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1961-1963, Volume I
Vietnam, 1961

Department of State
Washington, DC

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42. Memorandum From the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Gilpatric) to the President/1/

Washington, May 3, 1961.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.51K/5-361. Top Secret. The source text was attached to a memorandum from Ball to Rusk, Bowles, Johnson, McGhee, and McConaughy, May 3, noting that the enclosed memorandum was a Department of State draft and that differences with Defense remained to be ironed out. Also attached to the source text was a note stating that Rusk had discussed the organizational differences with McNamara without result and that they would discuss them further with the President on May 5 before the NSC meeting. The underscored sections are additions to the earlier drafts cited in Document 35.

Program of Action for Viet-Nam

Pursuant to your decisions at the Cabinet meeting on April 20, and the NSC meeting of April 29 1961,/2/ I am submitting for consideration by the National Security Council a program of action to prevent Communist domination of South Vietnam, including and expanding our present activities in the area.

/2/See Documents 31 and 40.

This program was prepared by an inter-departmental Task Force consisting of representatives from the Departments of State, Defense, and Treasury, CIA, ICA, USIA and the Office of the President. In addition, the Task Force had the benefit of advice from the Joint Staff, CINCPAC and the Chief, MAAG, Viet-Nam. The new Ambassador to Viet-Nam also participated.

In the short time available to the Task Force, it was not possible to develop the program in complete detail. However, the program includes a range of mutually supporting actions of a political, military, economic, psychological and covert character which can be refined periodically on the basis of further recommendations from the Ambassador in the field.

(Toward this end, Brigadier General E.G. Lansdale, USAF, who has been designated Operations Officer for the Task Force, will proceed to Viet-Nam immediately after the program receives Presidential approval. Following on-the-spot discussions with U.S. and Viet-Namese officials, he will forward to the Director of the Task Force specific recommendations for action in support of the attached program.)

(You will be advised of any changes as this program proceeds and be provided status reports on actions as appropriate.)

Having completed its assignment for the preparation of this program, I recommend that the present task force be now dissolved. Proposed organizational arrangements to carry out the program are included in the attached paper.

Roswell L. Gilpatric/3/

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



A Program of Action To Prevent Communist Domination of South Vietnam/4/

Washington, May 1, 1961.

/4/Drafted by Cleveland. Another draft of this paper, also dated May 1, and prepared by the Task Force with input from the Departments of Defense and the Treasury, is in Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series. The underscored portions indicate the parts of the Department of State draft that do not appear in the other May 1 draft, while the bracketed portions indicate sections that the Department of State wanted removed from the draft.

Appraisal of the situation: After a meeting in Hanoi on 13 May 1959, the Central Committee of the North Viet-Namese Communist Party publicly announced its intention "to smash'' the government of President Diem. Following this decision, the Viet Cong have significantly increased their program of infiltration, subversion, sabotage and assassination designed to achieve this end.

At the North Vietnamese Communist Party Congress in September, 1960, the earlier declaration of underground war by the Party's Control Committee was re-affirmed. This action by the Party Congress took place only a month after Kong Le's coup in Laos. Scarcely two months later there was a military uprising in Saigon. The turmoil created throughout the area by this rapid succession of events provides an ideal environment for the Communist "master plan'' to take over all of Southeast Asia.

Since that time, as can be seen from the attached map,/5/ the internal security situation in South Viet-Nam has become critical. What amounts to a state of active guerilla warfare now exists throughout the country. Despite greatly stepped up efforts by South Viet-Namese forces, the number of Viet Cong hard-core Communists has increased from 4400 in early 1960 to an estimated 12,000 today. The number of violent incidents per month now averages 650; casualties on both sides totaled more than 4500 during the first three months of this year. These figures, while alarming, are also a reflection of increased efforts by South Viet-Namese forces. 58% of the country is under some degree of Communist control, ranging from harassment and night raids to almost complete administrative jurisdiction in the Communist "secure areas."

/5/Not found.

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 Viet-Nam is nearing the decisive phase in its battle for survival. If the situation continues to deteriorate, the Communists will be able to press on to their strategic goal of establishing a rival "National Liberation Front" government in one of its (these) "secure areas," thereby plunging the nation into open civil war. They have publicly announced that they will "take over the country before the end of 1961."

If agreement is reached on a cease fire in Laos, political negotiations on the future of that country will begin on May 12 at the Fourteen Power Conference in Geneva. However, the April 26th statement on Laos by the Peiping government/6/ indicates that the Communist members of that conference intend to expand the negotiations to include other areas of Southeast Asia. As a result, it can be expected that the Fourteen Power meeting will be prolonged, covering several months or more.

/6/For text of this statement, see Survey of China Mainland Press, No. 2487, May 2, 1961, pp. 31-32.

The effect of these negotiations on the situation in Viet-Nam will be threefold:

First, the very fact that the Fourteen Powers are meeting under essentially the same ground rules as the 1954 Geneva Accords, including the concept of an ICC mechanism in Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, could have a politically inhibiting effect on any significant measures which the U.S. might undertake to prevent a Communist take-over in South Viet-Nam.

Second, as has been their practice in the past, the Communists can be expected to use the cover of an international negotiation to expand their subversive activities. In this case, close coordination of their efforts in Southern Laos, Cambodia and Viet-Nam can be expected. The 250 mile border between South Viet-Nam and Laos, while never effectively sealed in the past, will now be deprived of even the semblance of protection which the friendly, pro-western Laos offers.

Third, the three principal passes through the Annamite Mountains--the Nape Pass, Mugia Gap, and the pass that controls the road from Quang Tri to Savannakhet--lie in Southern Laos. These passes control three key military avenues of advance from North Viet-Nam through Laos into the open Mekong valley leading to Thailand and South Viet-Nam. A Lao political settlement that would afford the Communists an opportunity to maintain any sort of control, covertly or otherwise, of these mountain passes would make them gate keepers to the primary inland invasion route leading to Saigon and flanking the most important defensive terrain in the northern area of South Viet-Nam.

Thus the situation is critical, but not hopeless. The South Viet-Namese Government, with American aid, is increasing its capabilities to fight its attackers. It provides a strong anti-Communist government and generally pro-American population as 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 Laos, additional measures beyond those proposed herein may be necessary.

The U.S. Objective: To prevent Communist domination of South Viet-Nam and to create in that country a viable and increasingly democratic society.

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 doing, it is intended to use, and where appropriate extend, expedite or build upon the existing U.S. and Government of Viet-Nam--G.V.N.--programs including the Counter Insurgency Plan already underway in South Viet-Nam. There is neither the time available nor any sound justification for "starting from scratch." Rather the need is to focus the U.S. effort in South Viet-Nam on the immediate internal security problem; to infuse it with a sense of urgency and a dedication to the over-all U.S. objective; to achieve, through cooperative inter-departmental support both in the field and in Washington, the operational flexibility needed to apply the available U.S. assets in a manner best calculated to achieve our objective in Viet-Nam; and finally, to impress on our friends, the Viet-Namese, and on our foes, the Viet Cong, that come what may, the U.S. intends to win this battle.

The following recommendations for action should not be taken as fixed or immutable. but rather as requests for general authority to undertake [after recommendations from the Ambassador in the field ] a series of accelerated measures along the lines of, and for the purpose stated in the Task Force report.

Program of Action:

1. General: The situation in South Viet-Nam has reached the point where, at least for the time being, primary emphasis must be placed on providing a solution to the internal security program. A significant step which has already been taken by the Country Team to counter Communist subversion in South Viet-Nam has been the development of the Counter-Insurgency Plan. This Plan--a summary of which is attached as Annex A/7/--which has been fully coordinated within the U.S. Government, has been forwarded to President Diem. Those portions of the Plan which are agreed to by the G.V.N. will be implemented as rapidly as possible.

/7/Not attached to the source text; see Document 1.

However Communist domination of South Viet-Nam cannot be stopped by military means alone. Our military program must be accompanied and supplemented by an equally strong, equally positive political-economic program.

[2. Political:

a. Assist the G.V.N. under President Diem to develop within the country the widest consensus of public support for a government dedicated to resisting Communist domination.

b. Obtain the political agreements needed to permit prompt SEATO military intervention in South Viet-Nam should this become necessary to prevent the loss of the country to Communism and expedite the development of plans for such a contingency. The United States should be prepared to intervene unilaterally in fulfillment of its commitment under Article IV, 2 of the Manila Pact,/8/ and should make its determination to do so clear through appropriate public statements, diplomatic discussions, troop deployments or other means.

/8/For text of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, September 8, 1954, see 6 UST 81-86.

c. Determine the feasibility of an appeal by Vietnam to the United Nations for assistance in the counter-insurgency struggle, requesting the U.N. to provide ground observers to help control the subversion and infiltration of South Viet-Nam by the Communists.

d. Obtain the cooperation of other free nations in the area in support of regional measures designed to inhibit the transit or safe haven of Communist subversive or guerrilla forces operating in South Viet-Nam. In particular, secure the cooperation of Cambodia in the implementation of appropriate military and civil measures to prevent the use of their territory for the infiltration of Communist personnel or supplies into South Viet-Nam.]


Part I. Statement of Objectives. There are listed below our chief political-economic objectives in Viet-Nam. In section two (II) the specific courses of action required to implement these objectives are set forth.

a. Develop political and economic conditions which will create a solid and widespread support among the key political groups and the Renera1 population for a Viet-Nam which has the will to resist Communist encroachment and which in turn stems from a stake in a freer and more democratic society. To accomplish the following it will be necessary to work through and support the present Vietnamese Government despite its acknowledged weaknesses. No other feasible alternative exists at this point in time which does not involve an unacceptable degree of risk. At the same time. we do not underestimate the difficulties inherent in attempting to effect a major alteration in the present governmental structure or in its objectives. To accomplish this will require very astute dealing between U.S. Government personnel and the Vietnamese. However, we believe that we have the combination of positive inducements plus points at which discreet pressure can be exercised which will permit accomplishment of this objective. We would, therefore, in attempting to achieve this objective, pursue the following courses:

(1) Increase the confidence of President Diem and his government in the United States.

