 
tary proposals of the dra^ft report it transmitted. Decisions were deferred 
on the balance of the paper, which now included an annex Issued April 28 on 
much moz'e substantial additional military aid believed required by the 
situation in Lao&. The military measuj^es approved dur-ing this first go- 
around were: 

(1) Increase the I^IAAG as necessary to insure the effective im- 
plementation of the military portion of the program including 
the training of a 20,000-m3,n addition to the present GVN armed. 



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forces of 150^000o Initial appraisal of nev tasks assigned 
CHMMG indicates that approximately 100 additional military 
personnel will be required immediately in addition to the 
present complement of 685 o 

(2) Expand MAAG responsibilities to include authority to provide 
support and advice to the Self Defense Corps with a strength of 
approximately 40_j000o . 

(3) Authorize I^-lAP support for the entire Civil Guard Force of 
68^000o MAP support is now authorized for 32jOOOj the remaining 
36^000 are not now adequately trained and equipped o 

(h) Install as a matter of priority a radar s-arveillance capa- 
bility which will enable the GW to obtain warning of Communist 
over-flights being conducted for intelligence or clandestine air 
supply purposes o Initially^ this capability should be provided 
from US mobile radar capability. 

(5) Provide MP support for the Vietnamese JuJik Force as a means 
of preventing Viet Cong clandestine supply and infiltration into 
South Vietnam by water o MAP support^ which was not provided in 
the Counterinsurgency Plan^ will include training of junk crews 
in Vietnam or at US bases by US Navy personnelo lO/ 

The only substantial significance that can be read into these April 29 
decisions is that they signalled a willingness to go beyond the 685-man 
limit on the size of the US military mission in Saigon^ which,, if it were 
done openly^ would be the first formal breech of the Geneva Agreements.' 
For the rest; we were providing somewhat more generous support to the 
Vietnamese than proposed in the CIPo But the overall size of the Vietnamese 
forces would be no higher than those already approved. (The 20;000-man 
increase was already part of the CIP.) No one proposed in this initial 
draft that the Administration even consider sending American troops (other 
than the 100-odd additional advisors). It was not; by any interpretation^ 
a crisis response o 

Indeed; even if Kennedy had approved the whole April 26 program^ it 
would have seemed (in hindsight) most notable for the "come what may^ we 
intend to win" rhetoric in its introduction and for the supreme role 
granted to Task Force (and indirectly to Lansdale as its operations offi- 
cer) in control of Vietnam policy. Lansdale' s memoranda leave no real 
doubt that he saw the Report exactly that way -- which presujnably was why he 
made no effort to risk stirring up trouble by Dutting his more controversial 
views into the paper. For example^ although Lansdale believed the key new 
item in. Vietnam policy was a need for emphatic support for Diem; only the 
barest hint of this view appears in the paper (and it is not even hinted 
at in lansdale *s preliminary draft of the report distributed at the 
April 24th meeting of the Task Force) c ll/ 

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That is when this opening phase of the Task Force effort has to be 
separated from what followed. As just noted^ it was remarkable mainly 
for the strength of the commitment implied to South Vietnam^, which the 
President never did unambiguously endorse^ and for the organizational 
arrangement it proposed^ with the key role for Lansdale and Gilpatric_j 
which was eliminated from the later drafts, All of the factors behind the 
May reappraisal (cited at the beginning of this chapter) undoubtedly con- 
tributed to the decision to set up the Task Force. But Rostow's memoran- 
dum and the modest ditnensions of the resulting proposals suggest the main 
idea really was to sharpen up existing policy and its administration,; 
rather than to work out a new policy on the assumption that the existing 
program had become substantially obsolete. Immediately after April 27_, 
this changes. Although Gilpatric and Lansdale continued to head up the 
Task Force through the Presidential decisions of May 11^ their personal 
role became increasingly unimportant. The significance no longer was in 
putting new people in charge of a new style for running the program^ but 
in developing a new program that would offset the impact of Laos. 

V. THE LAOS ANKEX 

On April 28^ an annex had been issued to the basic report which went 
far beyond the modest military proposals in the original. The most 
reasonable assumption is that the annex was drawn up in response to 
ccmnents at the April 27 NSC meeting at which the Report was to have 
been consider ed_j but which turned out to be devoted to the by- then acute 
state of the crisis in laos. On the grounds that the neutralization of 
Laos would solidify communists de facto control of eastern Laos (inc3-uding 
the mountain passes which were the historic invasion route to southern 
Vietnam)^ the annex advocated U.S. support for a two-division increase in 
the RVNAF. To rapidly train these forces^ there was now a recommendation 
on U.S. manpower commitments that dwarfed the previous recommendation for 
a MAAG increase: specif ically^ a l600-man training team for each of the 
two new divisions^ plus a 400-man special forces contingent to speed up 
counter-insurgency training for the South Vietnamese forces: a total of 
3600 men; not counting the MAAG increase already authorized. 

It is interesting that in the annex this force increase (and the 
bulk of the U.S. troop commitment) was specifically justified as insur- 
ance against a conventional invasion of South Vietnam- Some earlier drafts 
show the evolution of this concept. There is an alternate draft^ appar- 
ently by Lansdale^j which was not used but which recommended a U.S. troop 
commitment as reassurance to the Vietnamese of U.S determination to stand 
by them. It did not recommend any increase in South Vietnamese forces. 
Instead; it stressed very heavily the damage to U.S. prestige and the 
credibility of our guarantees to other countries in Southeast Asia should 
we go through with the Laos settlement without taking some strong action 
to demonstrate that we were finally drawing a line in Southeast Asia. 



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Contrasting sharply vith Lansdale's draft was tlie first draft of the 
paper that was finally issuedo This vas by Gilpatric's military aide^ 
Colo EoFo Blacko It concludes that South Vietnamese forces would have to 
be increased by two divisions,, mainly to deal with threat of increased 
infiltration. Black stressed that the President would have to decide that 
the US would no longer be boimd by the limitations of the I95U Geneva 
Agreements (which Defense had long been lobbying against) o But his paper 
recommends no substantial troop commitment o The reference to the Geneva 
Agreem_ents apparently referred to a relatively modest increase in manpower 
beyond the 685-.man ceiling^ and to the introduction of new types of equip- 
ment not in Vietnam in 195^ • 

So the record contains three versions of the Annex -- Black's first 
drafts lansdale's alternate draft; and then Black's revised paper ^ which 
was finally isssued as the annex to the Reporto The effect of considering 
them all is an odd oneo The initial Black paper recommends an increase in 
Vietnamese forces to deal with the infiltration problem^ but no substantial 
US troop commitment. The Lansdale alternative recommends a substantial US 
troop commitment _5 but no increase in Vietnamese forces o The final paper 
recommends both the RVT^AE increase and the US troop commitments^ but changes 
the reason for each: the reason for the RVNAF increase became a need for 
better protection against overt invasion^ not an increased infiltration 
threat o And the reason for the US troop commitment became a desire to 
rapidly train the new Vietnamese troops^ not for political reassurance. 12/ 

If taken literally^ all of this implies an extraordinarily rapid 
series of reappraisals and reversals of judgment. But surely^ the only 
realistic interpretation is that in this case (because a series of rough 
drafts happens to be included in the available file) we are getting a 
glimpse at the way such staff paperwork really gets drafted^ as opposed 
to the much more orderly impression that is given if we saw only the finished 
products. Gilpatric (undoubtedly in consultation with at least McNajnara^ 
although the files do not show any record of this) was presvimably interested 
primarily in what recommendations to make to the President; and secondarily 
in providing a bureaucratically suitable rationale for those recommendations o 
.This rationale may^ or may not; have coincided with whatever more private 
explanation of the recommendations that McNamara or Gilpatric may have con- 
veyed to the President or people like McGeorge Bundy and Rostow on the 
White House staff « The lesson in thiS; which will not come as a surprise 
to anyone who has ever had contact with the policy-making process^ is that 
the rationales given in such pieces of paper (intended for fairly wide 
circulation among the bureaucracy; as opposed to tightly held memoranda 
limited to those closest to the decision-maker) do not reliably indicate 
why recommendatiohs were made the way they were., 

.VIo THE MAY 1 REVIEW 

Manwhile; Kennedy; as noted earlier; did not act on the annex at the 
April 29 meeting when he approved the much more modest military proposals 

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of the "basic Report, Biit on that day, there ras a cable alerting CIKCPAC 
to he ready to move 5000-men tas> forces to Udorn, Thailand, and to 
Toiiraine, (Da I^Iang), South Vietnam. Classified records available for this 
study do not explain this alert. But the public memoirs indirectly refer 
to it, and as vroi-ld be expected, the alert v/as intended as a threat to 
intervene in Laos if the communists failed to go through mth the cease 
fire which -W3.s to precede the Geneva Conference. Here is the cable: 



From: JCS 

TO: ClivTCPAG 

DTFO: CPMAAG VIMmTIAIIE 

CHJU3MAAG BM^^GKOK THAILMD 
Cm^-IAAG SAIGON VIETIl/U^ 



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JCS DA 995131 From JCS 



1. Req,u_est you prepare plans to move brigade size 
forces of approximately 5,000 each into Udorn or 
vicinity and into Tourane or vicinity. Forces 
should include all arms and appropriate air 
elements. Plans should be based sole.ly on US 
forces at this time. 

2. Decision to make these d.eplo;.'ments not f iim . 
It is expected that decision as to Thailand mil 
be made at meeting tentatively scheduled here on 
Monday. Decision regarding Vietnam will be even 
later due to consideration of Geneva Accords. 

3- It is hoped that these movements can be given 
SEATO cover but such possibility must be explored 
before becoming a firm element of your planning. 
State is taking action to explore this aspect. 

k. Decision was not repeat not reached today 
concerning implementation of SEATO Plan 5/6O. 

The crisis in Laos was now at its peak. According to Schlesinger 's 
account, reports reached Washington April 26 that the Pathet Lao were 
attacking strongly, \r±th the apparent intention of grabbing most of the 
country before the cease-fire went into effect. At 10 p.m. that night, 
the JCS sent out a "general advisorjr'-" to major comma^nds aroujid the world, 
and specifically alerted CINCPAC to be prepared to undertake airstrikes 
against North Vietnam, and possibly southern China. 

■ The next day -- the day the Task Force Report came to the President- 
there were prolonged crisis meetings in the vrnite Rouse. The President 
later called in Congressional leaders, who advised against putting troops 
into Laos. Schlesinger quotes Rostow as telling him the NSC meeting that 
day was "the worst White Plouse meeting he had ever attended in the entire 
Kenned^^ administration." 12a / 



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The I^os annex to the Gilpatric Report was issued on the 28th^ in an 
atmosphere wholly dominated by the crisis in Laos. On the 29th^ Kennedy's 
go-ahead on the Task Force's original military recommendations was squeezed 
into a day overwhelmingly devoted to Laos. This was the day of the cable^ 
just cited^ alerting CINCPAC for troop movements to Thailand and possibly 
Vietnam. The ''SEATO Plan 5/60" referred to in the closing paragraph of 
the cable was the plan for moving major units into Laos. 

On May 1 (the Monday meeting referred to in the cable )j Kennedy again 

deferred any decision on putting troops into Laos. According to available 

accoxints^ there is a strong sense by now (although no formal decision) 

that the U.S. would not go into Laos: that if the cease-fire f ailed; we 

would make a strong stand^ instead^ in Thailand and Vietnam. (On the 28th; 

in a speech to a Democratic dinner in Chicago^ the President had hinted 
at this: 

We are prepared to meet our obligations^ but we can only defend 
the freedom of those who are determined to be free themselves. 
We can assist them -- we will bear more than our share of the 
burden^ but we can only help those who are ready to bear their 
share of the burden themselves.) 13/ 

Reasonable qualifications^ undoubtedly^ but ones that seemed to suggest 
that intervention in I^os wou2d be futile.. On Sunday (the 30th); another 
hint came in remarks by Senator Pulbright on a TV interview show: he opposed 
intervention in LaoS; and said he was confident the government was seeking 
"another solution." 

So the decision anticipated Monday^ May 1; in the JCS cable to CINCPAC 
was not made that day after all. But that day a new draft of the Task 
Force Report was issued. It contained only one significant change (other 
than blending the April 28 annex into the basic paper). The original draft 
contained a paragraph (under "political objectives") recommending we 
"obtain the political agreement /presumably from the SEATO membership/ 
needed to permit the prompt implementation of SEATO contingency plans pro- 
viding for military intervention in South Vietnam should this become neces- 
sary to prevent the loss of the country to Communism." 

In the May 1 revision^ the following sentence was added to the para- 
graph: "The United States should be prepared to intervene unilaterally 
in fulfillment of its commitment under Article IV; 2. of Manila Pact; and 
shoiild make its determination to do so clear through appropriate public 
statements; diplomatic discussions; troop deployments; or other means." lA/ 
(The cited clause in the Manila (SEATO) Pact; which the paper did not quote^ 

If; in the opinion of any of the Parties; the inviolability 
or the integrity of the territory or the sovereignty or political 
independence of any Party in the treaty area or of any other State 
or territory to which the provisions of paragraph 1 of this 
Article from time to time apply is threatened in any way other 



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than by armed attack or is affected or threatened by any fact or 
situation which might endanger the peace of the area_j the Parties 
shall consult immediately in order to agree on the measures which 
should be taken for the common defense.) 

The May 1 draft also cleared up^ or papered over^ part of the con- 
fusion described earlier regarding the rationale for the military measures 
recommended in the Laos annex: the increased RTOAF force levels were 
attributed now both to concern over increased infiltration and to concern 
over overt invasion. But the US troop commitments are still described 
solely as for training^ with no mention of the original political rationale 

1~L1. STATE'S REDRAFT 

Lansdale circulated the May 1 draft among the Task Force_, with a note 
that comments should be in May 2^ with a final Task Force review schediiled 
the morning of May 3^ all in anticipation of an NSC meeting on the paper 
May 4. 

George Ball^ then Deputy Under Secretary of State^ asked to post- 
pone the meeting for a day. Lansdale sent Gilpatric a memorandum opposing 
the postponement. "it seems to me that George Ball could appoint someone 
to represent him at the meeting;, and if he has personal or further comments 
they could come to us later in the day at his convenience." But Gilpatric 
delayed the meeting a day^ and State produced a drastic revision of the 
paper. I5/ 

On the organizational issues^ the State draft was brutally clearcut. 
It proposed a new version of the Gilpatric memorandum transmitting the 
Report^j in which: 

1. The paragraph (quoted earlier) describing lansdale 's special 
role is deleted. 

2. A new paragraph is added to the end of the memorandum^ in ' 
which Gilpatric is made to say: "Having completed its assign- 
ment...! recommend that the present Task Force be now dis- 
solved." 

Later sections of the paper were revised accordingly^ giving respon- 
sibility for coordinating Vietnam policy to a new Task Force with George 
Ball as chairman, (in the final version^ the Task Force has a State 
Department director^ but no longer included Presidential appointees repre- 
senting their departments. The whole Task Force idea had been downgraded 
to a conventional interagency working group. Although it continued to 
function for several years^ there wi3.1 be little occasion to mention it 
again in this paper.) I6/ 

State's proposal on organization prevailed. From the record avail- 
able; the only thing that can be said definitely is that State objected; 



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successfully_5 to having an Ambassador report to a Task Force chaired by 
the Deputy Secretary of Defense^ and with a second defense official 
(Lansdale) as executive officer. There may have been more to it. ¥e 
know Lansdale 's experience and his approach to guerrilla warfare initially 
won him a good deal of favor at the ^^ite House. But his memoranda suggest 
that his ideas on a number of issues (support for Phoumi in Laos^ libera- 
tion of North Vietnam_j essentially unqualified support for Diem in South 
Vietnam) went well beyond what the Administration judged reasonable. So 
it is quite possible that the President would have had second thoughts on 
Lansdale^ aside from State's objections on bureaucratic grounds. 

In any event^ lansdale 's reaction to State's proposal on organization 
was to advise McNamara and Gilpatric that: 

My strong recommendation is that Defense stay completely out 
of the Task Force directorship as now proposed by State. . .Having 
a Defense officer^ myself or someone else^, placed in a position 
of only partial influence and of no decision permissibility 
would be only to provide State with a scapegoat to share the 
blame when we have a flop... The US past performance and theory 
of action^ which State apparently desires to continue^ simply 
offers no sound basis for winning^ as desired by President 
■ Kennedy. 17/ 

But the final version of tfye Task Force Report^ dated May 6^ followed very 
closely the State revision submitted May 3^ including the shift in control 
of the Task Force. 

VIII. WIDENING THE OPTIONS 

What is most striking about ;the revised drafts is that they excluded 
a tone of almost unqualified commitment to Vietnam_j yet on the really 
important issues included qualifications v/hich left the President a great 
deal of freedom to decide whatever he pleased v/ithout having to formally 
overrule the Task Force Report. 

For example^ the assertion (from the April draft) that the US should 
Impress on friend and foe that "come what may^ we intend to win" remained 
in the final paper. But this hortatory language is from the introduction; 
it described one of the effects the program in the balance of the paper 
was supposed to achieve_, but did not ask the President to do or say any- 
thing not spelled out in the body of the paper. (We will see_j when we 
come to the fall decisions^ that the wisdom of an unqualified commitment 
to save Vietnam 'from Conmiunism is treated afresh_j with no suggestion that 
any such decision had already been made in May.) 

On. the other hand^ the explicit recommendation in the Defense draft 
that we make clear our "determination. . .to intervene unilaterally. .. should 
this become necessary to save the country from communism..." was dropped, 
instead^ there is a recommendation for exploring a "new bilateral arrange- 



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ment" which might (the text is not explicit) extend to fighting the 
guerrilla s_; if that should become necessary to save the country^ but 
also might only cover overt Worth Vietnamese invasion. l8 / 

Further^ the need for these arrangements \ms now tied to the "loss", 
of Laos. The May 3 draft suggests ve "undertake military security ar- ' 
rangements which establish beyond doubt our intention to stand behind 
Vietnam's resistance to Communism.-." since "it is doubtful whether the 
Vietnaxaese Government can weather the pressures which are certain to be 
generated from the loss of Laos without prompt^ and dramatic support for 
its secujrity from the U.S." 19/ 



In the May 6 final drafts "establish beyond doubt" was toned down 
to "emphasize" and the flat reference to the loss of Laos was changed 
to "if Laos were lost." 20/ 

Similarly^ the recommendations on the two new South Vietnamese divi- 
sions^ and the two l600-man US combat units to train them was described as 
a firm recommendation in the military section of the May 3 draft (which 
State left untouched from the Defense version) ^ but were indirectly re- 
ferred to as something for study in State's re-drafted political section. 
In the final paper ^ they were still firm recommendations in a military 
annex^ but not in the main paper^ where Defense was only described as 
studying this and other uses for US troops short of direct commitment 
against the guerrillas. US troop coimuitments v^-ere no longer recommended^ 
only referred to as something "which might result from an E[SC decision 
following discussions between Vice President Johnson /whose mission to 
Asia had been announced May 5.7 snd President Diem." 2l/ 

Yet an interesting aspect of the State redraft is that^ although its 
main impact was to soften the commitments implied in the Defense draft_j a 
quick reading might give the contrary impression. We will see this same 
effect in the political sections to be discussed below. What seems to 
happen is that the very detail of the State treatment creates a strong 
impression^ even though the actual proposals are less drastic and more 
qualified than those proposed by Defense. The contrast is all the sharper 
because the Defense draft leaned the other way. Eor example^ the pro- 
foundly significant recommendation that the US commit itself to intervene 
unilaterally _j if necessary^ to prevent a Viet Cong victory in South Vietnam^ 
is tossed into the Defense version most casually;, with a reference to the 
Manila Treaty that makes it sound as if such a commitment^ in fact^ already 
existed. 

In contrast^ here is the State language referring to the proposed 
bilateral treaty (which in effect is a substitute for the Defense pro- 
;^osed -unlimited linilateral commitment): 

The Geneva Accords have" been totally inadequate in protecting 
South Vietnam against Communist infiltration and insurgency. 
Moreover^ with increased Communist success in Laos dramatic 



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US actions in stiffening up its physical support of Vietnam 
and the remainder of Southeast Asia may be needed to bolster 
the will to continue to resist the Communists. The inhibitions 
imposed on such action by certain parts of the Geneva Accords^ 
which have been violated with impunity by the Communists_j should 
not prevent our action* ¥e should consider joining with the 
Vietnamese in a clear-cut defensive alliance which might include 
stationing of US forces on Vietnamese soil. As a variant of this 
arrangement certain SEATO troops might also be employed. 

Bilateral military assistance by the United States pui'suant to a 
request by South Vietnam along the lines of that undertaken 
during 1958 in response to the request by Lebanon for military 
assistance^ would be in keeping with international law and treaty 
provisions. The provisions of the Geneva Accords of 195^; which 
prohibited the introduction of additional military arms and per- 
sonnel into Vietnam; would not be a bar to the measures contem- 
plated. The obvious^ large-scale and continuous violation of 
these provisions of the Geneva Accords by North Vietnam in intro- 
ducing large numbers of armed guerrillas into South Vietnam would 
justify the corresponding non-observance of these provisions by 
South Vietnam. Indeed^ authorization for changing PEO Isos into 
an ordinary MAAG was justified on this legal theory. It should 
be recognized that the foregoing proposals require careful and 
detailed consideration and preparation particularly with regard 
f ^ to the precise mansion of US forces used. 

In addition to the previously cited advantages such an action 
might have at least two other important political and military 
advantages: 

(a) It could release a portion of the ARVN from relatively 
static military functions to pursue the war against the insur- 
gents and 

(b) It would place the Sino- Soviet Bloc in the position of 
risking direct intervention in a situation where US forces were 
already in place_, accepting the consequence of such action. 
This is in direct contrast to the current situation in Laos. 

Alternatively^ there are several potential political and military 
disadvantages to such an action^ principal among these being: 

(a) Some of the neutrals^ notably India^ might well be 

, opposed; and the attitude of the UK and j^'rance is uncertain. 

(b) This would provide the Communists with a major propa- 
ganda opportunity. 

_ (c) The danger that a troop contribution would provoke a 

DRV/CPIICOM reaction with the risk of involving a signficant 



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commitment of US force in the Pacific to the Asian mainland <. 
The French tied up some 200^000 troops diiring the imsuccessfiil 
Indo -China effort. 

This might significantly weaken the Diem regime in the long run^j 
having in mind the parallel of Rhee in Korea. 22 / 

This language is not solely the State Department' So In a Gilpatric 
memo to be cited shortly^ we will see that the JCS^ for example,, had a 
hand in describing the role for US troops « Even so^ the overall effect 
of the draft^ as already noted^ tones down very drastically the commit- 
ment implied by the May 1 Defense version: 

lo The proposal is no longer for a unilateral^ -unlimited commit- 
ment to save Vietnam from communismo It only proposes consideration 
of a new treaty with South Vietnam (unlike the Defense draft which 
proposed reading a unilateral commitment into the existing Manila 
Treaty); and its purpose is to "bolster the will" of the South 
Vietnamese to resist the communists^j not (as the Defense draft appar- 
ently meant) to guarantee that the US would Join the war should the 
South Vietnamese effort prove inadequate., 

2o It gives pro and con arguments for sending US troops _, in con- 
trast to the Defense draft which included a flat recomjnendation to 
send at least the 360O men of the two division training teams and the 
special forces training teamo 

A reasonable judgment,, consequently^ is that State thought the Defense 
draft went too far in committing the US on Vietnam^ (And in view of the 
positions he would take in 196^^ George Ball's role as senior State repre- 
sentative on the Task Force obviously further encourages that interpreta- 
tiouo) But that is only a judgment. It is also possible to argue^ in 
contrast^ that perhaps State (or State plus whatever White House influence 
may have gone into the draft) simply was tidying up the Defense proposals: 
for example^j that the redrafters felt that a new bilateral treaty would be 
a- -fiiiner "ba.sis for a commitment to save Vietnam than would reliance on a 
reinterpretation of the SEATO Treaty, Similar arguments can be made on the 
other points noted above. 

Consequently^ on any question about the intent of the redrafters^ only 
a judgment and not a statement of fact can be provided. 

But on the question of the effect of the redraft^ a stronger statement 
can be made: for 'whatever the intent of the redrafters ^ the effect cer- 
tainly was to weaken the commitments implied by the Defense draft;, and 
leave the President a great deal of room for maneuver without having to 
explicitly overrule the recommendations presented to himo 



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IX. THE TROOP ISSUE 

To return to a question of judgement^ it is difficult to assess how 
far this gradual hedging of proposals for very strong coinmitraents to 
Vietnam simply reflected a desire (very probahly encouraged by the VJhite 
House) to leave the President freedom of action. To some extent it surely 
reflects a growing hope that perhaps the laos cease-fire would come off; 
the country would not be flatly lost; and consequently^ that the May 1 
Defense draft,, and even the May 3 State draft^ reflected a somewhat panicky 
overestimate of how far we needed to go to keep Southeast Asia from falling 
apart. The two motives obviously overlapped. 

There are indications that^ as late as May 5; "the estimate for saving 
something out of Laos remained bleak- On May h^ after a visit to the 
President^ Senator Fulbright (who had opposed intervention in Laos along 
with other Congressional leaders) announced from the steps of the White 
Hou^e that he would support troop commitments to Thailand and Vietnam. An 
I^SC meeting the following day (May 5) was devoted to discussing steps to 
reassure Vietnam and Thailand. Then in the afternoon^ the President 
announced Vice President Johnson's visit to Asia at a press conference^ 
which included this garbled exchange: 

Q. Mr. President^ there have been reports that you 
would be prepared to send American forces into South 
Vietnam if that became necessary to prevent Comjnu- 
nist domination of that country. Could you tell us 
whether that is correct^ and also anyt.hing else you 
have regarding plans for that country? 

A. Wellj we have had a group working in the govern- 
ment and we have had a Security Council meeting about 
■ the problems which are faced in Vietnam by the guerrillas 
and by the barrage which the present government is being 
subjected to. The problem of troops is a matter -- the 
matter of what we are going to do to assist Vietnam to 
obtain _/retain?7 its independence is a matter under con- 
sideration. There are a good many /issues_?7 which I 
think can most usefully wait until we have had consulta- 
tions with the government J which up to the present time 
— which will be one of the matters which Vice President 
Johnson will deal with; the problem of consultations with 
the Government of Vietnam as to what further steps could 
most usefully be taken. 23 / 

On May 8^ the reconstituted International Control Commission (estab- 
lished by the Geneva Agreement of 195^) arrived in laos^ hoping to 
supervise a cease-fire. The cease-fire had been agreed to in principle 
by both sides as early as May 1. The question was whether the Pathet Lao 



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would really stop advancing. Aside from American intervention^ a cease- 
fire was the only hope of the larger^ but less effective^ pro -Western 
forces led by Phoumi. Certainly hopes were higher by the 8th than they 
were a week earlier_, but this might not be saying much. The documentary 
record is atnbiguous. The final draft of the letter Vice President 
Johnson would deliver to Diem was dated May 8^ and in this letter Kennedy 
did not go much beyond the proposals in the April 27 version of the task 
force report. There was no mention of U.S. troop commitments_, nor of a 
bilateral, treaty. Even on the question of a further increase (beyond 
170^000) in the RWAP^ Kennedy promised Diem only that this will be "con- 
sidered carefully with you_j if developments should so warrant." 2h- l 

But the same day_j Gilpatric sent a memo to the JCS asking their views 
on U.S.' troops in Vietnam: 

. . In preparation for the possible commitment of U.S. 
forces to Vietnam_, it is desired that you give further 
review and study of the militaiy advisability of such 
action^ as well as to the size and composition of such 
U.S. forces. Your views^ which 1 hope could include 
some expression from CINCPAC^ would be valuable for 
consideration prior to the NSC meeting this week (cur- 
rently scheduled for Friday^ May 12). 25/ 

This in turn was based on .a statement in the May 6 Task Force draft^ 
which said that such a study was being carried out_j with particular con- 
sideration being given to deploying to South Vietnam 

> 

...two U.S. battle groups (with necessary command 
and logistics units) ^ plus an engineer ( construction - 
combat) battalion. These units would be located in the 
'high plateau' region^ remote from the major population 
center of Saigon -Cholon^ under the command of the Chief^ 
MAAG, To help accelerate the training of the G.V.N. 
anTiy_, they would establish two divisional field train- 
ing areas. The engineer battalion would undertake con- 
struction of roads^ air-landing strips and other 
facilities essential to the logistical support of the 
U.S. and Vietnamese forces there.. 



to 



The purpose of these forces (again_, from the May 6 draft) would be 

o . .provide ma:ximum psychological impact in deter- 
rence of further Comjnunlst aggression from North Vietnam^ 
China^ or the Soviet Union^ while rallying the morale of 
the Vietnamese and encouraging the support of SEATO and 
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"- release Vietnamese forces from advanced and static 
defense positions to permit their fuller coBimitment 
to counterinsurgency actions; 

— provide maximum training to approved Vietnamese 
forces; and 

— provide significant military resistance to poten- 
tial North Vietnam Communist and/or Chinese Com- 
munist action. 26/ 

The JCS reply ^ dated May 10, deferred details on the composition of 
U.S. forces, but quite emphatically recommended that we do send them, 
"assuming the political decision is to hold Southeast Asia outside the 
communist sphere." Here is the JCS memo: 

In considering the possible commitment of U.S. 
forces to South Vietnam, the Joint Chiefs of Staff 
have reviewed the overall critical situation in 
Southeast Asia with particular emphasis upon the 
present highly flammable situation in South Vietnam. 
In this connection the question, however, of South 
Vietnam should not be considered in isolation but 
rather in conjunction with Thailand and their over- 
all relationship to the security of Southeast Asia. 
The views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the ques- 
tion regarding the deployment of U.S. forces into 
Thailand were provided to you by JCSM-311-61, dated 
9 May 1961. . The current potentially dangerous mili- 
tary and political situation in Laos, of course, is 
the focal point in this area. Assuming that the 
political decision is to hold Southeast Asia outside 
the Communist sphere, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are 
of the opinion that U.S. forces should be deployed 
immediately to South Vietnam; such action should be 
taken primarily to prevent the Vietnamese from being 
subjected to the same situation as presently exists in 
Laos, which would then require deployment of U.S. 
forces into an already existing combat situation. 

In view of the foregoing, the Joint Chiefs of Staff 
recommend that the decision be made to deploy suitable 
U.S. forces to South Vietnam. Sufficient forces should 
be deployed to accomplish the following purposes: 

Provide a visible deterrent to potential Worth 
Vietnam and/or Chinese Communist action; 



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Release Vietnamese forces from advanced and 
static defense positions to permit their fuller com- 
mitment to counter insurgency actions; 

Assist in training the Vietnamese forces to the 
maximum extent possible consistent with their mission; 

Provide a nucleus for the support of any addi- 
tional U.S. or SEA.TO military operation in Southeast 
Asia; and 

Indicate the firmness of our intent to all 
Asian nations. 

In order to maintain U.S. flexibility in the Pacific, it 
is envisioned that some or all of the forces deployed to 
South Vietnam would come from the United States. The move- 
ment of these troops could be accomplished in an adminis- 
trative manner and thus not tax the limited lift capabilities 
of CINCPAC. 

In order to accomplish the foregoing the Joint Chiefs of 
Staff recommend that: 

President Diem be encouraged to request that the 
United States fulfill its SEATO obligation_, in view of 
the new threat now posed by the Laotian situation, by 
the immediate deployment of appropriate U.S. forces to 
South Vietnam; 

Upon receipt of this request, suitable forces 
could be immediately deployed to South Vietnam in order 
to accomplish the above-mentioned purpose. Details of 
size and composition of these forces must include the 
views of both CIITCPAC and CHMAAG which are not yet avail-. 
able. 27/ *■ . ■ - 

The NSC meeting that dealt with the Task Force Report was held the 
next day (the 11th, rather than the 12th as originally anticipated). The 
President avoided committing himself on the troop issue any further than 
he had already been committed by the time of his May 5 press conference. 
The resulting NSAM 52 (signed by McGeorge Bundy) states only that: 

The President directs full examination by the Defense 
Department under the guidance of the Director of the 



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continuing Task Force on Vietnam^ of the size and com- 
position of forces which would be desirable in the case 
■ of a possible commitment of U.S. forces to Vietnam." 28/ 
(The Task Force Director at this point referred to 
Sterling Cottrell, a Foreign Service Officer^ rather 
than to Gilpatric). 

So the President went no further^ really, than to take note of a 
study that was already well underway. The record does not help us judge 
what significance to attach to the qualification that the study be done 
under: the guidance of the State Department officer now heading the Task 
Force. 

On other issues relating to our military commitments the President 
again, with minor alterations, endorsed the proposals of the May 6 draft. 
On the question of a formal alliance with South Vietnam E-jA!! 52 reports 
that : 

' The Ambassador is authorized to begin negotiations 
looking toward a new bilateral arrangement with Vietnam, 
but no firm commitment will be made to such an arrange- 
ment without further review by the President. 

The President also "confirmed" the decisions quoted earlier accepting 
^ the April 27 military recommendations, and accepted the following further 
^^ recommendations (all from the May 6 report) "with the objective of meeting 

the increased security threat resulting from the new situation along the 

frontier between Laos and Vietnam." 