President Diem is not now fully confident of United States support. This confidence has been undermined partly by our vigorous efforts to get him to mend his ways politically and partly by the equivocal attitude he is convinced we took at the time of the November 11, 1960, attempted coup. It is essential that President Diem's full confidence in and communication with the United States be restored promptly.

(2) Strengthen President Diem's popular support within Viet-Nam.

Despite his recent success at the polls, President Diem lacks the support of a large proportion of opinion-making elements in Viet-Nam, as well as the understanding and support of the mass of people. His autocratic methods and his lack of communication with the Viet-Namese people are a continuing cause of concern.

b. Improve Viet-Nam's relationship with other countries and its status in world opinion. While it is vital that Viet-Nam's internal political situation be improved it is also important that its external political relations with its neighbors and with the world community similarly be improved. Viet-Nam's relationships with its neighbor Cambodia are generally bad, nevertheless, defeat of the communist insurgents requires close cooperation with Cambodia on border control. This will require a major effort of reconciliation. Other free world countries should be asked to assist or at least support Viet-Nam in its struggle. Viet-Nam is a Free World problem, not just a United States problem. A series of actions. described in Part II of this section, will contribute to the foregoing objective.

c. Undertake economic programs having both a short-term, immediate impact as well as contributing to the longer range economic viability of the country. The degree to which an improvement in both the internal and external political relations of Viet-Nam can be accomplished will be directly related to the extent to which a more favorable economic future for the people can be assured. We can contribute to this objective in the following ways:

(1) The anti-guerilla effort should be accompanied and followed up by economic and political consolidation. A broad range of community development activities both in the political and economic field should be pressed forward. Not only should roads. wells, schools. etc. be pushed forward but village political councils should be created and an imaginative communications system should be established, geared to bring the rural people of Viet-Nam into the body politic.

(2) A long range development program. Viet-Nam is essentially a "have" rather than a "have not" country. It has land, resources. and an able and energetic people. If it were not for the Communists Viet-Nam would probably be. like Thailand, economically viable today. We should help it move ahead with a long range development program against the day when the Communist menace has been brought under control and it can press ahead into an era of self-sustaining economic growth.

(3) Assist Viet-Nam to make the best use of all economic resources available. Our capability to assist Viet-Nam is hampered by its own inability to make the best use of its available resources. Fiscal and monetary measures are needed.

Specific actions to forward each of these objectives are set forth in Part II.

d. Undertake military security arrangements which establish beyond doubt our intention to stand behind Viet-Nam's resistance to Communist aggression. mobilizing S.E. Asia toward this end.

It is doubtful whether the Viet-Namese Government can weather the pressures which are certain to be generated by the loss of Laos without prompt and dramatic support for its security from the U.S. Similarly. the extent to which the remainder of the S.E. Asian countries would be prepared to go "in resisting Bloc pressures or in withstanding local Communist threats would depend on whether they still assessed that the U.S. could stem further Communist expansion in the area. . ./9/ Although they would be disillusioned regarding U.S. resolution after the loss or division of Laos, they would nonetheless welcome demonstrations of U.S. firmness and might in response modify their appraisal of their own future in due course." (NIE of March 28. "Outlook in Mainland S.E. Asia."/10/)

/9/Ellipsis in the source text.

/10/Document 22.

Thus to further strengthen and improve the internal and external political position of Viet-Nam described in a. and b. above and as a complementary action to the economic undertakings described in c. above. the U.S. should endeavor to develop various strengthened security arrangements as set forth in Part III.

Part II. Specific Courses of Action in Support of the Objectives listed in the paragraphs listed above.

a. Develop political and economic conditions which will create a solid and widespread support among the key political groups and the general population for a Viet-Nam which has the will to resist Communist encroachment and which in turn stems from a stake in a freer and more democratic society.

(1) Increase the confidence of President Diem and his government in the United States.

This must be the starting point of our new approach to Viet-Nam. Fortunately a number of circumstances are favorable: a new administration in the United States, a new ambassador going to Viet-Nam, and the fact that President Diem has received a new mandate. Nevertheless, the going will not be easy. Given Diem's personality and character and the abrasive nature of our recent relationships, success or failure in this regard will depend very heavily on Ambassador Nolting's ability to get on the same wavelength with Diem. But the following actions should greatly facilitate Ambassador Nolting's task.

(a) Presidential Communications

The President sent President Diem a warm public message on the occasion of his inauguration on April 29./11/ A highly classified brief personal message should now be sent saying that Ambassador Nolting is on his way with new proposals for joint actions to defeat the Communist insurgents. (Draft attached/12/) Shortly after he presents his credentials, Ambassador Nolting would present another message from the President which would lay out the broad outline of the Task Force program and would seek Diem's cooperation and endorsement.

/11/Document 34.

/12/No draft was attached to the source text. However, copies of similar draft letters, prepared by Cleveland on May 3, are in Department of State, G/PM Files: Lot 64 D 354.


1. That you approve the attached message for immediate dispatch to Diem.

2. That you approve the preparation of a longer message to be developed in consultation with the Ambassador containing the essence of the Task Force programs and bespeaking our confidence in Diem and seeking his cooperation.

(a) Vice-Presidential Visit

The Vice-President's visit should provide the added incentive needed to give the GVN the motivation and confidence it needs to carry on the struggle. We would hope that meetings between the Vice-President and President Diem could act as a catalytic agent to produce broad agreement on the need for accelerated joint Viet-Namese-U.S. actions to resist Communist encroachment in S.E. Asia. These meetings would also serve to get across to President Diem our confidence in him as a man of great stature and as one of the strong figures in Southeast Asia on whom we are placing our reliance. At the same time, these conferences should impress Diem with the degree of importance we attach to certain political and economic reforms in Vietnam which are an essential element in frustrating Communist 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. Finally it might be possible for the Vice-President to return to Washington with a letter from Diem to the President relating the understanding reached.


That the Vice-President's trip to Viet-Nam be focused on gaining the confidence of President Diem and on obtaining broad agreement on joint objectives in Southeast Asia.

(2) Strengthen President Diem s popular support within Viet-Nam.

The chief threat to the viability of President Diem's administration is, without a doubt, the fact of Communist insurgency and the government's inability to protect its own people. Thus military measures must have the highest priority. There is, nevertheless, strong discontent with the government among not only the elite but among peasants, 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 Communists' subversive attempts to discredit the President and weaken his government's authority. All this is made the easier because of a communication 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. Many of these changes are included in the Counter-Insurgency Plan. Our success has only been partial. There are those who consider that Diem will not succeed in the battle to win men's minds in Viet-Nam.

Thus in giving priority emphasis to the need for internal security. we must not relax in our efforts to persuade 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 shoring up a leader who had lost the support of his people.


That Ambassador Nolting be instructed upon his arrival in Viet-Nam to reappraise the political situation and undertake to obtain agreement of the GVN on an urgent basis for a realistic political program along the lines indicated in the CIP. The objective of the program would be to seek to produce favorable attitudes and active popular cooperation against the VC. While the Ambassador's recommendations might well include certain actions directed toward fiscal and monetary reform measures it is presumed that the major recommendations in this area will be developed by the Ambassador in conjunction with the special team of U.S. experts which it is proposed be dispatched to Viet-Nam for this purpose (see (3) below).

b. Improving Viet-Nam's relationships with other countries and its status in world opinion. There are three major steps involved in achieving this objective:

(1) Improving relations with Cambodia, leading to full border control cooperation. Cooperation between Cambodia and Viet-Nam in border control is an essential means of combating the Communists. Viet-Nam and Cambodia have always had difficulty in negotiation on any issue, especially a complex and politically-charged problem like border-control. In 1960 Cambodia made a major request for military assistance to which we made only a token response. We should endeavor to obtain better Cambodian cooperation, using a step up of military assistance as "quid pro quo." To maximize the benefit to be derived from provision of additional military assistance we should specifically agree to provide 4 jet trainers requested by the Cambodians thereby precluding provision of these aircraft by Czechoslovakia which has already offered to make the aircraft available to the Cambodians. This would forestall further Communist penetration in this area.


That our Ambassadors in Phnom Penh and Saigon be instructed to urge host governments to enter promptly into renewed border control negotiations. The Cambodian Government should be informed in this connection that requests for additional assistance will be sympathetically considered. In this connection it should be informed that its recent request for 4 T-37 aircraft has been approved.

(2) United Nations Observers

Because of the failure of the ICC to control subversion and infiltration it has been suggested that Viet-Nam appeal to the United Nations Security Council for ground observers. The Soviets would probably veto any such action and action in the General Assembly would be required. Not only does the provision of United Nations Observers have intrinsic merit but in any event, United Nations consideration would have the value of focusing world opinion on Communist actions in Viet-Nam.


That the Ambassador in Saigon be instructed to discuss this matter with the GVN: Ambassador Stevenson might later be asked to explore informally the idea with Mr. Hammarskjold and friendly foreign representatives in New York.

(3) Contributions of other free world countries toward meeting the Communist guerrilla threat. The United Kingdom has already expressed its willingness to cooperate in helping the Viet-Namese stop the Communists. It has offered to provide training personnel and financial support. Other like-minded countries. notably, the Philippines and Australia, have a capability in this regard. While the use of third country personnel creates administrative problems we nevertheless feel that others should share with us the responsibility for Viet-Nam. Particularly as we can obtain a British participation we will maximize the political benefits to be obtained within the western alliance by sharing responsibility for this difficult problem.


That our representatives in Saigon be instructed to prepare in consultation with the Viet-Namese, proposals providing for the use of third country contributions to the training of Viet-Nam forces in counter-guerrilla efforts.

c. Undertake economic programs having both a short-term, immediate impact as well as contributing to the longer range economic viability of the country.

(1) Political and economic action to accompany the anti-guerrilla effort. Action in this field is divided into two categories; i.e. propaganda and civic action.

(a) Organizing a New Political Communications Program in Viet-Nam.

Next to specifying the means, the cost and the resources for interdicting Viet-Cong access to South Viet-Nam and reducing Viet Cong operations to a minimum, the tasks of rallying the people to the government and improving the Government's relations with the people are the most urgent. A new type of political development is long overdue in Viet-Nam to spark a new spirit. This is something much broader and more relevant than the so-called "liberalization"


The government's rapport and acceptability must be strengthened with the following key elements of the population:

The young professional intelligentsia in the civil service, private organizations, and the faculties.

The provincial, district and village administrators who must be replaced or reoriented for democratic, humane, modern style handling of the little people.

Village youth leaders, village councilors. farm family heads, and teachers.

These key groups could reach the general population in rural and urban areas on a personal basis: new means of mass media can reach the population on a quantitative basis.

A realistic political program would seek to produce favorable attitudes. active popular cooperation against the Viet Cong. and cadres to execute the government's programs intelligently. A program would develop "institutional generation" as the means. For example, the program could include establishment of a professional and young Community Development Corps for the whole country, the formulation of political training schools, form a new democratic administrative corps, the development of a mass radio and television system for political communication, the organization and training of teams of young Vietnamese professionals for important longer-range projects such as an integrated electric power grid system for the whole country, and the functional groups required for the National Economic Council; a rice-price stabilization for the large rural population: and expansion of the school system.


1. We should assign an expert in Asian political development to assist the Ambassador in explaining and developing a political communications program.

2. We should set up a leader grant in reverse for Asians and others with experience in politics to visit Viet-Nam.

(2) Proposed new projects in the field of Civic Action

In order to strengthen the will of the people to resist the incursions of the Viet Cong the following program is proposed: USOM/Viet-Nam should be instructed to organize a number of "Task Force Teams" for concentrated work in those rural areas currently subject to intensive Viet Cong activities. These teams would undertake, preferably in cooperation with local communities, a series of short-range, simple, inexpensive projects, the benefits of which can be readily recognized. Examples of projects to be undertaken are: 1) well digging: 2) construction of inexpensive schools using local materiel: 3) construction of markets: 4) introduction of medical dispensaries: 5) construction of simple irrigation ditches: 6 agricultural extension services: 7) veterinary services: 8) strengthening of rural agricultural cooperatives: 9) construction of local roads, etc.

The above and related actions--which would incorporate a maximum of self-help operations--could be initiated on a crash basis. They should be addressed to meeting the needs of the village communities. It is proposed that the "Task Force" pattern of operations of USOM/Laos be adopted. This program was designed to accommodate to the disorganized conditions after the Battle of Vientiane. The objective of the Task Force concept was to provide relief to non-infiltrated and liberated areas and to accelerate self-help in rural development activities. This program, despite numerous difficulties, has achieved satisfactory results to date and presents itself as a most convenient and realistic mechanism for the Presidential Task Force program for Viet-Nam.

In carrying out the foregoing, the cooperation of existing Vietnamese organizations should be utilized to the maximum. In particular the full cooperation of the military would be required.


That ICA be granted authorization and the funds to move into a rural development-civic action program. This might cost roughly $3 to 5 million, mostly in local currency. Directors of field teams should be given authority with respect to the expenditure of funds including the use of dollar instruments to purchase local currency on the spot.

(2) Long Range Development Program

Perhaps the most effective means of establishing Vietnamese confidence in the political and economic future of their country would be for the U.S. to commit itself to a long range economic development program. Under peaceful circumstances Viet-Nam would unquestionably be one of the most rapidly developing countries in the area having the resources, both human and natural, to bring this about. A minimum of $50 million of U.S. development grant assistance can be effectively employed in Viet-Nam over a period of five years. The foregoing sum is recommended as a supplement to current programs as well as those contemplated for FY 1962. They should in their aggregate serve to significantly accelerate the overall development of the Viet-Namese economy and provide some additional social and physical infrastructure support. While not submitted as part of any comprehensive long range development program they constitute unquestionably priority components of any long range program. Contingent upon the Viet-Namese cooperation, assistance can be directed into the following areas:

1. Agriculture--A 20% increase of agricultural output is a feasible 5 year goal. Expanded extension service, additional agricultural credit facilities and greater use of fertilizer are called to meet this objective.

2. Health Services--Present deficient facilities should be expanded through training of additional physicians, nurses and technicians to provide for staffing of hospitals and local health centers.

3. Education--Priority should be accorded to accelerated teacher training programs with an augmented technical-vocational education program.

4. Fishing--The deficient protein content of the Viet-Namese diet can be inexpensively augmented by the provision of additional larger and specially equipped fishing boats to provide for greater range and more efficient processing of catch.

5. Roads--There exists an urgent need for further development of secondary road systems in the rural areas to permit more efficient marketing of agriculture products as well as to assist in exploitation of presently untapped forestry resources.

6. Public administration--To obtain effective government direction of essential public services, public administration training should be augmented at the national, provincial, and local levels.

7. Industrial development--The present Industrial Development Center could be used to expand light industry. through the provision of additional resources and the improvement of managerial, entrepreneurial and technical skills.


That Ambassador Nolting be authorized to inform the Government of Viet-Nam that the United States is prepared to discuss a long range joint five-year development program which would involve contributions and actions by both parties.

(3) We should assist Viet-Nam to make the best use of an economic resources available.

In spite of the increased insurgency. Viet-Nam has been making good economic progress. It has increased production and its exports have been increasing rapidly. Despite a steady decrease in economic aid. its foreign exchange reserves have been going up and are now in excess of its normal needs. On the other hand, GVN revenues are now inadequate, in GVN opinion, to meet the increased local currency costs of further anti-insurgency measures. This presents the U.S. with a difficult dilemma. On the one hand, the enthusiastic cooperation of the GVN in moving forward against the Communists is essential, but on the other hand, if we give in to their request for more aid in support of the military budget this might not only fail to produce additional local currency, but could provide a serious disincentive to GVN efforts to find more resources. More importantly, coming after a protracted U.S. effort to obtain an increased Vietnamese financial contribution which has recently gained a limited Vietnamese agreement (the Vietnamese have agreed to meet the FY 61 local currency costs of the CIP! a relaxation in our previous position might well be interpreted as an acceptance by the U.S. that the problem is of greater concern to it than to Vietnam. Such an attitude could be highly disruptive to an effective joint U.S.-Viet-Namese effort. They have the means to raise more revenue, including increased taxation and monetary reform. but both of these solutions, particularly the latter, are unpalatable in the extreme to President Diem. However, one thing is certain, payment of Vietnamese troops will receive first priority in the Viet-Namese budget and U.S. failure to provide additional defense support aid will not affect the ability or willingness of Viet-Nam to carry out necessary military actions.


Having in mind that our chief objective is obtaining full and enthusiastic action by the GVN in its fight against the Communists, a high level team. preferably headed by Assistant Secretary of the Treasury John Leddy with State and ICA members, should be dispatched to Saigon to work out in conjunction with the Ambassador a - plan whereby combined U.S. and Viet-Namese financial resources can best be utilized. This group's terms of reference should cover the broad range of fiscal and economic problems. Authority should be given to make concessions necessary to achieve our objectives, and to soften the blow of monetary reform. Ambassador Nolting and perhaps the Vice-President would notify Diem of the proposed visit of this group informing him that their objective is clearly to maximize our joint efforts rather than to force the Vietnamese into unpalatable actions.

d. Undertake military security arrangements which establish beyond doubt our intention to stand behind Viet-Nam's resistance to Communist aggression, mobilizing S.E. Asia toward this end.

1. A New Bilateral Arrangement with Viet-Nam

The Geneva Accords have been totally inadequate in protecting South Viet-Nam against Communist infiltration and insurgency. Moreover, with the Communist success in Laos, Viet-Nam and the remainder of Southeast Asia will require dramatic U.S. action to bolster the will to continue to resist further Communist pressures. While there is still time, the inhibitions of the Geneva Accords, which have been violated with impunity by the Communists in both Laos and Viet-Nam, should be done away with. We should consider joining with the Viet-Namese in a clear cut defensive alliance which might include stationing of U.S. forces on Viet-Namese soil. As a variant of this arrangement certain SEATO troops might also be employed. It should be recognized that the foregoing proposals require careful and detailed consideration and preparation. In addition to the previously cited advantages such an action would have at least two other important political and military advantages:

a. It would release a portion of the ARVN from relatively static military functions to pursue the war against the insurgents and

b. It would place the Sino-Soviet Bloc in the position of risking direct intervention in a situation where U.S. forces were already in place, accepting the consequences 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. The position of the neutrals might well be opposed and that of our non-Asian Allies uncertain at best.

b. The major propaganda opportunity this would provide the Communists and

c. The danger that a troop contribution would provoke a DRV-ChiCom reaction with the risk of involving a significant commitment of U.S. force in the Pacific to the Asian mainland. The French tied up some 200,000 troops during the unsuccessful Indo-China effort.


That as a first step, Ambassador Nolting be instructed to enter into preliminary discussions with Diem regarding the possibility of a defensive alliance and a formal rejection of the Geneva Accords. Concurrently, the TCS and CINCPAC should be requested to provide an assessment of the military advisability of committing U.S. forces to Viet-Nam, making recommendations as to the size of the force commitment which would be deemed militarily effective for:

a. Releasing Viet-Namese forces from advanced and static defense positions to permit their active pursuance of the counter insurgency effort.

b. Provision of maximum training to currently approved Viet-Namese forces and

c. Significant military resistance to potential DRV and/or ChiCom action.

3. Military:

a. The following military actions were approved by the President at the NSC meeting of 29 April 1961:

1. Increase the MAAG as necessary to insure the effective implementation of the military portion of the program including the training of a 20,000 man addition to the present G.V.N. armed forces of 150,000. Initial appraisal of new tasks assigned CHMAAG indicate that approximately 100 additional military personnel will be required immediately in addition to the present complement of 685.

2. Expand MAAG responsibilities to include authority to provide support and advice to the Self Defense Corps with a strength of approximately 40,000.

3. Authorize MAP support for the entire Civil Guard force of 68,000-MAP support is now authorized for 32,000; the remaining 36,000 are not now adequately trained and equipped.

4. Install as a matter of priority a radar surveillance capability which will enable the G.V.N. to obtain warning of Communist overflights being conducted for intelligence or clandestine air supply purposes. Initially, this capability should be provided from U.S. mobile radar capability, with permanent AC&W installations established as rapidly as practicable.