* 

1. Assist the G.V.N, armed forces to increase their border 
patrol and insurgency suppression capabilities by establishing 
an effective border intelligence and patrol system, by insti- 
tuting regular aerial surveillance over the entire frontier 
area, and by applying modern technological area-denial tech- 
niques to control the roads and trails along Vietnam^ s borders. 
A special staff element (approximately 6 U.S. personnel), to 
concentrate upon solutions to the unique problems of Vietnam's 
borders, will be activated in MAAG, Vietnam, to assist a 
similar special unit in the RVNAF which the GoV.N. will be en- 
couraged to establish; these two elements working as an inte- 

*■ ■ grated team will help the G.VoN. gain the support of nomadic 

■ tribes and other border inhabitants, as well as introduce 
j advanced techriiques and equipment to strengthen the security 

j of South Vietnam's frontiers. ■ ' 

2. Assist the G.V.N, to establish a Combat Development and , 
Test Center in South Vietnam to develop, with the help of 



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modern teclinology^ new techniques for use against the Viet . 
Cong forces (approximately 4 U.S. personnel). 

■ 

3. Assist the Go V.N. forces with healthy vrelfare and 

public work projects by providing U.S. Arm;^- civic action . ■■ 

mobile training teams^ coordinated with the similar civilian 
effort (approximately l4 U.S. personnel). 

4. Deploy a Special Forces Group (approximately 400 per- 
sonnel) to Mia Trang in order to accelerate G..V.N. Special 
Forces training. The first increment^ for immediate deploy- 
ment to Vietnara^ should be a Special Forces company (52 per- 
sonnel) . 

5. Instruct JCS, CINCPAC, and MAAG to undertake an assess- 
ment of the military utility of a further increase in the G.V.N. 
forces from 170,000 to 200,000 in order to create two new divi- 
sion equivalents for deployment to the northwest border region. 
The parallel political and fiscal implications should be 
assessed. 2£/ ■ ' . 

In general Kennedy did not seem to have committed the U.S., by these 
decisions, significantly further than the U.S. had already been committed 
by the President's public speeches and remarks at press conferences. In 
the expanded military aid program approved by the President, there was no 
item that comraitted the U.S. any further than we had gone in the case of 
Laos (that is, beyond providing advisors, materiel, and some covert com- 
bat assistance). 

A debatable exception was the decision to send 400 special forces 
troops to speed training of their South Vietnamese counterparts. The idea 
of sending some Green Berets antedates the Task Force effort. Rostow men- 
tioned it in his April 12 memo, quoted above. It can be argued whether it 
was really prudent to view this decision as separable from the "combat 
troops" issue (which also were being considered nominally, at least, for 
training, not necessarily combat). But obviously the President was sold on 
their going, and since ."the Vietnamese Special Forces were themselves sup- 
ported by CIA rather than the regular military aid program, it was possible. 
to handle these troops covertly. In any event, although there would even- 
tually be 1200 Green Berets in Vietnam (before the first commitment of U.S. 
combat units) they were apparently never cited as a precedent for or a 
commitment to a more overt role in the war. 

These, then, were the measures relating to military commitments under- 
taken as a result of the April/May review. The principal objective of these 
measures (together with the non-military elements of the program) as stated 
in the Task Force report, and formally adopted in the WSAM, was "to prevent 
Communist domination of Vietnam." There was no uncertainty about why these 



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steps were taken: quite aside from the Administration's strong feelings 
that ve had to deal with the challenge of wars of national liberation^ 
the program adopted seems quite minimal as a response to what was -- even 
after the cease-fire was confirmed — a serious setback in Laos. No one in 
the government^ and no one of substantial influence outside it^ questioned 
the need for some action to hold things together in Southeast Asia. 

For the fact was that our stake in Vietnam had increased because of 
what had been happening in Laos^ quite aside from anything that we did 
or said. Collapse in Vietnam would be worse after Laos than it might have 
seemed before. And to do nothing after Laos would not really have made 
the U.S. look better if Vietnam fell; it would only have increased the like- 
lihood both that that would happen^ and greatly increased the extent to which 
the U.S. (and within U.S. politics^ the Kennedy Administration) would be 
blamed for the collapse. 

The Laotian situation did not even provide_, then^ a precedent for 
seeking to settle the Vietnamese situation through the same coalition 
governraent route. Eor in Laos^ the pro-U.S. faction was plainly being 
defeated militarily in open battle despite a good deal of U.S. aid. The 
only U.S. alternative to accepting the coalition solution was to take over 
the war ourselves. Further^ there was a strong neutralist faction in Laos_, 
which could provide a premier for the government and at least a veneer of 
hope that the settlement might be something more than a face-saving way of 
handing the country over to the communist faction, 

Neither of these conditions held for Vietnam^ aside from, all the other 
factors reviewed in the introduction to this paper which left the Adminis- 
tration no realistic option in the neutralist direction^ even assuming that 
there was any temptation at that time to move in that direction. To have • ■ 
simply given up on Vietnam at that pointy before any major effort had been 
attempted to at least see if the situation could be saved at reasonable cost^ 
seems to have been^ even with the hindsight we now have^ essentially out of 
the question. 

That is why_, in the context of the time^ the commitments Kennedy 
actually made seem like a near -minimal response which avoided any real deep- 
ening of our stake in Vietnam. ... 

There is far more of a problem with the things that we decided to talk: 
about (troops_, and a formal treaty with Vietnam) than with the measures 
Kennedy fully endorsed. Certainly putting troops into Vietnam would in- 
crease our stake in the outcome^ rather than merely help protect the stake 
we already had. So^ surely^ would a formal treaty^ even if the treaty nomi- 
nally required U.S. support only in the case of overt invasion. How much 
so would depend on the nature of the troop commitments and the nature of the 
treaty. But^ as we will see in the next chapter (in reviewing Vice President- 
Johnson's visit) Diem turned out to want neither troops nor a treaty for the 
time being. And so these issues were deferred until the fall. 

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Aside from questions relating to our commitments to Vietnam, there 
vere also the parallel questions relating to our commitment, if any, to 
Diem. As noted in the introduction, discussions about Vietnam always 
had this dual aspect, and this part of the problem was treated with in- 
creasing explicitness as time went on (and as the Administration got to know 
Diem better). In the CIP, it was treated essentially by implication. 
In the Gilpatric/Lansdale draft of April 26, it was also handled that 
way: no explicit statement of a change in our relations with Diem was 
offered, although by implication it was there. 

■ 

¥here the CIP (by implication) saw our increased aid as contingent 
on Diem's performance, the April 26 program left out any suggestion of 
a quid pro quo. To the contrary, it simply states that "those portions 
of the plan which are agreed to by the G.V.II. will be implemented as 
rapidly as possible." 

And where the CIP saw Diem's government as our best hope "at the 
present time" this note of limited commitment to Diem is dropped^^in the 
April 26 draft. Instead we have a bland statement that we will "assist 
the GVl^ under President Diem to develop within the country the ■^^^idest 
consensus of public support for a government dedicated to resisting com- 
munist domination." /^einphasis added/" 30/ 

The May 3 State draft and the May 6 final draft dealt with this issue 
much as they had with the questions of militaiy commitm.ents : that is, 
these did not so much conspicuously weaken the proposals of the Gilpatric/ 
Lansdale version, as to qualify and elaborate on them in ways that in 
effect (again, we cannot make a statement on intent) left the President 
a ready option to reconsider his position. State explicitly asserted that 
we were changing our policy on Diem, and spelled out some reasons for 
doing so. 

Here are some extracts from the May 6 final draft; (the language is 
essentially the same in the May 3 draft). 

*...we must continue to work through the present 
Vietnamese government despite its acknowledged weakness. 
Wo other remotely feasible alternative exists at this 
point in time which does not involve an unacceptable 
■ degree of risk... Diem is not now fully confident of 
United States support. This confidence has been under- 
mined partly by our vigorous efforts to get him to mend 
his waySj and partly by the equivocal attitude he is ■ 
convinced we took at the time of the I^ovember 11, I96O, 
attempted coup. It is essential that President Diem's 
full confidence in and comiTiuni cation with the United 
States be restored promptly. . .Given Diem's personality 
and character and the abrasive nature of our recent 



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relationships^ success or fai3.ure in this regard vill 
depend very heavily on Ambassador Nolting's ability to 
get on the sam^ wavelength vith Diem... 

The chief threat to the viability of President Diem's 
administration is_j without a doubt^ the fact of communist 
insurgency and the government's inability to protect its 
ovm people. Thus military measures must have the highest 
priority. There is^ nevertheless^, strong discontent \rith 
the government among not only the elite but among peas- 
I ants^ labor^ and business. Criticism focuses on the 

dynastic aspects of the Diem rule^ on its clandestine' 
political apparatus^ and on the methods through which the 
President exercises his leadership. This is aggravated 
by Communist attempts to discredit the President and 
weaken his government's authority. All this is made the 
easier because of a communications void existing between 
the government and the people. For many months United 
States efforts have been directed toward persuading Diem 
to adopt political^ social^ and economic changes designed 
. to correct this serious defect. Majiy of these changes 

I are included in the Coujiterinsurgency Plan. Our success 

" has been only partial. There are those who consider that 

Diem will not succeed in the battle to win men's minds in 
Vietnam. 



Thus in giving priority emphasis to the need for in- 
ternal security^ we must not relax in our efforts to per- 
suade Diem "of the need for political social and economic 
progress. If his efforts are inadequate in this field 
our overall objective could be seriously endangered and 
we might once more find ourselves in the position of shor- 
ing a leader who had lost the support of his people. 3l/ 

. Although the paper expresses the hope that through "very astute deal- 
ings" ("a combination of positive inducements plus points at which discreet 
pressure can be exercised") Diem could be successfully worked with^ the net 
effect of the State draft is hardly enthusiastic. The paper tells the 
President that his Task Force "believes" that the policy will work. But it 
is a large order: for the aijn had been referred to as nothing less than 
"a major alteration in the present goverrmient structure or in its objectives." 

In effect^ t-he silence on Diem in the Gilpatric/lansdale draft was re- 
placed by a detailed statement which^ in the course of reaffirming the need 
to take prompt steps to show confidence in Diem^ nevertheless leaves the 
strong impression that we really did not have much confidence in him at all. 
Support- for Diem became tactical: based explicitly on the hope that he 
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be terribly risky in the aftennath of Laos^ even if the U.S. had someone 
to overthrow him with. Further^ although the paper explicitly conceded 
first priority to military needs ^ there was a strong argument that mili- 
tary efforts alone mil not be enough. 

It vas apparently this equivocal attitude toward Diem (aside from 
any personal considerations) that led to Lansdale's prediction that State 
could never "vin this battle." Thus in the main paper of the May 6 draft 
the general political objective was stated as: 

Develop political and economic conditions which will 
create a solid and widespread support among the key polit.- .. 
ical groups and the general population for a Vietnam which 
has the "VTill to resist Communist encroachment and which in 
turn stems from a stake in a freer and more democratic 
society. 32/ ■ . 

Lansdale^ in a pencilled comment to Gilpatric^ complained: 

The elected President of Vietnam is ignored in this 
statement as the base to build upon in countering the 
communists. This will have the U.S. pitted against Diem 
as first priority^ the communists as second. 3 , 3/ 

Nevertheless^ it seems that the May program went a very long vray in 
Lansdale's preferred direction: although the U.S. was expanding its con- 
tribution to the Vietnamese effort it was no longer asking for any quid 
pro qu£. The U.S. envisioned "discreet pressure" but certainly not^ for 
then anyway, any hint of withholding aid. The U.S. flatly asserted that it 
saw no "remotely acceptable alternative to Diem/' for the time being, any 
way. The U.S. thought it vital that Diem do better, but increasing his 
confidence in the U.S. had top priority. The strongest guidance given the 
new Ambassador was to "get on Diem's wavelength." 3^/ 

More of this tentative adoption of the Lansdale approach can be seen 
in the discussion of Vice President Johnson's trip (from the May 6 draft): 

The Vice President's visit will provide the added 
incentive needed to give the GYE the motivation and con- 
fidence it needs to carry on the struggle. We believe 
that meetings between the Vice President and President 
Diem \rill act as a catalytic agent to produce broad 
■agreement on the need for accelerated joint Vietnamese - 
U.S. actions to resist Communist encrcachment in SEA. 
These meetings will also serve to get across to Presi- 
dent Diem our confidence in him as a ma'n of gi'eat stature 
and as one of the strong figures in SEA on whom we are 
placing our reliance. At the same time, these confer- 
ences should impress Diem with the degree of importance 

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we attach to certain political and economic reforms 
in Vietnam vhich are an essential element in frus- 
trating Commianist encroachments. Recognizing the 
difficulties we have had in the past in persuading 
Diem to take effective action on such reforms_, as 
specific an understanding as possible should be 
solicited from Diem on this point. 

It was this sort of guidance (plus_, perhaps_, a memo from Lansdale 
describing President Diem in terms that bear comparison with those 
Jack Valenti would later use in connection with another President) that 
accounts for Johnson's famous reference to Diem as the Churchill of 
Asia. 3^/ 

In sum^ what emerges from the final version of the report- is" a sense 
that the U.S. had decided to take a crack at the Lansdale approach of 
trying to win Diem over with a strong display of personal confidence in 
him. "What does not emerge is any strong sense that the Admiini strati on 
believed this new approach really had much hope of working^ but undoubt- 
edly this pessimistic reading is influence by the hindsight now available. 
The drafters of the paper very probably saw themselves as hedging against 
the possible failure of the policy _, rather than implying that it probably 
would not work. 

If we go beyond the paperwork^ and ask what judgments might "be ms-xle 
about the intent of the senior decision -makers^ and particularly the 
President^ it seems that here_, even more than in connection with the mili- 
tary commitments discussed earlier^ the Administration adopted a course 
which^ whether in hindsight the wisest available or not^ probably seemed 
to have no practical alternative. 

Presumably the top level of the Administration believed there was at'' 
least some chance that the new policy toward Diem might produce useful 
results. ■ - ■ 

But even to the extent this prospect seemed dim^ there were political 
advantages (or at least political risks avoided) in giving this plan a try^ 
and there must not have seemed (as even now there does not seem) to have 
been much cost in doing so. • . ■ 

Finally^ whatever the President thought of the prospects and political 
advantages of this approach to Diem^ it might have been hard at that time 
to see any drastically different alternative anyway. After all^ the heart 
of the Laos embairassment was that the U.S. was ("vrith some face-saving 
cover) dropping an anti -communist leader who had come into power with the 
indispensable assistance of the U.S. This dropping of Phoumi in Laos in 
favor of support for the neutralist government Phoumi had overthrown mth 
U.S. encouragement and assistance remained an essential part of whatever 
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nov trying to reassure other governments in Southeast Asia. Was it pos- 
sible to carry out this reassurance while threatening Diem^ another . 
anti-Gornrtiunist leader totally dependent on" U.S. support^ -with withdrawal 
of our support (our only available form of pressure) unless he reformed 
himself accordin£, to U.S. prescription? Was this a prudent time to risk 
a coup in South Vietnam^ which was the widely predicted effect of any 
show of lack of confidence in Diem? 

It is obviously impossible for us to strike a balance among these 
reasons (or perhaps some others) why the decisions were made the way 
they were. More interesting^ though^ is that it seems to have been un- 
necessary for even the decision -maker himself to strike such a balance. 
For it seems that whatever his view, the policy of trying to reassure 
Diem (rather than pressure him, or dissociating from him) seemed like a 
sensible tactic for the moment, and very possible the only sensible 
tactic for that particular moment. 



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IV. B. FROM MY TO SEPTEi\IBE Fv 

CMPTE'R IV 

At the end of September^ Admiral Harry Felt, Commander-in-Chief of 
U.S. forces in the Pacific , stopped off in Saigon on his way to a SEATO 
meeting in Bangkok. Felt, Ambassador Nolting, and several of their 
senior aides met with Diem at Independence Palace, on the evening of 
the 2Sth, According to Kolting's cable the following day: 

In course of long discussion. . .Diem pointed the questiono 
He asked for a bilateral defense treaty with the U<S. This 
rather Isxge 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 in- 
tended. . . ]_/ 

Although the available record does not explicitly say so, this re- 
quest presumably triggered the intensive attention to Vietnajii planning 
that began early in October (bolting's cable arrived October l) and led 
to the decision on the 11th to send the Taylor Mission. 

- The balance of this chapter reviews the me.jor developments between 
the Presidential decisions on the Task Force Report (May ll) and the 
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The available record tells us almost nothing about the Vice 
President's visit to Saigon beyond what is described in the public 
memoirs. We know from Kolting's cables that Johnson brought up the 
possibility of U.S. troops in Vietnam and of a bilateral treaty after 
Diem (in an after-dinner conversation) began to talk about the problems 
the.t eormunist gains in Laos would create for him. We know that Diem 
replied that he wanted U.S. combat troops only in the event of open 
invasion and that he also did not show interest in a treaty^ 2/ 

But we do not know what, if anything, Johnson was authorized to say 
if Diem ho.d reacted affirmatively. And this could have ranged any^'fhere 
from attempting to discourage Diem if he did show interest, to offering 
some specific proposal and timetable o l^o strong inference can be drawn 
from the fact that Johnson, rather than Diem, raised the issue. Even if 
the President xhad decided against ms-king troop commitments to Vietnam 
at that time, there would have been nothing outrageous about instructing 
Johnson to refer to such a possibility once Diem began to talk about 
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mission vas to reassure Diem and other Asian leaders^ that the U.S. could, 
despite Laos^ he counted on in Asia. Simply reading the American news- 
papers would have told Diem that at least as of May 5? the Administration 
was seriously considering sending American troops to Vietnam, and that 
Johnson was expected to discuss this with Diem. A quite reasonable 
tactical Judgment would have heen that nothing would have "been more 
likely to make Diem ask for U.S. troops than for Johnson to remain 
eerily silent on this issue. 

Consequently, on the record available, we cen do no more than guess 
what would have happened if Diem reacted affirmatively at the time of 
Jolinson's visit. The m-ost reasonable guess is probably that the Taylor 
Mission, or something equivalent, would have been undertaken in the 
spring, rather than in the fall, and nothing very much would have been 
different in the long run. But that is only a reasonable guess. 

For the rest, here are some extracts from a "report Johnson \?rote 
after his return. Essentially, Johnson argued for prompt moves by^the 
U.S. to shov; support for non-communist governments in Southeast Asia. 
He had in mind expanded conventional military and economic aid, and 
perhaps a new treaty to replace SEATO. But despite the shock of U.S. 
willingness to accept a coalition government in Laos, Johnson reported 
that U.S. troops were neither desired nor required. And although this 
might not always be the case, Johnson recommended that the U.S. must 
remain master of this decision." 3/ 

The Im pact of L aos ■ 

There is no mistaking the deep - and long lasting - impact 
of recent developments in Laos. 

Country to country, the degree differs but Laos has created 
doubt and concern about intentions of the United Sta,tes through- 
out Southeast Asia. No amount. of success at Geneva can, of 
itself, erase this^ The independent Asians do not wish to have 
their own status resolved in like manner in Geneva. 

Leaders such as Diem, Chiang, Sarit and Ayub more or less 
accept that we are making "the best of a bad bargain" at 
Geneva. Their charity extends no farther « 

■ The Impact of the Mission 

Beyond question, your judgexaent about the timing of our 
mission was correct. Each leader -- except I^Iehru -- publicly 
congratulated you on the "timing" of this mission. Chiang 
said -- and all others privately concurred -- that the mission 
had the effect of "stabilizing" the situation in the Southeast 
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What happened, I believe, was this: the leaders visited 
want -" as long as they can -~ to remain as friends or allies 
of the United States, The public, or, more precisely, the 
political, reaction to Laos had drastically wesiiened the 
ability to maintain any strongly pro-US orientation. Neu- 
tralism in Thailand, collapse in Vietnam, ant i -.American election 
dema^oguery in the Philippines vere all developing prior to our 
visit. The show of strength and sincerity -- partly because 
you had sent the Vice President and partly, to a greater extent 
than you may believe, because you had sent your sister — gave 
the friendly leaders something to "hang their hats on" for a 
while longer • 

O-or mission arrested the decline of confidence in the United 
States c It did not -^ in my judgment -- restore any confidence 
already losto The leaders were as explicit, - as courteous and 
courtly as men could 'be in malting it clear that deeds must follow 
words -- soon 



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V7e didn't buy time ' -- we were given it. . 

If these men I savr at your request were bankers, I would 
know -" without bothering, to ask -- that there would be no 
further extensions on my note. ■ ■ 

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The Importance of Follow-Through 

I cannot stress too strongly the extreme importance of 
following up this mission with other measures, other actions, 
and other efforts. At the moment -- because of Laos -- these 
nations are hyjoer sensitive to the possibility of American 
hypocrisy toward Asiac Considering the Vienna talks with 
Khrushchev -- which, to the Asian mind, emphasi2;e Western rather 
than Asian concerns -- and considering the negeitive line of 
various dom_estic American editorials about this mission, I 
strongly believe it is of first importance that this trip bear 
fruit irmiiedi3.telyo 

Personal Conclusions from the Mission 

I took to Southeast Asia some basic convictions about the 
problems faced there. I have come away from the mission there 
-" and to India 8n.d Pakistaji -- with many of those convictions 
sharpened and deepened by what I saw ajid learned. I have also 
reached certain other conclusions which I believe may be of 
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These conclusions are as follows: 

lo The battle against Corarnunism must be joined in Southeast 
Asia with strength and determination to achieve success 
there --^ or the United States ^ inevitably, must surrender 
the Pacific and take up our defenses on our* own shores o 
Asian Communism is compromised and contained by the main- 
tenance of free nations on the subcontinents Without this 
inhibitory influence , the island outposts -- Philippines ^ 
Japan^ Taiwan -- have no security and the vast Pacific 
becomes a Red Sea. 

2. The struggle is far from lost in Southeast Asia and it is 
by no means inevitable that it must be lost. In each 
country it is possible to build a sound structure capable 
of withstajiding and turning the Communist sujrge. The will 
to resist -- while now the taxget of subversive atfeck -- 
is there. The key to i/hat is done by Asians in defense of 
Southeast Asian freedom is confidence in the United States. 

3. There is no alternative to United States leadership in 
Southeast Asia. Leadership in individual countries — or 
the regional leadership and cooperation so appealing to 
Asians -- rests on the knowledge and faith in United 
States power 5 will and understanding. 

4. SEATO is not now and probably never will be the answer 
^ because of British and French unwillingness to support 

decisive action. Asian distrust of the British and Trench. 
is ^ outspoken. Success at Geneva would prolong SEATO 's role. 
Failure at Geneva would terminate SEATO ^s meaningfulness. 
In the latter event , vre must be ready with a new approach 
to collective security in the area. 

We should consider an alliance of all the free nations of 
the Ps.ciflc and Asia who are willing to join forces in defense 
of their freedom. Such an organization should: 

a) have a clear-cut command authority 

b) also devote attention to measures and programs of 
social justice, housing , land reform, etCc 

5. Asian leaders --. at this time -- do not want American troops 
involved in Southeast Asia other than on training missions. 

. Ajmerican combat troop involvement is not only not required, 
it is not desirable. Possibly Americans ~- fail to appre- 
ciate fully the subtlety that recently-colonial peoples 
would not look with favor upon governments which invited 
or accepted the return this soon of Western troops. To 

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J . the extent that feax of gro-und troop involvement dominates 

■■ our political responses to Asia in Congress or elsewhere, 
it seems most desirable to me to allay those paralyzing 
fears in coni'idence, on the strength of the individual * 
statements made by leaders consulted on this trip. This 
does not minimir.e or disregard the probability that open 
attack would bring calls for U.S. combat troops. But the 
present probability of open attack seems scanty and vre might 
gain much needed flexibility in our policies if the spectre 

II ' of combat troop commitment could be lessened domestically. 

6. Any help -- economic as well as military -™ we give less 
developed nations to secure and maintain their freedom must 
be a part of a mutual effort. These nations cannot be saved 
by ^ United States help alone c To the e>cbent the Southeast 
Asian nations are prep8jred to -take the necessary measur^es to 
make our aid effective^ we can be -- and must be — unstint- 
ing in oua- assistance. It would be useful to enuncia^te more 
cle8J:^ly than we have -» for the guidance of these young and 
■unsoiDhisticated nations -» what we expect or require of theme 

7. In large measure^ the greatest -danger Southeast Asia offers 
to nations like the United States is not the momentary threat 
of Communism itself, rather that danger stems from hunger , 
ignorance 5 poverty and disease o We must -- whatever strate- 
gies we evolve "-- keep these enemies the point of our attack, 
and make imaginative use of our scientific and technological 
capability in such enterprises. 

8. Vietnam and Thailand are the imm-ediate-and most important- 
trouble spots, critical to the UcS. These areas require the 
attention of our very best talents -- under the very closest 
Washington direction -- on matters economic, military and 
politicalc 

The basic decision in Southeast Asia is here. We must decide 
whether to help these countries to the best of our ability or 
throw in the towel in the area and pull back our defenses to 
San Francisco ajid [a/J "Fortress America" concept. More important, 
we would say to the world in this case that we don't live up to 
treaties and don't stand by our friends. This is not my concept. 
I recommend that we move forward promptly with a major effort to 
help these countries defend themselves. I consider the key here 
is to get otor best M\AG people to control, plan, direct and exact 
results from our military aid programo In Vietnam and Thailand, 
- , we must move forward together. "^ 

a. In Vietnam,' Diem is a complex figure beset by many 
problems. He has admirable qualities, but he is remote from the 



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people, is siirrovmded "by persoiis less admirable and capable than 
he. The country can be saved -- if we move quickly and wisely. 
We must decide whether to support Diem -- or let Vietnam fallo 
We must have coordination of purpose in our country team^ diplo- 
matic and military. The Saigon Embassy^ USIS, ViAAG and related 
operations leave much to be desired » They should be brought up 
to maximum efficiency o The most im-portant thing is imaginative, 
creative^ Ajnerican management of our military aid program. The 
Vietnamese and our VAP.G estirricite that $50 million of U.S. mili- 
tary and economic assistajice will be needed if we decide to 
support Vietnam. This is the best information available to us 
at the present time and if it is confirmed by the best Washington 
militaa-y judgment it should be supported. Since you proposed 
and Diem agreed to a joint economic mission, it should be ap- 
pointed 3..nd proceed forthvrith. 

■ 

b. In Thailand, the Thais and our own ¥u\^.G estimate 
probably as much is needed as in Vietnam -- about $50 million 
of military and economic assistance c Again, should our best 
military judgoaent concur, I believe we should support such a 
progrsm. Sarit is m-ore strongly and sta.unchly pro-Western than 
many of his people. He is and must be deeply concerned at the 
consequence to his country of a communist -controlled Laos. If 
Sarit is to stand fi3:m against neutralism, he must have — soon 
"" concrete evidence to show his people of United States military 
and economic support. He believes that his armed forces should 
be increased to 150,000. His Defense Minister is coming to 
Washington to discuss aid matters. 

■X- -X- -x- * 

To recapitulate, these are the main impressions I have brought 
back from my trip. 

The fundamental decision required of the United States -- and 
time is of the greatest importance — is whether we are to attempt 
to meet the challenge of Communist expansion now in Southeast Asia 
by a major effort in support of the forces of freedom in the area, 
or throw in the towel. This decision must be made in a full reali- 
zation of the very hea.vy and continuing costs involved in terms of 
money, of effort and of United States prestige. It must be made 
with the knowledge that at some point we may be faced with the 
further decision of whether we commit major United States forces 
to the area or cut our losses and withdraw should our other efforts 
fail. We must reDiain master in this decisiono What we do in 
Southeast Asia should be part of a rarbional program to meet the 
threat we face in the region as a wholec It should include a 
clear-cut pattern of specific contributions to be expected by each 
partner according to his ability and resources. I recommend we 
proceed with a clear-cut and strong progrsaa of e^ction. 

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II. DIEM'S JUNE LETTER 

Daring his visit Johnson^ on behalf of Kennedy^ invited Diem to 
prepare a set of proposals on South Vietnamese military needs for 
consideration by Tfashington, In a letter May 15_, Diem told Kennedy 
that the definitive study would be ready in a few weeks „ (He appre- 
ciated this invitation^ Diem told Kennedy^ "particularly because we 
have not become accustomed to being asked for our own views on our 
needs.)" 

On June 9^ Diem signed the promised letter. It was carried to 
Washington by a key Diem aide (Nguyen Dinh Thuan) and delivered on the 
l4th, (Thuan played a key role on the Vietnamese side throughout I961, 
He was the man Durbrow^ in the cable quoted in full earlier^ suspected 
was the only cabinet member Diem had told about the GIF. In a memo to 
Gilpatric^ Lansdale described him as Diem's "Secretary of Security^ 
Defense^ Interior^ etCo") k/ 

* 

In the letter^ Diem proposed an increase in the RVNAE to 270^000 
men^ or to double the 150^000 strength authorized at the start of 1961^ 
and 100^000 men more than envisioned under the GIF. That was a large 
request: for up until the end of April^ the U.S. and South Vietnamese 
were still haggling over the go-ahead for a 20^ 000- man increase. Fur- 
ther^ Diem made it clear that he saw this force requirement as a sem.i- 
permanent increase in South Vietnamese strength^ which would continue 
to be needed even should he eliminate the Viet Cong. 

Here are some extracts from Diem^s letter: 

■ 

/The/ situation... has become very much more perilous follow- 
ing the events in Laos^ the more and more equivocal attitude 
of Cambodia and the intensification of the activities of 
aggression of international communism, which wants to take the 
maximum advantage to accelerate the conquest of Southeast 
Asiao It is apparent that one of the major obstacles to the 
communist expansion on this area of the globe is Free Viet- 
nam because with your firm support^ we are resolved to oppose 
:* ' ■ ■ it with all our energies. Consequently^ now and henceforth^ 

we constitute the first target for the communists to overthrow 
at any cost. The enormous accumulation of Russian war mate- 
rial in North Vietnam is aimed^ in the judgment of foreign 
observers^ more at South Vietnam than at Laos. We clearly 
realize this dangerous situation but I want to reiterate to 
you here^ in my personal name and in the name of the entire 
Vietnamese people^ our indomitab3-e will to win. 

On the second of May^ my council of generals met to evaluate 
the current situation and to determine the needs of the 
Republic of Vietnam to meet this situation. Their objective 



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evaluation shows that the military situation at present 
is to the advantage of the communists and that most of 
the Vietnamese Armed Forces are already comjnitted to in- 
ternal security and the protection of our 12 million 
inhabitants o For many months the communist-inspired 
fratricidal war has talien nearly one thousand casualties 
a month on both sides, Doc-uments obtained in a recent 
operation^ along route NOo 9 which runs from Laos to 
Vietnam^ contain definite proof that 2^860 aiTned agents 
have infiltrated among us in the course of the last four 
months. it is certain that this number rises each day. 
However^ the Vietnamese people are showing the world that 
they are willing to fight and die for their freedom, not 
withstanding the temptations to neutralism and its false 
promises of peace being drutmiied into their ears daily by 
the communists o 

In the light of this situation, the council of generals 
concluded that additional forces numbering slightly over 
100,000 more than our new force level of 170,000 will be 
required to counter the ominous threat of communist domi- 
nation. . . 



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After considering the recommendations of our generals and 
consulting with our American military advisors, we now 
conclude that to provide even minimum initial resistance 
to the threat, two new divisions of approximately 10,000 
strength each are required to be activated at the earliest- 
possible date. Our lightly held defensive positions along 
the demilitarized zone at our Northern border is even 
today being outflanked by communist forces which have 
defeated the Royal Laotian Army garrisons in Tchepone and 
other cities in Southern Laos. Our ARVK forces are so 
thoroughly committed to internal anti -guerrilla operations 
that we have no effective forces with which to counter this 
threat from Southern Laos. Thus, we need' immediately one 
division for the First Army Coi-ps and one for the Second 
Army Corps to provide at least some token resistance to the 
sizeable forces the communists are capable of bringing to 
bear against our Laotian frontier. Failing this, v^e would 
have no recourse but to withdraw our forces southward from 
the demilitarized zone and sacrifice progressively greater 



f V 



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Diem's number implies an infiltration rate about \ times as high 
as that estimated by U.S. intelligence in I961, and twice as high 
as the hindsight revised I961 estimates now in use^ 



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areas of our country to the coimnimists. These divisions 
should he mobilized and equipped^ together vith initial 
logistic support units^ immediately after completion of 
activation of the presently contemplated increase of 20^000 . 
which you have offered to support. 

FoUomng the activation of these units^ which should begin 
in about five months^ we must carry on the prograni of acti- 
vation of additional units until over a period of two years 
we will have achieved a force of 1^ infantry divisions^ an 
expanded airborne brigade of approximately division 
strength and accompanying (support?),.. The mission of this 
total 270^000 man force remiains the same^ namely^ to over- 
come the insurgency which has risen to the scale of a bloody^ 
communist-inspired civil war within our borders and to pro- 
vide initial resistance to overt^ external aggression until 
free world forces under the SEATO agreement can come to our 
aid. The question naturally arises as to how long we shall 
have to carry the burden of so sizeable a military force. 
Unfortunately^ I can see no early prospects for the reduction 
of such a force once it has been established; for even though 
we may be successful in liquidating the insurgency within our 
borders^ communist pressure in Southeast Asia and the external 
military threat to our country must be expected to increase^ I 
feaXy before it diminishes. This means that we must be pre- 
pared to maintain a strong defensive military posture for at 
least the foreseeable future in order that we may not become 
one of the so-called "soft spots" which traditionally have ■ 
attracted communist aggression. We shall therefore continue 
to need material support to maintain this force whose re- 
quiremients far exceed the capacity of our economy to 
support 



o • o e 



To accomplish this 100,000 man expansion of our military 
forces, which is perfectly feasible from a manpower vie^fpoint^ 
will require a great Intensification of our training pro- 
gratns in order to produce, in the minimum of time, those 
qualified combat leaders and technical specialists needed to 
fill the new units and to provide to them the technical and 
logistic support required to insure their complete effective- 
ness. For this purpose a considerable expansion of the 
United States Military Advisory Group is an essential require- 
mento Such an expansion, in the form of selected elements of 
the American Armed Forces to establish training centers for 
the Vietnamese Armed Forces, would serve the dual purpose of 
providing an expression of the United States' determination to 
halt the tide of Gomm.unist aggression and of preparing our 
forces in the minimujn of tlmeo 

While the Ck)vernment and people of Vietnam are prepared to 
carry the heavy m.anpower burden required to save our country, 

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we well know that we cannot afford to pay_, equip, train and 
maintain such forces as I have described. To make this 
effort possible_, we would need to have assurances that this 
needed material support would be provided « 5./ 

The record is unclear on the immediate response to this letter. 
In particular, we have no record of the conversations Thuan had in 
Washington when he delivered the requests o The issue of the RVJ^AE 
increases somehow became part of the business of an economic mission 
then about to leave for Vietnam (the Staley Mission, discussed in the 
following section). The request for "selected elements of the 
American Armed Forces", raised in the next-to-last quoted paragraph, 
is left thoroughly obscure in the records we have-"to the point where 
we are not at all sure either what Diem meant by it or how the Admin- 
istration reacted to it« But, as will be seen in the section below 
on "U.S. Troops", nothing came of it. 