5. Provide MAP support for the Viet-Namese Junk Force as a means of preventing Viet-Cong clandestine supply and infiltration into South Viet-Nam by water. MAP support, which was not provided in the Counter-Insurgency Plan, will include training of junk crews in Viet-Nam or at U.S. bases by U.S. Navy personnel.

b. The following additional actions are considered necessary to assist the G.V.N. meet the increased security threat resulting from the new situation along the Laos-G.V.N. frontier:

1. Initiate discussions with the G.V.N. to determine the additional resources [U.S. support] required--to include funding, pay and allowances, equipment and training--to enable it to increase its force levels from the present end strength of 170,000 to 200,000 in order to create two new division equivalents for deployment to the northwest border region.

2. 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 instituting regular aerial surveillance over the entire frontier area, and by applying modern technological area-denial techniques to close the roads and trails along the Laos-G.V.N. border.

3. Assist the G.V.N. to establish a Combat Development and Test Center in South Viet-Nam to develop, with the help of modern technology, new techniques for use against the Viet-Cong forces.

4. Assist the G.V.N. forces with health, welfare and public work projects by providing U.S. Army civic action mobile training teams.

c. Initiate the following U.S. Military actions on a unilateral basis in support of the G.V.N.'s efforts to prevent Communist domination of South Viet-Nam:

1. Augment the MAAG with two U.S. training commands--composed of approximately 1600 instructors each--to enable the MAAG to establish in the "high plateau" region of South Viet-Nam two divisional field training areas to accelerate the U.S. training program for the entire GVN army.

2. Deploy, as soon as possible, a Special Forces Group--approximately 400 U.S. military personnel--to Nha Trang in order to accelerate GVN Special Forces training.

3. Assign CINCPAC the responsibility for coastal patrol activities (from the Cambodian border to the mouth of the Mekong River), employing U.S. Naval forces in conjunction with the Junk Force, to prevent the seaborne infiltration of Viet Cong personnel and materiel (into the southern delta area).

4. Review and update, as required by the present situation, all plans for U.S. military deployment and intervention in South Viet-Nam with conventional, non-nuclear forces, including as a matter of priority plans for the deployment, on short notice, of a Marine brigade plus necessary supporting troops to Tourane or Nha Trang.

Action on the foregoing would require prior urgent political consultation with the GVN. Canada, India, our SEATO Allies and Cambodia.

[4. Economic:

a. Additional piaster resources will be needed for the expanded counter-insurgency effort in excess of those which the GVN itself can provide under present arrangements.

While the GVN should be assured of the necessary funds we should make a major effort to accomplish this in conjunction with a devaluation of the present unrealistic foreign exchange rate. It will be necessary to assure the GVN that a revaluation would not result in any reduction of the present aid level.

We should continue to encourage GVN as appropriate to (a) increase tax revenues through improved administration and modification of the tax structure and (b) use its foreign exchange resources more effectively.

The precise level of U.S. support of the GVN military budget shall be determined through appropriate negotiations but the guiding principle in these negotiations shall be to insure that the confidence of President Diem in the wholehearted U.S. support of the counterinsurgency program is not prejudiced. The Country Team should also study and recommend realistic steps to ameliorate any adverse economic effects of more generous lefense support.

b. Organize functional field teams composed of public administrators public health officials, educators, agricultural experts, etc., to be sent to pacified areas to undertake, preferably in cooperation with local authorities a series of simple, inexpensive projects, the benefits of which can be quickly recognized.

c. Sponsor the visit of a practical U.S. economic team, drawing heavily on U.S. private industry, to South Viet-Nam to work out with the Viet-Namese effective plans to speed up national development--including goals for each of the next five years--to give Viet-Nam a better tax structure, to establish a sound basis for foreign investment, and to institute specific programs designed to have an early impact upon agricultural areas now vulnerable to Communist takeover.]

5. Psychological:

a. Encourage the GVN to continue liberalizing its public information policies to help develop a broad public understanding of the actions required to combat Communist insurgents and to build public confidence in the GVN's determination and capability to deal with the problem.

b. Assist the GVN to develop and improve the USOM-supported radio network for the country, to include the prompt establishment of the presently planned new stations at Soc Trang, Banmethout and Quang Ngai and the installation of the more powerful, new transmitters now on USOM order for Saigon and Hue.

c. Assist the GVN to initiate a training program for information and press attaches in the various ministries and directorates.

d. Assist the GVN to establish a Press Institute for the training of selected young people for careers in journalism.

e. In cooperation with the MAAG and the Ministry of Defense, make use of the troop information and education program of the GVN armed forces as a channel of communication between the Government and the people in the rural areas.

f. Encourage President Diem to continue the effective "fireside chat'' and other getting-to-the-people techniques which were begun during the recent election campaign. Provide maximum press, film, and radio coverage for such appearances.

g. Reorient the programming of the existing USIS bi-national centers so that they can serve as training centers for rural information and educational cadres.

h. In coordination with the MAAG, CIA, and the GVN Ministry of Defense compile and declassify for use of media representatives in South Viet-Nam and throughout the world, documented facts concerning Communist infiltration and terrorists' activities and the measures being taken by the GVN to counter such attacks.

i. In coordination with the CIA and the appropriate GVN Ministry, increase the flow of information to media representatives of the unsatisfactory living conditions in North Viet-Nam.

j. Develop agricultural "show-places" throughout the country, with a view toward exploiting their beneficial psychological effects. This project would be accomplished by combined teams of Viet-Namese-Civic Action Personnel-Americans-Peace Corps-, Filipinos-Operation Brotherhood-, and other Free World nationals.

k. Exploit as a part of a planned psychological campaign the rehabilitation of Communist Viet Cong prisoners now held in South Viet-Nam. Testimony of rehabilitated prisoners stressing the errors of Communism should be beamed to Communist-held areas, including North Viet-Nam, to induce defections. This rehabilitation program would be assisted by a team of U.S. personnel including U.S. Army-Civil Affairs, Psychological Warfare, and Counter-Intelligence-USIS, and USOM experts.

l. Provide adequate funds for an impressive U.S. participation in the Saigon Trade Fair of 1962.

6. Covert Actions:

. . . . . . .

In North Vietnam, . . . .A capability should be created by MAAG in the South Viet-Namese Army to conduct Ranger raids and similar military actions in North Viet-Nam as might prove necessary or appropriate. Such actions should try to avoid any outbreak of extensive resistance or insurrection which could not be supported to the extent necessary to stave off repression.

Conduct over-flights for dropping of leaflets to harass the Communists and to maintain morale of North Vietnamese population, and increase gray broadcasts to North Viet-Nam for the same purposes.

d. Internal South Vietnam:

Effect operations to penetrate political forces, government, armed services and opposition elements to measure support of government, provide warning of any coup plans, and identify individuals with potentiality of providing leadership in event of disappearance of President Diem. These operations require especially careful handling.

Build up an increase in the population's participation in and loyalty to free government in Viet-Nam, through improved communication between the government and the people, and by strengthening independent or quasi-independent organizations of political, syndical, or professional character. Support covertly the GVN in allied and neutral countries, with special emphasis on bringing out GVN accomplishments, to counteract tendencies towards a "political solution" while the Communists are attacking GVN. Effect, in support, a psychological program in Viet-Nam and elsewhere exploiting Communist brutality and aggression in North Viet-Nam.

. . . . . . .

7. Funding: Not all of which will be expanded in 1961.

a. To provide for its own defense against external attack and internal subversion, it has been necessary for the GVN to increase its defense budget. After thorough consultation with MAAG, Viet-Nam, the mutually agreed calendar year figures--in millions of dollars--at a rate of 35 piasters=$1--for the South Viet-Nam defense budget [over the past few years] have been as follows: [FY 60] 1960, $168.0, [FY 61] 1961, $212.0 which includes the initial costs of C.I.P., and if the program of action recommended by the Presidential Task Force is approved, the [FY 62] 1962 defense budget [will be] may reach $232 million.

Over the same period, the U.S. contribution in Defense Support and PL 480 [funds] local currency counterpart has steadily declined from $155.5 million in [FY 60] 1960 to $134 million in [FY 61] 1961 to a currently proposed figure of $100 million in [FY 62] 1962. The GVN makes up the difference between [the Viet-Namese] its total defense budget and the U.S. contribution [is to be provided within the limits of its capabilities, by the GVN]. Viet-Namese contributions have been as follows [FY 60] 1960, $10.0 million, [FY 61] 1961, $20.0 million. This may [has resulted] result in [FY 61] 1961 in a shortfall of $58.0 million---$212--($134+$20)=$58---. The Country Team has recommended that U.S. contribute an additional $19 million equivalent in local currency counterpart funds. [If this is approved] This would raise the total [FY 61] 1961 U.S. contribution to $153.0 million, but would still leave a shortfall of $39 million. This is almost twice the amount the Vietnamese have funded [been able to fund] to date.

While recognizing that the final levels of both U.S. and Vietnamese contributions to the [FY 61] 1961 defense budget are [still under] subject to further negotiation, it must be kept in mind that in order to be certain that the 20,000 additional soldiers needed for the GVN army are brought into the troop basis promptly, it may be necessary for the U.S. to increase [our] its 1961 local currency [FY 61] contribution by [some $58] up to $58 million piaster equivalent to insure the success of the counter-insurgency plan.

The Presidential Task Force believes that an equitable [recommends a] funding program for [FY 62] 1962 [based on] might involve a U.S. contribution of $145.5 million and a Viet-Namese contribution of $86.5 million piaster equivalent. [This would provide the means for carrying out the Program of Action for Viet-Nam. It requires a four-fold increase over the FY 61 GVN contribution. If the Viet-Namese are unable to provide this level of funds, there will again be a substantial short-fall which the U.S. will have to meet if the program is to achieve its objectives.] However, it considers that final decision on this subject should await the recommendations of the financial team proposed elsewhere in this paper. [To meet the proposed 200,000] If the force strength is increased to 200 000, this would involve an eventual annual [an] increase in the GVN defense budget of $15.0 million [additional] piaster equivalent [will be required].

b. Over the past few years the military assistance program for Viet-Nam has been as follows: FY 59, $45, FY 60, $44.2, FY 61, $73.6. For FY 62 the Department of Defense recommends $110.0 an increase of $36.4--all figures in millions. This latter figure also includes [includes funds for] increased MAP cost of the Program of Action for Viet-Nam. [Direct that $71 million be added to the current FY 62 Military Assistance Program for V.N. to meet this emergency.] The current military assistance program for V.N. of $68.4 million in FY 62 provides only minimum funds required to maintain GVN armed forces of 170,000 and 32,000 of the Civil Guard. In order to provide necessary new equipment training and other support required for GVN armed forces of 200,000* a Civil Guard of 68,000, Self Defense Corps of 40,000, and support of 400* additional U.S. Special Forces Personnel to augment MAAG, an additional $71 million for MAP is required in FY 62 for a total of about $140 million. Additional funds [will] may be required for Defense Support to meet the local currency for the GVN military budget--see paragraph 7a.