III. THE STALEY MISSION 



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One of the continuing negotiating items through most of 19^1 was 
the extent to which the South Vietnamese should finance their ovm effort. 
The UoS. view was that the South Vietnamese vere not doing enough. The 
result was American pressure on Diem to undertake what was called tax 
"reform." Diem was most reluctant to move. It is pretty clear that a 
large part of Diem's reluctance to move flowed from the saane (well-founded) 
sense of personal insecurity that made him avoid establishing a clear 
military chain of command. On the latter issue, the risk of weakening the 

I I- war effort obviously struck him as less dangerous than the risk of miaking 

a coup easier by concentrating military authority in his generals instead 

I j of dividing it between the generals and the 38 province chiefs. Similarly, 

for a ruler so unsure of his hold on the country, a serious effort at im- 
posing austerity looked more risky than holding out for the Americans to 
provide a few more millions out of their vast resources. But Diem, of 
course, was hardly likely to admit such reasons to the Americans, assum- 
ing he admitted them to himself. Consequently, on these issues (as on 
many others) the record is a long story of tediously extracted promises, 
excuses for inaction, and American com.plaihts about Diem's administrative 
style o 

On the economic issue, the substance of the argument was this: 

The deficit between what Diem raised in taxes and what his budget 
required was made up by the U.S. through a commercial import prograan. 
The regim.e sold the goods provided by the UoS. to South Vietnamese busi- 
nessmen, and used the piasters thus acquired mainly to meet the local 
currency costs (mostly food and pay) for the armed forces. U.S. dissatis- 
faction with the South Vietnamese effort showed clearly in the decision 
to ask the South Vietnamese themselves to provide the local, currency costs 
for the 20,000 man force increase proposed in the CIP, although the UoS. 
had been paying these costs (through the import' program) for the balance 



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of the forces. The South Vietnamese insisted^ for the outset^ that they 
could not raise the piasters required. 

The basic question of whether the South Vietnamese were bearing a 
reasonable- share of the burden devolved into a number of technical 
issues^ such as the effect of the program on inflation in South Vietnam^ 
and the piaster/dollar exchange rate. The Gilpatric/Lansdale draft of 
the Task Force Report proposed that Diem be flatly assured that the U.S. 
would make up any deficit in the Vietnatnese budget. But State objected 
from the start to giving any such assurance. Instead a Joint coimiiission 
of UoS. and South Vietnamese economic experts was proposed to work out 
a Joint program dealing with these economic issues. This was one of the 
proposals Vice President Johnson carried with him on his mission. Diem 
accepted the proposal. And the UoS. team^ headed by Eugene Staley 
(president of the Stanford Research Institute) was dispatched to South 
Vietnam in mid-June. 

By the time the Staley Mission left^ though^ Diem had written the 
letter Just quoted 'asking for U.S. support for a large further increase 
in his forces. Staley' s group^ MltYi its Vietnamese co-unterpart ^ found 
themselves serving as the vehicle for the discussions on force levels. 
The report they issued is mostly about military issues_, on which the 
economists stated they simply reflected instructions passed on by their 
respective governments. Here are seme excerpts on the military issues 
(in addition^ the report of course contained a discussion^ rather vague 
as it turned out^ of the economic issues which were nominally its pur- 
pose^ and it also contained a good deal of very fine^ vigorous language 
on the need for "crash programs" of economic and social development). 

Viet Nam is today under attack in a bitter^ total struggle 
which involves its survival as a free nation. Its enemy^ the 
Viet Cong^ is ruthless^, resourceful^ and elusive o This enemy 
is supplied^ reinforced^ and centrally directed by the inter- 
national Communist apparatus operating through Hanoi. To 
defeat it requires the mobilization of the entire economic^ 
military psychological^ and social resources of the country 
and vigorous support from the United States, 

The intensified program which v/e recommend our two coun- 
tries adopt as a basis for mutua.1 actions over the next 
several years is designed not Just to hold the line but to 
achieve a real breakthrough. Our Joint efforts must surpass 
the critical threshold of the enemy's resistance^ thereby put- 
ing an end to his destructive attacks^ and at the same time 
ve must make a decisive impact on the economic^ social^ and 
ideological fronts 

The turn of events in Laos has created further serious 
problems with regard to the maintenance of the GVN as a free 



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and sovereign non-Communist nation. In particular ^ the 
uncovering of the Laotian-Viet Main border to DEV or DRV- 
supported forces creates a serious threat of increased 
covert infiltration of personnel, supplies, and equipment 
to the Viet Cong. With such increased support, the Viet 
Cong undoubtedly hope to seize firm military control of 
a geographic area and annoixnce the establishment therein 
of a ''rebel" goverra'aent for South Viet Nam which vould 
then be recognized by and receive military support from 
the DRV, CoiTimunist China, and Soviet Russia. (Example: 
The present situation in Laos.) 

The joint VI\^-US group does not consider itself com- 
petent to make specific recommendations as to desired 
force levels for the defense of Viet Naaii. They iiave,^ 
however, after cons\ilta.tion with their respective mili- 
tary authorities, adopted for economic planning purposes 
certain estimated strength figures for the GVN armed 
forces under two alternative assumptions o Alt ernative A 
assumes that the Comm-unist-led insurgency effort remains 
at approxiiiiately its present level of intensity and the 
Government of Laos maintains suTficient independence from, 
the Comjmmist Bloc to deny authority for the transit of 
BW or Communist Chinese troops across its borders. 
Alternative B assumes that the Viet Cong are able to 
significantly increase their insurgency campaign within 
Viet Nam and that the situation in Laos continues to 
deteriorate to the point where the Communists gain de facto 
control of that country. 

Alternative A called for a build-up of Diem's forces to 200,000 
(vs. 170,000 then authorized). Alternative B called for continuing the 
build-up to 270,000. On this basis, Kennedy agreed to provide support 
for the increase to 200,000. The 200,000~man approval was supposed to ■ 
be contingent on South Vietnamese agreement to a plan for using the 
forces. The question of a farther increase to 270,000 was deferred, 
since it did not need to be faced until the lower figure was being 
approached, sometime late in 1962. 6/ 

A consequence of the Staley Mission was the South Vietnamese troop 
levels needed little attention in the fall review: the U.S. simply 
decided to support the increase to 200,000 even tho'agh the agreed plan 
for using the farces did not yet exist (as in May the U.S. had agreed to 
support the increase to 170,000 which also, re will be recalled, was 
supposed to have been contingent on such a plan). 

A few points about the Staley Mission seem useful to keep in mind 
in reviewing the fall process: 



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t 

lo It is another reminder of the prevailing (although not 
universal) over-optimism of U.S. appraisals of the Vietnam problem, 

2o One of the follow-on actions to the report was supposed to 
I • be a Vietnamese announcement of a program of social refoim. Prodticing 
. • this piece of paper (and in the end it was not much more than a piece 

of paper) took months. It was experiences such as this that gave 
questions about the viability of the Diem regime greater prominence in 
the fall review than they had received during April and May. 



'3o The U.S. was still continuing to deal with Diem most gently. 
Nothing more was asked of Diem as a quid pro quo than that he finally 
work up a plan for the counterinsurgency. The President explicitly 
accepted the assumptions of the Joint Plan worked out by the Staley 
Mission and their Vietnamese counterparts. 

This is from the formal record of decision: 

Joint Program of Action 
With the Government of 
. Vietnam ( Staley Report ) 

August ky 1961 

The President agrees vrith the three basic tenets 
■ on which the recommendations contained in the Joint Action 
Program are based^ namely: 

a. Security requirements must^ for the present^ be given 
first priority, 

b. Military operations will not achieve lasting results 
unless economic and social progrecns are continued and 
accelerated, 

Co It is in our joint Interest to accelerate measures to 
achieve a self-sustaining economy and a free and 
peaceful society in Viet-Nam. T/ 

Similar language was used at the time of the May decisions. So It 
is not new« It is only that^ in the light of Diem^s inactivity^ the 
phrases implying that non-military efforts are also important had come 
to sound a little hollow, 

IV. U.S. COMBAT TROOPS 

From the time of the Laos Annex io 'the original Gilpatric/Lansdale 
draft of the Task Force Report (April 28)5 the record shows persistent 
activity on some level or other on the issue of sending U.S. combat troops 
to Vietnam, 



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At the time of the Task Force review^ it -will be recalled^ Defense 
recommended sending two l600-man combat units to Vietnatn to set up two 
training centers for the Vietnamese in the highlandSo In later drafts 
of the Task Force report^ this proposal was broadened to consider send- 
ing American troops for wider purposes, short of direct combat against 
the Viet Cong. But the proposal was downgraded to a subject for study 
and was no longer a definite recommendaAion. 

Here is a summary of the items (on the issue of U.S. combat troops) 
in the record available to this study following Kennedy's decisions on 
the Task Force Report (May ll). 

On May 12 Vice President Johnson discussed the question with Diem, 
as described in an earlier section. This seems to have resolved the 
issue (negatively) so far as Johnson was concerned, and possibly as far as 
■president Kennedy was concerned. ' But if it did, the President's view was 
not YBTY emphatically passed on to subordinate members of the Administration. 
For a week later, Lansdale sent: a memo to Gilpatric noting that Diem did not 
want U-B. combat units as such, but that, he might accept 'these units if they 
had a mission of training South Vietnamese forces: 

Ambassador Nolting /said/ that President Diem would 
welcome as many U.S. military personnel as needed for 
- training and advising Vietnaraese forces. A^-A.3 Chief/ 
General McGarr, who was also present at this discussion 
/between Johnson and Diem/^ reported that while President 
Diem would not want U.S. combat forces for the purpose 
of fighting Communists in South Vietnam, he would accept 
deployment of U.So combat forces as trainers for the 
Vietnamese forces at any time. 8/ 

This language leaves it unclear whether McGarr was merely stating 
his opinion (which supported his o^m desire to bring in UoS. comliat 
units), or reporting what he understood Diem to have said. 

(About the same day of Lansdale's memo — May l8 — the 
JCS had restated its recommendation of May 10 that combat 
troops should be sent to Vietnam; and McGarr, from Saigon, 
had recomjfiended sending a l6,000 man force, or if Diem 
would not accept that, a 10,000 man force with the nomi- 
nal mission of establishing training centers for the Viet- 
namese, The similar recommendation made in the Task Force 
drafts had suggested 3200 men for the force.) 9/ 

In any event, Lansdale's memo makes it q.vite clear that he (along 
with McGarr and the JCS) were primarily interested in getting U.S„ 
combat units into Vietnam, with the training mission a possible device 
for getting Diem to accept themo After a discussion of JCS and CITTCPAC 
planning and of alternative locations for the troops, Lansdale comments: 



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any of the above locations have good areas for 
training of Vietnamese forces^ if this vere to be a ' ■ 
mission of the U.S. forces. 

In the available papers^ no one at this time talked about using 
Merican units to directly fight the Viet Cong. Rather it was mainly 
in terms of relieving Vietnamese units to undertake offensive action. 
We can only guess what people were really thinking o As the t raining - 
the-Vietnamese rationale seems essentially a device for getting Diem 
to accept the units^ the non-combatant role for U.S. troops may have 
been (and probably was in the minds of at least some of the planners) 
mainly a device for calming those members of the Administration who 
were reluctant to involve American units in fighting the Viet Congo 
Certainly in hindsight^ it seems most unrealistic to suppose that 
American combat units could have been stationed in a center of Viet 
Cong activity (a numiber of papers postulate the insurgents were 
attempting to establish a "liberated area" in the high plateau^ which 
was the principal locale discussed) without themselves becoming involved 
in the fighting. 

Lansdale concluded his memo by reminding Gilpatric that Diem was 
sending Thuan ("Secretary of Security^ Defense^ Interior^ etc.") to 
Washington to deliver his letter on Vietnam's "definitive military needSo" 
Lansdale recommended that Gilpatric take up the question of whether Diem 
would accept UoS. troops vrLth Thuan. "With concrete information^, you 
will then have a firm position for further decisions." 

But apparently someone did not want to wait for Thuan. For on May 27_, 
Kolting reported that he had brought up the question of what Diem meant in 
his conversation with Johnson directly with Diem, and that Diem did not 
then want U.S^ com.bat units "for this or any other reasono 10/ 

Nevertheless^ on June 9^ Diem signed the letter to Kennedy that^ as 
quoted above^ asked for: 



• • o 



selected elem.ents of the American Armed Forces 
to establish training centers for the Vietnamese Armed 
Forces^ . . . ' 

a move which Diem stated: 

.♦owould serve the dual purpose of providing an ex- 
pression of the United States* determination to halt the 
tide of comm.ujiist aggression and of preparing our forces 
in the minimum of time. ll/ 

This certainly sounded very much like the recoimnendation of the Task 
Force draft, or McGarr's later expanded version of that proposal; par- 
ticularly since Diem explicitly stated that he had McGarr's advice in 



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drafting the proposals. But where the American proposals vere for train- 
ing whole South Vietnamese divisions^ Diem said the training centers 
vould be for combat leaders and technical specialists. Consequently, it 
seems that Diem did not have the same thing in mind in referring to "selec- 
ted elements of the Merican Armed Forces" as did McGarr and others 
interested in bringing in American combat units. It may be that 
Diem agreed to put in this request that sounded like what McGarr wanted 
as a concession to the Americans in return for support of the large in- 
crease in the RWAP he was asking o 

Presumably this was clarified during the discussions Thuan had after 
delivering the letter. But^ as noted earlier^ we have no record of the 
conversations. In any event, nothing came of the proposal. 

(a summar-y of Diem*s letter^ cabled to the American mission in Saigon 
the day after the letter was received in Washington^ did not use the 
phrase "selected elemients of the American Armed Forces." -Instead it said 
that Diem asked for an increase of "American personnel" to establish the 
training centers. The crucial issue^ of course, was whether Americans 
would be sent to Vietnam in the foriTi of organized combat units, capable of^ 
if not explicitly intended, for conducting combat operations. We do not 
know whether the wording of the summary reflected Thuan' s clarification 
of the proposal when he arrived in Washington, or a high level Administra- 
tion decision to interpret Diem's letter as not asking for combat units^ 
or merely sloppy drafting of the cable.) 

It seems clear that either Diem (despite the language of the letter 
he signed) really did not want American units^, or that Kennedy (despite 
the activity of his subordinates) did not vrant to send those units, or both 

Sorenson, in his memoir, says that in May Kennedy decided against 
sending combat units despite the recommendations he received at the time 
of the Task Force Report. But his account of the Task Force is in error 
on a number of details, and so it is hard to know how much to credit his 
recollection. 12/ 

But there is a final item apparently from this period that seems to 
support Sorenson. It is a handwritten undated note on a- piece of scratch 
paper from Rostow to McIJamara. It looks like a note passed at a meeting. 
From its location in the file, it was probably written about June 5, 
that is, a few days before Thuan arrived with Diem's lettero It reads: 

Bob: 

We must think of the kind of forces and missions 
for Thailand now, Vietnam, later. 

We need a guerrilla deterrence operation in 
Thainland's northeast- 



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We shall need forces to support a counter -guerrilla war 
in Vietnam: 

aircrafi^ 
helicopters 
coiomunications men 
special forces 
militia teachers 



etc. 



\i\m 13/ 

Two things are striking about this note: firsts it is a quite exact 
description of the sort of military assistance Kennedy finally dispatched 
to Vietnam (i.e., combat support and advisors but not i^Jiierican units 
capable of independent combat against the guerrillas). Second^ it cer-- 
tainly suggests that desioite what Lansdale, McGarr, and others were doing, 
those close to the President were not at this time thinking about sending 
American combat units to Vietnam (or any American forces, for even the 
units Rostow lists are for '^later" in contrast to "Thailand now"). Never- 
theless on July 20, McG-arr again raised the question of combat units for 
training with Diem, and reported again that he did not want them^ 

In general, we seem to be seeing here a pattern that first began to 
emerge in the h&mdling of the Task Force Report and which will be even 
more strikingly evident in the President's handling of the Taylor Report. 

Someone or other is frequently promoting the idea of sending U.S. 
combat units. Kennedy never makes a clear-cut decision but some way or 
other action is always deferred on any move that would probably lead to 
engagements on the ground between American units and the Viet Cong. 

We have no unambiguous basis for Judging just what had really hap- 
pened in each case. But we do see a similar pattern at least twice and 
possibly three different times: in May, perhaps again in June (depending 
on details of Thuan's talks in Washing"ton not evailable to this study), 
and as we will report shortly, again in November « In each case, the 
record seems to be moving toward a decision to send troops, or at least 
to a Presidential decision that, in principal, troops should be sent if 
Diem can be persuaded to accept them. But no such decision is ever 
reached* The record never shows the President himself as the controlling 
fig-ure. In June, there does not seem to be any record of what happened, 
at least in the files evailable to this study. In May and, as we will 
see, in November, the President conveniently receives a revised dj:'aft of 
the recommendations which no longer requires him to comxait himself. 

if 

No reliable inference can be drawn from this about how Kennedy wouJ-d 
have behaved in I965 and beyond had he lived. (One of those vrho had 
advised retaining freedom of action on the issue of sending U.S. combat 



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troops was Lyndon Johnson.) It does not prove that Kennedy behaved soimdly 
in I96I0 Many people ifill think so; but others irill, argue that the most 
difficult problem of recent years might have been avoided if the U.So. had 
made a hard commitment on the ground in South Vietnam in I96I. 

Vc THE TREATY REQUEST 

■ As to Diem^ ve have^ of course, even less in the way of a record from 
vhich to judge what he really thought he vas doing. But it is not hard to 
understand vhy he should be reluctant to accept U.S. combat troops. His 
stated reason was always that sending U.S. combat units wou].d signaJ the 
end of the Geneva Accords. But this explanation explains little. Diem 
thought the Geneva Accords were betrayal of Vietnam in 195^f-^ and a farce, 
freely violated by the communists, latero Consequently, he would be con-- 
cerned about their demise only if North Vietnam could use this as a pretext 
for an overt Invasion o But ITorth Vietnam had long had a suitable pretext 
for an invasion in Diem's refusal to discuas the elections called for 
under the Geneva AccordSo Diem's shield was +he threat of U.S. interven- 
tion, not the Geneva Accords, and it is mighty hard to see how this 
shield could' be wealiened by putting American troops on the ground in South 
Vietnam o 

• But there were other reasons for Diem to be wary of U.S. troops. For 
one thing, not even Diem's severest critics questioned his commitment to 
Vietnamese nationalism. The idea of inviting foreign troops back into 
Vietnam must surely have been distasteful even once he decided it was un- 
avoidable. Further, the presence of American troops in Vietnam had a very 
ambivalent effect on the risk to Diem of a military coupo To the extent 
American troops increased the sense of security, they would lessen the 
likelihood of a coup, which the military rationalized mainly on the grounds 
that they could not \u.n the war under Diem. But the larger the American 
military presence in the country, the more Diem would have to worry about 
American ability and temptation to encourage a coup if Diem incurred 
American displeasure <, 

The net impact of these conflicting effects would depend on the 
security situation in Vietnam. If Diem felt strong, he would probably not 
want American troops j if he felt weak, he might see no choice but to risk 
inviting the Americans in. Even at the time of the Taylor mission, we 
will see Diem is m.ost erratic on this issue. 

Against this background, it is easy to understand why Diem, when the 
situation got worse in September, should have "pointed the question" at 
whether the U.S. would give him a treaty, rather than whether the U.S. 
would send in troops. As far as we can see, he was mostly concerned about 
what the latest VC attacks were doing to confidence in his regime, rather 
than any fear that the VC, still estimated at fewer than 20,000 strong, 
were going to defeat the quarter million regulars and auxiliaries in his 
own forces. What he probably wanted was an unambiguous public commitment 



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that the Americans would not let Vietnam fallo For this vould meet his 
immediate concern about confidence in his regime^ perhaps even more 
effectively than the dispatch of American troops^ and -without the dis-- 
advantages that vould come iTith accepting American troops^ For Diem^ a 
clear-cut treaty probably seemed the best possible combination of maxi- 
mizing the American commitment while minimizing American leverage. And 
that^ of course^ would help explain why the Administration was not 
terribly attracted to such a.proposa],. 



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Vic THE SITUATION IN SEPTEMBER 

So far as the available record shows^ there was no sense of imminent 
crisis in the official reporting to Washington as fall of 1961 begano An 
NIE published in mid-August concluded that Diem faced a "prolonged and 
difficult struggle" against the insurgency^ and noted that "the French with 
their memories of the Indochina that vas and the British vith their experi- 
ence in Malaya tend to be pessimistic regarding GVN prospects for combating 
the insurgency." l4/ But the NIE also reported that Diem's army had been 
performing better in 1961 than in I96O0 Warning of possible trouble looked 
months J rather than weeks^ ahead o The danger foreseen "was a coup: "if the 
fight against the Viet Cong goes poorly during the next year or the South 
Vietnamese Army suffers heavy casualties^, the chances of a military coup 
vould substantially increase o" I5/ 

The judgment of the NIE on the effects of such a coup vas entirely 
negative: 

If there is a serious disruption of GVN leadership as a result of 
Diem' s death or as the result of a military coup^ any momentum of 
GVN*s counterinsurgency efforts had achieved will be halted or re- 
versed_j at least for a time. The confusion and suspicion attending 
a coup effort could provide the communists with an opportunity to 
seize control of the government « 16/ 

There is no mention of any offsetting hope for a coup leading to more 
effective prosecution of the war^ The overall impression left by the NIE 
is that Diem is not a very effective leader^ but that he is getting along 
well enough to make the risks of a coup look more dangerous than the risks 
of the war being imwinnable under his leadership o In particular ^ a coup 
(or Diem's death) were seen as the only thing that could bring a quick col- 
lapse of the Saigon regime^, as opposed to the loss over time of a "prolonged 
and difficult" struggle., 

MAAG Chief McGarr^ in a report dated September 1^ spoke of the "enhanced 
sense of urgency and offensive spirit now present within both the RVNAE and 
the Government of Vietnam. o." Under the heading "Outlook for Next Year/' 
he reported: 

With the increased effectiveness of the Armed Forces beginning 
to be demonstrated oy the recent operations in the Delta Region and 
the manifest intent of the U.So to continue and even step up its 
vital support of the Vietnamese in their struggle against Communism_j 
there is a spirit of renewed confidence beginning to permeate the 
people^ the GVN^ and the Armed Forces « I7/ 

The political reporting from Saigon was less optimistic o Generally^ 
these reports argued that Diem was not doing much to strengthen his support o 



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But there was no disagreement with McGarr's fairly optimistic assessment of 
the military situation and no sense of crisis o 

Through unofficial channels^ though^ the White House was receiving a 
, • far bleaker view of the situation. Schelsinger reports: 

I 'The situation gets worse almost week hy week/ Theodore Ho White 

wrote us in August o * c o .The guerrillas now control amost all the 
. southern delta - so much so that I could find no American who would 

" drive me outside Saigon in his car even by day without military con- 

I • voy,' He reported a 'political breakdown of formidable proportions: 

oooWhat perplexes hell out of me is that the Commies^ on their side,, 
; seem to be able to find people willing to die for their cause., ol 

find it discouraging to spend a night in a Saigon night-club full of 
young fellows of 20 and 25 dancing and jitterbugging (they are called 
'la jeunesse cowboy') while twenty miles away their Communist contem- 
poraries are terrozing the countryside.' An old China ?iand^ White 
was reminded of Chungking in the Second World War^ complete with 
Madame Nhu in the role of Madame Chiang Kai-sheko *If a defeat in 
South Vietnam is to be considered our defeat; if we are responsible 
for holding that area^ then we must have authority to acto And that 
means intervention in Vietnam politicSo . .If we do decide so to inter- 
. vene^ have we the proper personnel^ the proper instruments^ the proper 
clarity of objectives to intervene successfully?' l8/ 

It did not take long to confirm White's pessimism^ although this must 
have made the dilemma of what to do about it seem all the more acute c In 
September^ the number of VC attacks jum.ped to nearly triple the level (about 
i]-50 vsc 150) that had prevailed for some months previous lyo The most spec- 
tacular attack; which seems to have had a shattering effect in Saigon^ was 
the seizure of Phuoc Thanh; a provincial capital only 55 miles from Saigon. 
The insurgents held the town a good part of the day; publicly beheaded 
Diem's province chief; and departed before government troops arrived. The 
official reporting to Washington by the end of the month pictured the situa- 
tion as stagnating; if not dangerously deteriorating; although there con- 
tinued to be no sense of the imminent crisis that Theodore White foresaw. 

Here is an end-of -month report that Nolting sent just prior to the 
meeting at which Diem asked for the treaty: 

Status report on political items as of Sept 28: , ■ 

General: Governmental and civil situation at end of month much 
same as at beginnings While neither of these gave open signs of 
deterioration; Diem government did not significantly improve its 
political position among people or substantially further national 
unity. On positive side several fifty-man district level recon- 
struction teams were sent to each of h provinces; and there was 



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commendable ajnoTint coiKitry-side travel by ministers o On other hand^ 
report was received of high-level bickering over powers and authority 
of new central intelligence organization (FVS-6487)^ and Diem ex- 
pressed dissatisfaction with pace of field command's planning of 
counter- insurgency operations^ but he has still not delegated sufficient 
authority to field command • All in all we unable report that Sept saw 
progress toward attainment task force goals of creating viable and 
increasingly democratic societyc Some such 'shot in arm' as proposed 
joint communiq.ue seems desirable.. 

Series large scale VC attacks in various areas central Vietnam 
during month highlighted increased VC infiltrations through Laos and 
underscored urgency of free world policy toward Laos which would 
bring this situation under control. These VC actions plus temporary 
VC seizure of provincial capital of Phuoc Thanh demonstrated that 
tide not yet turned in guerrilla war... 19/ 

The ''shot in the arm" Nolting referred to was the communique on social reforms 
that was agreed to some weeks earlier at the time of the Staley Mlssionj it 
would finally be issued^ in a watered down form^ early in January. The con- 
trast between White's and Nolting' s reporting is sharp: White obviously would 
not have seen the issuing of a communique as a significant "shot in the arm," 
or commented on the VC show of strength in such mild terms as demonstrating 
"that tide not yet turned." Consequently^ although Diem's request for a treaty 
(a day after this cable was sent) surprised Nolting^ its effect at the White 
House was presumably to confirm the warning that had already been received 
through White o 

The State Department's view of the situation seems also to have been 
graver than that of the Embassy in Saigon o We have a situation SLimmary on 
Southeast Asia that refers to Nolting' s cable but not to Diem' s treaty request^ 
and which consequently must have been distributed about October 1. On the 
political situation in South Vietnam^ the summary quotes Nolting' s "no progress" 
comments. But the military situation is described more bleakly than Nolting 
did. 

SOUTH VIET-NAM - MILITARY 

lo Although GVN military capabilities have increased^ Viet Cong 
capabilities are increasing at more rapid rate and Viet Cong attacks 
have increased in sizeo 

2o Viet Cong 'regular' forces have increased from about 7^000 at 
beginning of year to approximately 17^000. 

3<. Viet Cong have moved from stage of small hands to large units. 
During September Viet Cong mounted three attacks with over 1^000 men 
in eacho Viet Cong strategy m^ay be directed at 'liberating' an area 
in which a 'government' could be installed^ 

4. Although vast majority of Viet Cong troops are of local 
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Laos J the demilitarized zone^ and loy sea appears to be increasing. 
However^ there is little evidence of major supplies from outside 
sources^ most arms apparently being captured or stolen from GYN 
forces or from the French during the Indo-China war. 20 / 

On Laos^ the situation summary showed no such pessimism. But^ overall 
the absence of bad news from Laos only added to the worry about South Viet- 
nam o For the paper reported: 

There probably have been some Viet Minh withdrawals from northern 
Laos but Viet Minh movement into Southern Laos bordering on South 
Vietnam has increased. Thus it appears enemy may be accepting 
stalemate for time being within Laos and giving priority to stepping 
up offensive action against South Vietnam., 21/ 

Two final items are worth bearing in mind in trying to see the Viet- 
namese problem as it might have appeared to the White House in the fall of 
1961. First, this warning of the effect of UoSo policy in Vietnam, from 
the A-ugust 15 NIE quoted earlier: 

International Attitudes . In providing the GVW a m^aximum of 
encouragement and extensive support in its struggle against the 
Communists, the US will inevitably become identified with the GVE^s 
success or failure. The US will be uader heavy pressure from other 
members of the non-Communist world, many of whom view the Vietnam 
struggle in differing terms. For example, the neighboring coun- 
tries, such as Thailand, Cambodia, Burma, Indonesia, the Philip- 
pines, and Nationalist China, have all to some extent viewed devel- 
opments in Laos as a gauge of US willingness and ability to help 
an ant i -Communist Asian government stand against a Communist 
'national liberation' campaigno They will almost certainly look upon 
the struggle for Vietnam as a critical test of such US willingness 
and ability. All of them, including the neutrals, would probably 
suffer demoralization and loss of confidence in their prospects 
for maintaining their independence if the Communists were to gain 
control of South Vietnam. This loss of confidence might even 
extend to India « 22/ 

Second, a couple of newspaper quotes may serve as a reminder of the extent 
to which the Kennedy Administration had been londer a constant sense of 
foreign policy crisis throughout its first year, with every evidence of 
more to comeo In late September, in a review piece on Congressional ap- 
praisals of Kennedy's first year, Russell Baker comraents that not even 
Congress seems much interested in debate about Kennedy's effectiveness 
in pushing through legislation: 

What makes it particularly irrelevant this autiomn is that 
Congress itself has been 'far more concerned ever since January 



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with the President's performance as guardian of the national security 
than with how he came out as chief warrior for a legislative programo 

Erom Laos to Cuba to Vienna to Berlin to the Soviet nuclear 

testing site at Semipalatinsk to New York's East River^ crisis after 

crisis has fallen across the White House with a rapidity and gravity 

that has absorbed l^o Kennedy's energy since his inauguration and 

reduced the Congressional program to secondary importance o 23 / 

I. 

And a couple of days later^ James Reston^ describing the imminent risk 
of a nuclear crisis over Berlin _, reported: 

Specifically^ Khrushchev told one of Mr. Kennedy's political 
emissaries that once Krushchev signs a separate peace treaty with 
the Communist East Germans^ not only all of the West's rights in 
Berlin will cease^ but all traffic to Berlin will cease until the 
West negotiates new rights of access with the East German regime o 

Khrushchev was questioned minutely on this key point « His reply 
was ianeq_ui vocal: Not one truck^ or barge^ or train^ or plane would 
leave from West Germany for West Berlin after the separate peace 
treaty until the new arrangements with the East Germans were 
negotiated o 

Nowj this is not precisely the same as Lfro Gromyko's bland assur- 
ances o This is blockade;, and blockade is an act of waro Washington 
has made clear that it is not going to get stirred up if the East 
Germans merely replace the Russians on the borders between East and 
West Germany and approve the flow of adequate supplies <. But Mr. Khrush 
chev did not support this procedure^ and went on to threaten that any 
effort to break his blockade by force would lead to waro 24 / 

Since Khrushchev had repeatedly pledged to sign the East German treaty by 
the end of the year^ the showdown was not far off o 



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1!BF, FALL DECISIOIMS - I 

'W ■ !■>■* ■ ■ ,< !■■ ,. ^ ^ P ■ ■ ■^P^' ■ — ■■■■■IB II ■ ■ 11 

■ 

IV. Bo ■ CHAITER V 

I »l • I ^W^k-A I ■ ■ I HlB !■ ■ 

I. TPIE DECISION TO SEND TAYLOR 

As of early October_j there were several proposals for more active 
intervention in Southeast Asia on the table. One was the JCS-favored plan 
to intervene on the ground in Laos to seize and hold major portions of the 
country^ principally to protect the borders of South Vietnam and Thailand o 
A second plan (referred to in a staff paper as the "Rostow proposal") would 
hava put a SEATO force of about 25^000 men into Vietnam to try to movocit a 
guard on the Vietnam/Laos border between the DMZ and Cambodiac Finally^ 
there were various schemes^ dating from the Task Force review^ for putting 
a UoS, force into the highlands^ or at DaNang with or without a nominal 
mission of training South Vietnamese troops. 