*The above starred items are not yet approved. The others have been. How is difference between $110 million and $140 million in FY 1962 explained?

Estimates to cover the use of the Peace Corps and Operations Brotherhood are being developed.

[8. Organizational Arrangements: For purposes of U.S. actions in support of this program, the President hereby declares that Viet-Nam is a critical area and approves the organizational concept whereby over-all direction, inter-agency coordination and support of the program will be effected through a Presidential Task Force constituted as follows

Director: Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell L. Gilpatric
Project Officer: Brig. Gen. Edward G. Lansdale, USAF
Executive: Col. Edwin F. Black, USA
Liaison: Mr. Frank Hand
Defense: Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA) Paul H. Nitze
JCS: Major General C.H. Bonesteel and Col. R.M. Levy
State: Deputy Under Secretary Alexis Johnson or Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs Walter P. McConaughy
ICA: Mr. William Sheppard
CIA: Chief, Far East Division, Mr. Desmond FitzGerald
USIA: Deputy Director Thomas C. Sorenson
BOB: Assistant Director, Kenneth Hansen
Treasury Observer: Assistant Secretary, Office of International Finance, John M. Leddy
Office of the President: W.W. Rostow]

[The Ambassador as head of the Country Team is assigned the authority and the responsibility to see that the Program is carried out in the field and to recommend the timing of the actions. He is authorized to advise the Director of the Task Force of any changes which he believes should be made in the Program.]

[In carrying out his duties while in the field, the Operations Officer of the Task Force will cooperate with the Ambassador and the Country Team.]

[9. Vice President's Visit to South Vietnam:]

[If the Vice President does decide to pay an official visit to South Viet-Nam, there will be prepared for him a proposed list of matters for him to discuss with President Diem in furtherance of the above program of action.!

8. Organizational Arrangements:

Because of the critical nature of the situation in Viet-Nam, and the need for accelerated action, the direction, coordination and support of the program will be effected through a special Interdepartmental Task Force on Viet-Nam, established in the Department of State and constituted as follows:

Chairman: Under Secretary George W. Ball
Alternate Chairman: Asst. Secretary Walter P. McConaughy
Director: Sterling T. Cottrell
Deputy Director: Brig. Gen. Lansdale
Executive Officer: Chalmers B. Wood
Members: Representatives to be designated
Office of the President:

An Operations Center has been established in the Department of State, under the direction of Ambassador Theodore C. Achilles, to serve as the center for insuring speed, coherence and coordination in United States political, military, economic, information, and psychological actions with respect to specific crisis situations as required. Mr. Cottrell will operate from this center in close coordination with the Assistant Secretary for, and staff of, the Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs, as well as with the other members of the Task Force, so as to insure there is full coordination of all aspects of the action program, not only within Viet-Nam but with other concerned countries.

The Director or Deputy Director, together with such other members of the staff or Task Force as may prove desirable, may travel to Viet-Nam as circumstances require. At the request of the Ambassador to Viet-Nam, such additional staff members may be assigned to him as considered necessary most effectively to carry out the program. In the field, all such staff members will function under the general direction of the Ambassador in accordance with Section 201 of Executive Order No. 10893 of November 8. 1960.


43. Draft Memorandum of the Conversation of the Second Meeting of the Presidential Task Force on Vietnam, the Pentagon/1/

Washington, May 4, 1961.

/1/Source: Department of State, G/PM Files: Lot 64 D 354. Top Secret. Drafted by Weiss.

Meeting of the Presidential Task Force on Viet-Nam

State: Mr. George Ball (B); Mr. McConaughy (FE); Mr. Seymour Weiss (B/FAC); Mr. Robert Cleveland (FE);

Defense: Mr. Gilpatric; General Lansdale; Colonel Black; Mr. Hand; Mr. Haydn Williams (ISA); Admiral Heinz (ISA); Colonel Flesch (ISA);

JCS: General Bonesteel; Colonel Levy;

ICA: Mr. Sherwood Fine (FE);

CIA: Mr. Fitzgerald and Mr. Colby;

Office of the President: Mr. W.W. Rostow; Bu. Budget: Mr. Hansen;/2/

Treasury: Mr. Leddy and Mr. Diehl;

USIA: Mr. Sorensen.

/2/Kenneth R. Hansen, Assistant Director, Bureau of the Budget.

1. Mr. Gilpatric opened the meeting by announcing that the Task Force proposal would not come up for consideration at Friday's NSC meeting as originally proposed./3/ He suggested instead that a revised draft of the current paper/4/ be developed for consideration by the Task Force on Saturday morning, with its subsequent circulation to all interested parties, in anticipation of an NSC meeting on this subject early next week. He pointed out that this would provide a more adequate period of time for studying the full implications of the Task Force proposals. Mr. Gilpatric also suggested that the form of the paper be altered in order to identify at the outset the specific action steps to be taken, leaving the explanatory background and discussion to a separate annex. He further suggested that this annex also embody the funding discussion in the paper. He proposed that two people, one from State and one from DOD, be assigned principal responsibility for undertaking this revision. This responsibility was assigned to General Lansdale for Defense and Mr. Cleveland for State.

/3/At the NSC meeting on Friday, May 5, the Council noted that efforts should be made to reassure Diem that the United States was not abandoning Southeast Asia and that the number of U.S. training troops in South Vietnam, which was included in the Task Force report, would be considered by the NSC at its meeting on May 12. (Memorandum from the Secretary of Defense to the Service Secretaries, May 9; Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 64 A 2382, Asia 1961-000.1)

/4/Regarding the two drafts under consideration by the Task Force, see Document 42 and footnote 4 thereto.

2. In turning to the revised Task Force draft, Mr. Gilpatric stated that while he hoped it would be possible to work out a maximum area of agreement we need not be inhibited from showing a split position on major points of difference if such points emerged. In this connection, however, he stated that he personally accepted without question the interrelated nature of the military and nonmilitary actions which were required if the problem represented by Viet-Nam was to be successfully addressed. The need was not to establish an absolute priority of one above the other. We need both working toward the same objective.

3. On the organizational problem, Mr. Gilpatric indicated that agreement had been reached to accept the State proposal as contained in the Task Force draft, as revised by the Dept. of State, which vests the continuing responsibility for the inter-departmental Task Force in the Department of State. He suggested, however, that Defense preferred to have General Lansdale act as its representative rather than as deputy director of the Task Force./5/

/5/In a memorandum to McNamara, May 3, Lansdale set forth "his strong recommendation that Defense stay completely out of the Task Force directorship as now proposed by State." He concluded his memo as follows: "The U.S. past performance and theory of action, which State apparently desires to continue, simply offers no sound basis for winning as desired by President Kennedy." (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD (C) (A) Files: FRC 77-131, VN Task Force (Folder 1) 1961)

4. In turning to the specifics of the revised Task Force paper, Mr. Gilpatric suggested that the necessary position papers and related backstopping for the Vice President's trip should be handled by the State Department and not, at least in any detail, be embodied within the Task Force paper. However, to obtain a comprehensive picture of the Viet-Nam undertaking, the Vice Presidential trip could continue to be reflected in general in the Task Force paper.

5. As a second point of immediate interest, Mr. Gilpatric stated that the Defense Dept. was concerned over the relationship between the proposed 14-nation conference on Laos/6/ and the suggestions which had been advanced for the deployment of additional U.S. forces to Viet-Nam. He expressed the fear that once the conference is initiated the effort will be made by the Communists to tie the negotiations to a general discussion of Southeast Asia which could result in a freeze of forces into and out of the area. He pointed out that a marine brigade could be in Viet-Nam in 12 hours and that this could be further reinforced by army forces in Hawaii over a somewhat longer period of time as requirements demanded. Particularly in light of the projected May 12 starting date for the conference Mr. Gilpatric felt that this point would have to be placed before the President which the Dept. of Defense proposed to do independently of the Task Force paper, although he indicated his feeling that the matter should be referred to by the Task Force as well.

/6/Reference is to the 14-nation conference on Laos that opened May 15 at Geneva.

6. Ambassador Young indicated that in discussions with the Secretary of State this morning/7/ consideration was being given to the possibility of a postponement of the opening date of the conference, a position apparently independently arrived at by the French government. In the event of a postponement of the opening date, the urgency of reaching a decision on U.S. troop deployment would be somewhat alleviated though the basic problem remained for resolution.

/7/According to his Appointment Book, Rusk met with Young at 9:04 a.m. and with Bowles, Ball, McConaughy, Achilles, and Johnson at 9:19. No record of these meetings has been found. (Johnson Library, Rusk Appointment Books)

7. In turning to the question of the formal disavowal of the Geneva Accords, Mr. Ball referred to a memorandum prepared by Mr. Chayes, the Department of State legal advisor,/8/ pointing out that the whole structure of the Indochina partition rested on the Accords. As Mr. Ball explained it, the issue was not whether we removed the inhibitions which the Accords have heretofore placed upon our actions but rather the manner and the degree to which we took such action. Mr. Ball stated that he was fully in accord with the need to move fast on developing a definitive position on this point which he undertook to do.

/8/Not found.

8. Mr. Rostow stated that he felt that it was necessary to carefully consider our basic strategy, particularly in connection with the pending conference and in connection with the proposal for troop deployment. On the first point he felt that we might consider a focus of attention on the inability of the ICC to protect frontiers developing a highly aggressive offensive to be used in the conference. Mr. Cleveland and Ambassador Young pointed out that precisely such a position was in process of development with extensive materials being gathered to bolster the effort. On the second point, Mr. Rostow stated that it was essential that we have a maximum degree of clarity both as to the types of U.S. troops which were required in Viet-Nam and as to the precise missions which they would be expected to fulfill. He pointed out that this might be a "plate glass window" or "trip wire" function but that in this event we would want to be sure that our forces had a clear function and relationship to the counter-insurgency effort.

9. Mr. Gilpatric agreed, pointing out that the availability of U.S. combat troops in Viet-Nam could result in the release of indigenous forces pursuing the counter-insurgency effort.

10. Mr. Rostow indicated that he felt that there were largely three alternative rationales for the supply of U.S. forces: (1) a step-up in our previous activities directed against the insurgency movement by involving additional training forces, etc., (2) provision of sufficient force to act as a trip wire and (3) sufficient forces to meet an anticipated major ChiCom invasion.

11. General Lansdale injected to ask how many individuals Mr. Rostow was thinking of in terms of increasing the force capability to meet the first objective, i.e., the counter-insurgency problem, for example, hundreds? Mr. Rostow indicated that hundreds might be appropriate but to be applied gradually as they could be effectively absorbed. He pointed out that he felt that such an acceleration in our current efforts was quite a different matter from putting in U.S. combat units. He stated that this latter action particularly required clarification in connection with Ambassador Young's 14-nation conference.

12. Mr. Gilpatric asked if the Chiefs had addressed the question of U.S. combat troop deployment to Viet-Nam. General Bonesteel said the Chiefs had made an assessment in terms of the Lao situation but not specifically in terms of the proposal for deployment in Viet-Nam. Mr. Gilpatric stated he would like to have the Chiefs' assessment. Ambassador Young stated that it would also be useful to get a JCS judgment on the ability of choking off the VietCong from infiltrating into South Viet-Nam. Both General Bonesteel and Mr. Colby stated their doubts as to the ability to effectively shut off the 1500 mile border. Ambassador Young said that this then raised a question as to why we should pour hundreds of millions into Viet-Nam if we can't choke off the problem. General Bonesteel stated that he believed this brought the discussion to the central point which is, how seriously are we to take the objective which represents the Task Force's basic term of reference, viz. preventing Communist domination of Viet-Nam. He stated that if we are to take this seriously, we should recognize that it posed a major requirement for very sizeable force commitments. Mr. Gilpatric asked what was behind Admiral Burke's view that a marine brigade would be very useful. General Bonesteel said he could not speak for Admiral Burke but believed that he meant that it would carry important symbolic value as an indication of U.S. willingness to fight. Mr. Rostow stated that it was important that the kinds of commitments and U.S. aid which we provide be clearly directed toward whatever we consider our basic objectives to be. For example, if the threat is from overt aggression from North Viet-Nam we need one sort of a plan. If it is to meet the insurrection we need another plan. Or if it is to choke off infiltration at the border we need still another plan. Mr. Colby referred to the important positive psychological advantages which the introduction of troops into the area would have. General Bonesteel stated that the Chiefs would need as clear a statement of the real national intent as possible in order to give clear policy guidance concerning the commitment of forces. For example, even the commitment of one marine brigade tied down a significant amount of U.S. land combat power and it was therefore necessary to know whether this should be considered a permanent commitment. Alternatively, if we envisage the possibility of "pulling them out" with a clear knowledge and evaluation of the impact thereof, this would be important to know. He stated that he felt that if our interest as a nation is to resist a further Communist encroachment beyond the line drawn in Laos and if we are willing to fight for this objective then the commitment of U.S. combat forces would be worthwhile though a major undertaking.

13. Mr. Gilpatric expressed the view that the Task Force papers should address themselves to these broad implications and various alternatives to troop deployment suggesting that they be thoroughly explored but that the body of the recommendations in the paper be primarily limited to whatever was necessary to meet the insurgency problem. Mr. Rostow said that we must be honest in assessing the ability of U.S. military power to be effectively employed against the Viet-Cong guerrilla effort. General Bonesteel pointed out that it was by no means solely a military effort to handle the insurgency problem and, moreover, that much depended on the nature of the Laotian settlement. He expressed the view that if we wanted to put down the insurgency effort in Viet-Nam, if we had a reasonably workable settlement in Laos, bolstered by the barrier between Laos and Viet-Nam and along the 17th parallel, we could probably succeed. He cited our experiences with the Greek civil war pointing out that such an effort cannot succeed by partial steps. Mr. Rostow commented that in the Greek situation we were dealing with a unified public and eventually with a disaffection of Tito (which closed off assistance to the guerrillas). Mr. Ball suggested that we not lose sight of the French experience in fighting guerrillas in Indochina. He also stated that the difference between the insertion of U.S. combat forces as such, as distinct from U.S. forces training the Viet-Namese, posed the implication of the U.S. vs. Communists as the principal protagonists as against the Viet-Namese fighting an internal effort supported by the Communists. General Bonesteel in commenting on the French experience, said that the French lost the Indochina effort because of an unwillingness to train indigenous forces above the grade of corporal because of a fear that the forces once trained would eventually throw them out. Obviously the indigenous forces under foreign leadership had no incentive to fight.

14. Ambassador Young stated again that it was necessary to get a clear decision as to what it would take if we decided to hold firm and fight in Viet-Nam. He indicated that he felt the area needed to be looked at as a whole though he acknowledged General Lansdale's point that there were differences as between the neighboring countries, in the people, in their language, etc. He still felt that the area was linked together.

15. General Bonesteel noted that if our policies resulted in the loss of Southeast Asia this would have an impact on all other areas of the world where the credibility of our guarantees to protect nations would be open to serious doubt. He specifically mentioned Latin America and the Near East. Mr. Rostow reiterated his view as to the need to focus on the three most logical alternative objectives for the application of military force (i.e. to fight the insurrectionist movement, as a trip wire and to resist massive invasion). Mr. Gilpatric reiterated that this problem should be recognized in the Task Force paper although its major focus should be on the insurgency problem.

16. General Bonesteel raised a question concerning the statement of our objectives particularly as regards the emphasis which should be placed upon political action in relation to military actions. Mr. Gilpatric stated that he recognized that the two objectives existed side by side with "no clear bright line between them." He stated that the exact blending of the two actions would have to be worked out. Mr. McConaughy questioned whether the two points of view were in basic opposition and Mr. Rostow agreed with the implication of the remark, that certainly this was not true at all or even at a majority of points. Mr. Fitzgerald believed that there still was an unresolved conflict, citing that the 20,000 troop increase had heretofore been held out as a carrot for Viet-Namese concessions. Mr. Gilpatric and Mr. Ball both stated that this matter was settled, that the troop increase was approved and that its exact manner of communication to the Viet-Namese would be worked out in the negotiation. Mr. Fitzgerald asked how long the negotiation was to go on. Mr. Gilpatric said that would be handled by the people in charge.

17. Ambassador Young raised questions concerning the communication to President Diem. It was agreed that Ambassador Young would identify the key elements in the Task Force proposal which would be communicated to President Diem in a letter from President Kennedy which would be delivered by Vice President Johnson. Mr. Ball suggested that Defense should focus on this letter with State, and Mr. Gilpatric asked General Lansdale to do so for Defense. General Lansdale stated that if it was implied that the letter from President Kennedy to Diem should contain an insistence on Diem's "being a good boy" and otherwise insisting on various conditions this would be exactly contrary to Asian psychology and would place Ambassador Nolting in "the same trap as Ambassador Durbrow found himself in." Both Ambassador Young and Mr. Cleveland indicated that this was not to be the tone or nature of the letter and Mr. McConaughy stated that it was intended to make the letter essentially non-controversial and that Vice President Johnson did not want to get into a detailed debate with Diem. General Bonesteel asked if the letter would have specific reference to the U.S. force contribution which seemed to be implied in the State redraft. Mr. Weiss indicated that it was not intended that this be contained in the letter since the timing would preclude the careful consideration of the serious issues raised by the troop deployment proposal, as indicated by the discussion at this meeting. Mr. Gilpatric said that it would be best to permit State to come up with a draft which Defense could then react to. He indicated in response to an inquiry that the proposed letter would not require NSC consideration.

18. Mr. Hansen referred to the proposal regarding the development of Viet-Namese/Cambodian relationships, asking what would happen if the improvement of relationships failed. It was agreed that this should receive further exploration in the revised draft to be prepared for the Saturday Task Force meeting.

19. Ambassador Young pointed out that we would have to face the implications of what we do with regard to the Geneva Accords, particularly if this involved deployment of U.S. forces as this affected our position in the 14-nation conference, to take action in opposition to the Accords would inhibit our position in the Conference where we might be trying to benefit from the terms of the Accords. The point being that we would have to decide the relative political and military advantages to be gained.

20. Admiral Heinz indicated that we now had firm recommendation on the approval of the four jet trainers for Cambodia which were mentioned in the Task Force paper. It was indicated that the inclusion of this item in the Task Force paper was not intended to inhibit going ahead with that proposal and Mr. Gilpatric agreed that the item should be retained in the paper.

21. Mr. Fitzgerald stated that the recommendation for UN observers was of dubious practical value. Mr. Cleveland agreed but felt that it was useful to include it and Mr. Ball pointed out that it helped to make the record clear. The question was raised as to whether the observers would be in both North and South Viet-Nam with the indication being that State had been thinking solely of South Viet-Nam on the grounds that this is presumably where the insurgent action was observable. The general consensus was, however, that UN observers should be requested for both North and South Viet-Nam.

22. Mr. Gilpatric noted that the question of a third country contribution was advanced by State. Mr. Williams stated that General McGarr and CINCPAC were opposed on the grounds that this would divide responsibility for training. Mr. Cleveland pointed out that the UK was anxious to come in and assist even if in a small way, that they had a special capability for doing so stemming from their Malayan experiences and that it was to our advantage to share the responsibility with our allies. General Bonesteel stated that his concern was that the British would use this as a means for exercising control over our freedom of action. Mr. Weiss indicated that the British contribution would be quite limited in numbers and size, thereby hardly warranting a major voice in policy formulation. He asked General Bonesteel whether there would be any objection if the British were prepared to provide their technical aid under direct U.S. control. Mr. Gilpatric said he did not see why we should keep the British out and in fact saw advantage to bringing them in. Mr. Rostow stated that in the last analysis he thought that we had our allies "over our shoulder" when it came to facing up to the need to fight. The problem was not in keeping the British out but rather in getting them in and sharing the problem with us. General Bonesteel stated that he did not want to be misrepresented. The U.S. military do not want to fight a war but believe the best way to avoid such a contingency is to show strength early and did not want the British or others to dilute our position. Mr. Gilpatric agreed, but felt that we should see if we can't bring the British in more closely and get their contribution. Mr. Hansen raised the question concerning adequacy of staff available to the Ambassador to carry out increased actions proposed. Mr. Weiss stated it was intended that Ambassador Nolting include an assessment of staff requirements in his initial review of the situation. It was agreed that this matter would be mentioned in the Task Force report. Mr. Rostow stated that he felt a review of current ICA field activities was also needed to see if lesser priority items could not be deferred to make people available for higher priority objectives.