Except for the Rostow proposal all these plans pre-dated the spurt of _ 
Viet Cong activity in September and Diem's subsequent request for a treaty. 
The record does not tell when and why the Rostow proposal was drawn up^ It 
was probably a direct response to Diem' s request^ but it may have been simply 
a part of the on-going Laos contingency planning^ In any event; Rostow' s 
proposal was submitted to the JCS for Comment October 5- On the 9thj the 
JCS responded with a counter-proposal for a substantial (initially about 
20^000 men^ but expected to grow) commitment of UoS., forces in Vietnam^ 
centered on Plelku in the highlands o l/ 

In hindsight^ the JCS reasoning in rejecting the Rostow proposal looks 
■unchallengeable o The JCS stated: 

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 o 

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 comm^jnications and logistical 
support o 

The Chiefs also argued against an alternative border proposal to put 
the SEATO force along the lyth parallel. Their first preference,, very 
emphatically^ was to go into Laos: 



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As stated in your ^Gilpatric' s/ ^-^^^^''®'*^^™^^ ^^~^ proposed concept 
set forth must be analyzed in the total context of the defense of 
Southeast Asia. Any concept which deals vxith the defense of South- 
east Asia that does not include all or a substantial portion of Laos 
is 5 from a military standpoint, unsound. To concede the majority 
of northern and central Laos vould leave three-quarters of the 
border of Thailand exposed and thus invite an expansion of communist 
military action. To concede southern Laos vould 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 sai'iie 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. 

Wha,t is needed is not the spreading out of our forces through- 
out 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 Thailajid and protect the 
borders of South Vietnam. 



But, if the Laos plan vras "politically unacceptable at this tijiie/' 
the Chiefs "provided" (but did not explicitly recomi'nend) "a possible 
limited interim course of action" which could.. c 

provide a degree of assistance to the Government of South Vietnam 
to regain control of its o\m territory, and could free certain 
South Vietnamese forces for offensive actions against the Viet 
Cong. ^^Thile the Joint Chiefs of Staff agree that implement at ion 
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 overall problem of defense of Southeast Asia, 
they consider the Plan preferable to either of the two military 
possibilities described in referenced memorandum. 2/ 

The following day, there appeared a new paper called "Concept of 
Intervention in Vietnam." The paper, according to a pencilled note on 
the available copy, was drained mainly by Alexis Johnson, who was then a^_ 
Deputy Under Secretary of State. We know from a note William Bundy (then 
principal Deputy to Paul Nitze, who was then Assistant Secretary of Defense, 
ISA) sent to McNamara that a "talking paper" by Johnson was to be discussed 
at a meeting that included, at least. Rusk and McNamara on the afternoon 
of the 10th, But we do not know whether the uraft we have available is the 
"taliing paper" or a revision put together later in the day, afi^er the 
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The proposal (*'an effort to arrest and hopefully reverse the deterior- 
ating situation in Vietnam") vas a blend of Rostov's border force and the 
Chief's "possible limited interim course of actiono" Johnson's paper 
listed both the Rostov mission of the force (attempt to close the 'border) 
and that of the Chiefs (vin control of the central highlands); otherwise 
the paper folloved the JCS piano What probably happened^ considering the 
haste vith vhich the paper must have been drafted^ vas that Johnson simply 
blended the tv70 proposals together and assumed the fine points could be 
vorked out latere For if the paper is somevhat confusing on the immediate 
military proposal^ it is clear on the long-run thinking that underlays the 
proposal. And this long-run thinking made the immediate military mission 
relatively inconseq.uential^ since as vith the earlier combat-troops -for- 
training proposals j, it vas pretty clear that the main idea vas to get some 
American combat troops into Vietnam^j vith the nominal excuse for doing so 
q,uite secondaryo 

The plan vas described under the heading "Initial Phase." A subseq.uent 
section^ titled "Anticipated Later Phases" states: 

This initial action cannot be taken vithout accepting as our real 
and ultimate objective the defeat of the Viet Cong; and making Vietnam 
secure in the hands of an anti-Communist government o Thus supple- 
mental military action must be envisaged at the earliest stage that is 
politically feasible o The ultimate force requirements cannot be esti- 
mated vith any precisiouo JCS are nov consideringo Three divisions 
vould be a guessooo 

Earlier the paper ;i in a similar vein^ had remarked: 

While a staisfactory political settlement in Laos vould consider- 
ably reduce Viet Minh infiltration through Laos into South Vietnam^ it 
vould not entirely eliminate it. While such a reduction vould material- 
ly assist the GVN in m.eeting the Viet Cong threat^ there is no assur- 
ance that; even imder these circumistanceS; the GVM vill in the fore- 
seeable future be able to defeat the Viet Cong. Under these circum- 
stanceS; although the need of South Vietnam for outside assistance such 
as proposed in this plan vould probably still be very strong^ it vould 
be much more difficult to find a political base upon vhich to execute 
this plan^ 3./ 

This judgment vas probably influenced by a special NIE issued October 5th; 
vhich stated that 80-90^ of the estimated 17^000 VC had been locally recruited, 
and that there vas little evidence that the VC relied on external supplies o 

The relation of this paper to Diem's req_uest for treaty can only be 
guessed at^ The paper never mentions Diem^ or any South Vietnamese request 
for further assistance o But the paper supplemented one published about a 



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week or so earlier (probalDly prior to Diem's request) titled "Limited Holding 
Actions in Southeast Asia©" This earlier paper discussed various steps 
short of major troop deployments o h/ 

The impression is that both papers were part of contingency planning 
(short of major intervention in Laos) for saving something in Southeast Asia 
should the Laos negotiations continue to drag on with no satisfactory reso- 
lutiono Thus although the timing of the Vietnam paper was sui^ely influenced 
and probably triggered by Diem's req^uest for a treaty,, it looks essentially 
like a sxjggestion (but not a formal recommendation) to the President that if 
he is unwilling to intervene to try to save Laos^ he should at least take 
strong and unambiguous action to make sure that Vietnam would not also be 
lost. In this interpretation it is easy to make sense of the emphasis on a 
deteriorating situation in Vietnam^ and the implied warning that it might be 
best to set this plan in motion before a settlement is reached in Laos_, 
when it seemed relatively easy to provide a politically plausible basis for 
the action o 

(in a recent column^ Joseph Alsop q_uoted Aver ill Harriman as telling 
him that Kennedy had told Harriman to get whatever settlement he couJ_d on 
Laos^ but that the U.So really intended to make its stand in Vietnam^) 5/ 

At the end of the Vietnam paper there is a list of "Specific Actions 
to be Taken Now" which goes no further (on Vietnam) than to list: 

» 

Use of UoSo naval aircraft and ships to assist GVW in inter- 
,1 diction of sea traffic^ to assist self defense of GVN. This is to 

some extent camouflagable. ■ ■ ' 

i -If necessity arises _, use of UoSo military aircraft for logistic 

support^, including troop lift within Laos and South Vietnamo 

Further^ there is a long list of pros and cons^ with no judgment 
stated on the balance o 

This (and other statements to be cited below) suggests^ again^ that 
the paper was prepared for a discussion on Southeast Asia planning in the 
KSC^ rather than in response to a request for a set of recommendations » 

Three other points need to be mentioned: 

lo The paperj although nominally presenting a SEATO plan^ 
explicitly assumes that "planning would have to be on the basis of proceed- 
ing with whichever SEATO Allies would participate c" 

2o The paper warns (in the balance of the paragraph quoted 
earlier) that the ultimate force requirements would "much depend" on the 
capabilities and leadership of the SEATO forces 



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and above all on vhether the effort leads to much more better 
fighting by Diem' s forceSo They alone can win in the end. 

3o Very clearly foreshadowing the Taylor mission (and perhaps 
indicating a White House hand in the drafting) the paper states: 

The viability of this plan would be dependent on the 
degree to which it could and would also result in the GW accel- 
erating political and military action in its own defense o A 
judgment on this can only be reached after thorough exploration 
on the spot with the country team and the GWo 

Finally _j here is the list of pros and cons presented (but not evaluated) 
in the paper e 



II 



Cons 

"lo The plan would not in itself solve the underlying problem of ridding 
SYN of communist guerrillas, 

"2, It would not seal off the borders of SW except for the limited area 
of operations. 

"3o It breaks the Geneva Accords and puts responsibility on the UoSo for 
rationalizing the action before the UcKo and the world o 

"4. It raises questions of UoS. troop relationships with the Vietnamese 
peasants^ m.ontagnards_, GVN and its armyo 

"5o The use of SEATO forces in SVW distorts Plan Five ^or major inter- 
vention in LaosT" although these forces are not a net subtraction. 

"6. The risk of being regarded as interlopers a la the French must be 
considered. 

"7« Communist change of tactics back to small-scale operations might 
leave this force in a stagnant positiouo 

"Pros 

"1. The effect on GW morale of SEATO engagement in their struggle 
could be most heartening. 

r 

"2o It could prevent the Viet Cong move to the next stage of battalion- 
size^ formal organization to challenge the ARVNo 

"3« The relatively sophisticated SEATO arms^ air power^ communications 
and intelligence might spark a real transformation in ARVN tactics and action. 



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"4o Capitalizing on U.S. intelligence sources now unavailable to the 
GVN could lead to effective attacks on Viet Cong nerve centers of command 
and communications o 

"5o The SEATO force commitment could be used to get from Diem a 
package of actions McGarr feels are needed to step up the GW effort ^ainly 
the fainiliar items of clarifying the chain of command and establishing an 
overall plan/o 

"6o Introducing SEATO forces would give us for the first time some 
bargaining position with the Russians for a settlement in Vietnamo 

7o - If we go into South Vietnam now with SEATO^ the costs would be 
much less than if we wait and go in later ^ or lose SVT^. 

The available record shows three other papers prepared prior to the NSC 
meeting^ October 11^ at which this paper was considered: 

1. A special NIE commented on the plan in terms that were a lot 
less than encouraging: 

In the situation assumed^ we believe that the DRV would seek 
at first to test the seriousness and effectiveness of the SEATO 
effort by subjecting the SEATO forces and their lines of com- 
munication to harassment; ambush^ and guerrilla attacko The Com- 
munists would probably estimate that by using their Viet Cong 
apparatus in South Vietnam^ and by committing experienced guer- 
rilla forces from North Vietnam in guerrilla operations in 
territory long familiar to them^ and by exploiting the oppor- 
tuaities offered by the sizable junk traffic in coastal waters^ 
they could severely harass the SEATO land forces and penetrate ■" 
the SEATO blockade c The Commionists would expect worthwhile 
political and psychological rewards from successful harassment 
and guerrilla operations against SEATO forces^ including 
lowered GVN morale and increased tensions among the SEATO members o 

While seeking to test the SEATO forces^ the DRV would prob- 
ably not relax its Viet Cong campaign against the GVW to any 
significant extents Meanvrhile^ Commimist strength in south laos 
wo-uld probably be increased by forces from North Vietnam to 
guard against an effort to partition Laos or an attack against 
the Pathet Lao forces. The Soviet airlift would probably be 
increased with a heavier flow of military supply into south Laos^ 
and the Communists wouJ^d probably intensify their efforts to 
establish a secure route for motor traffic into the southo The 
establishment of a coalition government in Laos under Souvanna 
Phouma probably would not significantly reduce CommiHiist infiltra- 
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If the SRA.TO action appeared to be proving effective in 
reducing the present scale of infiltration the Coimnmiist prob- 
ably would increase their use of the mountain trail system 
through Cambodia, This is a longer and more difficult route 
but its use could keep at least minimum support flowing to the 
Viet Congo At the same time^ in order to reduce the appajrent 
success of the SE/ITO action^ they could intensify small unit 
attacks 5 assassinations^ and local terrorism in South Vietnam; 
they could also commit more DRV irregular personnel for the 
harassment of the SEATO forces. In any event, the SEATO com- 
mitment in South Vietnam would probably have to be continued 
over a prolonged periods It might be part of Communist tactics 
to play upon possible SEATO weariness over maintaining substan- 
tial forces and accepting losses , in South Vietnam over a long 
period of time... 

The reaction to the assumed SEATO action among concerned 
non-Communist governments wouJLd vary v/idely. The Asian members 
of SEATO would find renewed confidence in the organization and 
the US5 if the plan were to go well- If, on the other hand, the 
SEATO action were to become costly, prolonged, or to involve 
heavy casualties, the Asian members' would soon become disenchanted 
and look to the US to 'do something' to lessen the burden and to 
solve the problem. The UK and France wo-uld be likely to oppose 
the assuraed SEATO action, and their reluctejice to participate 
could be overcome only with great difficulty, if at all. 



In this instance, and as v^e will see, later, the Intelligence 
Community's estimates of the likely results of U.S. moves are conspicu- 
ously more pessimistic (and more realistic) than the other staff papers 
presented to the President. This SKIS was based on an assumption that 
the SEATO force would total about 25^000 men. It is hard to imagine a 
more sha.rp contrast than between this paper, which foresees no serious 
impact on the insurgency from proposed intervention, and Supplemente.l 
Note 2, to be quoted next. 






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2. "Supplemental Note 2" to the paper; issued the day of the NSC 
meeting^j contained^ among other comments^ a JCS estimate of the size of the 
American force needed "to clean up the Viet Cong threat." It reads: 

"Wi der Military Implications a As the basic paper indicates^ 
the likelihood of massive DRV and Chicom intervention caanot be 
estimated with precisionc The SNIE covers only the initial phase 
vhen action might be limited to 20-25^000 men. At later stages^ 
when the JCS estimate that 40;, 000 US forces will be needed to 
clean up the Viet Cong threat^ the chances of such massive inter- 
vention might well become substantial^ with the Soviets finding 
it a good opportunity to tie down major US forces in a long ac- 
tion^ perhaps as part of a multi-prong action involving Berlin 
and such additional areas as Korea and Irano 

Because of this possibility of major Bloc intervention^ the 
maximum possible force neeis must be frankly faced. Assuming 
present estimates of about 40^000 US forces for the stated mili- 
tary objective in South Vietnam^ plus 128^000 US forces for 
meeting North Vietnam and Chicom intervention^ the drain on US- ■ 
based reserve forces could be on the order of 3 o^ ^ divisions 
and other forces as wello The impact on naval capabilities for 
blockade plans (to meet Berlin) would also be majoro In light 
of present Berlin contingency plans^ and combat attrition^ in- 
cluding scarce items of equipment^, the initiation of the Viet- 
nam action in itself should dictate a step up in the present 
mobilization^ possibly of major proportions o 7/ 

3« Finally^ there is the following memo from William Bundy 
(then acting Assistant Secretary of Defense^ ISA) to McNamarao It is of 
interest because it is the only piece of paper available for this period 
■ ■ that gives anyone^ s candid recommendations to his boss_, as opposed to the 
more formal staff papers: 

Even if the decision at tomorrow's meeting is only pre- 
liminary -- to explore with Diem and the British^ Australians^ 
and New Zealanders would be my guess — it is clearly of the 
greatest possible importance. Above all^ action must proceed 
fasto 

For what one man's feel is worthy mine -- based on very close 
f - touch with Indochina in the 195^ ^^^ s-^id civil war afterguards till 

■ {'■ ■ Diem took hold — is that it _is really now or never if we are to 

arrest the gains being made by the Viet Cong. Walt Rostow made 
the point yesterday that the Viet Cong are about to move^ by every 
indication^ from the small unit basis to a m.oderate battalion- 
size basis o Intelligence also suggests that they may try to set 



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up a ^'provisional government* like Xieng Khuang (though less 
legitimate appearing) in the very Kontum area into which the 
present Initial plan would move SEATO forces. If the Viet Cong 
movement 'blooms' in this way^ it will almost certainly attract 
all the back-the-winner sentiment that understandably prevails 
in such cases and that beat the French in early 195^ and came 
within an ace of beating Diem in early 1955° 

An early and hard-hitting operation has a good chance (70^ 
would be my guess) of arresting things and giving Diem a chance 
to do better and clean up. Even if we follow up hard^ on the 
lines the JCS are working out after yesterday's meeting^ however^ 
the chances are not much better that we will in fact be able to 
clean up the situationo It all depends on Diem's effectiveness^ 
which is very problematical o The 30^ chance is that we would 
wind up like the French in 19^h} white men can't win this kind 
of fight o 

On a 70-30 basis^ I would myself favor going ino But if we 
letj say^ a month go by before we move^ the odds will slide (both 
short-term shock effect and long-term chance) down to 60~kO^ 50-50 
and so on^ Laos under a Souvanna Phouma deal is more likely than 
not to go sour_, and wiJl more and more make things difficu3-t in 
. South Viet-Nam^ which again underscores the element of timeo 8/ 

Minutes of the NSC meeting of October 11 were not available for this study, 
But we have the following Gilpatric memorandiom for the record o (The JIMGLE JIM 
squadron — 12 planes -- was an Air Force unit specially trained for counter- 
insurgency warfare o Short of engaging in combat itself ^ presumably it would 
be used to train Vietnamese pilots): 

At this morning's meeting with the President the following 
course of action was agreed upon with relation to South Vietnam: 

lo The Defense Department is authorized to send the 
Air Force's Jungle Jim Squadron into Vietnam to serve under the 
MAAG as a training mission and not for combat at the present timeo 

2o General Maxwell Taylor accompanied by Dr. Rostow 
from the White House^j General Lansdale_; a representative of JCS^ 
Mr. Cottrell from State and probably someone from ISA will leave, 
for Vietnam over the weekend on a Presidential mission (to be 
announced by the President at this afternoon's press conference 
as an economic survey) to look into the feasibility from both 
political and military standpoints of the following: 



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(a) the plan for military intervention discussed 
at this morning's meeting on the basis of the Vietnam task force 
paper entitled 'Concept for Intervention in Vietnam'; 

(b) an alternative plan for stationing in Vietnam 
fewer UcSo combat forces than those called for under the plan 
referred to in (a) above and vith a more limited objective than 
dealing with the Viet Congj in other words_j such a small force 
would probably go in at Tourane ^aHang/ and possibly another 
southern port principally for the purpose of establishing a U.So 
'presence' in Vietnam; 

(c) other alternatives in lieu of putting any 
UoSo combat forces in Vietnam^j ioeo stepping up U.So assistance 
and training of Vietnam imits^ furnishing of more U.S. equipment,, 
particularly helicopters and other light aircraft_j trucks and 
other groiond transport^ etc, 

3. During the two or three weeks that will be required 
for the completion of General Taylor's mission^ State will push 
ahead with the following political actions: 

(a) protest to the ICC on the step-up in North 
Vietnamese support of Viet Cong activities^ 

_ I 

(b) tabling at the UN a white paper based on 
Mto William Jordan's report concerning Communist violations of 
the Geneva Accords^ and 

' " (c) consultation with our SEATO allies^ princi- 

I ' ■ . pally the British and Australians^ regarding SEATO actions in 
i support of the deteriorating situation in Vietnam^ 9/ 

I That afternoon^ the President announced the Taylor Mission^ but he did 

not make the hardly credible claim that he was sending his personal military 
advisor to Vietnam to do an economic survey. He made a general announce- 
ment^ and was non-committal when as.ked whether Taylor was going to consider 
the need for combat troops (there had been leaked stories in the newspapers 
a fe\j days earlier that the Administration was considering such a moveo) 
Nevertheless^ the newspaper stories the next day flatly asserted that the 
President had said Taylor was going to study the need for U<,S. combat troops _, 
which waS; of course^ true^ although not exactly what the President had 
said« 10/ 

II. THE NM-ISPAPERS AND T HE CABLES 

The day after Kennedy's announcement of the Taylor mission^ Reuters 
sent this dispatch from Saigon: 



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Saigon^ Vietnam^ Oct 12 (Reuters) -- South Vietnamese military 
sources welcomed today President Kennedy's decision to send his 
military adviser^ General Taylor^ here this weeko 

r 

Sources close to President Ngo Dinh Diem said he did not 
feel there was a need here yet for troops of the United States 
or Southeast Asia Treaty Organization o 

The sources said the South Vietnamese President was convinced 
that Vietnam's Arm_y increased in size and better equipped by 
increased United States aid can defeat the CommimistSo ll/ 

But a day later ;, the public position of the Vietnamese had shifted 
noticeablyo From a i^Iew York Times dispatch' from Saigon: 

One question receiving considerable attention here in the 
light of the Taylor mission is the desirability of sending United 
States troops to South Vietnamo 

The prospect of United States troop involvement is understood 
to have advanced a step here in the sense that the South Vietnamese 
Government is reported to be willing to consider such involvement 
which it had formerly rejected o 

However^ it is \anderstood that South Vietnamese deliberations 
still fall far ^ort of the stage wherein Saigon would be ready 
to request United States forces o 12 / 

But in private discussions with the UoS. ambassador^ Diem had turned 
around completelyo From Nolting' s cable: 

Following major requests: 

(1) An additional squadron of AD-6 fighter bombers (in lieu of pro- 
grammed T-28's) and delivery as soon as possibloo 

(2) The sending of US civilian contract pilots for helicopters 
and transport planes (C-^Y^),^ for 'non-combat' operationSo 

I 

. (3) US combat unit or imits to be introduced into 3VN as 'combat- 
trainer units' o Proposed use would be to station a part of .this 
force in northern part of SVN near 17th parallel to free ARW 
forces presently there for anti-guerrilla combat in high plateauo 
Thuan also suggested possibility stationing some US forces in 
several provincial seats in highlands of central Vietnamo 



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(k) US reaction to proposal to request gOArt Nationalist China 
to send one division of combat troops for operations in southwest 
provinces o 

^ * * ^ -x^ ^ -X- 

When Thuan raised question of US combat-trainer units^j I asked spe- 
cifically whether this was President's considered request^ men- 
tioning his oft-repeated views re US combat forces hereo Thuan 
confirmed that this was considered request from President; confirmed 
that Diem's views had changed in light of worsening situation^ 
Idea was to have 'symbolic' US strength near 17th parallel^ which 
would serve to prevent attack there and free up GW forces now 
stationed there for combat operations; Thuan said President Diem 
also thought similar p\rrpose could be achieved by stationing US 
combat units in several provincial seats in highlands^, thus freeing 
ARW guard forces there c I told him this represented major request 
coming on heels of President Diem's request for bilateral security 
treaty with United States. I asked whether this request was in 
lieu of the security treaty., Thuan first said that it represented 
a first step_j which would be quicker than a treaty^ and that time 
'was of essencco After some discussion of the pro's and con^ s of a 
possible defense treaty (effect on SEATO^ ICC^ ratification pro- 
cedures_, etCo)_j Thuan said he felt that proposal for stationing 
token US forces in S\T)J would satisfy GVN and would serve the purpose 
better than a mutual defense treaty « (He had evidently not thought 
through this nor discussed it with Diem.) 

•;f 4f 4f -)f -Jf ^ -x- -)f 
Nolting then indicated he reacted skeptically to Dlem's suggestion of bringing 
in Chiang's forces^ and comments to Washington that he thought "this was a 
trial balloon onlyo" He concluded the cable: 

The above questions will undoubtedly be raised with Gen Taylor o 
While it is obvious that GYN is losing no opportunity to ask for 
additional support as result our greater interest and concern 
this area^ situation here^ both militarily and psychologically_j 
has moved in my judgment to point where serious and prom.pt con- 
sideration should be given to these requests, 13/ 

This cable arrived in Washington the night of October 13=. The following 
day an unidentified source provided the New York Times with a detailed ex- 
planation of what the Taylor Mission was to doo From the way the Times 
handled the story it is plain that it cam_e from a source authorized to speak 
for the President,' and probably from the President himself o The gist of 
the story vfas that Taylor was going to Saigon to look into all sorts of 
things^ one of which^, near the bottom of the list_, was the question of U.S, 
troops at some time in the indefinite future o Along with a lot of more 



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iDimediate questions about intelligence and such_, Taylor was expected to 
" o . .recouanend long-range programs^ including possible military actions^ but 
stressing broad economic and social measureSo" Furthermore^ the Times was 
told^ 

Military leaders at the Pentagon^ no less than General Taylor 
himself are uciderstood to be reluctant to send organized U.So 
combat units into Southeast Asiap Pentagon plans for this area 
stress the importance of countering Communist guerrillas with 
troops from the affected coimtries_, perhaps trained and equipped 
by the UoS.^ but not supplanted by UoSo troops o ik/ 

In the light of the recommendations quoted throughout this paper^ and parti- 
cularly of the staff papers just described that led up to the Taylor Mission^ 
most of this was simply untrue „ It is just about inconceivable that this 
story could have been given out except at the direction of the President^ or 
by him personally. It appears^, consequently^ the President was less than 
delighted by Diem's request for troops o He may have suspected^ 1'^ite reason- 
ably^ that Diem's request was prompted by the stories out of Washington that 
Taylor vras coming to discuss troops; or he may have wished to put a quick 
stop to expectations (and leaks) that troops were about to be sent^ or both. 
This does not mean the President had already decided not to send combat units. 
Presumably he had noto But he apparently did not want to have his hands tied. 

The Times story had the apparently desired affect. Speculation about 
combat troops almost disappeared from news stories^ and Diem never again 
raised the question of combat troops: the initiative from now on came from 
Taylor and Molting^ and their recommendations were very closely heldo . 



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IIIo CINCPAC RECOMtyEKDS "NOT NOW 

On the way to Saigon^ Taylor stopped off in Hawaii to talk to Admiral Felt 
at CINCPAC o Felt did not give Taylor a flat recommendation on combat troops at 
the time. But a couple of days later he cabled Washington a list of pros and 
cons : 

A. 'Pro 

(l) Presence of UoS. forces in SVN_j particularly if de- 
ployed to important defensive areas such as plateau region^ would 
mean to Communists that overt aggression against SVN will involve 
US forces from the outsets This eliminates possibility of sudden 
victory by overt aggression in SVN before US could react o This 
would settle the question for SVN_j and SE Asians as a whole ^ as to 
whether we would come to their helpo Further ^ agreement by SEATO 
to principle of force introduction would strengthen SEATO in world 
eyeSo 



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(2) Px-esence of strong UoSo combat forces will influence 
greatly South Vietnamese will to eliminate the Viet Congo 

(3) If "we use U.So engineers with U.S. military protec- 
tion to finish Dakto-Ban Net-Attapeu Road in order to enable US to 
operate near plateau border area^j a military corridor of sorts will 
cut an important part of VC pipeline from north o 

(4) UoS. forces will make available larger number ARVl^ 
forces for employment against VC. RVTJAF^ tasks accomplished by UoS. 
forces will decrease proportionately certain RVWAP deficiencies^ 
particularly in logistics^ coramuaications^j and air support o 

(5) U.S. forces in SVN would tend to strengthen Diem's 
government against pro-Red coup^ but would not necessarily pre- 
clude non-Communist coup attempts o 

(6) Dividends would accrue from fact our troops could 
provide variety training for ARVN forces^, broadening base now pro- 
vided by MAAG. 

Bo Con- " - 

(1) Would stir up big fuss throughout Asia about reintro- 
duction of forces of white colonialism into SE Asiao Little ques- 
tion that a propaganda issue will be made of this in all world 
forums including UTJo . 

(2) Action could trigger intensification of Commie aggres- 
sion against SE Asia^ This may not be all-out overt aggression^ but 
could consist^ for example^, of the DRV moving full blown combat 
units through the mountain passes into southern Laos under excuse 
that we initiated invasion of SE Asia and they are protecting the 
flank of North Vietnamo 

(3) Politically^ presence of U^So forces could hasten 
Commies to establish so called "representative government" in 
South Vietnamo 

(4) Aside from offering Viet Cong a political target,, 
US troops would constitute provocative military one^ inducing VC 
to attack/harass it in manner/degree where issue might ultimately 
force American lonits active military campaign^ or suffer defen- 
sive alternative of being pot-shot at to point of embarrassment. 

(5) Presence of US troops could induce Commies to resort 
to related actions such as introduction of Red Air Force elements 



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in North Vietnam and accelerate modernization of DRV" military 
forces. 

(6) This -would probably mean garrisoning a UoS. division 
in SE Asia for an extended period of time in same sense as Army 
divisions in Korea. Hovever_j circumstances differ from Korea^ 
For example_j nature of VC warfare such that US units cannot 
remain long in isolation from conflict realities o Ultimately^ 
they likely to be forced into varying forms of military engagement 
with VC if only for security against attacks ranging from assas- 
sination/sabotage to tactical harassment o In shorty we should 
accept fact that likelihood our troops becoming combat engaged 
increases in proportion to duration of their stay. 

2. A summary of the above appears to me to add up in favor 
of our not introducing U.S. combat forces -until we have exhausted 
other means for helping Diem. 1^/ 

IVo TAYLOR IN SAIGON 

The Taylor Mssion arrived in Saigon on the l8th. They had barely ar- 
rived when Diem went before his National Assembly to declare that the in- 
creasing gravity of the Viet Cong threat now required a formal proclamation 
of a State of Emergency. Diem then went off to meet with the Americans^ and 
after such a spectacular opening shot must have then astonished his visitors 
by indicating that he did not want American combat troops after alio What 
he wanted^ he said^ was the treaty^ American support for larger GVN forces^ 
and a list of combat support items that nicely paralleled those Rostow 
listed in the note to McNainara quoted earlier o It was Taylor (according to 

Nolting^s cable 5l6^ 20 October) who brought' up the question of Aiiierican 
combat troops. 

Taylor said he understood there had been recent discussions 
of introduction of American or SEATO forces into Viet-Nam and 
asked why change had occurred in earlier GVN attitude. Diem 
succinctly replied because of Laos situation. Noting it will take 
time to build up GVDJ forces he pointed to enemy's reinforcements 
through infiltration and increased activities in central Viet-Nam 
and expressed belief that enemy is trying to escalate proportionally 
to increase in GVN forces so that GVN will not gain advantage. 
He asked specifically for tactical aviation^ helicopter companies^ 
coastal patrol forces and logistic support (groimd transport),, 

Diem indicated he thoi:ight there would be no partic-ular 
adverse psychological effect internally from introducing American 
forces since in his view Vietnamese people regard Communist 
attack on Viet-Nam as international problem. Rostow inquired 
whether internal and external political aspects such move could 



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be helped if it were shown clearly to world that this is inter- 
1 national problem.. Diem gave no direct comment on this suggestion*, 

' ' He indicated two main aspects of this problem: (l) Vietnamese 

j .. " people are worried about absence formal commitm_ent by US to Viet- 

Eamo They fear that if situation deteriorates Viet-Nam might be 
abandoned by USo If troops are introduced without a formal com- 
mitment they can be withdrawn at any time and thus formal commit- ■ 
. ment is even more important in psychological sense o (2) Contin- 
gency plan should be prepared re use American forces in Viet-Nam 
at any time this may become necessaryo In this connection Diem 
seemed to be talking about combat forces o While it was not com- 
pletely clear what Diem has in mind at present time he seemed to be 
saying that he wants bilateral defense treaty and preparation of 
plans for use American forces (whatever is appropriate) but under 
questioning he did not repeat his earlier idea relayed to me by 
Thuan that he wanted combat forces. l6/ 

Here^, as earlier;, we get no explicit statement on Washington's attitude 
toward a treaty^ Further^ no strong conclusion can be drawn from the fact 
that Taylor took the initiative in raising the issue of troops _, since it 
might have been awkward not to mention the issue at all after Thuan' s pre- 
sentation to Nolting a few days previous o 

But on the 23rd; we find this in a cable from MMG Chief McGarr: 

Serious flood in Mekong delta area. o » (worst since 1937) 
raises possibility that flood relief could be justification 
for moving in US military personnel for humanitarian purposes 
with subsequent retention if desirable. GeUo Taylor and 
Ambassador evaluating feasibility and desirability*. l6a/ 

Taylor met with Diem and Thuan again the following day_, the 24th » 
Taylor provided the Vietnamese a written summary of items he described as 
"personal ideas to which I was seeking their reaction." Item E was headed 
"Introduction of U.S. Combat troops," It proposed "a flood relief task force_j 
largely military in composition^ to work with GVN over an extended period of 
rehabilitation of areas. Such a force might contain engineer^ medical^ 
signal; and transportation elements as well as combat troops for the protec- 
tion of relief operations." Diem now seems to have changed his mind again 
on combat troops o Here is the cable: 

lo The essential conclusions which, we have reached, at the end of a 
week of briefings^ consultations^, and field trips follow: 

Ao There is a critical political-military situation in SVN 
brought on by western policy in Laos and by the continued build-up of 
the VC and their recent successful attacks. These circumstances coupled 



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1 with the major flood disaster in the southwestern provinces have com- 

bined to create a deep and pervasive crisis of confidence and a serious 
loss in national morale « 



B. In the field _, the military operations against the VC are 
ineffective because of the absence of reliable intelligence on the ■ 
enemy, an unclear and unresponsive channel of command responsibility in 
the Armed Forces, and the tactical immobility of the W ground forces o 
This immobility leads to a system of passive, fragmented defense con- 
ceding the initiative to the enemy and leaving him free to pick the 
targets of attack. The harassed population exposed to these attacks 
turn to the government for better protection and the latter responds by 
assigning more static missions to the Army units, thus adding to their 
immobility^ In the end, the Army is allowed neither to train nor to 
fight but awaits enemy attacks in relative inaction « . 

C. The situation in the Saigon is -volatile but, while morale 
is down and complaints against the government are rife, there is not hard 
evidence of a likely coup against Diem, He still has no visible rival 

or replacement o 

2o To cope with the foregoing .situation, we are considering 
recommending a number of possible forms of GM-US cooperation to reverse 
the present dox-mward trend, stimiolate an offensive spirit and buildup 
morale o In company with Ambassador l^olting, Dr^ Rostow and Mr. Menden- 
hall, I discussed some of these Oct 2^ with Diem and Thuan, advancing 
them as personal ideas to which I was seeking their informal reaction « 
The following outline, distributed in French translation at the start 
of the interview, indicates the scope of the discussiono * 

Ao Improvement of intelligence on VoC: the available in- 
telligence on V.Co insurgency is inadeq_uate both for tactical require- 
ments and for basis of judgment of situation at governmental levels o 
A joint GW-US effort should be able to improve organization, tech- 
niques and end product to mutual advantage both parties. 

B, joint survey of security situation at provincial level: 
The current situation can best be appraised at provincial level where 
the basic intelligence is found, the incidents occui^, and the defenses 
are tested. The problems vary from province to province and hence 
require local analysis on the spot. Such a survey should result in 
better understanding of such important matters as quality of basic 
intelligence on V.Co, needs of civil guard and self defense corps, 
command relationships between provincial and Army officials and condi- 
tions under which assumption of offensive miglrit be possible. 

Co Improvement of Army mobility", it appears that size of 
ARM can not be much increased before end 1^62) to make it more 



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effective and allov it to cope vrLth increasing niimber of V.C._, it must 
f be given greater mobility. Such mobility can come from two so'jjrces, (l) 

freeing Army from static missions and (2) marking available to it improved 
means of transport^ notably helicopters and light aircraft. Both 
methods should be considered. 

D. Blocking infiltration into high plateau: increase in 
enemy forces in high plateau requires special measures for defense and 
for coujiter -guerrilla actions. It is suggested that a carefully tailored 
"border ranger force" be organized from existing ranger ujiits and intro- 
duced into the difficult terrain along the Laos/Vietnam frontier for 
attack and defense against the Viet Cong. This force should be trained 
and equipped for extended service on the frontier and for operations 
against the communications lines of the VC who have infiltrated into the 
high plateau and adjacent areas. 

E. Introduction of U.S. Military Forces: GVN is faced wD-th 
major civil problem arising from flood devastation in western provinces. 
Its allies should offer help to GYN according to their means. In the 
case of U.S.^ two ways of rendering help should be considered. One is 
of emergency type, such as offer of U.S. militar^r helicopters for 
reconnaissance of conditions of flooded areas and for emergency delivery 
medical supplies and like. A more significant contribution might be 

a flood relief task force, largely military in composition, to work with 
GVN over an extended period for rehabilitation of area. Such a force 
miglit contain engineer, medical, signal, and transportation elements as 
well as combat troops for the protection of relief operations. Obviously, 
such a military source would also provide U.S. militar;^'- presence in 
Viet Kam and would constitute military reserve in case of heightened 
military crisis. 

F. Actions to emphasize national emergency and beginning of 

a new phase in the war: we should consider jointly all possible measures 
to emphasize turning point has been reached in dealing with Communist 
aggression. Possible actions might include appeal to United fetions, an 
announcement by GVN of governmental changes to cope vrith crisis and ex- 
change of letters between the two heads of State expressing their partner- 
ship in a common cause. 

3. Diem's reaction on all points >7as favorable. Pie expressed satis- 
faction with idea of introducing U.S. forces in connection with flood 
■ relief activities, observing that even the opposition elements in this 
Congress had joined with the majority in supporting need for presence of 
U.S. forces. In the co-jrse of the meeting, nothing was formally proposed 
or approved but the consensus was that the points considered might form 
framework for a program of increased GVl^I-US cooperation offering promise 
of overcoming many of the current difficulties of GVN. There were no 
specific figures discussed with regard to such matters as troop strengths, 
additional equipment, or flood relief... 



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$i. Because of the importance of acting rapidly once we have 
made up our minds^ I -will cable my recommendations to Washington 
enroute home. I7/ 

Simultaneously vith this cahle^ Taylor sent a second "eyes only" for 
the President; Chairman of the JCS^ Director of CIA^McNamara^ and Rusk and . 
Alexis Johnson at State The cable is a little confusing; for although it 
sets out to comjuent on "U.S. military forces" it concerns only the flood 
Task Force; not mentioning the various other types of military forces 
(helicopter companies^ etco) which were envisioned. The same slight con- 
fusion appears in the "eyes only for the President" cable on this issue 
to be quoted shortly^ The impression Taylor's choice of language leaves 
is that the support forces (helicopter companies^ expanded MAAG; etCo) 
he was recommending were essentially already agreed to by the President 
before Taylor left Washington^ and consequently his detailed justifica- 
tion went only to the kind of forces on which a decision was yet to be 
made -- that iS; ground forces liable to becoBie involved in direct engage- 
ments with tne Viet Cong. 

Here is the cable from Saigon^ followed by the two "Eyes only for the 
President" from the PLiilippines which sum up his "fundamental conclusions." 

FROM SAIGON . ■ 

- WHITE HOUSE EYES ONLY FOR THE PRESIDENT 
STATE EYES ONLY FOR RUSK AND UNDER SECRETARY JOHNSON 
.■ DEFENSE EYES ONLY SECRETARY MCNAMAR/l 

JCS EYES ONLY GENERAL LEMNITZER ' . 

FROM GENERAL TAYLOR 

■X- ^- -X- -X- ^ -)f ^ ' 

With regard to the critical question of introducing U.So military 
forces into VN: 

My view is that we should put in a task force consisting largely of 
logistical troops for the purpose of participating in flood relief 
and at the same time of providing a UoSo military presence in VN 
capable of assuring Diem of our readiness to join him in a military 
showdo^m with the Viet Cong or Viet Minho To relate the introduc- 
tion of these troops to the needs of flood relief seems to me to 
offer considerable advantages in VNand abroado It gives a specific 
humanitarian task as the prime reason for the coming of our troops 
and avoids any suggestion that we are taking over responsibility for 
the security of the countryo As the task is a specific one^ we can 
extricate o\nr troops when it is done if we so desire o Alternatively^ 
we can phase them into other activities if we wish to remain longer o 

The strength of the force I have in mind on the order of 6-80OO troops. 
Its initial composition should be worked out here after study of the 



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possible requirements and conditions for its use and subsequent modi- 
fications made vith experience. 

In addition to the logistical component^ it will be necessary to include 
some combat troops for the protection of logistical operations and the 
defense of the area occupied by UoSo forces « Any troops coming to W 
may expect to take casualties. 

Needless to say_j this kind of task force vill exercise little direct 
influence on the campaign against the V.C. It will_j however^ give a 
much needed shot in the arm to national morale _, particularly if com- 
bined with other actions showing that a more effective working 
relationship in the common cause has been established between the 
GW and the U.So l8/ 

FROM THE PHILIPP IITES .' ■ • 

EYES ONLY FOR THE PRESIDENT FROM GENERAL TAYLOR 

1« Transmitted herewith are a summary of the fundamental conclusions 
of my group and my personal recommendations in response to the letter 
of the President to me dated 13 October I961. -x- -x- ^ -x- ^ -J^ -x- 

2o It is concluded that: 

ao Communist strategy aims to gain control of Southeast Asia by 
. methods of subversion and guerrilla war which by-pass conventional U.So 
and indigenous strength on the ground. The interim Communist goal -- .' 
en route to total take-over — appears to be a neutral Southeast Asia^ 
detached from UoSo protectiono This strategy is well on the way to 
success in Vietnamo 

bo In Vietnam (and Southeast Asia) there is a double crisis in 
confidence: doubt that UoS. is determined to save Southeast Asia; 
doubt that Diem' s methods can frustrate and defeat Communist purposes 
and methods o The Vietnamese (and Southeast Asians) will undoubtedly 
draw -- rightly or wrongly — definitive coiaclusions in coming weeks 
and months concerning the probable outcome and will adjust their be- 
havior accordinglyo What the UoSo does or fails to do will be deci- 
sive to the end result o 

Co Aside from the morale factor^ the Vietnamese Government is 
caught in interlocking circles of bad tactics and bad administrative 
arrangements -viiich pin their forces on the defensive in ways which 
permit a relatively small Viet-Cong force (about one-tenth the size 
of the GVN regulars) to create conditions of frustration and terror 
certain to lead to a political crisis^ if a positive turning point is 



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not soon achieved o The following recommendations are designed to 
achieve that favorable turn^ to avoid a further deterioration in the 
situation in South Vietnam^ and eventually to contain and eliminate 
the threat to its independence , 



It is recommended: 



General 



ao That upon rec[uest from the Government of Vietnam (GVN) to 
come to its aid in resisting the increasing aggressions of the Viet- 
Cong and in repairing the ravages of the Delta flood which^j in combin- 
ation^j threaten the lives of its citizens and the security of the 
coimtry^ the UoSo Government offer to join the GTO in a massive joint 
effort as a part of a total mobilization of GW resources to cope 
with both the Viet-Cong (VC) and the ravages of the floodo The UoS. 
representatives will participate actively in this effort^ particularly 
in the fields of government administration^ military plans and opera- 
tions^ intelligence _j and flood relief^ going beyond the advisory role 
which they have observed in the past. " ' 

Specific 

b. That in support of the foregoing broad commitment to a joint 
effort with Diem^ the following specific measures be undertaken: 

(1) The UoSo Government will be prepared to provide indivi- 
dual administrators for insertion into the governmental machinery 

of South Vietnam in types and numbers to be worked out with President 
Diem. 

(2) A joint effort will be made to improve the military- 
political intelligence system beginning at the provincial level and 
extending upward through the government and armed forces to the 
Central Intelligence Organization. 

(3) The UoSo Government will engage in a joint survey of 
the conditions in the provinces to assess the social^ political^ 
intelligence^ and military factors bearing on the prosecution of the 
coimter-insiorgency in order to reach a common estimate cf these 
factors and a common determination of how to deal with them. As 
this survey will consum.e time^ it should not hold back the immedi- 
ate actions which are clearly needed regardless of its outcom.eo 

{h) A joint effort will be made to free the Aimy for 
mobile^^ offensive operations. This effort will be based upon im- 
proving the training and eq_uipping of the Civil Guard and the 



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Self -Defense Corps ^ relieving the regular Army of static missions^, 
raising the level of the mohility of Army Forces "by the provision of 
considerably more helicopters and light aviation^ and organizing 
a Border Ranger Force for a long-term campaign on the Laotian 
border against the Viet-Cong infiltrators o The U.S. Government 
vill support this effort vith equipment and with military units and 
.personnel to do those tasks which the Armed Forces of Vietnam cannot 
perform in timeo Such tasks include air reconnaissance and photo- 
graphy^ airlift (beyond the present capacity of SW forces)^ special 
intelligence^ and air-ground support techniques o 

(5) The UoSo Government will assist the GVE in effecting 
surveillance and control over the coastal waters and inland water- 
ways^ furnishing such advisors^ operating personnel and small craft 
as may be necessary for quick and effective operations o 

(6) The MAAG^ Vietnam^ will be reorganized and increased 
in size as may be necessary by the implementation of these recom- 
mendations. 

(7) The UoSo Government will offer to introduce into 
South Vietnam a military Task Force to operate under UoS. control 
for the following pur*poses: 

(a) Provide a UoS. military presence capable of 
raising national morale and of showing to Southeast Asia the serious- 
ness of ■ the UoSo intent to resist a Communist take-over^ 

(b) Conduct logistical operations in support of mili- 
tary and flood relief operations « 

(c) Conduct such combat operations as are necessary 
for self-defense and for the security of the area in which they are 
stationed o 

(d) Provide an emergency reserve to back up the 
Armed Forces of the GVM in the case of a heightened military crisis. 

I 

(e) Act as an advance party of such additional forces 
as may be introduced if CINCPAC or SEATO contingency plans are 
Invoked . 

(8) The UoS. Governraent will review its economic aid 
program to ta'ke into account the needs of flood relief and to give 
priority to those projects in support of the expanded counter- 
insurgency program. I9/ 



{ i 



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FROM TlIE FHILIPPIEES 

Eyes Only for the President from General Taylor. 

This message is for the piirpose of presenting my reasons for recommending 
the introduction of a U.So military force into South Vietnam (SW)o I 
have reached the conclusion that this is an essential action if we are 
to reverse the present downward trend of events in spite of a full 
recognition of the following disadvantages: 

ao The strategic reserve of UoSo forces is presently so weak that, 
we can ill afford any detachment of forces to a peripheral area of the 
CommuQist bloc vrhere they will be pinned down for an uncertain dura- 
tion o 

- bo Although UoSo prestige is already engaged in SM^ it will be- 
come more so by the sending of troops, 

Co If the first contingent is not enough to accomplish the 
necessary resiats^ it will be difficult to resist the pressure to re- 
inforce o If the ultimate result sought is the closing of the frontiers 
■ and the clean-up of the insurgents within SW^ there is no limit to 
our possible commitment (unless we attack the source in Hanoi) o 

do The introduction of UoSo forces may increase tensions and 
risk escalation into a major war in Asiao 

Gn the other side of the argument^ there can be no action so convincing 
of UoS„ seriousness of purpose and hence so reassuring to the people 
and Government of SVTJ and to our other friends and allies in SEA as 
the introduction of UoS. forces into SVNo The views of indigenous 
and UoSo officials consulted on our trip were unanimous on this point o 
I have just seen Saigon 5^5 to State and suggest that "it be read in 
connection with this message, ^c- ■ . ■ - , - \ 

The size of the UoS. force introduced need not be great to provide 
the military presence necessary to produce the desired effect on 
national morale in SW and on international opinion o A bare token^ 
however J will not suffice; it must have a significant value o The 
kinds of tasks which it might undertake \h±ch would have a signifi- 
cant value are suggested in BAGU^^^ (jprevious cable^ 3-"b.(7))- "^^^Y ^-^e: 



(a) Provide a US military presence capable of raising national 
morale and of showing to Southeast Asia the seriousness of the US 
intent to resist a Communist take-over o 

(b) Conduct logistical operations' in support of military 
and flood relief operations o 



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(c) Conduct such combat operations as are necessary for self- 
defense and for the security of the area in vhich they are stationed. 

(d) Provide an eraergency reserve to back up the Armed Forces of 
the GW in the case of a heightened military crisis a 

(e) Act as an advance party of such additional forces as may be 
introduced if CINCPAC or SEATO contingency plans are invoked o 

It is notevorthy that this force is not proposed to clear the jungles. 
and forests of Viet Cong guerrillas o That should be the primary task 
of the Armed Forces of Vietnam for which they should be specifically 
organized^ trained _, and stiffened with ample UoSo advisors down to 
combat battalion levels o However^ the U.S. troops may be called upon 
to engage in combat to protect themselves^ their working parties^ and 
the area in which they live. As a general, reserve^ they might be 
thrown into action (with UoS. agreement) against large^j formed guer- 
rilla bands which have abandoned the forests for attacks on major tar- 
gets o But in general^ our forces should not engage in small-scale 
guerrilla operations in the jungle o 

As an area for the operations of U.So' troops _, SVN is not an excessively 
difficult or unpleasant place to operate o While the border areas are 
riogged and heavily forested_, the terrain is comparable to parts of 
Korea where U.So troops learned to live and work without too much 
effort o However^ these border areas^ for reasons stated above^ are 
not the places to engage our forces « In the High Plateau and in the 
coastal plain where UoSo troops would probably be stationed^j these 
jungle-forest conditions do not exist to any great extent. The most 
Tonpleasant feature in the coastal areas would be the heat and^ in the 
Delta^ the mud left behind by the flood o The High Plateau offers no 
particular obstacle to the stationing of U.S. troops. 

The extent to which the Task Force would engage in flood relief activities 
in the Delta will depend upon further study of the problem there <> As 
reported in Saigon 537^ I see considerable advantages in playing up this 
aspect of the Task Force mission. I am presently inclined to favor a 
dual mission^ initially help to the flood area and subsequently use in 
any other area of SVN where its resources can be used effectively to 
give tangible support in the struggle against the Viet Congo However^ 
the possibility of emphasizing the humanitarian mission will wane if 
we wait long in moving in our forces or in linking our stated purpose 
with the emergency conditions created by the floods 

The risks of backing into a major Asian war by way of SVN are present 
but are not impressive « NVN is extremely vulnerable to conventional 
bombing_j a weakness which should be exploited diplomatically in 



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convincing Hanoi to lay off SW. Both the DRV and the Chicoms vo-ald 
face severe logistical difficulties in trying to maintain strong forces 
in the field in SEA^ difficulties vhich ve share but by no means to the 
same degree. There is no case for fearing a mass onslaught of Com- 
munist manpower into SW and its neighboring states^ particularly if . ■ _ 
ovr airpower is allowed a free hand against logistical targets o 
Finally^ the starvation conditions in China should discourage CommiHiist 
leaders there from being militarily venturesome for some time to comeo 

By the foregoing line of reasoning^ I have reached the conclusion that 
the introduction of a UoS. military Task Force without delay offers 
definitely more advantage than it creates risks and dif f iculties o In 
factj I do not believe that our program to save SW will succeed 
without it. If the concept is approved^ the exact size and composition- 
of the force should be determined by the Secretary of Defense in con- 
sultation with the JCS^ the Chief MMG^ and CINCPAC. My own feeling is 
that the initial size should not exceed about 8000^ of which a pre- 
ponderant number would be in logistical-type units o After acquiring 
experience in operating in SW; this initial force will require re- 
organization and adjustment- to the local scene. 

As CINCPAC will point out^ any forces' committed to SW will need to be 
" replaced by additional forces to his area from the strategic reserve 
in the UoSo Also^ any troops to SW are in addition to those which 
may be required to execute SEATO Plan 5 in Laos. Both facts should be 
taken into account in current considerations of the FY I963 budget which 
bear upon the permanent increase which should be made in the U.So 
military establishment to maintain our strategic position for the long 
pullo 20/ 

These cables^ it will be noticed^ are rather sharply focused on the 
insurgency as a problem reducible to fairly conventional military technique 
and tactics. Together with the cables from Saigon^ the im.pression is given 
that the major needs are getting the Army to take the offensive^ building 
. up a much better intelligence setup^ and persuading Diem to loosen up Admin- 
istrative impediments to effective use of his forces. 



!l 



V. THE TAYLOR REPORT 

A report of the Taylor Mission was published November 3p in the form of 
a black loose-leaf notebook containing a letter of transmittal of more than 
routine significance^ a 25-page "Evaluation and Conclusions/' then a series 
of memoranda by members of the mission. Of these^ the most important^ of 
course; were the Taylor cables^ which; being ^'E^^es only for the President/* 
were deleted from all but one or a very few copies of the reports There is 
no separate paper from Rostow^ and his views presumably are reflected in the 
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The impression the "Evaluation" paper gives is more easily summarized 
than its details o For the impression is clearly one of urgency combined 
vith optimism. Essentially^ it says South Vietnam is in serious trouble; 
major interests of the United States are at stake; but if the UoS. promptly 
and energetically takes up the challenge^ a victory can be had without a ■ 
UoSo take-over of the waro 

For example: 

Despite the intellectuals vho sit on the side lines and complain; 
despite serious dissidence among the Montagnards^ the sects^ and 
certain old Viet Minh areas; despite the apathy and fear of the Viet- 
Cong in the countryside^ the atmosphere in South Vietnam is^ on 
balance^ one of frustrated energy rather than passive acceptance of 
inevitable defeat <> 

Tt cannot be emphasized too strongly^ however^ that time has 
nearly rim out for converting these assets into the bases for vic- 
toryo Diem himself--.and all concerned with the fate of the country 
--are looking to American guidance and aid to achieve a turning 
point in Vietnam's affairs o From all quarters in Southeast Asia 
the message on Vietnam is the same: vigorous American action is 
needed to buy time for Vietnam to mobilize and organize its real 
assets; but the time for such a turn around has nearly run outc 
And if Vietnam goes^ it will be exceedingly difficult if not im- 
possible to hold Southeast Asia. What will be lost is not merely 
a crucial piece of real estate^ but the faith that the U.S. has the 
will and the capacity to deal with the Comjnunist offensive in that 
areao 2l/ 

The report^ drawing on the appendices^ includes a wide range of pro- 
posals o But the major emphasis^ very emphatically^ is on two ideas: 
Firsts there must be a firm^ unambiguous military commitment to remove 
doubts about UoSo resolve arising out of the laos negotiations; second^ 
there is great emphasis on the idea that the Diem regime's own evident 
weaknesses--from "the famous problem of Diem as administrator" to the 
Army's lack of offensive spirit--could be cured if enough dedicated Araeri- 
cans_, civilian and military^ became involved in South Vietnam to show the 
South Vietnamese^ at all levels^ how to get on and win the waro The 
much-urged military Task Force^ for example^ was mainly to serve the first 
purpose^ but partly also to serve the second: "the presence of American 
military forces in the ^lood/ area should also give us an opportunity 
to work intensively with the civil guards and with other local military 
elements and to explore the possibility of suffusing them with an offen- 
sive spirit and oactiGSo"22 



Here are a few extracts which give the flavor of the discussion: 



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"It is evident that morale in Vietnam will rapidly crunible ^- and 
in Southeast Asia only slightly less quickly -- if the sequence of / 
expectations set in motion by Vice President Johnson's visit and 
climaxed by General Taylor's mission are not soon followed by a 
hard UoSo commitment to the ground in Vietnamo " /Emphasis added/ 

"The elements required for buying time and assuming the offensive 
in Vietnam are^ in the view of this mission;, the following: 

lo A quick UoSo response to the present crisis which 
would demonstrate by deeds -- not merely words -- the American 
commitment seriously to help save Vietnam rather than to dis- 
engage in the most convenient manner possibleo To be^per- _■ 
Suasive this commitment must include the sending to Vietnam 
of some U.So military forces o 

2 c A shift in the American relation to the Vietnamese 
effort from advice to limited partnership o The present character 
and scale of the war in South Vietnam decree that only the Viet- 
namese can defeat the Viet Cong; but at all levels Americans 
must^ as friends and partners -- not as arms-length advisors -- 
show them how the job might be done -- not tell them or do it 
for them. 23/ ^ ^ 

"Perhaps the most striking aspect of this mission's effort is the 
unanimity of view -- individually arrived at by the specialises in- 
volved -- that what is now required is a shift from UoS.^advice to 
limited partnership and working collaboration with the Vietnamese « 
The present war cannot be won by direct U.So action; it must be won. 
by the Vietnamese <. But there is a general conviction among us that 
the Vietnamese performance in every domain can be substantially im- 
proved if Americans are prepared to work side by side with the Viet- 
namese on the key problems « Moreover^ there is evidence that Diem 
is^ in principle^ prepared for this step^ and that most -- not all -- 
elements in his establishment are eagerly awaiting ito 24/ 



Here is a section titled "Reforminc^ Diem's AdaT^lnistrative Method": 



The famous problem of Diem as an administrator and politi- 
cian could be resolved in a number of ways: 

-- By his removal in favor of a military dictatorship 
which would give dominance to the military chain of commando 

-- By his removal in favor of a figure of more dilute power 
(eog.^ Vice President Nguyen Kgoc Tho) who would delegate 
authority to act to both military and civil leaders « 



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-- By bringing about a series of de facto administrative 
changes via persuasion at high levels; collaboration with Diem's 
aides who want improved administration; and by a U.So operating 
presence at many working levels^j using the UoSo presence (eogo^ 
control over the helicopter squadrons) for forcing the Vietnamese 
to get their house in order in one area after another. 

¥e have opted for the third choice^, on the basis of both 
merit and feasibilityo 

Our reasons for these: First _, it would be dangerous for us 
to engineer a coup under present tense circujnstances^, since it is 
by no means certain that we could control its consequences and 
potentialities for Communist exploitation. Second^ we are con- 
vinced that a part of the complaint about Diem* s administrative 
methods conceals a lack of first-rate executives who can get 
things done. In the endless debate between Diem and his sub- 
ordinates (Diem complaining of limited executive material; his 
subordinates _, of Diem' s bottleneck methods) both have hold of a 
piece of the truth o 

The proposed strategy of limited partnership is designed both 
to force clear delegation of authority in key areas and to beef up 
Vietnamese administration until they can surface and develop the 
men to take over 



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This is a difficult course to adopts We can anticipate some 
friction and reluctance until it is proved that Americans can be 
helpful partners and that the techniques will not undermine Diem's 
political positiouo Shifts in UoSo attitudes and methods of admin- 
istration as well as Vietnamese are required « But we are confi- 
dent that it is the right way to proceed at this stage; and_j as 
noted earlier^ there is reason for confidence if the right men 
are sent to do the right jobs. 25/ 

On many points the tone_, and sometimes the substance^ of the appendices 
by the lesser members of the Mission (with the exception of one by Lansdale) 
are in sharp contrast to the summary paper o 

William Jorden of State begins a discussion of "the present situation" 
by reporting: 

One after another ^ Vietnamese officials _, military men and . 
ordinary citizens spoke to me of the situation in their country 
as * grave* and * deteriorating « ' They are distressed at the 
evidence of growing Viet Cong successes o They have lost confi- 
dence in President Diem and in his leadership. Men who only one 



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or two months ago would have hesitated to say anything critical 
of Diem_j now explode in angry denunciation of the man^ his family^ 
and his methods o 

And after a page of details _, Jorden sioms up with: 

Intrigue^j nepotism and even corruption might be accepted_, 
for a time_j if combined with efficiency and visible progress,, 
When they accompany administrative paralysis and steady deteri- 
oration^ they become intolerable o 26/ 

But the summary paper ^ under the heading of "The Assets of South Viet- 
name^" lists: 

With all his weaknesses^. Diem has extraordinary ability^ 
stubbornness^ and gutSo 

Despite their acute frustration^ the men of the Armed Forces 
and the administration respect Diem to a degree "Aich gives 
their griimbling (and perhaps some plotting) a somewhat half- 
hearted character; and they are willing -- by and large — to 
work for him^ if he gives them a chance to do their jobs. 27 / 

The military annex contains this summary comment on the South Vietnamese 
^^ Army: 

The performance of the ARW is disappointing and generally is 
characterized by a lack of aggressiveness and at most levels is 
devoid of a sense of urgencyo The Army is short of able young 
trained leaders^ both in the officer and TTCO ranks The basic 
soldier^ as a result; is poorly trained,, inadequately oriented^ 
■ lacking in desire to close with the enemy and for the most part 
unaware of the serious inroads communist guerrillas are making 
In his country^ 28/ 

But the main' paper^ again in the summary of South Vietnamese assets_, 
reports that the South Vietnamese regulars are "of better quality than the 
Viet Cong Guerrillas 0" 29/ 

The point is not that the summary flatly contradicts the appendices « 
For example^ the statement about the superior quality of ARVW^ compared to 
the Viet Cong^ is qualified with the remark "if it can bring the Communists 
. . to engagement/' and can be explained to mean only that the more heavily ^ 

armed ARVT^ could defeat a VC force in a set-piece battle c But the persistent 
tendency of the summary is to put Saigon's weaknesses in the best light; and 
avoid anything that might suggest that perhaps the UoSo should consider 
limiting; rather than increasing; its commitments to the Diem regime; or 
alternatively face up to a need to openly take over the war^ 



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In contrast^ the appendices contemplate (if not always recommend) 
the more drastic alternatives o The military appendix argues (in a para- 
phrase of the JCS position quoted earlier) that the UoSo ought to move 
into Southeast Asia^ preferably Laos^ in force o The appendix "by Sterling 
Cottrell of State (Chairman of the Vietnam Task Force) suggests an oppo- 
site view: 

Since it is an open question whether the GM can succeed 
even with UoS. assistance^, it would be a mistake for the UoS. to 
commit itself irrevocably to the defeat of the communists in 
SWo 30/ 

And Cottrell^ in the only explicit statement in the available record 
on why the UoS. would not want to give Diem the treaty he had asked for^ 
states; - . ■ ' 

The Communist operation starts from the lowest social 
level -- the villages. The battle must be joined and won at 
this pointo If not; the Communists will ultimately control 
all but the relatively few areas of strong military concen- 
trations. Foreign military forces cannot themselves win the 
battle at the village level. Therefore^ the primary respon- 
sibility for saving the country must rest with the GVNo 

For the above reason^ the UoSo should assist the GWo 
{ '\_ This rules out any treaty or pact which either shifts ulti- 

mate responsibility to the U.So^ or engages any full UoS. 
commitment to eliminate the Viet Cong threats 3l/ 

(And a treaty which did not apply to the Viet Cong threat would hardly 
be a very reassuring thing to Saigon; while one that did would face an 
uncertain future when it came to the Senate for ratificatiouo ) 

yet_; Jorden and Cottrell had nothing much to recommend that was parti- 
cularly different from what was recommended in the summaryo The effect of 
their papers is to throw doubt on the prospects for success of the inter- 
vention proposed o But their recommendations come out about the same way^ 
j j ^ so that if their papers seem more realistic in hindsight than the main 

paper^ they also seem more confused « 

_ Cottrell_j after recommending that the U<,So avoid committing itself 
irrevocably to winning in South Vietnam^ goes on to recommend: 

The world should continue to be impressed that this situation 
of overt DRV aggression^ below the level of conventional war- 
fare_; must be stopped in the best interest of every free 
nation o 32/ 



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The idea that^ if worse comes to worst,, the UoS. could probati y save 
its position in Vietnam by bombing the north^ seems to underlie a good deal 
of the optimism that pervades the summary paper o And even Cottrell^ in the 
last of his recommendations^ states: 

If the combined U.So/gW efforts are insufficient to reverse 
the trend_j we should then move to the "Rostow Plan" of applying 
graduated measures on the DRV with weapons of oior own choos- 
ing. 33/ 

Taylor^ in his personal recommendations to the President (the cables 
from Baguio quoted earlier)^ spoke of the "extreme vulnerability of North 
Vietnam to conventional bombing o" 

The summary paper^ in its contrast between the current war and the war 
the French lost^ states: ' • 

Finally _, the Communists now not only have something to gain 
— the South -- but a base to lose -- the North --if war should 
comeo 3^/ 

Bombing was not viewed as the answer to all problems « If things did 
not go well^ the report saw a possible requirement for a substantial com- 
mitment of UoSo grouad troops o In a section on South Vietnamese reserves^ 
there is the comment that 



o • o 



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it is an evident requirement that the United States review 
quick action contingency plans to move into Vietnam^ should 
the scale of the Vietnam/Viet Cong?/" offensive radically increase 
at a time when Vietnamese reserves are inadequate to cope with 
ito Such action might be designed to take over the responsibility 
for the security of certain relatively quiet areas^ if the battle 
remained at the guerrilla level^ or to fight the Communists if 
open war were attempted c 3^/ 

And the concluding paragraphs of the siimmary state that: 

One of the major issues raised by this report is the need 
to develop the reserve strength in the UoSo establishment re- 
quired to cover action in Southeast Asia up to the nuclear 
threshold in that area^ as it is now envisaged. The call up 
of additional support forces may be required o 

In' our view^ nothing is more calculated to sober the 
enemy and to discourage escalation in the face of the limited 
initiatives proposed here than the knowledge that the United 
States has prepared itself soun.dly to deal with aggression 
in Southeast Asia at any levels 36- 



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But these warnings were directed to an unexpectedly strong Viet Cong 
showing during the period of buildup of ARVN^ and more still to deterring 
the likelihood of a Communist resmiption of their offensive in Laos^ or 
of an overt invasion of South Vietnamo The Vietnam contingencies^ in 
particular^ were not viewed as likelyo . But the possibility of bombing 
the North was viewed otherwise. The clearest statements are in General 
Taylor's letter of transmittal: 

While we feel that the program recommended represents those 
measures which should be taken in our present knowledge of the 
situation in Southeast Asia^j I would not suggest that it is the 
final wordo Future needs beyond this program will depend upon 
the kind of settlement we obtain in Laos and the manner in 
which Hanoi decides to adjust its conduct to that settlement o 
If the Hanoi decision is to continue the irregular war declared 
on South Vietnam in 1959 vith continued infiltration and covert 
support of guerrilla bands in the territory of our ally^ we will 
then have to decide whether to accept as legitimate the con- 
tinued guidance^ trainlng_, and support of a guerrilla war across 
an international boundary^ while the attacked react only inside 
their borders o Can we admit the establishment of the common 
law that the party attacked and his friends are denied the right 
to strike the source of aggression^ after the fact of external 
aggression is clearly established? It is. our view that our 
government should undertake with the Vietnamese the measures 
outlined herein^ but should then consider and face the broader 
question beyond. 

¥e cannot refrain from expressing^ having seen the situa- 
tion on the ground^ our common sense of outrage at the burden 
which this kind of aggression imposes on a new country^ only 
seven years old^ with a difficult historical heritage to over- . 
come^ confronting the inevitable problems of political^ social^ 
and economic transition to modernizationo It is easy and cheap 
to destroy such a country whereas it Is difficult undisturbed 
to build a nation coming out of a complex past without carrying 
the burden of a guerrilla waro 

We were similarly struck in Thailand with the injustice 
of subjecting this promising nation in transition to the heavy 
military biordens it faces in fulfilling its role in SEATO 
: security planning along with the guerrilla challenge beginning 
to form up on its northeast frontier o 

It Is my judgment and that of my colleages that the United ■ 
States must decide how it will cope with Krushchev's "wars of 
liberation" which are really para-wars of guerrilla aggression. 



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This is a nev and dangerous Communist technique which bypasses 
our traditional political and military responses. While the 
final ansver lies beyond the scope of this report^ it is clear 
to me that the time may come in our relations to Southeast Asia 
when we must declare our intention to attack the source of 
guerrilla aggression in North Vietnain and impose on the Hanoi 
Government a price for participating in the ciorrent war which 
is commensurate with the damage being inflicted on its neighbors 
to the south o 37/ 



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VI o SOME CABLES FROM SAIGON 

To a current reader^ and vei-y likely to the officials in Washington who 
had access to the fiill Taylor Mission Report (including Taylor's personal 
recoimnendations)_j there really seem to be three reports_^ not oneo 

lo Taylor's own cables read like^ as of course they were_, a soldier's 
crisp_, direct analysis of the military problem facing the Saigon govern- 
ment. With regard to the Diem regime^ the emphasis is on a need to build 
up intelligence capabilities^ clear up administrative drags on efficient 
action^ and take the offensive in seeking out and destroying VC units. 