23. Mr. Leddy supported the position taken in the State draft, particularly that of tying together the total economic and social problem for overall review. He indicated that he also believed we would need a sizeable package to negotiate with the Viet-Namese and suspected that the $50 million development fund was probably understated. He suggested that our position on this be kept flexible. Mr. Fine agreed that the figure was arbitrary and could be considerably larger. Mr. Leddy suggested that the paper might reflect recognition that depending on outcome of monetary reforms "substantial funds may have to be committed over period of years." General Bonesteel stated that as a serious student of this sort of situation, the question was raised in his mind as to whether emphasis on various economic programs might not "be doing too much too fast," thereby distracting attention from fighting. He alluded to our experience in this connection in the early part of the Greek program. Mr. Gilpatric and Mr. Ball agreed that the economic efforts should be pursued as set forth in the State draft but that the long-range development program and stabilization program should be reversed in order of treatment in the paper.

. . . . . . .


44. Memorandum From Robert W. Komer of the National Security Council Staff to the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)/1/

Washington, May 4, 1961.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series. Secret. Also sent to Rostow. Printed in part in Declassified Documents, 1963, p. 33.

Putting US Troops into Vietnam

We must seriously consider precautionary measures to "seal off'' South Vietnam in such a way as to deter another Laos.

It seems almost certain that the other side will raise Vietnam issues (perhaps reunification) in 14-nation conference. Moreover, Vietnam ICC is still in existence although hardly functioning. Our sending any troops to Vietnam now or later would be violation of Geneva Accords, to which Saigon is party. But we will be violating this in any case if we increase MAAG strength, and other side will surely raise hell at the conference.

Therefore as a "half-way house," why not urge Diem to abrogate Geneva Accords before the conference begins. After it starts, he will get an even bigger black eye if he does. He could simultaneously apply for SEATO membership, and perhaps ask for SEATO troops. This would establish legal basis for our subsequent entry even if we decided not to do so promptly.

Is Pentagon contingency planning for troops to Vietnam geared too much to sensible military objectives, thus involving forces too large and unwieldy for early action? The purpose of sending forces is not to fight guerrillas. It would be to establish a US "presence''; this could be accomplished by no more than a battalion supported by naval power.

Why not invite Asian SEATO states simultaneously to send token contingents? They need not actually send them on such short notice, but we could announce when we went in that they had agreed in principle to do so.

I am not convinced that we should send troops to Vietnam. But I am convinced we should carefully weigh the cost to us of waiting until conference is underway and Vietnamese situation has perhaps seriously deteriorated. Also Diem (as well as Sarit) urgently needs some reassurance in aftermath of Laos; I doubt that VP's visit or CIP alone would suffice.

Bob K.


45. Editorial Note

Pursuant to the Presidential directive at the National Security Council meeting on April 27, 1961, (Document 36), Secretary of State Rusk discussed the situation in Vietnam at his press conference on May 4, 1961. Using some of the figures in the first several paragraphs of the Program for Vietnam (Document 42), Rusk indicated the seriousness of the threat and reported the measures which the United States had taken to assist President Diem. For text of Rusk's statement and the questions and answers that followed, see Department of State Bulletin, May 22, 1961, pages 756-763.


46. Memorandum for the Record/1/

Washington, May 5, 1961.

/1/Source: Naval Historical Center, Burke Papers. Top Secret; Hold Closely. Presumably drafted by Burke.

Debrief of NSC meeting, 5 May 61/2/

/2/The meeting took place at 10 a.m. (Johnson Library, Rusk Appointment Books)

[Here follow 7 pages of discussion unrelated to Vietnam.]


52. The next subject was troops in South Viet-Nam. Mr. Rusk stated that if the United States troops were put in South Viet-Nam it could complicate the forthcoming conference./3/ It was agreed that there should be some sort of SEATO Standing Force in Thailand. That possibility has been raised in SEATO circles. I had never heard about this particular SEATO Standing Force before.

/3/The 14-nation conference on Laos which opened May 15 at Geneva.

53. It was then asked if we were giving assurances to Sarit and Diem. The answer was yes.

54. They came back to the question of troops in South Viet-Nam. It was said that if the conference once gets going and then trouble starts, we can put troops in, but we shouldn't do it before the conference starts.

55. The questions of beefing up training groups and increasing the MAAG and other United States forces were discussed. It was finally decided that Mr. Gilpatric will discuss this with State to see what troops would go into South Viet-Nam, and when. I asked to have a military man from the Joint Staff present./4/

/4/Gilpatric met with Rusk and others on May 5 to discuss this question. According to the memorandum by the JCS representative, Rusk decided that combat forces should not be placed in South Vietnam at this time, but that the United States should augment the MAAG in small increments with up to 100 additional military personnel and not discuss this with the United Kingdom or the ICC. (Text in United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967, Book 11, pp. 67-68)

[Here follow two paragraphs on Thailand and space.]


47. Telegram From the Chairman (Lemnitzer) to the Joint Chiefs of Staff/1/

Seoul, May 8, 1961, 2:39 p.m.

/1/National Defense University, Lemnitzer Papers, 1-210-71. Top Secret; Priority. Repeated to CINCPAC for Felt. Also sent to McGarr as telegram K-244, May 8. Lemnitzer was in Seoul as part of his tour of East Asia; see Document 41.

UK 70272. Subject is Vietnam.

1. During my recent conference with the Country Team in Saigon and after hearing McGarr's report on last week's events in Washington with respect to Secretary Gilpatric's Task Force report,/2/ I believe that we are facing a repetition of the unhappy sequence of events in Laos since 9 August 60/3/ which can only lead to the loss of Vietnam. While my information on events and conclusions in Washington may not be completely up-to-date, the situation in Vietnam, as I understand it, as about as follows:

/2/Document 42.

/3/On August 9, 1960, a revolt headed by neutralist Army Officer Kong Le overthrew the Laotian Government of Prince Tiao Somsanith.

a. One of the many urgent actions required to save Vietnam is the 20,000 increase in Vietnam's military strength which U.S. has generally approved. This additional strength is to be used to defeat the Viet Cong in Vietnam.

b. There are differing views within the Embassy as well as the U.S. Govt at the Washington level as to whether the U.S. or Vietnam will pay for this added authorized strength. The arguments as I understand them, are that one segment of the U.S. Govt (and Embassy staff) considers that Vietnam has the necessary means to finance this additional effort and should do so. The Vietnamese Govt, on the other hand, considers that for a variety of reasons they are unable to do so.

c. For the foregoing reasons the result is an impasse with little or no real action taken to implement the increase in authorized strength. When I was in Saigon, only 4 to 6,000 of the increase had been raised and the entire effort was grinding to a dead halt with critical loss of time in initiating the long training period required.

2. I do not know all the political, economic and other nonmilitary issues involved but I do have a fairly clear picture of how fundamental is the extremely serious enemy military threat in Vietnam today and the current ability of the Vietnamese Armed Forces to deal with it.

3. The problem of Vietnam, from the U.S. point of view, is very simple and very clear. I believe it can be stated in these words: Does the U.S. want Vietnam to follow the path of Laos (with all the effect that would have on the rest of SE Asia) or does the U.S. really want to maintain Vietnam as an independent non-Communist state closely aligned with the West? Stated another way, does the U.S. intend to take the necessary military action now to defeat the Viet Cong threat or do we intend to quibble for weeks and months over details of general policy, finances, Vietnamese Govt organization, etc., while Vietnam slowly but surely goes down the drain of Communism as North Vietnam and a large portion of Laos have gone to date?

4. I have been informed by McGarr that as a direct result of my strong recommendations to President Diem in Ambassador Harriman's presence, the President has now issued edicts designating a field command as the directional headquarters in conducting the fight against the Viet Cong and establishing a central intelligence agency. Both actions were felt by Ambassador Durbrow to be key actions in the counterinsurgency plan and indicates that President Diem recognizes the urgent requirement for drastic action to meet the threat and has taken actions that were not easy for him to take in that coup-prone country./4/

/4/McGarr commented on May 7 that both these edicts were signed on May 5 immediately after Durbrow's departure as a sign of Vietnamese displeasure at the Ambassador's tactics of pressing for political reform at the expense of military necessities. (S-157 from Saigon; National Defense University, Lemnitzer Papers, Folder 19)

5. If I correctly understood the expressed views of top government officials before I left Washington, I gathered that we do intend to take whatever action is required to save Vietnam. Yet weeks have passed by without any indication of positive action. Here is a nation, an important nation in SE Asia, that desperately needs more military help. Notwithstanding the importance and urgency of the situation:

a. The U.S. Embassy in Saigon opposes any increases in MAAG strength which is needed to meet the increased military requirements.

b. We are operating on programs under MAP which were designed to provide mere status quo maintenance of existing forces under normal conditions. This notwithstanding the fact that Vietnam is facing an internal security situation that threatens its very existence.

c. We are arguing, and wasting time by so doing, as to who, if anyone, will support the cost of the relatively modest increase of a 20,000 man strength in the Vietnamese Armed Forces to deal with the dangerous internal security threat. Each day lost can never be regained.

6. In view of the very real enemy threat in Vietnam and the fact that in the eyes of the world, and particularly in the Far East, the international prestige of the U.S. is literally at stake, I feel that we must avoid the marginal and piecemeal efforts that too often have typified the nest and build into our program sufficient support in men, material and money to definitely assure that we do not lose Vietnam.

7. Request copies of this message be passed to Secretary McNamara, Secretary Gilpatric, General Wheeler and General Bonesteel for their information.