2. The main paper in the Report (the "Evaluations and Conclusions") 
incorporates General Taylor's views on the military problems o But^ it is ^ 
much broader^ giving primary emphasis to the military problem^ but also some 
attention to what we now call the "other war^" and even more to conveying an 
essentially optimistic picture of the opportunities for a vigorous American 
effort to provide the South Vietnamese government and army with the elan and 
style needed to wino This paper was presumably drafted mainly by Rostow^ 
with contributions from other members of the partyo 

It is consistent with Rostow's emphasis before and since on the 
Viet Cong problem as a pretty straight-forward case of external aggression. 
There is no indication of the doubts expressed in the Alexis Johnson 
"Concept of Intervention in Vietnam" paper that Diem might not be able to 
defeat the Viet Cong even if infiltration were largely cut off o At one 
pointy for example,, the paper tells its readers: 

It must be remembered that the 1959 political decision in Hanoi 
to laTmch the guerrilla and political campaign of I96O-61 arose 
because of Diem' s increasing success in stabilizing his rule and 
moving his country forward in the several preceding years « 38/ 

On the very next page (perhaps reflecting the vagaries of committee 
papers) the paper does not itself "remember" this description of conditions 
when the war started « For it states: 

The military frustration of the past two months has..omade acute_j 
throughout his administration^ dissatisfaction with Diem's method 
of rule^ with his lack of identification with his people^ and 
with his strategy which has been endemic for some years. 39 / 

But that seems only a momentary lapse from the general line of the 
paper ^ which is fairly reflected in the recommendation that we tell Moscow 
to: 

use its influence with Ho Chi Minh to call his dogs off^ mind 
"his business J and feed his people, ko/ 



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3^ Finally^ there were the appendices by the military and especially 
the State representatives on the Mssion which^ as indicated by the extracts 
given in the previous section^ paint a much darker picture than the reader 
gets from the main paper o Even when^j as is frequently the case^ their 
recommendations are not much different from the main paper ^ the tone is one 
of trying to make the best of a bad situation^ rather than of seizing an 
opportunity o 

Because of these distinctions between the different parts of the 
Report^ two people reading the full Report could come away with far different 
impressions of what sort of problem the UoSo was facing in Vietnam_, depending 
on which parts of the Report seemed to them to ring truest o Presumably^ 
officials' judgments here were influenced by their reading of the series of 
cables that arrived during and just after the Taylor visit; many of which 
touch on critical points of the report. 

Here are some samples o 

The day Taylor left^ Nolting sent a cable describing the immediate 
mood in Saigon in pretty desperate terms. All parts of the Taylor Report^ 
including the main paper^ did the same. The distinctions in describing the 
situation were in how deep-rooted the immediate malaise was seen^ The 
main effect of this cable from Nolting was presumably to add weight to the 
warning of the Report that something dramatic had to be done if the UoSo 
were not ready to risk a collapse in Saigon within a few months. As the 
Taylor Report stressed and the cable implies^ the very fact of the Taylor 
Mission would have a very negative impact if nothing came out of ito 

■ 

There has been noticeable rise in Saigon's political temperature 
during past week. Taylor visit_, though reassuring in some respects^ 
has been interpreted by many persons as demonstrating critical 
stage which VC insurgency has reached. o .Following deterioration of 
general security conditions over past two months cancellation 
October 26 national day celebrations to devote resources to flood 
relief and terse^ dramatic declaration national emergency caught 
an imprepared public by surprise and contributed additional un- 
settling elements to growing atmosphere of uneasiness 



o o o 



This growing public disquietude accompanied by increasing dis- 
satisfaction with Diem's methods of administration on part senior 
GVN officials There is considerable cabinet level criticism and 
growing though still inchoate determination force organizational 
reforms on President. Similar attitude seems be developing in 
ARYN upper levels o Though trend of thinking these groups taking 
parallel courses ^ there nothing indicate at this moment that col- 
laboration between them taking place,, Beginnings of this would _, 
of course^, be serious indicator something brewings 



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At same time CAS JcIAJ also has from Vietnamese government sources 
reports (C-3) of movement of certain platoon to company-size VC 
units (totalling perhaps 200-500 men) toward Saigon to profit from 
any disturbances or confusion vhich may occur. Knowledge these 
reports within GVN apparently tending deter disaffected officials 
from developing radical pace at this memento 

Situation here thus one of insecurity^ uneasiness and emergent 
instability. A genuine and important military victory over VC 
would do more than anything else to redress balance and allay 
for moment high-level mutterings of need for change o On other 
handj further deterioration of situation over next few weeks or 
months or new VC success similar Fhuoc Hhanh incident might 
veil bring situation to heado 4l/ 

• 
From MAAG Chief McGarr^ Washington received an account of Taylor* s 
meeting with "Big Minh^" then Chief of Staffs later Head of State for a 
while after Diem was overthrowno It is interesting because it was one of 
the very few reports from Saigon in the available record suggesting that the 
Diem regime might be in need of more than administrative reforms. Minh com- ^ 

plains that the Vietnamese army was "losing the support of the people" as 

indicated by a "marked decrease in the amount of information given by the I 

populationo" He warned^ further^ that "GVE should discontinue favoring 
certain religionSo o «" But McGarr stressed the administrative problems_j 
particularly the need for an "overall plauo" His reaction explicitly con- 
cerns what he saw as the "milltar/ aspects of Minh's complaints. But 
Ambassador Nolting's cables and the main paper of the Report show a very 
similar tendency to take note of political problems^ but put almost all the 
emphasis on the need for better military tactics and more efficient admin- . 
istrative arrangements o 



« • o. 



.Big Minh was pessimistic and clearly and frankly outlined 
his personal feeling that the military was not being properly 
supported. He said not only Viet Cong grown alarmingly^ but that 
Vietnamese armed forces were losing support of the people. As 
example^ he pointed out marked decrease in amount of Information 
given by populationo Minh said GVW should discontinue favoring' 
certain religions^ and correct present system of selecting province 
chiefs o At this point Mlnli was extremely caustic in commenting 
on lack of ability^ m-ilitary and administrative_j of certain 
province chiefs « Minh was bitter about province chief's role in 
military chain of command saying that although Gen^ McGarr had 
fought for and won on the single . . . command which had worked for 
few months^ old habits were now returning. Also^ on urging from 
Geuo McGarr he had gone on offensive, but province chiefs had not 
cooperated to extent necessary© He discussed his Inability to 
get cooperation from GVTT agencies on developing overall plans for 
conduct of Gounterinsurgencyo Minh also discussed need to bring 
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not new Minh seemed particularly discouir aged. . .When analyzed, 
most of Minh's comments in military field are occasioned by 
lack of overall coordination and cooperation. This re-empha.- 
sizes absolute necessity for overall plan which would clearly 
delineate responsibility and create a team effort, o. _^2/ 

Nolting concerned himself, of course, with the civil as well as 
military a^rrangements, but with much the same stress on organizational 
and administrative formalities. A striking example was when Nolting 
reported that Diem was willing to consider (in response to American urg- 
ing of top level administrative reforms') creating a IX^ational Executive 
Council patterned after the UcS. National Security Council. Nolting was 
favorably impressed. His cable notes no concern that under Diem's propo- 
sal, Diem's brother Nhu would be chairman of the NEC, although a year 
earlier (and of course even more urgently a year or so later) getting Nhu, 
and his wife, out of the picture entirely had been seen as the best real 
hope of saving the Diem regime. 

The report Nolting sent on Taylor's final meeting with Diem also 
contains some interesting material. It leaves the impression that Diem 
was still not really anxious to get American troops deeply involved in 
his country, despite his favorable reaction at the meeting of the 2Hh, 
which, in turn, was a reversal of his reaction at the meeting on the 
19th. Because of this, the impression left by the whole record is that 
Taylor came to the conclusion that some sort of ground troop commitment 
was needed mainly because of what he heard from Diem's colleagues and his 
military people, rather than from Diem himself. 

According to Nolting *s cabled account. Diem, although raising 
half a dozen issues relating to increased American military aid, did not 
mention the flood task force, or anything else that might imply a special 
interest in getting some sort of ground troops commitment « As seemed the 
case earlier, it was the Americans who pressed the idea of getting American 
military people involved in combat. In the only exchange Nolting reported 
touching on this issue, he said: 

1. Diem stressed importance of reinforcement of aviation: 
particularly helicopters. Taylor and I jolting/ used this 
opportunity to make clear to Diem that we envisaged helicopters 
piloted by Americans and constituting American units under 
American commanders which would cooperate with Vietnamese mili- 
tary commands o.c ^3/ 

(At a meeting with McGarr November 9- Diem again raised the heli- 
copter question, this time talking the initiative in saying he needed 
Ajnerican pilots, but he did not mention the flood task force, or anything 
else that might imply a request for ground troops «) hk/ 



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On the question of better performance by Diem's regime, we have 
this exchange 5 which does not seem likely to have prepared Diem for the 
fairly substantial quid pro quo which turned out to be part of the pack- 
age proposed by Was_hington: 

o.w3. Taylor told Diem it would be useful if he and 1 could 
develop specifics with respect to political-psychological point 
in paper which Taylor presented to Diem October 2U. ^ Taylor 
pointed out this would be very useful to him in Washington be- 
cause he v/ill be faced with question that^ if progrsjn he proposes 
is adopted^ what will be chances of early success. In response 
Thuan's question asking for exact meaning of this point in 
Taylor's paper, latter said there has been loss of confidence 
among both Vietnejaese and American people about situation in Viet- 
nam and we need to determine together what measures can be taken 
to restore confidence. Rostow coiiomented that secret of turning 
point is offensive action^ Diem stated complete psychological 
mobilization required so that everything can be done to raise 
potential GM forces and damage enemy's potentials He referred 
to GW efforts in past to collaborate more closely with US in 
military planning and said these efforts had run up against wall 
of secrecy surromiding US and SEATO military plans. <.<> k^f 

Finally, there was this exchange, which does not appear to provide 
much support for the high hopes expressed in the Taylor Report that Diem 
was anxious for UcS. guidance and "in principle" ready to grant a role for 
Americans in his administration and army^ 

...k, Taylor referred to Diem's comjnents in earlier talk 
about shortage of capable personnel and suggested US might 
■ assist by lending personnels Diem replied that US could help 
in this respect in training fieldc Thuan then brought up 
dilemma facing GVN re instructors at Thui Due Reserve Officers' 
School. oo kG/ 






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Paragraph 12 .of Taylor's cable reporting the meeting. Quoted in 
Section IV, above. 

"Actions to emphasize national emergency and beginning of a new phase 
in the war: we should consider jointly all possible mea^siires to em- 
phasize turning point has been reached in dealing with communist 
aggression^ Possible actions might include appeal to United Nations, 
an announcement by GViV of governmental changes to cope with crisis and 
exchange of letters between the two heads of State expressing their 
partnership in a common cause.^oo" hj/ 



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.Tfia FAIL rSCISIOITS - II 
IV. Be CHAPTER VI 



I. COOTEXT 



Taylor's formal report^ as noted^ vas dated November 3^ a day 
after the Mission came back to Washington. (A good deal of it had 
been written during the stopover at Baguio^ in the Philippines^ 
vhen Taylor's personal cables to the President had also been VTritten 
and sent.) The submission of Taylor's Report was followed by promi- 
nent news stories the next morning flatly stating (but without 
i ' attribution to a source) that the President "remains strongly opposed 

to the dispatch of American combat troops to South Vietnam" and 
strongly implying that General Taylor had not recommended such a com- 
mitment, l/ Apparently^ only a few people^ aside from Taylor^ 
I Rostov and a handful of very senior officials^ reaJ-ized that this was 

not exactly accurate — for the summary paper of the Report had not 
been very explicit on Just what was meant by "a hard commitment to 
the gro-und." Thus only those, who knew about the "Eyes Only" cables 
would know just what Taylor was recommending. 

Diem himself had given one of his rare on-the-record interviews 
to the Wew York Tim.es correspondent in Saigon while Taylor was on his 
vay home^ and he too gave the impression that the further American aid 
he expected would not include ground troops « £/ 

Consequently^ the general outline of the American aid that wou].d 
be sent following the Taylor Mission was common knowledge for over a 
veek before any formal decision was made. The decisions^ when they 
were announced stirred very little fuss^ and (considering the retro- ■ 
spective importance) not even much interest o The Taylor Mission had 
received much less attention in the press than several other crises 
at the JJEy in the Congo^ on nuclear testing^ and most of all in Berlin^ 
where there had just been a symbolic confrontation of Soviet and 
, ■ American tanks « The Administration was so concerned about public 

reaction to Soviet aggressiveness and apparent American inability to 
deal with it that a campaign was begun (as usual in matters of this 
sort^ reported in the Times without specific attribution) to "counter- 
I attack against what unjiame'd ^high officials' called a 'rising mood of 

i , national frustrationo ' " The Administration's message^ the Times 

reported^ was that a 'inature foreign policy^' rather than "belligerence 
of defeatism" was what was needed. 3/ What is interesting about such 
a message is what the necessity to send it reveals about the mood of 
the times „ 



In this sort of context^ there was no real debate about whether 
the U.S. ought to do anything reasonable it could to prevent Vietnam 
from going the way of Laos. There is no hint of a suggestion other- 
wise in the classified record^ and there was no real public debate on 

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this point. What was seen as an issue was whether the limits of 
reasonahle U.S. aid extended to the point of sending American troops 
to fight the Viet Cong. But even this was subdued. There had been^ 
as noted before ^ the leal^ed stories playing down the prospects that 
combat troops would be sent, and then, immediately on Taylor ^s return, 
the unattributed but obviously authoritative stories that Kennedy was 
opposed to sending troops and Taylor was not recommending them. 

In a most important sense, this situation distorts the story 
told in this account. For this account inevitably devotes a great 
deal of space to the decision that was not made — that of sending 
ground troops ^^ and very little space to the important decisions 
that were made. There is simply nothing much to say about these lat- 
ter decisions: except that they were apparently taken for granted at 
the time. Even today, "VJlth all the hindsight available, it is very 
hard to imagine Kennedy or any other President responding to the 
situation faced in I961 by doing significantly less about Vietnani than 
he did. The only choices seen then, as indeed even today the only 
choices seem to have been, whether to do more. And it is on how that 
question was resolved^ inevitably, that any account of the period will 
be focused. 

The Administration faced (contrary to the impression given to the 
public both before and after the decisions) two major issues when 
Taylor returned. 

1. What conditions, if any, would be attached to new Anerican 
aid? The Taylor Report implicitly recommended none. But the leaked 
stories in the press following Taylor's return showed that some in the 
Administration inclined to a much harder line on Diem than the suin- 
mary paper of the report. For exaiTiple, A Times dispatch of Tlovember 5, 
from its Pentagon correspondent, reported that Diem would be expected 
to "undertalie major economic, social, and military reforms to provide ^ 
a basis for increased U.S. support." hj 

2. Would the limited commitment of ground feces recommended by 
Taylor be undertaken? The news stories suggested they would, although 
this would be apparent only to those who had seen Taylor's ''Eyes Only" 
cables. The story appearing the day after the report was submitted, 
despite the flat statements against the use of combat troops, also 
stated that Taylor had recommended "the dispatch of more specialists 
in anti -guerrilla warfare to train Vietnam.ese troops, communications 
and transportation specialists, and army engineers to help the Viet - 
namese government combat its flood problems ," The November 5 story 
was more explicit. It is noted that officials seemed to rule out the 
use of U.S. combat forces, "the move considered here a few weeks ago." 
But "at the same time it appears that Army engineers, perhaps in 
unusually large numbers, may be sent to help on flood control work 



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and other civil projects and to fi ght if necessary o" This last phrase 
was explicitly (and correctly) linked to the fact that the area in 
which the floods had taken place (the Delta) was "orecisely the area of 
greatest Viet Cong strengths 5/ 

■^ A final question of great importance did not have to be resolved 
during this review: for although the Taylor Report had stressed the 
idea of eventually bombing the north^ no iinmediate decision or commit- 
ment on this was recommended. 

r 

On the first of these issues (the quid pro quo for U.So aid) our 
record tells us that demands were made on Diem, as we will see when we 
come to the actual decision. The newspaper stories strongly suggest 
that the decision to ask for a quid pro quo vras made, at the latest, 
XDmediately following the return of the Taylor Mission. But the record 
does not show anything about the reasoning behind this effort to pres- 
sure .Diem to agree to reforms as a condition for increased U.S. aid, 
nor of what the point of it was. It certainly conflicted with the main 
drive of the Taylor Mission Report. The report not only suggested no 
such thing, but put a great deal of stress on a cordial, intiJiiate 
relationship with the Diem regime. Pressure for reform (especially 
when publicly made, as they essentially were in the leaked stories) 
was hardly likely to promote cordiality. Durbrow's experience earlier 
m the year had shown that pressure would have the opposite result. 

Consequently, the President's handling of this issue had the effect 
of undermining f^rom the start what appeared to have been a major premise 
of the strategy recommended to the President: that Diem was "in principle" 
prepared for what plainly amounted to a "limited partnership," with the"^ 
U.S. in running his country and his Ari-ay, -^ 6/ ^ 

The advantages, from the American view, of the President's decision 
to place demands on Diem were presumably that it might (contrary to 
realistic expectations) actually push Diem in the right direction; and 
that if this did not work, it would somewhat limit the American commit- 
ment to Diem.,. The limit would come by making clear that the U.S. saw 
a good deal of the problem as Diem's own responsibility, and not just 
a simple matter of external aggression. J?he balance of this judgment 
would turn substantially on whether whoever was making the decision 
judged^ that the "limited partnershi-v'" idea was really much more realistic 
than the trying to pressure Diem, and on whether he v/anted to limit the 
U.S. commitment, rather than make it unambiguous. Further, the cables 
from^Saigon had clearly shown that many South Vietn&iriese were hoping the 
Americans would put pressure on Diem, so that although such tactics 



* A^ cable to Saigon November k asked Kolting whether he thought Diem 
. might agree to, among other things, a proposal to establish a National 
Emergency Council which, in addition to the senior members of Diem's 
army and ac^ninistratioxi would include a "mature and hardheaded 
American... to participate in all decisions." 

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would prejudice relations with Diem^ they would not necessarily harm 
relations with others of influence in the country^ in particular his 
generals. 

Finally _, a3.though Kennedy's decisions here were contrary to the 
implications of the suinmary paper in the Taylor Report^ they were not 
particularly inconsistent vrith the appendices by the State representa- 
tives. For these^ as noted^ took a far less rosy view of Diem's 
prospects than appeared in the svm^SuTy. 

On the second issue -- the U.S. combat military task force — the 
available record tells us only the positions of Taylor and of the 
Defense Department. ¥e are not sure what the position of State was -- 
although Sorenson claims that all the President's senior advisors had 
recommended going ahead with sending some ground troops. 7/ 

Even Taylor's position is slightly ambiguous. It is conceivable 
that he argued for the Task Force mainly because he thought that the . 
numbers of U.S. personnel that might be sent as advisors^ pilots_, and 
other specialists would not add up to a large enough increment to have 
much of a psychological impact on South Vietnamese morale. But his 
choice of language indicates that a mere question of numbers was not 
the real issue. Rather Taylor's argiment seems to have been that ■ 
specifically ground forces (not necessarily all or even mainly infantry- 
men^ but ground soldiers who would be out in the countryside where ^ they 
could be shot at and shoot back) were what was needed. Combat engineers 
to work in th. VC-infested flood area in the Delta would meet that need. 
Helicopter pilots and mechanics and advisors, who might accompany Viet- 
namese operations, but could not undertake ground operations on their 
own apparently would not. There is only one easily imagined reason for 
seeing this as a crucial distinction. And that would be if a critical 
object of the stepped up American program was to be^^exactly what Taylor 
said it should be in his final cable from Saigon: "...assuring Diem 
of our readiness to join him in a military showdown with the Viet Cong 
" 8/ 



• • 



Thus the flood task force was essentially different from the bal- 
ance of the military program. It did not fill an urgent need for military 
specialists or expertise not adequately available within Vietnam j ^it v/as 
an implicit commitment to deny the Viet Cong a victory even if major 
American ground forces should be required. 

Taylor clearly did not see the need for large U.S. ground involve- 
ment as at all probable. ("The risks of backing into a major Asian war 
by way of SVH are present but are not impressive/' in ^ large part because 
"HVIT is extremely vulnerable to conventional bombing.') At another 
' point, Taylor warns the President, "If the first contingent is not 
enough, ... it will be difficult to resist the pressure to reinforce. 
If the ultimate result sought is the closing of the frontiers and the 

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cleanup of the insurgents vithin SVII^ there is no limit to our pos- 
sible commitment (unless we attack the source in Hanoi. )^' 9/ 

We have a good record of the DoD staff work^ which preceded the 
President's decision on this issue^ but only a bit from State and 
none from the "White House. Rusk^ in a cable from Japan on I^ovember 1^ 
contributed this note of caution (which also bears on the previous 
discussion of demands on Diem for a quid pro quo for increased 
itaierican aid): ." ' ' " 

Since General Taylor may give first full report prior 
my return, believe special attention should be given to 
critical question whether Diem is prepared take necessary 
measures to give us something worth supporting. If Diem 
unwilling trust military commanders to get job done and 
take steps to consolidate non-communist elements into 
serious national effort, difficult to see how handful 
American troops can have decisive influence. While at- 
taching greatest possible importance to security in SEA, 
I would be reluctant to see U.S. make major additional 
commitm-ent American prestige to a losing horse. 

Suggest Department carefully review all Southeast Asia 
measures we expect from Diem if our assistance forces us to 
assume de facto direction South Vietnamese affairs. 10 / 

But the view of the U.S. Mission in Saigon contained no such 
doubts, nor did most Vietnamese, according to this cable Nolting sent 
while Taylor was enroute home : 

Our conversations over past ten days with Vietnamese 
in various waUks of life show virtually unanimous desire 
for introduction U.S. forces into Viet-Nani. This based on 
unsolicited remarks from cabinet ministers. National 
Assembly Deputies, University professors, students, shop- 
keepers, and oppositionists. Dr. Tran Dinh De, level- 
headed Minister of Health, told Embassy officer Oct 29 
that while GVT^ could continue resist communists for while 
longer if US troops not introduced, it could not win 
alone against commies. National Assembly members, ac- 
cording to Lai Tu, leader Personalist Community, tinani- 
mously in favor entry US forces. Diem told us while 
General Taylor was here that he had consulted National 
Assembly Committee on this question and had received 
favorable response. Even an oppositionist like Ex- 
Foreign Minister Tran Van Do has told us US forces are 
needed and is apparently so strongly convinced of this 



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that he did not suggest any conditions precedent about 
political changes by Diem. AmConsul Hue reports that 
opinion, among intellectuals and government officials in 
that city is also almost unanimously in favor of intro- 
jj . duction of Am.erican combat troops. MAAG believes on basis 

private conversations and general attitude Vietnamese 
military personnel toward us that Vietnamese armed forces 
would likei-Tise welcome introduction US forces. 

General Vietnamese desire for introduction US forces, 
. arises from serious morale decline among populace during 

recent weeks because of deterioration in security and 
horrible death through torture and mutilation to which 
Col Nam subjected. Expanded VC infiltration has brought 
fully home to Vietnamese the fact that US has not inter- 
vened militarily in Laos to com.e to rescue of anti-commu- 
nists. Now that they see Viet-Wam approaching its own 
crucial period^ paramount question in their minds is 
whether it will back down when chips are down. Vietnamese 
thus want US forces introduced in order to demonstrate US 
! determination to stick it out with them against Communists. 

They do not want to be victims of political settlement 
- with communists. This is especially true of those publicly 

I , identified as anti -communist like Dean Vu Quoc Thue who 

collaborated with Dr. Eugene Staley on Joint Experts Report. 

Most Vietnamese whose thoughts on this subject have been 
developed are -not thinking in tems of US troops to fight 
guerrillas but rather of a reassuring presence of US forces 
in Viet-Nam. These persons undoubtedly feel_, however^ that 
if war in Viet -Nam continues to move toward overt conven- 
\ I tional aggression as opposed to its guerrilla character^ 

combat role for US troops could eventually arise. U./ 

The special commitment involved in committing even a small force of 
j I . ground troops was generally recognised. ¥e have notes on an ISA staff 

paper^ for example^ which ranked the various types of increased U.S. 
military aid in ascending order of commitment^ and of course^ placed the 
flood task force at the top. According to the notes^ 

Any combat elem.ents^ such as in the task force^ would 
come under. attack and woiad need to defend themselves^ com- 
mitting U.S. prestige deeply. U.S. troops would then be 
fighting in South Vietnam and could not "VTithdraw under fire. 
Thus^the introduction of U.S. troops in South Vietnam would 



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be decisive act and must be sent to achieve a coinpletely 
decisive mission. This mission would probably require^ over 
time, increased numbers of U.S. troops; DRV intervention 
would probably increase until a large number of U.S. troops 
were req,uirod, three or more divisions. 12/ 

■ This assessment differed from that in General Taylor's cables only 
in not stressing the hope that a U.S. willingness to bomb the north 
would deter North Vietnamese escalation of its own commitment. ■ 

A special KIE prepared at this time reached essentially the same 
conclusions." 

This SNIE, incidentally,' is the only staff paper found in the 
available record which treats communist reactions primarily in terms of 
the separate national interests of Hanoi, Moscow, and Peiping, rather 
than primarily in terms of an overall communist strategy for which 
Hanoi, is acting as an agent. In particular, the Gilpatric Task Eorce 
Report, it will be recalled, began with references to a communist 
^master plan* for taking over Southeast Asia. The Taylor Mission 
Report, similarly, began with a section on "Coimnunist Strategy in 
Southeast Asia" and opening: 

At the present time, the Communists are pursuing a 
clear and systematic strategy in Southeast Asia. It is 
a strategy of extending Communist power and influence in 
ways which bypass U.S. nuclear strength, U.S. conventional 
naval, air, and ground forces, and the conventional strength 
of indigenous forces in the area. Their strategy is rooted 
in the fact that international law and practice does not 
yet recognize the mounting of guerrilla war across borders 
as aggression justifying counterattack at the source. 13 / 

The November 5 SNIE presumably indicates the principal courses of 
action that were under formal review at the time: 

I 

ji The courses of action here considered were given to the 

intelligence community for the purposes of this estimate and 
were not intended to represent the full range of possible 
courses of action. The given courses of action are: 

A. The introduction of a US airlift into end within 
South Vietnam, increased logistics support, and an increase 
in FAAC- strength to provide US advisers down to battalion 
level; 

Be The introduction into South Vietnam of a US force 
of about 8,000 - 10,000 troops, mostly engineers with some ■ 
combat support , in response to an appeal from President 
Diem for assistance in flood relief; 



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, ■ C. The introduction into the area of a US com- 

bat force of 25^000 to 1-1-0,000 to engage with South 
Vietnamese forces in ground, air, and naval opera- 
tions against the Viet Cong; and 

D- An announcement hy the US of its determina- 
tion to hold South Vietnam and a warning, either 
private or puhlic, that Worth Vietnamese support of 
the Viet Cong must cease or the US would launch air 
attacks against North Vietnam. This action would 
be taken in conjunction with Course A, B, or C. VjJ 

These proposed courses of action correspond to those outlined for 
consideration by the Taylor Mission, with the exception that the flood 
task force proposed by Taylor has been substituted for the former 
"intermediate" solution of stationing a token U.S. force at DaNang, 
and that an opinion is asked on the prospects of threats to bomb the 
north, again reflecting the Taylor Mission Report- * 

The gist of the SME was that North Vietnamese would respond to an 
increased U.S. commitment with an offsetting increase in infiltrated 
support for the Viet Cong. Thus, the main difference in the estimated 
communist reaction to Courses A, B, and C was that each vrould be 
stronger than its predecessor. On the prospects for bombing the north, 
the SNIE implies that threats to bomb would not cause Hanoi to stop its 
support for the Viet Cong, and that actual attacks on the Worth would 
bring a strong response from Moscow and Peiping, who would regard the 
defense of Worth Vietnam against such an attack as imperative." 15/ 

*See Gilpatric memo quoted at conclusion of Section I, Chapter V. 



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II. FINAL RECOM'IEKDATIOIMS 

On November 8^ McNamara sent the following memorandum on behalf of 
himself 5 Gilpatric, and the JCS: 

MEMORAM)UM FOR TIIE PRESIDENT 

The basic issue framed by the Taylor Report is whether the 
U.S. shall: 

■a. Commit itself to the clear objective of preventing 
the fall of South Vietnam to Communism^ and 

b. Support this commitment by necessary immediate 
military actions and preparations for possible later actions.. 

The Joint Chiefs, Mr. Gilpatric, and I have reached the 
following conclusions: 

lo The fall of South Vietnam to Communism would lead to the 
fairly rapid extension of Communist control, or complete accom- 
modation to Communism, in the rest of mainland Southeast Asia and 
in Indonesia. The strategic implications worldwide, particularly 
in the Orient, would be extremely serious. 

2. The chances are against, probably sharply against, pre- 
venting that fall by any measures short of the introduction of 
U.Sc forces on a substantial scale. We accept General Taylor's 
judgment that the various measures proposed by him short of this 
are useful but will not in themselves do the Job of restoring 
confidence and setting Diem on the way to vanning his fight. 

•it 

3- The introduction of a U.S. force of the magnitude of an 
initial 8,000 men in a flood relief context will be of great help 
to Diem. However, it will not convince the other side (whether 
the shots are called from Moscow, Peiping, or Hanoi) that we mean 
business. Moreover, it probably will not tip the scales decisively 
We would be almost certain to get increasingly mired do\m in an 
inconclusive struggle « 

4. The other side can be convinced we mean business only if 
we accompany the initial f^orce introduction by a clear comjnit- 
ment to the. full objective stated above, accompanied by a vrarning 
. through som? channel to Hanoi that continued support of the Viet 
Cong will lead to punitive retaliation against North Vietnanu 

5« If we act in this way, the ultimate possible extent of our 
military commitment must be faced. The struggle may be prolonged 
and Hanoi and Peiping may intervene overtly. In view of the 



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logistic difficulties faced by the other side^ I believe ve can 
assume that the maxltnum U.S. forces required on the ground in 
Southeast Asia "I'/ill not exceed 6 divisions^ or about 205,000 men 
(CINCPAC Plan 32-59, Phase IV) . Our military posture is, or 
■with the addition of more National Guard or regiilar Army divi- 
sions, can be made, adequate to furnish these forces without 
serious interference with our present Berlin plans. 

6o To accept the stated objective is of course a most serious 
decision. Military force is not the only element of what must be 
a most carefully coordinated set of actions. Success will depend 
on factors many of -which are not within our control -- notably the 
conduct of Diem himself and other leaders in the area. Laos will 
remain a major problem. The domestic political implications of 
accepting the objective are also grave, although it is our feeling 
that the country will respond better to a firm initial position 
than to courses of action that lead us in only gradually, and that 
in the meantime are sure to involve casualties. The over-all 
effect on Moscow and Peiping will need careful weighing and may 
well be mixed; however, permitting South Vietnam to fall can only 
strengthen and encourage them greatly., 

> 

7. In sum: 

a. We do not believe major units of UoSo forces should 
( be introduced in South Vletnatn unless we are willing to make an 

affirmative decision on the issue stated at the start of this 
memor andum. 

b. We are inclined to recomjnend that we do commit the 
U.S. to the clear objective of preventing the fall of South Viet- 
nam to Communism and that we support this commitment by the neces- 
sary military actions o 

c. If such a commitment is agreed upon, we support the 
recommendations of General Taylor as the first stejos toward its 
fulfillment. 

Sgd: Robert S. McNamara I6/ 

A number of things are striking about this memorandum, including of 
course the judgment that the "maximima" U.S. ground forces required, even 
in the case of overt intervention by not only North Vietnam, but China 
as well, would "not exceed" 205^000 men. This estimate of the requirement 
to deal with a large scale overt Invasion is consistent with the Chief's 
earlier estimate that the addition of ^0,000 U.S. troops to the South 
Vietnamese forces would be sufficient to "clean up" the Viet Congo 

But the strongest message to the President in the memorandum (growing 
out of points 3, i|, and 7c) was surely that if he agreed to sending the 
r^ military task force, he should be prepared for follow-up recommendations 

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' for re- enforcements and to threaten Hanoi with bombing • Unless the SNIE 

was wholly ^^rrong, threats to bomb Hanoi would not turn off the war, and 
Hanoi would increase its infiltration in response to UoS. commitments' of 
troops. Even should Hanoi not react with counter-escalation, the Presi- . 
dent knew that the Chiefs, at least, were already on record as desiring 
a prompt build-up to U0,000 ground troops. In short, the President was 
being told that the issue was not whether to send an 8,000-man task force, 
but whether or not to embark on a couTse that, without som.e extraordinary 
good luck, would lead to combat involvement in Southeast Asia on a very 
substantial scale. On the other hand, he was being warned that an^rthing 
less than sending the task force was very likely to fail to prevent the 
fall of Vietnam, since "the odds are against, proba.bly sharply against, 
preventing that fall by any means short of the introduction of U.S. forces 
on a substantial scale" (of which the task force would be the first incre- 
ment ) . 

Although the Chief's position here is clear, because their views are 
on record in other memoranda, McNamara's own position remains a little 
ambiguous o For the paper does not flatly recommend going ahead; it only 
states he e.nd his colleagues are "inclined" to recommend going ahead. 
Three days later MclMajnara joined Rusk in a quite different recommendation, 
and one obviously more to the President's liking (and, in the nature of 
jj^ such things, quite possibly drawn up to the President's specifications). 