48. Editorial Note

Under date of May 8, 1961, President Kennedy addressed a 4-page letter to President Diem proposing a collaborative effort in "a series of joint, mutually supporting actions in the military, political, economic and other fields'' in the struggle against Communist aggression. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series) The text is printed in United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967, Book 11, pages 132-135.


49. Letter From the Deputy Assistant Director, Far East, of the United States Information Agency (Nickel) to the Public Affairs Officer at the Embassy in Vietnam (Anspacher)/1/

Washington, May 9, 1961.

/1/Source: Washington National Records center, RG 34, Saigon Embassy Files: FRC 66 A 335. Program Direction Secret; Official-Informal; For Addressee Only.

Dear John: We are in the process of cranking up a major propaganda campaign on Viet Cong insurgency in Viet-Nam. Our instructions are to start this immediately and continue it at the highest possible level until further notice.

One of our big problems is scarcity of unclassified material upon which to draw for specifics of Viet Cong insurgency and terrorism. All steps are being taken here to get as much past material declassified as possible. But the real crux of the problem lies in Saigon, i.e., classification at the source. The CAS station chief, Mr. Colby, is on his way back to Saigon. He has been briefed here on the necessity of minimum classification so as much material as possible can be put into public channels world wide.

I wish you would make it a point to see Colby as soon after his arrival as possible, discuss this whole problem with him and work closely with him on developing a flow of material. It can move in any form that seems advisable, despatch, telegram, or signals; but it should move through our channels to give our media operators ready access to it at this end.

Please keep me fully informed on your arrangements with Colby and the prognosis for instituting the flow. We are going to have to depend primarily on you and sources there to keep this campaign going at the necessary level.

Best personal regards.




50. Telegram From the Chief of the Military Assistance Advisory Group in Vietnam (McGarr) to the Commander in Chief, Pacific (Felt)/1/

Saigon, May 10, 1961, 7:30 p.m.

/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 84, Saigon Embassy Files: FRC 68 A 5159, SGN(61)19-GVN. Top Secret.

MAGCH-SA 685. References: a. JCS 995295;/2/ b. CINCPAC 051737Z;/3/ C. MAGCH-LO 670, DTG 061049Z./4/

/2/Not found.

/3/This telegram discussed various aspects of the staffing and training of the MAAG in Vietnam. (Washington National Records Center, RG 319, HQDA Message Center, Reel 10248)

/4/Document 41.

1. Recent trip to Washington discussed with General Barnes in Hawaii and discussions here with General Lemnitzer reported to you in my ref c, emphasize strong determination on part US Government to stop present deterioration US prestige in world's eyes brought about by Cuba and Laos setbacks. Both President Kennedy and General Lemnitzer have repeatedly stated Vietnam is not to go behind Bamboo Curtain under any circumstances, and we must do all that is necessary to prevent this from happening. They both state this is primarily military problem and in seeking a solution we must not be overly restricted by such considerations as limitations imposed by Geneva accords, budgetary strictures, or necessity for detailed time consuming justification requirements and programming in classic MAP pattern. Moreover General Lemnitzer stressed importance of including sufficient means to get the job done. MAAG has been operating on a short leash for some time; and in view of the current real concern of the Vietnamese over the serious situation in SEA, a firm and determined move is essential not only to cope with the demands of the present situation but to shore-up the morale of the Vietnamese. Nevertheless, in spite urgency every attempt being made to evaluate situation and develop requirements on objective basis.

2. With this in mind two separate but related studies are under way here. One study being made to determine required RVNAF force structure assuming Laos goes Communist or Communist inclined. The second study which bears directly on refs a and b is to determine what MAAG augmentation necessary to increase effectiveness of MAAG effort and insure effective implementation those military courses of action approved by President. This message relates only to second study. Assumptions on which this latter study based as follows:

a. MAAG to intensify and broaden advisory and training effort.

b. GVN will accept expanded concept MAAG effort and cooperate accordingly.

c. US and GVN will no longer be bound by limitations in Geneva Accords on introduction of military personnel and war material.

d. MAAG effort to be reinforced by attachment US military support units as required.

3. The first step necessary to improve the effectiveness of the MAAG effort is to remove at once the self imposed 685 ceiling this MAAG. The next requirement as envisioned in the Gilpatric Task Force study/5/ and in ref a is immediate authority to requisition personnel against the Joint Table of Distribution sent to your Hq for approval 3 May 61;/6/ expedited action on all personnel requisitions is essential.

/5/Document 42.

/6/Not found.

4. The study on MAAG augmentation referred to in pare 2 indicates a requirement for MAAG strength increase as follows: immediate increase of 156 with a further increase of 272 phased over a 3 month period. Subsequent additional personnel requirements are envisioned but not prepared at this time to submit specific needs.

[Here follow paragraphs 5-9 which discussed the officers and cadre needed, the hardware essential to the increase, and the costs involved.]


51. Memorandum From the President's Deputy Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Rostow) to the President/1/

Washington, May 10, 1961.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series. Secret. No drafting or clearance information is given on the source text.

Viet-Nam NSC Paper/2/

/2/Reference is to a May 6 draft of "A Program of Action To Prevent Communist Domination of South Vietnam'' (see Document 42) by the Task Force for South Vietnam. For text, see United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967, Book 11, pp. 7~130 (with annexes and under cover of a memorandum from Lansdale, May 8) and pp. 138-154 (without annexes), and Declassified Documents, 1977, p. 185B (with annexes).

You should be aware of the following factors bearing on the Viet-Nam paper.

1. Although we have no alternative except to support Diem now, he may be overthrown, as the accompanying cables suggest./3/ If so, we should be prepared to move fast with the younger army types who may then emerge. Such a crisis is not to be sought, among other reasons because its outcome could not be predicted; but should it happen, we may be able to get more nearly the kind of military organization and perhaps, even, the domestic political program we want in Viet-Nam but have been unable to get from Diem.

/3/No telegrams were attached to the source text.

2. For the time being our Ambassador must make a college try at reconciling Diem and his army, giving the army more scope to organize the battle systematically.

3. The paper urges (page 9) a series of domestic, political and economic moves in Viet-Nam. It should be understood clearly that these are measures which we have pressed for a long time on Diem, without notable success; and that we have still to find the technique for bringing our great bargaining power to bear on leaders of client states to do things they ought to do but don't want to do. In short, this crucial problem is not and cannot be solved in a staff paper. It is a question of diplomatic technique we shall have to learn and apply in Taiwan, Iran and Korea as well as Viet-Nam.

4. We still have to think through the political, diplomatic, and other conditions under which it would be wise for us to put American troops into Viet-Nam (pp. 6-7).

5. We still have to think through the question of when it would be wise to raise the matter of Viet-Nam in the UN (p. 10); and how such a move might relate to the conference on Laos or the putting of U.S. troops into Viet-Nam.

6. Further thought is also required on the question of precisely how we handle the question of the Geneva Accords in relation to Viet-Nam (pp. 11-12).

7. Except for these unresolved matters, the action program suggested seems, for the present, a useful way to proceed.


52. National Security Action Memorandum No. 52/1/

Washington, May 11, 1961.

/1/Source: Department of State, S/S-NSC Files: Lot 70 D 264, NSAM Follow-up Reports. Top Secret. Information copies were also sent to the Departments of Defense and the Treasury, CIA, USIA, ICA, and the Bureau of the Budget. Also printed in United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967, Book 11, pp. 136-137.

The Secretary of State

The President today reviewed the report of the Vietnam Task Force, entitled "Program of Action to Prevent Communist Domination of South Vietnam."/2/ Subject to amendments or revisions which he may wish to make after providing opportunity for a further discussion at the next meeting of the National Security Council, now scheduled for May 19,/3/ the President has made the following decisions on the basis of this report:

/2/See footnote 2, Document 51, and Document 42.

/3/At its meeting on May 19, the National Security Council noted that National Security Action Memorandum No. 52 required no revision. (NSC Action No. 2428; Department of State, S/S-NSC Files: Lot 66 D 95)

1. The U.S. objective and concept of operations stated in the report are approved: to prevent Communist domination of South Vietnam; to create in that country a viable and increasingly democratic society, and 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.

2. The approval given for specific military actions by the President at the National Security Council meeting on April 29, 1961,/4/ is confirmed.

/4/ See Document 40.

3. Additional actions listed at pages 4 and 5 of the Task Force Report are authorized, with the objective of meeting the increased security threat resulting from the new situation along the frontier between Laos and Vietnam. In particular, the President directs an assessment of the military utility of a further increase in GVN forces from 170,000 to 200,000, together with an assessment of the parallel political and fiscal implications.

4. The President directs full examination by the Defense Department, under the guidance of the Director of the continuing Task Force on Vietnam, of the size and composition of forces which would be desirable in the case of a possible commitment of U.S. forces to Vietnam. The diplomatic setting within which this action might be taken should also be examined.

5. The U.S. will seek to increase the confidence of President Diem and his government in the United States by a series of actions and messages relating to the trip of Vice President Johnson. The U.S. will attempt to strengthen President Diem's popular support within Vietnam by reappraisal and negotiation, under the direction of Ambassador Nolting. Ambassador Nolting is also requested to recommend any necessary reorganization of the Country Team for these purposes.

6. The U.S. will negotiate in appropriate ways to improve Vietnam's relationship with other countries, especially Cambodia, and its standing in world opinion.

7. 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 arrangement without further review by the President.

8. The U.S. will undertake economic programs in Vietnam with a view to both short term immediate impact and a contribution to the longer range economic viability of the country, and the specific actions proposed on pages 12 and 13 of the Task Force Report are authorized.

9. The U.S. will strengthen its efforts in the psychological field as recommended on pages 14 and 15 of the Task Force Report.

10. The program for covert actions outlined on page 15 of the Task Force Report is approved.

11. These directions will be supported by appropriate budgetary action, but the President reserves judgment on the levels of funding proposed on pages 15 and 16 of the Task Force Report and in the funding annex.

12. Finally, the President approves the continuation of a special Task Force on Vietnam, established in and directed by the Department of State under Sterling J. Cottrell as Director, and Chalmers B. Wood as Executive Officer.

McGeorge Bundy

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