As with the May revision of the Gilpatric Report, this paper combines 
an escalation of the rhetoric with a toning doTm of the actions the Presi- 
dent is asked to talie. Since the NSAI^i formalizing the President's decisions 
was taken essentially verbatim from this paper, the complete text is re- 
printed here. (The KSAl/I consisted of the Recommendations section of this 
memorandum, except that Point 1 of the recomraendations was deleted.) 

Of pajrticular importance in this second memorandum to the President 
was Section k, with its explicit sorting of U.S. military aid into 
Category A, support forces, which were to be sent promptly; and Category 
• B, "larger organized units with actual or potential direct military 
missions" on which no immediate decision was recommended. There is no 
explicit reference in the paper to the flood relief task force; it sicnply 
does not appear in the list of recommended actions, presumably on the 
grounds that it goes in Category Be Category B forces, the paper notes, 
"involve a certain dilemma: if there is a strong South Vietnam_ese effort, 
they may not be needed; if there is not such an effort. United States 
forces could not accomplish their mission in the midst of an apathetic 
or hostile population." 

If McKamara's earlier memorandum is read carefully, the same sort 
. of warning is found, although it sounds much more perfunctory. But that 
such warnings were included shows a striking contrast with the last 
go-around in May. Then, the original Defense version of the Gilpatric 



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Task Force Report contained no hint of such a qualification, and there 
was only a q^uite vague warning in the State revisions. Part of the rea- 
son, undoubtedly, was the 6 month ^s additional experience in dealing 
with Diem. A larger part, though, almost certainly flowed from the fact 
that the insurgency had by now shown enough strength so that there was 
now in everyone's minds the possibility that the U.S. might someday face 
the choice of giving up on Vietnam or taking over a major part of the 
war. 

These warnings (that even a major U.S. commitment to the ground war 
would not assure success) were obviously in some conflict with the recom- 
mendations both papers made for a clear-cut U.S. commitment to save South 
Vietnam. The contrast is all the sharper in the joint Rusk/McNamara memo- 
randum, where the warning is so forcefully given. 

Here is the Rusk/McNamara memorandum. 17/ 



TOP SECRET November 11, I96I 



■ MEMORMDUM FOR THE PRESIDENT 



Subject: South Viet -Nam 

1. ■ United States National Interests in South Viet-Nam . 

The deteriorating situation in South Viet-Nam requires atten- 
tion to the nature and scope of United States national interests 
in that country. The loss of South Viet-Nam to Communism would 
involve the transfer of a nation of 20 million people from the free 
world to the Communist bloc. The loss of South Viet-Nam would make 
pointless any further discussion about the importance of Southeast 
Asia to the free world; we would have to face, the near certainty 
that the remainder of Southeast Asia and Indonesia would move to a 
complete accommodation with Communism, if not formal incorporation 
within the Communist bloc. The United States, as a member of SEATO, 
has commitments with respect to South Viet-Nam under the Protocol 
to the SEATO Treaty. Additionally, in a formal statement at the 
conclusion session of the 195^ Geneva Conference, the United States 
representative stated that the United States "would view any renewal 
of the aggression . . . with grave concern and seriously threatening 
international peace and security." 

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The loss of South Viet-Nan to Communism would not only destroy 
SEATO but would undermine the credibility of American commitments 
elsewhere. Further, loss of South Viet-Nam would stimulate bitter 
domestic controversies in the United States and would be seized upon 
by extreme elements to divide the country and harass the Administra- 
tion. 

2. The Problem of Saving South Viet-Nam . 

It seems, on the face of it, absurd to think that a nation of 
20 million people can be subverted by 15-20 thousand active guer- 
• villas if the Government and people of" that country do not wish to 
be subverted. South Viet-Nam is not, however, a highly organized 
society with an effective governing apparatus and a population ac- 
customed to carrying civic responsibility. Public apathy is encour- 
aged by the inability of most citizens to act directly as well as by 
the tactics of terror employed by the guerrillas throughout the coun- 
tryside. Inept administration and the absence of a strong non- 
Communist political coalition have made it difficult to bring avail- 
able resources to bear upon the guerrilla problem and to make the 
most effective use of available external aid. Under the best of con- 
ditions the threat posed by the presence of 15-20 thousand guerrillas, 
well disciplined under well-trained cadres, would be difficult to 
meet • 

3. The United States^ Objective in South Viet-Nam . 

The United States should commit itself to the clear objective of 
preventing the fall of South Viet-Nam to Communist . The basic means 
for accomplishing this objective must be to put the Government of 
South Viet-Nam into a position to win its own war against the guer- 
rillas. We must insist that that Government itself take the measures 
necessary for that purpose in exchange for large-scale United States 
assistance in the military, economic and political fields. At the 
same time we must recognize that it will probably not be possible for 
the GVN to win this war as long as the flow of men and supplies from 
North Viet-Nam continues unchecked and the guerrillas enjoy a safe 
sanctuary in neighboring territory. 

We should be prepared to introduce United States combat forces 
if that should become necessary for success. Dependent upon the cir- 
cumstances, it may also be necessary for United States forces to 
strike at the source of the aggression in North Viet-Nam. 



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h. The Use of United States Forces in South Viet-Nan . 

The commitment of United States forces to" South Viet-Ham in- 
I volves two different categories: (A) Units of modest size required 

for the direct support of South Viet-l^amese military effort ^ such 
as communications 5 helicopter and other forms of airlift, reconnais- 
sance aircraft, naval patrols, intelligence units, etc., and (B) 
i larger organized units with actual or potential direct military mis- 

sions . Category (A) should "be introduced as sipeedily as possible . ■ 
( Category (B) units pose a more serious problem in that they are much 

more significant from the point of view of domestic and international 
political factors and greatly increase the probabilities of Communist 
bloc escalation. Further, the employment of United States combat 
forces (in the absence of Communist bloc escalation) involves a cer- 
tain dilemma: if there is a strong South-Vietnamese effort, they may 
not be needed; if there is not such an effort, United States forces 
could not accomplish their mission in the midst of an apathetic or 
hostile population. Under present circumstances, therefore, the ques- 
tion of injecting United States and SEATO combat forces should in 
large part be considered as a contribution to the morale of the South 
Viet-Namese in their own effort to do the principal job themselves. 

5f Probable Extent of the QQxmitjmnt of Unite d States Jorcgs . 

If we commit Category (b) forces to South Viet-Nam, the ultimate 
possible extent of our military commitment in Southeast Asia must be 
faced. The struggle may be prolonged, and Eanoi and Peiping may 
overtly intervene. It is the view of the Secretary of Defense and 
the Joint Chiefs of Staff that, in the light of the logistic diffi- 
culties faced by the other side, we can assume that the maximum United 
States forces required on the ground in Southeast Asia would not ex- 
ceed six divisions, or about 205,000 men (CINCPAC Plan 32/59 PHASE 
IV). This would be in addition to local forces and such SEATO forces 
as may be engaged. It is also the view of the Secretary of Defense 
and the Joint Chiefs of Staff that our military posture is, or, with 
the addition" of more IJational Guard or regular Army divisions, can be 
made, adequate to furnish these forces and support them in action with- 
out serious interference with our present Berlin plans. 

6. Relation to Laos . 

It must be understood that the introduction of American combat 
forces into Viet-Nam prior to a Laotian settlement would run a con- 
siderable risk of stimulating a Communist breach of the cease fire 






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and a resumption of hostilities in Laos. This could present us with 
a choice between the use of combat forces in Laos or an abandonment 
of that country to full Communist control. At the present time, there 
is at least a chance that a settlement can be reached in Laos on the 
basis of a weak and unsatisfactory Souvanna Phouma Government. The 
prospective agreement on Laos includes a provision that Laos will not 
be used as a transit area or as a base for interfering in the affairs 
of other coimtries such as South Viet-ITam. After a Laotian settlement, 
the introduction of United States forces into Viet-Nam could serve to 
stabilize the position both in Viet-Nam and in Laos by registering our 
determination to see to it that the Laotian settlement was as far as 
the United States would be willing to see Communist influence in South- 
east Asia develop. 

7. The Heed for Multilateral Action , 

. From the political point of view, both domestic and international, 
it would seem important to involve forces from other nations alongside 
of United States Category (B) forces in Viet-Nam, It would be diffi- 
cult to explain to our own people why no effort had been made to in- 
voke SEATO or why the United States undertook to carry this burden 
unilaterally. Our position would be greatly strengthened if the intro- 
duction of forces could be taken a^ a SEATO action, accompanied by 
units of other SEATO countries, with a full SEATO report to the United 
Nations of the purposes of the action itself. 

Apart from the armed forces, there would be political advantage 
in elisting the interest of other nations, including neutrals, in the 
security and well-being of South Viet-Nam. This might be done by seek- 
ing such assistance as Malayan police officals (recently offered Diem 
by the Tunku) and by technical assistance personnel in other fields, 
either bilaterally or through international organizations. 

8. Initial Diplomatic Action by the United States . 

If the recommendations, below, are approved > the United States 
should consult intensively with other SEATO governments to obtain their 
full support of the course of action contemplated. At the appropriate 
stage, a direct approach should be made by the United States to Moscow, 
through normal or special channels, pointing out that we cannot accept 
the movement of cadres, arms and other supplies into South Viet-Nam in 
support of the guerrillas. We should also discuss the problem with 
neutral governments in the general area and get them to face up to 
their own interests in the security of South Viet-Nam; these govern- 
ments will be concerned about (a) the introduction of United States 
combat forces and (b) the withdrawal of United States support from 
Southeast Asia; their concern, therefore, might be usefully expressed 
either to Communist bloc countries or in political support for what 
may prove necessary in South Viet-Nam itself. 

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RECOMMENDATIONS 

In the light of the foregoing, the Secretary of State and the 
Secretary of Defense recommend that: 

1. ¥e now take the decision to commit ourselves to the ohjective 
of preventing the fall of South Viet-Nam to Communism and that, in 
doing so, we recognize that the introduction of United States and other 
SSATO forces may be necessary to achieve this objective. (However, if 
it is necessary to commit outside forces to achieve the foregoing ob- 
jective our decision to introduce United States forces should not be 
contingent upon unanimous SEA.TO agreement thereto,) 

2. The Department of Defense be prepared with plans for the use 
of United States forces in South Yiet-Nam under one or more of the fol- 
lowing purposes: 

(a) Use of a significant number of United States forces to 
signify United States determination to defend South Viet-Waiu and 
to boost South Viet-Nam morale. 

(b) Use of .substantial United States forces to assist in 
suppressing Viet Cpng insiirgency short of engaging in detailed 

countei^-guerrllla operatlona but including relavant op§rati©n§ 

in North Viet-Nam. 

(c) Use of United States forces to deal with the situation 
if there is organized Communist military intervention. 

3. We immediately undertake the following actions in support of 
the GVN: 

(a) Provide increased air lift to the GVN forces, including 
helicopters, light aviation, and transport aircraft, manned to 

■ the extent necessary by United States uniformed personnel and 
under United States operational control. 

(b) Provide such additional equipment and United States uni- 
formed personnel as may be necessary for air reconnaissance, 
photography, instruction in and execution of air-ground support 
techniques, and for special intelligence, 

(c) Provide the GVN with small craft, including such United 
States uniformed advisers and operating personnel as may be 

^ necessary for quick and effective operations in effecting sur- 

j veillance and control over coastal waters and inland waterways. 

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(d)^ -Provide expedited training and eq.uipping of the civil 
guard and the self-defense corps with the objective of relieving 
I the regular Army of static missions and freeing it for mobile 

offensive operations. 

\e) Provide such personnel and eq_uipment as may be neces- 
sary ^to improve the military-political intelligence system be- 
ginning at the provincial level and extending upward through- 
the Government and the armed forces to the Central Intelligence 
Organization. 

(f ) Provide such new terms of reference, reorganization 
and additional personnel for United States military forces as 
are req_uired for increased United States participation in the 
direction and control of GVN military operations and to carry 
out the other increased responsibilities which accrue to MAAG 
under these recommendations. 

■ to -oe -t f^*^*^^^^ ^^^^ increased economic aid as may be reauired 
tation^^ ^^^ "^^ pursue a vigorous flood relief and rehabili- 
effort -^^^f^f^' "^^ supply material in support of the security 
panded' . ^^^^ priority to projects in support of this ex- 
in ^„., .^^^^"^^^-^^surgency program. (This could include increases 

* as food "^^d^""^' ^ ""^^^ ^^^^^^ Of a vid© ra-ngg of materials §uch 

tions e' ^^ *^ supplies , transportation equipment, communica- 
■ assist th^"^r-f^"^' ^^^ ^'^'^ other items where material help could 

GTO m winning the war against the Viet Cong.) 

reouest h ^J^^^^^^ ^^^ support (including financial support) a 

rnptir^ 1 ^^^ "^^ ^^^ ^^0 or any other appropriate inter- 
^nH^f^^^f?^''^^^'^^'''' ^^^ multilateral assistance in the relief 
-nd rehabilitation of the flood area. 

insert" ^-^^"^^de individual administrators and advisers for 
in tvD^^^ ^?^ "^^^ Governmental machinery of South Viet-Mm 
ypes and numbers to be agreed upon by the two Governments. 

co^^diti -^^^^^^^ personnel for a joint survey with the GW of 
politi ^1^' ^^ ^^^^ ^^ ^^^ provinces to assess the social, 
prosecuti' ^^^^'^-^^^^^^^ ^ and military factors bearing on the 

^ ^^m^^ -^? counter-insurgency program in order to reach 
a common estim^-fci ^-^ ^^ o */ x- o 

of -h^. -u ^^^^®^^e of these factors and a common determination 
ol Jaow to deal vi+.y, +v,^™ 



of how to deal with them. 



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k. Ambassador I^Iolting be instructed to make an immediate ap- 
■ " proach. to President Diem to the effect that the Government of the 
United States is prepared to join the Goverriment of Viet-Nam in a 
sharply increased joint effort to cope vith the Viet Cong threat 
ji and the ravages of- the flood as set forth under S-, above^ if, on 

its part, the Governiaent of Viet-I\^am is prepared to carry out an 
effective and total mobilization of its own resources , both material 
and human 5 for the saane end. Before setting in motion the United 
States proposals listed above, the United States Government would 
appreciate confirmation of their acceptability to the GVI^, and an 
expression from the GVN of the undertakings it is prepared to make 
to insure the success of this joint effort. On the part of the 
United States, it would be expected that these GVN undertakings 
would include, in accordance with the detailed recommendations of 
the Taylor Mission and the Country Team: 

(a) Prompt and appropriate legislative and administrative 
action to put the nation on a wartime footing to mobilize its 
entire resources. (This would include a decentralization and 
broadening of the Governm.ent so as to realize the full potential 
of all non-Communist elements in the country willing to contrib- 
ute to the common struggle.) 



(b) The establishment of appropriate Governmental wartime 
agencies with adequate authority to perform their functions 
effectively. 

(c) Overhaul of the military establishment and command 
structure so as to create an effective military organization 
for the prosecution of the war. 

5. Very shortly before the arrival in South Viet-Nam of the 
first increments of United States military personnel and equipment 
proposed under S.^ above, that would exceed the Geneva Accord ceil- 
ings, publish the "Jorden report" as a United States "white paper," 
transmitting it as simultaneously as possible to the Goverments of 
all countries with which we have diplomatic relations, including 
the Communist states. 

6. Simultaneous with the publication of the "Jorden report," 
release an exchange of letters between Diem and the President. 



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(a) Diem's letter would include: reference to the DRV 
violations of Geneva Accords as set forth in the October 24 
GVN letter to the ICC and other documents; pertinent references 
to GTO statements with respect to its intent to observe the 
Geneva Accords; reference to its need for flood relief and re- 
habilitation; reference to previous United States aid and the 
compliance hitherto by both countries with the Geneva Accords; 
reference to the USG statement at the time the Geneva Accords 
were signed; the necessity now of exceeding some provisions of 
the Accords in view of the DRV violations thereof; the lack of 
aggressive intent with respect to the DRV: Gm intent to return 
to strict compliance with the Geneva Accords as soon as the DRV 
violations ceased; and request for additional United States 
assistance in framework foregoing policy. The letter should 
also set forth in appropriate general terms steps Diem has taken 
and is taking to reform Governmental structure. 

(b) The President's reply would be responsive to Diem's 
request for additional assistance and 'acknowledge and agree to 
Diem's statements on the intent promptly to return to strict 
compliance with the Geneva Accords as soon as DRV violations 
have ceased, 

7. Simultaneous with steps 5 and 6 ^ above, make a private ap- 
proach to the Soviet Union that would include: our determination to 
prevent the fall of South Viet-Nam to Communism by whatever means is 
necessary; our concern over dangers to peace presented by the aggres- 
sive DRV policy with respect to South Viet-Nam; our intent to return 
to full compliance with the Geneva Accords as soon as the DRV does so; 
the distinction we draw between Laos and South Viet-Nam; and our ex- 
pectation that the Soviet Union will exercise its influence on the 
CEICOMS and the DRV. 

8. A special diplomatic approach made to the United Kingdom in 
its role as co-Chairman of the Geneva Conference requesting that the 
United Kingdom seek the support of the Soviet co-Chairman for a ces- 
sation of DRV aggression against South Viet-Nam. 

9. A special diplomatic approach also to be made to India, 
both in its role as Chairman of the ICC and as a power having rela- 
tions with Peiping and Hanoi. This approach should be mace immedi- 
ately prior to public release of the "Jorden report" and the exchange 
of letters between Diem and the President. 



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10. Immediately prior to the release of the "Jordan report" 
and the exchange of letters bet%*?-een Diem and the President, 
special diplomatic approaches also to be made to Canada, as well 
as Burma, Indonesia, Cambodia, Ceylon, the UAH, and Yugoslavia. 
SMTO, NATO, and OAS members should be informed through those 
organizations, \T±th selected members also informed individually. 
The possibility of some special approach to Polaad as a member of 
the ICC should also be considered. 

When v/e reach this memora-ndum in the record, the decision seems essen- 
tially sealed. Kennedy, by every indication in the press at the time and 
according to the recollections of all the memoirs, was, at the least, very 
reluctant to send American ground forces to Vietnam, and quite possibly 
every bit as "strongly opposed" as the leakied news stories depicted him. 
He now had a Joint recommendation from his Secretary of State and Secretary 
of Defense telling hiia just what he surely wanted to hear: that a decision 
on combat forces could be deferred*, Consequently, Kennedy's decision on 
this point can hardly be considered in doubt beyond I\'ovember 11, although 
a formal YiSC meeting on the question was not held until the 15th, On the 
question of demands on Diem, again there is no reason to suspect the issue 
was in doubt any later, at most, than the 11th. The only questions which 
are in doubt are the extent to which the Rusk/McNamara memorandum simply 
happened to come to the President in such convenient form, or whether the 
President arranged it so; and if so, how far this formal paper differed 
from the real recommendations of the President's senior advisors. The 
record available gives no basis for even guessing about thiSo As noted 
earlier, even McNamara, who is on record with a previous, quite different 
memorandum, cannot be flatly said to have changed his mind (or been 
overruled). There is too much room for uncertainty about what he was 
really up to when he signed the memorandum. 

In any event, Kennedy essentially adopted the Rusk/McNamara set of 
recomjnendations, although the record is not entirely clear on when he 
did so. There v/as an NSC meeting November 5; but although at least the 
Chairman of the JCS was there, the record shews that even after this 
meeting there was some uncertainty (or perhaps reluctance) in the JCS 
about whether the decision had been made. The record shows that McNamara 
phoned General Lemnitzer to assure him that this was the case. But the 
cables transmitting the decision to Saigon were dated November 1^1, the 
day before the NSC meeting. The formal decision ps-per (NSAM 111) was not 
signed until November 22nd. As noted earlier, the NSAM is essentially 
the recommendations section of the Rusk/iucNama.ra paper, but with the 
initial recommendation (committing the U.S. to save Vietnam) deleted. 18/ 

The NSAl-1 vzas headed "First Phase of Vietnam Program," which, of course, 
implied that a further decision to send combat troops was in prospect. 



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Both Sorenson and Hilsman claim this was really a ruse "by the President , 
who had no intention of going ahead with combat troops but did not choose 
to argue the point with his advisors. 

Schlesinger, apparently writing from diary notes, says the President 
talked to hixi about the comba^t troops recommendations at the time, describ- 
ing the proposed first increment as like an alcoholic's first drink: 

The Taylor -Rostow report was a careful and thoughtful 
document, and the President read it with interest. He was 
impressed by its description of the situation as serious but 
not hopeless and attracted by the idea of stiffening the Diem 
regojue through an infusion of American advisers. He did not, 
however, like the proposal of a direct Araerican military 
commitment. "They want a force of Am^erican troops," he told 
me early in November. "They say it's necessary in order to 
restore confidence and maintain morale. But it will be Just 
like Berlin. The troops .v^ill march in; the bands will playj 
the crowds will cheer; and in four days everyone will have 
forgotten. Then we will be told we have to send in m-ore troops. 
It's like taJ^ing a drink. The effect wears off, and you have 
to take another." The war in Vietnam, he added, could be won 
only so long as it was their war. -If it were ever converted 
into a white man's war, we v/ould lose as the French had lost 
a decade earlier. I9/ ■ • 

Whether, in fact, Kennedy had such a firm position in mind at the 
time cannot be surmised, though, from the official record itself. It is 
easy to believe that he did, for as Sorenson points out, Kinnedy had 
strong views on the difficulties of foreign troops putting do>m an insuj?- 
gency dating from his bleak, but correct, appraisals of French prospects 
in Vietnam as early as I95I, and again in Algeria in the late 1950'so 
And he was hardly alone in such sentiments, as shown in columns of the . 
period by Reston and Lippman, and in a private communication from 
Galbraith to be quoted shortly. 

But, Kennedy did not need to have such a firm position in mind to 
make the decisions he did« There was a case to be made for deferring 
the combat troops decision even if the President accepted the view that 
U.S. troops commitments were almost certainly needed in Vietnam and that 
putting them in sooner would be better than waiting. There was, in par- 
ticular, the arguments in the R-ask/VicT^emaxa memorandima that putting combat 
troops into Vietnam just then would upset the Laos negotiations, and the 
unstated but obvious argument that the U.S. perhaps ought to hold back on 
the combat troop commitment to gain leverage en Diem. 

General Taylor's advice, as shown in the record, gave a different ground 
for delaying. Taylor argued that the ground troop coiranitment was essenti- 
ally for its psychological, not military, impact. Taylor's judgment was that it 

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t j ; was "very douTotful" that anything short of a prompt commitment of ground 

troops would restore South Vietnamese morale. But such a commitment 
would obviously be a costly stop. The President was thoroughly fore-' 
warned that such a move would lead both to continual pressure to send 
more troops and to political difficulties at home that would inevi- 
tably flow from the significant casualties that had to be expected to 
accompany a ground troop commitment- The risk of delaying the groimd 
troop commitment might easily have been judged not worth the certain 
costs that would accompany it. And of course^ in hindsight, we know 
that the limited program approved by the President was sufficient to 
put off any imminent collapse of the Diem regijne. Consequently, Kennedy's 
decisions do not tell us just what his view was, and indeed he did not 
need to have a firmly settled view to make the decision, which after all, 
was only to put off, not to foreclose a decision to send ground troops. 
He had only to decide that, on balance, the risks of deferring the troop 

j decision were no worse than the costs of making it, and he could have 

reached that judgment by any nijimber of routes. The reasons stated in 
the various papers may or may. not accurately reflect the President's 

' ' state of mind. The only thing we can be sure of is that they conveyed 

I his judgment of the tactically most suitable rationale to put in writing. 

The most detailed record we have of this rationale and explanation of 
is the following cable to Nolting: 



.* • 



.Review of Taylor Report has resulted in following basic 
decisions: 

■1. Must essentially be a GW task to contain and reduce the VC 
threat at present level of capability. Means organizing to go on 
offensive. We are prepared to contemplate further assistance after 
joint assessfaent establishes needs and possibilities of aid more 
precisely. 

2. i\^o amount of extra aid can be substitute for GVN taking 
measures to permit them to assume offensive and strengthen the 
administrative and political bases of government. 

■ ^ 

'3- Do not propose to introduce into GVII the US combat troops 
now_, but propose a phase of intense public and diplomatic activity 
to focus on infiltration from North. Shall decide later on course 
of action should infiltration not be" radically reduced. 

* 

'h. On flood_, decide best coarse to treat' as primarily civil 
problem^ and occasion should be used to draw in as many nationals 
of other countries as can be used in GVN flood plan. Have been en- 
couraged this course on advise of Desai of Indian Foreign Office who 
observed a good thing if some Indians and Burmese involved con- 
structively in SW and subject to VC attack. We prepared to put 
maximum, pressure on FAO. Do not exclude ad hoc US military aid in 
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5* Diplomatically position that the violations to be docu- 
,mentcd in Jorden report c»nd strong references to DRV attack against 
SVN in DM's letter to Kennedy^ need not confirm to the world 
'and Cornraunists that Geneva accords are being disregarded by our 
Increased aid. Need not accuse ourselves publicly^ make Coaur.unist 
Job easier. GVN should be advised to counter charges by leveling 
- charges against DRV and insisting that if ICC investigates in 
SVW must equally investigate in MN. .' Appreciate approach will make 
ICC task difficult but will explain position to Canadians and 
Indians to get their support. ' . .' 



'• 6. A crucial element in USG willingness to move forward is 
concrete demonstration by Die:ri that he is now prepared to work 
in an orderly way on his subordinates and broaden the political base 
of his regime. 

7v Package should be presented as first steps in a partner*- 
■ship in which US is prepaa-ed to do more as joint .study of facts and 
GVK performance m-akes increased US aid possible and productive. 

8. Still possible Laotian settlement can be reached peii:aining 
^our iainimum objective of ' independent I/^os on the basis of a neutral 

coalition^ (although weak and unsatisfactory)^ headed by Soubanna. 
Woul.d include provision .Laos not be used as transit area or base 
for interference in SWl. Therefore must keep in mind impact of 
action in SVN or prospects for acceptable Lhos settlement. 

■ 

:9r Introduction of US or Sr:?.to forces into SWT before 
Laotian settlement might v:reck cli;;ngesVfor agreement^ lead to break 
up of Geneva conference^ break L/ c- cease fire by cornraunists 
.With resumption of hostilities. 

10. Decision to introduce US combat forces in GVN would have to 
be taken in light of GVN effort^ including support from people^ 
I^otian situation^ Berlin crisis^ readiness of allies or sharply 
j.ncreased tension with Bloc^ and enormous responsibilities which would 
have to be borne by US in event of escalation SEA or other areas. 

11. Hope measures outlined in instructions will galvanize and 
supplement GVN effort, making d.eclslon on use of US combat forces 
unnecessary and no need for decision in effect to shift primary 
responsibility for defense of SV"N to USG. ' 

* 

12. We are fully cognizant of extent to which decisions if Imple- 
inented through Diem's acceptance will sharply increase the 
commitment of our prestige struggle to save SVIT. 



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IS* Very strictly for your own information^ DOD has been instructed 
to prepare plans for the use of US combat forces in S^}^ under various 
contingencies^ including stepped up infiltration as veil as organized 
Inventory (sic) Military/ intervention. However objective of our 
policy is to do all possible to accomplish purpose without use of 
US combat forces. 20/ * ^ . • ' 

An accompanying cable also provided this additional comment on troops 
question: 

...U. It is anticipated that one of the first questions 
President Diem will raise with you after your presentation of 
the above joint proposals will be that of introducing U.So 
combat troops. You are authorized to remind him that the actions 
we ajjready have in mind involve a substantial number of UoS. 
lailitary personnel for operational duties in Viet-Nam and that 
we believe that these forces performing crucial missions can 
greatly increase the capacity of GW forces to win their war 
against the Viet Cong. You can also tell him that we believe 
that the missions being undertaken by our forces , -under present 
circimistances, are more suitable for white foreign troops than 
garrison duty or missions involving the seeking out of Viet Cong 
personnel submerged in the Viet-Nam population. You can assure 
him that the USG at highest levels -will be in daily contact with 
the situation in Viet-Nam and will be in constant touch with him 
about requirements of the situation. . o . 20a/ 



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III. AFTERM/ITH 

The President's decisions were apparently sent to Nolting on the" l^J-th^ 
in a cable that is ta.ken essentially verbatim from the description of the 
Rusk/McNamara memorandum (paragraphs 3 and k) of the program the U.S. was 
offering and the response expected from Diem, But the cable added some 
new language 5 putting still more emphasis on pressuring Diem: 

...It is most important that Diem come forth with changes which 
will be recognized as having real substance and meaning. Rightly 
or wrongly^ his regime is widely criticised abroad and in the U.S., 
and if we are to give our substantial support we must be able to 
point to real administrative political and social reforms and a 
real effort to widen its base that will give maxim.\:mi confidence to 
the American people, as well as to world opinion that ovx efforts 
are not directed towards the support of an unpopular or ineffective 
regime, but rather towards supporting the combined efforts of all 
the non-Communist people of the GW against a Communist take-over. 
You should make this quite cleax, and indicate that the U.S. con- 
tribution to the proposed joint effort depends heavily upon his 
response to this point. 

You should inform Diem that, in our minds, the concept of the 
joint undert3Jk:ing envisages a much closer relationship than the 
present one of acting in an advisory capacity only. We would 
expect to share in the decision-making process in the political, 
economic and military fields as they affect the security situa- 
tion. 21/ 

Overall, then, what Kennedy ended up doing was to offer Diem a good 
deal less than he was expecting, and nevertheless to couple this offer with 
demands on Diem for which, on the basis of the available record, we can 
only assume he was totally unprepared. Noltlng's first cable, though, 
reported Diem listened quietly and "took our proposals rather better than 
I expected." 

Here are some extracts: 



...As anticipated y^y 'Washington/, his first question was re intro- 
duction US combat tioops. I replied along line para k reftel..o. 

Diem said that he presumed I realized that our proposals in- 
volved the question of the responsibility of the Government of 
Viet Nam. Viet T^^am, he said, did not want to be a protectorate. 

I said that this was well understood; ve for our part did not 
wish to mal^e it one. Diem also pointed out that GVN was constantly 
in process of making refoims but major action could not be taken 
without thorough consideration and without having always in mind 



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that there vas a war to be vorio Object was to restore order^j not 
to create disorder <. I said I recognized that this was a delicate 
judgment^ in my opinion,; as a friend of his country and of him^ 
his greater risk was to stand pat^ or act too cautiously. o . 

On the whole^ I am not discouraged at Diem's reactiono In 
fact J he took our proposals rather better than I had expected <, 
He has promised to call me as soon as he has been able to reflect 
upon our proposals and^ until we have heard his considered re- 
action^ I think it would be idle to speculate on outcomeoo. 22/ 

On the 20th^ Nolting met with Thuan^ who among other things said the 
U.So off er- had set Diem to wondering "whether UoSo getting ready to back 
out on Vietnam, ooas we had done in Laos." Nolting hoped Thuan's bleak 
report was only a bargaining tactic. 

Thuan said that Diem had not yet discussed fully with him 
US proposals presented last Friday; but had given him impression 
of being 'very sad and very disappointed o ' Thuan said Diem had 
said he now hesitates to put proposals before even his cabinet 
ministers^ fearing that they would be disappointed and lose heart o 
He had intended to discuss US proposals with both cabinet and 
selected members of assembly who had been consulted re advisability 
of US forces at time of Taylor Mission^ but now thought contrast 
between hig earlier question and our proposals too striking. Thuan 
conveyed impression that Diem is brooding over US proposals and 
■ has made no move yet to develop specific ideas on actions GVN 
expected to takeo Thuan said President's attitude seemed to be 
that US asking great concessions of GW in realm its sovereignty^ 
in exchange for little additional help; that this is great dis- 
appointment after discussions with General Taylor involving^ in 
particular^ concept of Delta Task Force; that Diem seemed to 
wonder whether US was getting ready to back out on Viet Nam^ as he 
suggested^ we had done in Ia.oSo £3/ 

There followed a long discussion in which Thuan described all the dif- 
ficulties that would be involved in doing what the U»So was asking, in- 
cluding the risk of looking like a UoS. puppet. 

There is nothing in our record to indicate any U.Sg reconsideration 
of the decision against sending the military task force « Thus, if Diem 
and Thuan' s response was a bargaining tactic to get the task force, it 
failedo On the other hand, if Diem was using disappointment over the 
failure to send the task force as a bargaining counter to get the U.So to 
relent on its demands for reforms, then he got just what he wanted o But 
what amoixnted to a complete U.S<, reversal on these demands also may have been 
influenced by the advice Kennedy -received from John Kenneth Galbraith at 
this time^ Kennedy had asked Galbraith to stop by Saigon on his return to 

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India. Galbraith did so_j and after three days cabled "back^ among other 
things^ the advice that it was a waste of effort to bargain with Dienia 

On the 20th^ the day of Thuan's meeting with Nolting^ Galbraith ■ 
cabled the President: 

There is scarcely the slightest practical chance that the 
administrative and political reforms now being pressed upon Diem 
will result in real changeo . o other e is no solution that does not 
involve a change in government. 

On the insurgency^ though^ Galbraith was optimistic^ provided Diem 
was replaced: 

While situation is indubitably bad military aspects seem to me 
out of perspective,, A comparatively well-equipped army with para- 
military formations number a quarter million men is facing a max- 
imiom of 15-18^000 lightly armed men. If this were equality^ the 
United States would hardly be safe against the Sioux. I know the 
theories about this kind of warfareo <>. .Given even a moderately 
effective government and putting the relative military power into 
perspective^ I can't help thinking the insurgency might very soon 
be settled. 2h/ 

The following day^ Galbraith^ now in Wew Delhi^ sent a more detailed 
appraisal_j covering essentially the same ground. Here are some extracts. 

,.. THE VIET CONG INSURRECTION IS STILL GRa/ING IN EFFECT. THE OUTBREAK 

■ 

ON THE NORTHERN HIGHLANDS IS MATCHED BY A POTENTIALLY EVEN f/.ORE DAMAGING 
IMPACT ON THE ECONOMY AND ESPECIALLY ON THE MOVEMENT OF RICE TO SAIGON. 

■^ (N THE ABSENCE OF KNa/LEDGE OF THE ADMIXTURE OF TERROR AND ECONOMIC 
AND SOCIAL EVANGELISM WE HAD BEST ASSUME THAT IT IS EMPLOYING BOTH. WE MUST' 
NOT FOREVER BE GUIDED BY THOSE WHO MISUNDERSTAND THE DYNAMICS OF REVOLUTION 
AND IMAGINE THAT BECAUSE' THE COMMUNISTS DO NOT APPEAL TO US THEY ARE ABHORRENT 
TO EVERYONE . ' • . ' 






IN OUR ENTHUSIASM TO PROVE OUTSIDE INTERVENTION BEFORE WORLD OPINION 
WE HAVE UNQUESTIONABLY EXAGGERATED THE ROLE OF MATERIAL ASSISTANCE ESPECIALLY 



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. IN THE MAIN AREA ' OF INSURRECTION IN THE FAR SOUTH. THAT LEADERS AND RADIO 
■■■■...GUIDANCE COME IN V/E KNO.V. BUT THE AMOUNT OF AMMUNITION AND WEAPONRY THAT A _ 

■ MAN CAN CARRY ON HIS BACK FOR SEVERAL HUNDRED KILOMETERS O^/ER JUNGLE TRAILS ' . 
■ V/AS 'not .increased APPRECIABLY BY MARX. NO MAJOR CONFLICT CAN DEPEND ON 
. SUCH LOGISTIC SUPPORT. ' " ' 

■ ■ 

A MAXIMUM OF l8,000 LIGHTLY ARMED MEN ARE INVOLVED IN THE INSURRECTION. 
• THESE ARE GVN ESTIMATES AND THE FACTOR ' OF EXAGGERATION IS UNQUESTIONABLY CONS ID- 

■ ■ ■ "^ 

ERABLE. TEN THOUSAND IS MORE PROBABLE. WHAT WE HAVE IN OPPOSITION INVOLVES A 
' HEAVY THEOLOGICAL D|SPUTE. DIEM IT IS SAID IS A GREAT BUT DEFAMED LEADER. IT . 
IS ALSO SAID HE HAS LOST TOUCH WITH THE MASSES, IS IN POLITICAL DISREPUTE AND 
. ■ OTHERWISE NO GOOD. THIS DEBATE CAN BE BYPASSED BY AGREED POINTS. IT IS ' 
AGREED THAT ADMINISTRATIVELY DIEM IS EXCEEDINGLY BAD. HE HOLDS FAR TOO MUCH 
■ POWER IN HIS OWN HANDS, EMPLOYS HIS ARMY BADLY, HAS NO INTELLIGENCE ORGANIZATION 
■ WORTHY OF THE NAME, HAS ARBIl^RY OR INCOMPETENT SUBORDINATES IN THE PROVINCES 

* 

AND SOM£ ACHIEVEMENTS NOT\'/ITHSTANDING, HAS A POOR ECONOMIC POLICY. HE HAS ALSO 
EFFECTIVELY RESISTED IMPROVEMENT FOR A LONG WHILE .IN FACE OF HEAVY DETERIORATION. 
.THIS IS ENOUGH. WHETHER HIS POLITICAL POSTURE IS NEPOTIC, DESPOTIC OUT 0F_ 
TOUCH WITH THE VILLAGERS AND HENCE DAMAGING' OR WHETHER THIS DAMAGE IS THE _ 
FIGMENT OF SAIGON INTELLECTUALS DOES NOT BEAR ON OUR IMMEDIATE POLICY AND, MAY 
■• BE BY-PASSED AT LEAST IN PART. ' ■ " ,• ' 

- ^ 

'■. THE SVN ARMY NUMBERS 170,000 AND WITH PARAMILITARY UNITS OF THE CIVIL 
■"■" GUARD AND HOME DEFENSE FORCES A QUARTER OF A MILLION. WERE THIS WELL DEPLOYED 



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ON BEHALF OF AN EFFECTIVE GOVERN'MENT 'IT SHOULD BE OBVIOUS THAT THE VIET COm WOULD 
HAVE NO CHANCE OF SUCCESS OR TAKEOVER. WASHINGTON IS CURRENTLY HAVING AN • • 
INTELLECTUAL ORGASM ON THE UNBEATABI LI TY OF GUERRILLA VMR. WERE GUERRILLAS 
EFFECTIVE IN A RATIO OF ONE TO' FIFTEEN OR TWENTY-FIVE .IT IS OBVIOUS THAT NO ■ ' •. 

■ GOVERNMENT V/OULD BE SAFE. THE VIET CONG, IT SHOULD BE NOTED, IS STRONGEST 

* 

IN THE SOUTHERN DELTA WHICH IS NOT JUNGLE BUT OPEN RICE PADDY. ' ' •■ 

■ 

THE FUNDA^'£NTAL DIFFICULTIES IN COUNTERING THE INSURGENCY, APART 
FROM ABSENCE OF INTELLIGENCE, ARE TWO-FOLD. FIRST IS THE POOR COMMAND, 
DEPLOYMENT, TRAINING, MORALE AND OTHER WEAKNESSES OF THE ARNfT AND PARAMILITARY 
FORCES. AND SECOND WHILE THEY CAN OPERATE - - SWEEP - - THROUGH ANY PART OF ' 
•THE 'country AND CLEAR OUT ANY VISIBLE INSURGENTS, THEY CANNOT GUARANTEE '- ■ . 
SECURITY AFTERWARDS. THE VIET CONG COMES BACK AND PUTS THE ARM ON ALL WHO ' ' ; 
HAVE COLLABORATED. THIS FACT IS VERY IMPORTANT IN RELATION TO REQUESTS FROM 
AMERICAN Mu^NPOWER. OUR FORCES WOULD CONDUCT THE ROUND-UP OPERATIONS WHICH 
THE RVN ARMY CAN ALREADY DO. WE COULDN'T CONCEIVABLY SEND ENOUGH MEN TO 

• ■ ■ 

w 

■ PROVIDE SAFETY FOR THE VILLAGES AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR AN EFFECTIVELY TRAINED ' 
CIVIL GUARD AND "home DEFENSE FORCE AND, PERHAPS, A POLITICALLY COOPERATIVE 
COMMUNITY. ' . . -. • .• 

, THE KEY AND INESCAPABLE POINT, THEN,' IS THE INEFFECTUAL I TY (ABETTED 
DEBATABLY BY THE UNPOPULARITY) OF THE DIEM GOVERNMENT. THIS IS THE STRATEGIC 
FACTOR. NOR CAN ANYONE ACCEPT THE STATEMENT OF THOSE WHO HAVE. BEEN EITHER 
TOO LONG OR TOO LITTLC IN ASIA THAT HIS IS THE INEVITABLE POSTURE OF THE 



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.V 



ASIAN Mj\NDARlN. FOR ONE THING IT ISN'T TRUE, BUT WERE IT SO THE ONLY ." 

" I ' •• • ' ' ■ . ■ 

POSSIBLE CONCLUSION V/OULD BE THAT THERE IS NO Fl/TURE FOR MANDARINS. 

THE COMMUNISTS DON'T FAVOR THEM. =' . .'• 

■ 

I COfC NO^ TO A LESSER MISCALCULATION, THE ALLEGED V/EAKENI NG - 
EMPHASIS OF THE MEKONG FLOOD. FLOODS IN THIS PART OF THE WORLD ARE AN 
. OLD TRAP FOR WESTERN NON-AGRICULTURISTS. THEY ARE JUDGED BY WHAT THE 
OHIO DOES TO ITS lO.-mS. NOW AS THE FLOOD V/ATERS RECEDE IT IS ALREADY 
EVIDENT THAT THIS FLOOD CONFORMS TO THE ASIAN PATTERN, ONE REPEATED . 

• ■ 

EVERY YEAR IN INDIA. THE MUD VILLAGES WILL SOON GRO-V AGAIN. SOME UPLAND ' 
RICE WAS DROWNED BECAUSE THE WATER ROSE TOO RAPIDLY. NEARER THE COAST THE 

I 

PRESSURE ON THE BRACKISH WATER WILL PROBABLY BRING AN OFFSETTING IMPROVENENT. 
NEXT YEAR'S CROP WILL BE MUCH BETTER FOR THE SILT. ' 

I COME m^ TO POLICY, FIRST THE BOX WE ARE IN PARTLY AS THE . 

* 

RESULT OF RECENT MOVES AND SECOND HOW WE GET OUT WITHOUT A TAKEOVER. WE 
HAVE JUST PROPOSED TO HELP DIEM IN VARIOUS WAYS IN RETURN FOR A PROMISE 
OF ADM'INISTRATIVE and POLITICAL REFORMS. SINCE THE ADMINISTRATIVE (AND 
POSS I BLY, POLITICAL^ INEFFECTUAL ITY ARE THE STRATEGIC FACTORS FOR SUCCESS. 
THE ABILITY TO GET REFORMS IS DECISIVE. WITH THEM THE NEW AID AND GADGETRY 

• * ■ ' - * 

WILL, BE USEFUL. WITHOUT THEM THE HELICOPTERS, PLANES AND ADVISER'S WON'T 

MAKE APPRECIABLE DIFFERENCE. 

IN MY COMPLETELY CONSIDERED VIEW, AS STATED YESTERDAY, DIEM 
WILL NOT REFORM EITHER ADMINISTRATIVELY OR POLITICALLY IN ANY EFFECTIVE 



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V/AYV THAT IS BECAUSE HE CANNOT. IT IS POLITICALLY NAIVE TO EXPECT IT. 
HE SENSES THAT HE CANNOT LET POWER GO BECAUSE HE V/OULD BE THRO.VN OUT. 
". HE MAY DISGUISE THIS EVEN FROM HIMSELF WITH THE STATEMENT THAT HE LACKS 
EFFECTIVE SUBORDINATES BUT THE CIRCUMSTANCE REMAINS UNCHANGED. HE 
PROBABLY SENSES THAT HIS GREATEST DANGER IS FROM THE ARt'^. 'HENCE THE 
REFORM THAT WILL BRING EFFECTIVE USE OF HIS MANPOV/ER, THOUGH THE MOST 
. URGENT MAY BE THE MOST IMPROBABLE. ' . ' ■ ' ' 

THE POLITICAL REFORMS ARE EVEN MORE UNLIKELY BUT THE ISSUE 
IS ACADEMIC. ONCE THE IMAGE OF A POLITICIAN IS FIXED, WHETHER AMONG 
OPPOSITION INTELLECTUALS OR PEASANTS, IT IS NOT CHANGED. NOR DO 
POLITICIANS CHANGE THEMSELVES. D I EM'S IMAGE WOULD NOT BE CHANGED BY 
HIS TAKING m OTHER NON-COMMUNISTS, INITIATING SOME SOCIAL REFORMS OR 
OTHERWISE MEETING THE REQUIREMENTS' OF OUR DEMARCHE. 

HOWEVER HAVING STARTED ON THIS HOPELESS GAME WE HAVE NO 
ALTERNATIVE, BUT TO PLAY' |T OUT FOR A MINIMUM TIME. THOSE WHO THINK 
•THERE IS HOPE OF REFORM WILL HAVE TO BE PERSUADED.' 

* * -x- * * 

It is a cliche that there is no alternative to Diem's regime. 
This is politically naive. Where one man has dominated the^ 
scene for good or ill there never seems to be. Ko one considered 
Truman an alternative to Roosevelt. There is none _ for Nehru. 
There was none I magine for Rhee. This is an optical^ illusion 
arising from the fact that the eye is fixed on the visible 
figures. It is a better rule that nothing succeeds like success- 
ors. , 

We should not be alajrmed by the Army as an alternative.^ It^ 
■would buy time and get a fresh" dynamic. It is not ideal; civilian 
rule is ordinarily more durable and more saleable to the world. 



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But a change and a new start is of the essence and in considering 
opinion we may note that Diem's flavor is not markedly good in 
Asia. 

A time of crisis in our policy on South Vietnam will come when 
it becomes evident that the reforms we have asked have not come ^ off 
and that our presently preferred aid is not accomplishing anything. 
Troops will be urged to back up Diem. It will be sufficiently 
clear that I think this must be resisted. Our soldiers would not 
deal with the vital weakness. They could perpetuate it. They 
would enable Diem to continue to concentrate on protecting his 
own position at the expense of countering the insurgency. Last 
springy following the Vice President's promise of more aid, pro- 
posals for increased and reform taxes which were well advanced^ 
were promptly dropped. The parallel on administrative and political 
reform could be close. 

It will be said that we need troops for "a show of strength and 
determination in the area. Since the troops will not deal with 
fundamental faults -- since there csix't be enough of them to give 
security to the countryside — their failure to provide security 
could create a worse crisis of confidence. You will be aware of my 
general reluctance to move in troops. On the other hand I would 
note that it is those of us who have worked in the political vine- 
yard and who have committed our hearts most strongly to the political 
fortunes of the I^ew Frontier who worry most about its bright promise 
being sunk under the rice fields. lilies in 195^ saw the dangers in 
this area. Dean Acheson knew he could not invest men in Chiang. 

* * * * 

My overall feeling is that despite the error implicit in this 
last move and the supposition that Diem can be reformed, the situa- - 
tion is not hopeless. It is only hopeless if we marry^our course 
to that of a man who must spend more time protecting his own posi- 
tion and excluding those who threaten it than in fighting the ^in- 
surgency. Diem's calculation instinctive or deliberate is evident. 
He has already been deposed once and not by the Communists. He 
can see his clear and present danger as well as anyoneo o/ 

Two things are particularly worth noting about Galbraith's advice: 
the first, to the extent it had an influence on Kennedy, it counselled him 
to avoid sending troops, but also not to take seriously the quid pro quo 
with Diem because Diem was not going to do anything anyway. Consequently, 
Galbraith, with a limitlessly bleak view of the prospects for success 
under Diem, really had no_ quarrel with those who argued against putting 
pressure on Diem and for trying to win his confidence. He had no argu- 
ment, because he thought both approaches (pressure and no pressure) were 
equally hopeless. And indeed, both had been tried during the year — 



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the pressure approach in the CIP negotiations; the "get on his wave length" 
approach following the Task Force review -- and both produced an identical 
lack of results. 

Second^ Galbraith^s analysis of the situation really has a good deal 
in coiranon with that of the Taylor Mission. Obviously^ he thought we must 
be rid of Diem_, and he apparently thought it was a mistake to put this ■ 
move off by making new aid offers to Diem rather than letting word get 
around that we would be prepared to offer more support to Vietnam if Diem 
should be removed. But at this time^ even people like Galbraith (and 
Schelsinger^ as is clear from his memoir) saw no alternative to continuing 
to support Vietnam^ although not to continuing to support Diem personally, 
Galbraith was^ if anything^ more optimistic about the chances of putting 
down the insurgency (given a change in Saigon) than was the Taylor Report. 
For his optimism was not at all contingent on any hopes of the efficacy 
of bombing threats against the north. For all we know^ he may have been 
right in supposing any "moderately effective" Saigon government could do 
all right against the insurgents; but we now know all too well how over- 
optimistic was his fairly confident expectation that a military replace- 
ment of the Diem regime would be at least moderately effective. 

To return to the negotiations in Saigon_, in late November^ we now had 
the following situation: 

1. It was clear that Diem was^ to say the least^ disappointed 
with the bargain Kennedy had proposed. 

2. Kennedy was obviously aware that he had offered Diem less 
than Diem expected^ and demanded much more in return, 

3. Both supporters of Diem_, like Lansdale and Kenneth Young^ 
and his severest critics^ like Galbraith^ were agreed that it was futile 
to try to force Diem to reform. Kennedy had already had his own experi- 
ences with such efforts earlier in the year. 

k, PresiHnably_, although we have nothing to show it in the avail- ■ 
able record, there was some unrest within the Administration about the 
limited offer that was being made, the demands being pressed, and the 
delay it was all causing. To put off an agreement too long raised the 
dual threat of an awkward public squabble and renewed pressure on the 
President to send the task force after all. 

It is hard to think of any realistic counter-arguments to the case for 
settling the dispute and get on with either trying to do better in the 
war, or get rid of Diem. 

The next phase was a brief flurry of anti -American stories in the 
government -controlled Saigon press. The U.S. was accused, among other 



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things_, of trying to use Vietnam as a "pawn of capitalist imperialism." 
26 / Nolting went to Diem to complain about the damage that such stories 
would do to U.S. -Vietnamese relations. But Diem disclaimed responsibility^ 
and suggested they were an understandable reaction of the South Vietnamese 
to what they had learned about the U.S. proposals from U.S. press reports. 
Nolting's final comment in his report on this meeting was a suggestion 
that the U.S. concentrate on "efficiency in GVIT rather than on more nebu- 
lous and particularly offensive to Diem concept of political reform." 27/ 
The impression given by the cable is that Nolting felt on the defensive^ 
which was probably the case since the package Washington had proposed 
must have been disappointing to him as well as to Diem. 

It did not take long for Washington to back away from any hard demands 
on Diem. A sentence from the original guidance telegram stated "we would 
expect to share in the decision-making process in the political^ economic 
and military fields as they affected the security situation". . .as opposed 
to the previous arrangement of "acting in an advisory capacity only." 
28/ Alexis Johnson and Rostow drafted a cable on December 7 that "clarified" 
this and a nimber of other points to which Diem had strongly objected^ in 
this case to explain that^ 

. ...what we have in mind is that^ in operations directly related to 
the security situation^ partnership will be so close that one 
party will not take decisions or actions affecting the other without 
full and frank prior consultations... 29/ 

This was quite a comedown from the idea that American involvement in the 
Vietnamese government should be so intimate that the government could be 
reformed "from the bottom up" despite Diem. Once the U.S. backed away from 
any tough interpretation of its proposals^ agreement was fairly easily 
reached with Diem^ and one of the usual fine sounding statements of agreed " 
principles and measures was drawn up. . " ' 

On one seemingly m.odest request from Diem^ Washington was curiously 
firm. Diem repeatedly^ both while the Taylor Mission was in Saigon^ and 
after its return^ asked for Lansdale to be sent. (Our record shows four 
such requests, one directly by Diem to Taylor; a second from Thuan; and 
in a memorandiom to McNamara William Bundy referred to two further requests 
relayed through Mc Gar r. ) Cottrell, the senior State representative on 
the Taylor Mission, strongly endorsed sending Lansdale, and the main paper 
of the Taylor Report seemed to endorse the idea. William Bundy was in 
favor of sending Lansdale, and Lansdale wanted to go. But nothing happened.. 
Lansdale never got to Vietnam until Cabot Lodge brought him out late in 
1965. 

The first contingents of helicopters arrived in Saigon December 11 
(having been put to sea several weeks earlier). On the following day a 
Mew York Times dispatch from Saigon began: 



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Two United States Army helicopter companies arrived here today, • 
The helicopters^ to be flown and serviced by United States troops^ 
are the first direct military support by the United States for South 
Vietnam's war against Communist guerrilla forces. 

The craft will be assigned to the South Vietnamese Army in the 
field^ but they will remain under United States Army control and 
operation. 

At least 33 H-21C twin -rotor helicopters^ their pilots and 
ground crews^, an estimated total of 400 men^ arrived aboard the 
Military Sea Transportation Service aircraft feriy Core. 30/ 

The Times story ended by describing the force as "the first fruits" 
of the Taylor Mission, with more to come. The Times did not find the story 
important enough to put it on the front page. 

A day later, the Times published a story about the ICC reaction to the 
arrival of the helicopters. It began: 

The International Control Commission for Vietnam was reported 
today to be considering whether to continue functioning here in 
the face of an increase in United States assistance to South 
Vietnam's struggle against Communist guerrillas. 

The Commission, made up of representatives of India, Canada, 
and Poland, has been holding emergency sessions since the arrival 
here yesterday of a United States vessel loaded with at least 33 
helicopters and operating and maintenance crews. 3l/ 

A few paragraphs later^ the dispatch noted that: 

With the arrival yesterday of the Core, a former escort carrier, 
bearing the helicopters, four single-engine training planes and 
about 400 men, the United States military personnel here now are 
believed to total about 1,500, Many more are expected, 32/ 

Again, the Times ran the story on an inside page. 

Finally, on the 15th, a formal exchange of letters between Presidents 
Diem and Kennedy was published, announcing in general terms a stepped-up 
U.S. aid program for Vietnam. 



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V.B.^. THE KEI^^TJEDY PROGRAM MB COi^MITI^EPITS: I96I 



FOOTNO TES - CmPTERI 

1. ME 63-59, 26 May 1959, "Prospects for North aad South Vietnam" 

2. Durbrow ( Saigon) message to State (61) 

3c KIE 63.1-60, 23 August i960, "Short Term Trends in South Vietnam" 

1^-c Brigc Gen Lansdale Report to Secretary of Defense, 1? January 196I 

5. CINCPAC Command History, 196O, p. lll2 

6. NIE 63.1-60, 23 August i960 

7. Young Memorandum to Diem (copy attached to Young Letter to Deputy 
Secretary of Defense Gilpatrlc, 2k April) 

80 Saigon message to State I656, k December I96O 

9. CAS message (Lodge) to White House (65) 

10. Coolidge Commission Report, January 196O (item 1, Recommendations) 



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FOOTNOTES - CHAPTER II 



' ' . - 1. DEPTEL 105^ to Saigon, 3 Fe"bruary I96I 

2. Saigon message 2765 h January I96I 

3. Charles von Luttichau of Office, Chief of Army History, "U.S. Army 
Role in the Conflict in Vietnam," 196^, Chapter 5 (TS). For detail 
on the chain of command problem, see page 7ff 5 fo^ the dispute on 
an operations plan, see page 15ff • 

k. Saigon message 276, h January I96I. 

5. Ibid . 

6. Ibid. 

7. Ibid. 

8. Memorandim, Lansdale to Secretary of Defense, 17 January I96I. 
Tab 1, R. L. Gilpatric Task Force File. 

9. Hilsman, Roger, To Move a Nation (Double day), p. ^19 
■ 10. State message 105^, op. cit . 

11.' Ibid, 

12. Saigon message ikkk, 8 March I96I 

13. Saigon message 1^66, I6 March I96I 
Ik. DEPTEL 1218 to Saigon, 23 March I96I 
15. Saigon message I65O, 3 May I96I 



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FOOTi>rOTES - CHARTER III 



I !• Secretary of Defense Memorajid\mL to the Deputy Secretary of Defense, 

' _ 20 April I96I5 confirmed by Secretary of Defense Memorandum .for the 

President 5 20 April I961 

2. NIE 5O-6I5 "Outlook in Mainlexid Southeast Asia" 28 March 196I; 
Lansdale Memorandum to Secretary of Defense, 1? January I96I; Saigon 

j message to State I656, 3 May I96I; Draft Report of Task Force on 

Vietnam^ 26 April I96I 

3. l^IE 50-61 

k. Gilpatric Task Force Pile, handwritten note among drafts on impact 
on Vietnam of Laos, at Tab 20. 

5. Public Papers of the President: John F. Kennedy, I96I, p« 26l 
^* Ibid ., p. 306 

7- W. W. Rostow Memorandum to the President in Secretary of Defense 
files (File Copy). Lansdale's Memorandum describing it is found 
at Tab 2, Gilpatric Task Force file. Copy of 26 April Draft of 
.'—^, Task Force Report in Gilpatric Task Force file. 

8. The "implementing agent" language is from an SIHE dated 5 October 
on Bloc support for the Viet Cong. But similar formulations are 
commonplace throughout the record. See, for example, the opening 
section of the Taylor Mission Report, or the opening section of 
the Ru^k/HcNamara Memorandum for the President dated 11 ITovember 
1961. 

9. Lansdale Memorandum to Richard Bissell (CIA), Gilpatric Task Force, 
Tab 19 

10 o KSAInI 52, 11 May I96I 

11. Gilpatric Task Force file, Tab 13 

12. Ibid ., Tab 20 

12«a, . Schlesinger, Arthux, A Thou sand Days (Houghton Mifflin), po 337 
13c Public Papers of the President: John F. Kennedy, I96I, p. 3^0 
. ik. Gilpatric Task Force file, Tab 23 
I 15o Ibido, Tab 26 • 

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l6. Ibid ., Tab 29 . 

17c Ibid ., Tab 28 

18. Ibi^., Tab 29 (Line-in/Line-out draft from State which shows- both 

the Defense draft and the State -proposed revisions). The changes ^^ 

cited are from the section headed "Political and Economic Objectives. 

19. Ibido 

20. Ibido, Tab 31. (Copies of the summary section only were distributed 
as attachments to NSMI 52. ) 

21. Gilpatric Task Force, op. cit . 

22o Politica,! Annex to May 6 (Final) Draft 

23o Papers of the Presidents, op. cit ,, po 35^ 

2^. President Kennedy's Letter to Ego Dinh Diem, 8 May I961 

25. Deputy Secretary of Defense Memorandum to Chairman, JCS, 8 May 1961, 
Subject: "Vietnam." 

26. Gilpatric Task Force Draft, May 6, Military Recoimendations 

27. JCSM 320-61, 10 llay 1961 . - ' 

28. KSM 52, 11 May I961 

29. Ibid . • ■ 

30. Gilpatric Task Force Drafts, Political and Economic Section 

31« Ibid. 

32. Ibid. 

33. OSD Task Force (Vietnam) files - Dr. D. Ellsberg Paper 
3I1. Ibid. 

35. Deputy Secretary of Defense files » Among other things, states that 
Vice President Johnson will find Diem "as interested in cattle as any 
Texan, and as interested in freedom as S em. Houston." Concludes 
"Here is our- toughest ally in Asia.. « a 60-yeax old bachelor who gave 
up roma-nce with his sweetheart to devote his life to his country. 



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FQOTTTQTES - CMPTER IV 

1. Saigon message ^^21^ 1 October I96I 

2. Saigon message 17^3, 15 May I96I 

3. Vice President Johnson Memorandum for the President ^ 23 May I96I 

k. Lansdale Memorandum for Gilpatric, I8 May 1961^ Subject: "Vietnam." 

5. President Diem Letter to President Kennedy, 9 June I96I 

60 Joint Action Program Proposed by the Vietnam-United States Special 
Financial Groups , undated, but submitted to President Kennedy 
approximately July 25. ' 

7. I^^SAM 65, 11 August 1961 

8. Lansdale Memorandum for Gilpatric, I8 May I961, Subject: "Vietnam." 

9. According to notes in the Task Force files. We do not have cita- 
tions for the JCS Memorandum or McGarr's messages. Lansdale 's 
Memorandum to Gilpatric also alludes to such proposals « 

10. Saigon message I803, 27 May I961 

11. Diem Letter to Kennedy, 9 June I96I 

12. Sorenson, Kennedy (Harper 8c Rowe), p. 736 

13. Kote found in Secretary of Defense files. 

ik. l^IE lU. 3/53-61, 15 August 1961, "Prospects for Worth and South Vietnam.." 

15. Ibid. ' • " ■ 

16. Ibid . 

17. State Department, "First 12-Month Report/' 1 September I96I 
18« Schlesinger, op. cit ., p« ^hk 

19. Saigon message, 29 September I96I 

20. Quoted froL. an untitled, mimeographed paper in Secretary of Defense's 
files. The only marking on the paper is the usual note "Secretary 
of Defense has seen." Probably it was a product of a Laos^ or South- 
east Asia working groups 



21. Ibid. 



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22. NIE lif. 3/53-61 

23. New York Tmes , 23 September I96I 

2k. New York Times, 27 September I96I5 Editorial Page, Reston Column 



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FOOTNOTES - CHA.PTER V 



1. JCSM 717-61 



2. Ibid. 



3. "Concept of Intervention in South Vietnam," considered at an NSC 
Meeting J 11 October. 

ii-. SNIE 53-2-61, "Bloc Support of the Coimnunist Effort Against the 
Government of SVE," 5 October 196I 

5. Washington Post , 10 April I968 

6. SNIE 10-3-61, "Probable Communist Response to Certain SEATO 
^Undertakings in SEA." 

7. Supplemental Note 2, 11 October I961, to "Concept of Intervention 
in Vietnam," 10 October I961. 

8. William Buady Memorand-um "for Secretary McNamaxa, 10 October 1961. 

9. Gilpatric Memorandum for the Record, U October 1961. 

10. New York Times , 12 October I96I5 p. 1. Transcript of Press 
Conference at po 20. 

11. New York Times , I3 October I96I, p. 16 

12. New York Times , lU October I96I, p. 1^ 

13. Saigon message ^88, 13 October 196I 
lU. New York Times , I5 October I96I, p. 1 

15c CINCPAC message to JCS, 20 October 1961, Subject: "Pros and Cons of 
Introducing U.S. Combat Forces Into South Vietnam." 

16. Saigon message 516, 20 October I96I 

16a., ChMAAG Saigon message to JCS, 23 October I96I , - 1^ 

17. Saigon message 536, 25 October 1961 ' 

18. Saigon message 537^ 25 October I96I 

19. BAGUIO message OOO5, 1 November I96I 

20. BAGUIO message OOO6, EYES ONLY FOR THE. PRSSIDEWT, 1 November I96I 

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21. Summary Section, Taylor Mission Report, p. 8 

22. Ibid., ^. 2k 

23. Ibid ., pp 8, 9 
2U. Ibid ., p. 11 

25. Ibid ,, p. Ik 

26. Appendix C, Taylor Report, pp 2, 3 

27. Summary, Taylor Report, p. 8 

28. Appendix A, Section III, Taylor Report 

29. Summary, Taylor Report, p. 7. 

" 30 « Appendix B, Taylor Report, p. 1 

31. Ibid., p. 2 

32. Ibidc, po 1 

33. Ibid. , p. 1 

Sk. Summary, Taylor Report, pc 5 

35. Ibid., p. 19 ' 

w 

36. Ibid., p. 25 

37o General Maxwell Taylor's Letter to the President, transmittal of 
Taylor Mission Report 

38. Summary, Taylor Report, p, 5 

39. Ibid., p. 6 ' 
UOo Ibid o , p. 11 

Ul. Saigon message 5^+55 25 October I961 

k2. ChlWAG Saigon message to JCS, 2ii October I96I 

k3» Saigon message 5U1, 25 October I961 

kk. ChMAAG Saigon Letter to Secretary of Defense, 11 November I961 



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^5- Saigon message 5^1, 25 October I961 

kS. Ibid , 

I17. Saigon message 536^ 25 October I96I 



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FOOTNOTES - CHAPTER VI 



1. Nev York Times , k November I96I5 p. 1 

2. New York Times, 29 October I96I5 p. 28 

3. New York Times , 21 October I96I, p. 1 
k. New York Times , 5 November I96I, po 1 

5. Ibid. 

6. DEPTEL 5^5 to Saigon, k November I961. The language cited in the 
footnote is the only completely unambiguous indication of how far 
the U.So hoped to go in putting Americans into a direct position 
of influence in the Vietnamese government and ariny. But there is 
plenty of language in the Taylor Mission Report that suggests as 
much and there is a rather blunt statement, quoted at the end of 
Section II of this chapter, which Nolting was told to pass on to 
Diem in explaining the U.S. offer, 

7o Sorenson, " op, cit ,, p. 737, says senior advisors "on Vietnam," which 
presimiably did not include someone like George Ball, then Under- 
secretary of State, who has been widely reported to have opposed 
any combat troop commitments. 

As we will see, Galbraith is also on record against troops. Rusk 
is on record as deferring combat troops in a Joint McNamar a/Rusk 
memorandum which appears to have been drafted after the President 
had made his decision (it contradicts a memorandum McNamara signed 
only three days earlier). We do not know whether Rusk, like 
McNamara was reversing his position. 

80 Saigon message kSl? 25 October I961 

9. BAGUIO message OOO6, 1 November 1961, EYES ONLY FOR THE PRESIDENT 

10. USDEL Hakone to State, Section 6, 1 November I96I 
11 „ Saigon message 575, 31 October I96I 

12. Staff memoranda, 2 and 6 November 1961^ by Colonel Kent, OSD(ISA) 

13. Summary, Taylor Report, p. 1 

ik. SNIE lO-U-61, 5 November I961, "Probable Communist Reactions to 
Certain U.Sc Actions in South Vietnam," 5 November I96I 

l5o Ibid. 



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16. Memorandum for the President from McNamara^ Gilpatric^ JCSj 
8 November I96I (TS) 

17. Rusk/McNamara Memorandum for the President , 11 November I96I (TS) 

* 

18. NSAM 111, 22 November I96I 
19- Schlesinger, o^. cit . , p. 5^7 

20. DEPTEL 618 to Saigon, lU November I96I 
20. a. DEPTEL 6I9 to Saigon, 1^ November I96I 

21. Ibid. ' 

22. Saigon message 678, I8 November I96I ■ 
r\ 23. Saigon message 687, 22 November I96I 

24. Bangkok message, Galbraith to the President, 20 November I96I 

25. New Delhi (Galbraith) message 99^1 for the President, 21 November I96I 
( ^ 26. Reuters dispatch from Saigon in The Washington Post , 25 November I96I 

27- Saigon message 708, 25 November I96I 

28, DEPTEL 619 to Saigon, l4 November I96I 



29. DEPTEL 693 to Saigon, 7 November I96I 

30. New York Times , 12 December I96I 

31. New York Times , I3 December I96I 

32. Ibid. 



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